1st Flights Post-COVID? Inconsistent. But So Is Everything.

After rescheduling a trip to see my daughter three times since COVID hit, I finally traveled the first week of July. I was on four separate flights, all with American Airlines. As a result of only using one airline, obviously my testimony here is limited. Many people were surprised to learn I was willing to fly, especially on the very day (July 1st) that the airline would no longer require space between passengers. My flights were changed twice within two weeks prior to take off and I learned much of the change was due to combining flights to carry more passengers with fewer aircraft in the air. Like their competitors, American Airlines was bleeding money for several months and needed to make more revenue.

The route was: NY to Philadelphia, Philly to FL, FL to Charlotte, NC, Charlotte back to NY. Prior to flying, there was much discussion among the family and we pondered weird questions such as, “should we double-mask?” “Should we wear two pairs of plastic gloves so we can pull off the top pair after security?” We have been blessed throughout these months with good health but still take the pandemic seriously-particularly at the thought of intermixing with hundreds of others at airports.

I was quickly deceived when blocks of seats in my home airport were taped off in bright yellow, assuring ample distance between passengers waiting to board. I took off the gloves, as it was far easier to constantly sanitize my hands vs. deal with the crunching up gloves. The yellow tape and masked airline staff gave me security. I relaxed.

Until I boarded.

The young man next to me pulled his mask down immediately upon buckling his seat belt. It was July 1st, so perhaps there was a new rule about not needing it once you were settled in your seat. He sniffed hard. Then wiped his nose with his hand. I shifted deeply into the window, my hair pressed firmly against the glass. My mind questioned whether I got the rules wrong. I didn’t. An announcement came over the speaker threatening that anyone not wearing their face covering over their mouth and nose might possibly be removed from the flight.

I again relaxed. It would just be a matter of minutes before the flight attendant asked my neighbor to properly mask himself. Wrong again. She glanced at him, kept walking and half way up the aisle, she too pulled her mask down, exposing her nose but covering her mouth.

A man 2 rows behind me coughed every 7 minutes during the flight to Philadelphia. This is not an exaggeration. It was excessive and the poor souls around him were in visible anguish each time I turned to peek. During his coughing intermissions, he blew his nose. Over and over. The 70-something woman to my right two rows ahead who I had a clear view of sanitized her hands every time that man started up again. Fear was on her face. Even through her tightly secured mask. 

He could have had allergies. Or, a cold. Or, COVID. Who knows? The flight attendants made no fuss over the cougher.

Different states have different rules. We New Yorkers tend to be more uptight than most and maybe these were Pennsylvania flight attendants with Pennsylvania rules.

The flight from PA to FL was the exact opposite. The flight attendants were serious. They repeatedly warned specific people to pull their masks completely over their noses. They moved a few of us to different seats (myself included) to create some additional space in-between passengers. These women were no-nonsense and I appreciated their awareness.

The return flight from FL to NC was PACKED. We passengers were stuffed into the hot flight like sardines. There wasn’t an inch to move and the flight attendants had to pull carry-on’s off the flight because the overhead compartments were full. Similar to flight #1, the 30-something next to me pulled his mask down. Just as I was about to request that he cover his face, he pulled it back up. Then down. I just took a deep breath, hoping our shared air was COVID-free. 

The NC to NY flight was more spacious but at that point, if I was going to contract COVID, I would have definitely picked it up during the previous three flights. I was over it. “It” being any form of worry. I had been exposed to more germs, sweat, coughing, sneezing and people in hours than I had been in months. Flying is an uncontrolled germy environment, regardless of how attentive the airline staff may be. 

During my subsequent 2-week mandatory self-quarantine, I started thinking about the flight behavior inconsistencies. Then, I realized – those inconsistencies can be added to all the rest we experience daily.

Depending on the size of the person, there might be six inches of space between my face and the person next to me on a flight. But we need six feet of space between humans everywhere else. Target and Walmart managers are clicking counters as customers walk in to be sure they don’t go over 91 employees in the GIANT super stores.

-We get our temperature taken at work every single day. No temperatures were taken in the four cities I traveled in at the airports. I could have boarded with an elevated temperature.

-When flying, we literally share the same air as the person next to us but we must be separated at restaurants with outdoor seating.

-A shopper can sneeze, wipe their nose and then touch all the clothes on every rack at TJMaxx, but if the clothes are tried on, they must be put aside for 72 hours before they are placed back on the rack. 

-As I stood in a long Kohls line with my son and several other rule-abiding mask-wearing customers ready to check out, a family of four (Mom, Dad, toddler daughter and maybe 8-year old son) remained mask-less. Mom and Dad joked, laughed heartily, moved around constantly and continuously took up space near senior citizens in line who desperately tried to avoid them. Kohls staff walked by unphased by the obvious display of rebellion. 

These are just a few of my personal inconsistent experiences. No doubt, you have several of your own. My family and I follow protocols. It’s part of our work lives and we willingly practice COVID safety in our personal lives. While many COVID-related research studies contradict themselves, one thing appears consistent: wearing a mask helps prevent contraction of viruses. 

The bottom line is that inconsistencies will remain. Not just because there are rule-breakers everywhere. But because those who are supposed to uphold the rules are worn out by the violators and society can’t idiot-proof every potential threat, though America is currently trying. Although it’s not entirely as simple as this – taking personal responsibility and respecting others would go a long way. 

And So She Flew….

This blog has been quiet lately, but my nest has not been. My just-turned-23-year-young daughter (one of the twins) landed the kind of job we’ve been praying for since graduation last May. I rejoiced alongside her four weeks ago that God answered our prayers BIG, but was stunned that the job was 7-states and 16-hours away (by car). Sigh.

I write the beginning of this post from the airport concourse, waiting for my flight back to the nest.

The last month has been slammed at work, then crazy at home with planning, packing and preparing. Now, this huge, life-altering event is behind us. The wheels of my return flight squeaked as they tucked under, making me want to tuck my own feet under me and squeak a bit about what a huge hole there will be in my nest…

I had finally adjusted to the bustling activity and non-stop-in-and-out of the twins returning home from university last May. Although my youngest is still away at her school, the nest was no longer a silent space. We were literally back to “Mommmmm!” at the bathroom door the second I started the shower. Whenever I felt annoyed at something, I mumbled thanks that my nest was alive with life.

My saver-daughter independently purged years worth of clothes and shoes, and thinned three giant bins of cards and notes into one. She even found her saved baby teeth and notes to the tooth fairy (“please leave my teeth and thank you”). Piles to be packed and donations to be given away were strewn throughout the house and her room.

Her room.

The Jonas Brothers. One Direction. Taylor Swift. All decorations from her youth were recently replaced with fresh paint, a new travel theme – complete with photographs of her many adventures in travel. She had wisely turned down a job a Boston a couple months ago and arrived back home ready to nestle in…accepting that it could be a lonnnnnng wait for the “right” opportunity. God has such a sense of humor.

Her and I had just hung the last of enlarged photos from her trips and our summer vacation in Scotland and Ireland when the interviews began with her current job. The room we just completed was quickly deconstructed with all the décor in boxes for her first apartment.

While the mess strewn everywhere, she began wrapping fragiles in what we wrapped her in 23 years ago in the hospital. All of us parents have these exact same, thin, worn wraps somewhere in our homes and it was too much for me when I saw them.

This baby girl is my independent one. We have a favorite family video of her loudly announcing at 2 1/2 years old, “I can do ittttt!” She did not want help. Her independence is part of her. While this is how she can go to a place where she knows zero people, this quality has also (somewhat) eased my Mama-pain over her departure from the nest.

Funny how she’s my most independent one, but she’s also the only one who still sleeps with the same “dollies” at 23 that she did at 2yrs old.

These near stuffing-less treasures went with her far away.

Though Google and Zuckerberg and Apple’s leadership were decades ahead of us in copying and saving our so-called “personal” data – long before society bothered to contemplate if snaps and posts and emails were being saved in massive data centers – and I really go off on a tangent about all of it :), I still embrace certain technologies that keep my babies and I connected. I wonder how I lived without Snapchat to show my kids something at a store. I’ve always refused to use FB despite the disappointment of my friends, but I spend plenty of time on FaceTime with my kids.

Even more than when the twins were at their universities and we talked every day, “live” technologies have officially become a greater blessing during my daughter’s first full week on the job. Snaps of her new office help me picture her there. Snaps of her food make me laugh since she loves to eat! FaceTime on lunch breaks and after work help us still “do life” together as much as we can with 7 states between us.

Though my independent one, she was quick to confirm that it would only be 7 weeks until I arrive for Easter weekend….”you are coming for Easter, right Mom?”

Well…who can say no to that invitation!?

The Beginning of Advent

We all know that the higher we go, the smaller everything below appears. On a recent flight, I thought about God’s view of our physical world.  Our seemingly big homes look like tiny Legos.

Once the plane soars above the clouds, earthly treasures are not visible at all. We are such tiny specks in the vastness of the galaxies. Yet, Jesus decided to come down from on high to love on we little people, assuring us that we are anything but “tiny” in His eyes. Focusing on how He sees us is a struggle. At our jobs, we work toward earning trust and respect from our superiors. At home, we tend to give extensively, wondering if the future outcomes will match the current effort.

It takes quiet time with Him to refocus and get centered on the absolute Truth this world tends to dismiss and mock. That’s what Advent will be for me this year: Him and remembering how He sees us.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel…” 

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The Long Room🇮🇪 in Dublin, Ireland

As part of the Trinity College expedition in Dublin, we walked through the highly impressive Long Room. While I thoroughly enjoyed the first edition books that I told you about at the castle (HERE), this was a vast college and beyond what I could have imagined as a book lover. There are many invaluable elements contained within this extraordinary room, and countless busts of famous writers and philosophers are located throughout the Old Library building. Everyone from Aristotle, Homer, Isaac Newton, Plato and Shakespeare greet you while perusing the titles at a distance.Originally built in the 1700’s, this library is classified as “one of the most impressive libraries in the world”. Just walking through it made me feel smarter😄! I also felt compelled to read many more books per year, start a book club, discuss the great writers with my peers…but, alas, we eventually had to fly home and go to work! I’m lucky if I get through a book every other month :/. If you are a reader or book-lover at all, you would enjoy this room immensely. “The main chamber of the Old Library is what is considered The Long Room at nearly 65 metres in length” (213 feet for us Americans).

I suppose the academic and perpetual student in me rose up on this particular day. The small library at Blairquhan Castle and this extraordinary sight of books📚in The Long Room were two “indoor” highlights of my European trip. The “outside” countryside in both Ireland and Scotland captured my heart – my daughters felt the same way. But, here is one final photo (from the internet) of The Long Room – view from above:

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2 Ducks. 2 Universities. 2 Weeks.

My daughter graduated from college on Saturday and my son will graduate in two weeks. If you read this blog regularly, you know they are twins and we were jumping with joy a year ago when my daughter’s university finally listed the graduation date and it was different from her twin brother’s! (Whew!)

We arrived home Monday from traveling two states away for her special day. My youngest flew up from Virginia to the Midwest to see her sister graduate, flew back for her final exams and will return home later today. My son drove from his university to meet us. It was a whirlwind few days of travel for all of us. The coordination and planning culminated in a joyous weekend of eating, celebrating, shopping and just having all-around family fun. My son and husband even squeezed in a round of golf before we jumped in the car and headed home.As I was looking at the photos from graduation weekend, I zoomed in on my husband’s eyes which looked really tired. Every photo I’m in with my precious graduate…well, this Mama’s had better hair days. Let me mention that the school decided at the last minute to hold graduation outdoors (we assume due a popular commencement speaker drawing a larger crowd) where it promptly began raining and held tight to a solid 49 degrees. I cursed myself for rising out of the cozy hotel bed at 6am to bother curling my hair :).

I suppose I could blame the rain and long road trip for our fatigued images in the photos, but this past weekend was our 5th travel weekend out of the last six. While I largely work from home, my man had to be up and out every Monday morning following lengthy road trips and one trip by flight. The flight was to see our youngest in Virginia, which truly held multiple blessings for which I thank God for them all. One of course was the weather, which I couldn’t help but share with you here. We watched her play field hockey for her university and we also had fun spending time with her friends who are hilarious and thoughtful kids who are really making an effort to honor God in their young lives.Then, other than one weekend at home, we drove back and forth, staying in hotels another three weekends to see graduating daughter in all her “final” celebrations. Last major competition for her DII lacrosse team. Senior day for lacrosse. The fashion show where she designed and sewed two complete outfits for the runway where two models wore her clothes. She’s a business graduate with majors in fashion and entrepreneurship. While she attended a private university, she spent last year attending FIT in Manhattan and interned with an international fashion house as part of her program. The girl who couldn’t wait to move to NYC has decided that she will never live there again :). And, she was in a trendy, very nice area… but still too noisy for her!

Two weeks from now, her twin and my son, will take his turn walking across the stage, graduating from his university an hour away from hers (thankfully, an hour closer to home!). All three ducks will be home together only for 24hours before my youngest leaves for her 9-week summer job down south. In the meantime, the nest has already filled in with my graduated daughter having piles of clothes, etc., strewn everywhere. This afternoon, the house will close in even more as my youngest pulls in the driveway with her own mountain of dorming stuff. The homecomings bring me happiness as the nest fills with life and action again. Being the deep thinker that I am, this change and activity also makes me marvel at the speed of it all.

I mean, seriously? Four years have passed since moving my twins into their respective universities? There is much to think about and reflect upon, and I already shared a bit of those thoughts with you here.  Since that post, I’m feeling less melancholy which might have something to do with them arriving back in the nest (wink).

This summer will hold another adjustment as my daughter moves out of state to her new career (after she just moved back in Monday) and my son has decided to live at home permanently while working in his first big boy job and saving money.

As I consider these upcoming “adjustments”, my mind travels to the young years when “adjustment” meant moving from baby food to solids…dropping them off for full-day Kindergarten…leaving them in the Sunday School nursery even though they were crying…

Those were small potatoes. At the time, they were monumental potatoes, but not compared to the reality that these are the final few years (if that) before they move out for good and eventually marry, building their own nests: When Your Kids Near Marrying Age.

As we embark upon yet another new parenting season of having adult children – college graduates – who now live at home for a time, I’m grateful. I’m thankful for card games and board games. Summer dinners on the backyard table. All the usual things we tend to do during the summer and I don’t stress over too much any more. I think I wore myself out during the teen years (wink) and learned the hard way to trust God at every turn.  I’ve learned that the only steady, ever-present Rock that will never change or shift or move is the One Who knows us best. Who loves us just as we are, right where we are. Ready to help us navigate and enjoy all the fresh waters we’ve yet to explore as parents of adult children.

Thanks for catching up with my nest-news today. I wish you a happy weekend :).