Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Another fork in the road

So we have settled into the private charter lifestyle at this point. Trips come up short notice- sometimes just 24-48 hours, but they are rarely multi-day trips. A can request off any days he wants- no stress trying to bid a particular schedule or whether he'll be home for an event/holiday/birthday. I can't complain about those things. And since we never used our airline flight benefits, we aren't really missing those either. But now, all the airlines are hiring again, some at a nearly desperate pace. A gets calls regularly from former coworkers asking if he wants a recommendation to their airline. Right now he is committed to his current gig and always declines for the time being. And I admit, although I like what he is doing, I always wonder if we are making the right decision. Going back to the airlines would mean a predictable (and higher for now) salary, healthcare benefits, and a different kind of stress for him. But then when he's home, he's home. Not constantly on the phone monitoring flights, placating pilots, or trying to manage vast amounts of paperwork and random tasks. There are days when A comes home and is so happy with his current position. And some days when it's just a job. And some days he comes home and says "this is never going to work, we'll all be back at the airline in a year." What does the future hold for each path? I so hate the unknown! For now we hold steady with the local job.

Summer is coming up on us so fast! Only a few weeks left before camp season. I was a little delayed getting everyone registered for their camps, but they mostly got what they wanted. There are a few weeks where we'll have three kids at three different locations, which will take some coordination. But as always, we'll find a way. Next year boy # 3 will begin kindergarten.That leaves only 1 more, with one year of daycare to go. Although I miss having a sweet little baby around, I am excited for this all grown up stage. We are still slowly divesting ourselves of things like baby gates and potty seats and instead investing in containers and storage for plastic dinosaurs and (even more) playmobil. The older ones bookcase is slowing moving from Lego creations to books and gaming sets. And there are a few things that I know are with their last age appropriate user. It will be hard to let some things go. We are planning a trip to the Kennedy Space Center for early August. We have two kids who are fascinated by all things space and science. I made the mistake of telling them about the trip. And now every morning I get asked if today is the day we are going on our vacation. I'm glad they are excited, but oh my goodness, I not sure how I can outlast all summer of asking...

I know one day we'll be able to look back at all the turns this road has taken and see how it all comes together. But when you are in the middle of the path, it's so hard to feel sure of how where it's going to end up.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Spring Break where I didn't meet a celebrity

 We had an amazing Spring Break this year! 

We had previously been invited to stay at the home of a friend of A's in southern FL and finally made the opportunity to do so for a few days. It was the amazing, low key time we needed. A ended up having to fly so we delayed our trip by a day (which it turns out we needed to allow more time prep...) and I drove the 3.5 hours down with the kids and dog and we picked him up at the airport there. Since it was at a small airport, we were able to walk right up nearly to the tarmac and see his plane up close. It was the first time two of our three had seen it. After he closed up the plane we went to his friend's house where we ended up having a whole suite-living space, bed, bath, screened porch to ourselves. It was so fantastic to have space to spread out and retreat to when it felt like the kids might be overwhelming everyone; with a larger family sometimes I feel like we descend on people's home like locusts . They also have three dogs so Archie was right at home playing. We spent our time visiting a dinosaur park, taking a golf cart tour of their neighborhood, playing at a playground, swimming in their hot tub, riding in their jeep, getting ice cream, and just generally hanging out. It was exactly the refresh we needed and we are so thankful to them for offering us the space and companionship. The drive home turned into an extended one due to heavy traffic related to Bike Week in Daytona Beach, but we made it home with just enough time to prep for our next adventure.

We were up early the next morning to accompany A, the owner of his company, and his family on a business trip. They had to fly to Alabama for a meeting and then decided to fly up to Nashville for the weekend since it was close by. It was the first time I've flown with A since he was a student more than 15 years ago and the first time I've seen him fly something bigger than a Cessna. It was the first time the two little ones had ever flown with him and the first time the littlest had ever flow. We loaded up the plane and headed out. The kids and I walked around outside and read magazines inside while they had their meeting and then we headed out to Nashville. Once in Nashville, we landed at the private plane terminal and it was on! We got met at the door by a gentleman with an umbrella and waiting in the FBO with our luggage and the kids while our pilots finished out the trip and closed up the plane. It was interesting the facility because there were lots of corporate pilots milling around, checking each other and their planes out. We were standing off to one side and I saw a man come in, wearing jeans, a shirt, and a hat. He had a bike with him that he leaned up against a garbage can and left. It seemed odd and out of place in the fancy terminal. Then he came back in walking three dogs and said something about taking them out to the plane. I realized the guy looked kinda familiar but couldn't place him. When he came back in, I realized it was probably my favorite country singer ever, Dierks Bentley! I won't say I totally lost my cool then, but I did try hard not to gawk embarrass myself by staring but also discretely tell everyone else in our group who it was. I was too shy to walk up and say something, partly because everyone else in the terminal was so nonchalant about it. I'm sure they see famous people there all the time. Then, as we were standing outside waiting for our Uber, out he comes again. And their I was, with his song playing on the overhead speaker, watching him talk to someone he knew, just a few feet away from me. The heavens could have opened up and sung Hallelujah and I wouldn't have noticed.

While in Nashville we got to stay at the Gaylord Opryland. Pre-COVID I had hoped to go there for Christmas, but we weren't able to make it happen this year. The hotel was perfect because it had enough to do for the kids without having to load everyone up in an expensive Uber XL. It was as amazing as I expected it to be and even bigger than the one in Orlando where we have stayed several times. We had booked an interior balcony room that slept 4 and figured we'd make it work for the 5 of us somehow. At the Elite Member check in (finally A can collect hotel points for his overnight stays!) we were offered a room upgrade, but it wouldn't have a balcony. I was a little iffy on taking it because we really liked having the balcony, but A really pushed me to do it. And the registration person acknowledged that we had a lot of kids and this would be more comfortable for us. So with the pouty, reluctant "FINE" that women are known for, we took room. Well... as it turned out, we got a 2 room suite with sleeping room for least 10 between the 2 pull out couches, the murphy bed, and the two queen beds. I would have been overjoyed to have had just ONE of the rooms. We also had a giant TV, gas fireplace and 6 person dining table, plus plenty of space for the kids to play. IT. WAS. AMAZING. We were able to get food from restaurants to eat in our room as the kids played and everyone slept in a different bed every night. The hotel itself was pretty nice too, with several scavenger hunts for the kids, an indoor pool, spring activities, and unlimited delta riverboat rides. There was truly no need to leave the hotel. We had a fantastic time and hope to visit again in the future.

Our trip home was uneventful and it was significantly less glamorous having to unload our own luggage and empty the lav and garbages, and going right back to work and school the next day, but that was well worth it. As we were flying home I took some time to reflect on how this amazing trip had fallen into place, even after the previous year filled with job loss, cut hours, and so much uncertainty. And the unexpected path and opportunities that  had fallen into place to allow us a trip that included flying on a private plane and staying in a fancy suite. I'm so thankful for the small blessings that have fallen our way during this season!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Making it work

 So here we are. A year into a pandemic, a half year since A flew for an airline, a quarter year since his airline ceased operation. And we're still going. A fell into a gig that he is trying to make work. A local, long time friend of his bought up a part 135 charter operation in 2020 and A has been flying through that and is planned for moving up into a Chief Pilot position. It's still a small operation with irregular flying for A, but we're hoping that will change as the business continues to grow. A really enjoys being mostly home and not having the stress of commuting to base via plane. But, not surprisingly, he still gets stressed out the night before a flight. It's a different type of work he has to do now, contacting FBO's and filing paperwork, but it still is imperative flight related work. Hopefully at some point the company will have someone to make these kind of arrangements for the trips. And as much as I try and get him to keep his work in an 8-5 schedule and not doing work during family time, it still never works out. His phone is still going off constantly.  I had hoped that the end of union work meant the end of that, but no. And for as much as he talks about loving being home so much, he still talks about trying to get hired by a major. And I can't say I was unhappy when he had a 4 day trip come up once... My own work, hospital based, was steady and then decreased. So now I'm balancing a part time job and two on-call jobs, never feeling like I'm bringing in enough money. We have target goals for when I feel like I can cut back working through. As he flies more I can decrease. But it's been a year of feeling pissed that the part time working was stolen away from me and I still never feel like I can balance all the things our household needs with my work schedule.

We do have one bright spot this year- we finally adopted a dog. The 10yo has been asking for one for years and I've always said no. Now that A is home more, it's a realistic to handle one. The 10yo has been volunteering weekly at the local Humane Society since the new year. He reads to the pets to socialize them (which usually devolves into playing with the cats...) and helps calm them in their kennels. Every week he asks to bring a pet home and I defer. But when we met Archie, I knew we had to bring him home. So now we have an 18 month old black lab mix who is missing a back leg. Our sweet, gentle boy had been shot in the leg prior to coming to the Humane Society and they had to remove the leg altogether. But don't be fooled- although he can't jump, he can play chase and fetch for hours. The 10yo has been taking great responsibility so far, even though it's hard to drag ourselves out of bed at 7am on Saturday for a walk in the rain. The little ones were excited yet nervous at first but they have really come around. And thankfully our boy tolerates the daily vet check-ups and space shuttle landings on his back just fine.

Although 2020 really went awry in a horrible way for us we are managing. There is a lot of doing without and making due, but hopefully this year we will stabilize and again begin to grow.

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.