Like A Boss

Greetings minions! I have much news.

Recently I have stepped into a couple of leadership positions. One with a nonprofit organization and the other one they pay me to do. Was it wise to take on both of these roles within weeks of each other having virtually no prior management experience? Of course not! But alas, this is what I have done.

In one role I’m herding cats…scratch that, cats would be easier to manage. In the other I’m rocking that delicate balance between earn-their-respect and exert-my-power-before-they-walk-all-over-me.

I’d say it’s going well. Having never been the boss before I have no idea if I am going about this the right way. Having been a minion since entering the workforce some twenty years ago I am enjoying the clout. On the one hand I can exact change. Exhibit A: I didn’t like eating my lunch in a back corner next to a mop bucket so today I christened an employee lunch table in an open, bright area. On the other hand the change I exact falls completely on my shoulders. Exhibit B: Since we now have a designated lunch area, I must enforce rules requiring all food in the building be consumed in the designated lunch area (hey, I’m not the CEO, just the assistant manager). Still, I’d like to believe I did something good for employee morale today. Nobody will be eating their lunch in a corner next to a mop bucket in our “break closet” anymore.

I don’t miss being a minion. I’ll take the responsibility if it means my ideas are heard and my efforts count for something. Being the boss comes with some cool perks. You tell people to do something and they do it. You make the call to send home the employee that came to work with the plague instead of avoid them all day and chug vitamin C. When someone doesn’t get the answer they want and asks to speak to the manager, you get the satisfaction of informing them it’s you and watching them choke on their sense of self-righteousness.

The most frustrating part has been the lack of training. Both organizations oozed about their in-depth training programs. So far they have both thrown me to the wolves without even a day of orientation. Truth be told I find my new positions unfulfilling and overtly frustrating. It is incredibly difficult to chair a board whose members refuse to be in the same room together and retail is not exactly my passion. But I am learning some great skills and intend to stick it out!

Why do this to myself? I already had a job that paid well, oversaw no one, and allowed me all of the schedule flexibility my little heart craved.

I’ll tell you, I did it for the doors.

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photo from Google images

I’m looking for doors of opportunity to open for me. I have lost count of the number of interviews I have attended where I was told “we love you, you are one of our top candidates, but nothing on your resume tells us you have management experience and part of this position requires that.” Thus, I have endured one slammed door after another. Opportunities I was passionate about that would have been a terrific fit, lost forever.

Those doors are why I am currently working two jobs (I didn’t leave Company X, they have great opportunities for advancement for those with management experience) and giving what free time I have left to chair a pro bono effort. In some ways it feels like I have put my life on hold and in others I feel like an arrow being pulled back just before it is set free to soar.

Now it’s the toughing it out and waiting. Those doors will open, and when they do, I will be ready.

Embracing Technology

This year I made a New Year’s resolution to embrace technology. Allow me to explain why that is a big deal.

Until a few weeks ago, I was [allegedly] the last person on Earth that did not have a Facebook account. Nor did I Tweet nor Snap Chat. Honestly guys, the fact that I had a blog was huge for someone as intensely private and anti-techie as I.

I was raised by parents that believed technology was the wave of the future for business, but was never to be substituted for interpersonal relationships or real world experiences.

This is the reason a Tandy computer appeared in the corner of our living room when I was a tot but a Nintendo never followed.

The Tandy was to be used for learning to type and write school papers, and later to play Math Blaster –  a gaming program that helped me master my multiplication tables and long division. It’s function was scholastic only. It was years before I learned it had a game on there called Nibbles.

Technology was dangerous, my parents lectured, because it divided people from each other. It undermined basic manners. Children with televisions in their rooms to stare at all day would be socially stunted from lack of social interaction with their families. People who answered their phones while at lunch were being rude to the person sitting across the table.

While my friends were playing Mario Brothers, I was climbing trees. When the Play Station was released, I was out riding my bike. I did not get what all the hype was about when the Xbox came out. My upbringing taught playing video games all day would rot the brain and atrophy the body. A well-developed human grew up hiking, building blanket forts, sleeping under stars, and reading Tolkien, not glued to a television screen.

There were a few exceptions to this belief: One was an Atari that came out on special occasions and for 30 glorious minutes I was allowed to play Frogger and Asteroids with reckless abandon. The other was the onset of the Internet. My Dad thought email and chat rooms were the coolest things ever. I frequented one trivia chat room, it was like being a contestant on Jeopardy. Occasionally a game on CD-ROM would replace family board game night.

Outside of these few exceptions technology was strictly prohibited during quality time with other humans. If it was time for dinner, the tv was turned off and everyone came to the table. If the phone rang during the family dinner, too bad, no one was to leave the table. There would be no phones or tvs in our bedrooms no matter how much my sister and I pleaded.

Cell phones didn’t come into vogue until I was in college. My parents poked fun at a twenty-year-old without a job in corporate America needing a cell phone. I decided to buy one to keep in touch when I transferred to a university across the country but quickly began using it as my morning alarm. It wasn’t long before phones had texting and photo capabilities and I joined the masses that couldn’t leave home without their cell phone in their pocket.

2017 arrived and I still had resisted joining social media. After all, technology was for business affairs, not interpersonal relationships. Why should anyone be allowed to know the intimate details of what I ate that day, or where I went, or what I looked like at said location eating aforementioned food? Still, I was constantly missing out. When everyone was invited to something on Facebook, I was left out. When you had to get on Facebook to enter a contest, or get the details for an event, I was in the dark.

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Even worse, I was constantly justifying to employers and new acquaintances that dichotomy I had become: a Millennial that couldn’t navigate Instagram or explain what a hashtag was.

In our modern world countless commercials boast of a future where your cell phone will adjust your thermostat and start your dishwasher remotely. You can stream any song or show online any hour of the day. Drones will deliver your take-out order. I want to live in that world! It was time for me to catch up to the rest of society, and that was the impetus for my New Year’s resolution this year.

How’s it going? Well…

First up: Twitter. It has become my official news feed for anything happening live. Turns out it’s not just for hashtags and Kardashians. You can follow as many reputable agencies as your little heart desires.

Second: that rat bastard Facebook. I thought I was immune. I thought I was different, but you guys, my first day on Facebook it consumed my entire Friday. This morning I caught myself checking my Facebook feed before I was out of bed. Besides it’s potential for stalking old boyfriends and endless animal videos, it has also become the main point of contact for countless organizations. I’ve been on it two weeks and can’t remember life before it. When they open a Betty Ford clinic for Facebook addicts I will be requiring an intervention.

Third: Snap Chat. I still have no idea what the point of this app is. Seriously. Why? I hope to someday demystify this.

Fourth: LinkedIn. I have heard many things about LinkedIn, mostly that it is a waste of time. I disagree. One day after posting my credentials I was matched with a charity I feel passionately about and have already interviewed and accepted a pro bono position with them that will give me something impressive to list on my resume.

Fifth: Instagram. I was once sheltered. I used to feel sane and mature. Instagram took all of that away from me in the span of fifteen minutes. Things I didn’t even know were things were plastered everywhere – like “fuck boys.” I wanted to root for the feminists on that one but it devolved rapidly into memes with trains. Things that shouldn’t even BE things – like profiles with hundreds of thousands of followers devoted to pictures of things that are all a single color. Instagram, I am not ready for you and I may never be. I want my innocence back, pronto.

I also bought a Roku but I’m still working on how to search with it. I’d say it’s a pretty good first month to a massive undertaking. What do you guys think my next technology to embrace should be?

A year later

Dear me, has it been a year since I last updated you guys on Oregon?!

A thousand apologies.

I am happy to report things have turned up for us once again. We decided after the House of Hell we would find a place with the least amount of responsibility possible and bought a recently remodeled condo in a suburb just outside of the city. We’ve been here 9 months and have found a farmer’s market two streets over, a library we can walk to, a large park for the dogs up the street, and we’re along the route for a fairly impressive annual community parade. As part of a condo association, we pay fees for other people to worry about the siding and the beautiful grounds around the units and the creek that runs through it. There is a fenced yard…perhaps I should call it a garden (I mow it in 2 minutes with a push mower), and a garage and it’s officially my first domicile with stairs. It might be silly, but I’ve always wanted to live in a place with stairs. In short, we love it.

I have also learned that once we move from here, I’m good on stairs for life. It has improved my planning skills [“ok, I’m headed downstairs for the day, where’s my going-downstairs-for-the-day checklist?”]. Even so, it never fails I get downstairs and realize I have to go back up for a hair pin or a laptop power cord. In related news I’m super proud of my little haunches after all of the stair exercises I do daily.

On the community front, we have finally created a web of friends. It’s snowballing into a glorious village. Oregon has started to feel like home. So much so the idea of going back to Texas feels a little like a chore. People ask me if I miss it…I really don’t. I miss some people that are in Texas, sure, but Texas itself? No. When you have a Pacific wonderland to explore and a new friend and a new experience around every corner, why would you long to go back to a place full of scorched, prickly things where everyone your age is consumed in raising kids? Forgive me, Texas, that might have been a little too harsh, but it was my truth and my experience. This place feels full of possibilities. Every season is beautiful. Every person is an adventurer. My list of new things to try is ever expanding – new foods, new places to venture, new sports, new ciders, new bike gadgets. Oregon has been a place of inspiration for me and I’m loving the group of friends I am collecting.

As always, there is change on the horizon. My partner and I are both looking into new jobs. His current position was always intended as a stepping stone, and I am learning my job at Company X is great, but not sustainable for the rest of my life as anything more than a part-time gig. We saw the writing on the wall, reviewed our finances, and are jumping off the cliff into the winds of change again to see where we land.

change

 

A Girl’s Guide to Surviving Flight School

While aviation training is challenging for everyone that takes on the endeavor, I believe certain niches would benefit from some advice tailored to their specific demographic. So, ladies, this one’s for you!

Handling Joey Tribiani:

The fact remains that men outnumber women in aviation and the majority of the people you will encounter in the pilot’s lounge are men. You might even be the only girl in flight training at your airport. Most of these men will be decent, friendly people who are pleasantly surprised to see a female on the tarmac with a flight bag. They will become treasured colleagues you will turn to for advice and fly with for years to come.

A fraction of these men will hit on you.

It doesn’t matter that you are wearing your wedding ring, or that you give them your best I-will-cut-you-face when they sit all too close to you and pull a “how you doin’?” With today’s technological advances you might even field some creepy emails or text messages from guys you’ve never met that “saw you at the airport” and “think you have a beautiful smile” with no idea how they got your contact info. It is also not uncommon for that flight instructor to put his arm around your seat in the plane because “it’s just so cramped in here.”

However tempting and satisfying it might be, do not crush Mr. Tribiani’s ego or burn bridges by insinuating anything about the size of his manhood. My advice is to harness the testosterone already on your side. There are far more good guys in aviation than bad ones. There is no shortage of older, protective fatherly-types and big brothers among them. Usually all it takes is asking for their advice to enlist them into your Tribiani defense squad.

Aviation Attire:

In the winter wear layers you can pull off after the preflight (tarmacs are typically windy, cold places, cockpits are typically hot, cramped spaces). In the summer fly in sundresses.

Yes, you read that right. Sundresses.

In the summer it is miserably hot inside an airplane on the ground and even at lower altitudes (especially if you get that one plane where the cabin air is inoperative and the windshield air vent is jammed shut). Sundresses, with their light, breathable material and their flowing skirts (nothing too far past the knee though) are the perfect remedy. Be sure to wear some bloomers or yoga shorts underneath, especially if you are crawling up a strut to check the fuel in a high wing airplane.

So far I have found only one drawback to flying in a sundress and that is when you strap on your lapboard you have to hike the skirt up a bit, and even that is only an issue if you are flying with a male CFI. If you wear some lady boxers (yes, lady boxers are a thing) underneath, this is not a factor.

Men will tell you it is impractical and dangerous. They are jealous they can’t wear a napkin on a hot day. Sundress flying in the summer is some of the most enjoyable, refreshingly cool flying I have ever done and I have yet to encounter a single danger related to the dress.

99sFirstMeeting

This picture was taken at the first 99s meeting in 1929. I count at least four sundresses and I bet some ladies in the back are sporting some too. Photo courtesy of the 99s.

Handling Big Machines:

Flying alone is frightening for many students. An added element of fear is introduced when you combine flying alone with someone who has learned her whole life when faced with mechanical malfunction she should find a guy to help. Many women have never even changed a flat tire – a guy will always pull up and offer to help – for which we are thankful. However, there are no guys to pull over and help in an airplane soaring above the earth. For some reason it barely matters that she has studied the finer points of piston engines or what each circuit breaker does. At the end of the day she is alone up there sitting behind a machine that is older than she is that continues to run based on a series of controlled explosions.

While it is breathtakingly beautiful up there for the solo aviatrix, it is also terrifying. Old piston engines make plenty of sounds and on startup produce many strange vibrations. When their mixture becomes too lean they putter out and die. When they get too cold they make a different noise and lose RPM. When their oil pressure gets too high they run hot and start banging at you. It takes time to learn these things, and until those sounds and feelings become something she knows how to translate into action, every new thing the engine does is of dire concern to the new pilot.

My recommendation: stuffed animal co-pilot (get one big enough to fit in the safety belt so you can strap it in the passenger seat). Yes, it is ridiculous. Yes, you will be ridiculed in the pilot’s lounge. Sticks and stones ladies. Nothing breaks the tension of an unexpected event in flight like exchanging blank faces with the sweet, buggy eyes of your co-pilot Gizmo, or Wilson, or Amelia. Talk to it. Give it the passenger briefing. Explain what is happening to it like the pilot you are becoming. (“Don’t worry, Gizmo, that is just the sound the engine makes when you lean it past peak, I will fix it right away.”)

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This is Gizmo, my copilot for all solo flights.

Another recommendation: name your plane. It promotes camaraderie with the aircraft and makes it less frightening. It doesn’t matter that you only have it for this one flight, name it! Lots of great plane names out there: Canary, Red, Little Blue, The Dragon, Bang Bang, be as creative as you want!

The B Word:

Girls are raised to be quiet. To be sweet. To avoid confrontation. Then we started flight school and were walked all over by CFIs that cared more about building hours than our progress to the tune of a few hundred dollars. It was only a matter of minutes after we took charge of our aviation training and began saying things to our CFIs like “I’d like to do a little of the flying this lesson” or “I would like to review the goals of this flight before we go up” before the B word came out. You know the one: B-o-s-s-y. I kept a tally during my training – I averaged about four bossys a week.

I was called “bossy” for refusing to work with the jr. chipmunk again after he treated my pre-solo progress check like a waste of his time. I was called “bossy” for not blindly accepting any CFI that was thrown at me by my flight school without an interview and a student recommendation. I was called “bossy” for giving feedback to my CFIs in hopes it would improve future lessons. Accept it ladies, to get where we are going, we are going to be called bossy…and probably worse than that before we get there. Sticks and stones, communicate what you need and forge onward!

The Blind Side:

“There’s a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women.” So said Madeleine Albright. Yet there is a group of women out there wreaking havoc on female flight students.

Who am I talking about?

Think of the one female that has no reason to be involved in another woman’s flight training and yet has the most power to disrupt it. The one woman you never saw coming.

I’m talking about the wife/girlfriend of your CFI.

I wish I were making this up, but unfortunately I have twice experienced this completely unprovoked trouble and I have heard this story from other female student pilots like a broken record. It is unfortunate, but many non-pilot wives/girlfriends of CFIs seem to have a real problem with their significant others teaching female students.

Sometimes it is subtle – frequent calls interrupting your flight lessons to “check in” or popping in often to “deliver lunch” or “give him his keys” in the middle of ground school. Sometimes it’s less subtle – she calls if your lesson runs five minutes over and screams into the phone “why are you still with HER?!” then appears in the pilots lounge just to give you the stink eye from across the room as you leave. If you are really unfortunate, she determines you will no longer be working with her man, effective immediately. It’s juvenile, and ridiculous, and completely uncalled for…and unfortunately, it’s fairly common.

This non-pilot directly tied to your instructor truly doesn’t understand your lessons have more to do with pattern work and V speeds than whose arm grazed whose leg reaching for the fuel selector valve. You cannot win over this woman no matter how creative or friendly you are with her. She is reacting to a stimulus you cannot see and her insecurity trumps your innocence. Don’t underestimate this woman. She has the power to make your life miserable and your flight training move backwards. The best thing to do is duck out. There are plenty of other CFIs in the world without the complications of a jealous partner. But duck out not just for you, duck out because you should be kind to another woman who is going through something rough with her partner and taking it out on you. Because there is a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women.

Mastering the Lingo:

Aviation loves it’s acronymns. So. Much. I found it easiest to learn some through flash cards and others I set to rap songs.

Men love acronymns. So. Much. It’s the reason they call life vests PFDs and Volkswagons VWs.

Acronymns are not the only thing tailored towards mens’ proclivities when it comes to aviation training. There’s actually a bit of history to how this happened.

During WWII when aviation went from bourgeouis hobby to useful national defense tactic young men were trained as rapidly as possible and rushed into battle. It was determined by the instructors the fastest way to get the attention and memory of young men in the basics of flight training was to use sexual inuendo. Many of these phrases still exist today and can be heard not only in ground schools across the nation but in popular culture. “Balls to the wall” anyone?

“Suck, squeeze, bang, blow” still teaches students the four strokes of a piston engine and a number of other charming little phrases are still employed that have caused more than one instructor to blush when having to say it aloud to a young woman no one saw taking flying lessons back in the early 1940s.

Would it be helpful if they taught center of gravity with gymnasts on a balance beam instead of wood planks and concrete blocks? Sure. But wood planks and concrete loads appeal to the masses when it comes to training future pilots.

Flash cards, rap songs and an ounce of grit, ladies. You got this!

 

I know something good about people

I don’t need to tell you guys that America has had a difficult and divisive week. It’s all over the news. It’s all over social media. Just try to get to the office water cooler without hearing something terrible come out of someone’s mouth this week. I dare you.

Like many Americans I have had a roller coaster week in the wake of the election – the highs believing America might have it’s first female president, the lows of watching peaceful protests devolve into riots. Like many bloggers I feel the need to comment on the phenomenon that has occurred across our beloved country. After all, today we remember and thank our veterans for the very privilege to hold free elections and burn our flags and speak our minds.

I know there is good in America. I know there is good in all of us. Together. I want to take an opportunity to try to show the good in all of us, because right now it’s very hard to see.

I know there is good in every person that cast a vote in this presidential election, regardless of how they voted. They are good because they cared enough to vote when so many did not. They are good because they took the time to consider all the candidates and pick one that aligned with their conscience that they believed would further the progress of this great country.

I know there is good in every person that took to the streets this week to protest. They are good because they are seeking solidarity with like-minded individuals at a time when they feel marginalized and turning that energy into peaceful demonstration. I know there is good in them, even when their frustrations turned to violence and mob mentality. It is difficult to be a young person with so much fervor and no idea how to channel that in a world you feel is crumbling. They have the energy and the passion to be outraged, not complacent. Many are not even old enough to vote and they are involving themselves in the political system the only way they see how.

I know there is good in the police departments across our country. They are good because they answered the call to secure and protect our public freeways and city spaces despite the danger it presented to each officer. They are good because they let the protests progress peacefully as long as they could in a continued effort to build a partnership with their communities despite their personal or departmental political convictions. They are good because they were in enough danger to don riot gear and have bottles and fireworks and baseball bats hurled at them and stood their ground to protect innocent bystanders in the streets.

I know there is good in the commentators across our country. From the lowly bloggers like myself to the ministers with thousands of congregants to the television programs with millions of viewers. I know we all feel the need to say something about all this. I know many times our more colorful comments don’t come from a place of anger or disgust but a place of fear. That even the most vicious sounding rhetoric can come from a frightening feeling that we HAVE to convince people to see it our way or our world will end. Many of us are desperate. Desperate to find common ground with people. Desperate to say whatever it takes to get people on board with the side you believe is the ONLY way for our country to survive. They are good because they are a reminder that we have free speech in this nation and they bravely exercise it knowing there are people that will disagree and freely say so. They are good for making us think. For making us agree or disagree. For keeping the dialogue alive at a time when so many want to shut down and stop talking.

I know it is frightening right now no matter where you stand on the issues. Change is frightening, good or bad. People behaving under the influence of extremism on both sides is frightening. People not listening to each other or respecting each other and lashing out is frightening.

But I believe in us, America. I believe we have a future. I don’t know what that future looks like, but I believe we have been through difficult and divisive times before and come out better for it. It wasn’t easy then and it will not be easy this time either. But it is worth it. It is worth not giving up on each other just because we weren’t at our very best this week.

Let’s get back up, dust off the shock and the perhaps less than perfect reactions we had and try again next week.

Knowing when to fold ’em

In an earlier post I mentioned my husband was trying a new medicine with some crazy side effects but some potential to improve his Cystic Fibrosis. We waited, did all the research we could, then decided to roll the dice and try it.

CFers that rolled the dice before us had coined the term “Hell Week” wherein the body adjusts to the new medication. Some CFers had a rough few days, some had a rough few months, some had no side effects at all.

Since Orkambi is such a specific medicine for such a specific population it is something of a celebrity in our minds – even hospital pharmacies don’t have access to it yet. When it finally arrived at our door after two months of waiting we greeted it with the appropriate pomp and circumstance, cradling the box it arrived in with the same tenderness we would carry a new baby.

He started Orkambi on July 8, deciding to give it six weeks come Hell or high water before giving up. In his mind Orkambi wasn’t the answer to everything, but it could hold the key to future improvements in his condition. He was choosing to be an optimist in light of all the answers the rapid research and push to approval didn’t provide.

At first he had flu-like symptoms. Fever. Increased cough. He was up most nights sweating profusely, then shivering. We had been warned and were not alarmed by any of this. Eventually his appetite was better and he started gaining weight. His sputum even got thinner and came up easier. So at first he was awful…and better.

He went in for PFTs (a measure of his lung functions) and had dropped 6%. The clinicians figured he must have caught a cold on top of the new medication and he would improve with time.

By September the flu-like symptoms had mostly passed but he still felt awful, had no energy, and his PFTs were hanging out in the low 50s (his baseline is normally in the high 60s). The CF team decided to cut his Orkambi dosage in half and see if that helped.

By the end of September when his PFTs continued to not improve he was admitted to the hospital for what he calls a “tune up.” These visits usually last a couple weeks, then he administers IV medicines at home for a while.

It was a couple weeks past the end of his home IVs when he came to me and explained he still felt lousy even after his hospital stay. This is uncommon, usually after a tune up he feels better.

“I want to quit,” he said in defeat, as if he had failed somehow. We talked it over, decided the only controllable variable that contributed to his drop in FEVs was Orkambi. For all of the trouble, money and side effects we were so hopeful to reap some benefit, but it didn’t go that way for us as it had for others.

He was a trooper. He stuck it out through [as best we can tell] a couple colds and a hospital stay. He made it much farther down the road with it than many have, and certainly longer than I would have tolerated.

We didn’t see it coming, but I’m beginning to suspect the hardest part of stopping Orkambi will be the giving up on something that held such promise. We knew it wouldn’t be instantly life altering, but we were hopeful it would make things a little better in the near future, and maybe a lot better in the distant future. Instead it was a long and winding staircase leading to a steep drop.

He stopped Orkambi a few days ago. He still feels lousy, but hopefully as the weeks go by he will start to feel better bit by bit.

 

The check ride

I made a series of bad decisions before my check ride. I am certain beyond a reasonable doubt under any other condition I would never get into a plane in the shape I was in. The day of the check ride I did it because I was more concerned with external pressures than my fitness to fly.

When I left Oregon for GIFT week I left a sick husband (he had just come home from the hospital and a surgery the day before) and a week of income to earn my license. I had it in my mind I wasn’t coming home without at least trying for a private license. It didn’t help that CFI #5 had moved on to an airline job and I didn’t want to go through the gauntlet to find a decent CFI at a flight school again. Scheduling the check ride at my flight school looked to be at least a few weeks, a few headaches, and a few thousand dollars away. But if I took my check ride and passed at GIFT week I could return home the victor!

This is where my mind was before I even got to Texas.

GIFT week started out great, beautiful weather, an abundance of optimism, planes and students at the ready. At noon Tuesday a storm blew in.

“…and the skies are not cloudy all day.” Bullshit. The clouds didn’t lift for two and a half days.

There was talk Thursday night that the clouds might clear Friday and some of the girls that were ready could take their check rides. I was determined to be one. Every few hours Thursday night I woke with a start about things I already knew…

“How do I use an E6B to compute groundspeed?!”

“What does the second A in AV1ATE stand for?!”

“What are the pitot static instruments?!”

Arriving at the airport Friday morning I learned the examiner was already booked and I would have to test the following morning – Saturday, the last official day of GIFT week. That same Saturday I was scheduled to catch the last available flight from Dallas to Portland, meaning I had to leave Vernon no later than 11 am – if I was willing to speed and skip lunch.

The examiner decided to begin my oral exam at 6:30am to give us enough time, but we were still dependent on the weather for the check ride and the forecast called for fog and low ceilings until noon.

I’d now like to run us through the IM SAFE checklist to illustrate the state I was in by 6:30am the following morning when my oral began.

Illness: Beginning stages of a cold and I’d had the nervous poops for a good 40 hours.

Medications: Tylenol, to stave off the headache that comes with the beginning of a cold and lack of sleep.

Stress: Mini meltdown territory. That morning I could be found alone in the dark  – silent tears dribbling down my cheeks – outside the hotel waiting for the examiner to pick me up.

Alcohol: None. I opted to study the night before instead of celebrate with the newly licensed pilots that passed their tests.

Fatigue: Not a wink of sleep in close to 40 hours between my roommate’s fog horn decibel snoring and the bathroom faucet that dripped all night long. Also, did anyone catch that 6:30 am Texas time is 4:30 am Oregon time?

Eating: I managed half a plain bagel and then gave up on food. For those that don’t know me: I need food roughly every two hours if I am expected to function as a peaceful, intelligent human.

It was against all of my better judgment that I stepped into the examiner’s car that morning and began my oral exam before the sun was up while we drove to the airport.

Like countless student pilots before me I was asked about medical certificates, Bravo airspace, the legality of carrying marijuana on board, Victor airways, and all of the other good stuff that pilots have to know about. To be honest, I don’t remember most of the oral. Only that it lasted THREE HOURS. My eyes kept drifting over to the clock as inconspicuously as possible wondering if I was ever going to make it to the check ride.

The sun came up and the fog that was predicted never formed. The skies were mostly clear except for some fluffy little clouds at 2,500 feet. There was only one questionable weather phenomenon that day – the wind. Again, on any other day, I would have checked the weather, saw 19 knot winds gusting at 24, decided I’d never flown in something that strong and made the call to stay on the ground. But on check ride day this is what came into my head: “I’ve made it this far, I should give the check ride a shot. Worst case scenario: I find myself up there unable to manage these winds and I have a talented CFI and DPE in the right seat. The worst that can happen is I fail the test. No one is dying today. Go for it.”

So, up we went, even with the examiner saying “are you sure?” [Hell no, I’m pretty sure I should stay firmly planted on the ground!]…which came out as a deceptively confident “yes.”

Another bad decision I made that day: I was in a hurry (to catch my flight out of Dallas). I’ve never taxied that fast in my life, and twice the examiner made comments that I  needed to slow down. I heard her. I even intended to slow down, but before I knew it my hand was on that throttle again and we were whizzing down the taxiway.

Aside of my taxi motor speedway act it started out great. The take off was nice, the climb was right at 70 knots, I found my first check point and calculated my ground speed on my E6B. Then the examiner asked me to fly above the spotted clouds.

I refused.

She asked again.

I refused again.

The third time she explained it wasn’t part of the test to see if I would make a bad call and fly above converging clouds as a VFR pilot but as a necessity since we couldn’t do many of the maneuvers below three thousand feet. I insisted I would only do it if she took responsibility for getting us down safely if the clouds converged. She giggled at me, made a mark on her paper and agreed.

Up we climbed through the spaces in the clouds to 3,500 where I was asked to do steep turns. Fun fact: I hadn’t practiced steep turns in six months. Another fun fact: it’s much easier to pick a point on the horizon when the horizon is full of mountains; it is very difficult to pick a point on the horizon when there are no points out there, just open plains for miles and miles. I picked a collection of farm buildings and did my best to keep the nose on the horizon.

Steep turns were followed by slow flight, which segued to stalls.

The power off stall…god bless it the nose wouldn’t buffet! I had the yoke all the way back, the airspeed indicator read 0 knots, still no buffet! My feet were dancing to keep it coordinated…..nothing….nothing….still nothing…is it the wind?!

I looked at the VSI and called it, “we’re losing 500 feet a minute, I’m declaring this a stall and starting my recovery.”

The examiner did not protest.

The power on stall was textbook, the nose buffeted as it should, I dropped it a little and recovered.

Then out came the hood.

The hood?!

Yes, I said hood. Did anyone else not know that the hood would be part of the check ride? No? Just me then?

I donned the hood [for the first time in eight months] and gave the examiner what she wanted. Then this happened: “were you the one in class asking about graveyard spirals?”

I was indeed one of a few people asking about the difference between a spin and a graveyard spiral…and everything else that can kill you in an airplane. What can I say, I’m a pansy.

On the spot the examiner asked me to do one. “Go ahead, bank the plane in either direction…keep going” Eventually we entered the spiral. “Now pull back on the yoke. Do you feel the g’s increasing, you’re only making it worse.” Faster and faster we spiraled “ok, now do you remember how to recover?”

I leveled the wings and the spiral was over. So was my hood time. Whew!

Next came turns around a point. This is how strong the wind was at 1,000 feet – I had to point my plane away from my point and look over my shoulder to watch it pass behind the tail to keep my distance from it on the upwind side. Somehow it was the best turning around a point I had ever done.

“Ok, take me back to Wilbarger Airport,” she said.

Riiiiiight…..I had tried all along to keep an idea of where I was during our maneuvers but there had been clouds below me for most of my navigation attempts. I knew there were wind turbines near the airport. I searched the endless display of fields and found not one but three windmill farms in the distance.

Well shit.

I pointed the plane vaguely at all three and began searching for the freeway I knew led into Vernon.

No freeway.

The examiner – watching me search the sectional and the ground wildly – pulled out her phone and said, “you know, it’s amazing how many navigation apps there are available to us as pilots. In the real world you will have access to them, I see no reason why you can’t have access to them now during the test.”

God bless that DPE. We made it back to Wilbarger Airport where the winds were stronger than when we took off.

“Ok, let’s see a short field landing.”

It was all I could do to line the plane up with the runway in what may have been the longest final in recorded history. I first shot for runway 20 and changed it to 16…ya, I uh…I meant to do that.

I did it like I had flawlessly practiced it days before when the winds were calm. I brought it in full flaps, cut the power just shy of the numbers and then coasted down the runway…..way past the numbers….way past the markings I intended to stop before….way past the point where the two runways cross…eventually the plane settled down into the best soft-field landing a girl could hope for. Too bad I was shooting for a short field landing.

“ok, show me a soft-field takeoff then.”

With the winds we jumped into the air well before Vr and I did my best to hold it in ground effect until Vx. With the wind I was all over the place. I came around the pattern and the examiner asked for a soft-field landing. So, naturally, I produced the perfect short field landing. I touched down HARD on the numbers – even with the power still in.

“Those would have been perfect if you had done them in the right order,” the examiner joked. I was completely deflated and cursing the winds in my mind.

We taxied “Little Blue” back to the fuel pump and shut her down.

“Well I’ve got great news!” the DPE said. “We’ve gotten you back by 11 am! You can catch your plane in Dallas.”

With those words – and those words alone – she got out of the plane.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????!!!!!

Utterly destroyed I climbed out of the plane and began fueling it up.

When she came back within earshot I asked her for the words I needed to hear.

“Did I pass?”

She looked at me incredulously, “Yes, of course!”

I stared at her for a minute wondering why she would pull such a cruel joke on an already overstressed student. I was in disbelief. It didn’t feel right. I had royally screwed up the landings. I had gotten lost out there. I couldn’t get the nose to buffet in the power off stall. I had made a number of bad decisions all morning long, including getting into the plane in the first place. How? How had I passed?

Then my body started doing something to me. It started out slow, then it started to grow. I was jumping. I was shuffling. I was wiggling my hips like a boss. It was the happy dance.

My body had accepted the news, my brain had not.

The face of celebratory disbelief


I hugged the DPE. I said thank you. I got the silly string celebration when I stepped into the FBO – all the way in cognitive disbelief yet physical celebration.

A few minutes later I was climbing back in Little Blue with another pilot and logging my first 45 minutes as a private pilot. We flew back into the metroplex and got me to Love Field with all of 5 minutes to spare.

This is Alex. He is about to be a great addition to the CfI community. He joined me back to the metroplex on my first official flight as a licensed pilot.

This is Texas from 3,000 feet. Flat plains for miles and miles.


It was a whirlwind day. I wasted no time telling everyone sitting next to me on the plane that I was a pilot. Although it took special effort to edit out the word “student.” It was another 7 hours before I was back home in Portland .

I was still in disbelief that night. I’m told it will sink in soon. It’s been two weeks and I’m still in disbelief. I’ll let you guys know when it does.

Even more pics from GIFT week!

Girlsinflight
We worked hard this week and have lots of good progress to report. A number of girls passed their written exam, more will take the test soon.


There are three newly certified pilots as a result of GIFT this year.

This is Brenda, who flew in from Mexico to earn her commercial license (covered in silly string, per tradition).


This is Cameron from California who earned her private.


And yours truly, as of today a private pilot!

What it takes

I have found that very few – if any – student pilots’ journeys to licensed pilot are easy, simple experiences. Most contain a series of harrowing stories, a tremendous financial hurdle, a facing-off with ones mortality and deepest fears, an ability to prioritize something that feels out of reach, a small army of supporters, and a sprinkling of prickly personalities to contend with. I know this because of my own story, and from listening to so many others that did and didn’t make it to the finish line.

Today I arrived in Vernon, Texas to Girls In Flight Training week – a program modeled after the WWll WASP training program in Sweetwater, Texas where women trained women to fly. I have only met a few of the women I will be working with this week but already I am hearing familiar things. Things like “I have over 100 hours and haven’t soloed yet” and “I am the only girl at my airport” and  “my last three flight instructors dropped me because their wives didn’t want him flying with a girl.”

A few years ago AOPA published an article asking if aviation needed an all girls’ flight school. After some of the shared experiences I’ve heard today, I would suggest an all girls flight school in every state. There are women here from all over the country, one from Mexico.

This place feels like a sanctuary of kindred spirits. It hasn’t even officially begun yet but I am encouraged and excited. We’ve all made sacrifices to be here. It wasn’t just a plane ticket and a week off of work. It was leaving my husband a day after surgery after a two week stint in the hospital. I left him to his own devices because he insisted. He understood how important this would be for me. 

So, here I am in the middle of nowhere hoping to finish my private license in the next few days. Across the country on a different time zone my dogs are wondering where I’ve gone and my husband is ordering take-out to survive. None of it is easy, but no one’s story ever is, male or female. I hope this is the last hurdle to my PPL.

Girlsinflight
This is what the middle of nowhere looks like.