One night while renovating our new rig, I was working on putting peel and stick tiles up near the stove. I carefully measured the area, lined up the tiles, cut, and installed each sheet. As I was working around the window, I stepped back to admire my project. I was now using small pieces to finish an area. It is interesting how each individual tile is part of a cohesive large picture. When the area is complete, it looks flawless, yet in the process of working on the area, it is difficult to make each piece look perfectly placed. I was down to working with tiny scrap pieces, desperately trying to fit them together. I thought to myself, “Isn’t this like life? We are working on something in life, only to step back and see a bigger picture.” I saw a bigger picture when, after years of flight instructing and chasing my dream of spaceflight, I stepped back and saw how flight training was the best preparation I could have had for motherhood, which is the something I never realized I wanted in the process of chasing other dreams.
Before I started staying home with the children, I had worked as a flight instructor, later going to work at an airport in operations where I was in charge of a variety of things, including opening and closing runways, coordinating projects with ground control and tower, and supporting ground operations during snow removal. It was a dynamic job and I loved it! At the time, I was pregnant with our first child and no longer fit well into a cramped cockpit. I still wanted to be involved in aviation in some way, which is why I ended up working for the Airport Authority. This job allowed me to be involved in aviation and available at home (physically on the ground), since my husband flew internationally at the time and would be gone for half the month. Our logistics were tricky, but we made arrangements for childcare.
Shortly after our first child was born, I had the opportunity to change jobs and work as a production test pilot for a company on the airfield I worked at. I excitedly switched from an Airport Operations Officer to a Production Test Pilot. I was living the dream. I dropped our kiddo off at daycare, got to fly all day, and return home each evening. It was an amazing time in my life. I met incredible friends, learned a ton, had a rewarding flying job, and was able to be home every night with my family. I aspired to work my way up from production test piloting into other areas of flight test. I thought I was well on my way to my dreams of space. Little did I know that the airplane I was on would soon stop production and, only seven months after I started, I would be laid off. This felt devastating at the time, but we also knew we wanted to have more children. My job involved significant risk and I knew I would be limited in my job if I became pregnant again (I could not be around the aviation fuel, due to the lead in it, which would be harmful to a developing baby.) I started to enjoy being home with our then-one-year-old and then became pregnant with our second child.
I look back at that sweet time in life and think about how it parallels the beginning of a renovation project. Everything is a blank slate and I can imagine the completed area, but I don’t see every tile or tiny piece that would make up the finished project, I only saw the big picture. As I worked at placing the sheets of tile, it felt as though each tile I placed paralleled times in my life where I was starting something new and exciting, not knowing how things would work out or where the adventure would lead to. As I placed each tile, I could see them line up and minor imperfections, but as I stepped back to see the progress, the project looked perfect at a distance. Isn’t that life? Each experience leads us to where we are, yet we don’t always see how each tile will line up to make the final image until we step back to admire the journey.
I can appreciate the journey I have been on in aviation, which has now led me to being a stay-at-home mom. At the time I began staying home, I was sad to take time off from professionally flying and didn’t know what lay ahead or when I would get the opportunity to fly again. I can definitely say I have not lost my love of flying but gained more perspective by applying my aviation insight to motherhood. I share my love of flight with the children and use my flight instructing experiences to help shape them as they grow. Our children can also appreciate that mom “retired” from flying to raise them. (Raising kids is tiring and I say that I’m RE-tired every day!)
As I sit in our completely renovated space, I appreciate the hard work that went into the project. Looking at the tiles lined up, I reminisce on my personal journey and think about my children on their journey. I cannot help but wonder what life experiences they will have and what they will become some day when they grow up. I wonder if a field trip will inspire them to be engineer, architect, conservationists, veterinarian, or a geologist. No matter what each of them decide to do in this world, I have enjoyed helping them learn and sharing experiences with them. I have enjoyed reminiscing about my life journey as I renovated our rig. While my career did not go like I thought it would, I can look back at my journey and appreciate how it has turned out thus far, just like looking at the completed tiles in my kitchen. Each tile was a step in the process. I now look at the finished project and appreciate the space and the time I spent working diligently installing each perfectly imperfect tile.
What moments in life have helped you get to where you are today?