Shut up! I’m trying to find my Zen (6)

I grew up flying stand-by, making a habit of volunteering to get bumped, and having to follow a dress code to get on a plane. My kids have flown Southwest since they were little, throwing on their comfiest pants and running onto the plane during their cattle call of a boarding process. It almost always goes off without a hitch. They get their coke and snack to settle into IPad watching and then get zoomed through the air in a long metal tube with barely a thought to all that happens to make this work for millions of people each day. One time we got stuck in the San Diego airport with thousands of our closest friends because their entire I.T. department went down country-wide. All planes were grounded for a few hours. It was late, we were over tired, and all of us had either work or school in the morning. The boys’ immediate takeaway was that Southwest completely sucks and we should never fly them again. Such fair weather fans! With our culture of instant gratification and the world at our literal fingertips, being waylaid from a plan and being beholden to someone else’s time frame (or striking whims) isn’t a muscle we get to flex much. And I say ‘get’ for my boys but more-so myself. As much as I hate things not going according to plan, there is no room to grow in patience and flexibility and grit without being forced to practice them. Those virtues we extol while actively avoiding the opportunities that develop them within us. Ugh.

But don’t get me wrong- I am not so virtuous, I’m mostly annoyed which causes the road between fine and livid to be extremely short. Just ask my family. We left Switzerland after 3 disappointingly rainy days which kept us from enjoying their fantastically high peaks and other worldly views. The were no cathedrals and museums in Interlaken to make up for the time not spent hiking and exploring outside. Silver lining, the kids got caught up in school. With sadness, we caught the train from Interlaken to Paris. We had a connection in Basel. Unbeknownst to us, the Eurail app helps you book tickets, but it doesn’t help you choose your seat. A few stops towards Basel, some kind people notified us that we were in their seats but let us stay. I’m thankful for their flexibility. We ran to our connecting train and found out as we got on, you must have a seat assignment and within 2 stops, every seat would be full. We looked at the boys and just had to roll with it… meaning along with our 4 big suitcases, we rolled them right off the train to figure a new plan. Turns out a French rail strike had just ended so all the trains were super full. No seats for another 6 hours. So now I’ve been to Basel.

We had on our list to train from Paris to Amsterdam for a couple of days. During that week there was a shortage of train parts from the main (only?) provider of train parts needed for that route. Okay, we won’t go. Leaving the Normandy area we noticed long lines at gas stations, many being closed completely. Turns out the 2 weeks we’ve rented a car, the fuel workers have decided to strike. No deliveries are being made so stations just close up when they run out of gas. The few that have remained open have long lines and steep costs. So the math you thought you’d never use when you’re older comes in handy when you want to find out that converting the liters to gallons and Euros to dollars, and how many kilometers until the next station (?), carry the 2… great, gas is about $8/gallon. It’s not that you won’t use the math, it’s more like you just shouldn’t. Better not to know. Our 4 hour transit day turned to 7 (and almost a hotel night) as we searched for gas stations that would be both open AND have gas to sell.

This line for gas goes in front of the grocery store, around the side and then further. We saw it Saturday and got there too late on Sunday when they ran out of regular and only had a few gallons of diesel left. The guy I was begging to let us just get a little said, “You picked a bad time to come to France.”

Today I am practicing my own version of flexibility after calling on my boys to do the same for the last 45+ days. We slept in, watched TV, and now I’m sitting on a couch trying to drown out the din of overly sugared, overly excited children whilst Asher and Charlie bounce their brains out at a trampoline park. They spent yet another day yesterday seeing where a King slept, where a Queen hosted her soirees (Catherine de Medicis), and another garden where you can’t walk on the grass. The boys have given up their sports and friends for this entire semester and have seen more “old things” (their words) than they knew existed. Asking them to do this was a lot and we’re realizing we have to throw in a few bones here and there to make this more palatable for everyone. Our time in the Loire Valley is short as we make our way down south hoping upon hope to catch a little bit of warm weather before it disappears for the season. However, messing up our perfectly laid plans might be what we actually need. We are in the valley of the castles and I’ll have to be satisfied with visiting just one.

And I am- such a beautiful garden. (Viewed from the edge, of course).

2 thoughts on “Shut up! I’m trying to find my Zen (6)

  1. I loved your comment on growing patience, flexibility and grit.
    If that is all you have learned as a family on this trip IT WOULD BE WORTH IT!!!
    I also see a lot of joy! You, Ross and the boys are also displaying a lot of gratitude….
    Thanks for your blogs!


  2. Thanks, Diane! I appreciate you taking the time to read these things. It really has been an incredible trip thus far because of all you mentioned- joy, gratitude, patience, disappointment, and more.


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