stuck in limbo

Current Mood: retro

I've got several large boxes of things in my apartment that need to be... dealt with.

They're mostly from my high school years, and they're chock full of memories (good and bad and in between).  From when my parents split, from when I had my surgery, from when I started college, from when our roof got damaged and my stuff got soaked.  Stuff I should either get rid of or display, stuff I should donate or sell, stuff I should... process. 

Some of it's purely sentimental, and I lie to myself and say I've moved past it.  Some of it's childish, and I lie to myself and say I want less material things in my life.  Some of it's educational and I lie to myself and say I'll read this or use that some day.  Some of the things are trophies and ribbons and I lie to myself and say I don't care about those accomplishments anymore.  I feel like a hoarder, physically and mentally.

I haven't really used any of this stuff in years.  Hell, I've barely seen it.  The pragmatist in me says if it hasn't seen the light of day in that long, get rid of it.  It's weighing me down  Literally and mentally.

Instead, the boxes have been in storage, then other storage, then trucked to me and moved around from apartment to apartment, silent sentinels of a past life in stasis.


Pizza! Come get your mail!

Current Mood: flannel

My grandpa was an old school guy.  He was tough, patient, quiet, and hardworking - cut from the "Dirty Jobs" mold, if you will.  He served in the Army, worked nights in a paint factory and as a locksmith on the side.  He had a rusting green Ford Bronco, a wood burning stove, a cuckoo clock, a police scanner, and a well worn coffee mug.  When I was a kid, he used to show me old drawings and articles about B-17s and talk about engines (anything from WWII radials to the lawnmower in the garage). 

I wish I could tell you I soaked it all up, but as a kid I was more interested in Star Wars, Nickelodeon, and my Game Boy than sitting down to watch boring old black and white war movies.

Yesterday I was thinking about how much has changed since he passed away years ago.  I switched my major, and now I see and work on aircraft and engines nearly every day.  I'm going to graduate from Purdue and get my mechanic's license from the FAA next month.  Now I go out of my way to find movies like The Flight of the Phoenix and Twelve O'Clock High on Netflix.  Even beyond technical things, I go to state parks and on camping trips and think about the leaf-identifying project he helped me with in 5th grade.

I miss him.  I wish he could see some of the stuff I get to work on - I think we'd have a lot more to talk about.


Grass is greener

Current Mood: somewhat garrulous in certain company

When I'm working hard, I complain about wanting time off, and then when I have some, I don't always know what to do with myself.  I'm bad at days off (used to joke about my dad like that), which is probably why I'm just now updating my blog since [checks] June.  Well, here we are, Thanksgiving break, and I'm pacing awkwardly around the apartment like a nervous...thing, cleaning and organizing a few things, watching something half-heartedly for a bit before I'm onto something else.  Even this post is taking me forever to write (he typed, out of order). 

I think it boils down to A) I always feel like I should be doing something else [mostly studying, working on school things, or cleaning because I'm somewhat neurotic], and so when I only have a little bit of time (for example, a few hours between dinner and bed) my options are limited, so there's not much to decide or even dwell on - priorities get lined up easily enough and I start at the top and go until I can't or won't.  And B) when I actually DO get a break (a long weekend, time off from school, etc.) I'm reluctant to dive into something larger like tackle a video game I've owned for YEARS but never really played, because I know I won't finish before I have to go back to the routine, and even worse I've had times where I get so sucked into a project it becomes my all consuming focus and I start slacking on the things that MUST be done.  I'd rather dampen my expectations and ambitions to ease the eventual transition back to the normal day-to-day stuff, how sad is that?

I miss some of my college friends.  Some of them long moved away, growing up and moving on, but some I haven't stayed connected with them beyond writing "Happy Birthday" once a year on their Facebook walls, which admittedly is more than some of my other friends but is a hollow, false approximation of friendship.  Maybe I'm putting too much of it on my own shoulders - friendship is a 2 way street and people change over time, right?  Others friends have more recently graduated, and I have squandered my more than fair share of time with them in the same city, geographical proximity being an apparently under appreciated or underestimated barrier to closeness.  I'm woefully under prepared to soon become the person moving away myself, having been in a state of academic arrested development for nearly a decade (much more on that later).

My family has recently undergone more upheaval and restructuring than I thought would ever happen, topping the previous high that was already nigh-unbelievable (to me, at least).  Not all of it is bad, mind you, but when I tell people about our made up holiday (ThanXmus) that supposedly solves all of our travel and togetherness issues, it's a lie about something that works better in theory than in practice, at least with our family. 

Also, I am basically 5 months (a few more weeks, plus spring semester) away from finally (FINALLY) graduating.  It's a mixed up set of emotions, thoughts, and goals, but I'm closing in.  Unfortunately, it is really starting to take a financial toll on me and Jenny.  I'm sure we'll get through it, but right now I'm a mood to take the first job that comes along, just to know something.  Having flashbacks to right around our wedding, where we didn't know where we'd be living, where/if Jenny would have a job, and if I could even continue to go to school.  Probably the best lesson to take from that was that things worked out pretty well, but those sorts of thoughts don't pay bills, write papers, or get jobs.

Now it's time to ignore school for a bit and see my in-laws.


A holiday in flux

Current Mood: distant

Today is Father's Day, so here's two memories about my dad:


My dad had some strange friends when I growing up- a motley crew from his hellraising days as a youth.  One guy I don't ever remember actually meeting was a guy my parents referred to as "The Colonel".  If it was at all connected to military service, I certainly never heard a word about it.  Anyway, I always thought that was the coolest nickname and they wouldn't have given it to anybody that wasn't a super badass.  That's all.


It's not really hard to figure out where I got my music tastes.  Just about all of my favorite bands - Queen, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Tom Petty, David Bowie, Foreigner, Sweet (to name a few) were the soundtrack of my youth courtesy of my Dad.  He had milk crates full of classic vinyl albums, and I borrowed most of his cassettes to blast from my R2-D2 Walkman and later my car stereo all the way through high school.

Some of my favorite memories are riding around in the car with him and my brother and sister, singing all the harmonies and air-guitaring/drumming/other applicable instruments-ing all the parts to Bohemian Rhapsody or Ballroom Blitz (like that car commercial, but we were like, a million times better).  Or how he'd make a big breakfast almost every Sunday, and crank some tunes to go along with (something I've started doing now that I'm living on my own).

At any rate, at one point I asked him how cool it must have been for him growing up, going to record stores and concerts and playing 8-tracks from his first car... and he told me very somberly that most of his peers thought Queen was really strange and how "gay" it was to like them.  How he had to hide his favorite band from his friends to not be made fun of.

Make no mistake, Freddie Mercury was a very strange man - I won't deny that for a second.  But I suppose there was quite a shift in attitudes by the time I was his age, and I have never worried or cared for a moment what my friends thought of my favorite music.  For that I am grateful, but also a little sad for him having to deal with that growing up.

Anyway, I still listen to those bands a ton, and a lot of times I think of him when I hear certain songs.


the backside of 20

Current Mood: grateful

I promise I will write about my internship soon, but I wanted to type this one up before it fell by the wayside.

I was never a big birthday kinda person.  I mean, as a kid, I loved getting stuff.  I liked getting some special attention from my family.  I went to a couple of birthday parties of other kids, and for my 16th birthday my mom let me take a few of my very close buds to (I think) laser tag.  Other than that, not really a big fanfare - I don't set my alarm extra early, I don't know or particularly care what *time* I was born, and while I don't mind people knowing when my birthday is or celebrating it, I don't really go out of my way to announce it.  I don't hide it, but I won't bring it up in conversation, does that make sense?

Plus, on top of that, I kinda like to sit at home and do my own thing most nights.  I mean, yeah, I like to go out sometimes and do things but when I do, I much prefer them to be scheduled in advance with a set start and end time.  I realize this probably makes me sound like a robot or a huge introvert or both, but that's just how it is.  Deal with it.

So when it comes to birthdays, especially now that I'm older (ugh this is making me sound like an adult), I think my ideal celebration is probably just going out to a nice dinner someplace I like to eat with people I really like - like Gold Star Chili with my family or Triple XXX with the Ship of Fools, something like that.  I don't even really care that much about presents - I know plenty of college students who really can't afford it, I'd prefer something personal instead of generic which can be tough (ask Jenny), and I don't like it when I have to guess what level of friendship I am with somebody and feel reciprocal gift obligation.  Plus I don't want a bunch of things that I can't use (I still move too much these days).  And now that I have a summer birthday (K-12 I did not, now I do and summer birthday people get totally ignored, haha) I've been at Purdue for the past few years when my birthday rolls around.

SO anyway, with that all in mind, this year was a little different.  I'm in Texas for my birthday, and at this point I've been here all of a week and a half.  I don't really know many people around here, I don't know many cool places, I'm broke and I have no car.

The night before I got kinda bummed.  I was feeling homesick, missing my wife, and feeling stupid that I suddenly wanted my birthday to be a bigger deal.

Well, at midnight I started getting some text messages.  Then more when I woke up.  When I got to work we had a meeting with our whole intern group, and 97 interns kicked it off by singing Happy Birthday to me (probably the largest group I've ever had sing that to me!) [the meeting was not for my birthday, FYI].  Several friends and family called me and left me birthday wishes on my phone.

Facebook blew up with birthday messages, and I used to not think it was that big of a deal.  This year, I can honestly say I've never been so happy to read those messages.  I wanted to give every single one of those people a hug.  So much birthday love when I was feeling homesick, and each message gave me a smile.

When I done with work, my friend Andrew (and his new gf Kimberly) took me out to a local brewpub/steakhouse/sports bar where we got to watch hockey (Stanley Cup game 1) and baseball (Reds!).  I got a plush T.Rex and some Hulk gloves, and ordered a giant steak.  Got a free dessert, and they insisted on paying for me.

Then, when I got home from that, I found out that Jenny had arranged for a local dessert company to deliver 2 dozen freshly baked cookies (and milk) to my apartment!  She even knew that even though the company had several varieties of cookies to pick, I would only want chocolate chip and M&M ones.  Love this woman.

So when it was all said and done, I had a pretty killer birthday, and it happened exactly when I needed it!

Oh, I will also mention that Jenny got me a super cool gift.  Some backstory (as if this post wasn't long enough): at some point around when I was in middle school, my mom let us pick if we got presents, or she would give us a fixed amount of money and take us shopping for whatever we wanted.  Me, being the kid that I was, did not take this opportunity to go wild and purchase whatever suited my fancy, no, it became an exercise in planning and careful calculations, using the most recent Toys R Us ad from the Sunday paper, and later a bit of internet research (yes, at that time, the internet was a fringe thing).

This once a year opportunity was the one chance I had to purchase some big ticket items that otherwise were hopelessly out of my reach, allowance wise.  For three straight years, this included going after a large Star Wars Micro Machine playset that went along with all of my various Star Wars space ships and figurines.  The first year I got the Hoth playset, the second year I got the Death Star, and by the time the third year rolled around...the Yavin playset was gone.  Nowhere to be found.

I don't want to be melodramatic, but I was devastated.  I pined for it in a way that only a child and collector could, and as the years wore on I looked for it, but I never saw it again.  Heck, the Star Wars Micro Machine line really died off not long after that, and it appeared that that chapter of my life was closed.

You can probably guess where this is going, but I'm gonna tell you anyway.  Fast forward to this year, where on a bored weekend Jenny watched the entire Star Wars Trilogy (OT of course) back to back to back with me.  While we were hanging out, I got out ALL my old Star Wars toys and she patiently humored me while I explained that the differences between the different TIE fighter models (the Empire chose to specialize their fighters based on mission profile rather than develop a true all purpose craft), and that it wasn't until just before the Battle of Endor that the Rebel Alliance had the resources to develop the B-Wing starfighter, things like that.  I also told her about my childhood-defining tale of never managing to find the Yavin playset...the one that got away.

Well, just before I left for Texas Jenny gave me my birthday present, and lo and behold it was the Yavin playset, custom ordered from a specialty toy shop!  She remembered my story and figured out *exactly* which one it was (which, given the dearth of options when it comes to Star Wars toys, trust me, there's plenty of opportunity for confusion).  It was a total blast from the past (I didn't know any still existed!) and was yet another example of my excellent wife getting me a great gift that was very personal and meaningful.


roll (pitch, yaw) call

Current Mood: hov'ring high in the sunlit silence

Let's shake things up a bit, shall we?

Here's a list of all of the significant airplanes in my life and career.  Not a list of my favorites (that would be a very long list) - but the ones that I have flown or worked on or otherwise interacted with.  They are near and dear to my heart, and even though there are faster or bigger or more dangerous planes out there, they will always be special to me.  With any luck, this list will get a whole lot longer before I'm done.

Cessna 152
In high school I started taking flying lessons, after school and paid for with my part time job.  I flew out of Clermont County Airport (LID), home of Sporty's Pilot Shop.  I completed most of ground school and my first solo flight (which I will never forget so long as I live), but unfortunately I ran out of time and money and didn't finish my training.  Some day, I would love to go back and earn my pilot's license.  This little plane was a single engine, high wing, tricycle gear GA classic and it was perfect - very forgiving, easy to handle, and fun to fly.

Boeing 727
FedEx donated this aircraft to Purdue University so that students in my major could beat the crap out of it learning to fix things, break things, turn things on, and turn things off.  It will probably never fly again, and some of the systems on there are disgusting, but boy if it isn't a hell of a lot of fun to mess around with.  I have crawled in, on, and around this thing all over and just seeing one in the sky makes me smile.

Cirrus SR20
Last semester I took a special maintenance course, and my primary job was taking care of 16 of these very new, very shiny airplanes.  They have an all glass cockpit with new digital displays, the engines have yet to be completely overhauled, and our highest priority was maintaining these to the highest standard - because they were used as the training fleet for our university's flight program.  I got to learn from some very skilled mechanics working on them and they are beautiful!

Boeing 737
This airplane is the flagship of Southwest Airlines, where I currently intern in the Maintenance Department (Technical Publications) as a technical writer.  I've flown in one a few times, and currently all of my work has to do with the systems and structure of these planes.  It is a workhorse, and I suspect most people would not believe the amount of work it takes to approve and ready these for flight every single day.  Gotta keep an eye out for any of the special paint jobs (called liveries) that Southwest is famous for.

Do not ask me to board this plane.


proving grounds

Current Mood: what if?

We just passed Armed Forces Day, and it's almost Memorial Day.  In addition to several new relatives (that officially became a part of my family when I married Jenny last July) that currently or have served in the military, I'm proud to say my little brother is an enlisted Airman in the United States Air Force.  I've been told it's not cool to post specifics about his service, so I'll just say he joined this year, he's been in Texas (I got to see him recently for the first time since he left), and he's in contracting (not a contractor, per se, he doesn't hang drywall, but he's more about the paperwork).

At some point he'll be leaving for a far away place to do Air Force things.  He's always been a few hours drive away from me, so having to think of Skype as the easiest way to see him isn't easy to get used to.  It will definitely shake up our family holidays (like we haven't had enough of that!) and I think my mom's taking it the hardest (like I said, totally allowed).  I think he'll enjoy it, though, and I wish him all the best. 

Bradley's now an Airman.  My friend Brant just joined the Army.  Another friend (Benji) almost joined several branches.  It makes me think about how at one point, I almost joined ROTC to help pay for college, and how differently my life would have turned out.

Even beyond that, though, there's a deeper significance I put on being in the military, and I wish I could tell you it was purely a noble, self-sacrificing, guarding your country and fellow man kind of thing.  Really, it's a pretty stereotypical guy kinda thing.

Ugh.  I know I'm not going to explain this well.

Let me back up.  Growing up, I sometimes felt jealous of other people who had a strong sense of identity.  They played sports and loved their team/school (I did not - at least not until I got Purdue, I think that's part of why I love this school so much).  They had some sort of ethnic heritage and celebrated unique holidays (I did not).  They were religious and had special ceremonies (I did not).  They had groups to belong to and rites to go with them.  Basically, growing up, it seems like boys around me had plenty of opportunities to "prove" themselves to be Men with a capital M.  I'm talking about Eagle Scouts, Bar Mitzvahs, Mission Calls, stuff like that.  Some sort of rite of passage they took on to emerge on the other side as...I dunno, as adults, as men.   They were confirmed, they were sports guys, they went hunting with their dads... something they could point to as accomplishment.

The military?  Well, that's definitely one of those things.  I consider that one of the oldest and truest tests of self, of confidence, of courage, and of manliness.  I dunno, it's strange - I never really want to be in combat, to fear for my life, to have to risk everything, to have to possibly take another person's life - and yet, I wonder if I would ever have what it takes.  Does that make any sense?  On some level, I wonder if I could do it, if I could stand up and face that.

Mom suggested my back surgery as a test that I passed, and I shot it down - I didn't pick that.  That experience was something that happened to me and I dealt with it the best I could (still do, even).   Getting married and being a husband didn't make me feel like any more of a Man.  Don't get me wrong, I love my wife and I will do my best to provide for her and take care of her, but most days it feels just like when we were engaged (or dating)...and honestly, she's the one who provides for us right now.

I dunno, maybe this all comes back to feeling like I'm never going to be done with school.  I never finished engineering - I never got the diploma or the ring.  I don't feel like an engineer.  I never finished my flight lessons.  I don't feel like a pilot.  I don't have my A&P [yet].  I don't feel like a mechanic.

Some days, I wonder what to call myself.  UGH, that sounded so stupid.