Thursday, July 30, 2009

Inside a flight attendant's not so glam life (CNN)

Thought I'd share this with my blogging friends...I couldn't get the CNN picture to transfer to my blog so I inserted one of our soon to be parked forever planes.

(CNN) -- As you encounter flights that leave you frustrated, hungry and tired this summer vacation season, chances are the person who greets you with a smile when you come on board could be feeling the same way. A flight attendant's duty can last up to 14.5 hours on domestic routes.

The glamour has long faded from the job of a flight attendant, but the occupation still captures the imagination of a public fascinated by the constant travel and work above the clouds.
Still, many people know little about the realities of a flight attendant's life, changed by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the efforts of a troubled airline industry to stay afloat and the recent economic downturn.

"When my mom was a stewardess in the 1950s, they wore white gloves and they learned to serve lobster thermidor table-side," said Rene Foss, a flight attendant for 25 years and the spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants.

"Instead of wearing white gloves, I'm wearing rubber gloves; and instead of learning to serve lobster thermidor, I'm learning to put handcuffs on passengers."

The chance to see the world while offering an important service still lures many men and women to the job, and the flight attendants who spoke with CNN said they enjoy what they do. But they also described work that can be draining and sometimes given little respect. Read how flight attendants deal with screaming babies, difficult passengers

Many flights are now full as airlines park planes to save money, leaving passengers spread over fewer aircraft in the system. At the same time, layoffs, furloughs and other cost-cutting measures mean fewer flight attendants taking care of more people on board. See flight attendants' biggest pet peeves »

Meanwhile, pay cuts are forcing many to work more hours to offset the difference.
"I made more money in 1998 than I make today," said Kim Kaswinkel, a flight attendant for 22 years who holds a legislative committee chair position at the Association of Flight Attendants.

Flying realities
• About 99,000 flight attendants work in the United States
• Their mean annual wage is $39,840 (Note from Vicki: I haven't made anywhere near that much since the bankruptsies of 2003. I think this is old information from long ago but most people I know don't make this much at all!)
• The Atlanta area has the highest concentration of workers in this occupation
• Major airlines are required by law to provide flight attendants for the safety and security of the traveling public
• Flight attendants must be certified by the FAA Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The days can be long -- up to 14 hours of duty time on domestic routes and even longer on international trips -- and the layovers short, sometimes shorter than the workdays.

Flight attendants say they often battle hunger as airlines eliminate meals for passengers on shorter flights, which also means fewer food options for them. "There are days, specifically domestically, you go 7, 8, 9 hours and have not gotten anything to eat because there's no food on the airplane; and when they're trying to turn these airplanes around quickly, there's no time to run off and get food," Kaswinkel said.
She carries protein bars and apples with her to help fend off hunger.

Flight attendants fly 70 to 100 hours a month, but they're only paid when a plane's engines are running, Foss said. So they receive no compensation for one of the hardest parts of their job: the boarding process.

It's now more aggravating than ever as passengers bring more carry-on bags to avoid paying fees for checked luggage, sometimes resulting in confrontations and delays when there is no space to accommodate them. Kaswinkel called the carry-on situation "out of control."

Don't Miss
How flight attendants deal with life on board

Frustrated passengers often take it out on the crew and sometimes each other. As she tries to enforce rules and resolve conflicts, Foss said she sometimes feels like a police officer, a baby sitter and a referee.

Flight attendants say they try to create a friendly atmosphere, but sometimes get little response. "A lot of passengers complain that flight attendants don't smile, but I can't tell you how many times I've stood at the boarding door with a smile on my face greeting people and they will just ignore me," said Heather Poole, a flight attendant for 14 years who writes for the travel Web site

'Cart toe'
Seniority determines many aspects of a flight attendant's life, including what routes they fly and whether they work in economy, business or first class. Surprisingly, some flight attendants consider economy easier even though they serve many more passengers. Coach usually requires only a drink service, while flight attendants in the other cabins work almost nonstop serving meals and drinks.

Shoes wear out quickly at this pace. Poole, who mostly works in business class, says she buys a new pair every three months. A particular problem is "cart toe," leather that wears out on the nose of the shoe where she pushes the brakes on the carts that hold drinks and meals.

There are many tales of strange passengers. Foss recalled waiting on the tarmac to take off from Tokyo, Japan, when a woman suddenly took off all her clothes and began running up and down the aisles. The plane had to return to the gate, where police were waiting to remove her.
Kaswinkel is amazed that people still try to smoke on planes and recalled a recent incident in which a passenger offered her $5 to not write her a warning after she caught her sneaking a cigarette in the lavatory.

Poole still remembers the passenger who removed a fire extinguisher from the plane to take as a souvenir.

With all the travel they do, you might wonder how flight attendants choose to spend their vacations. Some continue to fly even in their free time, while others cherish "staycations" or find ways to globe-trot without getting on a plane. Poole was a frequent traveler until she got married and had a child. Now that her son is 3, she's ready to start jetting off with him on vacation.

Foss considers it a joy to sleep in the same bed for a few nights, but also likes train travel.
Kaswinkel's ideal vacation after being away from home for 16 to 18 days a month is also staying put. But that's not fun for her family, so she does travel occasionally during her time off.
"We enjoy cruising the most because I can relax and do nothing by the pool with a frozen drink, while they go tour the destination ports of call. It's a great compromise," Kaswinkel said.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The new guy

Some of my friends and family are not on facebook and don't get to see the pictures I post there so I'm repeating the posting of these pictures for my blog readers. I do apologize if you've seen them before. This is Collin after he came home from the hospital. His mom says that he doesn't like to be swaddled too much and likes to have his arms out, unlike his big brother who would wake up and cry if he wasn't swaddled tightly enough or if he managed to get his arm out of the blankets in the first few weeks.
Aidan was patting Collin and trying to calm him when he was waking up and getting ready to cry to be fed. These pictures were taken in the hospital when Collin was only hours old...he was born about 2am on the 10th of July.
Aidan is looking up at his dad who is taking the pictures. He looks like he's really trying hard to figure out this little one that is moving all around and making funny noises.
Hello, little brother! Nice to meet you!
Here's a nice one of Jenn holding both of the boys. Aidan is a snuggler but there is still plenty of room on mom's lap (and dad's) for both of the babies.

Taking a day off to go to Union Mills

I took a day off from painting and cleaning in the bedroom yesterday to relax, recover, and then in the afternoon, join our Reenactment unit at our annual reenactment at the Union Mills Homestead. This is a picture of the restored grist mill at Union Mills which was built by two Shriver brothers in the 1700's. This is a park now that offers tours and does events such as our Civil War weekend, corn roast, pancake breakfasts, microbrew festival, and flower market, to name a few, and there are two Shrivers of the family living across the street in two private Victorian homes that are quite beautiful as well. Shriver is a family with deep roots in the Maryland countryside, and one of the descendants of this branch of the family (another branch is that of the Shriver house museum in Gettysburg) is in our Group.
The home has also been restored and is part of the tours are offered by the group that runs the property. They have a gift shop that sells the stone ground flours and cornmeals that are made right in the grist mill. I buy all my cornmeal here and it really makes a difference in the taste of the cornbread, it's so different than commercially produced meals and flours. Union Mills is on the way from my house to Gettysburg so it's convenient to stop for supplies on the way to my volunteer job.
This is another shot of the Shriver home. Much of the original grounds are still part of the park and we thoroughly enjoy camping and doing our event here. Both Confederate and Federal forces camped on this property on the way to the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
I'm wasn't able to dress in my corset for the event because the incisions on my abdomen are still healing, so I drove up in modern clothing with projects to work on in hand. I sat with some of our unit members and chatted while I worked on putting the binding on the quilts I'd made for the grandbabies. There were several new units participating in the event this year and it was nice to see new faces among the familiar ones. I always enjoy the opportunity to socialize with people I don't get to see nearly enough. The weather was cool for this time of year and quite comfortable, getting even a little bit chilly by the time we had a pot-luck dinner together. By dinner time, I was exhausted and sore and ready to go home. Unfortunately I didn't sleep well because I'm still learning what to eat and not to eat without a Gall Bladder. lol
These are the two baby quilts that I got finished between Union Mills and some time spent at home last night while watching TV. I finished the last one this morning early when I couldn't sleep and went ahead and got up. I had pieced these last year when I found out that my daughter was pregnant again and then they sat for many months before I machine quilted them last week. I did traditional blocks (this one is called Churn Dash or Monkey Wrench) with Hawai'ian fabrics since the boys were both born in Hawai'i. The backings are the same fabric as the sashing that's touching the blocks so they're easy to tell apart. I'd made nightgowns from the backing fabrics so it looks strange to me to see those same fabrics on the back of the quilts!
The two quilts have wool batts inside them that I had made from some Romney fleeces that I'd bought at one of the Sheep and Wool festivals. There's nothing like natural fiber wool batts with natural cotton fiber fabrics, they really breathe and are so comfortable. They're soft and snuggly and definitely just waiting for the boys to use, and the wool batts aren't too warm for them to use in Hawai'i. We use the wool batt quilt I made for our bed most of the year, only changing it out in the hottest part of the summer. I am guessing the Aidan will decide which one he likes best and the other one will be for Collin when he's just a little bit older and is more able to snuggle up in it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

We can helps you, Mom?

I am very happy to report that I'm beginning to come out of the tired and feeling sore phase of my post surgery time. I know I still have some recovering time to go but my Doctor said that I'm right on track so I'm happy about that. My dear husband has been great in helping with things around the house while I've been on the mend. The cats have been helping out whenever they can, too.
Our reenacting group sent some beautiful flowers for me last week when I'd just gotten out of the hospital. I've really enjoyed them, and as you can see, they were a real hit with the youngest girls. Rosie especially thought they looked very delicious and she started to try nibbling on the small purple flowers. Of course, I stopped her as I wasn't sure if they were entirely healthy for her.
Pretty soon Belle found out what Rosie was looking at and came for a sniff of her own. She loved smelling all the flowers and spent quite a bit of time with each flower, as if she was deciding what each one was as she studiously sniffed it. The girls were so adorable with them. Of course, I had to move them to the top of my TV cabinet so that the cats wouldn't decide to eat them, but that was ok, I could still see and enjoy them.
After getting the OK from the Doctor, we started to slowly and carefully paint the bedroom and after 2 days only have about 1/3 finished. We already had the paint and it certainly needed to be done and now was a good time since we're both home right now. We've lived here over 10 years and the room is still the very drab off white builder's sprayed on paint, the new very light blue walls with white trim is certainly brightening up the entire room! We began the work of prepping and putting out the tarps, and Belle decided that she'd like to help too. Actually all three were around quite a bit of the time while we were painting but they kept out of the way which was very appreciated. Belle got a little bit of paint on her tail during walking around and exploring and Gracie managed to get her whiskers and some of each side of her fur in the wet paint. I trimmed her fur but her whiskers will have to wear off. The girls were very well behaved while they watched and tried to find ways to help. Of course, all the furniture got moved so they were very curious about the whole process.
Rosie decided to take a well deserved nap with our frog shoe cleaner that sits inside the front door. It's been quite warm so the cats have been stretching out on the floors a lot like this. Rose was probably tired from trying to help do the painting, and from looking at herself in the mirror from my vanity area while it was down on the floor.
All of our children living at home have paws. :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Welcome Collin, and my view from the sofa

Before I tell you why I've been absent from blogging lately I wanted to introduce our newest Grandson, Collin Joel Lightner who was born yesterday morning at about 8 Eastern Time (2am in Hawaii). Mom and baby are doing fine, and Dad and big brother Aidan are as well. Our daughter Jenn should be discharged with the new baby today. :) Collin, not surprisingly, looks like his big brother did with a head of blonde hair (it's a tiny bit darker) and as a proud grandmother, I'll have to say that I think he's perfect! But then again, Aidan is perfect too...what a wonderful gift at a challenging time.

Besides the good news, I've been kind of hunkering down and not blogging very much. When I don't have good things to report or cool pictures to share, I tend to keep my posts to a minimum. I don't like being negative, but we've had a kind of challenging couple of weeks here. On Monday the 29th, my husband's division at work was pretty much all let go. The sudden job loss drove us into shock, then sadness, then the realization that we had to completely cut costs in every way and save every cent that we could because in this economy there is no telling how long we'll need to survive and we were not in any way prepared. I picked up as many trips for July as I possibly could because we need to make expenses and also make sure there is money going to savings to last us through until we're on our feet again. Unfortunately I had to call and cancell all my sewing classes, and any other unnecessary expenditures, as well as trips (I'd planned to go be with my daughter when the baby was due), and we also sat down and made up a realistic budget that didn't have any room for anything but necessities, and won't for some time to come.

The previous weekend our reenacting unit had our annual fund raising weekend encampment at the Civil War Wax Museum in Gettysburg. We went Friday evening and helped put up our tents and had some good conversations with our friends...but as I sit I began to start having some symptoms of what I thought was IBS. It was horrible but we made it home, and the symptoms got bearable by about 3am. Needless to say I didn't go to the weekend encampment, I was still feeling horrible. Then Monday the job news hit while I was off not feeling well. I was able to work my trips on the following Thursday and Friday and looked forward to the weekend.

On the 4th of July we had dinner with some dear friends and I got to feeling badly again, but this time after we got home I couldn't get on top of the pain. I was up all night, never being able to find a comfortable position to lie or stand or anything. About 5:30AM I woke Mark up to take me to the ER. Long story short, they did some tests, and quickly admitted me and removed my very nasty, infected and full of stones Gall Bladder. I was in the hospital a couple of days, and I'm very lucky that it hadn't ruptured. I'm home now, recovering, taking it very easy and trying to rest. Some days are better than others, and it's challenging to try to learn to eat without it, all trial and error. Needless to say, I haven't been able to fly all of the trips I picked up for July, timing certainly wasn't in our favor. I'll try to go back to flying as soon as I can, but it's going to be at least a couple-few weeks. I don't have any sick time to speak of saved up so it's all without pay. But somehow we'll be ok. We have to.

So that's why I haven't been around's not very comfortable for me to be negative or to complain, so now that you's on to bigger and better things!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Wish my dad was able to participate in this

(My dad is the second from the Right, tail gunner on the B17G)

United Salutes WWII Vets Traveling on 'Honor Flight'

Over a two week period, United employees at O'Hare (ORD) and Reagan National (DCA) have had the occasion to salute veterans of World War II traveling on "Honor Flights" to visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

Honor Flight is a non-profit organization that was formed to provide free flights for World War II vets to the memorial. According to Judy Lemmons, director of public relations for Honor Flight, "Sixty-five years ago the guns fell silent. For the millions who survive, there was no homecoming, they just came home, went back to work and went on with their lives. They never received the thanks they so richly deserved -- until now. The Honor Flight Network is committed to those who survived to get them to see THEIR memorial in our nation's capital. It is to their service and sacrifice it was dedicated. We honor them as we witness their humble, arthritic hands over their hearts as they salute the flag for which they so willingly served so many years ago."

Two recent flights have made connections at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where the vets were welcomed with police and fire honor guards as well as a standing ovation from customers in the gate area. O'Hare employees from Customer Service, Ramp, Flight Operations and Onboard Service were also on hand to personally recognize and thank all the veterans making the trip to the nation's capital.

Likewise, the veterans were greeted at Washington Reagan by a cheering crowd and United employees. "When we are aware an 'Honor Flight' is inbound, we put together a team to welcome and escort them. These vets served for us and we will do all we can to recognize that service," stated Ed Dolphin, DCA general manager.

Honor Flight Network chapters have several additional trips to the memorial scheduled this year, and we are working with them to continue United's recognition of the veterans making the journey.

For more information on the Honor Flight Network, please visit