Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Grandma, Areta Benson Jensen July, 16 1913 - January 16, 2013

Today we held a celebration of the life of my grandmother who we lost on January 16th.  This picture is of me and grandma and was on the cover of the program.  Below I will simply paste the talk I gave today in memory of her.

Megans.  If you don't know what that means I will tell you.  This is the name I called my grandma until I was about 9 years old when I became too embarrassed to call her that anymore.  I know this disappointed her because calling her grandma all of a sudden aged her in a way that she did not deserve.  When I took over my mom's old room on Achilles Dr at age 7 as my home away from home away from home while she was flying, I never imagined that I would eventually have the kind of relationship I developed with my grandma.  A relationship that I don't think many will understand.  As I look back now I realize that my grandma was truly my best friend during all the years I had with her.

Many of you have known my grandma for much of her life and I am envious of that time you were able to spend with her.  I was only allotted 30 of the exactly 99.5 years of her life.  What I want to talk about is the grandma I knew during my time with her primarily through her 80s and 90s.  A time when many people are not even on earth anymore. But thankfully for mine and my mother's sake she was permitted to stay.  Mom and I often talk about how we never could have made it without her.  I can only imagine how incredible she was in all of her other decades.

The only Areta Jensen I knew was the woman dedicated 100% to the happiness of my mom and me. My grandma loved me, then she loved me more and more and more.  I don't know if many people know what it feels like to be as loved by someone as much as I was loved by my grandma.  I did not know the routine of having a bowl of cereal for breakfast until I went away to college.  My breakfast went in phases throughout my life including French toast, pancakes, waffles, and eggs and bacon.  It wasn't just a hot breakfast every morning, it was a hot breakfast delivered to me on a tray so I could watch tv.

The same was true for my dinner.  Nothing ever done in the microwave.  It was spare ribs, steak, casserole, or if I was lucky maybe even an entire dinner rolled up in napkins courtesy of her afternoon lunch at Chuck-A-Rama.   As I ate my dinner on a tray in the living room watching ESPN, I could often times hear grandma in her bedroom laughing the rhythmic Benson laugh so many of us are familiar with (do the laugh)  while watching the not so popular British comedy "Are you Being Served."

I always gave grandma a bad time because it seemed to me she was the only one from her family that did not love watching sports and didn't follow a team.  Her sister Aunt Lavaan always came up to visit during the World Series and whenever we would go to the northwest to see her sister Aunt Noreen or when she would visit I would get an update on how the Portland Trailblazers were doing.  I must admit though from time to time grandma would ask me to teach her about football.  That was her favorite for some reason. But as an impatient young kid I regretfully never took the proper time to do so.  I must have found something endearing in that particular characteristic of not watching sports because I married someone who was blessed to be what seems the only person in her family with the same trait.

It wasn't just the breakfasts and dinners that this love showed through though, it was the conversations, the support, the interest she took in every aspect of my life that showed her profound love for me and mom.  She used call me and my mom a "sphinx" because we wouldn't divulge every detail to her about our lives over the kitchen table while having a piece of raisin toast.  She wasn't just making conversation though, she really cared about everything that was happening in our lives.  If we ever did open up to her she was a fantastic listener.

She loved my friends and considered them as good of friends to her as they were to me.  Sean Perkins love for a tuna fish sandwich with loads of butter comes from my grandma trying to stall him from leaving the kitchen to hear about his life.  And don't forget, "butter does lubricate the joints" says the career health and modern dance teacher.

A repeating lesson I heard from grandma would come after the following scenario:  I would hang up the phone with a friend and say something to the effect of, "Grandma, me and Josh Turner are going to go skiing tomorrow."  To which her reply would be, " okay that sounds nice but remember it's Josh Turner and I.  The subject is the person or a thing which carries out the action of the verb and the object is the person or a thing upon which the action of the verb is carried out.  "I" is a pronoun that must be the subject of a verb and "Me" is a pronoun that must be the object of the verb."

Grandma and I never had a real fight that I can remember, which explains well to my wife why I always lose our very infrequent arguments.  Honestly there was nothing to fight about with grandma.  The only times I ever remember being mad at her was if she embarrassed me by inviting my friends into her home if I wasn't even there.  Come in come in! Says the familiar voice to a random 16 year old girl whom she had never before met.  Little did the poor girl know she was about to divulge her life's story over a cup of hot cocoa (not just any hot cocoa, but Nesquick, the best you can buy) made in a pot on the kitchen stove.

You could tell how grandma was doing on any particular day by how many octaves high her voice was when she answered the phone (imitate her voice on the phone, Hello!). She was having a good day.  hello...She had just listened to Bill Clinton.  I have thought to myself how fortunate she was that call waiting was not around when grandma was in her phone talking glory days.  She would never have been able to finish a conversation for having to switch lines every 10 seconds.  I can still hear the familiar voices over the phone of Nancy, Aunt Joy, Louise, Uncle Conway and many others.  She had so many phone calls that the first time I had a phone call that lasted any length of time over 10 minutes it was decided that a separate phone line had to be installed in her home for me so that I did not take up her precious phone time.  Let me make that clear, the second line was not for me, it was for grandma!

Grandma was punctual.  If we planned on her picking me up outside of a friend's house at 5:45 pm you better believe she would be there in her red Buick with the car idling at 5:43.  Some members of our ward may recall hearing grandma in sacrament meeting at church say in what she thought was a whisper, "welp they've gone over.  They don't know when to say amen."  Her timing was so good in fact that by passing away this week she managed to get me out of flying a 4 day trip with one of my least favorite captains.

Grandma was tough.  One of our favorite things to do was box.  Yes, box.  I would tap her on the shoulder while she ducked in defense and countered with vicious jabs that she rarely landed because if she did it hurt.  We also had our occasional arm wrestle.  If you remember we had an arm wrestle at her 90th and 95th birthdays. I will not admit to you when I finally had to "let" her win.  She was also a mentally tough grandma.  She and mom drove up to Logan when she was 91 years old to go on an airplane ride with me after I had received my newly minted commercial pilot's license.  I remember she demanded that she sit in the back seat of the complex 4 seat airplane.  I remember her rolling into the back seat and I wondered what it was that would posses this woman to risk those amazing 91 years on this moment. She would have done anything to support me though.

She wasn't about to go back then in her 92nd year.  I was told recently that our ward was worried that she may pass away while I was on my LDS mission in Brazil.  I can tell you that was honestly among the least of my worries. That was more than 10 years ago.  I had zero doubt that grandma would be around to see many more parts of my life through including graduating from college, getting married, and introducing her to her two great-grandchildren. After all this is the same woman that just a few months before I left for my mission fell and broke her femur in the basement.  The only phone we had down there for some reason was mounted high on the wall.  So she pulled herself up the stairs dragging the mangled leg behind her into the kitchen and called an ambulance.  Amazingly she recovered well from this break and when I got home the 90 year old woman had nothing more than a limp which did not interrupt any of her life's previous routines.

We had a rough past few years with grandma but she was still of sound mind at the birth of our first child Jett.  She loved him and would constantly say things like "look at the little rummy, I love eem! (him)". And she marveled at the roundness of his head.  Yes, she was very impressed with how round his head was and apparently that meant something special to her.  I remember one occasion when we all went to the mall or a store for something and we decided to leave grandma in the car with baby Jett who was asleep.  She is 96 years old at this time. We figured it would be easier to just leave the two of them in the car instead waking up a baby for something that was supposed to be quick.  When we got back to the car Jett was crying and grandma told us this story of how she couldn't climb into the back seat to help him although she was clearly out of breath from trying.  "I couldn't get this damn leg over the hump to get back there and get him out of his seat!" she told us.  We gave her credit for trying.

I had the privilege of knowing a very faithful, meek and humble Areta Jensen. She lost most of her sight at the end of her life but she had just enough to operate her tape player from the blind center. She would listen to books on her kitchen table during the day.  One year, I believe it was for Christmas, we got her the scriptures on tape.  Whenever I spoke with her she would tell me all about how much she loved "reading" them and that she was starting them for the second or third time.

If you never had the opportunity to hear grandma pray I feel badly for you.  When grandma prayed it was as if she was praying at the feet of God himself.  She entered a different realm where nothing could distract her from each thoughtful word she spoke.  Whenever I would bless the food and would ramble off the common dinner prayer of "bless the food to nourish and strengthen our bodies and do us the good we need amen...because I was starving, she would look at me and say, "Well I don't think that made it past the chandelier!"  I was in her home for 3 weeks after returning home from my LDS mission before heading back to Utah State.  I made her have companion scripture study with me each one of those days and she was incredible.

At times growing up I would get embarrassed of the things grandma would say or do around my friends. It was just the way her generation interacted with people and now as I have grown and looked back I understand why Tom Brokaw coined them as the greatest generation that ever lived.  To quote him "A generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order."  Grandma carried this legacy with her to the end.

I have said that my grandma liked to talk.  She talked a lot.  But I will tell you this, I will bore my kids to death with stories about my grandma and they will know how lucky they were to have known her, even as small and young as they are.

When my day comes to leave earth, I can tell you that the thought of seeing my grandma again will comfort me all the way to the end.  I am blessed with a knowledge of the reality of the eternal nature of families.  I know that we will be best friends again and we will be hanging out a lot.  I will finally take the time to teach her about football up there and I will demand that she tell me stories and that I listen and maybe get to know more of the grandma many of you have known during all those years.  The sister, the teacher and the daughter.  I love her so much and I hope than in time I can learn to love all of my family as much as she loved me...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why I Love Mondays

Monday Walk with the Family

For the first three years of my job at Skywest, I could not hold weekends off. I was VERY junior at the company and due to the recession and some other things we did not hire any pilots for quite some time. I was always bitter at society and the typical 9-5 job that we have come to accept as the norm. I would routinely be off Tues-Thurs and would want to hang out with friends or plan activities but everybody always wanted to turn in early so they could get up for work. Then all the fun would take place on Friday and Saturday while I was gone.

During the past year my seniority has gone up a bit as we have hired some pilots and for the most part I have been able to hold my weekends off. I get combinations of Fri-Sun, or Sat-Mon, or sometimes Sun-Tues off.  I usually have 3 days off in a row but sometimes it is only two and other times it is four or more.  The most critical day for me to have off is Sunday as church is very important to me and we usually get to see our families on Sundays. I began to appreciate the commonality of peoples lives and schedules with having "weekends off" all the time. We see our friends more often and can plan more activities. The past couple of months I have had a lot of Mondays off and I will continue this schedule into August.

This day is pretty awesome as it seems the world is all mad because they have to start their work week while I can go on walks with my family and get things taken care of that are hard to due on weekends because nobody works! When I try to explain how my schedule works to others I can rarely get them to understand. My "Friday" changes every week as does "my Monday" and sometimes I only work 3 days per week or less while other weeks I work 6 days.  Sometimes my month is "front loaded" with tons of flying and then at the end of the month I have long stretches of 4 to 6 days off in a row.

Eventually, at least I hope, I should be able to get enough seniority to create my perfect schedule.  Many things will determine how, when, and where this will happen.  I ask that for now you continue to have patience with me and my schedule.  We need the economy to recover so the airlines can grow and the old pilots can retire.  Until then, I am at the mercy of a seniority list that I hope to continue to climb.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Airlines First Quarter 2012

Delta: $124 million
American: -$1.7 billion
United: -$448 million
US Airways: -$22 million
Alaska: $28 million
Southwest: $98 million
JetBlue: $30 million
Skywest: -.7 million

The first quarter yielded a mixed bag of results for the airlines.  Usually the first quarter is not good, but I think that better than average weather saved on winter expenses such as deicing and the additional fuel costs associated with winter flying.  Usually we have to carry extra fuel to our destinations when the weather has poor visibility just in case we have to divert to an alternate airport.  This is why airplanes at times are "weight restricted" in the winter and we have to bump passengers.

Skywest lost approximately $700,000 which is bad because it is a loss, but it at least shows that they are on the right track with all the mergers that are taking place within Skywest Inc.  The same quarter last year produced a $9 million loss I believe.  

Congress has passed a new law to take affect in August of 2013.  It basically says that all airline pilots of commercial carriers must posses an ATP license.  This license requires that a pilot has 1,500 hours of flight time along with some other specific flight requirements.  Previously, this license was only required for a pilot to act as the captain of the aircraft and the first officer only needed to hold a commercial pilot certificate.  The previous flight time requirement to be hired as a first officer was only 250 hours.  I was hired with about 1,200 hours but I would have been okay to be hired today because of an exception to the rule that states you can be hired with only 1,000 hours of flight time if you graduated from a 4 year university with a degree in aviation which I did.  If anyone is curious I have around 4,000 hours of flight time now.  It will be interesting to see how this new rule will affect pilot employment a year from now.  It SHOULD mean our profession will have more value thus creating a better work environment and that the job will be more competitive than it already is.  But we will see...

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Things in my home are turning pink. Jett's closet has all sorts of pink dresses. Headbands and things of the like are appearing. I guess these are the typical signs that a baby girl is coming.

I think about how different it will be to have a daughter beginning with the little girl. I have a lot of fun horsing around with Jett. How does that sort of thing work with girls? Should I just plan on tea parties? Do girls play with balls? How do you raise your voice to a little girl when necessary?

Then I think girls are awesome until about the age of 16 when drama takes over the world. I guess I will have time to figure that out and luckily she will have 3 aunts to hopefully help her through things that I will inevitably know nothing about.

I have talked about this subject with a number of friends having girls recently. One common theme is how our frame of mind is changing. I think having a daughter will make me a bit of a better person. I should be more careful in what I think and say. Moms, wives, and I now see daughters all have a way of making us better people.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Talking Sports

I can talk about sports all day. Growing up it was probably one of two subjects I talked about with my friends. The other was chicks. Here is my question: Why do so many men now know nothing about sports? I work almost exclusively with men and I fly with about 10 different guys each month. I would say that maybe 1 in 50 can talk sports. 1 in 50!

So what do we talk about you might ask? Work, politics, families, computers, the weather and other things. I ALWAYS try and bring up sports but I find people don't even know the teams in their own cities. Sometimes I will find a guy who has a passion about something obscure that resembles a sport and I will run with it. Like, NASCAR or Rodeo. I really get interested and try to learn asking a lot of questions. What I want to know is where the people I was friends with growing up are. NBA, MLB, NFL, NCAA? Even tennis, golf, and soccer would be very acceptable.

Thankfully I do still keep in touch with my friends I grew up with and I can fulfill my sport talking needs with them. But do you know who I could probably talk sports the most with? My mother-in-law...I get a lot out of my sibling in-laws (especially Zane) but Sue is long winded when talking sports and I love it.

Women, my challenge to you is to make sure your men can talk sports. I am afraid we are a dying breed and I do not want us to go extinct. My memories playing and talking sports growing up are my most cherished memories. Please help keep them alive for others to experience.