Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cousins in a chair.

As I mentioned, the annual cousins-in-a-chair picture is a very, very important Christmas tradition on my mom's side of the family. It's been taken every year for as long as I can remember, and in fact, I think it's been going on since before I was born.

This year, one of my cousins, his wife, and I were all missing on Christmas Eve. My oldest cousin apparently insisted that we get together another time so we could all be together, and so we could take the proper chair picture.

Friday the 27th, we got together at grandma's house for pizza and a picture. I made mint meringues, which I hadn't had the energy to make on cookie-baking day, and I got a chance to see my cousin who lives in North Carolina. The evening was a success (I even was able to eat and keep my dinner down!), and we were able to add this gem to our years and years of pictures:

I used to fit in my cousin's lap a lot better.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Christmas: A Novel

When I took this job back in early September, I knew I'd be working Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. It was part of the appeal, actually. I was supposed to be spending the holidays with my new husband in Arizona. Since that was no longer happening, I wanted to be as far away as possible. I wanted to escape. I wanted to have adventures.

It was a pleasant surprise when I had Thanksgiving off. I was pleased as punch to be spending it hanging out with family, coloring the annual turkey in the paper, and stuffing myself silly. I was even more excited to discover I had the entire weekend off to go shopping and nap.

I was a little disappointed but very unsurprised to see I was, in fact, working Christmas, both Eve and Day. I had (er, have) settled down considerably in the months since taking the job, and I no longer felt the need to run away from Christmas and pretend it didn't exist. But still, I was resigned to be working. My schedule had me getting into Cleveland at 6.30 pm on the 24th and leaving at 6.30 pm on the 25th. Twenty-four hours in Cleveland? What was I going to do for 24 hours in Cleveland, on Christmas?

Luckily, I know someone in Cleveland. She told me that the hotel was within walking/cab distance from a movie theater. Great! I'll just go see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button! I'll bring my laptop, a few books, I'll go to dinner with the pilots, it'll be great. Not ideal, not home, but not bad, all told.

And then the 22nd rolled around, the day before I was to leave for my 4-day, and I started getting sad. I couldn't stop thinking about Christmas being around the corner, and the more I thought about it, the sadder I got. First of all, I had no Christmas cheer this year. (I have a theory that it's because I'm no longer in school. I had no end-of-the-semester crunch, no finals to avoid studying for, no solid timeline to tell me, "Hey! Christmas is coming! Pay attention!") But more importantly, I started realizing the importance of Christmas traditions in our family.

I realized that I've never not spent a Christmas Eve at church, followed by dinner and presents at grandma's house, even in the six years we lived in Texas. The cousins have never not taken our annual picture, piled into the green chair that shrinks more every year. I've never not spent a Christmas morning opening presents and stockings with Pam and our parents. I've never not spent a Christmas Day with my dad's side of the family. I've never not eaten meringues (which I didn't even have the energy to make for Christmas Eve this year), and I've never not not had Christmas cake on Christmas morning. What was I supposed to eat this year? A fucking pop-tart in my hotel room?

I said good-night, good-bye, and Merry Christmas to my parents that night and started crying as soon as I'd turned away. I was coming down with something, which I suspected might be toying with my emotions, but I was also just feeling down.

And then things got worse.

I woke up around midnight, puking. About once every hour until around five am, I woke up and trekked to the bathroom to bow to the porcelain throne. By the time my alarm went off to tell me to start getting ready for work, I felt exhausted, but much better. Not wanting to use a sick call (I'm so new, and still on probation, after all), I acted the good little flight attendant and headed to the airport. I was congested and unable to take anything (being in the kind of safety-oriented field that I am, we're very limited on the medications we're allowed to take while on duty), but I figured if I could just get through the days, I could relax in the hotels on my long layovers.

My ears are pretty well used to altitude changes, having lived in Duluth with me for the last five years. I don't generally have problems with them popping on the plane, but then, I've never had such a cold while working before. On my very first flight of the trip, my ears acted up and refused to pop properly, leaving me pretty much unable to hear for the rest of the day. "Can I get you something to drink?" *strain to listen and attempt to read lips* "A Pepsi?" *wait for confirmation nod* "Sure thing!"

This wouldn't have been so bad on its own, but I was also constantly blowing my nose and almost constantly nauseated. I ate some mandarin oranges in my hotel room that night, hoping the vitamin C would help.

The next morning, I found myself puking again.

We flew back to MSP, and I spent the majority of the flight crouched in the corner of my galley, trying not to pass out or throw up. When we landed, I immediately went to talk to my manager. She was very sweet and understanding, and she gave me a Kleenex when I started to cry because I felt so guilty about being sick. She told me not to worry, it happens, and I have to do what's best for me: go home. So go home I did, feeling guilty all the way. I felt much better now that I was on the ground, and there was only one flight left that day, and some poor person on reserve had to come in on Christmas Eve because of me, and oh, why couldn't I have just pushed through? When I got home, put on my pajamas, and puked almost immediately, I knew I had made the right decision.

I turned out to be home for Christmas after all, but not on the terms I had wanted. I spent the next couple days in pajamas, making frequent trips between my bedroom and the bathroom. I felt better one day, and then spent all that night puking. I felt better again yesterday, and the doctor told me I don't actually have the flu, only a "flu-like illness." I hoped and prayed I'd sleep through the night last night.

I woke up this morning, after a full night's sleep.

Since I was supposed to be gone, we saved Christmas with our immediate family for today. We started the morning with Christmas cake, I ate some meringues (which I summoned up the energy to make Thursday night, for Friday night dinner at grandma's -- a dinner my oldest cousin insisted on so that we could all be together and take our annual chair picture), and we opened presents. We relaxed, had no rush to get anywhere else for the day, and just enjoyed each others' company.

Now I'm sitting here in my new white fluffy robe that's soft like a cloud, writing the longest entry ever and thinking about my Christmas. The actual Eve and Day turned out to be a bust, but I still got to spend lots of time with family that I love, I still got to eat Christmas cake, and I got to buy most of my presents on clearance the day after Christmas. I guess it was a pretty great year after all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sometimes I ramble.

My friend Laura and I met for coffee this morning, as we try to do whenever we happen to be in town and free at the same time. We talked about the things we always talk about, updated each other on everything pertinent in our lives. And then she told me about a dream she had last night about getting married, which resulted in her waking up in a panic about all the planning she had left to do. It was just the kind of dream I used to have when I was in the midst of planning my own wedding, except she's not engaged.

We then spent the next fifteen minutes planning my next wedding. It involves renting a clear jet (like Underwater World, but Above the World World, or Inside the Clouds World) and having Ron marry us on the plane while we fly all our friends and family to Vegas, where we start the reception immediately upon landing, win the jackpot at the nearest casino, and then buy the clear jet for future use. Who the "we" is is irrelevant at this point. Whoever the he happens to be, he'll just have to be happy with this, my new plan.

In my defense, thinking about weddings (and mine, in particular) doesn't make me crazy, though I know it sounds like I might be. After all, I spent sixteen months planning one pretty recently. I researched, I compared, I taste-tested, I crafted, I found ways to cut corners, I brainstormed, I booked. All with little to no help from my dearly beloved. (Perhaps something I should have read into, eh? Where was the English major in me then?) Being a bride and planning a wedding were major things going on in my life, things I could turn to to avoid school and family. And then, suddenly, those things were gone. But just because the wedding wasn't there anymore doesn't mean that the whole subject just disappeared from my brain.

For a long time, I hated weddings. They were on my mind constantly, I still checked in on the forum I used to brainstorm with fellow brides, I still looked at all the pictures. But it was with an air of spite and bitterness, and it left me feeling angry and empty. I started to pick apart my own wedding plans, think about what I would do differently, what I still loved about it. I'd tell Pam, "At my next wedding I want [fill in the blank]." She'd just nod and say okay. (She's good like that. In the days and weeks after my wedding, I knew I'd picked her for my maid of honor for a reason.) And then, for a while, weddings just weren't on my mind. I stopped visiting the wedding forum, I stopped visiting my photographer's blog, I stopped being angry and spiteful.

But as it turns out, the topic still didn't leave my mind completely, because every once in a while, some random detail will pop into my head. "I think I'll buy flats to wear at my next wedding." "I wonder who I'll get to do my hair?" "I still love my photographer." (And I do. I visit her blog occasionally still, and she takes some fantastic photos.)

The other day, Jess was watching "Say Yes to the Dress," which led to a discussion between us about my dress. Ah, my dress. My beautiful, fantastic, perfectly flattering dress. It still hangs in my grandma's closet, waiting to be worn. I thought about doing a non-wedding session in it with my photographer, but I haven't gotten around to thinking more about coordinating that yet. Anyway, Jess thinks I should keep it, and wear it next time, and I'm not inclined to disagree. After all, I didn't choose it for him, I chose it for how I felt in it, how it looked on me, how my face lit up when I put it on. He still doesn't know anything about it, save that it's ivory. So why shouldn't I wear it next time instead of spending more money on another? I think it just depends on the when and who of "next time."

It's not that I intentionally think about weddings. I'm really, really in no rush to be thinking about another. I'm not desperate to get married. I just can't help having them in my head sometimes. And for that, I make no apologies.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I see London, I see France

I own over 60 pairs of underwear. That's TWO MONTHS of underwear. They range from super-sexy-with-matching-bras (let's not even get into how many bras and socks I have) to good-to-wear-with-dress-pants-and-skirts to oh-god-why-are-these-still-in-rotation?!

There's one pair in particular that I curse myself for not throwing away every time I put them on. You know when you pull your panties up, and you kind of move your thumbs around the band to bring them up and straighten them (er.. that's not just me, right?)? This pair has a hole right where the band meets the side seam, and my thumb always -- ALWAYS -- gets stuck in the hole. Multiple times a day, even, because of course I never take them right back off in the morning and throw them away. No, that would be too logical. "Oh, I'll just throw them away when I take them off. Might as well get one more wear out of them." Nevermind the fact that this plan has never worked before, and it would make far more sense to just toss them immediately. Because naturally, I forget about the hole when I take them off. And I'm once again surprised by it the next time they come out of the wash. And I once again wear them, just one more time.

I think the real problem is I'm actually attached to this pair. I notice them specifically every time I wear them, and they just fit so darned well! Maybe if I wrote down what brand and size they are, I could just go buy some brand new ones. Maybe that would motivate me to clean out some of my old ones!


Not likely.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You got the right stuff, baby

In my short time working as a flight attendant, I have already discovered that the right crew makes all the difference.

I had a trip where I got along really well with all three of the pilots I worked with those days. I felt comfortable, included. We talked and joked and time went by quickly.

I didn't get so lucky on the next trip I had. We ended up getting stuck in St. Cloud for nine hours. First of all, St. Cloud is only an hour and a half from home, but they wouldn't let us leave. No, we had to stay and babysit the plane. Well, that's fine. All six of our flights for that day were canceled, but whatever, we'll just hang out here. The STC airport is tiny, and their crew room is even tinier. It happened to have three chairs, which the pilots and I commandeered. Sorry, actual STC employees, this is our room now. The pilots were perfectly nice, and we got along alright. But we spent the nine hours doing NOTHING. We watched football all day long. I read my book for awhile, but I can only take so much Jane Eyre in one sitting. The pilots were clearly frustrated at the situation and just anxious to get out of there (one of them was a captain-in-training, and the six canceled flights was a severe loss of hours for him). There was no free-flowing conversation, no joking around, no suggestion to even try to amuse ourselves in some other way. We just sat there. For nine hours.

It doesn't help that I'm usually the only flight attendant. (It also probably doesn't help that I'm still cursedly shy. But really, the right crew can alleviate that no problem.) If there's another FA around, even if it's a woman (or man) I'd normally have nothing in common with, flight attending is always common ground to walk on.

But when it's just me and the pilots, for hours upon hours of sit time? Well, I've just got to hope I get the right crew.

In the days (and weeks) immediately following the cancelation of my wedding, I spent most of my time at my sister's house, curled up in a blanket on the couch. There was wedding stuff spread far and wide over my parents' house, and I just couldn't bear to be there looking at it all day.

Jess was my savior. While Pam was at work and I was contented to sit and waste away on the couch, Jess brought me food and forced me to eat it. She sat with me, talked with me when I felt like I needed to talk, handed me a Kleenex when I started to cry. She helped my mom in the unpleasant task of notifying the guests. She made awkward jokes that forced a stuttered laugh out from under my tears. During a stop at home one day, Jess made some calls outside while I put on blinders and grabbed whatever it was I needed. On my way back out the door, Dad said, "I like Jess. She's good people."

I got really lucky with my crew in life. I think I'll keep them.

First things first.

It's hard to know where to start, when trying to tell the story of your life.

I could tell you about my first memory, which is of puppets in the playroom of the hospital where my grandpa was dying. I could tell you my latest news, which is that I completed the Times crossword today. Or I could jump right in with confusing details about my life and job, with no attempt at back story or explanation.

I love the movie Love Actually. I could watch it over and over again; and, in fact, I have. I think my record was four and half times in one night. (That's what she said.)

It's the waiting that gets you, you know? It always has. The wondering, the checking, the obsessing. I really need to stop obsessing. But it seems I just get worse and worse the more I wait. I don't even know if there's any possibility there yet. I just don't like the not knowing.

Jump right in, it is.