Category Archives: AirForce, Thunderbirds, flying,

The car or the pole?

For a few days, I was traveling with my friend LuAnn Cahn as she does 30 dares in 30 cities to promote her book, “ I Dare me

One of those dares, was to be the Pit crew for a racing car from NASCAR in Morrisville North Carolina at the PIT school.

I was so excited I could hardly breathe as I am a fan of speed and nascar fascinates me to no end. My feet never touched the ground the entire time I was there because the thrill of this kept me floating.
Luann was being taped for a segment to be aired on WBTV in Charlotte, so I had all the time in the world to poke around and ask all kinds of questions of the pit crew until their poor heads spun! I wanted to know how long did it take for them to complete the school, how many of them landed in a NASCAR pit after this and most importantly, how many women had ever completed the program. The answer to the last question was two but neither made it to NASCAR. I got an immediate glint in my eye.

When I picked up a 70 pound tire with ease, those men looked at me differently and so when I was given the 3,400 pound race car to jack, we were all surprised when I did it with three pumps! They dropped that car several times and I jacked it right back up each time much to their awe and delight!

I was asked to consider taking the 8 week course because they had never met a woman of my strength level which is what they need for a pit crew in nascar.

My goal now is to do just that and I’m willing to see if I could be the first woman in a nascar pit crew. What do I have to lose? It is important that as women, we don’t limit ourselves especially if it’s something we have interest in. I always loved tinkering around in cars and my father taught me how to change a tire, oil and brakes but discouraged me from wanting to fix cars because it wasn’t a ” girlie” thing to do. I kept hanging around one Jamaican mechanic soaking up all that I could but he caught on and shooed me away too.

So one would think after doing something like this which was indeed pretty impressive, I could do anything right?

Wrong.

Later on that evening, we made reservations for something neither one of us had ever tried. Pole dancing exercise classes.

We walked into the studio and I took one look at the instructor who was perfect and said ” I don’t even think so!”
She slid over to a pole and launched her self up like a feline and did some of the most intricate moves I had ever seen and it left nothing to the imagination.

At this point, I’m beet red and told LuAnn there was no way, I was trying this thing.

In a deep part of me that I always thought was so open and free to explore all sides of life, I froze.

Not only did the thought of that pole was daunting me, I felt exposed and different and very uncomfortable.

I finally met my match. It was silver and shiny and cold and I wanted no parts of it.
I struggled with my heritage ( women of good stature in society would never do such a thing,) this is not something “good girls” do, it felt debasing, I was mortified on several levels and I worried about what my sons, love and my father would think! All of that ran through my head as I stood there fully limiting myself on purpose based on learned beliefs and in that moment, could not work my way past any of it.

I stayed long enough to do a few warm up exercises which were great and watched as LuAnn tried a few basic moves with Amanda the instructor.

What we recorded is something we are not quite sure we could upload anywhere publicly but it was funny that I spent an hour in an F-16 breaking all kinds of sound barriers, am ready to tackle race cars and got stumped by a pole. Literally.

I have to honestly say that I wondered how many people are quietly leaving their corporate jobs and hitting those poles because these places can be found in every major city in the country.
LuAnn had this observation as we discussed it-
” poles are associated with strip clubs and I while it takes an incredible amount of athleticism, we are in influential positions where we tell young women
To value their bodies and themselves. This seemed debasing. The stigma of the pole is still alive and well.”

We are on a journey to try new things. We went out of curiosity, got an eyeful and realized we just couldn’t go there. There is a part of me that felt hypocritical for encouraging others to face their fears and try new things only to find I did indeed have my own limits based on what I was raised to believe. I recognize I’m not the only one that feels this way but I also acknowledge there lies a deeper issue here of what is considered normal and acceptable in today’s society and those things we choose to follow blindly for whatever the reasons.

We do think women are fully reclaiming themselves in these studios and this requires a strength level and athleticism, I had not ever seen before.

To them, I say bravo.

I’m going back to “normal”
Things like flying in a fighter jet and seek introspection about the simpler things I just refused to try.

IMG_0726

Fly diva fly!! My day with USAF Thunderbirds

I have often said, that what we put into the universe, will manifest itself and that we are to be therefore careful what we think and say- I gotta tell you, this has been a summer for the record books and an excellent reminder of what is possible.

I am an educator so when June rolls around, all I can think of is doing something mindless, daring and free! I started with a trip to Puerto Rico where I climbed two waterfalls and as if that wasn’t daring enough, I got back home and promptly cut off all my hair. For a black woman, that is worse than giving birth to triplets. Another story for another time but the best part of this summer, was something that even I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams!
In early July, I received a call
From a gentlemen claiming to be from the United States Air Force and the purpose of his call was to inform me, that someone nominated me as a hometown hero for transforming lives and because they were aware of something insane on my bucket list, they thought I would be an excellent candidate to fly with the US Air Force Thunderbirds!

It took me a minute to find my voice and pick my jaw up from
The floor but once I got myself together, I realized this was indeed very real and I was about to embark on a journey I would not soon forget.

After several weeks of filling out appropriate forms, signing away my right to sue the government if I died and having a physical from
A doctor who would clear me medically, I was ready to go.

On August 12, 2014, bright and early in the morning, my family and I drove to the 177th fighter wing of the NJ AirNational Guard in Egg Harbor and reported to Sergeant Andrew Mosley.

I was then introduced to three crew members of the Thunderbirds and could barely contain myself when I was taken outside to see the F-16 Fighter jet I would be flying in with my pilot Major Michael Fisher who I would meet later.

The intensive crash course began. I had to be fitted into a flight suit, put on a G-suit over that and taught in a couple of hours everything I needed to know about ejection & what all the apparatus was for. The next person I saw was the Team doctor who was hilarious and scary at once because he had to tell me all that could go wrong in the air and taught me how to take G-sips once the plane went into G-force.

It was the closest I came
To saying nevermind. But I was resolved to do this.

The last person I spoke with was Major Fisher, who alleviated all my fears, gave me instructions about the cockpit and showed me some of the maneuvers we would be doing if I felt up to it. My excitement began to build over the nerves because I realized I was really going to do this!

I had to hydrate by drinking more liquids than usual
So after one last potty break, I was told to meet the pilot out on the Tarmac.

Imagine walking out and seeing cameras everywhere and some of the most handsome men I have ever seen in my life who shook my hands and said their job was to make sure the plane was secure for our safety.

They did just that. I strapped my vest on and anchored it to my body, then climbed into the cockpit and had my mask and helmet secured while my oxygen was hooked in and tested.

When the cockpit closed and the engine fired up, I knew this was it and I would experience something I would never do again, so I resolved to enjoy it while patting my barf bags just in case I needed them.

We took off and went vertically 17 thousand feet in under 5 seconds!! I could NOT believe what I was experiencing and utilized all the things I learned so that I could breathe once we went into G-force which felt like my entire insides flew up to my brain.

Major Fisher flew to restricted airspace and performed some of the stunts you would see in an air show. He talked me through each one and didn’t do them until I was ready. It felt like I was in heaven!!

We made it through most of the stunts but that last one, a 360 degree roll twice was more than enough for my tummy and I got sick. I was able to drop my mask and do it neatly without making a mess too. Bravo to me. My entire flight was recorded in the cockpit.

After an hour of experiencing the thrill of my lifetime, we flew back.
Once we landed and I got out of that cockpit, I was incredibly happy to have been chosen as one of a few civilians who will ever be able to say this was something they experienced!!

I was given some pretty neat memorabilia signed by the entire crew, my name was put on the cockpit and I was interviewed by NBC.

The pride and awe on my sons faces was priceless and they learned from my bravery that nothing is off limits and if you can dream it, you can achieve it!

Thank you so much to the Crew of the US Air Force Thunderbirds for the thrill of a lifetime and thank you Allison Mine-Phillips for nominating me as a hometown hero!

IMG_6699.JPG