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.

A Passion for Princesses

Some of my daughter's princesses on the bridge of their space ship.

My 3-year-old daughter is crazy about princesses. Since I did not have the same affliction as a child, I am now forced to watch all the Disney Princess movies with her to keep her happy and me partially sane. They’re not as bad as I imagined, though. Here are a few of the points that I picked up from the movies that make me feel better about indulging her princess obsession:

* Cinderella wanted to escape the tyranny of her family to go to the ball. And what girl doesn’t want to dress up and go out and have a good time after slaving away all day? She didn’t even know the man with whom she fell in love was the prince until he sent his underlings to return her shoe.

* Sleeping Beauty didn’t even want to be a princess. She only wanted to marry the man of her dreams. Even the prince spurned his betrothal to Princess Aurora in favor of Briar Rose, a peasant girl he met in the woods. Love rules, royal status drools.

* Belle went in search of her missing father and agreed to be a captive in his place. She fell in love with a beast, not a prince. And spurned the advances of the handsome (and hugely narcissistic) Gaston. This is actually one of my favorite princess movies to watch with my daughter since it shows the difference between inner beauty and outward appearances.

* Ariel actually rescued the prince! Twice! And Ariel’s sisters (also princesses) had horrible singing voices. Now, THAT’S something that no other princess movie has!

* Tiana worked like a dog to make her dreams come true while denying herself everything else. She actually turned a wayward playboy of a prince into a decent fellow before she fell in love with him. Note: my daughter is not a fan of The Princess and the Frog because Tiana spends most of the movie as a frog.

* Jasmine refused to marry anyone that she didn’t love, ran away, and then later used her feminine wiles to distract the bad guy and help Aladdin – who, by the way, wanted to be a prince so that he could marry HER!

* Snow White was the only one innocently dreaming of a prince to marry, but that didn’t stop her from making the forest animals clean the house and shaming the the Dwarfs into washing before dinner.

* Fiona married an ogre, and then chose him again over Prince Charming. (I had to throw this one in. I LOVE Shrek!)

None of these women – Snow White, in my opinion, was just a girl – dreamed of marrying a prince. Most fell in love with someone that they didn’t even know was a prince. They did not want fame, fortune, pretty dresses, servants, or even a crown. All they wanted was love. And who doesn’t want that?

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!

Simulated Fun

As the pilot of a jet, I was required to pass a competency check every six months.  Some of the maneuvers I needed to perform were less expensive and much safer to do in a flight simulator.

It may not look like much from the outside, but inside it's better than Disney World.

These simulators are incredibly advanced, offering full motion and exceptional graphics which are capable of giving the pilot a very realistic experience.  The instructors also have the God-like powers to place you at any airport, in any time of weather conditions, with whatever broken aircraft systems that floats their boat.

For this reason, many a pilot has woken up in a cold sweat at the prospect of simulator training.  Not me.  I loved it.  Where else can you test the very limits of your flying expertise and not run the risk of dying?

My freight dog brethren understood.

Great. Where's the flashlight?

A night time approach in a half mile of freezing fog with clear ice building on the unprotected surfaces of your aircraft was not a far fetched scenario, it was common.  Losing your interior lights may not even be noticed during the day when most pilots are working, but it could be a giant pain in the ass for a freight pilot at 2:00 in the morning.

Some of the instructors particularly enjoyed the freight dog “bring it on” attitude.  Once, after a particularly difficult approach and embarrassingly ugly landing in the Learjet 35 simulator, I had angrily asked my instructor what I did wrong.  He just laughed and said, “I loaded you up with about 3000 pounds of ice.  I can’t believe you didn’t crash.”

Asking one of these folks for a zero visibility approach and landing must have been like manna from Heaven.  How horrible would it be to have omnipotent powers that you could only use when some adventurous and arguably masochistic soul said, “pretty please?”

Call me crazy – you wouldn’t be the first or the last – but I never wanted to be the pilot caught by surprise in a dangerous situation for the first time in an actual aircraft.  I wanted to experience everything from the safety of the simulator first where I could explore different solutions, have the luxury of stopping time, and review what worked and what didn’t.

All the fun with none of the risk.  What could be better than that?

Life’s Road

When I was a morose teenager, I wrote a poem I called “Life’s Road.”  Like most angst-ridden hormonal prose, it was never really meant to be shared.  It was just a method for me to purge some of my juvenile emotions.  Here’s what I can remember:

Life’s road is filled with many twists and turns

And from tragedy to tragedy, one never learns

That the potholes in the Road are meant to be

Small reminders throughout history

That we must pick ourselves up and dust off the dirt

And let no one else know how much we hurt

Else those we love and in which we’ll confide

Become strangers who leave us cruelly behind.

 Looking back, I hardly recognize that person anymore.  So many things have changed and shaped who I am today to led me to this point in my life.  I have been a Mary Kay consultant, flight instructor, and business owner.  I am a wife, mother, and aunt.  I have realized my dream of flying a Learjet, which I wanted to do ever since I first laid eyes on its sexy, agile fuselage.  And now, I even have the audacity to call myself a writer

The person who wrote that poem could not have even imagined that she would one day fly a Learjet at 45,000 feet and witness the spellbinding beauty of the Northern Lights illuminating the barely noticeable curvature of the Earth.  She did not know that not only would she have children of her own, but that each one of those children would be tiny pieces of her soul exposed to whatever Life’s Road may throw at them.  She never dreamed that she could ever write anything that anyone would care to read.

In this last year alone, I have learned so much.  I have very hesitantly shared my thoughts and have received more than my share of encouragement.  I have made new friends and re-ignited a passion for writing that allows me to share the joy, hope and gratitude that I never knew I could feel when I penned “Life’s Road.”

And the journey continues.  I am overwhelmed by my good fortune and so very happy that I took this fork in the Road.  Thank you for your friendship, your encouragement and for joining me on my expedition of self discovery. 

Now, buckle up.  We’re going for a RIDE!

Drinking from the Fire Hose

There have been several times in my life when I have stepped so far outside my comfort zone that I was unsure I would ever find my way back.

My J.R.O.T.C. Drill Team

While some of these jaunts were exercises in personal growth, such as performing as a member of my high school J.R.O.T.C. drill team, competing in my local Junior Miss Pageant, and even going away to college, most involved flying.

Some milestones on the path to a pilot’s license are mild comfort zone busters:  first solo, solo cross country, check rides, etc.  Others, such as initial Learjet 35 training at Flightsafety International Inc., are akin to drinking from a fire hose.

Learjet training

Prior to my two week indoctrination into the right seat of the Lear, the most complicated piece of equipment I had flown was a Cessna 310.  Going from this relatively docile aircraft to the bad tempered rodeo bronco that hid behind the sleek facade of the Learjet was exhilarating, terrifying, and so far outside my comfort zone that I couldn’t even speak the local language to ask where I might find a bathroom.

For two weeks, I and three of my colleagues were completely immersed in Lear 35 systems, operating procedures, high altitude and emergency operations, and simulator training.  Each night, I would have nightmares about whatever system we had gone over the day before, certain that I would never, ever, be able to remember even a fraction of the information dispensed.  Each day, we were thrown into the deep end of an unfathomable ocean of information and expected to dog paddle our way back to the shore.

It wasn’t until much later on that I realized the only way to truly learn to operate a Lear was to actually fly it.  At first, you are so far behind in your copilot duties that the captain is essentially flying solo until you catch up, which usually occurs about 30 minutes after landing at your destination.  But eventually, your comfort zone expands to the point that you know the cockpit blindfolded.  And that’s usually about the time you’re ready to upgrade and belly up to the fire hose again.

The moral of this story?  Don’t let fear keep you from drinking from the fire hose.  If I had allowed fear to win, I would never had known the pure, unadulterated joy of flying a Learjet.  Who knows what you may miss out on if you won’t break free of your comfort zone?

Cheers!