Chinchillas are part of the rodent family so they're teeth are constantly growing!  As a chin parent, I always make sure to give my little guys plenty of wood to chew so they can file down their growing teeth.  Between our two chinchillas, the younger one (Kuzco) is the stronger nibbler.  He can devour wooden dowels in minutes! 

Last night we gave Kuzco a new chew toy.  We got this wooden wheel puzzle from Petco.  Although he was a bit camera shy, Kuzco's reaction to the new toy was obvious!
 
 
On a cold day in February, I journeyed to New York City to visit one of my favorite neighborhoods in Queens known as Jackson Heights.  While based in New York, I routinely traveled through Jackson Heights.  The Roosevelt Avenue / Jackson Heights subway station served as my access point to trains bound for Manhattan. 
In some ways, Jackson Heights is just like any other neighborhood in Queens.  You’ll find food trucks, hole-in-the-wall shops, flocks of dirty pigeons, and of course, mountains of trash and recycling on pick-up days.
There’s an exciting energy about this little neighborhood that I find fascinating and distinct from other places in the city.  Walking down the main street, your senses are awakened by the smell of spices, the sounds of rumbling trains overhead, and the feel of the underground subway vibrating beneath your feet.

Also striking is the diversity.  Shop owners in this area are mainly immigrants from Mexico, South and Latin America, and Asia.  Walking down a side street can make you feel as if you’ve just stepped into another part of the world.

76th Street and Broadway

I began my visit at 76th Street and Broadway.  Immediately upon wandering down the street, I began seeing signs written in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
Fruit Market NYC
A sign for apples written in four different languages!
Sabay Thai NYC
I stopped for a delicious lunch at Sabay Thai!
Chinese Church Jackson Heights NYC
New York Seventh Day Adventist Chinese Church
Jackson Heights Queens
A friendly shop owner who let me take his picture!

72nd Street and Broadway

After finishing my delicious lunch, I wandered to 72nd Street where I found many local women in full-length dresses and headscarves and men wearing beards and turbans.  Shops in this area cater to Muslims seeking Halal food and drink.
Dera Restaurant Queens New York
This restaurant is famous for its Indian and Pakistani food. I want to stop by the next time I'm in New York!
Halal Meat Store
There are several competing Halal Meat stores around this block.
Asia Tribune
The Asia Tribune - a newspaper in Arabic for sale inside several shops.
Ainul Haramain
A travel agency advertising for Muslim pilgrimages.

76th - 80th Street and Roosevelt

Next I headed north to a cross-street known as Roosevelt.  Here you’ll find shops predominantly run by immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Peru, and Colombia.  Block after block you’ll find shops labeled purely in Spanish, advertising help with immigration papers and passport photos.
Visit New York Queens
Mmm....tacos!
Picture
A vendor unloading a TON of Mexican beer!
Picture
I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the "immigration offices" along this street specialize in fake IDs.
Piñatas for sale New York
Piñatas for sale!
It’s amazing really to see so many cultures blended into one neighborhood.  Jackson Heights isn’t a beautiful neighborhood.  In fact, it’s a bit grimy.  If you walk down the streets at night, you’ll get solicited to visit the upstairs “massage” parlors or encouraged by promoters with flyers to enter the strip clubs.   Despite all this, I still love visiting Jackson Heights, Queens and I know you’ll love it too!  If you’re planning a trip to New York City any time soon, be sure to stop by this diverse and unique neighborhood!

-Jenn Grahams


 
 
Is there a secret to efficiently packing shoes in a carry-on bag?  If there is, I haven’t discovered it. 

My husband says I have a shoe problem and that the reason why my rolling suitcase is always bursting at the seams is because I pack too many shoes.  Whether I’m leaving the house for a simple two day trip or heading out for a whole week of back-to-back flights, I always pack five pairs of shoes.

Each pair of shoes has a specific purpose and I haven’t found a way to eliminate packing any of them!

Packing Shoes
My five pairs of shoes! :-)
Best Inflight Flight Attendant ShoesBuying a new pair of the perfect work shoes at a Payless in New York City!
In order of appearance from left to right, my shoes are as follows:

Shower Flip Flops:
  These I bring on the doctor’s orders!  My podiatrist advises that anyone using a hotel shower should wear flip flops to avoid exposure to viruses and fungi that could cause warts or athlete’s foot. 

Black Flats: These are my main layover shoes.  They’re comfortable enough to wear for a long walk to the nearest IHOP for breakfast and cute enough to be used for a night on the town with my crew.

Tennis Shoes:  I'll be honest.  Sometimes these collect dust sitting in my suitcase, but I always bring them along with the good intention of hitting the hotel’s treadmill on my layover!  If I don't bring them, there's NO chance of me working out, right?

Inflight / Work Shoes:  Every airline has its own requirements on footwear.  My company requires a heel.  Many of my co-workers will wear 2-3 inch heels in the airport and then switch to “in-flight shoes” once we’re on the plane.  The in-flight shoes are usually comfortable flats or ballerina-type shoes.  I prefer to skip the “stewardess shoe dance” and just wear the same shoes the entire time.






These are the perfect combo in-flight / work shoes!   I call them my baby heels.  They are perfectly “in regulation” for my company, but comfortable enough to wear all day long.  I put a new pair of Dr. Scholl’s inserts in them every few months.  The shoes will last for about a year if I polish them occasionally. When they’re starting to look a little ragged, I buy a new pair from Payless.  They’re not too expensive.

Beach Flip Flops: 
You never know when you’ll get diverted to Miami!  This is the one shoe I could probably eliminate (especially in the winter), but I love having something cute to wear on the beach!  Plus, having them encourages me to get a pretty pedicure!


Picture
Now you’ve had a glimpse into the fabulous footwear of a flight attendant.  Don't you feel informed?  ;-)

Unfortunately, four pairs of shoes (assuming the fifth one is on my feet!) takes up a ton of space in my suitcase!  If anyone has suggestions or ideas on how I could fix my shoe problem, please write me a comment below and I will sing your praises all day long!

Thanks and happy flying!
Jenn Grahams


 
 
It's Valentine's Day and I'm at home admiring our saltwater fish tank.  My husband and I put together the 75 gallon tank shortly after getting married.  It was one of our first home projects and it tested our teamwork as a couple.  The tank is now home to our pet fish, some of which are quite dangerous!  In fact, some of our fish are so aggressive, my husband has to be careful while cleaning the tank.  At first glance, you might assume THIS is the fish that makes us nervous:
Zebaspike, the yellow fish pictured above, is a foxface rabbitfish.  The spines you see are actually venomous!  If threatened, the foxface rabbitfish can defend itself by giving my husband's hand a nasty sting.  He could be quite dangerous except...
...he's a big ole' scaredy fish!  Zebaspike is terrified of everything!  As soon as we start cleaning the tank, he hides behind a rock.  To us, he isn't a threat at all!  The REALLY dangerous fish are the clownfish!
This is Amy and Rory, our two clownfish.  THEY are most dangerous fish in the tank and this is their story.
We bought Amy and Rory from a local fish store back in March 2012.  There are 28 different species of clownfish, but I insisted we get the most recognizable kind, the Ocellaris clownfish
Picture

We read in a library book that young clownfish have an undefined sex.  Two clownfish will fight to establish a hierarchy.  We saw this happen before our eyes.  The slightly bigger fish (Amy) continued to "beat up" the slightly smaller fish (Rory) until it was clear that Amy would be the female.

Soon enough, they were old enough to leave the quarantine tank and enter the big tank.

Do animals have emotions?  Can animals feel love?

This is a huge question in the scientific community and I'm not sure if it's one that will ever be clearly answered.  Perhaps I've watched too many Disney movies with talking animals, but I feel like Amy and Rory love each other.  If anything, they at least depend on one another.  They are inseparable in the tank; always at each others' side. 
Why are clownfish so dangerous?

Since Amy and Rory became a mated pair, they have started laying eggs.  The little translucent blobs are attached to a section of the tank's glass.  Amy and Rory spend 24/7 guarding them.  During feeding times, Amy will leave the nest to get food while Rory stays behind and waits.  We have to make extra sure that a few pieces fall to him.  Otherwise, he would probably starve himself!
The clownfish are now the most aggressive fish in the tank.  They will defend their eggs to the point of death.  If another fish gets too close, the duo will chase the intruder away.  Not even a giant, human hand will scare them!  When my husband was cleaning, Amy came up and actually bit his finger!  The "bite" didn't hurt at all and barely left a noticeable mark, but her persistent aggression was still surprisingly intimidating!

It didn't matter where my husband tried to clean - the whole tank was off limits as far as she was concerned.  As a result, we had to put her in a holding cup until the cleaning was over:
Perhaps their actions are merely expressions of "self-preservation of species", but I still admire my clownfish.  Their behavior is how I would want someone to love me.  They guard their nest with unending patience.  They tend to their eggs with a self-sacrificial mindset. 

Their actions remind me of God's instruction on how to love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
"
Hearts and roses are great decorations for Valentine's Day, but maybe this year I'll put a cute little clownfish on the card for my husband as a reminder of how I want to love him.  :)

-Jenn Grahams
 
 
I'm sick today and sorting through old videos of my chinchillas.  This is our 4 year old chin named Pancho.  We bought him through Craigslist.  The former owners didn't have time for him.  His cage was a mess with flies buzzing around it.  His ear is tattered.  We think the former owners' cat got to him.  He doesn't "ninja jump" like other chinchillas, but he can do a little leg hop.  :)
 
 
It’s easy to see the bad and not the good of airline travel.  This concept applies to passengers as well.  Media centers itself around the poor behavior of fliers on websites such as Passenger Shaming.  Fortunately, there’s another side to the flying public and those are the untold stories of fascinating passengers I meet every day.  Every few months, I’d like to tell you about some of the amazing people I’ve met.  Here are three of their stories.


The Woman with An Accent

I’m working in the Main Cabin and the woman at the bulkhead has an intriguing accent when she orders her drink.

“Diet Coke, please.”

Three little words, but that’s all I need to hear to guess she’s from somewhere in Eastern Europe.  I put my money on Poland.  I believe you can tell a lot more about a person by their accent than by their physical appearance.  I’ve spent several years training my ears to pick up the subtle cues that identify a person’s nationality.

When the woman comes back to use the lavatory, she has to wait in line which gives me the perfect opportunity to make small talk.  We exchange a few more words and her accent taunts me again so I finally say, “You have a beautiful accent.  Do you mind me asking where you’re from?”

She smiles a bit sheepishly.  “Originally Ukraine, but now I’m a psychology major at (college) here in the United States.”

I give myself a pat on the back for being pretty close with my guess, but then my face scrunches up in worry.  It’s July 2014 and there is a war going on in Ukraine.  The death toll has been increasing.  A commercial airliner headed to Amsterdam was recently shot down by rebels in Ukraine, killing 298 souls on board.

“Oh!  Ukraine,” I say with seriousness.  “Do you still have family back home?  Are they okay?”

Her eyes go big for a second as she nods.  “Yes, but they are okay now.  We live in the city and one night, terrible violence broke out between the fighters.  It was horrible for them.  There were guns firing and explosions.  My family just ran.  They took all the possessions they could in just a few backpacks and fled across the border to Russia.”

“Is your family originally Russian?  Do they support the rebel troops?”

“Oh, no!” she replies immediately.  “No, my family is from Ukraine.  I don’t know anyone who supports the rebels.  There are lots of people in our area who are from Russia, sure.  Still, I don’t know anyone, none of our neighbors, who want Ukraine to be part of Russia.  We see Ukraine as independent.”

It’s hard for me to imagine living in such an unstable country plagued by civil war.  I am surprised and fascinated that the girl’s family has run to hide in the country which is attacking them, but survival, not politics, was clearly the most important thing for them.  I remind myself to say a prayer for the girl’s family and for all the people in Ukraine who are impacted by this on-going violence.

Pastor J

A young-looking Caucasian man in his mid-thirties was one of the first people to board our flight.  He came hobbling on the plane with crutches.  A giant, black boot encased his leg from knee to foot.

The flight attendant next to me smiled as he approached us and said,  “It was sure sweet of you to jump out of that burning building and save all those puppies!  Am I right?” she grins, nodding at his leg.

The man laughed.  “Actually the story is just about as fantastic!”  He continued to maneuver slowly onto the plane as he explained, “My friend and I were driving and got t-boned by a kid driving sixty miles an hour.  Sixty miles an hour!  I was in the passenger seat and the car was totally wrecked, but I came out with just this; a broken leg.  That’s it.  Otherwise, not a scratch on me!”

“Wow,” I breathed, shaking my head in wonder.

“God had something planned for you, my friend,” my co-worker said.

“Well, in fact...” the man grunted while pausing to adjust his crutches.

Before he finished, I already heard the three words in my head.

“...I’m a pastor.”

A tiny jolt shocked my heart as my prediction came to life. 

“How did I know he was going to say that?” I silently asked myself.  The man’s story reminds me of a similar near-miss traffic accident in my own life.  It’s a story that deserves its own telling, but to abbreviate, I have always believed that the accident was avoided because the man in my vehicle was meant to serve God’s mission later in life.

During the flight, the pastor showed us pictures of the accident.  The cell phone picts show the tangled wreckage of a white van.  The metal is twisted and deformed around the spot where the pastor was sitting.

“So, the driver and I went to this young man’s house and let me tell you, he had nothing.  He lived with his mother and they were just really having a tough time and God gave us an amazing opportunity to speak with these people and get to know them.  We agreed to not press any charges and in fact, we were able to give them some money back from the insurance settlement.  The best part though – the best part – was that we got to tell them about Jesus and bring them to the Lord.”

Don't Mess with Mama

The New York City to Los Angeles flight is usually over six and a half hours long.  In nearly the same amount of time, you could cross the Atlantic and get to London.  Understandably, passengers tend to get a little cranky during this long haul.  One of the most upset passengers I ever met was a woman I’ll call Kathy.  This mom was traveling in the Main Cabin with four daughters who ranged in ages from nine to seventeen.  Kathy went through an emotional rollercoaster when she discovered that our transcontinental flights do not include meals.  We offer a limited amount of food for sale products and that’s it.  First, Kathy was unbelieving.

“Don’t you have free peanuts?  Maybe some pretzels?” she pressed.

“No, ma’am.  I’m sorry, but we just have food for sale products and free drinks.”

Then, she became aghast.  After a minute of babbling her confusion and disapproval, her attitude changed again and she became outright nasty.  She demanded to be served a meal.  Her voice was loud enough to capture the attention of people sitting five or six rows ahead of her.  I tried my best to remain cordial and calmly explain that her demand was impossible to fulfill as there were no meals for Main Cabin catered on the plane.  My co-worker on the other end of the cart, a hardened chick from New York City, finally cut in after a few minutes and said, “Listen, ma’am.  Like she said, we don’t have any meals on this flight.  If you see something you wanna order off the menu, let us know.”  Then, she hit the release pedal on the cart and urged me to follow her backwards a few rows away from the irate woman.

At the end of our service, Kathy came back to the galley.  As I recognized the woman, my back stiffened and I prepared myself for another verbal assault.  Surprisingly though, Kathy stood with her arms limply folded, as if hugging herself.

“I....I’m sorry that I acted so rudely to you,” she said carefully, her eyes fleeting between us.  “I don’t usually make a scene.  It’s just...my daughter I was worried about.  The oldest one, you may have seen, is sitting at the window and she’s...she’s...”

Kathy’s face quivered and soon, there were tears squeezing out the corners of her eyes.  Kathy explained that her teenage daughter was struggling with self-image and Kathy had recently discovered that the girl was anorexic.  A doctor’s appointment revealed that the child was terribly underweight and wasn’t getting proper nourishment.  Her starvation tactics were self-implemented all for the sake of wanting to look thinner.  Kathy was trying to help her daughter get back on track to having a better self-image and eating a healthy diet.

“I just thought there was a meal and so I didn’t bring any snacks and I know it’s not your fault....”


She handed us a credit card, but my co-worker immediately waived a hand and filled Kathy’s arms with enough food products to feed a small army.

Kathy’s story stuck with me and I remember her every time I have an upset passenger.  I remind myself to be patient and to speak kindly because there's no telling what that person is going through.

 

    Jenn Grahams

    is a flight attendant and an aspiring writer.  She lives in the Midwest with her husband, many pet fish, and two chinchillas named Kuzco and Pancho.

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