Harder to Kill: Quarter 3-ish

Hey… S’up?

It’s a little awkward coming back out here after being gone for so long – and leaving you with such a sad ol’ cliffhanger. The grief over the loss of my canine life partner continues, but i was back at work the following Monday and have been soldiering on… Granted, i couldn’t speak of it – even to my closest friends – for about a week, and it took a full month before i stopped sobbing at any fleeting reminder of his death and disappearance from my daily life.

That third quarter update on my annual goals was due at the end of October, but i had thrown myself into a variety of extra-curricular activities by then – including an unplanned excursion back on stage for the first time in seven years. With tech week, and the show opening in late October, i simply couldn’t carve out the time for a coherent update.

So here’s the short version of my two annual objectives of simultaneously becoming Harder to Kill while Preparing to Die: i am somewhat harder to kill, and no better prepared to die. This will also serve as the end of year wrap up. Mostly because even I’M bored with this!

i work out a lot. i eat poorly and drink too much – although primarily on weekends, this tends to blur through the holidays. Therefore, i’m still fat, but i am pushing more weights when i lift. With the frenetic activity that began with a two week holiday in September, i have done exactly dick when it comes to getting organized, clearing files, and doing further elimination of the material albatrosses (albatrii?) that will make me an unpleasant dead parent to my children.

Where am i? Momentary respite.

A business trip out west provided an opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with my son and his family. i decided somewhere along the way that the things i’ve been doing for the holidays would be parked this year – not feeling any inclination to decorate, or bake, or throw the two giant holiday parties i usually throw. Actively working to only tackle the things which bring joy, and with all of the balls in the air, all that other stuff would add more stress than joy this year.

Studley is about 8 time zones away on a business trip, and i’ve got an entire weekend to myself – hence the opportunity to poke my head back into the blogosphere and say “Hey”. Deliberately didn’t schedule anything – going somewhat off grid. Wanted to retreat and give myself time to fucking think. A luxury when one tends to deal with stress by increasing kinetic energy.

Valuable thing to do, it turns out. i’m sorting out all sorts of demons and dynamics. With the New Year waving at me from around the corner, i’ve realized that 2017 is going to be year of transitions – large and small. Navigating transitions is an important life skill. Sometimes we’re thrown into them, flapping and flailing and doing everything we can to get a toehold on the other side – nothing graceful about it. Sometimes we see them coming, and have some time to prepare ourselves to leave something behind as we start something new – an opportunity to better plan our navigation from one side to the other.

ho-ho-ho

So consider this a warning. i’m back. i have a lot to work through with some major transitions ahead. In the meantime, i’ll be poking my head out and about, trying to catch up with my old blogmates. Wishing you and yours a most joyous holiday season!

Harder to Kill: 2nd Quarter Already?

It’s true, you know. Time DOES go by faster when you’re old. Well, each day is a smaller percentage of the days you’ve lived, so if it feels that time is accelerating with the passing years, there’s good reason for that.

In my quest at self-improvement, i’ve tackled another round of resolutions and accountability. This year, focusing on becoming harder to kill, while preparing to die. After a reasonable start in the first quarter, including a micro-backslide, i’ve continued the quest.

Blogging? There’s so much i want need to write – a three part series in draft from another round of festivities in the Trailer Park, a postscript to last years ‘bridges’ that came at me out of the blue, new volunteer work that has changed my life, and wrenches in my plan to simply tumble toward retirement without working too hard… A visit from a blogmate reminded me that the connections developed over the past 8 years are deep and meaningful, and i’m a fool if i let these friendships slide into the superficial realm of “Facebook likes”.

But i’m living hard, taking care of what needs to be cared for, so for the moment, i’ll likely stay on blog hiatus until i have a chance to come up for a little more oxygen.

The TL:DR version – Still fat. Not dead. If you’ve got a short attention span, don’t bother to read the rest of this post…If you’re having trouble sleeping? Feel free to tough it out!

Harder to kill: My weight is mostly stable, down about 15 pounds for the year, with no additional significant loss this quarter. But i’m working out a lot and seeing muscles i had forgotten i had… Added some bicycling to the mix, as Studley and i are training for a 2 week European ride in the fall. i’ve finally realized that even if i’m not in optimal cycling shape when we start the tour, i will certainly be in decent shape at the end of the holiday. Probably one of the few vacations where i don’t gain weight, since we’ll be riding 30-50 miles each day.

Preparing to die: Minor progress in getting rid of things and getting organized. Continued conversations with my children regarding the future of my old doggie, who is doing pretty well considering he’s about 100 in dog years, with an over sized heart and debilitating arthritis.

Keeping him comfortable so that the kids can visit with him again when they’re home in July has taken a good deal of my energy. He’s got some gastric issues and i am spending more time than i’d like cleaning up his accidents. Continually thankful that i decided to put in vinyl plank flooring during the kitchen renovation last year, i’m in a constant state of angst, trying to get him out before he explodes with another canine Jackson Pollak piece. If he had thumbs? He’d do the same for me, so i soldier on with a case of paper towels and bleach…

i found a decent reference piece to help guide me. Assessing the HHHHHMM Quality of Life scale is a means to quantify quality of life for a pet… or i suppose any creature. Hurt, Hunger, Hygiene, Hydration, Happiness, Mobility and More good days than bad. i’ve not gone off the deep end charting these items, but i am increasingly mindful of them. It has also forced me to crawl inside his little doggie brain, and consider it from how HE is doing, not how I am doing…

For the moment? He’s wagging his tail, plays with toys, is eating and drinking, and can get around reasonably well on his own. Pain is managed through medication and massage (yes, i’m massaging those bony old hips… it seems to help).

The month ahead of me will be a blur – my daughter arrives soon, her husband to follow, and then a whirl of travels, and visits begins. We’re going to see The Boy for the long holiday weekend, and he will then come back to the roost for a few days before the end of the month. Throw in a west coast business trip for bonus miles. i’ve had to post a calendar to track all of the airline connections – not that i’m counting, but there are 32 flight segments for six people to manage in just about 30 days.

My exercise (and diet) are likely to suffer significant set backs for this month, but i’ve got August and September to get back on track before the next report at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Hope you all have been well – i’ll be out and about trying to catch up some as time permits. In the meantime? Onward!

 

Knee-dful things…

Considering he had both legs sawed in half, Studley is doing great! After suffering with bone-on-bone pain for the last several years, he had bilateral knee replacement last week.

He was in for surgery at noon, sawed apart, given bionic metal parts, and released from the hospital about 26 hours later. Getting him in the car, and driving 20 minutes, reminded me of the sheer terror i felt when my ex-husband and i were driving home from the hospital with our first newborn kidlet.  “i have no idea what the fuck i’m doing, but here we go!”

no licking

The physical therapy regimen is challenging, but if followed to the letter, the results will be worth it. Rest, ice, compression and elevation – 24 hours a day for the first two weeks! Unless he is doing physical therapy, or using the toilet, he is to be on his back, toes-above-nose, wearing compression gear, and ice packs.

misery

Following the advice of the physical therapist, i froze several dozen bottles of water, and have been keeping them in rotation. They keep the coolers chilled for about 3-4 hours at a time. The schedule? Every four hours, round the clock, i swap the ice – including a visit at 2:45am. i live 10 minutes from Studley, and have gotten into a rhythm…

But sleep deprivation happens… i looked at my sleep tracker on my FitBit after a few days, and realized i needed help. Our friends came to the rescue – with one couple providing dinner so i could hit my fitness class, and another friend doing the 10:30pm stop, allowing me one night with six hours of glorious sleep!

sleepless

Studley has a high threshold of pain, but this is some hurtful stuff. Especially during and after PT, he is really wrung out. He’s staying on top of it with a pharmaceutical arsenal. Hallucinations? A few… He noted that i seemed to be ‘phase shifting’ one day. As he was dozing, he yelled out “Save the Bocce Balls!”  My favorite so far?

Studley: The cat is in the bed.

daisyfae: Ummm… You don’t have a cat.

Studley: That’s why I thought I should mention it…

Because he was tripping, and i’ve had to come and go due to the pesky day job and caring for my pets, i was a little worried about him sleep walking. He’s got beautiful, plush carpet, so i could easily spot tracks left by his walker when he got up while i was gone. If he wandered to the kitchen, i could tell.

i let him know i was tracking his movements – for his safety! As he regains mobility, he likes to get up and go to the kitchen occasionally, or to adjust the thermostat. i was a bit surprised one night to see the walker tracks go from his bedroom to the liquor cabinet. Sticking my head in his bedroom, i found him grinning… Last night? i found ‘crop circles’ in the dining room.

Friends and family have been supportive, with the best gift arriving yesterday from my niece, DQ! “Hope this is helpful! It was out of print, so I had to get a used one. Hope the pages aren’t stuck together!”

sexy time

daisyfae: That’s funny!  [flipping through pages] Hey, this is a real book!

Studley: Why yes… yes it is!

Many years ago, when Studley and i first met, we agreed on something very important – we NEVER wanted to burden our adult children. Unfortunately, being single and over 50 means you need someone to drive you to get a damn colonoscopy! So we made a pact – no matter what happened with ‘us’, we would remain “Colonoscopy Buddies”, assisting each other with routine, and not so routine, medical support.

We’ve done that…and done our best to keep it light and fluffy! He has been so appreciative of what i’m doing to help out with this one…

Studley: I can’t even begin to thank you…

daisyfae: You’ll have your chance. We just don’t know what it will be, or when it will happen… But you’ll do the same for me one of these days.

i’ve known he was pretty amazing from the first day i met him, but seeing him maintain humor through pain… Watching him push himself harder with each PT set… Seeing the frustration because he wants to do more…. His determination to succeed…

i’m looking forward to dancing, and hiking, and diving, and living hard with my bionic buddy for many years to come… He’s earned a new middle name*: Studley Bionic McRocklegs! Long may you run, baby!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Had to dig through the archives to find the origins of his blog callsign. Somewhere about here it happened…

No Regrets: Second Quarter? Already?

At the turn of the year i set forth on a quest of mindfulness. As i did last year, i’m doing quarterly updates on my progress, or regress as the case may be… Slow and steady going through the end of the first quarter, i’ve been on a bit of a roller coaster this quarter, so results are a little jumbled.

The categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

My scorecard for the second quarter:

Bridges: Small efforts yielded wonderful re-connections! A comment on the first quarter update by an old friend, cramnitram, led to a lunch date, and a few other looooong overdue conversations. Yoda surprised me with a book for my birthday. i hosted a party for my daughter – and spent time with a former sister-in-law that i haven’t seen in years. Facebook brought me a meet up with one of my former “kids”, who is all grown up and doing well professionally. Being attentive and looking for opportunities, slowing down enough to make time to talk… This has been a very good quarter, and i hope to maintain momentum.

Ducks: STILL working through Mom’s estate, i found myself with yet another carload of old memorabilia, photographs, journals and letters after excavating the large storage locker. My office remains buried in paperwork, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s proven difficult to take care of my own estate planning while up to my tonsils in her business…

Due to the kitchen renovation, i gave away two tables, 8 chairs, a refrigerator, a stove, a dishwasher and 14 serviceable kitchen cabinets as i launched into construction. It has been a massive project, but almost done. While unpacking all of my kitchen gear, i was quite brutal, giving away unnecessary stuff. A bit of a draw, volume-wise, considering the scale of the new kitchen.

i also set up an ‘Advanced Directive’ for my senior doggie with my veterinarian. It seemed the right thing to do, staring at so much travel this year. i didn’t want to leave my pet sitter dealing with difficult decisions, should i be out contact.

Facing the end of the quarter, i also printed out several ‘change of beneficiary’ forms. These are currently payable to my ex-husband. i’ve never really worried about it since the divorce, knowing that he would do the right thing with the funds and hand it all over to the kids, but it’s kind of simple to take care of, and i’ll get it done before the end of the next quarter.

Vessel: Holy shit, this one is a demon! i’ve done well with exercise, despite a pretty busy schedule. Sticking with lunch hour cardio, the Saturday morning fitness classes, and regular after work bike rides, i’m not too horrified at my follow through here. But food? Booze? i’m eating like it’s my job, and no longer holding my alcohol consumption to just weekends. The cruise – where we had access to an endless variety of food, and unlimited top shelf liquor – was a factor in keeping me chubby. i’d lost about five more pounds early in the quarter, and have managed to gain that right back in the last few weeks.

During construction, i had one month with only small refrigerator and a microwave for a kitchen. i was eating peanut butter, microwaved popcorn and oatmeal for dinner most nights. No reason i couldn’t have done better, but i was living in a major construction zone, working on my pieces of the project at night, and wasn’t particularly motivated to do better.

With the new kitchen up and running, i’ve started cooking again! Went from an electric cooktop to a glorious gas stove!  i’m learning how to cook with the new gear, and it’s been fun! So there’s hope that my lean eating habits from earlier in the year can be dusted off…

Bridge, Duck, Vessel - Get it?

silly image found here…

Halfway through the year. Much more to do. Putting together the scorecard, i’m optimistic that i can at least wrap up “Ducks” by the end of the year… Onward!

No Regrets – First Quarter Update

In January i identified a few things i’d like to focus on this year – things that will help me get to the finish line with no regrets. Not ‘resolutions’, but an attempt to be more mindful about things that matter. Last year, the quarterly blog updates proved to be a useful accountability tool. While these are certainly not the most riveting words, it helps, and i appreciate your tolerance of my introspection and intellectual monkey-spankage.

To better position myself for a ‘clean house’ at the end of my life, i picked three general categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

Here’s how i’ve done in the first three months of the year.

Bridges: Got off to a quick and easy start here because an old friend finally replied to an e-mail i’d sent him last year!  Yoda re-appeared, after a post-retirement hiatus. He had been a friend and mentor, and we had an intense and occasionally tumultuous friendship until he retired a few years ago. Through a series of e-mails, we caught up a bit, reflected on our relationship, and considered prospects to meet up again.

One close friend was set adrift about four years ago. In a moment of anger, i slammed the door on a decade of friendship, with no explanation. He politely responded to my unexpected birthday greeting in January, and through an exchange of e-mail, we shared updates on the current contents of our garages. Not all that weird considering we’d spent a lot of time together in automotive pursuits. Need to keep working this one… at least i started a conversation.

Ducks: Building on my efforts last year, i have continued to work on reducing my physical footprint by shedding unnecessary ‘stuff’. A good start here, with three Jeep-loads of possessions taken to thrift shops. Also did a few ‘facebook flea market’ weekends, where i gave away items to friends. Re-homed many former necessities, and cleared a good bit of space in my storage room.

Six months after her death, i continue to bash through my mother’s estate. i have learned just how unprepared i am to die. Not much progress here, but i did manage to visit two different financial establishments today, the last day of the quarter! Making two major bank accounts payable on death to my children will reduce the complexities if i drop dead tomorrow.

Vessel: Started the year with a three week “cleanse”. Mostly as a means to jolt my brain into a healthier eating mode, it was also a chance to let my digestive system re-boot. Studley joined me, and we set about eliminating alcohol, dairy, wheat/grains, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners and most fruits from our diets. Instead we ate a shit-ton of vegetables and lean protein. It was a good thing. i re-learned to make soups, and cook. Packed my lunch and saved a lot of money by not eating meals out. Saved money on booze, too.

Biggest surprises? i didn’t miss alcohol, sugar or caffeine all that much. What i missed? Cheese. Oh, lord, i do love a blast of bleu cheese or goat cheese on a salad! A nice hunk of smoked gouda makes a great snack! But we made it. We were eating well, shitting like cows, and very focused on whole foods. Many of these habits have stayed with me, and i feel pretty good.

Exercise has picked up, too. i added a ‘high intensity interval training’ workout on Saturday mornings, with modified workouts at home a couple of nights per week. Typical week has 4-5 workouts, plus bonus bike rides now that the weather has improved. I’m down twelve pounds in three months. A lot more to go, but a good start.

no regretsMuch more to do in all three areas of my life, but i’m content with the progress so far. The quarter ahead offers some challenges – major home remodeling project, several business trips, two significant vacations, three heavy-duty volunteer gigs and maintenance of an active social life, while working full time and finishing up Mom’s estate.

i can sleep when i’m dead. And if i do this right, it’ll be with no regrets…

No Regrets

Death.  It is inevitable.  It is closer than we expect.  Always.

My father died many years ago.  He was squared away with his life.  He told me that he had no unfinished business.  Nothing left undone.  “Can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but I’ve done what I wanted and needed to do.”

Go without regrets.  As good as it gets.

Mom?  Not so much.  She fought to the very end — with a ventilator in her throat, she gave a deliberate nod to inform the doctor that she still wanted to be resuscitated should her heart stop during the procedure to unblock her lung.  Three days before she died, she was still calling the shots.  Clearly, she was not ready to go.

i’ve learned a lot while handling her estate.  She did an exceptional job of getting things in order – the big things, anyway.  There are some things i’m discovering that have me scratching my head, but mostly she wasn’t confused about her wishes and had everything in place to make that happen.

i have some work to do… not just regarding the disposition of my estate, but making sure i can go without regret or unfinished business.  This will be a year of mindful attention to that.  Focus on a few items that could potentially be deathbed regrets.

Bridges:  There are people in my life that i have loved, and for whatever reason, discarded or lost.  In some cases, i have no interest in rebuilding the bridge – i feel an urge to nuke it til it glows and strafe it in the dark.  i can count such people on one hand.

There are others… a misunderstanding…  getting angry and closing the door, sometimes without explanation.  My tendency is not always to discuss, argue or sort it out.  i have, on occasion, simply walked away without explanation.  In other cases, it’s just life, distance, and circumstance that has led me away.  People i used to be close to, but our Venn Diagrams no longer intersect on a regular basis.  We’ve just lost touch.

If i were to find myself on my deathbed in the near future?  Suspect i’d have a few regrets about these relationships.  After Mom died, this started to gnaw on me a bit – a couple lost friends bravely reached across the divide to offer condolences. Condolences that were graciously accepted, and appreciated.  i need to work on a few bridges – not to rebuild old relationships in all cases, but to assure that there are no unresolved questions.

Ducks:  i’m over 50.  i have multiple hobbies that are somewhat high risk, i need to get my ducks in a row financially.  Simplify.  Direct assets rather than leave an estate.  No great epiphanies or soul-searching here, i just need to do the work.

This also includes a un-fucking my space.  We still haven’t started excavations on the massive storage locker full of all of Mom’s ‘stuff’.  i do not wish to leave a bunch of useless shit to my children.  The Boy says he’s selling my place fully furnished, all ‘stuff’ in place. Truth is, someone, somewhere, will be stuck going through all of this and i’d like to make it as simple as possible.  So the de-clutter and un-fuckage continues.

Vessel:  Retirement.  The clock is now UNDER three years.  As it looks, i will be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle without working again.  This is amazing, and i should not squander such good fortune… Travel figures prominently in my future.  More than a week on holiday here and there, there will be months spent on the road.  Chasing the Northern Lights, hiking through the Sun Gate into Machu Picchu, being a volunteer SCUBA diver supporting reef health monitoring in a variety of warm climates….

i must continue to un-fuck my body… the vessel that will carry me forward (with any luck) into some ridiculous adventures ahead.  This is a lifetime thing, not a ‘one year and done’ endeavor.  Having a reasonable exercise schedule ingrained gives me a decent start.

battle cry“Life is short. Death is forever. Nothing left undone. Go joyfully” – Alan Cottrill

This is my charge for the new year.  The quarterly blog updates were helpful – i felt accountable.  i’ll do the same this year – as much for myself as for your entertainment!

 

 

The Perfect Day

The dog was dying.  His owner decided to give his pet a perfect day.  i’d read this sweet story of how one man prepared for the loss of a beloved companion a few years ago.

Since then, i’ve given this some thought, and have planned to do something similar for my old pup, Mr. Pickles.  Rather than wait, i’ve thrown in elements of ‘perfect days’ for my dog as we go about the business of living – why give him just one?  Three weeks ago on a hot June day, Studley and i decided Mr. P needed to go out for ice cream…

He loved it…

Mr. P gets ice cream

Having a dinner of Mexican food and killer margaritas with my children, Studley, and his daughter, we discussed the elements of Mr. Pickles perfect day.  Discussing all the things he loves, we tried to lay out the things he most loves… Cheese.  Chasing a ball.  Chasing the cat*.  Naps.  Splashing in water.  Riding in the jeep.  Eating his own turds.**

i was interrupted during dinner by a call from my niece, DQ.  Mom had been admitted to the hospital earlier this week with fluid in her lungs.  Stepping out to take the call, i got some fairly grim news.  The lung cancer is probably back, and not treatable.  Mom was feeling rotten, also battling a staph infection in her blood.  We made plans to meet with a counselor from hospice.

Returning to the table, i kept the news to myself for a bit – not wanting to take a steaming shit on a really good time.  i filled my children in on the news from The Park when we got home.

The Boy:  Maybe it’s time to craft a Perfect Day for Granny…

daisyfae:  i’ve already done a bit of that… but yeah, we could do more!

In January, i brought Mom to visit when my sister, T and her partner came to town for a long weekend.  We spoiled Mom with attention, and food and entertainment.  Not to mention blessed quiet, which is in short supply in her current living arrangements.

Last May, i had her up for another fun-filled weekend!  Cooked steaks on the grill on a Friday night, then went to a local women’s league luncheon the next day, where she was showered with attention amidst a great deal of silliness.  Putting on two ridiculous Derby hats that i’d crafted, we went to a bourbon tasting – where she enjoyed a perfect mint julep.  Sunday morning, we brought her to the horse show, where she got to see her “baby” compete in the arena with all the other kids…

The prognosis for Mom isn’t great, but it seems the cancer is slow moving.  She’ll need more in-home skilled nursing care in the future.  But she’s not quite dead yet, and finding ways to give her elements of “The Perfect Day” is deeply embedded in my brain.

Derby Day

 * The Boy thought it would be most fun if we tape the cats back legs together, allowing Mr. Pickles a better chance to “play”.  Although Huey is a team player, i’m not sure i’ll go that far…

** Nope.  Not gonna happen.

Please Stand By

Please Stand By

Having successfully completed the “Shit My Daughter Needs” scavenger hunt, and the subsequent game of “Suitcase Tetris”, i’ve reached the phase of travel preparation where i touch my passport a thousand times, and make sure i’ve got a credit card.

Summer roadtrip, part deux.

Once again reminded that i am a very lucky woman… A woman who continues to wonder how she got here…  Best not to waste too much time on that, however, because i’m circling the drain at an ever-increasing speed.

It’s only for now…

Ace Hole

“Pull back! Harder! More! MORE! That’s it! Tighten your stomach. Keep your eye on him! LEFT! Keep pulling back, but push the stick to your left knee!”

Upside down, banking left in the middle of a vertical loop – a barrel roll attack or an Immelmann. i had no fucking clue. Head back, looking up through the canopy as my eyes watered, i was trying like hell to keep track of the other plane – which was doing the same sort of maneuver. Pulling over 4 g’s.

It wasn’t the fear of death that was chewing on me. It was the fear of failure. The instructor pilots fly these “missions” three times a day, or more. Thousands of hours experience. They’re not going to let an ego-driven derp, with more money than common sense, do something stupid and wreck one of their sexy Marchetti SF-260’s.

When i realized we were going to be ‘scored’ on our dogfighting skills? That’s when i got a bit puckered. Why? Because i don’t know how to fly a damn plane!

“He got you! But you hung in there! Level out a bit, catch your breath. OK. I’ve got the plane.” i looked back and caught a glimpse of theatrical smoke coming out of the tail of my plane.

Not exactly what i was expecting when i drunkenly raised a paddle at a charity auction last February. What was i expecting? Not upside down, three-dimensional combat, with my hand on the damn stick! Not a fur ball over Lake Erie!

The day started with our “Mission Briefing”. i met my “opponent”, Dennis, as he arrived with his father-in-law. JR, our instructor pilot, asked us both what brought us to the briefing room on that particular day.

Dennis: My wife bought me this as a gift!

daisyfae: Jack Daniels.

JR: Yeah. We get a lot of referrals from Mr. Daniels…

JR briefed us on basics of safety, including how to use a parachute. Fundamental Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM), specifically basic fighter maneuvers. We were instructed how to maintain 500’ clearance, and how to hold our opponent in the gun sight before firing. The flight plan included formation flying on the way to the operation zone and tactics – trading altitude for airspeed, avoiding overshoot. After two practice dogfights, we would be engaging in four freestyle fur balls.

concentrate

JR used two toy planes on sticks to show us how to execute the maneuvers. They were cute. At first, i tried really hard to track and internalize what he was saying about “angle of attack”, and the proper method to perform a Low Yo-Yo. After about 10 minutes, i started to think about whether the sanitary undergarment i had put on under my flight suit would be sufficient to contain what i’d eaten for breakfast that morning…

what was i thinking

When i bought the Air Combat package, Studley (the world’s most amazing wingman) briefly considered buying one as well, so we could play together. After further thought, he realized i might need a driver… and that as a licensed pilot, he had a lot more to lose by a shitty performance… He also figured it would be fun to watch.

Off we go

It was out to the planes.  i’d already put on my true safety gear before getting into my flight suit.  For what it’s worth, these things are quite comfortable!  Good to know, i guess…

D Ring

Additional safety gear included a parachute and life vest.  “That’s your ‘D-ring’.  No!  Don’t pull it right now!  Only if I say ‘Bail, bail, bail!'”

  grease 'er up

With a little bit of WD-40 and a crowbar, my instructor pilot, Smudge, corked my lardass into the itty bitty cockpit.  Left seat. Yeah. Totally didn’t expect that either…

It was a stunningly gorgeous day – and we launched in formation out to the ‘battle zone’, 16 miles north of Cleveland over Lake Erie. Once we cleared the pattern for takeoff, Smudge informed me that it was my turn to fly the plane.

“Just follow Dennis. Stay to the right and down.”

Simple enough, in theory. i couldn’t do it. Tiny movements of the stick led to gigantic movements of the plane. i had expected the stick to sort of be ‘neutral’. Nope. For all 16 miles i was bouncing around, trying to stay stable. It occurred to me that if i couldn’t manage this simple task, doing anything more complicated was going to be impossible.

We did some basic tracking and targeting. Then the High/Low Yo-Yo maneuvers. These were fun. Diving speeds you up, so you work the angles in all three dimensions. Swoop back up, and drop right down on his tail.

Maybe i could do this?

We rolled into the dogfights. i lost the first one – totally surprised at the intensity of that whole ‘upside down’ thing. For the second round, i decided to put my mind on hold and listen to Smudge, who was telling me exactly what to do. “Pull back”, “Hard left”, “Nose down”, “Track”, “SHOOT!”

i got him. Smoke from the ass end of his plane. “Shack!”

Marchetti

Two more rounds. i won the next fight. Dennis wore me down after an extended battle for the fourth. By the time he finally hit me? i was relieved. Having done at least three vertical loops in a row? i was wrung out.  Time to head back. 

“It’s your plane. Just keep your nose down a little bit, and aim to the right of downtown. Can you see the airport? Make an easy turn so we’re flying parallel to the runway.”

Without realizing it, i was now flying the plane – steady and level – and getting us back to the airport. How the hell did THAT happen?

yay

We landed, taxied back to the apron. Shaking hands with Dennis, we went inside for the ‘mission debriefing’ – which, in my case, included removing my completely un-soiled undergarment!. Watching the cockpit videos was a little bit surreal. “i just did that? Whoa…”

Studley drove home, as i was still a bit rattled even an hour after getting out of the cockpit. We had a chance to do a bit of a post-game analysis in the car.

What i spent on that “charitable donation” would have gone a long way toward becoming a pilot. It would have at least paid for my “Pinch Hitter” course – how to land a plane in an emergency.

The flight was fun, and definitely exciting. But it wasn’t on my bucket list. That’s because i don’t actually have a bucket list. i put this in the category of “contrived thrills” – where all risk is managed, and you pay money for an adrenaline rush, and a chance to say “I did that! Woo Hoo!”.

It required no skill. There really wasn’t much risk. When you get down to it? Not much different from bungee jumping, or doing a tandem parachute jump. i have done neither of those activities, nor do i wish to…

Excitement? Of course. Growth as a human being? Not so much…

As we worked through this in the car, Studley asked if i’d do it again.

daisyfae: Probably not. i mean, it was pretty amazing. But…. It was a stunt. What about you? You were getting pretty jazzed during the mission briefing!

Studley: I might think about it….

daisyfae: i would probably do it with you… but i think i want to learn to fly first.

The Weight

It’s easy to trace elements of my constitution to parental influences.  From my Father?  Intellectual curiosity, empathy for the less fortunate,  love of music and the arts, and complete comfort among people from diverse backgrounds.

From my Mother?  Cold, dispassionate strength*.  The kind of strength that would allow me to bury a body…  Umm… if ever needed.   She is fierce, in her way.  Good Appalachian-American breeding stock.

Unfortunately, i also inherited one of her more crippling afflictions.  She is a hoarder.  Excavating her house prior to renovations took three months.  i have to fight it, or fear that i will become buried in my ‘stuff’.

It’s not bad.  Yet.  But i catch myself saying “Hey, i might need this someday…” as i find a stash of wood scraps in the garage.  That old coffee pot?  “It might come in handy if…” Rubber bands that i’ll never need.  Twist ties.  Plastic storage bags.

i fight it.  i recycle aggressively, and throw things out regularly.  It’s there, though.  Percolating beneath the surface.  It isn’t obvious to others, since i’m fortunate to have a LOT of space.  Plenty of storage space lets me squirrel it away.

January is when i have traditionally launched my “winter project”.  Last year?  Organizing the office, and building the Murphy Bed.  This year?  i want to finish my theater room/exercise room/bar downstairs.  To do this?  Excavations are required…

But…

It is hard for me to let go of a cardboard box.  You never know when you’re going to need a box, right?  i like a wide selection on hand.  As i started to dig, i was surprised at the number of empty boxes i had stashed in the storage room.  Round one?  Break ’em down and send ’em to the recycler!  Boom!

Reluctant at first, now i’m in a “GIVE IT ALL AWAY” state of mind!  The local thrift shops will be delighted to get the Jeep load of appliances, clothing and odd housewares!  Bed, book case, shelving unit?  See ya!

The “stuff” now feels like it weighs me down.  Makes me less mobile.  Pins me to the floor.  i am making progress…

Not only at home, but at work.  Last week, i started a new assignment.  New building.  New office.  This required a move.  After 31 years working for the same employer, i’ve got “stuff”.  i thought i was pretty brutal when i packed it all up – filling two large boxes with papers and documents for the industrial shredderator.  Many trips to the dumpster, too.

This week?  Unpacking and setting up the new digs.  Is there anything more promising than a clean, empty desk?  Vows to “get organized” sproinging around in my head.  Such promise!

And the purging continued…

Not too hasty, mind you.  This little pic?  A gag crafted by my colleagues.  Appeared on my office door.  While getting hammered at a conference team building during a business trip, i’d mentioned that i find intelligent men attractive.  i was challenged – “What about the smartest man on earth – Stephen Hawking?”  to which i replied “i’d have his love child”.

He wants me...

And this.  i have an obsession with post-it notes.  As the boxes were unpacked this morning, i threw post-its in a heap.  All shapes, sizes and colors.  These?  i’m keeping…

i can quit anytime i want to

Memories.  i discovered a map of Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, along with photos taken from my hotel room balcony.  My first trip to Europe in ’92.  i can keep these a few more years…

We'll always have Paris

At the end of the day?  Boxes.  So very tempting to break them down, and stick them behind the desk.  Prepare for the next move.  Always be prepared to move.

boxing day

Perhaps the best aid for rapid deployment?  Travel light.  The boxes went to the recycle bin.  Weight reduction.  Lean up for the new year!  i’m getting better at this…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It occurs to me that i haven’t told her full story here.  Future blog homework.