May 13, 2018

"That Is Not Acceptable."

I have almost completed 1000 hours of answering phones for Alaska Airlines. These hours I have spent on the phone are a huge part of my day. Sometimes, long after my shift is over I am still mulling over a conversation I had or a situation I simply could not fix.

Think about the reasons that you get on an airplane. You are going on a long-awaited and carefully planned vacation. You are going to a reunion, a funeral, a milestone birthday, an important anniversary, a graduation, a job interview. Sometimes you are going to support someone who is not doing well. Sometimes it is just to simply reconnect. All of my calls every day are connected to one of these reasons. I am drawn into people's lives for however long my call with them is. It never escapes my notice that I will never know the end of their story. Will they make that tight connection between the two flights they have? Did they ever retrieve that homework they left on the plane? Did the doctor's appt they were going to turn out okay? Were the agents at the airport able to help them get their seats together since I could not? How was the honeymoon in Hawaii? Did TSA let them take that brain in the jar of formaldehyde through security?

Some of the people who call are in a hurry they barely wait for me to get my greeting out of my mouth and they are demanding things as fast as they can. Some are not very patient with my learning curve they want someone experienced to give them the information. That always makes me feel sad. I want to be able to handle their requests quickly and know the answers but there is no way to know it all sometimes I have to put them on hold for awhile while I research. Some people are incredibly gracious and patient. Some people want to chat. You have no idea how many people want to share all about their lives with me. They tell me about restaurants I should go to in Boise. They tell me about the place I should stay when I go to Cabo. They give me these glimpses into their lives as they fight with their significant other over which form of payment they want to use.

It continues to amaze me how many different parts there are to getting someone on an airplane and to their destination. I wish there was a way to help people understand we are not out to make their lives hard. We do not control the weather. Although that would be cool, right? We do not love it when a plane has a mechanical issue that causes you to sit on the tarmac. We have to rely on so many things to go right to get your airplane into the sky. We have to work with air traffic control. We have to follow the rules. We have to work with the airports. We have to make sure you are traveling safely. We hate schedule changes as much as you do and we also hate that we have to charge you a change fee and a cancellation fee but what would happen if we did not charge those fees?

The hardest part of my job is the people who do not think anything applies to them. They are confident you can waive their fees. They insist that you can take someone else out of the seat they want. There is one phrase these people have in common. They use this phrase almost the second I answer the phone. They tell me their problem and emphatically declare "This is not acceptable." The minute I hear those words I know I have a tough call. And immediately in my mind, I wander over to the list of things in my life that are not acceptable and I wonder do I dare tell them about all the things in my life that are not acceptable? I know all about not acceptable. I think we all do. I wonder if they think if they use this phrase I can magically fix everything? I wonder if they know that I hear this phrase a gazillion times a day? They say it like they are the only person in the world who says it.

I wish I could call up all the problems in my life and tell them, "Um, yeah this is not acceptable, please fix it now."

It is not acceptable that I cannot reach the top shelf in the grocery store.
It is not acceptable that I had to move from a 2500 square foot house to an apartment.
It is definitely not acceptable that I am alone.
It is not acceptable that I do not have a yard of my own to garden in.
It is not acceptable that I cannot eat carbs all day.
It is not acceptable that everything worth having requires hard work.
It is not acceptable that I cannot ever find the color of sea glass that I want when I go to the beach.
It is not acceptable that my sister's cancer is back.
It is not acceptable that my work hours are 5pm to 1:30am
It is not acceptable that the daffodil bulbs that I tried to force did not come up
It is not acceptable that I have to work to lose weight.
It is not acceptable that it is too expensive to live where I want to live.
It is not acceptable that I can not find someone to simply love me.
It is not acceptable that I make mistakes.
It is not acceptable that Oreos have that strange opening that makes it hard to get to the cookies in the rows on the sides of the package.
It is not acceptable that I have due dates in my school classes.
It is not acceptable that I am afraid of doing hard things.
It is not acceptable that I cannot find grown-up looking shoes in my shoe size.

Should I go on? We all want things to go smoothly. But that is not life. What can you do when air traffic control tells you that you cannot fly your airplane into the airport at the time that you planned to? Well, you have to move the landing to a different time and then you have to tell everyone on the flight that there has been a change. What about when a plane has a mechanical issue? What about when the computer randomly glitches and drops your seat? What about the fees that you are required to pay when you cancel or change a ticket. What about when not enough people fly a certain route to justify keeping it so you have to drop that route? All totally unacceptable. I wholeheartedly agree. We want to make you happy but sometimes we just can't. I feel bad when I get these particular calls. These people try everything possible to manipulate me. They threaten to fly another airline. They threaten to tell all their friends. They bully me. There honestly is nothing I can do. I have rules I have to follow. There is so much that goes on behind that confirmation code on your ticket.

My mind has been very full of thoughts about all the different kinds of people that come into my life every day. All the different ways they deal with the not acceptable things in their lives. What they expect. And how they ask for what they expect. Some days it is a hard job and then somedays I get someone who is appreciative and acknowledges that my job can surely not be easy and they simply and graciously thank me and accept what life has handed them and move on.

Exceptional Responder?

So a few months ago my sister Rebecca found out her darling cancer is back. She had breast cancer several years ago, now it is back and in her bones...pretty much everywhere. To keep people informed of how things are going she decided to start a blog and at least once a week she frankly posts about what is going on in her cancer life. She shares her thoughts, struggles, faith, and concerns. It is very inspiring, my sister is a very inspiring sort of girl. As I read through the miles of comments on her blog from people who have known her throughout the years and love her it is a little overwhelming to observe how one person touched so many lives. These people are all watching, praying, and waiting with bated breath.

This week in her cancer update she shared about a conversation she had with her oncologist about a study that is being done to try and determine the common denominators in people who beat the odds and survive cancer much longer than expected. They have a name for these people, "exceptional responders." These words just reached out and grabbed my attention and I immediately wrote them down on a pink sticky note and I stuck it in my planner. I noticed that everyone that replied to my sister's post declared that she was already an exceptional responder. I have been thinking about the word exceptional I have been mulling over the word responder ever since then. Every time I open my planner to April there is that sticky note with those words written on it. I do not have cancer but I have been wondering if I would be an exceptional responder if I did have it? For that matter am I an exceptional responder right now in my every day non-cancer struggles? Am I beating the odds? What are the odds against a 4'10" divorcee who cannot resist Reeses? What are the odds against someone who makes the same mistakes over and over again and does not seem to learn from them? Are the odds ever in my favor?

 If something is exceptional it is unprecedented, unusual, extraordinary, excellent, basically not typical. And if you are a responder you are a person or a thing that responds. So simply put, do you respond in an excellent way to what is happening to you? Um yeah, if we are being honest here I am not an exceptional responder at this particular moment in my adorable life. I have this shining, shimmering example of my diligent strong amazing exceptional sister right here in the same town as I am in and yet something will happen to me and I will find myself responding like a teenager or maybe it is a toddler, sigh maybe it is both? It mortifies me. I am not really sure where it has come from but I am not proud of my behavior. Definitely not responding exceptionally. I am frankly not even sure if I have ever been an exceptional responder. I think responding exceptionally means you have to have faith and I need to fill my faith tank. All of that aside I am grateful for the challenge to explore this idea about responding exceptionally. I am finding myself thinking about it in all my relationships. I even find myself noticing how it feels if someone responds exceptionally to me. It is strengthening my resolve to pull myself together as I think of all the exceptional responders I know. Where would my life be without them?

Apr 30, 2018

The Notebook....Not the Movie, Silly.

So I have a confession, I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go.  Not just any notebook mind you. This notebook cannot be too big and it cannot be too small. It needs to fit in my small hands easily. I need to be able to bend the pages back. It needs to be spiral bound. The lines on the pages have to be narrow. The paper has to be special paper. You know, the kind of paper that your pen or pencil glides across. No glaringly white paper. This paper is an antique white color. The weight of this paper that is just perfect. Not too light and not too heavy. This perfect notebook is only found in the notebook aisle in Target. My life was forever changed when I finally found it. I sometimes buy two or three when I am there and then I store them in my house because I am afraid some buyer at Target will decide to stop stocking them. Then what will I do?

I save the notebooks in a box when I have used every last page. I figure someday my kids will get a chuckle out of what I have written. I often wonder when I read through my ancestor's histories what their day to day life was really like? What were they really thinking? That is what these notebooks are; my day to day life. What my life is really like. When my great grandchildren happen upon these notebooks there will be no question in their minds where their issues came from :)

Every Sunday I sit in church and make a list in my notebook about what is coming up the next week. I write thoughts I have. I write passwords, (I know, I know do not scold me.) I write things I need to buy. I write phone numbers. I write classes I need to take next semester. I write how to get places. I copy quotes I hear. All my information for resumes happens to be in this particular notebook. Notes about moving. I write down places I want to go. I keep track of jobs I have applied for. Recipes are there. Plans for parties. There really is nothing that does not go into these notebooks of mine. I love having all my information in these notebooks. It is comforting to me that I have one place I can go that has everything I need.

I have often thought about what I would do if I lost one. There is so much information in these notebooks. I have had a few close calls. A few moments of panic when I could not find my notebook. I am not a purse carrying sort of girl so it makes keeping track of this notebook very tricky.

The other day I carefully measured some walls and spaces in my new apartment and wrote down the measurements in my trusty notebook and headed to Lowes to look at shelves. I loved that I could look at my notes and then look at the sizes on the boxes and know if the finished product would fit in my space. The box containing the cube organizer that I wanted was wedged in a spot that was simply up to high for me to reach so I honestly ran all over the store looking for an associate to help me. I finally found someone and when he plopped the box into my cart it pushed the seat part forward very effectively trapping my notebook between the folded seat and the front of the card. I made a mental note to myself that this had happened and that I needed to remember to grab it when I got to the car.

Fast forward to Sunday morning and I was looking all over for my notebook as I was heading out the door to church. Remember, I make my list for the week when I am in church. I also take notes on things. Sometimes people ask me questions and the answers are in my notebook. What would I do if I did not have it?

I searched everywhere. I could feel my panic rising. I checked the car. I checked my basket of papers. I checked my backpack. No notebook. I stopped and I thought. Then I realized I needed to call Lowe's. So, in a bit of a panic on the way to church, I quickly called. The lady who answered thought I was describing something serious I lost. When she finally realized that it was "just" a notebook she was a little taken aback but she checked and sure enough, my black notebook with gold polka dots was there. I told her I would be there to pick it up as soon as church was over.

When I picked it up my imagination told me that every body who worked at this store had looked in my notebook and they were all staring at me. I mean what would you think if you found someone's notebook full of all these fabulously personal things. This is the sort of thing that you hope and pray someone honest and kind-hearted finds and returns. I wonder what the person thought when they looked in this notebook and saw my:

Bus washing schedules from when I lived in Cottage Grove and drove buses.
My homework schedule for the week?
What about all the questions I wrote to ask myself when I was trying to figure out what I was going to be when I grow up?
My list of strengths?
My list of weaknesses?
There is a page with a list of my 17-year-olds complaints about our move to Idaho
All the details of our trip to Europe last year are in there.
My lists of bills to pay.
Places I want to go are sprinkled throughout.
Birthday lists for children.
There is a list of what I needed to refinish my kitchen table.
Directions on how I was teaching a song to my Primary kids.
Notes I took from talks at church

You do not have to look far in my notebook to figure out who I am. I could not help wondering who
found my notebook? Were they young or old? Male or female? Was it a couple? They obviously realized they were holding my life in their hands and knew I would be desperate without it because they returned it. Can I tell you how vulnerable I felt knowing all my thoughts, not to mention my passwords were out there for someone else to read? I look back through these notebooks to remind me what I was thinking. To remind me of how many times I have set certain goals. To remind myself of things I wanted to accomplish. When I look back through them they stir up my memory so quickly. Yeah, they are very important and I am so glad I have it back.

Mar 29, 2018

Going In Circles

Why do I love airports?

 I am sitting in Seattle airport waiting for my flight back to Boise. I found this very cozy seat. It is a lime green color, it is the length of a pretty decent sized couch but it snakes around, like a bunch of S's all hooked together and where ever the seat curves there is a seat. The sides of the seating are up to the height of my shoulders and I fit perfectly in the provided space. If I look just over my left shoulder there is a guy in a flannel shirt right next to me. I peeked to see what he was reading since I could, and it is some dramatic book with a character named El. The lady in the next curve of the couch is talking on her phone. I may have listened in for a minute. I am way too early to go sit at my gate and I am meeting my daughter Amanda here so I am sitting outside a booth selling very colorful macaroons called "Macaroons and Mischief." I wonder what sort of mischief macaroon eaters could get into? There are all sorts of people walking by where I am. I am trying to focus on my blogging but I can catch bits of their conversations as they walk past. I look at them all and I wonder about their lives. 
Where are they traveling to?
Where have they been?
Does someone love them?
Did I book one of their tickets for them?
Is one of them someone who called me to try to switch seats?
Is that one running one that I assured that he had enough time to get to his next flight?

Some have crying kids. Some are moving fast. Some are moving slow. Every kind of person imaginable. It makes me feel lonely. They all seem to have someone.
I wonder if they see me watching them?
I wonder if they are watching me?
Wondering what I am writing on my computer?
Can they tell I have a feeling of pensive sadness with no obvious cause?

I love my trips to Seattle. I have not been back here in 15 months. But emotionally they drain me. I always try to choose a few old friends to connect with when I come. Sometimes it is Erin. Sometimes it is Loretta. Sometimes, Mr. Castro. Other times it is Shelley. Once I tried to let a group of high school friends know I was coming thinking people would surely come meet me and hang out...but yeah that did not turn out the way I imagined it would, a little embarrassing. This time I managed to see Loretta and Mr.Castro. I love reconnecting. I am not sure why I love that these people have known me so many years. There is something comforting in a friendship that has existed forever. Something comforting about a perspective from someone who knew me when I was 16 and now when I am almost 49.

As I drove to all the familiar places that I always go to on these trips it got me thinking about circles. I am not particularly fond of circles. Well, I guess I never met a donut, snowball, or cookie that I did not like. And roundabouts are very useful. But oh how I hate the feeling of going in circles. Whether it is one of those playground merry go rounds, or a road, or a relationship they make me feel nauseous literally and figuratively. Have you ever been stuck in a circle? You cannot break out? The same thing keeps happening over and over and you are not sure how to stop it? Sometimes we are stuck in a circle on our own. Sometimes we are stuck in a circle with someone else. You want to move forward. You want to know what is ahead but no matter what you try you find things looping back around again. Sting sings this great song that I heard years ago about circles called Windmills In My Mind. Check out the lyrics and then go check it out on YouTube. The song is very mesmerizing.

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel

Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel

Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that's turning running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!

Like a tunnel that you follow to a tunnel of its own

Down a hollow to a cavern where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving in a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face
And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind!

Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head

Why did summer go so quickly, was it something that you said?
Lovers walking along a shore and leave their footprints in the sand
Is the sound of distant drumming just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song
Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair!
Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find 
In the windmills of your mind!

I know all about circles in your mind. I am pretty sure I wrote the book. I wonder if Sting got the idea for his song from me? Even as I read his lyrics I find my mind going in circles around the words analyzing what they mean. At least windmills have a purpose as they go around and around. One definition of a circle is to move all the way around someone or something especially more than once, another that is equally disheartening is to move in a wide loop back to ones starting point. Who likes to go back to the starting point? I want to move forward. Just gotta find the strength to break off on a tangent :) And to convince the peeps in some of my circles with me to have the courage to do the same.

Dec 4, 2017

The Cold Hard Truth.

Well, here I am. Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2018. Sitting in my bed, eating honey nut cheerios, trying not to cry while I think about hard things. Thinking about that silly saying, "that which does not kill you makes you stronger." Thinking about that annoying story about how coal becomes a diamond. Thinking about that cat poster with the cat hanging on with its claws to something, just hanging there with some encouraging quote underneath it. Thinking about the poster with the silhouette of a climber on the top of a mountain at sunrise or sunset, you choose which one you prefer, with yet another inspiring quote about how you can do anything. Thinking about the footprints in the sand poster, yeah, you know the one. Thinking about Frodo. Thinking about going to the Olympics. Thinking about how I am failing miserably at being a grown up.

When was the last time you did something hard? How did it go? Did you stay with it? Did you give up? How did you know when to give up? Are you glad you stuck with it? Did you learn something from it? Are you better because it was the worst time of your life?

If something is hard it means it is firm, solid, rigid, resistant, unbreakable, inflexible, unyielding, and last but not least impenetrable. You get the picture. We all do hard things. We have to. It is life. Darn it.

I always thought I was pretty decent at doing hard things. I have had this belief through most of my life that I was a hard worker. I drove a school bus and washed school buses. I raised 7 kids. I had kids that had weird ailments that no doctors could figure out. I spent a week in the childrens hospital in Kansas City with one child. I moved a large family from state to state. I ran early morning paper routes to bring in a little extra money. I broke up my family with a decision to ask for a divorce.  I walked backward in the snow to the store (a lie). But it turns out, after all that, and more, I may be a spoiled brat, prima donna, princess. For the first time in my life, I have to work 8 hours a day and I am miserable. And I am mortified that I am strongly disliking this adult thing. My schedules at Alaska Airlines have been so hard. Right now I work 6:15pm to 2:45am in the morning. I had heard this would happen. Alaska did not sugar coat it. They were very upfront. Funny, when you hear something and then have to actually do it it is completely different. I declared to almost everyone when I got this job "I will be paying my dues but it will be worth it." The amount of information I have to know to effectively do this job has been overwhelming. And I am finding myself asking myself every single day will it be worth it?

Add school, homework, children, and a multitude of other things to the pot and stir it all up and you have "hot mess Jennifer." I will spare you the gruesome details of the daily sobbing of the daily wondering if I can do it.

I find myself looking at all the other people in their cars driving to and from work and wonder to myself do they love what they are doing? How did they end up where they are? Was it hard? Do they laugh about it now?

Maybe part of it is that I am doing what college kids do but I am doing it at 49. Everyone my age knows what they are going to be when they grow up. They make enough money to have a house. They have a significant other to bounce ideas off of and go to Costco with. I understand that I made all the choices that led me to this moment. Yes, it is my own fault. I also understand that this experience will make me insufferable at some point in the future because I will definitely have confidence if I can survive this.

The truths I am learning about myself are a bit painful and very uncomfortable. And the worst part? Yes, there is a worst part. Is that no one can tell me what to do. No one can see three years down the road and tell me that staying with Alaska airlines will be a good thing for me. No one can look down the road and say "oh yeah finishing school will be worth it." No one can even see my beach house with a hammock. I have to trudge forward. I have to bump into dead ends on my own. While you all avert your eyes and sigh.

I have to slay the jabberwocky. I have to believe that I will not be given more than I can handle. I have to dream the impossible dream. I have to look for sunshine through clouds. I have to dance in the rain. I have to think about Rocky running up all those steps. I have to have faith. I have to put on my big girl panties. I have to pull myself up by the bootstraps. I have to fake it until I make it. I have to want it more. You get the idea. I have to somehow see what all of you confidently see. I need to get a first class seat on an airplane and fly over my life just so I can have a view. Just one fly by and then I got this. My oldest daughter keeps saying to me "You do you, mom." I would love nothing more I just cannot figure out what exactly me doing me looks like.

Sep 20, 2017

Take A Chance On Me.

For 25 years I was a mom. Even in high school, I knew it was what I always wanted to be. If we ever needed extra money during my, "married with seven kids" years I ran paper routes early in the morning, babysat other people's kids, cleaned other people's houses, did yard work, and sometimes I even got paid to organize.

My first real-world job was when I moved up from volunteering at the Westfield Athenaeum to being a library assistant at the Westfield Athenaeum. I can not find the words to tell you how much I loved that library job. I loved it so much that I had two of them. One at Holyoke community college and one at the town library. I did not want to leave Massachusetts because of my love for these jobs but after my divorce, I finally had to admit defeat and head across the country to regroup at my parent's house in Oregon.

Even when I got my school bus driving job in Oregon I did not have to convince anyone that they would not regret hiring me. They desperately needed school bus drivers and the transportation supervisor knew my father well. It was a no-brainer, I got the job.

This brings me to the first time in my life that I have had to have an official resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation, and serious convincing skills. I had to convince people to take a chance on me. I had a meager three semesters worth of business classes under my belt so that I had a little bit of knowledge about the process. Having a daughter in the Marriott School of Business at BYU was a blessing. I cannot tell you how many times she edited cover letters and resumes for me and told me what to say in interviews.

I always knew school bus driving was not helping me with what I wanted to be when I grew up. There are a ton of skills required to be a school bus driver. Sadly, most of them no one even knows about which is why I needed to move on. If I had been providing a second income for a two-parent family I would have stayed with school bus driving. It paid over $17.00 an hour, the hours were very flexible, and the stories were priceless. But my degree will be in Applied Management and I was stuck in the vortex of no experience, a few semesters of school under my belt, oh and did I mention 48 years old?

When my parents announced they were moving to Idaho I felt like it was an answer to my wondering about what to do. There were a lot more opportunities for jobs in what I was actually studying. It was a little bit closer to my kids in Utah. I could actually find an apartment that was in my price range. For as much as I loved Oregon, I seemed to be constantly hitting dead ends and that was making me sad.

I am sure you already know that job hunting is hard work. I am probably the only person left on the planet who was naive about this fact. I have never spent so many hours trying to figure out how to convince people to take a chance on me. I actually feel like that is all my life has been the last three years, trying to convince someone to take a chance on me and give me a job. And trying to convince someone to take a chance on me and date me. I am so tired of begging people to notice how awesome I am. I read these entry-level job descriptions and I know without a doubt that I can do them. I see dating profiles online and I know without a doubt that I could make these boys supremely happy. And yet I seem to be in the rejection phase of my life no one wants to take a chance on me. But do not worry I keep plugging along. I have brief moments where I feel sorry for myself and decide to give up but I know better and I usually recover within the hour.

I have applied for at least 25 jobs and had about 5 interviews. And every single job has seemed so perfect for me. I imagine myself driving to it and home from it as I am applying. I have no doubt I will at least get an interview. Yeah, silly, hopeful me. The problem with all the opportunities in the Boise/Meridian area is that everyone else is also applying. One receptionist job I applied for had 100 applicants. Every single morning I wake up and search for a job. Honestly, every job looks interesting to me. I have no focus. I applied mostly for office type stuff from medical offices to accounting offices, to law firms, podiatrists, Scentsy headquarters, Boise State, an enormous meat packing company, OnTrac, libraries and so much more. I truly felt qualified and confident about every single thing I applied for...did I already mention that?

Way back in July while I was still in Oregon I was looking on one day and saw a job posting for Alaska Airlines. Can I tell you a secret? I have always wanted to work for an airline. I think it is the crisp white button-up shirt, the pencil skirt, and the scarves that get me every time :) I applied and within an hour got a friendly computer-generated "thanks but no thanks letter." I was not impressed. They had made me fill out a very generic application with no opportunities to even say who I was, they knew nothing about Jennifer from this generic application. How could they? I stewed about it but I finally just let it go because there was nothing I could do. Fast forward 6 weeks later when I am sitting at my kitchen table in Idaho on and I see the Alaska Airlines posting again. I am frustrated enough with the job hunting process at this point that I decide to write them a sassy letter sharing my feelings about the injustices in the world. So I sit down and fire off a letter to Alaska Airlines telling them how really great I am, how I notice they are still hiring for the position, and how I think their process did not even give me a chance. Lo and behold the next day I get a very personal email from Ms. Rainwater in Seattle at Alaska Airlines headquarters saying she wants to interview me. Of course, you do :)

I have to do a video interview. The kind where you answer the questions while videoing yourself. I had never done anything like this before. Can I tell you how awkward it is to sit at your kitchen table and talk to your computer? They only gave you a certain amount of time to answer the questions and that is a little stressful. I had delved deep into the Alaska Airlines company and had carefully gone through the job description and matched my experience with what they wanted. I was rather pleased with myself that I figured all the technology out on my own. It distressed me a little to watch myself talk on a video. Why did not one of you tell me my eyebrows go up and down a lot when I talk? Nevertheless, I submitted the video and the next day Ms. Rainwater, in Seattle called me and said they wanted me to go to a hotel downtown Boise on Friday for more interviews, in spite of the eyebrows :)

I showed up for the interviews that Friday an hour early because I am just that way. It was 6 in the morning so I sat in my car and watched the sun creep up on the city from the 4th floor of a parking garage until it was time to walk to the hotel.

There were about 60 people in the convention room. I watched them all. I listened to them all. I surmised to myself about which ones were in and which ones were going to be out as I observed their questions and comments. The Alaska Airlines people educated us all about the job. They spelled everything out. They described the pros and they described the cons. I made a mental note that all of the people who were here doing the hiring told us that they had started in the call center and moved up. That was exactly what I wanted to hear. I definitely want to be the CEO.

They finally started the interviewing and I ended up interviewing with three different people. I noticed more and more people were not coming back to the main room. I had to place a reservation for a flight for one of my interviews. That was very fun. I had to tell them what I learned in bus driving that would apply to being a booking agent. I had to assure them of my customer service skills.

At one point a lady came and called my name and two other peoples names, she gathered us in the hallway and told us all that we had been hired. I had imagined it a little differently but it will do. I think they hired maybe 20 of us that day. I had another interview booked for right after the Alaska Airlines interview and now I was confused. What did I want? Do I go the other interview? The commitment to the Alaska Airlines job was a little intimidating. I would definitely have to pay my dues. Was I ready for that? I texted my college kids and called a dear friend and they all told me that I was not cheating on Alaska Airlines to go to the other interview I had scheduled. So I went, I loved the company and what I would be doing for them. Sigh, I think I may be the sort of girl that could be happy anywhere.

For the next three weeks after getting offered the Alaska Airlines job I kept diligently applying for jobs, just in case. I had some interviews but nothing else worked out as clearly and easily as the Alaska Airlines job so I finally conceded that it must be what is right for me at this moment in my life.

So on October 2nd, I start my training to become a reservation agent for Alaska Airlines. It is going to be about 46 hours a week. The benefits are incredible. Twenty free flights a year just to name one. The hours are going to be really yucky for a while. I will not have holidays and weekends off like I have had my whole life. Airlines are open 24/7/365. But everyone has to pay their dues and I am ready to pay mine. I am going to keep going to school my degree is very important to me. And as soon as I can I am hoping to move up in Alaska Airlines.

When I sit and think carefully about who I am and what I value I think this job will be good for me. I love to help people. I love to help them find answers. I do not get irritated easily. And I can handle it if you are angry (hello, seven kids :) I love to travel and this will give me opportunities to travel that I would not have otherwise. I dream of eventually working in an airport or even the Alaska Airlines headquarters in Seattle.

So next time you call Alaska Airlines to ask if you can bring your pet scorpion on the plane you may get to talk to me.

Jul 1, 2017


Have you ever gone on a trip? This trip I am on at this very minute I have been anticipating and planning for for 10 months. It often felt like it would never come. Now it is here, going by way too fast, causing me distress because I am not keeping up with blogs about what I am experiencing. Each day more and more views and observations crowd into my mind and push the ones from yesterday back further. I hate the "getting behind" feeling. My eighteen days here are almost gone and I have so many blogs I want to write it is overwhelming. So overwhelming I am doing nothing but starting blogs and not finishing them as I realize how much my words will never do justice to what I have seen and done. I want to write about every little detail and view but it is not realistic at this point and I am sad about that. The first impressions are not fresh anymore.

I want to tell you about:
  • Jet lag.
  • Nights that never get dark.
  • Going to church and not understanding a word.
  • Endless hours using public transportation; buses, trains, trams, ferries.
  • The thrill I felt when we happened to be in Estonia on two big holidays; Victory Day and Midsummer's Eve.
  • When I happened upon a small town celebrating these holidays and watched them carrying Estonian Flags, listened to them sing songs in Estonian and observed that the food they served at their town celebration was bread and pea soup (nary a hot dog or hamburger in sight.)
  • How often people buy flowers here for occasions and carry them home on the buses wrapped in newspaper.
  • The refreshing lack of fast food and drive thru's here.
  • The richness of the traditions and history.
  • Standing on the edge of a spot where a meteorite fell thousands of years ago. 
  • Happening upon a beautiful field of red poppies on the island of Saaremaa.
  • Renting one of the three rental cars available in the town of Kuresarre.
  • Searching for the Panga Cliffs
  • Hearing a grand son call you grandma, lots of times.
  • Having a grand daughter that observes asks as many questions as you do.
  • Hearing a grand son singing to himself in the other room.
  • Seeing a castle moat.
  • Asking an employee where the bathroom was in a store and the sadness when I realized they did not understand me and I did not understand them.
  • Buying a handmade hat from a sweet old lady in Finland.
  • Remembering you are using military time, the metric system, euros, and kroons.
  • Staring at the Baltic Sea.
  • Not recognizing any brands around me as I ride thru a town.
  • Buying mayonnaise in a tube that looks like toothpaste.
  • Walking, walking, walking until you are sure you cannot walk anymore but you have to because you are telling your kids they have to.
  • The gratitude I feel for my son and his wife who entertained us and let us hang out for almost 13 days. They are truly saints.
  • Seeing things I never thought I would see.
  • The joy of seeing my children experience things for the first time.

My girls running down a path that ended up taking us nowhere.
Going on a trip is a lot of work. The logistics can be overwhelming. The brain power that goes into figuring out train, bus, tram, and ferry schedules and stops. Keeping track of the proper currency. Awkwardly carrying your possessions in backpacks for miles. Discovering there was something you did not account for and there is nothing you can do about it now. Doing it all while you are sleeping differently, eating differently, seeing and hearing different languages, seeing unfamiliar things, smelling unfamiliar smells. Having your phone on airplane mode most of the time. Keeping your teenagers from falling apart when you want to fall apart yourself. There are times I have not managed any of this well. There are a few times I have thought to myself I cannot do this anymore. And those are the times I post beautiful pictures on Facebook so you think things are going well.

I finally had a small moment of quiet alone time yesterday. I was just sitting back behind our Mormon temple here in Helsinki thinking about how overwhelming, all I had done and continue to do to make sure this trip goes as well as it can, felt.

I found myself sheepishly realizing that I do not plan as fastidiously for my real life near the way I plan for a trip and I should. I should put as much work into researching and figuring out my future as I do these trips. I have googled every detail of this trip. I have read blogs. I have read reviews. I have spent hours on MapQuest writing down routes and bus stops. Researching tourist options. Making sure I know all I can. If you know where you are going and what you are doing you are so much more efficient, so much more productive, and things are less stressful. Yes, I understand that life refuses to be perfectly planned. It will never happen perfectly no matter what I do. I know you need to be open to change and the possibilities it can bring you. But I have let my life meander for too long and this realization has given me some determination. The new focused Jennifer will come back to America with me. She will make a plan for her life just like she is going on a trip because we all know we are all here on am epic journey. We also all know that if you have a map you get where you are going so much easier and if you get stuck along the way, at least you know where you are.