Guest Post: My friend’s Eloquent Facebook Rant

Time for a rant.  It’s been a while.

I am continually amazed and frustrated by our common lack of concern and care for other human beings. Everyone has excuses:  “I’m too busy”; “Too involved”; “I don’t want to get involved for fear of recrimination”; “I’ve become bitter and don’t care anymore”; or my favorite, “I don’t have any money, either.”

My question is, what if were you or yours that needed some sort of of assistance? What would your expectations be and what have you put out there? The tables change drastically then. Then, all we hear about is how no one did a thing, no one was willing to help.

Apathy begets apathy. Karma exists.

I’m not saying there aren’t good people out there that do good in the world every day, there are millions of them. They don’t blow their own horns, they don’t do it for the glory or recognition. They do it for the personal satisfaction they feel when they know that they have helped someone survive this messed up process we call life, if only for one more day.

During my “Boot Camps,” one of my standard goals is to find someone that needs a kindness, and offer it. This isn’t something that I only do once in a while – I strive to do this every single day.  It doesn’t always come back in the way we want or in our time frame, but I promise that it does, if you chose to acknowledge it, respect it for what it is.

Yesterday, I encountered a situation where some people required assistance, and so I offered mine. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was necessity, because I could not have gotten up this morning and faced my reflection in the mirror had I not done all that I possibly could.  This kindness has already come back to me in spades. Not only do I feel great about my accomplishment, someone else has reached out to me in my time of need and is helping me to improve my life.

Is the return always immediate?  Certainly not.  It may be years before your good deeds come full circle.  But that isn’t the point. The point is to try.  We may fail, but that the failure itself teaches us what to avoid if we are wise enough to learn from our mistakes.

The world doesn’t always need grandiose gestures. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “Thank you for the job you do”; “I need you”; “I want you”, “You are valuable”; or even “I see your struggle and although I can’t help in the way you need, I’ll stay by your side and hold your hand when it’s really hard.” Sometimes it’s picking up someone’s coffee for them, or just listening when they have hit the ropes and they really need to rant about how unfair it is.

One of my mom’s favorite quotes was, “No man is an island.”  As a child, I never understood what it meant.  But these days, it resonates with me. You can’t do it alone, shouldn’t do it alone.  But yet we expect those we don’t know or don’t particularity care for to do so.

I don’t necessarily have the solution, I just know that I have a compulsion to try. I struggle daily with being in a position where it would be so easy to say, “I’m just too busy.”  I REFUSE to give in to that. I REFUSE to allow Karma to put me and mine on that list of the uninterested!

What will you choose today?  And tomorrow, for that matter?  I’ve already made my choice.

D is for Dead Reckoning

Image

Where are we? What does the GPS say?

“DEAD RECKONING – In pioneer flight before radio, beacons, and accurate maps, flying distances much by instinct and guesswork, and referring to whatever landmarks were below, was quite routine. The “dead” part simply meant “straight,” as in the nautical “dead ahead,” and pilots often relied heavily on the IRON COMPASS for cross-country flights over unfamiliar territory.”http://www.aerofiles.com/glossary.html

In my opinion, dead reckoning is a lost art. Pilots have become so dependent on technology, that even when their destination is in sight, they still obsessively consult the aircraft’s GPS to verify their position. Some don’t even glance outside the cockpit anymore, except when forced to for takeoff and landing, content to monitor the flight systems as autopilot does all the work. I honestly believe that this behavior is nothing short of laziness, and that the pilot is voluntarily rejecting of the joy of flight.

As a freight pilot, I was encouraged to fly the aircraft manually. As a charter pilot, I was forbidden to hand fly the aircraft above 10,000 feet. The difference in skill level between my freight colleagues and my charter coworkers was remarkable, and I place the blame firmly on the glittery allure of technology.

One of the most interesting examples of this assertion comes from my days as a flight instructor. Prior to signing off a student to complete their required solo cross-country flights, I would do my best to get them lost and force them to use dead reckoning to make their way home.

My normal tactic involved practicing unusual attitude recovery. The student would close their eyes while I placed the aircraft in either a steeply climbing or rapidly descending turn. They must then safely return the aircraft to straight and level flight after I instruct them to open their eyes. At some point during these maneuvers, I would reset the gyroscopic heading indicator 90 degrees so that when it showed we were going east to return to the field, we were actually southbound. We would fly south until the student figured out that something was wrong, and then I would let them use whatever would be available to them when they were alone to find their way home. We did not have GPS in those old trainers, so they were forced to use dead reckoning.

Only one of my students was not fooled. He was my oldest student – in his 70s, I think – and dead reckoning was nothing new to him. When I tried my little trick on him and asked him to go ahead and take us home, he pointed the aircraft in the right direction without hesitation.

I was astonished.

When I asked him how he knew he was going the right direction, he pointed out the window and said, “That’s Morris to the south of us along the river. The airport is east.”

“But the heading indicator says that we’re going south,” I said, still confused.

“Does it? I never look at that thing. The magnetic compass will never steer you wrong if you give it a chance,” he responded.

That day, I was the one who got schooled, and I have no doubt that I am a better pilot for it.

    – This post is dedicated to Joe Witkowski. Thank you for sharing your love of flying with me. Rest in peace, my friend.

I am Werewolf – Hear Me Howl

“No…” I groan.  Doubled over in pain, I scurry frantically for the ladies’ restroom.  “Not now.  Not here!”  But it’s no use.  The transformation has begun.  The beast within, liberated from its bonds, is now free to wreak its horrific path of destruction, all while wearing my skin.  It is me.  And for a time, I am it – a monster.

I knew it was coming.  All the signs were there – erratic, dangerous mood swings, acne outbreaks on par with life-choking algae blooms, immeasurable fatigue, and an uncontrollable sprouting of hair in places not normally furry.  Ever since the tender age of 11 when my mother welcomed me into the pack, I have experienced the pain, humiliation, and utter helplessness of my metamorphosis into a savage fiend every single lunar month.

There was a time that it was manageable.  At great expense, I was able to obtain medication for my condition.  If taken every day, the pills would weaken the beast to the point that when it awoke each month, I had the strength to cage the monster.  It still raged within me, but it had no power to do more than slaver madly from its confines.  I remained human.

But those days have long since past.  Although not afflicted with my malady, those in power decided that the use of this miraculous medication was morally objectionable.  In 2012, they succeeded in outlawing it.  And so I am now – once again – completely at the mercy of the creature which I am doomed to become each and every month for the rest of my life.

Haggard from the pain, I returned to the boardroom from which I had, moments ago, hastily fled.  Noting my appearance, a man snickered, “What’s wrong?  Got your period?”  A wave of mean-spirited tittering coursed through the room, further agitating the furious beast within.

The ensuing massacre occurred only in my beleaguered mind.  This time.

Spam?

I noticed this in my WordPress Spam folder today:

“The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.”

Intending to callously delete this comment, I abruptly paused with my index finger hovering over the left mouse button.  What if this is legitimate feedback?  What if the glaring absence of apostrophes is because the commenter had been moved to point out my whiny, attention-seeking ways on their android phone, but lacked sufficient time to insert proper punctuation?

I realize that I am, indeed, a bit of a publicity whore.  From the beginning, I have spent a lot of time writing about myself and my pet peeves without so much as a infinitesimal thought of what anyone who might come across my blog might enjoy.  I have even “borrowed” the work of others when I was too lazy to post my own thoughts.

At times, however, I did believe I had something amusing, or interesting to say.  Whether this was simple narcissism – as the commenter suggests – or something else, I cannot say.  I imagine everyone believes themselves to be witty, gracious, and a touch philosophical.  I am no exception.  I would even go so far as to say that an author must imagine themselves to be all these things and more, else their foray into the hazardous (to the ego) and mysterious world of writing would end before it even began.

Sighing deeply, I returned to the task at hand and decisively clicked the button.  The self-reflection was fun, but I have to get back to writing.

An Exercise in Empathy

The other day, I saw this cartoon:

Nice attitude

It bothered me so much, that I decided to use it as a basis for the following short story.  Please tell me what you think.

Sadie was feeling better today. The treatments had been over for a week and she didn’t feel like she had been hit by a Peterbuilt when she woke up this morning. That was promising. Sadie prayed that she had the strength to get through her two appointments today before the inevitable crash when she would be so dizzy and nauseated that she would have to spend the remainder of the day in bed.

Grabbing her fuchsia Louis Vuitton bag, Sadie headed toward the door. She opened it, stepped outside and, before closing it again, cast a sad look around her room. She used to have a normal life. A great job, a fiancée , even a little house that she managed to buy on her own. But the cancer had taken everything.

First, the man who said he’d love her forever bolted as if his hair were on fire after she told him the news. Then, her boss fired her because the chemotherapy and radiation treatments had made her too sick to work. And not long after that, she had even lost the little ranch she had saved all her life to buy. Her limited savings could only pay the hospital bills or the mortgage, but not both. The only reason Sadie had a roof over her head now is that her sister had taken her in for the last few months of her life.

She stroked her purse in an unconscious effort to soothe herself.  The LV Mott bag had been Sadie’s birthday gift to herself exactly one year ago. Only a month later, she found out she had cancer. She couldn’t bear to part with the one thing that reminded her of the life she once had and hoped to have again someday, and so she didn’t sell the purse, even though it could have covered a payment on her house.

Sighing, Sadie closed the door to her bedroom in her sister’s 4-bedroom house and began her walk to the salon down the street. Her first appointment was for the free hair extensions they offered to cancer patients. Since she didn’t loose all of her hair, she thought maybe a weave or whatever they were called, would be better. That way, Sadie wouldn’t be taking a wig away from a woman who was completely bald after her treatments.

It didn’t take long for her to walk to the salon. The woman who owned the place had decided to take care of Sadie today. They chatted pleasantly while the beautician worked until the owner discovered it was Sadie’s birthday. Immediately, the she called over two of her employees, moved Sadie to a pedicure station, and treated her to a mani/pedi on the house. All the attention embarrassed Sadie, but in her heart, she was very grateful. She could never have afforded all of this pampering and it was wonderful to feel like a woman again. She left the salon with tears in her eyes and a song in her heart.

Sadie’s next stop was the free clinic. She hated that she had to go there, but what choice did she have? She could afford nothing else. The treatments for the cancer had taken all of her savings since the insurance company dropped her.  Medicaid was literally the only thing keeping her alive.

Thinking about her circumstances made Sadie feel depressed all over again. She was lost in thought when something shiny caught her eye as she slowly trudged passed a trash can outside a corner store. Someone had discarded a MAC tinted lip gloss. It was just lying there on top of a crumpled up newspaper. Looking furtively up and down the street, Sadie quickly reached into the receptacle and snatched the tube. Almost overwhelmed with disgust that she had sunk so low, she carefully examined her prize. It was still a quarter of the way full and the pinkish tint was labeled “Comfort & Joy.” Sadie thought that was a good sign. She also figured the cancer would take her life a lot sooner than anything she might catch from used lip gloss, so she opened it, swiped some over her lips, and dropped the treasure into her purse.

Feeling hopeful again, Sadie resumed her walk to the clinic for her appointment. Maybe this wasn’t such a horrible 28th birthday after all.

2011 Wrap Up

A little more than a year ago, I timidly wandered into the Blogosphere hoping for nothing more than a creative outlet.  To my surprise, I have gained so much more than that.  I have no words for the depth of the gratitude I feel for the support, encouragement, and friendship I have received from so many.  I am overwhelmed.  Thank you.

I’ve heard that you can’t move forward without looking back, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to share one of my favorite posts from each month with you.  I hope all of your years to come are filled with joy, adventure and love.  Thank you for sharing my journey with me!

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

STFD (Shut the Front Door!)

If you’re like me, you’ve probably had to be reminded countless times to shut the door.  The consequences of failing to properly shut the door are serious.  Since the door was invented (by Ugg Cavewoman who needed to be alone and wanted something to slam in order to get that point across) many a foolish human has been utterly devastated by a door left ajar.

See the difference?

You may be letting the heat out or, perhaps, air conditioning the Earth.  You may be letting in mosquitoes which will suck your blood while you sleep and then breed millions of additional microscopic vampires in order to desiccate your comatose body in a single night. Or even more heinous, if you do not heed door-shutting warnings, you just may end up naked at work.  This last example is what ultimately cured me of my lax door closing habits.

The first aircraft I flew as a freight pilot was a Beech Baron.  In order to enter this aircraft, you must climb up on the wing on the right hand side.  Once inside, the door must then be latched from the inside in two places before you scoot over to the left seat to get down to business.  If the top, deceptively unimportant-looking latch is not closed correctly, the door will pop open during a critical phase of flight and not even Hercules will be able to close it again while in the air.

"Come into my parlor," said the spider to the fly...

The first time I discovered this Baron door anomaly, I was departing Midway airport on my way to St. Louis.  It was a beautiful, bright, sunny afternoon and the door became decidedly un-shut immediately after takeoff.  The air pressure was such that my hat, which was innocently perched on the co-pilot’s seat,  instantaneously vacated the aircraft.

Cursing my door closing lapse, I turned on the autopilot only to find that closing this door again while in flight was not going to happen.  Ever.  Not wanting to listen to the wind howl my failure while the cold nibbled my extremities all the way to St. Louis, I requested and received a clearance through a small uncontrolled field, landed, shut the door and took off again to continue my flight.

The next leg of my route from St. Louis to Peoria was uneventful except for the mild sting of the loss of my hat.  But, alas, I did not learn my lesson.   This time when the door popped open on takeoff out of Peoria, my jacket was martyred.  I barely managed to sweep my approach plates, which were all cozy underneath my ill-fated jacket, onto the floor to safety.

After coming back around to land and shut the damn door, I took off again for Milwaukee.  Somehow, the next air traffic controller not only knew of my  clothes-depleting shame, but he was also highly amused by the whole situation.  He wanted to chat about it.  Over the radio.  For the world to hear.  Lucky me.  Now everyone was placing bets on whether I’d have any clothes left at all by the end of my shift.

Yet despite my abject humiliation, these misadventures may have saved my life.

A few months after learning my lesson the hard way, I was flying from Milwaukee to Midway with a co-pilot who was about to have a harsher lesson than my own.  We were in an aircraft that was equipped with a single “throw over” control yoke and he was using it to fly from the right seat.  When the top latch of the door opened while in cruise flight, I knew that as soon as he put the gear down, the rest of the door was going to follow suit.  However, while I was prepared for this outcome, my co-pilot was not.  And when the door opened, the wind dried out his contacts, effectively blinding him.

Panicked, he tried to throw the control yoke back over to my side so that I could take over the flight.  This, we found, is not possible in the air.  In that instant, I decided our only recourse was for us to work together.  I operated the rudder pedals and managed the power while talking him through the control yoke inputs he needed to make in order to get us safely on the ground.  Had I not already had my own humbling shut-the-door lesson seared into my being, this flight may not have had such a happy ending.

In posting this blog, my deepest wish is for you to learn from my mistakes instead of having to experience the folly of improper door closing for yourself.  Doors left ajar can only lead to suffering.  Please, stfd!