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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meet My Virtual Friend Maureen Walsh

I'd like you to meet my virtual friend Maureen Walsh.  She lives in Walla Walla, Washington.  The delicious, sweet onion place.  Known for their increasing wine country as well.  I say "virtual" friend because we've never met.  But by golly, we've been awfully awfully close.  Last night for example.

We had finished a 14-day of training new flight attendants at our Flight Operations and Training Center near the SeaTac Airport and were back at the airport for our flight to Portland.  We had an extra hour so headed to the Pacific Marketplace for some delicious pasta.  Sat down.  Enjoying. And I'm staring across the table and right over to the neighboring table.  At this woman.  I knew her.  I just knew I did.  I stared and stared at her.  I think she knew it.  Man, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out where.  But more than even knowing her, I knew some story about her.  Something personal.....something about her family, crying or a heartfelt story of some sort.  But I couldn't place her.  A passenger of mine?  Neighbor?  TV personality?  Gosh.  I just kept staring and even followed behind her as she headed toward the gate areas.  It really bothered me until about halfway home, inflight.  THAT'S IT!

Maureen Walsh is a Republican congresswoman from Walla Walla, Washington.  About three hours drive to the east of us.  And I knew her story because I'd heard her story.  Recently.  A few weeks ago.  And you'll hear her story below.  She is one of those folks that I admire.  She is well deserving of honor and recognition.  For her ability to come to beautiful conclusions in her life.  For looking out for the equal rights of others.

So, I've never meet Maureen Walsh from Walla Walla, Washington.  But gosh, I was damned close.  Really, really close in fact.  I'm disappointed that I didn't take the step to walk six feet over to her and say hi.  I really would like to have given her a big old hug and thanked her.  For her life.  Her dedication.  And love.  Oh, and her inspiration too.  And her dedication to people over the task. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Good lord.  Who would have known that turning 50 would be such a crazy time.  It started out with almost 20 folks at Happy Hour on last Thursday evening.  Migrated to a quieter 6-person coffee on Friday morning.  An even more quiet and lovely 3-person dinner and 5-person movie ("The Iron Lady" which I loved).  And a 32-person bash on Saturday night hosted by our good friend Alan.  And concluded on Sunday with a 12-person brunch and a 25-person Pizza and Piano evening at our condominium.  I had phone calls, text messages, emails, "likes" on FB, and wall posts on FB (truly, about 150 of them!) -- from so many of you...and from England, South Africa, and Paris.  And I was able to have my very first, live phone call with a longtime reader of my site....the infamous Anne Marie in Philly.  She made me feel so good about turning 50!  The picture speaks for itself.  Cards, cards and more cards.  With sentiments.  And thoughts.  And reflections.  And memories.  Really good stuff.  Thanks to you all.  My friends.  I appreciated all of your attention so much.

I feel like Mrs. Rich Bitch right now with my state and federal tax returns plus our company's annual performance payout.  I've asked for it all in rolls of pennies.  It has already been nearly spent.  On things like Mason's teeth cleaning, a new home printer, and setting aside some for our annual trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, this July for Bear Week

I'm heading to Seattle tomorrow for a day of helping out in yet another brand new class of flight attendants.  I help teach the Services Training day -- food, beverages, carts, how to pour drinks and be nice to people day.  It's always a lot of fun....but oh so tiring.  And the perception is always so strange -- turning into classroom training what I have spent 17 years of my life actually doing in flight.  Strange.

The month of March will return me to overnight trips at work.  I've been mainly doing turns...where I go out and right back home instead of staying overnight somewhere.  I haven't done an overnight away in months -- probably since last November or so.  That's one of the great things about my job -- the flexibility, the change, the variety.

February is truly one of my favorite times of year.  For more reasons that just my birthday.  I love the gentle edging up of temperatures -- we hit 62 yesterday.  The crocus are already up and blooming.  And the daffodils and tulips will follow shortly.  The pink of the flowering cherry trees has been around for about two weeks already.  I really dig our temperate climate without giant extremes of hot or cold.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Big 5-0

Good lord.  50 years old.  Today at 6:20pm (Mountain time since I was born in Boise, Idaho).  I can't believe it.  But like my mother told me recently, "If you can't believe it, think about me and what it feels like to have a son who is 50!"  She's right.

The good.  And the bad.  The ups and the downs.  Happy and sad times.  Like everyone else.  I have more aches and pains than I used to.  Tummy upset from coffee or creamer or something....more than I used to.  I don't sleep as well.  I get irritated with stupidity and slow drivers.  I used to go to yoga but haven't for a while.  But I want to.  Does that count?  I'm out.  And happy.  And those certainly count for something.  I've learned that some of my ideals early in life were pretty shallow.  And I've allowed myself to age pretty gracefully, I guess.  There has been a family filled with cancers, Lou Gehrig's disease, alcoholism and drug abuse, suicide, fights and the like.  But we're still a pretty tight knit group.  I've hated a few times and I've loved a lot.  There are friends.  Facebook, virtual, and real ones in life.  I love nearly all of them.  I'm pretty simple.  Things that turn me on are the sky, trees, leaves, green grass, rivers and oceans.  Things that mean next to nothing to me are sports, big star entertainment, staying out late, partying, and being loud.  I'm far more irritated than I used to be and will be glad to tell you exactly the things I will put up with and those that I won't.  I can see those things hidden somewhere ahead of me in life that I know I need to connect with but struggle to put into practice.  My connection to technology, the internet, and the iPhone has grown.  My connection to earth, sky and trees has waned.  I don't like it.   I know it.  I've discovered what I like and what I don't like.  I'm pleased with that. Mostly. 

And I've got a partner of nearly 15 years who loves me, cares for me, and has allowed us to create a beautiful, successful life together.  He's far more than I could have ever asked for.  And there's a dog.  A mutt.  A pooch.  Mason.  He's a cutie boy.  To these two things, I say thank you.  For being there for me.  For believing in me.  Today, at 50.  And tomorrow, at 80.

Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Festivities Are About to Begin .........

The festivities are beginning.  I've finished an early morning SJC turn and I'm now on vacation.  Tonight kicks off an entire weekend of The Big 5-0 Birthday activities.  The cards have already begun to roll in.  And the chocolate too.  The carpets are cleaned (and they match the drapes) for the finale Pizza and Piano Party on Sunday evening.  Here's the lineup:

Thursday PM -- Happy Hour at Local Lounge a local gay-owned place that we love hanging at.

Friday AM -- Coffee hour at Three Friends Coffee House in S.E. Portland.

Friday PM -- Dinner at the Daily Grill and then "The Iron Lady" which I've been wanting to see. 

Saturday PM -- The Big Bash -- Hosted by my good friend Alan at his beautiful home.  He insisted on hosting.  I'm blessed.

Sunday AM -- Brunch!  At Hob Nob Grille....owned by a fellow flight attendant and her husband. 

Sunday PM -- Pizza and Piano Finale at our condo.  I've put together a long song list, handed it to my LoverBoy, and demanding that he play his new grand piano for me.  The whole evening. 

And that's it.  That's precisely how my 50th birthday weekend will play out.  I mean, for one on his way to middle age (ahem...) it should be a grand celebration.  Right? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Heart Day

Today is Valentine's Day.  One of the holidays that I enjoy more than others.  I like this time of year.  The beginnings of slight pink flowers appear on trees.  And the crocus are already up.  And don't get me started on the lamenting of "Oh, poor me, I'm single and don't like this day blah blah blah."  I don't buy into it.  Your life is what you make of it.  Period.  In case you hadn't noticed, I'm irritated today.  It's increasingly more frequent. I find myself less connected to Mother Earth today than I was even, say, ten years ago.  I find that nasty people, irresponsible causes, and stupidity find themselves in my mind more than they should.  And that I don't put up with them as much as I should. 

Valentine's Day.  Today is the day that I was due.  Well, more accurately, today is the day that my mother was due with me.  But clearly, I needed five more days of sweetening up.  And perhaps could have used even more.  I feel less enchanted with my life today than I have for a while.  I feel a nearly overwhelming need to recenter, rebalance.  And to stick close to home.  I'm almost in a frenzy to create peace in the dark spots of my heart and mind.  It's unsettling. 

Today hubby comes home from yet another workweek in Seattle.  I've made Valentine's Day dinner reservations at a neighborhood place that we have never been to.  It comes with rave reviews.  Tomorrow our carpets are being cleaned.  Did you know that the "Chem Dry" carpet cleaning systems are actually not chemical-based at all?  Me either.  They operate without chemicals with a carbonation system -- sort of like putting club soda on a stain to get it out.  Same principle.  We're trying to get the place in shape for the big birthday weekend coming up.  And to celebrate the President's as well.... it is their holiday too. 

I remember spending Valentine's Day 2004 in Amsterdam with LoverBoy and my parents.  We stayed at a five star hotel right in the center of Amsterdam....Dam Square.  It was more than lovely.  And I remember Valentine's Day 1994 when I received a phone call at work from my mother.  My father had been taken to the hospital.  He died 35 days later. 

We have a new printer....an Epson Workforce 645.....a real gem. I love it.  Fits nicely where it needs to in our tiny condo.  Works well.  Wireless.  And with E-Print (or Air Print??) meaning that I can email any document I want to -- from anywhere in the world -- and it will print on my home printer.  And only $99.  Our taxes were done last Friday....cha' ching.  Combine the tax refund with our employer's profit sharing dollars, and we should be sitting pretty on the last day of February or so.  That is, until we spend it.  But it'll feel good for a day or two. 

Sorry kids I'm all over the map today.  My lower back is aching worse than it has in a year or more.  So much so that I can't even get my socks on without a ton of pain.  Moving quite slowly and carefully.  but today is better than yesterday so that's good.  Wishing you all a happy heart day. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Are They Solid Gold ??

"Hey, can I ask you a question," he pointed up to me from his aisle seat in 16D.  His grandmother was next to him.  And his younger brother, maybe five years old or so on the window seat.  And his redneck daddy across the aisle, on my right, in 16C.

Sure, I told him.  He wanted to know if my wings were solid gold.  The wings on my uniform.  The wings that every crew member in the world gets when they graduate flight attendant training.  They are one's claim to fame.  I've had mine for 17 years or so.  No, I told him, they weren't solid gold.  I knelt down in the aisle in between him and his dad across the aisle.  I told him they were some sort of heavy metal but not gold.  But that they weren't plastic either.  He asked if he could touch them.  Sure. And he did.  He loved that.

He then asked about the small pin that sits just above my wings.  I told him it was my years of service pin.  He said, "Are those diamonds?"  Why, yes, yes they are.  The kid apparently has a good eye for the finer things in life, even at age eight or so.  He wanted to know what those meant.  I told him that meant that I'd been here for between 15-20 years.  And that when I hit 20 years, they would switch to rubies.  Wow.  That was pretty cool, he said.

I asked him what he was doing 17 years ago when I started flying.  He giggled.  His redneck papa is staring me down but good.  And not redneck in a good sort of way, may I add.  Quite clearly, daddy didn't know what to think of me.  That's a common thought when others observe me.  I asked him how old he thought I was.  "Umm, maybe 40....but no more," he answered.  Good boy.  Really good kid, I told him.  I liked him even more.

I told him that I would be 50 years old this very week.  Man oh man, his eyes got big and he pointed at me.  "You don't look over 40......45 at the very most," he clarified.  And with that, his younger brother on the window seat pointed at me and said "42!"

This is the beginning of the end of my '40s.  One week from today I will reach 50.....certainly midlife.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Letter

So, here's the deal.....I've spent a good portion of my last year helping design a project for my employer.  Flight Path Debrief for Flight Attendants.  I've mentioned it more than once here.  Honest to god, hundreds of hours.  All last summer spent in an office in Seattle.  Several hundred ideas, suggestions, "spaghetti on the wall" as we've called it -- tossing out ideas and thoughts and what may or may not work.  It's mandatory training.  The morning portion is all-employee -- 150 employees from all work groups.  The afternoon sessions are broken out into one's own division....mine being Flight Attendants.  And it's the afternoon Flight Attendant piece that I've helped design and am now an occasional facilitator.

It's playing out very, very well.  There have been a lot of laughs and plenty of tears as we FAs learn things about other areas of our company.  Things we don't typically know or are a part of.  There are some parts that are introspective....from both a professional and personal level.  Examination.  Looking inside.  I like it when people are functioning at their best as human beings.  And that's where this program is designed to take us.  It's part historical.  Part motivational.  And there is this little section that we've called "The Letter."  It's no longer being used.  But we tested it with a wide variety of test groups for many months.  We modified it, changed it, softened it, soothed it.  We changed our facilitator notes and what direction it was that we wanted FAs to "go" in their minds and hearts.  Honestly, it was a great piece.  A prodding piece.  A poking piece.  Made to make us think, consider.  And I like that kind of thing -- that keeps me well rounded, thinking, using my head, and propels me forward.  But clearly not all FAs like that sort of thing.  I've already made it clear that we are an unusual group.  Set in our ways, don't like change, demand flexibility, picky, get irritated by things like "I'll have a black coffee."  Only to be met three rows later with a wave of the hand and a "I'll need a cream and four sugars."  Those things continue to confound the wise.  We exist in a world of shallow talk and chit chat with passengers.  Nothing overly indepth.  Surface.

So when a piece like "The Letter" is presented, we're taken aback.  Shocked.  Surprised.  Which is exactly what the piece was designed to do.  But it was intended to lead us in a positive direction.  Not a negative direction.  The section played out quite powerfully in a positive way to most.  "Life changing, powerful, really made me consider, etc" are a few of the comments.  But then there is this group of folks who are stuck.  In the past.  With what has happened to them over the years.  The victims.  With having been down this "company kool aid" trail before.  They don't like management.  They don't like people with good attitudes.  They don't like coworkers who are friendly or go out of their way to help others.  They live with an "Us" and "Them" mentality.  And for those folks, the letter incited rage.  Upset.  Anger.  Two wild extremes depending upon the type of person The Letter was presented to.

The Letter was a fake letter which explained that our company had been purchased by an investor.  Assets were to be liquidated.  Employees could reapply if they cared to.  No one's jobs were preserved.  It said nothing about "You're fired" or "You're a bad employee."  But, you see, that's how we FAs work.  We think we know better.  We exist in a land of rumors and half-truths.  We are not well connected to an accurate line of information.  The funny thing is that about 95% of the negative comments came from those who had not even attended the program yet.  Rumors.  What they thought they knew.  What they had heard from others.  That's what they based their reactions on. And that I do not respect nor place any value on. 

Really?  Seriously?  You haven't even experienced it yet and you're already red faced and irritated?  Is that really the type of human being you are?  Umm humm.  It is.  The Letter was designed to encourage a "What Would You Do" sort of dialog.  What would you do tomorrow if this happened to you today?  Who would you tell first?  Do you have a plan?  Are you prepared?  It was to encourage ideas and thoughts from others.  To help us get ourselves in line if we are ever purchased, or merged, or or or.

So, I made a Facebook entry the other night saying that I was facilitating Flight Path the following day and how excited I was to do so.  My first and only comment was from a coworker who has never once made a comment on my FB page.  But with regard to this, she did.  I didn't like the comment, felt it rude and inappropriate for someone else to be making on MY page with MY excitement about the following day.   Most of us would never do that.  But that's the way she works.  I removed it and messaged her to tell her why I had done it.  Here is the dialog:

ME:   Hi there. I removed your comment about the "Stupid Firing Letter." I felt it personally offensive. I helped develop the Flight Path program. I'm 100% invested in it. And it's tough to hear those sorts of half-cocked, uninformed comments from those who haven't even been to the program yet. I'm more than happy to chat anytime about the letter or anything else in the program. The letter had nothing to do with being fired. That's what rumors do for our lives. They create an unbalance, unfair, air of negativity that is not based on truth. Let me know if you have any questions.

HER: You weren't here in 85 when I received an unfair, negative letter to come back to work or I WAS fired.Unchanged in my opinion and what seems to be the same of an overwhelming majority of people that have gone to your mandatory program,Also a letter from our CEO (Bruce Kennedy)that we were all a bunch of ingrates and we were lucky to have a job instead of a Christmas card or bonus.You say I'm uninformed but maybe it was ____ and your team that were uninformed about how touchy this letter would be.I've run this idea by family friends that run corporations and they were appalled at this idea of trying making an employee feel grateful for their job by "picturing their life without this job. "So I feel your attack is personally offensive, as well-Respectively yours-

"Respectively yours"?  Really?  So, I went to bed.  I tossed and turned.  Upset.  By her blue-collar bully ignorance.  The uninformed who think they know it all.  Those who actually know 10% but speak like they know 110%.  And she continued to message me because I was in bed and failed to respond to her as quickly as she thought I should have: 

HERNothing?Would you like me to form it in a question? It's obvious that you have gotten alot of heat for this but do you honestly feel that none of the negative feedback is valid?

The Letter section has been changed.  Redeveloped.  And it is working just fine.  Good dialog.  Good discussion.  But definitely lacks the punch and power of The Letter.  It was just way too far to ask some folks to travel in their heads.  They just couldn't do it.  Most of us could, a vocal minority could not.

So that's how my week's gone.  How about yours?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Frantic Freezing February Follies

I will be half-a-century old in just over a week's time.  The Big 5-0.  I'm looking forward to a long weekend filled with happy hour, morning coffee, dinner and a movie (I'm hoping for The Iron Lady), the BIG official party hosted by a friend at his home, Sunday morning brunch, and concluding with Pizza and Piano at our condo on the evening of my birthday.  Starts Thursday evening and ends Sunday night.  One of my most favorite parts of my birthday month of February is that it typically brings about the very first smatterings of blossoms on Portland's flowering cherry trees.  Two days ago, I spotted the first pink!

I've been thinking a lot about those poor little children who had their necks and heads chopped by their father before he burned them to death in a house explosion.  I can't imagine their terror or what must have been going through their minds.  I'm also hoping that it all happened very, very fast.  And I'm wondering what is going to become of our humanity in the years ahead.

I have been considering that flight attendants are some of the weirdest people on the face of the earth Me included.  You'll recall that I've written about flight attendants before.  We're emotionally driven and supposed to be hired for our customer care abilities.  But when you hire any group of people and want them all to have similar characteristics, you also bring along all of their strangeties (that's a word, don't question it....) and a myriad of weird nuances.  No, really, seriously.  Many are normal.  Centered.  Happy and balanced.  And the others are crazies, freaks, driven by their "Victim" status, unbalanced, and their (our?) minds just don't seem to quite work in the prettiest of fashions.  Yes, I'm well aware, these are my peeps.  My profession.  My friends, even.  But it doesn't change the facts.  We're a weird group.

I want a new home printer.  One that doesn't require wires.  And one that doesn't jam paper.  I've been doing my research.  I'm headed toward HP.  Maybe the HP7510 or the HP8600.  I think that the 8600 is larger than I need for home...but it's on sale.  The HP versions also offer E-Print...you can print from your iPhone.  The printer has it's own built-in email address so you can send any document you want directly to the printer from anywhere in the world.  Today may be the day.......

And I want a new home printer to go along with my new birthday present from LoverBoy....he bought me a new Sony 580 wireless blu ray player last weekend!  I've been wanting one for quite a while now.  This thing whistles along beautifully.   And I love that most of the content is free.  I'm calling Comcast cable today and reducing our cable service to local/minimal channels.  We'll save about $80 every single month. 

And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule on California's Proposition 8 this morning at 10am Pacific time.  I don't have much more to say.  It's crazy.  It's the year 2012.  And we have hateful people in this world.  Nuf said.