The week before a major vacation is almost always stressful… packing, getting everything squared away at work, making last minute arrangements, etc, etc…
As it turns out, we had planned a major family vacation with Tenille’s family (about 24 people, of which 14 are little children) right before our 6 month trip to China. The plan was that we’d go on a week long vacation to Orlando, come back for 3 days to Seattle, then move to China for 6 months. It seemed a bit aggressive when we were making the plan 6 months ago… as the date approached, it became clear that we lacked any kind of judgment and had lost our minds during the planning stage… There were a few breakdowns, a few evenings of prioritization, then re-prioritizations… and at each meeting, we basically started cutting things out that were not absolutely essential…. like taking time to choose a preschool for Caleb next year, burning music CDs for China, anything to do with the yard, or home improvement, Andrew’s birthday party, etc, etc. (OK, OK… we actually ended up doing Andrew’s birthday party, but it was family only…. )
At T minus 1 week of when the traveling was all about to begin, it started happening… And don’t get me wrong… what I mean by "it" isn’t anything Biblical… like being sold to Egypt by our brothers… or losing all our kids and getting sores on our bodies…. "it" wasn’t even as bad as a lot of the incredible hardships that people around us are facing like lost jobs, or homes floating away… But "it" wasn’t pleasant, and just like any other trial, helped us focus on the important things.
For the last few weeks of December, there was an unusual volume of snow for Seattle. In the beginning of January there was a considerable amount of rain that fell, and in combination with the snow melting, it has caused historic floods all over the western part of Washington state. Unfortunately, those parts included our basement. We did the only thing we knew how to do – panic. After talking with our trusty neighbor Karlin, and our home builder friend Norm, we tried to find the source of the flooding. We lifted up all the tiles in the flooded bathroom, moved all of the furniture in the basement into the garage, lifted up the carpet, removed the drywall, and lifted out the toilet in the bathroom The water started gushing down the toilet hole which relieved much of the flooding. By the second day, we finally figured out that the source was the back of the bathroom and a steady stream was ever present between the bathroom wall and the toilet hole.
After some consultation with Norm Smith, our home-building friend from church, he advised that we dig along the side of the house and re-do the foundation drains. There was a debate over a few days whether or not we should dig up the backyard deck and dig all the way around the house. The bad news is that homeowner’s insurance does not cover water that comes in from the outside and we were not covered. The cost had a lot of zeros.
We finally decided that we would just dig along the side of the house to fix the foundation drain. We’d just deal with the downstairs bathroom later. We’d also leave the backyard alone. We’d just get the basement in working order for the Adams who will be guests in our home while we’re in China.
With our home trusted to Norm, Karlin, and my mom, we left for Florida. Our plane was an hour late, but with a good tailwind, the pilot told us that we’d only be 30 minutes late to Chicago, our layover. That means we’d arrive when our connecting flight started boarding. When we got off the plane, we put ourselves together and arranged our kids and our bags and started running toward the gate K10 which is where we were directed by a man standing outside our terminal. When we got there, we were confused. There should have been people boarding. Instead, the sign said that the next flight was to San Jose. There was a lot of snow outside, but I figured Chicago was generally prepared for snow storms.
We got in a line along with others who were also apparently wondering where their flight was. Tenille, a bit impatient at this point, noticed an American Airlines employee at an empty terminal. She ran over to the lady, and apparently, she was making progress because she waved me and the kids over. The customer service lady was booking us on a flight that evening to Miami, then connecting back to Orlando. After about 20 minutes of "ticketing", we went to our gate and waited. We found out that the problem was a snow storm in Chicago. Planes were not able to land, which meant that the planes that were supposed to fly people out were also not available. As time drew on, our flight to Miami started getting delayed little by little.
Tenille, always attentive, heard the gate agent call over people who had connections in Miami. She jumped up and headed toward the agent. The agent was giving out a piece of paper and telling everyone to run to gate K17. Her tone was urgent and kept saying, "run, run, run!" We packed up all our belongings and our kids and started running toward the gate. In my mind, I was thinking, "Hooray, we are going to make it!" We got to the gate and there was a man there holding the gate and waving everyone into the terminal. He looked at us, and yelled, "No strollers!" Then slammed the door shut. Out of breath and defeated, we started our long mope back to our original gate wondering what the evening has in store for us.
Tenille spoke with the lady at the gate, who confirmed that there was no way we will be flying into Orlando that evening. We could go to Miami, but there was no flight to Orlando until the next day. After a flurry of phone calls between Tenille and her family, we decided we would fly to Fort Lauderdale that evening, then we’d drive to Orlando. We made all the arrangements with car rentals, then checked into the flight for Fort Lauderdale.
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale about 11:30pm. We went down to the baggage claim and waited for our bags. We stayed until the conveyor belt stopped. That’s funny – where are our bags? Maybe they shut off the conveyor belt, when they get another load of bags from the plane… But, why are there only 2 families left? Needless to say, our bags were lost, and Tenille just got a piece of paper from the American Airlines people saying that our bags are lost. (They actually called it – delayed… but I figure if they can’t tell you where it is, then it’s lost… )
By the time, we got our car, it was about midnight. At Alamo, they just point you to a row of cars and tell you to pick whatever you want. This was not good. Tenille was walking up and down the aisle trying to pick the perfect car. The right brand, the right smell, the right color, etc… By this point, we had been traveling for more than 12 hours, and I was admittedly not in the most patient of moods… I flashed a look of disapproval and encouraged her to quickly pick a car, perhaps not as nicely as I am writing it now. She eventually chose the perfect-smelling silver Nissan Altima. I admit it – it’s a great car. Driving from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando was the longest straight-a-way drive I’ve ever been on. I don’t normally use cruise control, but I did on this drive. It almost felt like I could take a small nap and we’d be fine… I’m pretty sure I was awake most of the time.
As we approached Orlando, in an attempt to avoid a 50 cent toll, we took some liberties with the directions and found ourselves completely lost. We stopped into a CVS, and I talked with the cashier, who admitted he "was not too good with roads." He was able to point out the road that we came in on, but was not much help otherwise. We next stopped in at a Walgreens. The pharmacist had no idea where we were supposed to go. Then, the janitor lady helped us and pointed us in the right direction. We were pretty far off. We finally pulled in around 4am, got in our beds in the clothes we traveled in, and went to bed.
The next morning, it was Sunday and we were going to go to church. We had no Sunday clothes, but my father-in-law left me some of his clothes to wear. Tenille and the kids just wore what they wore on the plane. No shower, no brushing teeth. The rest of the family went to Tenille’s uncle’s ward which was more than an hour away and started at 9am. I was pretty sure that that would be a recipe for disaster for ourselves and our kids. I found a local church that started at 11:30am. It looked close on the map, but it took more than the 30 minutes that we allotted and missed sacrament. I have to admit that as it was getting clearer and clearer that we were going to be very late to church, anger filled me. If nothing else, I just wanted to make it to sacrament meeting, but we couldn’t even get that done. But, as I sat there silent and sullen, I was impressed that the point of attending church is lost if I’m going to have anger inside me. The Spirit is not at church. It’s within us – provided that our demeanor and behavior invites it. I resigned and prayed inside my head, that we’re trying our best. I’m sorry we can’t make it to our church meeting on time. When we got to church, we had missed the sacrament, and there were no seats in the chapel. We sat outside in the foyer and listened to the youth speaker. It was a good time to reflect upon the blessings of humility as I sat in my father-in-law’s ill-fitting clothes. I met another dad outside whose wife just ran the half marathon 7 months after having a baby. He was in the Coast Guard stationed at Cape Cod.
After sitting in the foyer for 10 minutes and chatting with the Coast Guard guy, Tenille gave me the look to go. I agreed. We left for Tenille’s uncle’s house where we would see our family for the first time since making it to Orlando. On the way to Tenille’s uncle’s house, we sang a hymn and I gave a spiritual message and called it church.
We saw some manatees that afternoon at a state park, and on Sunday evening, we got our bags back. I guess they were just "delayed". It was nice to shower, brush teeth, and change clothes. I think the one thing to note was that Caleb and Andrew were angels throughout the trip. It was as if for them, everything was going as planned.
Despite some setbacks, I’m happy to report that everything that matters is going perfectly…