Blizzards, hurricanes, and airplanes

My husband and I are flying to Florida next week…or at least we are (were??) planning to.

As you may have guessed, we have become obsessed with the news coverage of hurricane Irma. We are going to Orlando for a conference and decided to go a little early to spend a few days at Disney without the kids.

I was surprised to see people sharing things on Facebook about it being the end of the world. Major hurricanes, wildfires out West, and a solar eclipse…but all of these things have been happening since the beginning of time. At least we have modern technology to know about the storms before they hit.

Some people also have been thinking that the world was ending for awhile too. I remember hearing stories in my lifetime of people waiting on their rooftops for the end of the world to come. They would’ve died waiting too…which sends my thoughts to wonder how many fell off their rooftops? I wouldn’t want to climb out on mine, especially in winter.

Maybe people are talking about the end of the world because it seems like America is getting hit with some pretty nasty natural disasters.

Did anyone proclaim the end of the world when eBola hit Africa?? What about during the Salem witch trials, the year 666, and during the bubonic plague??

My brain might explode!

Do I believe that someday the world will end?? Yes, perhaps so, but I believe that the world has been ending since it first began. Kind of like life…people will debate over when life begins..Does it begin at conception or birth? But no one would debate that the minute something is living that it begins the process of dying whether it is a plant, human, or animal…

Wow, that is morbid and deep…okay, enough of the philosophy.

I don’t know if we will be flying out next week…As a Midwestern girl, I know nothing about hurricanes. I’ve only dipped my toes in the ocean a handful of times. I’ve never seen a shark in the sea. I’ve never seen an alligator or crocodile in its natural habitat. I couldn’t tell the difference between them.

All that Wisconsinites know about is blizzards.

Most of us know how to drive in a foot of snow. Some people around this neck of the woods can manage driving in a foot of snow drunk. I wouldn’t recommend it.

We rarely shut down for more than a day for a snow storm…usually a few hours. Most people have a truck, snowmobile, or 4 wheel drive. We’ve gotten used to white out conditions, sliding into snow banks, and leaving the house when it is 20 below without gloves and hats. We can live 3 months barely seeing the sun. We’ve become accustomed to seasonal depression. We shovel the snow out of our driveways with snot dripping and freezing onto our jackets. We are so desperate to get out that we fish on the ice. The bravest of us see how long we can make it before turning the heat on.

But hurricanes, I don’t know anything about that! I can’t even comprehend its impact.

I suppose I too am guilty of being self-centered. I am worried about myself, my flight, my ability to get away for a few days. I seem to be more concerned about the storm for my purposes then the people that have lost everything even their lives.

I admit I am rather happy that all of the news on Facebook isn’t political rants, rioting, and that weird stuff about statues. But I feel horrible about the stories of devastation that are replacing them.

Oh, and I never did read that article about the end of the world.

 

2. Describe 3 legitimate fears

Day 2: Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears.

This required a lot of thought. Every fear that I could think of that I have boils down to one big legitimate fear…The fear of not being in control. I am not sure why I feel like I need to be in control all of the time or why I feel responsible for things that happen that are beyond my control. I think that I have some basic trust issues.  For a long time it seemed like my life was ordered by chaos. It suffocated me. I tried everything to feel like I had some iota of control. I wanted to force change and be the magnet that forces the pendulum to swing in the other direction.

I have a fear of driving. For a period of time, I took medication to face this fear. I refused to stay at home to hide from this fear. I feared being trapped in my car which would bring on panic. If concrete construction barriers or bridges lock me in, I feel afraid. For awhile, I expended a lot of energy trying to be the perfect driver. I kept my car exactly in the middle of the white lines. There also was a period of time that I avoided the highway altogether. This was difficult because it was slow going the back way and I like to drive fast. Highway driving is boring, when I’m not anxious I fear falling asleep or not having a quick enough response if there is an emergency. Again, this boils down to not feeling like I have control. I can’t control the other drivers on the road. I feel afraid that I can’t guarantee that I will be able to keep my passengers or myself safe. Long road trips where I am the driver scares me. I haven’t totally gotten over this fear, but I won’t let it control me. Again, control.

I am afraid of flying which is difficult since I love traveling. I don’t have control over, or even know, the person flying the plane. Again, flying sometimes requires meds to prevent me from panicking. Taking meds is a struggle because it makes me feel like I can’t control my fear. I think the fear of flying stems a little from my dad being a pilot as a hobby. For most of my childhood, he was in charge of a civilian based group that would search for downed planes. He often would take calls in the middle of the night to get search teams together. It made me think that flying was not safe. 

I am afraid of death. When my dad was in the Vietnam War, he thought that he wouldn’t die there because he could foresee his future death. He said that he would die on Christmas Eve of 2011. That day came and past and he is still here. Having a future death date had one purpose. It took away his fear of death in Vietnam when his friends were dying. 

I tell everyone that I am going to die of dementia like others in my family did. I dream of not knowing that I am dying. Will the heaven that I believe in really be there? Or will life end in an empty meaningless void like it did before I existed? Will it hurt to take my dying breath? Part of the reason why I am a fitness fanatic is that it makes me feel like I have some control over time. Exercise will make me live longer. Cancer doesn’t run in the family. I have low blood pressure and cholesterol, so I ruled out heart disease as my demise. Thinking that I won’t know that I am dying takes the sting out of it. Death is something I have no control over. Will it be tomorrow, next year, or decades from now?  It scares me to death. 

Not only do I fear death, but I also fear that my loved ones will die or be in incredible pain. I try to control this by giving unsolicited advice. Don’t drink too much! Wear your seat belt! The more I push, the more they pull away. I would rather be in pain than see the people I love suffer. I want to be in control of their change.

I am afraid that my life partner will die before we do everything we planned. 

I have to always have control over myself. I have to control my emotional response. I’m stoic. I fear things that could cause an outburst of emotion. I fear inappropriate laughter. I am afraid I won’t have complete control over my mind or body if I let go. This frightens me. Fear stops me from relaxing. 

I have to double check the oven and coffee pot because it gives me a false control that my house will be safe when I am gone. I have to be the last one to leave the house. I am afraid that if I don’t have things under control, the house will burn down. I also am afraid that my cat will get caught in the blind cords and die if I leave him alone for the weekend. I am afraid to be the first person back in the house when we return. 

I can’t stand being controlled by my circumstances, of being physically or emotionally trapped in situations I can’t control. 

I am more fearful of the weather controlling my comings and goings instead of the storm itself. No control over the weather.

I am afraid that I will get sick and have to change my plans. No control over my body.

I have to be the last one to bed and the first one up in a group setting. I feel like I have to be ready to step in and control how people get along. I hover. Watching. Waiting. Taking control of the situation, problem solving in my mind. 

Staying up until the last kid gets home makes me feel like I have control. 

I guess I am a control freak because the thought of not being in control freaks me out!

I try incredibly hard to not let any of this fear control my life…

On the plus side, I am not afraid of spiders, water, snakes, scary clowns, or public speaking.

No escape?

On Labor Day, we are having our summer staff party. Seems fitting, right??

We are planning on taking our employees for a sail. The last couple of summers, sailing has been the staff request.

Winter staff parties are a little more tricky. I always try planning off the wall kind of parties. One year we saw a laser light show at a planetarium after eating fondue. Another year we went to an Irish restaurant followed by a comedian. Last year we went to the Japanese steak house after taking a painting class. Year after year, it is getting harder to top.

Then I heard of the escape room. It is all the rage. You are given clues and one hour to escape from a locked room. The only question I have is….is there a bathroom?? Yikes! What a great staff party team building event. Except no one wanted to try it.

Really, what is wrong with being locked in a room??

Then I remembered, I am terrified of being trapped.

I don’t like feeling like there isn’t a way out.

I can’t stand feeling trapped on airplanes. Every bit of turbulence makes me feel like we are crashing. I have heard that turbulence is not risky, but take offs and landings are. Great, now I am afraid the whole flight. I’m trapped on a plane. I can’t leave when I want to. The cold fear lasts for hours. I break out in a cold sweat. I grip the arm rest or person next to me. My hands shake. My heart races. I hold my breath or breathe fast. I gasp. Some of my best flights involved being medicated.

I can’t stand feeling trapped in cars either. I am prone to panic when I have to cross long bridges or drive through construction. The concrete barriers trap me. I have no option to pull over or escape. My heart races, my breathing is fast, the sweat pours, I open all the windows, and at times I get tunnel vision. I have to pull over at the next exit sometimes. It is suffocating.

Year round I drive with my windows open a crack so I don’t feel trapped inside my car.

Sometimes I feel trapped by my circumstances. I can’t stand that either.

It is beyond me why I would WANT to go in an escape room. I think it has to do with the challenge of facing fears and figuring a way to get out.

I haven’t figured out the winter party yet, but until then I am going to enjoy sailing with our employees on Labor Day.

At least I am not afraid of water!

Maybe I will find another group of crazy folks to get locked up with in an escape room.

Bon voyage on life’s next journey

Writing has finally paid off for me. Literally. A week or so back I wrote a post about my bad travel experience with Delta airlines. I decided to go ahead and write them a very detailed complaint letter. What would it hurt? Maybe I would feel better if nothing else. I never had any problems with the airline before. I have never written a complaint letter before either. Today I received an apology letter from Delta along with a $200 gift card. I believe that this rectifies the situation. I wanted to share this response with you because a kind apology goes a long way with me if I feel wronged. It is fair. Ah, redemption and not just redeaming a gift card.

Today I received this gift on the 7th anniversary of my grandma’s death. I know what you are thinking…what does this have to do with flying?? In a weird twisted way, a lot. I planned our first family vacation to Disney a little over 7 years ago. I had planned the whole vacation, made reservations for meals, and purchased airline tickets to be called in a few days before our vacation to see my grandma on her death bed. I didn’t know what to do. I never traveled with the children before. I didn’t buy the extra insurance that allowed me to cancel the trip. And one of the closest people to me in the whole world was leaving it.

The family was called in to say good bye a few days before we were scheduled to leave. My grandma was delirious on Morphine. She spent a lot of time sleeping when we were there. She muttered and cried out, but was not aware of our presence. The following day I went to visit my grandma by myself for a little while. She refused the Morphine so she could be awake to talk to me. She told me that she wanted me to go on vacation. She told me that she was ready to see grandpa and her parents again. She said that I needed to let her go to be with those that passed before her. She said that I would be ok and that someday that the pain of her memory would fade. She lived a long full happy life and was ready for her final journey. 

So we went on our vacation. While we were gone, I called home frequently to be told that grandma was doing good. We got home from our trip Saturday night. When I called my mom, she told me that grandma was doing really well so well that she might be able to come back home. I didn’t need to rush out and visit her right away that night. The next morning I received a call that grandma passed away peacefully less than 24 hours after she knew I got home. 

I was very sad for a long time. I thought of her every single day that first year. I cried a long time the first anniversary of her death. Then it seemed like I didn’t think of her as much anymore. The pain faded and memories bloomed. I tried to remember the good days. 

My grandma once bought me a bright colored umbrella. She told me that she never wanted me to be sad on a rainy day. So I think of the happy days. The puzzles that we worked on together. Our love of mystery, thriller, suspense books. The time spent researching the family tree. Drinking tea together in our special mugs. The beautiful songs that she would sing to soothe my childhood tears. The jar of cookies she would send me home with. 

Today I am wearing one of the matching shirts she bought for us. We were best friends. She helped me through the hardest days of my life. Then she gently let go of my hand. 

Travel woes, just trying to get there

You may or may not have noticed that I took a week off from my travel series. I took time off from writing about traveling to actually travel. We decided to take one last family vacation to Florida before my oldest child graduates this year. The trip down to Florida and what happened at the end of the trip was so horrible that I am still upset about it. I decided to vent about my woes with you today and then write about the trip (which went great) in another post.  

Last week my mom, husband, 3 kids, and I flew out of Milwaukee with Delta to meet up with my brother Luke and his family in Orlando. We were not able to get a direct flight to Orlando and had an hour layover in Detroit. Our flight ended up being delayed in Milwaukee because someone over fueled the plane which caused us to exceed our weight limit. Eleven people needed to give up their seats due to this. They also had to get a large hose to remove some of the fuel. When we were finally able to board they still needed to de-ice the plane which took a long time because they ran out of de-icer. It took an hour before we were finally able to leave. At this point, the flight attendant assured us that if we had a connecting flight they were aware of our situation and would most likely wait for us.

We ended up landing a few minutes before our next flight was scheduled to depart. We ran across the airport as fast as we could and got to our gate two minutes after our flight was supposed to leave. We arrived to the gate just as our plane was leaving. They could not wait for us for 2 minutes!! Then we were herded into a long line of passengers from our plane. At least 20 people that were sitting near us missed their connecting flights. After waiting in line for what seemed like forever, we were able to talk to an agent that barely spoke English. He said that the only way he would be able to get all six of us to Orlando together was if we took a connecting flight to Boston. At this point, I was extremely angry. He wanted to direct us into Boston right around the time that the east coast was supposed to be hit by a blizzard. I pictured my family being stuck in the weather that we were trying to escape from. You didn’t want to hear the words that seeped out of my lips.

He booked us on the flight to Boston which we cancelled. Then he tried to get us all on the earliest flight available closest to Orlando. He had a few seats available but by the time he tried to type all of our names in the seats were gone. The best he could do was get an 8 PM flight to Tampa for my mom and Paul. He was able to get the kids and I on an 8 PM flight to Jacksonville. I would arrive in Jacksonville at 11 PM then have to somehow find a rental car to drive 2 1/2 hours in the middle of the night with 3 kids on roads I’ve never driven on to get to the house that we rented. You would think that they would agree to pay for the extra rental car to get us there. Nope, they told us that the flight was delayed due to weather and that they would not cover that additional cost. The delay was NOT weather related.

We noticed a half an hour later that another flight was leaving for Orlando. We decided to run across the airport to try to be on stand by for that flight. When we got there, they made the announcement that they were overbooked and were looking for volunteers to take another flight. That wasn’t going to work. We saw another flight leaving for Tampa in 30 minutes all the way across the airport. So once again, Paul and I ran as fast as we could with 3 children and a senior citizen with all of our carry on bags across the airport. When we got there, the Tampa flight was boarding. They told us that we needed to talk to customer service to be added to the stand by list. We went where they directed us to go and no one was there. When we found where we needed to go, we had to wait in line for 10 minutes to speak to someone. When we explained our situation, the woman told us that she needed to leave for her lunch break and directed us to talk to someone on the phone. While Paul was speaking to someone on the phone, my daughter called me in a panic to say that the flight was about ready to leave. We missed the opportunity to catch that flight.

Then we went across the airport again to get on stand by for the next flight to Orlando at 5:30 PM. It was at this time that I switched the Orlando rental car that I booked over to Tampa. I made several other troubleshooting and problem solving calls. I was so angry that I wanted to take my carry on backpack and slam it into the garbage bins to knock them over. I don’t think that I ever swore so much in my entire life. I don’t know what it is about yanking around people’s schedules (while feeling a total lack of control) that can turn reasonably sane people into raging bulls, but it does.

I will be totally honest with you right now, I am terrified of flying. Every little bit of turbulence, I agonize that the plane is crashing. I usually pop a couple of anxiety pills and sleep most of the flight arriving in a comatose state. Paul usually has to make sure that I get to wherever I need to be safely. I read everything that I could about flying to try to get over my fear. I read that planes don’t crash due to turbulence. Most planes crash during take off or landing. Thanks, now that scares the hell out of me too. I am afraid of dying. The thought of falling terrifies me. I feel trapped with a total loss of control while flying. My life is in the hands of some pilot that I don’t even know. You say that flying is safer than driving? Well, that scares me too. I spent a good deal of my life struggling with driving anxiety. I told Paul that I didn’t think that I could handle flying and then driving 2 1/2 hours after being awake 20 hours. He did everything that he could to make sure that the kids and I were on that next flight to Orlando. At the very last second, the person at the desk was able to get the kids and I on the flight. I told Paul to make sure that if they couldn’t get my luggage on that they would send it to Tampa. I had to fly totally alert and unmedicated ridden with anxiety.

Once we landed, I got the message that Paul and my mom were able to get an earlier flight to Tampa. They said that my luggage was in Orlando. My youngest two kids were fighting and touching the luggage carousel. I was just about going crazy, but I was there. My luggage never came out and I panicked. It turns out that they set some of the luggage to the side. Then, due to miscommunication, my brother did not know that he had to pick us up at the airport. We sat at the airport another hour waiting for him. Finally we got to our rental house after 10 PM. My mom and Paul ended up getting there at 11:30 PM.

It was a rough start to our vacation. I am glad that we were able to get there the same day. All of the stress could have been avoided if some idiot did not over fuel our plane. I don’t think I would have been quite as angry if we didn’t watch our connecting flight leave two minutes after the scheduled departure time without us.  Running back and forth across the airport with 3 kids and my mom was extremely stressful as well. I am thinking about writing Delta a letter. Unfortunately, our arrival back home was just as horrible and that had nothing to do with Delta. I will tell you about that next, this post is long enough already.

 

The travel diaries, Jamaica

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Paul and I stayed in Jamaica at the gorgeous Sandals Whitehouse Resort for our 10th anniversary. Besides my 20 minutes in Canada, it was my first time out of the country. It was Paul’s first time on an airplane. This is a picture of the island taken from our hotel window.

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The most adventurous part of the trip was simply getting there. I picked Paul up after work on a Wednesday evening. We had plans to stay at a hotel the evening before and fly direct the following morning. Our 2 hour drive to a direct flight turned into a 5 hour drive due to a snowstorm. The first half we drove snow free, the second half was downright treacherous. We had to drive through blizzard conditions the rest of the way. We saw multiple accidents, drove around jack knifed semis, and cars in the ditch. The highway was down to one unplowed lane. Every so often the snow whipped around in front of the truck so hard that our headlights would flicker off. We spent hours driving in the dark through white out conditions wondering if we were going to be able to stay on the road and oftentimes finding ourselves veering off. Nearby highways were shut down.

We drove through two feet of snow that evening in very windy conditions. When we finally got to the hotel, nothing was plowed out and we couldn’t tell which parking spaces were occupied. Management was fluttering around in a fury of flurries trying to figure out what to do. They ended up telling us to park anywhere. I had to take a picture of Paul in the snow to show what he had to drive through.

Our flight ended up being delayed the following morning, but we decided to go to the airport early anyway. Last minute Paul forgot to pack his tennis shoes, so I grabbed a pair from home and apparently grabbed the wrong ones. Just before we hit security, Paul exclaimed that I brought his old shoes, the ones that he put a screw in to hold the bottom flap together. (Cheapskates, remember?) So here we are trying desperately to get the screw out of his shoe before we hit security trying not to look suspicious. Talk about having a few screws loose!  We were really frazzled. Finally, after a 5 hour delay, we were able to fly out. We finally made it to our resort in Jamaica at 10 PM on Thursday.

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Finally we were at our resort and could relax a little. When we went, the resort was very new and in immaculate condition. The staff took very good care of the property and even raked the beach every morning. We were in paradise. We took some dance lessons, sang at the martini piano bar, went snorkeling, and spent most of our time at the beach. The staff was personable and the food was good.

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This is one of my all time favorite pictures of myself surrounded by the beauty of the island’s colorful flowers and plants. Especially since it was twenty below at home and our plants were dead, dormant and/or brown. We went in February and the temperature was absolutely perfect with highs around 80 without a lot of humidity.

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Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to explore the culture outside of the resort. The beach was rugged outside of the resort grounds. We had to sign out of the resort before we left because at that point we were on our own and the resort was not responsible for our safety. This was a little unnerving so we didn’t stay away too long being very inexperienced travelers at the time.

Monday morning we were on our way back home. We were loaded up in a van for the hour and a half drive to the airport. Now if you are ever thinking of visiting Jamaica, let me give you a little forewarning about their roads. Our one and a half lanes at home are like two lanes for them. There are often animals and people along the road. They do not have traffic lights or stop signs as far as I am aware of, even in the city. The main roads were in very poor condition with a lot of potholes. It seems to work out for them, but was very scary for us. There was a woman that started screamed as we passed a truck up a hill and came inches from knocking a bicyclist off the hill. Made me have a new appreciation for our roads, even with the road construction.

On the trip back, we saw school children in uniforms walking to school, a man washing his clothes in a stream, and just the every day flow of how the people lived. For the most part, the people seemed to be happy. We really enjoyed our time there. It would have been nice to interact more with the people outside of the resort and learn more about their culture. If there is anything that I would recommend to a new traveler, it is to stay for a whole week if at all possible. We only had three full days to explore the island and that wasn’t enough.

I would recommend a vacation to Jamaica. It is relatively affordable. Sandals resorts are great, it is all inclusive including transportation to and from the airport. We were able to try some new fruits that we don’t have at home. I fell in love with eating papayas.  I was able to relax and reconnect with Paul in the slow pace under the warm sun. The constant reggae beat was calming. We listened to local radio stations in our room and I really miss the uniqueness of their music. If I went back, I would take some tours and immerse myself in the culture more. What a lovely place.

Then just like that our vacation was over. We went back to the hotel and picked up our truck which was parked sideways in the parking lot. We smiled through construction. We thought of the Jamaicans that have never seen snow who thought our snow looked like sand on a beach. It is amazing what a few days in the sun away from  everyday life stressors can do. But the best part of the trip was that we fell in love all over again.