This past week was busy and full of challenges. Maybe for you, as well. The excitement and work that has gone into the flyGIRL scholarship announcement came to a head at Sporty’s last Saturday. That was such an extraordinary afternoon for me. To help another young woman pursue her dream, filled me with a satisfaction never personally experienced.
My oldest son graduated from high school. He made it; he’s still alive! My house was full of family members visiting to witness his accomplishment. It’s surreal to watch this young man, that’s been under my wing, embark on a whole new chapter. He’s currently a little lost about what he wants to do with himself, understandably. His life will unfold in ways no one can predict.
Doing My Best
Probably the most stressful part of my week was preparing for my final stage check before my instrument rating training check ride is scheduled. This rating is a challenge! A good performance is extremely important to me. I really want to perform well during my oral exam, master all of the approaches and blow the examiner away. Eking by is unacceptable to me.
Finding enough time to study is always a challenge. It’s still fun for me to go over some of the things I’ve been learning since Day One. Each note card brings back a special memory from a flight or is a reminder of how far I’ve come in less than two years. I can remember when some of the concepts would finally “click” and make sense. When writing the note cards out at the beginning of my private pilot days, some of the FAR’s, definitions and/or descriptions were so overwhelming and foreign to me. Doubt would creep in that maybe I was in over my head. Many of those concepts had to be experienced before they were fully understood. My instructor can attest that my learning style requires hands-on repetition. Oh boy! If I could just read something and understand it…my aviation fuel bill would be at least half of what it is! Note to others: flight training will definitely cut into your wardrobe allowance. BOO!
What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?
Since beginning my aviation journey 21 months ago, I’ve proceeded through private pilot training, become an aircraft owner, flown across the U.S. and have logged over 400 hours. Hopefully, my instrument rating will be solidified in a few days. There are other ratings and many more hours of flying planned in my future. I am often asked: “What are your future plans in aviation?” Admittedly, this question leaves me feeling a little like my recent high school graduate son. Is it nuts to start forging a new path?
Trying to put into words what flying has done for me recently is extremely complex. There have been numerous rewarding experiences and exciting new friendships formed. I’ve introduced aviation and shared my experiences with various young ladies and children. There have been many new places explored by me in my little plane. All great things! This is the first time something has been so personally rewarding for me. It’s produced a confidence in myself never known. I’m very fortunate to be able to fly around and see new places in my own airplane. The sense of accomplishment felt after each landing is inexplicable.
It’s also been a challenge. My first flight, nearly two years ago, opened my eyes to new possibilities. Honestly, that’s been a real struggle for my family. Acknowledging that being a full-time mom for the past 18 years and raising a family hasn’t completely fulfilled me, has been an adjustment. My kids watch me studying instead of cleaning their rooms. Home made meals are a thing of the past (for the record, cooking has never been my thing). They do their own laundry (and not very well, I’ll add). It’s gotten real easy for me to say no to things that aren’t enjoyable. Some of these things I’ve been doing for years.
Balancing my dreams while living out commitments to my family is demanding. In some ways, life is easier when we stay the course and don’t open Pandora’s box. For me, it’s been more difficult to bury my curiosity for the unknown and new challenges. I want to build a new career for myself around aviation. At my age, it’s uncomfortable admitting that. Most people are supportive. My kids look at me with curiosity. They say “You’re a mom” Or “Aren’t you too old for that?” My reply: “Hell no!” OK. That’s a lie. Southern ladies don’t use profanity around their children (that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking it though).
What I Want Others to Know
What I’ve learned is that there doesn’t have to be an age limit on new interests or paths. Life is always evolving. Don’t put limits on yourself. I’m not sure what lies ahead for me. Currently, I’m just enjoying each new flight path. My life is still unfolding for me just as it is for my 18 year old son.
This past Saturday the first flyGIRL scholarship recipient was introduced. It was one of the most exciting days I’ve ever experienced. Giving is the ultimate high. Most people want to help others. Many of us feel that we can’t afford to. I have a “little sister” with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Ohio. As you could guess, her family is not wealthy. She rarely has more than $20 with her. Yet, if we see a homeless person, she always gives them something. No one would judge her if she walked by and said “I don’t have any extra money to give.” Most would probably agree. She has no relationship with this stranger and will probably never see them again. Yet, she is willing to share what she has.
Painless Household Donations
Hopefully, most people are willing to share some of what they have with people in need. Donating old, unused household items is pretty painless. De-cluttering and removing things from my house is fun for me. I’m the extreme opposite of a pack rat. My house could be featured on the fictional TV series: Does Anyone Live Here? If there’s an item taking up space that hasn’t been used in over 6 weeks, it’ll be removed and bagged for Goodwill in about 20 seconds flat. Clutter makes me squirm. The negative to this is if there is a time that I actually need that snowball maker, I’m screwed….
Donating Cold, Hard Cash
Writing a check for a charitable donation isn’t too difficult. Don’t get me wrong! No one enjoys giving their hard-earned money away. Clinging to your money as if it’s the key to happiness is a ridiculous waste of energy. No matter how much money you have, there will always be someone with more (my children have heard me say this numerous times). Don’t drive yourself nuts believing life would be perfect if you only had more money. The amount of problems you have won’t go away with more money. A lack of money may no longer be one of your problems but (spoiler alert) money can actually cause other problems. Well, that sucks. Instead, find some ways to use the money you do have to help an organization you believe in or people you believe in.
Am I drawn to the American National Cattlewomen Foundation? Negative. What about the local volunteer fire department? Absolutely! Even if filling out an actual check, addressing an actual envelope and locating an actual stamp (what do they cost now?) is torturous. It brings much more satisfaction to me then donating a $1 at the Target register ever will!
This may be the hardest. Time is impossible to recover. Yet, it is one of the best ways to truly make a difference. Knowing what you’re good at and what you enjoy is key. If you volunteer to do something that you don’t like, it will show and could have a negative impact on those you’re actually trying to help.
I’m against animal cruelty. Yet, I’m nervous around animals. There have been at least three instances in my life of threatening animal encounters. It would be laughable if it weren’t true: I’ve been chased by a herd of cattle, thrown off a horse (more than once), and attacked by a dog. Volunteering at an animal shelter is probably not the best place for me to be helpful. The animals would definitely smell fear in me. However, spending time with young kids and adults is extremely fun for me. I’ve taken my “little” flying and enjoy mentoring her and encouraging her as she grows.
Someone told me a long time ago not to be guilted into things that aren’t enjoyable for me. Leave the available position open for the right person.
The flyGIRL Scholarship
This Saturday, the culmination of my donated personal time and money was reached. A check for $5,000 was gladly handed over to a well-deserving female pilot. I’ve spent many hours preparing for this one day. There has been a lot of planning, communicating, and organizing over the past several months, with various organizations and individuals. The time spent has been fun, painless and affirmative in every aspect. The money spent was rewarding in ways many may not be able to imagine. Being able to give MORE would be thrilling! My wish for everyone is to be able to find a purpose that helps others and brings you joy. There is nothing more satisfying than giving away your time and money to a cause that you believe in.
It’s Mothers Day and I want to dedicate this blog space to my mother, my favorite flyGirl. She wouldn’t want me to brag on her or share too many details about her life. She is from a family of nine children. She grew up in rural Tennessee. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father was never going to be nominated for the “parent of the year” award. He could, however, have possibly been named “Top Moonshiner!” Several of her siblings have passed away through the years, some at a young age. She grew up very poor and had to occasionally live with older siblings and spent some time in orphanages. She was always very bright and could see a brighter future through hard work. Today, she is thriving! She has many friends and is still pursuing the many interests she has.
Top 5 Reasons I Love My Mom, My Favorite FlyGIRL!
1). My mother likes to work (and she made me work too)! As a teenager, on Saturday mornings, she would wake my sister and I up unreasonably early to pull weeds out of her flower beds, driveway cracks or just wherever she saw a little green twig spring up. Dang! Those pesky things grow fast: every weekend, pulling weeds. Now, the joy I feel when forcing my own children to pull weeds! It’s irreplaceable. If we weren’t pulling weeds, we were mowing the yard, cleaning the house, organizing the garage or whatever task she deemed necessary. She is a doer. She passed down a desire to accomplish things on my own and of being productive.
2) My mother believed in the payoff of persistence. If we weren’t forced into child labor by pulling weeds on Saturday mornings, then we were scheduled for softball practice in the scorching summer sun. That was really a drag because there are about a million sweat bees located on that exact field each day. I’ve been stung more times by those pesky insects than any girl should be. She also loved greeting me at the end of each school day with her softball glove, ready to get me practicing. There had to be a minimum of fifty pitches and then fielding grounders and then catching fly balls…All of that practice made me a good player. She taught me that mastering a skill or being good at something takes hard work, persistence and practice.
3) My mother loves to be productive. She is multi-talented and is rarely content sitting still. If there is something she wants accomplished, she will find a way to get it done. She prefers to figure out how to do something on her own, rather than hire someone. This has led to many discussions at her house, sitting over a disassembled doorknob, faucet or broken umbrella. “Mom, just throw it away and buy a new one,” or “let me hire someone to come repair that.” To which she replies, “Absolutely not! They’ll charge an arm and a leg!” She enjoys the satisfaction of completing her own projects. As a child, I remember going to the library so she could research certain topics in order to make a repair or create something. Of course, now she’s on YouTube figuring things out. Every time we visit her, she fills me in on her latest project. This can-do attitude has led me to figure some things out on my own as well.
4) My mother has always loved learning. As a child, she knew knowledge would lead to opportunities. She was a great student in school and always graduated in the top of her class. She enjoys soaking up knowledge by any means possible. As a child, she would watch PBS documentaries all the time (I wanted to die from boredom). We were regular public library visitors. She could get through a biography in mach speed time. She has always been the master at the game Trivial Pursuit. Growing up, our home had every trivial pursuit version there was. She would read the question card stacks for hours. For fun!! Her knowledge is vast. My desire to learn has definitely been influenced by her. Today, my children are rolling their eyes at me as my eyes are glued to the latest History Channel series of Ancient Discoveries.
4) My mother enjoys travel and experiencing new things. Growing up, we were always on a budget but both of my parents enjoyed traveling. They knew the benefits of seeing the world and wanted my sister and I to learn from those experiences. We never stayed at super fancy hotels but always had many activities planned. We would pack lunches to save money but would occasionally splurge at a well-known restaurant. Our vacations were well-balanced with normally some historical tours or sights and something more engaging and fun. My sister and I both love to travel and appreciate what those experience meant to us. We know that our children benefit from our vacations, even if they moan and groan sometimes (because they weren’t allowed to sleep until noon).
5) My mother demonstrates unconditional love. She and I are alike in many ways, but also have our differences. During my teenage years, I crossed every boundary and broke every rule. She stood by me and saw me through. Today, we still don’t agree on many things but she will listen to me and be my shoulder to cry on when needed. She is the first person I call when I’m upset, hurt or confused. My own teenagers push my limits today. The patience and love she demonstrates with me helps me be a better mom.
I love you FlyGIRL Carolyn!
During these past few months, my desire to share the beauty of aviation with the public and females, in particular, has grown particularly. FlyGIRL has been used to reach out and demonstrate all of the benefits of general aviation, flying and taking on personal dreams and challenges. Because of this, there have been many new experiences and connections made with individuals all over the world. It has truly been amazing for me.
This past week has been filled with so many amazing experiences. My flying skills have been tested and improved upon immensely. There were many things that were expected before embarking on a recent trip. Inevitably, there are the unexpected events as well. And so the story goes…
Confidence is Good
Since beginning my training, my life has changed in so many ways. Flying an airplane has brought confidence in me that did not exist before. When you become comfortable with who you are, many other things aren’t as scary or challenging as they once were. I’m passionate about sharing my love of aviation because of what this journey has done for me!
Several weeks ago, a complete stranger reached out to me via social media and invited me on a cross-country flying journey. This pre-planned trip would take me further than I’ve ever flown. Miraculously, the timing was perfect. Recent personal set-backs were calling for a hiatus. The completed itinerary would take me through eleven states! The highlights included mountain flying in Colorado to the highest elevation airport. We would also land at an airstrip at the bottom of The Grand Canyon, fly through the Grand Canyon corridor and visit Sedona. We would then circle back home through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Everything was perfectly laid out. All I needed to do was show up in my little plane!
Building Relationships: The Old
After receiving the invitation to join this flying group, I decided to invite my uncle Robert. He has been a huge part of my life and flying interest. He is getting older and spending time with him is very important to me. Besides the fact that he’s full of aviation experience and knowledge, he’s also a great listener. And I needed his advice on many things during this trip.
OK. Soooooooo, We were about to spend an entire week with two complete strangers! Have you ever planned a vacation with some people you have never met? What if we didn’t get along? What if they were annoying as hell? What if they turned out to be some kind of crazy stalkers?!?! After we reached our initial meeting destination, Kansas City, I realized they were normal. Whew! We hit it off very well and were graciously treated to lunch by some new aviation friends and supporters. Our journey together during that week took us through all kinds of environments, altitudes, weather conditions, hotels, meals and adult beverages. :) We will remain friends forevermore because of our common love of aviation and flying accomplishments. We will all be cheering for each other from here on out, even if we live in separate cities.
Because of the widespread reach of social media, connecting with other female pilots has been simplified. While visiting sunny Arizona, there were opportunities to enjoy a lunch with a new acquaintance and I was treated to a surprise visit from a new Facebook follower. Each of these women was such a joy to spend time with.
I’m extremely appreciative of the relationships that grew during this adventure.
Mountain Waves, Turbulence and Weather, Oh My!
The extreme conditions of flying to the west of the Mississippi…Wow. My “personal minimums” were forced to be abandoned after our first landing. Every airport had crosswind (ugh) gusting conditions of 15 knots or more from Missouri all the way back through our return to Arkansas. There was no mercy! Landing in Ohio is bound to be a piece of cake from here on out. Someone please slap me if I ever complain about a 10 knot crosswind…
I’d be lying if said I wasn’t scared out of my mind when embarking on the Rocky Mountain flying day lesson. Two minutes into the climb, we were being bounced around like popcorn in a skillet. The thoughts in my head went something like this: “What the #*@$ am I doing here?!?! I’ve lost my damn mind!” There are 14,000 foot mountains looming on every side of me. My knuckles were white and my hands were numb from squeezing the yoke so tightly, not to mention the amount of perspiration dripping down my back. There were nearly four plus hours ahead of me fighting the demons of mountain wave turbulence. If my instructor for the day had shown any reservation, I would’ve burst into tears! Thank God after the first hour, my confidence grew and anticipating the forced ascents and descents became much more tolerable. IF I ever decide to put myself through that torture again, there had better be a shot of tequila waiting for me on the ramp upon my return. That’s all I’m saying about that!
My autopilot was being uncooperative during some portions of the trip, which brings in a challenging physical element. Looking on the bright side, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about “Arm Day” at the hotel gym! Ha! We also had several unanticipated weather delays and diversions. Weather is such a HUGE part of aviation. As a pilot, you must learn to listen and accept what Mother Nature decides. These delays brought much needed rest after long days of flying and opportunities to download pictures and relive the flights.
The Best of the Best
The most memorable and best “unexpected” event took place while flying to the Grand Canyon. We had decided to mix it up a bit and rotated passengers. The trip coordinator, John, was now flying with me. We got to know each other well and shared a lot about ourselves, our lives, and our love of flying. I was lost in conversation and then, what seemed to be out of nowhere, surprisingly found myself flying through Monument Valley, Utah. We were surrounded by all of these beautiful formations. My electronic chart was leading me from one airport to another. I was just following the magenta GPS line, not really knowing what would lie along the route. We were alone, in the sky, at one of the most gorgeous regions in the United States. We could turn in any direction we chose if we wanted a closer look at any of the natural structures. And we did. It was colorful, peaceful and pure freedom. I will never forget it.
This trip brought a treasure of experiences; planned and unplanned. Pilots prepare as much as they can for flights and train for unexpected events that may occur. Many times these situations can be seen as annoying delays or obstacles. They can also be seen as opportunities to learn something. Unexpected opportunities are much more fun than disappointments!