Tag Archives: travel

The Saga of the Missing Cat

In anticipation of my husband’s birthday party and 100 guests walking in and out of our home, we decided to board our cats with Plantation Animal Hospital, the veterinarian we had used for over three years in Macon, GA.  You can imagine our surprise when, on Friday afternoon, someone from the vet’s office called and asked us to come as soon as we could.  She was apologetic when she explained one of our cats, Chanel, had escaped.  The person who was moving the cats from their individual crates to the kennel had left both crates open, and at the same time had left a door to the outside propped open with a rock.

Chanel always tried to escape outside and this was exactly the reason we had decided to board them.  They would be safe, right?  Wrong. We made our way to the vet’s office and walked all around outside, calling Chanel and looking for signs of her.  Heartbroken, we went home after an hour of futile searching.

By Saturday afternoon, we were frantic and had exhausted our search efforts.  We posted photos and notices on social media and animal rescue sites, but we heard nothing. At 2:00 p.m., my very sad daughter posted a negative review on the veterinarian’s website, and got an immediate response:  they had found our cat and she was secure inside.  Soon after, I got an apologetic email from one of the vets, Dr. Susan Howard. It would be too little, too late.

Early Monday afternoon, my husband went to pick up the cats and bring them home.  You can imagine his surprise when our grey and white female cat had been transformed into a black male cat!  Surprise quickly turned to anger.  I was on a plane already for a business trip, so I was of no use.  All I could do was worry.  How could this be?  I had sent them photos of the cat.  They had records of the cat, so how could they confuse a black male with a petite grey female cat?  Had anyone even seen our cat?   Don’t cats have medical records?  Especially when this has been her vet for over three years and she had been boarded in the past?

We had two cats at the time, Chanel and Valentino. I had Chanel from the time she was a kitten and I inherited Valentino as an older cat, from my cousin, and he was not my favorite cat.  I had him only because my cousin’s dog kept trying to eat him, and I took him to keep him from going to a shelter.  But we never connected.  One of our grandsons said we needed to respect him anyway, because he was a cat. I could have dealt with losing Valentino, but not Chanel.

 On Monday night, four days later, and we still had no Chanel and no answers.  Chanel is the best pet I’ve ever owned, with the possible exception of my horse, and I was so angry.  Two weeks passed and still no answers.  Animal rescue groups shared my blog post and Plantation Animal Hospital blocked me on Facebook and Twitter.   My friends persisted in sharing “wanted” posters and in calling the vet.  I was heartbroken.  The vet used my photo and made a reward poster, which was shared throughout the area.  $500 for my cat.  They needed to do that.

Three weeks after Chanel disappeared, someone found her and claimed the reward.  She weighed less than 5 pounds.   The vet gave her IV fluids and checked her thoroughly.  We were finally able to bring her home.

This sounds like old news, and maybe it is, however just this past week I have had two friends who have had bad experiences with this same animal hospital.  I’ve had other friends whose cats have been lost by vets.

We’ve since found another vet that we like and Chanel seems okay with him.  The office is nice and they get us in fast.  I like them.  Two years later and we still don’t board Chanel when we travel.

I wish I could tell you how to find a good vet.  Get recommendations from trusted friends and read the reviews online.  Meet the doctor and the staff and ask questions.  Veterinarians are so specialized now and make sure the doctor you choose is comfortable with your breed.  You and your pet should both be comfortable.

What an experience!

 

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

#MeToo No More

From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances.  I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  Maybe people have changed.  Maybe I’m just a wimp.  I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.

A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met.  As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.

Let’s call him Steve.  The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit.  His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath.  “You must know who I am,” he said.  No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was.  “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.”  No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t.  It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting.  It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face.  I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang.  I ran into my office.

He always found reasons to come into the school.  We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field.  We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies.  Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office.  Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape.  Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk.  In came George.

I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened.  This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage.  This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected.  He was connected with literally everyone.  It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and  even my access to the mechanics.  But I wouldn’t compromise.

Soon he disappeared.  I began to relax.  Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought.  He was gone and I was safe.

Or so I thought.  Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro.  By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey.  In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers.  In George’s case, it didn’t even take one.  Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends.  I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.”  I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO.  I did not report him.  All I wanted to do was fly.  I could handle this.

We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent.  “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line.  Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline.  I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.

Maybe he turned his life around.  Maybe his children are responsible adults.  Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather.  He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations.  Whatever.  I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and  gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.

#MeToo No More.

Opening Doors

It isn’t the same and I won’t pretend it is.  But last year has been on my mind, a lot lately.  Maybe it is because hurricane season is gearing up, but I’ve also heard some snarky comments like “if you think these families ought to be together, then why don’t you open your home.”  Little do they know that our home is always open to people who need a place to stay.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston last year, it was easy to post on Facebook that anyone who might be evacuating could come to our home and stay.  I knew no one would come.  No one did.  Then came Irma and I knew I had to do something.  This could be bad but did I really want a bunch of strangers in our home?  I emailed my cousins first and they were all fine.

We started hearing how there were no hotels in Georgia.  This was not going to be good.

So up went the Facebook post.

Now let me add an important part of this story.  Bob and I were leaving on Thursday for  Maine for a weekend writing workshop.  We were spending the weekend with some of my favorite people and that meant my daughter was going to be in charge.  Totally in charge of everything.  I left her a credit card.

Our first guest came on Wednesday.  He is an attorney in Ohio and his wife is a dear friend of mine.  They have a home in Florida and he had to get home.  There were no flights and there were no hotels.  He arrived late Wednesday night, we ordered a pizza for him, and we sat up late getting to know our new friend.

We left on Thursday and on Friday I got a Facebook message from someone asking whether we still had room.  I said yes and gave him Jodi’s phone number.  In hindsight, I can see how people would question my sanity.  I had no idea who these  people were.  We had no mutual friends and we have still not figured out how they got my contact information.  They had two elderly cats, and his son had been killed in Afghanistan.  His son’s birthday would have been on Sunday.  They had been to one hotel on the way up but it had bedbugs, so they had spent the night in their car.  Then they found us, through someone who knew someone who knew someone…

I got a message from Afghanistan on Saturday of the writing workshop.  “Do you still have room? My friend’s sister and her family needs to evacuate.”  I called him and told him yes, we would make room, and I called his friend and gave him Jodi’s information.  She took it from there and I went back to my writing workshop.  They arrived a few hours later, the husband and wife, their son, their son’s friend from college, and two small dogs.

My daughter texted me later and said that her friend from South Georgia needed to come, also, with her two children.  That whole friendship deserves its own blog post and I’ll just leave it at that.  We ended up with 15 people in our home, from three continents.

We took a chance and opened our doors.  We’d do it again.

Winning the Lottery

I won the lottery this week. Not the Georgia Lottery, but one even better than that.  I’d have to play the lottery to actually win, and I can’t really see the value in that.

This week, I got to spend time with my mom, I introduced one of our grandsons to one of our favorite books, I had a picnic with a new friend, I started physical therapy for my knee, I went on a walk with another new friend (or I tried), I saw a movie with Michael, AND I made another new friend.  The icing on the cake was finding out I could go to college in Georgia for free.  Age does have its privileges.  Can you imagine a better week?

Let’s start at the beginning.  My mom is always fun and anyone who knows us knows we love road trips.  We just came back from a successful road trip with Sloan, another grandson, and he liked our habit of listening to audiobooks on the road. With Jacob, a somewhat reluctant reader, we chose “Skink, No Surrender,” by Carl Hiassen.  Carl Hiassen is one of our favorite authors and even his books for young readers keep us entertained.  Jacob laughed the entire trip and even asked to turn on the phone when we got inside. He couldn’t get enough!

We got home Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning I had an appointment.  This was where I met my new friend, Mike, in the most unlikely place. We had already talked on the phone and I knew he was very helpful, but when we met in person we clicked.  You can never have too many friends.  He’s a smart guy, a social worker, and I’m adding him to our Boxing Day party list.  Not just everyone goes on that list!  Thank you, Mike.  I never expected to find a new friend that day, especially when the next lady who came in acted like I was some kind of nut case.

This was a very quick trip and I’m on a diet so I got three barbecue sandwiches that I intended to ration carefully.  I ate one for supper on Tuesday and I knew both needed to be eaten on Wednesday, but there was no way.  When my friend Lawrence said the magic words, I suggested a picnic on Wednesday.  The weather was perfect and we ate under a big tree at Wesleyan College.  The company was outstanding, even though we were both eaten up by ants and I’m still itching.  If you know me very well, you know I don’t share my barbecue sandwiches with just anyone, so you know Lawrence must be a very special friend.

Paige Parker is the best physical therapist in the world.  If anyone can help my knee, Paige can.  She worked miracles with my shoulder.  I’m highly motivated, but she pushes.  I’m optimistic.  Getting an appointment brightened my mood.

The best laid plans don’t always work out, and the rain prevented my walk with Hal.   I have so much respect for Hal Brickle and his work with the weekend lunch and I couldn’t wait to walk with him, so off we went. We got to the stop sign, and down came the rain.  I hobbled back to the car and he ran a little faster.  J

As I said, the icing on the cake was finding out I can go to college for free at state schools in Georgia. I’m particularly interested in the history program at Middle Georgia College, perhaps the music program there, the theatre program at Georgia College in Milledgeville, or if I’m really serious about studying, economics at Georgia State University.  For $49 per course, I can even go to Emory University.  I could get a BSN at Middle Georgia College, but I think I’m over that.  I think I want to do something FUN!  I may be the only person, though, who thinks public policy and economics sounds like fun.

First, though, let’s get some money coming in on a more regular basis. But this has certainly been a fun week.

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.

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.