…and I’m not taking the Lord’s name lightly when I say that!
Let me back up just a tad, so you know what’s happening:
As I mentioned, Wolf’s dad was recently diagnosed (re-)diagnosed with lung cancer. (To get more back story there, search Wolf’s posts or “cancer” over at Life on the Road).
Wolf was anxious to see his father, and just be with him in person. He has only been up there twice, and briefly, since we came to Florida two-and-a-half years ago. Tom’s recovery from throat cancer treatment has been slow, painful, and fraught with setbacks. We have nervously wondered from time to time if he had enough fight left in him to keep working through it.
Since we’ve been isolated here in Florida, Tom has also never met his new grandson.
So… We are now in Mississippi for a four day visit (plus two days’ driving on either end). This was a challenge to accomplish, on a lot of levels.
Challenge #1 – The Money (First Verse)
How could we even begin to consider a trip that would be hundreds of dollars in gas, plus hotels and food, on top of Wolf having to take time off work?
We essentially can’t take the RV because of the logistical situation of our current parking location. It would also have made our gas costs a lot higher and the trip a lot slower, so we quickly ruled it out.
So we started stepping forward in faith.
Wolf talked to his employer, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School and they were very gracious. Even though he is a fairly new, low-ranking, hourly employee, they said he was entitled to nine days of paid personal leave. He scheduled the time (a week out), and that was that. It was everything you might hope for, but so rarely encounter, even from a “Christian” business.
Help also came from unlikely places. A relative who Wolf talked to about the situation agreed that it was important for us to go, and declared that they were putting a check in the mail. That generous gift would be enough to cover our hotel and gas for the whole trip.
It didn’t seem feasible to rule out eating out entirely, but we worked diligently to cut the costs. We made sure our hotel room had a microwave and a fridge, and we packed well: Milk, bread, peanut butter, instant oatmeal, sandwich fixins, string cheese, yogurt… (We are once again thankful we invested some time ago in a Coleman cooler that can heat or cool on the road!)
Challenge #2 – Nick’s School
Apparently, taking Nick out of school for six days would have severe repercussions.
Hindsight is 20/20, but the problem wouldn’t exist except that Nick already has 5 absences from the first half of the year (more in some classes, from bad appearances in pep rallies and so forth). These were all illness absences, but are on the record-book as “unexcused” because he failed to turn in the notes I wrote. This can’t be corrected retro-actively, as such notes must be filed within three days of the student’s return.
So when we picked our dates, I emailed all of Nick’s teachers, plus his counselor, informing them of the planned absence and asking that they provide his work so that he could keep up while we were gone.
The teachers were no problem. But I soon learned that any student with more than 10 unexcused absances for the year would not be able to receive their final grades and credit for the year… and that this would be considered an unexcused absence since Nick was not ill and there was not a death.
Between a local teacher friend on Facebook and talking with the counselor, I determined that the absence could be approved as an excused absence. I would need to talk to the Assistant Principal in charge of such things – Mr. Evans. Mr. Evans (like most APs apparently) is overworked, and I had no luck reaching him by email or phone, or even getting in touch with someone to make me an appointment to see him.
So on Monday (T Minus 2 Days) I drove Nick to school, then went and sat in the office.
Mr. Evans came in from his morning “traffic cop” duties, and agreed to speak to me for a moment before the appointment he had waiting (how did she get an appointment??). In about 30 seconds he confirmed that he had read my email and understood the situation, I allayed his fears about Nick being missing from an important District count (since he would be present Monday and Tuesday), and he said the absence would be approved as excused.
I thought we wee home free, until I got a call from the counselor later in the day. She told me that was only half the battle.
The school has the authority to designate the absence as excused or unexcused. But there is an additional District rule stating that students with more than 10 absences regardless of whether they are excused are not permitted to participate in extra-curricular activities. For Nick this would mean taking an “F” for not participating in several remaining Concert Band performances.
We can still get it worked out, but this one is out of my hands. His counselor is sending in an appeal to the District, and she assures me that she has had all previously-filed appeals approved.
It is left unfinished, but we’re trusting.
Challenge #3 – The Money (Second Verse)
To keep the expenses low, we were trying to find the cheapest hotel room we could… But it’s not as easy as it sounds.
With a family of five, we have demanding requirements. For one night on the road we can manage in two double beds, but for a five-night stay it’s just not workable (not to mention, in many cases, not allowed by code).
Wolf spent a good while in frustrated online searching.
He got different rates and options depending on whether he searched through Expedia, or Yahoo, or accessed the hotels’ sites directly. He finally thought he had it pinned down, but when he called to make the reservation they said they did not offer roll-away beds (even though the site listed them, complete with price).
Finally, we got a reservation at a second place. It had some dubious reviews, but all were more than a year old. The next closest hotel in price was almost double, so we were really hoping this one would work.
We arrived in Columbus, Mississippi on a cold, rainy afternoon. We sent up a last little prayer as Wolf went to check in, and we had our first look at the room.
It was… fine. Small, as in “where the heck do they think we’re going to put a roll-away in here?”, somewhat run-down, but clean and workable.
Looking out the front door and window we could see the Lobby… and the Bar & Grill. Uh-oh.
Wolf went to the office and asked them about the bar noise. The clerk confirmed that there was going to be some noise from patrons, as well as a DJ, until 2 am nightly, in any of the rooms facing the main courtyard.
She gave him the key to a room on the backside of the building, and we went to check it out.
It was essentially identical to the room on the front side… except that it smelled like cigarette smoke. It had a non-smoking placard on the door, but there was an ashtray in it, and the nauseating smell.
Since this hasn’t come up on the blog before, let me digress just a tad. I don’t want to take away a persn’s freedom to smoke if they want to – although I certainly believe that it is a wrong thing to do to your body as a temple. But I don’t want to be exposed to the health risks of second-hand smoke, and I definately don’t want my kids to be. And the biggest problem is that cigarette smoke is a quick and sure trigger for my migraines.
So, no way on the smoking room.
This time we all trooped back to the office, pleading for another option. She gave us another key.
This room is a suite. It has a living room, doubling the overall space of the room, and a sleeper sofa provides a full-sized alternative to a roll-away bed.
…and the clerk gave it to us for the price we had already paid.
Without His provision, this trip would clearly have been impossible… Several times over.
I’m glad we serve such a loving Father!