Turbulent Health Ahead

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

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

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

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. 

How To Survive a Bridal Shower

If you are female and someone close to you has gotten married or will be getting married soon, you've been to a bridal shower. 
If, by some miracle, you've managed to avoid attending a standard shower, here's a quick synopsis: women (usually just women) gather, the bride opens gifts that those women have brought for her, games are played, food/cake/drinks are consumed. 

Apparently the tradition dates back to the 15th century in Holland, a fabulous country we now know as the Netherlands.

As the story goes, a woman from a wealthy family wanted to marry a man from a poor family, and her father tried to prevent it by withholding her dowry. 
The woman's friends banded together to "shower" her with gifts so that she would be able to marry the man she loved. 
Here's what I love about this origin story: essentially, a group of Dutch women got together to support another woman and to help empower her to autonomously make her own decisions. #GirlPower #SmashThePatriarchy

Today there are all kinds of showers (men can be showered too!) and all kinds of bridal shower etiquette questions surrounding them. The Emily Post Institute has a quick list of some shower questions and answers that I really like here. 
What it all boils down to for me is one simple question: does every element of the event honor the individuality of the bride? 
A Bridal Shower is about showering someone you care about with affection and joy- if you get so mired down in "tradition" or things that "have" to be done or "should" be done, it's easy to lose sight of that. 

There are a million articles out there on how to throw a bridal shower, but this post is going to focus on how to survive a bridal shower. 
I recently attended two showers in the space of six days and it was a LOT. 
For one wedding I'm reading in the ceremony and essentially day-of coordinating, and for the other I'm a bridesmaid.

The brides are also in each other's weddings and both showers were complete surprises for the honorees, so it was pretty delightful to watch them be surprised and showered with love. 

Here are my top tips on how to survive your next Bridal Shower:

For the Guest:

1. If there is wine, drink it.

2. Choose a gift that you've found particularly useful and write about that in the card. If you want to make a gift, make sure that it's very personalized and nicely presented. If you're unsure about what to bring, stick to the registry or ask the host.

3. If you feel awkward because you don't know many other shower attendees, revert to the one topic of conversation you definitely have in common: the couple getting married. Participate in the events and games with patience- sometimes these things drag a bit. Roll with it and eat some cake.

For the Bridesmaid:

1. If there is wine, drink it.

2. Follow the lead of the MOH or main host of the shower, but don't be afraid to step up if you see something that needs fixing. Be proactive. Ask for specific tasks. Is someone already writing down who gave which gift? Is someone collecting the bows from the gifts for later use? Do they need help breaking down after the shower is over? During the planning process, help guide the host to focus on things that the bride will actually like. Does she hate surprises? Make sure she isn't caught off guard.

3. Remember that this event, as with all wedding events, is not your time to be the center of attention. It it your time to vie for a "best supporting friend" award. Look at this as practice for the wedding day: your job is to focus on the bride.  Don't wear white or cream or something outrageous. Remember why you're there: someone you love is getting married.
If you can't set aside your need to be the center of attention maybe you shouldn't be in the wedding party at all. 

For the Bride:

1. If there is wine, drink it.

2. As you open your gifts, remember that each of them was chosen with love. Smile and be so grateful for everything, even if you *know* you're never going to use Aunt Suzie's gravy boat. Find something to genuinely compliment about each gift

3. Bask in the love you're being showered with. Maybe you love being the center of attention, maybe you don't. Regardless, focus on the fact that these people love you and want to share in your joy.

F(l)ight Club

By now, if you are a fluent user of the internet, you have surely heard about the latest viral controversy plaguing beleaguered United Airlines

Everyone is talking about this poor guy who was dragged off of his flight and the horrible treatment he received. 

Look, I wasn't there when it happened.

I do not work for United.

But here's my take on the drama.

1. Oh lordy, was this situation BUNGLED. 

From allowing the passengers to board when they KNEW there would be four who needed to be displaced for crew repositioning, to the airline's response on social media, to the ongoing PR handling, this whole thing is a cascading hot mess. 

Based on what I've read about this situation, it sounds like there were four seats on that oversold flight that were needed to get a crew to Louisville to work- deadheaders, as we call them in the airline industry. The company probably needed them to get to work in order to avoid canceling or further delaying other flights. Those four passengers were asked to give up their seats to save hundreds of others from being stranded on a week when literally THOUSANDS of passengers have been trapped in airports all over the country. As far as I can tell, these weren't joyriding non-revs, these were deadheading working crew members.

Sometimes deadheads are planned, but sometimes they're unplanned or a prior delay can complicate things. This is normal. I have been in situations where passengers on an oversold flight have been bumped for me or for another crew member. If you miss a flight, it's a problem. If a crew member misses a flight it can be a complete DISASTER for hundreds or thousands of people. 

However, the situation should have been dealt with at the gate. 
No passengers should have boarded that aircraft when they still needed to solve the crew seating issue. I am absolutely baffled as to how or why that happened. 

2. You aren't actually entitled to that exact seat on that exact flight.

As much as you're going to hate this, an airline is completely within the contract they signed with you to bump you from a flight whenever they need to. When you buy a ticket, you commit to a Contract of Carriage. You can find United's here.  
You don't own a seat on that plane.

3. This was horrendously bad customer service.

There's just no way around this one. Horrible service was provided to the man who was removed, as well as to the rest of the passengers who were on that flight. 
People deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity.
That obviously didn't happen here.

That said....

4. When you're traveling, you need to be a reasonable adult. 

Travelers of the world, you need to have some perspective.
Every single person on that plane had an important reason for trying to get to Louisville yesterday. Maybe it was for a college visit. A funeral. Going home from Spring Break. A big meeting.

Every single person on every single airplane has an important reason to be there.

As terrible as I feel for the passenger who was injured, he absolutely needed to follow the instructions he was given, no matter how upset they made him. 

Travel (and life, for that matter) doesn't always go according to your plan. 
It's frustrating. It's maddening. It's enraging. It's not FAIR. 
But you still have to follow the rules and you still have to be a reasonable adult. 

You don't get to yell and scream and kick because you have to do something you don't want to. 
You comply and then get the company to give you a $1200 travel voucher. Or file a complaint with the Department of Transportation. Rant about it on Twitter
You do whatever you need to do to work through it, but you can't break the rules because you're mad.

Be responsible and handle yourself. Period.

5. This is having a big impact. 

My passengers actually paid attention to my safety demo this morning. 
I'm not sure if they were worried I was going to kick them off or if they just really liked my life vest, but I did have an unusually attentive crowd on my flight today. 

United's stock has plummeted in the midst of this PR nightmare. Social media seems more focused on this than real news and that's depressing.

I'm also extremely amused by the number of people who are suddenly experts on Airline Procedures... something tells me they probably have some even diagram overlap with the group of people who say things to me like "I fly all the time! I bet I fly more than you."
You don't, sir. You don't. 

So that's my take on the whole thing.
I'll be very interested to see how all of this plays out, but in the meantime, please be kind to the many many faultless United employees who are just trying to do their jobs. I have friends who fly for them, and it's not fair to disparage them or their employer over one viral story.