Let’s Talk About Snakes

When I was growing up in Alabama, snakes were a full-on reality. I don’t mean green snakes or milk snakes or oak snakes. I mean real, scary, venomous snakes. In fact, in Alabama, there are six kinds of venomous snakes. For comparison, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, there is one type: the Copperhead. But in Alabama, you have to watch out for the Copperhead, the Cottonmouth (also known as a water moccasin), the Timber Rattlesnake, the Diamondback Rattlesnake, the Pygmy Rattlesnake, and the Eastern Coral Snake. You can see pictures of them at Outdooralabama.com here. And I should tell you…they are plentiful.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve run into lots of Copperheads since moving to North Carolina nineteen years ago, but I was reminded about those Alabama snakes when I saw an article on Facebook today about a woman in Greenville, Alabama, who was bitten by a Timber Rattler. You can see the article here. According to the article, she had to have 16 vials of antivenin…sixteen!

I shared the article on my personal Facebook page with a statement about how I likely narrowly escaped death when I was 18. My nephew, who remembers all the stories I tell about my life, immediately commented that he was sure I had told him the story, but he didn’t remember it. And that’s when I realized I probably had not shared it. Why? Because I was somewhere I shouldn’t have been.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not one to “hang out” in the woods. I don’t like ticks. I don’t like snakes. I don’t like excessive nature. “Nature,” in Alabama, means you might encounter any number of those creatures and more.

But on this particular day when I was 18, the summer before I went off to college, I ventured into the woods with three friends. Full disclosure: I didn’t really know we were going into the full-on woods. The family of one of the friends had a “hunting camp” in the woods, so we were going there to hang out one Friday night. Now, when I heard “hunting camp,” I guess I was thinking more “hunting lodge.” As we drove, in a Jeep, through the woods to the hunting camp, I started to realize it was really a camp. The fact that there was no road to it was my first clue. And I was a little scared…not gonna lie…I was scared. But I had to play it cool.

We arrived at the hunting camp, and I’m sure my eyes were wide. I looked at it. I’m sure I looked at one of my other non-nature friends, hoping she would say she was scared, but nope. She let me down. She was actually laughing and smiling. I knew I was in trouble. There were no power lines anywhere. I had thought we would be going to a small house where there was television, a refrigerator, modern conveniences. Nope. Heck, when we walked inside, I discovered there wasn’t even much of a floor. I was scared.

It was at this point I spoke up. I don’t really remember what I said, but I made it clear I wanted to get out of there. Nope…not gonna hang out up there. Fortunately, my non-nature friend in the party spoke up too. Hanging out in the “hunting camp” was not an option. I’m sure I said something along the lines of “Let’s leave now.” So we did.

There were three stair steps to get out of the “camp,” and I was leading the charge to the Jeep.

I stepped down the first two steps, and just as I was about to step off the bottom step, I saw a giant rattlesnake slithering by…right where my foot would have dropped. Now, I’m not exaggerating. It was a huge snake…a Diamondback Rattlesnake. A frightening creature. They can get up to more than five feet long, and they are thick-bodied, scary snakes. I’m not sure how big this one was, but he was big. Fortunately, he had no idea I was there, so he just kept slithering by. If he had been aware of my presence, he would have made noise…aren’t we all glad rattlesnakes have rattles?!?! I don’t know if I gasped. I don’t know if I screamed. I know I pulled my foot back quickly and stood frozen on the steps till the snake had passed, but then I was afraid there were snakes I didn’t see! I was scared to go back into that God-forsaken “camp,” but I was afraid to touch the ground to get back to the Jeep. Finally, one person went ahead of me, and then I ran to the Jeep.

As we drove out of the woods, I cried. Yep, cried. I said a prayer of thanks to God that He had spared me that terrible fate. I said a prayer of thanks that my brother was still alive; he spent so much time in the woods that he should have been bitten by at least one snake. I also prayed that the car would not break down before we got back to civilization.

For days, I thought about how fortunate I had been. I would have died if that snake had struck me…no doubt. There is no way my friends could have gotten me out of the woods fast enough to save me, and there were no phones to call an ambulance (which wouldn’t have been able to find me) either. I had seen death in the form of a Diamondback Rattlesnake and escaped.

The moral of the story? Well, there are a few lessons here. Don’t go places you aren’t supposed to go. Stay out of the woods. “Hunting camp” does not mean “hunting lodge.” One (a lodge) has real walls, electricity, and modern conveniences, and one looks like a place you might find a dead body…mine if I had stepped on that snake. And this has nothing to do with that particular snake tale, but it is a lesson: I don’t like brown water…like water in lakes and rivers…never have, because snakes can hide in the water. My friends, Angela and Mary Ann make fun of me for it, but here’s what I think: that brown water is their home…the creatures, I mean. I don’t want them in my home, and really…I don’t want to get in their home either.

A few years ago, in Maine, one of the kids with me kicked a ball into a grassy field, and I had to retrieve it. As I ran out into the field, I thought, “I wonder if they have venomous snakes in Maine.” As soon as I got to the ball, I saw a snake. And as soon as we got back indoors, I looked up “snakes in Maine” and found they had no venomous snakes. Whew!

Maybe I’ll move to Maine…

 

 

Advertisements

Get Busy Living…

My friend, Mary Ann, called me one day this week and told me she had read about a little boy with a terminal illness who wanted to get his photo with “Welcome to…” signs of different states. It was important to him. Mary Ann, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Shouldn’t we all be doing that, anyway?” She didn’t mean we should all be taking photos with signs. She meant we should all be doing things we want to do...living our lives.

And she’s right. Mary Ann knows how abruptly a life can end. Her daddy was killed in a tragic automobile accident when he was in his 40s. I’m sure he had lots of things he still wanted to do.

My conversation with Mary Ann made me think of a line from The Shawshank Redemption, a movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. The film is based on a Stephen King Novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, which I now need to read. The line? It is a line spoken by Tim Robbins’s character, Andy Dufresne, a banker who had incorrectly been found guilty of murdering his wife and was subsequently sentenced to prison:

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

My daddy loved that line. We took it for what it was: If you don’t get out and do the things you want to do now (live your life), then you will start to wither…mentally and physically.  We can make the time and energy to do the things we dream about, or we can sit around, letting time pass, till there’s no time or energy left to do it. We can choose to live life in a positive way…or not.

Think about that. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do? It can be something as simple as learning to knit…or something adventurous…or something to help the community.

Both my parents are gone now, but I feel like they did most of what they wanted to do in life. They encouraged me to live life to its fullest. Yes, they wanted me to be responsible, but I remember, when Daddy was dying, he told me, “Y’all need to enjoy your lives. You can’t take your money with you…enjoy it.” Both my parents always reminded us often that “life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Daddy didn’t mean we should get out there and waste money.  What he meant was that we need to use it to do some things we want to do. My parents were very conservative with their money. After Daddy died, Mother became even more conservative with her spending and investing. I would tell her, “Mother, spend it. Enjoy it!” And she would always tell me she wanted to save it for us. But she still did a lot of what she wanted.

Mother and Daddy took lots of trips together. They preferred the Caribbean for big trips, but they were happy to find a local sporting event to attend most of the time. Indoor track meet at the local coliseum? They were in! Baseball game? You bet! Daddy loved driving, so often they took road trips together too. And when I say he LOVED driving, I mean he LOVED it. Daddy started driving in 1952, and as an adult, he drove many times the miles most people drive in a lifetime. He died in 2006…54 years of driving, and he never had an accident.

They also helped others…quietly. They didn’t want accolades for their acts of kindness. Many times I knew Mother to take care of an ailing neighbor…for months! They both gave away money to individuals or families who, they said, “needed it more than we do.”

Mother and Daddy enjoyed their lives. Sure, their experiences were different than mine, but they were of a different generation. I’m sure our daughter’s life experience will be different than mine. Heck, my brother is just 17 months younger than I am, and his life experience is different than mine, because we have different interests.

But here’s one thing I know for sure: I live my life. I’m not sitting around waiting for life to happen to me…I’m making life happen. I’m trying to spend time with people I love. I’m trying to make the world a little better. I am trying to create lasting memories with our daughter and with my husband. I am trying to do the things I want to do, and I am enjoying the ride.

So…get busy living, or get busy dying.

 

 

I Arrived, But My Luggage Didn’t

One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

Lots of folks will be flying out for Spring Break soon! Students are parents are looking forward to lots of fun. But it’s not fun to arrive without luggage.

On New Year’s Day, my teenage daughter and I traveled to Los Angeles to meet some friends from Ohio. We live in a city that is a hub for American Airlines, so we are fortunate to have lots of nonstop choices. One would think your luggage would always arrive as expected on a nonstop flight…not always the case.

American Airlines handles lots of bags successfully every single day. I’ve flown American Airlines countless times over the past 18 years, and I’d never had an issue till this LA trip. I love American Airlines, so I’m not bashing them. I’m simply telling a story in hopes that someone will learn something.

Upon arrival in LA, my daughter and I walked down to the luggage carousel to retrieve our checked bags. We had just reached the carousel when I received a message from American Airlines, telling me one of the two bags we had checked was delayed. I told my daughter, and she looked terrified, saying, “I hope it’s not mine!” Because we took an early flight out of Charlotte, she wore more casual clothes than I did. I don’t dress up when I fly, but I don’t dress down either.

While my daughter waited at the carousel for one bag, I got in line at the baggage counter. The line was short…only one person ahead of me. When it was my turn, I told the agent one of our bags had been delayed, and we would need to have it delivered to our hotel. I wasn’t frantic. I wasn’t angry. The info I was getting from American Airlines said it would arrive on the next flight. While I was talking to the American Airlines agent, my daughter approached with her bag. She was smiling, knowing she would be able to change as soon as we got to the hotel. Whew!

Could I have been angry? Maybe. Should I have been angry? No. Was I worried? No. Was I panicked about our dinner plans for the evening? No.

I’ve only had my bag delayed one other time…on a different airline. And I learned some valuable lessons from that first experience. I’m going to share those lessons, so maybe no one else will panic when their bags don’t arrive.

  1. Don’t dress down when flying. This doesn’t mean you need to dress up. Wear something you will be OK wearing for the first full day of your stay, in case your bag is delayed. On the January trip, I wore something on the flight I could wear anywhere we went that day…even to dinner. My shoes were cute and comfortable, so I was fine in those for the day and night as well. On that particular day, I had opted for mostly black…pretty safe for most places.
  2. Don’t put valuables in checked bags. Jewelry and expensive shoes/accessories do not belong in your checked baggage. On our trip, I was wearing the most expensive shoes and jewelry I was taking for the trip, so I didn’t have to worry about never seeing them again. I had a few more pieces of jewelry and another nice pair of shoes with me, but they were in my carry-on. Never check anything that’s irreplaceable.
  3. Carry medications/change of clothes/makeup in your carry-on. I have some necessary restless leg medications that I cannot live without. Well, I could live without them, but I wouldn’t sleep. I always put them in my carry-on. Same for makeup. Yes, I can live without it, but I don’t want to. And frankly, makeup is expensive and difficult to replace on the fly. I also like to have a lightweight change of clothes in my carry-on. And if you’re going to a sunny destination, stick a swimsuit in your bag, so you can hit the pool/beach till your bag arrives. Toothbrush/toothpaste/hairbrush…all in my carry-on. Follow TSA regulations for liquids/gels.
  4. Take a photo of your bag with your smart phone. Take a photo of your checked bags, so if one is lost, you can show it to the baggage agent. In LA, the baggage agent was thrilled when I was able to show that to her, making her job easier.
  5. Make sure you have your name/number on your bag. The tag should list your last name and cell phone number. I also put a sticker inside my bag with my name and number on it. That way, if the bag is misplaced, someone can call me if they find it.
  6. When checking your bag, make sure the airline tag shows your name and destination. This sounds silly, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. If the wrong tag gets put on your bag, you might never see it again.
  7. Take a photo of your bag claim check. I’m the queen of misplacing things, so I always take a photo of my claim check, thinking I’m more likely to lose that than I am to lose my phone.
  8. Download the airline app before you travel. Because I use the American Airlines app, I was informed via message through the app that my bag had been delayed.  It makes it a lot easier to keep track of where your bag is.
  9. As soon as you realize your bag is delayed, report to the baggage counter. In our case, because there were two of us, my daughter could wait for one bag while I spoke with the agent. Make sure the agent has the correct delivery information. Before walking away, I asked her to read my hotel’s name/address/telephone number and my number back to me. And I got her name and direct phone number, as well.
  10. When you arrive, inform the hotel you are expecting a delayed bag. When we were checking in at our hotel, I told the bellman and the front desk agent we would be receiving a delayed bag later. They assured me they would accept the delivery and take it to my room as soon as it arrived.

On our trip, just as promised, American Airlines delivered my bags later that day. In fact, it arrived earlier than promised. I was prepared to wear the outfit I had on to dinner that night, but when the bellman brought my bag to the room, I was thrilled. But if the bag hadn’t arrived till later, I would have been fine too, because I had planned ahead.

Happy Travels!

thumbnail_IMG_4340

 

 

 

 

*

We Need Erma Bombeck

Today, I was talking with a friend about how depressing it is when it rains for seven days straight. Fortunately, it was a friend who always makes me laugh. And she didn’t fail me this time either. In fact, she mentioned someone I haven’t thought about in years. It’s someone my mother looked up to. My mother and her friends used to sit around and laugh about her. The person she mentioned? Erma Bombeck.

For those of you who are younger than I am, look her up. I don’t care if you look on Wikipedia or wherever, but you need to look her up. Like I told the flight attendant who didn’t recognize Frankie Valli sitting across from me. “This person is a big deal. Go call your mother and ask her…she’ll know.” Erma was an author and columnist who was the voice of moms and housewives everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s.

My mother loved Erma Bombeck. I think lots of moms did, because she said what they were all thinking. She lived like they did. My mother was a stay-at-home mom…back then it was called a “housewife.” While my mother enjoyed being a housewife, it had its challenges. Mrs. Bombeck wrote about the same challenges in her newspaper columns and in her humorous books. And my mother loved her.

My mother and her friend, Polly, quoted Mrs. Bombeck to each other, and they laughed and laughed. I remember seeing Bombeck’s books around the house. If mother was reading one, it was often on the kitchen table, where she enjoyed reading. I can still hear mother laughing out loud, her nose buried in an Erma Bombeck book. And that’s how, as a teenager, I even read Erma Bombeck. I was too young to be a mother or housewife, but even as a teenager, I knew good humor when I read it.

Erma Bombeck is what I’m missing in my life. I need more Erma. In fact, today, just before I started writing, I ordered a few familiar titles from Amazon: If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, Why Am I In the Pits?; The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank; All I Know About Animal Behavior, I Learned In Loehmann’s Dressing Room; Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession; and When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home. There are more; these are just the ones I ordered today, and I can hardly wait to get them! You can see them and order them here.

Bombeck had some of the best quotes. Selfishly, I wish she were still alive, so she could guide us with humor through this generation. I know, there are humorous people on YouTube, and there are funny people on Facebook, but dang it…Erma was the original. No one can do motherhood/housewife humor like Erma could do it. If you’re not familiar with her work, you should become familiar with her work. Buy some books and enjoy an evening or two of easy reading that relates to your own life!

Her wit was unmatched, and her quotes were too. Here, words to live by, courtesy of the late, great Erma Bombeck:

  • The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Yes, it’s the title of one of her books, but it is so true, literally and figuratively! Anywhere someone has a septic tank, you know where it is in the yard…just look for the greenest patch of grass. It’s absolutely true. And in life, people always say “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” in reference to thinking what others have is better. But really…since we only see what people want us to see, the septic tank quote is more fitting…underneath all that green grass might just be a bunch of poop.
  • If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it. True words. I’ve gotten through lots of hard times with laughter. When my daddy was sick with pancreatic cancer, we laughed a lot…a lot. We knew we had to keep laughing to keep from crying. And it helped us. It helped him. We actually look back on those months with good memories.
  • When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. This makes me laugh out loud. My mother usually gave good advice, but sometimes I didn’t want to hear it. She gave it to me anyway. And she knew I didn’t want to hear it. If I got mad, so be it. She knew I would get over it. I’m sure my daughter feels the same way about my advice.
  • I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex. Erma and I should have been friends. We could have had lunch together.
  • Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you. I think this just means “don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.” I’m a subscriber to that way of thinking. I know there will always be someone taller, richer, thinner, prettier…but there doesn’t always have to be someone happier or more satisfied with their life. Being rich, tall, skinny, pretty…none of that means your life is better. We should all choose our own paths…and enjoy the journey down that path.
  • Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time. Spoken like a true mother. Any mother knows the car is where dropped food goes to die…and create a stink. My husband has never understood this, but he has never hauled around seven kids. No, I don’t have seven kids…I only have one, but there have been times I’ve had seven kids in the car at one time, and they make messes. Moms will do anything to keep them quiet in the car, including letting them eat Cheerios, ice cream, or whatever else they want.  Moms know this. Dads don’t. Fortunately, my child is a teenager now, so the car is cleaner.
  • Children make your life important. While there are lots of folks out there who don’t have kids and don’t want them, for me…this quote of Erma’s is true. I once had a coworker who had two children. I was in my 20s. I said one day, “I don’t think it would be a disaster if I didn’t have kids.” She said to me, “Kids are the meaning of life.” While this isn’t true for everyone, it certainly has been true for me. I only have one daughter, but my life became exponentially better because I had a child. The sky is bluer. The flowers are brighter. Life is better.

The list goes on and on. I could continue to quote Erma, or I could tell you to go over to Amazon or your favorite bookseller and get some of her books. If you don’t, you’re missing out.

I wonder what Erma would have thought of 2019?

Erma_Bombeck

Erma Bombeck

 

 

 

 

*

Let’s Talk…We’re the Been There Moms

My friend, Maureen, and I recently started a site called Been There Moms. I have loved spending time with Maureen for years…we chat, we laugh, we share, and now, you can join us for our chats! Been There Moms is a quick look at the things we discuss…and the humor we share. We make videos discussing topics of interest to parents and other folks, too! We share our own parenting fails, share our lessons, and sometimes we just “kvetch” about the hazards of parenting. And we laugh…a lot.

We have a great time, for sure. Maureen’s twenty-something son is very patient with us when he’s helping us with the videos. We are grateful for his patience, his directing skills and especially his mad editing skills. I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes, we get carried away when we’re talking, and he has to reign us in. We can turn a three minute video into 15 minutes of chat, so he has to edit a lot. Lots of times, he has given us the “wrap it up” sign, and when he turns off the camera, we all laugh. Seeing our chats on video, I’ve realized some things: Maureen is especially talented with her sense of humor. She comes up with the best one-liners. I’m definitely the squirrel chaser, so Maureen has to get me back on topic. I’m the long, drawn-out storyteller. Come to think of it, I’m probably the reason our chats run long. I should apologize to her son, our director/editor.

img_7843.jpg

Maureen has four children, ranging in age from 14 to a second year law student…three boys and a girl. I have one child…a 15-yr-old girl. Together, we cover a lot of topics, and we offer different perspectives. Maureen is from the north, and I’m from the Deep South. She went to a highbrow, liberal arts college. I went to a big state university. We’ve had different experiences, but we are great friends.

So far, we have discussed some parenting parenting dilemmas: children flying alone; shopping with teenage girls; Homecoming proposals; being nice; high school sports; being the new mom at school; and summer reading. There are more videos to come, but since it’s not our day job, we have to make them when it’s convenient. We are having a great time! It’s a good excuse for us to get together!

This past weekend, my nephew visited with a friend, and the friend (she’s 22) told me she loves the Been There Moms site! Yay! We have a young fan who isn’t even a mom! According to my nephew, his friend watches our videos regularly and walks around saying, “We’re the Been There Moms!” Seriously, I was so excited, and when I saw Maureen at my daughter’s field hockey game Friday afternoon, I could hardly wait to tell her: our young fan thinks we’re funny! I guess it’s not just for moms anymore! Anyone who knows me knows I love a good audience.

So, here’s the deal: we are always looking for new topics to discuss. I have a running list, and Maureen does too, but we would love folks to send us some topics to discuss. Check out our Been There Moms Facebook page here; like the page, and then send us a message or comment with some topics! We would love to hear from you! And who knows? If you offer up a good topic, we might invite you to be a guest on our “show”!

*

*

Making Airline Travel Easier

aeroplane air travel airbus aircraft

Photo by Quintin Gellar on Pexels.com

Airlines have received a lot of press in the past year or two. From dragging passengers off the plane to perverts sitting next to unaccompanied minors…we’ve heard it all. The latest press is all about paying extra for good seats and having difficulty getting seats together without paying extra for them.

A lot of people travel more frequently than I do, but I used to work in the travel industry, and I fly pretty often. I’ve learned a few things along the way that can make your life easier when traveling by commercial airline.

TSA PRE-CHECK/GLOBAL ENTRY Travel a few times a year domestically? TSA Pre-Check is worth the money. Surely, you’ve stood in the regular line and watched people zip through the TSA Pre-Check line. For me, the biggest benefit, aside from expedited screening, is not taking off my shoes on that nasty airport floor, but there are others: you don’t have to remove your laptop or small liquids from your bag, and you don’t have to go through that body scanner. It costs $85 for five years of TSA Pre-Check. Apply online here. After applying online, schedule an appointment online and take documentation to a processing center to complete the process. When I went, I was there for less than 10 minutes. If you travel internationally more than once or twice a year, consider Global Entry, which is “a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports,” according to their website. It is $100; learn more by clicking here.

RESERVATIONS Two words: BOOK EARLY. It gives you the best possibility of getting a good fare and desirable seats and increases the chances of sitting with friends/family. Over the past few years, airlines have started charging extra for more desirable seats near the front of the cabin. I am most familiar with American Airlines, because they have a hub in Charlotte.

According to an interview (conducted in a Boeing 777) with American’s CEO in the Wall Street Journal, “American’s strategy now is to offer passengers more seating choices—a strategy seen clearly from Mr. Parker’s seat in the back of the reconfigured 777. Those interested in low fares sit in the back, where American has 146 basic coach seats. If you’re willing to pay more or have elite status, 66 coach seats provide extra legroom. You can pay several hundred dollars more and move up to premium economy: 24 seats that are 19 inches wide instead of 17 and have 38 inches row to row. Then there are 37 lie-flat business-class seats. Nearly half of the plane’s 273 seats offer extra room.” You can see the article here.

The lowest/most restrictive fares they offer are called Basic Economy. They are in the back of the plane. There are several restrictions, but the biggest one, in my opinion, is that you cannot get seat assignments till check-in, and for me, that is a big red flag. I don’t have a problem with American offering Basic Economy, but there is no way I would knowingly go to the airport without an advance seat assignment.  If you do not have an advance seat assignment, there is a greater likelihood you will be stuck with the “leftover” seats or be bumped from the flight. However, according to a friend who is an industry insider, airlines aren’t overbooking like they used to, so the possibility of being bumped is much lower. (If you do get bumped, according to my insider, you can get “sweet” compensation in the way of vouchers that are good for two years…can be used for flights or upgrades.) Traveling as a family and want to be together? Book Main Cabin or better. Whatever you do, get advance seat assignements or pick a different flight. If you are unable to book seats together, try to book aisle seats and/or window seats for leverage. Aisle seats are prized, and if you offer someone a middle seat in exchange for an aisle seat, the answer will be, “No dice.” That being said, here is a trick to use if your child is seated next to a stranger: Walk the child to his/her seat. When buckling up your child, get the airsickness bag out of the seat back pocket. Open it. Hand it to your child, and say, “Honey, when you get sick, make sure you use this bag.” Do not whisper it. You want the person next to your child to hear. They will likely offer to trade seats! Whatever you do, do not ask your flight attendant to assist you in trading seats with someone. People booked early and likely paid more for their seats. Usually Main Cabin seats are about $20-$50 more (on American and United) than Basic Econ. If you can do Main Cabin, do it. With Main Cabin, you get advance seat assignment, overhead space (none with Basic Econ), and you can change your flights for a fee…not with Basic Economy. I prefer to think of that additional $20-$50 as the regular price and look at Basic Econ as the no frills, discount price. You can see a great skit from The Carol Burnett Show about a No Frills Airline here. It puts things in perspective with humor. Maybe airlines should show that skit on a monitor in the gate area.

UNACCOMPANIED MINORS  Need to send your child on a flight unaccompanied? Arrive at the airport at least two hours before the flight. I’d have to be there three hours before for peace of mind. You will have extra paperwork, and you will need the full name (as it appears on ID), address, and phone number of the adult meeting your child. (That person must have ID.) You will be required to get a gate pass and walk the child to the gate. Before saying goodbye, remind your child to know where exits are, pay attention to the emergency demo, and if he/she is uncomfortable with their seat mate, let the flight attendants know. You can see me discussing this with my friend, Maureen, on Been There Moms here. Also, plan to be at the airport for a while; you are required to stay in the gate area till the plane is off the ground…not when it leaves the gate. You must wait until the gate agent tells you the plane is in the air.

CHECK BAG RESTRICTIONS before you pack. You already know there is a weight restriction for a checked bag, but did you know there is also a size restriction? Check your airline’s website. You do not want to be told at the airport your bag is too heavy or too large. While you’re at it, check carry-on restrictions. In American’s Basic Econ, you only get to carry on one bag that will fit underneath the seat in front of you. For Main Cabin, you can have two…one under the seat and one overhead.  ***And while we’re talking luggage, take a picture of all checked bags before you check them. If they don’t arrive when you do, you will have a picture to show the baggage agent. Also, hang on to your claim checks till you have your bags in hand. If you’re like me, it might help to take a picture of your claim checks too.***

CHECK IN EARLY You’ve heard it a million times, but people don’t take it seriously. Arrive early! I check in online, but still, I prefer to get there two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights. Folks may call that extreme, but  I’ve never missed a flight or panicked at security, wondering if I would make the flight. Make it easy on yourself; arrive early. You never know how long the lines will be. Why risk the stress? Using Mobile Boarding Pass? Take a screen shot of it beforehand, so you can access it quickly. I always print mine. My husband and I saw a couple in Miami struggle for five minutes trying to pull up their boarding passes on their phones. Once you clear security, it’s time to go relax and wait. I have TSA Pre-check, but I still arrive extra early, giving me time to relax or check email before boarding.

RELAX AND ENJOY YOUR FLIGHT Once your group number has been called and you have boarded, relax. Enjoy the flight. Maybe you try to sleep or catch up on emails (if WiFi is offered). It might mean playing games on your phone or reading a book or magazine. Just relax and let the professionals do the work.

***Does the idea of being in the air cause you stress? It’s likely the loss of control causing you anxiety. Check back soon. I’ll write about ways to empower yourself inflight.***

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Tape a banana peel to your forehead and call me in the morning.

anh-nguyen-515149-unsplash

Have you ever gone to bed in a dark room for a couple days? Wanted to pull out all your teeth? Had visions of cutting a block out of the side of your own skull? Ever sat at your desk holding your fist firmly against one eyebrow? If you’ve had a migraine, chances are you’ve done at least one of these things or something similar.

When I was younger and had more frequent migraines, there were days I would sit and think about the pressure relief I could get if I could just cut a block out of my skull. It just seemed that if I could make a little more room for my brain, the pain would stop. I wasn’t willing to go to that extreme to get rid of a migraine, but I did some kooky stuff.

If you have migraines, you understand the pain I’m talking about. If you have been fortunate enough to never have migraines, it’s likely you know someone who does, and the pain is real. It’s something you can never understand if you haven’t experienced it, but you can empathize.

I started getting migraines when I was 22 years old. I still remember my first one. I was visiting a friend when suddenly one side of my head HURT. I told my friend I needed to go home and drove myself the 25 minutes to my house. FIRST, do not do that. *If you are experiencing the worst headache you’ve ever experienced, call your doctor or go to the ER. It can be a sign of something very serious.*

When I was a little girl, my mother had migraines but called them “sick headaches,” an accurate description since they do make the sufferer feel sick. Medication options were limited. I’m sure there were doctors who prescribed valium or “tranquilizers,” as people called them back then, but she had children to take care of, so she was afraid to take anything that might impair her ability to do that. Even when I was 22, options were limited. I suffered for eight years before getting a medication that worked.

banana-peel-1329335-639x406In those eight years, I would try anything anyone suggested. Over-the -counter pain relievers? Check. Tape a banana peel to my forehead? Check. Put my feet in a warm bath while icing my head? Check. Ice pack on my wrists/neck? Check. Drink warm water with cayenne pepper? Check. Acupuncture? Check. Magnesium and riboflavin supplements? Check.

Some of these things might have helped a little, but as soon as I pulled the tape off that banana peel, I felt worse. (That’s a joke; the banana peel didn’t help at all, but I did try it.)

pina-messina-464953-unsplash

When I turned 30, I went to a new doctor who prescribed a relatively new drug, a vasoconstrictor. My life changed. As soon as I felt a migraine coming on, I would take a tablet, and it worked…for a while. After that, there were other meds that worked, but I seemed to build up a resistance to them. Eventually, I did find one that has continued to work for me (knock wood).

One thing that helped me along the way was to figure out what triggered my migraines. Of course, lots of them were hormonal. However, some were triggered by things I could control: alcohol, sun glare, flashing lights, loud music, sudden noises, sugar, sourdough bread, caffeine, lack of caffeine, fumes, wine, lack of sleep, hunger, MSG, Aspartame…it’s crazy. Others were triggered by weather. Barometric pressure change? Migraine. (You can check the migraine index on accuweather.com for virtually any city.) The first trimester of pregnancy was the worst with migraines, because they were terrible, and I couldn’t take medication for them. (Miraculously, after the first trimester, I didn’t have any more migraines during pregnancy.) It’s important for you to isolate what triggers your migraines, but it’s not always easy. Keep a food/migraine diary for 30 days and see if you can find some links.

For me, making a few small changes helped. I started wearing sunglasses anytime I stepped outdoors in sunlight, decreasing the risk of glare. When I go to a restaurant, I never face the window; I can’t risk the glare. Instead of bourbon (my favorite), I started drinking vodka, because I didn’t get migraines when I drank it instead (I generally have only one or two alcoholic beverages a week, tops.) I would drink Prosecco instead of Champagne or wine, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m able to drink those too.

spinach-1324474-639x427

Something that seemed to make a big change in the frequency of migraines was spinach. Who knew? I added more spinach to my diet, and within a month, I noticed fewer migraines! But it’s not just spinach; any green vegetable seems to help, so I try to eat as much broccoli and spinach as I can.

As for the hormonal migraines, my doctor prescribed birth control pills and suggested I skip the placebos and go right into the next active pills. I’m not saying this would work for everyone, but it did decrease the frequency of my migraines tremendously. ***ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR…I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL***

If you suffer with migraines, you will need to find your own triggers, but you might find some of my triggers are the same as yours.

Interestingly, lack of caffeine and too much caffeine are both triggers for me, but moderate caffeine can actually help. If I feel a migraine coming on, I take my medicine and follow it with a little caffeine in the form of a small cup of coffee or tea. A moderate amount of caffeine seems to make the medication work a little more quickly for me.

I still get the occasional migraine, but now that I’m 50, they are much less frequent (knock wood), so look to the future! My mother and my doctors had always told me they would likely decrease in frequency and severity as I got older, and they were right. So, there are some benefits to getting older. Actually, there are lots of benefits to getting older, but that’s another post.

If your friends or family members suffer from migraines, please remember, their pain is real. If you are the one suffering, I’m sorry. I truly feel your pain. I’ve spent days in bed in   the dark. I’ve never loved to hear other people are suffering, but it was always comforting to know other people understood what I was feeling. I have a friends who suffer from migraines as well, so it’s a common topic of conversation. Talk with your doctor about your pain.

In the meantime, tape a banana peel to your forehead and call me in the morning.

aimee-vogelsang-106103-unsplash