Airplane maintenance

table with tools and airplane in the background Once again I have another post about the wonderful things I am learning with the Ninety-Nines. This month’s get together was a potluck at the hangar of one of the members to learn about basic airplane maintenance.

Rosie the Riveter…well, a friendly woman that bore a striking resemblance to Rosie from the grease under her fingernails to the bandana tying her hair up, did a brief presentation for us. We were given a list of tools to keep on hand, and then – let’s face it, we’re girls – we were carefully shown each tool and how it worked. A packet with pictures of women performing various maintenance was passed around for the visual learners. Then, those that wanted were invited to come up and play.

A group of us approached the table full of tools the way one approaches an unfamiliar horse. Once it was established any question was safe (the first woman led with “so uh…which one of these things is an oil filter?”) I had lots of questions about how to secure a safety wire and how many spark plugs a plane has and what that little pipe coming out of the front of the plane by the nose wheel was about.

I learned that pilots (with supervision at first) can change their oil, spark plugs, starters, alternators and tires. I also learned that many of my colleagues started flying before we taught anything about how the mechanisms inside a plane work. As a student pilot, I have unavoidably stumbled into all kinds of information about how instruments work via pressure compression, diaphragms, and Bourdon tubes. After some conversation, I was surprised to find this was not the curriculum even twenty years ago. It was also comforting to see that there are many commonalities between cars and airplanes. If you’ve changed the oil and brake pads in your car, you can likely change the oil and brake pads in your plane with little trouble.

I think it bears mentioning I was advised not to trifle with the magnetos, prop, valves, anything serialized or attempt to jack the plane without assistance.

Clever tips I learned:

  • Put nitrogen in your tires, it doesn’t expand.
  • Kitty litter is great for oil spills.
  • Aero kroil is great for corroded parts or breaking bolts that won’t budge.

Afterwards my partner and I were invited to tour the hangar apartment. It was beautiful and now we’re really leaning towards a hangar apartment when we get to Oregon…even though owning an airplane is still a few years away.

me with an RV experimental aircraft

Yours truly, starting to think my first plane purchase will be an RV

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Let the fear pooping begin!

Before a great adventure it is only natural to feel a little apprehension.

Today something more than apprehension hit me. I realized in a few weeks, everything in my life will change. Normally people experience changes a little at a time. But this is a change that will affect every single thing in my life.

Where I wake up every morning will change.

Where I go to work and what I will do there will change.

The climate and therefore the way I dress will change.

My grocery budget and property taxes will change.

The way I commute will change.

The surrounding culture will change.

The locally available foods and therefore my diet will change.

My doctors and mail deliverers and hardware store employees and street names and weather patterns and things I need to worry about my dog eating on nature walks will change.

As I thought about it, only one thing will remain the same: the partner I take with me. But even he will change. One of our main reasons for relocating to Oregon is his health. If all goes well, he will change too. He will breathe better and have more energy and be able to do more things.

Most of the changes I see coming are not bad or dangerous. Why on earth am I suddenly stricken with fear?!

I never realized it until today, but I think the main reason people fear change is because it makes us vulnerable. Even when a change brings about an improvement, it is unfamiliar territory. Unfamiliar territory is terrifying because we don’t know what to expect. We become creatures of habit because we find comfort in what we know, so we never cross to the other shore. Even if something better is out there, we’re not sure it’s better. It’s not something we’ve experienced, and to venture out would make us vulnerable to things we do not yet know to be cautious about.

No matter how good change can be, it always carries an element of fear because it harbors the unknown. The world of “what ifs” is paved with a long a winding road that never has an end. I have played that “what if” game many times:

What if a motorcycle gang forces us off the road somewhere in Arizona, takes all of our stuff, shoots the dogs, makes a hat out of the cat, gang rapes us and leaves us to die in the dessert?

What if all of our estimates were wrong and we can’t afford to live in Oregon with the jobs we’ve found and we end up living under a bridge until we succumb to consumption and our beloved pets roam the street unloved and hungry until a wild animal eats them?

What if all of the neighbors shun us the minute they find out we’re from Texas and we never make a single friend and when a river swells and floods our house or a mysterious fire burns it down, they laugh at us and tell us to go home?

The minute these thoughts travel from my mind to the page I see how ridiculous they are. But until I express them and see how humorously dreadful they are, they circle around in my brain as if they could become our reality.

Ah change, the only constant in life and only thing we find impossible not to fear. I am greeting each day with a reception of excitement and terror. Because everything in my life is about to change and all I can do is take a deep breath, and open myself up to it.

Ain’t I a Woman?

Brace yourselves. I’ve decided to enter the conversation about feminism. Fear not, this is not an angry post and I have no blame to put upon anyone for my life choices except myself. I only aim to offer a peek into a woman’s life for those out there that are not sure what to think among all of the rage and rhetoric #Howtospotafeminist has awoken.

At first I was going to write something for Mother’s Day. I have a different take on it because it is actually the most difficult holiday of the year for me. Mother’s Day is for thanking loving, dotting, cheer-leading mothers for all of the affection and guidance they gave us.

The problem is I don’t have that kind of mother.

Every year I spend about an hour in the card aisle sorting through cards that read something like “Dearest Mother, you were always there for me, through thick and thin, I owe everything I am to you…” and eventually getting the one that just says “Happy Mother’s Day” on the inside.

It is hard for me because my mother was not the culturally expected mother. She did not cook. She did not clean. She was not waiting five minutes before choir practice let out to pick me up like all of the other mothers. I never remember her hauling a camcorder or a home-made poster to a school play. She was never in the front row. She did not teach me how to do my hair. She did not teach me how to shave. She did not teach me how to wear make-up. She did not teach me about my menstrual cycle. I have never talked to her about a boyfriend. She declined my offers to go wedding dress shopping with me. Almost every experience the greeting card industry capitalizes on for Mother’s Day is an experience my mother and I never had. So every Mother’s Day I struggle with this message from society that I had a bad mother with the actual experience that I had, which was that she was not a bad mother, just a different kind of mother.

I learned plenty from mom. I learned how to dress like a business woman. I learned to love female literary characters that prized adventure above all. I learned women can work and have a family. I learned women can have coherent arguments and debate with men respectfully. I learned if you don’t like a job after two weeks, quit while you’re ahead. I learned to love traveling. I learned to love nature and how to make bird feeders. My mother was not a bad mother just because she wasn’t societies idea of what a mother should be. Overbearing with affection or not she gave birth to me, claimed me, brought me home and taught me the values she had.

It might come as a surprise though to learn she is not a feminist. When my sister and I begin with any sort of feminist rhetoric, my mother insists she did not teach us that hogwash. My mother is a product of her generation. A generation that knew their goals in life were to find the perfect prom date, go to college, join a sorority, graduate, get married to a good provider, have babies, and (as the 1970s and ’80s suggested) work if they wanted. I asked my mother once why she had children. Her answer: “It’s just what you do. What kind of question is that?!”

I am part of a new generation. A generation who always had women in the workforce. I remember female astronauts and governors when I was a kid. This week I had an appointment with a female gynecologist – a choice my mother did not always have. While my mother’s only question was how many children to have, I am allowed to question if I want to have children or not. It is indisputable women have made large gains from my mother’s generation to mine. But the work is not yet finished.

Below I have outlines 3 scenarios – all true stories – seen through my eyes as a woman in this new generation. These are areas that yet need improvement.

Scenario A:

When I was nineteen, I was a sophomore in college. One sunny, Tuesday morning I went to my journalism class like it was a normal day.

Only it wasn’t.

With a front row seat in the center of my university’s media center I watched the second plane live as it crashed into the World Trade Center. News savvy professors, student broadcasters and reporters swarmed around me as the live feeds came on tvs and radios and printed from newswires. I listened as the man being interviewed at the Pentagon heard a loud boom down the hall and wanted to step outside for a minute to see what was going on. Seconds later footage of billows of smoke rising up from the building were on every tv screen.

Like many young people I was sickened, confused, enraged, shocked and a slew of other emotions. It wasn’t long before many college students wanted to help in any way that they could and decided to join the military.

I was no different.

I remember what I was told: “Don’t join. Your heart is in the right place, but its not a safe place for a young woman.” Statistics of military sexual assault against female recruits are still staggering today. Another adviser told me: “It won’t be the experience you think it will. You’re a girl. They’re going to put you behind a desk somewhere. People aren’t ready for their daughters to be slain in battle.”

I didn’t join the military. It was my own choice. But it was a choice I came to after multiple advisers convinced me I wouldn’t be safe with my own fellow recruits. The few women I know that have served in our military have vivid stories of their sexual assaults. It’s almost a given for girls that join the forces.

A few years ago the Veteran’s Center at my university asked for employees to assemble care packages for the troops. I put together a box that included feminine products (I figure military grade sanitary napkins are no one’s friend). The Veteran’s Center was hesitant to accept my donation. “The girls aren’t usually sent to the remote areas and they get care packages with this stuff from their families” I was told.

Area # 1 for improvement: Make the US Military a safe place for any American soldier that wants to serve their country. As a woman I was willing to lay down my life for my country. I was willing to go to dangerous, far-away places to fight. I was willing to be a prisoner of war. I was willing to come home in a box. I was not willing to be attacked by my own unit because of my sex. I was not willing to face the constant psychological trauma that I would never be safe from boot camp to discharge from my fellow soldiers. I was not willing to be trained with a rifle and wield nothing more than a phone chord on active duty just because I was a girl.

I did go to New York a few years later on a mission trip. I was able to do something about all of the feelings I felt that day. But it haunts me still that there are women out there that want to serve and feel that they cannot without accepting they will at some point during their duty face rape from other American soldiers. We can do better. We must do better.

Scenario B:

Eight years ago I graduated with my second degree. Immediately I went into the work force interviewing at many of the same companies as a number of my colleagues.

People talk.

Imagine my surprise when one of my colleagues five years my junior with less education and work experience interviewed for the exact same job and was offered higher pay than me.

I asked if he negotiated the higher rate? He said he did not, he took their first offer. I remember trying to negotiate a higher rate and was told the pay rates were fixed.

So men at this company regardless of experience or education were “fixed” at a higher pay rate than women.

I managed to marry someone in my field and he and I have compared notes. Again I hold higher degrees and certifications and in our work history (at many of the same companies) he has always made more than me.

Area # 2 for improvement: Equal pay for equal work. Appropriate pay for varying levels of education and work experience regardless of gender. When comparing notes with my husband we also learned he has never been asked to fill in at the front desk answering phones or bake for the office. I have. At every job I’ve ever had. Other joys reserved only for the fairer sex are having to explain my romantic status to employers during interviews and fielding the “where do you see yourself in five years” question away from their goal of figuring out if I will get pregnant and leave.

Scenario C:

Something went terribly wrong with feminism. Somehow “feminist” became a dirty word. Somehow women turned against feminism. Is it just me or is that like African-Americans turning against the NAACP?

Recently I joined an international women’s aviation organization called the Ninety-Nines (or 99s, they’re not picky). Shortly thereafter I was “warned” about some of the “crazy feminists” I ought not rub elbows with…wait for it….by other women….IN AVIATION!

I have also been warned about some “crazy feminists” at the university where I work (“that are definitely lesbians,” they whisper).

Somehow by marrying a man, sporting sun dresses and choosing to only sporadically use my sailor vocabulary words I have unintentionally pulled off the guise of being an anti-feminist. Women approach me all the time about those “crazy feminists” (“crazy” always seems to accompany the word “feminist”) that I should stay away from. They show up in every social setting and apparently making eye contact with them turns you fat and gay.

Area # 3 for improvement: Teach women that feminists are not the enemy and they come in all shapes, sizes and sexual orientations. It is not a network of male-bashing crazy women. It is a cohort that includes both men and women (yes, men can be and some are feminists too) that strives for the mutual respect and opportunity of the sexes. Some are more militant than others, but that can be found in any group. God bless the crazy ones. They bring the attention that starts the conversation. Feminism is what earned women the right to vote, and own property, and keep our own last names after marriage, and be doctors and pilots and mechanics. It is a beautiful thing and it needs all the support it can get. For just as women are allowed to come out of their boxes, men will be allowed to too. We need feminism for the health of our society. For the men that feel ashamed of their tears and the women that are shamed for not wanting children. For the men that have no outlet to express their depression and the women that have no outlet to express their rage. For every emotion and reaction that is labeled masculine or feminine and not allowed by the other sex.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of where improvements can be made. But reflecting on my life tonight as a woman in a country that says it grants liberty and justice for all; that tells the tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free that this is a land of opportunity for everyone, I think it’s a great place to start.

Lessons in Home Ownership

We are about to sell our first house – or as we like to call it, the “House of Hell.” Over the course of four years, we have repaired or remodeled the whole thing. It has been one crazy adventure in Murphy’s Law. I would like to offer this up for anyone that wants to buy a house. This is what I leave this experience knowing:

Logistics:

  • When a seller offers to leave you a large appliance, it might be because it doesn’t fit through any opening of the house without removing the doors.
  • The devil invented wallpaper so he could spend his afternoons watching people try to remove it and tally how many commandments they break.
  • When the manuals and the books make no sense, realize you can find a tutorial on using just about any tool on YouTube.
  • If many things are broken, make one room your Tool Station Central.
  • It doesn’t matter how little the branch seems before you cut it off the tree, when it hits the ground it will be eight times larger than you thought.
  • 25-year-old carpet and padding will come up very easily, but will leave more dirt and dust than the Sahara can hold on everything in your house when you remove it.
  • If you have the option between a tool with a cord and a tool without a cord, choose the tool that runs on batteries.
  • Self-leveling concrete does not always self-level. Sometimes it begins to harden in the bucket and makes giant lumps all over the floor.
  • Banks do not just have 30,000 pennies on hand on any given day for your brilliant art project floor idea.
  • No room is perfectly square.
  • When a tornado picks up your neighbor’s tree and crashes it through your fence, it becomes your tree to dispose.
  • Don’t plant a tree over your sewer line if you want to have working plumbing.
  • Not all fascia board is perpendicular to the ground.

Beauty tips:

  • Liquid Nails is really bad to inhale or get on your skin, but if you do accidentally get it all over your hands, and then you somehow also get white caulk under your nails, it’s the cheapest, longest lasting French manicure you’ll ever have.
  • Martha Stewart’s precious metals paint line does not come out of your hair unless you cut it out. And hair is the only thing it covers evenly.
  • Always wear gloves. Always.

People skills:

  • The only thing you have in common with your realtor is that you want a house and they want a sale. Double check everything they tell you.
  • Most people that say they have “renovated their [pick a room]” are lying. They have actually hired contractors to renovate for them and do not understand the difference between paid labor and manual labor. Do not take their advice, it is not based in experience.
  • An adult that wants to help you renovate but has never used a power tool is like a toddler that wants to help you bake a soufflé.
  • Don’t use the clever nicknames you have invented for your neighbors out loud when your windows are open to ventilate your projects.
  • If your dog doesn’t like someone, you probably shouldn’t let them into your home.

Finances:

  • When you buy a house, even a brand new one, have an “unexpected expenses” account ready with thousands of dollars at your disposal. When you think you’ve set aside enough, put $10,000 more in it.
  • Assume the repair will cost more than you thought it would. Just add some zeroes to the end until you think it is highway robbery. Now you have a good cost estimate.
  • Don’t finance anything you can’t pay for today. Finance for the convenience of paying it out in interest-free installments, not for the necessity of having something now that you can’t afford.
  • When the gas company/plumber digs up half of your yard to look at/find the pipe, it is your financial responsibility to re-sod it.
  • You can never tip enough if you are fortunate enough to find a skillful and honest plumber. They are oh so very rare.
  • A bathtub is only held in place by the drain and the first row of tile around the top. Don’t let anyone charge you thousands to remove one. You can do it in an hour with a $13 tool and collect $25 from the local scrap yard for the metal.

Time management:

  • Don’t try to renovate the whole house at once. Take it room by room.
  • If you think it will take one weekend, plan for it to encompass at least three months to four years.
  • Paint with primer already mixed into it saves you days of work (No literally, days).
  • Gutters are not a one weekend project. They are not a two weekend project either.

Self Discovery:

  • Given the right adversity, you’re way wimpier than you think you are.
  • Don’t assume something is over your head just because you’ve never done it before. If it looks safe enough, put on some old clothes, gloves and eye protection and try it. If it goes wrong, call in the professionals.
  • You’re much bigger than the spider. Seriously. You can take it.

Common truths:

  • Some home warranties are good. Some home warranties are lousy. Usually the good ones are the ones you pick out and the bad ones are the ones a salesperson – like your realtor – pitches to you because his realty company and the warranty company give each other kickbacks.
  • Don’t be comforted by the word “warranty” after any service is completed. Read through it and make sure it will actually protect you.
  • Not every guy with a name tag and a logo on his truck is a trained professional.
  • Every house has asbestos in it somewhere. Even if they finished building it yesterday.
  • There is more than one kind of grout.
  • There is more than one kind of concrete.
  • HGTV lies. Lies. Lies. Lies. Lies. Lies.
  • Don’t touch up paint after a few years have passed. It won’t blend in anymore.
  • Find your own independent inspector. Never use the guy your realtor recommends.
  • Neighborhood associations are better and more powerful than an HOA, and they don’t charge dues or give you frivolous tickets.
  • Never underestimate the power of power tools.

Now, go forth into the deep deep waters that are home ownership. May the force be with you and the spiders be few.

Bohemian Goes Square: Company X Part 4

It’s official folks. I finally heard back from Company X and they want to hire me! [insert gigantic sigh of relief]

I was beginning to get worried. Well, that is an understatement. After a few celebratory cocktails on New Year’s Eve last January my partner and I said we would do our best to find work in Oregon, but if nothing had panned out by mid-July, we were throwing caution to the wind and moving there anyway. We made it the official plan and announced it to everyone, even our employers.

Then, once the liquid courage wore off and the months wore on, it was starting to look like we were really going to have to move to Oregon without a plan. Even the promising Skype interview I had earlier this week doesn’t need their position filled until late September. I had resolved the first few months in Oregon would see me as a gas station attendant, retail employee or friendly bagger at the local grocer until I got my big break. Well, it looks like the break came just in time. This company has an office smack in the middle of Portland, the very city we were trying to relocate to!

But it’s corporate America, so of course, it’s not that simple. I have been hired on with a contingency. I’d be coming in as something of an intern and if I manage to impress them, I can stay and maybe even turn it into a full-time gig. I’m really not sure what their policy is for transferring to another office yet.

So far everything about the job is corporate, I was contacted from a company email that told me to contact a person I’ve never heard of about my new hire paperwork. I was then to contact the director at my regional office to figure out a training schedule. I suppose I will have to give up some of my corporate loathing to give this place a fair shot. Fortunately there are some perks to corporate America, like the pay scale. I had to do a double take. The starting pay as a probationary employee is close to three times what I make now.

I could get used to this.