Monday, November 17, 2014

Ten years after

I retired from the USAF ten years ago.  I have been blessed to be able to earn a living as an instructor.  My roles have included performing as an adjunct instructor for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, as a rider coach for the North Carolina motorcycle safety program and as an independent flight instructor.  I have the pleasure of helping people learn about things I love. 
Years ago I was returning to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan from a deployment and I noticed a sign “Kadena Aero Club.”  I signed up for a discovery flight and I was immediately hooked.  I landed, took my Harley off order and signed up for 30 days of leave.  My instructor, and dear friend, Naoya Tamanaha taught me how to fly.  He is a brave and patient man who provided an excellent example of how to combine precise professionalism with endless enthusiasm.  Flying has allowed me to interact with a multitude of interesting people. 
During the last ten years I have logged over six thousand hours and had the pleasure of working with over 200 individuals.  Fifty of those folks went on to complete a rating or certificate.  Some of them were returning to flight after a long hiatus and others were blank canvass that I was able to mold in the image of my mentors.  The saying “we see so far because we stand upon the shoulders of giants” especially applies to aviation.  My teachers and mentors each gave me additional tools and insights in both the technical aspects of flight and the art of instruction.  My students have inspired me, scared me and, at times, frustrated me.
Inspirational students include Jessica who overcame a physical disability and went on to set world records in the light sport category.  When I feel like complaining about my ailments I am shamed into silence.  If I had her heart nothing would stop me. 
Emmanuel is another student that taught me about life.  He started his aviation journey as a young man, too young to drive.  He had plans, I remember him telling George how he was going to proceed through the ratings and become an airline pilot.  It was my privilege to help him achieve his goals.  We had to wait until his birthday on several occasions because he was too young for the FAA rules.  He is living his dream.  His level of maturity and focus are indeed motivating but how he treated people was even more enlightening.  As a young, talented aviator he had every right to be proud and this often leads to arrogance.  But he showed humility in his words and deeds.  Whether interacting with “air bullies” who seek aggrandizement over their ratings, aircraft or experience or speaking to timid potential students he was respectful and candid.
One of the joys of aviation is the fact that the airplane does not care who you are.  Rich or poor, regardless of race, color, sexual orientation or creed it is merely physics and the human machine interface. If you are truly honest there are no excuses only performance or lack of.  Either you are humble when you start or the aircraft affords you opportunities to learn humility.  The students that scared me include ones that were arrogant and did not recognize their limitations and occasionally ones that surprised me during critical phases of flight or fright. 
The students that frustrate me divide into two basic categories ones who fail to achieve because they won’t listen and those whom I can not figure out how to present the material.  This may be different sides to the same issue.  Either I do not know what to say or do that will allow the student to learn the skill or knowledge or I have not presented it in a manner that they think is useful.  I am rarely frustrated because a large part of the fun of teaching is to figure out how to present the same material translated for the individual. 
  Some people ask "when are you going to move on to bigger and better things?"  I have no plans to move on because it is hard for me to think of too many things that are more fulfilling. 
            I need to start a series of “inspirational people” so I can talk about George, Sam, Stan, Gene, Betsy, James, John, Tonya, Jay, Hanna, Catherine, Len, Greg, Bob, Grover, Jan, Kory, Harrison, Ashok, Emily, Shelley, Mauricio, Steve, William  and many others.  What a great time I have had, I look forward to the next ten…(second, minutes, days, weeks, years). 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


We had a great time on Halloween.  I dressed up as myself working in the garden on a cold winter day.  Hat for the sun, jacket for the cold and the face mask Angie and Tina got so I can ride my bike in the winter.  I had my tools, hatchet, machete, and what I refer to as my Molly Hatchet...I did not include the flame thrower.  
The price the children had to pay for the candy was to tell me "WHO ARE YOU?" and to pet Ben. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

One year and two days

One year and two days ago I rang the gong.  The gong hangs in the UNC radiology department of the cancer hospital.  When you finish your treatment regimen you can ring the gong.  I hit it with all my might.  At that point I had lost 30% of my body mass and had been puking for about three weeks so I was pretty weak. 
Since then I have recovered enough to get my medical and return to flight instruction.  I still don’t have the stamina to attempt motorcycle instruction, mainly because of the long hours on the range with out protection from the elements.  I try to PT most everyday.  I am still too weak to put on a good show but I am getting stronger.  The pain still sucks a lot of the fun out of things but it builds character. 
Thank God for my lovely wife and awesome friends and family. 

Friday, October 17, 2014


Don't pet a burning dog

Look both ways before you cross the street

Use caution when applying capsaicin cream on your body parts

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Good friends and a bottle of wine

            The lyrics to a song from my youth ran through my mind as I sat down to eat with my good friends.  It is wonderful to be healthy and happy.  My buddy invited me over for dinner and I got to meet two more of his adult children.  We spent the night discussing nothing and everything.  God has really blessed me by putting a lot of interesting people in my life.  

            A few days later another buddy came over to help me with some home repairs and we ended up shooting the bow at the zombie targets.  Life is good.  Funny thing I did not have any wine either time.      


Thursday, September 4, 2014

What to do with my second chance

            Last year I had been cut on, poisoned and fried.  I was in a fairly miserable state physically.  God put wonderful people in my life that strengthened my resolve to fight.  I survived for some reason.  The fundamental questions of life are more pointed when we brush up against our own mortality.  What is my purpose on earth?  Does my life have meaning? 
My personal mission is to increase beauty and happiness, decrease fear and ignorance by exemplary conduct.  Be a pillar in times of crisis.  I seek balance and want to make logic-based morally just decisions.  Wisdom, integrity, and happiness are what I want.
I wrote that back in the 1990s after much soul searching.  I revisit this every so often with the intention of revising it.  Perhaps replacing happiness with joy and adding something about love are the only edits I have contemplated for twenty years.  But really who gives a flip about what feel good bumper sticker you have on your sleeve what really counts are actions.
This goes back to my current quandary.  You ain’t dead.  Should you stay in your current profession and location or pursue something else or somewhere else? 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Acupuncture is working for me

            After three acupuncture treatments I feel okay announcing that it is working for me.  Alternative medicine has a bad reputation mainly because much of it is bad.  But if it is stupid and it works it is not stupid.  Traditional Chinese medicine is not stupid but much of it does not stand up to clinical trials.  My logical mind wants valid experimental data on most things, especially when they are life and death issues.  My faith allows me to explore things that may not be explained by the scientific method.  I believe that we have a soul and it is hard to set up a control group to test that hypothesis. 
            The evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture is not conclusive.  It would be hard to make a control group.  Would you stick fake needles in them?  If the points are indeed effective would stimulation of the point with the fake needle skew the data?  Acupressure therapy seems to be founded on that argument.  Anecdotal evidence supports the undisputed fact that acupuncture works for some people especially in the treatment of chronic pain.  The human brain is a powerful tool and testing against the “placebo effect” is central to all analytical testing. 
            My personal experience may be a tale of the fool who is tricked by hocus-pocus or the fool who is cured by ancient techniques redirecting the chi.  I have had a reduction in the intensity of the peripheral neuropathy.  The process was fairly straightforward.  The therapist reviewed my medical background and determined our goals.  Then I lay down on the treatment table and they began to put needles in me.  I closed my eyes so it would not freak me out.  The needles mainly felt like a mosquito bite.  The advantage of the neuropathy is that it did not penetrate the background pain on a lot of the needles and I did not even notice it.  On some of the needles I could only recognize that they were putting pressure around my neck.  Other needles did not hurt going in but felt “hot” like an electric charge was going through them.  The therapist would jiggle the needle until the feeling went away or on a couple of occasions they removed the needle and reinserted (maybe in a slightly different spot?) the needle.  It is not supposed to hurt.  After about forty or fifty needles they put an infrared lamp on you and let you sit for about thirty minutes.  Soft music with the sounds of the ocean in the background help you relax.  I felt like a burrito in the microwave with the radiation therapy now I feel like the stale chicken entrĂ©e under a hot lamp. 
After the first session the pain was less intense.  If the pain were like layers of clothes I shed a few layers.  The therapist advised against exercising after our treatment sessions so prior to the second session I exercised.  I think that was an error.  I took a twenty hour nap afterwards.  The pain again changed in intensity.  My hands and feet have felt like they are on fire and several days afterwards they felt kind of like when you fall on the pavement in cold weather.  That is a big improvement, instead of a ball of pain at the end of my arm; I can differentiate pain in the individual digits.  My lovely wife did not go in during the first session because she did not want to see needles in me.  She did go in and talk to the therapist the second and third sessions resulting in more needles in some more specific points.  I am among the luckiest men in the world; my wife massages me and pays attention.  She was able to provide specific feedback to the therapist on places that are inflexible.
Today is the day after the third session.  The intensity of the neuropathy seems to be another notch lower.  It is difficult to assess the progress because I have made a conscious effort to ignore the pain as much as possible.  The reprogramming of my brain has had some success.  I can function at a reduced capacity from my pre-cancer activity level but significantly better than immediately following treatment.  I was being pushed around in a wheelchair at one point.  Later I was celebrating being able to walk, then being able to walk around the block.  Now I can jog around the neighborhood.  I can even “run” for a few yards at a time.  At one point I could barely lift my arm.  Later I was able to lift a 2 lb. weight.  Now I am able to perform several repetitions with five pound weights. 
Thanks for the prayers and support.