Lesson #19, 20 and 21

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Stats: 1 hour, 3 landings, .2 simulated instrument

Today’s lesson went better for me than last week’s lesson did.  The weather was beautiful and calm. We practiced slow flight first. I spent time in the foggles (view limiting device) practicing instrument work and did steep turns, power off stalls, and power on stalls. Mr. King said I showed improvement in the foggles.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Stats: .8 hours, 5 landings

Saturday, November 19, 2016

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Stats: 1 hour, 1 landing

It was windy today, so no pattern work, and we went to the practice area. I felt like something clicked and suddenly I was more coordinated. I was coordinating use of the aileron and rudder better when entering and rolling out of turns.

We did steep turns 45 degrees to the left and right a couple of times and I maintained altitude well. Then we did two power off stalls. I had begun to do the steps to recovery from a stall almost automatically prior to this lesson, but today it seemed like I was having to think about it too much. I also need to guard against accidentally turning slightly right when pulling up.

Then we did two power on stalls. I have never felt totally comfortable with those and today was no exception. The gusts of wind added to this. I just need to do more of them, maybe a few each week.

I asked to do steep turns again and so we did a couple more. Then 2 or 3 more power off and 2 more power ons, followed by more steep turns. I don’t remember exactly what order we did some of this in, but we also practiced slow flight and constant speed maneuvers.

Mr. King said I was doing a lot better today at everything especially keeping constant airspeed and staying within 100 feet on the step turns.

Even though today’s lesson was a lot more work because of 16-21 gusts and I was constantly adjusting something, it was a very satisfying and fun hour of flying. Mr. King said I did especially well considering the wind situation. The weather was pretty cool and the sky was beautiful. Looking down you could see spots of fall color, especially the isolated red trees. As an added bonus, it was a comfortable temperature in the cockpit.

Before the lesson I was worried I would have forgotten everything, or suddenly become newbie awkward again, but everything was alright. I hated missing on November 5th and 12th, but it couldn’t be helped. A few things I did while not flying that were flying related were: go to a WINGs seminar and study. Not as fun as actually flying, but still productive.

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Lesson #18 Saturday, October 22, 2016 Important Lesson in self-confidence and crosswinds

Beautiful, but Windy!

I was happy about getting to fly today! First off, the sky was a beautiful, perfect blue but there was a cross wind and it had been described as rough and bumpy. I would like to blame my issues today on the crosswind, but I like to learn from mistakes, not make excuses. I also seem to have worse lessons when I use runway 27 which has a right traffic pattern, I don’t know if that has anything to do with it.

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The Thorough Pre-flight that Wasn’t

I did what I thought was a thorough preflight. Looking back at it, critically, it was thorough, EXCEPT for the slight deviation from routine, but in that deviation, I missed a problem.

You know how sometimes you make a mistake, and it gets in your head, and then you make more? Well that was the theme of this lesson. Mr. King, however, thinks I’m being too hard on myself. Well, maybe not about what we will call the “tire incident” but about the rest of the lesson.

The Wobbly Taxi

When I first started lessons I felt like a drunk driver trying to taxi an airplane.  On the ground you steer with your feet on the rudder and brakes and it’s really a bit awkward at first, because if you’ve driven a car you really want to “drive” with your hands, and airplanes don’t work that way. Trying to make them work that way by steering like you would a car just makes you look like an idiot. Well, I quickly got over trying to “drive” and swerving all over the place.

Only, as I was taxiing out, I felt like that newbie driver again. I even was in the process of telling Mr. King I felt like I’d regressed when we got a call on the radio that our nose wheel tire was flat. Oh, yes, it was flat, and how did I miss that?! Slight deviation from routine, is how. I moved the ladder around the plane in anticipation of pre-flighting the other side. Then came back to do the nose part of the checklist including the tire. The item on my checklist reads “Nose Wheel Strut and Tire” and I glanced at it from the front. It didn’t look flat from the front to me, but I didn’t look at it from the side. So, that’s why I was steering like an idiot and it suddenly seemed hard. So some guys who were hanging out inside, Mr. King, and myself pushed the airplane up to the air tank and filled the tire.

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned here were two fold. One was religiously follow the checklist. I felt like I had improved on this a great deal. I had been to a WINGs seminar and thought carefully about what I learned there and my first few lessons I missed a few things like a chock, but have been religiously following the checklist ever since. The other thing mentioned at this WINGS seminar was walk around the airplane again and make sure nothing looks “off.” Well, I didn’t do that thoroughly, or possibly at all. I will from now on, let me assure you! The second lesson is that if something feels wrong, it might be. I shouldn’t have assumed that I was the problem. I KNEW something felt odd, and yet I was blaming myself instead of stopping and checking it out.

I did 7 landings this lesson and remained in the pattern. I think the mistake, and the ensuing beating myself up about it, got to me. Mr. King said it was the learning plateau that everyone hits, and the crosswind, and not to worry about it. Of course, he did point out what I was doing wrong. I seemed to be pulling a little to the right on the flare, and I was able to correct that by the end of my lesson. Out of the 7, one was a rough landing, Mr. King did one, I had four relatively smooth ones, and my last landing of the day was very good.

I definitely wasn’t too happy with this lesson as it felt like a regression, not progress.

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Thursday, October 20-Birthday No Go

I scheduled a lesson because it was my birthday and who doesn’t want to fly on their birthday?  Unfortunately, the storms didn’t agree. My mom was excited as it would be her first time to fly with me, but we will have to reschedule, maybe sometime in November. We did go to the airport anyway, to pick up a DVD of photos someone took at the Fly In back in September. I will post some of those and our photos and write about the Fly In later.  Watching the weather change from stormy to beautiful and back again over the airport was a lazy way to spend a couple of hours. In the less than two minutes it took me to shoot the three photos below the sock blew every direction but straight up.

Even though I didn’t get to fly, I did have a great birthday, and I enjoyed showing the airport to my mom, eating dinner with some of my favorite people, and attending “Day of the Diva” at the running store. As an added bonus, one of my airport friends, Jim “Pat” Patterson, a CFI, gave me a headset case he made for me. He upholsters airplanes, and gave me a beautiful headset bag that he made. It was a great coincidence because he didn’t even know it was my birthday. I got the headset a few weeks ago as an early birthday present and had just been putting it in the top of my bag and hoping for the best while trying to be gentle with it, but now it is adequately padded.

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Lesson #17 Recap October 15, 2016

1 Hour, 6 Takeoffs and Landings, Slipping, Crabbing

Weather Study Pays Off

My first order of business today was to obtain weather information. I’m happy to say that my studying has paid off, with both the METAR and standard weather briefing finally sounding less like a foreign language I’ve never studied. My instructor sort of explains things after you ask questions about them, or after he has you do them once. This teaching style is fine most of the time, but didn’t do me any favors on learning the weather! I just kept feeling like I would never get it. So, after some studying and reviewing, I feel better equipped.

Here are some of the resources I used:

I like Cessna Chick’s Blog , specifically this post on How To Read a METAR

How To Obtain a Weather Briefing a pdf from the FAA. Boring, but informative.

If you feel like testing your knowledge, here is Bold Method’s Can you Answer these 7 Weather Questions?

First Crosswind and Pavement Landings!

This was 3rd Saturday EAA Fly-in Breakfast, so we ate before the lesson which was nice. After preflighting the plane we took off and flew over pretty cotton fields, some of them full of white and ready to be harvested, and others with curving and zig zag lines of small bits of cotton left after harvest. These fields had the cotton bales lined up at the edge of the fields near the roads. The cotton, the fields, and the clouds were gorgeous. Enjoying the view was over pretty quickly as we arrived at Madison Executive to do touch and gos. It was my first time on a concrete runway, and first crosswind landings. My landings were uneventful, and while I didn’t grease it in every time they were consistent, until the last one which I bounced in a bit (but that was back at Moontown, on the grass, at least). I did 4 at Madison Exec and two at Moontown. We also practiced slips which I haven’t done before, so that was new too and will definitely need practice.

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Apparently my son, frantically waving at me on the first landing at Moontown, was very torn up that I took off again and had to be bribed with a rock to calm down (to load into his toy truck, not to throw at him) until I landed for the final time. He was so excited to sit in the airplane for a few minutes after the lesson and “fly.”

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I had fun in the lesson today, it’s been weeks since I’ve been out of the pattern due to practicing pattern work and canceling a lesson for the plague we had! Wednesday at my lesson Mr. King told me we would go over to MDQ and I was wondering if landing on pavement would be strange, but it was fine! It was odd to be able to take off and land without back taxiing. The advantages of a 6500 foot paved runway  versus a 2180 foot grass strip, I guess.

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Lesson Recap #14: September 14

1.0, 7 takeoffs and landings

One thing I feel like I’m doing better at is talking on the radio. I don’t know why, it’s not like the world ends if you get it wrong, but at first talking on the radio was nerve-wracking. Today I felt like I sounded less like a newb.

PREFLIGHT

One thing I did on my preflight today was I almost skipped a step! I noticed it, corrected it, and then rechecked the checklist to make sure I didn’t miss anything else. (I hadn’t.) I used to put a post it on my checklist and slide it down to the section I was using, but I lost my post-it. I think I need to think of a better solution because I always have to relocate the section I need on the checklist after I do something, and it slows me down.

TAKEOFFS

I did 7 takeoffs today. They were, for the most, good, except for 2 of them. On one, I used too much right rudder. I did this because I was thinking about how I often use too little right rudder on takeoff. Because of torque airplanes try to yaw to the left, you counteract this by using the right rudder. Well, I overdid it causing me to yaw to the right, thus looking like a drunk pilot on take-off. On another one of them I relaxed back pressure too soon so the tires kind of skimmed the ground. That felt pretty weird. Again, this was caused by me overcorrecting something, that is, the slightly too high angle of attack I had on part of my takeoffs the previous lesson. Ironically, my first take off was good, the second was “near perfect” (to quote Mr. King) and then I had some good takeoffs followed by these two frustrating ones.

I felt more confident today. I was scanning the instruments better on takeoff which is important because you want to notice engine problems on the ground with room to stop, and I timed things pretty well without being told what to do. Basically the “I’m-about-take-off-in-airplane-I-hope-I-don’t-screw-it-up” feeling was gone, replaced by an orderly progression of doing the right things (more or less without being told).

FLYING THE PATTERN

I did okay with this, although I’m still having the problem of climbing on the downwind leg part of the time. I need to maintain altitude more precisely as I crept up to 1500 or 1550 rather than 1450. I controlled my speed in the pattern well today.

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LANDINGS

My landings were alright and a few even good. Mr. King said he would take credit for two of them.One of my landings was a simulated emergency landing. I need to review the steps so I feel more confident.

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WHAT I’M WORKING ON THIS WEEK:

Starting this blog!

Reviewing takeoffs and landings

Reviewing emergency checklists

Reviewing the math <sigh>

Studying and understanding the Pre-solo test info

 

Lesson #13 Recap: Sept 10

1.0, 6 Takeoffs and Landings

We did 6 take offs and landings and remained in the pattern for my whole lesson today. My main issues were allowing the nose to pitch up too much just after leaving the runway on takeoff and climbing as I turned downwind in the pattern. It’s important not to let the nose pitch up because you don’t want to reach too high an angle of attack and stall, especially that close to the ground. I corrected that after my first two takeoffs though. The climbing while turning downwind is something I’m working on. I think that particular issue has to do with practice and muscle memory, because I *know* I don’t want to climb on that turn, now I just need to get the coordination down. My first approach for landing was too high, but after that, they were better.

Ground school wise I learned where to find some diagrams I need to be aware of and how to use them in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the 172N. It’s important to know how to do the math for maneuvering speeds at different weights, and how to determine takeoff and landing distances. When I have practiced this some and have a thorough grasp I will explain it here. I’m not very fond of or good at math so this is more challenging for me.

What I’m working on this week:

Understanding the math using the diagrams in the POH

Reviewing steps in Takeoffs and Landings

Studying and understanding the Pre-solo test info

 

Lesson #12, September 3, Recap

Saturday, September 3, 2016

1.0 hours

WEATHER BRIEFING

I called and got a weather briefing this morning. Apparently, the briefer thought Moontown is a hilarious name for an airport. The briefer said, “You should have ideal weather” and the weather was truly beautiful, and not as blazingly hot as it’s been the last few weeks. I REALLY need to study weather more, because the weather briefing is a bit overwhelming to me. It was great that this guy talked a little slower than the lady last week and seemed to have a sense of humor. I didn’t feel as clueless.

PREFLIGHT AND TAKEOFF

I did the preflight and then we took off.  I really need to add more right rudder and get more coordinated. I’m remembering the steps for take-offs and landings a bit better, especially take-offs. We are going to concentrate on those next lesson, so I should chair fly some this week to review/preview.

THE FLIGHT

The first thing we worked on was slow flight. Again, I need to work on my coordination. Mr. King explained I should think of it as using small amounts of pressure on the yoke rather than actually moving the yoke. After he said that, I improved, it’s amazing how much thinking of something differently can affect how you do it! My main problem is that sometimes when I notice an unintended change in altitude or speed I try to correct it all at once rather than gradually.

My steep turns to the right were great, but to the left needs work as I lost more altitude than I should have. Again, I need to work on my coordination.

I did 3 power off stalls, which I feel like I am getting the hang of, and then 2 power on stalls after Mr. King demonstrated one. I haven’t worked on those as much, so they are not anywhere near automatic yet.

SIMULATED ENGINE OUT:

We also practiced a Simulated Engine Out and I really need to work more on memorizing the steps. Basically, you are trying to trade your excess speed for time and distance while you are deciding where to put the plane down. This time, when Mr. King said, “Your engine’s out, what’s the first thing you should do?” I did respond with carb heat on, rather than “cry” like I did the first time he asked me that which was several lessons ago, BEFORE we went over it. So, that was an improvement!

According to my checklist it’s: (1) Carb Heat on (2) mixture rich (3) fuel on both (4) check your mags (5) check if primer is in and locked (6) slow to 65 (best glide speed) (7) when on final and have it made, all flaps down, master switch off, open the door. (You open the door so if the plane gets bent up, you’re not pinned inside.)  You can find the information you need to practice this in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook for the plane you’re flying and ask your instructor.

I landed twice after taking off twice, so all in all, a good day! As the old saying does, takeoffs are optional, but landings are mandatory.

What I’m working on this week:

Weather Briefings – I need to understand exactly what they’re going to tell me and write it down in an organized way.

Steps in an Engine Out Situation-Familiarize myself with the steps and call them out so I learn them well.

Review/Preview Take-Offs and Landings-Just go over the steps and call them out/chair fly.

Lesson #7, Saturday, July 23, 2016

FitToFly

.9 hours

Preflight and Taxi

Mr. King let me start the preflight without him watching me so much, so I definitely felt more responsible, and like he must not think I’m an idiot to let me start by myself. Then he sat in a chair and wasn’t even looking my direction while I finished it. I felt more efficient during the preflight. I’m getting used to the checklist, so I don’t look up and down so much to find the right place. I also brought a post it to move down the checklist so I don’t have to scan so much looking for my spot. Whoever tied down the plane last really tied it down! There were 2 or 3 knots to undo on each tie-down. Sometime I will have to do a tie-down etc. so I know how to do it.

First, getting out of the hangar, and taxiing. Steering an airplane on the ground seems to me a bit clumsy. I know I’ll feel better about it with more practice, but I can’t wait for that day to come because I feel like I under, then overdo things and swerve around like a drunk driver. So, my rudder skills need work to be smooth.

With the Foggles

I spent some time wearing foggles (glasses that block your view out of the airplane and only allow you to see the instruments) to simulate instrument flight. I really need to work on scanning the instruments. This time, I felt like I did better about checking some of them, but not a consistent scan. I felt like I was really having trouble maintaining my heading and accidentally turning. I feel like I did better on this two weeks ago, and have gotten worse! While this may be partially true, I think Mr. King is pointing out more things to me to help me start taking more responsibility. Right here at the beginning of the flight I was like, whoa, I feel kinda crappy. (It is very possible I have strep throat, but I have so far refused to confirm that with a doctor.)

Turns and Slow Flight

I was happy to take off the foggles and look around again. It was a beautiful sunny day, for sure. We practiced standard rate turns, turns with 30 degrees and 45 degrees of bank. Mr. King said to make sure in instrument flight to do a standard rate turn because you have less probability of screwing it up. We turned around and around to the water tower. We also did slow flight. I’m remembering where the carburetor heat is now and mostly remembering throttle in = more power. I felt like I had gotten over making that mistake because I hadn’t made it in two weeks, and then, oops, made that silly mistake again twice in this lesson!

Power off Stalls

The week before when we did power off stalls I had kind of just pushed the throttle in quickly and was more gradual on it in this lesson, so that was good. I felt like the stall recovery went well, and then I was like Whaaa? And Mr. King said, “What did you do?” very calmly….and I was like OH! Because if you don’t hold the throttle or put on the friction lock, the throttle vibrates back out. Throttle vibrating back out = less power = feels WRONG, so at least I noticed that it felt “off” without being told.  Stalls don’t make me feel sick usually, but when Mr. King demonstrated the power on stall I did feel a little weird. I thought, yup, sick. I didn’t feel like I was going to puke or anything, I just felt like my concentration was off. So when he mentioned doing an emergency descent I suggested that I watch him do it and wait until next time because I feel like crap. He said that was fine and demonstrated the emergency descent. This descent is important because if the plane is on fire or something you want to put it down quickly. Even though you’re nose down and descending quickly I didn’t find this nerve wracking like I thought it might be. So, we landed and all was well. Too bad I got there late, and he had another lesson, so I didn’t get quite the hour.

I’m Safe Checklist and Why I Should Use It

Next time I feel this sick,  I will cancel the lesson, because my concentration was off and it showed in my performance. Mr. King asked me how I felt I did and I sort of snorted. He said, “You did fine, nobody does good when they feel bad. Remember the acronym “I’m safe.” He’s fond of telling me, when I’m beating myself up over some minor mistake that “You haven’t done anything I haven’t seen before.” Mr. King told me on the last lesson and this one that I was starting to do more things before he said anything, and that I seemed to be doing things more naturally.

IMSAFE

To read more about “I’m Safe” look at the chapter on “Aeronautical Decision Making” in your Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, free to download from the FAA. You want Chapter 2 (in the 2016 version) or Chapter 16 in the 2008 version if you want to read more about “I’m Safe.”  (graphic to the right from this chapter)

To Download specific Chapters of Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

(The retro I’m Safe graphic is from New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority)

 

 

Summary of Lessons: May-July

1st_lesson_collage1st Lesson-Saturday, May 7

I had my first flying lesson and it was really exciting to do something I have been wanting to do for so long! Ryan (my husband) went to my first lesson with me, as starting lessons was my birthday present. I learned how to preflight and use a checklist to make sure you’re not missing anything. One of the many items on the checklist is checking the fuel in each wing. “Never trust a fuel gauge unless it’s on empty.” Apparently, fuel gauges on aircraft can’t be trusted, so you always check it yourself.

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Before taxiing out Mr. King made sure I knew what the instruments were and explained what we were going to do. We flew straight and level, did some turns, and Mr. King demonstrated stalls.  It was a beautiful day. Since I hadn’t been in a tiny general aviation aircraft since I was 20 something and went on a free demonstration flight with the EAA Young Eagles to write a newspaper article about them, it was great to see it was as fun was a I remembered. If you’ve never been in a small plane like the Cessna 172, it is nothing like being in an airliner. You’re more aware of how amazing flying is in a little plane and you feel closer to the clouds. I first flew in a small plane like that when I was 14 on a Young Eagles flight. I enjoyed getting to fly the plane myself more than the couple of minutes they let you do so on a Young Eagles flight. Mr. King said, “Well you can think about it and let me know if you want to get started.” Ryan said, “She had already decided before she got here today” and he was right. The 45 minute flight confirmed what I’d always known I wanted to do.

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(Being excited about taking lessons didn’t mean I wasn’t a bit nervous!) Ryan took this picture of my death grip reflected in the window. You should have seen him wedged back there in the back seat!

 

Lessons 2-6, May 14-July 16

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My second lesson I got my logbook. The picture above is Mr. Ken King writing in my first two lessons. I don’t know why this was so exciting. I guess it made me feel more official. 🙂 We did mostly the same thing as the first lesson.

My fourth and fifth lessons I did some instrument flying with the foggles. Foggles are glasses that are frosted at the top so you can’t see outside of the plane and are looking at only the instruments to determine if you’re flying straight and level and making coordinated turns or unintentionally climbing/descending/slowing down/speeding up. It isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I get WHY I have to do it. To get your private pilot’s license you have to do 3 hours of instrument training. After you get your private pilot’s license and have accumulated enough hours, you can move on to getting an instrument rating, which is something I would ultimately like to do so I will be a better pilot.

I also did climbs, descents, turns, power off stalls, and maintaining constant airspeed each of these lessons.

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Lesson 6 happened to be the day of the monthly fly-in. Lots of very cool planes there and the Young Eagles who flew seemed to enjoy themselves. Young Eagles is a program of the EAA that lets kids ages 9-17 fly free.

 

You want to learn to fly? WHY?!

You want to learn to fly? WHY?!

You get two main reactions when you tell people you are learning to fly. My least favorite: “Why? Isn’t that expensive?” My favorite; “That’s cool. So tell me . . .”

It might seem an odd time in my life to learn how to fly, or maybe even wasteful/pointless to a lot of people. I’m a 36 year old mom and teacher with a two year old.

But, I’ve wanted to fly since I was 9 years old and saw a lot of grounded aircraft at a tiny airfield with low ceilings and marginal weather. I didn’t see any of them fly until we were boarding the school bus back to 4th grade, but it was magical. They were magical, there on that country airfield. p-51s, A Connie (little did I know how rare that was), a Stearman, and others whose names I would (and wouldn’t) learn, later. I learned about these planes the old-fashioned way, in the pre-internet world of checking out books from the library, and looking in our leather-bound World Books, 1987 edition. I watched Desert Storm unfold a few years later, and learned the names of those planes, too. I sent away for a die-cast Red Baron Stearman from Red Baron pizza boxes and it sat proudly on my bookshelf. My other prized possessions were my dad’s wings from his ROTC solo and his study materials, which 11 year old me actually read.

My aviation experiences were few and far between, unfortunately. I tagged along to a workshop for school teachers about integrating aviation in the classroom with my mom (a second grade teacher who went so I could go) at Columbus Air Force Base and watched T-38s do touch and gos, climbed on one and carefully peered in, peeked into a simulator, watched Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly video, and visited their meteorology section. The most impressive thing to me there? One of the pilots was a woman! Fast forward to my first flight at Pryor Air Field in Decatur, Alabama at the age of 14. I finally got to fly in an airplane, and it was fabulous! I don’t remember that guy’s name or much about the plane itself, but I remember being allowed to fly it for a few minutes. I didn’t fly again until a trip to Spain in college. I think I’m the only person on those Continental and Iberia Air flights that excited about being in an airplane.

I never stopped wanting to fly. I went to a few airshows and toyed with the idea. I was teaching high school and 7 months pregnant when I went to a Girls in Aviation event, talked to a few people, and it suddenly seemed possible. I began to read aPregoAtFlyIn.pngnd study a little. Then for my birthday, almost two years later, my husband surprised me with “You should go for it.” So, I practice and think through maneuvers with my son’s wooden airplane, and he and I fly the pattern around our coffee table. The pilot of his toy airliner isn’t the man in the captain uniform, but the lady in the pink and red dress. I love to hear him say, “Mama FLY.”

The best time? Maybe not, but when is it the ideal time to do anything?

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