The Parentals are Landing …

I have so many posts in my head for this little blog. And yet, I continue to be tardy and (maybe) a little bit lazy about putting my thoughts into words. I’m still unpacking and organizing and all that moving stuff. So, yeah … that’s my excuse. Yep. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it! Rawr.

My parents are coming for a visit. They, along with the rest of my family and most of my husband’s family, live in Texas. It’s a little over a thousand miles from our new town to where my parents live in the Texas Hill Country. A thousand miles that, to my homesick Texas Girl heart, feels more like a gazillion. An insurmountable distance. My beloved Texas hills might as well be on the moon for how much I miss them.

It’s not that I dislike our new town. On the contrary, I like it. It is a good size for me, with traffic that isn’t crazy and people who are unfailingly polite and friendly. It reminds me a lot of my parents’ town and of San Antonio, the city I called home when I lived in Texas. But not San Antonio from 2019. Instead, our new town reminds me of San Antonio from my high school days. It might not seem like it, but this is a good thing. Illinois hasn’t been the most welcoming state, due to all the red tape, taxes, and bureaucracy surrounding every detail of life here. But I feel I can eventually be very much at home in our new town.

But I still miss the place I’m from. There is a lot of value and weight to those words: the place I am from. My Texas hills will live in my heart and soul for the rest of my life, no matter where I choose to lay my head and no matter what winding road I travel. One day, maybe I will get to go back home for good. If I am lucky.

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But this post isn’t about my homeward longings or my wandering life. It’s about my parents. So …

As I said, they are coming for a visit. It will be their first visit to our new town and our new house. I have all kinds of nerves about this. It’s silly, because they have seen me at my best and at my worst. And they still claim me. But it’s nerve-wracking to know people you love are coming to visit before you are unpacked and settled into a new place. I only just got the guest room ready. The bed we ordered arrived just in time, and I got fresh linens onto it last night. I got some pretty curtains up in the room, and one cute little night stand. I went this morning to get the second nightstand from our local Home Goods store. And the closet is mostly cleared. It’s a small room, but I think they will have enough space for their suitcases and such. I hope they will be cozy and comfortable in there.

On the plus side, I know they will be more than happy to pitch in and help me get the rest of the boxes unpacked. If I’m lucky, we will get some shelves up and the basement storage somewhat organized. It’s been 17 years since the last time I moved, and my parents aren’t as young as they were. Neither am I, for that matter! Time marches forward and takes all of us along for the ride. I’m not sure how much they will feel up to doing, but having the moral support will help, at any rate.

There will be one bone of contention between us. I know it already. My closet is a mess. It is beyond a mess. I’ve been so busy getting the rest of the house unpacked and fixed for my family that I basically tossed my clothing into the closet and left it. I can’t even get in there. My mom is going to want to help me clean it. Which will, inevitably, lead to a discussion about how she hates all my clothes and the way I dress. And that will, inevitably, lead to her offering to buy me some “pretty” clothes. This translates to clothing that she likes, but that I, typically, do not like. No matter how much I’m looking forward to seeing them, I am also dreading this. There. I said it. I feel much better getting it out of my head.

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So, the closet situation is one source of nerves.

My parents’ mode of transportation is another. They decided to drive. They’ve been planning this trip for at least a month, and I have been worried about it ever since my dad announced they were going to pull out their Garmin and a new road atlas and tackle the highways and by-ways of the US.

My parents are both in their eighties, and I think it’s been about twenty years since the last time they tackled a long-distance road trip. It’s not that they aren’t capable people. They are. They are self-sufficient, in great health, and have been “adulting” since they were teenagers. And  yet … I can’t help but worry. I’m not sure when that switch ticks into place, but at some point, kids start to feel responsible for their parents. For me, I guess that happened around the time my daughter was born. It’s difficult to explain, but it suddenly felt like I needed to take care of them. Maybe it’s a “mom” thing gone into overdrive. I don’t know.

Anyhow … that leads us here. My parents, their little Toyota RAV loaded with stuff, and a thousand-plus miles of blacktop. I hate the idea that they are out there, wandering in the wilds of the world. What if something happens to them? What if they get lost? What if they encounter too much traffic? They are from a small town, after all. What if? What if? What if?

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Of course, I’m being silly. “Borrowing trouble,” as my dad says. My mom just called. They stopped over last night in Little Rock and had a grand time eating out and staying in a motel. They are now about a hundred miles outside of St. Louis, which puts them about 260-ish miles from our town. And they are loving the adventure.

And you know what? My heart feels happy. Because, even though they are in their eighties, it seems like my parents have rediscovered some of their youth and fun. And, really, isn’t that what we are all looking for? That eternal fountain of youth? Maybe it’s there … waiting inside of us … ready to be discovered.

Ghosts of Christmas Past (and a bunch of pictures, too!)

As in, just recently past. As expected, Christmas came and went in a whirl of activity. Remember how I posted about dreading our trip to Texas? I dragged my feet like the sulkiest toddler in the park. I dithered over getting things ready for our neighbor to take care of the pups. I dawdled over packing. I complained (to myself, silently — thank goodness!) all the way to the airport. I grumped through security. I pouted at the gate.

And guess what?

It was all for nothing! I was so silly about the entire thing, and it turned out to be a great and fun trip. We saw old friends. We laughed. We made memories. I had a really nice, albeit quick, visit with my parents. Even my mom seemed more upbeat than she has in quite a while. The only downer was that my husband got food poisoning on the last day we were in Austin, so we had to delay our trip to Kerrville for a half day. As bad as that was, he bounced back quickly. I was thankful for that! By the time we were preparing to come back home, he was feeling much better.

So, this is just a short post to give the universe a shout-out and say, “Okay, Universe! You were right! It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And thanks for the memories.”

It was a good Christmas. And even a good New Year’s Day, too. I hope the same is true for all of you guys. I want to close out the post by showing a few of the pictures I grabbed of our tree and other things over the holiday — here and there.

SOME SCENES FROM HOME:

I thought our tree was particularly lovely this year. This is the second or third year we have used colored lights, and I love their soft and gentle glow. I can’t take any credit for the tree, as my daughter and her friend decorated the whole thing for us. I think this made it even more beautiful and special!

I’ve been trying to get in some extra “play time” with my macro lens. And the tree ornaments were willing subjects. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in October, but we have been together for around 28 years. And we have had some of these ornaments almost that long!

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THE TRIP!!

Of course, I had to grab at least one “on the plane” picture. Unfortunately, I had stashed my camera under the seat in front of me. I didn’t want to dig it out, so I had to make do with my phone camera. Still, I think it turned out okay. We left so early that we got to watch the sun rise as we flew across the sky. Pretty special!

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SOME AUSTIN SIGHTS:

We got to visit some of our old haunts in Austin. Weirdly enough, it happened to be raining during most of our visit. We checked the weather before leaving, and the forecast was for temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and sunny weather. That is not what happened AT ALL! We definitely packed all the wrong clothes. But it worked out okay, in the end.

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AND KERRVILLE, TOO!

I think I have mentioned before that my parents live in a small town in the Hill Country. Kerrville has a population somewhere around 23,000 people. I was really proud of myself that I managed to keep up with exercising on this trip. Of course, I ate a lot of terrible things that I would never eat at home. But that’s okay! It was the holidays! And vacation!!

I love to walk all around Kerrville when I visit. In the Summer, my daughter and I stay with my parents for around a month or month and a half. I generally walk every day, either in the early morning or the evening. It was fun to walk my same route on this trip, in the chilly dampness of a winter morning.

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And, really, that’s all I have for this post! I mostly wanted to touch base about our trip and share some pictures. I have thoughts on the New Year, which I hope to share in a post soon. I would like to get back on a more regular posting schedule with this blog in 2019. So I hope to see you guys again soon!

 

Maui Summer Adventure: Day 2

Day number 2 of our Maui Vacay dawned bright and early. We were ready and eager for a day filled with sunshine and adventure, and lots of each! Since we only had a half day when we arrived, Day 2 felt more like Day 1. Either way, we were ready for it.

My daughter and husband had reserved a snorkeling trip for the morning. Unfortunately, my daughter was still suffering from Strep. Even with a couple of days of antibiotics in her system, she still had a painful throat and super clogged sinuses. After the disastrous flight over, we decided not to chance a snorkeling trip. My husband went on the trip as planned, and we gave our daughter’s spot to my sister-in-law. My daughter, of course, was disappointed and sad. She had been looking forward to snorkeling the most out of all the planned activities. But I was selfishly glad, because it meant I got a whole morning of Mommy Time! This is a valuable commodity when you have a teenager.

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Since the hubster was out and about snorkeling, my daughter and I decided to explore our hotel grounds, as well as the resort properties near where we were staying. Our hotel was right on the beach, and it was one in a long line of beautiful resort properties. This gave us a lot of opportunity to stroll leisurely and look at the ocean. As always, there were boats and parasailers galore. There is a little part of me that thinks this would be huge fun. But the Mom part of me will never try it. My daughter, who is afraid of heights, gave this a firm NOPE!

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Of course, there are birds everywhere. And the sparrows on the resort property, in particular, have no fear. At all. This little guy flew right in front of us as we were walking. He nearly flew right into us as he was landing. I can understand it. He was after a super-tasty snack, after all! And, once he had it in his little beak, he settled down to enjoy it. Even though he was sitting right next to our feet. Courageous little bird! Or maybe fool-hardy? I think there is a fine line between the two.

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After seeing our feathery friend enjoying his snack with such vigor, we realized we were hungry, too. Lucky for us, there were lots of choices with outdoor seating and a perfect view of the beach. What better way to enjoy a meal. Some sunshine … a lovely breeze … the beach … and even a fancy (non-alcoholic) drink. Yep! That’s the relaxation and island vibe I was longing for in my hum-drum, hectic life back home.

Half a day on the ocean did my husband in just a little bit. After he returned, he needed an extra bit of lunch and a nap. But the days are long and the time change was in our favor! We had plenty of time left for taking in the sights, sun, and sea. We decided to drive out in search of Lorraine’s Shave Ice. And what a drive it turned out to be!

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Lorraine’s Shave Ice is something of a Maui institution. My brother-in-law and his wife come to Maui every year, and they told us all about Lorraine, who makes banana bread, pies, and, of course, shaved ice. There’s only one small catch: Lorraine’s is located on the same road as the blowhole we visited on Day 1. You head toward the blowhole and just keep on going until, at last, you find Lorraine’s. You can’t miss it!

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This is a windy, twisty road. It has stunning views of the ocean and more shades of green than a person could possibly count. It also has sheer drop-offs that are more than a little bit terrifying, particularly when they were on my side of the car. I love the cliffs and the ocean, but there is nothing quite like looking out the window and seeing NOTHING between yourself and a sheer drop that leads to a rocky landing far below. Terrifying and exhilarating, all at the same time!

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It seemed like there was a surprise around every corner. Like when we came around a bend to find this fine fellow hanging out in the middle of the road. He was beautiful and strutting his stuff. There was a car coming from the opposite direction, and it had stopped, too. I think having two cars waiting for him made this guy feel a little surrounded and nervous. He was trying to hurry across the road. But peacocks aren’t built for speed. The more he tried to rush, the slower he seemed to get. And it didn’t help matters much that his tail was so luxurious and long that it dragged behind him. I felt a little bad for his obvious panic, but it was a treat to see a peacock, just wandering around like A Boss. He made it to the other side with ease, and I must say he was much more graceful scaling the hillside than he had been trying to rush across the road.

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The thing about this road is that it’s only two lanes in certain places. Around a lot of the twists and turns, it turns into one lane, only. If you are headed up a hill and someone is coming toward you, there’s nothing for it but to back down to the nearest turn-out. This doesn’t sound like such a big deal, does it? But remember … you are often backing down around a hairpin turn with nothing but a small margin of gravel separating your car from the edge of a cliff. It was dicey at times, but we made it!

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Maui is so full of beauty and unexpected things. The ocean, all the shades of green, the unexpected twists and turns … It’s all mesmerizing and inspiring. Of course, we found Lorraine’s at the end of our long and winding way. We had banana bread and shave ice, and we had a nice visit with Lorraine, too. She was lovely, and she showed us around her garden and told us stories about the ocean. No matter how scary and long the drive, it was worth it!

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One of the main things I wanted to do during our Maui trip was go to at least one luau. My husband and I visited Oahu fourteen years ago, shortly after our daughter was born, and one of my favorite memories of that trip is from the luau we attended. And so, that was our plan for the evening. We had to make it down from the mountain first, but we had great incentive!

We made it back to the hotel just in time to change and meet my husband’s younger brother and family to head to the luau. And was it everything I hoped it would be?

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Um … YES!! We went to The Feast at Lele, and it was pretty fantastic. There was family and fun. We laughed. We told stories. We ate. And ate. And ate. I loved all the dancers. Each piece was beautiful and told a story about Hawaii’s history. And, of course, we ended the evening with fire. All in all, a perfect ending to a beautiful day.

Maui Summer Adventure: Day 1

I am finally getting around to editing and resizing my Maui pictures. I ended up with a mixture of DSLR photos and iPhone pictures, which took some additional figuring and resizing and saving. Plus, there was that whole Texas adventure thing a week after the Maui adventure thing. What can I say? This summer has been one big adventure after another! Or maybe this is just me, trying to type the word “adventure” as many times as possible within one post. I am diabolical that way — mwuahahahahahaha!

Day 1 for us was more of a half day, as our flight arrived around midday, Hawaii time. We arrived to some “liquid sunshine”. I didn’t know what this meant when I first heard it, but an online friend who is from Hawaii explained to me that this is what they call weather where it rains and the sun shines at the same time. It sounds so much nicer than what we call this type of weather in my home stomping grounds. We say the devil is beating his wife. Definitely not picturesque or lovely!

From what I can tell, liquid sunshine happens a lot in Maui. You know, because of that whole tropical rainforest vibe. The rain was kind of a bummer. After all, when you decide to go on a Hawaiian vacation, you don’t think about the possibility of rain. At the same time, it was kind of great because it added to the tropical feeling for me. And also because it would rain and then stop. In Virginia, we have been having a lot of rain without stopping. For days. Ugh.

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As we drove from the airport to our hotel, we passed many beautiful resort properties. And this! What better welcome could we hope for than a gorgeous rainbow? It was beautiful and pretty darn spectacular. I told my daughter that Maui was welcoming us, and seeing a beautiful rainbow felt like the perfect way to kick off a great vacation. This was a quick iPhone picture because my camera was still stowed in the trunk with the rest of our luggage. I’m not sure if you can see it very well, but this was a double rainbow. You can just barely see the second rainbow at the top edge of my picture, particularly on the left side.

We settled into our hotel and took a little look around the property. We stayed at a hotel that was slightly older, but the grounds were beautiful. The decor of our hotel was exactly what I think of when I think of Hawaiian decor. This is going to sound totally cheesy, but I felt like I had stepped into an episode of Magnum, PI! And by the way, this is a good thing. It was like a geeky fangirl dream come true!!

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There are flowers and plants everywhere! I know … You’re looking at the screen right now and saying, “Well, Duh! What were you expecting? It’s freaking Hawaii!!” I know, I know. I was ready for all the flowers and plant life. At the same time, I kind of wasn’t ready for it. Does this make sense at all? The sunlight is so rich and pure. It makes every color seem to pop that much more. And I will never get tired of seeing hibiscus growing all over the place. There is something incredibly elegant and exotic about those flowers to me. I think the yellow ones were my favorite. They are so bright!

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After a short time to recharge, we decided to set out for a drive. The Nakalele Blowhole was on our list of things we wanted to see. We had plans to meet up with family for dinner that night, and we were already getting a late start. It didn’t leave a lot of time for sightseeing, but we felt like we could at least do this much. The blowhole was a bit of a drive, but not impossibly far from our hotel. The drive was spectacular, of course.

We drove with the windows open so that we could feel the wind and smell the ocean. We drove through patches of rain here and there, but even that was sweet. It felt cool and light on our skin. I don’t think I could ever get tired of seeing the ocean slide by next to the highway. I say “highway”, and I suppose it qualifies as that. It was one of the biggest roads we traveled while on Maui. But I live in the land of many-laned highways. Compared to what we are used to, it felt pretty small. It was also a winding, twisting, and fun ride! Oh! And did I mention the amazing scenery?

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The Nakalele Blowhole was magnificent! It’s rather a steep and slippery climb to get down the trail in order to be closer to the actual blowhole. I was tired from a long flight. Even though I had on good hiking shoes and I was prepared to do some major hiking on the vacation, I found I wasn’t feeling particularly sure-footed on this day. My back and my hip were both sore from too much sitting on the plane and in the car. I opted to enjoy the blowhole from a distance.

I have to admit I wasn’t feeling it when we first arrived. Yes, the scenery was gorgeous. And, of course, there was the ocean. There were some splashes and gurgles from the area where the blowhole is located, but, overall, it just seemed so small. It really didn’t seem worthy of the name “blowhole”. It was more like a gurgle-hole or something. Wait … that sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? *ahem* Nevermind. At any rate, I stood there watching it for a bit, and I thought, “This is it? Is this all there is?”

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Um … wrong! That little bitty splish of a splash was most definitely NOT all there was. I just had to be patient and wait for the perfect conditions to align. Once they did … BA-BAM!! It was like the entire universe exploded, and everything was water. The Nakalele Blowhole shoots water up to 100 feet into the air. And the noise! I wasn’t prepared for it. The noise was huge — a ringing boom accompanied by the ever-present underlying noise of the surf pounding against the shoreline. Truthfully, after seeing how high the water went and after hearing the ear-shaking BOOM that accompanied it, I was glad I had decided to watch from a safer distance.

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We spent quite a bit of time at the blowhole and hiking the trails right around it. There was some slipping and sliding up and down, but nothing too terribly scary. I only felt like I was going to tumble off the cliff once. I call that a hiking win! Plus, I think we all felt the need to linger near the ocean for as long as we could. There is something so refreshing about it. It is constantly changing. It is powerful and relentless. And yet, I find something so peaceful about it.

It was a good first day. If I had any complaint, it would be that the day went by too quickly, mostly eaten up in a blur of exhausting travel. In the end, we had to say good-night to the ocean and head back to our hotel. After all, dinner was waiting.

 

The End of Summer

Today is the last day of Summer. Not officially, according to the calendar. And I’m sure the hot weather is going to hang around for a while yet. But, according to the powers-that-be in my daughter’s school system, Summer is kaput. Tomorrow, she starts band camp, and, from there, it’s a quick downhill slide into the school year. It feels like Summer was over before it even began. I am sitting in my parents’ sunny kitchen, frantically typing out this post when I should be doing some last minute packing. In a few hours, my daughter and I will head to the airport, and then, we will wing our way home.

It’s been a good Summer. Busy and full of travel, but also good. I haven’t blogged at all about Maui yet, as I only had a week of downtime in between trips. That week was taken up with appointments and other miscellaneous things that have to happen when one is forced to “adult” for a living. But the Maui trip was a good trip. We reconnected with family we seldom see. We laughed and met new family members, in the form of our new little niece and nephew. We saw spectacular things. We made memories to last a lifetime.

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Kerrville, Texas isn’t nearly as exciting as Maui. I can admit this. There’s not much to see. There’s not much to do. Life is quiet here, and a little bit slow-moving. I don’t think it qualifies as a tourist destination in the least. And yet … There is something about this place that I love. I’m sure it’s not the town, in particular, that captures my heart. It is because my parents live here. But it’s also because I miss my beloved Texas so much. It’s the place where I am from. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.

It’s not necessarily an easy trip in terms of the personalities involved. My daughter is sometimes snarky, as are most teenagers. She also has a tendency toward sarcasm, which I think she inherited from her father … and, possibly, me. My parents are getting on in years, and they are kind of cranky and grumpy. I honestly don’t know if all elderly people are like this. But my elderly people are. They have aches and pains. And they complain a lot about things they can’t control. News Flash: None of us has control over anything. But I wonder if, maybe, you get to a certain age and you feel like you should have control over at least one little thing in your life. I don’t know. My mom also takes things a little too much to heart at times. She gets offended easily and takes joking as being serious. She has always been this way, but it sometimes makes for a touchy situation at the casa.

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Even so, life is relaxing here. It is calm and peaceful. It is the perfect place to sometimes listen to one’s thoughts and to reconnect with a daughter who is becoming an adult right in front of my eyes. In three years, my daughter will be done with high school. I say the words out loud, and I can’t believe they are true. She will leave me in three years. Guys … that’s not a lot of time. It’s really not.

The weather was overly hot this time, so we didn’t get to walk every evening. But we managed it when we could. And that was okay. My daughter and I laughed and told inside jokes. We hunted Pokemon together. We sat quietly at times, each of us reading at different ends of the kitchen table. We talked about hopes and dreams and fears — you know, the BIG conversations. But we had lots of small conversations, too. We went to the movies together. We played a favorite board game with my mom almost every evening. And we all laughed and teased and got loud and rowdy. In short, we had fun. We made memories.

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I feel bittersweet and nostalgic about the ending of Summer this year. Usually, I am already looking forward in terms of planning the upcoming school year and figuring out how to get everyone into their normal routines and schedules. This year, there hasn’t been any of that. I haven’t looked at school supplies or tried to figure out what my daughter might need to start the new school year. I feel much more chill about that whole aspect. Last year, she didn’t have supply lists until the end of the first week of school. Or, maybe it’s more that I’m in no hurry for any of it to happen. In my heart, I feel like I am hanging on with my last shred of strength and dignity to this beautifully sweet and bitter Summer. My parents are getting older. My dad is 87. My mom is 81. My aunts are both gone. My uncles are both in bad health, and so is my brother. Part of me wonders how many summers I will have left to come here and walk the sidewalks of Kerrville in the evenings and look at the deer and tell jokes with my parents and play Pokemon Go with my daughter. Even though there has been a lot of bitter in with the sweet, today I am looking at the sweet parts of it all and thinking, “Yeah. This is all right.”

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I am heading back to a dirty house and a near future that feels uncertain and a little bit scary because of my husband’s work situation. School is coming. Busy schedules and family drama are coming. Feeling rushed and panicked and like there is too much to do is coming. I hope snow is coming, too. I love snow. And winter. But through it all, I will have my memories from this Texas trip. And the sound of laughter ringing through my imagination. And you know what? I think that is pretty good.

A Rough Flight & The Kindness of Strangers

When we last met, I was (rather unhappily) preparing to wing my way to Hawai’i with my family. Oh, how I hate to travel. I like going to new places, having new experiences, and making great memories. But I hate the mechanics of getting there. I hate it with a passion. I keep telling myself to roll with the flow, or whatever, but I am not sure I will ever learn to do that. The whole act of traveling from Point A to Point B is stressful and overwhelming, especially when going by plane. We are three days into our trip now (well, 2.5, technically), and I am far enough removed from our airport experience to say it was worth it. It has been a fun and relaxed trip so far. In fact, I have thought of so many things I want to blog. But I have been too busy living and enjoying my family to take the time for it! Now, that’s a good vacation!

This afternoon, my husband and daughter are at the beach, enjoying sand and sun and ocean waves. I begged off, since I have little to no interest in going into the water. And I am just about the whitest person I know — literally. I am so fair-skinned I could almost be invisible. Hours in the sun are not a great idea for me, even if I slather on the extra-heavy sunblock. And so, it seemed like the perfect time to sit down and blog a little.

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So … Let’s start where any good adventure story must: in the beginning, with planes, trains, and automobiles. Remember how I said life would be grand if I could figure out a way to drive to Hawai’i? If that underwater car or a personal submarine ever becomes a thing, sign me up! Because our trip might have been a lot smoother if we had used some other mode of transportation. Sadly, Hawai’i is surrounded by water. Islands tend to be that way, after all. Right? So our travel choice was by plane. The first leg of our trip left at o’dark-thirty. We got up around 3 AM so we could leave home by 3:45 and get to the airport two hours ahead of our 6:30 AM flight. My husband thinks I’m insane because I have to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of my flight. It’s not just a suggestion with me. It’s a compulsion. I have so much anxiety and dread over going through airport security and getting scanned and talking to strangers that I need to have the mental luxury of knowing I have lots of time in which to accomplish this entire process.

We did the trip in two legs: Dulles to Chicago O’Hare. And then Chicago to Maui, which was our final destination. The first part was a little under 2 hours. The second part was a little over 8 hours. And all ten hours was pure, hellish torture.

Remember how I mentioned my daughter has strep? We got the diagnosis and her antibiotics on Thursday afternoon. We left home on Friday morning — way, way, way early on Friday morning. Even so, she had two doses of medication, and we knew she wasn’t contagious. I was worried about her flying with a lot of congestion, but her doctor told me it was okay for us to go on the plane. Keep in mind her doctor didn’t diagnose her with a sinus infection or anything like that. Initially, they told us to do the saline rinse and antihistamines for congestion. After the strep test came back positive, they prescribed the antibiotics. Which is fine. I’m not complaining about this at all. I am happy for my daughter to have as few doses of antibiotic as possible and only when absolutely necessary.

The problem is that, while the antibiotics went to work on any bacterial infection in her system and her throat calmed down, her congestion just got worse. And worse. And then, we added in a pressurized airplane cabin and all the air pressure changes from going up and down and maintaining cruising altitude. It was horrible. There’s no easier way to say it. It was just horrible. Things started out okay, but once our Chicago flight reached cruising altitude, the pressure built up and up in my daughter’s sinuses and ears, until it felt like her head was going to explode. She was in so much pain. She was in tears because it hurt so badly. I haven’t seen her in this much pain on a flight since she was a little baby. It tore me up, especially since there was very little I could do. When we landed at Chicago, we had a 2-hour layover. We were able to eat and get her some decongestant, and she felt a lot better. I breathed a silent sigh of relief that, maybe, the worst was over.

It wasn’t. Because the same thing happened on the Chicago to Maui leg of the trip. Only this time, she was in unrelenting pain for 8 hours. The pain was so bad that she ended up throwing up, which has never happened for her on a plane before. We weren’t fast enough with the airsickness bag, and barf got all over her and me. Luckily, we didn’t get any on the seats or the floor around where we were sitting. There are few feelings that are worse, as a parent, than having to sit and watch your child suffer. She spent nearly the entire 8 hour flight leaning on my shoulder for comfort, although I felt completely inadequate to truly comfort her. I did my best, and maybe just being close and knowing someone loved her in that moment helped. A little.

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And this is when an amazing, beautiful thing happened. After she threw up, my daughter went into the bathroom at the front of the plane to try and clean herself up a little bit. I followed her up there to see what I needed to do to dispose of the “yuck” bag and to get some supplies so I could clean our area of the plane, to the extent it needed it. I explained to one of the flight attendants that my daughter was having a hard time with sinus pain and pressure, that it was so severe she was sick to her stomach and threw up, and that I needed some supplies to make sure our area was clear. And then I kind of hovered outside the bathroom door, waiting for my daughter.

As I was anxiously hovering and, I’m sure, looking as socially awkward as a person can possibly look, a lady sitting on the front row came up to me. She told me she had overheard what I told the flight attendant. She asked if my daughter had motion sickness. She said, if that was the case, her family had Dramamine and would be happy to give some to us. I told her it wasn’t normal motion sickness, but caused by too much sinus pain and pressure. I explained that my daughter was on antibiotics and had taken decongestant a couple of hours earlier, so I wasn’t sure about giving her additional medication. This lovely woman nodded and said, “Don’t worry. I have just the thing.”

She went back to her family and dug through her bag, coming up with a pair of Sea Bands. These were brand new, in their little plastic case. They had never been opened. She said they were traveling with her grandson for the first time, and they had bought these for him. But he was fine and didn’t need them. She said we could take them and use them, to see if this might help settle my daughter’s upset stomach.

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So, picture this: I am standing there next to the bathroom door, trying to be inconspicuous and out of the way and failing miserably. I am disheveled and grungy. My hair is in a quick and messy bun, but it is flying all around my face. I have on no makeup. I have been up since way before 3 AM because I wasn’t able to sleep the night before we left. There are dark circles under my eyes, and I am about a split second away from crying. And I have barf all over my shirt. And this lovely woman … this absolute stranger … is standing there, holding out a thing that gives me the hope I will be able to help my child. When I told her I was worried about giving the bands back to her, she pressed the little box into my hand and hugged me. “Don’t even think about it, Mama,” she said. “We’ve all been there.”

“Don’t even think about it, Mama. We’ve all been there.” Could any one person say anything wiser than that to another person? I mean, think about it. We are living in pretty crappy times. Sometimes, it seems like we all hate each other. Sometimes, it seems like we are all so caught up in being angry and miserable that we can’t even see the beauty of life around us. I swear there are a lot of times when I think people are just looking for a reason to be angry and hateful and miserable. But there are good people out there. There are beautiful, caring, and loving people out there. Even now. When you are bogged down in the accusations and the hate and the vitriol spewing forth from every direction, close your eyes and remember that there are people out there who are capable of loving you, even if they don’t know who you are.

And I think that is what this post is really about. Because the pain and dread and awfulness of that flight will fade in time. One day, probably in the not-so-distant future, the story of my daughter’s flight from hell will become one more family memory that we trot out during Christmas or when we are all comparing the war stories of life. But I will always remember the stunning kindness of that stranger on our flight. I will always remember her hugging me tight, telling me without words that I can do this … that I am strong, and that I can do what’s right for my child … that I am not alone. I don’t know her name. I don’t know where she is from. I don’t know anything about her. But I will always remember the kindness on her face and in her heart. She will always live in my own heart. And I hope that, one day, I can pass her heroic kindness along the way.

“Don’t worry, Mama. We’ve all been there.”