Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So Long 2008... sucked.

What did 2008 bring?

January: The flight from hell. Which led to a poor excuse for an incident debriefing where I was told to "buck up, it wasn't that bad". Where I was accused of not knowing how to use the radar in the aircraft. The same radar that turned out to be not functioning properly. I was accused by the Director of Operations of not knowing basic weather. The same D.O. who ordered me to send a pilot on trip that was illegal due to basic weather for FAR 135 flights (something he should have known after all, he is the Director of Operations!).

February/March/April: Increasing uneasiness when flying. Distracted. Not wanting to go to work. Not wanting to fly. Unable to figure out why I can't just "get back in the saddle" like I've done other times? Increasing dissatisfaction with management as they make accusations then refuse to communicate.

May: A legitimate turn-down of a flight due to weather turns into an opportunity for the D.O. to write me up...twice. He heard what he wanted to hear and not what I was saying. My fault. I thought that if I made every effort to make the flight happen it would just what they'd been telling me for over a year. Not. This led to me being asked to "write up" my boss. After a long while, I utilized the proper company procedures as outlined in the General Operating Manual and Personnel Handbook for instances where improvement can be made and/or to point out deficiencies in the company. I listed the instances where the fixed wing pilots were feeling pressure, subtle though it may have been at times, but pressure nonetheless, to take flights that were deemed either marginal or illegal.

My reward for following company policy? I was flown to the Mothership and chastised for "writing up my boss". I was called "unprofessional" and it was wondered aloud how I ever got into the Lead Pilot position as I was obviously "not suited" for it. When I was asked if I had anything to say, I asked what it's called when the D.O. orders a pilot to order another pilot to take an illegal flight? I was met by mute faces and a change of subject. In an effort to "move forward" (company's new buzzword), I resigned as Lead Pilot, took my week off and updated my resume.

Back to work, plane comes out of maintenance, dirty and greasy. We have a PR event two days out so I kept the plane out of service for another 45 minutes to wash it...after I checked with Operations regarding any flights. This was the procedure I had cleared with the D.O. beforehand, asking if I could keep the plane out of service after maintenance to keep it clean. "Do what you need to do...that's fine with me" was the direct quote. I passed this around to the other pilots at the time then did just that. As we were finishing the wash, we got paged for a Long Range flight that would leave in 2 hours. No problem. Plane back to base, flight planning all done, now waiting for the "Go" call.

This is where life got ugly.

To make a long story short, I inadvertently raised the gear after I had landed and rolled out approximately 1000' at Travis AFB. Why I did it I didn't know. I've never done anything like that ever before nor will I ever do it again. It wasn't until a few months later that I found a root cause for the incident but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Two days after the incident, the company Safety Officer reviewed my statement and, after a long discussion with the Director of Operations, the Chief Pilot, the Head of the Air Medical group and HR, it was decided that I should be reinstated, given a check ride by the CP and put back to work. 10 minutes later, after a closed door session, I was informed that I was being terminated "due to all the problems they've had with me over the last 15 months".

What the....?

Then UI benefits were denied and the appeal was set in place.

June: No bennies. No word from UI. Nervous breakdown. I lost it. I seriously thought I was headed for the funny farm. I regained some composure, enough to research what was going on with me and all I came up with was....PTSD.

July: Off to the counselor and therapy, which I could hardly afford but needed it. My diagnosis was correct. Now I get to relive the hell that was the flight over and over again. I tell my family what's been going on. It's nice to know there is some explanation for my behaviour and thoughts over the last 6 months. And here's the kicker. My gear up? According to my counselor, my mind wasn't on flying the plane. It was still reliving the incident from January and, coupled with my ADHD, I was distracted enough to do something out of my routine. This is not an excuse. It is an explanation. I have to have routine to deal with the ADHD. It's how I cope. It's how I survive. I once said at my martial arts school that I was "a creature of habit". This illicited a huge laugh from a couple of people who knew me well. Their response? "No kidding!"

Unfortunately, during the official NTSB/FAA investigation, I was led to believe this would be an "incident" as opposed to being an "accident". I was wrong.

August: Dealing with PTSD, ADHD, unemployment, very, very low self esteem, unable to make it through the week without breaking down, I consider up and leaving my family.

September: I get my appeal. I go to see the judge. My former employer sends the D.O. to fight for their side. He tries to bring up bravo sierra but the law judge shuts him down. I make my statement. The D.O. refutes it. The judge asks more questions. I state the D.O. cannot know what I did, when I did it or how I did it as he wasn't in the plane with me so for him to aver so adamantly that I did this on purpose and while in the air was ludicrous. In the end, I win.

October: Things are going a little better. I'm getting good leads on jobs. Unfortunately, gas prices are skyrocketing, foreclosures are accelerating and several financial institutions are showing signs of implosion. We are financially stable but for how long? And, my former employer appeals the appeal. I could lose all the money that was benefitted me through UI and might have to pay it back. I receive the NTSB report that states that it was an "inadvertent accident". Not incident like I was led to believe but accident. I now have an accident in my file which makes getting a job that much harder.

November: No word on the appeal of the appeal. The wife and I have our fourth or fifth knock-down-drag-out fight. I'm so wrapped up in my own problems I fail to see hers. We head off to Texas thanks to the kindness of my Mother and some good savings from my wife. We enjoy our time with family in Texas.

December: Start out like this. I apologize to my wife for not seeing her problems. My counselor asks me to sit in a plane. I haven't been in one (save the trip to Texas) in the left seat since May. That day...well...I have a bad day. The next day, I sit in the plane and feel....


No joy. No fear. No excitement. No anxiety. Nothing. Numb.

I think about this as I've sent out over 100 resumes, had 2 interviews, dealt with idiotic HR people who don't know what a pilot does, faxed a dozen resumes, entered my work history a dozen times on a dozen websites, look for work outside of aviation only to have people look at me and say, "you're not qualified to work at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Raley's, Safeway, etc."

Oh go suck an egg!

The economy goes into a tailspin and most companies are waiting until the new administration is sworn in and the first (or second or third) quarter of 09 is over before they make a decision on hiring.

My bennies run out in July.

Yes...2008 sucked.

But there were some good things. I'll save those for tomorrow as I look into 2009....


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm A Loser...

...just like all ya'll...

The iMonk hits another one out of the park in a way that is both gracious and hard hitting, compassionate and confrontational. Many years back, I rejected the fact that I was a "sheep". I was smarter than a sheep. I knew my Bible. I didn't follow the crowd (or so I thought). That was until I read a book, "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" by Keller. Then I realized I was a sheep.

In the same way, the iMonk reminds me that I, too, am a loser. Not in the pop culture sense but in a much different sense. He does this in a letter to Ted Haggard.

By the way, just because I'm a loser doesn't mean I'm lost. It merely means what the iMonk says it means...

You’ve been given a great gift in your honest struggle and confession of being a loser. You’re on the way. You’re on the road. Don’t whine about it. Don’t make the mistake of seeing the broad evangelical Disneyland as your destination. You’re at that point where George Bailey stood on the bridge. You can despair….and jump. Or you can know that God has sent his hope, love and good news to you in a barn, where shepherds worship in tearful silence; where a man receives a gift he never created; where a virgin says yes even to the unthinkable that grace can do the impossible.

Go there, Ted. Find that place. Go as a struggler, a loser, one with nothing. Go and know that this, and all it means and will ever mean, is for you. For you….a savior. A savior of strugglers, losers and worse.

It makes me feel good to be in the company of so many losers. Although my counselor would disagree with that concept, that I'm a loser because, after all, God made me and God don't make junk, I do agree with it to an extent. Admitting it brings me to a place where God can finally work with me and within me to make me the me He wanted me to be when He made me in the first place.

Clear as mud?

Of course it is!

That's all for now.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Letter to my Son

My son turns 16 today. When he turned 13, I wrote him a letter explaining what was probably going to transpire of the next few years. When he turns 18, I'll write him another letter and probably again when he turns 21. Here's the letter I just wrote him:

December 11, 2008

Dear Matt,

Wow…16 years old!

You are halfway through your teens.
You are halfway through High School.
You have two more years until you’re old enough to vote and be drafted but not old enough to buy beer!

A lot has changed since my last letter to you when you were 13. Some of the things I told you would happen have happened and some are still waiting to happen. You’re hair is longer, your taste in music has changed, you have a girlfriend who is also your friend (the best way to go!) your voice is changing, you’re taller than everyone else in the house and you are beginning to drive!

There have been some rough patches in the last three years but those were to be expected. Your Mom is having a tough time with it so I think it would be best if you were a little more sensitive to her feelings. As for me, I see it as all part of growing up. You have two parents who love you very much and want the best for you. Sometimes what we want and how we go about it can conflict with what you want and how you go about it. But I think in the end we both want the same thing; for you to be a well-balanced adult at the end of all of this.

Your thinking is becoming more abstract. You are beginning to formulate ideas and thoughts about life, the universe and everything and sometimes those thoughts and ideas might be different than what your parents and teachers believe. The goal here is to make sure that what you believe is good and true. Continued time in the Bible, talking with God, talking with Godly people you trust (other than your parents) is always a good thing. It can help you discern that which may be potentially harmful to you and that which may bring you joy to your life.

I know sometimes you think your Mom and I have no idea what’s going on in your life or what you’re feeling or how things are different for you. You’re probably right. But don’t discount the fact that we’ve “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” or the fact that we’ve been around teenagers for many, many years. Your life, in this day and age, is so much different than ours was 25 years ago. But in the same way, we faced many of the same things you do, just in a different context. So we “feel your pain” so to speak and sometimes we don’t.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this period of transition from childhood to adulthood is going to be rocky for the both of us. I know there is a time when you will be gone. You will be making your own decisions about many, many things and all I can do is hope and pray you make good ones. You’ll probably make some boneheaded mistakes but that’s life. You’ll learn from them while you experience the consequences of your actions. All I can do at this point is pray for you, answer your questions, point you in the direction that looks best for you, give you the benefit of my experience and, in the end, send you on your merry way. (And then I’ll buy a motorcycle and have a second adolescence!)

The world is a very uncertain place. Always has been, always will be. But it is also a place of incredible wonder and amazement for those who keep their eyes open. Take risks but take calculated risks. Explore the world. Only do so not with blinders on but with care and consideration for those around you. At 16, your world is the here and now. Every once in a while stop and consider the long term. Occasionally pause and look ahead. See if the path is still the one you should be on.

I really wish today we’d be going down to the DMV to get your driver’s license. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball on that one and I apologize. I do look forward to you driving. It scares the crap out of your Mother but I’ve always loved cars and driving. It gives you a freedom like you’ve never experienced before. It was always the one common denominator between me and my Dad when we had nothing else in common. I know we have more than cars and driving that are common between us; music, movies, and a common sense of humor are just a few. I treasure those things.

My advice for you now, at 16, is to remember your past, remember how you got here, and remember that God and your parents love you very much. Keep those in mind as you head into the future. And one more thing, don’t forget to scoop the poop when it’s your week!

I love you Matthew,

You Dad

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ever Have One of Those Weeks?

Like this week.

Sunday: We were putting up Christmas decorations and while climbing the ladder into the attic I rammed my head into the edge of the opening into the attic. 20 minutes later, I fell off of said ladder, got my legs entangled in the braces and fell. Fortunately, the ground broke my fall.

Then the wife and I got into a big fight. She slept on the couch.

Monday: Realized my UI bennies were cut off. Needed to get an extension. Spent three days trying to get a hold of a live human being to find out what was what. Finally just reapplied on line.

Tuesday: Felt a little cold coming on. Wound up sleeping in the easy chair all night so as not to choke on my own snot.

Wednesday: Felt like crap in the morning. Medicated myself with over-the-counter stuff in the cupboard. Felt better so I went to church to run sound. About half way through the message, I felt the cold hit my chest. Started coughing. Slept on the easy chair again as I was coughing all night. Hacked up some good green and yellow lung cheese.

Thursday: Felt like crap warmed over all day. Over medicated myself on the OTC stuff and some prescription antibiotics I found that I hadn't used earlier in the year. Lost my voice too. I'm supposed to announce the Christmas Parade on Saturday night. Don't think that's going to happen.

Friday: Today spent 2 hours in the walk-in clinic. Like I guessed, I have an upper respitory infection. That explains the nice green and yellow lung cheese I've been hacking up. I've been waiting 2.5 hours for the pharmacy at Walgreen's to fill my prescriptions. Not that I have any money to pay for all this. Plastic is a wonderful thing right now.

I need a job.