But I Fly Helicopters!

This is my mantra when I am facing something scary, for example: spiders, bugs in general and anything that isn’t flying helicopters.

Why is this my mantra?

Flying helicopters was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Think about it, it’s a flying death machine being controlled by a human. What could go wrong, right?

I have had to face my fears many times without this mantra and it was not easy. For example, I had to face several of my greatest fears at one time: ocean water, sharks and stingrays all at the same time. That’s right I swam in shark and stingray infested waters and I didn’t have the mantra back then. 

I did have a hunky Tahitian guide with a traditional tattoo of a shark and stingray so I had a feeling I was in good hands. We were on an excursion of a lifetime and this was the moment you enter the traveler-zone or stay in the comfort-zone.

The brave ones jumped into the water without hesitation while the rest of us who were more apprehensive considered our options. One-by-one the reluctants joined in. It was me and one other lady and she was not even having it. So I watched our guide as he explained how the stingrays eat, he gave it a fish in the mouth and what looked like its ear! Holy shit! That was creepy!!

Since I was still on the boat, he asked me to hand him the bag of fish. It was blood-soaked and heavier than I expected. Fish blood and fish juice got all over my hand and arm and I was about to go into the shark and stingray water. WTF was I thinking?! 

I wasn’t, I just slowly climbed down the ladder into the warm clear water, making sure not step on a stingray because that would be bad, very bad. What you had to do was float and keep your hands and feet close to you so the sea critters don’t think your hands are food and try to eat them. So there I am doing the oddest doggy-paddle of my life while seeing sharks and stingrays through my snorkel mask. 

Then I heard my breath. Slow and steady. Calm as I could be while “swimming” with sharks and stingrays. It was the craziest thing I had ever experienced. 

I guess you could say, “But I swam in shark and stingray infested waters” would be a good mantra, but I disagree. 

Here’s why. I chose to learn to fly helicopters. I paid for lessons. I trained and I drilled the maneuvers. I was prepared for the weather situations, I was prepared for things not to go right and how to adapt. It was skill and hard work—and it was scary as hell. 

But you were trained and exposed to various elements that helped you handle a situation. And when you survived it you felt exhilarated. 

For example: Turbulence. We know them and dislike them in large commercial aircraft. Let me tell you they feel very different in a small flying death bubble. 

The first thing you are trained to do is to ease off the controls when you hit them. Most people want to plow through them and accelerate. WRONG answer. This is a very scary situation, you are bouncing around and being tossed about all the while trying to pay attention to your speed, altimeter, and listening for odd noises. 

During one of my three cross country flights I hit some really bad turbulence and I literally thought I saw my heart leave the cockpit while I tried to gain control of the flying death bubble.

Here’s what happened: I was flying through a canyon as per the flight plan. I was flying at the correct altitude and speed. Then I dropped and bounced in the sky. My training kicked in. I eased off the collective, cyclic and pedals, then looked at my gauges about shat myself because I saw the worst thing I could see. My speed gauge hit the red zone which means I could crack the engine and fall from the sky. Yup, that just happened. You are one and half hours away from your home airport what do you do? You pay attention to every sound she makes. You watch those gauges and prepare to land anywhere that looks safe. This is what you train for. This is what has been drilled into you. You can handle this. They would never let you fly by yourself for three hours if they didn’t believe you could do it. You are doing it and taking control of the situation.

You just recovered from a torrent of angry air and maintained control. You can do anything. 

That is why I say my mantra is, “But I fly helicopters.” To remind myself that if I can survive a flying death bubble, I should be able to kill a spider or any other creepy-crawly thing out there.


Guillaume Maillet, my first CFI and the best!! He was my favorite instructor. He believed in me and gave me the confidence I needed to fly R22 helicopters.

Here’s an article that sheds some light on the flying world from the pilots and owners of my flight school.

Here’s a video of a student pilot and instructor during lift off, clearance and take off. (Clear Left, Clear Right. Get that ETL.)

(We’re in the middle of a move so my log book, certificate, and photos are all packed up. I trained well before social media was a thing and documenting my flights was hard since I had a flip phone back then. If I was flying now, you bet I’d be filming everything!!)

Word problems, for me, are not the same as word problems were designed.

For example: If Sally goes to the store with Billy and Sally has $.57 and Billy has $.72 how many watermelons can they buy if watermelons are $.17 a pound?

What the hell is this craptastic scenario?!

My brain gets stuck. Not on the math—but in the story.

I want more of the story. Where the hell is the rest of the story?!

For me, my brain, is imagining Sally with a blonde, bob hairstyle, blue eyes and she is wearing a cute, flowy and flowery babydoll dress with patent leather Mary Jane shoes. Billy has a red and white striped shirt, faded jeans and white, low-top Converse shoes. He has a gentle face with brown eyes and a buzz cut. He is very protective of Sally as she is his little sister. In my mind, I’m wondering why their mom has sent them off to the store to buy watermelons since they are so young and watermelons are heavy.

Anytime I saw a “Word Problem” it was indeed a word problem. I was so lost in the story and it was problematic that the rest of the story was missing.

Every time I read a “Word Problem” I had to work even harder to focus on what it was that I was supposed to do because I was so lost in the missing story.

I wanted Sally and Billy to buy purple elephants and apple-sized lollipops. It was so hard for me to do the math when they had that many words without a real story. I always wanted more of the story. Or I wanted to know why these children were doing the things they were doing.

Or better yet, why was a guy standing on platform at the train station? Where was he going? In my mind he was wearing a London Fog, camel-colored trench coat, he was holding a leather bag, he wore a grey fedora hat, shiny wingtip loafers, he had thick black-rimmed glasses, and an intelligent face. I wanted to know what he did for work, what he was going to eat when he got to Chicago or New York. To me, it did not matter how long it took him to get to these places, I wanted to know what he was going to do when he got there. 

What in the missing letters Hell is this shite!!

I survived the “Word Problems” of my childhood only to be more baffled as I got older and advanced to Algebra. When I saw “Solve for X” on the board I was like where is the rest of the word?

Why was there only one letter?!

Is “X” the first letter or the last?! 

Was the missing word “Xylophone” or was it “Sex” or was it something trickier? 

In my mind you could not just put a letter on the board, there had to be more.

Math for me was the most torturous thing because it always involved letters and these letters were missing letters. I hated that the letters equalled numbers. The letters should be with more letters not be reduced to a singular number.

It is a true miracle I survived my math classes in grade school, high school and college, (Statistics-ugh! Don’t even remind me of that course. I passed with hard work and by the kindness of my professor and walked away never to do anything other than basic math ever again). I could never tell anyone what was happening in my brain with “Word Problems” or Algebra because I knew they would think I was completely mental. I suffered through it and thank the Word Gods who helped me realize words are my friends and as long as I can keep my bank account balanced, I’ll be just fine.

Only now can I share with you the problems with word problems from my youth and know that I am not completely mental. I am a word lover and word freak and in my mind words tell a story. If you give me only bits and pieces of a story, my mind will create a story and get lost in the details that I filled in. And there is nothing wrong with that. Words are not problematic for me, words are not numbers, words are delicious distractions, wondrous wishes, and things of beauty to get lost in.