There’s no ‘big reason’ behind every hard experience

After a very full week of driving three days cross country to get my husband settled in for a new job, hunting for a house in a CRAZY sellers’ market, arriving to our new city to a very sketchy AirBNB (then having to switch to staying in an Extended Stay hotel and contacting AirBNB to get a refund), getting my youngest switched over to a new school in California now that schools in are doing in-person learning (knowing also that soon we’ll just have to switch her to Alabama, but there it was), making sure we had what we needed for my husband’s job and the last bit for licensure, … and other things, I was eager to get back to California to be in my own bed and hit the ground to prepare for MORE things to do. 

I had a one-way flight from Birmingham to Fresno on Friday afternoon, with two legs, layover in Dallas. Weather delayed the first flight and I speed-walked from gate B4 to C31 in Dallas, no easy feat. I was late, but a number of other people were as well. We finally were let onto the plane. Well, long story short, at least three issues caused three hours of delays on that flight, and we ended up having to deplane at 10 p.m. because there were maintenance problems that couldn’t be fixed. It was stressful for us all. We waited in line after line, and I ended up in a hotel 15 miles away from the airport around midnight without my suitcase. Luckily, our flight the next morning took off without any delay and I was very happy and relieved to be home.

The flight from you-know-where

What I noticed several times were people trying to make the best of the situation late that stressful night by saying, “Well, I’m sure we’re better off not being on the plane. God must be protecting us.” Or “God has a plan, so it’s all for the best.” And while they’re not wrong that God has a plan, I felt in my heart a truth making itself more known in my heart: Not everything that goes wrong has a particular purpose. In fact, a lot of things that go wrong have no reason whatsoever. 

Let me explain. 

I believe that God, our Heavenly Father, created us as spirits before we were born here on Earth. He had and still has a plan for us, which included us being born here and receiving physical bodies to join with our spirits, as well as having lots of opportunities to grow and learn in this mortal existence. And generally speaking, while I believe and know that He is absolutely mindful of every detail of our lives and is watching over us, He doesn’t control or micromanage everything we go through. We’ve been put into this experience of living in a fallen world, and we learn through all the things that happen naturally in this world. And a lot is difficult, stressful, tragic, worrisome, heartbreaking. On the flip side, a lot can also be joyous and happy and beautiful. But we are truly subjected to all that life has to throw at us, and I don’t believe God will remove most of those natural difficulties, just as He generally won’t protect us from the results of other people’s choices. Sometimes He intervenes. But most of the time, we must learn and grow through this experience just as it is.

I’ve learned a lot about this from being a parent and grandparent. I’ve watched my little ones (and then older ones too) struggle mightily with navigating life. I’ve always been there, watching and making sure they weren’t in serious danger, but many times as they’ve struggled to do something they just have to learn on their own, I’ve had to just watch and let them struggle — and then triumph. That’s how they needed to learn. But I’ve been available for hugs and love and a listening ear. I think that our Heavenly Parent does the same thing: He’s there, He’s watching and available and ready to intervene if needed, He’s listening. But He doesn’t rescue us from everything. 

So while God was aware that about 200 of us in a plane in Dallas were stressed and waiting for hours and then had to wait overnight to get where we were going, I don’t necessarily think there was a particular purpose. It’s POSSIBLE that plane was going to have a serious issue and He saved us from it. But more likely, a bunch of stuff just went wrong, as it tends to do in life, and that’s that. The situation didn’t need to be orchestrated by God for us to learn something, nor were we saved from a potential danger. 

However, each of us had the opportunity to learn whatever lessons we needed to learn from what took place. 

For me, the lesson was that our loving Father in Heaven isn’t going to take away most of what life naturally throws at us. Sometimes He tempers things that happen, sometimes He does save us from something; but mostly, He’s watching over us and always listening. And He’s cheering us on. I’ve gone through a lot this past year, on top of all that’s resulted from Covid. My mental health is generally helped well by medications, but in the extreme pressure cooker of one thing on top of another, it’s slipped a lot. I’ve felt myself crying out to God, “Why?? Why are you letting this happen? You know how precarious my situation is. You know. Why aren’t you doing something?” 

And too often, I’ve felt He wasn’t. And in a way, that’s been true. He hasn’t removed these trials from me. Life has continued. I’ve been angry and railed at Him. But I’ve also grown and become stronger. And I know He’s there, saying, “OK, see? You did it! I knew you could. And you did. I’ve been here the whole time.” 

Life will continue to be stressful, heartbreaking, and challenging. And I’ll continue to have moments or days when I question why God isn’t doing more. But I know that there is an overall purpose and plan, even while each situation doesn’t necessarily have a reason. And as I’ve learned, I remember in my toughest times the experiences I’ve had where I’ve known for sure that God was telling or teaching me something very clearly, answering a prayer, or filling me with love and joy beyond my natural capacity. Because I do know for sure that He has done those things for me many times.

Down syndrome discrimination in the skies

I’ve concluded that I’m not really much of the litigious sort. When I fell down and broke my foot on the DMV sidewalk, I didn’t immediately figure out some way I could sue the state. Whenever I get the little postcards or emails about class action lawsuits involving some company or other I have patronized, I don’t just jump on the bandwagon to “get mine.” Most of the time, those suits seem pretty petty, and I haven’t had any problems with those businesses.

But once in a while, my “sue-’em-for-all-they’ve-got” side gets incited. Yesterday, my husband told me about a story that got me fired up. And it even involves a family in a town near us. The short story is that a teenage boy with Down syndrome was refused access on one airplane and on another wasn’t allowed in first class (which his father had upgraded to), instead being forced to “the back of the plane.” The airline even kept other passengers away from the family, keeping two empty rows between the teen and his parents on the back row and the rest of the passengers.


Yep, my girl is a great traveler.

As some of you may know from reading my blog, I have a 14-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. I wrote a post about her on World Down Syndrome Day. I’ve also, incidentally, written about traveling with kids and how airlines have been making it more and more difficult. I am quite sure airlines would be very happy to only allow business travelers to fly with them. They’d make more money and have no delicate issues to deal with. But they still do allow everyone to travel, so for now they’re stuck with families and people with disabilities. SORRY, poor little airline businesses. Boo-hoo. So I know what it’s like to be a parent and have to fly with a posse of little ones. It can be tiring and annoying on the best of days and absolutely crazy-making on the worst. I have flown a number of times over the years with all my children, including my child with Down syndrome.

I have also been able to get to know lots of great families with children with Down’s over the years, and I know that parenting a child with DS can sometimes pose some extra challenges. But I have not found the kids I know with DS to generally have lots more behavioral issues than other kids. I know that mine doesn’t. She is extremely eager to help and listen to instructions, sometimes more so than her siblings, and is really well behaved. I’ve been blessed over these years of travel to have other passengers on airplanes gush over how well-behaved she and all my kids were (at the end of a flight).

So it just rankles me to hear that an airline and pilot had the nerve to discriminate against this young man. If people with Down’s really had a known history of having behavior problems, and if this young man had truly been extremely disruptive in the gate area, then maybe I could see their concern. But I know the first isn’t true, and it doesn’t sound as if the second is true.

Yep, if it were my daughter in this situation, I’d be out at my lawyer’s office at dawn the day we were back in town, chomping at the bit.

I hope this family does pursue the case, not to make money, but to raise awareness. I’m all about raising awareness about all kinds of things, and it’s just the principle of the thing. Someone who has a disability (and in this case, what I consider to be a fairly “minor” one) is and should always be protected under the law against this kind of knee-jerk reaction. From this mama bear to another, go out there and show ’em how great our DS kids can be!

Traveling with kids: airlines gleefully making it harder and harder

So this past week has seen a number of unpleasant developments for families who need to fly with children. Last week, I read that many airlines are taking away the “perk” of early boarding for families with young children. If someone would like to get on early, it’ll cost. Of course. Everything costs an extra fee now when flying. Sure, you might be able to fly for $400, but then you pay $50 for checking a bag both ways, $10 for snacks, and now about $10 per person for early boarding.

Today, it’s about WHERE you sit. If you want to sit in a middle seat, fine. But if you want an aisle or window seat, you’ll be paying dearly for that privilege, $25 or more. If you’re flying alone and don’t mind sitting in the middle, great. But if you’re flying as a family of even just three, one of you can sit in the middle, but then the other two will be paying $25 extra per person, just so you can all sit in a row together. Holy cow, man!

Combining two great loves: reading AND flying.

I used to love flying. I still kind of do. Just driving up to the airport gives me a thrill of anticipation as I think about getting on an airplane and speeding into the sky and then landing somewhere completely different an hour or a few later. It’s like magic. I love being up in the air and looking down on the clouds and the varied landscapes I see below. Amazing. But over the years, a variety of things have chipped away at the thrill I get from the whole experience. One acronym says much: TSA. Yes, I know it’s important. Yes. But standing in the lines and taking off the shoes and moving things around in my bags so they’ll meet all the guidelines (which change a little every time I fly, it seems) and now having my body scanned … it just saps a lot of the fun out of the flying experience. Then there’s just the stress involved in making sure you’re there on time and you jump through all the hoops in time for the flight. Ick. Add to that the stress of trying to find a flight that gets you where you want to go without connecting in two completely wacky places, adding in all kinds of extra time, and then getting it for a reasonable price … argh. If they even existed anymore, I could probably be a travel agent. I’ve had to research and set up flights for my mom because it’s too complex for her to do herself anymore, what with where we live, how far we are from major airports, and the distance between us. It’s just not simple or straightforward, at least if you don’t want to pay $800 for a flight. If you want to just pay an arm rather than a leg as well, it takes some serious Web wrangling.

And flying with kids… that’s its own special kind of hell. I’ve done it quite a bit over the years. In 19 years of marriage, and 16 years of having children, we’ve always lived across the country from one side of the family or the other, so we have to fly to visit some grandparent. And honestly, it’s just not practical to drive 2500 miles. It’s primarily about the time involved; my husband can’t really take the two or three weeks off it would require to make that kind of a round trip. And driving in a car for THAT LONG with two or three or four kids? I can’t think of many things I’d rather do less. Not to say that we haven’t done a big car trip a few times, regionally, for a total of about a week and 3000 miles, but I wouldn’t really want to go across country and back, totaling 5000 miles. Eeeeek!

In 2010, our last big flying trip with the 4 kids, my oldest was 14 and the youngest 3. All things considered, it went pretty well, even though I flew home with them alone, while hubby was at work.

So we’ve done a lot of flying with our children. I’ve done it sometimes with my husband, sometimes without. Either way isn’t easy. We actually have been blessed with kids who are pretty good travelers, and every time we’ve flown we’ve been complimented by other people on flights on how well our girls behaved. But they never knew about the time that one pooped in her panties (far past the age of diapers or pullups) and she had to wear one of the youngest’s diapers instead of a fresh pair of underwear, wrapped around by her baby blanket because her pants were wet and messy too, or how I once pleaded with a flight attendant to just let my six-year-old get up for a minute to go pee, even though there was a little turbulence. The attendant told me she would clean up the mess if my daughter ended up losing it. Right. Where would she find new clothes for her during the flight? Luckily, my daughter courageously held her water. (And don’t talk to me about safety. I do understand. It doesn’t make the situation any less stressful or frustrating.)

The airlines are trying to stay above water (ha!) financially; I get that. I suppose that yes, they can make much better money from business travelers, whose companies can just pay up for whatever the airlines require. Everything would be calmer in the skies without any crying children who are tired, stuck in a seat, or experiencing painfully popping ears. But there really aren’t any other options for traveling long distances, and at least once every few years, a family far away from grandparents or other relatives or friends will want to visit them. It’s simply bullying for the airline companies to keep adding in new reasons for families not to fly. Because there aren’t really other options for traveling distances, the airlines have an obligation of sorts to provide that option for people other than just the lucrative business travelers. To nickel-and-dime us to death to prevent us from flying is just mean and a form of monopolizing.

Until there are other viable options (high-speed rail, wizard-style apparating, Star-Trek-style transporting), airlines are going to have to figure out a way to fairly and kindly transport families across large distances, without ticking us off before we even get to the gate.