Time to write something… again. Much as happened since I last wrote something for the blog. Life has changed so much for me in the last six months. Adjusting to life was harder than I suspected. That may very well be the understatement of the century. People would ask us how it was to be back and we must have been the worst actors ever because even to this day most people still follow-up with a “really?” when we say things are fine. Everything here was and is a constant reminder that we have said good-bye to a life we loved so dearly in Costa Rica. We miss the people there so much that I can’t even put it into words. I went through a very long phase where I couldn’t really look through my old pictures and videos of the kids because it made me want to cry. Occasionally I see Andrew flipping through old photos and I am still not prepared mentally to look at them with him. We love hearing from the people there. Staff and teenagers contact us often on facebook and tell us about life and how much they miss us. It helps my heart a little bit knowing that they still haven’t forgotten about us, a half a year later. On a lighter note, I would love nothing more than to walk to the Gran Bodega and pick out my produce while listening to festive, Latino music playing, strongly resisting the temptation to do my own version of salsa through the aisles… because that would be embarrassing and inappropriate. Or would it? Anyway, my point here is Publix just doesn’t do it for me, though I do enjoy the variety offered there compared to the Maxi Pali. I still shake my head every time I look at the price of avocados here.
Six weeks after returning to the United States, my grandma passed away. I had never lost anyone I truly loved until that morning on February 13th. It was completely unexpected and I still miss her each and every day. There is such finality in death, like nothing else in this world. God has blessed my life and path greatly in both her life and her passing. I had lunch with her the day before she died. The wind was fierce that day with a bit of a chill to it. She said to me “we have to get home, I think it’s going to snow this afternoon.” I laughed and said “Grandma, it’s 55 degrees outside. I don’t think it’s going to snow.” Coming from the woman who spent a couple dozen winters in the Ukraine, she sure adapted to Florida life real well. That memory will always make me smile. One of the last things we said to each other was I love you. For so long after she died, I was just in a stunned state. I have no idea why, but I prayed daily for God to watch out for her in heaven. That is such an unnecessary prayer, but it’s all I could think to do because I missed her so badly. Today I still want to drive to her house and pick her up to go grocery shopping or get a pedicure. I haven’t moved on, but am learning to move forward.
Within a couple of weeks of that life changing event, one of our friends in Costa Rica, Tom, passed away very unexpectedly. I will never forget waking up to that text on a Sunday morning before church. Tom was the last person we saw when we left Costa Rica in December and the first we expected to see whenever we return. I feel like Tom and I tackled so much while working at the mission together. I miss his laugh already and if I stop to think back for just a moment, I can hear it now. Andrew and I struggled a bit with not being in Costa Rica during that time period. All I wanted to do was give his wife, Barb, a hug and pray with her relentlessly. And we prayed relentlessly from a far, but in some ways, the guilt still crept in that we weren’t there.
This has been a season of change for the mission, and for the better. But change can be challenging no matter how for better or worse it may be. We wanted to be there to help ease some of the transitions taking place, but couldn’t be, and that was difficult. God was and is in control of everything though, regardless of who is there or not. We welcomed back Laura as head teacher of education in February. This will allow Jenny to focus more on high school which is her true gift. Thank God for those two. I am deeply appreciative of the efforts they go to for the families of Bajo Tejares. The kids love Vinicio and Jafeth, don’t get me wrong, but it takes years to learn the stories of all the families. That knowledge that both Laura and Jenny have is invaluable. As far as the education programs go, we have a great mix of people on staff. And as someone previously in charge of such things, I can say that I couldn’t be more impressed with the team we have in place right now.
I had initially planned to take about three months off upon our return before getting a job again. In the one sense, I was starting to get antsy pretty early on. On the other hand, I don’t know how I could have worked a full-time job those first few weeks after my grandma passed away. I was grateful for the free time when that happened. Interestingly enough, just before she passed as I was sitting on her couch watching tv with her one afternoon, my old manager at Deutsche Bank called and asked me if I wanted my job back. The guy who filled my position when I left had just resigned. It was an interesting prospect but I was a bit anxious about returning for various reasons. The hiring process took a very long time and actually hit a stand still at one point. I was so uncertain about it all that I started subbing again to fill my time. I took on a lot of special needs assignments. I think sometimes that scares people and it truth be told, it’s probably not for everyone. I subbed a few days in high school autism spectrum classes for the first time. If I am being totally honest with myself, even I was a little apprehensive. With autistic kids, you have to learn what routines they have and as a sub, quickly jump into them to not set them off balance too much. Some of those disruptions and reactions can multiply big time as young special needs children turn into teenagers. If a six year old hits you, you’re probably going to be OK. If a 16 year old hits you, we might be talking a whole different situation. But I ended up having the best time. I have to tell a couple of stories from my time with them, and words on a paper will hardly do it justice, but I am going to give it a shot!
I had a student named Lem in one of my classes. He was so sweet. He’d come and sit at my desk and talk to me every chance he got. While we were sitting there talking about Lord knows what, another kid came up, whose name escapes me, and started to chat with us too. He turned to Lem and called him Lem Turner which is the name of a road on the other side of town here in Jacksonville. Lem got mad and told him that wasn’t his name. A couple of hours later, the same scenario takes place. I immediately stopped him and said, “do not call him Lem Turner, that is not his name and you know he doesn’t like that.” One of this kid’s habitual sayings was to ask if he was in trouble. He must have asked me sixty times that day over various scenarios. Naturally, he asked “Mrs. Davis, am I in trouble?” I looked him in the eyes and said, “you need to make good choices right now and be respectful to Lem.” Still thinking he was in trouble, he apologized to me several times over. I held up my hand and said, “stop. Do not apologize to me, apologize to Lem.” Without thinking twice, as if we had never had the conversation, he turns to Lem and says “I’m sorry Lem Turner!” and walks away. I just had to turn around and walk away so they didn’t see me smiling to myself at this ridiculously humorous duo’s interaction that literally replicates itself a dozen times a day.
Autism is called a spectrum disorder for good reason. Each person with autism is so unbelievably different. I was so surprised to see the things that made them all tick. In those high school classes I subbed, we had everything from extreme non-verbal to high functioning and extremely verbal. Every morning, a student named David would come in and get on the computer. He loved to sing so he would go to youtube and look up songs and with his headphones on, bob his head around and sing out loud. And I mean out loud. David loves the song “Happy” by Pharrell so he’d usually sing that a couple times in a row. I was more or less neutral when it came to that song before but I can’t hear it on the radio now without cranking it up and smiling as I think about how happy David is when he sings, especially singing that song. We had one student who was obsessed with phone books. He would flip page by page each morning to calm himself down and get ready for the day. I asked the other teacher in the room how in the world they ever figured that out. He told me that he had a phone book sitting on his desk one day at the beginning of the year and the kid just went straight to it then asked for it every day since. Interestingly enough, the teacher mentioned to me that if that student were more verbal, he’d probably be able to tell us hundreds of names and phone numbers. There’s just something about his mind that is probably capturing that kind of thing, but will never be able to verbally let it out. I’ll never forget the girl who shreds paper relentlessly and the moment the shredder got jammed, big time. That was an intense situation. I give all of these examples to hopefully give you a glimpse of how incredible the autistic population is. Maybe you already knew, maybe you didn’t. It just blew my mind to see how drastically different all of these students were and I was thankful for the experience.
As I indicated earlier, it has been a while since my last blog update on life. Far too long, actually. I should note that I have been writing some in this hiatus, just not on the blog. I feel as though God has given me a story to write, so I am writing it. As Toni Morrison once said “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.” That’s the truth, so I am pressing on. In my time off before starting back at Deutsche Bank, I realized a thing or two about my passion for writing. Sometimes it is hard to put the pen to paper. Writer’s block is real. I’m thankful for a good friend, with whom I shared this crazy book-writing adventure I’m on, that keeps me on track with tough love when I start to get lazy. Albeit difficult to do at times, it’s even harder to put to rest. I guess that’s why it’s called a passion. But more importantly, what I’ve learned about life in the last few months is that it is still every bit worth writing about as it was before. I think that’s worth putting into words and onto paper. I miss my life in Costa Rica terribly. I don’t think that will ever change unless we move back. Maybe I’ve already had the job of a lifetime as a missionary during that time, and every other job will lack the same sentiment. But life is still worth writing about.