Friday, June 20, 2008

Good News, Vague News

I got call from the neurologist's office today.

The good news - It's not a tumor (she said in her best Arnold Schwarzenegger accent) and there are no visible lesions.

The vague news - everything else. They couldn't (or wouldn't) tell me much else over the phone, other than I have some obvious nerve damage. But the how and why are still a mystery.

I go back week after next for more tests. I was told that it might take months for him to really confirm a diagnosis, so I just need to be patient in the meantime, endure the testing, and hope the symptoms don't get any worse.

So until then, I wait on pins and needles. Or at least, it feels like pins and needles.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vegas Vacation

I took a few days off for a short vacation to Vegas with my mother. It ended up being a little shorter than expected, as we came home a day early because I wasn't feeling well. But for the first two days, we had a pretty good time and a little dose of good luck.

We got first class on the flight out

Got the side of the aircraft with the good views of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Damn (below) and Lake Mead

Our room had a nice view of the mountains and the gardens

We were upgraded to one of the Flamingo's new fancy rooms with a flat panel TV in the main room
and another TV in the bathroom

(although truthfully, the West Elm decor was a bit too hot pink and loud for our taste)

Mom even won $160.00 on the penny slots within the first ten minutes of our arrival into the casino (following this shot, I spent the next hour explaining to Mom what a blog is, who reads them and why. I walked away from that conversation more confused than she was.)

Of course, by the next day, our luck started to run out a bit. We started working on returning the $160.00, the outside temp went to 106, and my sinuses dried up and exploded. I did manage to walk outside the hotel just once, and that lasted about 30 seconds before I retreated back to the air-conditioned casino. But here is photographic evidence of my journey to the middle of the sun.

Oh, and as many times as I've been to Vegas, I never noticed their Walk of Fame. This was the star just outside the door I chose. I considered it to be a little inside-joke/shout out to one of my best buds.

We had a touch more luck before we headed home - both in the casino and at the airport, where although there were 80+ standbys for the flight home, we cleared with no problem and even got to sit together.

Just hoping that all that luck will carry over into the next few weeks.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

12 of 12 - June 2008

Is it the 12th already? Looks like it. And that means that it is time for Chad Darnell's 12 of 12. (That's 12 pictures of your day on the 12th.)

Today we have a little bit of airline history, some Joni family history, the opportunity to revisit some dear friends and former coworkers and wish them farewell as they head off to retirement, and finally, at the end of the day, a chance to say a more final goodbye to a friend we lost too soon.

So - here we go.....

8:07 a.m. - Welcome to the mess on my desk. The sad thing is that it has looked this bad for over a week now. I can't seem to get one task finished before something else comes up that is more pressing. So everything else just gets piled up and pushed further down the desk. I'm really hoping to get everything you see finished, filed and forgotten about by the end of the day. (Spoiler alert - I only got about 75% of it done by the end of the day. Those little blue folders in the upper right hand corner still remain.)

11:40 a.m. - I had to run over to the Delta General Offices (The GO) today for a retirement party. Our corporate headquarters - which includes the GO, the maintenance/technical operations facilities, pilot and flight attendant training centers, operations control, Delta Technology, the employee credit union, and the Atlanta Reservations office - takes up most of the area immediately north and east of the Atlanta Airport. This particular building is called, depending on when you went to work for Delta, the A2 building or the old Res Building. I work in the new Res building, which is about 2 blocks away from the GO campus.

11:41 a.m. - The Varsity brings the truck down for a hot dog sale about once a month. Usually, it is tied in with some sort of charity function where all the profits go to something like one of Delta's Habitat for Humanity builds, the Relay for Life, etc. And wherever there is free or cheap food, there will be Delta people. (See the line down the sidewalk?)

11:45 a.m. - The retirement party was in the building connected to Hangars 1 and 2, which house the Delta Heritage Museum. So, since I was a few minutes early, I cut through the museum and snapped a few photos. This is Ship 41, Delta's first DC-3 passenger aircraft used in the 1940s and 50s. It was located and completely restored by a volunteer team of Delta retirees and mechanics over a period of 6 years back in the 90s.

11:46 a.m. - Just next to Ship 41 is the museum store. It is housed in the front half of the fuselage of an old L-1011. You can tour the cockpit of you like. (And I think that there is too much stuff to keep up with on my desk!)

11:48 a.m. - While this picture didn't come out too clear, I still had to include it, since that's my parents. They were featured on the cover of the Delta employee magazine after they were married in 1954 and this particular issue is on display just as you enter the museum store.

11:54 a.m. - This is Ship 102, also known as The Spirit of Delta. It holds a very special place in the hearts of Delta people, as the aircraft was purchased by the employees for the company back in 1982. Ship 102 was retired back in 2006 and my Dad and I were honored to be selected as 2 of the 23 employees and retirees (1 for each year it was in service) to pull the aircraft into its final home here in the museum. The interior has been reconfigured and is now an exhibit of Delta history. In fact, my good friend Dale was the artist that designed and set up the displays.

11:57 a.m. - I've spent way too much time in the museum, and I need to get going, but one last shot if you don't mind. This is a photo of the old Atlanta airport. You may be able to see "Delta Air Lines" on the building in the top middle part of the photo. That is the same hangar that I've been taking all of the above photos in. And the road running down the left hand side of the picture is the same road with all the people lined up for Varsity hot dogs a few shots above, and is also the same road that I live on. My house is in the neighborhood that you can barely see just above and behind the Delta hangar.

12:02 p.m. - I finally make it to the retirement party. (29 people out of 45 from my old department are taking the early retirement packages that Delta recently offered. It makes for a pretty large retirement party.) That's me and my Dad. He always claims he can smell a retirement cake from the highway anytime he passes Delta. Seriously though, the people in my old department loved my Dad. When I left the department, I actually had people say, "We will miss seeing your Dad when he comes up to take you to lunch." But missing me? Not so much.

12:37 p.m. - This is "The Row." Me, Stan, Glenda and Grady. The four of us, and a couple of others that couldn't make the party, at one time all had offices on the same hallway, and over several years, we became the best of friends. Since the glory days of The Row, Glenda was the last one left in the department and she is now retiring. Grady retired in 2001, Kim (not present) left in 2002 after the birth of her 3rd child, Stan transferred to the airport in 2004, and I moved to my current position in 2006, and Renee (also not present) moved to Texas last year. But in spite of no longer working together, we email each other often, meet up for dinner every few months, and get together whenever we have something to celebrate. When you hear people speak of the Delta Family, this is what they are talking about. These people are my Delta Family.

12:43 p.m. - This is my good friend Tammi. She's also retiring and is moving back home to Texas where she started out. She is part of my "Lost" discussion group, a group of former coworkers that spends the better part of the late evening and early morning after each new episode of "Lost" discussing and analyzing what just happened, what it all means, and exactly how hot Sawyer looked without his shirt. You know, important stuff.

5:34 p.m. - After work, I went to the funeral home with some coworkers for visitation for my friend Mechia. She passed away very suddenly this past Sunday morning from an asthma attack. She and I worked together about 10 years ago, and we stayed in touch. When I started my current job, we were happy to find that we were working just down the hall from each other again. I had just seen her on Friday, and we stopped and talked for a few minutes about her youngest daughter who was about to leave for Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu. She was such a proud mother. I'm glad that she had something to be so happy about in what would be her last days. She was a sweet lady and I'll miss her.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Anniversary to me

12 years ago today I began my career at the Big D.

I sort of got a late start on my career because back in the olden days, Delta had a nepotism policy that prevented immediate family members from working full time at the company. So, I bided my time until Dad finally decided to retire. Then, as they were only hiring for frontline Reservations, I took the leap (and a pay cut) and started as a Res Sales agent.

In the time since then, I've moved up the ladder (and fortunately, the pay scale) and while not every day has been a rosy one (bankruptcy, pay cuts, occasional rude customer), I know that it was a good move for me. I've made some wonderful friends. I've learned more than I ever thought possible about things I never knew existed before getting into the airline business. Oh, and I've flown for free. A lot.

At last count, I've gone on 52 different trips (on my own pass, that is. On Dad's pass - I couldn't begin to hazard a guess, but I'm sure that 100 wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities.)

As far as destinations go, Vegas is in the lead with 17, followed by Savannah with 11. I had a friend that lived in Savannah and I use to fly down to see her and her husband for the day every few weeks, and she would pick me up at the airport, we would go see a movie, have dinner, and then I'd fly home. I once had someone ask, "Why fly to Savannah just to see a movie?" My answer - "Because I can!" (Yeah - it was a little snotty, but if you had heard the way this guy asked the question, you would understand.)

I tried to think of one most favorite trip, but there are just too many to single out one.

I've taken the niece and nephew to DC a few times, seen the Grand Canyon with them and roamed British castles with them. Those were definitely among the best.

Going to Memphis to visit Graceland with my Mom was another fun one. And our many trips to Vegas are always great - even if she and her 74 year old self can stay up all night, while I end up crawling back to the room alone by 1:00 a.m.

There were also two trips with just me and my Dad that were especially meaningful. The first was one of my first official trips after I had been with the company for about 8 months. Dad and I flew to London, where we rented a car and drove west (on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road) to the village of Yeovil, England. While there, we visited the home of our ancestral family and visited the churchyard where my 12th great grandfather was buried. It was cool beyond words.

The other trip great trip was when Dad and I flew out to Norfolk on Thanksgiving Day 2003. From Norfolk, we drove down the coast of NC to the town of Kitty Hawk, and early the next morning, we visited the site where the Wright Brothers made the first flight 100 years earlier. As we were there about a week before the actual 100 year anniversary, we were fortunate to be the only people there when the park opened that day. Standing on that hill, alone with my Dad, looking over the spot where history was made and our common careers were born, was one of the best moments of my life. It is and will always be one of my most precious memories. The ability to go there and share the common love of flight with my Dad was worth any pay cut or bad day at work I could ever have had over the last 12 years.

Next week, I'll be heading off on trip #53 with my Mom. Guess where?

I hope my next 12 years are as fulfilling and fun as the first 12 have been.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Where MRI

The rescheduled Open MRI was today.

The good news - they gave me drugs this time.

The bad news - unlike the closed MRI, which takes about 8 minutes to complete - the Open MRI takes up to 30 minutes to complete due to the different set up.

The technician, trying to be cutesy, first said something like, "and in 5 hours, we are done!" and even in the slight haze created by that second Ativan, I got upset. Then he said he was joking and it was really on 30 minutes. I told him to stop joking, that I knew it was 8 minutes, and that is when he told me that the 30 minutes was not a joke. I felt like I traded off 8 minutes of sober terror for 30 minutes of slightly drugged terror.

I ended up popping the third Ativan and asking for a few more minutes to compose myself. After that, he got me set up and slid me into the machine for about a minute, then brought me out and asked if I thought I could do it. Me, being the 12 year old that I am, asked for a glass of water. (and a story, and my teddy bear, and my blanklee). After the water, I was a little more dopey, so he put me in for real and told me that while I wasn't supposed to move at all, I could move my hand and that if I needed him to stop at any time to wave my right hand and he could see it from his station and would come in and get me out.

I found it was OK if I kept my eyes shut and let myself get hypnotised by the thumping noise the machine made. I was still having issues, but the drugs dulled them enough to help. The only times it was real bad was when the noise would stop and I would think, "Is it over? Why is he not coming to get me out of this contraption?" But then the noise would start back up, and I'd lose myself again. At one point near the end, I felt a little upset, and I tried to wave him down, but my hand and arm had gone numb from another attack, so I couldn't move that whole side of my body. Fortunately, it was over within a minute or two of that anyway.

I'm sort of glad that I had one of those attacks while having the MRI - maybe that will show them what they need to see in order to diagnose me. And hopefully, whatever it is, it won't be that bad. Either way, will keep you guys posted.

Once it was all over, Dad bought me a Chick-fil-a and took me home, where my Mom, God Bless Her Heart, had spent the time we were gone cleaning my house. And the even greater thing - she had done all the jobs that I really hate - like sweeping out the hot garage, vacuuming the stairs, cleaning out the microwave, and scrubbing the bathroom counters and sinks.

At least I don't need a brain scan to know that I have great parents.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


When last we spoke, I was still recovering from the trauma of trying to deal with the bad MRI.

Today, I talked to my doctor's office and they said that they could either schedule me at a place with an Open MRI or prescribe a sedative for me to go back to the original one. I asked if we could do both. Fortunately, they agreed.

Turns out that the only place on this side of the city with an Open MRI is less than a mile from my house. So, we are all set for next Monday.

more cat pictures

Also, I finally got the kitchen cabinets organized. It really goes fast once you realize that half the stuff is way past expired and can be tossed in the trash.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Panic! at the MRI

I was scheduled for a brain MRI today. It did not go well.

I don't know why, but over the last year or two, I've developed a bad case of claustrophobia. As a kid, I could wiggle my way into the crawl space under the house, shimmy under the bed, or hide in the cabinet under the sink during a game of hide and seek. But lately, I can't seem to even think about being in an enclosed space without starting to choke or get dizzy.

As I sat in the waiting area, I started to get a little anxious. So, I just started telling myself that this was ridiculous and that I would be fine. And I kept repeating -"You'll be fine" to myself quietly until they came to get me. Then, they made me sit in another waiting area, and I found the lights to be incredibly bright - almost blinding. And so I continued to tell myself that it was all in my mind, that I would be fine, that I was an adult and knew better than to worry, that people did this 1,000s of times a day all over the world and they were all fine. But you know - logic doesn't always work well against anxiety.

Finally, it is my turn, and I started tearing up before I even sat down on the table. The technician asked if I was going to be OK, and I told her that I just had to breathe a few times and I would be OK.

I lied.

The minute my back hit the table and my head went into the holder, I started to choke. It was like my throat was swollen shut. So, I sat back up again. She told me it would only last 8 minutes, and I told myself that 8 minutes was nothing. And so back on the table I went. And the throat thing happened again - only this time accompanied by tunnel vision. I tried to breathe and repeated my "You'll be OK" mantra, but then she snapped the helmet over my face and I completely lost my s***. It was at once the most embarrassing and the most traumatic thing I can recall happening to me in a long time.

Fortunately, the technician was at least sweet about it. She said that I wasn't the first person that this ever happened to. Heck, apparently I wasn't even the first person that had happened to today. But still, I felt like an idiot.

Now I have to call my doctor in the morning to see if he will give the orders to have me sedated for the next attempt. But just thinking about - with drugs or without - makes me start to feel choked, and makes my heart starts pounding. I had hoped that by blogging about it, I would get past it, but so far no.

On the bright side, after I left the MRI lab, I had to go across the street to have my yearly mammogram. After the MRI panic attack, the mammogram was a piece of cake.

Thank God my boobs aren't claustrophobic.