Tag Archives: life

Tribute to an old friend

IMG_0109His name doesn’t matter.  I found an old resume of mine, and I’m talking really old, and he was listed as a reference.  We lost touch at least 33 years ago, but this dear friend was important enough to have been listed on my resume on my initial job searches in Atlanta.  He didn’t want me to move.

As soon as my mother reads this, she is going to call me.  “Who are you talking abou?”  I’m not going to tell her.  I’m not even going to talk about it any further.  I’m going to savor the memory of this friendship, 30+ years ago, and remember fondly a larger than life person who passed away in 2016.  Some memories should just be savored and maybe woven anonymously into a book or something.

Our first meeting was not was by chance.  Someone recommended I contact him.  He was a valuable resource.  He restored my self confidence and opened doors I couldn’t have opened alone.  I was in awe of him.  He couldn’t believe I was a commercial pilot and flight instructor, plus a nurse, and he respected my intelligence.  He was kind and generous and a gentleman.  I was vulnerable but he did not take advantage of that.  He was older but he treated me as an equal.  He respected my opinion.   He introduced me to jazz.

So many fond memories!  His faith in me empowered me and helped make me become the person I am today.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.  I will always remember that.

I found his obituary last night.  He was preceded in death by his wife of 27 years.  She came along 5 years after I left so I didn’t know her, but I wish I had. He was a good person  was well remembered by all.

Rest in peace, my friend.

The Saga of the Sink, or Why I Believe in Design

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a low threshold for certain normal things.  I can handle a jet or a DC-3 losing an engine, but household things confound me.  What to wear is a huge decision.  I’m not good at it. I am easily overwhelmed by choices and decisions that a normal person might easily make, or even enjoy making.  I enjoyed these decisions when we built our last home, but we’ve moved to Macon and life has changed. I know my limits.

It was a leak in the kitchen faucets and mold that sent me over the edge.  I was calm at first, as we cleaned everything out of the cabinet.  I thought this was a repeat of our last leak, which was covered by our insurance, so I called that contractor.  The guy came out, removed the kick plate under the cabinet, and our sink fell down.  The contractor immediately denied responsibility and said this was a different leak.  I didn’t feel like fighting but when the sink crashed down, I lost it.

My husband is the kindest, most patient person in the world.  He took charge.  When we got to Lowe’s to find a replacement sink and faucet, there were too many choices. My eyes glazed over and Bob sensed a meltdown in my future. “You know, we should just call Bonnie.  She’ll know what to do.”  I married better than I deserve.

Bonnie Dowling is my friend.  We met at church and I trust her.  She has transformed our home and has saved us money.  She’s saved me time and my sanity.  She is a stunning individual, beautiful inside and out.  She’s smart and she’s talented, and she is always color coordinated.  I wish I had that talent. I trust her.

I believe in interior design.  I’ve tried doing things on my own, but Bob repainted the master bath three times in three years.  That’s pushing the limits of a very good and patient husband.  Bonnie helped me narrow down the color choices from the 4 million paint colors out there (and the crazy names!) to three.  I didn’t want to live in a box of crayons, though I love color.  Bob was happy to paint once more, but he drew the line at repainting every year.

Bonnie took charge and I could relax.

It hasn’t been easy.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of sinks?  One bowl, two bowls, lower center division so you can wash large pans?  Then you get into how many holes do you want for faucets and dispensers.  One?  Two?  Three?  And what do you want the holes for?  Soap?  Hot water?  Two controls for water, or one?  Do you want a sprayer?  If you want a sprayer, do you want it separate or part of the faucet?  Bonnie is a superhero.  Who knew there were all of these options and decisions?

Our home was built in 1996 and our sink is larger than normal, and we couldn’t have gotten one from Lowe’s anyway. No one sells a sink that fits the hole in the countertop.  A new sink with countertop modifications would have set off my husband’s defibrillator.  The best option was to use the old sink with its three holes and replace the faucet and sprayer.

Bonnie’s strategy was brilliant.  She sent me no more than five choices for anything.  This was more manageable than the 10,478 on build.com.  I chose one and then we had to figure out what to do with the rest of the holes in the sink.  That was relatively easy.  A hot water dispenser and a soap dispenser will fill in these other holes.  A piece of cake.

Compared to the sink, the cabinets were easy even though the cabinets themselves had been discontinued.  Bonnie had a super cabinet maker who was able to replicate everything.  No problem.  He could also remove our trash compactor and  give us additional cabinet space.

We received Bonnie’s bill for January today, and it took her only 5.5 hours to do what it would have taken me weeks to do.  She’s a pro.  She’s allowed me to focus on what I do best, growing my business and loving my family.  It has been stress-free.

I believe in design.  This isn’t a paid announcement or commercial of any kind, but just an affirmation following a bad experience fixed by a good designer.  It is an affirmation of friendship and respect for someone who knows what she is doing.  It is a statement of respect for a profession whose members provide a great benefit to their customers.  As I have told my children many times, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  A good designer can save time and money.

Disaster averted.

 

 

Remembering

“Four shirts, four pairs of pants, a snow machine suit, and I’m still cold.”  Thus began my journal, on this this day in 2000. I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, flying a 1946 McDonald Douglas DC-4 delivering fuel to remote villages.  This contract pilot stent may very well be the craziest thing I’ve ever done and sometimes I still can’t believe I actually did it.

Why was I in Alaska?  Money.  Insanity.  Opportunity.  Adventure.  I already had a class date with Netjets of February 8, 2000.  I had sold my flight school and would finally get the airline job I had coveted for 30 years, and I really had nothing to do.  A month in Alaska would help me cover the gap.

I got my DC-4 experience flying night freight for Custom Air Charter out of Hampton, GA.  Not many people want to fly 60 year old airplanes, at night, without radar and at fairly low altitudes. Bob McSwiggan’s attitude was that radar “only scares the pilots.”  He was the owner, and besides owning a freight airline he is a tap dancer!  But that’s a story for another day.  The photo is not the DC-4 that I flew, but you get the idea.  In Atlanta, I flew the Carvair conversion, which you can see here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FfOmlb4SAU.

Flying a DC-4 was romantic and exciting, but it was hard work and sometimes dirty work.  The radial engines leaked oil and sometimes quit unexpectedly, but I loved those R-2000 engines.  On the ground, you had to climb on the wing and put a stick in the fuel tanks to confirm the fuel levels. In the air, you had to keep your eyes on the gauges and periodically pump oil to the engines. The instruments in the cockpit were appropriate for the 1940s.  It was just plain fun.

I got a call from a pilot friend in December to fill in for one of the pilots for Brooks Fuel in Fairbanks.  There aren’t a lot of qualified DC-4 pilots and initially I said no.  He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse –  I would be guaranteed 8 hours a day flying time, a ridiculous hourly rate, a generous per diem, plus a place to stay.  Off I went.

The place they gave me was so dirty that I washed my feet in the sink after I took a shower.  I lived off chicken pot pies that I could heat in the microwave.  The high one day was a whopping -17 degrees and another was -20, but I saw spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis and I went to places you won’t see on an Alaskan cruise.  Cruises won’t take you to Beaver, Kobuk, or Alakaket.  We flew kerosene, gasoline, and propane.  When we weren’t flying fuel, we’d fly snow machines to these same remote villages.

I learned a lot on that trip, and will now summarize a few of those lessons:

  1. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Northern Lights, especially when you are that far north and that far away from civilization.
  2. Boots certified to 40 below don’t really work that well past -10.
  3. Always take shower shoes. If you can’t eat in the kitchen, you really don’t want to put your bare feet in the shower, either.
  4. People who live in remote villages work on a different timetable than those of us who like cities.  They won’t accept fuel during lunch hour or on weekends, but they’ll take a snow machine whenever you can get it there.
  5. When you’re in a different place with a different culture, don’t expect to feel perfectly at home. It takes an effort and you need to respect them.  When a native decides to give you a baseball cap, accept it with kindness and treasure it.
  6. A 2300’runway, covered in snow with mountains on either side, is a challenge when empty, but even more when the aircraft weighs about 50,000 pounds.
  7. Appreciate your ground crew. They are the ones who get to the airport at 0400 to put heating blankets on the engines.  Without them, you wouldn’t fly.  You don’t like to get up that early and you know you don’t like being that cold.
  8. To expand on #7, appreciate everyone and everything around you. We’re all in this world together so let us work together to make it a better place.  Together, we can.
  9. Remember this. Whatever it is, you can do this.  Whatever your situation, it is not worse than -27 and no ladies restroom (actually, no restroom) in Anektuvuk Pass, Alaska.  It will get better.  You will get to warmer weather.
  10. Look at life as an adventure. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and experience life and to meet new people.  Maybe you’ll learn something and maybe you will gain a new perspective.

Finding these pages from my journal was a tremendous treat.  Sitting here warm and safe in our home in Macon, Georgia, I can’t believe I actually did it.  Am I the same person who took off that day for the trip of a lifetime?   Would I do it again?

I just don’t know.

Mindfulness and Intentionality

 

The holidays are a perfect time to think about mindfulness and intentionality. It is easy to get caught up in buying gifts for people who don’t need anything, resulting in spending valuable time and money on things that aren’t important. Mindfulness allows us to enjoy the holidays through our presence, without the undue pressure of juggling what is important and necessary with what we feel we need to do. Intentionality allows us to make the important decisions and weigh the cause and effects of our decisions.

The simplest way to think about being intentional is doing the right thing for the right reason. Being intentional means making decisions that lead you towards the intended outcome. It is drawing on your inner strength to make choices that are right, in a purposeful and deliberate manner. It is weighing the pros and cons before making a decision, and choosing to be an active participant in life. I know my decisions may not be right for everyone, and that is okay. I accept responsibility for my life and my decisions, and I am aware of how my decisions will affect others. I recognize that I do not live nor work in a vacuum and that actions and decisions have consequences, therefore I act intentionally and consider all outcomes.

Part of being mindful is paying attention and being present. Mindfulness involves the deliberate attention to what is going on around with you. It is being aware of the people around you and recognizing their worth. It involves looking at people in a nonjudgmental way and accepting everyone for who they are. This is actually one of the most important lessons I learned from my father, who taught me to treat everyone as if he or she was the most important person I had encountered that day. As Mayo Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Being present and treating the people around you as if they were important is the first step in building the solid relationships that will help you be personally and professionally successful.

There are consequences to every decision you make and some of your professional decisions can have a profound influence on your personal life. I made the decision to sell my business and pursue a doctorate, but I gave little thought to how it would change our lives, even the lives of my adult children. The demands on my time virtually eliminated any normal family time for the next three years. While none of us now regret my decision, there were times when everyone had to make sacrifices. I left a lucrative corporate job to teach, and that has resulted in lifestyle changes. I wish I had involved my husband more in my decisions, as he was the one who had to bear so much more of the workload at home. Sometimes the tough decisions and the results can be hard to swallow, but if you are deliberate in your thinking and consider all angles, the tough decisions may be a little easier.

We’ve just come through a very difficult political election. Many of us have not been mindful in things we’ve said and the conclusions we’ve drawn, and some of us have been unfair to people who are close to us. There have been articles about people who dreaded Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, and others about acceptable topics for discussion. My hope is that we can come together and approach the future with both mindfulness and intentionality, and heal some of the hurt of the past 18 months.

The Choice to Live

This has been an amazing weekend.  I just completed the runDisney Glass Slipper Challenge, with a 5K on Friday, a 10K on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon today.  I am here and I did it.  if you believed the doctors in 2003, this wouldn’t have happened.

2003 was an incredible year.  I had started a hospice and was working with the best people you can imagine.  I married Bob, my Prince Charming, in June, with 120 of our family and closest friends present.  We built our dream home.  My children were all living close by and we had one 3 year old perfect grandson, Glenn.  We were on top of the world.  Then my daughter noticed these awful bruises, up and down my legs.  I looked like I had been beaten.  She wanted them checked but I said no.  Then, at a health fair, I found out that my cholesterol was elevated.  It had gone from 125 to 225, seemingly overnight.  It was time to get the bruises checked out.

My first stop was my medical director, who was surprised that my liver enzymes were elevated. After all kinds of tests, I was sent to Crawford Long Medical Center to the “grandfather” of liver disease in Atlanta.  He looked at me and said, “Young lady, I believe you have a rare autoimmune disease, something called PBC.”  I was scheduled for a liver biopsy, the very next week.  I started researching, and what I found wasn’t particularly encouraging.  The biopsy was done and the doctor confirmed it; most people with PBC had a life expectancy of 10 years, unless they received a transplant.

I joined an online support group, but everyone was so negative and they all shared a litany of ailments.  It seemed all were either on disability or were trying to get on disability, and this was not how I intended to live.  I made a conscious choice, that I was going to live.  I knew that I needed to take charge.  I am an RN and knew about the liver’s role within the body, so limiting chemicals and processed foods made perfect sense to me.  I am also a spiritual person, so prayer and a positive attitude were two of the other strategies I chose.  Finally, I decided I needed exercise. The doctor wanted to wait three months before placing me on the medication that would hopefully delay the progress.  My strategy worked, and after 3 months my labs were all normal, except for one.  My alkaline phosphatase was just a couple of points high, nothing concerning.  The doctor placed me on Urso Forte anyway, and everything went back to normal.

In the meantime, I began searching for options.  If I was going to have a transplant, who had the best results?   I became friends with a woman, on the PBC support group, whose husband had recently had a transplant at Emory.  We “clicked” and we met for lunch.  She recounted the process, but I had one question.  How much was the private jet that was required to get him to Jacksonville in time?  $3000.  That settled it.  I was going to Mayo, but I would still continue with my own treatment:  diet, exercise, prayer, and a positive attitude.

Since I was diagnosed, I have earned my PhD, started another business, had a total career change, and now have run a half marathon.  Bob is still my Prince Charming and we now have 10 grandchildren. I go to Mayo once a year and the tests at Mayo say that I am at Stage 0 (I was 1-2 when I was diagnosed). The docs say I will die with PBC and not from it.  Tonight, while I am spraying myself down with Biofreeze, I will offer a prayer of thanks.  My legs hurt and I have shin splints, but I am alive and have just accomplished something pretty darn amazing, even without an autoimmune disease. I choose to live.