“Obviously you’re not the pilot”

So I was at Costco to stock up on things. I grabbed a hot dog on my way out because I was rushed and hadn’t eaten. Went over to the tables, and all the tables were full.

But a lady saw me looking for someplace to sit, and invited me to sit with her. I was feeling pretty awesome, new job and all, so I sat down and introduced myself. I told her how I was starting a new job, and stocking up on things for my new job, since I was going to be working for a small charter/air taxi operation and based at the airport 5 days a week.

And she said “Oh, that sounds exciting! What are you going to be doing for them? Obviously you’re not the pilot.”

*sigh*

I wasn’t nasty about it, I let it just be a learning experience for her; she backpedaled pretty fast when I told her I was in fact the pilot. Tried to say she’d said it because I looked too young, but you just know, the real reason was because I was a woman. But it was innocent; obviously she wasn’t trying to be sexist; it was an unconscious bias; I bet she didn’t think through what she said at all.

Or possibly even, she didn’t want me to feel like I was disappointing her if I wasn’t the pilot, unfortunate as the phrasing she chose was. I mean, when people hear someone’s a pilot, usually the first question is “Oh? What airline do you fly for?” And then the poor private pilot has to explain that they don’t have a commercial licence, they just fly for fun, etc. (And I’m not gonna lie, being able to reply to that question with the name of my current employer feels so frickin’ good, lol.)

But whatever the reason, it’s what comes when people don’t stop and be self-critical about the assumptions we make about people. And it’s why young women don’t look at jobs like commercial piloting, construction, electrician, things like that, as things they might be good at and enjoy as professions. Because, obviously that’s not the sort of job for them.

Obviously.

A co-worker back at the call centre told me one day about talking to her daughter about women pilots. Her daughter was convinced that being a pilot was a boy thing, and girls could not be pilots, and her mother had a hard time convincing her otherwise. She was four.

And it’s a prejudice that comes from outside the aviation industry almost exclusively in my experience. So far, I don’t have any story of sexism that I’ve experienced that has come from anyone involved in aviation. The only examples I have are from people who know nothing about it. We’re getting to a point where lots of male pilots have flown with women and they’ve mostly gotten past the oh-god-how-do-I-handle-this stage to just treating other crew members as crew members. My new boss seemed to care far more about my farm background than my gender. The one other pilot working for him at the moment is also another woman, and as far as his assumptions about my ability suitability for the job, the fact that I’m a farm girl seemed to trump all else.

In conclusion – yes, there’s progress been made. Yes, women pilots still deal with sexist attitudes. No, it’s not just the older generation, nor is it only men who share those attitudes. Because there are lots of old guys who are 100% supportive of women in aviation and think the idea that women can’t be pilots is absurd. So let’s move forward and celebrate our victories and successes, and let change come, until it’s obvious to everyone that women belong wherever their hearts are.

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New Year’s Post 2019

So in 2018, I never even got to writing a New Year’s post. Before 2018 was halfway over, we’d brought 4 cats to our vet and not all of them came home. I was kind of emotionally beat up, and 2018 didn’t start out great. For this year, better late than never, I guess.

The cat situation has settled down now and we have a healthy new kitten who’s quickly outgrowing his eleven year old Siamese house buddy. I like big cats and I cannot lie.

This Christmas we had no sick cats, and I was even mostly over my cold.

When I started flying, my vacation time was dedicated to flying, and once I finished, I left one job before my vacation was scheduled, and then the job after that before I got a chance to schedule more than a few random days here and there. This year, the new boss decided to just shut down over Christmas and I got the first real vacation I’ve had in five years.

That came just in time to have my mom come stay with me for a week and a half. She lives in Australia now, and I haven’t seen her since my wedding ten years ago. It’s been a wonderful visit.

2019 is starting off really great for me. I have a new job, a new cat, a new decade of marriage to kick off. Because holy fuck, I’ve been married for ten years. Sometimes it feels like it can’t have been that long, and sometimes it feels like it’s been forever. In all the good ways.

So – like many others, the New Year’s resolution thing tends to be really negative, so I set goals instead. Here’s what I want to get done in 2019:

  • Stay married.
  • Become the most confident, competent, safe bush pilot I can be.
  • Finish all the missing scenes in Skybound so a proper edit can begin.
  • Write at least one short story.
  • Get the apartment organized.
  • Hobby goal: get to an F2 generation in my hybrids – I’ve got an F1 generation maturing and blooming and I’ve attempted pollination with a couple plants so I hopefully have seed pods coming along on a back cross. I’m just getting started with the hybridizing thing, but I’m enjoying it immensely.
  • Take some first steps in buying a first house.

So I hope 2019 is great for everyone reading this, and I for one will be trying my best to make the most of all of it.

Ten Years

Today my husband and I celebrate our ten year anniversary.

New Years is coming up, and that’s always a time that I reflect on where I’ve gotten from one year to the next, but of course this is a huge landmark, and makes me think back much farther, and about how far both my husband and I have come in our lives. 

Our accomplishments are not the traditional accomplishments. If I were more inclined to be a slave to societal expectations, I might feel like a failure for not having children and owning a house at this stage in my life, like my husband’s brother and his wife. Not that those aren’t fantastic accomplishments; that just wasn’t our path. 

When I think about who I was ten years ago, it blows my mind what a different place I was in in my life. I was passionate about my writing, working in a call centre. But I was still putting myself back together after gaining some independence and getting myself into a healthier living situation. My husband recently described my state back then as “held together with tape and glue.”

Anyway, that’s where I was when I got married, but I was just reaching a point where I was gaining confidence and blossoming as a person. I managed to organize my own wedding. 

And friends who knew me best told me of all the people they’d seen get married, they believed my marriage would be successful, and that we were getting married for the right reasons. We didn’t just love one another, we were supportive of one another, not just in our shared interests, but we encourage one another to pursue our interests that the other doesn’t share. We both want the other to be happy, but we also don’t want a relationship where one of us is making all the sacrifices for the sake of the other, and breeding resentment. 

And I don’t think I can describe to you how good being married to this man has been for me. I’m not even sure how much of the confidence I have now is just from him believing in me. I feel like it’s the reverse of the old adage “Behind every good man, is a great woman.” If I didn’t have him, would I have had the courage to learn to fly? He says I would – I’m not sure. Maybe I would and it would just have taken longer. 

And you have to remember, he didn’t marry a pilot. He didn’t sign on for this ten years ago when we stood in front of family and friends and the officiant tied our hands together with ribbon. He’ll say he realized that it would have been worse for our marriage for him to hold me back than to get on board, but he’s playing his role down. Not only did he not stand in my way, he gave me a large sum of money that was by all rights his, to get me started on flight training, and said go be everything you can be. You don’t get much more supportive than that, and that money was basically everything we had – he had that much faith in me that I could do it. 

Well, whether I would have become a pilot without him or not, we are both of us more and stronger than we would be alone, and I can’t imagine my life without him. 

Love you Nathan ❤

NaNoWriMo 2018

I join Nano every year, even if I know I’m not going to have a chance to write enough to win. This year I hoped to do a bit better, possibly even win. It didn’t happen, but I’m still happy with what I got done. 

I haven’t talked much about what I’m working on at the moment. Redwing is at a stage where I’ve mostly got it as good as I can get it, and while I have ideas for a sequel, I decided a few years ago to dive into something different. Well, ok, it still has aeroplanes and all the characters are pilots. But it’s completely different I swear. 

The world idea was only a small fraction of the population is Skybound and can withstand altitudes of more than 2000 feet above sea level without suffering from skysickness – a made up illness in this world, with similarities to hypoxia. Skybound people are invited to join an organization called One Sky, kind of a combination of the EU, Red Cross, and NATO. They have aeroplanes. 

It’s YA this time, and I’m bringing scenes to my critique group every month, where it seems well received. It’s still early drafts, though, and in the first draft, another Nano project, I had left numerous scenes missing as I moved on to the easier scenes. This year I was filling in those missing scenes through Nano, which is much harder – it slows you down. I might have got far more than the 8700 words I managed if I had been writing something completely new. 

But – I’m almost finished plugging in the missing scenes, at which point I can start going back and reconstructing an outline and assessing story arcs, and properly beginning the editing process. 

And currently, with nearly all the missing bits added, it’s sitting at about 83k words. When I edit, I tend to add more words than I remove, so that makes it look like it’s going to settle into a nice 100k words, or thereabouts when I’m done. I just seem to have a natural tendency towards that length, which is awesome, because that’s nicely in the range of not too long and not too short for the genre, as far as sale-ability. 

I’m excited about this one because it’s a lot more what I think is the definition of “high concept” – that it’s easy to describe what the premise is and what’s interesting about the world and story. My critique group is taking sides with regards to the two male supporting characters – apparently I have a team Zach and team Toby already, though there’s really very little on the romance front. The story’s mainly about the main character learning to fly, at the same time as she learns that One Sky is not the bastion of fairness and acceptance that it presents itself as. 

I think it’s got a good shot at finding an agent when it’s ready.

Back To Flying

I know I haven’t posted about flying for a bit, and it’s mainly because I’ve been taking kind of a break. While I was doing my multi-instrument rating, a lot of stuff was happening in my personal life causing stress – my Grandma’s death was only the most acute, obvious one.

When I was done that, I quit the call centre, and I was pretty badly burnt out at that point. I sent out a few resumes but when it comes to the smaller places that hire low time pilots, it’s hard to know when they’re hiring. They often don’t advertise positions. It seems most people get their first job by getting a reference from one of their instructors, but my main instructor was a career instructor, and I had decided not to go for the instructor rating because there was only one job it would qualify me for. A few people tipped me off on places, and one of them even was willing to hire me. But it turned out to be kind of sketchy, and the more I learned about the operation, the more it felt wrong. I walked away from it.

Then last winter was kind of a rough one again – with the husband in and out of the emergency room, multiple sick and dying cats, etc.

And on top of various stress, I’m just one of those people who, once I’ve lost momentum on something, I have a really hard time getting going again. I felt like I was making excuses, but my closest friends told me not to be so hard on myself. I’m pretty self critical, sometimes I need people to tell me to give myself a break.

Anyway, things seemed to be finally taking a turn for the better. I was starting to think I should start getting serious again about the job hunt, and getting current again.

They say when it rains, it falls – stressful stuff happens all at once and piles up.- Well, sometimes things can fall into place just as fast.

The job tip came from my float instructor from a few years ago, and it was finally one that wasn’t one of those long shots that they were likely to have plenty of pilots applying that had way more time than me. This was more of a typical first job for a pilot.

Day VFR, bush pilot job flying passengers and freight around lake Winnipeg. The sort of job that would take me out to those rural sort of places I loved as a child, and an owner that appreciated pilots with farm backgrounds for the resourcefulness and work ethic that tended to come with it. It wasn’t one of those places people had warned me had poor safety records or management that pressured pilots into pushing their limits. The pay was industry standard, and given the choice, I opted for salary. Plus, there’s something romantic about the whole idea of bush flying. As wrong as that one job I walked away from last year, this one feels equally right.

Wish me good flying weather 🙂

Saying Goodbye To Medevac Dispatch

Yesterday was my last day at the old job. As many who know me in person already know, I’ve found myself my first flying job. But more about that later.

When I interviewed for Medevac dispatch, my manager sold it as someplace where I’d learn more and meet more people than I would working a simple ramp-rat job. It would be a place where I could prove myself to be intelligent and capable.

And now after a year and a half of it, both are definitely true. I learned a lot, made connections, met lots of pilots. I’ve been informed that my competence was noted by all. My manager commented several times while I was there, and yesterday, that the fact that I required so little supervision and he trusted me to have things taken care of made his job easier and freed him up to get other things done. I never felt like I was doing anything that wasn’t expected of me, but it sounds like I was.

The pilots and medics appreciated me too. I seem to have been well liked, and they’re sad to see me leave, and I’m sad to leave, as much as I’m excited for what’s next.

The other interesting thing that I wasn’t really expecting was how they all, my manager and the owners included, seemed visibly proud to see me move on. They understand that it’s an expected eventuality for most of their dispatchers, and it’s not like I ditched in an annoyingly short period of time. I’ve made a good reputation for myself there, and I think anyone there would say good things about me. And they seemed like they were confident I would succeed, based on knowing me.

And who knows, maybe someday I’ll end up back there. Only next time, not as a dispatcher.

Country Girl

When I met my husband, he kept calling me a country girl, because I grew up in Portage La Prairie. Technically it was a small city, being approximately fourteen thousand people. I mean, we had a Timmies, two Seven-11s and a Rotten Ronnies – that qualifies as civilization right? So I’d object and insist that I wasn’t a country girl.

He came out to meet me in person for the first time, and quickly realized I didn’t live out in the boonies, but he still teased me that I was a country girl.

I didn’t even realize I *was* a country girl until I moved to the city.

Now, by “The City” I do mean “The City” and not “The Big City.” Winnipeg is hardly a big city, I realize. It was a trading hub originally, being on the fork of two rivers, but as that, it’s still not a large city. But it’s the biggest city in Canada for five hundred miles any direction, so anyone in Manitoba refers to it as “The City.”

But I did eventually realize that people who didn’t grow up the way I did think about a lot of things differently. The first time I went to Lyncrest airport, my husband, who grew up in “The City” was with me in the car. When I turned onto Murdock road, he asked me several times if I was sure we were going the right way, because we were on a gravel road.

It’s little things. I’m “handy.” My mother-in-law asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and when I said a tool set, my husband told me she didn’t believe me, and asked him if I was serious. Getting a tool bag and tools for Christmas was awesome, seriously, and I totally use them. There’s something to be said for having the tool you need when you need it. One of my co-workers back at the call centre needed a knife one day and swiveled around and asked me first because he knew me well enough to guess I probably had a Swiss army knife on me.  (I did.)

My husband was a boy-scout and sometimes he tells me “a boy-scout is always prepared.” I tell him, “yeah, but a country girl knows how to improvise.”

My dad says the guys he hires to help him with the bees, when they’re city folk, you can tell. There’s a certain ability to think ahead and problem solve that they just don’t have, according to him.

I had an ex boyfriend who told me a story about when he and his army buddies were out on a road trip and ran out of gas. They had a jerrycan of gas but no funnel, so they couldn’t get the gas into the gas tank. I asked at the time, if they’d had a newspaper or magazine they could have rolled up into a makeshift funnel. He looked at me a moment and I realized not one of these army guys had thought to improvise.

Growing up, my dad would take my brother and I out to the shed while he was changing light bulbs on a ladder, just so that he would have someone to call 911 if he fell. Same with when he was shovelling snow off the roof on a particularly snowy winter – he had us on the other end of a rope on the opposite side of the house. Things like that taught us responsibility and caution. Not fear, but caution. To look for ways to make things safer and plan for worst-case scenarios. Very relevant to aviation, I might add.

And the time spent out if the bush. My husband says being out in the bush brings back happy memories for him from boy-scouts, but for me, it’s not just happy memories, it’s home. I spent entire days out wandering farmers fields and bits of bush in rural Manitoba frequently. It wasn’t time where we lined up to be shown something and waited our turn to try or touch it. We did as we pleased. We explored, turned over logs, built things, and were even trusted to manage a small campfire with very little supervision. We got into poison ivy, and brought home wood ticks, caught snakes and toads and picked flowers. It was one hundred percent unscheduled, until my dad honked the truck horn to call us back and head off to the next bee yard.

Of course, later we were expected to help out with the bees while we were out there, but looking back, I see more and more how growing up that way affected me. Being out in a rural area, I don’t feel out of place the way many do. I don’t see the shabby, run down buildings and turn my nose up at the lack of amenities. I talk to country people and the way they talk is familiar. I’m used to the way they get there when they get there, and stay until the job is done.

So despite knowing there will be a lot of new stuff I’ll be learning in the coming year, and knowing there are going to be things that are going to suck like missing my husband (mainly missing my husband!), there is a part of me that feels like I’m going home.