Monday, December 21, 2020

The shot of hope

My last post was about our magical life on St. Croix with our new baby who pooped a lot more than I thought was previously advertised about babies. Since then, 2020 happened, and just like the rest of the world, we have been shut down and dealing with the effects of Covid-19. But not even a week ago, there was a silver lining. My husband was one of the first individuals on the island and in the world to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. He's a behavioral health front line worker and last Wednesday when the territory received its first shipment of vaccines, he received his. 

This year, I also had a year-long breast cancer scare that finally culminated in an excisional biopsy three weeks ago that thankfully resulted in a benign diagnosis. For being a small island with one hospital, my husband and I have really gotten a lot of use of all the doctors and medical facilities on island over the last five years, and this from two people that rarely needed medical care when living in the states. While the island is small, there are some exceptional physicians and nurses who have taken great care of us. This has allowed us to continue living here and rarely consider moving back to where we used to live.

Island life also makes social distancing a lot easier than in many other places. The population is under 50,000 sprawled over about 84 square miles. Masks are mandatory and tourism has significantly dropped off since March. Although in the beginning, working from home with no daycare was challenging. Now, we have settled in to eating at home and spending most of our time with each other.

Our baby has grown into a toddler and is now a very assertive and early-rising two-year old who loves to swim. She knows what she wants and along with her sidekick, our dog, knows exactly how to get it. They both share a love for cheese... one asks for it constantly with no intention of eating it and the other one eats it off her nightstand. Our baby also has the most unforgettable laugh. She laughs like the whole world is laughing with her, and she is completely ignorant of a global pandemic going on around her, which is the best part of this story.

I hope for a 2021 that sees the vaccine free the world to being what we once knew as normal. I want a future for my daughter where zoom isn't the only way to see the people that she cares about. I want us to remember what it was like during this year and to use that knowledge to work harder to avoid this happening in the future. I wish for many more memories that makes my life on a tiny island in the Caribbean the best life that my family can have, especially during this time.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A magical life

Babies take a lot of time and it has been a major life change since our baby has come into our lives. My husband and I used to have tons of free time- going to the beach, exploring our island and just doing absolutely nothing a lot of time the time. Now, that has all changed. We do baby, baby and dishes. The amount of dishes that we do now has increased exponentially. Any free time we have goes to doing dishes and we live on an island so using paper plates seems wasteful.

The baby part of our busy lives now is magical. She's like a mini version of my husband and I put together. She smiles and laughs and eats and poops (a lot more poops than they tell you), and it's all exhausting but really great. Every day brings a new experience for our daughter like sitting, standing, waffles; and she experiences it all like she was put here to do so, and she was. Watching her experience new things in life makes all the mis-steps and decisions that brought us to this point of our lives worth it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the last four years. Four years ago, I came to St. Croix for the first time. I had never even heard about this island before then. When I came here for my nine day pre-move visit, I realized that the possibilities here for me were endless.  I had absolutely nothing to base this on but I can tell you from experience that this premonition was true. I got more from my move here than I could have ever imagined. 

I also thought about the things that happened on this island while I've lived here that I probably wouldn't have wanted to experience when I planned my move. My husband broke his arm in an unfortunate incident, which canceled his last boat trip and our trip to Spain; we got burglarized; and we went through a major category five hurricane, living without power or internet for months. I thought about what life would have been like if none of these unfortunate events ever happened. But then I realized what most people probably realize when they think of such things; that the life that we have now would not be what it is without all of those life experiences. It has led us to where we are  and who we are today.

We live on a beautiful island with the sweetest baby and the most magical views. I get to share my life with my best friend and our daughter and our dog. And while we may not agree on everything (especially when it comes to throwing stuff away- I'm trying to achieve a minimalist lifestyle while raising a baby which is impossible and my husband doesn’t love throwing things away), we do agree on our love for the life that we have and the experiences that have brought us here together.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Perfect little baby feet

I always thought babies had the perfect little baby feet. My daughter has perfect little baby feet. It has taken a while to write this because everything becomes so much busier when a baby needs absolutely every minute of your time and my baby is no exception. We had our daughter back in June and she’s perfect with perfect little baby toes.

When I first came to St. Croix, I joked that I had retired from the law and I was now a beach bum, hence the name of this blog. Since those first few months on the island, three years have passed, I fell in love, I got married (to the person I fell in love with), I got back into law (licensed and all the fun stuff) and I became a mother (the father is that guy I fell in love with and married earlier in this story).  I didn’t plan for any of it and it all worked out. We also moved into a bigger place after having the baby and that has been a challenge. We’re finally unpacked and ready to enjoy our time together.

Pregnancy was not easy for me at all. I was sick almost every day of it except the last two weeks. I also now know the location of every store’s island bathroom. My daughter was a few days late and she did not want to come out so I had her via c-section which was not the plan. I should have remembered that everything that happened after I moved to St. Croix was not really planned so why would that go according to my plan?

As soon as I saw her, all the sick mornings were worth it. She had the perfect everything. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed her but that didn’t go according to plan either. So we are mostly formula feeding now and I couldn’t have a happier baby. She smiles and makes the cutest baby sounds. Our dog (she's adopted) is enamored with our daughter (her little sister as we jokingly call her) and gently licks her and gives her the space that a baby needs.

And in the midst of a pregnancy (that did coincidently happen during a hurricane although it was definitely planned), I became an attorney again. Being an attorney on an island is a little different than being one in the states but there are a lot of similarities. There are still deadlines but I get to meet them in flip flops on most days, and the weather is always summer which I love.

My priorities have changed though.  I prioritize my daughter and my family. They are the most important to me. My work is also important but if my daughter needs something or if it’s between watching her smile or reviewing a pleading on a Friday night, I’m watching her smile instead.

We still have challenges on the island (like no Starbucks or dunkin donuts)  but everything is just a little bit better and we smile just a little bit more because she’s in this world.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

It's a girl!!!

I'm so happy to share that we are pregnant and we're going to have a baby girl in June of this year. We also have power and some more connectivity to the outside world, just in time to stream the winter Olympics! Ironically, I started this blog with a post about the would-be olympics in Chicago which never happened.

It's hard to believe that it was just under three years ago that I made the choice to move to an island in the Caribbean that I had never heard of. I met a boy with a dog and my life hasn't been the same since. Then we got married and two hurricanes, life without power or internet or phones for a few months, and now we're having a baby. I have never been happier.

I'm in my 30s and being pregnant is the biggest change that I have ever gone through. Either I wasn't very interested in finding out the specifics or I never had any really close friends become pregnant, but I was not prepared for all that pregnancy entails. I thought it would be some morning sickness and a big belly, but it has been a lot of morning sickness, a lot of tire,d and my belly isn't even that big yet!

I wouldn't change this experience for anything but if you're thinking of having a baby, read some books, ask some friends how it really is and prepare for some of the biggest changes to take over your body physically. Everyone is different but oh my, I was not prepared for how it was really going to be.

My husband is the best though and being married is still the best thing ever. He does absolutely everything for me now that I cannot or feel too sick to do, and while I want to tell everyone out there that you can still do everything and be pregnant at the same time, you can't and that's okay. It's nice to have people around you that are willing to accommodate you when you're most in need.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Life Post-Irma and Maria

We've had two category 5 hurricanes hit the Virgin Islands (only one them directly on St. Croix) and we're still here. We don't have power or internet at home but we do have hot water so it's a start! Here's a picture of the water cooler from government house where we have found new careers as reporters short-term. Things are definitely getting better day by day but it will take some time to get back to what it was and make it even better.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Married life on an island... is the best thing ever

The wedding was a huge success! Being married is amazing, much better than what you hear from friends or on TV. It's the first time since we've gotten engaged we can just enjoy being with each other with nothing to do or plan. They don't mention this in the magazines but when you get engaged, it's great and all, but then you realize that you have to plan a wedding and becoming your own wedding planner is less than amazing.

We planned to have to family and friends arrive a few days before the wedding and we scheduled boat trips and bingo discos to make sure everyone had a good time while they were with us getting to know everyone else. Our families and friends loved each other, which was a relief and also an affirmation that we go well together as our friends and family seemed to mesh well.

The wedding day was everything we could have hoped. So many people said such nice things about us at the wedding, we were very humbled. And it went so so fast.

One moment we were walking down the aisle and forgetting our vows, then we had the first dance, there was cake and then it's over! It literally goes that fast. There are pictures that were taken that I don't remember posing for. We even had wedding crashers and someone did end up in the pool :). It was a perfect island wedding party.

Then came the honeymoon to a nearby island on a cruise which was pretty perfect and extremely relaxing. We can never go on a regular vacation again.

And then we came back to St. Croix and we got to be here for the first time as husband and wife. Now we had lived together for almost two years before we got married so we thought it would be all the same but it's not! Living together, being married and not having to plan a wedding is like the best thing ever. We come home and we can do whatever we want now! We spend lots and lots of time doing pretty much nothing and it feels really good. I think that's how you know that you married the right person.

As a wrap up: 

  • I recommend getting married (to the right person).
  • Cruise vacations are the best (get a cabin in the middle of the boat if you get seasick).
  • Have your dog be the ringbearer (it's extremely cute and we had backup rings just in case).
  • Get a cake that not only looks great but tastes great too (it was chocolate with pineapple filling and it was amazing).
  • Don't leave the dog in a room alone with your jewelry (she may or may not have eaten it).
  • Enjoy each and every day together (even if you don't live on an island).

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 :)