Monday, November 09, 2015

Gratitude Day 8: My husband and kids (and the final chapter on our MFME trip)

I wrote this back at the beginning of October, when my flight home was cancelled. I felt such overwhelming gratitude for my family during that delay - absence does make the heart grow fonder! I'm sharing this journal entry as a wrap-up on the MFME trip plus a gratitude entry - I bolded the part that is specifically about gratitude for my family - so if you don't want the whole family, skip on down to the bolded part!

I’m sitting here in a rather odd but fairly nice little hotel room - one twin bed, dormer window, large nook where another twin bed could easily fit but it’s just empty. Rain is falling gently outside - we’ve been blessed with a solid week of beautiful fall weather - so amazing that the first rain came as we were leaving. Perfect timing.  I’m eating a really delicious apple (all the apples have been so crisp and delicious here - I saw some applies in a bowl at the reception desk and even though it looked like the yellowish variety that is often mushy when you get it in the States, I grabbed one. Good call.) And I’m also eating a totally delicious Lindt dark chocolate hazelnut bar and a piece of bread I didn’t quite finish at breakfast. Bread, chocolate and an apple. It’s not exactly a great lunch - but by 3:30pm, you’ll take what you can get for lunch! My back hurts from standing in line for hours this morning and now sitting in this uncomfortable chair trying to catch up on Power of Moms work (so much to do for this Mom Conference next week!). My eyes are heavy from so many short nights and so much adventure. My heart aches because I want to be with my husband and kids right now - so much. But here I am. And I’m choosing to be grateful for the chance to reflect a bit and catch up on emails and watch conference before spending tons of hours on a wifi-less plane tomorrow and being slapped with the beautiful but probably overwhelming reality of jumping back into motherhood when I get off that plane.


I’m supposed to be on a plane headed home right now. But after waking up at the crack of dawn to sneak out of the hotel room while my sisters slept and get to the airport for my flight, I found out my flight was seriously delayed and was excited when they said they could get me on a different flight that was supposed to leave earlier but was delayed a bit. Then I sat on that plane at the gate for almost an hour (in the very last row in the corner, feeling pretty claustrophobic…) before they said it would be 2 more hours at least and might get cancelled (no visibility in Amsterdam because of crazy-thick fog, I guess). They invited those of us w/o checked luggage to get off and get rerouted. I jumped at that chance. 

I hurried right over to the ticket/check in area and talked to an agent who told me I could get on a flight leaving in just a couple hours - there were seats available - hallelujah! But then she double checked and said that she didn't have the right authorization to put me on that flight and that I'd need to wait in the super long line across the way to see if they could put me on that flight. Since by then, all the flights to Amsterdam were cancelled and there were like 200 people waiting in line to get re-routed, that was bad news. While waiting in line, I tried to get on the phone with the airline (Delta) but my phone wouldn't work as I didn't have an international plan. I tried to set up a plan but no luck. Then I was so excited to see my sister Charity happen along, headed for her flight, and she let me use her phone. I called Delta and they said that they COULD book me on that LA flight but then, after checking on some things, the agent came back on the phone and told me that as the flight was now only a hour away, the system wouldn't let her book me on that flight - there was no way I'd get to the next terminal and get to the gate on time. So she booked me on an Air France flight the following morning but told me to stay in line to get a hotel voucher. Oh, I was so sad and worried - I'd been away from home for so long, missed my family so much, Jared had been holding down the fort so kindly for over a week, and I had SO much to do on the Mom Conference! I needed to get HOME. And I was so sad that I'd been forced to miss that LA flight because of mess-ups on the airlines part.

When I finally got to the front of the line (over 3 hours in line), the agent said the flight I thought I had booked over the phone wasn’t actually booked for me and I’d have to take a later flight tomorrow and not get home until 6:30pm. I really really tried not to cry. But I was so tired and was longing to get home to my family SO much and was SO frustrated by feeling so helpless and stuck that I admit some tears did come out and I couldn’t quite talk to answer the agent when she asked if a 10am flight tomorrow getting in at 6:30pm would be OK.

The lady just sort of looked embarrassed for me but went on typing away for like 10 minutes to book this later flight for tomorrow. Then she handed me a printout with letters and numbers all over it and highlighted my flight time for tomorrow on the paper. She told me to go to another long line and wait for a voucher to go to a hotel for the night. I told her I’d already been in line for over 3 hours and she said just go up to the front. So I did. And when I finally got someone’s attention, a lady took my precious paper with all the letters and numbers on it that I understood was supposed to be my ticket for tomorrow and went off into the back room for ages then finally came back with a paper in German and said it was a hotel voucher. I asked where my paper was that had all the letters and numbers on it and she said she had to keep it but that she would get me a copy because I would need it in the morning. She left for another 10 minutes and I could see her fighting with a malfunctioning printer in the back. Then she came back out and started helping someone else and seemed to have completely forgotten about me until I flagged her down and asked her for my paper. She just sort of humphed and kept going with what she was doing. Then a while later she printed out a new paper full of letters and numbers for me and told me to take that to the ticket counter in the morning - but not this ticket counter - a different one which she thought was maybe in the B area of Terminal 1 but it could be somewhere else - apparently I was just supposed to come early tomorrow to figure out where to get my actual ticket. 

I totally get that weather happens and that everyone was probably doing their best to do their job in tricky situations like this. But wow, you’d think they’d have some better procedures in place and have more personnel who could stay on or be called in! Surely stuff like this has happened before and will happen again. None of the staff I talked with (6 or 7 in all) seemed concerned about the length and duration of the line. No one explained what was happening or what the procedure should be. And I totally could have made that 12pm LA flight that was open according to the Delta agent on the phone if the first agent I talked to at the airport hadn’t told me I had to wait in that long line becuase she didn't have the right authorization to put me on it!

The rest of the story (Journal from the following day):

So I settled in at the hotel last night (finding the hotel shuttle was quite an ordeal but it was OK in the end) and tried to make the best of things. I got on Skype with my family that night and was so glad ot see their faces and hear their voices. And I asked Jared to call Delta to double check that I was all set for the flight in the morning. After a couple of hours, he called back to say that he'd talked to agent after agent on the phone and there was no record of me having a confirmed ticket on that flight in the morning and that Delta was now saying that that flight had been oversold so they were putting me on a flight the FOLLOWING morning. I couldn't believe it. Seriously? I looked on Delta.com and it showed that you could still buy tickets for the flight I was supposed to be on the next morning. But after talking to people for over 2 hours on the phone, Jared was told that my only option was to wait and go on the flight the following morning - over 48 hours after my original flight.

I cried to Jared for a while (a long day at the airport can sure do that to you - especially when combined with disappointment after disappointment as I was bumped from flight to flight by people who didn't explain things and weren't very nice and when you miss your family a ton!). Then I started looking for something - anything - good about this situation.

I was safe. My family was safe. I had internet (spotty but OK so I could work on Mom Conference stuff). And all this will make me extra grateful for home and family.

I’ve missed my family SO much this week. I always miss them when I’m away. But I guess I haven’t been away from them for more than a night or two in ages plus the time difference has made it really hard to communicate much with them while they’re gone. So I’ve just felt a dull ache - which sometimes jumps up into a serious pain - these last few days when I think about my dear husband and children. I am so incredibly blessed to have them. I know I take them for granted too much. So this is good for me.

I miss Oliver’s big hugs that happen whenever I’m stressed (he’s so sensitive to my worries and so good at helping me feel better). I miss Silas’s cute little song he sings to me (“Mom, I love you so, so much, I will never stop loving you”) and I miss making meals with him. I miss hearing all the details of Eliza’s day each day after school and really missed seeing her beautiful stride and determined face in last week’s cross country meet (she came in second!). I miss Ashton’s great and somewhat rare smile that makes the skin around his eyes crinkle up. And I keep wishing he was right here to help me figure out how to get on the internet of get my phone to do what I want it to do (my storage is full thanks to all the photos I’ve taken and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to delete very much…). I miss seeing Isaac making things fun for Oliver and Silas and all the neighborhood boys - he’s always up for fun and the little boys adore him. I missready for school earlier than anyone as he heads out to early morning seminary and seeing him so responsibly get his homework done. I miss Jared’s great hugs - I feel so safe in his arms. He always makes everything OK. I miss his deep voice leading family scripture study in the bleary-eyed mornings. I miss family dinner time each night when we sometimes laugh a lot and sometimes get into a deep conversation and sometimes I wind up sharing stories about things I wish I’d known sooner or experiences I’ve had and the kids get sucked in - I love spinning a good tale and seeing them wrapped up in it.  I miss tuck in time when the kids want to talk and I get some great one-on-one if I can remember to pad the time and take a deep breath and just sit there on each of their beds for a few minutes.

I’m so very very very blessed to be a wife and mother and to have the children and husband I have. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  And I guess my main resolution from this trip is to slow down. To savor and enjoy the beauty of my family life. Just like I’ve been savoring the beauty of the scenery and the food and the conversations I’ve been having with my mom and sisters. I need to build and keep high and strong fortress walls around the time it takes to really enjoy my kids and husband. I can’t be on my computer after school and in the evenings. I just can’t. I’ve got this huge conference coming up but I’m sure it can be awesome without me stealing from my precious family time. I can prioritize better and be way more efficient and wise so that I can get the most important things done and leave the rest.

I'm SO frustrated with Delta and all the agents at the airport and over the phone who couldn't seem to give me straight or consistent answers. But I’m SO excited to go home to see my family. I am grateful for the added dose of love and gratitude for my family that this delay has brought on. But I just can't wait to get home!

Update:
I got a lot of work done in that funny little hotel room and went on some nice walks through the fields full of corn and carrots in the area. I was able to get on that flight home 2 days after the original flight. The flights were completely packed but I was just so grateful to get home! Jared and the kids were there waiting for me when I got out of the secure part of the airport. It was so wonderful to see them and hold them in my arms again! 

I did let the Mom Conference steal some precious family time. There were so many timely things that needed to happen combined with crazy stuff no one could have anticipated (like the website crashing on the first day because somehow we'd been set up with a faulty server despite our careful efforts to set things up so they'd be crash-proof when we got a lot of traffic!). I pulled a lot too-late nights and worked when the kids were home from school way more than I would have liked. But I still got everyone where they needed to go and made sure we had family dinner most every night and didn't even open my computer on Sundays so I could enjoy total focus on my family. Things are much better now that the conference is over (and it was really great in the end - almost 40,000 moms from around the world attended and we got so much kind feedback!). I've got boundaries in place and I'm being much more realistic and careful about what I take on.

I contacted Delta to ask for the compensation due to me for a delay over 12 hours and/or being involuntarily bumped from a flight according to EU law. They deny that they owe me anything despite what it says in the EU law regarding long delays and involuntary bumping from flights. It clearly says that they need to put people on the next available flight and they did not. I've sent them full information on every step of the ordeal I went through but they completely deny any sort of responsibility or compensation for me. This is extremely disappointing that Delta would choose to deny a legitimate claim like this. I totally get that they can't control that flights need to be cancelled from time to time and delays are often inevitable. But as their negligence caused much of the problems I encountered, they should clearly take responsibility. Delta is now a company I will avoid and will encourage others to avoid. So I guess Delta makes my "stuff I'm really not grateful for" list right now!

4 comments:

E Family Tales said...

The Mom Conference was amazing! All of your hard work has helped and will help many families! I feel your pain with Delta. I have been in a similar situation and found myself in tears.

sgs said...

I left you a comment on Monday as I was so outraged on your behalf, but it looks like it didn't publish! I have had a similar situation with United and it took raising the issue up the flag pole to get a travel voucher. For Delta, you can email VP of Customer Service Jason Hausner (jason.hausner@delta.com) to explain the situation and ask for a voucher. I know you are very humble about your work and family, but I'd encourage you to mention that you run an extremely well-read blog that attracts moms/travel planners who take these bad experiences to heart. Personally, your story completely turned me off from Delta, but if you are able to reach some kind of resolution with them and receive a travel voucher, I might reconsider. Best of luck and DON'T GIVE UP! I think asking for refunds rarely works but a travel voucher is easy for them to award and in their best interest retaining you as a long-term customer.

Julie said...

Wow, I bet you were shattered by the time you got home, I know I would've been!

I would've cried too, I cry when things like that happen.

Glad you got home safely in the end.x

Eyrealm said...

Gosh, I was worried the whole time you were there but would have been more worried if I had known that you were being jerked around like this day after day! Maybe dad can help with some compensation since he's a million miler.Won't hurt to try! You should have free around the world tickets for all this hassle! JK!...sort of!

So sorry about this but so glad you made it home in safety in the end. Darn Delta!

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