My in-laws came to visit us Palm Sunday weekend!  They brought their cat Molly along.  Molly, a sixteen month old kitten, is kind of notorious for being overly playful and hyper.  In fact, she often annoys the older cat of the family, Sara Lee.  Fearing Molly might antagonize my chinchillas, I made sure to "cat proof" their cages.
Molly Cat 1
Kuzco's cage
Molly Cat 2
Pancho's cage
Kuzco's cage was already fortified with plexiglass walls, but for Pancho's cage we added a fence for his protection.  Even though Molly is declawed, we didn't want her to scare our little guy by sticking her paws through the bars.  As we predicted, Molly showed immediate interest in our furry pets.  As soon as she entered the house, she began watching them intently.
Molly Cat 3
Molly staring at Pancho!
Surprisingly, when Molly approached his cage, Pancho didn't flinch.  In fact, he even tried to get closer to Molly to sniff her!
Cat Meets ChinchillaPancho showed great interest in Molly and didn't seem afraid at all!
After watching the two pets eagerly stare and sniff one another for an entire day, I decided to research online whether or not cats and chinchillas get along.  I had assumed they would not! 

My reasoning was that a  chinchilla basically looks like a giant mouse.  I therefore figured a cat's predatory instincts would kick in at the sight of a chin and the cat would want to attack the chinchilla!

Contrary to this assumption, I found several videos of cats and chinchillas getting along!  So, we decided to give it a try.  With much supervision and helpful hands at the ready, we put the creatures together!  Here's a video of what happened!

No pets were harmed in the making of this film!



Chinchilla and Cat Friends

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Flight Attendant Ear ProblemsI've been having major ear problems recently. :(
“Never fly if your ears are blocked!” my instructors told us at flight attendant school. 

I took their warning seriously especially after one guest speaker swore he sat on the jumpseat next to a flight attendant whose eardrum ruptured and caused blood to “pour out of her ear” as she “screamed in pain”.

Not wanting to suffer the same fate, I’ve been cautious this year when I’ve fallen ill.  I don’t usually get sick, but this year I’ve somehow caught three bouts of either the flu or a sinus infection.  The too-busy-to-talk walk-in clinic doctor didn’t think it was necessary to diagnose me and quickly prescribed medication that “would cure either thing.”  (Ohh-kay???  Thanks, doc?)

Due to my health and ear problems, I've had to drop two trips so far which will cost me a lot of money and make my next few paychecks look pretty pathetic.  I’m feeling better now, but started second-guessing my decision to stay home instead of "toughing it out".  (I wasn't contagious when I dropped the second flight, but I still had an earache.)  To assuage my fears and clear up myths about flying with clogged ears, I’ve done a little research and I’m happy to share my findings with you!  I’ll post them below in a Question and Answer form. 

Have YOU ever had a problem with your ears during flight?  What helped you?

Hope to hear from you!  Happy travels!
~Jenn Grahams


Can an eardrum rupture inflight due to pressurization problems?

PictureSnagged this pict when I saw the doctor.
Yes.  According to this article at Patient.co.uk, in rare cases a person’s eardrum can rupture when the middle ear is unable to adjust after a sudden change in air pressure (like when the plane is descending).  A perforated (meaning ruptured) eardrum causes hearing loss, but fortunately, the ear will heal itself over time in most cases.


Could the story about the flight attendant’s bleeding ear be true?

Yes, but it’s more likely an embellished story.  According to many medical articles (including THIS one at Entnet.org), a perforated eardrum usually results in a liquid discharge – NOT blood.  In some rare causes, blood may be included in the discharge, but only if the ear is injured internally.  In our story, the flight attendant would have needed to perhaps bang her head on something or have injured her ear in some way - perhaps by poking something forcibly inside it.

What sort of medical examinations are required before becoming a flight attendant?

In the United States, the FAA mandates medical exams for all airline crew members.  At my airline, I was required to take (and pass!) the medical exam BEFORE I was admitted into flight attendant school.  The flight attendant physical exam is less stringent compared to the requirements for pilots, but there are certain visual and hearing criteria that need to be met before someone can qualify to be a flight attendant.  As part of my exam, I went into a soundproof room and took a hearing test in which I pressed a button every time I heard a beep.  The beeps changed pitch and became progressively softer.  A nurse also stuck a probe in my ear that supposedly registered whether or not my ears could properly pressurize inflight.  (She had trouble getting my right ear to give a passing reading so perhaps I’ve always been doomed to have these ear problems.)

What causes ear pressurization problems?  How can I unblock my ears inflight?

This well-written article titled “Ears and Altitude” explains the problem thoroughly and describes the most common methods for unblocking your ears.

Surprisingly NOT mentioned is the method where you place a cup of hot water next to your ear (making sure to keep the water from splashing INSIDE the ear)!  The steam supposedly helps relieve the pressure.  I tried it once when I had a bad cold and it seemed to work although the timing could have been coincidental. 

When I’m flying, I have to pop my ears numerous times a day.  With practice I’ve gotten to the point where swallowing hard or yawning will usually do the trick.

While doing my research, I discovered that several businesses are selling ear popping devices.  I have no idea whether or not these are actually useful (or safe?), but if anyone knows please write me in the comments below.

Do passengers often complain about their ears? 
Have you ever had an inflight medical emergency where a passenger could not pop their ears?

I get a handful of complaints and worried passengers every month that can’t pop their ears right away while inflight.  Usually it’s a panicking mother with a toddler.  I can’t offer much assistance other than quote the different methods I know for unblocking ears. (We aren’t allowed to use the steam method because that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen!  Think turbulence and boiling water…not a good combo.)  We would never divert a flight or land early if a passenger was experiencing ear problems.  If the pain was extreme, we might seek out medical assistance, but we won’t divert or land a plane early unless it is a true medical emergency.  The passenger would unfortunately have to endure the ear discomfort for the rest of the flight.  Fortunately, blocked ears usually cause only minor pain.

Interesting Fact.  If everyone on the plane starts having ear discomfort / ear blockage at the same time, it means you're probably about to experience a rapid decompression so get ready to grab your oxygen mask!  Just another fun thing you get to think about all the time when you're a flight attendant.  :)  My ears usually only "pop" on ascent and descent so if it happens inflight, I always tense up, turn to my crewmate and ask, "Are your ears popping?"  Thankfully, the answer has always been no.

 
 
Do we become more cynical with age?  I haven't hit thirty and yet I find myself becoming more jaded with time.  What happened to my upbeat Midwestern sweetheart personality that fit me so naturally as a teenager and a young adult?  Why is it so hard for me to maintain an cheerful heart?

This month I've had some dreadful trips (lots of delays, cancellations, rude passengers, etc.) and the disastrous flights have thrown my mood into a downward spiral.  The less-than-pleasant experiences put my focus on the negative aspects of my job.  In short,  I've been having a very "glass half empty" attitude all month.

My pessimism was obvious and completely transparent when I wrote my husband an email last week complaining about an unexpected equipment change.  Being the witty writer that he is, my husband responded perfectly and in such a way that it completely brightened my day!
03/06/2015 - 7:13AM - My Flight
Ughhh.  Today isn't any better.  My back is sore.  We were supposed to deadhead but they changed it so we are working and I'm the forward galley on a 767!  Haven't done this big plane in a long time.  I have to organize 2 carts and direct service for 30 business class passengers.  Yuck.
-Jenn
Picture
03/06/2015 - 12:02PM - RE: My Flight

Yuck?  That sounds exciting!  That's almost like a small restaurant's worth of people and you're in charge!  And it's a big plane so lots of room to stretch your legs and it will probably be a smoother flight.  And, it will still be light in Florida when you land so you'll get to watch the sunset in a place 40 degrees warmer than it is at home right now.  Then tomorrow night you'll be welcomed home to furry chinchillas!

Or maybe you weren't looking for encouragement, but something more like commiseration.  In that case:

That really sucks dear :-(  What an awful "surprise" to dump on you.  And you're still only halfway through the sequence.  Tonight it will be windy and too far from the beach to do anything, then tomorrow you will have to get up early for two more flights.  Double yuck :-(
                                                        -Jacob


Picture
My husband's response helped remind me of something very important:
We have a choice.  We can choose to be miserable or choose to be happy.  The decision is in our hands.  I'm not saying it's easy to be joyful when everything life throws at you is dreary.  Nevertheless, I think optimism is something for which we should strive.  Helen Keller thought so.

While completing her college studies in 1903, Helen Keller wrote an essay on optimism.  In her paper, the deaf-blind woman firmly asserted her belief that optimism is necessary for good to prevail.  I've posted below a few excerpts from her work.  I hope you'll find them as inspiring as I did and if you have time, you can read her entire essay HERE!  If you have more advice on how to stay cheerful in spite of everything, please share your idea in the comments below.  I'd love to hear from you!  :)

-Jenn Grahams

Helen Keller Quotes from her essay "Optimism"

"Every optimist moves along with progress and hastens it, while every pessimist would keep the world at a standstill.  [...] Pessimism kills the instinct that urges men to struggle against poverty, ignorance and crime, and dries up all the fountains of joy in the world."

"I try to increase the power God has given me to see the best in everything and every one, and make that Best part of my life."

"...there are still great evils which have not been subdued, and the optimist is not blind to them, yet he is full of hope."
 
 
The flight attendant life is fairly transient.  Between working and commuting, this month I’ll take an average of six flights each week for a total of twenty-seven flights in March!  Maintaining that average, I could possibly take over three hundred flights in 2015!  (And I’m considered a “low time flier” by most flight attendant standards!)

When friends and family hear about my flight attendant schedule, some shake their heads and say I’m crazy.  They can’t imagine maintaining such an “unstable” lifestyle.  In all truthfulness, it really isn’t as frantic as it may seem at first glance.  In fact, I feel like my life is pretty grounded! 
Although I travel A LOT and spend much of my time bouncing around in airplanes, I always return to one of my homes - either my permanent residence with my husband in the Midwest or my sister-in-law's apartment in my base city (Washington D.C.). Now, try to imagine a life where you didn’t have any home!

I recently stumbled upon some truly adventurous people who take their passion for travel to an entirely different level!  Let me introduce you to some individuals who live a life that is filled with constant travel.  These are full-time travelers who have chosen to break free of traditional norms and live a nomadic life where their only agenda is to see the world and experience its riches!  How do they do it?  How do they have the funds to travel endlessly?  Surprisingly, they’ve all accomplished their travel goals in different ways!  I am amazed at their courage and I know you’ll find their stories fascinating!

Nicole & Michael  from SuitcaseStories.com

Suitcase Stories
Used with permission from SuitcaseStories.com.
Picture
Paris, Costa Rica, Barbados, Spain, Fiji – these are just some of the places Australian couple Nicole and Michael have visited since starting their journey.  A few years ago, they took the plunge to quit their jobs, sell nearly all their possessions, and set off on the adventure of a lifetime!  Last December they celebrated over 1,000 days of being on the road.

What surprises me most about Nicole and Michael’s story is that they haven’t been spending their nights in run-down youth hostels.  In fact, most of the time they’re staying in beautiful fully-furnished houses!  Their secret?  They’ve had over thirty house-sitting jobs


Suitcase Stories CoupleUsed with permission from SuitcaseStories.com.
When house-sitting, this couple is responsible for taking care of the property while the homeowners are away.  This involves fairly simple tasks such as keeping the walkways cleared of snow during winter (in some countries!) and taking care of the homeowner’s pets.  The best part is, they’re paid to sleep at the person’s home and given ample time to explore the city where they are staying!  Michael and Nicole have written an ebook – House Sitting | A Travelers Guide – to share their secrets.  Ebook sales, travel blogging, and their house sitting jobs have allowed the couple to keep traveling and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon!

Follow them on Twitter @Suitcases2
!

The Janssens Family from HappyJanssens.com

Think back to your family’s camping trip you took as a kid.  Maybe you rented an RV camper – one of those giant rolling mobile homes?  Now imagine a life where that RV is your home!  Until recently, this was the life for Americans Sara, Matt, and their daughters who traveled across the United States for four whole years while living in their RV.
Nomads RV Life
Used with permission from HappyJanssens.com.
RV HomeA look inside the Janssens' mobile home! Photo used with permission.
Sara and Matt felt inspired to live a simpler, greener life and to teach their kids to cherish the most important things in life – God and family.  One day they sold the majority of their belongings, left a few boxes of keepsakes at a family member’s home, and took off into the sunset in their mobile home which they nicknamed “The Rig”.  While roaming North America, they marveled at the beauty of nature (visiting sights such as the Redwoods in California and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado) and met diverse and interesting people.  To fund their journey, both parents took up odd jobs along the way.  Matt offered his services as a handyman to fix and remodel other RVs while Sara worked as a freelance photographer and graphic designer.

With the arrival of a third daughter and two dogs, the couple finally decided to buy a “real” home in Colorado, but they didn’t stay for long!  Sara’s posted in her blog last September that they are renting out their house and taking off for another 9 months of traveling in their new RV!  Talk about living the life of adventure!


Follow them on Twitter @happyjanssensman and @
nestinggypsy

Jonny Blair from DontStopLiving.net

Jonny Blair
Jonny Blair in Kharanaq Iran! Used with permission from DontStopLiving.net.
PictureJonny working as a steward on a car ferry!
This Northern Irishman tops the charts when it comes to traveling the longest!  Twelve years ago Jonny Blair left his home in Northern Ireland and he has been traveling ever since!  This true nomad has seen a vast portion of the world and experienced many things.  To fund his travels, Jonny has taken on all sorts of odd jobs including teaching English to Kindergarteners in Hong Kong, working as a bartender in Australia, and milking cows in Colombia to name a few!  Currently though, Jonny earns most of his travel money as a travel writer and successful online blogger.

Jonny admits that during this twelve years he has stopped on occasion to stay for longer periods of time in cities such as London, Hong Kong, Bournemouth, Parramatta and Poatina.  Nevertheless, he estimates that he’s “traveled properly” for about seven of the twelve years!  In his fascinating blog, you’ll read Jonny’s amazing tales of backpacking in Azerbaijan, climbing mountains in Borneo, skinny dipping in Antarctica, and discovering new, tasty beers in Andorra, New Zealand, and well…nearly every place he’s visited!  ;)
PictureJonny in South Korea!
In his upcoming ebook ("Backpacking Centurion: A Northern Irishman's Journey Through 100 Countries"), Jonny plans to share some of his grand adventures which have taken place in all seven continents!

Follow Jonny on Twitter @JonnyBlair!

I am truly amazed by all these individuals who have found ways to live a life of endless travel!  After reading their stories, I know I've felt tempted to trade out monthly home mortgage payments and rooms full of possessions for a nomadic lifestyle that would feed my wanderlust!  At the same time, I know I'd cave pretty quickly to homesickness!  For now, I'll stay put in my "white picket fence" home and live vicariously through these astounding adventurers!  What about you?  Do you think you'll try to follow in their footsteps?
 
 
I am a flight attendant, but NOT a stewardess.  Although many people use the two job titles interchangeably, many flight attendants view the word stewardess as offensive! 

I vividly remember the moment someone first brought the flight attendant/stewardess controversy to my attention.  It was a summer’s day back in 2012 and I was attending my first interview for a major airline carrier in the United States.  (I didn’t get the job, by the way.  I was eventually hired by the third airline for which I applied.)  I was a nervous wreck and felt completely intimidated seeing the fifty other confident-looking, well-dressed people against whom I was competing.  I stuck like glue to my only friend – a woman named Sandra whom I had met on the bus.

Sandra had years of flight attendant experience on her resume.  She had left her job at the age of thirty to become a full-time mother, but with her kids grown, hoped to get back into the airline business.  To be perfectly honest, I had a bit of a “girl crush” on this woman.  She seemed so completely put together!  She was sassy and quick-witted and very knowledgeable.  It was therefore a huge stab to my ego when Sandra laughed at me when I used the word stewardess to describe the position for which we were applying.

“Stewardess?” Sandra had repeated, crinkling her forehead and wrinkling her nose as if the spoken word had emitted an unpleasant smell.  “That is so outdated.  No one says stewardess, hon.  It’s flight attendant.”

War of Words - Why Flight Attendant is Politically Correct

Sandra was right.  No one in the airline industry – within the United States, at least – uses the word stewardess.  Why was the name changed?

The name change reflects how the job itself has changed drastically in the past few decades!  In the past, stewardesses in the USA had to be female, unmarried, and meet specific appearance and weight regulations.  Now flight attendants can be either male or female.  Physical requirements are limited to height (Flight attendants must be tall enough to reach safety equipment in the overhead bins!) and airlines can no longer discriminate against applicants on other physical appearance aspects. 

The job of a stewardess in the 1950s was focused on passenger comfort.  Flight attendants today put passenger safety as their number one priority.  Flight attendant training schools spend less time on image standards and etiquette and instead devote their curriculum to teaching employees how to handle medical emergencies (such as passenger heart attacks), fires, emergency landings, and a whole array of other safety-related topics!

Airline Lingo and Flight Attendant Culture

I can’t speak for flight attendants around the world, but within the United States I know that flight attendants despise the word stewardess.  I inwardly grimace every time someone calls me that!  Although I would never correct someone for accidentally saying it, hearing someone call me stewardess feels degrading.

Unfortunately, the word stewardess in today’s modern society is a bit tarnished.  The word harkens back to a time before modern feminism really took hold.  It reminds us of when the women working a flight were intended to be eye candy and a time in which advertisers used flight attendants as explicit sexual icons
The Braniff International ad campaign  in the 1960s featured flight attendants in Playboy magazine and highlighted inflight outfit changes known as the "Air Strip".  Even commercials such as National Airline’s “Fly Me” ad campaign back in 1971 gave the perception that flight attendants were "easy" women who were there to please.
Within my company, flight attendants today only use the word stewardess jokingly.  Here are a couple of common phrases my co-workers will say:

“Well, aren’t you just a super stew?”

This is usually said in a derogatory, sarcastic manner and refers to a flight attendant who is being too meticulous about something whether it be their personal appearance or passenger comfort.

“Yeah, she’s a sassy stew.”
“He’s the best stew I know.”


A light-hearted comment about a flight attendant whose personality or work habits are memorable.  In this case, stew is just being used as a fun nickname. 

Flight Attendants Around the World

Hopefully I’ve emphasized well enough that the information in this article applies to flight attendants within the United States.  I can’t speak for airlines in other parts of the world, but I have observed that most Western cultures recognize the word flight attendant as the internationally accepted term for my job.  (In German you see the word Flugbegeleiter or Flugbegeleiterin more often now than Steward or Stewardess.)

In the United States, we tend to get a bit overly zealous for using the “right” word for things.  Outside of the English-speaking world, it’s hard to say if this battle of words is happening.  In many Middle Eastern / Asian airlines, the words Cabin Crew Member often refer to flight attendants.  I’ve also heard the term Air Hostess used. 

In some foreign countries, airlines still enforce rigid appearance and gender requirements.  Here are a couple of online job postings for companies that filter out candidates by appearance, gender, or age:

Flight Attendant Weight Requirements
Oman Air has restrictions on gender, age, and weight.
Picture
This Korean Air posting limits gender, marriage status, and age.
Picture
Air Arabia restricts applicants by age and weight.

Flight Attendant Jobs in the Future?

So, what happens next?  Will the flight attendant position get another name change when we begin commercial transport into space?  Time will tell!

In the meantime, if you’re traveling in the United States and want to refer to that person who just told you to shut down your laptop for landing, try calling them a flight attendant and not a stewardess.  ;-) 

-Jenn Grahams

 

    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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