Six Degrees of Separation

I’ve heard it said somewhere that everyone in the world is connected by six degrees of separation. I don’t know how true it is for every single person, but I’ve definitely experienced it today.

Flashback to our time on the island of St. Kitts, sometime at the end of last summer. A student at Ross posted on Facebook that his relative was in search of people to help collect sea glass for a TAPS (at that time I did not know what that was) event. I didn’t have much else to do and I had lots of sea glass already, so I attended his informational session. He explained the purpose of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which for those who don’t know, was created to help family members of servicemen and women who have died, regardless of the circumstances of the death or the relationship to the deceased. So anyone dealing with this loss can use the program’s services and attend the seminars and workshops.

Anyway, the 2014 national seminar theme was based on sea glass and the idea that something sharp and jagged can be made smooth and beautiful again over time – that crashing against the waves and trials of life can serve a beautiful purpose. So I went with a few groups of other Ross students and VIPs and we filled several gallon-sized bags with sea glass in many colors and sent them back to the United States with the young man. I never thought of it again.

Today, however, I received an article written by one of our English instructors here at UTM for the faculty newsletter – which I coordinate. This woman is one of my favorite teachers from undergrad. In her article, she told of how she and another English professor attended the 2015 TAPS grief seminar over the Memorial Day weekend and presented workshops on how to deal with grief using journaling and other artistic methods. It also happens that this instructor’s daughter plays a key role in the coordination of the events and the management of the program.

I asked this instructor if she had also attended the 2014 event and told the story of the sea glass.

This is what she sent back, courtesy of her daughter.

TAPS seaglass project

It reads “Depths of our Grief with Sea Glass.”

This is what they did with our sea glass. The leadership team, which includes my instructor’s daughter, painted the image and attached the sea glass pieces with museum putty. You can see the green, white and dark and light blue pieces attached within the waves. At the end of the seminar, each military relative in attendance was able to remove a piece to take with them to remind them of the beautiful things they can accomplish after their grief.

That sea glass came from the beaches of St. Kitts and Nevis. It was collected by Ross Veterinary Students. And I helped.

Six degrees of separation.

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I open at the close…

It’s 3 a.m. The Mister and I said goodbye to our island family several hours ago and have been trying to wind down and get some sleep since just after 11. Obviously that’s not working so well.

I’ve spent a few hours in that state where you are calm enough to rest but not quite enough to actually sleep, so I don’t feel too terrible right now, although I’m hoping the action of coming upstairs and writing this post will help push me that last little bit into dreamsville. I’m not sure if the Mister is still awake or not – I have a feeling he is – but we’re coping in our separate ways.

This is my last post from the island, which is actually very fitting, since I sat at my mother’s kitchen table at 2 a.m. (Central Time) the night before we originally came here and wrote out my nervousness in a journal much less public than this one.

I know that in a reflection such as this I’m expected to say things like “it was a life-changing experience” and “it was for the best that we came,” but if I’m being honest with myself and with you, I don’t know how true that is. I sort of feel like we’re returning to the States with roughly the same amount of physical, mental and financial material that we left it with, which makes me wonder if we couldn’t just rip out these pages in our history books and piece pre-St. Kitts and post-St. Kitts together like a jigsaw puzzle without any gaps in-between.

The Mister got his chance to try veterinary school, and that is good, but he worked so hard for so long only to get pushed aside in the end by an administration that poses as one “for the good of the students” but is really just about the money.

I don’t know that I am any better about dealing with different kinds of people and cultures, but I was at least forced to give it a shot, and I suppose that is good as well. If nothing else I now have a much greater appreciation for southern hospitality, courtesy and common sense.

There have definitely been both good days and bad days along the way, but I think they ultimately balance each other out into a fairly neutral overall experience. We will of course never forget or be able to replace the friends we’ve made here and the people we will be leaving behind, but I have faith that tonight will not be the last times we see them, Lord willing. They, at least, are the tokens we will cherish most from this chapter of our lives.

I do intend to continue adding to this blog as time goes on, but the main content will obviously have to change as our lives evolve around it. Hopefully there will be updates about jobs, houses and the antics of children in the future, but we’ll just have to see how the world turns.

One thing I can be completely certain about, however, is that after tomorrow I will not be getting on any airplane of my own free will for a very, very long time.

So here’s to change, to starting over and to second chances. Here’s to bumps in the road, broken transmissions and busted radiators. Here’s to the hundreds of slain mosquitoes flushed down our drains, and here’s to a thousand blazing sunrises over a sparkling ocean. Here’s to pelicans, stilt birds and mongooses. Here’s to lying by a pool, watching shooting stars light up a Caribbean sky, listening to the chatter of your best and closest.

Here’s to endings.

And new beginnings.

Here’s to life. Go make it happen.

A New Road to Walk

The night the Mister and I said goodbye to our families before we caught that first flight to the unknown world of St. Kitts, I cried so hard I could hardly speak, and then sat at my parents’ kitchen table from 2a.m. until flight time trying to figure out why I felt such an oppressive weight of doom.

I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were being sent from our loved ones and exiled into a world of shadowy darkness to chase a dream that – had the system been constructed fairly – the Mister could have followed at a stateside vet school. I know it’s no secret that I’ve not always been the biggest fan of this Kittitian world, but when faced with the immediate prospect of leaving it, I find there are many things I will be sad to leave behind.

I have so many more faithful readers on this humble blog than I ever thought I would gain, and I feel that, since you’ve journeyed with us on our island travels for so long, you deserve to know how they have ended.

Without going into the long details, which will only sound like I’m blaming the school (which I’m going to try not to do), I can explain that the Mister’s final exams last semester did not go as planned – due largely to outside circumstances – and he fell into a loophole in the system not directly addressed by the student handbook. We went through the process to appeal his scores, and found out yesterday that the committee went strictly by the closest handbook rule and decided to release him of his responsibilities as a student and send us home. Where some other students have won their appeals on the same subject, the Mister’s status as having already repeated a course meant he was gleaned from the flock as a matter of “principle.”

The man responsible for handing the Mister the committee’s final decision told him he had not slept well Tuesday night because of it and felt terrible to be delivering the envelope.

However, technicalities and finger-pointing set aside, the decision has been made and the Mister and I are getting our island affairs in order and plan to return stateside by the end of the month. Thankfully we’ve been blessed with families who won’t leave us out in the streets and friends who work in industries where the Mister can look for a job. I myself have applied for a public relations position back home and have a few other possibilities to look into once we get back.

This is not the end of the road for us, but merely the start of a new path. We know we will be ok in the end, even if the going is rough here for a while. It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all, and we have learned so much from this experience that will shape us into better adults in the future.

Prayers and good thoughts are always appreciated, and if you know of anything in the middle Tennessee area that is hiring or might be looking for workers like us, please let us know.

–The Missus

Aaaannnnnd we’re back!

Hey readers, I know it’s been a long hiatus these past few weeks, but the Mister and I are safely back on the island and readjusting ourselves to loose brakes and stringy chicken as we speak. 🙂

The vacation was wonderful and definitely necessary for our sanity. We got to spend time with most of the family and saw a lot of good friends at a beautiful wedding the first weekend we were home. We went to the zoo and canoed down the mighty Duck River, roasted marshmallows over a backyard fire, replenished my yarn supply for this semester’s animals, and ate enough good food to kill a horse. I myself ate four cartons of blueberries over two weeks… but that’s a separate story altogether. (Hey, I really have a thing for blueberries, ok?)

Meera stayed with another student while we were gone and seems to have had a good time. She got along well with the other dogs in the apartment complex, had lots of yard space to play in, went on at least one hike and completely wore herself out to the extent that she’s been asleep since we brought her home earlier this morning. 

We had some complications with the way last semester ended so we have to sort out a few more things before the Mister can start classes for this round, but we should know the outcomes of those decisions by Wednesday. Whatever happens though, we know that life will go on one way or another, and we’ll figure out what path our family is meant to take and see what waits for us at the end of it. 

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers that God’s will will be done, and whatever that turns out to be we will be able to accept it and move forward. Thanks, and happy Saturday!

Here we are again

It’s finals week again in the Caribbean. You can tell because the grocery stores are out of Mountain Dew and when you walk around campus, the air is deathly silent except for the strange mutterings of students who have their hands buried in their hair and their eyes starting to bug out of their heads.

The Mister took his first final this afternoon and has his second tomorrow, so all good thoughts and prayers sent his way are appreciated. He has been studying hard for several days and I have faith that he can get the grades he needs to move on in the program. We won’t know until Friday though, and by that time we will likely be on our way back to the mainland.

One of my best friends is getting married this Saturday, so the Mister and I are making the trek back to the land of milk and honey for the two week break. We are super excited to see friends, family and a long list of restaurants. Especially the restaurants. 😉

There may not be posts for the next two Mondays since we’ll be running around trying to fit in all the family visits, scheduled appointments and other activities that need to be done before we return to the island of misfit toys. We wish we could fit in more people and places, but it’s hard to do everything in only 13 days, so if we don’t get a chance to see you this break hopefully we’ll be able to do it the next time we’re in the country.

We’re counting down the hours and crossing our fingers for good results on Friday. Love to all and, if you’re in the home area, we hope to see you soon.

And then there were four… five… six… wait, how many?

Well the semester is drawing to a close and the Mister and I have become the figurative guardians of at least three tiny baby geckos, recently hatched in various parts of our bedroom.

Baby gecko on the ceiling

Baby gecko on the ceiling

I was getting into the shower one night a month or so ago and noticed something moving around the shower head. My first thought, of course, was that it was a centipede, so I jumped out and grabbed a flashlight. Whatever it was was gone, but I could see something unusual in the gap where the faucet pipe comes out of the wall. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be half of a tiny eggshell! 

Since that night we have seen one baby gecko that hangs around the shower, one that hangs out in the closet and one that can often be found in the main area of the room. They are slightly different, but are all less than two inches in length and very cute to watch. Over the past weeks they have started to expand their territories, and it’s cool to watch them venture into new areas and react to their new surroundings.

The closet gecko, which we call Sam, likes to crawl out of the closet and peek out into the room from the safety of underneath the nearby dresser. The shower gecko – George – recently ventured onto the bathroom counter and then tried to hide against the back side of my makeup bag when the Mister came in to wash his hands. The third baby, who doesn’t have his own name, can often be seen crawling around the vicinity of the air conditioner.

Unnamed gecko baby near the air conditioner

Can you see him? He’s up above the air conditioner cord cover. (Closer pictures were too blurry.)

We like our tiny gecko family and do our best to be mindful of their positions and leave them alone. We have had to scare them away from things that could be dangerous to them, though, like the whirling ceiling fan or Meera’s kennel. (She ignores them for the most part, but she will lie on the bed and stare at them suspiciously if they are moving across the ceiling.)

We have plenty of mosquitoes to go around, and I would rather have geckos than centipedes any day. 

What do you think we should name the third baby? Feel free to submit your suggestions in the comments. 

The one with the feet

There’s a very bohemian, devil-may-care feeling to sitting on an upper story porch, lounging in a deck chair with your bare feet propped up on the balcony railing like a flower child with her legs hanging out the car window.

I don’t know why it is exactly, but this is my favorite happy place. Our upstairs porch is well shaded and gets a good breeze during the day, and I can watch the comings and goings on the golf course from the relative privacy of my chair. I like to bring my breakfast out here in the mornings before the Mister is awake and take time to enjoy the quiet before the golf course tractors really get going. (It helps that this is also undeniably the coolest place in the house.)

I feel like this is one of the only places where I appreciate living here. The island is beautiful — regardless of how I may feel about the rest of it — and I often forget to stop being irritated with the locals long enough to appreciate my surroundings. At what other time in our lives will we live on a tropical island? At what other point will I have enough free time to sit in the gentle breeze reading classic novels for hours at a time? Never. This will never happen again. And while there are days that I hate this place with so much passion it consumes me, I do have to sit back and acknowledge that this is a gift I will probably miss once I have a 9-5 job again and children to chase after.

We joke about how golfers and yard workers can often look up at our house and see Meera’s little gray face watching them through the railing, but the truth is that, more often than not, they can also see my feet hanging out into the sunshine. What a strange picture that probably is. I’m sure that’s probably how the pool cleaners know which house is ours from the back — they just look for the one with the feet.

porch with a view