Flying High

First off, let me preface this story by asserting that this never happened…  But it is a dream that I have had on several occasions, and I thought I would share it for the purpose of seeing a) if this is a dream other pilots have had, b) to get some perspective, and c) because few things are as much fun as taking a completely fictitious midair collision and ridiculing it to absurdity, which I know this group can do like no other.

In the first variety of this dream, I am paragliding in Eastern Washington somewhere, and a low flying jet plane manages to hook my wing over top of the jet engine.  My wing does not get sucked INTO the engine, but I’m sort of hanging from it, below the intake area, and bouncing around pretty fiercely underneath the wing.   It’s some kind of corporate jet, rather than a commercial jumbo-jet.  Anyway, I think about pulling my reserve, but decide against it because I am still otherwise attached to the plane.  I know that I need to detach first, so I pull out my hook-knife.

I recall hearing something about it being better to cut the risers than all the lines, so I do that.  Except that when I cut the first one, I end up hanging quite precariously sideways, and I find it quite difficult to reach up and cut the second one.  Plus, I’m still banging around on the underside of the wing having none-too-much fun.  Meanwhile, the plane has started descending rapidly for a landing, and I have no clue if they are even aware that I’m hanging on out there.  For all I know, they think they just sucked a pigeon into the engine.  I finally manage to cut the second riser, and as I’m in free-fall, I start to wonder when I should pull my reserve?

I mean, would I really have the wherewithal in that moment to be thinking that?  Probably not.  But in the dream, I’m trying to decide if I should pull right away, perhaps before I hit terminal velocity, or whether to wait until I get maybe a thousand feet or so off the ground.  It’s all moot, because I’m falling all topsy-turvy and can’t get myself into a stable position with my harness on, and when I see the ground, I know – PULL NOW!

The reserve deploys without error, and it turns out that I am right over some small airfield.  That’s when I see some corporate jet coming in for a landing with half of a paraglider wing draped over one engine, heading right towards me.  And it’s some time around here that I wake up.

In the second version of this dream, I’m flying in the Issaquah region, and I know that I am clearly VFR, and well under the 6K ceiling.  Then some small, single engine plane that is also flying VFR and under the ceiling runs into me, and my wing somehow goes over the nose, completely obscuring all the windows on the plane.  Never mind that the prop would have caught the lines and either torn them or wound me up.  This is a dream, so normal rules of physics that I’m sure people will comment on simply don’t apply.  I’m hanging well below this plane, and although I cannot see him, the pilot is probably freaking out.

Yes, I’ve just been hit by a plane, and for some reason, I’m worried about the other pilot.  Probably, that’s because he puts his plane into a steep climb, since he knows he was below the mountain peaks when he hit me.  Except that he rapidly breaks through the class Bravo, and though I know darn well that I’m not supposed to be there, I don’t think the other pilot knows that.

So we’ve got altitude, which means we have time, and I’m actually quite calm and collected at this moment.  I reach down for my radio, switch to 121.5, and ask to speak to somebody in Seatac Air Traffic Control.  They ask if they can put me on hold, and I tell them that I’m already on hold, on the underside of another aircraft, climbing through 8K now somewhere over Renton.  The ask for my call-sign, I tell them that I don’t have one, and they are about to hang up.  Wait a minute!  This is a RADIO, not a telephone!  You can’t hang up on me!

“Ma’am, this is Seatac ATC, and we serve the commercial and recreational pilot community.  I’m going to have to ask you to clear this channel.”

I try explaining my predicament to the person on the other end, but to no avail.  They simply don’t want to talk to me.  So then I ask for the frequency of the pilot with a paraglider over its windshield flying at my approximate location.

“Ma’am, what makes you think we know what frequency the other pilot is on?”

“Well, I’m pretty sure that if you stood up inside that control room of yours and asked ‘is anybody talking to a panicked VFR pilot who just lost all visibility?’ that somebody would speak up.  I need that idiot’s frequency.

So  manage to get the right frequency, switch my radio over, and find myself in the middle of a conversation with a very agitated, purely VFR pilot, and somebody else from ATC.  ATC is trying to calm this guy down, telling him that they have cleared traffic from the area, and that they will guide him down into Renton air field, but he has to level out, and then descend well below the 12K he’s flying at now, which explains why it’s so dang cold.

The ATC guy is a real professional… calm, soothing, and gets the VFR pilot’s head back on straight as he starts descending.  Part of me is thinking that I don’t want to do anything to upset this fellow, but I also still think that neither ATC, nor the VFR pilot have a clue what’s going on.  Finally, I interrupt with something innocuous like “Dude!  Are you the guy with a paraglider draped over your cockpit?”

“A what?”

“A paraglider.  It’s red, probably translucent, and depending on what part of the wing you’ve got up front, you might even see the word ‘Gin’ on your window somewhere.”

“Yes!  Yes!  So THAT’s what happened!  I hit a paraglider!  Now it makes complete sense.  How did you know?”

“Hang on for a second,” I tell him, and I somehow manage to knock on the bottom of his fuselage with my fist.  “Did you hear that knocking?”

“Yes!  What was that??”

“Good.  That was me.  It means I’m talking to the right idiot.  I’m the paraglider pilot on the other end of that wing, hanging out down here by your wheels… on the freaking OUTSIDE of your plane.”

At that point, the two of us actually start carrying on a casual conversation about the merits of each of our respective aircraft, when I get a brilliant idea.  I look down at my GPS, then direct the pilot on a course bearing 150 degrees for about 3 miles; then 0 degrees for a mile or two; then 310 degrees for a few miles.

Technically, I’m still on a paraglider flight – I launched from Tiger, and I’m still attached to my wing.  I’ve got this guy running Tiger-Tag points with me.  Let me tell you, Dave Wheeler’s gonna scream!

After raking up a few bazillion points, it dawns on me that I’ve still got to find a way to get both of us back on the ground.  I don’t actually remember the landing much, except that after we were on the ground, there was a fire truck, an ambulance, a few policemen, and more paperwork than I can describe.  Plus, I know that when the local flying club hears about this, I’m never going to hear the end of it.

By the time I get back home, it’s close to midnight, but I upload my GPS track to Leonardo and submit it for tiger-tag scoring.  Wheeler calls me first thing in the morning to say that he disqualified my flight because I broke airspace, and to point out where I could have scored a few more points.  Despite my best efforts to convince him that there was actually a working transponder and two-way communication with ATC, he simply refused to hear it.

And then I wake up.

Where Did You Go?

Hello, dear reader!  I’ve been blogging for ages about a variety of topics.  None are more dear to me than my letters for my children, which I started writing even before they were born.

Unfortunately, in the internet age where identity theft (and even child-theft) is rampant, I’ve had to take hundreds of posts offline from about the point of their birth.  The posts are still here,  and more are being added as the little darlings grow up.

If you’re a friend or family member, you are still welcome to see the Letters For My Children.
You’ll simply need to log in for them to be visible.

If you don’t have an account, please email me and I’ll happily send you one.

– Ashley

About that Book…

As part of a training program this past weekend, we had a rather odd exercise.  The task was to find three strangers, and to give each of them a dollar.  Also, to find three other strangers, and to ask for and receive a dollar.  There was a mixture of awkwardness, self judgment, and silliness as we undertook the task.  Most of us found it far easier to give a dollar away than to ask for it.  Yet even in that part, there were people who outright refused the money, almost as if there were something seriously wrong with the gift, or that perhaps they were being watched, or that maybe it was a setup.  Regardless of the reasons, many people simply could not accept an unexplained gift from a stranger.

The silliness came when parts of our class traveled in a group, and somebody up front would give a dollar away, and the recipient would then be asked by the end of the line for a dollar, and they would give back what they had just received.  Several people, myself included, were highly self-consciousness.  We were dressed reasonably well, and by looking at the faces of others whom we would ask for a dollar I could see responses ranging from surprise to confusion, to disgust.

At this point, one must be wondering what on earth this exercise could possibly be for or about.  At its core, it was about our relationship to money.  No matter how you look at it, three dollars is a trivial amount, and yet the feelings, doubts, fears, concerns, projections, and stories that we all have about money came rushing to the surface as surely as were we giving away or asking for a fortune.  If for that reason alone, there was value in the exercise.  But then I decided to go just a little farther, and at this point my story takes a turn for the bizarre.

I did not wish to travel with my peers, where the people I would encounter had just moments ago been asked to give or take a dollar by somebody else.  Instead, I wanted to go a bit farther away, and so I kept walking until I reached the bus stop in front of the opera house.  There, I found an elderly woman who was missing a few teeth and had all of her worldly possessions wrapped in a plastic bag inside a shopping cart.  She was wearing tattered cloths and kept herself warm with a blanket.  She had a plastic bag over the top of her head to keep it dry, and as she stood, she was permanently hunched forward, as if she were leaning on a cane that was not there.  This woman’s name was Edith, and I know this because she gave me a gift worth far more than the dollar that I gave to her.

You see, I had made a judgment that of the many strangers on the street, that she could probably make use of a dollar, and that to her, it might even be a considerable sum.  She had her back to me for a while, but when I met her gaze, I asked her if she would like a dollar.  She responded with a kindly “God bless you.”  At that moment, I was about to turn away and return to class, but then I hesitated.  I looked this stranger in the eye, and with all genuineness and sincerity, I asked her “How are you?” and her face lit up like angel’s.  Her voice was crisp and clean, her demeanor bright and cheerful, and her words were deeply profound.

Among many other things, including her two experiences with death, once by car and once by drowning, she had a story to tell.  Her story was of watching the paramedics working on her, and of speaking with God.  God gave her a choice to move on, or to return to earth.  She said she had no idea what moving on meant, and so she returned to her body.  She also told me that after those experiences, she knew that she could talk to God anytime that she wanted to.  And that with that unfettered access to God, she had learned that “No matter what, you never tell God what is wrong with your life.  Instead, you ask God to transform your life into something wonderful.”  Part of me wondered if she were a little crazy, but her words rang true regardless of the answer.  She said a few other things, but I kept thinking about her pearl of wisdom and how deeply it applied to my life.  But try as I might, I would have forgotten those words were it not for the following.

She asked me what I did for a living, and I told her that I am a professional coach.

“You mean like an athlete?” she asked.

I told her no, that I am a life coach.

At that she responded “Ahhh, yes, of course.  You are the one I saw in my dream last night.  God has a message for you.”

Without so much as a hint of doubt or skepticism, I smiled at her and said “I’m listening.”

“He says that you need to get started with writing that book you’ve been thinking about.”

Indeed I do.

Too much fun?

One of the things we worry about right now is whether we’ll be able to endure the amount of fun that you’re going to add to our lives all at once. One of your uncles has this theory of child-rearing that says there should always be one more adult than there are children. We won’t have that option right away. When you two come out, POOF! The numbers will be even. In some ways, that means that both of your momma’s get one of you, but in truth, it will take more than two of us to care for you in the beginning.

Thank goodness that at least one set of grandparents live near by, even if just to provide a temporary respite.

Right now may in fact be one of the easier parts of being a parent. You see, we get all the joy and excitement of knowing that you are coming, but none of the screaming, dirty-diapers, or sleepless nights. I think that 90% of the time now is spent in excitement and anticipation of your arrival. The other 10% consists of brief flashes of sheer, abject terror. Oh, and the poor dog… she has no clue what is coming our way. On the other-hand, we may let her give you the pre-wash after meals and before bath-time as a way to compensate her for the hair you are going to pull out with your tiny fingers.

Other family members tell us to appreciate things like “going out” and “sleeping in” while we can. We are told that it will be many nights — perhaps months, from when you are born to the time that we can actually sleep through an entire evening without being woken up. Well, little-ones, both of your momma’s really like to sleep in on weekends, and we’re going to miss that big time.

Changing Perspectives

People say that becoming a parent changes them. It’s already started. For one thing, in church today there were a number of children sitting behind us making noise. I heard the parents trying to keep their little-ones quiet, but with only partial success. And so now I’m thinking that your mommas are going to be in that spot by this time next year. So not only do I find myself more tolerant and gracious towards these parents, but I’m also paying attention to what works and what doesn’t.

We stopped by the library on the way home to pick up some travel books, and I found myself paying closer attention to the children’s section. It occurred to me that by this time next year, we may find ourselves in that part of the library quite a bit, looking for all manner and number of stories to read to you two.

We were also wondering how competitive you two are going to end up being with each other, and whether being boys, girls, or one of each will make a difference in what you compete on. Oh, there’s just so many things that will have to unfold, all in due time.

It’s like an incredibly interesting and intriguing story, part mystery, part adventure, part love-story. Today, we’re still in the prologue, but already I find myself so incredibly engrossed in the story that I’m eagerly looking forward to how it all turns out — to how you two turn out. Plus, there’s the notion that your mommas get to play a large role in the direction that the story goes, but that even at our very best, ours is merely a role of guidance, influence, and direction to you two, who will be the primary actors in the stories of your own lives.

The Bump

Hello, my little people! Momma-1 has been concerned about getting bigger around the middle, and not sure if that’s because she has not been going to the gym, or because you two are growing. I can confirm at this point that it’s definitely because you two are growing. Momma now has “the bump” on her tummy where you are taking up more room, and it’s not squishy enough to be flab. Momma is now 85cm across the belly button.

Sure, you two are going to make Momma absolutely huge before you come out into the world, but this still marks some of the early outward signs of all that is going in inside Call it an early victory bump. The other sign would be the morning sickness, but the bump is definitely more pleasant. Both of us out here have recently started telling more people about you two, and that we expect you to be born some time in July.

Names

I started writing this blog just a few days ago, so the past few posts have been a bit of catch-up. We’re just about to present-day with this post.

One of the oh-so-many things that your momma’s worry about is what we’re going to call you. So far, you’ve just been Babies A and B in the ultrasounds. Some time in late June or early July, when you are born, one of the first things we get to do is give you each names. These are names that will stick with you for the better part of your entire life. You’ll actually get several names over time. First will be your official names — this is what we’ll put on your birth certificates, documents, school enrollments, and so forth.

Then there will be the cutie names that we’ll actually call you. For example, no parent in their right mind would name their children “Stinker” and “Monkey”, but that’s what my dad called my brother and I growing up. Meanwhile, Momma-1 and her siblings were collectively known as Fargles.

But we can’t really pick names for you just yet because we don’t even know if you are both boys, girls, or one of each. You see, some names go better with boys, and some names go better with girls. But right now, your momma’s are just starting to toss around various ideas. I’m sure there will be much more on that later.

Of course, with two momma’s, we also get to decide what you are going to call each of us, too! Momma-1 will clearly be “momma,” but we’re not sure what we want you to call me just yet. I started by looking at the words for mother in various languages, and we may decide on something from one of these lists.

On the other hand, we may also stick with Emtu. It’s the sound of M-2, for Momma#2. I kind of like it because it’s unusual, but we’ll decide for sure some time before you’re born.

First Peek

The day we had our first ultrasound with you two was quite exciting (November 17, 2008). There were previous ultrasounds before we put you inside on that shaft of light. These were just to make sure that everything was ready for you before you were put inside of Momma-1. But after you were inside and it was time to check on you for the first time, well, at that time we didn’t know that there would be two of you. Sure, there we put two specs of dust in, but there was a chance that neither one of you would grow. So when we saw that not only did you grow, but that both of you were alive and well, oh what joy that brought!

Momma-1 was on the exam table while the ultrasound thing poked and prodded around, looking for where you two were hiding inside. I didn’t know the first thing about how to read an ultrasound, but I was pretty sure that there were two blobs in there. I didn’t dare say a word as I watched. Instead, I just let the doctor do her work and look around. Then she confirmed what I already suspected — twins. Yes, that’s when we learned that there were two of you for real. I almost cried right there in the doctors office. My mouth was wide open, and all I could think was WOW! Two of them! WOW!

At this point, you two were each less than an inch long, measured from head to tail. You don’t really have a tail… it just means the base of your spine. On the pictures, it’s hard to make out what you two actually are, but we know that you are to become our children. Well, you already are, except that we haven’t officially met yet.


In just so many ways, that thought is really bizarre. I mean, here you two are, growing inside Momma-1, we know about you, we can see you on ultrasounds, but to the rest of the world, you don’t exist yet. Nobody knows you are there unless we tell them about you, and even then, to them you are “future people” until you are born. But to us, you are oh so very real, alive, loved, and eagerly anticipated. You have heartbeats already, and we can see them. I’m just so excited for the chance to finally meet you when you arrive!

Waiting

It would be another 10 days before Momma-1 would get the pregnancy test, but I already knew she was pregnant. I don’t know how… I just knew. Momma-1, on the other-hand, was cautions, patient, and wanted concrete test results to be sure.

Oh, sure, many momma’s all over the world pee on a special piece of paper to see if they are pregnant, but that just gives a yes/no answer. The super doctors wanted to know HOW pregnant momma-1 was. OK, there’s pregnant, and not-pregnant, so the real question was how far along the pregnancy momma-1 was, and of HcG hormone levels. That’s what we were getting tested for. On November 3rd, 2008, we got the first test. I think we needed something above 300 to be a good score, and Momma-1 had something in the 600 range as I recall.

Never mind that the doctors who were actually measuring HcG, I could not help but think this was actually your Midi-chlorian count. That was all the more true when just two days later, the score had doubled.

Shortly after that, we really knew we were pregnant because momma-1 started getting sick in the morning. I did what I could to comfort her, but that’s not a great deal. She was in the bathroom praying to the porcelain god, and I had to put on a sympathetic face, all the while I’m thinking “goody goody!” because I knew that it meant the two of you were growing inside.

I decided to bring up a cushion that Momma-1 could kneel on when she got sick. She thought it was unnecessary at first, but as the queasiness continued, she started using it after all.

Hatching

OK, so I said you were hatched.

Normally, people think about birds like chickens being hatched, and not people. But you two, my dears, were definitely hatched. It’s something that those super doctors do with the very tiny people when they are somewhere around 6 days old — to the tiny spec of dust that eventually became the two of you.

You see, the doctors took you out of the freezer, and as soon as you started to thaw, you started growing again. For most people, it’s about nine months from when the sperm and egg come together, to when they are born. That would be true for you too, except that the time in the freezer counts as a time-out. Kind-of a time-out-of-time (TOOT) thing. While in the freezer, all your clocks were stopped, and the rest of the world got older while you two stayed about three to five days old.

Hatching, in this case, is the point when you two were still growing inside that tiny speck of dust that was the egg, and you started splitting from a small number of cells (maybe 24 or so), into something bigger than would fit inside the egg shell. When the super doctors looked at you under a microscope, this is what you looked like:

So at about four weeks prior to taking you two out of the freezer, your birth mommy had been making a nest for you inside her womb. She had been taking special medicines called hormones to make everything just right so that when you were taken out of the freezer and thawed out, that we could put you into someplace warm where you could grow.

To get you inside, the super doctors took a very small straw, sucked you up into it, and then blew the straw inside of Mommy’s womb. We got to watch the whole thing on TV. Well, OK, it wasn’t really TV — it was a computer screen that the doctor looked at to make sure that she was putting you exactly where you two could grow. When you were put inside, we couldn’t see you because you were way too small, but we could see the tiny air-bubble that you rode in on. It looked like the two of you arrived on a flash of light as the doctor blew on the straw. OK, it wasn’t really a straw either. It was the inside of a very tiny and flexible needle that was similar to a straw, only much smaller, longer, and softer, and to “blow” on it, the doctor used the other end of a syringe.

So that was how the two of you came into being.

At that point, we didn’t know if you would keep growing or not. All we knew was that we had placed these two, very tiny dust-specs inside of Mom, and we had to wait another two weeks just to find out for sure.

Of course, if you’re reading this, then you know how it turned out, but at this point in time, we were still pretty clueless. Hopeful, but clueless as to what would really happen. I’ll tell you about what happened next in my next post.