Part 2: Car Accidents & Road Kill

How a buck changed the course of my life…

I thought I could cram the rest of this saga into “Act 2” but alas, it is much longer than I care to post all at once so here is part 2 of 3:

Ok, so accident numero uno is described in part one. The following events took place six months later. If it hadn’t been for both of these car accidents, I never would have gone to Florence, Italy on a semester abroad program in the Spring of 2003. This semester abroad was my first introduction to Italian Life and Culture and the experience that led me to return again in the summer of 2004. It was these first two trips to Italy that fixed in me a love for the country and a desire to want to return long-term. They have in essence, influenced the course of life ever since.

But none of that would have come about if it hadn’t been for Heidi’s late-night encounter with a buck. Here’s how it all went down:

After Sammy’s tragic and abrupt death, I spent the next couple of weeks car shopping. A few weeks later, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in May (Ironically, it was very day of the fire at camp! Click here to read all about that adventure!), my dad and I spent the day filling out paper-work and trying not to be pushed around too much by the car salesman who was working with us. I had found a silver 1996 Honda Civic with all the specs I was looking for (save AC!), and with a low-interest loan through our credit union, the payments were at a price I could afford. She even had a spoiler and my favorite feature: a moon roof! I dubbed her: Heidi the Honda.

Between what I had in savings and a lot of help from my parents I was able to make a decent-size down-payment to keep the interest and monthly payments to a minimum. I really liked driving her; she was manual, zippy, clean, and oh how I loved her moon-roof!

I graduated with an Associate’s degree from Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) that same month and continued living and working at camp through the end of the summer. In July (2002), I was diagnosed with a sleeping disorder. I was relieved to know what the problem was and that it wasn’t all in my head (well it is to some extent, it is a neurological disorder after all!). My quality of life improved a bit as I started taking prescription drugs to help me stay awake but this season was also the start of a several year process to move beyond the intense frustration I felt every time I woke up from an unplanned or unwanted nap and realized I’d never get that time back. When I was awake, my time and energy were often wasted being frustrated by thinking of all I had missed out on during my last nap, or how I had disappointed friends and family or caused someone to worry. Or I was just annoyed because I had to adjust my plans for the 10th time that day! Eventually I learned to be more flexible and discovered peace when, over time, I was confronted with the reality of God’s love and sovereignty. Though He has never failed me, I am still in the process of learning to trust His untamed yet perfect love for me. He is consistently proving to me how His plans for me are far bigger and better than any I could ever dream up for myself. Still, I often need the reminder His ways and purposes for me and the world at large are also equally beyond me and all I can see and conceive of in my little, egocentric mind. I still catch myself being frustrated by over-sleeping or by unwanted naps but then I remember, life is too short to spend it frustrated about the past and things I have no control over. What I do have is the present and while it’s here, I want to make the most of it!

At the end of August I moved from camp into Santa Rosa. I moved in with close family-friends and got a job nearby working at Starbucks (click here to read the story behind how I first started out as a barista). Earlier in the Spring, I had seen flyers around the SRJC’s campus for their semester abroad program. I don’t know about now, but back then, each semester the program rotated between four European cities: Madrid, London, Paris and Florence. The posters I had seen were advertising information meetings for the program being offered in the Spring of 2003 when the program would be in Florence, Italy. My dad, sister, aunt and grandparents had been to Italy the previous summer and after hearing my sister’s stories and seeing all her pictures from her trip, I knew I wanted to go myself someday. I went to one of the meetings to find out more and while I didn’t know how I’d be able to come up with the roughly $5,000 needed for the program fees, I knew I wanted to go. I decided I would work as much as possible through the Summer and fall and see if I could save enough money to meet the first (and largest) payment deadline due in November. In the Fall of 2002 I took an Italian class at the SRJC and spent the rest of my time picking up every shift I could at work. I filled in at almost every store between Healdsburg and south Petaluma and was also still working occasionally at camp.

Just a little more back-story…

All through high school and my first year in college, I hosted a student-led Bible study and youth hang-out night at my house every Saturday night (God bless my parents who for five years, spent almost every single Saturday night hiding out in their bedroom while the house was inundated with students and young adults who rarely cleared out before midnight!) My freshman year of college, there were so many people cramming into my parent’s living room each week, we decided to make it for college students only. The following year when I moved to Mt. Gilead, some friends of mine stepped in to be the hosts to keep the Saturday night group going.

It was a cold and wet November Saturday when Gavin, a friend of mine from camp and I drove up to Ukiah to go to the Saturday night group. We had taken separate cars so I could go up early to spend the day visiting with friends and family. When the evening started to wind down, Gavin got in his truck to head back to camp. Taking his departure as a reminder I too still had an hour’s drive back home to Santa Rosa, I took off shortly after him, sometime around 10pm.

“It was a dark and stormy night when…”

And here is where I will leave you hanging yet again for the climax that is just ahead! I will post the last and final installment to this epic trilogy of a ripe-banana story within the next week. Stay tuned! All the nitty-gritty details will prove their purpose in the end!

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