When You Can’t Help Yourself

I love surprises. I’m not sure why but I can’t seem to not go for the surprise when it’s possible. I did a similar thing when I studied abroad in England four years ago. I came home a few weeks early and was able to catch everyone by surprise.

As all well-laid plans made by my mother and I, there was no grand scheme beyond get feet on US soil.

But the first one on the list was Dad.

Momma told a fib, said she was at happy hour and came to pick me up from the airport. And let me just say, no matter how long or short the distance or time is, getting a hug from your momma is always golden. And this one was pretty solid since I hadn’t had a super tight squeeze in months.

We swung by Chipotle and concocted an EPIC plan that involved me carrying dinner to the front door and ringing the doorbell to my own home. (I know, the creativity is blistering.) I wait. Footsteps. The door opens and his face does not register what is going on for a solid three seconds before I’m scooped up into a neck-breaking hug while my dog goes insane at my feet. I also would like to say that we made him cry. And high-fived about it. He could not believe we had kept the secret for so many months (and honestly neither could I.)

Second on the list

Meghan, my younger sister wasn’t home when I arrived, but out with friends. Exhausted and dropping by 9:45, I decided I could no longer wait up. And opted to instead go to sleep in her bed. Two hours later I was awoken by a light, a startled face full of confusion, and a body leaping and screaming onto my sleeping self.


Elizabeth, my twin. A night of sleep and strange brain wake-up call at 7:30 AM (technically 1:30 Spain time), and onto the next victim. My sister works in the city but was working from home that day. Dad texted and asked if she could meet for coffee since he was going to be in the area (a lie.) We drive out and dad goes in, settling down and beginning to talk. I walked up behind her, tapped her on the shoulder, and asked if the chair beside her was taken. It is not, she informed me, and then proceeded to freak out.

There is something about surprising people and that moment when it hasn’t clicked yet. That “wait who is this, this person shouldn’t be here, how is this person here?” And I guess my family is also very loud and prone to screaming because that’s what usually followed the confusion.

And it didn’t end with my family. Then it was friends and family friends, and extended family, and endless, endless love.

Unfortunately, most of these surprises were too quick and too unplanned to get all of it on

video. But some of the ones that we did are priceless.

Arriving to a Christmas Party to Surprise friends and this lady, Ms. Laura Stuchlak.

The twin effect. We missed the first face of shock.

The best friend attack- Michelle Moodhe. She was carrying four bottles of wine and thankfully dropped them all before falling over.

Going Home

When I first decided to go home instead of spending the time off traveling, I felt a tiny bit like I was failing myself. Like I was too much of a homebody to actually stay away for an entire year. And maybe I am too much of a homebody. Because coming home for Christmas was the right choice. At least for me. I got to feel that family love and share a few stories that are a bit too much for this blog and eat some damn good (but real bad for you) American food. (Five Guys. Chick-fil-a, McDonalds, Chipotle, New York Style Pizza, Tacos, and Iced Coffee’s galore to name a few.)

Coming home worked the same way that having a job before leaving it to do this teaching thing worked. Both gave and continue to give me amazing perspective. Perspective I wouldn’t have if I never took a minute to walk away, to look at it all from a different angle. Being home has made me miss Spain, and being in Spain will make me miss being home. But these are good things, good turns and twists to go through.

Because missing Spain means missing true friends, and grand adventures, and children with snotty noses and dirty hands and laughter in between. And I had to leave that to realize that I liked it, that I would miss it.


So I’m excited to go back to Spain to finish this year. I know there will be downer days just like there were before- because no path in life is perfect. But I also have a different way of looking at it all now, and I’m very aware of how quickly these next four months will go before it’s good and truly over. And of course how lucky I am to have four months left at all, and a chance to travel some more, and plan for an epic backpacking adventure at the end of it.