I'm taking a break from life as it is, to tell you a story.
It could take several posts to get to the end of the story.
There will be love and heartbreak, and more love, and more heartbreak...
...and a happy ending.
If in the meantime you can't live without an Emily fix, feel free to find me on Facebook
(Noelle Platt Livingston) and you can gaze at the little lady to your heart's content.
I'll try to make it entertaining.
(And to those of you who have heard parts of this story...I read stories more than once all the time.)
* * * * *
The day after Christmas of my senior year came early.
4:30 am to be exact.
Our tiny red Subaru had been packed to the hilt with 10 days worth of clothing and camping gear.
My dad, brother, and sister, and I drove the quiet snow packed roads to the freeway on ramp, where we met four other cars also filled with people and belongings.
Our destination was the town of Bisbee, Arizona ... a border town to Mexico, where we would catch a bus that would take us into the heart of Mexico.
The heater in our car didn't work right, and although the people in the front seats were somewhat warm, the two of us who were sitting in the back were frozen solid.
Ice had formed on the inside of the windows, and about once an hour I would stretch out my feet where my dad would do his best to rub the feeling back into them.
We got to know the people in our caravan during our frequent pit stops.
Most of us were close to the same age, and most of us had never been outside of the United States.
We were all anxious to arrive in Arizona where we knew we would find warmer weather, and where we would be one step closer to our journey's end.
Sometime in the early hours of the next morning we pulled into Arizona.
We were travel worn and weary, and were grateful to the local leader of a church who opened his church doors for us.
We all took a pew in the chapel and slept soundly for a few hours, while we waited for the rest of our group to arrive.
We rose with the sun and carried our belongings as we walked across the United States border into Mexico.
We loaded onto the bus that would be our home for the next 36 hours and settled in for the ride.
We drove mile after mile, through desert landscape.
On occasion we would pass through tiny towns and the children would run out to wave at the bus filled with 'gringos'.
The bus climbed mountain passes in a rainstorm, and once in a while I would look out the window, down the sides of the mountain and see the remains of cars that didn't make it up the mountain pass.
For hours I watched the windshield wipers move back and forth across the windshield, as I stared out into the darkness, and prayed that we would safely make our destination.
We watched Indiana Jones and The Princess Bride. We sang songs. We played games. We laughed and talked, and we slept when we could.
And by the time we arrived at our destination in Mexico we had become the best of friends.
* * * * *
Several months earlier my dad had come home with a video he wanted my brother, sister and I to watch.
We sat in our living room and watched a group of young kids our age working on a project in a tiny village in Mexico.
They were working with a humanitarian group called CHOICE (Center for Humanitarian Outreach and Intercultural Exchange) and had paid their own way to spend a week working in the tiny village of Tlalcosteptl, just above the city of Puebla, Mexico.
The person making the video interviewed every person in the group and asked them each the same question:
"Who has benefited the most by you being here this week? The villagers or you?"
The response was the same every single time.
"I benefited the most."
My dad wanted us to have the same experience and when the video ended he told us, "Happy Birthday kids. This is what you'll be doing this year for your birthday."
* * * * *
I had no idea that my life was about to change forever.