Flying with Fear

We are back home. Back into our day to dailies with full force after a weekend of getting away, literally and figuratively.  A weekend of fun and laughter and reconnecting.

And of facing our fears.

Head on.

This past weekend was the Fella’s family reunion that happens every couple of years.  While I’ve been to a gathering of his aunts and uncles on his Dad’s side of the family, we’ve never been to a gathering of Grampa’s cousins and their children as a family.  It was time to make it happen.

We had a decision to make.  Take a two hour flight from Atlanta to Texas or make the two day drive.  In the end, after lots of thought, the schedule made our decision.

We booked our flights.  Because it was just a few weeks out, the seat availability wasn’t ideal.  No big deal, I thought.  We could just request some seat changes.  I did that all the time when Aub and I flew back and forth from Japan.  TEN YEARS AGO.

Ahem.  Yeah.  Things change.

I called the airline and notified them that we would be flying with my child who has severe nut allergies.  All nuts. She was very understanding and said they could remove the peanuts from the plane but the airline could not guarantee there would be no nuts on the plane.  Okay.  Okay.  Got it.

As the time got closer, I became more anxious, but I also did what I needed to do to be prepared for a worst case scenario.  One of my sisterfriends said, “Be sure to carry an epipen on board with you.” I laughed and replied, “Yeah, or six.”  Can you say “over prepared?”

When we arrived at the gate, I spoke with the agent, and she said there would be no problem–that the flight attendants had it covered.  We hurried on board and got things ready for the flight.

All of the bags we carried on board were wipeable.  I carried wipes to clean her area and a sheet to put over her seat.  I forgot about the seat belt so that made me a bit nervous, but I did the best I could.  My people already knew we would not be eating or drinking on the plane.  I wanted no chance of ANYTHING going in her mouth that could hurt her.  It was a little less than two hours–they’ve done without food and water longer than that by their own choice.

The flight attendant announced there was an allergy on board.  She said they would not be serving peanuts and asked that no one eat any nuts while on board.

Oh my heart.  THANK YOU.

It was an amazing feeling to be heard and validated.  While it didn’t rid me of my anxiety, their kind hearted announcement eased it quite a bit.  My girl sat and played on her device and listened to music like the true preteen she is.  She is growing up before my very eyes.  But that’s another story.

We landed in what seemed like forever and no time at all, all at the same time.  Suffice to say I have no idea how I used to do the 14 hour flights to Japan.

After a long wonderful weekend of family and cousins playing and eating good food together, we got back on the plane yesterday.  We did it all by the book.  Got to the airport two hours early, checked in, and that’s when the magic was broken.  Our seats on Friday were not the ones I’d chosen on-line.  We had wound up all in the space of two rows, which was very doable.  I had assumed the person I called about her allergies had moved our seating around so we would be closer.  And maybe that was the case before, but for this flight, we were ridiculously far apart.  Cooter and Aub towards the back, our Princess and me in the middle on the same side, and the Fella in between us on the opposite side.  When we got to the gate, they acknowledged the food allergies, but they could do nothing about the seating.

Okay.  We can do this.  Breathe.

They made the announcement about not serving nuts and asking people to refrain from eating them while we were still in the terminal.  I was thankful for that.

We were allowed to board early.  I was told by the gate agent that between flights they would clean the tray tables four rows in front of us and four rows behind, so it was important we not change seats.  Okay. That’s great.  Really great.  (But I was thinking, they must be ridiculously fast or have cleaning fairies, because folks had just gotten off the plane.)

Oh, if it were only true.

When we got to our seat, I could see smeared handprints on the back of the seat in front of my girl.

Oh me.

I went to work with my wipes and the sheet and getting her settled.  We were ready when all the others came on board.

Before we were told to put our devices on airplane mode, I got a message from Aub, “Mama, the guy two seats over from us has nuts.”

Welp. Not good.

Because our messages weren’t going through quickly, and I was locked into my row by a passenger on the end who did not speak much English, I was left in limbo.  It was only after we landed that we pieced the whole story together.

So this guy had a big bag of Roaster’s Planted Peanuts.  He pulled them out.  The guy on the other side of him said, “Hey, you can’t eat those on here.”

Mr. Peanut replied, “Why not?”

Other guy said, “There’s someone with a nut allergy on board.  They made an announcement before we boarded asking us not to eat any nuts.”

Mr. Peanut said, “Huh.  Sounds like their problem.”  And laughed.

He LAUGHED.

Y’all, that girl of mine comes from a long line of strong people.  And people who stand up for others.  Some are more tactful than others, so there was no telling how this was going to play out.

As it turns out, she turned to him and said, “Actually it’s MY SISTER with the allergy, and if you eat those, I could come in contact with them, and then I have to ride home with her.  If I expose her to nuts, really bad things could happen.”  Her little brother was sitting next to her, so she was careful with her words.

And Mr. Peanut’s response?  “Really?” He scoffed, and he was done.

Later the flight attendant was offering snacks, and she approached Mr. Peanut.  He told her no thank you, that he had those with him and pointed at the unopened bag of peanuts.  “Sir, you can’t eat those on this flight,” she said.

He pointed at my oldest across the aisle.  “Yeah, that girl already chewed me out about it.”

The flight attendant looked over at Aub and smiled.  And she told him Aub was right.

All of this was relayed between us as we hurried along through the Atlanta airport to baggage claim.  I was so angry at the time, I know for sure one thing–that it is good I only caught a glimpse of him as he was getting on the train.  The Fella wisely guided us ahead to walk instead.  As I walked, I calmed down.  You can’t fix broken folks.  You just can’t.  I don’t know why he didn’t care about my child, or any person with food allergies for that matter, but for some reason he just didn’t.  All I know is I am thankful that, for whatever reason, he didn’t eat the nuts on the plane.

“Because if he had,” my oldest told me as we waited for the Fella to bring the car around as dusk settled across the Georgia sky, “I don’t know what I would have done.  But I would have done something. There might have been a ‘domestic incident.'”

“Eh,” I told her.  “Some things are worth creating a domestic incident over.”

I’m proud of her.  Siblings of people with food allergies have to live with the allergy too.  And this one–she’s her sister’s greatest advocate.

Tonight I’m thankful for a wonderful time with family–cherished moments.  I’m glad we didn’t rule the trip out because of the time or distance or our (MY) fears.  I am thankful for good flight attendants who care and make every effort to keep all passengers safe.  I give thanks for a daughter who is strong and can speak up when the need arises.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a safe journey.  And that all of those epipens came home unused.  WIN.

I have learned two things that surprised me though.  That anger and brokenness in people can overrule their compassion–I guess I knew that on some level, but to be reminded of it like this in such a personal way broke my heart and really, really surprised me.  Call me gullible, but yeah–I wasn’t prepared for that.

The other thing that I learned is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t book a seat for Anxiety Girl.  She doesn’t care.  She’d just as soon sit in your lap for the whole ride.  Doesn’t faze her one bit.  She’ll still come.  UNINVITED.

Wishing us all the ability to let our compassion override all the other things we are carrying with us.  Every single day.  And that when we take the chance to fly with our fear, we land in a beautiful place.

Love to all.

auvi q and wings

It’s All Yours, Uncle Willie

So we’ve finished our whirlwind trip from my beloved plains of Georgia to the beautiful hill country of Texas. Before we left, my sweet sisterfriend surprised me by leaving a copy of Willie Nelson’s new book on my front porch–since we were headed to his stomping grounds, it made sense. Ever since, apropos to our journey, I have had “On the Road Again” playing through my mind.   

As I write, we are literally on the road again, heading south on 75 in my home state, having spent four days in Uncle Willie’s neck of the woods. (I grew up thinking he might actually be my Uncle, because that’s how my folks referred to him. Uncle Willie. Aub recently told me she thought the same thing when she was little.)  I’ve been toying around with a couple of verses for a Haiku, but y’all, I’m sorry. The old five-seven-five syllable setup just isn’t enough to fully encapsulate my emotions right now.

So instead I offer you a variation on the Haiku. Perhaps a Willie-ku.

(Y’all, I do apologize for that.  It’s been a long day.)

“On the Road Again” is a great song and all
good job, Uncle Willie, but I will let you have it–
once this road gets me home
I believe I will put up my feet and stay a while  

the best kind of tired

dear one, the best kind of tired
is the one that comes from bare feet racing across the green grass of summer
smelling faintly of the fish that swam in the lake next to you
as you splashed and played
and jumped in from the dock with your cousins
trying to see how far out you could reach
or if you could ring the intertube
that came from a tire on the farm
just as your Mamas and Daddies did years before you
in that very same spot

the best kind of tired comes from quiet drives home well after dark
each one smiling at the memories that were made
still hearing the hum of the boat or the roar of the jet ski
tummies full of the hotdogs and hamburgers Grampa cooked on the grill

the best kind of tired is crawling between the crisp white sheets
hair still wet from the quick shower you took as soon as you got home,
eyes barely able to stay open
or to whisper back when your Mama peeks in and says,
“good night sweet dreams I love you”

the best kind of tired is where the sweetest
and most treasured memories come from
the ones that keep you going back
wanting to give the same adventures to your own little ones

the best kind of tired
exhausts the body
but rejuvenates the soul

it comes from dreams coming true
and being loved

and the best kind of tired
is one of the best gifts we can ever give our children

  

And So It Begins

When we came back from running errands, there was a piece of paper tucked in the door.  Our Princess grabbed it and read it out loud incredulously:  “We’ve been invited to a Wine and Cheese Tasting?” She ended it as if asking a question and with a puzzled look on her face.  

About the same time as her brother Cooter jumped up and yelled, “Cheese!  Yes!!!!!” she said, “Well this is just AWKWARD.”  

She’s not my little girl anymore.  

Yesterday I sat next to her for quite some time, waiting.  The wait never bothered her, and she said very little.  Instead she sat there with her headphones stuck in her ears, listening to music on the old iPod her sister had lovingly passed down to her just the other day, already set up with her favorite songs and games.  

The fact that music will only play through one speaker on this iPod never fazed her for a moment. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now approaching the teenage years with this one.  Please buckle up and get ready.  She’ll be 13 in two and half years…..otherwise known as “before we know it.”  

While she said very little, her eyes and smile said it all.  She bobbed her head along to the music, sometimes mouthing words and occasionally showing me the album cover of the song she was listening to–Taylor Swift and Sabrina Carpenter are her two favorites if the number of times I saw their faces on her screen is any indication.  

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy and awe I feel watching her become more vocal about her opinions.  I cannot believe she’s reached that “I can’t hear you because I have my headphones in and I’m listening to this song that says PERFECTLY what I am feeling about life” phase.  At least we’re not to the “The music understands, but you never will” stage. I’m not prepared for that one yet.  If one ever can be. 

There will be no cheese and wine tasting for us, but I am thankful for the glimpse of where my children are that the invitation gave us.  I’ve got one who basically said, “You had me at cheese” and one who is entering the time of life when everything is embarrassing–especially parents.  

As a matter of fact, I do recall her asking me not to sing and dance to my “jam” today.  

Sigh.  

And so it begins.  

Love to all.  

rest for the day

dusk comes and takes day by the hand
gradually easing her into slumber
so night can come and stand watch

peering into her dim light
strained eyes seek to see
but she shoos them away
as she sweeps the dust
of all the dones and left undones
out the door for another day
and meticulously locks up tight

she whispers as her face disappears
behind the knotted wooden door
“go, rest, there’s nothing further
for you to do this day
tomorrow we begin again”
and she turns the key in the rusty lock
putting day to bed
and letting go all of that cannot be seen
in the dark of night

  

the edge of never

their life began with the cherished words
“I will always”
and time swept them along, transforming them
until eventually they became “I will never”
still full of the promise, but with the
contemplation of the darkness that threatened to close in

then the weight of the world pressed upon them
and they became “I would never”
as if in protest of the very idea

when finally it turned into denial
“I never”
for a while she tried to believe
the words
and hold at bay what lay beyond the never

they went right up to the edge of that darkened precipice,
peering over and seeing what lay in the valley beyond
she turned away
and burned the bridge
so she could never be taken along that path again

Because Young People

Yesterday when we were at the “Bats and Bees: Friends Not Foes” workshop, I was so encouraged.

Because young people.

There were three high school students helping with the program.  At first I thought they were just there to help that day, but it turns out they were part of the planning too.  Those three young women were there–fully present, engaged, and involved.

And it was such a wonderful thing to see.  They did not sit in a corner on their phones, waiting to be asked to do something.  They went where the children went, they talked and interacted with the little ones, and were an asset to the program.  And when they saw something that needed doing, they got up and did it.  Without being asked.

I very nearly swooned.  Not even joking.

Two of them sat with me as we tried to put the butterfly/Dalek project together in preparation for the children making them.  They were really into it, trying to see how it would best work and determined to make it work.  We talked about their school and their future plans.  They have some good ones, and I was even more impressed.

Later on when the other children were outside playing in the bouncy house, one little one, maybe four years old, came inside.  She had on the sweetest little pink dress with a gauzy skirt, reminiscent of a ballerina.  She had come in because she “didn’t want to keep getting dirty and sweaty.”  Oh my land, baby girl, I hear you.  The humidity yesterday was ridiculous.

One of the teenagers picked her up and said, “That’s okay, you can stay in here with us.  Isn’t that right?”

I walked over and said, “Of course.  What a sweet dress.  I can understand not wanting to get all messed up.”  The little girl smiled.  “What a pretty smile on a pretty girl.”

The teenager smiled too.  “She is pretty.  And strong too.  Show her your muscles.”  And the little one held up her arm and flexed and grinned even bigger.

Teenager.  For the win.

I don’t know if this is something they are teaching these young women or if it is something instilled in her by her family or by her own values, but I am LOVING that she acknowledged the child’s beauty and immediately added words about strength.

I got schooled.

As in I was reminded that it is so important to focus on more than just looks when giving praises.  Which I knew.  But I don’t always put into action.  I love the example this amazing teenager gave of the perfect way to segue into what counts so much.  I even used this later myself yesterday.  Because, you know, I wanted to be like her.

Smart.  And beautiful.  And wise beyond her years.

Tonight I’m thankful for the young women I had the privilege of meeting and seeing in action.  They are only tenth graders, and already they seem to have it all together.  In six or seven years when they get out of college and head to grad school or to full-time careers, they are going to do change this world for the better in big ways.  And small.  Because all the ways matter.

May we all strive to follow their example of being present, being involved, and finding the important things to praise and encourage.

Love to all.