The Ultimate Determination

I have a friend I met almost four years ago through a job.  Carrie and I were hired within a month of each other and had an immediate connection.  We’ve talked about our souls being connected in the past and I knew she came into my life to help fill in the gaps of my own inadequacies and I to help her in the same manner.  We only worked together for about a year before some political drama and employment cuts ended up with her out of the job.  The situation makes me cringe to even think about and I could easily go into a downward spiral of hatred considering what happened…  So I will stop there and move on.

Our friendship continued although, our face to face contact became more dispersed.  She and I talked about the possibility of a business venture since our personalities complimented each other so well.  She is slightly older than I and sometimes it felt like she had a lifetime more life experiences.  There were times I would smile and nod at her question “You know what I mean?” hoping she wouldn’t recognize I knew nothing before I could puzzle together some context clues.  Carrie has a knack for getting her needs met, her southern drawl could reel anyone in and convince them of whatever she was requesting.  Her dark curly hair is the kind most women would lay down big money to duplicate, and this is on the days she claims she didn’t have time to fix it her own way.  She has warm brown eyes, a bright smile, rounded face and naturally tan skin.  Carrie’s outward beauty barely begins to exude the beauty within, as she has worked her life serving others.  Her career has involved advocating for those who cannot do it for themselves, and she is exactly who I would want representing me if I were incompetent to make my own decisions.  Sounds like I have painted the picture of a wonderfully warm and generous human being who speaks softly, with manners and always kind and gentle.  Yes, this is true of Carrie in many ways although I would warn you…  Don’t cross her, she can outwit you and pull the totem your pride was standing on before you can catch your next breath.

These characteristics have served Carrie professionally and recently in a deeply personal way as well.  This story is about the ultimate determination I have witnessed in my friend and an incredible journey to parenthood I am so honored to be able to report.  Seriously incredible and worth making into a movie, I told Carrie she would be played by Angelina Jolie.

Two years ago Carrie talked to me about her desire to be a mom.  She had been in a number of serious relationships throughout her twenties and thirties, none of them amounting to “the one” worth marrying.  Since she was well into adulthood, built a professional career and firm foundation, Carrie felt the tug of parenthood greater than the need for following society’s approved order of becoming a parent (i.e. relationship, marriage than baby).

Haters – stop right there.  I know some people immediately get all judgmental when someone acts out of the realm of what is traditional.  Need I remind you a large number of youth grow up in single parent households in the present day, single moms can do just fine providing all the emotional, physical and financial support a child can possibly need.  AND there is no such thing as a traditional household anymore – family make-ups are all unique and no one is better than another – just different.  There is no specific recipe for what ingredients make for a healthy child – love and resources in what ever form they may come.  

So Carrie began with looking at her options.  She wanted the experience of being pregnant, of feeling the baby growing and kicking, and delivering it into the world.  She submerged herself into research about the medical advances in using donors and insemination.  She met with doctors and began preparing her body.  She revised her diet and workout regiment, she was religious about vitamins and necessary medications.

I can’t recall all of the details of each insemination attempt. I know there were many and I know a few took to pregnancies and all ended in miscarriages.  Between attempts she became well versed in the medical terminology, being able to converse intelligently with her doctors about what tests they were failing to administer which increased her chances the next time around.  She submitted her body to a strict regiment of shots and medications to prepare for and retain the pregnancies.  With each attempt Carrie was more hopeful and then more upset with each loss, feeling dreams of motherhood crashing.  Feeling pregnancy may not be an option for her she looked into adoption.  Adoption also appeared like a hopeless path as adoption agencies look for two parent households.  The foster-care into adoption situations would only consider her for older children, sibling sets or children with special needs all of which she felt unprepared.

I heard her talk about “This will be the last try,” leading up to the most recent medical procedure, and I was elated to hear the positive test results several weeks later.  Without trying to sound pessimistic I questioned how she and her doctors felt this one would hold better than the last and if she would on-going increased care.  I so wanted Carrie to experience to joy of being a mom, to carry a healthy baby and experience the terrific pain of childbirth, I just had a sinking feeling this might not work.  In March Carrie told me the news, there was no heartbeat on the sonograms and this pregnancy also ended in a miscarriage.  It was devastating to hear and I cannot even begin to imagine how she was feeling.  Weeks went by before I heard from her again, and this time it was a phone call I will never forget.

The day before Easter Carrie called to tell me she was going to be a mom and her baby is due by the end of the month.  I wanted to cry, I wanted to hug her through the phone, I wanted to be there with her getting to see the expression of joy she had to be having.  Words wouldn’t even formulate in my mouth to ask appropriate questions of – how did this happen?  She provided me with some background and wanted some information, since she had spent two years working on how to become pregnant she missed the nine months women usually have to prepare for the baby.

Through this phone call and conversations we have had since I understand the bizarre and amazing connections which brought my friend to motherhood.  Even greater, the determination my friend sustained throughout this journey demonstrate she can tackle whatever challenges a parent may face.

Carrie and her mom learned of a young woman who was pregnant and wanting to give her baby up for adoption.  The birth mom was addicted to a multitude of prescription drugs and knew she couldn’t be responsible for the infant after the birth.  She used throughout the pregnancy and had no prenatal care at all.  Shortly after meeting with my friend she agreed Carrie is meant to be her baby’s mom.

Carrie scurried to get all of the necessary legal documents completed including a home inspection and began making purchases for a nursery.  She paid for a hotel room for the duration of the pregnancy and time afterwards since the birth mom had no stable living arrangements.  And she took the birth mom to buy food and to doctors appointments where she learned she was having a boy.

The birth mom reassured Carrie about how even the baby knew she was his mom, when he would calm his movements when her hand was on the belly.  She the only person who provided calm for him in the chaotic environment his birth mom surrounded herself with.  Carrie said there were various times when several women and handfuls of children would also be staying in the hotel room when she came by with groceries.  During one such visit an ambulance was called when one of the birth mom’s guests had a gran mal seizure.  The way Carrie described the individuals she interacted with, they sound incredibly intimidating.  She certainly wouldn’t let any fear show, as she was there for her son.

The estimated due date provided Carrie with about a month to prepare, except two weeks early she was rushing to the delivery room with the birth mom.  The hospital staff requested Carrie’s cooperation to help the birth mom through the labor as she was the only one the panicking woman would respond to.  For hours during active labor Carrie was on her knees on the hospital floor to bring her baby into the world.  One Monday, at a perfectly healthy weight and size her baby was born, miraculously showing no effects from the drugs or withdrawal symptoms.  

You might think hooray, and it ends there…  Not for Carrie, with adoption it’s not over until the paperwork is signed by the judge.

Court was scheduled for Thursday, leaving four more days in the hospital.  Carrie snuggled her newborn and got to enjoy the first feedings and diaper changes, while in a separate room birth mom recovered.  The hospital social worker was obviously disapproving of the adoption arrangement and questioned the birth mom “wouldn’t you want your son to have two parents?”  When her questioning wouldn’t budge the birth mom’s decision she talked about child protective services coming to speak with her.  After the conversation with the hospital social worker, and without the knowledge of Carrie or any hospital staff the birth mom eloped from her recovery room.

Once the social worker and director of nursing became aware of what was happening they approached Carrie about taking the baby to the nursery, because she was not a legal guardian for the child (yet.)  The social worker and DON were no match for all Carrie had been through in the last two years for this child, and she made sure they understood how they had failed this child by making the birth mom feel insecure and allowing her to walk out.  She made sure they understood she would not allow her son to be punished by removing him from her care because of their mistakes.  Carrie tolerated the babysitter/security they staked out in her room for the remainder of the days leading up to the court hearing.

A head hospital administrator learned of the events taking place on the nursery floor and came to Carrie with an apology.  He offered two $10 gift cards to the hospital cafeteria as a gesture, ha – as if that could make up for the furry Carrie felt toward his establishment.

On the Wednesday evening before court the lawyers began drawing attention to the birth mom’s absence and her unresponsiveness to calls.  It was clear if she didn’t make it to court, the proceedings wouldn’t happen and the baby would become custody of the state.  Carrie’s mom stayed with the baby while Carrie went on a chase.  She drove to every sight she had ever been to with the birth mom, contacted each connection she had made with the birth mom and followed every possible lead to where she may be.  Around 2am Thursday morning Carrie found herself in a trailer park with some shady characters looking high out front.  She found the birth mom inside a trailer passed out and helped her regain enough consciousness to get into the car and return to the hotel room.

Despite the roller coaster of emotions during the week and a sleepless night before the hearing, Carrie made it to court with the birth mom.  In the meeting room before seeing the judge the birth mom continued to try to put her head down and sleep, with the lawyers looking on frowning for fear the judge may postpone the date.  Carrie insisted she stand up and jog in place with her to stay alert and ensured all of the final paperwork was signed and approved.

 

 

 

My friend Carrie’s story of becoming a mom is the ultimate determination.  Her son is as lucky to have her as she is to have him, and I am fortunate to have her friendship.  Carrie’s dedication to fulfill her dream is an inspiration to me and to so many others who have witnessed her journey.

Turning 25 – My Indian Birthday

The experience of being in India, seeing the sights I was witnessing and learning life lessons through submersion in a foreign culture was an uncomfortable challenge.  I didn’t regret deciding to go, even when I was sick to my stomach, sweating through my clothes and barely making it to the toilet – even the second, third or fourth time this occurred.  One moment that was really hard for me was calling home on my birthday.

My boyfriend (now husband) didn’t answer his cell phone the first time.  After several attempts I finally got connected to hear he had just gotten off the boat with our friends at Lake of the Ozarks.  My friends hollered in their “hello’s” and “happy birthdays,” then they got off the phone to drinks and card games while I hung up the phone to cry.  The previous few years and the years following I spent with those friends at the Ozarks on or near my birthday, and at that moment in my humble Indian room all I wanted was to be at the Lazy Days in Condo with my friends.

Credit to Jesi for the pic.

Lucky for me the lonely feeling passed as I shared my 25th birthday with 7 new friends and created some unique birthday memories I, nor they, will forget.  It was no secret to the group, my instructor and I had some issues the week prior to my birthday.  Seemed the heat and stress of organizing the travels had gotten to her and somehow I became a target.  I will give her credit for making me feel special on my birthday, even if it was sort of as an apology.

Our instructor told us Amitabh Bachchan was her heart throb growing up in India and one of the biggest movie stars in India. Following my trip to India I have seen him talked about on Oprah as he is the father/father-in-law of India’s hottest Bollywood couple or India’s equivalent to Brad and Angelina.

Monday, June 11th, 2007 was a break in classes.  Our instructor took our group to a mall – a seven story dizzying paradise of shoes, perfumes, sunglasses, candy and jewelry.  Our agenda was not to shop, we were on a mission to catch a Bollywood film in the afternoon.  The movie theater was on the top floor of this westernized oasis; at the concession stand they offered egg rolls, veggie burgers, ice cream and more.  We had assigned seats like you would going to a concert or sporting event.  The movie was called Chenni Kum and starred Amitabh Bachchan, it was a taboo love story about an older man falling for a younger woman.  The movie was easy to follow even in Hindi, and maybe we didn’t catch all the same jokes, though we were laughing the whole time.

Credit to Jesi for the pic.

Following the movie we ate at a restaurant in the mall appropriately named Starstruck.  We were able to order pasta and garlic bread for lunch then devoured Baskin Robbins ice cream, resemblance from home which was much needed then.  My instructor even bought a cake for after dinner, I brought my own candle (a scented, stress relieving one I brought from home) down to the cafeteria.

This is the fifth post in my series about my adventures in Kolkata, India five years ago.  Feel free to look back on previous posts or check back for on-going recollections from places visited and lessons learned from this trip.

May 23 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/my-indian-summer/

May 27 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/step-one-assimilation-to-traffic/

June 2 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/india-maintaining-sanity/

June 3 https://inspiredlivingkc.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/lessons-in-love-the-mother-teresas-homes-kolkata/


Progress (or passing of time since last posting) on the yard.

My backyard/snake pit/unattractive heap of debris continues to be an eye sore.   However, there are some items to report regarding the mess since last writing.

Last weekend a random dog walking neighbor knocked on our door.  Mind you, this is less than 10 minutes after laying our daughter down for a nap instigating our dogs to spring into protective barking action at the knock.  The gentleman and his two dogs alerted us to the fact a tree on the side of our house was catching fire from sparks between the branches and the power lines.

Immediately the fire department was contacted and by the time the truck arrived the branches already burned themselves from connection to the power lines or the trees.  Thankfully no flames and no harm came from the excitement, it was just another reminder of the work that needs to be happening on the yard – including a good trim of the trees.

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Secondly, we have been in touch with a friend who owns a landscaping business.  My husband and I contacted him knowing of his business, although knowing nothing of his business.  Let me explain, our relationship with this friend is from a former colleague of mine.  In years past, friends from work would gather with our spouses and enjoy socializing with a few beverages.  So our interactions with this friend are limited to observing his Coors Lights in a collapsible cooler and speaking fluent Spanish to bail out an employee from jail during one such gathering.  After approaching him regarding help reaching our goals, I then checked out his business website…  Holy Crap, the million dollar estates where he was responsible for the stonework on patios and driveways, along with irrigation systems and landscaping were an eternity away from the insignificant yard and miniscule budget our call was regarding.  I gave him an opportunity to get off the hook and not be obligated to a friendly favor, he insisted no job is too small and often small jobs turn into referrals for big ones.  No wonder he is so successful.

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Finally, the last piece of news to report…  Like a teeny bopper with a blushing squeal – I GOT AN E-MAIL FROM PETER WALSH.  After I wrote my post about how he inspired me to look at my house as my life and work on my yard, I thought I would try to let him know.  I looked up his website, directed a sincere message of appreciation and included the link to the post.  Within the week I was startled and jubilant to receive a response as follows:

“Thanks so much for the email Holly and for your kind words.

I love the blog!

Best

Peter”

Okay, it totally could have been someone who works for him and sorts through his e-mail.  I would have still enjoyed a response had it have said “Best Peter’s People.”  I like it better to assume it was my organizing idol, he read my words personally and acknowledged how he influenced my life.

My Indian Summer

Yesterday I caught myself wincing from the sunlight when I had forgotten my sunglasses.  It reminded me of the summer I opted not to wear sunglasses.  This was an intentional thought I had in preparation for traveling to India.  I wondered if it may be inappropriate for me to wear a luxury item in this part of the world where so many people went without basic needs being met.  Prior to the trip I even wondered if going without some lenses might help me fit in better with the non-sunglasses wearing Indians.  How quickly one can learn that a minority will stand out regardless of what they are wearing on their face, and a minority with light skin is regarded in a sort of freakish celebrity status in West Bengal.  The irony of forgetting my sunglasses yesterday is that today marks the fifth year anniversary of arriving in Kolkata for my Indian summer.

Within two minutes of reading there was going to be a program studying in India I had determined I would apply to attend.  Along with seven other students, I was chosen to study the social welfare systems in Kolkata, West Bengal.  It wasn’t until after all was set in stone, I began learning about what I had signed up for.  My stress was high as the days led up to the adventure.  I believe part of my anxiety was knowing I was in for a life changing experience; I would witness things I had never imagined and be in more unfamiliar territory than ever before.

Feeding monkeys in Puri, Orissa

I was accurate with my worries.  I had never felt further from home.  Clothes, food, traffic, language, and everything seemed unrecognizable at first.  After about a week and a half I was exhausted thinking I wasn’t even half way through the program yet.  Our group of eight went through fun then turbulent then close again stages having to spend so much time together.  Despite being diverse in age, background and interests, we were all an important contribution to the group as a whole.  The sights, sounds, people and culture I witnessed during this month deeply impacted who I am and how I think about the world.  I feel so fortunate to have been able to travel to India and get an up close look at the systems in place to help an impoverished population.  One of the most important lessons I learned is that even people lacking resources have a lot to teach Americans about traditions, values and happiness.

In the next month I will be posting stories, photos and links to the agencies I visited while in India.  It’s been five years of reflection which I am overdue in sharing.  During that trip I felt a great desire to do something with the information I was gathering and become more of a resource to those individuals who had made such a great impression on my life.

(left to right) Colleen, Julia, Michelle, Kate, Natalie, me, Jesi & Abbey

Seven years ago…

Seven years ago I would have been preparing for my Euro-backpacking adventure with my roommates. We each committed to the trip years before and despite some conflicting life courses we were able to pull it off. We each loaded our packs and unloaded several times narrowing down to a handful of select outfits which we would wear on a steady rotation for the next four weeks. Our itinerary began with flying into London, then a flight to Amsterdam. Between there and our scheduled flights home was completely spontanious. Our adventures were influenced heavily by the advise of fellow travelers who made suggestions of “must-see” and “skip that – it’s overrated” locations. I’d like to think I am still spontaneous and I know the enthusiasm for travel is still present, however, the priorities on my pocketbook prevent me from living how I did seven years ago.

The following is an e-mail I sent home from some forgotten internet cafe in Amsterdam:

Hello All,

I have already lost track of time and have no idea what todays date or the day of the week is. I keep calculating the time in Kansas and I am blown away thinking about what I would be doing if I were at home right now, instead of drinking my 6th beer at the Heineken factory, I would have been getting ready for work (just an example from yesterday.)

We flew into London on Tuesday, even though it was a 7 1/2 hour flight it went by really quickly. We each had our own TV with about 12 channels to choose from, plus I slept alright for most of it. We found our way with only a few wrong turns to our hostel in Westchester called Wake Up London. Wednesday we toured London on a double decker bus. We saw all the sights there are to see just passing on the bus, and also took a ferry ride. That night we saw a musical at the Queens Theater, it was great but I was so exhausted that it was hard to enjoy it. David Schwimmer had a play going on in the theater right next door that we could have gone to and I think that I saw something about Val Kilmer in a pay there too.

For the past two and a half days we have been in Amsterdam, crazy city – I love it!! I could spend a year here just watching the people and studying the prostitutes – no joke!! We visited Anne Frank’s house yesterday morning and then took a tram down to the Heineken Brewery, I don’t think any other museum could live up to that. Along with your ticket in you get three free drinks and a free gift ticket. JoJo, Sheila and I met two Canadians, a young married couple from LA and a med student from Oklahoma. We used far beyond our three free tickets in drinks each! All of us went out to dinner and then the guy from Oklahoma met up with us to walk through the red light district last night.

There is a huge selection of prostitutes, it was kind of how I expected it to be, but I guess I had never thought about the “clients” in the business. It was bizzare watching men walk out of the small doorways and then the curtin would open back up again and the prostitute would be ready for her next sale. We found a coffee shop/bar across the canal from a busy red light spot. We started analyzing the business and timing how long people go in for. We had so many questions to ask about this business, and the longer we sat there the more questions we came up with.

I have so much else to tell you all, but my time is running out on the internet. We are leaving for Berlin tomorrow and I will try to make time to write again soon.

Love – Holly

Keeping in Touch.

Earlier this week I went out of my way to an appointment to quench my craving for chai tea.  I have never been a fan of coffee, it seems to be one of those drinks that I try a sip every few years to reassure myself that I still don’t care for it.  However, after my first taste of chai tea I was hooked.  Even while I was pregnant and gave up soda with caffeine, I knew my tiny bun in the oven would appreciate and excuse this warm, tasty, slightly caffeinated beverage.   The ode to my little addiction was not really the intent of this post – it was the event at the coffee shop that got me thinking…

I parked at the drive through at Latte Land when the gentleman through the window stopped to ask me my name.  He recognized me from going to middle school together – apparently I have not changed too much from the wire mouthed, frizzy haired kid in 16 years.  While I did remember his name I had no memory of what he looked like back then and no recollection of him looking at all familiar now.  It was almost embarrassing that he remembered me so easily and not be able to return the gesture.  He kindly put me at ease by saying that he is good at remembering faces.

After leaving the drive though it got me thinking about how I wish I had a better memory for faces and if there is a way for me to build this as a strength.  Something less invasive and more practical than taking pictures of everyone I meet and creating flashcards to practice in my free time.  So far, I have come up empty on ways to improve facial recognition.  Maybe it is just a strength I will have to appreciate in other people, like my old classmate at the coffee shop.

However, I also realized I have my own strength in relation to people which may not come as naturally to others.  My strength is keeping in touch.  I hold on tight to people I have grown close with over time where otherwise friendship might have faded and those people would have just been a memory to me.  In these days with social networking, this is an easier task.  With one click a distant cousin, old college roommate, co-worker from your first job or neighbor from a childhood home can become a Facebook friend.  I have been keeping in touch for much longer than Facebook though.

Whether family, friend, co-worker or neighbor – people who I have grown fond of, I keep in touch with.  I make frequent long distance phone calls, send cards or letters and organize get togethers.  I feel like these individuals have made a positive impression on my life and it’s sort of my way of letting them know that no matter how long it’s been between when we have seen each other, I still appreciate them and what they have meant to me.

This week I have been preparing my holiday cards to mail out, and due to my eagerness to keep in touch with so many people my stack of cards is getting pretty high.  My husband tried to quaff at the extraodinary cost of stamps and secretly I know he supports this as he adds in his own friends he wants to make sure to connect with.  As my handwriting is generally only readable by me, I carefully addressed each envelope  and I wondered whether all of these acquaintances would even care to hear from me.  It didn’t take me long to realize it didn’t matter what they think of me.  The gesture of trying to keep in touch is letting people know that I care about them, I care about the relationship that we have or had even if it was several years ago.

So, I apologize if I have met you and don’t remember your face.  I also apologize if you have penetrated to my inner circle of friends and you can’t get rid of me – most are stuck there for life.

The Anaconda III – Sailing in the Whitsundays

I spent a semester studying in Australia back in 2003.  I caution using the word “studying” because the semester was more about enjoying the opportunity to travel, have fun and adventure far from home while taking a few classes.  When I first inquired about the option to take a semester abroad I set up a meeting with the study abroad office to check out some universities in Europe that I could go to.  When I arrived for the appointment there was another student there at the same time for the same purpose except she was interested in Australia.  The adviser laid out a map of Australia to show her the options.  She pointed to Perth, Melbourne and Sydney talking about what type of students go to each school and how they spend their time.  She then pointed to Townsville on the Northeastern coast of Australia.  She explained that students go to James Cook University, they get to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef an hour off the coast and the rainforest an hour inland.  The adviser reported that most of her students that attend James Cook call back to make arrangements for staying an extra semester.  After she was done explaining the schools in Australia I told her there would be no need to look at the  schools in Europe, I wanted to go to Townsville.

The next semester I was living life to the fullest and signing up for every adventure imaginable.  I kept a journal for parts of the trip, writing about random nights, tricks to learning the Aussie lingo, stories about bus rides, hearing songs and logs of rugby games attended.  One of my favorite entries is about sailing in the Whitsundays, a trip that I went on with a group of friends over Easter weekend:

Sailing in the Whitsundays, The Anaconda III

Tom, Amy, Crystal, Sarah and I took a 3 day sailing trip in the Whitsunday Islands over our Easter break.  In those 3 days we had quite a few adventures.

One day we stopped at a small island so people could snorkel and lay out.  Crystal, Sarah and I decide to walk around the island.  We get 3/4 of the way around and come to giant boulders that we can’t walk over.  Our options are either to swim around and risk being stung by jelly fish, try to get through the middle of the island which is dense bushes and trees, or try to scale over the rocks.  We attempt the rock climbing.  Even though Sarah and I are in flip-flops we managed climbing over these boulders.  Then we got to a point that we couldn’t cross.  It was too far to jump and we couldn’t get through the woods.  Meanwhile one of the deck hands from out sailboat is watching us from a dingy. (The dingy is the small boat that brings people from the big boat to shore.)

After he realizes that we have nowhere to go and we are freaking out, he manuevers the dingy right up to the rock wall.  One by one he helps us climb down 15 feet.  The 3 of us were laughing hysterically the whole time about what idiots we were that we had to be rescued.

I asked the deck hand if he had ever had to rescue anyone before and all he said was “Not quite like this.”

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One night on the boat a whole bunch of people were being entertained by the activity in the back of the boat.  The boat’s cook brought her 13-year-old son on board sometimes if he was off of school.  He was on the back of the boat throwing bread in the water to attract fish…  And then the fish would attract squid.  The kid would throw a lure in the water when he saw a squid and try to catch it.  

When a squid gets scared or attacked its defense mechanism is to spew this black ink stuff.  When the kid felt the squid on his lure he jerked it out of the water and the squid shot it’s ink in the direction it was being jerked.  Imagine the reaction of a dozen young college aged guys and girls when squid ink and guts is flung up at them and over their heads.  That ink made it back 20 feet on the deck of the boat.  Nasty – that is all that could be said.  All of us screamed like it was a horror movie.  

The funny part is that all the same people gathered five minutes later and watched the kid catch another one and the ink shot up again another 20 feet.  I was lucky but some of the people, including Sarah and Crystal for squid ink on their clothes.  

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Our last day in the Whitsundays Sarah and I wanted to go diving.  We figured that we could handle going out on our own without a dive master.  So we get all of our equipment and plan that she will lead and I will follow.  We go down and are swimming along at about 6 meters.  The visibility was really bad, you couldn’t see past about 8 feet around you, so you don’t really know what is in the water with you until it is right in front of you.  

After swimming for about 3 minutes Sarah turns around and points to me and then points in a direction signaling for me to take the lead.  But I hate being the leader, I hate having to turn to check if my buddy is still near me, I can’t navigate well underwater and I hate not knowing what’s ahead.  When I follow I feel much more comfortable.  So, I pointed to Sarah and pointed in the direction so that she would lead.

She pointed at me again and I pointed at her.  We pointed back and forth for a minute before agreeing to surface to talk.

After I explained that I cannot lead, Sarah decided that even though she wasn’t very comfortable she would try leading again.  We went back down and I got really scared.  I love diving, it’s like an underwater dreamland but when you can’t see very well it’s like a nightmare.  So I made Sarah end our dive early.  We got back to the surface and laughed about what big wimps we were.  

The same deck hand that rescued us from the rocks came to our rescue again and took us back to the boat.  We weren’t charged for our 7 minute dive.

I am constantly reminded of memories from Australia, people I met and experiences I had during that trip.  For the record, I did return home after one semester – only because I had one semester left before graduation.  My biggest recommendation to high school graduates planning to attend college is to make plans to spend a semester overseas – it is worth the effort and expense.  Studying abroad is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the world than you could ever learn in a classroom – which is really part of the point of going to college right?

JoJo LOVES Theater.

JoJo, Sheila and me

My friend JoJo just celebrated her 30th birthday. She is outgoing, and I remember this vividly because it was the first impression that I had of her my freshman year of college. We met as floor mates in the dorms at K-State the moving in weekend. JoJo introduced herself to me, and most everyone on the floor, and invited us to a house party. Looking back it’s hard to differentiate whether that was JoJo being outgoing and friendly or if part of it was pressure from her brother and his friends to bring some college freshman girls to their house party. Whichever the truth was, we have been friends ever since.

Several years after leaving the dorms we became roommates and shared a house with another friend Sheila. While I know that I invested more time in my education in college than I ever came close to in high school, I also realized that JoJo dedicated way more time to her degree than I did mine. She was so passionate about the theater program, theater activities, people from the theater program and theater classes that sometimes it even consumed Sheila and I’s time participating with her. It felt like I was living and breathing lighting design for those years living with JoJo. She went on to get her master’s in the field and teaches it at a major university currently.

Just tonight I talked with JoJo and she brought up a moment when she felt challenged by her investment in this passion. Her sophomore year of college she had her first opportunity to be the lighting designer for a KSU production. The same day that she needed to be in the theater setting up the lights and writing cues happened to be the same day that Mason died in a car accident. Mason was a friend of hers and if I remember correctly, he lived in the house where we went the first weekend as freshman to party.

The timing of these two events happening on the same day for JoJo strike me as significant. There is never an okay time for a tragic loss like Mason’s. However, in that moment she was shown that some sacrifices may have to be made in pursuit of her passion. “The show must go on,” so JoJo finished her job with the lighting while friends of Mason gathered to share stories and mourn the loss together. Today it still sounds like JoJo regrets missing that time with friends while in the theater. Despite the learning that she had to have processed that day about what she may have to give up for involvement in theater she continued to pursue the job she loves.

I wonder what it would be like if everyone had a job they could be passionate about? She inspires me to think about what am I dedicating myself to and is it worth the effort if it is something I don’t really love?

Okay so theater did involve a lot of long hours, late nights and some monotonous tasks. It did also have its perks – a long list of larger than life cast members who love to cut loose and have a great time too. We had a fantastic college experience together full of important traditions, funny memories and support for each other when it was needed. I put a photo album together for JoJo to recognize her birthday and our friendship.

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