Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Leaving on a jet plane...!

You ever read or hear about travel nightmares that leaves you shaking your head and thinking that'll never happen to me? Well, I'm here to say, it can happen to you.
My husband and I left on July 26th to visit some friends in Mississippi. Since we fly standby, we always expect some hang ups but nothing we couldn't deal with. On this particular trip we were given seats on each connection and it ended up being about a 4-hour trip to Nashville. From there the plan was to rent a car and drive the 31/2 hours to Hernando, Mississippi. With the exception of running to our final connection in Toronto and making the flight by the skin of our teeth, we did pretty well!
We landed in Nashville about 9:30 Saturday morning. We had no baggage checked so we just need to get a rental for a couple of weeks. This is where it starts to go downhill. Every time we've travelled, we always booked our rental from the airport because of the great deals. Not this time...this time it was going to cost us a whopping $981 in total, yikes! That's a huge jump from the $320 I had found a few days before....should have booked it then, sigh! Not the kind of person to be deterred, I promptly, checked out the rentals in the surrounding area and sure enough I found one for $19.00 per day, whoooooooowoooooo! The grand total was $303.00. The only downside to that was we had to take a cab to pick up the car. In light of the almost $600.00 savings, we were not going to quibble over cab fare! We booked our car for a 12:00 pick-up and left in plenty of time to get there. We got into the taxi hoping it would be a straight forward trip. However it was not the case! Our cabbie did not know where he was going...how many cab driver doesn't know their way around a city? He had left his GPS at home and the one on his phone just wasn't working. So he asked if we had a GPS. Being the jaded human beings that we can be, we thought perhaps, he was trying to fleece us for more money. However, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. He seemed like a nice man. Unfortunately, my husband was not so understanding and started digging around for our GPS. As luck would have it, he called someone who was able to direct him to our destination. With relief, we jumped out of the cab, grabbed our bags and hurried on into the car rental office. Upon entering, we hurriedly explain that we were picking up our vehicle as we wanted to get on the road, when the gentleman told us the office was closed. I couldn't believe what we were hearing. I looked at him and said, "it can't be", because we were schedule for a 12:00 pick-up. He was equally surprised and asked to see the paperwork. Thank goodness I always take a picture of every receipt that I receive when I make an online purchase. I reached down to grab my iPad out of my purse, only to discover I didn't have it, I had left it in the cab! PURE SHOCK! I frantically searched the parking lot with my eyes to see if by some chance the driver was still there before turning to Darren and confessing that I left my purse in the cab! I cannot ever describe the feeling of dread that came over me as I realized in that moment the utter feeling of terror in the the pit of my gut! I NEVER carry a purse at home, I simply don't have enough stuff to put in one. I've never understood the need for one unless I was traveling and I usually used my old, ratty canvas purse that holds my iPad, iPhone, wallet, headphones, headache pills, makeup bag, gum, a pen, Chapstick and let's not forget the most important thing of all my PASSPORT! I started to shake as the realization hit me that I couldn't even go home if I wanted to...we weren't in Canada anymore and forgive me my American friends, but under these circumstances, our friendly neighbors could easily become our enemies when you have no identifying documents! I know, I watch tv!!! At this point, the couple in the rental place felt sorry for us and asked what the cab number was...we just looked at him in mortification. Now I asked, after the fact, how many of you out there actually look at the cab number? Needless to say, we didn't know. Darren thought the cab company was -------------Company and so I made the gesture to call with my cell phone and of course, no cell phone. As luck would have it, we applied international calling to my cell phone, sigh! We were at the mercy of these people. Fortunately for us, they understood our dilemma and looked up the information. In fact, kudos to them, for willingly staying open longer than usual to help us. We called the cab company explained what had happened and they alerted their drivers about the missing purse. Now all we had to do was wait and wait and wait! At this point I felt badly for keeping these people from their lives so we thanked them for their help and apologized. I could see they wanted to help but at the same time needing to close shop! They kindly suggested the Subway next door. We thanked them again, gathered our bags and went next door. Here the kind manager agreed to let us use his phone so Darren could call the taxi company and give them a new number to reach us. At this point, we had no car, no phone and no one to help us. I told Darren I was going outside, I needed some quiet. To help with the rest of the story, I'm going to go back about a month ago, to RS where I taught a lesson "Being Grateful in any Circumstance". It was a wonderful talk by President Uchtdorf. How I love that man! That lesson has stayed with me and has been a source of gentle reprimand whenever I started to complain. Fast forward to this moment, I quietly started to pray. I remember saying "God, please help me to be grateful in this moment. I know there is a lesson to be learnt from this situation. Help me to not judge this cab driver for I have to believe he is a honest and good man. I need a miracle God, I want a miracle and only You can provide that miracle. I will not lose control because I have You on my side!" I no sooner uttered these words, when a beautiful young woman with a sweet little girl walked out of Subway and came up to me and said, "I'm going to drive you to the airport." At that point, I covered my face and wept! She gently placed her arms around me and said, "don't cry, I will help you." My third reason for being grateful, the first and second being the rental people and the kind Subway manager. How my heart filled with gratitude! This woman knew me not, but was willing to help us in a way most people would not or could not! Darren came outside at this point, and she turned to him and said, "there's my car, I'll open it so you can put your bags in it. I need to tell my husband I'm taking you to the airport. He's in the barber shop and he doesn't like me talking or helping strangers but I feel I must. I cannot let you stay here in this neighborhood, it's not safe and I feel I need to help you." How sweet those words were to my ears. Tears were still rolling down my face as she walked away with her daughter, leaving us with her open vehicle. Suddenly, I knew that God was hearing me and I continued to pray quietly in my heart, while repeating, "I know the driver is a honest man, I will not think less of him!" I wanted to not think the worse as we have conditioned ourselves to do. When the the young woman returned and got in the car, she turned and introduced herself as Ky and her beautiful daughter, Kyla. She laughingly told us her husband wasn't too happy because she didn't know us and we were strangers. She explained we were from Canada and didn't know anyone and she should help us. We later found out from Ky, that her daughter, Kyla was the one who prompted her into action. On the way to the airport, the conversation took a strange turn. Ky told us how her daughter was a gift. I knew from the way she said it, it meant Kyla had been through a lot. Let me describe Kyla to you. She is tiny slip of a girl with beautiful, big brown eyes and a smile that shine from within. To look at her, was like looking at gentleness. She was, without guile! When I asked her what grade she was in at school, her soft reply was grade 4 going into grade 5. She was so small and fragile, it was hard to believe she was going into grade 5. However, her mom Ky was slender and very beautiful. In fact, she could easily be someone we see on tv. Kyla's mom told us how Ky had a chip in her heart. She went on to say that her daughter suffered from Graves' disease and that it has been a long process getting to this point. She has had to fight to get the proper diagnosis. Her daughter being here is a gift. Here's where it's strange. I knew exactly what Ky was talking about. At the age of 21, my doctor told me if left untreated I had only three months to live. I was diagnosed with Grave's Disease. It affects every part of the body and especially the heart. I was in danger of having a heart attack. Both Kyla and I were given the same radioactive treatment and both of us were teased by our school mates for the extreme weight loss that comes with the disease. Now I asked, what are the chances that our angel of mercy should share these experiences? According to Albert Einstein, "coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous."
When we arrived at the airport, Ky generously gave us her phone number and insisted we call as soon as we heard anything. It was a bit scary saying goodbye to the two familiar faces but we still had a purse to locate. Upon arrival, we went to the taxi stand and spoke to the customer service guy that was still there working from when we left. When we explained our dilemma, he promptly took us over to the information office that was situated near the stand. Here, again we explained what happened. Suddenly it was like a scene from a movie. There were two security officers in the room. It was set up with cameras and computers with a big glass window and counter for anyone to get help or directions. Within seconds of our story, one officer started scanning the security tapes from the approximate time we got our cab. Meanwhile the other officer, kept assuring me in an ever so gentle voice, that it will be alright. It was truly "good cop/bad cop" except with security guards. Suddenly, I heard a raised voice saying, "I want that purse here in 10 minutes". It was a scary voice! He went on to say, "if it's not here in ten minutes, the police will be knocking at his door!" Scary or not, I was grateful, he was on my side. When he hung up the phone, he told me that there's some problem locating the driver of the cab but not to worry they were on it. I nodded and just kept quietly praying and telling God, the driver is an honest man, he just doesn't know my purse is in his car! I'm not sure if I truly believed that or not but I also didn't want to think the worse. The phone rang as I was thinking these thoughts and the next thing I heard was, "are you the driver? Then why are you stil talking?" Click!!! Ten minutes later the phone rang and it was someone from the company, they had the phone number of the driver. Our security guy then called him. At this point I walked away. I didn't really want to hear the conversation. I so desperately wanted to know that this was a honest man and that he was going to find my purse and bring it to me. After several minutes of loud talking, the security guard told Darren and I that the driver will be returning my purse but it won't be for another 40 minutes. It had something to do with his faith. At this last comment, I felt like there was hope. Surely a man of faith would have my purse!
Let me tell you what little I know about our cab driver. He is from Somalia but has lived in Nashville for a long time. He is the father of two children and he rarely eats out. He loves the Nashville Zoo. He is a Muslim who is faithfully following Ramadan. That is all I know but it is enough for me that this man will come through for us. In the meantime, the police arrived to interview us. Once again it was the whole "good cop/bad cop" scenario. One told me they were going to do everything they can to retrieve my lost item while the other called the driver's home. I actually felt badly for this poor man. Somehow, I knew he had no idea what was going in and here he had strangers calling him, demanding he brings some stranger's purse to them...how unsettling for him! Once again we were told forty minutes. At this point, hours had gone by. What was once an exciting prospect had now become a nightmare. I just wanted to go home but that wasn't even an option with no passport. Fortunately, Darren and I always split our money up so we would always have some. At least we could eat. It was a long forty minutes. We sat and held hands, talking about mundane topics. My husband was so understanding. I was so foolish to have left my bag in the cab but never once did he questioned my thinking or action. He just consoled me and kept telling me it'll be okay. At this point he decided he would wait for the driver outside and he would signal me upon his return. I'm not quite sure what my husband's thoughts were on the driver but his opinion was, surely a man of faith will return our personal items. Never once did it enter in our heads that he might have picked up another passenger that might may or may not have taken the purse. For some reason that scenario wasn't even a probability! Suddenly Darren was signalling me. It was time. It was not a far walk but it seemed like forever. The whole time my mantra was, "I know God has heard my prayers and He is granting me my miracle!" Outside, the security guards, my husband and the the customer service guy was lined up waiting for the cab to pull up. I was extremely nervous and desperately hopeful! I'm not even sure how I felt when I saw him for the first time, I just remember rushing over to him and my first sight was of him holding up my bag! I cannot explain that extreme rush of relief that cursed through my body. I felt a bit lightheaded in that moment. I grabbed my purse frantically and went through it and it was all there...everything was as I had left it! God is good! In his quiet voice, our honest cab driver said he had left us and went straight home. He wanted to pick up his GPS so he wouldn't get lost again. He decided to stay home for a few hours with his family and spend some time with them. After a while, his wife asked him to take her somewhere. When they got in the car, she found my purse. He was shocked! He didn't know who had left it but he thought it might have been me. He then went to the Hertz rental place only to find it closed. His next plan was to go back to the airport after he took his wife to her destination and return her home. It was on his way home that he received the first of many phone calls to bring the purse back to the airport. At this point, it was nearing sunset and it was during Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the month of fasting for Muslims. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam; the others are confession of faith, five daily prayers, Zakah (almsgiving) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah). The day of fasting begins with an early morning meal before dawn and ends at sunset. The evening activities include the traditional breaking of the fast usually with dates and water, the sunset prayer followed by dinner.
This was all taking place during our frantic efforts to find my purse. We gratefully shook hands with this incredible man who was suddenly more than just a cab driver. He proved my faith in him and as a faithful man, showed us that the world is still filled with good people! Darren shared with him some of our money for his time. No money could repay his honesty, for that I pray for many blessings to be upon him and his family. We said our goodbyes and turned and thanked the men who helped made all this possible. How do you thank someone like that? I could only say thank you and pray to God that they in turn will have it paid back to them. I know this was part of their job but their kindness and assurances went above and beyond.
After a long day we went back into the airport to decide what we were going to to do. Because of his benefits, we could easily get back on a plane and head home. We still had the problem of a renting a car. We talked about it and decided that if we couldn't get a rental at the same price, we would board the next flight home. I wondered if The Lord would grant us another miracle. I felt as if we had asked for more than our share and to ask one more time seemed almost greedy. We went up to the Hertz counter with the rental agreement, explained our situation to Dale, the associate and amazingly enough, he did some finagling and was able to give us a deal that was only $20.00 more than the original price. After an emotional, tear-filled day, we were finally on our way. 11 hours after landing we arrived in Hernando, Mississippi to begin our vacation.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Finer Things In Life!

I've learned something about myself in the last couple of years, lol! It only took 46 years to aquire this tidbit of information. However, before I share it, let me backtrack a bit. I've been married 23 years to an amazing, wonderful, sexy, handsome, fabulous guy...I think you get the picture, lol! Anyhow, for most of those years, I've penny-pinched on my sweetheart's salary while staying at home with our 6 kids. During that time, my main focus was always making sure that our children had everything they needed...food, security, clothing, love, school supplies, etc.. This always meant sacrifices for Darren and I. For the first 10 to 15 years we didn't go out to dinner, travel anywhere, buy new clothes and sometimes forgo birthday, Christmas and anniversary gifts. Money that was given to us, usually went to bills or groceries. In fact we were married about 4 years before I splurged and bought our first piece of beef to roast and I love roast beef! These were just some of the sacrifices that went into being a stay-at-home mom. We made this decision together and we worked at it together. I'm pretty sure a lot of other SAH parents can relate. The point I'm trying to make is that years go by before you feel like you deserve to put yourself first. These last two years have been been hellish for our family but that's another story altogether. Needless to say, guilt was my best friend for a long time. I felt like a failure. I felt unworthy and undeserving of anything good. It took me a long time to believe good things can happen to me, to us. Having said that, Darren and I have made some decisions about the next phase in our life. We've realized that all those years of sacrificing guarantees you absolutely nothing when it comes to your children and as a result, have been taking advantage of his travel benefits. Working as an aircraft maintenance engineer for a major airlines has it perks. We are able to travel at a very low cost. However, many of my husband's co-workers refuse to take advantage of these benefits because it requires flying standby. This means you could show up for a flight only to be told there are no seats available. It's totally a hit or miss. The one good thing is, as an employee he can check online to see how many seats are available and take our chances. Long and the short of it, we have been doing a lot of travelling. Some out of necessity, i.e. dropping off your child at university. Whatever the reason, we've taken advantage of these fringe benefits. Consequently, we've spent quality time together visiting friends, meeting new online friends and making new friends. Just to be clear, we are not wealthy people, will probably always scrimp and scrape to get by and continue to have debt. However, life is short and waiting till we're retired to enjoy it, is a long ways away. Here comes the part where I've been educated, lol! You know how people say, if I ever win the lottery or inherit a lotta money, I would never buy a big house or a fancy car, I would still live simple? I'm one of those people, except I've learned something this past week. I was fortunate to fly down to Jamaica and visit my family alone. My husband was kind enough to stay home with our sons while I was off gallivanting. On this trip, I was given a first-class seat going and coming home. Just to be clear, I've always been grateful flying coach, heck I was just grateful to get a seat. However, I'm here to tell you that flying coach and first-class are miles apart, no pun intended! Flying coach requires being scrunched in with just about anyone. It could be someone who bathed in garlic the night before...have you ever smelt stale garlic breath, ugh! It could be someone a few sizes larger than you who fail to realize that you just might want to share the armrest or it could be someone who has a bladder control problem and happen to be sitting in the window seat which then requires you to unbuckle and shimmy out of the way so they can get to the bathroom. Btw, that could easily be me, lol! Flying first-class has so many wonderful upgrades that you can almost forgive stale garlic breath. You never have to share an armrest and rarely having to try shimming out of the way going to the bathroom. Oh, it means so much more! How about having warm, damp cloth napkins to wipe your hands before eating and a menu that gives you choices of meals, unlimited wine, beer and non-alcholic drinks.

Let's not forget the snacks of potato chips, dark chocolate bars and smoked almonds and cashews. Then there's the pillows, newspapers and ear buds free of charge, so much legroom that a short person like me have to unbuckle her seatbelt to reach the tv screen.

Of course there's the "boarding the plane first and gettin off first". I'm probably forgetting a few more things but I'm still riding that feeling of bliss and my memory is a bit foggy. The enlightenment part...I enjoy the finer things in life like first class. I like nice cars and one day I'd love a home that has bigger rooms and wide open spaces. I fancy expensive things and I would love to be able to buy a bra that fits to a T without guilting myself out of it because of cost. One day when the kids are gone, I want to get my hair cut regularly rather than spending a measly $17.00 to get a dry cut every 6 months. I would like to go out and eat at least once a week in a restaurant of my choice or my husband's because we can. I look forward to buying a beautiful blouse or dress that may actually cost more than $30 and not worry about it. I like nice things. I like traveling, I like the comfort and ease that comes with all the special treatment. Underneath all that scrimping and scraping is a woman who relish nice things. I think I always did. I just forgot that I did. I'm also liking this "enlightening" me. Let just hope it doesn't put us in the poor house, lol! The most important lesson I've learned is that a woman can have everything she wants in life. However getting everything comes in stages and for those who are looking for it all at once, they will be looking a long time! If one lives long enough, is patient enough and allows for time, you can have it all!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

There's still time to...!

Since I'm a couple of years away from the big "f_____y"' I've been thinking about a whole lot of stuff. I realize that I haven't invented anything big, I wasn't the first to discover stuff, I don't have a bucket list and I'm not sure if I can claim to be any more wiser than I was in my thirties. In fact, I'm not sure that I've made much of a difference to life itself. I'm not even sure what my purpose is in being here on earth. That's not to say I feel insignificant. In reflection, I realize that I've figured some things out that would have probably made things a bit easier earlier on in my life. However, I also feel more content in my physical self and am still working on the emotional and spiritual side of my inner child. I am liking who I am more and more. I've shed the need to constantly apologize. I've discovered that the "people pleaser" that I tend to be is pleasing less people and gratifying my inner-self more. So many women forget themselves in their hurry to take care of others. I want so much more for myself now that it's winding down to me and the hubs. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the number "f___y" and ever will because in my mind I'm just turning thirty.
I'm still feeling that thirty-something person wanting to try new things, rediscover old passions, discard tired routines and spring into action with zest and ardor. For all that, I creak a little when I ease my way out of bed, I slowly unfurl myself when I get out of my chair and I sometimes need an ibuprofen or two when I've had a particular vigorous workout. The mind and the body aren't always on the same page. Having said that, I realize I can still invent something, discover plenty, create my bucket list and still gain wisdom. Whatever the reason for my being here on this incredible, big, beautiful planet, I'm just turning thirty in the body of a forty-eight year old. It doesn't mean I'll be gracing the cover of a magazine in a teeny, tiny bikini...hahahahahahahahahahaha! Sorry, just had to get that out at that vision in my head! On the other hand, I'm working my way up to looking fairly decent in a modest tankini, lol!

Turning "f___y" doesn't have to be frumpy and boring. In fact I don't think I know any boring and frumpy "f___y+" women. Everyone in that age category are smart, strong wise, funny and incredible! Maybe that's why I'm not ready for that amazing club!