Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The final final

 So here it is- the final day of A's airline. It's a bit anti-climatic really since the company had their final flight yesterday and A hasn't even flown for them since June. And in a classy move by someone, the scheduled final flight was passed off to another contractor airline so it was a scramble for all the people who wanted to be there to see the final flight. It's sad to see that an airline that was so highly rated for on time service, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction has gone out of business due to the race for the cheapest contractor. But what can one do? 

A  did make one final trip to Houston last week to wrap up union business and have a final farewell party. He said they all did get a little misty eyed telling stories of their time at the airline. He talked about how wonderful it was that another pilot friend of his (who happened to be at the meeting as well) had started a donation pool for us (this was pre go-fund-me) when he was out with cancer and how much that meant to him still that all those pilots gave to him without even knowing him. His story ended with a great bear hug and some tissue. A had his own moment as he walked through our home airport in his uniform for the last time as he came home. With no current plans to return to scheduled airline flying he won't be wearing the traditional uniform, skipping the general public security line, or even visiting the airport in the near future. I think it would be different if he had another job lined up or even planned to apply, but that not in the outlook that last walk just seemed so FINAL. I don't think either of us had thought about it until the moment it happened. 

Our last few weeks have been a scramble to maintain some sense of security and stability. We refinanced the house, set up some specific bank accounts, worked our Dave Ramsey (nearly done with baby step 3 y'all, that's HUGE!), looked into life, health and disability insurances (need some more ASAP work on that), submitted for the last of the reimbursements from A's uniform fund, downloaded as much info as we could from his company websites while they are still available, and today I applied for state assisted health care for the kids. Our current state with neither of us having access to insurance benefits means we really have to be proactive. Soon A will apply for unemployment benefits to help until he can get some regular income going from the start-up charter business he's working at. Right now our month is measured in "how many trips do I need to cover mortgage and grocery money?" and "how many more hours do I need to work to cover that fall clothes shopping trip or trip to the pumpkin patch this month or yet another curly hair product I *need* to try" (seriously, after four kids I finally have the boobs and wavy hair I always dreamed of in college...). It's funny, up until 6 months ago, I worked full time and sometimes extra weekend shifts too. And parented alone when he was gone on trips. But now, I've gotten so used to him being home and coming home earlier in the day and having kid free time to do chores and errands. And the occasional day off together and restaurant breakfast date. And I wonder how I used to do it all for so long. But for October and likely the next few months, I am trying to rack up as many hours as I can to make sure we have enough money to survive. I'll be back to a breakneck pace until I crash, probably at the end of the year. I'm lucky the hours are finally available now because they weren't in the spring. 

We have had so many friends reach out to us, which has been really reassuring and it's so nice that they are thinking of us. Outside of the airlines, I don't think we know anyone who lost their job, or is even battling continued hour cutbacks. I still have faith that this new path will work out for us, as hard as the unknown seems right now. Probably because it not working out is not an option. The silver lining in all this is that A has been home so much and has really jumped in and learned what it means to be a home-all-the-time parent. That opportunity itself has already been a blessing for our family.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Work in Progress

 Aren’t we always a work in progress though? Things have been steady here. We had the opportunity to stay at a relatives house/ Air B&B for the Labor Day weekend and swim to our hearts content in their pool. We had great weather except for right after we got the fire going in the fire pit to make s’mores. That’s when we got caught in a downpour naturally. It was nice to get to a new locale for a few days. 

I just feel like my heart is broken in so many ways right now. Not just because of this pandemic, but partially related. I hate that my baby girl is in a class full of boys with no other girly girl to play with. The preschool has dropped to low that it’s just her and 2-3 boys. It’s great for education and reducing exposure, but not for friendship. My bigger boy is doing well in school and is accustomed to wearing a mask now. But he needs to get back into the social aspect of clubs and scouts. I know he’s tired of mom trying to engage him. I am sad for my previous home states of California and Oregon and hearing off all those small towns I drove through or camped near going up in smoke. It really is like losing a part of your history to know those places are gone forever. My heart is absolutely broken that my oldest son, now 18 and living with his father in Oregon, has dropped us out of his life and hasn’t responded to any of my attempts to contact him. I don’t know why other than he thinks no one who lives in the south has any intelligence and he doesn’t like having siblings. It tears me up that the boy who used to hold my hand and tell me he wanted to live with me forever now won’t talk to me. I hope that one day he will come back to me. Especially because it’s nothing but teenagerhood keeping us apart and nothing specific. Friends reassure me that he’ll come back, but as always, I hate the waiting. I also ache for A and his career. I know he’s trying his hardest but it’s it’s also hard not to blame him for things. Especially when I’m stressed about so many other things. So far he’s not getting as many hours as we hoped for with the new job but he keeps reassuring me it will pick up. I feel like he’s waiting for another job to fall into his lap instead of pursuing something. And I don’t want that to effect my dream job that I currently have. It’s hard to give him the space to grieve his losses when we are so desperate to stay afloat. 

As a surprise pick me up I did get a kind and unexpected letter in the mail the other day from the wife of a pilot couple that A has helped out through his union role. I met her many moons ago when she was in flight school with A and she remembered. She thanked me for allowing A the volunteer time to be a pilot rep that it took away from our family and told about a time when he stepped in and really helped her husband during his career. It ended up brightening my day quite a bit. Hopefully I’ll get out of this funk I’ve been in and get our new normal figured out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Transitional Airspace

 I have transition fatigue. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I can tell you that this is a real thing. I'm so tired of everything being up in the air. I'm a concrete girl. I like to plan ahead. I don't like surprises. I like to know what to expect and I like to get there early. And this year is just NOT shaping up that way. So far we've been through: a job change for me and the prospect of a significant raise for A, then the pandemic shut down, transition to home schooling for Kidzilla, then work cutbacks for both me and A, then furlough potential, then a while-I'm-furloughed job prospect for A, then news that A's company is shutting down for good, then uncertainty on exactly what A will be doing at said new job and will the income sustain us, now back to school and the wind down of A's company. I'm exhausted just typing it. I hope that by the time winter arrives we have found our new normal. I'm quickly losing my ability to 'just roll with it." Really, I don't have much choice in the matter obviously, but I can tell I'm just tired of making decisions and I'm telling A more and more that whatever he decides is fine. And I want to just curl up on the couch and binge watch Youtube videos instead of participating. But I can still make a mean to do list for him.

It has been phenomenal to have A home. He hasn't flown for his airline since June and likely won't ever again unless he volunteers for a trip this month. He's been doing the grocery shopping for years, but now he does the bulk of the dishes, helps with school/daycare drop off and pick up, runs errands, supervises homework, feeds the kids breakfast, and helps with dinners. There are times I don't know what to do with myself because he's already got it all going. And after so many years of holding it together on my own, it's just weird. So I turn to micromanaging to cope. Luckily, A understands and lets it go. But as great as it is, it's hard to get used to him being here all the time. There are many conversations involving  "what did you do all day?" and "you went to Target again?" He's all in my business when I do embarrassing things like dry my hair with a tee shirt (curly girl style) or buy yet another cute dress for my daughter or feed the kids ice cream for dinner. I used to be able to hide those things and keep our secrets secret. It's hard having him here ALL THE TIME. I'm sure it is for him too though. Being subjected to constant people around wanting his time is hard for him as well. He's used to being alone in a hotel room, free to watch movies and call or text friends. At home, there is very little free time once the kids are home and they are always noisy. There is no such thing as alone time. 

This month is our big wrap up, tying up lose ends before we lose the job title, the income, and the benefits. Maybe once that is past we can move on to looking to and living in the future. Today marks 14 years that I have maintained this blog. It's so amazing to look back and see where we've been. The things I was hopeful for, the times I never hoped for, and the hope I still have for the future.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Soft landings

 So it's finally come. A's airline is closing and he'll be out of a job. His airline has surely fallen victim to COVID, but in reality, it's never been the airline it was when he started. In the 14 years he's been there it's been in a slow, consistent decline in the number of planes and routes it's been flying. So we are panicked yes, but we've got some things worked out so it takes the edge off. In all reality, A probably would have flown his entire career there- he said recently that he had planned on never doing any interviews again. But then he was also talking about moving to a cargo carrier back at the beginning of year... The lack of a college degree (that again...) continues to hamper his career path and he'll probably never make huge money, but we've come to terms with it. 

He's been given a great opportunity to fly for a small charter locally that is owned by a friend of his. He can make almost the same money he was making flying as a regional captain, be home most nights, and never have to worry about not being home for a holiday or event. He does have to give up the flying heavy jets international envy, but he was never about that anyway. Sure, it'd be nice to be making $200k per year, but who knows if he'd ever really get there anyway and it's been really nice having him home consistently. So maybe he'll fly for another airline one day, but for now this where we'll sit and ride out the storm. 

The only downside is that it's a contract gig so there are no benefits. My biggest concern in going part time was losing access to benefits and now *bam*, here we are. We will be able to get reduced price state insurance for the kids and we are still working on something for us- either a healthcare sharing group or something through our state marketplace. We can't apply until he's actually laid off, which means we'll be going uninsured for a short period of time, but it will be better than nothing. We already have a plan for putting aside tax money. We are working on refinancing our house to get a smaller monthly payment. We're nearly debt free aside from the house (thanks Dave Ramsey). We have a (very meager) budget that we are working off until things get settled. But we are probably in a better place than most. My biggest stressor is trying not to let the kids know exactly how dire things are. They know dad's been home and that some of our activities are cut back, but I try to minimize exactly how much I share because I don't want them to worry. Kidzilla (now 9) was nearby when we were doing our budget and heard us talking about it which I think is good for him, but I don't want him worried that we won't be able to buy him shoes this winter. And I'm so hopeful we won't have to cancel our yearly Christmas time trip to a hotel in Orlando.

But we have peace. We aren't fighting about money. A is home to do the grocery shopping, dentist appointments, and daytime errands.I still have the opportunity to work part time. He was here for Babygirl's 3rd birthday and he'll be here to take Little Bean (now nearly 5 and obsessed with cheap crafts from Michaels...) to his first day of Pre K. He gets to be here for beach trips where he leaves the electronic key fob in his swim trunks pocket while he goes in the water, while attending to kids crying about the poopy mess they made in the bathroom, and helping with summer homework packets. And for now that's all we can ask for.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

In the thick of it

Things were starting to look up for us- the COVID cases seemed contained, the aviation industry had some recovery predictions, and we had a plan. And every time we think things are stabilizing in our lives, it gets turned upside down again. I am exhausted from the constant readjustment and uncertainty. Pretty much every day I count our blessing that we are stable for that day.

A's job was stable, then he got downgraded. He's expected to get furloughed. Then he's not, he'll make the cut. Then he's going to get furloughed again, except for longer. Then maybe not. What are we going to do for income and insurance if he does? Then his airline was literally pitted against another and told by the major both fly for that one of them was going to cease operation in fall and they wanted to know what concessions each group was willing to make to keep their jobs. We're still waiting on the outcome of that but it's led to many stressful video meetings and phone calls between A and the other union reps. Even if his airline stays open, we don't know if he'll be furloughed. Luckily, A has had another flying opportunity fall into his lap to tide us over and maybe lead to more down the road. An old friend from flight school owns a smallish charter business locally and A is able to fly for them. He's in training now, learning a completely different airplane and a completely different operation. Is it short term temporary? Long term temporary? Could it turn into something more? Who knows. But at least it's something.

My two jobs are holding steady. One I get all the hours I expected and it's working well. The other is dependent on other people taking time off. Which really isn't happening too much right now. I'm partly pleased not to be working so much and several more days off per week. But at the same time, there is a financial cost to that. How to balance the two. I gave up my access to benefits when I left full time work, anticipating we could remain covered A. We've explored medical cost sharing programs and that will likely be our overall plan. It's a relief to know that's in place. All of the other stuff- life insurance, retirement savings, and the like still have to be worked out though. But we have a plan.

This summer our kids have remained in daycare and summer camp as planned, with no problems. They are all looking forward to returning to school activities. Which are now postponed for two weeks. At least it's not indefinite. It stretches our tenuous budget to continue paying daycare rates when we were supposed to be moving to the lower aftercare rate, but it is what it is. That's one of those hidden costs that no one thinks about.

We missed our trip to the west coast to see my oldest son graduate from high school. Right now, that place is the center of some major controversy so we're not likely to reschedule anytime soon. The trip was more for me than him anyway. We did get in a mini trip to a relative's house for the 4th of July weekend at least. The kids spent most of the time in the pool. We stayed with family, wore masks when we were out, and came back no worse for the wear. Hopefully we'll get another chance for a small get away this fall.

I am not a person who likes uncertainty. Change is fine, if I know it's coming. But this not knowing? It's slowly killing me. Where is the current prediction of when we will hit our peak? The media was all over that early on, but now? Nothing. How can I make a plan when things keep changing? How can we have goals when we don't even know what's feasible? It's testing all of my skills to keep this anxiety at bay and keep things running normally for my kids. But every day we come through and I thank god that we are stable for another day.