Wednesday, November 4, 2009

High Stakes, High Standards

I’ve always had high standards for other people.

It all started as a young girl, trying to get a ride in a particular airplane with a particular pilot. It may have looked like I was a typical “ramp rat” at the fly-ins and airshows, flying with anyone who would take me. But each pilot/plane combination was the result of careful observation as I calculated the risk/reward ratio—obvious then even to me.

I learned it from my Dad, actually. He taught me not to fly with anyone that I didn’t feel comfortable with. “Fly with only the best—it IS your life on the line, after all”, I remember him saying.

So I watched for evidence of “only the best”.

I watched how other pilots flew, the decisions they made, the way they cared for their airplanes, the stories they told before and after their flights, the way they swaggered (or didn’t), the claims they made about their own flying, and even what they said about other pilots.

I learned quickly who to avoid. I considered boasting crass, and hot-dogging the lowest of the low. But those too timid gave me warning signs just as obvious.

On my A-list: a humble confidence, a clear decisiveness, a quiet patience, an eye for endless detail, a love and trust of the plane herself, a joy in sharing the sky with another…that’s what attracted me every time.

As a result of my observations and my choices, I’ve flown in some magnificent aircraft with some magnificent pilots--the best of the best, in the best. Antique to Warbird to Classic. Wunderkind to Veteran to Legend.

A few weeks ago however, I felt an old stirring in my gut. And it hurt my heart to feel it, but I couldn’t deny it. My husband wanted me to fly with him, in an airplane I knew little about.

Now, you must understand, I hadn’t seen Kerry fly in a very long time. Years ago, he had been the finest pilot I knew, knowing his airplane, knowing the landscape, knowing the weather, knowing his limitations and those of his airplane. I’d seen him land hundreds of times, and they were landings beautiful to behold, grace in motion, the perfect harmony of man, intention, and aerodynamics. He’d flown on land, on floats, in weather, in different planes.

Trouble was, here we were in 2009…and I hadn’t seen him fly on his own in ages. I hadn’t seen him takeoff, climb, get in the pattern, and land again. I hadn’t seen him taxi out, and taxi in again. I didn’t have enough data to make a good decision.

And so, my stomach aching, I told him that I wouldn’t fly with him…not yet. Not until he proved himself worthy.

Well, I didn’t actually tell him in THOSE words, but he knew it in an instant. I could see the reaction on his face. With all his hours, with all our history flying together in the past, how could I possibly not want to fly with him??? But he didn’t say anything. His face went a little steely is all, and then he told a friend of ours (in my presence I might add) that I refused to fly with him. (Aw, man…now what have I done?)

Still, I could hear my Dad’s voice, distant in my ears after so many decades, but just as powerful in my gut…”fly with only the best”. I just couldn’t force myself to do anything less. If this was a “deal-breaker”, well then, I’d have to live with that.

That afternoon, Kerry decided to go flying in a J-3 Cub (really, he wants to fly in this rain???) (Yes, the photos I included 2 blog entries ago are from this very event.)

I took shelter inside, overlooking the runway. The day was pretty dreary, but hey, Kerry was a bush pilot. He knew how to fly in the rain.

I had to see him meet my standards. And he knew very clearly, without me saying a word, what he needed to do.

He took off and it was fine. (Hard for anyone with as many hours as he has to screw that up, I rationalized.) He pulled up, got back into the pattern and back around, and the moment of truth….the landing.

Which I couldn’t see…

There was a big tree blocking the view. (Aaargh!)

He flew the pattern again….and again set up for a landing. As if he could read my thoughts, he floated farther down the runway so I could see it this time, before settling gently to earth (well done!) then up again… more time around, and this time he slipped it in sideways, and oh man….is that him landing on one wheel??? (A good practice for crosswinds, it had that definite element of “Look….See????? that was meant just for me. Not grandstanding, just simply demonstrating what he could do if necessary.) And again up and around one more time, this time to land on a very specific piece of grass, a landing perfectly timed to settle on that patch of grass alone.

When he came in, he grinned and said, “So…did I pass?“

I smiled, “Whatever are you talking about?”

But I hugged him, thrilled and relieved, and sighed “Nice job”.

That night on the drive home, I told him about what I’d learned from my Dad. And how my commitment to that wisdom had kept me safe all these years. I’d also learned what excellence looked like, sounded like, and even felt like, even if I wasn’t yet a pilot myself.

With that, he felt much better, knowing that it was advice from my father that I’d taken very seriously—so seriously that I didn’t even let the fact that it was my husband that was in question sway me from it.

Then he said a little wistfully, "I only hope my daughter values my advice as much as you valued your Dad's."

I hope so too.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Beauty of the Line

I don’t know how many clients I’ve had where these questions come up:

  • What should I be doing with my life?
  • Am I sure I’m doing the right thing for me?
  • How do I know when it’s right?
  • How do I get myself on the right track?

As part of the “provocative conversation” that makes up the framework of my coaching, we normally go and explore all kinds of things: strengths, preferences, joys, passions, talents, skills, and even the I-don’t-know-why-I-just-feel-drawn-to-it places.

That’s a beginning. Then we explore strategies…what has worked in the past? For others? What has failed miserably? What are the “best practices” that might need some reworking?

Then perhaps we go to some areas more subtle: What’s my image of myself, and could it use some reframing? What do I fear the most? What am I pretending not to know?

So many questions, yet after awhile, they all seem to come together to form a new picture and help bring on a transformation, filled with focus, purpose and power.

But lately, I’ve had those same questions for myself. I love the new focus on learning to fly, but in other areas I’ve felt like not enough of my own life was coming back to me. Like standing waiting for the tennis ball to come back over the net, and being really disappointed. Problem was, I hadn’t lobbed one over the net to start with. (Well, duh....No purpose or power in that!)

Somehow, I’d become very dependent on others’ actions, it seems. Waiting for others to make their move, waiting for others to DO something, SAY something, WRITE something...for something to HAPPEN…and only then would I respond. And little my little, my own momentum towards something great (okay…towards anything) was fading away.

It was a simple video on the internet that woke me up, part of my new passion to absorb most things aviation-related--an interview with the new National Champion of the 2009 Breitling Unlimited Gold Race at the famed Reno Air Races: Steven Hinton, Jr.

At only 22, Steven won the day with a blistering average speed of over 491 mph, and an elegantly perfect race. In so doing, he also claimed the Youngest Champion record from the previous record-holder: his own father, Steve Hinton, Sr. It’s a wonderful story, and a more humble champion you will never meet—except perhaps for his dad. (You can get the video podcast here. If this link doesn't work, go to the official site.)

In this interview, Steven talks about how he managed to take over first place from his starting spot in second. Here’s what he said:

”…with the line I fly, it was time to start turning, and Will [the pilot ahead of him] hadn’t started turning yet, so I stayed above him and gave him space, and started my turn, and he was gone underneath me and…[laugh] never looked back from there.”

Wow…In this simple description of what Steven did, I found 12 distinct coaching elements, with huge value for anyone pursuing anything!

Here’s what I heard (much more wordy, but you’ll see where I’m going with this):

“I have a very specific plan to achieve my goal; it’s one that I know well and am comfortable with, and it tells me what to do, and when to do it. My job is to follow that plan. What another person does, or doesn’t do, doesn’t affect my plan. I don’t need to push another out of his/her plan, since mine brings me what I want. When what I want is ahead of me, there’s no reason to be concerned with anything else.”

Now, I’m certain Steven didn’t think he did anything special with that interview; he simply described what he did. (But isn’t it amazing how we help each other, even unintentionally? He’ll never know the effect his words had on me, and he probably wouldn’t really care. He’s too busy focusing on the next perfect line for him to fly—as he should be.)

So with huge thanks to Steven anyway, I'm posing this question to myself and for all my clients in the future (you may take it on as well, if you like):

What exactly is the line that I’m going to fly?

Because, with the answer to this one question, everything changes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Starting before I've Begun

Well, that last blog entry sure was somethin' huh? Yep. Wow.....really, really, really hard to follow that one.

For quite some time, I was dealing with the abrupt way I "came back down to earth" in such a shocking way. Such a contrast! And for a while afterwards, I wasn't sure where to go with it I really pursue this flying thing?

My coaching clients were all asking me...what was I going to do? So more than any other coaching idea for this blog, this one kept coming back as the most important to talk was time to begin.

So I decided....on a trip to New Mexico to see my dear friends and business partners. That trip helped me say it out loud: "I have decided to learn to fly."

Of course, being ME, I have to do it differently, and so I've decided to learn in old wonderful, vintage, gorgeous, taildraggers. In Champs and Vagabonds and Cubs. What are those, you ask?

Here's a view from across the airfield of my husband Kerry flying a Cub last weekend. (I watched him prove his many pilot skills to me that day...more on that later!)

Isn't it a sweet little thing? It wants to fly, it begs to fly, it can't help but fly.

Not for me is the modern, tin can, oh-my-gosh-I-can't-breathe-in-here tricycle gear CessnaCherokeeBonanza-type airplane. No thank you. (Big exception for old warbirds, though....there's something about THAT kind of big metal that just gives me goosebumps flying in them. But they're not for me to learn in, yet.)

Why not the modern ones? Because I love those old ones, and because it seems like THAT is "real" flying to me...the way we all learned how to do it in the 1930's and 40's. (I say "we" even though I wasn't there; I was born too late.) Slow and steady and with the door/window open if possible.

So the next natural question: who is going to teach me? (Part of me thought 'Ah, I get it...that's how you'll put this off....there's no one around anymore who will teach you in those old things'. Yes, that part of me was really surprised when it took only two weeks for my instructor to appear in my life.)

Rick Kay is an instructor with many hours in taildraggers, and even more hours flying with the airlines, both domestic and international. He's a quiet softspoken man, whom we first met a couple of years ago when we drove into his yard because he had a grass strip, and we couldn't resist finding out who was the owner of it. I had forgotten he was an instructor.

And he had me at hello....well at "baby steps".

It happened at the local aviation chapter meeting at the airport, when Kerry described my journey so far, and when I squinched up my face at the idea of learning all the "stuff" that pilots have to learn. Rick just turned to me and said, "Just start with baby steps....we'll start you with taxiing."

Taxiing. That's the airplane moving on the ground. What a concept!!!! I had never heard anyone... ever...suggesting to me THAT part of learning to fly...EVER.

I had just come from an aerobatics lesson, remember. I was learning how to loop, roll, hammerhead and spin, before I even knew the basics of taking off and landing....which is typical for me. I learned how to skate backwards in a circle, ala Peggy Fleming, before I learned how to stop (although crashing into people and objects seemed to do the trick). I learned how to do a ballet double pirouette before I learned what a simple plie' was (and plie's were SUCH a bore after that).

But this was perfect. Rick became my instructor right then and there, with the idea of taking me back to basics, even when I had already jumped months ahead of standard training. He knew that even with all my experiences, I knew nothing yet. And surprisingly, that was enormously comforting.

I am a beginner. Oddly, a beginner with years of experience, but a beginner nonetheless. And that's challenging to feel like I'm a novice at something after all these years of being expert at most things--to know that I will fail, and make mistakes, and screw up, and not know. (So...ummmm....why am I doing this again, exactly?)

Because after a while, I will know and I will be good, really good even, and that airplane will be an extension of me, and I will have WINGS!

All right....deep we go.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The next Lesson

And after being at 3000 feet and spinning and looping and rolling in the sky, I climbed in the car with Kerry for the average, earthbound, boring 2.5 hour drive home.

At least, that’s what we thought…until the collision.

The unexpected comes so quickly…it’s always in a rush.

Fifteen minutes after my lesson, stopped for the bottleneck of traffic on 405, the Blazer came up behind us way too fast...And didn't stop in time.

Bang (Whoa, ouch my head), BANG (WHOA, ouch my HEAD)! Then the sound of shattered glass and metal pieces hitting the road.

And in that moment, my beloved open-cockpit car was destroyed, both ends crushed.

The back of my head felt hot and my first thought was “What was THAT?”

Wait a minute, I had just been up in the air, triple-belted in and parachute-safe, dancing with the Decathalon alone in the sky, with my instructor guiding me every step of the way. I’d been suspended above all this earth-heavy traffic, where I was diving and spinning and upside down for goodness sake. It was all smooth and free and thousands of feet between me and the next hard object.

Still shaky with disbelief, I saw my husband ask if I was okay, get a nod from me, and steer what remained of our car, creaking and groaning, to the shoulder. Adrenaline-fueled, he had to shove the door to get it to open, and went immediately to the other cars to see if everyone was okay. Meanwhile there was something warm and wet on my face, and my touching it showed red-orange on my hand….am I bleeding already?

Funny color though….and the taste confirmed it:

It was ketchup.

Ketchup, not blood, ketchup from the hamburger I had to have after my lesson because I was starving, and I laughed. What a funny little movie this was, that used ketchup for blood, which was smeared now all over the right side of my face.

Kerry was feeling sore, but still in action talking with the other drivers, looking at the remains of our car, and the damage to the others. Not much to the tank of a pickup in front of us, just a scratch really. But our whole front was mushed, lights smashed, and the bumper pointed strangely down to the pavement. To the car behind us, well, his front did not fare well either, and it dripped radiator fluid yellow green on the ground. The driver was hugely apologetic and I felt so sorry for the despair in his voice. “This has never happened to me before…I can’t believe it. I’m so sorry.” My heart went out to him. Poor guy.

Being in the middle of all this, literally, is not a good place to be for a car, and the image of an accordion is an accurate one, all crumpled at each end. Our rear doors wouldn't even open anymore. Suddenly uncomfortable with being in the middle of that crushed metal, I got out and tried to do something useful, while Kerry thoughtfully took photographs of the damage.

Kerry came back to check on me…was I sure I was all right? I said I thought I was, but he dabbed at a little red spot near my eye. “It’s ketchup,” I said, smiling. “No, it won’t go away,” he said. “I think you’ve got a cut.”

In moments it seemed, a fire truck arrived, blocking the following traffic from running over us and the shattered debris we’d left behind. Strong men with too much equipment on came over to ask if we were feeling dizzy, could we breathe all right, and did we feel we needed any hospital attention.

I said the back of my head hurt, and so did my neck. Kerry said the same, and that he had a bruise and tightness where the shoulder belt went across his chest. He’d seen it all developing in his rear view mirror in that split second, had his foot hard on the brake, and had been bracing for the impact so he got it worse than I did, me being oblivious to what was coming, and not hearing him say “brace yourself”. I was actually fairly relaxed during impact, and that might have helped.

Since no one needed the EMT’s expert help right then, after a short cleanup they moved on, leaving behind a jovial police officer who was happy to have a case like this: no one drunk, no one yelling, no one seriously hurt.

Next on the list: How do we get home? We’re over 100 miles away at this point, and the Seattle rush hour is just beginning!

We decide to barnstorm it. Limp ourselves home. The tune “On a Wing and a Prayer” started playing in both our heads, and I could imagine that WWII B-17 coming in all shot up, but still bringing her boys safe home anyway. I sang the chorus:

Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer

Look below, there’s a Field over there.

With a full crew aboard,

And our Trust in the Lord,

Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer.

With phoned-in advice from our Subaru expert friend Chuck, our eyes on the temperature gauge, and our ears tuned to hearing any new grinding sounds, we watched for the best “emergency landing” shoulders all the way back. Hours later, we made it, just as it got dark. Chuck had left a key in one of his dealer cars, so that we could land on his car lot and have a way home too. (What a blessing good friends are!)

It was only when we pulled into our own driveway that we took some deep breaths….and were so very, VERY thankful that we weren’t killed, hospitalized, or stranded on the side of the road.

Today's lesson was an unexpected one:

Aerobatic flying is safer than driving a car!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lesson One

To begin, I must say thanks to so many of you who sent me personal notes of support and enthusiasm for my first aerobatics lesson. Your just being there helped me more than you’ll ever know, and seeing your emails was just terrific.

Best of all was a little note from Patty Wagstaff. For those of you who do NOT know aviation and aerobatics, Patty is pure Royalty in that arena, and has been forever, in my book, Queen of Aerobatics. (I read an interview where she once said that she was more comfortable in the air than on the ground!)

Patty, I don’t know if that’s really true, but I was so touched by your little note inquiring if I’d yet had my lesson, THANK YOU! And I decided to bring out my “Inner Patty Wagstaff” today. I told myself,

“I am fearless. I love the sky more than the ground. I make this airplane an extension of myself, right here and now. I don’t “just do it”, I am naturally good at it. This airplane loves to fly, loves to do aerobatics, and loves me too, just as I love it. This is going to be AWESOME!”

Here I am pretending to be Patty, but with Will's lovely Decathalon:

And, yes, okay, I had to dress the part too. Flightsuit, aerobatic shoes (yes the right ones are important…and yes, mine happen to have tiny sparkles on them) and everything.

Hey, I figured if I was going for it, I needed to go all the way! But look, Will's shoes are the same kind as mine...I'm not crazy for getting these...he just doesn't have the sparkles.

(Huge thanks to my patient husband, Kerry, who took all these pictures and dozens more, especially of my sparkly shoes...)

By the way, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better instructor! Will Allen was PERFECT for me. Being a musician himself, he knew how key my dance background was, so he let me make my dance analogies everywhere, just so I could “get it” in a way that worked for me. He gave me an extensive briefing before we even rolled the plane out of the hangar, showing me the different attitudes of the plane through the various maneuvers, and I followed his movements, using my dance training to help my body learn it quickly.

Here's Will explaining the movements of the airplane to me, and me following along with the control movements needed to make it happen that way. He's describing first a Roll, then a Hammerhead:

You see, in learning a new piece, dancers just follow the choreographers movements at first, just so their bodies will remember it. Next, they take it apart piece by piece so they understand it, and then they practice each piece so that they get all the fine details of it. Finally they set it to music, to bind the count and the movements together….and then they practice it all over and over and over and over until their minds let go of the technicalities and focus on the finer nuances of character and emotion, leaving the body to remember the rest.

I have a feeling that’s a very similar process to what aerobatic pilots do (Will, Patty, Steve, feel free to weigh in here) except maybe they don’t focus as much on the physical movements so quickly. Perhaps they think about it in aviation terms more….but I didn’t have that background, so I used what I had. And Will said that I caught on a little better than some of his pilot students, perhaps because I wasn’t thinking too much about it. I was just feeling the motion of it all.

But I'm getting ahead of's Will showing me the controls and what I'll be doing with them. I was ready to just jump in the airplane and go, but this turned out to be extremely valuable since I was going to be doing a LOT of important stuff with mixture, prop rpm, trim and more:

Me starting the Decathalon...woo-hoo, let's get flying!

So here’s what I did:

First of all I flew the plane to the aerobatics airspace, about 10 minutes away. (Did you catch that….I FLEW it there, not Will, ME!!! Me the Passenger was really thrilled, as you can tell, but Me the Pilot was like, “and you’re making this a big deal because….? Sister, the Decathalon is doing the work of flying, you’re just asking her to do stuff! Get over yourself!”)

I did some turns just to get the feel of the airplane and did lots of adjusting the controls from the front, which Will instructing behind me couldn’t reach. I climbed to gain altitude and dove a bit to lose it when I was too high.

And then he uttered those famous words, “Let’s begin with Level Flight.”

Once I got that down, he demonstrated the maneuvers we talked about in the hangar, and I followed lightly on the controls while he did them.

Then I did:

2 Aileron Rolls (all by myself, the second one without any coaching from him)—imagine the airplane rolling to one side, all the way through being upside down, to righting itself at the end. Let’s see if I remember: Gain airspeed, level it briskly, pull to 30 degrees up, take a breath, stick quickly/firmly over left and hold until you’re upright again and stick smoothly back to neutral…Ta-Da! Aileron Roll.

2 Loops (all by myself, and on the last one I caught my own wake turbulence…which is a good thing, meaning I was lined up with my previous starting point. It’s not really an accurate way of telling that you’ve done it right, says Will, but for us beginners, it’s something to brag about, so I’ll take it!)

1 Hammerhead (which he helped me through…man that’s more complicated than it looks!)—that’s pulling the airplane straight up until it can’t go up anymore, then kicking the rudder to turn it into a dive straight down, then pulling up smoothly to recover.

And then he did a 2-rotation spin at the end, just for fun.

Will said we pulled 4 G’s during our session. And oh, it was so lovely…..flying around with the little grey clouds scuttling by, which opened politely in time to create a little box in the sky for us to play in.

I flew back all the way to the airport, just following Will’s instructions until he took over and landed.

TA-DA! I did it!

And for the very first time in my life, I can really imagine me flying an airplane of my own. Going up by myself, and just deciding “a roll would feel really good right now”, and doing one….or two. And hey, a roll just isn’t a roll without a loop to pair it with (like a fine wine with a fine cheese, they just go together).

Will signed my log book, gave me a final hug, and was off to his next lesson.

And after being at 3000 feet and spinning and looping and rolling in the sky, I climbed in the car with Kerry for the average, earthbound, boring 2.5 hour drive home.

At least, that’s what we thought…

Until the collision.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Passion and Practicality

With the last entry I wrote, I find I’m now on a totally different Road.

The sign for this road glows neon-orange in my headlights:

Junction of Passion and Practicality

(Watch out for Rocks)

Ignoring the sign, I keep going: what would my life be like, totally immersed in a Passion? Something for which I was uniquely suited, trained since childhood, good at, no…great at! Something few others could do, were currently doing, or had ever done. Something that nourished me on purpose and inspired others by accident.

Enter the images of comparison…friends who are already living Large. Living their dreams, their loves…their unique skills, talents, experience, and history combining to give them all they need to live every day in joyful demonstration of who they are.

--Sound like a fairy tale? It isn’t. I know these people. Some are well known to many, like my dear friend, author Alan Cohen. He is one of the most passionate men I’ve ever known, and I love being around him. He is magnificently present to his feelings, his expressions, and his connection with everything and everyone. He does things for the Joy of it in the moment. Is he ever distracted? Sure. Ever wrestle with a problem? Of course. But his life seems to be…enchanted.--

And I know other enchanted lives, too: Teachers, pilots, writers, dancers, foundation directors, and mechanics. People who transform with their gentle instruction, awe with their flying skill, move with their words on the page, captivate with their movements on the stage, feed with their generosity, and breathe new life with their reconstructions.

Setting aside my aching jealousy for the lives they lead (you know who you are, my friends), I ask myself: How did they DO that?

A tiny voice says: One step, one decision, one opportunity at a time, that's how.

Well, that’s fine for them…not for me…I need to be Practical. (Aw, man, I forgot about the sign. Now the battle begins.)

“You can’t go gallivanting (is that how you spell that?) off and do loops and spins in the sky…You’ve got to pay the bills, you’ve got to earn money/be responsible/have health insurance/buy bonds/clean the bathroom.”

“You can’t have fun writing this blog forever….You’ve got to pay the bills, you’ve got to earn money/be responsible/have health insurance/buy bonds/clean the bathroom.”

“You can’t help start a historic air museum on a purely volunteer basis….You’ve got to pay the bills, you’ve got to earn money/be responsible/have health insurance/buy bonds/clean the bathroom.”

Ugh…Practicality is so BORING; it says the same thing every time. But the voice has great power in the FEAR it instills in me…the fear of what would happen if I couldn’t pay those bills.

It is a huge trap, with spikes for teeth, and I get caught in it just about every single time.

Except this once. Because I am now moving towards something that takes my breath away.

And Practicality (in the most limited definition of the word) can’t just sit around and whine in such a rarefied atmosphere; there's simply not enough oxygen for it in my breathless state…I have forced it out of the plane, sans parachute.

“One step, one decision, one opportunity at a time.” But am I patient enough for that?? Can I possibly hold my breath that long?

Well, I guess we’ll see…come Monday, on the occasion of my first aerobatics lesson, the weather is supposed to be gorgeous, and Will Allen will be waiting for me at noon. After dancing a bit in the sky, we’ll see just how hooked I am, and just what kind of Passion awaits.

You’ll be the first to know.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Before and After (Part Two)

Yep, that’s how I left you last time. (My very first cliff-hanger!)

But it’s true….Like Amy, I’ve been buried in “stuff” too. Old, moldy, dusty stuff with huge expectations and heavy-as-concrete images of who I am in the world.

Clearing out Amy’s items was a no-brainer—hey, I wasn’t attached to any of her things, so it was easy for me to say “throw it out” if it didn’t align with who she was.

And working with her, and talking with a few others this week, who are passionate about what they do, and experts in it, an old image came back. An image of myself that has haunted me my entire life…and that is:

Despite the deep and famous connection with flying held by my father, mother, brothers, sister, husband, and long-time friends, I am a not a pilot…I’m only a passenger.

Now, I love flying, I love aerobatics especially, and I am the “best passenger in all the world”, but I am not a pilot.

Until now…

Here’s BEFORE:

This woman is a Passenger.

She is bright and enthusiastic, but prone to doubt and despair at her untested qualities as a pilot. She can’t stand the thought of making a mistake, of doing something that other pilots consider “stupid”, of being judged for her landings, and of being expected to find her way around confusing countryside, scary control zones, and safely back to the airfield.

Sadly, many years of this image had etched itself into being The Truth for her.

Then…something began to shift. Will Allen (air show performer, award-winner, instructor) performed at the Arlington Fly-in (he combines his love for music and flight as he sings the National Anthem while doing aerobatics). It was such a unique combination; I’d never seen anything like it, and it stirred me somehow. The announcer said something about aerobatics lessons, and my husband gently said, “You should do that.” (Me? Do that?)

Next…my sister Erika weighed in with lovely stories of little flights she did in Mom’s Champ when she was only 17. She just flew solo to her summer job every day. No big deal. “It’s all about muscle memory,” she says. “You’re a dancer; you know what that feels like.” (Hmmmm…I do know that. Is it really that easy? But hello, dance is on the ground.)

Next…A flight in a Hatz biplane with Bob Weeks and his voice in my headset “Let’s just have her dance a little bit here” as he pulled the plane nose up, 3000 feet high, onto the edge of stall and just sat there, wavering from side to side, him knowing the exact feel of his airplane’s limits. “She wants to spin,” he said. “Then let’s let her!” came my reply, and we fell out of it into a quick little turn and a half. (This time, it wasn’t the spin that was exhilarating…it was the thought: I wonder what that would feel like, to have an airplane in my own hands, playing with the edge like that?)

Once again…the idea returns. What would it be like to take an aerobatics lesson??? (The little voices scream inside, “Are you INSANE??? You are terrified of making a simple landing and now you say you want to make an airplane loop, spin, and hammerhead? What is wrong with you—it can’t be done that way.”)

More pilots weigh in…and a disconcerting number of conversations end with, “you’re thinking too much”. (I know….but….)

Finally, one memorable conversation got my attention, “You cannot fly in fear. You have to fly from WANTING it.” (Whoa. New concept here. I’ve been able to get rides with wonderful pilots and aircraft ever since childhood. It came so easily, I’ve never needed to want it. It was always just…there.)

A few days later, I’m alone, driving along in my “open-cockpit car” (our Subaru with the extraordinarily large sunroof, open as usual). The music is turned up loud to Kenny Loggins, and all of a sudden, I am transformed…..

I am an aerobatic pilot.

I see everything. I judge distance and speed and timing. I glide in and out of formations with other cars. I apply power when I need it, and sometimes just for the feel of being pressed into the seat. I am precise, but relaxed. I am happy. I am powerful. I WANT this feeling…and all of Creation seems to smile back at me as I zoom past it.

I finally IS dancing….but in the SKY!!! And suddenly, I get it: My love for dance and flying can connect!

And guess who is the only instructor in this entire area for that….Will Allen, the singing aerobatic pilot. (Yes, I’ve left him a message, but he’s flying an airshow this weekend, so my lesson will have to wait.)

Waiting or not, it doesn’t matter. I am a duckling no more. And here’s my AFTER photo to prove it.

This woman is a Pilot.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Before and After (Part One)

Well, I’m back from my travels!

With every adventure I come back changed, and this was no exception.

This time, I flew from Birch Bay to LA to help Amy get her life back from the clutter that had overtaken her apartment (Amy is a friend, coaching client, and part of my Shaklee business organization). I don’t normally do this, but there was an urgency about it that just made it feel right.

I took with me the inspiration of my sister’s re-energizing of my own home (see previous postings), and couldn’t wait to re-create the experience with Amy too. Now there are plenty of places who will come in to clean your house, or organize your files, or re-do your interior design. But I wanted to do something more….I wanted to transform Amy’s place into an orderly oasis of peace and spaciousness, so that she could BE who she truly wanted to BE in the world.

But the sheer amount of “stuff” choking Amy’s apartment was truly daunting, and it took 2 separate trips to make a dent in it. But Amy was courageous…she pushed on with me, even when it was obvious she wanted to quit.

Afterwards, she wrote me about her experience:

Once upon a time, there was a gal who let her living space get so full of stuff that it got out of control. It seemed to reach a point of no return. Friends and relatives tried to help. Each would make a dent, but in the end, the task was too much. One day, along you came, with the patience of a saint and a positive attitude that would not quit.

In spite of my feelings of failure, you were able to inspire me by pointing out my strengths. Every time I completed a task, you reinforced me and taught me to appreciate myself for what I did.

Where others might cave in and give up, you made it into a fun game, fitting puzzle pieces together one by one. Like the Rubik’s Cube, where certain color blocks are moved out of the way so that others can return to their matching color line, you helped me find space where there seemed to be none, categorize obstacles, move them out of the way and strategically put them back where they belong.

I loved how you put “Whistle While You Work” into practice, by encouraging me to put on my favorite CD’s, making the work so much more enjoyable. To finally be able to unbury my piano from years of clutter and play it again is such a gift. Thank you for helping me to welcome the music back to my living space.

Words can only begin to describe my gratitude for your help to organize my life. Now it’s up to me to put this start to good use. If I begin to feel discouraged, I will always remember the way you encouraged me, and the good feeling that I got from our work together will return.

Thank you! -- Amy

What was the secret that kept me going? Visualizing the “After” photo, even when we were still mired in the swamp of “Before”.

And isn’t that what any great effort does…takes such a clear shot of “What Can Be” that it pulls us forward into it, despite “What Seems to Be Now”?

Perhaps she’ll let me post Before and After photos sometime, and the fun of that would be in the celebration of transformation…the hurrah for change…the recognition of the freedom that she always knew was within her. This is how Life should be Lived!

Yet, for all my enthusiasm for her triumph, I was shocked by what was to come straight at me…and was completely unprepared for my OWN transformation.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Before and After (Part Two)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Posting via email

Howdy everyone. This time I'm posting this from a motel bed in Redondo Beach, CA, while I'm here on a business trip!

But I wrote a lovely (I think) blog about connection, and then odd little things started happening in my Blackberry with my cool little Bluetooth-connected keyboard, and I just can't risk sending it out into cyberspace with odd little periods and spaces in the wrong places! So it will have to wait, until I return home to check it out and make sure it's right.

Until then, stay tuned...I've started coaching a wonderful 12 year old, and he's teaching me a lot! Talk to you soon....Kristelle
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Photos from my Office Re-Energizing process

For all of you who requested it, here are the photos of my Office, Re-Energized!

Everything has a place, with lots of space in-between!

A new Work Station, all from things I already had.

This is my fountain, now with its own illumination, nicely highlighted. It makes a nice peaceful corner in the midst of all the activity.

The blue colors form a kind of wave throughout the office, with splashes of green here and there.

No more clutter on my's now used for my blogging ideas!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Inside and Outside

I have a new bedroom. And a new guestroom. And a new office....and living room. And I didn't move, I didn't purchase any new furniture, and I didn't spend much at all.

With the inspired guidance of my sister, Erika, all we did was move, remove, or replace. And because of that, my whole house breathes with a new energy. And strangely enough, so do I.

Now, I'm a firm believer in Inside first, then Outside. All change comes from Within, that I know. But how do I explain this??? Does this mean that my life experience is forever dependent on my surroundings? Am I a victim of my home furnishings?

Philip Humbert, PhD, is a coach and one of my favorite newsletter writers. One of his latest issues mentions the concept of a Personal Eco-System(tm). The idea is that "we succeed best when the environment supports us in accomplishing our most important tasks." He's even got a simple free assessment to help you figure out just how supportive yours is (or isn't).

Call it Feng-Shui, call it Interior Alignment, call it what you will, it works.

And looking at it all now, I see that my office (which had been crammed into one corner of the room because we had to have room for an air mattress for potential kids and guests), was not helping me get much done. Now, my office sweeps around the room in a graceful arc from Command Center to Action Center, with a quiet space in the middle for my little fountain, which gurgles happily away, playing with its shadow from the perfectly placed lamp.

So here's a thought...look around your office, bedroom, living room, even bathroom. Do you feel quiet and calm in rooms meant for rest? Are you energized to do more in rooms meant for activity? Are you inspired in rooms meant for creativity? If not, then something's amiss, out of place, or choked by too much stuff.

Want an assignment? Be courageous...change something. Change a lot if you like. Take this opportunity to REALLY make a shift in your space at work, at home, or even in your car. And then tell me if, by shifting your outside, you shifted your inside too.