Saturday, October 22, 2016

We Have a Situation Or What Happens Your Airplane's Engine Fails

This week, I attended an out-of-state work related conference.  I arrived late Wednesday night, had meetings from 8 am until 8 pm and then flew out Friday morning at 7.  I was looking forward to getting a bit of work done Friday morning on the flights back to Charlotte.

The plane took off normally and I settled in to catch up on some reading. Then I heard a noise.  We all heard a noise.

OK!  Hold on here for a second.  The psychologist in me has to make clear that what I am going to tell you is how I currently remember what happened.  This was a very stressful experience and although I (and everyone else on that flight) was hyper-alert, memory is a pretty fickle beast.  I'm not sure of the order of events. I'm not sure of the exact words that were used. I only know of the timing of some of the events and some of the words from the texts I sent to Dave and the Facebook updates I sent to the rest of the world on what was happening while it was happening.  Yes, I will confess: I did not have my phone on airplane mode.  I figured if I was going to die, I wanted to tell my husband one more time that I loved him and our children.  And, I don't know? Let Facebook and the rest of the world know what was going on in our plane.

NOW: back to the noise.  There was loud, metallic noise.  It wasn't a boom like an explosion.  It sounded more like someone slamming a car trunk down on a lot of metal debris.

Then the plane lost a little bit of altitude (I think).  And it tilted to the right (I know).

The tension in the cabin increased although everyone wanted to be cool.  There is always some pressure when one is flying not get too worked up over turbulence or weird noises.  But this definitely seemed different.  And when (I think) we lost a bit more altitude, I thought "I love my kids. I love my family.  I don't want to die."

Actually, what I thought was more along the lines of "I love my kids. Not die now. No.  Nope.  No God.  Kids No Go Airport. Wait. Dead Mommy, No.  NOPE. No. No." All of that in a few milliseconds.  Honestly, scenarios quickly played out along with these words and none of them involved wanted me to be dead.  Big fat NOPE.

So we waited. I confess, I grabbed the arm of the woman beside me (traveling with her young teen daughter).  And we waited.  A few folks looked out their windows.  A person a few rows ahead of us looked around and reported seeing the head flight attendant talking on the plane's phone.

We waited a few seconds/minutes/hours/years more.

Then the flight attendant made the following announcement.  I shall provide my completely logical and unemotional interpretation of her statements:

"We have a situation."
((Situation is a euphemism for Shit Is Going Down.  This is the Real Deal Folks, so pay CLOSE ATTENTION.))

"The pilots are working very hard right now in the cockpit to get everything under control and they will report to you when they can about what is going on."
((OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT.))

So, um, yeah.  I have a bit of an "anxiety" issue.  "Really?" you say, "I would have never guessed." It's a brain chemistry thing and when I need to, I take a small dose of lorazepam to get myself back to normal.  My hands were shaking so hard that I could not actually grab the bottle in my purse. It took 3 tries and I almost gave up.  But I finally got it my paws and took 2 pills.  I even offered one to my seatmate who said she was already on enough medication that she didn't think this was a good idea.

The next thing I did (probably because I calmed down) is that turned into Professor On A Plane.  I told my seat mate and her daughter it was going to be ok.  I touched my colleague's (who was sitting ahead of me) arm and told her it was going to be ok.  AND LIKE I KNEW ANYTHING, I told my seatmate that we were going to find the nearest airport and then land.  And then we would all quickly get off the plane and leave our luggage--perhaps we could take our purses--but we should definitely leave our real luggage on the plane.  And then I told her that I just learned something new about myself:  when I'm stressed, I get bossy and I apologized for that and she said that was just fine!

And then I CONTINUED ON saying well, it could not be that big of an emergency.  My colleague later told me that this made the dude in front of me start laughing because CLEARLY SOMETHING WAS UP and this was not a normal event.  What I left out of my rambling lecture to my seatmate and her daughter on why this wasn't an emergency was my analysis of the data that WE WERE NOT PLUNGING TO EARTH so on the scale of "Holy Crap" to "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE," we were probably closer to the Holy Crap stage.  Although every single one of us were afraid we were closer to the WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.

Then.  THEN.  THHHEEENNNNN!!!  The pilots came out of the cockpit.

I shit you not.

Both of the pilots came out of cockpit and like a giant thought bubble coming from every one of us, we nervously giggled and thought ''WHO THE FUCK IS DRIVING THIS THING!??!?!?!?!"

Looking back, I realize that they had reached Step #7 of the Protocol of Bad Things Had Happened and they needed to come out and physically look at the plane's problem.  So they asked the folks on the right side of the plane--over the wing--to open their windows.  And they looked out.  And said ok.  And went back to the cockpit.

It was horrible comic relief.  I still cannot tell that part of the story without thinking "Are you freaking kidding me!!!"

Then after a few seconds/minutes/hours/years, the pilot came on the speaker and told us that we had Complete Major Right Engine Failure and we were heading back to the airport.  That did not feel very good.  However, he then reassured us that they had a lot of training on this issue and.... I don't know what, if anything was said next.  Did he reassure us that he was confident that everything would be good?  I don't know.  I remember him saying they had a lot of training on this problem. Or something like that.  But I do not know what was said next.

I do know that I turned my freaking phone on.  One of the many lessons I learned from Flight 93 was that cell phones work on airplanes when you are close enough to the ground.  The first lesson I learned from Flight 93 was to attack the hijackers.  But the second one was that you can text people from the plane at low altitudes.  You shouldn't but you can.

I did not know if the pilots were blowing smoke up our, um, skirts with their confidence of handling this issue, but I knew I was going to tell my husband what was going on and that I loved him.  So I can look at my phone and see that about 25 minutes after we took off from the airport, I texted Dave that we were having an emergency landing.  We had a single engine failure.  And that I loved him.

We exchanged quite a few more texts.  People were crying all around. And then Dave texted that pilots practice single engine landing all the time.  And as far as an emergency goes, this should be routine.  Being the newfound AIRPLANE PROFESSOR BOSSY PANTS that I am, I read that out loud to everyone.  I even told them that my husband had just told me that.  One woman looked back at me and looked so relieved that I had said that.

We landed soon afterwards.  We laughed.  We clapped.  We cried.  The firetrucks had been waiting for us, gave us the once over, and then sent us back to the terminal.  Oddly enough, considering we weren't scheduled for arrival, we had priority and went right back to our gate!!

Dave and I continued to text about how glad we were that I had landed and was alive.  He also texted that engine failure is very rare and that statistically speaking, the next flight should be just fine.  I was still continuing to relay his informational texts to the others on the plane.  With that last text, while some folks appeared grateful for the news, quite a few--QUITE A FEW--rolled their eyes that statistically speaking, we were in like Flynn for the rest of all our flights forever.  I have to say, that makes me laugh.  It's a very "husband" thing to say.

And what a NUTJOB I was to share all that, right!?  What the HELL!?  I hereby apologize to those people who I am SURE wanted me to shut my pie hole on that flight.  I hope the people I reassured outweigh the people I must have annoyed, but I don't know. And there it is.  I am likely to talk and share whatever information or suppositions I have in an emergency.  I am also likely to touch people when they are crying.  Did a lot of touching, reassuring, and crying near the end of the flight.

Ugh.

We waited for about 5 hours at the airport until a new plane and crew flew out to get us from Atlanta.  They had snacks for folks in our waiting area.  We all checked in on each other at restaurants, bathrooms, and the corridors.  Seriously.  Normal barriers to speaking to strangers were broken and we chatted and joked and shared with each other.

We also shocked the new gate crew when it was time to board the plane again.  Our original flight had been very crowded.  The announcer told us that for this flight, "we didn't need to worry about having enough space for luggage; we'd lost a few people over the last few hours."  Oh. My. God(dess).  The entire waiting room broke into loud laughter.  Really!?  Could she have not picked another phrase to say there were fewer people on this flight!?  Again, the thought bubble appeared as we laughed saying "You almost lost a heckuva lot more people about 5 hours ago!!"

So I finally got home last night.  I had absolutely no anxiety on the additional two flights I needed to get home.  I'm hoping it stays that way.  I do know that when I got home, I was shocked at how hard I was crying and hugging my family.  I didn't know I'd been "holding it together" for the past 12 hours.

This morning, I woke up and was excited about how normal I felt.  Then my eyes just started leaking.
I know blogs are weird, right? There isn't a real theme to this one anymore.  But I do know that once I knew we were going to live, I HAD to write this down and get it out of my soul.

I'm writing this on a Saturday.  And no one writes or reads blogs on a Saturday.  But to get past this and heal, I had to bossy pants share with you what happened on my way home yesterday.  Thanks.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Killer Mommy

I almost killed our older gerbil yesterday.

UGH.

Let me back up. Things have been crazy busy lately.  I'm working on many projects.  ((I'm hoping to go up for my promotion to Full Professor next year))  I'm trying to exercise.  Occasionally, I take a shower.  I never clean.  And I have a lot of animals.

Conor told me that his gerbil, Toasty, had run out of food.  Knowing how he and the twins feed their gerbils--the twins' gerbils cage is alternating layers of shavings and food--I figured I could get some eventually.

Well, damn.

After running to the grocery store to get some wine :-/ , Conor freaked out because Toasty was had his eyes shut and was barely moving. When we picked him up, he was cold and not really breathing.  I sped back to the grocery store and picked up some gerbil food. Toasty grabbed a few kibbles and ate.  And then fell asleep.  Or into a coma.  Or began to die.

I have never felt like a bigger shit than I did right then.  Toasty is the sweetest gerbil I've ever known.  He lets me pick him up and kiss on him and when I pet him on his nose, he falls asleep in my hands.  He always comes out to say Hi when I come into the room.  He's a sweet, innocent tiny gerbil.  And I didn't buy him any food.  And we couldn't tell if he was going to die.

Conor left the room and I picked up Toasty with a few kibbles in my hand and rocked him and kept him warm.  I swear a few times he stopped breathing.  I started crying.  He curled up his little feet and hands and slept on my chest with my hands around him.  Conor came back and kissed me on the head while I told him how sorry and horrible I was.

We put him back in his cage, in his bed with food in close proximity.

This morning, Toasty was the first thing on my mind.  Conor was still sleeping but I had to check on the little guy.  I took in a flashlight to find him, but had to turn on the light anyway because he didn't come out to say Hi like he normally does.

I found him in his bed, ever so slightly fluffier.  And he ran out and said HEY!  I AM STILL MAD AT YOU!  But he ran!  He scurried out of his bed!!  I hugged Conor so hard that Conor said I hurt his ear.

I've been back in several times today and have picked up Toasty and loved on him.

Something has to give because I have so much on my plate.  But honestly, it was a wake up call.  And today, I've taken care of more work and more errands than I have in a while.  There is definitely quite a bit of room for improvement in my work and scheduling.

And no sweet animal, child, student, or husband should suffer because I can't get my shit together.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bunnies!!

Bunnies!  Bunnybunnybunnies!!!  We have BUNNIES!!!!

Introducing:  Rose Tyler (in white fur) and River Song (in the more auburn)



Some friends could no longer handle the bunnies so we adopted them.  We are still getting to know them and they are still getting to know us.


The cats couldn't care less about them.  George would like to snuggle per usual, but Fred has no interest in them at all.

Patches is jealous as heck.  He cannot stand the attention we are giving them. He wants to eat their bunny food (!). And he really, really, really, really wants to smell their bunny butts.

We are not yet in the snuggle bunny phase yet.  And with them being two, and I don't think they've been snuggled a lot before, I hope we can get there.  Bunny advice wanted!!  We have them in a pretty open area now.  We're hoping for bunny free range freedom at least part of the day once we are assured they know where they should come back to and Patches doesn't scare them to death licking their bunny bums.  :-)

BUNNIES!!!  BUNNIES!!!!! BUNNY BUN BUN BUNNIES!!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dreams of Where You Used To Live

One outcome from the Great Family Road Trip was finding out how many of my friends also dream about where they used to live.  I thought I was the only one.

As a psychologist, I'm sure sharing my dreams on the interwebs is a stupid idea.

NONETHELESS.

I frequently dream of moving back to NYC, Los Angeles, and to NC.  I *loved* living in Manhattan.  I had a small apartment in Greenwich Village with a raised loft for the bedroom, a separate kitchen, and an entire wall and ceiling of windows that let me see the Empire State Building.  I also loved the density and energy of living in The City.  If I could, I would live there now and for the rest of my life.
My dreams of going back to NYC include finding my old neighborhood, finding a place with the killer deal like I had before, finding one with secret rooms big enough for the whole family, and generally the joy of living there and the sadness that I no longer do.

When I dream of going back to Los Angeles and California, I dream of driving.  I have two dreams of living in Claremont (where I went to grad school):  1) it is beautiful and I can go hiking in the mountains; or 2)  I am not in the right place.  Claremont has CHANGED since I was there.  There is a new village with lots of new stores and restaurants. After seeing that part of Claremont, I had nightmares of being lost in my former hometown.  I don't like those dreams.  When we passed through a few weeks ago, I didn't take the family through the new village.  Honestly, I didn't want to fuel my nightmares.

The other dreams of living in California involve driving and driving and driving around trying to find a bargain of a place to live that is close to both a highway and the beach or a mountain.  In my dreams, I'm in a lot of traffic and I can never find the Right House.  In all honesty, that sounds like the reality of living in LA.

Finally, I have to be honest with you. Although I LOVE my house in Charlotte, when I dream of moving back to NC, 99% of the time I'm moving back to my parents' home and I have to go back to school to 1) finish my PhD; 2) get another PhD; or 3) finish my undergraduate degree.  Ugh.  Ugh, ugh, and ugh.

I've had these dreams so many times I know the pattern.  Usually I have these dreams when I feel behind at work, which as a professor is ALL THE TIME.  Also, at some point in the dream when I'm behind in a class or behind on my dissertation, I think to myself: I had a tenure track job.  Why did I leave it.  WAIT!  I had TENURE!!  Why did I leave?! Why am I still in school WHEN I HAVE TENURE!?

And then I wake up.

First, there's the ugh of remembering the dream as I wake up.  And then there's the relief that I still have my husband, my family, our house, our dog, our cats, our gerbils, our chickens, our new bunnies, my friends, my job, and Charlotte.

As crazy as life is here, I prefer it to the dreams. Unless I could move all of this to New York City.  And then I would in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Epilogue

We are home.  And it is green.

The reason that was important is that as we left Charlotte, everything was rolling green and we were looking forward to the flat brown and then red sandy mountains of the Southwest and the West.  It is beautiful.

And then as we were heading back east and we left to brown and entered the rolling green, we  noticed again how beautiful where we live actually is.

I'm not trying to be (more) corny (than usual), but that's what vacation was to us:  seeing the beauty of other landscapes and coming back to see again, through new eyes, the beauty of where we live.

And the heat.  And humidity.  Sweet Baby Lemur, the heat and humidity here is oppressive.

And eating.  Oh my gosh, the food on this trip was awesome. But pretty much, the entire family has been stuffing our fat faces with fruits and vegetables and massive amounts of water since we've come home.  Yesterday, the kids went through 7 apples, 5 bananas, a entire cantalope, and a bunch of grapes.

And back to reality.  Back to work. Back to school.

All good though.  It's the first two week vacation I think I've ever had.  I highly recommend it as a reset button for your brain.

Speaking of which.....blargh.  Work.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Days 11, 12, and 13

Greetings from the OK/AZ border.  We are at the point in the vacation in which we are driving like the wind to get back home.

We had an active and productive last day of the conference filled with presentations, social events, and dinner with the students and faculty.

Tuesday morning, we stopped by Claremont where I went to grad school.  The childrens were NOT amused about seeing where I lived for 8 years.  In fact, it wasn't until Conor went:  "Is there where you got your doctor degree?" that he was impressesd.  I only took them by my old house and the (old) Village.  The last time, I went to the new Village and it still gives me nightmares.




Then, we drove up to the Grand Canyon.

Wow.




We were only there for a few minutes when a huge storm blew in and out.  This provided us with that crazy moment every family vacation needs:  running back to the car while painful rain drops pelted us and we struggled with the altitude to breathe and move our legs.  We arrived to the car wet and lauging and with a great story from the vacation.  Plus, we saw some other visitors to the Grand Canyon.



The next day, we did not get our sorry asses up in time to see the sunrise.  However, the morning started off overcast so we felt CLEVER for sleeping in.

While all the cool kids recommended the Bright Angels hike, we note the young whiners in our midst (surprisingly, NOT Dave and me) and opted for the 2 1/2 hour ridge hike.  There were few people on it and we were able to have a nice time without a lot of other people.


And it's surprisingly easy to pick out the Europeans on this trip and it wasn't because of their funky clothes.  It was because those crazy people went RIGHT UP TO THE EDGE and FURTHER at the Grand Canyon.  We *never* got closer than 2 feet from the edge.  One fool had taken his *dog* out to a solitary rock/ledge that that was barely big enough for his dog to sit and him to stand.  Even typing that makes my palms sweat.

We saw some amazing views and vistas.  I would love to be someone who hikes the canyon or camp on the canyon floor.  But I'm going to blame the two little ones for why we didn't hike more this time.  They can blame us later, when they write their own blogs.



So now we are on the way back.  It's really a beautiful drive.  But, as my marathoner friends know, it's an out-and-back marathon and that's not nearly as much fun as a loop.  The fun thing is recognizing the same cites on the way back, waving to cities where we stayed, and freaking out when we realize we stopped at the same remote gas station in OK that we stopped on the way out.

But we're a wee bit focused on getting home.  It's still fun!  And we're still having fun as a family.  But I'm ready to snuggle with my dog, cats, gerbils, and say Hi to the chickens.

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Great Family Road Trip: Days 9 and 10

My heart is full.

I know that's a cheesy way to start a blog entry.  But SURELY you know I am cheesy.  Full of Cheese.  I am the sappy, emotional, cheese queen. Change my name to Brie.  Maybe Camembert.  Maybe even a sassy goat (cheese).  It all fits.

I joke about my boundaries being fluid, but it's true.  I just don't separate my home from my work from my life from my soul.  It merges into one big mess and it makes me so, so, SO happy.

Saturday was spent registering for the conference and taking the kids around to explore the Exhibition center--as well as connecting up with the PhD project and discussing sending a representative from our program to recruit students there, too as well as hanging out with Dave's old roommate, Heidi, and her son, Landon.



Sunday, we spent the morning and the afternoon conferencing and meeting with students/colleagues, with a trip to the beach to see Dave's cousin, Jo D and her family in between. 


And dinner with our marathon (and all around) friends Catherine and Orrest afterwards.  (I'm practicing my new sitting-with-hand-under-chin pose here.  Need an open mouth smile though.  And yes, there was a picture of all our families together on the beach above, but I looked like a turnip and I have editorial powers on this blog!)


What a day.  We couldn't even stay up to see the Disney fireworks from our balcony last night.  Have I mentioned that yet?  We're staying at the Desert Palms Suites and if you have a room on the upper floors on the back of the hotel, you have a PERFECT view of the Disneyland fireworks every night.  We strongly recommend trying to swing that if you need a hotel in Anaheim.  

I think Dave and I are still amazed at how much SoCal still feels like home.  Especially for me and how much time I spent in the OC when I was in grad school at Claremont.  And especially, especially how DRIVING here is SO MUCH BETTER than driving in Charlotte.  There are more cars here and certainly more lanes.  But sweet baby lemur, you can anticipate what folks are going to do on the highways here and the merges and lane changes are logical in Southern California.  None of that is true in Charlotte.  

Although, I have to be honest.  My favorite thing to freak my SoCal friends out is to tell them this:  We live in Plaza-Midwood in Charlotte.  It's a cool place.  We have great restaurants and things to do in our 'hood.  And if something takes more than a 15 minute drive for us, we have to think long and hard about whether we are going to do it.  

Our friends' reactions here range from slack-jawed to laughter.  As one friend said, "We can't even get out of our neighborhood in 15 minutes here!"  

Yep.  #truth

Today is a big conference day along with a UNC Charlotte OS reunion/meet up tonight.  

Tomorrow, we leave.  It's going to be weird to leave home to head back to home.