Last week we flew to Seattle to visit family for Thanksgiving. Our plan was to arrive in Seattle, then my husband would immediately hop another plane to Portland for a work meeting.
The girls and I would head to Seattle to visit my friend Nancy. Then around 5:00 p.m. my husband would fly back to Seattle, we would pick him up at the airport, and then head off to see our family.
Sounds good in theory, right? But there were parts we forgot to "think" through. We had a rental car, but Todd had to pick it up because it was reserved under his name (many calls were made to add my name, but no luck).
And once Todd was on his flight to Portland, the girls and I needed to manage all of the luggage and car seats and find our way to this rental car.
And there were unforeseeable obstacles - a snow storm in Seattle (people were literally ditching their cars on the side of the road because of the snow), a late arrival, and a stroller stuck inside of the plane due to a frozen plane door.
When we landed, Todd bolted off the plane and ran to pick up the rental car, park it, and hopefully make it back through security in time to catch his flight to Portland.
So the girls and I sit and wait for the frozen plane door to become unfrozen (as a Midwestern girl this is hard to understand….just throw some hot water on it or something!).
The girls are already tired and cranky from our 5:00 a.m. wake up and 4 ½ hour flight, and I am lost in thought, trying to "figure out" how to manage the remainder of this travel.
As I'm spacing out, a familiar face walks toward me. We make eye contact and with relief and happiness I say, Oh, hi there! I'm just so happy to see somebody I know. He says nothing and gives me a confused look, and I quickly realize its Jim Halpert.....I mean, John Krasinski.
While I know everything about his life at The Office, he, of course, has no idea who I am.
My embarrassment quickly subsides because the stroller is finally dislodged from the frozen door, so the girls and I run through the terminal to meet Todd at his Portland gate so we can get the keys to the rental car.
He hands me the keys, quickly explains where it's parked, and uncomfortably mentions that the roads are snowy and bad and that there's no windshield wiper fluid - then adds something about wiping the windows with baby wipes or stopping at a gas station, but I'm back in my head, wondering how I will ever get from here to there in tact….
So he boards, I take a deep breath, and it begins - time to get through the airport with three children and head down to baggage claim.
We follow the crowd to a busy train, maneuver our way to baggage claim, and I search for our baggage claim tickets because the luggage is already packed away somewhere - it's been an hour since the plane actually arrived.
The helpful lady brings out the endless luggage, and she gives me a puzzled look, as if she doubts that we can actually manage this much - I give her a smile and a thumbs up, but in reality, I completely agree with her.
In my mind this seems logistically impossible, something I would have said NO to if Todd and I had talked it through while in Chicago. But here I am, and it's time to pull from a different place - so I reach deep for humor and faith, my two favorite motivators.
I tell the girls that this is an adventure and that we are on a mission to get to the car. My seven year old is in charge of the big suitcase, my six year the other suitcase, and I stack everything else on the stroller with my three year old sitting with bags on her lap.
I casually mention that yes, this situation stinks, but hey, we will make it, no matter what! Woo hoo!
But first, where are we going? How do we get out of here, where is parking, where is this rental car that we have never seen before? By following another crowd we make our way onto another elevator (dropping and picking up things as we go).
I feel like crying, but I start laughing and talking to myself, and the girls look at each other like I'm nuts.
Then a big obstacle - a long and pushy line for the elevators that get us to the parking garage. If you don't move fast, you don't get in, and we are barely moving let alone moving fast.
I start singing to myself, trying to motivate, trying to keep it together. I tell the girls this is a test to find our superpower (I'm speaking to them, but really I am talking to me).
We miss several elevators, nobody seems to be paying attention to the singing mother with three girls and an immense amount of luggage, until a large man shoos people out of the way, holds open the elevator door and says, "come on!"
He is alone, no luggage, and he's wearing a Bears sweatshirt (normal in Chicago, but in Seattle?). I say thank you, he says nothing - he just focuses on his Blackberry.
We arrive on our floor, he holds open the door, pushes our luggage out and disappears behind the closing elevator doors. Obviously amazing, obviously an angel, but I don't have time or energy to contemplate the immensity of this occurrence…
So, we are off to search for the car, winding in and out of rows, picking up luggage that falls off the stroller, taking breaks to catch our breath, asking random people for directions, trying to stay warm in the 19 degree weather, staying safely distant from passing cars, trying to keep it together, and then 20 minutes later, there it is - the car.
The key works, the car starts, we get everything in, and the girls are buckled.
As I wipe the dirty, fluid-less windows with baby wipes, my three year old starts sobbing. She lets it all go - the stress of the day, the effort, the adventure and the challenge. The girls and I say nothing, we know it's a good release; she's doing it for all of us.
Even with the crying, I drive out onto the wet and messy expressway in Seattle with a smile on my face.
The roads are snowy and unplowed, but I am a confident, experienced Chicago driver, and I just completed a daunting task. I have a new reality of what I can do.
I have no desire to experience an airport situation like that again, but I now know I have the ability to handle more than I give myself credit for.
Too much thinking and planning is my greatest limitation - it usually offers a yes or a no, but faith and humor offer a "Why not? Bring it!"
My real work in life is rolling with it, trusting that it will all work out; in airports and otherwise.
And in my heart I know that what I need is always available.
Even when my head begs to differ.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.