Our story, part one: How we met + the regional years

Happy Friday, friends! 

That is, if Friday is a happy day in your house. For me, it usually isn't. It's often the middle of my solo parenting time, or the "Sunday night" of our time with my husband home. There was a brief period a long time ago when my husband usually worked Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday, giving us a three day weekend together each week. It was glorious, and I hope to have that kind of schedule back again someday.

Today, I'm sharing a bit about our story, specifically how we met and lived through those early years at the regionals. It looks right now like our story up until now will be split into three parts: the regional years, the transition to the majors, and the past two ridiculously busy years of life changing events. 

Early 2007, right after we began dating


TJ and I grew up in the neighboring states of Minnesota and North Dakota. Our childhoods were very different, though.

I up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. It took more than 30 minutes to get to the nearest town of any size, and over an hour to get to a town with a major department store or shopping mall. My hometown had a population of just under 3,000 people. I graduated high school in a class of 69 students - which was considered big at the time!

We didn't have the opportunity to travel a lot because farming has to happen over school breaks, and it's very expensive to travel out of North Dakota. It's a long drive to get anywhere worth going. Because most airports in North Dakota have an essential air service designation, they are usually only served by one airline, and the ticket price reflects the lack of competition. So, the furthest I had been from home before college was a family trip to the Wisconsin Dells, just two states away.



TJ grew up in a suburb of the Twin Cities. He lived right in the middle of everything. The Mall of America was 20 minutes from his house. Major league stadiums for every sport were within half an hour of his house, and his town now has TWO Targets! His graduating class was larger than the total enrollment of my high school.



His family traveled for two weeks every summer. Most years, they drove an RV across the country. One year, they flew to Hawaii. There are only a handful of places in the US that he did not visit with his family as a child. 

Somehow, we both ended up at the University of North Dakota.

We met in the fall of 2006. I was in my fourth year of school, with another year and a half to go. He had graduated two years prior and was flight instructing to build hours. My best friend, Fishy*, had been his student in a previous course, and my sophomore year suitemate had been his very first student. In fact, he had been to my dorm suite several times in that first semester of instructing. Because of all this, I had heard TJ's name hundreds of times, but we didn't meet until he took Fishy up on her offer to go out for an evening. We met up that night, and I was instantly smitten.

But neither one of us was really looking for a relationship - and I definitely didn't want to date a pilot.

I had dated student pilots all through college. It just kind of worked out that way when I spent all my time with Fishy and all her friends were pilots. And honestly, it seems that if you're a woman at UND who shows that you understand a bit about what the aviation students are doing, you are instantly at least 50% more attractive to them. ;)

Meanwhile, TJ was applying to airlines. This was in the days before the Buffalo crash happened, so he was not required to get 1500 hours and his ATP before going to an airline. It was all a guessing game as to when the regionals would call in those days. So, with the chance that he could be moving cross country at any point, he wasn't really looking to find someone living in Grand Forks, either.

So, it took a couple months of running into each other at group functions (like our standing Wing Night every Tuesday) before TJ finally called to ask me out. Two days after that first date, we went out for apps with some friends, and TJ was asked where he had his applications in. When he rattled off the list, my heart sunk. I had never even heard of half of these companies, and I really knew nothing about the aviation lifestyle, other than what little I had picked up from briefly living with a woman who was engaged to a pilot living in Seattle. That is, I knew I would get to fly for free if seats were available and that he would be gone a lot.

We had the official "boyfriend/girlfriend talk" the next night. I teased him that an airline would definitely call him the next day now that he had a reason to stick around.

I was off by a week.

He was contacted by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, a now-defunct regional based in Atlanta that operated flights for Delta and that had been previously owned by Delta. They told him they were very interested, but he was a bit short on multi-engine hours. It took him a bit over a month to get those hours in, and another month before he was able to interview. He received a job offer on the spot and reported to class about three weeks later.

TJ spent the next two years splitting his life between Atlanta and North Dakota. I graduated in the spring of 2008, shortly after accepting a job offer in a tiny town near Minot, North Dakota. It was similar to where I grew up, close to where I grew up, and it was near an airport. TJ proposed over the summer, and I ended up going into that year of teaching unsure of where I would be living in the following year. One bad blizzard after another contributed to my decision to move to Atlanta when we got married. We made the move in June 2009, halfway between my last day of work and our wedding day.

Our wedding day in 2009

I had a lot of trouble finding work as a teacher in Georgia. Thousands had been laid off shortly before I moved there, so my one year of experience and lack of a master's degree did not make me an attractive candidate. I was a substitute teacher for four years, and I picked up other work along the way. Eventually, I took a job as a paraprofessional in a middle school.

About the time I took this job, TJ had a series of jumpseaters who worked for Spirit. He was growing unhappy with the regional lifestyle of four day trips and six leg days, so hearing how much they enjoyed working there made him start to think about applying there. The application process moved incredibly fast. He decided to apply in October, attended a career fair in mid-November, and interviewed in the first part of December. He was offered the job and a class date in February 2014.

And so, we left the regional airline life behind. Stay tuned for part two, in which I share the story of TJ going to his first major airline as our family began to grow.

*If you hadn't guessed yet, I use a lot of aliases on my blog. Most of them are not at all subtle, and anyone who knows me in real life would know exactly who I am talking about!

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