Saturday, September 30, 2017

To the Atmosphere and Beyond

A quote from Socrates,

"Man must rise above the Earth — to the top of the atmosphere and beyond — for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives." 

The photo was taken above the Chesapeake Bay.

I am not a man, nor have I made it to the atmosphere and beyond. I have however gone up far enough in a plane to fully understand the world in which I live in.

We are mere droplets of color on a charted map that does not judge us by who we are. Towns, cities, lakes, streams, and railroad tracks may separate us but they do not confine us. At 3,000 feet in the sky, the world below me shines with beauty. My charts used for navigation guide me along a path of wonders. A bit lower and I can see women hanging clothes out to dry in their yard. A boy riding his bicycle down a rural road. A farmer tending to his fields. A kayaker taking on one of the finger lakes. Factories with smoke billowing out of the tall exhaust pipes. Solar farms larger than life out in the middle of nowhere.

When I see this world through my eyes as a pilot, the world does not speak back to me. It does not tell me, that farmer was a Republican or that lady was a Jew or this town is filled with racists, or that river is polluted by that factory, or that college has sexual assault cases pending against it or that town is an LBGT community. My navigation charts do not label the world we live in, in such a way that we as humans label ourselves and the things around us. We judge we persecute, we hate, we disrespect, we show no discipline, and we allow for the violation of our own space to occur.

Why have we lost sight of the beauty around us? Is it an attempt to just lash out at everything that has ever undermined our well-being. For every time you never got to go to the movies, or spend the night at a friends house, or missed out on a party or lost a job to perhaps a better candidate. or heartbroken by those we thought we loved the most.

While many do not have an opportunity to sit as a pilot in a cockpit and view the world below them. Many do have the capacity to open their eyes and hearts to see and feel what is right there in front of them and surrounding them daily. We become blinded by the mundane human daily rituals of life itself. We no longer take the time to appreciate the beautiful, the ugly, the delicious or the distasteful. We have almost stopped learning.

I think Socrates had it right. We need to seek a path so far beyond our reach in order to truly understand what is going on around us. How will you make that happen in your life? Let's start a conversation. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

My Cat Sunny

Pets are something else. For those of us that do not have kids, they are our children. We care for them, love them, feed them and spend money on them. Some people go as far as buying clothes, fancy beds and making fresh food. Sunny came with the husband. It was a package deal. Sunny is a male cat and is about 12 years old now. He has only in the last year really begun to get close to me. The same sort of connection he has with my husband. I mean not as deal and unconditional, but I will take what I can get. Usually, I am the third wheel in this family. Since Sunny has come into my life every day has been an adventure with him. I decided to share his greatest moments since I joined the family. 

Tucked under the warm covers.

He will stare at our wedding photos for minutes at a time.
Showing daddy some love.

Showing mommy some love.
He loves to go for walks and lay in the grass.

He has his GQ moments. Watch out lady cats!

Helping me complete a puzzle. Well, he thought he was helping.

His first Christmas with us in our new home in a new state.

He loves his new bed.

He loves to lounge and watch TV with us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Who are you?

Who are we? Are we defined by our hobbies or interests? Our political views or religious background? What makes you, you? I can't be the only person out there that questions these sort of things in life. The other day I read a quote that went something like this, "We show our family one side of ourselves, our friends another side, and our true self no one sees". That really sort of spoke to me. Do we unintentionally do this or is it something that we just aren't even aware of?

For many of us, we probably are aware of it. Especially if your family is extremely conservative, while your friends maybe more liberal in their thinking, politics aside. The sad part of the quote is that we never show our "true self" to anyone. I find this hard to believe, but there must be some truth to it.

I guess a good example might be that all your friends love outdoor activities, like hiking for example, but your really don't. However, you never say anything because being with your friends is more important to you than saying you don't like to go hiking. A lifetime could go by and yet that friend or friends think you've always enjoyed hiking with them. When in fact is was just the company that meant something to you. You could have cared less about climbing Everest or hiking the Appalachian trail.

That said, is that really what the quote means about our true self? Or does it go deeper than that to how we love, laugh and cry. Is it our art or creative side that speaks to who we really are. Sort of like a silent friend or family member. Think about it, if you turned the clocks back to a time where there really wasn't a 8-5 or a 5 day work week. A time when your skill defined you, your knowledge made you who you are. Perhaps your discovery brought you the attention you desired. Where people then showing their true self more often than we do now? Probably not.
Photo taken in Centrailia, PA
I mean, we as humans have always done things to impress others. The "keeping up with the Joneses", is not really an exaggerated statement. Perhaps this is the reason we never show our true self.

Well whatever the answer might be, a sip more of my coffee and the topic no longer matters.

Have a great day folks!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Our lives tend to get so busy that we forget to stop and smell the flowers. When was the last time you went to a park or a cafe with the intention of just sitting there and relaxing, maybe even playing a game of chess?  

Days, weeks, months go by and the cycle of life, or daily routine, tend to cause us more harm than good. As of late, I have found myself falling into a new routine in life revolved around marriage and caring for my family. My husband recently had a knee surgery which has literally put a hold on pretty much any outdoor activity he and I use to enjoy. Things like hiking, biking and just simply taking a walk. One day I had an idea to break the norm. 

Do you want to go and play a game chess at the cafe on the trail, I asked my husband. I could tell he began thinking of ideas to get out of such a suggestion. I continued to sell the idea by suggesting we get protein drinks and just enjoy the sunshine. Finally, I got a look of agreeance. 

We went and had a great time. So much so, that we ended up going back there two days later and to play some Scrabble. This time we got green tea shakes while creating a new friendship with the staff. We stopped and smelled flowers when was the last time you did the same? 

Sunday, September 3, 2017


Learning to fly has actually begun to translate in my life outside of flying. As a pilot, you are taught to "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate". Basically, control the airplane, get it to where you need it to go, and then tell communicate where you are. We are taught that doing anyone of these out of sequence may lead to a deadly outcome. In life, we aren't really given rules of survival at such a basic level as this. As a pilot, it's these three words that define your survival. They are so key that I literally make notes of these words all over the place; my kneeboard, the corner of my computer screen, on the first page of my flying books.  

When in the cockpit we as pilots are always faced with constant changes. The wind, for example, it never stays the same. You could have started out your flight on a calm day and finishing your flight with wind gusts while landing. Very nerve reckoning! All the flight planning in the world can still leave us in an outcome we weren't ready for. That said, the other part of this "three word" survival checklist, if you will, is risk management. 

It's summed up by the acronym P.A.V.E. A set of words that allow you to really dig deep into decision making. P.A.V.E. stands for "Personal, Aircraft, Environment, and External pressures". Seems to make sense if you are reading this for the first time as a student pilot or perhaps you are reading it for the first time here on this blog. Nonetheless, these words are designed to be implemented before, during and even after you "Aviate, Navigate and Communicate". Seems simple! Follow these rules and you will likely stay out of trouble.  

Landing a 172 at KBGM, with Joseph Rizzo as PIC.

So what does any of this have to do with anything else in life, other than flying? Well, a lot actually. Think about it for a second. A s a child we are taught right and wrong. Depending on our parents and their discipline techniques, those rights and wrongs are either distilled in us or words and behaviors forgotten. If you were raised around religion, then you may have had your faith to guide you through life. Often times many of us that follow a religion end up losing our faith only to later regain it and this cycle may continue throughout your whole life. Furthermore, everything we do is governed by law. 

Whether in our own home, at school or work, in our communities, states or country. All of these act as institutions of learning behaviors for life's' survival. At home, we learn manners. At school, we begin to learn about the world and our community. Our community teaches us social norms or behaviors acceptable in society. Our government reminds us of our freedoms or lack there of, depending on your perspective. 

My point is, why are we, as the people of this world, not given the most basic of survival training as pilots are given. A set of three words expanded with an acronym. Perhaps practicing them in our daily lives could yield a better way of life for us all. "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate". Is it really that simple? Perhaps that has been the answer we have all been seeking in life. Three words with the most basic of definitions, to guide us to salvation. 

Imagine yourself as a child. Imagine your parents kneeled down and explaining to you the rules of life. The conversation may even go something like this: 

Son/Daughter, in life you will learn you have control of your well being. 
You must set a plan to follow. 
Never forget to share your ideas or plan with others. 
Now keep in mind that while you are in control of making your plan and sharing your own ideas, that there are words to help you PAVE the way. 
You will need to evaluate yourself. Are you mentally, physically able and educated enough to survive your plan.
The method or means to getting your plan accomplished would need you to be efficient in the things you need to do to achieve your goals.
All this, while keeping into consideration your environment and any external pressures that will keep you for succeeding. 
These words we utter are the basic steps to life's survival. If you ever forget or lose sight of your way, just remember "Aviate, Navigate, Communicate" and you will P.A.V.E. the way to successful life.

Now you understand the connection the way I do. We all interpret things differently and therefore, my views are my own and yours are yours. Flying has changed my life. I feel that life itself should be taught to us in a way flying is taught to us. Never take anything for granted. Something so minute and overlooked, could be something that changes you and who you are forever. 

No one else walks in your shoes, but you.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How turning 40 has changed my life, and it hasn't even happened yet.

Have you ever felt lost? Like an identity you thought you had, but you don't. The need to seek out the true meaning of yourself takes on a new role that for some is exhausting, for others it's an adventure. Which is it for you?

This year I am turning 40. Many of you that have already gone through this hump, perhaps have asked yourself similar questions about all aspects of life. For those of you that have not, perhaps you are just not as much of a free thinker as I am. Maybe video games or consumerism is clouding your judgment. Or perhaps you would argue the opposite for me. Nonetheless, I feel a huge change coming on. I have not been able to put my finger on it quite yet, but there is an energy force that is driving me towards a goal. How am I to figure this out? Perhaps you have felt the same energy yourself and maybe even have struggled with it for years. Do you feel empty? or have you found your salvation, or purpose or meaning in life? We seem to call it different things.

Whatever you call it, or whatever it is you are seeking it usually takes a lot of your time. I personally have never really figured out my path. I've loved, lost, loved and lost a million times. Not all romantic love, but love of family or friends. Many have made their way to a greater power. What did they accomplish in life? Besides me, who else remembers them. Did their life matter? Does my life matter? These are questions that have perplex me for awhile now. The last few months leading up to the "big 40", these questions have become more consuming. Like a terror in the night that you simply cannot hide from.

The Susquehanna River in Binghamton, NY.

So how exactly does one find the answers? I am currently trying Yoga, meditation and Veganism. I have felt the need to cleanse. I have felt toxic in my own skin. I'm not sure if these are the true answers to resolving this part of my journey in life, but it sure is hard to ignore how good it feels in my own skin again.

Yoga has really surprised me. I see people posting about going to yoga a few times a week and other folks joining in on these rally type of yoga events. You know the ones held at Time Square or in a huge park in a city near you. I use to think to myself that there are so many people on the bandwagon of yoga. Is it just cool to do yoga? Does that give you a better shot at a job, or look smarter when talking to someone at business meetings? Why are all these people doing yoga? I kept asking myself these questions over and over and kept fabricating my own answers. Then one day, my schedule changed at work and I now was able to make it to a yoga session. That session changed me.

I look back at that first day and I was so nervous. I was overweight and could barley touch my toes. I still can't touch my toes, but I at least now understand I don't necessarily have to. The instructor was such a great lady. She was calming, and knowledgeable. You could tell she loved teaching yoga. I barely could do any of the moves. Every time I attempted to do something, she was right by my side with blocks, or moving my head, or telling me to try with knees down instead of up. Nonetheless, every class I went to there after was the same way. I had realized even just that one day a week made me stronger physically and mentally. The use of blocks faded. Then one day, she was no longer the instructor. My interest faded. The new instructor was intense. She made yoga a workout, and I had become to realize that while it is a workout, it is much greater than that. She had apparently lost that in her training. There was no chi, if you will. Just keep up to break a sweat. I never did yoga there again.

Fast forward to a year later, October of 2016, my husband and I moved to upstate New York. At that time, I was just working remotely as a contractor, from my full time job that I had just left. I was bored! What do I do? There is nothing more mind crumbling than boredom. One day I was on YouTube searching through videos. I came across a yoga video from a lady that seriously resembled my old yoga instructor that I liked. There are literally millions of videos on YouTube and somehow I found this lady. You may have seen her videos. She has over two million subscribers and all sorts of videos depending on your experience. The channel is called Yoga With Adriene and I owe it all to her for getting me back on track with yoga. She gets it!

See yoga isn't something I'm doing to be cool, or to fit in with a certain group of people. I have found it to be peace of mind. A cleanse of the soul that has taught me to relax and appreciate time. These are two things I struggle with often, and now I have better control of them. Which has now lead me to meditation. This is far harder physically, mentally and emotionally. This to me is a challenge that has been defeating me, but I am not giving up. Being an asthmatic, breathing has always been a struggle. Yoga has helped and now having to pay attention to it and nothing more, is a true test of my will power. Many people that do it for years, still struggle with it. I plan on keeping it as part of my life style for as long as I am alive. You can say yoga was the gateway drug to meditation.

Alright, so we've talked about yoga and meditation, but now let's talk about being vegan. You are probably asking why I am betting myself up by jumping the gun to a plant based diet. To be completely honest, I went through a time in my 20s where I was vegetarian for 10 years. I don't honestly recall the reasons leading me back to eating meat. That said, I have spent lots of money indulging in some of the best hamburgers our great country has to offer, to some of the best steaks, chicken and fish meals every made. I'm a bit of a cook, so all of these meats where back in my diet. I am middle eastern, and so many meats were now in my diet that had never even been in my diet before. Growing up it was mostly Mediterranean style food. If there was meat involved, it was only fish, lamb and goat. Now my diet encompassed everything.

Within the last month I have made a commitment to myself to begin a Vegan lifestyle. My husband refuses to change, but yet wants me to eat a steak or a pound of chicken with him every night. He is Polish and German, so I get it. I just have felt that need for cleansing and so far it is working out great. I have found a whole new world of recipes, some of which he has even enjoyed. I have felt myself feeling better and having more energy. Not feeling sluggish anymore.

Yoga, meditation and moving to being Vegan only seems to be a small part of reaching the summit of what it is I have been struggling to figure out. I feel like these things are the base. You know, those "first steps". This reminds me of something called the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. There are 5 levels to the pyramid theory he discusses. Yet they are better broken down into 3 segments; Basic Needs, Psychological Needs, and Self-Fulfillment Needs. I find myself hoovering between the psychological and self-fulfillment needs. If you wanted to break it down more specifically, I am floating between Esteem needs and Self-Actualization. The need of feeling accomplished in ones life to the need of finding my full potential. At least I know where I stand. So, how am I going to get to the top? That again takes me back to my original concerns for finding the true meaning of life. Maybe I should call it "the quest for finding my self-actualization"?

Sunset at Lake Santeetlah in NC.

Perhaps waking up on April 22nd 2017, my birthday, will enlighten me with the answers I seek. Maybe not. Either way, I feel more focused now that I'm following a path in my life that is going to lead me to the top of Maslow's pyramid. Perhaps the answers or my achievements won't come until I'm 60. Perhaps then I will even look back questioning why I moved forward this way. Maybe I'll look back thanking myself for making the right chooses, because the success in the future has everything to do with what I do now. I have always thought that once I have figured out my purpose, that then my fate will be sealed. Either way, I do not believe someone should live life worrying about tomorrow. Over the years I have grown to understand that living in the present is really how we succeed in life. Remembering our past and learning from it for our present and using both to get us to the future. Cheers to finding self-worth!

Have you every contemplated about your purpose? Have you ever questions your current state of mind?  If so, please share your experiences. We may learn from one another. After all, that is what life is about.

Monday, January 30, 2017

DIY - Relocation of Dyna Indicator Lens and Turn Signals

Ever since I bought my 2008 Dyna Low Rider (FXDL), I have struggled with aftermarket parts because the indicator lens is on the bar clamp. Such an annoying place to have it. I have always wanted to move it, just didn't really know how. The new 2016 FXDL models ditched the indicator lens on the clamps. They moved the indicators into the speedo dash. Genius! Wish they had just done that with prior models and called it a day. Instead, here is what I had to do to move it to my dash, but not in my speedo.

This is the OE location of the indicator lens on my 2008 FXDL, right on the handlebar clamp.

The plan is to move the indicator lens from the clamp and position it between the speedo and tach. Dead center between the two bolts.

Now it's time to take everything apart. You start buy unscrewing the two bolts on the dash and the one just under the seat. You will have to remove the seat, and when you do I suggest disconnecting the battery for safety. Once all the screws are out, the dash then is loose. Just pull up on it and begin disconnecting the wiring harness plugs. For the speedo button, you will have to unscrew it. Keep the rubber outside peace on a safe place and then push the wire part through the dash. That way now everything is disconnected. At that point, you will have a free dash, that you can now move to your work bench or table. 

Your next step is to remove your handlebar clamp. Since I am changing my bars and risers, there are more steps to do at this point. First, it is best to start taking off the controls. I usually start on the left side. On the controls there are 4 screws. There are 2 on the outside clamp and 2 on the controls themselves. Begin with unscrew them all slowly. I basically, unscrew each one a little bit at a time, while moving from one to another until they are all so loose I can manage moving the wires out the way and clutch safely. When you work alone it can be challenging. If you have a friend, get a 12 pack a beer and thank him for the extra set of hands after the jobs done. Anyways, once the controls are off, you have to remove the left grip. I had slid mine on with lubricant. I usually take them off by squeezing a zip tie or two in there and then spraying WD40 in the opening that is made. Then you just start twisting the grip back and forth to work the WD40 and boom! the grip slides right off. 

Now for right side you basically do the same thing, only you have the throttle cables you need to watch out for as well as some springs for the poor mans cruise control. So, be very careful when doing the right side. Once the controls are off, you can now proceed to remove the 4 screws on the handlebar clamp. Once those are off, you can then set the bars in the pile you probably have in your garage of all the bars you have tried. I have some for sale if anyone is interested. 

Once the bars and clamp is off, since I am putting in new risers, I have to remove the risers. There is a ground wire attached to them, as well as your brake cable clamp. Be sure you remove that screw and keep an eye on your ground wire. The first time I took the risers off ever, I ended up bending the ground wire so bad that I had to make a new one with new connectors. Nonetheless, now you can start unscrewing the bolts at of the risers that you see on the inside of the triple tree. Once those are off, you might want to inspect your bushings. I had replaced mine year ago, with polyurethane ones, so I know they are good to go. I honestly wish I had replaced them with the OE rubber ones. They helped to dampen the vibration a bit better on my Dyna. The poly ones make the vibration a bit more intense. This might be a project for next winter. Now you will have things hanging off the bike. I basically made bungees my friend during this part of the project. I had one bungee holding up the right side controls so my brake fluid reservoir didn't start leaking. I had another holding the opposite side to the front frame tubes. Then I had painters tape holding the turn signals wires on the forks. The things you have to do when you don't have a friend around. 

Now that everything is out of the way we can continue with working on the dash. I had to take the original clamp and I lined it up over the tapped up area in the photo below. I used it as a template for cutting the proper size hole needed for this to work.  

Set the OE clamp on there and took a pen made a template of the proper diameter needed for the cut out. 
Grab a set of safety glasses and a cutting wheel for your Dremel. 

You can start to make your cuts and of course clean up with files. 
Grab a file ad clean up your work. I could have done it with the Dremel using other bits, but I just didn't have them on hand.

I then mounted the new bars, risers and clamps.

Love it!

Wired everything back up, including plugging the battery back in. Reinstalled the dash, put the controls back on and zip tied any wires for a cleaner look.
Looks so much cleaner without the turn signal lens there. 
These weren't the best clamps, but for 11 bucks on Amazon they worked alright! 

New bars, new risers, new clamps, new relocation kit for the turn signals and a new location for the indicator lens! FINALLY!! Now I just need the snow to melt so I can ride. I should mention that I did test everything prior to making the final reinstall of all parts. I didn't want to put the dash back on if the electrical just didn't work. One thing I did run into was the bolt mounts on the dash that are welded to the tank. Some people cut and re-weld those brackets. I actually bent them the opposite way and it worked fine.

Have you been working on a winter project? If so, I'd love to hear what you have been working on. It's always fun to changes, heck even sometimes we put things back they way their were. How many of you have done that? ha! Until next time, keep the rubber side down!