Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Very Personal Easter Experience

1Peter 1:3-5
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

Being raised Catholic, I remember attending Stations of the Cross every Good Friday. It was a solemn day. A day we remembered what our Lord had gone through FOR us. I clearly remember the feeling I would get walking into the church; the holy water fonts, empty. Seeing the tabernacle open, dark and empty. It was a beautiful symbolism of the death of Christ. The church building was empty and dark...Not to be lit again until the Light of the World would be raised up on the third day!

As an adult, I have learned that there is even a deeper meaning to God's saving grace. Perhaps attaining a better understanding of how Jesus' Resurrection affects MY life.

It is one thing to be TAUGHT what the Resurrection of Jesus means. It is, however, a whole new kind of wonderful thing to EXPERIENCE what the Resurrection means. It's my hope to share with you what Easter means to me, now that I have had such an amazing experience!

As many of you know, my dad passed away this past November. We knew he was sick after having multiple strokes combined with several other health issues that seemed to ravage his body during the last year. But we didn't know that he would be going home quite so soon. I was there at the end...or should I say at the beginning? I was there, and I witnessed his entrance into eternity.

Have you ever seen a baby being born? Have you ever seen a baby take his first breath? Life. Day one. It's a beautiful experience. One that ties you to that child with an unseeable bond. You witnessed his entrance into this world. Amazing!

That's sort of how it feels when you witness someone leaving this world and entering into a new life. A new existance. It is truly a rebirth. For those of us who know Jesus, it is miraculous...because scripture is VALIDATED. Death has no victory!

During my father's last day on this earth my mother and I were given the gift of being by his side. I reached his bedside, at the nursing home, at 9:30AM to find him gasping for breath. To tell you that sound was almost unbearable would be an understatement! His respirations were labored as his lungs were filling with fluid, and his heart was beating upwards of 160 beats per minute. His body was dying. He was "transitioning" into the next phase of LIFE, the eternal phase. But hold the phone! This was my dad!! My big, strong, mountain of a man...dad. He saw me come into this world, and as the Lord willed it, I was seeing him leave it. Intensely surreal!

During that day, mom and I took turns whispering in his ear that it was ok to leave. We reminded him of the beautiful place by the waters that Jesus had prepared for him.(Dad had always said he hoped Jesus would let him live by the Heavenly shores). His arms and legs would once again work, and he would be strong and healthy! "Go home, dad." "We'll be ok. We love you." "We'll see you again, soon." "Take Jesus' hand, and be at peace."

Four months later, I honestly can't believe the strength we had at uttering such words. But that strength was there, amazingly.

It was a long day, that Friday. How does one comprehend the knowledge that "today" your father (mother, wife, husband, child...) is GOING to die? I'm still not sure. Our emotions were a mixture of wanting his suffering to end and not wanting to say goodbye, all rolled into one. Mom and I waited, and stood by his side for hours. Rubbing his legs, his head and hands. Whispering, touching, praying...

When 6:30 PM approached, dad's breathing got slower. A sign that the time was near. Mom on his left and I on his right held him. His breathing stopped for 20seconds! Was this it? Was he gone? NO!! He stared breathing again. But his respirations were very shallow at this point. Dad was almost ready to make his journey.

I wondered what he saw, with his earthly eyes closed, I knew his spiritual eyes may be witnessing something beautiful waiting for him. Perhaps something across a stream. Was he just that close to Jesus!? Did he see his mother? His brother? Maybe he saw my little baby, who I lost several years back? Was she calling her Papa home?

Dad's mouth had been shut tight all day. To the point where mom was saying, he's not ready to let go of his spirit. I found that funny, but I will tell you, that man clinched his mouth shut, TIGHTLY if anyone came near to him. He even bit a nurse who tried to get his dentures out early in the day. Dad was unconscious, and heavily medicated, but he still had a pretty strong will!

His breathing was slowing. It was time. Mom and I had him in our arms, and this time his breaths slowed easily, and then his sweet mouth opened as he exhaled his last breath. His spirit left his body! He made it home!

I didn't see anything with earthly eyes, but I felt as though dad's spirit flew right past me! Up, up, up. I could imagine him turning back once more to see us, and giving us a thumbs up. His way of telling us he was GOOD! He was finally out of that old shell of a body, and FREE! That's what I kept saying, in fact. "Dad, you are finally FREE!"

Now here is the part that may be upsetting for some. We knew dad was gone. His spirit has flown away...no doubt in my mind or heart. But it was AFTER that occurrence that his body died. I won't go into medical details, but just know death is not pretty. It's messy and difficult to watch. BUT DAD'S SPIRIT WAS GONE!!! His hands almost immediately started turning black. His skin became cold and hard very soon. For some reason dad looked tiny in his bed. His largeness was gone. It's something we can't explain, but he looked like half the man he was, now lying in that bed! When the dying process was still happening, the nurse raised him in bed for me to help clean him. It was at this time my father's eyes opened for the first time all day! He was gone by this point. But his eyes were looking UP! They weren't rolled back or looking straight ahead, as one would imagine from someone who was in a supine position for over 24 hours...NO! They were looking up to the corner of the room. He had seen something, and that was the direction he went. I'm sure of it!

O Death where is thy sting?? Yes!!

I am here to tell you that YES, I witnessed HOW Jesus conquered death. How he took the hand of my father and whisked him away, moments before the "sting of death" occured!

Our hope that we can only find in Jesus is REAL. It is not something made up. It is no longer something that is intangible. I saw it. I was blessed to witness an Easter moment, that as Christians, we all will get to experience. Rising to meet our Savior. Alive with Him for eternity!

If you know Jesus, you have nothing to fear. I promise you. He has prepared a beautiful place for you. He has WON our victory over the grave!

My prayer for you is that this Easter will be one of rebirth through Him. That you are reminded that Easter is the very heart of our faith! That through His death and resurrection we have all our sins washed away and hope in life eternal!

Happy Easter~ May God bless you, abundantly!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Got Fear ?

I am awakened for the third time from a peaceful sleep, this time it's 4am. My 7 year old is standing, once again, at my bedside. He says nothing, but I awaken just as though he were physically shaking me from a sound sleep. (It's the power of the stare, I'm sure of it). When I ask him what's wrong, his response is the same as it has been the previous two times, "I'm scared, mom."

In childhood, there are a lot of situations which are scary. The closet door being left just two inches open. The very thought that there may be something under the bed, waiting to pull you under should your leg dangle off unexpectedly. The creaking sounds of a settling house. An approaching thunderstorm...very scary! These things which are frightening in an conscious state, pale in comparison to that which scares us in a dream state. The non-sensible, often vivid mind movies, which come with the ability to scare the day-lights out of us!

I remember having one re-occurring bad dream throughout my childhood years. It only had two people in it; me and the Tin Man, from the Wizard of Oz. I was in a shopping cart and he was pushing me along the sidewalk. We always ended up at Knotts Berry Farm for some reason! He would park the shopping cart somewhere along the streets of the Old West Ghost Towne,located in the park, and leave! It was at this point I would realize that my mom and dad were nowhere to be found. All alone in that silly shopping cart! That was my nightmare! Crazy as it sounds, it caused many nights of terror. (Strangely enough I still really like the Wizard of Oz, but have never completely trusted that Tin Man. He and his squinty, silver eyes!!)

The remedy for a bad dream or scary awake-thought when you are a child is usually to head straight to mom and dad's bedroom. I'm not exactly sure what it is about that big, soft, warm bed. Combine that with the arms of a loving parent, and you have a complete safety zone!! No Boogie Man would dare enter that room!

Move forward into adulthood. What scares you, now? Honestly, there are a lot of things that come to my own mind. The state of the country, the state of the world, politics in general, my health and that of my loved ones and friends, losing my mom, being a good parent, doing the right thing when the challenge presents itself... the list is extensive.

I no longer have mom and dad's arms to run into. But I do have a loving Heavenly Father, who has held me through several scary moments in adulthood. Like the night we found out that my husband had kidney failure, and an active auto immune disease that may also attack his lungs and brain! That night we were told that he would need to go on high levels of chemo therapy and dialysis to remain alive. Hopefully, getting the disease into remission before it progressed further through his vascular system. That was a really scary time!

But the arms of my Father, although not visible to earthly eyes, were holding me, comforting me, and making me feel safe, just like when I was a little girl in my earthly parent's bedroom. His Word gave my spirit comfort. I learned that "With God all things are possible" ~ Mt 19-26. I was reminded about WHO gives us a spirit of fear...and here's a hint, it's NOT God.

Even though many of us look at what is happening in the country, at this very moment, and are scared about the direction that it is headed, there is one thing to hold on to; We serve a sovereign God, who is in total control of all things! Everything will come to pass as He wills it. It is so little about me or you... but rather about Him. His will, which is always love-based. Trusting Him and giving the fear, anxiety and hopelessness we may feel, to Him.

I have learned that it is only in His arms...in relationship with our God, that the Boogie Man will not get us! We are truly safe. We have nothing to worry about, for we are His children, and his love for us is abundant!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Home School combined with Traditional School...

For the last two years, God has placed on my heart the desire to home school my children. The thought came like a lightning bolt to my brain, and although I tried like mad to disregard this Divine calling, it unfolded around me. I knew it was from God, because this wasn't a typical Lisa-thought.

The home schooling has gone wonderfully! Both boys are doing amazingly well in their academics. But I sense a need, especially in my middle-schooler, for more co-ed socialization. We have realized for some time the one and a half hour of co-ed hanging out he gets on Sunday isn't cutting it.

I have been praying about this for months. Is he ready to return to the world of (gasp) middle school? Of course he is! Just like before, after I truly gave this issue over to God, clarity of thought happened...to both my son and I!

As I was sitting at the laptop one night, checking out local middle schools, he walked by and asked me what I was doing. Drat! I don't lie... but perhaps this would have been a good opportunity to start! Nope, instead I told him the truth. I told him that I had been in prayer over this very subject and was just feeling drawn to start researching schools.

Afraid that he would not appreciate the way that things had fallen together, he instead told me that, he was also thinking it was time to get back into school.

Wow!! God is so awesome!! He placed this idea on BOTH of our hearts at the same time! Amazing!

I have met lovely moms who feel that 12 years of home schooling is the ONLY way to go, no matter what. I also have a lot of friends (and let's not forget those well-intentioned relatives) who think home schooling was a terrible idea from the beginning, and can list for ME the reasons why. I respect both school's of thought. I really do. But from the get-go I, along with my then-hesitant husband, decided that we were going to let God lead us in this venture. And we have! But we have TWO very different learners in our family.

David is my traditional, motivated, "give me a workbook-and-pencil-and-watch-me-go", kid! Transition is not going to be too difficult for Dave, academically.

Joey, our 7 yr old, is doing a first/second grade curriculum. Joey has ADHD and auditory processing issues. We have chosen to NOT medicate him. These two issues would make traditional classroom learning a challenge, to say the least. So, I am still planning on teaching Joe's core subjects at home. We are blessed to be able to utilize a plethora of learning modalities, which can not be done in a 20 pupil classroom.

Joey and I bounce on exercise balls as we practice our phonics. We read under the dining room table, sometimes under a blanket by flashlight. We sit with our feet in the swimming pool and do our math flashcards. Some days we sit on the grass and do our writing. There are even days we just get in the car and head out to the beach and "DO" science. We'll talk about the waves and the sand and the seagulls. Life is such a huge learning op! Homeschooling STILL has Joe's name written all over it!

The plan, unless God places some road blocks in our way, is to start both boys in a local Christian school on an ISP basis for the remainder of the year. For my readers who are wondering WHAT an ISP is; it is school-talk for "Individualized Study Program". Essentially, the boys will continue their home schooling with me, but attend electives that the school offers with other kids who their own age, and who are enrolled in school full time. These electives are: PE, art, music, Spanish and weekly chapel. The boys can also attend recess and lunch breaks at the school, as to socialize with the other kids. We can take advantage of all electives, or just pick and choose.

Next year, if all goes as planned, Dave will start the 7th grade, at this school, as a full time student. Jr high! Holy moley, it's here!! Joey will still remain on the ISP, but be considered a student at this school for all practical purposes.

If you asked me how I feel, I guess I am a bit ambivalent! Extremely happy and excited on one hand, but a little sad that this special time, with David, may have come to an end. Unbeknownst to me, God really knew what a wonderful time this relationship building time would be for both of us. Now I am blessed to be experiencing the same with my littlest one.

There will certainly be bumps in the road, as the months go forward. I will gladly share with you how things are progressing on both fronts!

In the mean time, I am planning on spending a lot more time in prayer!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Women : Touchy, Feely, Emotional Beings

Women and drama. Why do these words go together like that Forrest Gump idiom, "...peas and carrots"? I am a woman...(taa daa!) But I absolutely despise drama in adult relationships. It seems rather pointless to me to use passive aggressive tendencies which we, if you are honest ladies, have mastered from the time Eve ate that silly apple until now.

Why can't we be more like men when dealing with a problem? Concisely and loudly state what it is that is bugging us, tell the other person that they "stink", say something mean about their car or favorite sports team, then have a (root)beer and be done with it? Men don't dwell on issues. They grunt a few times, punch a hole in the wall, and it's over. (Or is that just the men I've known?) Men are physical beings...we are... EMOTIONAL.

But why are we so emotional? Is it that rib from Adam that God used to create us? Is that rib somehow connected to an emotion neurotransmitter in our brain? Perhaps we have more neurotransmitters? Ok, that wasn't a caveman analogy...really. I am just left wondering why.

Perhaps it is hormonal?

Don't our guys LOVE hearing that one? But it is true...I go nuts once a month for about three days and then, like magic, I regain my sanity. If I am able to find that hidden stash of Hershey Kisses, I can then make it through those few days, and almost no one comes out harmed. Physically.

I don't know why God created women like He did. Hey... HE??? Hmmm.... The plot thickens!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tales of a Home Schooling Mom

Being a mom who home school's her kids has many perks. Working in our pajamas on cold rainy days, comes to mind immediately. There is not the morning rush that we had to endure a couple of years ago. Gosh, I hated that morning rush! I would inevitably turn into a yelling maniac, "Everyone in the car...hurry, hurry, hurry...Grab your lunch, grab your backpacks!!" My kids would get anxious and I would feel guilty. Then I'd worry if I had been too mean. Convincing myself that I had emotionally scarred them. Ok, not really, but a lot of mommies understand what I am saying... No, I don't miss that morning stuff! I love to take my time during the morning. I think I get as much done, overall. I just truly enjoy waking up before everyone else, having my cup of coffee, opening up either my laptop or devotional...and having some quiet time. Peace; it's a big thing!

Yes, home schooling has its perks. But I am here to tell you that it isn't all sunshine and roses, either. It's tough to give up a significant amount of "me" time. Wait, we won't even go to the whole "me" time thing. That subject is best kept for a commiserating session with girlfriends over margaritas...you know, WHEN I get some "me" time.

Let's talk real issues. Some of those issues that are challenged by this schedule change are things like, getting my laundry done (and put away), or cleaning my house to the standard which I used to enjoy. I'm not big on clutter. Never have been. I tend to purge a lot of still useful stuff if I can't find a place to keep it. One of the qualities that Dave ADORES about me (that was sarcasm, in case you don't know my husband) But, lately I have had to endure a little more clutter than I would like. I have learned the phrase, "I will get to it, eventually." That is not a natural thought process for me. I used to get it done, now. "No time like the present" was one of my personal motto's. Not anymore. No, unfortunately, that has changed to, "No time IN the present..."

I find it ironic that through home schooling my children, not only have I taught THEM life lessons, they have taught ME life lessons. Priorities have been re-established. Relationship has replaced the need for having the cleanest house on the block. My dining room, instead of looking like a picture out of the Pottery Barn catalog, now looks more like an advertisement for needing a professional organizer! My lovely table is cluttered, but still semi-organized (for us). The kids know that their books are there; their lesson plans are there and, most importantly, that school is there, everyday...until Friday afternoon. When we once again put everything away for the weekend. And yeah... I really like Fridays. I mean, I can't change everything about me, right?!

Friday, March 5, 2010

New VeggieTale's DVD Released this week!!

I was once told that to find contentment in everyday life, find something you love doing, and then figure out a way to earn money while doing it. That's a lot harder than it sounds. In fact, I am just barely getting an understanding of how to apply that concept in my own life. But I have found a ministry in which I can utilize that philosophy, almost fully. I am lucky enough to be counted as one of a few Big Idea (VeggieTales') Ambassadors. What that means, is that I get to "spread the word" about new and upcoming shows, plan church events and talk about all the current promotions! It's fun! It's a lot of work, too!!... and guess what? I don't get a dime for it!! Why on earth would I do such a thing? Well...

I love VeggieTales! My children have literally grown up watching these wonderfully-witty, heart-warming shows. Before my husband accepted Christ into his life, he learned MOST of his Bible stories from VeggieTales (ok, I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but it IS true.) If you are unfamiliar with this children's media property, I encourage you to check out some of their work. It is all written from a Biblical perspective / worldview. That being said, it isn't in-your-face preachy or self righteous. A healthy mix of Bible stories (mostly taken from the Old Testament), parodies of other pop-culture or classic literature, and some good old fashioned values-based lessons. The stories are relevant, as are the lessons taught. The cast of characters are, in fact, vegetables who have their own inherent personality traits. I know... it sounds weird if you haven't a clue of what I'm talking about, but trust me, you'll forget you are watching a tomato talk within the first few minutes of the show!

These shows are written for kids, but adults will find them just as entertaining! Check them out! Let me know what you think...

This week a new DVD was released, Pistachio~The Little Boy That Woodn't. A story that not only parodies the classic Pinocchio story, but also uses the parable of the Lost sheep and Good Shepherd to support the theme of, listening (obeying) your parents. Just like our Heavenly Father loves us and knows what's best for us, so do our parents...who love us so very much!

Go to http://www.bigidea.com/ to order your copy of Pistachio and check out some of the other titles that may be missing from your home library! There are always great specials on this web site!! The DVD can be purchased at any major retailer or at your local Christian bookstore. This week, Family Christian Stores will be featuring this title at $12.97 and LifeWay Christian Stores will be offering it for $12.99.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Going Nuts! (Part three)

When I last wrote, the three of us were left sitting in the gate area of US Airways, waiting. Waiting for a flight home. Waiting to hear what was going to happen to us. Waiting. I called my husband first. His helplessness and anger at the way we had been treated was evident. Although it wasn't until later that evening that he fully realized we had actually been removed from the airplane. I began writing friends, and I put a status update on Facebook : "Pass the word... Mother traveling alone with her peanut allergic child thrown off US Airways flight because they "Don't want the responsibility" and policy has changed over the weekend. Tears. "

I had messages within seconds. Friends wanting to help. Asking how they could help. I was talking to my husband, who was on the other side of the airport. He was literally walking up to the airline counters, asking them their policies for traveling with a child with a nut allergy. The thought of driving to another airport that Jet Blue or Southwest flew out of was in the front of my thoughts. How long would it take to drive to Birmingham? Jacksonville? How long would it take to drive home? With one change of clothes for my son, and only a few snacks in my back pack, I was afraid of that thought. Not AS afraid of being 30,000 feet up in the air when he had a reaction, but still afraid. I prayed...

After an hour sitting in the gate, Mr. Cole came to my mother (Joey and I were in the restroom) and told her that he could get us on a 4PM Delta Airlines flight. Delta! This is after Mr. Cole was told about our entire fiasco with Delta. I couldn't believe that not only did this man lack compassion, he also had the audacity to not give a rip about listening to WHY we ended up at his doorstep to begin with. Delta would not work, thank you very much. He reassured my mother that they were still "working on it".

Dave had found that United Airlines flew into Orange County, and was a safe carrier for our needs. He was able to find a couple flights, all with connections to get us to our destination. But I was hoping to avoid BUYING three more tickets. During this same time, a friend of mine text messaged me the same flight information on United. The flight number, connections, times, and price of each ticket. She was also able to tell me they had open seats! I took this information up to the desk area where the guys from US Airways were "working" on our flight home. Amazingly, they had found nothing! I told them, I wanted three tickets on United's 3:40 PM flight to Denver with a connection to Orange County. They agreed, and the tickets were issued.

We had another trek through the Atlanta airport, this time to concourse T.

It was another 2.5 hours of waiting at this new gate until we saw the United gate agent. I explained my situation to her. She told me that she would let the pilot and crew know as soon as they checked in. Again, no promises about a courtesy announcement, but they did not have any nut containing food on board the plane that they sold to customers. I waited until I saw the lovely ladies in blue suits approach the door of the gate. They were the crew. They held my future in their hands. Please God, let them be understanding. Let them have compassion and be empathetic...please, please, please.

It was about 10 minutes later that the gate agent made the announcement that pre-boarding would begin...and she also told the crowd that there was a child traveling on this flight with a severe peanut / nut allergy. That they would very much appreciate it if people did not eat nuts during the flight, as to maintain a safe environment for this child.

AMAZING!!! She was kind and direct and clear...and the people...they were wonderful. One man approached the podium with a bag of nuts he had just purchased, and told her that he completely understood. That he had a friend whose child was also very allergic to nuts...and then he put those little legumes in his carry on luggage, not to be seen until we reached Denver!

As we got on board, I thanked the crew, again with tears in my eyes, for their kindness. They told me it was "no problem". Ironic choice of words!? Before taking off, the pilot once again made the courtesy announcement to the plane...and you know what happened? The folks on the plane clapped! They did, I swear to you, they cheered. I honestly didn't get it then, and I still don't...but those people actually cheered the Captain's choice to announce a safety precaution for a child. How is that for goodness in the common man?!!

We reached Denver. Almost home! Just one more small jaunt, and we would be home! Thankfully giddy I approached the gate agent. Following protocol, she notified the crew. Again, we had our announcement made prior to take off. The flight attendants were so nice. I thanked them profusely!! We can taste that California sea air...almost home, almost home...

We DID get home that night. *(Our luggage was on the original flight, still, and wound up in Long Beach. We picked it up the next day). It seemed like one of the longest days I have ever lived through. But it was over, finally. Thank you, God...thank you for answering our prayers. For getting us home, safely. Thank you!

Things like this shouldn't happen. Not just because this story was about my child. I have a good friend, an adult friend, who is allergic to peanuts. She has to take 3 Benedryl tablets before getting on an airplane, and hope that it's enough to cover her allergy. Without those antihistamines in her system, her throat itches and she has what feels like an asthma attack.

Air born allergies are real!! The inconvenience a person might feel who really wants to nosh on that Reese's Peanut butter cup or that yummy bag of trail mix pales in comparison to the fear of what it must feel like to have an allergic reaction to those foods.

There are people who say that individuals, like my son, have to take such risks when using public transportation. I have to say that I strongly disagree.

Back in the late 80's the Department of Transportation, in association with the Americans with Disabilities Act, tried to start treating this very issue as a disability. They began offering the buffer zones and got the ball rolling in the right direction, seeing this allergy to peanuts as a true disability. Lobbyist from the peanut industry put pressure on the DOT, and further legislation seemed to stall.

A change needs to happen. Sometimes it takes a squeaky wheel to get someone to take notice. If that's the case...then by all means....


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Going Nuts! (part two)

Monday morning came, and even though I over slept, we remained on schedule. Our first goal: We had to get to the airport...

Dave and Davey were scheduled on a Delta flight, bound for OC at 4pm, and mom, Joey and I were on US Airways, leaving at 11AM. The plan was to get the rental car back and hopefully get the two guys on a stand-by earlier flight. This didn't happen. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of a nightmarish day.

The way the Atlanta airport is set up, they have Delta Air and all the International flights coming and going out of the South Terminal. The rest of the airlines are out of the North Terminal. (This obsession with all things North and South. Come on people, the War is over...) What this meant was that there was no way, once we checked in and had gone through security, that the five of us could see each other the rest of the time in Atlanta. Thank God for cell phones!!

We checked our bags (paid the additional $25 per bag...!!) and got our seat assignments, which to our displeasure, were not together. Even Joey and I weren't sitting together, which was so ridiculous that I wasn't even worried about it. For Heaven's sake they would HAVE to do something about that. I put it out of my mind, knowing I was going to once again talk to the gate agent as soon as we got there.

My mother has recently had knee surgery, and even though she is going through physical therapy, she is unable to walk long distances without severe pain. So we waited at the check-in counter area for a wheelchair. We waited, and waited, and waited...20 minutes later and a few trips to the counter to "nicely" inquire about the ETA of the wheelchair, we decided that Joey and I would RUN to the gate and mom would meet us there in her wheelchair. There was still a train to take and four concourses to make our way through, AFTER security, to just get to our gate. The plane would begin boarding in 10 minutes! I needed to get our seats changed first, and be on that plane as a pre-board! (There are cleaning rituals that we neurotic moms-of-allergic kids go through. I needed to wipe down surfaces and get him situated). "Ok Joey, are you ready to run?"

Unbelievably, we made it to the gate as they were still pre-boarding first class.

**Is it just me, or does the movie "Titanic" come to mind when you see the first class passengers board ahead of you? I always feel that instead of "economy class" we should be renamed "Steerage". Because that's how I feel when the flight attendants lower that little mesh curtain which separates the two classes. I find it comical that they sip on mimosas or bloody mary's, wearing their Bose headphones as they type ever-so-importantly on their lap tops; while those of us traveling with little ones try our hardest not to inconvenience them by accidentally hitting their open tray with our Star Wars back packs, diaper bags and sippy cups. **

I am talking to the gate agent who is telling me she is doing everything she can about changing our seats...just mine and Joeys'. But it is a full flight, so it may not be possible. "What? Are you kidding? He's 7 with special needs. I think you need to do something about this." I said. To which I add, "He has a severe nut allergy but the folks at US Airways were so nice on both our flights coming to Atlanta. The crew did two courtesy announcements on board and served no nut products. Can I ask you to do the same?" (This was almost rhetorical, but I realized I had to play nice and seem very gracious towards these people who were allowing me to fly home for $1100...) Sarcasm creeps in now and then, forgive me. Our seats were changed. Joey and I were sitting next to each other! Hooray. Now for the peanut issue...

My first shock of the morning came when the gate agent said, "We won't take any responsibility for your child."

Responsibility? What did she mean by "responsibility"? Again, with my metaphorical hat-in-my-hand, I tell her, " I completely understand that you can not police what people choose to bring on board. But I was told US Airways serves no nut products. A simple courtesy announcement would at least give the passengers a heads up, and I am willing to trust that most of them will opt to be kind." (I am smiling...but inside I want to scream).

She says that she will take the issue to the flight crew and it would be up to them. Holy cow!! Not this again?!

We get to pre-board with the rest of steerage...er...economy, and I immediately go up to the flight attendant in first class, thinking he probably has the clout needed to make this extreme request come to fruition. Unbelievably, he responds, with a fake smile, "I'm sorry. I'm not aware of any such policy. But I will check with the other attendants."

Uh oh. This is starting to give me some stomach pain. What are we playing here? In the memorable words of Indiana Jones,I'm beginning to think, "I got a bad feeling about this."

I go back to my seat, wipe down the surfaces and belt Joey and myself in. Hoping...praying that someone will come up to us and give us a little piece of good news. Instead, the flight attendant, a woman this time, comes up to me and states that there is no such policy that requires the crew to make an announcement or NOT sell nut products on board. At this time I learn that they have almonds on board and plan on selling almonds as a snack option. We were not even given the rinky-dink three row buffer zone option offered by Delta! Before I could mumble anything...because at this point I was spinning with disbelief... she tells me that a supervisor was coming on board to speak to me. To speak to ME??? What could they tell me? What good would it be to tell ME anything? I sat there, in utter shock. Wondering what I should do. Would the supervisor perhaps make a concession that would override the flight attendant. Yes, that's what we will hope for...

At this point some people around me are starting to ask if there is a problem. I am noticeably shaken. I share with them a Reader Digest version of the last few days of travel. Without exception everyone of my "neighbors" is kind and understanding, and has no problem with not eating nuts. One man tells me he flew over last week on a US Airways flight, which an announcement was made about a person having the exact same issue. It wasn't OUR flight, either! He tells me for most people not eating nuts for a couple hours is "no big deal". That's right! It isn't for them. It may, however, mean my child doesn't suffer a terrible reaction. So for me, it's huge! I am feeling a little better. Reassured that people are behind me on this, and that they are ok with this small inconvenience.

Mr. Cole, the Us Airways supervisor, comes on board the airplane, holding his policy and procedure manual like one would hold the Holy Bible while evangelizing to a group of non-believers! He tells me in his most quiet, business-y voice to "please gather up all my belongings and follow him to the gate. We will discuss this issue out there."

"What do you mean, gather up my belongings? Are you kicking me off the airplane?" I ask.

He responds with a robotic repeated response, "Please gather your belongings and follow me."

I can not believe this. Why am I being kicked off a plane? A (seemingly) single mom with a child and her disabled mother. What threat are we to the rest of the passengers? Why are we being thrown off?? Where is the explanation? There has been NO explanation!!!

In true Lisa fashion, I use this opportunity to stir up my own "ATTICA" retort! I know I am already being thrown off the plane, so why not let everyone on board know?! I yell to the back of the plane, using that lovely learned ability of projection, and tell them, "US Airways throws off mother, her special needs son and disabled grandmother...for having a food allergy!!" Most of the people sat there like lumps, but I did have some who yelled back, "Unfair"and "Let them stay". Gotta love the rebels in the crowd! A very small victory, but I hope those attendants had a lot of explaining to do on that flight!

I walked past the Captain, co-captains and all three flight attendants who were lined up at the front of the plane. Looking at my son and I walk off as though we were people who had been caught with an explosive or inebriated or had been physically hostile. Our only offense: my son has a food allergy. Does this make sense to anyone else, because I am still in shock over it.

As we are walking back up the ramp to the gate, my poor mother is having trouble keeping up the pace. They actually have the nerve to ask her to, "please come quickly". We had evidently delayed take off. Feeling like criminals, I sat on a chair in the gate area, and just cried. I was mortified. I was terrified...how would we get home, now? I was shocked. I still had no explanation as to what just happened. Then the thought hit me...my luggage! It was at this point where my special 7 year old changed roles with me for a brief moment. He took my face in his little hands, and said, "Don't cry mommy. We will be ok. Be happy". Just typing that makes my eyes well up. He was quite the little man that morning!!

Mr. Cole and the original gate agent were now in front of me telling me that US Airways had no policy about making announcements, and that they do and will serve nuts on all their flights. I told them AGAIN that we had spoken to several people by phone, and then on two flights over to Atlanta who reassured me that the nut products would not be sold and that making an announcement was perfectly fine. Two flights!!

His response I found both repulsive and sad. "That's the problem when people go over and beyond of what policy states they must do. It creates an unrealistic expectation in the minds of customers." I kid you not, that is what he said! To which I wiped away my tears and told him, "If you are aiming for mediocrity then aim no higher than what your policy says you must do. But where is the harm in going that extra mile? Where is the harm in having compassion on a per need basis?"

This is what I was told. "We can not take responsibility for your son's medical need. We won't take on that responsibility." It was canned. It came out of a manual. He was a robot. He was a company man. He did what his bible told him to do...absolutely nothing above and beyond policy.

The three of us sat at that gate and watched as our plane, the plane which still had all our luggage inside of it, backed away from the gate. We were told that US Airways would "try" to find us another flight home. They left us as we watched our plane leave. We had no idea what the day would bring. All I wanted to do was get home. That's it!

To be continued...

Going Nuts (part one)

After my initial post, life got a little hectic as we planned a mini-vacation to Atlanta to attend my brother's wedding. Getting all the school work completed, and purchasing essentials we would need for our trip took most of my "extra" writing time. But here I am... and I have a lot to tell you!!

First, I'm not sure why drama tends to attach itself to a few chosen individuals. There are actually people out there who seem to skate through life un-scathed by dramatic, earth-shattering events. This is not about one of those people. No, this is about me and my poor family, who by default, must be on drama's hit list!

Let me start at the beginning. My youngest son, Joey, is severely allergic to nuts. This is our normal. We have learned how to deal with this disability, and have become accustomed to checking food labels and only eating out at restaurants whose employees have an understanding about food allergies. We live in a nut-free house. I use soy butter instead of Peanut butter and avoid most bakeries all together. I eat Reeses Peanut Butter Cups only when I am on a business trip. I ask questions like, "What type of oil do you use?" I carry Benedryl and two epinephrine pins with me, wherever I go with my son...just in case. Fortunately, we live our lives relatively close to the nearest ER, should an unexpected exposure to nuts occur. So I don't worry too much. Not too, too much. But I remain on guard. It is just one of those things that has become a part of our lives.

My husband and I have traveled apart for various business reasons throughout the last several years. We both always ask whatever airline we are traveling with what their policy is for someone who is severely allergic to nuts. Generally we have had very encouraging responses from most flight attendants! Alternative snacks to the packets of nuts are used on many airlines, and on airlines such as Jet Blue and United, a courtesy announcement is made prior to take off that there is a person on board with a severe nut allergy. While they can not ask people to NOT eat their nutty snacks, after this announcement most people are kind enough to substitute their peanut trail mix for something else...or (God forbid) not eat for two hours. Why we as a society have the need to constantly snack is, in itself, blog-worthy...but I digress.

Most people in today's business of public service just get it. They understand that this allergy is out there and that it could be a life-threatening issue. Most people. I thought. That was until this past week.

We booked our flight to Atlanta through Delta Airlines. ( I have flown American, United, Jet Blue, and Alaska over the last 5 years, but evidently NOT Delta.) We became aware of their nut policy one week prior to our trip. Their policy states that the flight attendant, upon learning of an individual with a nut allergy, will create a three row buffer zone. This zone is the area in which they will not hand out packs of peanuts. They will let these people know of the allergy, but can not enforce that they not eat their own snacks containing nuts. This is what is written (paraphrased) if you go to Delta's web site and look up peanut policy. BUT if you call and speak to an actual human, like we did, you may get a slightly less clear picture of what happens.

We were told that this procedure is actually left up to the discretion of the fight crew of the specific flight we are on. There are even blogs online in which others have stated that this policy would only be enforced IF the allergic person carried with them a doctor's note stating that theirs was a life-threatening allergy. This did not give either my husband or I the warm fuzzies...so we quickly decided that changing our tickets to another airline would be the safest thing for Joey. Luckily (or so I thought...) I had purchased travel insurance for anything medical (it is the flu season) that may have come up, forcing us change to our plans.

We researched airline after airline, and their policies about traveling with nut allergies. Jet Blue has my vote as the BEST airline to travel with when you have a food allergy. They have been super in the past! But they don't fly to the state of Georgia. Coincidence? I think not! We ended up liking US Airways, the best. The price, the times of the flights, and the fact that their customer service TWICE told us by phone that they served NO NUT products on board AND would be happy to make an on-board courtesy announcement. (If you have no idea what that is, it goes something like, "We have a child /person on board today with a severe nut allergy. While this airline serves nothing containing nuts, we are bringing this to your attention, so that you will be mindful before eating anything brought on board containing nuts. We sure would appreciate if you decided to not eat those items while traveling with us today." Something like that...because they CAN'T tell the passengers not to eat nuts, but they can nudge a little.)

Cutting to the chase, Delta told us that while they were disappointed that we were unhappy with their policy they would not refund our money. Period. Then upon contacting Travelocity, they also tried to get Delta to refund our money...to which they responded, "NO!"

My next course of action was to contact the travel insurance we purchased. To my surprise this little, life-threatening allergy did not qualify as a medical need to cancel the trip. Evidently the insurance would only kick in IF in fact there WAS an event that CAUSED a medical emergency. So, trying to prevent the anaphylactic reaction was not covered, but actually going into anaphylactic shock WOULD BE. Got it...

We were literally stuck between a nut and a hard place. We had to get to Atlanta. So we proceeded to book myself, my 71 year old disabled mother, and Joey on US Airways. My husband and my oldest would stay with Delta, since we couldn't afford to "eat" the price of all 5 tickets! This little detour would cost us an additional $1100. This also meant the three of us had to travel out of Long Beach, while the other two went out of Orange County. Good thing we have that money tree flourishing in the backyard, huh?!

The day of travel came. We split up in two directions. I had my backpack packed with safe food for Joey and all his allergy meds. All the while praying that things would go as planned. My anxiety was a 9 on a scale of 10, but all went well. Everything went great! We had two flights that day. Both crews were fabulous!! Not a hitch in how we hoped things would work out. In fact I sat next to a lady and her husband who brought PB &J for their lunch, and I offered to buy them lunch on board. (This is something I have offered in the past to anyone who was kind enough to put away their peanutty foods). They accepted. We landed in Atlanta and had a wonderful five days of pre-wedding parties, exploring Atlanta and its very full history, and falling in love with the Southern hospitality we have heard so much about. It was good. All of it!
Until the day we had to return.

(To be continued...)