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.

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.

Aye yai yai…

So…. I’m not even sure where to start describing the past week. It’s been hectic, stressful, hilarious and rip-your-hair-out enraging all at the same time. We’ve been so busy running around selling things on campus, giving test drives, visiting offices, turning in paperwork, getting Meera’s health information up to date and a hundred other things. Our car is the last major hurdle, and if we can get that sold or otherwise taken care of we’ll be basically smooth sailing all the way to the airport.

And trust me, that cannot happen fast enough.

We are cherishing every moment with our friends and island family as we prepare to leave them behind, and it breaks my heart every time we walk away from someone and I wonder if that’s the last time we’ll see them. However, as for the rest of it, we are just ready to be home. We’re grateful for the time we’ve had to try and get all our affairs in order here, but we are ready to stop dragging it all out and just get on the airplane already.

We’ll go to bed five more times and on the sixth time we’ll be home. After that… we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Happy weekend,

The Missus

Making Progress

So I know I’m a few days late for my regular post, but things have been progressing well here and I am confident we will be able to make it off the rock by the end of the month without major incident.

We’ve been able to sell off a large bulk of our excess belongings over the past four days, have had a few test-drive requests on our car, and are working on all the paperwork to have various accounts closed and payments refunded before we leave. We don’t have a set return date yet, but we plan to choose that next week based on how successful we are at selling our car.

So I’m pleased with our progress overall. Hopefully we can get down to fewer than four checked bags on the way back so that we don’t have to find a way to get six pieces of luggage and Meera in her giant kennel through customs at the Miami airport. That’s what I’m worried about most – the flight back. Everything here can be taken care of, but once we get to the airport we just have to trust that everything will go smoothly and cross our fingers until we land in Nashville. After that it will all be over.

So we have 2.5 weeks maximum here, hopefully a little less if we can swing it. We are excited to be going home, but finding little things every day that we will actually miss about this place. The friends we’ve made here are the biggest things, but we’ll also miss all the clear open sky, access to swimming pools whenever we want, spiny lobster and having our own place (for a while).

Good thoughts appreciated! And if you have any insider knowledge on the Miami airport and how two people can get help moving large amounts of baggage through it please let us know. 🙂

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.