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How A 12-Minute Drive To The Airport Changed My Life

“Growth occurs when you are

on the edge of your comfort zone.”


Not exactly sure who told me this quote, but I keep hearing variations of it over and over again, especially as I embark on my spiritual journey.

Living outside the comfort zone means different things to different people. It can be speaking in front of a live audience, asking your boss for a raise, sending a manuscript to a publisher, becoming a vegetarian, taking a Spin class at the gym, being the first to apologize, learning a new language, praying to God out loud, or disconnecting on Shabbat, from sundown on Friday until three stars appear in the sky Saturday night.

Well, I recently stepped outside my comfort zone. I drove JWRP Founding Director Lori Palatnik to the airport.

I know, it sounds crazy. How can taking someone to the airport be that big of a deal? Well, when that someone is a world-renowned author, teacher, speaker, who I have the utmost respect for, it’s a big deal. Trust me. On top of that, I admittedly have a poor sense of direction, especially when I’m driving from a new starting point. And not to make excuses, but Lambert International Airport is a maze constantly under construction.

But I digress.

Even before Lori came in town for her speaking engagements, which included an exclusive dessert reception for JWRP participants, a fundraising launch for the Jewish Women’s Society of St. Louis, and a community-wide presentation on “The Kabbalah of You,” I had a secret desire to step up to the plate and drive her to the airport Tuesday morning.

Several people offered to take her, and so I thought, oh well, it’s just not meant to be. Honestly, I was kind of relieved. Then, strangely, one by one, all of the drivers backed out for whatever legitimate reason. The night before her departure, Rabbi David asked who else is available to be the airport taxi, and I bravely raised my hand, like I was answering a question in front of my classmates, and I wasn’t sure about the answer. Even so, I announced, “I’ll do it!”

All eyes were on me. Once I commit to something, there’s no changing my mind. That’s when the self- doubt set in.


What if…

What if I get lost on my way to pick her up at the parent’s home of Pamela Fox Claman, where Lori is staying, even though I had been there twice before in the last two days?

What if I get stuck in morning rush hour on I-64, and the traffic makes me late?

 What if I turn east instead of west, or north instead of south? (I told you I had a bad sense of direction).

 What if Lori misses her flight, and her husband Rabbi Yaakov, who really misses his wife, is upset with me even though he doesn’t even know who I am?

The night before I prepare myself. I ask my husband to set the GPS in his car because he has the built-in kind that never fails. Even so, I MapQuest the route and print directions, just in case. My husband Scott even wakes up early that morning and gets his car washed and floor mats cleaned, even though his car is always spotless. What can I say, he’s anal, I mean, tov. Seriously, it was one of the nicest things he’s  ever done for me, besides surprising me with a six-week-old apricot toy poodle.

Again, I digress.

That morning, I drop off my daughter at school, urging her to go in a little early so I have plenty of time, but to no avail. Suddenly, she forgets where she left her backpack. Give me a break! Now I’m a few minutes behind schedule. I head to my destination, about 35 minutes from my home. All along, the voice of a nice British lady on the GPS tells me where to go  with every mile. This computerized stranger is my new BFF.

I finally pull up to the grand entrance of the Fox mansion. Right on time, 9:10 a.m. I text Lori that I’m here. No response. Turns out she’s in a very important meeting. I wait a little longer inside my car and find things to do. Check my emails on my phone, swig a little seltzer water, reapply my lip-gloss, move the box of Kleenex in the backseat, etc.

Then I decide to get out of the car and press the buzzer by the front door. Meanwhile, I leave the car running. I tell the housekeeper my name, and a minute later, Pamela pulls open the giant wooden door with big black hinges that looks like the front of a castle.  Dressed in a fluffy white terrycloth robe with her hair wrapped in a purple towel like one of her famous turbans, she politely waves me inside. Her face is squeaky clean and shiny like she just got a facial.

Even though she makes me feel very comfortable in her home, I hesitantly step inside the foyer. I quickly explain to her that my car engine is on, and I prefer to wait outside. “Why?” she asks me in her kind, soft voice with a touch of hoarseness. That’s when confession times sets in. I admit to her that my husband set the GPS, and I’m afraid if I turn off the car, I won’t know how to reset it.

She doesn’t laugh at me. She asks me, “Are you out of your comfort zone?” And I look into her soulful eyes and say, “Yes. I actually am. But I’m happy to be here and so honored to take Lori to the airport, really.”

Then she hugs me and says, “I’m out of my comfort zone, too.”

Wow. That was an AHA moment for me. We ALL step out of our comfort zone, especially those of us who are on the path of self-growth.

We both walk to my car and continue our conversation in the driveway. I get back in the driver’s seat, and Pamela sticks her towel-wrapped head inside the rolled-down window of my passenger seat. The fresh air feels good, and the birds are chirping. The two of us talk about the development of the exciting new Jewish Women’s Society (JWS), of which I proudly serve on the board. She rattles off so many ideas on how to bring the St. Louis Jewish community together, I try to take notes in my head and not forget anything.

Then Lori comes out, and I grab her luggage on wheels and lift it in the trunk. I notice Scott removed his bowling bag to give us more room in the car. What a nice guy.

I waste no time and buckle my seatbelt. The familiar voice on the GPS leads my out of the beautiful tree-filled neighborhood. With every turn, we hear a loud beep from the GPS. It sounds like the noise that button in an airplane makes when you press it and want to get the attention of the flight attendant. I apologize to Lori for the interruptions while we talk, but then I tell her I don’t know how to turn down the volume. She doesn’t seem to mind, and we keep talking.

She asks me what road we’re on, and I tell her Hanley in Clayton. When she asks for a pen, she notices that my husband keeps his assorted ballpoint pens in a plastic Ziploc bag inside the compartment between the front seats.

I turn on my blinker, and we merge onto the interstate. I tell her about the different projects that I’m involved in and how I want my blog Mishegas of Motherhood to be the voice of JWRP and JWS. We talk about how to be an effective leader, and she gives me the condensed two-minute lecture on the stages of team formation: “forming, storming, norming, and performing” that I learned at the leadership conference in Washington, DC a few weeks earlier. She is a walking encyclopedia. Have you ever heard her 30-second schpeil on memorizing the Ten Commandments? I’ll write about that lesson in an upcoming blog.

Anyway, we cruise along and eventually get to the airport. We follow the signs and find our way to American Airlines. We get out of the car, and give each other a long, tight hug in the parking lot. She says,“Thank you,” in a very sincere way.

And I say right back, “Thank YOU.”

And I mean it, too. Thank you, Lori, for the 12-minute ride to the airport that just might have changed the direction of my life.

So, to make a long story short (too late), Lori heads inside the terminal, and I get back in my car. What do I do next? I call my mother, of course.

“You’re not going to believe who I just dropped off at the airport…,” I began to tell her. “And I have a feeling my life will never be the same.”

(Let’s share our Jewish journey together! If you like this story and want to stay updated on JWS happenings, please “Like” my blog Mishegas of Motherhood).



Meeting Lori in Tzvat, Summer 2013.

Meeting Lori in Tzvat, Summer 2013.