My Aviation Love Story – M&M (a.k.a. Marla & Mike)

Keep your self-blogged “My Love Story” posts coming in! February’s month of LOVE continues and so do your posts. It’s free and easy to join Ladies Love Taildraggers. With it, you receive the ability to create your own blog posts about anything related to aviation. In addition, this month we’re focusing on Aviation LOVE so submit your post on the topic or start of new thread of your choice.

Today’s Love Story is from lady taildragger pilot Tenae Madeley who shared her fabulous dream love story with us all.

You too can submit your love story. Click for details on how to enter ‘My Love Story’ contest.

Have you ever met someone and just knew that this was the one?  Yeah, me neither until I met Mike.  Picture this…an amazing man who can do anything.  Seriously, he can do anything.  A man that can build a house, fix everything, fly anything, speak 2 languages, remember every little detail about stuff and always tells the truth even if he knows he is going to get in trouble for it.  A man who knows how to protect you, when to kiss your forehead when you have a bad day, and never lets you fall asleep without wrapping his arms around you and snuggling his face on your neck….even on the days when you’ve been less than loveable.  A man who loves all of the parts of you that make you feel insecure and tells you every single day how beautiful you are, even when you look like hot garbage.  A man who loves to see you dressed in jeans and a hoodie with no makeup on instead of fancy dresses, and tells you every day just how lucky he is that he has you for his wife-and you know he means it because he always tells the truth, and he only speaks with purpose.  This is not a man that is free with his compliments, and he is very good at not letting his emotions show….so when he tells me he loves me, I know he means it.  I’m lucky enough to have that man and call him my husband.  This is the story of Marlana and Mike.

Mike is a pilot and was the airport manager.  He loved to fly in his Cessna 195, and really, who wouldn’t?!  He also has a 1941 Taylorcraft that he tore apart and is rebuilding (because he can do anything, remember?).  Mike started out flying gliders when he was growing up in Germany, and he later became one of those guys who could fly anything.  You know the guy….the one that all the other pilots talk about, but not in a bad way…they admire him.  He’s “The Guy”.  The guy who can hop into any airplane and make it seem like he’s been flying it for years.  The guy that can be outside and hear an airplane, and without looking up can tell you what it is.  The guy who can see just a small part of an airplane in a picture and tell you what it is, and probably even what year it was made.  But he is also quiet and humble and really, really good.

Marlana (that’s me) was an air traffic controller and always wanted to learn how to fly.  I liked working in the tower and seeing all kinds of really cool airplanes doing all kinds of really cool stuff.  I had a couple of kids and decided that the Air Force wasn’t a great option for someone who wanted to be a mom, so I took a break.  But when that break was over, I wanted to go back to playing with airplanes, so I really lucky and was hired to work at a smaller airport.  That’s where the really fun part of this story begins…because that’s where I met My Mike.

Mike just happened to be the manager at that airport, and he was the one who hired me.  About a week after we started working together, Mike asked me if I wanted to go flying with him.  Obviously, I did.  “Wanna go?” he asked in that cool guy pilot way.  It was hard for me to contain my excitement when I said “Yes!” but I’m pretty sure I jumped just a little, the way toddlers do when you ask them if they want to do something exciting.  So off we went to the hangar to get the Cessna-310.  Mike climbed in and I followed.  He strapped me in, and gave me the usual safety brief and put a headset on me.  Again, I was having a really hard time not staring at this cool guy pilot with high school girl googly eyes.  We started taxiing out and he asked “Can you hear me?” “Yep!” I replied, but the mic wasn’t close enough to my mouth so he reached over and moved it closer to my lips, telling me “Here, that’s better.”  That one little move was all it took to make this 35 year old woman feel like a love-struck little girl with a super crush.  Driving home after that flight, I felt something.  To this day I cannot explain that feeling…you might call it love at first sight but it was more than that, even though neither of us knew it yet.

Mike did a lot of instructing at that time.  He was working with a student who had a Taylorcraft-one that didn’t have a starter, so he had to hand prop it.  I really liked watching him do that….and I loved his cool guy pilot walk when he was heading out to an airplane.  I would watch him walk out to them when he was getting ready to fly, and sneak pictures of him doing what he did best.  Pictures like this one.

His confidence when he was getting ready to fly, and when he was flying floored me.  You can tell this is what he was born to do.  He always looks right at home in the airplanes….like he is the airplane.

Mike liked to teach me how to do things.  He taught me how to fix stuff, and how to run the equipment, he taught me about engines, he answered all of my endless questions and he was always so quiet and patient.  But, like any really good love story, this one came with some ups and downs….and not all of it is happy.  You see, we had a bumpy road getting to the happily ever after part of this story, and for a little while, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen.  Mike sat me down one day and said “I have to tell you something.  I like you, more than just a friend, and I think you know that.  And I know you like me more than just a friend.  But this can’t happen….not right now. I’m sorry.”

Bummer.  And so, I dealt with that.  I respected him.  I did not want to see him hurt and knew he was struggling with some things, and that he was trying to do what he did best, which was be good and do right.  He is such a good man.  One particularly tough day, I told Mike “No matter what happens, you will always be the person who saved my life.  You made me remember that I have value and that I matter.  I’ll never forget that.” And I haven’t.  Because at that time, my life was sort of falling apart, but this very consistent, very good, very amazing man was always in the background protecting me and encouraging me to be better, even when I didn’t know it.  My confidence had been at an all-time low.  I had been sort of emotionally beat up over the last few years, and I really lost track of who I was.  I forgot that I was braver and stronger than I believed I was.  Meeting Mike changed all of that.  But let’s fast forward through the bad part and let’s get to the really good parts because there are a lot of them!

One day we went to a conference, and I had to leave early.  Mike walked me out to my car and said he would see me in a few days.  It was polite, friendly, and it was the first time we had been alone together since we’d had that talk.  As I drove off, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw Mike watching me drive away….and he was smiling while he watched.  I hadn’t seen him smile much lately, but I had noticed all of the little glances he’d been shooting my way when he thought I wasn’t looking….the way he watched over me when I was working on something….the quiet way he smiled slightly when he was proud of me, or when complimented him.  His smile was slight, and shy….the way kids smile.  He would look down and sort of try to hide it.  I wanted so badly to make those little smiles big, to remind him that he was also smart, valuable and wanted, just like he had done for me.

A little while later Mike went to Sun’n’Fun, which is around the same time as my birthday.  He flew down to Florida from Iowa with a friend of his.  He remembered that last year I had said my idea of a perfect birthday present was a mason jar full of wildflowers.  So each time they stopped, he walked around the airports collecting wildflowers for me.  We saw each other the day after my birthday and he asked me how it went.  “It was ok, I got to ride my horse and had some time to myself.” I replied while stuffing my face with a breakfast sandwich (real romantic, huh?).  Cool guy pilot Mike looked at me, and said “I want to do something.” Then he walked over with his cool guy pilot walk and kissed me.  And it was a good kiss.  The kind where the guy puts his hand on your cheek and his arm around your waist and really pulls you into it.  The kind that makes you forget what day it is and your name…or that you can stand up on your own and how to breathe.  The kind you wait almost 2 years for…

And then he gave me that jar of wildflowers that he had picked all the way home from Florida and a little Cessna 195 necklace.  And I knew….I knew that this was the man I wanted to spend forever with.  We started to spend more time together.  He has kissed me in the rain on a runway, he kissed me when he took me flying in the super cub at sunset, or on a date in the 195….and he smiled every time he got ready to kiss me.  This man looked at me like I was magic.  I kept a notebook that year, writing down all of the sweet things he said to me, and all of the special ways he showed me how much he loved me.  One of the things he told me was “If I knew I would live 100 more years, I would love you for 100 years.  That’s how long I’ll love you.”  I gave him that notebook for Christmas, and he smiled when he read it.  There were hundreds of paper airplane notes thrown back and forth between us…notes that said “I love you”.  A little while later, we were talking about this 100-year plan…and I said to my pilot “I don’t need a fancy ring.  I would say yes if you put a zip tie on my finger.”  “A piece of safety wire would work better.” He told me.  Little did I know, the safety wire would become something really special.

Mike went to visit a friend of ours that has a jewelry store.  He asked her to order 2 pieces of gold wire, one yellow gold, and one white gold.  He twisted the wires to look like twisted safety wire, then he put a diamond in the middle.  He put 2 stones on each side of the ring-one for each of our 4 children.  While he was doing that, I went to that same friend at the jewelry store and asked her for help making a ring out of parts I had taken off of the 195.  This was all happening at the same time.  Then, on Thanksgiving, he made a fire in the fireplace and sat on the couch with me.  He got up, asked if I needed anything and left the room.  Since it was Thanksgiving, and I love Thanksgiving (eating, I love eating), I started to doze off on the couch.  Mike walked back in, knelt down next to this sleepy girl on the couch and kissed me….another one of those really good kisses like the first one.  One that makes you take notice because it’s different…you know the kind.  I sat up and smiled, and said “What was that for?”  “I just love you, and hope you had a good thanksgiving.”  “I did!” I replied.  “How would you like to spend all of your Thanksgivings with me?” he asked as he pulled a little box out of his pocket.  “OH MY GOSH YES!!!!!”  I screamed, and I was so excited I didn’t even look at the ring!  “Don’t you want to see the ring?!”  He asked me?  “Oh yeah!  I do!!”  And when I looked at that ring….I knew how much this man loved me.  “look.” he said, “It’s a piece of safety wire, just like the one I promised you.  And the diamond in the middle?  That’s us.  And the 4 stones on each side, that’s each of our children’s birthstones, because we are bringing 2 families together.”

The story was so fun, we included it in our wedding invitations.   

But before we had that wedding (which I’ll get to in a second) we ran off and eloped on Valentine’s Day last year.  Right after that, Mike decided to give the airlines a try.  He took a job flying for a regional airline and left in the beginning of March.  I stayed at the airport and made a trip out to Salt Lake to see him, and then stalked him in Colorado.

It was so cool seeing him flying the “big airplanes”, he even called me from 30,000 feet on the CTAF when I was working to say hello as he was flying over.  But his heart was not in it.  I made him promise that if this job started to take away his passion for flying, he would quit.  So he did….he told me that he didn’t enjoy that kind of flying, and missed me and the kids too much to keep doing the airline life.  Shortly after that, he made the really difficult decision to sell the 195.  I wanted to learn how to fly, and I had a thing for short wing pipers….specifically the Pacer.  So off he went, that mister wonderful to find us a new airplane.

Watching the 195 leave was hard though… was difficult to say goodbye to such a beautiful airplane, and there were so many memories. But fear not!  We did not have to go very long without an airplane…in August, mister wonderful brought home a short wing piper for his girl.  Not the pacer I was looking for, something WAY cooler, a little PA-16, a Clipper.  And what makes the little clipper so cool?  It has sticks!!!  But let’s circle back to something real quick…..this man sold his Cessna 195, arguably one of the most gorgeous airplanes ever made, so he could buy me a clipper and teach me to fly in it.  Not the airplane he wanted, but the one he knew I would love.

In the meantime, we decided to have a wedding.  And because it’s us, it had to be an aviation-themed wedding (you saw the invitations).  So he took an old propeller and cleaned it all up, that was our guest book.  We made decorations out of wildflowers to look like that jar of flowers he brought back from Sun’n’Fun before our first kiss, and paper airplanes reminiscent of all those notes we sent each other (we still do).  We learned how to dance, and surprised everyone by dancing to a song called “Red Staggerwing”.  Mike’s wedding ring has a paper airplane engraved in it.  No detail was missed at this wedding, and it was a blast.

That’s Mike’s 195 in the picture, and the boxes were made to look like the stars and bars on his airplane.


Read more about it here and here.

So that brings us to today.  Here I am, married to the absolute man of my dreams, learning to fly around in this little clipper he bought us.  I even said I was going to paint it black and hot pink so it could be a proper girl airplane (I was halfway kidding) and this treasure of a man didn’t even say no.  He said “It’s your airplane, you can do whatever you want”.  He still brings me wildflowers in a mason jar for my birthday, this last one they came from Utah.  He makes sure I never run out of coffee creamer and calls me when he is driving around just to talk about nothing, and I have not opened a single door for myself since I met him (car, building or airplane).  He sends me texts all the time, and always with kissy faces.  I lay in bed at night next to him and I can’t imagine life without him.  I try to tell him every day how thankful I am for this life he is giving me, and how much I appreciate how hard he works on it.

On Valentine ’s Day, it will be our 1 year anniversary, and yet somehow it feels like I’ve known this man forever.  Here’s to a hundred more years babe, I love you Mister wonderful.

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