Surprises from the Polar Vortex

We’re home. The kids are back in school. Life continues on in its current state of normalcy.

After the tribulations of getting to Rochester, I had hoped for smooth flying home. But that wasn’t to be. I found out late Sunday night as I was going to bed, around 11 p.m., that our Monday afternoon flights were cancelled.

Flight snafus

So I called United. And they kept hanging up on me. “We’d like to transfer you to an agent, but all our representatives are busy. Please try again later. Goodbye.”

The next morning, after an hour and 20 minute wait, I finally talked to someone. My options: fly out from JFK on Wednesday or fly from Rochester on Friday. JFK is a 6-hour drive away. And the temperatures were dropping. We reserved both options, but I had to call back to confirm. Somehow.

I finally had the sense to call my travel agent to sort everything out. Which was good, as the kids weren’t on the same Friday morning flight as I was.

The coolest aunt

In the meantime, we were in Rochester for an extra 4 days, staying in my husband’s aunt’s house (synchronistically just a few streets away from where I used to live before I even met Adam).

Danica is awesome. She may now be my favorite aunt. She’s smart, kind, loves puzzles, knows how to do cool stuff like install WordPress themes, and cooked me dinner every night for a week.

She also likes children, which is a huge bonus when you’ve got two monkeys to occupy in the middle of a polar vortex for 4 days without all their usual distraction devices.

At first on Monday, I felt defeated and overwhelmed. Trapped far away from home. And then I decided to look for the blessings.

Unexpected blessings

Here’s what I found:

Wegmans train watching
Watching the train at the mega-Weg. No visit to Rochester would be complete without it.

Spending relaxed time with the kids, where we didn’t have to get on with regular life. Except for doing some shopping for kid food. But they got to see the train in the mega-Wegmans and annoy the other shoppers who aren’t nearly as cool as the folks at Market of Choice in Eugene.

Seeing more of my friends and their kids. We had dinner and a movie with Brenda one night. She makes awesome gluten-free mac-n-cheese. We saw Steph and her brand new baby, Kai. And roamed Vicki’s new house while Berry and Duncan played with Skyler, Hayden, Brian and Hana. Given the amount of noise they made, they had a really good time.

Duncan and Berry also got to spend more time with their Dad. Which meant extra hugs and silliness. Kevin couldn’t get extra time off work (totally understandable as no one expected us to still be there) but was with the kids as much as he could be. Which was great for them.

The biggest surprise for me was seeing Kevin’s parents. On Wednesday, his Dad and step-mom drove up from Corning to join me and the kids at Chuck-E-Cheese for a few hours. Duncan and Berry had been begging to go and I was going to relent and take then on Thursday morning. But this worked out fine.

The Chuck-E-Cheese gang

I wandered down the road a bit to get lunch while they devoured pizza and spent tokens with a passion.

Having normal, civil, kind conversation with folks that used to be my family for years was great. It healed a piece of my heart that I hadn’t realized was wounded.

On Thursday, after lunch, we went to see the other set of grandparents at their house. And, again, it was so familiar and felt so normal to chat with my former mother-in-law about life and kids and they ways they take after their Dad.

Puzzle making in our PJs
We also hung about in PJs and made puzzles.

To be welcomed and embraced was very meaningful to me. And that’s something that wouldn’t have happened without those canceled flights. It’s hard to be anything but grateful for that.

And so we spent the week visiting folks, hanging out and doing out best to stay warm. I wasn’t cool enough (or motivated enough) to turn boiling water into snow in a -30F wind chill. Duncan did a bit of homework catch up (reluctantly).

Then the week was over and it was time to come home.

The journey home

The travel gods of karma don’t work in direct reciprocity, however, and the return wasn’t smooth. Our flight from Rochester was delayed on the tarmac for 2 hours (with us on the plane) because it was too cloudy to land in Chicago. Fortunately, we had “inflight” entertainment and power outlets in our seats.

We landed in Chicago with 18 minutes before our connecting flight took off. In another terminal. So we ran. Down the hallways.

Along the moving sidewalks. “Excuse me, please.”

Up the escalators. OK, we paused for breath there.

And down another hall and moving sidewalk to our gate.

There were 3 passengers standing around waiting. Then we came barreling up. The gate door was still open! They ushered us through the door, down the jetway, onto the plane. And closed the door behind us.

Out of breath, we walked down the aisle to find our seats, everyone watching. I was so relieved I started tearing up. The kids were so awesome, running to keep up and not complaining. Holding onto their backpack and coat. They got bonus awesome points for that.

The flight from San Francisco to Eugene (yes, that’s 2 layovers and 3 flights to get from Rochester, NY, to Eugene, OR. So much fun) was delayed, but not by too much.

And then we were home. And there was Adam, waiting outside of security to sweep us up in hugs and kisses.

The adventure continues

The adventure wasn’t quite over, though.  One of our suitcases somehow got lost along the way. Someone eventually came to the United counter as the kids raced up and down the airport (and it was Eugene so even the TSA luggage folks didn’t bat an eye), looked up its whereabouts and gave me tracking and delivery info for it.

And we went home. Got kids to bed. Watched a bit of TV. And fell asleep.

“Normalcy” again

Today,  the kids are in school. I went for a run (in keeping with my resolutions) and now will get to work. I still wonder what it is I’m supposed to be doing with my life now.

I decided to read my journal from when Duncan was a baby I started this freelance gig the first time around. Strangely enough, I had the same conversations with myself then as I’m having now. Nine years later and not much has changed!

Back then, I decided to do what I loved and let that lead me. It ended up being a sound decision. I suppose I could try that now and see what blessings it brings again.