I slept better than I have in ages last night. I think it's because I went to the college yesterday morning for a meeting at the student centre, then spent the evening after work looking at financial options. I'm considering doing a Technical Writing course part-time. Actually, I've been thinking about it for several years, and yesterday was my first solid attempt to do anything about it. It's hard to explain my life without sounding self-pitying. Let's just say I haven't felt like myself in a long time, and it feels like I'm approaching normal. Except that normal doesn't seem normal anymore. It feel scary and weird, almost as if I don't think I deserve it.

I stood up to my mother last weekend. She's the type who will insult you to your face, then act surprised and hurt that you took offense to it. It did quite a number on my head growing up and I never learned how to stand up to her while keeping my cool. This past Easter Sunday, she told me that I "wouldn't be very good" at making dinner. I simply said, with a straight face and a neutral tone of voice, "Hmmmm. No. I know how to cook." There was an unusually long silence. I saw the conversation as over and stared into space. Who knows what she was doing; she was probably sitting there with her mouth hanging open. Finally, she began to defend herself, and that was that. That might not sound like much, but for me, that was huge. 

Writing this out, it's possible the two things are related. My ability to finally stand up to the woman who bullied me throughout my youth, and my sudden seriousness about my life. Today I woke up feeling capable. I went to my shitty job, where we are all underappreciated and underpaid, and instead of seeing it as my career I saw it as a way to pay the bills while I work on what matters. Nothing has been finalized. It's possible that I am overexcited and talking out of my ass. I have a terrible habit of not following through on things. This feels different though. 

When I wrote daily, I took it for granted. There was a magical place that opened up to me as I sat at my keyboard. Life away from my desk didn't bother me as much then. I knew who I was and what I was doing if not why I was doing it. I went along like that for a while, and then I started to change. I met someone who would have a profound impact on my life, and like so many others who came before, I lost him. It wasn't messy, we're still friends, but we both know that things have changed. I quit writing after that, and am just now returning.

While I was writing I put together a fragmented book that I let sit while I was taking a break from life as I had known it then. To make a very long story quite short, after I stopped writing I started going through my house. We threw a lot away, sold some things, bought art work, and made a point of family meals, story times, and I really enjoyed brushing the lavender scented strands of my daughter's hair after her bath. I kept going to the chiropractor. I started taking walks outside, my credit card debt dwindled until it became a shadow of its former self.

The other day a friend of mine asked about my book. I sent him the first chapter, and he said that certain parts were funny. I didn't tell him I had rewritten most of it. I've always been able to write quickly, I tend to write without thinking, words come to me as the characters talk. I feel the scene, as if I am suddenly two or more people talking, and I don't know any other way to produce fiction so that's what I stick with when I write. Slowly my old life is returning. I sat at the computer until it was time to pick the girls up at school. I missed my exit, arrived late, came home, and threw some lunch together.

I no longer know how to mesh the progress I've made with my love of writing. As I read the things I've written I'm both horrified and gratified. Horrified that my mind was capable of churning out such darkness, and gratified that I'm no longer at the place that I was. Two friends of mine were talking the other day. One of them said she needed to tell just one person about the things she was really thinking and feeling. We had a refreshing conversation, and I felt better after a bit of soul bearing honesty amongst women I admire and respect. It's funny how what I feared most turned out being what I needed to face to grow. I hope this is a new habit of mine.

Today I got up around 8am, showered, and went next door to borrow my cousin's Mini Cooper. Headed out down 87, across the Cross Bronx Expressway and over the Throg's Neck Bridge down the LIE eastbound. Made it to Ronkonkoma in around 1 hr 20 minutes, which is pretty good.

Of course nature wasn't going to make it all easy. It was blue sky with patchy cloud up around maybe 25000 feet all the way east to exit 50 on the LIE. At exit 57, where Macarthur Airport is, it was low hanging clouds and the tail end of a drizzle. When I got to the flightline, everybody was hanging around the coffee maker, shooting the shit, because the airport beacon on the control tower was lit indicating IFR conditions. Sigh.

Spent half an hour doing some review questions on the 182 and G1000 (the flight school has a questionnaire/quiz they want you do to to get checked out on that plane) and traded pilot insults with the instructors and other students hanging around the Font Of All Caffeine. Finally, at around 12:45, the METAR updated to indicate ceilings of 1200 feet (pattern altitude is 1100 feet, so we could fly MVFR since we had planned to stay in the pattern and practice landings anyway). Preflighted, started up (it's getting more familiar, this third time around - the G1000 isn't as intimidating, and that's the point) and taxied out to the edge of the taxiway. I set the transponder to 1200 and we didn't bother to call Clearance Delivery since we were just doing pattern work. I did more of the radio work this time - I'm having this instructor ease me into NY area radio work, since i learned at an uncontrolled airport in a quiet neighborhood. Things are a bit different here.

"Long Island Tower, Skylane One One Two Niner Yankee."

"One One Two Niner Yankee, Long Island Tower."

"Tower, we're at Heritage, ready to taxi, we'd like Three Three Left, remaining in the pattern."

"One One Two Niner Yankee, turn right on Whisky, cleared to cross runway Zero Six, turn left on runway One Zero and hold short of Three Three Left."

"Right on Whisky, cleared to cross Zero Six, turn left on One Zero and hold short of Three Three Left, One One Two Niner Yankee."

I added power and turned onto the taxiway. Directly ahead, an Embraer 175 was turning off Zero Six towards us, and a Southwest Airlines 737 was beginning its taxi across the field. When I got to the Zero Six intersection, the 737 was coming up towards us from the other side of Zero Six. I slowed, and waited for him to turn left (my right) towards the departure end of Zero Six. Since I was already cleared, I taxied across Zero Six and turned sharply left onto One Zero. A couple of thousand feet later, just short of the intersection, I pulled the airplane over to the right-hand edge and swung the nose into the wind. These runways are a hundred and fifty feet wide, vast expanses compared to the seventy feet I'm used to at 7B2.

Ran through the checklist. In the middle, I said "Hey, I have a breaker popped."


"Uh, says 'Alt Field', in the 'X-Feed' section." I pushed the breaker in.

"Okay, keep an eye on it, let's do the runup."

We did the runup. All was fine, tanks were full, magnetos were clean.

"It popped again."

"Okay, reset it and let's run up again to boost bus amps."

I did just that, bringing the RPMs back up to 1800. We watched the breaker for a few seconds. "Nope, still good." I pulled the revs back down.

"Let me write that up. Keep an eye on it, we're OK to go for now, but I'll put a squawk in."

A King Air was waiting at the other side of Three Three Left. I waited for a second, but he didn't make a radio call, so I did. "Long Island Tower, One One Two Niner Yankee is holding short of Three Three Left on One Zero, we're ready to depart."

"One One Two Niner Yankee, wind is three six zero at thirteen, gusting to seventeen, cleared to depart Three Three Left, follow right traffic and call the downwind."

"Cleared to depart, One One Two Niner Yankee." Flipped on the wingtip strobes, pulled out onto the runway, turned left into the wind (felt the nose of the airplane almost sniff at the breeze, I swear). Last check - fuel on both, trim at takeoff, flaps up, mixture full rich, prop full fast, mags on both. Pushed the throttle all the way in and felt the Skylane shudder and start to waddle down the runway, gathering speed quickly. "We have full power, oil pressure is green, oil temperature is green, airspeed is alive..." I pulled back gently, as always feeling like I was having to put a bit too much effort into it (172s and 182s are a little heavy coming off, sometimes) and the world tilted and began to recede. The airspeed tape on the PFD slid quickly up towards 100 knots, and I pulled the nose further back to hold somewhere near Vy, or around 85 knots. At 800 feet, I made my right turn (right, for right hand traffic). At 1100 feet, I leveled the nose, began the second right to 150 degrees (downwind), closed the cowl flaps and brought the throttle back to around 21 inches/Hg. I didn't move the prop out of full fast, since we were staying in the pattern. As soon as I was steady on the downwind, I called in. "Long Island Tower, One One Two Niner Yankee is on a right downwind for Three Three Left, requesting touch and go."

"One One Two Niner Yankee, cleared to land Three Three Left for touch and go, you're number one for the runway."

"One One Two Niner Yankee, cleared to land runway six."

My instructor chimed in. "Remember, read back first, then tail number."

"Right. Right." I'd completely forgotten. But it was almost time to be busy again. "Okay. there are the numbers. Power back to 15 inches, fuel is on both, trim is centered, first ten of flaps, mixture is full rich, prop is full fast." I looked over across my instructor at the runway; I'm not nearly as familiar with right-hand traffic, but I've found to my relief that it's not really that different. "Okay, starting the descent, looking for 500 feet per minute." I pushed the yoke forward a bit hard; the flaps had caused the airplane to rise before my airspeed had started to bleed off. Turned base, added the next increment of flaps, turned final, and found myself a bit high - white/white on the VASI but not too bad. "Going for the rest of the flaps," I said, doing it.

"They're there to be used."

Over the threshold, I became aware that this airplane is definitely heavier than the 172. It starts to sink at a higher airspeed, and if you pull the yoke back on approach it will sink much more quickly for the same control input. I juggled it a bit, but came over the threshold over the centerline, holding a bit of right aileron for wind correction. Pulled out the rest of the power, felt it settle, looked out towards the end of the runway...and settled gently down. My instructor nodded. "Excellent. Okay, I got your cowl flaps, maintain directional control, ready?"

"Ready. Raising flaps." I slid the flaps up to zero, rechecked my line, then pushed the throttle all the way in. "Full power." We accelerated and continued down the runway. I could feel the airplane settle onto its wheels as the flaps finished retracting, around which time the airspeed was rising back up past fifty knots and it started getting light again. I rotated at sixty-five knots and was again surprised by how high the nose on this airplane likes to be to maintain a constant climb airspeed. Lots of power, lots of prop.

We were switched to runway Zero Six due to a wind change - we extended our downwind, turned and ended up on a downwind for Zero Six. We got in another three landings, all but one of them very smooth. The outlier was one where I'd let it get a little slow - I'd been high, so I'd yanked power early; we'd slid down and I had full flaps on. When I flared, the full flaps meant the airplane slowed down quickly and we started to sink a bit higher up than I'd planned, so I ended up a little slow. I bounced slightly, but held it to five or six feet and managed to avoid the temptation to add power, rode it back down, all good.

Zero point eight hours, four landings, Class C operations, check. Another notch towards Australia and the ten hours I need before arriving.

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