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In Which the Internet Saves the Day

Of Germany ~ Part Three

June 30, 2010

Click here to read Parts One and Two.

I panicked.

No flights?

I had just made a two day trip with two small children, no cell phone, and no idea where I was going.

For nothing.

The trip is off… again.” I put my head in my hands and took a shakey breath.

My mom shook her head and pressed her lips. “No. It’s not.”

~*~

I dressed the boys in their clothes that night before bed.

We left long before dawn, arriving in Charleston, South Carolina mid-morning via a commercial jet.

I could hear my husband’s smile when I talked to him on our way to the Air Force terminal, in a yellow taxi. “It looks like you and the boys will be in Germany before I do!”

“Yep. Charleston has three or four flights to Ramstein a day. I’ll probably be there in a day or two.” I was so stinkin’ glad the hard part was finally over.

We were really on our way to Germany. All we had to do was make it to the terminal, find some food, and…

Except…

there was no food.

Nada. None. Nothing.

The “terminal” was a one-gate room with a little “family room” off to one side.

And no food.

We hadn’t eaten anything but graham crackers and cheddar bunnies all day.

Thankfully, a sweet older woman in the terminal took pity on us and drove the boys and I to get sub sandwiches. Our tummies were full, and it was almost time to find out if we made it on the first flight.

“Six seats.” The Airman announced across the building. And there were at least fifteen people waiting.

But, hey, it was just the first flight and there would be three the next day. No biggie.

We hailed another taxi and found a nearby hotel.

I felt adventurous. Brave. Bold.

We were on our way. I’d be in Germany within 24 hours.

There was still just the tiny problem of not having any food. And not having a car with which to find food. But we could just live off of pop tarts from the vending machine if we had to. Right?

~*~

The next morning brought a ray of sunshine to our hotel lobby in the form of my beloved Arianne.

We wrapped each other in a tight bear hug and talked as if it was perfectly normal to drive around in Ari’s van with our five boys laughing behind us.

We looked like two crazies (which we are) walking into a restaurant with five little boys. People stared. But, hey, we’d never see them again, right? And our boys were all surprisingly well behaved.

Until the food on their plates ran out and they were ready to move.

So, like true boy moms, we traipsed across a surface road, in the rain, to a grassy area.

The grassy area? Just happened to be on the side of a highway off-ramp.

We like living on the edge. Literally.

I reminded myself of this an hour later, when I missed the next flight.

And the next one.

Aaaand the next one.

~*~

Ari left the terminal that evening to make it be late to a chiropractor appointment. The boys were sad. And so were we.

It turned out there was food–other than the vending machine we’d discovered, full of candy, chips and pop tarts. The food was a half mile away. In 458% humidity. And crazy high heat. At the bowling alley. And, the rules stated luggage had to make the trip with you, if you decided to brave it for a hotdog.

I was immensely grateful for my husband’s faraway wisdom that told me, “ONLY PACK ONE SUITCASE.” I guess he probably would have advised against packing a backpack that would be heavier than any suitcase. But, you know… I didn’t ask him about that one.

We ate hotdogs. And walked back.

And missed another flight.

~*~

The funny thing about places like tiny military airport terminals with doors that open to both weary and hopeful mothers traveling, alone, with their children, is that make-shift families form quickly.

We’re all doing the exact same thing. If we’re spouse-less and traveling, it means our other half is in Afghanistan.

There’s no wimpering about the fact. There’s no proving you’re strong or showing you’re weak. No whining or crying about the hardship.

Because every other woman in that place is rowing the same boat.

So that night, at 2:30 am,  I woke the sleeping, cranky boys and climbed into another taxi with a new friend and her toddler daughter, and rode back to the hotel we’d left the day before. We shared a room with two queen beds. But there was a shower. And a vending machine with pop tarts.

The next morning, on our way out the door, my new friend said, “I don’t even know your last name.”

It was a line meant for Vegas.

And so we cracked up.

~*~

That night everyone pitched in and someone with a car picked up pizza.

It was the only meal we ate that day. Unless you count a poptart.

We missed another flight. Or three.

And we slept in the terminal. On the floor–concrete covered with thin industrial carpet.

My four year old was up half the night, crying because of his tummy–aching from eating nothing but junk.

~*~

The days started to blur.

We made another trip to the bowling alley.

This time we ordered chicken fingers. Now THAT is Living on the edge right there.

We all watched as planes filled, carrying deploying soldiers, leaving no room for any extra passengers.

We’re military wives with deployed husbands and a couple dozen crazy kids running around the terminal like wild banshees.

We didn’t give the soldiers a whole lot of sympathy.

Three more flights. Three more “no seats available.”

Another night on the floor.

~*~

Day Four.

Still in the terminal.

We were all brushing our teeth in the bathrooms and using scratchy brown paper towels to wash our faces.

But the STANK in that building? My word.

Midday, I turned on a movie for the boys, and curled up in a corner. I started tweeting about where I was at on this wild ride.

Twitter went ablaze.

I was getting tweeted from people who lived right there in Charleston, offering me food, lodging, money.

Thanks to Lisa-Jo’s outpouring of Twitter love, a sweet Amanda came bearing Chik-fil-A an hour later. She even brought a dish of fruit and the boys fought over every piece.

And because of Kaira, I received a phone call from a friend of hers, telling me she’d prepared a room for us and that if we missed the midnight flight that night, we had better call her.

Just the prospect of being in the same house as a shower was enough to convince me.

~*~

We did miss the midnight flight.

The words commerical tickets kept floating through my consciousness. But as much as I wanted to see that Marine of mine, I just couldn’t quite justify spending almost $10,000 to make it happen. I didn’t think he would be able to, either.

I texted Kaira’s friend April, who hurried over–at 2:30 in the morning, people–and drove us to her welcoming home.

I carried my sleeping boys inside, pulling off shoes and clothes that had been worn for three days.

Collapsing between them on the bed, I prayed that these complete strangers weren’t axe murderers.

And that we’d get a flight in the morning.

Because I didn’t know how much longer I could keep going.

My pillow was wet with salty tears as I fell, quickly, soundly, into the rest of the bone-weary.

~*~

They weren’t axe murderers or members of a thievery operation or a child kidnapping ring.

April and her little ones were beyond what I could have imagined. Beside the number of life tidbits we had in common, she let us sleep till noon AND take showers.

SHOWERS, folks!

And she fed us. FOOD not made with plastic! The boys played. Ate some apples. I rested. Sipped clean water. The boys devoured some oranges. I felt my shoulders relaxing. The boys laughed.

April’s close friend Amanda came by for a visit (so we’ve had two Amandas, an April and an Ashleighgood thing nobody had to remember who was who) and upon hearing that we were on our last pair of training pants, tricked me into thinking she had to make a Walgreens run. Instead, Amanda–an avid couponer–used a Walgreens coupon to buy us some training pants.

And on the way there? She stopped at a local fruit stand and bought us a bag full of fresh, juicy, beautiful fruit. You’d think it was obvious we were feeling fresh food deprived or something.

I kid you not–my two year old ate an entire container of strawberries in one day. By himself. Heaven help the person who touched his st’awbewwies.

I melted when faced with being so blessed. Who  knew God would remind me of His love and His provision through my online community and the way they reached out for me?

I knew these open, loving arms were His and I ran to them.

I need those arms. And this love.

I tweeted:

If nothing else, this crazy trip is showing me Jesus in huge, amazing ways. And that is enough.

~*~

That afternoon, April’s mother in law helped us load up and head back toward the terminal.

I carried my bags inside and met the eyes of another of the terminal-camping moms. The defeat I saw worried me.

“Did you hear?” She asked. “No flights today.”

My feet froze. I dropped my 20 50 300 pound backpack with a thud. “None?!

“Nope. All canceled or full.”

Leaving my bags in a heap, I trudged back toward to the car to get my sleeping boys, stopping by the check-in counter to find out about the next possible flight.

“So.” Heavy sigh. “Since there aren’t any flights today, when is the next roll call?”

My back was already aching at the thought of sleeping on that cold, hard industrial carpet again.

“Where’d you hear that?” The Airman glanced at his screen. “We still have a flight in about an hour. And look–the seats just came up. Fifty-four.”

What?” I was motionless, arms poised against the ticket counter. “Did you just say fifty-four seats?”

The other Airmanbehind the counter turned in his swivel chair and nudged his buddy’s shoulder. “Hey, did you just see that next flight has 54 seats?”

“Are you two serious? Like, I mean, what if, is this… are you sure?

“Yes ma’am. And. let’s see, you are passengers number… five, six and seven.”

“So I’m on the flight? We’ve… we’ve got seats?”

He started to roll his eyes and caught himself.

Yes, ma’am. You’re on the plane.”

“Now this isn’t going to change, is it? I’m not going to hear your voice on the loudspeaker in ten minutes, saying the flight was canceled, am I?”

This time he did let his eyes speak of exasperation with The Crazy Lady.

Ma’am. You will be on the next plane to Ramstein, Germany.”

Wings carried me outside.

I spun in circles.

I choked back sobs.

We all whooped and hollered and danced between the rows of terminal seats.

I tweeted:

Happy buzz in the terminal today! Fifty-four seats on the plane tonight AND WE’LL BE ON IT!!!!!!!”

~*~

An hour later, every single person in that terminal clustered in the main waiting area. The veterans trying to get to Normandy, the families on their way home after vacation, the women going to visit family in Germany, the wives hoping to meet up with their men, the children, giddy over riding in an airplane.

Another young mom looked my way. “How long have you been waiting?”

One of the veterans piped up. “She’s the one that’s been here five full days. With kids, even.”

“Wow. Five days? And is your husband already there?”

“No. He’ll arrive tomorrow.”

“Just in time! How funny is that?” She laughed.

I smiled slowly. “Yeah. Funny…”

And I tweeted:

They called our names for roll call. The entire terminal clapped and cheered. I seriously fought tears.

Then we walked through the gate.

~*~

Pictorial proof ~ coming next!

It Was Just An Idea

Of Germany ~ Part Two

June 28, 2010

“So it looks like I’m gonna be heading to Germany for a week or so.”

Pause. There’s a delay on calls coming from Afghanistan. Sometimes up to 30 seconds.

“Oh really?” I reply. “Hey, you’ll be out of war zone. How ’bout if we hang out with you that week? No biggie.”

“Oh yeah, sure. It’s no biggie. Fly with two kids to Europe. Sounds fun. See you then.”

We’re fans of sarcasm around here.

We laugh at the same time. The delay isn’t bad right now.

“Okay, then. See you in Germany, Crazy.”

~*~

One week later, I was driving away from the sunset, two little boys sleeping in their car seats, sighing deeply because I’d made it.

Out of my house, out of town… toward an airport that would send me ther.

To Germany.

To see my husband, who was still in Afghanistan.

I set the cruise control and let my mind wander…

~*~

I had called my aunt that afternoon–a woman who had made many a flight from Japan to America with children in tow–asking if I was really as crazy as I felt to think of making this Germany thing happen.

She said GO.

I tweeted: “Hypothetically, if your husband was, say, at war for 13mos & was gonna be in a non-war European country for a week, would you pack up & fly there? And in this hypothetical situation, you’d have two little boys who are 2.5 & 4 and you could get free military flights. Hypothetically.

Everyone said Are you insane? Go!

I called my mom and my mother-in-law. They both laughed apprehensively and asked five trillion questions. My mom said Go, and that she knew it didn’t really matter what she said; I’d go anyway.

She was right.

And now, here I was, on my way. Passports sitting on the seat beside me, our one suitcase–for easier travel–riding in the truck bed, my wallet tucked safely in my backpack.

But, there for a minute or 200, I wasn’t so sure I was going to pull of this wild adventure.

~*~

Once I made up my mind to go, I started researching everything. The flights, the passports, the German hotels, car rentals in a foreign country.

I thought I had it all under control.

Until I lost my wallet.

Which meant I wouldn’t have the identification nor debit card needed to get our passports the next morning.

And if I missed that appointment, I might not be able to get another one. There are, after all, only 18 same-day passport agencies in the country.

We called the police department. We called gas stations. We drove over an hour, scanning ditches and street shoulders.

And found the wallet. At 1:00am. In my outdoor trashbin.

That was the first time I asked my father in law, “Is God saying not to go?”

“Nope,” he smiled gently. “He’s saying ‘Don’t give up.’”

I took a deep breath and pulled up on those bootstraps.

~*~

The trip was on again.

I slept three hours that night, getting up in time to get myself, the boys, and all the 467,967 documents required by the passport agency ready for the big day.

ID? Check. Parental consent forms for the boys, faxed from Afghanistan? Check. Boys’ birth certificates? Check. My birth certificate? Umm….

Apparently there was a wee misunderstanding in communication on that point and my birth certificate wasn’t in the important document box as believed… but was instead in my mom’s important document box.

In Omaha.

That’s Nebraska.

I live in Colorado, folks.

The trip was off again. Because, try as I might, there was no way to get that birth certificate from Omaha to Denver in four hours. And believe me, I fried my brain trying to figure out a way.

I called my mom. Yes, she knew where it was. And she could have it overnighted to my house.

I called the passport agency. Lo and behold, they had another appointment that Friday, only one day later than I’d originally planned to leave Colorado.

The trip was back on.

Friday morning, suitcase more stuffed than a breaking piece of manicotti, a back pack for me and two tiny ones for each of the boys, a mei tai for when little two-year-old legs get tired, water, and all necessary documents loaded in the truck, we headed down for the passport appointment.

We were ten minutes away, and actually on time.

And my cell phone died.

My new cell phone died.

Dead.

Zippo.

Kicked the bucket.

Umm

That morning when I left, my stomach had been in knots over the passport appointment. I’d heard horror stories.

What I didn’t expect was that obtaining passports would be the least of my worries.

Instead, it would be the Verizon attendants who wouldn’t help me figure out what to do about my (new) dead phone. And the Best Buy agents who had told me to come pick up my in-for-repairs camera, but who had mysteriously misplaced it. And it was my unexpected lack of phone and GPS while driving in an unfamiliar large city.

~*~

But, after only getting lost twice, I had made it. Out of the city, nearly out of Colorado.

My plan dictated that I head to Omaha, where, according to their current flight information regarding military standby, I’d have a greater chance of getting to the east coast. And then, from there, I’d catch a flight to Germany.

Like we’d said, still joking… no biggie.

The trip was still on.

We were doing good.

The cruise control was cruisin’, good music playing, sleeping kiddos. I’d be in Omaha only a little after midnight.

Until I looked at the signs for the upcoming towns and realized they didn’t look familiar.

Umm

No cell phone. No GPS.

I pulled out our stack of good, old fashioned maps.

San Diego. Northern California. California Desert Cities. Hiking in Joshua Tree. Orange County and Los Angeles.

Yeah. We’ve only been in Colorado a few months. Obviously.

Ah, tucked down beside the seat, one for Colorado and Wyoming. Pretty general, but, hey, it covered enough area that I found a county road to take me back the hour and a half I’d gone out of the way.

I drove around in the nearest town and found another long-lost American gem--the pay phone–and tried to call someone, anyone. But it was broken. As was the next one. And the next one. And the next one.

You’d think people had stopped using these things or something.

The boys and I found a hotel in some podunk highway town and slept like we’d been awake for a year.

The next afternoon found us rested, refreshed and with renewd zeal for this trip. We were going to Germany after all, to see our guy!

So we coasted into Omaha… only to realize we were driving into another unfamiliar city without the tiniest inkling as to where we were headed.

No GPS, remember?

And still no pay phones around.

We just kept driving.

Then, a lightbulb: I had a free call on Skype.

I just needed to find a coffee shop or a fast food joint or ANYWHERE with some WiFi.

But I guess bandwidth is in high demand around there or something, because this city was completely devoid of WiFi.

We kept driving. Into who-knows-where-land.

And then I saw a steaming mug painted on a tall wooden sign.  I yanked my steering wheel to the right and pulled off the highway.

People. I seriously Skyped a phone call to my mom from inside a coffee shop.

While my now-free-of-carseats children bounced off the walls.

Thankfully there were only three people hoping for a moment of peace while they sipped their lattes, thus cutting down on the you-be-crazy looks.

My mom and her entourage rescued us, bringing with them the replacement phone my warranty ended up covering and overnighting to her house.

It was going to be okay.

I’d made it this far.

In a couple days I’d be on a plane bound for Germany, and my husband’s strong arms.

Everything was sparkly again.

~*~

I called the military flight terminal the next morning.

“Mom. Listen to this. Do you hear the same thing I hear?”

I hit the speaker button.

We regret to inform you that all Space Available flights from Offutt Air Force Base Omaha have been canceled for the next five days…”

~*~

Come back tomorrow to hear how Twitter saved my life and other insane happenings in the Germany saga.

Six Years Ago…

June 26, 2010

…my cell phone rang as the sun was coming up. The deep voice on the other end said,

“Happy Wedding Day, my love.”

Little did we know the beautiful outdoor wedding we had planned for that June afternoon would meet a bit of a hiccup by way of this thing called hail… but that’s another story for another time.

And I’m still trying to climb out from under my post-trip laundry pile long enough to write about the Germany saga.

(Expect Part One Monday morning, by the way.)

But here’s a bit of proof of our crazy, our crazy reality, and our crazy real love.

Happy Anniversary, my John.

Even from across the world.

Of Germany

Part One

June 22, 2010

A friend of mine has been known to say that “beauty will save the world.”

When I first saw that line, I thought it simply a sweet sentiment.

But now? I’m inclined to agree with her.

My beautiful God works in ways I don’t always expect nor am I always convinced they’re best.

But His love, His care, His protection, His provision, His redemption… always beautiful.

Germany was stunning. The castles. The unbelievable green. The Schnitzel and the Spaetzle. The tiny Volkswagens. The kind people. The loud old men. The bouncing children’s toys.

But when I think of our Germany days, the cloud of beauty I see isn’t in the form of tall trees or old spires.

It was in the way God orchestrated this trip, reminding me of Himself when I was too distracted to even realized what was happening.

It was crazy, people. Pretty much insane.

But it was absolutely beautiful.

I’ll be posting the rest of the story over the next few days. It was getting too long and I wasn’t going to post it, but enough of you protested when I said so on Twitter that I decided to just go ahead and be wordy. If you’re not in the mood for a story, feel free to stay away for a couple days. Otherwise, stick around…

Magic

June 12, 2010

Beauty. Castles. Countryside. 

Together.

Us. 

Love.

 

Germany is magical.

 

(We’ll be home eventually… but due to flights and such, we keep having extra days added to our time together… a beautiful gift… and we’re certainly not in any hurry for the magic to end.)

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