Parents, don’t buy your college kids BMWs

The college kids are starting to return to town, an event that happens every year around this time and coincides with my mood taking a nosedive for the worse. It’s only Aug. 2 and school doesn’t start until the 28th. So, how do I know they’re already returning?

Well, let’s see….there’s the long lines at Wal-mart, full of young people accompanied by their parents, buying everything for their kids from Aisle 7-33. You’d think it was the Destin, FL. Wal-mart during summer.

Then there’s the increase in car accidents.  Hell, just yesterday we had two separate drunk driving accidents on the news (one ended up in the middle of a restaurant and one landed another car on the median of Highway 6).  One of those was at 7:50 in the morning. What the hell? Both 20 year olds….bored with nothing to do, so let’s get drunk?

Come January, I will have lived in this town for 30 years.  I’ve been on campus for 20 of those, first as an undergrad, then as an employee.  (And FYI, as an employee, I’m obligated to tell you that everything I write in here is my own opinion and not that of the fine institution that employs me). I figured it was time to impart my wisdom to the parents who are sending their children to live in this town for the next 4, 5, 6, hell 30? years. Today’s topic will be on transportation.

First, parents, I know you love your little rugrats and you want to keep them safe, but for the love of all things human, STOP buying them BMWs and Lexus and the like.  (By the way, what IS the plural of Lexus…Lexi?) Let them have a nice Ford or Chevy that’s several years old at least.  Odds are, they’re going to ram it into one of us locals and you’re going to have to replace it anyway.  There is NO reason a 19-year-old needs to be driving a luxury car.  Let them earn it the way everyone else has to – by old-fashioned hard work.

Now let’s speak to those of you that don’t care so much about your kids’ safety and you went out and bought them a Scooter.  If you are going to let your kid drive around these streets in a scooter….first have your head examined.  Second, come drive the streets yourself in a nice armored car the first 2 weeks of school  Bet you’ll change your mind.  And all that gear that you bought Sissy…the helmet, the gloves, the jacket…and Sissy swore she’d wear?  Well, mom, she ain’t.  I see gals and guys flying down Texas on their scooters with shorts, a tank top, flip-flops and their hair blowing in the breeze.  I guarantee you, they will not look pretty smacked up against the side of their fellow student’s BMW.

And since we’re on the topic of transportation, remind your kids that when they drive their luxury cars to class, make sure they can read their hang tags so they can park in the correct spot.  Those poor dear kids that have a parking spot in lot 51 somehow end up in my lot.  Now I’m sure it’s not at all because my parking lot is closer in to campus than theirs is. I’m sure it’s just because they didn’t read the lot sign…or their hangtag….or they got lost driving…..or got distracted by a scooter.

Also, remind them that they aren’t handicapped (unless they are….if so, skip this paragraph). Every semester I watch students pull up in my lot (the one closer to campus – see where I’m going with this?) and park in the handicapped spaces.  Now sure, some of them are handicapped….at least I’m gonna give them the benefit of the doubt.  But the ones that jump out of their car and physically run or skateboard to class….well, those have me doubting them a bit.  Especially when they pull out a hangtag from under their dash and stick it up on their mirror.  Then when they leave class, that handicapped permission slip comes down and gets hidden in their car again.  Coincidence? Remind them that they are healthy young adults that are fully capable of walking an extra 500 yards. And that one day when they are old and broken down, they may just need one of those spots for real.

Alright, I think that’s enough tips for today.  Tune in next time when I’ll discuss etiquette and dress.

Facebook is like high school all over again

Wow, what a crazy month this has been. As anyone who is Facebook friends with me can attest, It has been a whirlwind of 3 kids’ birthdays, Easter, our anniversary, Mother’s Day, as well as various concerts, bike races and awards ceremonies.  We still have another concert as well as a spring football game this week. Next week is the last week of school, and all of us are due for a little break from the craziness.

As I looked back over all the postings from the past month, I am blessed by the friends and family who liked and commented on the photos I posted of the family, of the crazy daily activities that keep us from being able to stop and take a deep breath.  Then at the same time, I look back and wonder: why didn’t so and so like that picture?  why didn’t this person wish the kids happy birthday?  why didn’t that person like any of the prom photos?

Then I realized….Facebook is like having to go back to high school all over again.  You worry about trying to be popular, getting the most friends, hoping every single one of them likes you.  You smile warmly when your friends like the photos of your family.  You frown to yourself when someone doesn’t like a photo you’ve posted, yet you know they’ve seen them because they are on Facebook daily, liking other random stuff.  Then you start to wonder…..do they not like me? do they not like my kids?  do they not approve of something they see on my wall?  If you say the wrong thing, you get unfriended….or vice versa, you hit the unfriend button. And BOOM, right there, you are living your life worrying about what people think, just like it’s high school all over again.

I should have caught a clue when our high schoolers ditched Facebook for other social media venues. Sure, 2 of them still have FB pages, but they don’t post on them.  The only time something new hits their wall is when a parent or grandparent posts something or tags them in a post. I try not to do that too often, as I know it drives them nuts – unless of course I post a cool photo of them excelling in some sort of sport where they look badass. Heck, even the youngest one didn’t want to get a Facebook page when he turned 13 and we gave him the option.

Sometimes I could actually learn a thing or two from my kids.  Scott left Facebook quite a while ago, around the time everyone thought it was ok to spout their filth and garbage about how their side of the political spectrum was right and everyone else was stupid. Me, I stayed on, quickly scrolling by the political crap and not reading. But there in, I was doing the judging high school thing myself, not liking or commenting.  In retrospect, I could have commented, and hoped to start a well-rounded discussion where both sides of the fence are treated equally.  But in most political posts, the poster doesn’t want to see both sides….they want to convince us that their side is the only side.

I try to stay away from  politics on Facebook, because my feelings are that your views are your views and my views are my views.  They may be similar, or they may be polar opposite.  We’re all entitled to our views.  We’re also entitled to keep them the hell to ourselves.

I thought about walking away from Facebook many times, but so far I have decided to stay on.  I like keeping up with my friends that are not near anymore. I love seeing photos from the people  I grew up with who are now parents and grandparents facing the same issues as me – I know I’m not alone in this aging boat!  I also love to see the photos from the younger people who I’ve worked with over the years who are just starting their families – all the new little babies coming into the world reminds me of when I thought that was a terribly hard age and how I miss it from time to time.

No, I’ll stay on Facebook for now….I just won’t worry about whether anything I post gets any likes or comments.  I realize this is not high school and I don’t have to care about how others feel. I’m proud of each and every one of my kids and my husband,  If someone chooses not to like a photo of them, that’s their problem. They are the ones judging.  If they comment on one kid, but not the others, that’s also their problem.  They should get to know all of them – because each one is interesting and different in their own way, and frankly, they are a blast to talk to.

 

When I grow up, I wanna be like D

Went to the first meeting of my book club at work this morning and was quickly reminded that I had made a vow to write daily.  Well, here is it almost a month since my last blog.  Guess I need to check my calendar more often.

I have plenty of stuff rolling around in my head, but today I’d like to brag on my youngest, and why I’d like to be more like him.  And not just because he’s the only one of my children that is a faithful reader of this blog.  Heck, I would render a guess that the other 3 don’t even know this blog exists.  Maybe if I was on SnapChat, I’d get their attention more.

D was my surprise baby.  When my doctor told me there was a 99.9% chance that I would never have another child, I took him at his word.  I mean, he’s the expert right? Well, Doc was just as shocked when I showed up for an appointment pregnant with Mr. .1%.

It was so early in the pregnancy, that the ultrasound couldn’t confirm whether I was pregnant or losing the baby…I was sent home with the instructions to come back in a few weeks to confirm.  Seriously? Who tells a mother-to-be that?

Then later came the full ultrasound at 16 weeks – you know, the one where mom has to drink 3 gallons of water an hour before and then try not to pee yourself while the ultrasound technician is rolling an ultrasound monitor over your bladder. The joyous one where you get to find out the sex of the baby – should you be so inclined.  Imagine my horror when the technician spent most of her time measuring this black circle in D’s brain.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know something is not right.  But of course the technicians can’t tell you anything.  They just send you off to wait to talk to your doctor.

Fast forward to the doctor visit.  Yes, the black spot was something.  It was a blood clot on his brain.  Something not uncommon in utero, but not always good news.  Doc said not to worry about it, and to NOT go home and Google it.  There were 2 outcomes….either it would dissolve on its own before he was born, or there might be some brain function issues.

There is one more thing anyone that’s been around me for any length of time can tell you – I am a worrier.  I worry about things that may happen, things that probably could never happen, and things that I just totally make up in my mind.  I would spend then next 20 weeks worrying about this spot.  The doc would not agree to go back in and ultrasound it again – it would do nothing more than fuel my worry.

Next came 19 weeks preggo and I started having contractions.  Some might call them Braxton Hix, “practice” contractions.  Well, I was only at 19 weeks, I’d already been through this before, and I did NOT need to practice contracting.  I knew this would not end well if this continued.  I did my homework – good ol’ Google – and found out from the March of Dimes that a weekly hormone shot would not stop the contractions, but would keep me from dilating and going into premature labor.  Thank God for March of Dimes.  If you don’t support them financially, you should. I have 3 beautiful children alive and driving me nuts because of the work they do!

I talked to doc and he agreed to give the shot a try.  If we made it to 36 weeks, we would stop the shots at that time. So every week I would drag poor Ben and Anna (4 years old at the time) to the doc so mom could get a big ol’ shot in her butt. I put myself on modified bedrest – meaning, I would lay on the couch most of the day and watch as Ben and Anna played together when they weren’t in preschool.  I only had to physically be at my job on Sundays, so this was not an issue.  Come 36 weeks, we had made it! My next shot was due on Monday, but doc said we’d made it far enough to be safe, so no shot.  Damned if my water didn’t break that night at 1 a.m. Baby D was on his way!

This bundle of joy made his way into the world at 8:30 that morning, with only a half hour of me pushing. He came out weighing more than his brother and sister combined.  And most of all, he came out perfectly normal – no long-term effects from the blood clot.

I used to say that D was the complete opposite of his siblings, but as he grows, that changes.  While Ben and Anna were always painfully shy in elementary, D would make friends with strangers. In fact, he’d try to force his brother to make friends with them also.  From the get go, he was the talker, the socializer, the extrovert.

D is a crazy mix of ADHD and gifted & talented.  I like to think that both help him to think outside the box, to see solutions to problems that other people can’t. I am also aware that it makes it hard for him to see things the way we see them some times – making for some long discussions and arguments among his siblings and parents.

Every day I look at D, I am more and more impressed by the young man he is growing up to be. Yesterday he had track practice at 6:45 a.m., then a full day of school, including athletics, then mountain bike practice from 5:30-7 p.m..  After that, homework kept him up until almost 10.  This morning he was back up at 5:50 to get ready for track practice.

Not once in any of that time did he ever grumble in the slightest. He didn’t make an excuse to skip out on early morning practice today.  In fact, after a gentle wakeup call, he was up and smiling and popping his back in a manner that makes me jealous every day.

He didn’t skip out on ANY of his homework that he had to do, including drawing pictures for a history assignment.  He never complained that there was too much to do. He just put his head down and got his homework done, working for more than 2 hours.

His daily schedule is almost more strenuous than mine – I would venture to say I couldn’t do early morning practice, then sit through 8+ hours of school. And he always goes through life with a smile on his face, not matter how packed his schedule is.

I would love to be more like D because he faces every morning with a smile.  Ask most anyone that’s been around me for any amount of time – I am not a morning person.  I don’t normally greet the day with a smile (though I do hear some snap, crackle and pops coming from my aging joints). If I had had a full day like him, I might be looking for an excuse to sleep in a little the next morning.  I might not act on it, but I’m sure I’d be a lot happier if I was sleeping in!  He has never once asked me if he could skip out on practice because of his schedule the day before.

I would love to be more like D because he is always challenging himself physically.  This summer, he joined me at CrossFit.  His class was 4 days a week and he showed up for each and every one of them, in 100 degree heat.  I wanted to skip out and stay in the air conditioning. In the fall, despite having never run more than a mile, he signed up for Cross Country.  Right out of the gate, he was getting up to practice at 6:45 in the morning, running 2-3 miles daily.  And he improved his meet times by several minutes by the end of the season.

I would love to be more like D because he is a crazy mix of caring, social, extroverted energy.  He cares about the feelings of those around him. He empathizes with those being bullied.  He looks out for the underdog. And he’s not afraid to talk to anyone.  Just make sure you aren’t talking to a crazy nut job there, D. I tend to keep to my introverted self and don’t make friends easily.  I could take page from D’s book, for sure.

I’m so excited to see what the future holds in store for D. His path could lead anywhere. I have not doubt he will do great things.

 

 

 

Why I Try

I have joined a bookclub…yeah, you heard that right….I have joined a bookclub.  Some of the communicators in my group at work decided to form a bookclub, reading various books that will help us become better communicators.  While I love to read, I don’t have time in the day to do it.  But I’m making the effort to expand my horizons here.

The first book we’re reading is “Everybody Writes.” While I haven’t gotten very far, the first point made is that to write better, you must write often…as in daily.  So I figured this is as good a place as any.

Last night I did something I never thought I’d ever do.  I entered the CrossFit Games Open.  This is the first step towards the CrossFit Games, open to anyone and everyone who is willing to try.  It is 5 weeks long….they announce the workout of the week on Thursday and you have until Monday to complete the workout and upload your scores  Then you can see how you compare against people doing the same workout across the globe. Even better, you can compare your progress to where you were a year ago.

I completed the first workout last night, which consisted of 10 20# dumbbell snatches, 15 burpee box jump overs, 20 snatches, 15 burpee box jump overs, 30 snatches, 15 burpee box jump overs, 40 snatches, 15 burpee box jump overs, 50 snatches and finally 15 burpee box jump overs. And I did it under the 20 minute time cap allowed.

To say it was difficult is an understatement.  The last 2 minutes were brutal trying to finish the last 15 burpee box jump overs. But my coach kept pushing me, telling me I could do it. To say I’m proud of my accomplishment is also an understatement.  To attempt this kind of thing at my age is a feat in and of itself.  I watched people less then half my age not finish the workout.

This morning I got up and mowed the yard – yes, I realize it’s still February, but hey, it’s Texas.  As I was mowing our little ranchette, I started to think about what my kiddos think about this.  I wonder if they wonder why I do CrossFit, why I learned to ride a motorcycle, why I’m mowing the yard when I could just wait and let one of them do it tomorrow.

I do these things first to continue to improve myself.  To show them that you can learn new things, try new things, at any age.  In fact, when you stop trying new things and learning new things, you grow old and stagnant.  I want them to try new things, even if it scares them.  Ok, maybe I should preface that by saying I want them to try new LEGAL things.  Don’t go trying drugs and say that “mom said I should try new things, even if it scares me.” I’ll rip you a new one.

When I do the yard, I do these things to show them that they can do the hard work. They don’t have to hire someone to do a job they are thoroughly capable of.  I want my daughter to know that she is capable of mowing the yard – that she doesn’t need a man to do it, that she can do this just as much as the next person.  I do it to show my boys that should they get married, they need to marry someone that is willing to pitch in and help.  Don’t marry someone that isn’t willing to do their fair share and more; someone that just wants to go take a nap. Today I’m pitching in because Scott is sick, Austin is at a track meet and Ben and D are getting ready for Night of Percussion.  With rain coming tomorrow, I wanted to make sure it got done.

And truth be told, I like to do yard work.

I want my kids to look back be be proud of their mom.  I want them to learn from me that you never quit, that you keep trying, keep learning, keep fighting for what you want.  And I don’t do this by lecturing.  I do this by being a good example.  Am I perfect?  Heck no. But I try to give my best effort, because I know, deep down, they are watching and learning from me daily.  So I’d better be on my A game.

How I learned to ride a motorcycle

This past weekend I passed the Motorcycle Foundations Safety course, an endeavor that should only take 3 days to complete, but for me, stretched on for 6 months. I have given birth to twins (no c-section here), I’ve obtained my concealed carry license, and I’ve been a single parent…but I can honestly say that this was one of the hardest things I’ve every done.

Last spring motorcycles became part of our family. Scott had mentioned how nice it would be for the two of us to be able to cruise somewhere on a bike, kinda see the world (well, as much of the world you can see while being roped into the Brazos County region and having 4 kids still at home). He had ridden motocross and quads all his life, so street bikes were the logical next step for him.

I, myself, had never pulled in a clutch. My mom drilled into my head how terribly dangerous motorcycles were, so I avoided them.  A buddy in high school had a sport bike that he rode – my bestie Annie took a ride around the block with him one day and burned her leg real bad when she pressed it up against the hot muffler.  Case in point.  Well, not really…we were the stupid ones back then to climb on the back of a motorcycle in shorts.

Fast forward to this May.  Having spent many months on the back of Scott’s motorcycle (it’s called riding bitch, but I can’t say that because my youngest reads my blog), I thought it might be nice to learn how to ride myself.  Give me a greater understanding of what he’s doing up front, and possibly be able to help should we ever get in trouble.

They don’t have any “learn to ride” classes in these parts, and I was not ready to try to learn from Scott. I’m not a patient learner, and I tend to yell when I get nervous….Scott wanted no part of that.  The best choice was to sign up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundations course.  This course is required before you can get a motorcycle license.  Its touted to all skill levels – from brand new beginners to those that have been riding illegally for years.

After hemming and hawing about it for weeks, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for the next available course, which was in June. That was my first mistake, because in Texas, by the time June rolls around, the temp is in the mid-90s with the heat index easily over 100.

Scott took me out to a newly forming neighborhood before the class so that I could sit on the bike and get a feel for its power.  My job was to just walk the bike feeling the friction zone pull me along.  That’s when I got my first taste of how much power this bike really had.

So I show up for my class – there’s a classroom portion Friday evening, then an on-the-bike portion Saturday morning, back to the classroom Saturday afternoon and you finish with more on-the-bike training and a riding test on Sunday. Friday went as well as expected.  I was one of 2 girls there – the other was an older woman who had bought herself a Harley, but hadn’t had the nerve to start it (she’d never pulled in a clutch either). The others were all college age boys or younger, ready to tear up the streets. 4 hours of book learning and we were given our marching orders to meet at the high school the next day.

Saturday morning started out warm….and only got worse. We were required to wear long sleeves, long pants and boots that came over our ankles (as well as gloves and a helmet).  This was going to be a long day. I jumped on a Honda CBR250, since I knew I would eventually be riding a CBR500.  We learned how to walk the bike using the friction zone, then progressed to riding across the short portion of the parking lot with our feet on the pedals.  I was officially a motorcycle rider….even if I was only going 8 miles per hour. My lone female friend got on a small 250cc bike and couldn’t figure out of to walk with the friction zone.  After several attempts, the instructor took her aside and quietly dismissed her from the class.  I was now the token girl.

As the day wore on and the temperatures rose, the maneuvers we had to execute got increasingly harder (at least for a newb). We rode in circles, getting into 2nd and 3rd gear; we did cone weaves, with the cones getting farther apart to produce tighter weaves; and we practiced emergency stops. The farther along we went, the worse I felt about myself. I kept getting pulled aside by the primary instructor.  He was very nice and patient, but I was not getting the hang of it. I almost dropped the bike once (he caught it for me). I killed it some many times, I lost count.  Every time I got pulled over, the tears would start to well up in my eyes. I knew I just wasn’t getting the hang of it. The secondary instructor kept yelling at me….speed up, go faster, stop covering the brake. I was growing more and more defeated, and the heat was tearing me down more. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he stopped me while practicing emergency stops.  He said, “you should be doing better than this by now.” Thankfully that was the last exercise before we broke for lunch.

I got in my car and bawled all the way home.  You would have thought my favorite aunt died, as hard as I was crying.  Luckily all the kids were gone and Scott was flying UAVs, so I had the house to myself.  I got in the shower and cried some more.  I got out and made some lunch and couldn’t stop crying. Y’all, I haven’t cried so much in one sitting in forever. Big fat ugly crocodile tears. My soul was crushed.

But I cleaned myself up and headed back for the 2nd portion of the classroom training after finishing lunch.  I remember sitting in class, so depressed, wondering why I was still there.  Somehow I listened and learned throughout all of it.  At the end of the day we had to take our written test and I passed missing only one question.

That evening I went home and cried some more in my chair.  I told Scott that I just didn’t think I could do it.  I texted our teacher and told him I was thinking about quitting.  He said that he thought I was doing a lot better than I thought and that I could definitely handle tomorrow’s portion, but it was up to me.  After crying and crying and talking to Scott, we decided it just wasn’t worth it. If I didn’t feel ready, it wasn’t the right time.  Scott said he would work with me for as long as it took and I could take the test again when I was ready. I decided to not go back for Sunday’s class, to quit, and I was pretty damn sure I was never going to take that course again, much less get my license.

We spent the summer tooling around when the heat wasn’t just ungodly.  Scott kept trying to get me back on the bike to practice, but my confidence was still shot. I think it took until fall before I agreed to try.

We went back to the scene of the crime, the high school parking lot, and he had me get on the bike.  I sat on the bike and sat on the bike…..I didn’t want to move. I was downright terrified. He gently talked me through it, and finally I was moving forward. This is how it went weekend after weekend….we would practice when we had time, but not every weekend and not often enough for me to get comfortable. But little by little, my confidence started to return. Little by little he would have me do more on the bike, practicing different and new maneuvers.

In late October I was doing pretty good.  Scott started having me work on the exact skills I would need to pass the test; we did weaves, we did emergency stops, we even did the box (a 20’x80′ box in which you have to ride a figure 8). Weekend after weekend Scott would drive me up to the parking lot, get off the bike, take off his helmet and watch me ride around.  Every now and then he’d give me a task to accomplish. But he’d sit there patiently for and hour or more just watching me do my thing. We finally got to the point where we both felt I was ready for the test.  I signed up for the weekend of Nov. 18-20.

Wouldn’t you know it, the week before the test, I got sick.  Nothing serious, just your run of the mill head cold. But then I was slated to go on a business trip to Philadelphia on Monday.  The plane ride and the conference didn’t help my health, and by Tuesday I was feeling worse. I contacted the riding school and somehow convinced them to let me move my training date to December 9-11. Scott and I spent the extra couple of weeks getting in a couple practice rides, but as the date grew closer, my nerves got worse.

Fast forward to Dec. 9. I showed up for the classroom portion Friday night – yes, I had to take this part all over again even though I had tested and passed. To my thrill, there were 3 other girls and plenty of newbies who had never pulled in a clutch.  This was a crowd I could ride with. I was also very happy to see my old instructor Mark – the friendly one from the last go-round.  Even happier when I found that the grumpy old instructor was not there – in his place was a new guy – Phil, a retired police officer.

Saturday morning rolled around to the temp of 32 degrees. The polar opposite from June’s class.  I had on 2 layers of pants, three layers of shirts, a neck warmer, along with a jacket….and I was still freezing.

They rolled out the bikes and I knew I was going to grab the same CBR from the last class…it was most like my bike and this is what I had been practicing on.  Of course, when the Mark told us to go stand by the bike we wanted, another guy took off and got to my bike first.  So I went to a CBR300F….also the same type bike I was used to.  Markcame up and quickly asked how tall I was.  I told him 5’3″ (ok, maybe a stretch).  He suggested I might prefer one of the small Suzuki 250cc bikes.  I told him my reasoning behind wanting the CBR.  He understood, but didn’t think the 300 was going to be small enough for me to maneuver. He took me over to the 250 I had wanted in the first place, checked my size on it, then told the guy who had claimed it to step off, that he was giving this one to me. Whew.

We learned how to start the bikes and feel the friction zone – I was already familiar with this, but we had people in the class who had never done this. I was feeling cocky, thinking this was gonna be a breeze.  THEN we started walking our bikes across the parking lot with the friction zone.  And all my insecurities came back.  Especially when we got to the end of the lot and had to turn the bikes around.  You don’t do that with any engine power – you have to turn hard right and then circle the bike around to the left…all under the power of your own 2 legs.  It was then that I started to question my choice in bikes.  I couldn’t maneuver this bike around at all – it felt much heavier than the last time I took the class.  I was the last one to get my bike turned around each time….and I was huffing and puffing by the time I got the feat accomplished.  I have been doing Crossfit for almost a year now and I can’t push this bike around?  Maybe I SHOULD have taken the little Suzuki.  Another newbie girl who was much tinier than me was riding one of them, and she was turning that thing around on a dime. What have I done?

We then learned to pick up our feet and ride across the parking lot.  My fears came back and I was shaking….and not just from the cold.  And so it went for about 10 minutes.  Ride 40 ft…stop, turn the bike around manually….ride 40 ft.  This was a simple task that was making me feel less confident, not more.  I was deep inside my head with all sorts of negative thoughts.  But someone else was in my head as well…it was Scott.  He kept telling me to stop it, that I had done all this and more and I was going to be fine.  So I took a deep breath and wiped my mind clean and went on to the next exercise.

The riding portion of the class was actually quite easy with a little experience under my belt. I had no problem weaving in and out of the cones, doing the 135 degree turn; heck, I even got commended for keeping my head up and actually looking where I was going (that’s the number one thing you learn….your bike goes where you look….so don’t look at that tree). I did have problems with the wider weave, so Mark pulled me over. Not to yell at me, but to give me some advice on how to approach the maneuver better.  I asked him if he recognized me, that I was his quitter from June.  He said he did, but he wasn’t going to say anything unless I did. He offered up words of encouragement and I was off to work on the weave again….no tears in sight.

We finished up the riding portion for the day and parked our bikes.  Mark asked me how I felt I was doing.  I said, “much better!” He said he agreed, that I was riding much better than the last time. I took off for lunch with a big ‘ol smile on my face.

We did the afternoon classroom portion and took our test.  This time I made 100. Yeah baby.

The next morning I woke up with a sense of peace, which I thought was weird, because I had not done this portion of the class. We started right away working on the figure 8 in the box.  I had had trouble with this maneuver when I worked with Scott, so I was not surprised when I still had trouble.  This time I didn’t let it frustrate me, and just did the best I could.  Did I stay inside the lines? Nope. Did I put my foot down? Yep.

We took a break and Phil asked if anyone was heading to the gas station – the only place available for us to pee.  I told him I was and he asked if he could ride along.  I figured if I took the instructor, they couldn’t very well start the next session without me.  As we were driving over, Phil said that Mark had told him I had taken this class before. I told him yes, that I had made it through Saturday and then quit.  He said that that surprised him, as I seemed like a real natural on the bike. He said he had been watching me and I seemed very comfortable. Wow, it was really visible.  Confidence boosted.

Along with the box, we practiced the emergency stop.  You have to get up to about 15-20 mph, and then after passing the cones, come to a stop as quickly as possible. I had practiced this with Scott, but was nervous about locking up the wheels.  My bike has ABS brakes, so I had never experienced that before. First run at it, I got up to speed, passed the cones and hit the brakes….and locked up the back tire. Phil said, good job…next time just add in some more front brake. I came back for another pass and stopped on a dime.  Phil said, “just like that, every time.” I had this one down and it didn’t scare me anymore. It was actually quite fun.

I headed back over to the box, ready to practice again, when Mark stopped me at the cones and told me to shut it down.  He then proceeded to have everyone line up behind me. We got off our bikes and he asked for everyone’s first name in order of the bikes lined up.  Yep, you guessed it, he was making a roster for the riding test.  And I was up first.

The worst maneuver in the test was up first – the dreaded box.  It was actually combined with a second test, which was the swerve.  So we were to do the figure 8 in the box, then immediately speed up and maneuver a swerve. You got points off if you crossed a line in the box, if you put a foot down, if you didn’t speed up prior to the swerve and if you hit a cone during the swerve.

I started my bike up and headed into the box.  I ended up putting my foot down on the first part of the figure 8 and I touched the line on the second part of the 8. But I survived! I sped up, made the swerve and came to a complete stop as instructed.  I waited for my instructors to give me the thumbs up and I moved over to the next cone to wait for the third test.  I shut the motorcycle down and took a deep cleansing breath.  I had made it through the hardest part and knew the rest was going to be a piece of cake. I got to watch as my fellow classmates went through the same test as I  did.  I saw plenty of foot touches, people riding way outside of the box, and one even got called back to try again because he didn’t speed up enough for the swerve.

The next test was the emergency brake stop.  I was excited for this one, because it was actually fun.  You got points off if you didn’t get up to about 20 mph, if you touched the clutch or brake before passing the cones, and then if it took you too long to stop.  I started my bike up and took off.  I got up to 20, hit the cones, and hit my brakes, stopping in 8 ft. Mark waved me on to the next cone. I shut the bike down and tears started welling up in my eyes.  Not because I was upset, but because I knew there was only one test left, the 135 degree turn, and it was going to be fine.

For the 135 degree turn, you had to get up to 2nd gear at a speed of about 15 mph and go through the 135 degree turn as quickly as possible.  You got points off for not getting up to speed, using your clutch in the turn, not getting into 2nd, not looking where you’re going and not being fast enough over all.  I started my bike up, got into second, did the curve, came to a stop and Mark waved me off. I was done. I had survived and was pretty sure I passed the test.

I had to sit and watch while my 10 classmates completed the last test themselves.  Then we lined up the bikes and waited while Mark and Phil conferred.  They came over to where we were standing and said that Phil would call each of us over one by one to discuss our scores….in REVERSE order.  Which meant that even though I went first, I was now going to have to wait until everyone else had gotten their scores.

With just me and another girl left, all of a sudden I heard my name called.  They were calling me up before her (I think because she failed the class).  I walked over to Phil and shook his hand.  He said that I had done exceptionally well and had actually placed 2nd in the class. I got points off in the box (putting my foot down and touching the line) and the 135 degree turn (not getting through it fast enough). I made a 92 overall. I did a little fist pump and said “YES!!”

He handed me my certificate of completion and congratulated me. I had actually done it!  I thanked Mark as well for being so patient and helping me through this. He said he could see huge improvement and that I was ready to ride.

I texted Scott a picture of the certificate, then headed home to celebrate with the family. I was greeted at the door by the entire family who smothered me with hugs and high fives. With a cheering squad like this, who can fail?

This is something I never thought would accomplish. I honestly thought after the first class that I would not go back. I figured I was going to be a back seat rider. But Scott was kind and patient and slowly helped me get my confidence back. Because of him, I accomplished one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried. And now comes the time for him to patiently teach me to safely ride on the streets. I’m sure there’ll be a story to tell there!

July 13 – A good anniversary

I got up this morning and looked at my Timehop app….something I do every morning while I’m waiting for the shower to warm up.  Thankfully the app takes 2 seconds to look over, because water warms up quickly these days when it’s 100 degrees during most of the day. Anyway….Timehop reminded me that today is a very good day, the one year anniversary of us closing on our house.  While I would not recommend moving to anyone living in Texas during the month of July, it was well worth it. We now have enough space for everyone, and a place to truly call home.

I also realized that this was my 6 month anniversary of joining Crossfit Aggieland. I looked back at my post from February regarding my start of Crossfit to see how far I’ve come.  Yes, I’m well aware that 6 months is not that very long in many cases. I will definitely feel more accomplished when I can say I’ve been giving it my all for a full year.  But I can definitely say changes have come in 6 months.

The saddlebags I wrote about that went kaboing kaboing?  They’re gone.  I still run slower than a turtle in peanut butter, but I’m running. Granted, I run for warmups and if a run is included in the WOD (workout of the day)…not for pure joy anymore. I have developed what the doctors are saying is exercise-induced asthma. I have a new-found respect for Ben and what he has had to deal with his entire life.  There are days when I’m not sure I can get any air into my lungs after a particularly hard WOD. An inhaler has become my new friend.

I’ve found it’s even harder to breathe when you are working out in an oven.  Did I mention that our gym is a metal building with big garage doors?  And that the doors are always opened?  So basically we are working outside with a roof over our heads (and a big ass fan turning the hot air). That’s not so much a problem in the spring when it’s a beautiful 70 degrees outside.  But come July in Texas, it’s 95 in the shade and feels like 110 (don’t believe me? check The Weather Channel). And there we are, working out in the middle of that – running, lifting weights, doing burpees, you name it. I am amazed every day that I work out and don’t die of heat exhaustion. I actually think it’s helping me acclimate to the Texas summers.

The pesky little breathing problem aside, I have found that I am getting stronger, little by little.  No, I can’t compete with the college kids, but I’m not trying to. I can now Snatch 65 lbs.  When I first started, I couldn’t heave 45 lbs over my head. Box jumps – I can now do a 20″ box jump.  When I first started out, I couldn’t jump on top of that box to save my life (and I have the scar on my shin still to prove it). I have increased my deadlift from 45 pounds to 210 pounds (max).  I’d say that’s a marked improvement in strength. Every week I am pleasantly amazed at what my body can do that it couldn’t do last week or last month.

Which brings me to the best benefit of Crossfit. I haven’t stepped on a scale in about 4 months. The scale is a tool I used to use to beat myself up. It didn’t matter if I felt great….if the number on the scale said something different, my mood and my view of myself instantly changed.  I am no longer a slave to that stupid machine.  The only time I get on a scale now is when the  doctor’s office makes me – and we all know those scales are wrong.

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I now measure my success in how my body feels and how it performs at Crossfit.  Yes, we all have off days, this I know and it happens to me too.  But most days I’m there pushing myself to go a little farther than I have before.  There are days I just can’t, and I scale it back. Then there are days that I’ll surprise myself and actually get my toes up to the bar during a toes-to-bar WOD. I feel stronger, and more importantly, I feel better about my body than I have in a long time. Yes, I’m fighting the uphill battle against aging, but I’m doing my best to slow it down to a crawl.

Did I drink that Kool-aid…am I addicted to Crossfit?  I guess I’d have to say yes. Many people think our workouts are nuts.  I’d say, unless you’ve tried it, don’t judge.  You too would be amazed at what your body can do if you just try. I’ve even passed my addiction on to my youngest – Daniel started Crossfit for Teens this summer and is excelling.  One of the coaches told me he has the best squat in his class and that he’s a natural.  I think even he’s excited about seeing his improvements and what his body will do.

Will I continue with this path?  Heck yeah.  I’ve enjoyed the past 6 months of exercise more than all my gym time over the years combined. I’ve done more in the past 6 months than I have with any trainer pushing me. I’ve done more in the past 6 months than all my spin classes combined. And all I have to do is commit to one hour several times a week. And the bonus? It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a therapist.  Ask my husband…if I haven’t worked out in a couple days, he can tell, as my mood changes….and he quickly reminds me that it is time to go work out.

Marriage advice from me?

On my drive in to work this morning, the radio show I was listening to asked their listeners for marriage advice.  I didn’t get to hear much, as my commute is a total of 10 minutes when the college kids are on break around here (one of the perks of living in a college town). It did get me to thinking – what advice would I give? And who would want advice from a divorced woman?  Obviously I am not the expert at marriage.  Or perhaps my insight might help, because I know what it takes to keep one from failing at this thing we call matrimony.

First and foremost, make your spouse a priority. Put down your phone, iPad, gaming system….insert name of the electronic you are always on. My husband is laughing right now, because I am always on my iPad or phone. When you are with your spouse, put down the damn phone. Look up and actually look at your spouse. Make them the first priority. If the person that is texting you, emailing you is more important than your spouse, if you are more focused on answering them….there’s a problem. If the game you are playing is more important than turning around and talking to your spouse…there’s a problem. Your spouse deserves your attention first, before others.

Make time to be alone together.  Got out on a date, at least every other week. Be it lunch, or a nice dinner, a movie, or just a long walk…..make the time.  If you have kids, someone is pulling at your attention 24/7. Getting away helps to refocus on the core of the family…the 2 of you.  And equally important, find time to get away together every now and then.  Whether it be a single night in a different city or a week away at a fabulous resort, take that vacation together…alone.  Yes, you want to take family vacations and make memories with your kids.  But in just a few short years, the kids will be gone and you’ll be staring at your spouse. Take the time to travel together and make your own memories…before life gets in the way and you can’t travel no more.

Never take each other for granted.  If your spouse does something you appreciate, tell him/her.  When you leave for work in the morning, remember that there is no guarantee they are coming home that night.  Accidents happen, lives are changed.  Look at your spouse like it’s the last time you’ll ever see them.  All of a sudden, all the petty shit falls away.

Never lose touch.  And by touch, I mean the physical.  Hold hands. Kiss. Brush his arm as you walk by. Hug her from behind to say good morning. And yes, the obvious touch….make sure that remains a priority (won’t spell that one out because I have at least one child that reads what mom writes). When you touch, you stay connected. And by touch, I also mean contact.  Talk during the day…if you are apart, which most hard-working couples are during the day, text, chat, message.  Just check in to let them know you are there for them if they need you. Its nice knowing that while you are struggling with a project at work, there’s someone out there rooting for you, that has your back, that can’t wait to see you again.

Make time to listen to your spouse.  If they are babbling about something going on in their life, no matter how boring, you should be happy that they want to share this with you. Think of the alternative…silence…or worse, them sharing their day with someone else who will listen. Make sure you are the safe zone that they can bounce their fears and concerns off of. Don’t be so quick to negate something your spouse says.  If it worries them, there’s got to be a reason behind it.  Take the time to try to understand, rather than just blowing them off because it seems stupid to you.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on the subject. Am I an expert because my first marriage failed? Nope. Am I an expert because I’ve now been married 5 years to the love of my life? Nope. Just a simple girl trying to make it work in this crazy world. Take my advice or leave it.  But let me know how things end up if you ignore every piece of advice I just gave and do the opposite.

Reflect what you want for your children

I’m beginning to think there is something in my psyche that gets me all philosophical on Tuesdays!  Here’s yet another random rambling for Tuesday.  A while back, we were all headed out the door to school and work.  I kissed Scott goodbye as usual.  When I got in the car, D said, “You and Scott kiss more in a day than dad and “name withheld for privacy” kiss in a year.” I said, “Is that a good thing?”  He said, “Yes!”

It got me to thinking, which I do ALL THE TIME because I don’t have a NOTHING box like my husband does.  Don’t know what a NOTHING box is?  That’s a story for another Tuesday. Anyway…it reminded me that our little ones (no matter how little or big, young or old) are always watching our interactions. They see when we are kind to each other and they see when there is sadness, hatred, or even animosity in the mix.

Yes, Scott and I kiss a lot.  Our wedding photographer even mentioned that in a Facebook post when she shared our wedding picture.  It’s just one way we connect daily.  And I’m not talking just a hurried peck as we run out the door.  We take time to say I love you and I’ll miss you. I think these are good things to be reflecting to our kids.

Don’t we want our children to see loving parents who deeply care for each other?  Or do we want to model that a man and wife live under the same roof, but share no affection (at least in front of the kids).  How does that affect them when they look for a mate later in life….hear me kids, LATER IN LIFE. Don’t we want them to know what a loving relationship looks like?

You each have to answer that for yourselves.  As for my house, we will continue to model love worn on our sleeve.  The kind where it’s out there for all to see. Nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. My wish is more of you do the same.

Someone finally explained cheating

I’m thinking of making Tuesdays “Random Thought Tuesdays.”  I know it’s not as catchy as Throwback Thursdays, but oh well….I didn’t put much thought into it! I’ve just found that there are times I have random thoughts swirling through my head that need to move on out, because, let’s face it, there will be more random thoughts coming.  So here’s my random thought for the day. Sidebar….I wrote this back in February, but just realized that I posted it wrong!

And let me just preface this entire blog by saying, this in no way, shape, or form pertains to my husband.  If you want to read something into this and try to surmise that truth, sorry…there’s no drama going on here.  Move on.  The fact that I’m leaving any and all names out of this is to protect the idiots and the innocents.

I was talking recently with a guy friend about a mutual acquaintance who had cheated on his wife.  He told me that while he didn’t condone it, he understood it.  I’m only going to speak from the female perspective…hell, maybe it’s only my perspective….but I can not for the life of me understand it.  I never have been able to.  Where and why is it ever justified?

That got me to thinking….what is wrong with the wife?  Did she freeze him out? Did she pack on the pounds?  Does she scream at him daily?  Being the victim of being cheated on in past relationships, I can look back and say, no, I hadn’t changed in any horrible way that would make my man go running to the arms of another.  I did always wonder…was I not skinny enough (at 96 lbs)….was I not giving enough….what did I do wrong?  My guess is I’m not the only one who has tried to dig deep into her soul to figure out what was characteristically wrong with me that it would drive a man to cheat.

Y’all I read a blog yesterday that slapped me right in the face.  I mean, it was fabulous.  You can check it out here for yourself. http://www.scarymommy.com/why-men-cheat/ I love the Scary Mommy blogs….some of these ladies are hilarious…and some are just downright spot on! So I was reading the daily blog yesterday and paragraph after paragraph, it sounded like the same ol same ol.

But then, the paragraph that slapped me in face came up.  I had to re-read it twice.  It made so much damn sense, I’m kinda embarrassed to say it’s taken me 48 years to see it from the perspective.  But damn, is it spot on.  She says:

“Of all the people who are likely to boost his self-esteem, it ain’t gonna be you. Why? Because he thinks he’s crap and you’re with him. So how could he ever trust your judgment? He needs to be good enough that other women want him, too.”  Go ahead, re-read that one.  There’s the answer I’ve been looking for for so many years.  HE thinks he’s crap….so he needs the validation of other women. I mean, hell, like she says, we ALL have self-esteem issues.  Most of us with an ounce of maturity deal with those issues without hurting others, without looking for external validation, without crushing the soul of the one person that’s trying to make you see that you aren’t crap.

It doesn’t matter how much you tell him he’s phenomenal, it doesn’t matter how many times you tell him he’s handsome…and it sure as hell doesn’t matter if you’ve put on a few pounds or are bikini ready.  Nothing YOU do controls the fact that he feels like crap about himself.

So what do you do? How do you fix it?  She gives 2 options….to forgive him, let it go and stay, or decide you’re worthy of a more mature, confident man.  I really don’t see it as two options.  A man who thinks so little of you that he’ll go out and cheat is not worth hanging on to, because frankly, once he’s gotten away with it once, he’s gonna do it again.  Don’t live your life wondering if or when it’s gonna happen again. Live your life with your head high, smiling, knowing that there is something better out there than being with a loser who truly doesn’t have your interest at heart.

Told you it was random thought Tuesday. Can you imagine what it’s like living with this brain?

Confessions of a Pre-menopausal Hypothyroid Crossfitter

Scott started this blog as a way for us, mainly me, to jot down whatever comes to mind, to keep our family across the country apprised of what was going on in our lives.  As the title above says, I have a little confession to make.  In addition to this blog, I have my own journal that I keep on my iPad, one that no one reads but myself.  It’s where I can jot down whatever thoughts are going through my head at the time.  I don’t share it with anyone because, frankly, you’d think I was cuckoo if you knew what was going on in my head at any given moment.  You must be this tall to ride this ride.

During the week, I’m up before 6 am so that I can get boys off to football, get myself ready and wake up the rest of the house (except Anna, who manages to get up before me). I have lots of quiet time….which means lots of time for my brain to fire up.  At any given moment, I’m having several different conversations in my head. A touch of ADHD?  Probably.  Are they crazy voices, the kind that require a jacket that ties in the back. Nope. Just random thoughts that fill my head.  Thus the journal – I can jot them down and that frees up valuable space in my brain. Let’s face it, as we get older, we need all the capacity we can get.

So why am I telling you this?  Well, I thought, just for one day, I’d let you in on the musings going on in my head.  If you’re still here after that, you’re either family, or your just as cuckoo as I am! Hang in there, because the rambling starts now. This is how the thoughts in my head went this morning:

I am a 48 year old pre-menopausal hypothyroid crossfitter.  No, that is not a type of transgender person.  I am all woman. My choice of exercise is Crossfit….and biking with my husband. I started Crossfit a month ago….and have stuck with it despite the brutal workouts….so I think I’ve earned the right to call myself a Crossfitter (maybe a newbie will suffice).

Crossfit, for those of you that aren’t familiar, is defined by Wikipedia as “a strength and conditioning program consisting mainly of a mix of aerobic exercise, calisthenics (body weight exercises), and Olympic weightlifting.  If you look it up in the Urban dictionary, you’ll have laughs for days. One defines it as “A bunch of rich white people paying $250/mo. to have an un-credentialed coach instruct them to have spasms with PVC pipe and seizures on pull-up bars until they vomit. They generally do this for a period of 10-30 minutes and call it a workout.”

Ok, first of all, I do not pay $250 a month for anything that doesn’t involve upkeep on my house…not to my hairdresser, not to my chiropractor, and certainly not to Crossfit.  Do I work with PVC pipes? Yep, to learn proper form.  Do I sometimes feel like I want to vomit?  Sure.  These workouts are hard as hell. Weightlifting, plyometrics, running, rowing, pull-ups, push-ups….you name it, each day is a different form of torture.  And I love it. Each day challenges me, which is why I keep going back. Am I gonna sign up for any competitions?  Heck no….I’m in competition with myself. I’m one of the oldest people there – I work out with mainly 20-something college kids.  They can lift more, run faster, and jump higher than I can probably ever hope for again.  But I keep pushing on, because I’m not trying to compete with them, I’m doing this solely to better myself.

I have found that in just the past 4 weeks, I am getting stronger and I am able to do more each time I walk into our box (that’s the word for a Crossfit gym). My oldest made me flex my biceps and said, yep, they are coming back. I have a long way to go and a lot to learn still. That’s all great but now I have a new problem.  Every day for warm-up, we start with a 200m run, just to get the body warmed up before we start stretching.  Well, for the FIRST time in all my running years, when I ran my warmup on Sunday, I felt my butt bouncing.  And not in a good, Beyonce booty bumping, way. No, I could feel saddlebag fat going kaboing kaboing kaboing with every step I took.  What. The. Hell??  I haven’t had the perkiest butt, but it’s been a nice regular shape, not too wide, not too flat.  All of a sudden I’m busting my ass (literally) working out SIX days a week, and for that I develop saddle bags??? Now when I walk around during the day, I am consciously aware of this badonkadonk following me around.  In no way do I want a butt with a life of its own, one you can sit a glass on when you’re standing still….I do not want to look like Kim Kardashian…sorry lady, but you are just down right nasty.

So this morning as I was going through my morning routine of turning on the shower, taking my thyroid medicine and pushing the cat off the counter, I started to think (who would have guessed that). And since we live in this wonderful modern world, I started to Google the questions that came up in my thoughts.  Seriously…I Googled “Why am I developing saddlebags after Crossfit.”  And guess what?  Google answered. I’m not going to bore you with the details that I sat and read for 20 minutes while the shower got cold….on a website called Some FAT Truths…but basically, it said that saddlebags are subcutaneous fat….which is the most stubborn type of fat…and women are more predisposed to such fat.  Well that’s just great.

It goes on to say that stubborn fat is impacted directly or indirectly by many different types of hormones….and that dieting doesn’t help.  It said that eating less and exercising more makes your fat parts fatter.  Now, that’s just fabulous…if you want to grow fat. So where am I going wrong?  Eating too little?….not sure when it comes right down to it that I can really be accused of that. I put part of the blame on the upheaval of hormones that comes with pre-menopause, coupled with a whacked out thyroid (Hashimoto’s to be exact). What is a girl to do?  The article suggested 2 avenues…either eat less and exercise less, or eat more and exercise more.  So I can sit on my butt and eat lettuce, or I can go to Crossfit and eat steak?? Somehow I doubt that is the answer.

See this is where you figure out I’m cuckoo….here we are at the end of this blog, and I don’t have the answer. That’s just how my mind works!  But now that I have gotten all of this empty information out of my head, I’ve made space to find the answer. I am on a quest to figure this one out.  Not because I want to diet….let’s face it, diets don’t work and they don’t make you any richer or happier in the end.  No, what I want is for my body to feel better, and be fueled better so I can continue to get stronger.  I’m sick of chasing a number on a scale, thinking it defines whether I’m a good or bad person, whether I’m happy or sad. This is about making my body better….and getting rid of those damn saddlebags so I don’t go kaboing when I run. Stay tuned, because this journey is just beginning.

I killed Christmas

**WARNING: Not for younger readers**

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love it all, from baking too many cookies, to driving around just to see the lights in the neighborhood, to finding the perfect gift for my family. I LOVE the smell of cinnamon and walking through a tree lot with Noble Firs.  I hope for cold weather so we can light up a fire in the chimney (which we can actually do in the new house). I wait to catch all the old Christmas shows on TV, like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and I look forward to finding the most obnoxious Christmas cards in hopes of shocking my family come Christmas morning. It’s all the little things that add up to fun! And of course, PRESENTS!  Who can forget that?

It doesn’t hurt that it also means I have 2 weeks off of work. Hey, what’s not to get excited about? You don’t work for a church or university where you get the luxury of 2 weeks off at Christmas?  I apologize, really.  But my guess is that 2 weeks is more than made up in the size of your salary and bonuses. Throw me a bone.

Anywho, as I was saying….I love Christmas. That is until this year, when I killed it.

Last week I pushed the issue and decided it was time to have “the talk” with D about Santa.  He’s in 6th grade, and he’s still waiting on his growth spurt, and frankly, I was afraid he might say something about Santa at school  and get teased or worse, get the snot beat out of him.

We sat down as a family for the discussion….I couldn’t pull the plug, so Scott helped me find the right words. D was sitting on my knee, and when the truth came out, I looked at him and saw tears welling up in his eyes.  That’s when I knew I killed Christmas. Or at least the magic of it.

One of the things I love about D is his joy for life and his belief that the world is filled with good. He is very literal and thrives on learning “facts.” Christmas was one of those magical things that he didn’t know the real “facts” about, yet the season still shined bright in his excitement and innocence. There was something joyous about knowing the magic of Santa could still happen in our house.

A few days later, when he was at his dad’s house, I looked around at all the decorations I had put up and wondered, would D still have the same excitement for Christmas that he did?  Or would he, like the other cynical teenagers, just view it as a day to get stuff? I don’t mean that in a mean way, more in the fact that they don’t see it as a magical day anymore. They are 16 and 15 – magic would be if their smart phones went on and on without ever needing to be plugged in.

I’ve baked dozens of cookies already.  I’ve watched Elf, The Grinch and Rudolph. I keep moving Stevie the Elf, as if there’s still magic in that little freak. I do all this, all the while worrying that I’ve killed Christmas for D. Or maybe I’m worried I’ve killed it for myself.

This year’s been a hard one. My dad is still battling cancer, my best friend lost her brother recently to cancer, there’s been a lot of sadness. I think we all deserve a little Christmas magic.

So, I will continue on in my quest to keep the magic alive.  There will be baking galore – the beauty is, my family eats as fast as I bake. Hopefully some of the kids will want to sit down and watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas and A Christmas Story with me (ok, they might not have the patience for all 3). And maybe I can drag them out of the house to go look at lights, be it in our neighborhood, down at Santa’s Wonderland, or, stretching it, in my sister’s neighborhood where they go all out. And of course, there’s Christmas Day and PRESENTS!

Now, if the magic will just hold out and keep everyone free of illness for the holiday!

We should be united

I don’t normally post political stuff  I have my opinion and you have yours. I’ve watched people get so worked up over trying to prove that their position is the only right one, with no gray areas, that they end up angry at friends and family for no good reason. Probably why I didn’t post this on Facebook, as I know no one reads it, I can get it off my chest, and not cause a great national debate amongst my family and friends, who have widely varying views.

I am deeply concerned at the direction this  country is going. We are no longer a united people, we are becoming more and more divided.  I guess if you read your Bible, you know that this has to happen, things have to get pretty ugly, before Jesus returns.  Well folks, we’re getting there faster than we thought possible.

Another mass shooting occurred this week in California.  And just like in Paris, it was part of a terrorist regime, called ISIS.  When the terrorists hit Paris weeks ago, the entire country rallied around them.  You saw Americans everywhere paint their Facebook profile pics with the French flags.  They were all praying for France.  France meanwhile, swore to pay ISIS back, and immediately launched attacks against their camps.

This week, ISIS hit in California.  Not a large group like in Paris, but a scum of a husband and wife. This man met a girl online from Saudia Arabia, went there and fetched her back here.  She was vetted by our country on a fiance visa as posing no security risk. Meanwhile at their sweet little humble abode, while they raised their 6 month old child, they were stockpiling weapons, guns, bombs, to use on us.

Do you think they got those guns legally? Do you think they walked into the local gun shop on a daily basis and asked to make ANOTHER purchase? No.  When they killed 14 innocent people, it was reported they had 2 handguns that were legally owned by them, and 2 assault rifles that were NOT registered in their names.

After the shooting, do you know what I saw on Facebook?  Was it a call of solidarity like France?  Nope.  I saw very few people change their profile pic to an American flag.  I saw very few people praying for America.  What I saw was a call for gun control.  Not blaming the horrid excuses for human beings that want to kill as many Americans as possible.  No, instead blaming the whole thing on guns and calling for all of our guns to be taken away.

Do you think gun control would have stopped these scum from getting their hands on weapons? The building these people were killed in was a gun-free zone.  Guess the terrorists didn’t read the sign.  France has some of the strictest gun laws around – guess they didn’t get that memo either. And if you are gonna call for gun control, you better call for bomb control too, as I hear they had a ton of those amassed as well. The plain fact is that evil doesn’t care about laws.  In fact, these scum would love to see citizens with less guns in their hands – they’d kill a hell of a lot more with no one to stop them.

What I’m most disappointed in is the reaction by this country to divide themselves when we need to be united.  When these scum took down the twin towers and thousands of lives were lost, we united like never before. Now instead of looking at the real enemy in the face, we want to make our neighbor the enemy? I’m sure that was not the intention when our forefathers founded this country.

That being said, this country was founded on the principal that we all are entitled to express our opinion. I just wish I saw more people trying to support each other and our nation than trying to be right above all else.  And we say around here, the highway runs both ways.  You don’t like living here? Then don’t.  I understand Canada is a bit chilly this time of year so you might wanna go south to Mexico, I hear they have some cheap rent,

A Letter to Me

Driving home from work last night, I turned on the country station and heard Brad Paisley singing his song “A Letter to Me.” Basically it’s a song about him writing a letter to his younger 17-year-old self.  It got me to thinking (because everything gets me thinking), what would I say if I wrote a letter to me.

I definitely wouldn’t want to tell myself about each and every mistake I made so I could change course and not make them.  If it weren’t for every step, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I wouldn’t have the amazing husband and 4 wonderful kids I have. That being said, there are some things I could tell my younger 17-year-old self. No, this will not be in song verse.

Wear the bikini.  Stop obsessing over your weight, because at 105 lbs, you are THIN.  Don’t let other people’s problems with their weight be a reflection on you.  Ignore the comments about putting on a couple of pounds.  Trust me, it will set you up to obsess about it for life. And when you’re pushing 50, you’d kill to see 105 again (only if it’s healthy though, not cancer 105).

Travel while you can.  You say that you are gonna travel and see the country one day.  But life gets in the way.  You get to be too busy making a living, raising up a family.  Time slips away and money is tight and the dreams you had to see the sights go down the tubes.  Get out and see the beauty of this world while you can.

Don’t pick a college because of a boy.  Ok, that would change my future, so I’ll have to let that one go.  But maybe that’s a note for my kids – do NOT pick a college based on a boyfriend/girlfriend.  This is your life, your choice.  And what happens when you follow the boy to college, then break up?

Stop and take your time picking a career path.  If you don’t know, don’t just choose Liberal Arts cuz you’re gonna figure it out eventually.  Put some thought into it, because you live with the consequences for the rest of your life.  And if you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, it’s soul-sucking to go to that job every day.

When your high school friend dies, go to the funeral.  Even if your spouse at the time tells you no, get up off your ass and go say goodbye.

Listen to Gram’s stories.  Take notes, write them down.  She’s telling you the history of the family.  Some people don’t know their history.  Ours is a rich one.  Listen to her stories about raising her family on the farm, baking loaves of bread daily, feeding the ranch hands.  Because one day she’ll be gone, and the farm will be sold, and all you’ll have is the memories.  Good thing you took pictures! For that matter, talk to Jane more.  She was more like a sister than an aunt.  Talk to her while you still can.

I know it’s cliché that people tell you that life goes by too fast, but it’s true.  One day you’re in high school and the next day you’re coming up on your 30 yr reunion.  As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Take the time to look around, don’t miss out on the best years.

Find Your Passion

Yesterday morning started off like every other weekday.  I got in the office, grabbed some water, and heated up my not-so-tasty frozen breakfast choice of the day.  There was the obligatory greeting from one of the admin secretaries.  I asked her how she was.  She said, “well, it’s almost Wednesday, so only 3 more days til the weekend.”  I agreed.

Later that morning I had the privilege of sitting in on an orientation class for some undergrad students who are here for the summer to do research.  One of our professors said something that has stuck with me.  It’s not a new concept, but one that keeps getting drummed into my head. He told them that their main goal this summer was to find their passion.  He reminded them that as juniors and seniors, they had very little time left to find what they really love.  He said, “if you don’t find your passion, what you really love working on, then you’re gonna spend the next 40 to 60 years coming to work hating it, and that’s gonna suck.”

He’s absolutely right.  But I thought to myself as he was speaking….who are these lucky ones that find their passion and get to do what they love for a living?  Do you think all these admin secretaries that come in every morning and count the days til the weekend, or til a holiday or vacation, are really pursuing their passion?  Do you think they went to school and said, when I grow up, I wanna be a secretary and take orders from others?  Somehow for the vast majority, I doubt it.

So where did they go wrong? Where did the vast majority of us go wrong? My guess is money.  We were too broke to take the time to find what really drives us.  No, we were too busy paying bills, tuition, car payments, and believing that eating Ramen noodles for the 7th month in a row sucked too much.  So we grabbed the first job we could because it offered some sort of financial security.  One day, we said, one day we’ll find our dream job and love what we do for a living.1aa92e8abaf356065d5bf45b1ed9bfb4

The funny thing about one day….it never comes.  Life gets in the way.  You have a family, then you’re tied to that job to keep food on the table, tuition, car payments, and something a little better than Ramen noodles. I guess there are some success stories out there.  Some veer off the career path they’ve been on and finally find their calling.  You read about it in the blogs all the time.  But what about the others?  Do they stay in the same stale boring job, ticking off the days til retirement?  What kind of life is that?  Because by the time you can retire, more than likely, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be 75 years old.  I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing my get up and go won’t be the same in 30 years. Doesn’t sound like a great way to spend the final years of your life.

What is your passion? Can you find it while there’s still time?

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Life with 4 Kids

One day last week, I had dinner in the oven and dishes washed and in the dishwasher before 6:30 pm.  What is wrong with this picture?  Well, three of our kiddos were at their dad’s house…that’s what’s wrong with this picture.  I looked at my husband and said, “what the hell do people with only 1 or 2 kiddos do with all their time?”  Oh yeah, they have time to go to CrossFit and work out.  They drop by Starbucks and pick up a latte on a whim. They still have money left at the middle of the month.  So I thought it might be fun to explain what it’s like to live with FOUR kids.

Let me first say kudos to families of 5, 6, 7+ kids.  I don’t know how you do it.  Except for the Duggar family with so many they’ve lost count.  In her case I have just one suggestion: close your legs. To the rest I say bravo!

Now for those that have one or two and think it’s just as hard, let me ask you this….does your child have a mental or physical disability?  If so, then yes, you probably have it harder. No disabilities?  Just smiling perfect children?  Then perhaps you’d like to take ours for a month. That’s right, a month.  A weekend won’t cut it.  You would just be the fun aunt or uncle who gets to hang out with them for a couple days and send them home.  They wouldn’t be around long enough to make a dent in your wallet or your sanity.  Nope, you must keep them around for the entire month to get the full effect.  Name the month – Scott and I haven’t been alone one day since last July, so we’re more than happy to make the sacrifice.

What is it like to have 4 children…..three of them in the 9th grade and one in 5th?  Let’s take a look.  First off, groceries.  I am well known at the local groceries stores, as I am there multiple times a week.  And not just one grocery store.  No, when you spend close to $2,000 a month on groceries….yeah, let’s just stop for a pause and let that one sink in….$2,000 a MONTH….moving on…when you spend that much on groceries, you damn sure have to know what is on sale where.  This requires a trip to an average of 3 stores in one day.

And since you’re wondering, NO, we don’t eat steak at every meal.  In fact, the last time we had steak was Christmas Day, and that was a treat from my dad!  No, its just hamburger and chicken for us on most days.  Of course, that means THREE pounds of hamburger or 2 packages of chicken breasts (because chicken breasts usually come in packages of FIVE….do you see the problem here?).

Why so much meat? Have you even seen how football playing boys eat?  Let me tell you, the first time it happened in our house, I yelled at them.  I mean, they hoovered food up faster than a Dyson vacuum cleaner.  Growing up with one sister, I never saw anything like that in my life.  My husband quickly corrected me and explained that this was normal.  Now granted, “normal” means hoovering up a 10×15 casserole of meat and pasta in less than 20 minutes. And the youngest boy hasn’t even begun to start eating like this.  Lord have mercy when he does. This weekend, when we only had the 3 teenagers, they went through 2 gallons of milk all by themselves.  My husband pointed out that J.J. Watt went through a gallon of milk a day in high school. I quickly pointed back that ours boys are no J.J. Watt.

How about we talk about our phone bill?  Yes, I realize the kids don’t HAVE to have cell phones.  But two of ours will be driving by themselves in less than 2 months.  I want the ability to track them (thank you inventor of GPS) and get a hold of them at a moment’s notice…..cuz I might need them to run to the grocery store!! So the convenience of having cell phones in each of their hands is in part my fault.  What does it cost you to carry your iPhone 6 around? $120 for your family (saw that price on an AT&T commercial)? Try $380.  And that’s because I get a discount through my work.

How about school supplies?  Ever try shopping in August for a 24 pk of pencils…times 4?  Do this with a list of 20 items per kid.  It will make you pull your hair out.  Those cute little school pics….you grab the deluxe package so you can send copies to every relative to show them how stinking cute your precious is….$35 bucks?  We go for the small package….just enough so we have incriminating pictures to show their significant others years down the road…..that’ll be $150 please.  But wait, there’s more…..foootball pictures, band pictures, choir pictures, orchestra pictures, soccer pictures….you get the idea. And of course, those pictures go in the yearbook…gotta have one of those…time FOUR.  This year we dropped $265 on yearbooks.

Do you get your laundry done in one day?  Because you have 3 loads?  Four in the winter because everything is bigger and bulkier?  If I start early enough in the morning, I can get all 9 loads done in one day. That’s just Sunday.  There will be more washing during the week, as the boys come home with workout clothes that smell like something that’s been rotting in the corner for months.  Yes, there will definitely be more washing during the week.

Have you ever stopped to consider how much it costs to insure these 4 little precious things?  Texas A&M has very good benefits when it comes to health insurance, thankfully.  Now, car insurance?  That one is looming on the near horizon.  3 teenagers will be on our insurance bill within the next year.  I’ve only spoken to moms of girl teenagers.  They say their car insurance went up $150 a month when their darlings started driving.  And we all know that boys cost more to insure at this age.  This should be fun. I think instead, I’ll just buy them all bus passes.

No, I shouldn’t complain.  I have 4 wonderful (most of the time) kiddos.  People do a lot more with a lot less then we do, and kudos to them. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep from waiting til midnight to finish that last load of laundry.  Next week, I’ll have to start on Saturday.

Mom’s Christmas List

‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the house, not one little child was cleaning my house; The stockings were hung by the chimney, but who cares, the kids are all stuck on their electronics, unawares….

Ok, so I suck at the poetry.  We are a week away from Christmas.  Is my shopping done?  Heck no.  Why panic? We have seven more days to fight the disgruntled crowds.   Everyone made a Christmas list in our family and passed them around.  After thinking twice, I decided I could have come up with a much better list….though I’m not sure any of these are deliverable!  Here’s what mom wants for Christmas this year!

1.  Just ONE six weeks where we don’t have to chase down ZEROS because of missing papers or assignments not turned in.

2. No strep, flu or stomach bugs in the adults or children in our house.  All you little typhoid Marys, stay away from us.

3. Self-cleaning dogs.  Rainy winter days (and diarrhea episodes) make for very dirty dogs.

4. Never having to touch raw chicken again.  My kids will tell you there is no food substance I hate more than raw chicken.  Bleck.

5. For Stevie the Elf on the Shelf to be involved in some horrid accident.  Yes, I’m a sicko.

6. A day with my kids to just sit and watch Christmas movies and eat cookies.  Alas, 3 of my kids go to their dad’s tomorrow and don’t return until after Christmas.  And they won’t sit still that long anyway.

7. For my pants to fit at the end of the holiday season.  I have given up wishing that they were too big.

8. To have my 19 year old boobs back.  TMI?  Hell, why not the entire 19 year old body?

9.  For my SI pain to magically disappear, never to return again, without the intervention of needles and drugs or RFAs.

10. A body that actually looks better after busting my ass at the gym with a trainer for 5 months.  If I’m gonna put in the work, the least I ask is to be able to see it.

11. New shoes…..a girl can never have enough shoes.

12.  A new wardrobe to go with the shoes.  After all, these pants from 5 years ago aren’t going to last forever. An unlimited VISA card will do just fine.

13. A trip alone with my husband anywhere out of this city, even if its just for a weekend.

14. A break from the mortgage, big fat college funds and no credit card bills.  I know…put down the crack pipe.

15.  Just 5 more minutes of sleep.

What are you wishing for this Christmas?  Whatever it is, I hope Santa brings it!  Have a very Merry Christmas!

 

Random Questions for the Universe

There are days when my mind can’t focus on one thing, not one darn thing.  And then there are days when it tries to focus on 15 things at once. I don’t know which is less productive, but I can tell you, either way, I’m not getting much done.  Since I’m having one of those days, I thought I would throw out some random questions that have been swirling around in my brain. Welcome to the world of my brain….hold on, its gonna be a bumpy ride.

1. Where the hell did my metabolism go?  It’s like someone took a switch and flipped that buggar off.  I work out 3-4 days a week.  And I’m not talking a leisurely stroll around the block with the dog in hand.  No, twice a week a trainer kicks my ass, making me do 40 reps of 55 lb barbell chest presses, moving on to 40 burpees on an upside down Bosu ball, then 40 walking lunges with 25 pounds and on to 40 pull-ups.  And that’s just the first 5 minutes of a workout folks, seriously.  Another couple of days, I hit a spin class where we come out dripping in sweat after 50 minutes.  So after all that punishment, tell me why the scale still says the same thing it did 3 months ago.  I’d like my 19-year old metabolism back, pronto. I can’t even eat  a damn cookie or a bowl of ice cream like my husband and kids.  If I dare eat more than a mini Chips Ahoy cookie, the number on the scale goes UP.  I mean, what the frack?  No, it’s salads for dinner and egg whites for breakfast, just to keep the scale from rising.

2. Why is it so damn hard to get up off the floor?  I would like to think that there is something wrong with the gravitational pull and it is getting stronger world-wide.  But alas, I think it has more to do with my advancing age.  But I still don’t understand, given the fact that I workout quite a bit, that at the end of the day, whether I’m finishing up my last set of ab exercises or on the ground tying my shoe, I can’t even get up off the floor. I feel clumsy and slow and I’m beginning to find a new appreciation for the sloth.

3.  Why at age 46 am I still getting pimples?  I can tell you it’s not sympathy for my acne-laden teenagers.  Ok, secretly I want to pin them down and pop all those nasty little whiteheads on their faces….probably too much information for ya there.  That’s probably because I don’t get those lovely little whiteheads.  No, I get those nasty ingrown pimples that won’t come to a head, but end up looking like Mt. St. Helens getting ready to blow. I passed puberty, got the t-shirt and the emotional scars to prove it….don’t need no acne on my face reminding me of those years.

4. Will my children be diagnosed with neck arthritis at age 25 from staring non-stop into their cell phones and various electronic devices?  How I wish I was kidding.  I can’t even get them to look up at me when I’m talking, unless I yell real loud or have some yummy treat they want.  Nowadays kids don’t even talk to each other….just a bunch of silent texters walking around with their faces in their phones trying to avoid walking into a pole. Trust me, I see it in the college kids on campus daily. They never look up.

5.  Speaking of…when did social media become the acceptable norm for communication?  And will our children know how to form a string of cohesive statements into a full conversation when going on an interview?  These days its acceptable to wish someone happy birthday via Facebook – it takes the place of a card or a phone call.  Hell, even Twitter confines you to only 140 characters in a tweet. I think it would be fascinating if my grandmother could come back for a day and see how things have changed.  I would love to hear her opinion on social media.

6.  Why can’t I be more like my husband, dynamic, extroverted and full of life. If I could bottle that shit, I’d be rich. He has friends from all walks of life, young and old, near and far. On a daily basis he has various friends calling, texting, emailing or instant messaging him just to chat.  The unlimited text and talk plan on our cell phones is not only for the teenagers, but also for him. Sometimes being introverted and scared to go out on a limb just plain sucks.

So there you have it folks, just a few of the random questions swirling around in my head all at the same time today.  Some call it ADHD, some call it just plain nuts. Call it what you want, I’m tired. I think I need a nap!

 

 

Mommas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Creative

It’s mid-July, but I’m already starting to think about school.  You see, we have 3, count them THREE, children entering high school this year.  If I hadn’t started going grey at the age of 26, this would most certainly start the process off with a bang.

We have already been through the fun of choosing courses – they had to fill out a degree plan, choosing what they would study for all four years.  I mean, really, I think its a little beyond ridiculous to choose 4 years of high school courses in one Spring evening.  But no one called me up to ask my opinion….so you get it here!

The course selection is not like it was when we were kids. Back then you took math, science, English, history, a foreign language, the dreaded PE course if you weren’t in athletics or band, and if you were lucky, an elective or two that you actually enjoyed.  These days, at least at our kids’ school, you have to choose a “track” from which to select your courses. This track is supposed to follow along the lines of what you want to be when you grow up.  Depending on what career “track” you choose, you are afforded a host of different elective classes geared towards preparing you for your future career.  And let me tell you, these aren’t electives like “yearbook” or “home ec”.  No, you can choose from, among many others, Landscape Design & Management, Equine Science (where the hell was that when I was in high school), Architectural Design, and Principles of Information Technology.  Their course catalog is 78 pages long, front and back!

Of course that warranted the discussion with all three of the older kids…the dreaded “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  Anna has already decided…she wants to be a teacher.  My grandmother would be so proud.  She always wanted to be a teacher, and several of her grandkids ended up taking that route.  I didn’t take that route, because, let’s face it…I do not have the patience of Job. That and the fact that several people point blank told me I just wouldn’t be good at that.

Ben doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do.  Understandable because he’s only 15, and hell, at age 46, I still don’t have a clue what I want to do.  We discussed with him what might work best for his demeanor, which is, he is an introvert and prefers not to have to talk to people.  I’m thinking Sales is not in his future. He is going to take a couple courses in engineering and information technology to see if either of those float his boat.

Austin of course wants to play football.  That is all.  Just play football.  For the Dallas Cowboys, of course.  And make millions. He’s promised us a nice, new fancy big house when he gets his first check.  I’ll start drawing up the designs right now.  His fall back, should he not make it to the pros is graphic design.  All I want to do is scream NOOOOOO, DON’T DO IT.

You see, its a curse to be creative.  I didn’t get my dad’s engineering/math brain.  No, my sister was lucky enough to get it.  She works as an accountant doing very well for herself.  No, I got the left-handed, right-brained creative gene.  I would encourage anyone that is blessed/cursed with that to try to overcome it.  Shove it down deep inside and try to find a nice, normal desk job punching numbers or something.  I’m sure if you enroll in Khan Academy, eventually math will make sense to you (at least I’m working on that).

Sure, there are those that are phenomenally blessed with the creative gene.  You know the type…you’ve seen their work in magazines and billboards and ad campaigns.  They just have this gift that is unstoppable.  More power to them.  Yes, let them continue to pursue the creative field, as they make everything around us prettier.

But then there are those of us that are marginally gifted, meaning, we can hold our own churning out half decent stuff to engineers who really don’t know or care about design but it looks ok to them.  We are one step above the secretaries who think they can design because they have clip art on their Microsoft Word program.

Being creative, your entire career is based off of what other people think about the look you design.  It’s not like adding 12,384 + 5,635 .  No, it’s drawing or designing a piece, only to hand it to the client and they wrinkle up their nose and tell you how many different ways THEY could have done it.

Maybe for those with thick skin, this doesn’t bother them.  But for those of us who invest our heart and soul into our work, when others judge it as not good enough, it says “hey, you’re not good enough.”   Yeah, I don’t want that for my kids.  Yes, I realize there will be people throughout their entire lives that will tell them they are not good enough for one reason or another.  But if they can eliminate that extra rejection that comes with a creative job, more power to them.

Will all three remain on the track they have penciled in for the high school?  Who knows?  Maybe they will get through the first year and do a 180 on career choice.  Only time will tell. Hopefully in the end they will each find a career that truly means something to them besides a decent paycheck and good benefits.

Me and My Check Ride

Me and My Check Ride

By: Scott McHarg

Scott and his plane

I’ve told the story to several people and the odd things that happened to me on my check ride.  I hope that maybe this can help someone or help the school to be more prepared.  This is just meant to be a story about my experience and is not meant to reflect anything on any one particular person or the school that I was fortunate enough to learn from.  I feel very blessed to have learned from Brazos Valley Flight Services.  Some folks to be praised in particular are Tom F., Christian B., and John B.  Again, this is only my story and my opinion from my experience with a particular DPE……

 

I began flying in February of 2014 after waiting 44 years to be able to complete my lifelong dream.  I eat, sleep, and live for aviation whether it be models, UAV, sUAS, or the real thing.  Finally, I was able to work on getting my pilot’s license.

My training went very fast.  I chose the self-paced Cessna ground school training offered through the flight school and completed the whole thing online.  Although this is meant to last you throughout your training, I couldn’t get enough information and just kept going.  I wanted to take my Knowledge Test as soon as possible and wound up finishing the class in two weeks.  I was able to take that Knowledge test about 3 weeks into my training and did very well scoring a 95.  I was on my way to becoming a pilot.

I finished my training within 3 months and had all of the necessary requirements to take my check ride.  My flying was pretty good and I had confidence in those abilities.  I was concerned about the oral portion of the check ride but was ready to start the “mock” check rides to prepare.  So, we are at the end of April and I’m ready to go.  Through a misunderstanding between myself and my instructor, I wound up not flying for a month.  In hindsight, I really can’t blame anyone other than myself.  I let my instructor drive and I should have been on top of my training and set up my own schedule.  In the end, this cost me an extra period of time when I could have been done.

Finally, we get my exam scheduled.  My instructors and I worked really hard preparing for this.  I was confident but nervous all at the same time.  No matter how much you think you’re prepared, you still will not know until you go through your ride.  No one check ride is identical to another.  Go in prepared, go in confident but know your material.  The cool thing about the ride is that it’s pretty much open book.  Open book meaning you can look at official publications i.e. FAR/AIM, PoH, Sectional legends etc. but not necessarily notes.  Take the time to “prep” in this regard.  Grab sticky notes to mark important pages and sections in your books.  If you do this properly, you won’t have any need for notes because all of the exact same information is in your books.

The big day is finally upon us.  My exam is scheduled for 12:30PM on a Thursday.  I wake up, I’m ready.  I feel prepared.  I begin the task of getting all information together pertaining to my cross-country flight that the DPE wants me to fly.  I get the weather, NOTAMS, TFR’s, etc.  It’s 8:30AM and I plan to be at the school at 10:30 to make sure I have all last second questions answered and I’m there ready to go.  At 8:39AM, I receive a call from my instructor that he just heard from the DPE.  His morning flight was a “no go” and he would be up here in 2 hours.  Wait, what!?!?!?!  My instructor says, take your time, your exam is at 12:30 but get up here as soon as you can.  There’s no way I’m going to make the guy that holds my certification in his hands wait for me for two hours!  When I got the call, I was pretty much done printing all of the information and I just needed to fill out my log, shower and head up to the school.  I got there at 10:15 and the DPE showed up shortly thereafter.  I like to think he was happy that I was there and he didn’t have to wait around for me but I’m definitely glad I didn’t have to find out!

We both sat down and introduced ourselves.  My DPE was a friendly fellow with a good demeanor from what I could see in all of 5 minutes.  This did help relax me a little bit and I was ready to go.  Remember, the oral portion of the practical is all scenario based.  You already have proven your ability for ROTE learning and now it’s time to apply that knowledge through real-world scenarios.

We dove right into it.  We started with the DPE presenting the scenario of getting ready to make my cross-country flight as previously planned.  He asked me what I would do to prepare for this flight and what things I would look at to do so.  I answered as if this was my first time making this flight by explaining that I’d check weather, weight of the persons going for CG and max weight, the amount of fuel, and all other information pertaining to this flight.  I went into showing that we could make this flight with this airplane because the airplane met all the requirements needed in the log books.  That went fairly well.  We discussed some weather and what we would expect on this flight and whether or not I would actually make this flight today based on all of the information at hand.

Then he asked me what the “H” was for above one of the VORs on the sectional.  I explained to him that this was HIWAS and could be listened to for hazardous weather which led into the discussion of the three types of information that could be obtained i.e. Convective Sigmet, Sigmet, and Airmet.  My instructor said when able, put a little cherry on top by explaining.  I did, I said “Convective Sigmet involves severe weather such as thunderstorms, hail, tornados, etc while Sigmets pertained to all pilots and Airmets usually only apply to smaller GA aircraft.  THAT, was a mistake.  My DPE yells out “OH NO!  WHY DID YOU SAY THAT?!?!?!  YOU’VE BEEN LISTENING TOO MUCH TO THE KING SCHOOLS VIDEOS HAVEN’T YOU?”.  Trying not to show the panic I felt in my chest I said, “What did I say wrong?”.  The DPE told me to open my AIM to 7-1-6 and read….aloud….the exact phrasing in the book.  I did.  Guess what it says.  Essentially Airmets apply to ALL PILOTS.  Read it and you’ll see why.  After my heart started beating again, he said not to worry as most people answer the exact same way.  He wasn’t busting me for getting something wrong, he was making sure I understood this very important point.

The rest of the oral was pretty much as expected although, admittedly, I did refer to the Sectional legend frequently as well as my FAR/AIM and PoH to make sure I was giving the proper information.  The point here is to not necessarily have everything memorized but to make sure if you don’t, you know where to go get it.  Above all, make sure you know where to go find the information if you don’t know or aren’t 100% sure.  Keep in mind that the DPE is not there to foul you up, he’s there to make sure you are as safe as possible and know where to find the information if you don’t know it.  He isn’t there to teach you but he wants you to pass and wants you to do well in your aviation career.

Next came the flying portion of my exam.  As prepared as I thought I was, nothing seemed to happen right.  This is where the story gets interesting and I hope this is where you can learn from my mistakes as well as learn from my successes.  My DPE told me to go prep the airplane for our flight.  We discussed the basics of what we’d be doing and the basic order in which we would do the maneuvers in.  I headed out to the plane to start the preflight and he followed me out shortly thereafter.

Once I finished prepping the aircraft, we both got in and I started my normal procedure.  I briefed him on safety such as making sure he could fasten and unfasten his seatbelt, how to lock the seat in place, how to open the door in case of emergency and about the flight controls as well as positive aircraft controls.  He seemed to be impressed and I started the plane and prepared to taxi.

After obtaining taxi clearance, we started heading out and my DPE said that he would like me to do a Soft Field Takeoff.  Now, I’m the kind of guy that repeats back what I’ve been instructed to do, primarily to keep me out of trouble making sure that I know exactly what either the DPE or even my instructor wants.  I repeated back to him, “Soft Field Takeoff, flaps 10”.  He said nothing and I received my takeoff clearance.  As you know, with a soft field takeoff, we pull full up elevator during taxi and continue the roll making sure to not come to a stop.  I was never very good at being able to raise the nose wheel all the way off the ground and just rolling on the main gear.  I was definitely keeping the weight off the nose wheel but had trouble mastering the technique of riding with the nose off the ground on the mains.  Well, on my ride, I finally did it.  It was amazing!  The nose wheel came straight off the ground and I was on my takeoff roll just on the mains.  The main gear lifted off the ground and I leveled off immediately.  I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.  I must have been 1 or 2 feet off the ground!  Then….it happened.  The airplane started to settle back to the runway.  I fought to stay on centerline while airborne and keep the plane from landing again.  The right main touched and I mean just barely touched and I saved it.  WHEW!  I sped up to Vx and initiated my 50 foot climb to clear the obstacle and then lowered the nose to accelerate to Vy and then retract the flaps.  My DPE looked over at me and I saw him out of the corner of my eye.  Thinking he was going to praise me, I was looking forward to his words.  “Scott, is that how we do a Short Field Takeoff?”, I heard come blare through my headset.  “No sir, you asked for a Soft Field Takeoff and I put in flaps 10.  We don’t use flaps in this airplane on a Short field take off and certainly don’t try to stay in ground effect”.  “Scott, I asked you for a Short Field Takeoff and that’s not what you gave me”.  My mouth was on the floor.  I repeated his instructions prior to takeoff and I wasn’t corrected.  My confidence…right there on my departure leg….was no longer in existence.  I asked him if he wanted me to just take him back to the airport.  He said, “No, let’s continue”.

We navigated through my first few checkpoints.  Thanks to my instructor, I knew that once I could prove that I could navigate, my DPE would give me a diversion.  I was prepared!  I knew, by heart, every frequency, runway, runway length, current ATIS for every airport he could possibly divert me to within 50 miles from where we were.  Expected diversions from an exam out of KCLL could be Caldwell, Hearne, Navisota, Coulter and a few others.  Yeah!  Let’s divert baby!  My turn to impress you!

“Scott, there are thunderstorms ahead.  I’d like you to take me to Mexia”.  MEXIA!!  That airport was 80 miles away and almost 90 degrees from our current heading and a long ways away from anything that I expected.  Leave it to my check ride to also have to use 2 sectional charts.  My flight was from KCLL to KAUS.  KCLL is on the Houston sectional while KAUS is on the San Antonio sectional.  Well, at the time of diversion, I was on the San Antonio sectional and Mexia, of course, is on the other sectional.  I know approximately where Mexia is but I wasn’t at all prepared for that diversion.  I turned to a NE heading, marked my time and was trying to obtain all of the information necessary.  I drew my line, found I needed almost a due North heading (015), turned and began to figure distance, time and fuel.  I gave him my numbers by saying “We’re approximately 75 miles away, I expect 50 minutes with winds aloft and I expect us to burn 7 gallons”.  His response was “Actually Scott, we’re 74 miles away, 47 minutes and you’ll burn 6 gallons.  Very nice!”.  Finally, a good thing!  I was even impressed.  Maybe the rest of the ride will be better.

It was then time to do my steep turns.  I’ve been getting pretty good with these and definitely staying within PTS but left was much better than right.  My DPE said left steep turn first then a right.  I was happy because doing left first would help my confidence.  I began the turn and wound up losing right at 80 feet.  Still within PTS but close and this is supposed to be my better side!  Right next.  Oh boy!  I did my right turn paying extra attention to everything because I knew this was my worse side.  Nailed it!  Thank goodness.

We then proceeded to do hood work and I felt as though I breezed through that.  Nothing really to report.  Then we did unusual attitudes which I also felt really good about.  Let me just say that the unusual attitudes were significantly more “unusual” from what we’ve been practicing.  The nose down attitude had to be at least 45 degrees.  I recovered fine but I was not prepared for the steepness.

We went straight in to slow flight, approach stall and departure stalls, all of which went fairly well.  On my departure stall, I fought to get the airplane to actually stall.  When it finally came over, the left wing dipped more than anticipated.  I danced on the rudder but really had to make sure I didn’t correct with ailerons.  Let me say that again.  Do not correct with ailerons!!  They are stalled too and all input does is make it worse.  I was fine and did a good job but it was extremely hard to fight that desire.

When we get back to straight and level, I’m slightly disoriented not knowing exactly where we are.  After under the hood work (I didn’t have to track a VOR because I had used one in my cross-county on the first leg hoping to knock out that bird there vs. actual under the hood time), I must say you stop thinking about where you are exactly when being critically judged by a DPE.  You tend to concentrate on the task at hand.  Trying to get my bearings before he throws something else at me, I see a body of water and begin to figure out where I am.  The DPE says “Turn to a heading of 150, maintain 2500”.  I repeat it back to him and initiate the turn.  As I’m coming round to 150, I see an airport ahead and I’m trying to recognize what airport that is.  Nothing is coming to mind but I know he’s about to pull an emergency engine out on me.

I finish the turn and he pulls the engine.  “OK Scott, your engine has failed.  Get me on the ground”.  Of course, I know where I’m going to land but I have no idea where I’m at.  I look down and see “15” on the runway.  “Oh no”, I thought to myself.  I look at the approach end of Rwy 15 and see a water tower.  “OH NO”, I screamed inside my head, “I’m over Caldwell!”.  Now, for those that don’t know, Caldwell is not one of any student’s favorite airports.  It’s usually turbulent on approach and departure, narrow, and fairly short but not scary short.  The problem is, it’s difficult enough to where not many students are signed off to go “practice” there solo.  Now, I’m a little nervous!  I have to go through my ALERTS, make calls in the pattern since we’re at an actual airport and fly the plane.  My biggest fear was winding up short of the field.  In hindsight, I could have easily continued downwind a little further to bleed off altitude but this boy was not going to miss that runway period!  I made my turn to base then turn to final.  I was high but I was fully prepared to make that runway.  Having been told a little about my DPE, I knew he didn’t like forward slips with more than 10 degrees flaps.  I just happened to have 10 degrees flaps in the plane and told him I was high and would begin a slip to the runway.  Everything was OK but I had a little more speed once I went back to a coordinated landing and floated down the runway before finally settling the airplane down and coming to a stop.  Nailed it!  On centerline, plane, passenger and pilot safe!  Yeehaw!

Wrong!  My DPE was not happy with me.  As we back-taxied Rwy 15, I was given the 3rd degree about how I landed so long and where was my aiming point and that there was no reason I should have landed that long.  I explained to him that anything that I said is just an excuse and that my aiming point was the numbers in the slip but to get coordinated and bleed off speed, it took me more runway.  He pointed out that if I had used more flaps, I wouldn’t have landed so long.  I told him that I agreed 100% but I was told that he didn’t like forward slips with more than 10 degrees.  He said, “Scott, that’s crap.  The PoH says you can use 20 degrees and you should have done that”.  Mistake number…..number….heck I’ve lost count.

He then asks me to do a Short Field Takeoff which I feel I did very well.  He asks me to stay in the pattern and do a soft field landing.  OK, I can do that.  All set up with my aiming point set for the numbers, I come in to land just like if I were setting down on a baby’s backside; light, smooth, and no wheel screech.  I’m set up and I round out concentrating on SMOOTH.  I get about to the wind sock which is not quite half field before the airplane settles and he says, “Here we go again!  Why are you landing so long?”  Needless to say, that broke my concentration and the landing was a little hard for a soft field landing.  Not terrible but certainly not graceful and certainly long.

The point here is to prioritize.  Is it important on a soft field landing to make sure you absolutely don’t land long or is it important to be a smooth and soft as possible?  I think the jury is still out but what should have happened is that I should have simply done a “Go Around”.  Turns out the DPE would have given me brownie points if I had of done so.  When in doubt, Go Around!  The school does a great job teaching this.  Do not take it for granted.  That’s not to say that you should always go around if it doesn’t look absolutely perfect but a go around or two during your ride is not a bad thing at all.  Defending myself, there was no time during the check ride where a go around was necessitated but I could have done better if I remembered that.  Believe me when I say that I will go through the rest of my aviation career under the premise that each landing is simply a set up to Go Around!  If everything is looking good and all is well, then I will land.

After the soft field landing, he had me take off right away and stay in the pattern.  This time, I had my flaps fail.  This landing, on a runway that I was not overly familiar with, was going to be interesting.  In actuality, it was probably one of my better landings.  I hit my marks both on aiming and touchdown and was fine.  He had me take back off and exit the pattern.

Next was my ground reference maneuvers.  Hoping for “Turn Around a Point’, he said “Scott start heading back towards CLL and find a road where we can do S Turns”.  Alright, here we go.  I explained to him what I was going to do.  I said that we would be heading back towards the Class D airspace but not into it where there are fields in case we have an emergency situation since we would already be low to the ground.  He said that was fine and we began cruising over to the open fields.  Near Caldwell, there are a lot of trees in the fields and it was definitely more comfortable to head back towards home.  Again, hoping to have the proverbial cherry, I thought he would be impressed.  Yet again, this was not the case.

After a few minutes he said to use the railroad tracks for my S Turns.  I explained that this was not the safest place due to the surrounding fields not really being available for a place to land in case of an emergency.  He said that I could easily land on Hwy 21 if needed.  Now, this is not what we are taught.  Sure, you can use a road if you must but in essence, you should pick a field in order to keep others out of harm’s way.  Feeling his readiness to get back to the airport, I complied and did some really nice S Turns.  He said very well, take me home and altitude your discretion.

I climbed to 2500 feet MSL, obtained my new ATIS which said winds variable at 5.  He said he would like me to do a Short Field Landing on this final landing to a full stop.  Now, keep in mind I felt like this check ride did not go well.  Certainly, I’m a better pilot than I just showed to the DPE and I was resigned to the fact that I was going to fail.  I did some parts really well and others, not to the best of my abilities.  I actually agreed with this made up assessment in my own head and was OK with it.  I knew I could fix what I thought were my short-comings and do it better next time.  I guess I knew in the back of my mind that if, at any point, I failed a portion, the DPE would tell me and I had the choice to continue or stop but at that time, I didn’t really consider it.  I figured he’d tell me when we got on the ground.

With winds variable at 5, I was excited about my last maneuver.  I had been working extremely hard on my precision landings on 16 and I knew by the ATIS we were landing on 16.  Let’s go so I can at least end on a positive note.  Slightly to the north of Riverside campus which is 12 miles NW of the airport, I called in to the tower.

“Easterwood Tower, Cessna 8926V information India 12 miles to the NW inbound full stop”, I stated.

“8926V, Easterwood Tower, are you over the annex?”

“Yes sir, just to the north for 8926V”

“8926V, make straight in Rwy 10 report 2 mile final”

GREAT!  Yet another something new for me.  What else could possibly go wrong?

“Tower, could I have Rwy 16 for 8926V?”

“26V, you can have 16 but winds are 100 at 10 gusting 15 now”

Convinced that I didn’t want to do a short field cross wind landing for my exam, I came back with “We’ll take 10 for 26V”.

Now one would think that one would know his/her home airport like the back of his/her hand.  One would think that one would be prepared by now for just about anything.  Well, although I knew lengths and widths, I had forgotten if 10 had lights.  As a student, we use reference points to figure out where we need to be altitude-wise at a given place.  We are still new to this and we don’t have a ton of experience to be able to judge distances perfect.  I’ve never seen the approach end of 10 and I’M FREAKED OUT!  I do not want to blow this.

Shaking my head with a smile, the DPE looks over at me and says “What’s up?”

“It just stands to reason after this whole ride, I get a runway that I haven’t landed on before to do a precision landing”, I say.

He says, “Scott McHarg, it’s a *!#@ runway so land on it!”

I make my turn to 10 and I see the VASI lights.  I’m good.  I can do this and it will be good.  DPE says, “Land on the thousand footers”.  I say, “Yes Sir!”

Two miles out, I’m given landing clearance.  I’m ready for this and it’s going to be gorgeous.  All of a sudden, the air gets real still and then, the sound…..B O O M!!!  A clap of thunder all but rocks the little 172 and it pours like I have never seen it pour outside of a hurricane.  There’s not much wind but it is so hard to see.  I’ve flown in rain before.  A nice little shower in the pattern is no big deal but this….this I’m looking around for Noah’s Ark!  I’m positive I held my breath for the next 2 miles but somehow I landed just past the beginning of the thousand footers and got the plane stopped by the crossing of Rwy 4/22.  I did it!  Somehow, by the grace of God, I’m alive and I did it!  Tower calls and asks me to taxi Rwy 4 and hold short of 16.  I read back the instructions and begin to taxi.  The cockpit is filled with the sounds of rain bouncing off the plane.  Now, I’m not a fast taxi guy.  I don’t piddle around but I don’t come anywhere close to a fast taxi for safety if nothing else, especially in the rain.  Before the next taxiway and quite a bit before Rwy 16, tower gives me permission to cross 16 to the ramp.  I repeat and continue my taxi.  The DPE looks over and says, “You’ve got to pick up the speed and get across that runway right now.  You’ve been given clearance to cross and you should hurry because you’re holding up other traffic”.  Yet again, I’ve blown it.  I pick up my pace substantially and get across the runway and proceed to parking.

At parking, I shut down the airplane mentally exhausted.   I knew I failed.  Sitting back in the seat with the wind picking up from my tail and the rain increasingly getting stronger, the DPE says, “Well, we have a lot to talk about”.

“Yes sir, I’m sure”, I proclaimed.

The DPE opens the door stating he’ll meet me inside after I tie down the airplane in the pouring rain.  He starts to shut the door and opens it back up and says “Oh by the way, congratulations!  You passed!”.

I was blown away.  I freakin passed!  Holy wow, I did it!!

I tied down the airplane and walked back inside.  The DPE and I sat down and went back over the flight.  He said he understood the bad things I did and was impressed with the good things I did.  We signed some documents and he was on his way.  I am now officially a certificated pilot!

The reason I chose to write this all down is because I’m hoping that someone can learn a little something from my experience.  Regardless, never give up even when you think it’s all for nothing.  That’s one of the things we learn after all.  Never give up, you can make a difference.  When you go in to your check ride, you will hear the DPE say to treat him like he knows nothing about airplanes and he is simply your first passenger.  “Don’t worry about it”, he’ll say.

I disagree with this.  The DPE holds everything in his/her hands.  They hold your aviation career in their hands and critique every little move you make inside that aircraft.  They will make or break you.  The good news is that it’s not a one shot deal.  If you mess up, you get to retest and you get to do this until you succeed.  With the help of Brazos Valley Flight School, you will not fail, period.  These guys are some of the best.

The bad news is that, once again, we are faced with a contradiction.  We, as pilots, decide to go or not to go based on “IM SAFE”.  The “S” is for stress and the “F” is for fatigue.  During your exam, you will be faced with both of these and not in small amounts.  In essence, this is a perfect example of when not to fly.  I don’t believe it gets any more ironic than this.

If you’re anything like me, you will be worried and you will be stressed if for no other reason than wanting to do the absolute best you can do.  No matter how many times you hear “don’t stress about it”, you still will.  In hindsight, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  What was being asked of me isn’t a big deal at all.  This miscommunication wasn’t good but the actual maneuvers were exactly what we do every day.  All I can say to the point of stress is just accept it for this ride and learn to manage it.  If you learn to deal with it now, it won’t be so bad on the ride.  It will happen and you will succeed.  Good luck to you and we are all pulling for your success.  Now, I’m going to go out and enjoy the fact that I’m actually flying when I’m in the airplane because when you’re learning, you aren’t afforded that luxury because it’s constant work.  It should be this way.  We should always be learning.  If the day comes, even after you get your license, that you aren’t learning something new about our aviation career, hobby, sport, you should probably check your six o’clock again because you’ve definitely missed something.

Suggestions from one student to another

A.)   Try to schedule at least 4 flights per week if you can.  It never fails that 1 or 2 flights will be cancelled due to weather or maintenance or timing for you and your instructor.

B.)    Try several instructors but pick one that you feel comfortable with.  This is your money and your time.  Essentially, we are customers of the school and you should select the instructor that you can learn the most from.

C.)    Don’t be afraid of the instructors that are a little harder.  They aren’t being hard on you because they like it, they’re doing it to make you a better pilot.

D.)   Stay on top of your own training and know what you have to complete.  When you’re ready to move on, tell your instructor.  Your instructor will have many students and very little time.  Take the time to manage your training in conjunction with your instructor and don’t leave it up to him/her to plan more.

E.)    Manage your budget for your instruction carefully.  This is not a cheap venture and it will cost you quite a bit of money.  The entire purpose of this is to make you a knowledgeable and, most importantly, a safe pilot.  It costs what it costs but regardless of the amount of money it costs you, it’s not near as expensive as the price of your life to you and your family.

F.)    Although there are only 40 hours total time required for you to take your check ride, count on more.  In order to prep you for your ride, you will go through day after day of flying up to your ride to make sure that you are on top of your game.  I’d suggest planning on between 55-65 hours flight time and 40-50 hours of instructor time.  It is what it is so just plan on it.  Very rarely do people take their check ride with the minimum required hours.  There’s so much to learn and you will continue learning after you finally obtain your certificate.

G.)   Don’t feel you need to pick an airplane and stick with it as you’re learning to fly.  This does not mean you should be switching planes right before your check ride.  I’m speaking of the time leading up to just meeting the minimums.  I say this because each and every airplane is different.  They all have similar characteristics but they are all different.  Even the same models can be different but spend a little time in each airplane that you are using, even if it’s in 2 different airplanes of the exact same model.  Learn each aircraft individually.  I found this very helpful to do and I feel that because of this, it is easier to make the transition to a different airplane even after my certification.

H.)   Always, always, always repeat the instructions given to you by ATC, your instructor and the DPE.  If you didn’t understand or you got confused in the instructions, just ask for them to be repeated.  It will save you time and time again.

I.)      Once you have your check ride scheduled, make all the rest of your flights at the same time of day as your check ride.  I made all of my flights after work up to the check ride and the air was gorgeous.  My check ride was in the middle of the day and was far from smooth air.  Save yourself another learning curve and fly at the same time daily.

J.)     Manage your stress!  You will be under stress no matter what when it comes time for the exam.  You can tell yourself over and over that it’s just a ride but the stress will be there.  Learn to perform with it and know that you can do this.  We learn as pilots to not fly if we are stressed or fatigued.  This is one time that you will fly under stress.  Accept it and manage it.  It will be OK.

K.)    Electronics – This one really gets me.  I could rant on about this subject for hours but here’s the cold hard facts.  The FAA allows items such as the iPad and apps such as ForeFlight to replace paper charts in the cockpit.  They are legal and you should learn to use them and make them part of your flight bag, no doubt.  It is recommended to have a backup such as a 2nd iPad or smartphone or, of course, paper charts but it is not required (just so it’s clear, I have a 2nd iPad as well as a smartphone and the onboard GPS as well).  The DPEs rarely let you use them even though you may find the DPE using them on your check ride to keep track.  You will, more than likely, not be afforded the same luxury.  Make sure you know how to read, fold and even organize a paper sectional and know how to use the ancient E6B that they teach you to use.  You will absolutely need this on your ride.  Here’s why this is so absolutely frustrating.  One of the main things when learning to fly is to get on board with “See and Avoid”.  This is all about keeping your attention outside of the cockpit with your eyes on the skies and/or the airport environment.  In my opinion, utilizing electronics helps you “See and Avoid”.  All of your information is available by touch screen without a percent error for human calculation and takes a lot less time than trying to figure out how the heck to fold your sectional or sectionals as you’re flying or trying to divide your time between the outside and working an ancient slide rule E6B.  In my opinion, the paper version and the old E6B version allow for much more human error and human error is the cause for the majority of the accidents in aviation.  Having a computer do the calculations for you and having a taxi diagram with your moving airplane on it takes away so many of the potential issues that can happen at the airport and in flight, it makes no sense why we should have to concentrate on the old paper renditions.  As far behind the curve as we are as new pilots already and as much as we have to multi-task, we should be using as much help from a single crew cockpit resource management perspective as allowed.  This rule of not being able to use electronics is out dated and contradictory to what the FAA is trying to accomplish.  End of rant.

L.)     It’s understood and appreciated that the instructor is typically harder to impress than a DPE who is only concerned about safety and meeting the standards.  During a Soft Field Takeoff, the instructors will teach you to stay absolutely as close to the runway as possible.  This is to make sure that you stay in ground effect and to keep you from stalling the aircraft.  This is not a bad thing but I was actually criticized for not using the allowed “ground effect height” in my Soft Field Takeoff.  My instructors had me trying to keep the plane as low as possible i.e. 1-2 feet off the runway when in reality my DPE didn’t appreciate that.  I should have used more of the height of the ground effect which is the same as the wingspan of the aircraft.  This holds especially true when the airplane tries to settle back to the runway.  In essence, try to keep it as low as possible but during your check ride, be OK with using a little more height to separate yourself from the ground while remaining in ground effect.  This way, if the plane settles back down, you don’t set the aircraft back down on the runway.

M.)     Complete ALL checklist items and be prepared to take off prior to obtaining take off clearance.  The DPE is interested in starting the takeoff as soon as clearance is given, not when you’re good and ready.  It’s assumed that you are good and ready if you’re calling for the clearance.  This is taught but in my opinion, understated.  Do your 3 checks to make sure you’re on the correct runway prior to requesting takeoff clearance if at all possible.

N.)   Get away from the bigger airports that have long and wide runways.  When we as students have that much leeway at larger airports, it makes a “normal” runway of 50 feet wide by 3200 feet long look daunting.  Spend the extra .2 on the Hobbs to go to different places and practice there.  If we as students don’t spend much time at the smaller airports, we are seriously limiting ourselves to where we can go fly.  Land on every runway you are able to and do it again.  Become familiar with all possible runway scenarios.  At Easterwood, we use 16/34 almost all the time.  Land on the others if wind permits along with ATC clearance.  You will only give yourself more confidence as you progress.

O.)   Fly more engine out situations all the way to the ground.  Make yourself land simulated engine out more at these smaller airports and don’t just look and say “OK, yeah, it looks like we’ll make it and go around”.

Jimmy Doolitle’s Raid as recounted from the Pilot of the 13th B-25

This is a long read but so worth it if you have time.  If you have ever served in our armed forces, you have my deepest respect and gratitude.  Thank you!

This detailed story is very well written in the first person by the pilot of Airplane # 13.  The amount of organization and planning involving the Army Air Corp, the Navy, the training and the Raid itself was accomplished in about 4 and 1/2 months after Dec 7.  You will know far more than was ever released. In all the annals of wartime bravery, what those pilots did on April 18, 1942 (five months after Pearl Harbor ) may be one of the greatest feats ever. ****

McElroy003 —-My name is Edgar McElroy. My friends call me “Mac”. I was born and raised in Ennis, Texas, the youngest of five children, son of Harry and Jennie McElroy. Folks say that I was the quiet one. We lived at 609 North Dallas Street and attended the Presbyterian Church. My dad had an auto mechanic’s shop downtown close to the main fire station. My family was a hard working bunch, and I was expected to work at dad’s garage after school and on Saturdays, so I grew up in an atmosphere of machinery, oil and grease. Occasionally I would hear a lone plane fly over, and would run out in the street and strain my eyes against the sun to watch it. Someday, that would be me up there!

I really like cars, and I was always busy on some project, and it wasn’t long before I decided to build my very own Model-T out of spare parts. I got an engine from over here, a frame from over there, and wheels from someplace else, using only the good parts from old cars that were otherwise shot. It wasn’t very pretty, but it was all mine.  I enjoyed driving on the dirt roads around town and the feeling of freedom and speed. That car of mine could really go fast, 40 miles per hour!

In high school I played football and tennis, and was good enough at football to receive an athletic scholarship from Trinity University in Waxahachie. I have to admit that sometimes I daydreamed in class, and often times I thought about flying my very own airplane and being up there in the clouds. That is when I even decided to take a correspondence course in aircraft engines. Whenever I got the chance, I would take my girl on a date up to Love Field in Dallas. We would watch the airplanes and listen to those mighty piston engines roar. I just loved it and if she didn’t, well that was just too bad.

After my schooling, I operated a filling station with my brother, then drove a bus, and later had a job as a machinist in Longview, but I never lost my love of airplanes and my dream of flying. With what was going on in Europe and in Asia, I figured that our country would be drawn into war someday, so I decided to join the Army Air Corps in November of 1940. This way I could finally follow my dream.

I reported for primary training in California. The training was rigorous and frustrating at times. We trained at air-fields all over California. It was tough going, and many of the guys washed out. When I finally saw that I was going to make it, I wrote to my girl back in Longview, Texas. Her name is Agnes Gill. I asked her to come out to California for my graduation, and oh yeah, also to marry me. I graduated on July 11, 1941. I was now a real, honest-to-goodness Army Air Corps pilot. Two days later, I married “Aggie” in Reno, Nevada. We were starting a new life together and were very happy. I received my orders to report to Pendleton, Oregon and join the 17th Bomb Group. Neither of us had traveled much before, so the drive north through the Cascade Range of the Sierra Nevada’s was interesting and beautiful. It was an exciting time for us.

My unit was the first to receive the new B-25 medium bomber. When I saw it for the first time I was in awe. It looked so huge. It was so sleek and powerful. The guys started calling it the “rocket plane”, and I could hardly wait to get my hands on it. I told Aggie that it was really something! Reminded me of a big old scorpion, just ready to sting! Man, I could barely wait!

We were transferred to another airfield in Washington State, where we spent a lot a time flying practice missions and attacking imaginary targets. Then, there were other assignments in Mississippi and Georgia, for more maneuvers and more practice. We were on our way back to California on December 7th when we got word of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

We listened with mixed emotions to the announcements on the radio, and the next day to the declaration of war. What the President said, it just rang over and over in my head.” With confidence in our armed forces, with the un-bounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph; So help us God.” By gosh, I felt as though he was talking straight to me! I didn’t know what would happen to us, but we all knew that we would be going somewhere now.

The first weeks of the war, we were back in Oregon flying patrols at sea looking for possible Japanese submarines. We had to be up at 0330 hours to warm up the engines of our planes. There was 18 inches of snow on the ground, and it was so cold that our engine oil congealed overnight. We placed big tarps over the engines that reached down to the ground. Inside this tent we used plumber’s blow torches to thaw out the engines. I figured that my dad would be proud of me, if he could see me inside this tent with all this machinery, oil and grease. After about an hour of this, the engines were warm enough to start.

We flew patrols over the coasts of Oregon and Washington from dawn until dusk. Once I thought I spotted a sub, and started my bomb run, even had my bomb doors open, but I pulled out of it when I realized that it was just a big whale. Lucky for me, I would have never heard the end of that! Actually it was lucky for us that the Japanese didn’t attack the west coast, because we just didn’t have a strong enough force to beat them off. Our country was in a real fix now, and overall things looked pretty bleak to most folks.

In early February, we were ordered to report to Columbus, South Carolina. Man, this Air Corps sure moves a fellow around a lot! Little did I know what was coming next! After we got settled in Columbus, my squadron commander called us all together. He told us that an awfully hazardous mission was being planned, and then he asked for volunteers. There were some of the guys that did not step forward, but I was one of the ones that did. My co-pilot was shocked. He said “You can’t volunteer, Mac! You’re married, and you and Aggie are expecting a baby soon. Don’t do it!” I told him that “I got into the Air Force to do what I can, and Aggie understands how I feel. The war won’t be easy for any of us.”

We that volunteered were transferred to Eglin Field near Valparaiso, Florida in late February. When we all got together, there were about 140 of us volunteers, and we were told that we were now part of the “Special B-25 project.” We set about our training, but none of us knew what it was all about. We were ordered not to talk about it, not even to our wives. In early March, we were all called in for a briefing, and gathered together in a big building there on the base. Somebody said that the fellow who was head of this thing is coming to talk to us, and in walks Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. He was already an aviation legend, and there he stood right in front of us. I was truly amazed just to meet him.

Colonel Doolittle explained that this mission would be extremely dangerous, and that only volunteers could take part. He said that he could not tell us where we were going, but he could say that some of us would not be coming back. There was a silent pause; you could have heard a pin drop. Then Doolittle said that anyone of us could withdraw now, and that no one would criticize us for this decision. No one backed out!

From the outset, all volunteers worked from the early morning hours until well after sunset. All excess weight was stripped from the planes and extra gas tanks were added. The lower gun turret was removed, the heavy liaison radio was removed, and then the tail guns were taken out and more gas tanks were put aboard. We extended the range of that plane from 1000 miles out to 2500 miles.

Then I was assigned my crew. There was Richard Knobloch the co-pilot, Clayton Campbell the navigator, Robert Bourgeous the bombardier, Adam Williams the flight engineer and gunner, and me, Mac McElroy the pilot. Over the coming days, I came to respect them a lot. They were a swell bunch of guys, just regular All-American boys. We got a few ideas from the training as to what type of mission that we had signed on for.

A Navy pilot had joined our group to coach us at short takeoffs and also in shipboard etiquette. We began our short takeoff practice. Taking off with first a light load, then a normal load, and finally overloaded up to 31,000 lbs. The shortest possible take-off was obtained with flaps full down, stabilizer set three-fourths, tail heavy, full power against the brakes and releasing the brakes simultaneously as the engine revved up to max power. We pulled back gradually on the stick and the airplane left the ground with the tail skid about one foot from the runway. It was a very unnatural and scary way to get airborne! I could hardly believe it myself, the first time as I took off with a full gas load and dummy bombs within just 700 feet of runway in a near stall condition. We were, for all practical purposes, a slow flying gasoline bomb!

In addition to take-off practice, we refined our skills in day and night navigation, gunnery, bombing, and low level flying. We made cross country flights at tree-top level, night flights and navigational flights over the Gulf of Mexico without the use of a radio. After we started that short-field takeoff routine, we had some pretty fancy competition among the crews. I think that one crew got it down to about 300 feet on a hot day.

We were told that only the best crews would actually go on the mission, and the rest would be held in reserve. One crew did stall on takeoff, slipped back to the ground, busting up their landing gear. They were eliminated from the mission. Doolittle emphasized again and again the extreme danger of this operation, and made it clear that anyone of us who so desired could drop out with no questions asked. No one did.

On one of our cross country flights, we landed at Barksdale Field in Shreveport, and I was able to catch a bus over to Longview to see Aggie. We had a few hours together, and then we had to say our goodbyes. I told her I hoped to be back in time for the baby’s birth, but I couldn’t tell her where I was going. As I walked away, I turned and walked backwards for a ways, taking one last look at my beautiful pregnant Aggie.

Within a few days of returning to our base in Florida we were abruptly told to pack our things. After just three weeks of practice, we were on our way. This was it. It was time to go. It was the middle of March 1942, and I was 30 years old. Our orders were to fly to McClelland Air Base in Sacramento, California on our own, at the lowest possible level. So here we went on our way west, scraping the tree tops at 160 miles per hour, and skimming along just 50 feet above plowed fields. We crossed North Texas and then the panhandle, scaring the dickens out of livestock, buzzing farm houses and a many a barn along the way. Over the Rocky Mountains and across the Mojave Desert dodging thunderstorms, we enjoyed the flight immensely and although tempted, I didn’t do too much dare-devil stuff. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was good practice for what lay ahead of us. It proved to be our last fling.

Once we arrived in Sacramento, the mechanics went over our plane with a fine-toothed comb. Of the twenty-two planes that made it, only those whose pilots reported no mechanical problems were allowed to go on. The others were shunted aside. After having our plane serviced, we flew on to Alameda Naval Air Station in Oakland. As I came in for final approach, we saw it! I excitedly called the rest of the crew to take a look. There below us was a huge aircraft carrier. It was the USS Hornet, and it looked so gigantic! Man, I had never even seen a carrier until this moment. There were already two B-25s parked on the flight deck. Now we knew! My heart was racing, and I thought about how puny my plane would look on board this mighty ship. As soon as we landed and taxied off the runway, a jeep pulled in front of me with a big “Follow Me” sign on the back. We followed it straight up to the wharf, alongside the towering Hornet. All five of us were looking up and just in awe, scarcely believing the size of this thing.

As we left the plane, there was already a Navy work crew swarming around attaching cables to the lifting rings on top of the wings and the fuselage. As we walked towards our quarters, I looked back and saw them lifting my plane up into the air and swing it over the ship’s deck. It looked so small and lonely. Later that afternoon, all crews met with Colonel Doolittle and he gave last minute assignments. He told me to go to the Presidio and pick up two hundred extra “C” rations. I saluted, turned, and left, not having any idea where the Presidio was, and not exactly sure what a “C” ration was.

I commandeered a Navy staff car and told the driver to take me to the Presidio, and he did On the way over, I realized that I had no written signed orders and that this might get a little sticky. So in I walked into the Army supply depot and made my request, trying to look poised and confident. The supply officer asked, “What is your authorization for this request, sir?” I told him that I could not give him one. “And what is the destination?” he asked. I answered, “The aircraft carrier, Hornet, docked at Alameda.” He said, “Can you tell me who ordered the rations, sir?” And I replied with a smile, “No, I cannot.” The supply officers huddled together, talking and glanced back over towards me. Then he walked back over and assured me that the rations would be delivered that afternoon. Guess they figured that something big was up. They were right.

The next morning we all boarded the ship. Trying to remember my naval etiquette, I saluted the Officer of the Deck and said “Lt. McElroy, requesting permission to come aboard.  “The officer returned the salute and said “Permission granted.” Then I turned aft and saluted the flag I made it, without messing up. It was April 2, and in full sunlight, we left San Francisco Bay. The whole task force of ships, two cruisers, four destroyers, and a fleet oiler, moved slowly with us under the Golden Gate Bridge. Thousands of people looked on. Many stopped their cars on the bridge, and waved to us as we passed underneath. I thought to myself, I hope there aren’t any spies up there waving.

Once at sea, Doolittle called us together. “Only a few of you know our destination, and others have guessed about various targets. Gentlemen, your target is Japan!” A sudden cheer exploded among the men. “Specifically, Yokohama, Tokyo, Nagoya, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Osaka. The Navy task force will get us as close as possible and we’ll launch our planes. We will hit our targets and proceed to airfields in China.” After the cheering stopped, he asked again if any of us desired to back out, no questions asked. Not one did, not one.

The ship’s Captain then went over the intercom to the whole ship’s company. The loudspeaker blared, “The destination is Tokyo!” A tremendous cheer broke out from everyone on board. I could hear metal banging together and wild screams from down below decks. It was quite a rush! I felt relieved actually. We finally knew where we were going.

I set up quarters with two Navy pilots, putting my cot between their two bunks. They couldn’t get out of bed without stepping on me. It was fairly cozy in there, yes it was. Those guys were part of the Torpedo Squadron Eight and were just swell fellows. The rest of the guys bedded down in similar fashion to me, some had to sleep on bedrolls in the Admiral’s chartroom. As big as this ship was, there wasn’t any extra room anywhere. Every square foot had a purpose… A few days later we discovered where they had an ice cream machine!

There were sixteen B-25s tied down on the flight deck, and I was flying number 13. All the carrier’s fighter planes were stored away helplessly in the hangar deck. They couldn’t move until we were gone. Our Army mechanics were all on board, as well as our munitions loaders and several back up crews, in case any of us got sick or backed out. We settled into a daily routine of checking our planes. The aircraft were grouped so closely together on deck that it wouldn’t take much for them to get damaged. Knowing that my life depended on this plane, I kept a close eye on her.

Day after day, we met with the intelligence officer and studied our mission plan. Our targets were assigned, and maps and objective folders were furnished for study. We went over approach routes and our escape route towards China … I never studied this hard back at Trinity. Every day at dawn and at dusk the ship was called to general quarters and we practiced finding the quickest way to our planes. If at any point along the way, we were discovered by the enemy fleet, we were to launch our bombers immediately so the Hornet could bring up its fighter planes. We would then be on our own, and try to make it to the nearest land, either Hawaii or Midway Island.

Dr. Thomas White, a volunteer member of plane number 15, went over our medical records and gave us inoculations for a whole bunch of diseases that hopefully I wouldn’t catch. He gave us training sessions in emergency first aid, and lectured us at length about water purification and such. Tom, a medical doctor, had learned how to be a gunner just so he could go on this mission. We put some new tail guns in place of the ones that had been taken out to save weight. Not exactly functional, they were two broom handles, painted black. The thinking was they might help scare any Jap fighter planes. Maybe, maybe not.

On Sunday, April 14, we met up with Admiral Bull Halsey’s task force just out of Hawaii and joined into one big force. The carrier Enterprise was now with us, another two heavy cruisers, four more destroyers, and another oiler. We were designated as Task Force 16. It was quite an impressive sight to see, and represented the bulk of what was left of the U.S. Navy after the devastation of Pearl Harbor. There were over 10,000 Navy personnel sailing into harm’s way, just to deliver us sixteen Army planes to the Japs, orders of the President.

As we steamed further west, tension was rising as we drew nearer and nearer to Japan. Someone thought of arming us with some old …45 pistols that they had on board. I went through that box of 1911 pistols, they were in such bad condition that I took several of them apart, using the good parts from several useless guns until I built a serviceable weapon. Several of the other pilots did the same. Admiring my “new” pistol, I held it up, and thought about my old Model-T.

Colonel Doolittle called us together on the flight deck. We all gathered round, as well as many Navy personnel. He pulled out some medals and told us how these friendship medals from the Japanese government had been given to some of our Navy officers several years back. And now the Secretary of the Navy had requested us to return them. Doolittle wired them to a bomb while we all posed for pictures. Something to cheer up the folks back home!

I began to pack my things for the flight, scheduled for the 19th. I packed some extra clothes and a little brown bag that Aggie had given me, inside were some toilet items and a few candy bars. No letters or identity cards were allowed, only our dog-tags. I went down to the wardroom to have some ice cream and settle up my mess bill. It only amounted to $5 a day and with my per-diem of $6 per day, I came out a little ahead. By now, my Navy pilot roommates were about ready to get rid of me, but I enjoyed my time with them. They were all right. Later on, I learned that both of them were killed at the Battle of Midway. They were good men. Yes, very good men.

Colonel Doolittle let each crew pick our own target. We chose the Yokosuka Naval Base about twenty miles from Tokyo. We loaded 1450 rounds of ammo and four 500-pound bombs… A little payback, direct from Ellis County, Texas! We checked and re-checked our plane several times. Everything was now ready. I felt relaxed, yet tensed up at the same time. Day after tomorrow, we will launch when we are 400 miles out. I lay in my cot that night, and rehearsed the mission over and over in my head. It was hard to sleep as I listened to sounds of the ship.

Early the next morning, I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast, expecting another full day on board. I noticed that the ship was pitching and rolling quite a bit this morning, more than normal. I was reading through the April 18th day plan of the Hornet; there was a message in it which read, “From the Hornet to the Army – Good luck, good hunting, and God bless you.”

I still had a large lump in my throat from reading this, when all of a sudden, the intercom blared, “General Quarters, General Quarters, All hands man your battle stations! Army pilots, man your planes!!!” There was instant reaction from everyone in the room and food trays went crashing to the deck. I ran down to my room jumping through the hatches along the way, grabbed my bag, and ran as fast as I could go to the flight deck. I met with my crew at the plane, my heart was pounding. Someone said, “What’s going on?” The word was that the Enterprise had spotted an enemy trawler. It had been sunk, but it had transmitted radio messages. We had been found out!

The weather was crummy, the seas were running heavy, and the ship was pitching up and down like I had never seen before. Great waves were crashing against the bow and washing over the front of the deck. This wasn’t going to be easy! Last minute instructions were given. We were reminded to avoid non-military targets, especially the Emperor’s Palace. Do not fly to Russia, but fly as far west as possible, land on the water and launch our rubber raft. This was going to be a one-way trip! We were still much too far out and we all knew that our chances of making land were somewhere between slim and none. Then at the last minute, each plane loaded an extra ten 5-gallon gas cans to give us a fighting chance of reaching China.

We all climbed aboard, started our engines and warmed them up, just feet away from the plane in front of us and the plane behind us. Knobby, Campbell, Bourgeois, and me in the front, Williams, the gunner was in the back, separated from us by a big rubber gas tank. I called back to Williams on the intercom and told him to look sharp and don’t take a nap! He answered dryly, “Don’t worry about me, Lieutenant. If they jump us, I’ll just use my little black broomsticks to keep the Japs off our tail.”

The ship headed into the wind and picked up speed. There was now a near gale force wind and water spray coming straight over the deck. I looked down at my instruments as my engines revved up. My mind was racing. I went over my mental checklist, and said a prayer? God please, help us! Past the twelve planes in front of us, I strained to see the flight deck officer as he leaned into the wind and signaled with his arms for Colonel Doolittle to come to full power. I looked over at Knobby and we looked each other in the eye. He just nodded to me and we both understood.

With the deck heaving up and down, the deck officer had to time this just right. Then I saw him wave Doolittle to go, and we watched breathlessly to see what happened. When his plane pulled up above the deck, Knobby just let out with, “Yes! Yes!” The second plane, piloted by Lt. Hoover, appeared to stall with its nose up and began falling toward the waves. We groaned and called out, “Up! Up! Pull it up!” Finally, he pulled out of it, staggering back up into the air, much to our relief! One by one, the planes in front of us took off. The deck pitched wildly, 60 feet or more, it looked like. One plane seemed to drop down into the drink and disappeared for a moment, then pulled back up into sight. There was sense of relief with each one that made it.

220825_medWe gunned our engines and started to roll forward. Off to the right, I saw the men on deck cheering and waving their covers! We continued inching forward, careful to keep my left main wheel and my nose wheel on the white guidelines that had been painted on the deck for us. Get off a little bit too far left and we go off the edge of the deck. A little too far to the right and our wing-tip will smack the island of the ship. With the best seat on the ship, we watched Lt. Bower take off in plane number 12.

I taxied up to the starting line, put on the brakes and looked down to my left. My main wheel was right on the line. Applied more power to the engines, and I turned my complete attention to the deck officer on my left, who was circling his paddles. Now my adrenaline was really pumping! We went to full power, and the noise and vibration inside the plane went way up. He circled the paddles furiously while watching forward for the pitch of the deck. Then he dropped them, and I said, “Here We Go!” I released the brakes and we started rolling forward, and as I looked down the flight-deck you could see straight down into the angry churning water. As we slowly gained speed, the deck gradually began to pitch back up. I pulled up and our plane slowly strained up and away from the ship. There was a big cheer and whoops from my crew, but I just felt relieved and muttered to myself, “Boy, that was short!” We made a wide circle above our fleet to check our compass headings and get our bearings. I looked down as we passed low over one of our cruisers and could see the men on deck waving to us.

I dropped down to low level, so low we could see the whitecap waves breaking. It was just after 0900, there were broken clouds at 5,000 feet and visibility of about thirty miles due to haze or something. Up ahead and barely in sight, I could see Captain Greening, our flight leader, and Bower on his right wing. Flying at 170 mph, I was able to catch up to them in about 30 minutes. We were to stay in this formation until reaching landfall, and then break on our separate ways. Now we settled in for the five hour flight. Tokyo, here we come!

Williams was in the back emptying the extra gas cans into the gas tank as fast as we had burned off enough fuel. He then punched holes in the tins and pushed them out the hatch against the wind. Some of the crew ate sandwiches and other goodies that the Navy had put aboard for us… I wasn’t hungry. I held onto the controls with a firm grip as we raced along westward just fifty feet above the cold rolling ocean, as low as I dared to fly. Being so close to the choppy waves gave you a true sense of speed. Occasionally our windshield was even sprayed with a little saltwater. It was an exhilarating feeling, and I felt as though the will and spirit of our whole country was pushing us along. I didn’t feel too scared, just anxious. There was a lot riding on this thing, and on me.

As we began to near land, we saw an occasional ship here and there. None of them close enough to be threatening, but just the same, we were feeling more edgy. Then at 1330 we sighted land, the Eastern shore of Honshu. With Williams now on his guns in the top turret and Campbell on the nose gun, we came ashore still flying low as possible. We were surprised to see people on the ground waving to us as we flew in over the farmland. It was beautiful countryside. Campbell, our navigator, said, “Mac, I think we’re going to be about sixty miles too far north. I’m not positive, but pretty sure” I decided that he was absolutely right and turned left ninety degrees, went back just offshore and followed the coast line south. When I thought we had gone far enough, I climbed up to two thousand feet to find out where we were.

We started getting fire from anti-aircraft guns. Then we spotted Tokyo Bay, turned west and put our nose down diving toward the water. Once over the bay, I could see our target, Yokosuka Naval Base. Off to the right there was already smoke visible over Tokyo. Coming in low over the water, I increased speed to 200 mph and told everyone, “Get Ready!” When we were close enough, I pulled up to 1300 feet and opened the bomb doors. There were furious black bursts of anti-aircraft fire all around us, but I flew straight on through them, spotting our target, the torpedo works and the dry-docks. I saw a big ship in the dry-dock just as we flew over it. Those flak bursts were really getting close and bouncing us around, when I heard Bourgeois shouting, “Bombs Away!” I couldn’t see it, but Williams had a bird’s eye view from the back and he shouted jubilantly, “We got an aircraft carrier! The whole dock is burning!” I started turning to the south and strained my neck to look back and at that moment saw a large crane blow up and start falling over!… Take that! There was loud yelling and clapping each other on the back. We were all just ecstatic, and still alive!

But there wasn’t much time to celebrate. We had to get out of here and fast! When we were some thirty miles out to sea, we took one last look back at our target, and could still see huge billows of black smoke. Up until now, we had been flying for Uncle Sam, but now we were flying for ourselves. We flew south over open ocean, parallel to the Japanese coast all afternoon. We saw a large submarine apparently at rest, and then in another fifteen miles, we spotted three large enemy cruisers headed for Japan. There were no more bombs, so we just let them be and kept on going. By late afternoon, Campbell calculated that it was time to turn and make for China.

Across the East China Sea, the weather out ahead of us looked bad and overcast. Up until now we had not had time to think much about our gasoline supply, but the math did not look good. We just didn’t have enough fuel to make it! Each man took turns cranking the little hand radio to see if we could pick up the promised radio beacon. There was no signal. This is not good. The weather turned bad and it was getting dark, so we climbed up. I was now flying on instruments, through a dark misty rain. Just when it really looked hopeless of reaching land, we suddenly picked up a strong tailwind. It was an answer to a prayer. Maybe just maybe, we can make it!

In total darkness at 2100 hours, we figured that we must be crossing the coastline, so I began a slow, slow climb to be sure of not hitting any high ground or anything. I conserved as much fuel as I could, getting real low on gas now. The guys were still cranking on the radio, but after five hours of hand cranking with aching hands and backs, there was utter silence. No radio beacon! Then the red light started blinking, indicating twenty minutes of fuel left. We started getting ready to bail out. I turned the controls over to Knobby and crawled to the back of the plane, past the now collapsed rubber gas tank. I dumped everything out of my bag and repacked just what I really needed, my .45 pistol, ammunition, flashlight, compass, medical kit, fishing tackle, chocolate bars, peanut butter and crackers. I told Williams to come forward with me so we could all be together for this. There was no other choice. I had to get us as far west as possible, and then we had to jump.

At 2230 we were up to sixty-five hundred feet. We were over land but still above the Japanese Army in China. We couldn’t see the stars, so Campbell couldn’t get a good fix on our position. We were flying on fumes now and I didn’t want to run out of gas before we were ready to go. Each man filled his canteen, put on his Mae West life jacket, parachute, and filled his bag with rations, those “C” rations from the Presidio. I put her on auto-pilot and we all gathered in the navigator’s compartment around the hatch in the floor. We checked each other’s parachute harness. Everyone was scared, without a doubt. None of us had ever done this before! I said, “Williams first, Bourgeois second, Campbell third, Knobloch fourth, and I’ll follow you guys! Go fast, two seconds apart! Then count three seconds off and pull your ripcord!”

We kicked open the hatch and gathered around the hole looking down into the blackness. It did not look very inviting! Then I looked up at Williams and gave the order, “JUMP!!!” Within seconds they were all gone. I turned and reached back for the auto-pilot, but could not reach it, so I pulled the throttles back, then turned and jumped. Counting quickly, thousand one, thousand two, thousand three, I pulled my rip-cord and jerked back up with a terrific shock. At first I thought that I was hung on the plane, but after a few agonizing seconds that seemed like hours, realized that I was free and drifting down.

Being in the total dark, I was disoriented at first but figured my feet must be pointed toward the ground. I looked down through the black mist to see what was coming up. I was in a thick mist or fog, and the silence was so eerie after nearly thirteen hours inside that noisy plane. I could only hear the whoosh, whoosh sound of the wind blowing through my shroud lines, and then I heard a loud crash and explosion. My plane! Looking for my flashlight, I groped through my bag with my right hand, finally pulled it out and shined it down toward the ground, which I still could not see. Finally I picked up a glimmer of water and thought I was landing in a lake. We’re too far inland for this to be ocean. I hope! I relaxed my legs a little, thinking I was about to splash into water and would have to swim out, and then bang.

I jolted suddenly and crashed over onto my side. Lying there in just a few inches of water, I raised my head and put my hands down into thick mud. It was rice paddy! There was a burning pain, as if someone had stuck a knife in my stomach. I must have torn a muscle or broke something. I laid there dazed for a few minutes, and after a while struggled up to my feet. I dug a hole and buried my parachute in the mud. Then started trying to walk, holding my stomach, but every direction I moved the water got deeper. Then I saw some lights off in the distance. I fished around for my flashlight and signaled one time. Sensing something wrong, I got out my compass and to my horror saw that those lights were off to my west. That must be a Jap patrol! How dumb could I be! Knobby had to be back to my east, so I sat still and quiet and did not move. It was a cold dark lonely night.

At 0100 hours I saw a single light off to the east. I flashed my light in that direction, one time. It had to be Knobby! I waited a while, and then called out softly, “Knobby?” And a voice replied “Mac, is that you?” Thank goodness, what a relief! Separated by a wide stream, we sat on opposite banks of the water communicating in low voices. After daybreak Knobby found a small rowboat and came across to get me. We started walking east toward the rest of the crew and away from that Japanese patrol. Knobby had cut his hip when he went through the hatch, but it wasn’t too awful bad. We walked together toward a small village and several Chinese came out to meet us, they seemed friendly enough. I said, “Luchu hoo megwa fugi! Luchu hoo megwa fugi!” meaning, “I am an American! I am an American!”

Later that morning we found the others. Williams had wrenched his knee when he landed in a tree, but he was limping along just fine. There were hugs all around. I have never been so happy to see four guys in all my life! Well, the five of us eventually made it out of China with the help of the local Chinese people and the Catholic missions along the way. They were all very good to us. Later they were made to pay terribly for it, so we found out afterwards.

For a couple of weeks we traveled across country. Strafed a couple of times by enemy planes, we kept on moving, by foot, by pony, by car, by train, and by airplane. But we finally made it to India. I did not make it home for the baby’s birth. I stayed on there flying a DC-3 “Gooney Bird” in the China-Burma-India Theatre for the next several months. I flew supplies over the Himalaya Mountains, or as we called it, over “The Hump” into China.

When B-25s finally arrived in India, I flew combat missions over Burma, and then later in the war, flew a B-29 out of the Marianna Islands to bomb Japan again and again. After the war, I remained in the Air Force until 1962, when I retired from the service as a Lt. Colonel. We then came back to Texas, my beautiful Texas. First moving to Abilene and then we settled in Lubbock, where Aggie taught school at MacKenzie Junior High. I worked at the S & R Auto Supply, once again in an atmosphere of machinery, oil, and grease.

I lived a good life and raised two wonderful sons that I am very proud of. I feel blessed in many ways. We have a great country, better than most folks know. It is worth fighting for. Some people call me a hero, but I have never thought of myself that way, no. But I did serve in the company of heroes. What we did, will never leave me. It will always be there in my fondest memories. I will always think of the fine and brave men that I was privileged to serve with. Remember us, for we were soldiers once and young.

With the loss of all aircraft, Doolittle believed that the raid had been a failure, and that he would be court-martialed upon returning to the states. Quite the contrary, the raid proved to be a tremendous boost to American morale, which had plunged following the Pearl Harbor attack. It also caused serious doubts in the minds of Japanese war planners. They in turn recalled many seasoned fighter plane units back to defend the home islands, which resulted in Japan’s weakened air capabilities at the upcoming Battle of Midway and other South Pacific campaigns.

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Edgar “Mac” McElroy, Lt. Col., U.S.A.F. (Ret.) passed away at his residence in Lubbock, Texas early on the morning of Friday, April 4, 2003.