Friday, August 21, 2009

Dreams : Taking Flight or Crash Landing part 2

At this point the storm that had been building began suddenly to unfurl it’s fury. The wind whipped mercilessly in an angry downdraft toward the plane and us, it’s unskilled caretakers. The body of the thing began to rock and in desperate hope my mind told me that perhaps the movement was being caused by someone who was struggling to get out. My eyes darted quickly to my husband who reassured me before I even spoke it, that it was only the wind catching the tail of the plane. I wrapped my arms as far as I could around that tail section and held for all I was worth. “What if someone’s alive?” I implored. “We should try to hold it steady so they don’t get injured any more than they already are.” Illogically seeing the sense in my words all of the men began to stabilize the plane along side me. With their strength beneath the bent up metal that plane wasn’t moving an inch. I was proud of Steve. Proud of these men I hadn’t met before today. They were uniting in what they knew was a futile attempt to save lives but they weren’t going to leave there without trying. One by one each of them had taken a turn peeking through the upside down windows at the bottom of the ditch. One by one I could read on each face what I already knew to be true but couldn’t admit.

The rest of the story passes by in my mind as a blur of flashing lights, bitter downpours of rain and uniformed officers with their hands on my shoulder. At one point I was asked to stand at the end of road turning traffic away. Another moment found me staring with my arms wrapped around myself as rain pelted my already soaked skin wondering how this had happened, and why here.

It was only a matter of hours before the packs of news crews and lookylues descended on our farm intruding on our space and irreverently scouring the scene for the gruesome details of death and destruction. The pilot and his two passengers hadn’t survived and as they were taken out stretcher by ghastly stretcher, photographers stood expanding the caution tape as far as it would extend to catch the carnage forever on film.

Eventually the ambulances and patrol cars navigated their way from the crash. And much later, though it seemed like forever, even the reporters along with their satellite vans and photographers began to dissemble and slowly slink away. A few days later a large crane was employed to lift the remains of the plane onto a truck and it’s silent pilgrimage home began. Families came out to visit the site, standing over the scarred and bleeding earth that so reflected the scars and blood of their broken hearts. All that remained of their loved ones last moments on earth.

Every once in a while I go out to visit the bush that 3 inconsolable wives who had all too suddenly become widows planted there that day. I slip quietly down the ledge of earth and sit there for a moment at the bottom. I think about my dreams of becoming a pilot. I wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to fly a little plane like that one. If I do I hope my loved ones understand what these men must surely have known; that sometimes a dream has to take flight even if it ends in a crash landing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dreams: Taking Flight or Crash Landing - Part 1

I can’t really say what sparked it, but at some point during my childhood I became inexplicably fascinated by airplanes. When teachers would inevitably ask us to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up, my answer never seemed to reflect the common threads of the day. Most little girls wanted to be teachers, nurses or mommies. There were always the overachievers as well. Someone always wanted to be a neo natal doctor or a trial lawyer (like on L.A. Law), but I’m pretty sure I was the only girl who wanted to be a fighter pilot. This was a phase I’m certain my teachers and parents assumed I would outgrow by jr. high. Not so the case. I remember one occasion in particular in which an assignment was handed down instructing us to write a letter to someone in the field we were interested in. We were meant to ask them to offer a few tips or pointers; something they wished they’d known when they were younger about the road to success in their particular career. I am still so thankful to my teachers for going along with my dream, never crushing my spirit, when even in the eighth grade I was still pursuing my fighter pilot hope. When it was my turn to give the report, I read the letter I had received from the governor of our state on the requirements needed to receive an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They listened to my report with straight and sober faces. I was convinced and they weren’t going to tell me otherwise. God bless ‘em!

In high school while posters of the likes of Kirk Cameron and Corey Haim shellacked the walls of my friends bedrooms, I puttied up photos of F-14’s and B-1 Bombers in all their glory. By then I had started to realize my dream was not only not going to happen, but I had begun to be distracted by boyfriends and fashion and good old girl friend gossip. My grades suffered, and lets face it, grades are a very important factor when one aspires to the likes of the national Air Force Academy. Still, I wasn’t going to give up my love of powerful planes and the way they ripped through the air with no apologies. Air shows and air bases and all things plane or space still gets my heart pumping today. And I still harbor the last vestiges of my dream. Perhaps one day I’ll learn to fly a small plane. A girl can dream can’t she? But I had no frame of reference for what happened near our home just a few months ago.

It was a lovely morning in July and my husband had just hopped in his pickup to leave our farm. I noticed that he was hesitating at the end of the driveway. He was staring rather strangely down the road. In almost the same moment my 16 yr. old daughter, we’ll call her “N”, was filling a glass at the kitchen sink and said “Mom, is that an airplane in the ditch?” I laughed as is my custom when N speaks nonsense. One adapts these sorts of coping mechanisms when one lives with a teenager who rarely tries to make sense. But when I strode to the nearest window to take a look I was astonished to find that a small single engine airplane really had taken a nose dive none to gently into the ditch very near our home.

I ran outside and hopped into my car just seconds behind Steve who was speeding quickly toward the scene. Steve had already called 911 when I pulled up to the plane, even as two men who had observed the plane flying low and sporadically rushed up to help. A front had begun to move in and the sudden stillness seemed only to add to the spine-chilling feeling of our motley little crew as we gathered near the tail of the plane which had flipped end over end and was now protruding onto the gravel road. After spending a few moments looking at each other in silence, unsure what to do next, the men decided to move the vehicles back and out of the way to make a path for the ambulance and patrolmen who were soon to arrive. As they backed cars and pickups into field driveways and along the edges of the ditches I carefully slid down the embankment to peer inside. What I saw there I hope to be able to forgot sooner than later. It seemed clear by the angles of the bodies that the men had not lived through the impact, but how can one be sure? So I called out to them to tell them that we had sent for help and the paramedics would be arriving soon. I asked them to try to hang in there if they could hear my voice because help was on the way. And I told them I was praying for them. My words were met with ghostly silence. Having become a bit unnerved I scurried back up the side of the ditch, vowing I would not look into the cold, unblinking windows of that plane ever again.

I would like to tell you the rest of my story but I’m sure that’s all any of us have time for today. So I want to welcome you back tomorrow for chapter 2 of Dreams: Taking Flight or Crash Landing. BTW – I’m so glad you’re here! Please blog on by anytime!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Car Guys

I grew up in a car family. My dad was a HUGE car guy! He would always, and I mean ALWAYS be trading one car in for another. In fact, true story, one year my dad was told that if he traded his car in one more time he would have to apply for a dealership license. We got a lot of mileage (pun intended) out of that one. We were a pretty middle income kind of family so these were not high end vehicles by any means, but dad would find a great deal on an “oldie but goodie” and bring it home, excitement dancing in his eyes. It was like he could smell the paint fumes, hear the sound of the buffer and see the stains being whisked from the carpet even as he proudly leaned a hand against “her” (you never called a car an “it” in my home) upon her inaugural coast into our driveway. My dad would polish these cars up until they gleamed and he took great pride in maintaining that mint condition inside and out. Let’s just suffice it to say that we were a French fry free family. At least when it came to eating in the car. “ That’s why Mc Donalds has tables.” My dad was fond of saying.
At any rate, my dad raised us to know how to take care of our vehicles, but the crux of the thing was that while he wanted us to know how to check the oil, watch the tire pressure and monitor the gauges we always knew we weren’t really going to have to pay all that much attention because dad was always going to be on top of things. He sort of pathetically lived for a good oil change. Sad. I know.
Enter my husband. It is sometime in the early fall of last year. It is Sunday morning and my five skirted and Khaki clad children are piling into our Ford, Excursion. We are church bound. We roll rather lazily up the gravel road and onto the highway. We are a few miles from town yet when we begin to hear a very ominous CLUNK! Before I have time to wonder when the last time I had the oil changed the vehicle has already breathed it’s terrifying last. Steve looks at me in astonishment as he struggles to coast to the side of the highway sans power steering. “What could be wrong?”, he seems to ask wordlessly. Steve hops out of the car and pops the hood.
Now, my husband, bless his sweet and tender heart, is absolutely NOT a car guy. He is a man’s man. He hunts. He fishes. He farms. He runs a business. But the man doesn’t know a carburetor from a spark plug.
So for a moment I think I might be safe.
I am wrong.
You see the thought dawns on me fairly early on in this little scenario that perhaps I have forgotten to have the oil changed for a very, very, veeerrrryyy long time. I begin to wonder as Steve’s head disappears beneath the hood of the car, just how long it takes for an engine to actually be ruined by lack of oil.
About that long.
Steve gingerly pulls the dipstick from the oil receptacle thingy and I can see from a mile away that the thing is dry as the Sahara desert. I look away quickly hoping he won’t know what that means.
Steve stalks slowly…silently back into the car. “How long,” big sigh, “exactly” long pause, “Has it been since you have had this oil changed?”
“Well I’m not sure. I really can’t remember.”“Then, I would guess that’s been too long… wouldn’t you SAY?”
Steve was actually doing pretty well with things. He was remaining calm. He was in control, at least, until I said this… “Well, ya know, Steve I grew up in a car family. My dad just always took care of that kind of stuff. I’m just USED TO the man taking care of that.”
Steve looked at me a really, really long time before he screamed into the eerie silence that had descended over my usually rambunctious brood… “YOU HAVE BEEN MARRIED TO ME FOR 16 YEARS, CHERIE. YOU HAD BETTER START GETTING ‘USED TO’ SOMETHING DIFFERENT!”
I guess I sort of understood his point. At least over the next 15 minutes I began to understand. Something about “I don’t drive this car. You do.” And “What is so hard about making a little phone call?” helped to speed the comprehension process.
Well one new engine and a couple of weeks in the rental car from hell later I feel confident that I will not be putting 13,000 miles on an oil change ever again.
And, Dad if you’re watching from heaven. I’m sorry about that. The daughter of a car guy really should have known better.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I grew up in one of those towns that looks like it came straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The place seemed then, and still seems now, untouched by time. My parents were average middle class people who worked hard, but also took time to enjoy relationships with family and friends. My mom was a stay at home mom during my early years. She was the kind of mom who would pack a picnic lunch on a hot summer day and take us to the park to meet up with friends for lunch; afterward walking with us to the ice cream shoppe for a refreshing treat. She would play weeklong games of monopoly with us and laugh as we got into knock down drag outs over the value of Park Place on the open market.
I remember when my mom decided to go back to college. My sister was in school full time by then and I was nearing the end of my grammar school experience. I remember being incredibly proud of her. Looking back I guess I find it interesting that I don’t recall any sense of loss when my mom started to pursue her career. I only remember that it seemed to open doors for me. I always had a sense that interesting things could still happen at any age. That making a decision to do something at a certain point didn’t necessarily resign you to it’s fate. That there were always, always, always, going to be opportunities.
It’s been hard to arrive in my mid thirties and realize that though those opportunities are certainly out there for the taking (after all my mom didn’t even begin to pursue her college education until her late thirties) the doors aren’t as easy to open any more. Not only are there more obstacles to overcome but life has a way of dampening dreams and altering an outlook. While I know that any thing is possible and that being 34 isn’t exactly old, I also fear I’ve come to a place where I realize that I won’t live forever. Life is uncertain and if I don’t start embarking on some of these journeys that lie before me, I may run out of time.
So it is I begin my blog.
The question is this : What is my passion? My mom’s passion was to teach. She pursued it and has been content in it for 20 years now. I’ve been wondering lately then what it is that I’m passionate about that way. What could I do that would keep me excited for years like that? My mom wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl. She always knew what her passion was. I decided to look back into my childhood to understand what it was that excited me that way? As a kid I was always happiest when I had a notepad and pen in hand. I would cuddle up beneath the huge maple tree in our back yard and crank out poem after poem, or begin great works of fiction. There were times I even created covers for my stories and gave them away to the younger neighborhood kids. Writing continued to be important to me throughout high school and even adulthood. I guess I just didn’t realize how passionate I was about it until now. I am untrained. I have achieved no level of higher education.
I just have a passion.
I’m thirty four years old and jaded or not the world is still mine for the taking. So I’m going to write. I’m going to write because it’s my passion. I’m going to write because thanks to the land of cyberspace, the opportunity is before me and thanks to mom I know I can.