Monday, September 1, 2014

Our trip to the states and the kindness of strangers

Well now! What a long time since I sat down to write. I wanted to, really, because I didn't want to leave out anything, but traveling without my husband overseas left very little time to myself.

On August 7, we began our attempt to get on a Space A flight from Germany to the states. I had heard horror stories of people camped out for days, waiting. We were still in the middle of the "busy" season, so I knew our chances were small to get a flight on the first day. I packed our bags, but I didn't really think it would matter if I missed anything. I fully expected to come home and try again the next day. On the last flight out that day, we made the list. Only, its destination was California. The wrong coast. I had only a minute to decide. Tony said go and so we did.

The plane was a cargo plane but it did have regular airline seating inside, but little else. Including insulation. It was so loud that you could barely hear someone talking to you. It also got very cold seeing as how we flew over the North Pole! Lastly, it was very long. 13 hours long. And this is where the kindness of those around us began.

The young soldier who chose to sit next to the kids gave them gummy bears, his jacket, and his attention. That jacket, though, is what made the trip bearable. I had a sweater for myself, but the rest of the kids jackets were in the suitcase. I would snuggle one up in the jacket until they were asleep and then passed it along to one who was awake and cold.

When we landed, of course my phone would not work. Tony had planned to try and book us a room at the hotel on the AFB, but I had no way of knowing if he was successful. Another family on the flight offered to call the hotel and then delayed their own car ride home to drop us off at the hotel.

I booked a commercial flight for the next day out of Sacramento, but I had no idea how to get us there. I went to the lobby for some refreshments and a lady struck up a conversation with me. After telling her I had a flight in the morning, she handed me a business card for a shuttle service. I called, and he not only could take us, but he gave a 50% discount for families.

Now comes the really good and bad part. On that flight, one of my older children had an accident while waiting in line for the restroom. And it was not pee. And it was not an easy cleanup. As in, I had to throw away the pants, underwear and socks. It took 20 minutes inside the plane lavatory to clean up said child. They aren't really meant for two people, I can assure you. I asked the stewardess if they had any blankets I could wrap around my poor, embarrassed kid. Nope. I was near tears at this point. So I zipped up my cardigan sweater, tied it around embarrassed kid's waist and waited to land. I can also assure you that almost every store in the airport sells shirts. But no one sells pants. After searching for 30 minutes, I found a pair of men's pajama pants. The cost? $32. For pajama pants! I resigned myself to the loss of $32 and went to pay. The lady looked our sad situation and without saying a word, scanned a pair of socks instead and said "That will be $10, ma'am." I will admit I did shed a tear then.

My sister was waiting for us at the end of the connecting flight and we traveled onto my parent's house after spending a day with my sister.

I was really looking forward to a relaxing week at the beach, with my oldest daughter joining us. We had rented a separate little cottage about a mile from the rest of my family. I had pictured us spending our days with all the family and the evenings with my little family. The first day, however, changed all that. Sophie was jumping waves, when she stepped into a hole. In extreme pain, she was helped out of the water by my sister and BIL, where she immediately passed out. A trip to the ER showed no broken bones, but most likely a torn ACL. So for the rest of the week, she camped out on the couch at my parent's beach house and I toted the kids back and forth each night and morning.

I ended up accompanying Sophie back to school to help her get unpacked, since she is on crutches. I also stopped in to see my grandmother in WV on my way to Baltimore to try and get a flight home. I also stopped in to see my MIL. Tony's sister followed me to Andrews AFB to help me get on a plane. It was obvious by the number of people there that I was not getting on this flight. We picked up chinese food and headed back to my MIL's house. I drove to North Carolina the next day, only to have the flight cancelled. We spent the night at Ft. Bragg since there was another flight the next day. We got a shuttle to the airport in the afternoon and hung out with the other people hoping to fly. That little group of people quickly formed a bond while waiting. One man offered to pick up dinner for us when he went to get his own dinner. I cried tears of relief when my name was on the list. That man and his wife made the list too. We hugged. Then they called him back to the counter. They had a last minute change and could not fit them on the flight. I cried again.

Would I do this all again? Honestly, I don't know. The price was right and  I learned a lot of tricks to flying Space A that would make a second attempt much easier. It was definitely an adventure I will not soon forget.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Reflection

"Doctrine is well enough for the wise, Jean; but the miracle is something we can hold in our hands and love." - from Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.

The priest is speaking of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego.

This simple line spoke to me. I recently joined a Catholic Discussion Group on facebook at a friend's suggestion. It is a lovely group of women who are very knowledgable on doctrine and the discussions are most of the time very informative. But I have felt... lesser. I try to fully live my faith each day. It is a struggle for sure. From my view, it seems that others find it more in their nature to be holy, where for me, I desire it, but it seems against my nature. I struggle mightily to align my heart with the Father's will sometimes.

I think that is why I am drawn to Our Lady of Guadalupe. She came to Juan Diego, who was a simple man, trying to live a simple, holy life. He was not a learned scholar, nor did he try to be. (At least I don't think so) I long to have that child like faith, and some days I do, and just trust. Other days, I am consumed with anxiety and fear at the unknown, at not being able to make things the way I think they ought to be. This is a lifelong journey, I know. I picture myself on a forest path. Some parts are easy and beautiful and I stop to take in the beauty surrounding me, fully in awe and wonder. Some sections are uphill and arduous, the beauty is still there, but I have to put all my focus on the path, else I will stumble. I do stumble, lots of times, for I forget to watch where I place my feet and my heart.  Sometimes, I can't go any further. I need to rest and get my strength back. At these times, I lay down and rest in the strong arms of Jesus.

My sister-in-law gave me this picture of Our Lady.

I leave you with this quote from Death Comes for the Archbishop, which is the reply to the quote at the beginning of this post.

"Where there is great love there are always miracles," he said at length. "One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If there is a short end of a stick, is there a long end too?

I am just wondering.

Take, for instance, the seemingly simple task of booking a doctor's appointment for a child. I called this morning, all cheery, and tried to get Therese in to see the doctor, as she has been having frequent nose bleeds. The one yesterday at the pool, during her swimming lesson, lasted almost half an hour. The also cheery voice on the other end told me there were no appointments available, but she would put in a request to our clinic and they should call back within 2-4 hours. Fine. I really think they should just book appointments and not play this game, but fine. So I waited. Seven hours later, and close to the end of the business day, no call back. I called to see what was going on. They tried directly connecting me to the clinic (why didn't we do that this morning?) and once it began to ring, the line disconnected. We tried again. Same result. Apologetically, she offered that if I really felt she needed to be seen immediately, I could go to the ER. No, I just would like you to book me an appointment!

There also was the problem that I wanted to get Peter seen as well. He fell hard on his face yesterday and I am worried about his nose. Not that they do much for broken noses, but I would still like to know. They never gave me the chance to request another appointment.

Everyone else's noses seem to be fine, in case you are wondering. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


A few weeks ago, we came back to our car after shopping to see that someone had scraped the door while backing out. A nice, long red scrape down the left side of the car. At the time, I thought it looked terrible.

In our village, along the sides of the street are little blue poles that mark the walkway for pedestrians. I have mentioned before that there is not enough room for two cars and when two cars meet, one pulls over to allow the other car to get through. Well, I pulled too close today to one of the poles to put it mildly. Now, to go along with the red paint on the left side, now I have a nice blue dent on the right! And I thought it looked bad before!

But to keep it all in perspective, no one was hurt (except my pride) and as Tony always refers to the little scrapes and dings, I have added a little more custom detailing to our vehicle.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Yarn Along- Up Close and Vague

So I decided to knit something for my firstborn who turns 22 tomorrow. Umm...I don't know how that is possible because I really don't feel like I have been around long enough to be the mother of someone in their 20's! It is true enough though. I will try to give a sneak peek without giving anything away.

I think the second picture is truer for the colors. I am looking forward to giving it to her in person in about a month if all goes well with our first space-a flight.

We have been reading and listening to audio books. At bedtime, I am reading the third "Mysterious Benedict Society" book. The kids have really enjoyed the other two in the series. In the car, we are currently listening to "Nim's Island". I just finished "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly. I am about to start Willa Cather's "Death Comes for the Archbishop". That is a lot more reading than we typically get accomplished. We are not reading in bed every night because it is summer and it doesn't get dark til nearly 10 o'clock and we play and enjoy the outside and daylight while we can. I am dreading the long, dark winter ahead, and then there will be plenty of time to snuggle under blankets by the fire and read and read.

I am posting this late for the link-up at Ginny's. Life keeps happening!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday morning musing

I experienced one of those rare times that I am alone in the car today. It was so quiet and therefore my mind could focus on the beauty surrounding me as I neared our village. The distant mountains were veiled by a thin, gray, misty fog. Their deep, dark green was still visible and gave them a mystical appearance. Our village, with the clay colored rooftops breaking up the sea of green of the fields and mountains, felt like home. It was a good feeling. Just as I entered our village, the rain began again. The main street is brick and I could see the raindrops splashing upon the street, while several people tried to seek shelter under the awning of the bakery.

 I love the quaintness of the village. When I began my morning trip, there was a break in the rain and one old gentleman in particular caught my eye. He was riding his black bicycle down the center of the street, smiling, clearly enjoying the moment, not a care in the world. All the little shops had their doors wide open, which feels like an invitation to come in and see what there is to see.

 In the middle of the leaving and returning home, I had the pleasure of spending the in-between hours with a friend over coffee and croissants, and then a visit to a yarn store. I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and ready to get back to the routine of life.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rainy Days

It has been raining steadily for about 48 hours now. No heavy downpours, just a steady, drizzling, cold rain with the sky varying in shades of white and gray. It is July, and the high temperature yesterday was only 56. It most certainly does not feel like the middle of summer!

On days like this, I seem to get to pondering things and so I think I will just let these tumble out onto the screen as they come to me.

Tony was gone for five days to Latvia and he returned home on Monday. It seems that he will be taking these short trips fairly frequently. I find it hard to adapt to a different schedule for only a few days and then try to return to our 'normal' life over and over. When he is gone, I find I don't feel like cooking full meals even though there is only one less person. We 'snack' for meals, simple things like apples, crackers, salami, and pickles. I end up with more kids in bed with me during the night, even those that don't normally show up. It is good to have him home, I feel safe and settled.

These rainy summer days have brought back memories of childhood summers at my grandparent's house. There is no air conditioning over here, just as it was at Grams' and Grandad's. There were box fans in the windows during the day and the windows were left open at night. I can remember half waking up to see my grandmother quietly closing the windows just as I was recognizing the fact that I was chilled. The windows are open here too, and the outside sounds find their way to my ears as I fall to sleep. Little birds chirping away. The sound of tires on wet pavement. The rain on the roof. I used to love sitting outside under a porch or an umbrella on rainy days like this.

I battle to stay upbeat on days like this. I found out a couple months ago that my vitamin D levels were extremely low. The doctor prescribed a mega-dose of vitamin D once a week for 12 weeks. I am honestly not seeing any difference in my mood. I know it is not as sunny here, but I wonder why my levels plummeted so quickly. Of course, we are also approaching another year of not having Ben with us here.

I signed Anna and myself up for a writing class on Brave Writer. We are taking the basic class. I have been very negligent in writing assignments this year. We have stayed on top of math and reading, but writing got sidelined during all the upheavals of the move to Germany. I knew I needed something to keep me accountable and not lose steam. The cost of the class should keep my motivation strong! This is the first week of a six week course, so I will let you know how we liked it when we finish.

I also tried to sign the kids up for swim lessons before we take a trip to the beach, but it has proved to be less than simple. No one at the pool seems to know what is going on. We are not allowed to sign up for classes until tomorrow because people that have already taken a class previously have priority. Plus, they have to give Anna an assessment to see which class she belongs in, yet no one can tell me when the person who does this will be available. They also failed to mention when I was there yesterday that we could not sign up until we filled out a liability release. Organized? I think not!

Lastly, my dad is currently undergoing chemotherapy, so if you would be so kind as to offer up a prayer for him, it would be most appreciated!