A Weekend in Ireland

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Two years ago, when I first started my job as a Flight Attendant, the very first trip I was assigned to work was Dublin. 
When Scheduling called me, I was asleep. When I heard the word "Dublin" I asked "Like....Dublin, Ohio?" confused, because as far as I knew Dublin, Ohio doesn't have an airport and I also couldn't fathom getting sent to IRELAND for my first work trip. 

I had a great crew and had a lovely time. It was a phenomenal first trip, especially as I'd never  been to Ireland before. 

This weekend I returned to the country with my lovely partner in tow, and we had a wonderful time!

We left Philly on Thursday night, landed at Shannon airport on Friday morning, rented a car and drove straight to the Cliffs of Moher. 

After spending a few hours at the Cliffs, we continued on to Galway, where we stayed with a very generous friend of Martin's who also happens to be an Archaeologist there.
(SO COOL, right?!?!?)
Friday night and Saturday we were shown around Galway by an expert tour guide/ archaeologist, and on Sunday we got up bright and early to head back to Shannon for our flight home. 

It was definitely a whirlwind adventure, and I wouldn't recommend it for less experienced travelers, but Martin and I are old pros so it suited us just fine. 

A few observations and a list of things I learned on this visit:

1. Flying in and out of Shannon was SUPER simple. DO IT.
Shannon is a much smaller airport in a much smaller city than Dublin. If you're adventuring on your own rather than with a tour group, that can make your life a LOT easier. Customs lines are shorter when you arrive and when you leave.

2. Renting a car was straightforward, and driving on the "wrong" side of the road was fairly easy.
Let me be clear, Martin did all of the driving because the car had a manual transmission and I can't drive stick shift, no matter which side of the road we're supposed to be on. 
 The hardest part was how NARROW the roads were. 
It was worth it to be able to set our own schedule and not have to rely on busses to get everywhere we needed to go. It was also less expensive than buying bus tickets for two adults everywhere.

3. Americans were EVERYWHERE.
There are SO many cultural connections between the United States and Ireland that this shouldn't be surprising, but WOW. So. Many. Americans.

4. Everyone was SO NICE.
Seriously, from the car rental people to the bar tenders to the random strangers we befriended at pubs, everyone was so friendly and pleasant through the trip. 

5. Ireland is super obsessed with JFK.
There were tributes to President Kennedy everywhere we went. In the airport, in the Claddagh Museum, on street corners, in Galway Cathedral. EVERYWHERE. 
Now, I have a working knowledge of the relevant history here, but I was still surprised by the degree to which Ireland showed the love for "their" US President. As a New Englander and as a Democrat, it kind of felt like running into an old friend every time we'd stumble across a tribute to him.

6. Everyone has a cousin or five on the East Coast, and everyone loves Boston.
Usually when I travel, no one has any idea where Vermont is. In Ireland, most locals we met had a working knowledge of the geography of the East Coast AND they'd visited Boston. 
Everybody we met there just loves Bean Town. 

7. The food was AMAZING. 
Everything I ate was delicious. I had amazing fish chowder and then the best gin flavored ice cream. The end.

Contemplating the delicious Fish Chowder I had just eaten.

8. Ireland is the most castleated country in the world.
Ireland has more castles than anywhere else. Our resident archaeologist pal taught us that this is because land inheritance worked slightly differently in Ireland than in other countries with castles. *coughUKcough*

Ruined castles are so gorgeous.

9. Everything was SO FREAKING SCENIC.
It was beautiful. It was adorable. It was charming. It was majestic. 
We couldn't get over how lovely everything was.

10. Ireland is FUN. 
Altogether, we just had so much FUN in Ireland. Everything combined to make our trip a blast, and we just had the BEST weekend. 
Special shoutout to tour guide extraordinaire Jay Hall for his expertise and hosting! All of his roommates and friends made us feel so welcome. Thanks Jay!

When he's not participating in archaeological digs, Jay has been working in an antique book warehouse. We got to visit that too and I almost lost my mind. 



Sometimes your boyfriend GIFs you walking home from the pub in the rain. 

A Professional Bridesmaid

Friday, May 12, 2017

For the past decade or so, I've worked events. 
My mom has two inns/event venues in Northern Vermont, in college I worked as an event coordinator for a local gallery, and then there's the constant political/non-profit work... plus, all my friends keep getting married. 

I've been a bridesmaid in a Gatsby Theme wedding in Scotland. 
I've been a bridesmaid in my ex-husband's ex-girlfriend's wedding in Arkansas. 
(Yes, that story is as good as you think it is. The short version is that females are strong as hell.)
I've been a pre-ceremony announcer, an impromptu DJ, a flower girl wrangler, a day-of coordinator, a Bride's Enforcer, and I recently booked my first gig as a wedding officiant. 
Oh, and I even got married that one time too. 

Our dear friends Mark and Marleigh got married last week, and it seemed like a good time to slap a label on what I've been doing casually for a long time: being A Professional Bridesmaid. 

Essentially, I want to offer more broadly what I've been doing for my friends for years- help with wedding planning, resources, and coordination. 

I just think it's the weirdest thing that our wedding culture tells us that when a ring is put on your finger, it instantly imparts all the knowledge necessary to execute a "perfect" wedding day. 
Oh, and that perfect wedding day had better involve a trendy-but-also-timeless wedding color scheme, an open bar, and six creative uses of burlap. 

Photo Credit: Lauren Brimhall Photography

You know what makes a wedding perfect? 
Two people in love get married. 

But it's never that simple, is it? 
Society and family put so much pressure on what you "should" do, on what you're "supposed" to do, that it can often take the joy right out of marrying your person. 

Having help from someone with experience, knowledge, and a practical perspective will save you so much time, stress, and money. 

Photo Credit: Lauren Brimhall Photography

I am not a wedding planner. 
I don't want to design your event for you. I don't want to craft your center pieces. 
I want to empower you to make the best choices for your wedding, to the best choices for your role in someone else's wedding. 

Then on the day of your wedding, I want you to have all the tools to have a joy-filled and minimally stressful experience. 

Whether that means I'm there in person to answer last minute questions from your vendors and your great Aunt Susan, or that means I've made you a phenomenally detailed wedding day timeline, you deserve to be relaxed on the day you commit your life to another human being. 

The packages I've put together start at $15 for some quick answers, and they go all the way up to me putting on a chiffon dress and being in your wedding photos. Whatever you need, friend. 

If you're planning a wedding, if you're about to be a bridesmaid, or if you've got wedding questions, hit me up: caroline@aprofessionalbridesmaid.com 

Tell your friends. 
This is going to be a good time. 

How to Survive a Bachelorette Party

Monday, May 1, 2017

May is upon us.

The unofficial commencement of Wedding Season has arrived.
Here we go.

Bachelorette (or bashlerette, depending on how far into the festivities you are) parties can be a lot of fun. 
There is also a lot of potential for mayhem and hurt feelings. 

These days, most typical Bachelorette parties involve a few key elements: traveling, alcohol, and raunchy references. 

Maybe you're going to Nashville, like so many women do. Maybe you're going on a local pub crawl. Maybe you're going on a wine tour. Maybe you're throwing a house party. 

No matter where you're going or what you're doing, here are three steps to survive the experience with your friendships and dignity intact.

1. Plan ahead.

Do not wing this.

If you know there will be alcohol consumption, have an ironclad plan for safe transportation. A party bus? Ubers? A designated driver or two? Know exactly who the contact person will be for the party bus. Know exactly who will call the ubers and how many you'll need to call. Make sure everyone has the phone number of your DD and that the non drivers leave their keys wherever you're staying for the night.

If you'll be outside, bring sunscreen. Wear shoes that you can live with.
Personally, because I am someone who wears makeup and likes it, I make sure to put on long lasting everything, especially lipstick like this one in Menace.

Have an emergency kit handy.

Even better, if you're throwing the party, have survival kits ready for your pals.

2. Hydrate.

Whether or not you'll be drinking alcohol at this event, you have GOT to remember to drink water. If you are drinking, it's especially important to hydrate. Alcohol is a diuretic, and it can be so easy to get wrapped up in fun and silliness that you forget that you literally need water to live, not to mention feel like a human being the next morning.  Most bachelorette parties are marathon events- days or hours of non-stop partying. While all of that is going on, make sure you're knocking back a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume, or if you're the sober one, a glass for every couple of hours you're out. 

3. Use Situational Awareness. 

Be aware of what is going on around you AT ALL TIMES.
PAY ATTENTION to the people who are part of your group- do we still have all eight of us together? Did Sarah and Amanda make it back from the bathroom? Is Kate looking a little worse for the wear over there? Everyone is responsible for everyone else. Team Bride, for real.
Also, pay attention to the way your group might be affecting those around you. Are you being inappropriately loud? Are there creepers trying to be skeezy and making lewd comments to the bride?  Be ready to shut down any gross behavior from your friends or from jerks who want to ruin a fun thing. 

Depending on where and when you're partying, you may encounter other bachelorette parties. Remember, this is not a competition. In fact, you're all there to celebrate the same wonderful thing! Someone you love has found the person she loves.
So if they seem cool and it's appropriate, combine forces! Congratulate their bride and wish them all good luck. You're all going through the same rite of passage together.

Turbulent Health Ahead

Friday, April 28, 2017

When I worked retail in college, I didn't have paid sick time. 
If you were so deathly sick the you had to call out, you still needed to make sure that your shift was covered.
When I worked in an office, I did have paid sick time- sometimes. 
But even then, I wouldn't call out sick unless I was actively incapacitated or a danger to the people around me. 
I'm not a wimp. I could handle it. 

As a Flight Attendant, calling out sick is completely different. 
Now, working through some illnesses just isn't an option.  

Last year, I had to call out sick because I had laryngitis. I felt fine, I just had no voice.
Well guess what? Flight Attendants literally aren't allowed to work if they can't be heard- we need to be able to yell in case we have to evacuate an aircraft in an emergency. 

I'm currently out sick with a sinus/bronchial infection. 
I can't go to work with this because my ears won't pop, and if my ears can't adjust to pressure changes on the ground I could very well burst an eardrum at 30,000 feet.
I've burst both my eardrums in the past. I do not recommend it. 

So here I am, grounded by an illness that I would have worked through in any other job.
Forced to drink tea, take lots of medications, and hope that I'll be able to fly by next week because I really love my job. I want to go to work. 

I do have paid sick time, which is a huge reason I can stay in this job long term. 

Being a Flight Attendant can be a physically grueling job. 
The constant travel takes a toll on your body, as does hauling bags, dragging 300lb carts around, hiking miles in high heels, and sleeping irregular hours. 
Not to mention emergencies, hard landings, and turbulence- flying this much is hard on your body. 

Since starting this job, I've had friends who have had to be out sick because they've sprained their ankle, inhaled toxic fumes, fractured a rib, fractured a spine, and more. 
I've burned my hands and arms, strained muscles, and had more blisters and broken nails than I can count. It can get pretty ugly. 

If you're a new hire out there, here's some really important advice: prioritize your health. 
Ask any senior mama and they'll tell you how important it is to focus on staying healthy. 
Use hand sanitizer. Sleep instead of going out for drinks (sometimes). Wear the comfortable shoes once in a while. Sit down and strap in when it gets bumpy. 
For the love of all that is good, drink as much water as you can.

If you're a member of the flying public, have a little understanding for just how physically brutal our jobs can be.

Right now it seems like the media and the internet are conspiring with some of the worst parts of our society to make doing our jobs harder than ever before.

Have a little empathy for us when you're flying.

Better yet, give us the respect we deserve. 

Being a Flight Attendant seems very glamorous, but the reality is that it is physically and emotionally taxing. 

I love my job. It is the perfect job for who I am. I am so proud of the work I do everyday. 

I also go to work every single day ready to handle the worst case possible. 
The scenario you try not to think about when you're getting on a plane is something I've thought about a thousand times, and I'm prepared to handle it. 
Flight Attendants are trained and prepared to risk our lives to save yours. 
All we're asking for is a little respect. 

Say Yes to the [Guest] Dress

Monday, April 24, 2017

I'm in my mid twenties, which means that the weddings on my calendar are starting to reach critical mass. Couple that with helping my mom with her businesses in Vermont, and I have no fewer than SEVEN weddings that I'm either attending or working this summer and fall.

Needless to say, I'm going to need something to wear. 

First, I want to share my rules for wedding guest dressing with you. 

1. This day is not about you.
When you are a wedding guest, you are there to celebrate someone you care about. 
You aren't there to make a fashion statement. 
You aren't there to pull focus from the bride. 
You are there to contribute joy to someone else's special moment in time. 
Don't wear something outrageous just because you're excited for the opportunity to dress up.
Wear something flattering but not ostentatious. 

2. Dress for the location and time of year. 
You'd think this would go without saying, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen women wearing stilettos to an outdoor ceremony, ruining their shoes as they sink into damp grass. 
Or they wear a strapless sundress to an October wedding in New England. 
If it's going to be chilly, wear something with sleeves or bring a wrap. 
If it's going to be warm, don't wear sleeves. 
Use your brain and think these things through, friends. 

This is something that fills me with irrational rage. 
The bride is the ONLY person allowed to wear white/cream/offwhite/ champagne etc. at a wedding.
If you're considering a floral dress with a white or cream background and you wonder -even if only for a second- if it's too much white, IT IS TOO MUCH WHITE. 
If the bride isn't wearing a white dress, you STILL should NEVER WEAR WHITE to someone else's wedding. 
The one and ONLY exception is when the bride specifically asks you to wear white. 
Like if she's Kate Middleton and you're Pippa. Or if she's Solange Knowles and you're Beyonce. What the bride wants, the bride gets. 
Black is a little different. There are many sources that say you can wear black... I disagree. Wearing black doesn't make you a monster, I just don't understand why you'd want to wear something that has cultural connotations of sadness on a day of joy. If you want to wear a darker color, go with navy. 
It's just my personal opinion that adhering to tradition here is appropriate. 
Again though, if the bride asks you to wear black, you wear black. 

Here are a few options that I'm planning on wearing to wedding festivities over the next few months:

I'm a little bit obsessed with the concept of eShakti. You can customize your dresses in a variety of ways- measurements, sleeve style, neckline, and more. As someone who knows precisely what styles do NOT work for me and my body type, this is such a godsend. I'm currently waiting for this dress to arrive and I'm really really really excited for it to get here. 

Another eShakti dress that I'm waiting to receive in the mail- I'm so excited for this one! I've been dreaming of finding the perfect sleeved maxi dress for a long time (dream big, right?) and I'm hoping this is the one. This might be too relaxed for some weddings, but it could be perfect for a rehearsal dinner or a more chill reception. That said, it could also be jazzed up with the right shoes and accessories and perfect for a dressier wedding!
Oh, and did I mention that eShakti dresses generally come with at least one pocket by default?

I wore this dress in purple to a fall wedding and I'm leaning towards wearing it in blue to a wedding this spring. 
It has pockets! It has a forgiving design so that you can eat lots of cake! It's warm! 

If you haven't tried Rent the Runway yet, you're missing out. 
You pick a dress (with a backup size), and they mail it to you. After the event you seal it back up in it's shipping bag and send it back. You don't have to worry about tears or stains or getting it dry cleaned. If the dress arrives but doesn't fit, don't worry! Just call RTR and they'll mail you a replacement. 
You can also rent accessories, bags, and other clothes. 
I've been obsessed with RTR for years now because it's so simple and very cost effective if you have a taste for nice fashion. I've rented dresses and accessories for just about every event I've attended in the past six years, and it's worked out beautifully every time. 
One of my favorite things is that when I'm traveling I can have the dresses mailed to where I'm staying, whether that's a hotel or a friend's house. 

Ten Outstanding Years

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ten years ago, I was a slightly awkward overachieving High School Senior with a love of public speaking and musical theatre. 

A friend of mine suggested I try pageants, and after I was done laughing at the idea I went all in. 

The result was this:

I was crowned Miss Vermont's Outstanding Teen 2007 and I had so much fun that year. 
My year of service taught me so many new skills that a lot of girls take for granted.
How to walk in high heels.
How to use a blow dryer.
How to apply mascara. 

I learned the basics of presenting myself in public, of having a public presence, and I earned scholarships that helped pay for my college expenses. 

I gained sisters. 

Eight months later we would be Chi Omega sisters as well. 
Fun fact: this photo features a future Miss SD, a future Miss KY, and a future Miss MS among others.
We were young. They gave us a limo in Las Vegas. What else would we do?

I met people from all over Vermont. 

I even won an award at Miss America's Outstanding Teen- Non Finalist Interview. 

Most importantly, being Miss VT's OT taught me that I wanted to be Miss Vermont someday and made me ready to take on that job when my time came a few years later. 

Miss Vermont 2007 and Miss Vermont 2010!

I am an enthusiastic proponent of the Miss America's Outstanding Teen program. Over the ten years since I got involved it has changed, grown, and I've watched hundreds of young women benefit from the scholarships and skills they have earned through the national program and programs at the state and local levels. 

Tonight a new Miss Vermont and a new Miss Vermont's Outstanding Teen will join our sisterhood and I can't wait to welcome them both with open arms!

If you have a teen girl at home, I hope you'll consider encouraging her to get involved.  

Senior Mama Life: Flight Attendant Seniority

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In the world of commercial aviation, seniority is everything. 

Simply put, seniority is how long you've been with the company. 
(Generally, as long as you remain an active employee, you accrue seniority.) 
Your seniority increases over time and as the company hires new Flight Attendants, or as people above you retire or leave for greener pastures. 

Your pay is determined by your seniority. Your schedule is determined by your seniority.
  Your cartel status is determined by your seniority.

Since your pay and your schedule pretty much dominate your life, seniority rules all.

At my company, seniority also often determines which position you'll be working on the aircraft. At our international briefings, we select positions in seniority order. 
While on reserve, our days off are (theoretically) assigned in seniority order, and if you want to bid for a specific trip that's open, it's assigned in seniority order. 

And when you get assigned a sweet trip  where all the other Flight Attendants are super senior and know each other, this is what it looks like. 

I've written about Reserve Life before, and I'm finally starting to accrue enough seniority that I can "hold" a few weekends off every month, which is good because I have about a million weddings to attend this summer and fall. 
The more senior you are, the less likely you are to have to sit Reserve, and the more likely you are to have a "line", or a set schedule for the coming month. 
(Some airlines have assigned reserve days each month instead of full reserve months or years.)

Our May schedules came out earlier this week, and a few people I know who are only a couple of years senior to me managed to snag lines. I was thrilled for them!

Someday I will know this feeling. Rotating Reserve, you can't get over to us fast enough.

At my company, to be considered really "senior" you have to have at LEAST 30 years of flying under your belt. 
That's where you can start to hold good trips, maybe get Christmas off (if you're lucky), and you become what we call a "Senior Mama". 

Yes. Thirty. Years. 

They will never retire. Never give up, never surrender. It's a LIFESTYLE, people.

Senior Mamas (and Senior Papas) can be really intimidating to new hire Flight Attendants because they often come with a reputation for being... testy.

In my experience, Senior Mamas aren't scary as long as you treat them with respect. 
They've been doing this longer than I've been alive, so when I was a new hire I'd always make sure to ask them to tell me if they saw me doing something wrong. 
Having a little humility goes a long way. 
It's also important to remember that if they've been doing this job for so long, they really do know a thing or two about how to do it.
True, as in any job there are people who are having a bad day, or who just don't want to be at work, or who are just in a bad mood. Not everyone is going to be nice all the time. That's life.

If you're not even off probation yet, don't act like you know everything about Flight Attending. 
You know the manual and the newest procedures, which is so important, but the Senior Mamas are the ones who are going to have you covered when the emergency bells start dinging. 

If you're a passenger, don't be that jerk who assumes Flight Attendants should be 22 years old, blonde, and a size zero. 
Amazing Crew Members come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.

Some of the coolest coworkers I've flown with have been old enough to be my parent or grandparent, but they're the ones I'm going out to pubs with in Dublin and Brussels. 

They're the ones making sure we don't miss out on cool layover experiences, like renting a car and driving out to the Hoover Dam. 

Senior Mamas know how to work, and they know how to have a good time. 
On a lot of trips, they're the ones leading the charge to the Tiki Bar when I'm just trying to keep my eyes open.

Someday I'll have enough seniority to be cool....and hold Paris.