"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page"-Saint Augustine

Monday, February 10, 2014


Since losing David in October, I have had many of those mornings where you wake up and you know that you have just dreamt about something, but then you can just feel it start to drift away from you, before you can sort out the details.  That was how it has been thus far: waking up knowing that I just dreamt about David, trying desperately to try to hold onto the thought or image or memory, but feeling helpless as it slips through my fingers.  A little over a month ago, however, my dream was different; I still can remember the images, words and feelings from those moments.  I started writing this post not long after, but today felt like a good day to finalize and share.

David was back.  Just like that, he had walked in the door as if nothing had happened.  We were actually at David's parents house with his family and friends and everything and everyone seemed normal.  I stood awestruck not knowing how to react as David seemed so nonchalant about his return.  I didn't know what to say or how to act, if I should say or ask anything at all or rather just embrace the moment to have him back in our lives.  I kept quiet for a while as we just sat on the couch watching TV and people moved throughout the house.  Finally I turned to David and whispered, "Why? Why did it happen?" hoping, I think, for more clarity about those finals moments before he left us.  And I got nothing but a blank stare.  And silence.  Then he looked at me like I was a crazy person (a look I know well) and said "'Why?' What?"  I could tell by the look in his eyes that he truly had no idea what I was referring to.  I didn't need to clarify the question or push further about his leaving us or his sudden return; I knew it would be fruitless and I didn't want to ruin the chance at having him back.

Then I woke up and just like that our moment was over.  I didn't need to grasp at the fading memories of my dream, I could tell immediately that it had left its mark.  It felt so real, so vivid.  Yet, after all the times of helplessly pulling at these short dreaming moments, remembering and being able to recall the dream made it no easier, in fact I think it hurt more.  For in those few moments of dreaming, I really thought we had him back, that through some miracle we had turned back time.  Waking up I was thrown harshly back into reality, as I have been so many mornings before and since.  I had laid in bed for a bit, just thinking, wondering what this dream meant.  I came to think that maybe this is David's new world: he doesn't know or remember leaving us, he has no memories of that day or the struggles he faced leading up to it.  Perhaps in his blissfully perfect world he is just hanging out and talking with everyone like nothing has changed.  Maybe then too he doesn't know our pain; as strange as it sounds, I kind of like that idea.  I have worried that if David is truly aware of what happened, then he may feel guilty for leaving us, and no one who struggled as he did should feel guilt.  Ever.

In the end, these are all simply thoughts and I suppose it is up to me to choose what to think about this particular dream, along with so many other things.  Today, I choose to believe that David is a little oblivious to what's happened, because today, that's what helps.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

A few months back, while I was on lunch duty, one of my students from last year stopped me and said "Miss, I've been meaning to ask you: what are your thoughts on the afterlife?"  Of course I was caught a bit off guard, but my response was honest: that I wasn't quite sure where I stood on the idea yet, I was still trying to figure it out for myself.  He asked how anyone could possibly think that there is anything more than to just being dead and then ensued a bit of a debate in Spanish with some of his friends.  I shared my thoughts, saying that I believe a large part of it is that those left behind after someone dies don't want to think that their loved one is simple gone; they want to believe that they are still with them in some way.  The conversation went on and we had a small circle and students asked about my beliefs on other things like the beginning of life or the universe: they were curious if I believed in the story God created everything or I had a scientific point of view.  I gave them the answer I always give: both.  As a person who has a strong foundation in science I cannot help but believe that evolution has occurred and that the universe began with the perfect alignment of particles and that after millions and millions of years it allowed life to eventually form (forgive me for simplifying it, they are only 13).  I explained that while these theories tell me how these things happen scientifically, my faith has always played a part as well and that I do not believe that these perfect conditions happened by chance, that I believe there is a greater being at work that allowed for all of this to be set in motion.  I explained that I know that others on either side of the spectrum may disagree with me, but that this is the balance that I have found.  I could see the wheels turning, as they processed what I shared and considered their own thoughts as well as those of their peers.  We all agreed that this, like many things, was something that each of them would decide their stance on in their own in time, and that there was no rush to do so.  

I share this story because I remembered it myself last night as I was finishing a book, Looking for Alaska.  I will try not to give away too much of the story because I hope you all take the time to read it, but be warned, there may be a few inadvertent spoilers (even if there are, you should still read it).  In the last pages, one of the main characters is also reflecting on the afterlife and at first shares the thoughts of my student, that we simple are gone and eventually become part of the earth again and that's all there is too it.  Done.  They also agreed that perhaps "the afterlife is just something we made up to ease the pain of loss", as I once shared with my curious 8th graders.  But then they say something spectacular* (well I suppose the author John Green does):
"I believe now that we are greater than the sum of our parts.  If you take [a person's] genetic code and you add [their] life experiences and the relationships [they] had with people, and then you take the size and shape of [their] body, you do not get [them].  There is something else entirely.  There is a part greater than the sum of [their] parts.  And that part has to go somewhere, because it cannot be destroyed.  
Although no one will ever accuse me of being much of a science student, one thing I learned from science classes is that energy is never created or destroyed...We are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be...We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken.  We cannot be born, and we cannot die.  Like all energy we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations...But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."
 *As much as I wanted to include the entire last two pages of the book I didn't for the sake of not giving too much away, but trust me when I say, it is even better than it is here.  You will have to get the book and read it all for yourself, and no John Green does not pay me.  

I generally get emotionally invested in the books I read, but this truly hit home and hit hard.  Since losing David I have thought a lot about a lot of things.  One thing I soon realized is where I stand on the idea of the afterlife: it exists.  It has to exist.  And not just because it makes me feel better, but because I feel it, I know it.  I realize my Catholic faith told me this many many years ago and reiterated the point for 12 years of schooling, but no one would ever accuse me of being very religious and there just wasn't enough for me to say steadfastly that yes it does exist.  Maybe the science behind it doesn't fit as perfectly as the quote from the book might make it sound, but regardless, I have found my balance, my explanation.  David had so much energy when he was alive and so much life to yet live, that all of that couldn't have just disappeared or been destroyed.  I know it wasn't.  The energy that is David simply has changed shape or size or manifestation and I think (and hope) that anyone who knew him would agree.  I hope that others too see that energy in a beautiful mountain view, feel it in an early morning run and hear it in every sound of laughter.  Because that's where that energy is now, and trust me when I say there is plenty of it to last all of our lifetimes.  

Always dancin'

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Just Love

When you lose someone to suicide you begin to question everything.  Everything.  Beyond just the "why?" you think back to every conversation, every argument, every look, every moment, every piece of advice you offered, every word they said, every word you said.  You wonder what you may have overlooked, brushed off or made worse.  You wonder what you could have done differently, what you could have done or said better, how you could have possibly changed the outcome.  And I believe that is healthy and natural, a part of this long and painful process of coping and healing.  But then you must also reach a point where you understand and accept that as an individual you could not have changed what happened.  No single word or conversation would have made things turn out differently.  They just wouldn't have.  To believe you could have prevented this is to believe you could cure cancer overnight.  You cannot save people you can only love them.  And I did love David.  I do love David.  I loved David to the best of my ability both as a partner and as a friend.  But I could not save him.  None of us could.

David will forever hold a very large place in my heart and I believe that his presence there will allow me to love others more wholly, not less.  I have come to realize, or perhaps just hope, that David's passing has not removed a piece of my heart; it has not left a hole.  David fills more of my heart now than he ever has.  I can get up every morning and live life because of him, not in spite of what happened to him.  He is more than this physical world now and is able to share his spirit and love with all those he knew and loved more than he ever could have on Earth.  I know that he cannot save us from this struggle, this pain, but he can and will always love us.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Missing, Remembering, Wishing

I have spent the last 10+ days writing down thoughts and memories of David whenever I can.  I know that had the unique privilege of sharing so much time and so many conversations with David over the last 4 years and I thought there is no better reason to revive this blog (yet again) than to begin sharing these thoughts with others who knew and loved him.  Below are some of the things I will miss and remember most about David.

  • I will miss your use of the word "nicesh", and how easily everyone around you picked it up
  • I will miss your letters and poems: whether they were silly or serious, they were always sincere
  • I will miss seeing how excited you got when you bought Combos, one of your favorite guilty pleasures, especially when you bought them from Menard's as a movie snack 
  • I will miss arguing with you.  You were never afraid to challenge me, make me stand for something and push me to consider all the possibilities.  You made sure that our arguments were never grudges and whether one of us conceded or we simply agreed to disagree, apologies or thank yous were always exchanged and life would move on as normal after
  • I will miss our lengthy chats in our classrooms: those that occurred when we probably should have been working, but life seemed to get in the way and one of us just needed to talk
  • I will miss coming to you for one of my "Am I being crazy?" talks because you are the only person who had no problem being brutally honest with me
  • I will miss our movie nights, where it always seemed to be your turn to pick, but let's face it, we both know I am terrible at decisions so that was probably for the best.
  • I will miss our ridiculous Wii tournaments spent conquering the levels of Mario Party, trying to figure out if we really were smarter than 5th graders (the results were always inconclusive) or betting each other over what the number one answer in Family Feud would be
  • I will miss the times we spent talking through life decisions: deciding to move to Colombia or return home after, making career changes or going back to school
  • I will miss hearing about your adventures and misadventures, like that time you realized you did not in fact enjoy hiking 15+ km per day

  • I will remember all of the things you taught me
    • You taught me about history and kept me up to date on current events
    • I learned to tolerate and even enjoy country music
    • I learned what a crick and timber are and how to go crick stompin'
    • You taught me to drive fearlessly on dark country roads
    • You taught me that it's OK to not always have it together and you let me be a hot mess sometimes
    • I learned (and witnessed many times) what it truly means to dance like nobody is watching
    • You taught me that what others think about me is not even remotely as important as what I think about myself
    • I learned to cherish the small moments in life: a quick phone call before bed, quietly reading in the park, a walk through the woods, a short conversation with a stranger
    • I learned (sort of) how to play tennis, or at least how to defend myself against your serves
  • I will remember (and laugh about) your innate ability to be covered in crumbs, no matter what you were eating
  • I will remember the hours you spent searching for and downloading the Stars Wars saga so that I could watch them all for the first time
  • I will remember your love for Taco Pizza, especially if it came from Happy Joe's
  • I will remember our last minute Austin road trip: attempting to make it to salsa lessons, lazer tag and your purple face after drinking margaritas too fast
  • I will remember (and now laugh about) how we missed our flight to Miami because you had a steak knife in your computer bag, leftover from the cheese and crackers you would take to school for lunch
  • I will remember all the times you stole my clothes.  From running shorts to t-shirts to hiking pants you took it all.  If any of my clothes had gone missing, chances were that you had it.  Even better was that you would admit to liking them so much you offered to buy several items from me because you just didn't think you could go out and find them to purchase yourself
  • I will remember all the times you showed up at my apartment door last year out of the blue just because
  • I will remember the times I caught you listening and practicing song lyrics (usually rap) on YouTube, so you could be a master karaokier (and possibly the next Eminem)
  • I will remember how you always seemed to have a prop to dance with whether you offered your umbrella to a singer at a bar in Cali as she sang Rihanna or whipped out your Razor while singing Lady Gaga's "Telephone" at Jess & Dan's wedding
  • I will remember your words of encouragement whenever I was unsure of myself
  • I will remember the light in your eyes when you were feeling better, when you were having a good day
  • I will remember how your face lit up with joy and pride whenever you updated me about your family, which is how many of our conversations started
  • I will never forget your undying love for the silly north side baseball team, although to be honest I'd go to another game with you in a heartbeat
  • I will cherish the times we spent huddled around one of our laptops watching a Hawkeye or Bears game
  • I will remember you excitedly telling me about how you finally bought a smart phone and how late you stayed up downloading apps (all after making fun of me for years for my iPhone)

  • I wish we could talk one more time and that I could tell you again how important you are, how loved you are and how strong you are
  • I wish I would have called to catch up one more time and tell you how proud I was of you
  • I wish I could have seen you as a husband and father, because you would have been amazing at both
  • I would have reassured your kids that you were not trying to embarrass them with your insane dancing      and singing in front of their friends, but rather teaching them a lesson about being yourself and loving life
  • I would have loved to see you in whatever career path you chose
  • I wish I could talk through my future life decisions with you
  • I thought one day I'd be inviting you to my wedding and having to explain that "no it's not weird if David is there...I mean it's David!" 

  • I will be forever grateful for the relationship and friendship we built over the last 4 years.
  • I will cherish the many memories that help me make it through each day.
  • I am appreciative of all that you taught me and how much you helped me grow.  I will do my best to carry these things with me always.
  • I am thankful for having had you in my life.  I wouldn't exchange a single tear or drop of pain if it meant not having known you.

They say that it's always darkest before the dawn and I wish you could have stayed to see the sun rise again.  The heart ache that I feel now is shared by so many who knew and loved you; I hope that you can find a way to help guide us through this.  My life has forever changed for having known and lost you.  You truly were one of a kind Davy Jo.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Year One Highlights

Here's the thing: I got distracted (that happens easily), but now it has been more than 3 months since I have written and I don't know where to start.   So I thought I'd start with a little review to ease back into things.  If you've been following me since I started over a year ago, you already know some of the things I've been up to.  Looking back on the year myself, I started thinking about some of the highlights from the year, so here it goes, in no particular order:

  1. Moved to a new country (duh)
  2. Survived Carnaval in Barranquilla
  3. Milked a cow (and survived my first overnight trip with Middle Schoolers) 
  4. Held a (wild) tarantula. Not to be confused with overcoming my ridiculous (but legitimate) fear of spiders, because that didn't happen
  5. Swam in the Amazon River
  6. Caught a piranha
  7. Went canopying for the first time (and the second)
  8. Hiked (and almost made it) to a volcano
  9. Kayaked on the Pacific
  10. Tried yoga for the first time, and loved it
  11. Made a BA Rubik's Cube cake for a lovely shared 11-11-11 birthday
  12. Toured a cathedral carved into a salt mine
  13. Cooked...a lot
  14. Started scratching off my to-do list
  15. Watched some amazing salsa dancers
  16. Went tubing for the first time
I'm hoping this will get my butt in gear to keep this baby updated, but I'm not making any promises.  Until next time...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Murphy's Law

You know, the one that says if something can go wrong it will?  Yep.  That's the one that pretty much controls my life, and today is just another example of it.  All I wanted to do was to get home to Chicago after finishing my year teaching abroad (more reflections on said year to come), that's not too much to ask, is it?  Apparently, it is, because the Travel Gods certainly did not make are not making things easy today. 

I knew starting today, that the 1 hour and 55 minute window I gave myself to catch a connecting flight from Miami to Tampa was cutting it close, but several people assured me this shouldn't be a problem (I won't name names, but I have a Facebook status as support).  It shouldn't have been a problem, except that our flight from Cali to Miami took an extra 25 minutes.  Ut oh.  This left me racing as fast I could from my seat in 27A through the plane, up stairs and escalators, running passed and bumping into people while shouting "Que pena!" to the English speaking couple that sat next to me on the plane.  I got to Passport Control, cut a bunch of people missionary group (I know what you're thinking..."karma") to catch up to David who was ahead in line.  Then when it came time to choose the passport line, it turns out I picked the line with the slowest officer ever, who I later saw type one fingered to enter in the information for the girl ahead of me who also happened to have filled out her paperwork out wrong.  Awesome.  At that point, people who had been behind me and had not run and cut lines had in fact gotten in and out of passport control at least 4 people ahead of me.  Damn.  Off to the races again to get luggage, go through customs, recheck bag, go through security again and book it to my gate with about 40 minutes left.  Of course 5 different airport workers told me 5 different places to recheck my bag before I could continue running to security.  I made it through all of that with about 10-15 minutes before plane was scheduled to take off and continued to run until I found the flight information board to find my gate, I was goign to make it after all.  Then I find that my flight had been delayed 45 minutes.  At this point the dripping sweat and ridiculously red face felt really unnecessary, even more so when the flight was delayed another 20 minutes, so a grabbed a wrap from Au Bon Pain, sent a few "I'm here!" texts, and watched Obama's speech on immigration.

Flight to Tampa boarded and the stewardess gleefully stated several times that our short 35 minute flight to Tampa should be pleasant and apologized for the delays.  Except that when we were descending, there was "VIP action" in Tampa, and we didn't have clearance to land.  Turns out Obama was in Tampa, costing me another 15-20 minutes in the air, and getting my landing time way too close to my 4:30 take off from Tampa to Chicago.  Luckily, I was in 10B this time, not so lucky that I was stuck between the bronchitis brothers who hacked their way through our flight while I tried to read Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal.  I got off the plane pretty quick to find that my gate to Chicago was right next to the one I cam out of.  Perfect.  Delayed to 4:45.  Kind of perfect since I was cutting it close anyway, and now I can board with ease.  Except, no one else is boarding yet, and the plane doesn't appear to be here...hmmmm.  That would see to make it difficult to take off in 25 minutes.  As I went to check that I hadn't missed anything and that my baggage would make it to the plane, I overheard the woman at the counter tell someone else that there would be further delays and she would make an announcement soon.  The estimated departure time sneakily changed to 6:00pm and about 10 minutes later we were informed our plane was in Ft. Meyers due to storms approaching Tampa.  Great.  Guess I have time for a coffee and parfait from Starbucks.

And theeeeennnnn they got my order wrong at Starbucks.  Shocking.  Six months since I have had Starbucks, I'm the only person in the place, and they manage to get it wrong.  Sheesh.  It wasn't worth complaining so I attempting to slurp on what they made me and embraced the free WiFi at Tampa International.  And now as I have written this, the delay has extended another 45 minutes, a total of 2.25 hours late, as of now.  Who knows when I will actually make it home, but one thing's for sure I know it will be damn worth the wait.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why Everyone Should Have a Rosa

In case you didn't already know, Rosa is the sweet woman who comes to clean our apartment every Wednesday, and I love her.  Not only does she do the obvious, like clean and iron, but she is consistently making other little improvements around the apartment and providing ways for us to be more tidy and organized; she's kind of like MacGyver, but older and Colombian.  For example:
  • That pesky kitchen drawer that continually slid open for weeks on end?  She taped some cardboard to either side, so now its stays shut, no problem.
  • The heap of shoes we had in the laundry room?  Why, she fashioned a shoe cubby from an overturned plastic shipping bin we had lying around.
  • What to do with the collection of pens, pencils and markers that David brings home in his pockets everyday...Hmmm.  Well I suppose, if you are Rosa you would take the box from a hard drive that we haven't thrown away yet, put it on its side, and turn it into a pencil holder.  Genius.
  • Vase for your birthday flowers?  Cut up a Gatorade bottle.  I actually came home and thought she brought us a vase, until upon closer inspection I realized it was in fact a Gatorade bottle.
  • Frozen plastic containers full of water for watering plants without flooding them. 
These are just a few of the genius ideas she has come up with in our apartment.  If Rosa had a blog, I would be pinning her ideas to my "Good to Know" board like crazy.  And you all would be re-pinning them.  (Social media overload?  Possibly.) 

In addition to all her handy fix-ups, I think Rosa may also have special powers.  Every once in a while Every other day, our lock on our apartment gets all jammed so that we have to use the key to unlock the lock while the door is already open so that we can close it.  Sounds confusing, and its a pain in the arse.  However, it never fails that whenever Rosa as come for the day, it is magically fixed when we get home.  I have yet to figure out how she does it and I know if we mess up the lock, it won't be fixed until the next Wednesday.

In summary, we (and our apartment) would be a mess without Rosa in our lives.  She is just another one of the many characters in our Colombian lives that has made our year abroad so much easier and enjoyable.
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