dreaminghope: (Flying)
An important part of safety in paragliding is taking an SIV course. SIV is a French abbreviation for "Simulation d'Incident en Vol", which translates to "simulation of incidents in flight". Over water, you do things to your wing to imitate bad things that can happen while flying and practice recovering. You learn how to recognize problems, learn what actions you should or should not take in various scenarios, get a feel for long it takes for normal flight to resume, and figure out about how much altitude you lose in the meantime.

For various reasons, I was not able to do the iParaglide SIV course in my first two years of flying, but this year, I made it a priority and headed off to Pemberton with another pilot on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, Russ wasn't able to go this year (he has done SIV for the past two years, though), so I was without my usual support system when facing new flying experiences. Fortunately, I'd been flying with three of my four fellow SIV students all season, so I wasn't doing this with strangers.

For iParaglide's SIV, we go to a remote little beach on Lillooet Lake and we use a boat with a special winch to tow each of us, one at a time, to about 3000 feet above the water. Getting towed up isn't a passive process, but one where you have to constantly monitor the boat and steer to follow it and constantly monitor your wing and brake to keep it steady and overhead. The boat gets you up, but you are also flying the whole time, which, as one participant put it, has some advantages over driving up a hot and dusty road to a mountain launch.

Once high over the water, our instructor, Dion, uses the radio to remind you about what you are going to do, then guides you through the process. For example, to do a frontal, he'll remind you that what you are going to do is pull down all the A risers on both sides. He'll say: "So grab all the metal carabiners for both A lines on both sides. On my command, you'll pull them both down hard and then release. Ready? Three, two, one: huy-yah!" And on the "huy-yah", you haul down on those lines and the entire front of your wing collapses and you release the lines and you fall a little until the wing opens again. And as it happens, Dion says: "OK, release. Great. The wing is open again. Good." And then he gets you ready for the next move. It is all progressive: you start with a move called big ears, which is easy and benign, and move up to slightly more exciting incidents that are likely to happen at some point in your time in the air, like frontals and asymmetrics (where some portion of your wing collapses, usually because of turbulent air, and you have to shift on to the good side of the wing and fly with that until the collapsed portion pops back out).

If you are responding well to commands on those first moves, you next learn b-line stalls and spirals, both of which will help get you down should you encounter cloud suck or other undesirable weather conditions. Then you move to the Big Scary for most of us: the full stall. You pull both brakes all the way down and hold on to the bottom of your harness while your wing turns into a flapping mess above you and you rock back and forth and plummet downwards. The important part of the full stall is to release the stall only when your wing is in front of you; if you release while it is behind you, it will start a cascade, so you'll be swinging drastically forward and backwards in a fairly uncontrolled manner, still losing altitude. Dion gives clear instructions, saying "hold, hold, hold, and release", but if you don't respond quickly to the commands, it can still lead to some crazy stuff. Before going out for the clinic, I was worried about my physical ability to hold down the brakes during the stall and about my ability to do just the right thing at just the right time while my wing is flapping around above me. Then there was an incident on my first tow that lessened my fear quite a bit. Afterwards, Dion called it "the most harried thing I've ever seen at an SIV" and if it had happened lower, I would have been in quite a bit of trouble and may have had to throw my reserve parachute and do a water landing:

A graphic representation of my first tow launch. )

After that, pulling asymmetrics and even the full stall didn't seem so bad. I was a bit discouraged when I couldn't do a B-line stall - I pulled as hard as I could on those suckers, but those nothing was moving - but Dion and I discussed the characteristics of my particular wing and my physical strength and decided to try a C-line stall instead. Usually a C-line stall is a bad idea, but it works really well with my small Icaro Instinct and accomplishes the same thing as a B-line stall: increases your descent rate a lot while staying relatively stable. You drop quickly - it feels a bit like a descending elevator - and you only rock around for a couple of moments until it steadies. As long as you wait until everything is steady before releasing and release slightly more gradually than exiting a frontal, all is very safe and sane feeling. It's a really nice tool to add to my paragliding toolbox, so the whole weekend was worth it for that discovery alone.

I was coming down with a bit of a cold and was so anxious through the whole weekend that I barely ate or slept, so I only managed four tows (most of the other students did six each), but I learned so much and am looking forward to doing it again next year.
dreaminghope: (Sunspot)
I'm in that tedious stage of sick where I can't actually do anything - too weak, and any cold air or physical exertion makes me cough - but where I am not sick enough to be apathetic about it. I have pneumonia. Just a mild case, and the antibiotics seem to be working, but it has got me housebound... actually, pretty much chairbound. My cat's happy at least; my lap currently makes the perfect place for a ten-hour nap.

But it does give me some time to actually write up our latest flying adventures. Hard to believe it was three weeks ago, but we finally got in our first entirely solo flying day. On October 14th, the three of us who have been flying together since our first Slope Soaring class did some evening weather forecasting, and reached the conclusion that the next day may very well be flyable. Another check in the morning and a quick phone consultation, and we were off. Russ and I picked up Craig in front of his building in the mid-morning (later than we usually go out, as the outflow was expected to linger, perhaps in part due to the time of year), and we were off to the mountain.

On the way up, the conversation was about cloud formations, Starbucks bakery items, and Russ and I's brand new niece (born at 1 AM the day before), and was carefully not about being nervous about our first unsupervised flights. Maybe I was the only one.

We know the LZ well at this point, so we drove straight up the mountain. We've been flying Mount Woodside all summer, so everything was familiar as we pulled into the parking lot, sorted out water bottles and granola bars, then packed our wings up to the launch. Russ volunteered to drive the first round, so Craig and I got our wings laid out, checked our lines rather obsessively, then got in line. There wasn't a lot of wind, but it was a bit cross at times, so the line was slow moving as each pilot had to carefully wait for the right cycle to come straight up the mountain. Since there wasn't a lot of lift, no one was rushing and the feeling on launch was fairly relaxed and mellow. Lots of pilots were just hanging out, waiting to see how the day was going to develop.

The three of us did sled runs all day. There was some lift out there, but it was hard to stay in. Those who stayed up were working hard for it and spending a lot of time "scratching" (circling in areas of no lift or drop while looking for a thermal). Russ, Craig, and I just focused on good launches and landings, and we got in three flights each.




In the pictures above, I can almost hear myself saying "c'mon, c'mon! Pull!", which is pretty much what I was probably thinking.

We all had good forward launches all day. I had one - my second launch of the day - where a little gust popped me a bit when I stabilized the wing, so I unloaded it a bit, but I remembered my training, fully committed to getting my weight down and running hard, and successfully launched despite the brief mis-step. When Craig had a little problem with his wing not coming up evenly, he aborted it cleanly, then shook it off and had a great launch shortly after. We were doing it: making decisions and being responsible for ourselves.

The perfect end for me was my last landing of the day. I came in over the south-west corner, over the "three sisters" - the trees on the Riverside LZ that we use to estimate our elevation - and noticed that I was lower than usual, so I turned on to downwind. As I made my next turn on to base, my feet were level with the tree tops: the absolute perfect height. I turned on to final, lined up with the runway and flared at the perfect height. I felt like I stepped out of the air and on to the ground, and I found myself in the first third of the runway, right where I had wanted to land. I even had time to turn to face my wing and bring it down tidily.

I may have ruined the cool factor of such a good landing by turning to my friends who'd already landed and screaming "Did you see that!" across the entire field.

The local flying season is definitely slowing. By the time I am healthy, we will probably be into the rainy time of year. Russ and I hope to get in some travelling with our wings during the off-season, and hopefully there will be kiting and slope soaring and maybe a random winter flying day or two at Mount Blanchard, but it was still nice to end on a high note: "Did you see that!"
dreaminghope: (Sunspot)
While Russ and I were in Las Vegas this past weekend, three more students graduated from the novice licensing program from iParaglide. Ducky, Jim, and Simon were all people we'd been carpooling, kiting, and flying with frequently, so Russ, Craig, and I have been hoping to have many adventures with them post-graduation too. To that end, we've been plotting our first supervision-free flights, hopefully for next weekend or the weekend after.

Russ and I have been flying with our school since our graduations, because Russ has been playing landing coach every flyable weekend. It has its advantages, not the least of which is an automatic non-flying driver in the form of our teacher, but it means that we don't necessarily feel like independent pilots. In order to really feel like we've graduated, we need to fly without our teacher around.

I did take one step towards that feeling recently. I was the last of our group to launch on one of the rounds. As I was setting my wing up, our teacher headed down to pick the students back up for the next round. For the first time, I was on my own: I was going to launch without my teacher within sight. To further increase the pressure, there were many experienced pilots on launch, including some tandem pilots and teachers from another paragliding school. Luckily, the conditions were ones I am very comfortable with - low winds for a forward launch - and there was one friendly face on launch: Mark, a pilot I flew with last year when he was finishing his novice license and I was starting mine.

After we both landed, Mark told me that it was a good launch, but I already knew that. I brought the wing up evenly, checked it well, and ran down into a smooth flight. I even got a bit of lift as I played around in front of the ridge.

The next step is a new novice flying adventure. Our teacher isn't going to be at the mountain next weekend, so it'll just be us, with our shiny new licenses, making our own decisions, launching and landing ourselves, being pilots.
dreaminghope: (Sunspot)
In a high school class, there's at least one: the student who struggled but who worked their butt off. Their graduation is a big deal. Everyone is cheering for them; everyone is so proud of them: their family and friends, their teachers, often even their fellow graduates. I wasn't that student in school; my graduation was taken for granted by everyone, including myself. I am a natural at book learning.

Paragliding cannot be learned from a book. I have no illusions that I am a natural at paragliding. Russ has taken to it a lot more quickly than I have and is already an apprentice instructor for iParaglide, assisting at the slope soaring training hill and landing students at the mountain. Our teacher, Dion, was telling Russ about how to make the slope soaring classes run efficiently, emphasizing the need to identify any struggling students early on so they can get extra help and not slow down the rest of the class. That was definitely me in my first class.

Through the course of the training for my novice license, I've struggled with no-wind launches, accurate landings, reverse launches, and kiting... almost everything, really. And I've slowly learned each of those things with extra help from Dion and his other teachers, some tutoring from Russ, lots of practice, loads of visualizing, and sheer stubbornness. I still have a lot to learn, but I can now do reliable no-wind launches, fairly accurate and very safe landings, reverse kiting for as long as I want in good wind and forward kiting for short periods, and I've done two reverse launches at the mountain.

At the end of last summer, Dion and I both thought that I was going to need extra flights after the minimum twenty to get through all my requirements, but when things started clicking for me, it all came together very quickly. I had my graduation flight last Monday, August 1st. It was my third flight of the day and I launched at about 5 PM, when the wind was just settling down again. I did my best reverse launch yet and glided off into the late afternoon sun.

I will never get tired of the view at 2000 feet. The miracle of being in the air, just me and the wind and all that space on all sides is just so powerful. Even a "sled run" - a flight where you launch, fly straight to the landing zone (LZ) and land - gives me ten magical minutes of kicking back in my harness and enjoying the view. I needed the launch and landing practice and I was flying in the morning, before there's a lot of lift, so that’s what a lot of my flights ended up being this year.

On my graduation flight, the evening winds and the ridge lift meant that I didn't have to head straight to the LZ. Instead, I flew back and forth along the ridge, letting the air hold me up, riding over invisible waves of thermals, choosing where to go next. I almost started crying at one point, as I realized that I was in the midst of a dream come true. That was exactly the kind of flying I've always wanted to do.

On the radio, Dion made a point of telling me that it was a good launch and that I was flying well, around supervising a newer student's launch and flight. He is always reassuring and encouraging on the radio, but he sounded especially proud that day.

As of this evening, I'm on the list of members of the Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association of Canada. This video, taken by Russ moments after I landed, pretty much summarizes how I feel:

Themes

May. 23rd, 2011 09:32 pm
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
Every year, the Gathering for Life membership votes on a theme for the next year's event. Every year, someone suggests "no theme" to allow it emerge naturally during the event. I always vote for "no theme", but it never wins. Still, unexpected motifs do always come up throughout the weekend, and this time was no exception.

It was a different event than in the past: colder and wetter due to the new date; smaller due to the price increase and date change; changed in more subtle ways due to our return to our original event location. The Gathering was intimate feeling - softer and more mellow - but incredibly inspired and inspiring.

Despite the small membership - only a third of the previous event - there were four skyclad rituals by three different groups on the schedule, in addition to several other rituals and a full itinerary of workshops. Every person except one, who was already known to be coming on Saturday, was on site before 7 PM on Friday. The turnout at the closing ritual in particular was the best we've probably every had, in proportion to the membership. Everyone just seemed so present and so grateful to be at the Gathering together.

The primary theme for my Gathering this year was "sharing". So many people were opening their hearts and giving generously of themselves. People gave up sleep to tend the sacred fire. Every time something needed to be done - from setting up a tent to chopping fire wood to moving a picnic table - people stepped up to do it with pleasure. People offered up their amazing talents: the Bardic was short but packed with amazing singing and music; the workshops were informative and interesting; the rituals were well crafted; the merchant area was tiny but full of beautiful things, mostly handmade. People were offering healing and their other skills freely. When it came to pack up and clean up the site, everyone pitched in and it was done quickly and easily. And all around, all weekend, people were thanking each other for sharing.

The generosity of the members of this community is not new, but this year, it seemed to be present in each and every person and in the community as a whole in a way I've never felt before. There have been Gatherings that have been more energetic, more powerful, more sexual, but I don't think I've ever experienced one more full of grace.

My secondary Gathering theme this year seemed to be "tell Melissa how great she is". I got so many compliments about the two rituals I ran. One woman gave me a little gift to thank me for leading her first skyclad ritual. Several people made a special effort to come up and talk to me about my themes and even ask for copies of the text. I also gave a bunch of Tarot readings and got great feedback about them as well. I even got compliments on my clothing!

I still have so much to process and I have some new ideas that need to be recorded before they fade away, but first, I need a lot of sleep. And I need to do a lot of laundry.
dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
I am so sore.

My pecs hurt. My shoulders and abs hurt. My back, arms, and thighs all ache. My arms and shins are covered in nasty bruises. I'm having trouble lifting the laundry basket and every time I get off the couch, I groan. I beat the shit out of myself yesterday, and it was worth every bit of pain I'm feeling today. Lots of pictures with the story. )

dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I'm probably safe from vampires. Any vampire trying to feed off of me would get bored and leave hungry. Since I have a fear of vampires, this is a bit of a relief.

I donated blood for the first time last Friday. Tiny veins means slow blood flow, which meant needle wiggling – ugh. The nurse actually had to hold the needle in place towards the end, and she counted down the last three grams for me (slowly).

I was treated like a rock star. Well, like a low-rent folk musician, maybe, but it was good. I had a groupie – [livejournal.com profile] tareija, came along to support me and my fellow donors, [livejournal.com profile] fruitkakechevy and [livejournal.com profile] barry_macneil. After lounging on a couch with people frequently checking on my well-being, someone walked me to a table where I could have as many cookies (name brand cookies!) as I wanted and someone offered to re-fill my peach drink as fast as I could drink it. And everyone kept thanking me for coming in. That was pretty neat.

I have a pretty intense fear of needles. I didn't watch the needle go in, come out, or watch the blood during the process. I watched [livejournal.com profile] tareija watch the nurses. If I can do this, anyone physically able can too – It's in you to give.

After cookies and juice, they gave me a first time donor pin and a sticker. Despite an ice pack, I did bruise. I suspect that the needle pierced the other side of the vein, because the bruise took almost a day to develop. It's still visible; almost three inches long. Still, I think I will donate again. I'm looking forward to getting my donor card in the mail and finding out my blood type. And there are always the Peek Freans' Fruit Cremes.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
My coffee table is covered in fun mail and art. Between a fun bunch of Swap-Bot stuff coming through all at once and the first (beautiful) arrival from the Valentine swap at [livejournal.com profile] coyote_giftswap, a lot of wonderful artists and some postal elves have been very good to me this week.

But I am writing this post to brag about one piece of mail in particular: my free contributor’s copy of The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year by Jennifer Louden (The Comfort Queen).

My little essay on walking, which is somewhat similar to this post of mine, made it into the book!

I haven't read the rest of the book yet, so I can't recommend it, but all of you should read page 147 next time you are in the "Self-Help" section of the bookstore.
dreaminghope: (JanNoWriMo)
JanNoWriMo is done, and so is my novel. It is raw, to say the least, but still finished.

Working title (named today): Luck Runs in the Streets

Summary: An urban fantasy novel set on the streets of Vancouver, where a bunch of young people follow a person claiming to be a faerie in making luck and magic for the city.

Some statistics:
Pages: 113
Chapters: 30
Words: 55,211

Words written at work: 1,300
Average words per day before 50,000: 2,028
Average words per day after 50,000: 753

Number of drafts sent to my gmail account: 20

Main characters: 4
Narrators: 3.5
Named characters: 20
Types of magical creatures: 4

Flashes of "genius" that kept the story going: 3
Number of story directions determined by Tarot cards: 4 (including the changing of a character’s sexuality)
Number of dream sequences: 2.5
Number of times a main character falls over: 4

Ingredients for my novel:
2,600 mg of caffeine (espresso & Coke)
9 glasses of wine
Chocolate & fruit jellies

Nanoisms:

One woman who had a studio just a couple of blocks from my aunt's house once painted a few of us as fairies, with ripped jeans and glossary wings...

We spotted a couple of the Magics playing on a car. They were leaving trails of glitter all over its service.

Shameless word padding:

It is just something for you to be aware of as a hypothetical possibility that may come to play a part in your life sometime in the future.

Plain old bad writing:

...the wild magic running wild...

It seemed to offer resistance for a moment, then it sunk into me like I was made of pudding.

And the Faerie usually gave us some idea of our focus for the working, but on this night, there was no mention. She seemed more tense then usual as well, though it seemed to be making her more focused and determined, rather then distracting her as it seemed to be the rest of us. Through the grounding, she managed to get us focused as well, until we were all in her state: tense but focused, on edge but determined.

Be happy!

Nov. 22nd, 2005 09:50 pm
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
Introduction: I am widely considered to be a happy person. I get comments on my cheer almost daily. A surprising number of people ask me how I stay so happy, though none of them seem to expect an answer. Most people seem to assume that I'm just naturally happy, so they accept my answers ("lots of coffee", "it's Friday", "it's sunny out", etc.) as the blow-offs they are. But, the truth is, I often work hard to be happy; it isn't always natural. So, in the public interest:

Melissa's 10 Rules for Happiness*

1. Make an effort to be happy. It isn't always as easy as happy people make it look.
2. Realize that you are small and insignificant in the face of an incalculably vast universe.
3. Realize that you are a unique miracle; there will never be another person quite like you.
4. Pay attention. Notice beautiful things, and ugly things, and painful things, and things that make you laugh. Use all your senses deliberately.
5. Walk.
6. Do everything you can, even if you do it imperfectly. Maybe especially if you do it imperfectly.
7. Pretend to be a cat. Or pretend to be a dog.
8. Listen more; talk less.
9. Choose compassion and grace whenever you can.
10. Realize that you are a unique, insignificant, meaningless, amazing, beautiful miracle.

*Disclaimer: I have normal mental and physical health. I'm not assuming that my advice will overcome hormonal or chemical imbalances, deep physical or emotional pain, etc. This information is not intended to provide a basis of action without consideration by a health care professional. This LJ shall not be liable for any damages or costs of any type arising out of or in any way connected with your use of the rules, etc., etc.
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
I got the oddest compliment from Dan (my boss) today. We're both working away on our own projects, bopping along to The Fox on the radio, when he says: "You know, it's great: you don't do anything that annoys me."

That's good, but what a weird compliment! Anyone else get odd things like that?
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
The ritual went well - yeah me!

The ring Russ made for Cindy looked gorgeous and fit her perfectly - yeah Russ!

Cindy cried (with joy) when we gave the ring to her - yeah Silver Spiral!

The apartment is all back to normal, despite the weird set-up for the ritual - yeah me!

The Silver Spiral community is now celebrating its sixth anniversary - yeah us!
dreaminghope: (Happy Bug)
I got a call from a customer this afternoon, responding to a voicemail I left him about his declined credit card. We'd talked several times before, about his credit card, his delivery, his bin pick up... normal stuff.

Today he asks me how long I've been with Green Earth, and what I do there, and whether I'm just summer help... odd, but some customers just want to chat a little, and since it isn't long distance, I have no problem with that.

Then he mentions that he works for the Cactus Club, in human resources. He tells me that he likes my attitude, and if I ever want to change jobs, I should call him and see if anything's opening up at the Cactus Club.

OK, I am not going to leaving Green Earth, which I love, for the Cactus Club. And I'm certainly not going to leave my job as an office manager to be a waitress or hostess -- I get to sit on the job right now! But it was still really flattering!
dreaminghope: (Pensive Zoey)
Yesterday was a very difficult day. It was so hard to say good-bye to everyone. I made it to the end without crying, then the tears ran in the car.

I know it is for the best. I know I need to be selfish in this and take care of myself. I know this new job will be better for me.

My last day - long )

So that's it. Omega Nutrition is now a part of my past. I can still hardly believe it. I know this is for the best. By this time next week, I'll probably feel great about my decision.

I just realised that I forgot to submit my last time sheet! I'll have to get a copy to Shannon to take into work next week!
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I feel really good about myself, work-wise, for the first time in a long time.

I've been cleaning up my work search stuff, now that I have a new job lined up, and I realize that I only sent out about 25 resumes. I got two interviews out of that, and got hired from the second interview. And I've been called twice since then for interviews (which I've passed on, of course).

It is nice to know that I have useful skills and multiple opportunities.

Also, I have been really enjoying the number of compliments I've been getting at work since deciding to leave, such as:
- "You are the best supervisor I've ever had."
- "You are wonderful and you've made so many things possible for me."
- "The best people always leave Omega."
- "You have done a great job here."

And a lot of the other managers, including at least one of the partial owners, has been saying a lot of things like: "It is horrible that we lost a valuable employee like you. We need to make sure this never happens again."

This has been quite the ego-boosting situation. I need to keep reminding myself why I hate this job so I don't "fall" for the appeal to my need to be validated by others.

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