Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tears and Happy Endings

First, I have to tell you that this story has a happy ending (yep, that's where the title comes from). However, it's going to take us a little bit to get there so bear with me on this journey. Everyone knows I'm getting married and nothing takes a blushing bride to tears like someone telling her that "she cannot get married." Yep, in those exact words. And this phrase has no weight except when its spoken by the only people with the power to give you a wedding license. Yes, again.

So let's go back to a bright sunny day on June 1. I love the first day of the month. There is so much hope and promise that a new month brings with it. If you had a really bad month, it's so easy to put all your money on the greatness that the next month will have. It usually takes at least until the second day of the month to determine that things are still going downhill. Not in this case! Nope! June 1 was the day that my fiance and I decided we would go to to get our marriage license. There is a waiting period in the USVI before you get married so we left ourselves plenty of time.

I actually wanted to go later because we were coming up on my fiance's "birthday weekend," but we decided June 1 would be a great day to begin our journey of starting our lives together as husband and wife. My fiance has also apparently never heard of "birthday weekend" which was shocking to me so I made up "birthday month" as well and we had a really fun time making jokes about it. Well, "birthday weekend" actually entailed horseback riding and dinner and a boy scout camp open house so I really didn't want that ruined. I never thought anything bad could happen from a trip to get a marriage license. I've never heard of such a thing.

So we got to where we needed to be on the afternoon of June 1. It started raining a little bit and that may have been our first sign, but we live in the tropics and rain is usually a relief from the heat and rain does good things here. It took us about a half hour to get to where we were going and we had all our documents ready. My fiance even wore pants and real shoes (when it's this hot, shorts and flip flops are the usual uniform).

It took the office that grants marriage licenses no more than five minutes to proclaim that my fiance and I could not get married for at least two to three months. No kidding. Someone actually set us down in a very small space and told us point blank that we could not get married. Now, I know what you're thinking, you're an attorney (and I am still licensed to practice law in Illinois), couldn't you just say fancy attorney words and fix this? Yes, of course I tried, and I quickly realized that fancy attorney words would not work. In fact, even fancy things your favorite attorney actors on TV in these types of situations could do would not permit us to be legally married by our wedding date. So I tried the next best thing; I pleaded to have another option than just a solid no.

We went to eat plantains and chicken while we waited for the results of my pleading. I don't think anyone at that chicken place saw anyone more sad trying to eat a plantain. It was plantain de tears, a new menu item for them. I love plantains, I have never been so sad eating one in my life. Of all the things that I thought could possibly go wrong with the wedding (and up until now, my fiance and I just said we'd go along with anything that happened), I never thought someone would tell us we couldn't do the one thing we just spent a year planning.

So we got the call and the answer was "no but maybe if... and we won't know the answer until tomorrow morning." We drove back really dazed. We tried to do everything we could to take our mind off what was really happening even though we couldn't really wrap our heads around it (I will save everyone from the boring details). We hugged a lot of dogs that night. Then morning came and I told my fiance to have his pants and shoes ready in case we had to go back to get our license again. I was hopeful. I got the call pretty early that morning and it was a "no." I pleaded again. I was told again that "maybe."

We were really close to "birthday weekend" now. I spent the day without plantains or much of an appetite. Nobody gave me an answer either way and the day ended. I came home and I broke down. I was not a fan of anything that night. We came up with some plans, one of which was to go to Vegas where we knew we could get married without any problems (their license offices are open 365 days/year and until midnight and pretty much anyone can get married there, fyi). We both love Vegas so why not have a really expensive party in St. Croix, go on our honeymoon and then get married! This was an option.

Now that we had options, it was time for birthday weekend and we started with touring the boy scout camp. It was great. Then we went horseback riding in the ocean! Yep, you read that right, in the ocean! The horses took us up to our waist fully clothed and we went through the rainforest. It was amazing and for about two hours we focused on nothing but not falling off those horses. It was a "magical" experience as we call it here. Even my fiance thought it was "magical" and he has never been on a horse before. Then we had dinner and it was a nice day.

On Sunday, we mostly worked and finished some wedding things that we needed to do because were still having our really expensive party no matter what, we weren't going to ruin this for our family and friends who had non-refundable tickets and reservations. We also realized that going to Vegas may not be the right option for us but we live really close to Miami so we had a day trip planned as a plan B. We would get married before our wedding and then walk down aisle and renew our vows. It seemed like a better option. I researched tickets, we were set. I still held out hope that maybe Monday would come and this small little nightmare would be over somehow.

On Monday, I woke up super early. Even the dog didn't want to get up yet (but she laid out on a pillow in the cutest way possible so it became a great picture opportunity). I got dressed and it was still super early so I decided to go to work early. As I was driving into town, I got a call from the licensing office. They "found a way" to give us a license. Now granted, this "way" was one I suggested in the beginning but we weren't going to delve into the details, we were too tired. I rushed back, got my fiance up and into pants and we were off. Everyone was super nice to us and we got it done... or so we thought. I got back to work and everyone was hugs and smiles. Then I get a call again... we had to resign something. But that was okay because what's another hour and some more pants wearing time. So we went and we did whatever we were asked and we came back.

Monday night, we ate some soup and we went to sleep. We were emotionally done. Up until June 1, the hardest thing we had to still finish for the wedding was clean our rings. My fiance thought this would make for a great blog post. I thought otherwise but I was also really emotionally exhausted.

This whole twilight of an experience made me realize something... up until someone told us we could't do it, I didn't realize how important it was to us to be legally married on our wedding day. I know that people actually get legally married before or after all time for various reasons but we didn't have any of those reasons. We're older so we're way past the age where we think that we have to be married. At our age, we get married because we actually want to, because we found the person who makes everyday better and who doesn't annoy us to the point of craziness. It's amazing when you find this, it's like everything any fairy tale you've ever watched tried to show you it could be with a glimpse of what it's like two years down the road when everyone is still alive and well and still talking nicely to each other. And we really wanted to share that real "I do" moment with our family and friends and not tell them we were married when were not or vice versa (otherwise we'd avoid the really expensive party and just rent a boat for a few hour, which is actually my advice to anyone who doesn't want to do the whole party thing).

So when someone tells you can't do something that you think is a basic right that you have, especially if you comply with all the rules that are writing, it becomes a really sad tear-filled plantain experience when someone tells you that you cannot do that. It doesn't make any sense and it isn't fair. I didn't go into details because those aren't important here. What is important is that we're getting married on June 20 (we will not be married before or after that date for sure now) and we are so excited for everyone who is coming from the states to join us next week, and we're equally excited to have our friends here join us as well. See you soon :)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lying under the stars

In the midst of everyday life, there are those special moments that stay with you forever, and we had one of those this past weekend. Last Saturday, we went to Sandy Point (the beach featured at the end of Shawshank Redemption) on an organized tour to see leatherback turtles nest. I honestly did not think we would see any turtles (although it's one of the most popular beaches for leatherback turtle nesting). The beach is closed from now until September for turtle nesting so it was just our group and a few others who were researching the turtles.

While we were waiting, we laid out on the sand looking straight up at the sky. It was dusk and somewhat cloudy but one by one the stars started coming out. It felt a little like a movie where the main characters have this incredibly romantic and private moment. We were with a group but it felt like we were the only ones there. It was really magical. And then our group leader got the call that a turtle was coming up to nest.

We saw this pretty large turtle lay her eggs and now the whole sky was filled with the most magical looking stars. It was one of the most magical moments I have had on this island. Not only was seeing a gigantic turtle lay eggs amazing to witness, but being in that place at that moment was one of those times in life where you realize that life is really special and being in the moment and being able to really enjoy what is happening is a gift. It's times like Saturday that I realize how much I love living here.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Happy 100 years U.S. Virgin Islands!

Last week we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the United States purchasing the U.S. Virgin Islands from Denmark. The day was a territorial holiday and the Prime Minister of Denmark as well as the Secretary of Interior were on St. Croix to commemorate the event. We even had fireworks, and it's always an event here when fireworks are involved. Overall, it was a nice celebration with parades and lots of people filling the usual spots. It was nice to see everyone come together and celebrate. Not everyone was happy but you can't make everyone happy all the time and that's okay, especially here.

We're happy when our electricity is working and when our internet is on; everything else is a huge bonus. There are days on this island where everything works out and everyone says yes and those days are amazing. Then there are those "no" days when nothing is possible and you have two flat tires all at once. Thankfully, the "no" days are far fewer than the amazing days, and all days include amazing views of the ocean and really good people always ready to help.

When I moved here, I lived alone and I handled most of my island issues alone as well. My days were filled with endless trips to the gas station to get air for my tires (I haven't met a pothole I didn't want to know on an intimate level yet). Then I met my fiance and life became so different and in such a great way. I was so used to doing everything on my own that I never really thought about how life changes when there is someone else in it to go through everyday challenges with me. We now go through every day together and it's nice not to have to get my air all by myself all the time. I know I still can but it's nice to know someone else wants to do it for me.

It's nice not to have to do everything by myself anymore. Especially living on an island, when there are certain challenges that go way above what I can handle sometimes, it's nice to know there is someone next to me that can do those things that I cannot, and that we can get through everything together. I do think that my overall island experience would be so much different if I was still on my own here. It doesn't mean that I wouldn't live here anymore but it would definitely be a lot more challenging and I would be full of a lot more frustrating tire stories. My fiance makes my life easier and more fun, and it's better than I ever thought being with someone forever would be.

Recently, I've been thinking about the things I miss since moving here. I really miss water slides. There aren't any here and we can't just drive to a water park or hotel that has them. We also don't have Starbucks or any coffee location that is open past 5 pm. I remember going to these places to decompress on a bad day with friends. Here, we have to find different ways of filling these voids. One of them is to go to our brand new movie theater or taking really long walks on the beach. I still miss the slides though...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Just like the states!

This weekend was so busy. On Friday, I had my hair and makeup trial for the wedding and then we went to do our engagement pictures at the beach where we got engaged. I had a ton of make up and I don't think my fiance recognized me, but I felt like a Disney princess and the pictures that we took turned out great. We'll have to see what the actual professional pictures look like when they come, but hopefully they look even better than ours.  For the first time, I looked older than a teenager and I really liked it.

After pictures, we went to dinner, which was a new experience for us on St. Croix because we got to cook our own dinner at a restaurant (more on that in the restaurant review below). And then we went to our brand new 8-screen movie theater! You probably take your movie theater for granted because you have a few others within driving distance and some are bigger and nicer than some others. On St. Croix, we had only one movie theater. It was very small and did not have stadium seating. Now, we have a gigantic movie theater with huge screens and stadium seating, and it still has that new car smell. We went on opening night and we were the first ones to sit in our seats. We got fancy popcorn and it was a really great experience. The best part about this theater is that while we have to pay outrageous prices for almost everything here, our movie tickets are only $8.50. This is about a $1 more than we used to pay for our not so great theater but it's definitely worth it.

On Saturday, I had my first island facial and I also met some very nice people from Wisconsin at the grocery store who were here on vacation (shout out to them, sorry I didn't get your names). Getting back to the facial, when you first move to an island, every time you go to the beach feels like getting a facial.  After two years, the beach facial wears off and dry skin comes back in full swing. I got the facial at the Buccaneer Hotel Spa and it felt amazing. All in all, this weekend reminded me of being in the states. When I lived there, I went to huge movie theaters, got facials and went to all kinds of do it yourself restaurants. Living on an island is very different on a daily basis but doing things that remind you of the states is good sometimes. I'll take these fun parts of living there minus the traffic, sub-zero temperatures and massive crowds any day. That's what makes living in our island bubble so magical sometimes. We get the best of both worlds.

Restaurant Review:

Starlite Grille at Divi Carina Bay Resort

On Friday, after our engagement pictures, my fiance and I were really hungry. Divi Carina Bay Resort is a stone-throw from our house so we decided to go there for dinner. We figured this is an all inclusive resort so they would probably have some good dinner options. We went into the hotel, saw the Starlite Grille and decided we'd try it out. We saw some people having meals brought to them on a hot lava rock and we just figured that was some sizzling skillet dinner choice. We sat down and ordered (btw, we had the option of dining inside which is somewhat rare here) and then it hit us; We realized that all the food served in this restaurant was served on a hot lava rock where the guests get the privilege of cooking the food themselves! We had a laugh about sending the food back as it was way underdone, but when our raw food did come out, we cooked it, seasoned it and proceeded to eat it.

Now a little bit of back story before I proceed with the review. My fiance is a chef so he cooks while at work and also when we eat at home. I am not a chef and I think that hot pockets are perfectly suitable meals when out of time or ingredients with which to cook (apparently my chef fiance does not agree with my adoration of hot pockets but we agree to disagree on such important issues which is what makes our relationship amazing), so cooking my own food at a restaurant comes as a unique experience while out to dinner. To my fiance, this is just another opportunity for him to cook which apparently he doesn't necessarily enjoy if he's going out to eat.

Once we finished cooking our food and it took probably not more than 10-15 minutes, our food was pretty tasty. The ingredients were really fresh and plentiful (he had the lamb, I had the veggie dinner) and the mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and steamed vegetables did come out already done. I looked at Divi's web site after we came home and it says "this is stone age cooking with a modern flair." I think it's a unique experience and the food tastes good. I'm not sure if I would order the chicken and try to cook it myself on a lava rock but I would definitely come back here again, and I may invite visiting guests for a "different" island experience as all island experience are sometimes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A new year on St. Croix

It's been a while since my last post and some people have emailed me and have asked if we still live on St. Croix. The good news is we are still here and we are still in love with a lot of our island experience. The less great news is the reason that I haven't posted in a while is that a few months ago we got robbed. It was hard to come back here and keep writing, not really knowing how to explain how I felt still being here after that experience. We were in our home unfortunately when it happened but we were asleep and we didn't see anything and nobody was hurt, which is most important.

Since then, we have moved to a different part of the island and we have started over, renewing our relationship with a place we really do love. It has felt like a long journey but we are in a really good place now where we can start to see everything that is great here once again.

While we did consider moving off island, there are so many reasons we want to stay. We love the way of life, our friends, the beautiful views and of course, the perfect weather. I have spent the last several months repairing my relationship with this island and I'm in a really good place now. We have a new beautiful view and an amazing outlook on the future. I'm also really happy that our wedding planning is almost now complete and we still have about 4 months to spare.

Life is definitely a lot busier than it was when I first moved here, from repairing car tires to going to dentist and vet appointments, but it's a good busy because our lives have transitioned from just being on a temporary hiatus from our old lives to our new long-term lives on a small tropical island in the Caribbean.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Wedding Planning on St. Croix

Who knew that this blog would go from losing the Olympic Games to moving to an island to Wedding Planning! If you're still reading this, I'm very lucky to have such loyal readers.

So if you've ever met me, you'd think I'd have binders and Pinterest boards full of planned ideas for any event, especially for a future wedding. But somehow I never really thought of any plans involving my own wedding. I've seen my friends get married, and I've been in their bridal parties, but I was so focused on them that I never really thought of anything that I would do for when the time came. I never knew how much really goes into planning your own wedding and how expensive it gets. It makes you want to elope... a lot of times during the course of any given day post-engagement and pre-wedding.

But we're making it work and we're doing traditional/island/modern and our guests are going to have an amazing time. When you live on a island, you start wanting to waste less paper, use less plastic bags and go as organic as possible. When that dream fades and reality sets in, you try to get at least a balance of these things in your life, moreso than when you lived stateside.

So when it comes to wedding planning, the island lacks in a lot of the things you would need for the "details" of the wedding. There aren't really many bridal stores (just one) or party favor stores (maybe two). So two weeks ago I went dress shopping in the only store that has wedding dresses here. And I found my dress! It's absolutely not the kind of dress I thought I would wear at my wedding (I did think about it a little bit before and I always envisioned this huge dress that doesn't really exist and is probably extremely impractical for a beach wedding). And I already have plans to shorten it after the wedding because I really want to be able to use everything I have here, including the dress that I am only supposed to wear once. My mother is horrified at this idea because after all, it's a wedding dress, but in my mind it's a really pretty dress that I will wear at my wedding that would look amazing when shortened so I can wear it again and again because I love this dress (especially the back).

This brings me to what I love about living here. There is a way that things are "supposed to be" when you live in the states or probably in most places. But here, it feels like I can make my own rules for how things are supposed to be, especially with something like this which back in the states we make such a big deal about but in reality, is just one big party with our family and friends. Would we still get married without this "party" that for some reason has to be perfect and white and without one hair out of place?" Of course we would, so instead of trying to please absolutely every tradition that has ever existed, we are going to plan our party our way and we're going to be happy regardless of whether it works out exactly as we planned or not or whether there are an equal number of bridesmaids and groomsman or whether it rains during the ceremony which is going to be very much outside on the beach in the sand with no real Plan B because we're on an island and it rains sometimes and that's okay (back in Chicago, there would be a tent ready and a plan C location in case of Apocalypse, and I would make sure that all the guests knew about both the tent and plan C
).

So since we decided we can do whatever we want, we did want to add some tradition into this experience and that's a good thing, because being on an island and trying to gather your wedding necessities means you have to be creative. For the veil, when I didn't find exactly the one I wanted from the four I had available as my options here, I asked if anyone on the island had a veil that they loved. Someone answered and now I have my something borrowed and I love it! I would never have thought to do that stateside, but here, it feels wrong not to do this and it's all working out when I do.

Another necessity of weddings... trinkets!!! It's really easy to go online and find all these trinket things that every wedding should have. And I am not against wedding trinkets (although I am somewhat against trinkets in general since I moved here). I think trinkets that make other people feel good are great and I've ordered some for our guests because I think they'll feel really special when I give it to them when they're here. But then there are things from the island that we really want to incorporate into this big party that we're throwing. We're having friends make our card box and signs from wood they find here on the beach and we're keeping those to pass on in the future, and I love the idea of that. I love finding the balance of blending the island with modern ideals and some stateside values. This lets us retain all the good that comes from stateside living and incorporate them into what makes us love living here as well.

More party planning posts to come! It's funny because I used to have so many lovely island pictures on my phone that have now been replaced by engagement rings, wedding dresses, homemade pizzas and veils. I can't show these here (except for the homemade pizza my fiance made) because I do want my dress to be a surprise on the actual day of our big party to a certain person who always reads my blogs and is my biggest fan, but I will be sure to take some cool landscape pics for the next post!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

My fairy tale and an island

I'm still on St. Croix but I haven't written in a while. A lot has been going on and the blog took a back seat. In the last three months, my then boyfriend broke his arm, we both went to see one of my best friend's get married in Chicago, and he asked me to marry him (thus the "then" boyfriend and now fiance)! That's a lot to digest, even here, and I honestly couldn't be happier.

Watching an adult break his arm and watching him go through everything that comes after was not fun at all. The good news is that St. Croix has all the facilities needed to treat broken bones and all the physical therapy facilities needed to slowly get those bones working again. It was honestly no different to go through that here than anywhere else stateside. The main difference was that we were able to go to the hospital, get medications, see a specialist and take the dog to the vet all before noon because everything is so close to everything else here. Did I mention that Bill Clinton was giving a speech and my aunt and uncle were coming to visit the day after this all happened? Well, all worked out and my aunt and uncle seemed to have a really nice time visiting.


And then after everything calmed down a bit, my fiance and I took a trip to my hometown of Chicago and we watched two really nice people get married. It was so sweet and nice, and Chicago was actually pretty nice from a visitors point of view. Then we came back to St. Croix and we went for a walk on the beach with our dog. And then my life changed forever.

It was really like a fairy tale. A lot of what I've seen and experienced on this island has been pretty magical (apart from seeing actual fairy dust in the bioilluminescence bay) but this was pretty much what every woman dreams of when thinking of someone asking to marry her. When I first came to St. Croix, I was so relieved to have less stress and to just be happy that I didn't really think about getting married any time soon. It was such a stressful thought back in Chicago that I was just happy to be happy and I accepted the fact that it may not really be in the cards for me. Then I met my boyfriend and it has been exactly like I dreamed it could be someday ever since. It was like once I didn't need it, I got exactly what I always wanted.

We went for a walk on the beach. The tide was high and there was a voyeur sea turtle nearby. Everyone loves sea turtles so it was a great day already. Then my boyfriend pointed out a piece of sea glass in the water and I went around it as I was almost certain tetanus would be imminent if I touched it. He told me to not to touch it so I obviously haaaaad to pick it up then. I saw that it said "Mar..." through the sand and I picked it up and it said "Marry me." I thought it was so sweet that someone had asked someone else to marry them in that same spot so I turned around to show my boyfriend and he was on his knee in the water with the ring and the sun setting behind us. I'm pretty sure that turtle was nearby watching everything as all voyeur sea turtles do. I was shocked and my hands were shaking and it was the best feeling I have ever had. It just felt right just like everything since I met him has felt right. You really do know when it's the right person because it feels so different with anyone else.

So now we're in the midst of planning a wedding. They don't tell you this if you're not engaged yet, but after the engagement comes this not so fun part of actually planning every minute detail of your upcoming wedding. This is especially tricky on an island because while we have every facility necessary for a broken bone, we do not have ever store necessary for everything that goes into a wedding. Thus, we are now going to become very creative in order to make this work because like everything else since I've come here, it's definitely going to work and it's going to be amazing.

I gave up everything and I moved to an island, and I found the perfect person to spend the rest of eternity with. The best part of this is that this isn't just a story, it's my life and it's real and I couldn't be happier.