Thursday, June 15, 2017

Living on opposite sides of the clock

My Google Search history is riddled with the query. What time is it in.....fill in the blank.
Rob spent Christmas in Shanghai, New Years in Hong Kong and over-nighted in a variety of European and Asian cities in between.

This month it's been New Delhi, Hahn, Germany and Latvia. He's in the middle of a 17 day trip and this is the text I got from him the other day: 

Unacceptable. Ha. Because you just do. Accept it. 
Every step along the way to where he is now in his career, I have dreaded the anticipated changes and struggled in the early days of learning some "new normal" for us. But, here we are living via video-chat, and doing ok. 

He's missed some major holidays and won't be home for me to pamper him on Father's Day. But he'll make it home on our anniversary. Until then, we live on opposite sides of the clock: I stay up late to say "good morning" to him or wake up to a message that came through at 2 a.m. saying "getting ready to take-off". Sometimes that means that it will be 5 p.m. my time before he lands and can be in touch. As much as I miss him and struggle with the reality of his job: I know it is harder for him. Long days, interminable jet lag, boring 3-day lay-overs in the middle of nowhere. 

Sometimes he is lucky and there are other crew members in the same hotel. Other times, he is wandering around New Delhi looking for a late dinner by himself, trying not to look lost while actually being just a little bit lost. Those stories are shared after the fact and I try to pretend that things like that never happen. I actively try not to worry. 

He sends pictures of his exotic meals, interesting architecture, and smog. I send pictures of the garden, his dog and myself. What would this life be like if we didn't have the technology available to communicate instantly as we do?  Though I am glued to my phone more now than I was while "on call", it is something to be grateful for. 

Still, he is far away. Getting home from where he is now would mean flying straight north until he passed over the top of the globe and began heading south. It's a lot of miles. And he's not turning toward home for almost a week. 

I'll be here waiting. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

10 Signs You Are Married to an Airline Pilot

1. You carry your passport in your purse and have been known to go to the airport with no luggage for a weekend trip.

2. The terms: pushing, slam-clicker, CAT-2 approach, The Majors are meaningful to you

3. You can handle most home emergencies on your own.  But not ALL emergencies.

4. Vacations will nearly always include a visit to the local air museum.

5. You understand that flirting with the gate agent is not only ok, it may be what gets him a seat on the plane that will bring him home to you.

6.  Airport appreciation time is a thing. Read about my airport loitering PR here

7. Travel plans always include a Plan B.  When we originally planned a trip to Belize we ended up in Puerto Rico instead.  Read about another Pass-travel Fail here

8.  Most years, you attend the office Christmas party alone.

9.  Close to half of your relationship is conducted via text, phone or skype.  Oh boy!  I have not always been as OK with that as I am today.  But, we DO get creative. And we've learned to put technology to good use.

10.  You've learned to walk that fine line between making Home a comforting place to land at the end of a trip and keeping his adventure-loving spirit stimulated.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Women In Aviation Conference: And a three day tour of Nashville

When Rob registered for the Women in Aviation conference/job fair six months ago, I immediately offered to join him, because, Nashville. Driven through it before, but never visited.

It fell at the worst possible time for me. We had just returned from our dive trip to Bonaire. I was back at work for a week and then left again. And THEN, I was scheduled for some ongoing education at Duke University for a week. But, I was eager to get to know Nashville and I had discovered that some long-lost cousins live in the city, so I was excited to reconnect with them.

Tuesday my 24 hour call shift ended at 8am.  I was blessed by the call shift gods and actually slept at home, uninterrupted all night. Rob and I had planned to squeeze in a training flight for CAP because with all my travel this month, we really had no other available time to fly. So, we were up early and at the airport ready to depart by 8am.

It was a brief aerial photo training mission. We circled Arsenal Island and I took some shots of the dam and the site where an emergency services training will take place in a few months.  It was windy, and quite turbulent. The turns around my target were steep and tight.  Suddenly I was reaching for the motion sickness bag, humbled, but really and truly sick. I had managed to get the shots I needed, so we made a quick landing and were ready to hit the road to Nashville.  Yes, driving!  When every aviation professional in the country is headed to the same place, we knew better than to rely on pass travel.  And it's only a short 8 hours from home.

The week prior, as I went online to book our lodging, I discovered that the SEC tournament was in town.  Read, sold out and expensive hotel rooms. Instead, I decided to give Airbnb a try and found a sweet little 3 bedroom home we were able to rent for far less than the going rate for a hotel downtown. We got to the house, unloaded our bags and went in search of BBQ nachos.  It was Rob's birthday!

We decided to give Whisky Kitchen a try as the review for their BBQ nachos were good. There was a bit of a wait, even on a Tuesday evening, but we were told we could hang out outside, by the patio seating and take any seat that came available. Rob went to the bar and got drinks and we found a table shortly...not seated, mind you. It was a bar height table without stools. No probs. We were starving and not at all picky.
'My wife took me to Whiskey Kitchen for my birthday. BBQ nachos!'
Rob got an Old Fashioned I stuck with wine and we eagerly awaited the acclaimed BBQ nachos. Very disappointed to find the nachos to be lacking in BBQ sauce. There was chicken, but no sauce. When we asked about it, our waitress happily brought us a ramekin of BBQ sauce that we drizzled over the nachos. Much improved! Rob ordered a second drink, trying the New Fashioned on our waitress' recommendation, but it was really not at all something he enjoyed. When she asked how he liked it and learned that he didn't at all, she insisted on replacing it with another Old Fashioned.

We went seeking music after dinner and ended up at a quaint little place called Family Wash and Garage Coffee.  A former Laundromat turned diner/bar.  The featured bands were different permutations of the same people; by evenings end they were all on stage together, shoulder to shoulder, putting out some good music. Trombone, steel guitar, accordion, and harmonica added to their unique sound.

Wednesday, we mapped the nearest Walmart and went in search of a portfolio. Duh. How do neither of us own one of those already?  Then we searched for a place nearby to get breakfast.  Sam and Zoe's looked suspiciously empty when we drove up at 7:36, but they had just opened. By the time we got our food, they were filling up.  I had a yummy strawberry scone and Rob had a breakfast burrito. Funky little place with a cool vibe. We ate quickly and then I drove Rob to the conference center and came back to our little house and took a nap. Then I met my aunt and cousin for brunch at a fun little place called Pfunky Griddle. You make your own pancakes and hashbrowns, even eggs if you order them.  The kitchen will prepare your bacon for you but the rest is up to you. It was fun!  Our waiter, Jeff, could not have been kinder or more patient. His t-shirt was covered in what looked like pancake batter and flour and it fit right in to the overall feel of the place.... a little bit grungy. But the place was full and the patrons all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I spent the afternoon planning out our evening's adventures:  a tour of the neighborhood distillery, Corsair Distillery, Then Uber to The Hermitage Hotel downtown for happy hour in the Oak Bar, dinner at Merchants and then Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. What a fun night!

The Hermitage Hotel

'Southern hospitality... That's all I can say... Thank you, Dwayne!'
Cocktails in The Oak Bar

Robert Smith's photo.
Dinner at Merchants

Robert Smith's photo.

Thursday morning we had breakfast at Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro, a neighborhood near Vanderbilt University.  This place was one of the "Must Try" breakfast spots that I had read about. It was fine. I could tell it was a local favorite. But, there was nothing spectacular about it. The neighborhood is cute.  I came back later to browse the shops while Rob attended the conference.

Thursday night, after Rob finished up at the conference, we had dinner with my family.  They were so sweet and had a very special German chocolate cake made to celebrate his birthday. We visited and reminisced and I received an "Uncle Dave special" hug as we said goodbye.

It was still early so we went out via Uber again to Music Row. Cant get enough live music in Nashville. We made sure to visit the world famous: Honky Tonk Central.

Friday:   Biscuit Love Go there. Stand in line.  This place is So worth the wait for breakfast. As the line wends its way toward the entrance, wait staff will come out and hand you menus. Once inside, you can browse the swag. I didn't buy a t-shirt or a mug. I did have a very memorable breakfast. The biscuits, well, of course. They are fantastic. I had a simple egg plate: with toast and cheese grits. Rob tried a unique take on a breakfast sandwich called The East Nasty. Biscuit + Gravy + Fried Chicken + Cheese.
We shared the Bonuts. It was an indulgence. But we had a long drive ahead of us.
These are the famed Bonuts. You gotta. 

The East Nasty 

Our three days in Nashville were so fun. I can't wait to return. Rob's conference went well. He made some good contacts. We are optimistic that he will find a way out of the regional airlines soon.  I am not sure what that will mean for how our lives will change, but I know it will be an important career move for him.  Cross fingers for him!  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Your Dog and I

Your dog and I
We wander the house
I take up a task for a moment
Then return to the couch

He turns in circles
And lays back down

These days are better
My mind will settle on a book
And your absence isn't a physical pain

But I remember those days
Curled up here on the couch
Only sleep would ease the ache
Of missing you

Those days and months
When even your imminent return
Failed to revive my soul

When missing you
ruled the day
even when you were here

It got easier
You said it would

But you and I apart
Will never be right

Your dog and I
We will always be here
Slightly less ourselves
When you are gone

Unsure how to compose our bodies
Without you to lean against
Without your foot to step on

So, we circle and sit
We look for distraction
We listen
For the sound of you
Our man, at the door

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fragile, Winged Prayers

Away you go into the wide, wide world
into the busy-ness and the crowds,
fast moving machines and security screens
With your uniform on, passing through
going places, meeting people, seeing things

And there is energy everywhere.  You only see the good, because you have that spirit of goodness about you. But I know that there is bad out there too

I try to believe that you are safe because it helps me stay sane

But underneath your epaulets and behind your zipper-tie,
hidden beneath the shield of professional competency
I know you are still that vulnerable boy

Whom I love
and long to protect

I can do nothing from here except pray you safely onto the ground, safely back home to me
So I send out my prayers like a flock of migrating butterflies
I beg them to surround you
shield you as your uniform cannot
from the broken planes and all that is bad in the world
from the places of the lost and stolen
from anyone or anything that would bring harm to you.
When you feel that soft brush of butterfly wings against your cheek,
but find that there is nothing there,
know that you are surrounded by my fragile, winged, prayers
by my love, guiding you safely home.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day Trip to Austin

A cold morning flight to ORD
My phone rang at 7:28 a.m. on Monday morning.  My day off after a weekend of call. My alarm had been set for 7:30, so I was wakened from a sound sleep.  It was Rob, ending his 4-day trip in Chicago.
Rob: "How quickly can you pack a bag and leave the house?"
Me, disoriented: "Do you need me to drive and pick you up?"
Rob: "No. I want you to go to the airport. When do you have to work next?"
Me: "tonight at 10 p.m."
Rob: "Shoot. Ok. Get ready to go.  Let me see if this will work.  I'll call you back."

By 8:10, I was pulling out of the driveway.  No coffee, no breakfast. Fortunately I had showered the night before!  The dogs were fed and let out, arrangements had been made to have them looked in on later in the day. I was on my way to the airport with no destination in mind. Of course I was guessing like mad as I dressed hurriedly.  Christmas shopping in Chicago? Clearly he had planned for it to be an overnight, but he'd texted back to assure me that he'd have me home in time to go on call. I cancelled my day's appointments as I drove, certain that all the things on my "to do" list could wait for another day and eager for whatever adventure was in store.

I had to fly American, which meant checking in at the ticket counter.  The agent asked if I was an employee since I was flying using an employee perk that allows you to travel at a reduced rate on other airlines.  I asked her to check me in for my flight out of Chicago since I'd get there with a very tight layover...or no layover if we needed de-icing time.  She asked where I was going and I said, "I don't know, it's a surprise."  And I handed her my phone with the flight confirmation number on it.  "Well, once I print your boarding pass, you're gonna know. "  I promised her I wouldn't look because I wanted to enjoy the suspense. She handed me the pass and I folded it quickly and tucked it into my purse.

We didn't end up needing to be de-iced, but we took off late anyway! Getting off the plane in Chicago took forever.  I tried not to be impatient with the older gentleman in front of me. But, I knew that every minute mattered. Rob was texting me furiously.  "Where are you?"

Once off, he and I ran to the connecting gate but came up short when we saw that the gate was closed...and it was still 12 minutes prior to departure.  Officially it closes as 10 'til.  The gate agent gave us grief but Rob was persuasive.  The rule is 10 minutes and we were there at 12 'til!  She opened the door grudgingly and the family that got on with us was just as thankful that we were able to talk her into letting us board.  Otherwise, our adventure would have ended abruptly.

Rob had bought me a Greek omelet for breakfast and we waited to take off before eating; so it was nearly 11:30 before we both had breakfast.  But this was the view from our "table".

And this, was my dining partner.
On the tray table, you can see that he has a flight plan spread out.  By this time, after his further emphasis that he'd have me back home by 10 p.m., because we had "confirmed" seats on the flight home, I'd guessed our destination.  And I was thrilled.  Confirmed seats while flying Non-Rev, just don't happen.  So, I knew we weren't flying commercially. We were flying to Austin, where Rob's good friend Ben lives, and we were flying his twin engine Aztec home.

I was seriously like a little kid on my first flight, taking pictures out the window.  The clouds were just so beautiful.

Our "visit" to Austin was brief. Had I been off, we'd have spent the night and flown home the next day.  But, Ben needed to get the plane home, and with the iffy weather, he needed an experienced IFR pilot. He picked us up at the airport and we headed straight across town to the Aztec. No time for sight-seeing.  No time for lunch.

Here we are pre-flighting the plane at Austin Executive Airport.

We were in the air by 4 p.m. with a 5 hour flight time that included one fuel stop.  Our plan was to fly at 19,000 feet which meant, since the cabin wasn't pressurized, we'd need oxygen.  Ben had the tubing and adapters in a small rubbermaid bin.  My fellow passenger, an employee of Ben's and I ended up having to buddy breathe for the entire flight once we ascended past 11,000 feet because he didn't have enough adapters.  Nothing like knowing you are mildly hypoxic to bring on all the textbook symptoms!  We had a timer set on my cell phone and switched off every ten minutes. I was sleepy, fidgety and nauseous about a minute into my "room air" time every cycle!

Here's my buddy-breather and I, still smiling because we didn't yet know about the O2 situation!
With our headsets on, we can hear all the radio comm.  Mine had a loose connection so Rob and Ben were fading in and out a bit.

There's our pilot on the left and our IFR conditions pilot on the right. 

Nothing beats a sunset at altitude

Just after nightfall, there was some talk about switching from the right to the left fuel tank.  Rob told Ben to switch to the left.  Ben's voice sounded urgent and there was some shifting around as he yanked on some lever, "I can't get it. It's stuck."
"Well, you HAVE to get it or you're gonna lose this right engine," said Rob.
Suddenly their voices cut out and I couldn't hear any further communication for a few minutes.  My heart was racing.  I was certain that they had keyed us out so we wouldn't be privy to the emergency that was unfolding.  I'll admit to having a "get it right with God" moment.  But, in short order, I could see that the commotion had ended. And then, amidst the static, I began to hear them both speaking again.  It was an inopportune time for my headset to freak out, not, as I had thought, a deliberate silencing by the flight crew!  "Emergency" over, I was free to continue enjoying the flight.

Do you know how cold it gets at 19,000 feet in the winter?  Damn cold. Long down coat and fleece blanket cold. Falling asleep and starving and oxygen deprived cold. Brrrr! Damn, I'm a whiny date, aren't I?

We made a fuel stop at Bolivar Airport in Missouri.
Fuel stop
And landed in Moline by 9 p.m. Tower reported "poor braking action" on the runway and they were indeed right.  The airport was covered in ice.  We had to call for help to get the airplane into the hangar!

After the excitement of the day, we all needed nourishment.  Village Inn.  It was just after 11 p.m. and my Belgian waffle had just arrived when I was called to the hospital.  Ah, well.  I left the flight crew to linger over their meal, took my waffle in a "to-go" box and went to work, happy to enjoy the slightly less adventurous task of baby catching.