The Perfect Christmas

Ahhh…the perfect Christmas.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, my friends.

What some consider “perfect” is completely different than what I consider perfect. Perfect family gatherings like we see in Hallmark movies? I’ll pass…they rarely measure up to the “perfection” they are meant to be. I’d rather gather with my family, friends, and neighbors over games and laughter, in comfortable clothing, with fifteen different conversations going on at the same time. I’m sure most of America disagrees with me, but apparently, I’m not like most of America.

My husband thinks I’m crazy every year at the holidays, but he goes along with me. I’m not into the “perfect” Christmas. I’m into the fun Christmas. Fun stuff to do. I’m not the person who has perfect bows hung on perfect chandeliers, perfect garland on the banister, mistletoe hung in the perfect spot, or fresh poinsettias perfectly placed all over my home. I’m not the person who prepares the perfect meal. I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

Today, we were watching football and talking, and my husband asked me why I like to do the fun/funny Christmas.

I had to think about that for a moment. And then, I answered, “I don’t do the perfect Christmas, because generally speaking, I don’t do perfect well. My strength is fun, not perfection. I do fun really well.” He looked at me, and then he laughed and said, “Well, you’re right about that!”

That tends to ring true with almost everything in my life. I don’t want to be the perfect mother…way too much pressure in that. I want to be a fun mom. That doesn’t mean I’m a pushover who lets my child run wild and unsupervised. That doesn’t mean I’m not checking up on her regularly. Our daughter is generally well-supervised, and we have a great relationship. We talk…and we talk…and we talk. But I remember fifteen, and I know fun is a lot more…well, fun. Do I strive for perfection as a mother? No. Perfection? That’s just not my strength.

Our vacations are fun. Are they perfect? Well, if they’re fun, they’re perfect for us! Do we visit every perfect museum tourists are supposed to visit when they go somewhere? Nah…we might visit one or two, but my teenager just isn’t impressed by museums. She’s impressed by fun places. She is her mother’s daughter. It doesn’t make us shallow. It’s just a different approach. I try to make sure we get a little culture on vacation, but we always want to have fun. Visit the hometown of John Mellencamp and try to find Jack and Diane’s Tastee Freeze when we’re passing through Indiana? Yep. Plan our dinners in LA and New York based on where we are likely to see a celebrity or two? Sure! Have lunch at places with gigantic mojitos and milkshakes? You bet! Struggle through a rock scramble and finish it by climbing straight up 60 feet and pulling myself out of a rocky crevice? Done that! Jump into a bioluminescent bay at night, not having any idea what the water around me looks like? Yes, I did. Climb a waterfall, including wading through murky chest-deep water? Check! Drive halfway across the country in 10 days with a friend and four kids? Yes…and we slept in a wigwam along the way! Volunteer to eat fire with the entertainment on stage? Pick me, please!

And so, I guess that’s why I go the fun route on Christmas. Maybe my love of the fun Christmas started when I was a little girl and my grandparents had aluminum Christmas trees with color wheels! I absolutely loved them…I was fascinated by them! Sure, I could be all serious now, but that’s just not who I am. I simply don’t take myself or life too seriously. My parents taught me many years ago that life is short. I remember Mother and Daddy telling me, “Life is not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy it.” And that’s exactly what I try to do…enjoy life.

If I’m leading a meeting of volunteers, there will be prizes at the end. Passing through a city with a great rollercoaster at a great amusement park? I’m in! Silly photo op somewhere? Get your camera!

So, if you want to drive past the perfect Christmas house, don’t drive past ours. If you want to see the perfect Christmas tree, chances are you won’t like ours. If you want to eat the perfect holiday meal, our house is not where you want to be.

But if you want to take photos with a leg lamp from A Christmas Story, come on over! If you want to see a 10.5′ inflatable Christmas elephant, visit us! If you want to dine on hamburgers, hot dogs, Cuban sandwiches, beer bread, spicy fiesta dip, buttermilk pie, and other fun food during the holidays, we’ll be happy to set a place for you. If you want to drink champagne with breakfast, drink up, baby! If you want to see our “perfect” artificial poinsettias, then we’d love to have you over. If you want to play card games on Christmas Eve or “Who’s Most Likely To…” on Christmas Day, you’re welcome at our house. Just bring a positive attitude and be ready to laugh.

Perfection is not my strength, but fun is!

 

 

 

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My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018, Part 5: Travel Stuff

I love a vacation or getaway, so nothing makes me happier than a travel-inspired gift, whether it’s something I can use while I travel or something that reminds me of travel. So today…GIFTS FOR TRAVEL AND AVIATION ENTHUSIASTS.

Away Luggage. It’s sleek. It’s durable. Away Carry-ons have an ejectable battery option. And best of all…it’s guaranteed for life. Away Luggage comes in 12 colors, and each piece is on durable wheels that rotate 360 degrees for ease of movement. Plus, if you travel with multiple Away Luggage pieces, they nest inside each other, so after you unpack, they take up less room in your hotel room. Starting at $225 for the carry-on, these are a great gift for travelers. You can also have it personalized by the manufacturer. Check out their whole website, as they also offer totes and backpacks made of water-resistant nylon. Shop here.

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Away Carry-on, $225

W&P Design Carry On Cocktail Kits. These carryon cocktail kits are small, but they contain everything you need to mix cocktails in flight, except the alcohol, which you can get from your friendly flight attendant, or purchase miniatures in advance. W&P offers kits for an Old Fashioned, a Bloody Mary, a Margarita, and more. At only $24, they make great gifts that will actually be used by the family member or friend who travels regularly! Or purchase the Travel Pack, which includes a small travel-size bag packed with three cocktail kits at $90. Don’t need the kit? Maybe your traveler would like five of the cocktail kits, called The Frequent Flyer, at $100. See slideshow below. Get them here.

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Seat For 1. This bag from Uncommon Goods gets a thumbs up from me, surprisingly. When I first saw it, I thought it was crazy, but after checking it out, it sounds awesome! The bag weights 2.6 pounds, and it’s small enough to carry on, but strong enough to hold an adult sitting atop it. In fact, it will withstand up to 330 pounds! Anyone who has ever had to stand at a boarding gate where there were no empty seats will appreciate this wonder! No more seats? Create your own with this bag! Priced at $65, it’s a great gift for a traveler. Get it from uncommongoods.com here.

Airportag.com I wrote about this one for home gifts, as well, but it’s worth mentioning again. This is one of those websites I could peruse all day. It bills itself as the “best aviation and travel gift shop.” It’s a great one, with airline and airport themed apparel and accessories…even featuring defunct airlines. Great for the aviation enthusiasts in your life, there are lots of customizable products. Personalized boarding pass-style pillows, mugs, shirts, comforters, totes, luggage tags, and many more…they have it all for the folks who love planes and trains. And the popular airport code apparel? They have that too! Prices start at under $5 for stickers. The airport codes duffle shown below is $64.90, while the airline “crew” luggage tag is $14.90, and the tote, bottom right, is $24.90. Shop airportag.com here.

O2 cool 5″ fan. Looking at this 5″ fan, you think there’s no way it helps anyone anywhere. Well, I think your traveling family member or friend will be surprised. I purchased one of these when I was in Vermont a couple of years ago, because I needed a fan on my face in the hotel room. It was the only one I could find in the local store, and I thought I would end up throwing it away. I didn’t throw it away. In fact, I used it for the rest of that trip and gave some to family members who also enjoy fans while they’re sleeping. It’s small enough and light enough to pack in a suitcase without adding weight or bulk. Priced at just $14.99, it’s a great buy at Amazon here.

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Amazon Fire Stick TV Bundle with Echo Dot (2nd gen). This is a great gift for the traveling friend or family member who loves streaming TV shows or movies. They can plug it into any TV’s HDMI port, connect to Wi-Fi, and continue streaming hit TV shows and movies…picking up where they left off at home. Pair it with the 2nd generation Echo Dot, making it even easier to use. Priced at $39.98 for the Fire Stick and Echo Dot, it’s a great deal from Amazon. Get it here.

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Mark and Graham Personalized Luggage Tags. Mark and Graham does these right. Made of quality leather in bright colors to help travelers locate their bags on the luggage carousel, these make great gifts. Priced at $55, you can get them here.

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Travel Diffuser Aromatherapy Kit. We love diffusers in our house. Sometimes, I walk into my daughter’s room and am surprised to find it smells like a posh spa, because she is using her diffuser with a lavender oil or some other great essential oil. Priced at just $30, the kit includes the small diffuser plus three essential oils: lavender, lemongrass, and peppermint.  Lavender is relaxing, while the others rejuvenate and refresh. I have my own essential oils from DoTerra I can use, as well, making it even more useful. Purchase the kit here.

Longchamp bags. When I travel, I often make purchases, and they don’t always fit into my luggage. A few years ago, a friend gave me a Longchamp Le Pliage bag, telling me she would fold it and put it in her luggage when she traveled. When it was time to go home, if she had made purchases, she could fit them in the bag and check it or carry it onto the plane with her. Made of durable nylon with leather accents, the bags fold flat and come in different colors and sizes. My favorites for travel are the Le Pliage Expandable Tote at $195 and the Le Pliage 21-inch Expandable Travel Bag, priced at $255. See them all at Nordstrom here.

Vintage Airline Gifts. OK, so it isn’t actually vintage, but a lot of the logos are at rebubble.com. I love apparel featuring defunct air carriers, and both of these sites offer plenty of options. Maybe you know someone who worked for one of the carriers, or you have a friend who is an aviation enthusiast. Or maybe your family member would love some airline-themed personalized stationery. The possibilities are endless.  Search for an airline name (National, Eastern, Pan Am, Continental, Mohawk, TWA, Braniff) and see the possibilities. Shop redbubble.com here.

Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Machine. I’ve had one of these for years, because sleep is important. I’m a light sleeper, so when I’m in a hotel, I hear the air conditioner turn on and off. I hear slamming doors. I hear people walking past my room. And sometimes, I hear traffic. I learned a long time ago that white noise is my friend. I purchased the Marpac Dohm Classic White Noise Machine, and I carry it every time I travel. If you have a friend or family member who travels but complains about noise in hotels, this could be the ticket! Get it at Amazon for $44.95 here.

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LUSH Solid Shampoo/Conditioner with Tins. For travelers, it really stinks to arrive somewhere and discover your liquid shampoo or conditioner has leaked. Pressurized cabins can do a number on bottles of haircare products. When I was perusing the Lush website recently, I discovered they have solid shampoos and conditioners! No more messy leaks! And they’re priced right and smell great! Each item is priced under $15 for just under 2 ounces, and they come in a variety of scents. Make sure you pick up a tin for each product. Each tin is priced at $3.95. Shop Lush here.

Beautural Steamer for Clothes. I don’t always have time for the hotel to press my clothes when I’m traveling, so I love having a good portable steamer. With almost 600 reviews, this portable steamer is the highest-rated one on Amazon. It heats in 30 seconds and operates at 1200 watts, and it’s perfect for home or travel. Package includes a lint brush, fabric brush, and creaser. Your traveling friend will thank you. Purchase for $34.99 with free shipping here.

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Travel Listography. If you’re not familiar with Listography, you’re missing out. Listography Journals have been around a while. This particular one offers the traveler the opportunity to list travel-related things: places to travel, animals I’ve seen in the wild, people I’ve met along the way, etc. It makes a great gift for the traveler who loves to keep track of what he/she has done and keep a bucket list too. Purchase for $10.32 from Amazon here.

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And there you have it…a list of gifts for the traveler or aviation enthusiast in your life! Happy shopping!

NEXT TIME: Stocking Stuffers!

Parents’ School Year Goals?

Looking through “the Facebook” today, I came across a friend’s post asking, “Parents, what are your goals for this school year?”

Am I supposed to have school year goals? I’d never considered it, but maybe I’ve been missing out on something. Maybe, while teachers and students are setting goals for the new school year, I should be setting some goals of my own. I’ve asked other friends, and they looked at me like I had fourteen eyes. One of them said she has one goal: drink more wine. Another one said her goal is to keep her children organized for the school year. I told her, “Good luck with that.” I’m not a terribly organized person, so personally, I’d probably hurt my daughter’s organizational skills rather than helping them.

So, after talking with friends, I decided to make my own list of goals for the school year, and they are goals for me, not my daughter:

  • Family time. My first goal is to make sure we carve out some family time. Between school sports, school, real life, and social lives, this can get neglected. This school year, I will make it a priority…to make sure we have time to just be together…maybe dinnertime, maybe watching sports together, maybe vacations…whatever…I will make it happen.
  • Have fun. This is always at the top of my list. No matter what we are doing, we can make it fun. That doesn’t mean we don’t take things seriously; it means we approach it with joy. I’ll use my library volunteer job as an example. I volunteer every other Tuesday, and the job entails checking out books for students, shelving, reloading paper in printers, etc. Sounds boring, right? And I’m sure it can be, but it has always been fun for me. I look forward to it every time, because I became friends with the people who work there, and it’s always fun to spend time with friends. There’s nothing wrong with sharing jokes or life stories while you work! I try to become friends with people in my volunteer positions, so it feels like I’m hanging out with friends while we’re working.
  • Enjoy lunch with friend(s) at least once a week, and once a month, I need to try a restaurant in town I’ve never visited. My friend, Linda, and I meet regularly, and we tend to meet at the same four or five places. Next time, we are going to a new place, and I’ve found the perfect place for us to try. It’s easy to keep going to the same places, and I won’t abandon those, but if I try a new restaurant once a month, that’s twelve new lunch places in a year!
  • Laugh a lot…a whole lot. At the risk of sounding like a song from Mary Poppins, I love to laugh! Really…it’s one of my favorite things to do. I grew up with a brother who loves to laugh and naturally makes people laugh, so I’ve had a lot of laughing practice. It cures a lot of ills. Therefore, I’m going to try to keep myself out of non-laughing situations.
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  • Spend time outdoors…all year. I love being outdoors. I love sunshine. I don’t love camping, so don’t get any ideas about that. In spring, summer, and fall, this doesn’t take much effort. But winter? That’s another story. It’s exactly when I need to get outdoors…to avoid SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder…or what I call the wintertime blues. So this year, I am going to try to spend some time outdoors even when it’s cold. Brrrr.
  • Make some new friends. We have some new families coming to our school this year, and I plan to welcome them with open arms. You never know where you’ll find a friend…and I love fun, new friends…especially ones who like to try new restaurants and laugh a lot.
  • Travel when we can. High school means lots more time spent on homework, and it means lots more time dedicated to school sports. Whenever we can squeeze in some travel fun, we will do exactly that.
  • Exercise more. OK, I had to throw in one of those things that is a “must do.” I need to exercise more, so I added it to the list. If I can find people who want to laugh with me while exercising, that’s even better!
  • Watch more football. Yes, I’m putting it on the list. I watch a lot of football anyway, but I want to watch more. Don’t worry, Bama fans, because I am Schleprock, I will not watch Bama games in real time. I will record them and watch them after the fact. But I want to watch other games…a lot. Besides, this is a good way to fulfill the first goal I listed…spending time with family. How many more days till football season starts?

And those, my friends, are my back-to-school goals…nothing education-related at all. Sure, I could make my goals all about my child, who is now a high school student, but guess what…school is her job. Yes, if she asks me for help or I think she’s having issues, I will help her, of course. She knows that. But she also knows it is her responsibility to take care of school work. After all, I’ve already done 9th grade. It’s a lot more difficult than when I was in school, but she knows I will help her if she needs it, and she knows if I can’t help her, I will help her find someone who can. The one school-related thing I will do is continue to encourage her to establish relationships with her teachers…they can definitely help her if she needs help.

Let’s get this party started!

My Teen, How Have I Embarrassed Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know the struggle is real. Everything we do embarrasses them. Really…everything.

My daughter and I recently made a quick weekend trip by plane, which means we encountered a lot of people along the way…plenty of opportunity for her to be embarrassed by the way I sneeze, the way I talk, the way I breathe. Ahhh…the joys of motherhood.

In everyday life, I embarrass my 14-yr-old daughter on a regular basis. I’m a talker. I talk to everyone around me all the time, and often, I make new friends along the way. There is nothing I love more than meeting new people and learning their stories. It’s amazing what we can learn about the world when we meet people from other places…and I don’t just mean other countries. I mean it’s fun to meet people from all over the United States. We all have different traditions and cultures, and I love learning all about new people.

Everything about that last paragraph embarrasses my daughter. For example, if I’m standing in the security line at the airport, and the lady in front of me has on a sweater that looks like she might have knitted it, I ask her about it. “I love your sweater! Did you make it?” And the conversation goes from there. I can almost feel my daughter’s embarrassment as soon as I ask the question. Yes, this actually has happened. Or this: I met someone who told me she lives in Revere, Massachusetts. I knew right away that I had been through Revere, and here’s what I remembered about it: the Necco Candy factory. My daughter rolled her eyes.

Generally speaking, I’m a happy person. I like to greet people warmly when I arrive somewhere. And this is painful to my daughter.

As we started to board the flight, the gate agent scanned my boarding pass. I said, “Thank you! Have a great day!” I got the eye roll from my daughter in the jetway. As we boarded the plane, I greeted the flight attendants with a happy, “Good morning!” I heard my daughter audibly sigh. Maybe it was a groan…either way, I heard her expression of displeasure. We got to our seats, and I asked her, “What’s wrong with being nice to people?” “Nothing, but you don’t have to speak to EVERYbody!” And I don’t, but if I have a face-to-face encounter, I try to be polite.

After landing, we went to the rental car counter. When we got there, the agent was friendly. We chatted about the city we were visiting. My daughter walked away. It wasn’t a long conversation. He asked me if I had ever visited before, and we talked about some of our favorite restaurants there. The daughter didn’t like it.

Next, we got to the row of rental cars, and it was time to pick one. I had rented a midsize SUV, and I wanted to take a look at various ones to see which would be best for us. I put down my bag at the end of the row and asked her to stand with it while I looked. It embarrassed her. “Mom, other people just get in a car.” I know that isn’t true, but I didn’t argue. I just gave her “the look” and walked down the row looking at cars. I picked one, and she couldn’t get in fast enough. No 14-yr-old wants to be seen with her mother in public.

At our destination, we checked into our hotel and went out to dinner at a local restaurant. While we waited for a table, I was seated next to a gentleman who told me he had worked there as a teenager. He also had two handsome teenage sons, so while it was embarrassing to my daughter that I was having a conversation with a stranger, she didn’t mind chatting with his sons.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The next day, we attended a luncheon. We knew some of the people, but not many. I never want to be a burden on my hosts, and I’m not a person who needs to be babysat, so I approached a couple of different people and struck up a conversation. This embarrassed her, of course. I explained to her that we could sit huddled in a corner together, or we could meet some new people. Eye roll. She finally saw some teens she knew and ditched me. Whew! I was free to talk without ridicule.

We made it back to the airport after the luncheon, and I managed to refrain from embarrassing her at that point.

She’s a good sport, though. It’s not the kind of embarrassment that makes her angry. Truth be told, she usually looks back on it and laughs. She has a good sense of humor. She often tells me I’m like the mom on Good Luck, Charlie, a former Disney Channel show on which the mom, Amy Duncan, is a little bit crazy (hmmm), kind of a mess (hmmm), and accidentally embarrasses her children…except when she intentionally embarrasses them as a creative form of punishment. In one episode, the teenage daughter, Teddy, tricks her mom into letting her go to a midnight movie with her friend, Ivy, who also tricks her mom. When the moms find out they’ve been had, they go to the  theatre and get revenge by embarrassing their daughters in front of the crowd waiting to get in. They dress like crazy teenagers and talk on the bullhorn about their girls while calling themselves the “cool moms,” and they dance…yes, dance. I’m so glad my daughter has seen this episode, because it…could…happen.

Honestly, though, embarrassing my daughter is not my goal. I do what I can, within reason, NOT to embarrass her. She knows as long as she behaves nicely and doesn’t betray my trust, I won’t TRY to embarrass her. I think moms are naturally embarrassing to teens, though. We just aren’t cool. And if we try to be cool, we’re even less cool and more embarrassing. I’m not cool, and I’m over 50, so I just act the way I act. But I remember 14. It’s a difficult age. I remember when my parents embarrassed me just by dropping me off somewhere. It’s a natural part of growing up. I’d be more concerned if she wanted to be with me all the time. This whole embarrassment thing is about becoming more independent…growing up.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s a good thing I embarrass her…like when we’re waiting for a table at a restaurant and I start talking to the parents of a couple of cute teenage boys, who in turn start talking to her.

THEN it’s good to have an embarrassing mother!

Fear of Flying? Take Control

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If you’re afraid of flying, you’re not alone. I’m not one of those people, but I know a lot of them. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that empowerment is the key. People are afraid to fly, because they feel a loss of control. They know commercial air travel is safer than driving to the airport, but they are driving themselves to the airport. On the plane, they are handing over control to a stranger.

We can talk till we’re blue in the face about how much safer air travel is than driving, but that doesn’t help those people who are afraid. This is one of those situations in which knowledge is power. People can feel more confident about flying if they have a plan.

I’m not going to get into the detailed engineering of jet engines. You don’t need to know a lot about the thrust of jet engines, but here’s the basic info:  Jet engines suck in air through a fan in the front. The high speed blades in a compressor raise the air pressure, and gas is added. As the mixture expands, it shoots out the back of the engine, causing the jet to thrust forward. Simple. What you really need to know is how you can take control of your own situation, so I’m going to tell you. I wrote a blog recently about making air travel easier. For the most part, it was about eliminating stressors leading up to the flight.If you start with eliminating the stressors of the airport, it’s easier to stay calm. You can see my previous piece, Making Air Travel Easier, by clicking here.

Now I’m going to tell you some things that might help eliminate some of the fear of actual flying.

AIRLINE TRAVEL IS SAFER THAN EVER USA Today ran an article in April, after a Southwest emergency, with this headline:

Airlines, including Southwest, are so safe it’s hard to rank them by safety

Wow. That should make us all feel a little better. You can read the article here.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER This is the absolute truth. Since you won’t be flying the aircraft, you don’t need to know how to fly it. The knowledge you need is how to react in an emergency and some calming techniques. In an emergency, we want to be able to get out of the aircraft quickly. I was a flight attendant for a while after I graduated from college. I know it is highly unlikely you will ever have to evacuate an aircraft. Here’s something else I know: accidents are survivable, especially if you have information that will help you get out.

  • When I board an aircraft, the first thing I do is look for the nearest exits…which may be behind me.
  • Count the number of rows between yourself and the two nearest exits. If something happens, and it’s dark, you need find your way out by touch. Even if you are unable to see, you can touch seatbacks and count your way to the exit.
  • Pay attention to the safety demo/video and review the safety card before takeoff. It will make you feel better to see how the exits work. Often, that information is included in the safety card in your seat back pocket. You can see American Airlines’ safety video here. A Delta video is here, and United’s is here. I love the United video. Keep in mind these are samples; different aircraft have different procedures…pay attention.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and natural fabrics. Synthetic fabrics tend to be more flammable, so wear natural fabrics like cotton. Also, wear shoes in which you can move quickly.
  • Fasten your seatbelt low and tight around your hips, decreasing the likelihood you will be injured in an emergency.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor for takeoff and landing, decreasing the risk of back injury or leg injury in an emergency.
  • Make sure all bags in your row are completely underneath the seats. You don’t want to trip over something if you need to get out quickly.
  • When I travel with my daughter, I tell her, “If there is an unlikely emergency, do exactly what I tell you without hesitation. If I can’t get out, you go without me.”
  • In the unlikely event of an emergency, leave all your belongings behind! The more things people try to carry, the more difficult it is to get people out.
  • If you must take anti-anxiety medication (or have a cocktail) when you fly, take the lowest dosage possible for relief. Less medication/alcohol means you can react more quickly if necessary.
  • If you still can’t relax, try soft music (even classical?) on some earbuds, or watch a lighthearted movie. Play solitaire. Read a book or magazine. But don’t wear earbuds during takeoff and landing; you want to hear any instructions if needed.
  • My trick for calming myself in other situations is to stop and use my senses: think of something I can hear; think of something I can see; think of something I can touch; think of something I can smell. Putting myself through that thought process can take my mind off the situation.
  • Another calming trick is to find something to count. Count passengers. Purchase boxes of candies in the airport, and count the candies in each box…slowly. Counting is a good way of forcing yourself to think about something else besides your anxiety trigger.
  • If you are traveling with children, remember your children pick up on your body language. If you’re anxious, they become anxious. Try to calm yourself.

Here is some information about aircraft cabins you might find useful:

  • Often, the electronic pings you hear are simply passengers using their flight attendant call buttons, flight attendants trying to communicate about drink cart needs, etc.
  • Soon after takeoff, there is often a thud sound as the landing gear is raised back into the underbelly of the plane.
  • Many times, after takeoff, you will notice the aircraft seems to slow down a little. It might be due to noise ordinances over a city or another request by air traffic control. This is normal.
  • Often, when items shift in the galleys, you will hear them banging around.
  • Passengers sometimes slam doors when they go into the lavatories. You may be surprised by the sound. And sometimes you hear the flush.
  • If you have a drop of water fall on you, it is likely condensation from the air conditioner.
  • Sometimes, landings are just a little jarring, because the pilots are compensating for crosswinds on landing. No big deal.

Hopefully, this calms some of your fears. I feel better about situations in life if I have a plan for mishaps. When I drop my child somewhere, I tell her, “If there is a fire alarm or active shooter situation, get out of the building fast. Call me after you get to a safe place.” If I’m in the building too but not with her, she knows to get out first, then call me. And for years, we’ve reviewed the “stranger danger” plans.

Try to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to survive an emergency and some calming techniques, and you will likely feel better about flying altogether. Here are some books offered by Amazon you might find helpful as well: SOAR The Breakthrough Treatment For Fear of FlyingFear of Flying Workbook  and Scared Flightless.

I tend to feel better when I’m armed with knowledge. Knowledge is power.

Making Airline Travel Easier

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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.***

Missing My Girl

It hasn’t even been a week since my 14-yr-old daughter left for Iceland, and I’m already missing her. I know…that’s pathetic. We received our first “email update” a couple of days ago, and it sounds like they are having a fabulous time, but it might have made me miss her more, if that is even possible. I know I’m not the only crazy parent missing a child right now, though. I’ve talked to several friends whose children are on these trips, and we all feel the same way. We miss our children! However, I feel pretty sure she isn’t thinking of us…I hope she’s not. I hope she is enjoying everything Iceland has to offer and then some!

She is traveling in a group of twelve teenagers, with two young adult leaders…a girl from North Carolina, and a guy from Louisiana. The group leaders write the updates, and they say something about each traveler. According to that first update, while they were visiting The Blue Lagoon, a well-known geothermal spa, my daughter “led the group to the smoothie bar and then to the mud mask station.” I actually laughed out loud when I read that, because my daughter loves smoothies, and she loves masks. At least I know she isn’t starving, and her skin should be glowing when she comes home!

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Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, Iceland

I’ve worried about her “starving,” because my daughter is a picky eater. I tried to expose her to lots of different flavors when she was a toddler, but she’s like her daddy…she likes bland food. She eats a lot of grilled chicken, pizza, yogurt, broccoli, fruit, potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and rice. Oh, and peanut butter. I told her before she left that she will have to eat whatever they give her. According to one of her leaders, on the last trip, they had a lot of lamb and salmon, two delicious foods I’ve never been able to get my daughter to eat. My fingers are crossed that she will expand her palate on this trip. I did stick a few snacks in her bag, but she likely has gone through them by now. She doesn’t get that picky-eating gene from me. I will eat just about anything, except organ meat…nope, not gonna do it. My husband, on the other hand, eats nothing spicy. There are things he has declared “spicy,” and then I take a bite and laugh at him.

My sister-in-law has a 15-yr-old son on another trip offered by the same tour company. He is touring Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We shared our updates with each other earlier today, and his trip sounds exciting too! According to his update, he “nearly had a nose to nose interaction with a baby sea lion who was looking for a buddy to swim alongside him!” Sounds like so much fun! He will get home two days before my daughter, so I will get to talk with him and hear all about his trip first. I can hardly wait, but I’ll have to wait another week.

I’m flying up to New York to meet my daughter and a couple of her friends when they arrive from Iceland. I’m thinking I need to make a gigantic WELCOME BACK sign for them. Think they’d be embarrassed? I don’t really care…I’m doing it. The only people they will know in the JFK Airport will be the people from their trip. I’m flying up a day early and staying at a hotel near the airport, and I will be so excited that I won’t sleep a wink that night. Pray for a safe return for them, and pray they are on time, so I don’t have to wait any longer than necessary.

My husband and I are meeting my brother and sister-in-law on vacation later this week. Our favorite dogsitter/housesitter arrives tomorrow night. I’m hoping the vacation will be a distraction from how much I’m missing my girl. We’ll laugh a lot, get some exercise, and lounge on the beach for a few days. I’m hoping my brother will cook dinner for us every night…he’s a great cook.

A friend’s daughter arrived home earlier this week from her tour of the Pacific Northwest. She was gone for three weeks. I called my friend, the mom, the morning the daughter was coming home and asked if she was excited that her baby girl would be coming home tonight. Of course she was! She sent me a cute picture they took of her two daughters right after the younger one arrived home safely. You can see it below. So sweet. You can tell they are so excited to see each other. I asked my friend if she cried, and she said, “We all did!”

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My friend’s daughters. The one on the right just arrived home safely from her tour of the Pacific Northwest.

I guess I need to wear waterproof mascara next week when I go to meet my daughter at the airport in New York.