Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chris' Check Ride & Warren's Birthday

Greetings, everyone! Last time I posted, we were coming off of a very stressful week.  Well...we are quickly realizing that stress like that is going to take over MANY of our weeks over the next year.  Chris has been doing so well in his training and been getting "E"'s (for Excellent) on so many categories of his evaluation, that it's easy to sit back and think..."ohhhh we have this in the bag!" Well the Air Force already taught us a little lesson on not taking things for granted during the "air sickness" debacle, but I guess that wasn't enough, because the lessons continued last week.

The students complete four "check rides" during their pilot training.  Think of a check ride like a mid-term...they are very important and are your chance to show how much you have learned and whether you are up to the point where you are supposed to be.

Personally, I have a problem with the subjectivity of the check rides but life isn't fair and the Air Force never asked me.  I doubt the Air Force will ever ask me what I think, which is unfortunate, because I actually have a lot of opinions that I would like to share.  One of them is that there has to be a more fair and consistent way of grading the student pilots than having a different evaluator for every student who has his (or her) own opinions on what constitutes failing a student vs. just downgrading them (taking off points).  I'm an accountant, so I very much prefer a system that leaves as little gray area as possible and has definite "do's" and "do not's". I ESPECIALLY have a problem with this check ride system because I'm not sure if all instructors take into consideration the fact that failing a student for a ride could potentially affect their career and their life and it should not be taken lightly...they should REALLY consider their reasoning when doing this.  But again, no one asked me...

Anyway...long story short...Chris "hooked" (i.e., failed) his check ride last week.  You can imagine what an unhappy mood this put us both in.  He felt like this was a little unjustified based on the reasoning given for his hooking.  He actually had a good bit less than the average downgrades and there were others who passed with more downgrades than him.  Again with the subjectivity.  Chris went to a higher power, his commander, who admitted that he shouldn't have been hooked, but there's really nothing anybody could do about it. Anyway...what we can't argue about is that his flight wasn't perfect.  The instructor actually said he had a really good flight except for this one thing.  But he is the one with the authority and he decided this was a big enough problem. 

It is actually not very uncommon to hook the first check ride...of all the four check rides, the most students hook the first one, and Chris was not, by any means, alone in his class for hooking it. It still felt like a big setback.

Anyway...enough with the whining.  That's life, right? I know everyone has felt like they have been treated unfairly, but I guess you just have to pick up the pieces and move on!

SO we move on to the "88 ride"...the 88 ride is your second chance at a check ride.  You only get one in pilot training, then you move on to the "89 ride" where an actual commander flies with you and grades you...he has the final say whether you have the aptitude to remain in training.  You can have an 89 ride for all the four check rides if you hook all four, but that is your last chance before being removed from training. 

Chris had his 88 ride yesterday and did really well...Chris hardly had any downgrades and the instructor had some very complimentary things to say about him.  He said that Chris must have had some bad luck during his check ride.  Oh well, we are glad to be past this and glad that he isn't going on to the 89 ride.  However, if Chris hooks any more check rides, he will have to go straight to the 89 ride so let's hope that he doesn't have any more "bad luck"!

Today Chris flew again, and again he got a great evaluation and some encouragment from his instructor.

This weekend was pretty special because we went to Auburn for Warren's 21st Birthday.  Friday night I got to spend some time with Lauren and Hannah, who I don't get to see as often.  Saturday morning we woke up to Mason, ENTIRELY COVERED in fleas!! Don't ask us how he got them, we have no idea.  We treat him for fleas every month, but his next treatment was due this past Monday, so his prior treatment had probably worn off.  Anyway, he kept waking me up because he was shaking off and pacing around the room.  So I checked him, and he was covered.  Chris and I woke up about 6:30 am (on a Saturday! arg!) and picked about 50 fleas off him.  We realized we weren't getting anywhere, so we wound up going to the vet and getting him some treatment.  My parents had to flea bomb my room at their house but the problem seems to be fixed now...he is flea free.

My newest hobby is probably going to be estate sales.  My mom and I went to one Saturday morning and I picked up a gorgeous and very good quality rug for $15! We put it in our bedroom and it actually looks great. AND I bought 2 sets of Lenox Christmas napkin holders that I don't think have ever been out of the box for $2...the price tag was still on the back and said $29.00 a SET!

Saturday we got to have lunch with Chris, Sr., Warren and his girlfriend,  Liz, Aunt Bette, and a special treat, Chris' grandparents, Nana and Matt, who live in CoCoa Beach, Florida.  We had dinner with Tammy, Greg, Warren and Liz, and another treat, Chris' other set of grandparents from Georgia, Granny and GrandBob.  It was so nice to get to spend some time with the grandparents we don't see as much as we wish we did.  We wish we could have spent more time, but as usual, we were stretched very thin on our two-day trip so we tried our best to enjoy the time we had and look forward to the next time we can all get together!

Saturday night, we did a little bit of celebrating to ring in Warren's 21st birthday, which officially started at midnight.  A couple of weeks ago I was in Auburn celebrating my sister's 21st.  I think it will probably be a while before I celebrate any more 21st birthdays, but they have been fun! Here is the ONLY picture I took this weekend...bad, Amanda! I have got to be more on top of things!

Us with Warren and his girlfriend, Liz.  It was pouring rain at Skybar so we all got soaked!

Sunday morning I had a BLAST at the Clothes Rack helping my two engaged besties, Hannah and Lauren Emily, try on wedding gowns for their upcoming 2013 weddings! I am so excited for both of them and only wish their weddings were sooner! I am a bridesmaid in both weddings (and they were both bridesmaids in mine)...Hannah's is June 2013 in Auburn, and Lauren Emily's is November 2013 in Tampa.  It meant a lot to get to help two of my best friends pick out their gowns in the store that I worked in for 6 1/2 years and was such a big part of my life.  Gayle (the owner and my old boss) let me open the store just for them Sunday morning...Lauren Emily bought a dress and I think Hannah has found her dress as well, but will need to order it.  I have some pics, but sorry...I obviously can't post them! Don't want to spoil the surprise!! :)

We had lunch Sunday at my parent's house with my mom, dad, and grandmother, and although we meant to leave very soon after lunch, we were so exhausted that we couldn't bring ourselves to get off the couch and pack until about 2 o' clock.  We went by Chris' dad's one more time on the way out of town and finally made it home JUST in time for the Desperate Housewives series finale.  I am so depressed that this show is ending that I really can't talk about it without getting emotional!  Haha.  I'm actually not that crazy, BUT I will say that I am really going to miss this awesome show and I can't think of a more appropriate ending to the series than what happened in the finale!

This week has been a pretty good one...Chris passing his 88 ride with a good evaluation definitely helped.  I am a little bummed out that I will be working in Birmingham Friday and all next week with a trip to Auburn in between, but then I will be going to Gulf Shores with Chris and my parents for Memorial Day weekend, so I have that to look forward to.  It is so unnerving to find out you will be gone for 11 straight days with about 3 days notice, though.  I am trying my best to leave the house clean for Chris, but at the same time I feel like it is a mess from me trying to pack everything.  Y'all know I'm not a light packer. Thank goodness Chris is not one of those guys who whines about me having to be gone for work...he understands that working is important to me, and thankfully is not so dependant that he can't function on his own! I'm sure his meals aren't as elaborate when I'm gone, but he gets by and still looks nourished whenever I return so I trust he is making it okay!

Tuesday night was the base-wide spouse social (we have two spouse groups...the base-wide "Columbus Spouse Club" and then the "Student Spouse Club")...and I'm proud to announce that the newest social chair for the Columbus Spouse Club is yours truly! I am really looking forward to this! I get to plan some fantastic socials...using someone Else's budget! ;) How fun is that going to be?

Last night, for the first time in it seems like forever...I cooked a somewhat-elaborate meal, we had a bottle of wine, lit some candles, and had a nice, relaxed (not rushed) meal together.  We realized how much we took this for granted back when Chris was on casual status (before he began training).  Back then, every night was just us hanging out...just the epitome of the dream newlywed life!  Now, he has to study and go to bed early...which I totally support and understand.  But since he passed his 88 ride yesterday, we decided to celebrate a little and just relax together.  I am so looking forward to spending the weekend away for Memorial Day weekend.  Hopefully we will get some of the much needed "us" time that has been so difficult to squeeze in lately.

Before I wrap it up, in honor of Mother's Day, I want to give a quick shout-out to moms! Esspecially our moms! Chris and I are both lucky to have moms who have supported us and encouraged us since the day we were born.  Certainly we would not be who we are without our special moms.  It is easy for me to see how Tammy made Chris into the husband that I adore, who loves to take care of me, support my goals, and always respects me.  Tammy always encouraged Chris to be the best he could be, and was there for him from the time that he played just about every sport growing up, til he decided to join the Air Force...which I know had to be a very difficult thing to stand behind as a mom.   I know that Chris sees a lot of my mom in me, and loves that I enjoy entertaining, making friends, and that I am a strong woman who can speak my mind.  My mom constantly bends over backwards to help us out whenever she sees that we have a need.  She is so creative and is always teaching me something new.  We both love our mothers and our mothers-in-law and are incredibly lucky to have these two amazing women in our lives!

Well, there's the update on our week! I know some of the small details about our day-to-day activities are boring to some, but I also know there are some of you who are interested and I'm so happy we can keep you updated this way! This weekend Tammy is being kind enough to throw me a Rodan + Fields launch party at her house, and then Meredith and I are having a joint launch in the Creekside Clubhouse from 6-8 pm...we will have some wine and hor 'duerves, and it will be a great time, so if you are in Auburn please come out and support us!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ups and Downs of the Air Force Life

I know it has been a couple of weeks since I posted! It has been a crazy couple of weeks.  Two Fridays ago, I wrote a post and never put it on the site.  Two weeks ago was really not such a good week. Last week got so much better, though!  Now that we are out of the woods, I feel more like sharing what we were going through.

The one highlight of two weeks ago was how sweet everybody was to call, text, email, and Facebook me on my birthday! Thanks everyone! Instead of taking forever to go through this post and change it for "past tense" instead of "present tense", I'm just going to post it as it was written on April 27:

So.  Poor Chris.  Some of you may know that he has struggled with motion sickness since he started flying, which was actually a couple of years ago at the Academy.  The T-6 is the most powerful plane he has ever flown in and the motion sickness hasn't gotten a whole lot better since he has been flying it.  There are times when he gets through the flight just fine, but there are times that he gets so sick he can't fly the plane.  This is not uncommon, it happens to a lot of pilot students.  The body can adjust to the motions of the plane, and eventually it just gets used the motions and you stop getting sick.  This takes longer for some than for others. There is a very specific regimen that the Air Force uses to help people overcome their motion sickness.

Step one is medication.  You can take these medications, which are a combination of stuff to help you not get sick and amphetamines to help you stay awake because the other stuff can make you drowsy on its own.  Amphetamines are highly regulated.  You can only take those medicines for 3 days.  While you take them, you are flying so your body is actually adjusting to the motions of the plane without having the symptoms of motion sickness that disrupt your flight.  The idea is, by the time you fly 3 more times, once you are off the medication your body has adjusted and you don't get sick anymore.

Unfortunately, between Chris' cold and some bad weather that resulted in cancelled flights, Chris took his medicine for 3 days but did not get to fly all 3 of those days...then he actually  had a 10 day break before he flew again.  The medicines really didn't get to serve their purpose. The Air Force is really cut-and-dry.  They won't give him a chance to take the medicine again.

If you still get sick after the medicine regimen, you go to step two. Chris got sick on his flight on Monday.  He couldn't finish his flight, so his instructor pilot had to take over.  On to step two.

So step two is the spin chair.  This is what everyone wants to avoid because it is not pleasant.  They spin you around in this chair basically until you vomit.  It's designed to be 100x worse than a flight should ever have to be.  It is such an extreme version of the worst possible motion sickness scenario, that it is very effective in adjusting your body to the motions of the plane...if your body can adjust to the spin chair, it is going to be able to handle a plane ride no-problem.  After 3 days in the chair, each day spinning for 3 10-minute sessions, most people's bodies are adjusted and they are over their motion sickness.

Chris has been doing the chair the past few days.  Obviously this has made his days terrible. The doctor told him to eat foods he didn't mind throwing up.  They make you do all sorts of things while you are spinning to make it as bad as possible...close your eyes, head down.  Open your eyes, head and arms up. 

If you continue to have motion sickness to the point where you can't fly the plane, you move on to step three.  Step three is, you are dismissed from pilot training and go take another Air Force job. Please pray that Chris won't have to go to step 3.

Things are looking pretty good at the moment.  Monday was the day he got sick.  He knew he would get assigned the chair on Tuesday, so Monday was not a good night.  We were both already very stressed about the possibility of having to move to step 3, even though we weren't to step 2 yet.  Tuesday was better...he did not get sick in flight.  However, he still got assigned to the chair.  Wednesday he also did not get sick in his flight, but that afternoon was his first chair session.  In the first 10-minute spin, he didn't get too sick.  On the second and third spins, he got sick and threw up both times.  Yesterday, he did not get sick in flight again.  He got sick in the chair but did not throw up.  Unfortunately, he felt sick the rest of the day after that.  Autumn and I went to a beer tasting/food pairing dinner in downtown Columbus...Chris (and Jon) wasn't able to come because they didn't get released until about 9.  They met us when they got out, but you could tell Chris didn't feel well.  Today he's doing a simulation but he is going to get spun one more time on Monday and fly....then, after that, we just hope that he is going to be cured of his motion sickness.

I also did not have a good week at work.  The excess stress from home, plus a couple of computer malfunctions did not help.  I'm ready for this week to be over.  Also, Chris is supposed to solo next week.  I did not expect him to solo this early, but I am really upset because I'm afraid I may be in Birmingham working and won't be able to make it back to watch him get dunked in the pool of water (it's a tradition after you solo the first time for you to try to run back into the flight room, and if your classmates can catch you, they throw you into this nasty pool of sitting water).  Obviously, I want to share in all the excitement and take pictures.  This is kind of a milestone.  So I'm just praying for some heavy rain next week.  Maybe his solo can get delayed until I am scheduled to be back in Columbus on Thursday.
I'm headed to Auburn for the weekend and Chris is going to stay here.  I'm looking forward to being with friends and family, but I'm bummed out about Chris not being able to come.  I am taking Monday off of work to help my sister, Jessica, ring in her 21st birthday.  Tuesday morning I'm heading to Birmingham to work there until Thursday, which is also the day of my Rodan + Fields launch event here in Columbus.

Okay!!  That was my blog for April 27, which I never published. So before I move forward with the events of last week, I'm sure you are all wondering what wound up happening with Chris.  He seems to be cured of his motion sickness, hooray! Thank you for your prayers.  He soloed last Monday, and sadly, I missed it.  However, he sent me this video of him getting dunked. This dunking process was traditionally a LOT more rambunctious than it is now.  But apparently some guy got a concussion recently when his head hit the side of the dunk tank, so until all that blows over, they have to be pretty gentle with the dunking :) They still have nasty water, though! (For full screen, click the icon in the lower right corner of the video).

Let's hope he never has to return to the chair! Since then, he's had several good flights. On Friday, he soloed again and there was some confusion in the air traffic control tower that could have caused several planes to collide.  Chris stayed calm under pressure and increased his altitude, which, in effect, prevented the collisions.  That just goes to show you that just because this is "just training", doesn't mean that Chris' day-to-day job is completely safe...this is a very scary realization for me, but I suppose that is what I signed up for when I said "I do"...when you become a military wife, you are really saying "I do" to a whole lot more than most wives! "I do" vow to never let my own anxiety over Chris' job affect the way he gets treated at home.  But I'm so thankful to be where we are and to get to hear the stories every day when he gets home.

I had a great weekend in Auburn two weekends ago visiting with everyone.  I got to spend time with some of my girlfriends, with my family (including my sister's 21st birthday celebration), Chris' family, former co-workers, I got to pay a visit to the Auburn School of Accountancy, and I did some business while I was there.  Busy, busy weekend but so much fun! Here are some pics:

Jessica and me at the Auburn University Singers proud of my talented little sis...she blew an Adele song out of the water on her solo! It was fantastic!

Family birthday celebration.  Jessica and I are 3 years and 4 days apart.

Happy 21st, Jessica! Wearing the crown I gave her (I also gave her that wand to carry out) and her b-day sign with a list of 21 tasks to complete while out on the town!

Sara and Lauren also joined us because they love Jessica like a sis! The two girls on the right are Jessica's friends from the education program at Auburn

Birthday dinner with Tammy, Greg, Warren, and Aunt Bette at Hamilton's.

Grand opening of the Event Center's upstairs lounge.  Love the cozy atmosphere and view!

View from the upstairs patio

Upstairs patio again

Upstairs bar area

On a side note, one of my coworkers showed me where Chris and I were in the local paper a couple of weeks ago on the opening day of the Farmer's Market (second down on the right side).  Next to us is another couple from base, Amanda and Nils Lorenz.  Amanda and I went to an afternoon of Pilgrimage tours a few weeks ago and she also came to my launch this week.  She's a sweet girl and I'm glad I'm getting to know her! My coworker was kind enough to laminate this for us...the "Scene and be Seen" page...I guess we are really "making it" here in Columbus, haha!

I left from Auburn last Tuesday morning and drove to Birmingham to work there until Thursday.  Thursday, Meredith came back to Columbus with me to help me with my Rodan + Fields launch event.  The theme was wine and cheese.  I had a great turnout, it was really laid back and a nice time.  Meredith and I were able to practice showcasing the products, and everyone was impressed by them after hearing how effective they are, seeing before/after pictures, and getting the chance to sample a few. 

Meredith and I with the table of all the great products! Thank goodness Meredith came to help me, because we had about an hour and ten minutes to get ready for the party once we got to Columbus from Birmingham!

After the launch, a few of us headed downtown to a photography studio where they were holding an art show/beer tasting.  That was very interesting and I found out that they have events like those the first Thursday of every month.  Like I said before, Columbus actually has plenty to do if you take the time to look for it!

Friday night we played cards over at Jon and Autumn's, and the next day we spent at Market Street Festival, which is Columbus' biggest event every year.  There were probably 100+ vendors there selling all kinds of unique goods.  There were also concerts and shows (a cheer competition, even!) and lots of food.  Saturday was also Cinco de Mayo.  We came home mid-afternoon for a break from the sun and heat, and I made a mexican dinner.  Yum!

Taking a break from cards to cuddle the pups!
Chris with this ginormous car that was at the car show at Market Street Festival
We found this painting by Nicole Bexton at the art gallery this weekend in downtown Columbus...we thought it bore a stiking resemblance to the picture below of Mason (which is our most likely choice to enter into the Humane Society contest)...isn't that crazy?? Haha.  We wanted to buy it pretty badly but it was $875, so I may just have to recreate it at Sips-N-Strokes one of these days...
Chicken enchilada casserole, tomato/cucumber/avacado/corn salad, and a Modelo.  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 Once again, I'm sorry for not keeping up with the blog for so long.  As you can see, there has been a lot going on and it may have finally caught up to me! I will do better going forward!

Thanks for reading! We are looking forward to traveling home this weekend for Mother's Day.  We also have the special treat of getting to see both sets of Chris' grandparents that we do not get to visit with very often.  We have another project underway that I can't wait to share more about.  These are exciting times!