Monday, November 18, 2013

The Grocery Store (and my Thanks-giving)

After living in the Virgin Islands for 2 ½ years, I’m pretty used to most of the challenges and joys of life in the Caribbean.  My longing for a Starbucks coffee (what are they serving now, pumpkin lattes???) and a stateside drugstore has subsided.  In fact, the island just got our very own Wal-greens.  There was a parade for it on opening day.  I’m not kidding.  However, the one thing that I still miss terribly is grocery shopping in the states, and with the biggest eating holiday right around the corner, it’s hard not to think about how wonderful grocery shopping on the mainland truly is. 

 
When we moved from Chicago, Whole Foods had just built a brand new store that was a replica of their flagship store in Austin, TX.  At the time, I didn’t appreciate it for what it was, but today I realize that that store wasn’t simply any grocery store, it was heaven on earth. 

 
Upon entering the store and making your way down the escalator from the parking garage, you got an aerial view of the produce department - full of shiny, vibrant, colorful, fresh and healthy organic fruits and vegetables of any sort you may need and several kinds you will never need.  Right next to this was where they offered freshly cut flowers of all colors and types, which they used to make stunning floral arrangements, ready to take home to make a loved one's day. 

 
But, this euphoric experience didn’t stop there.  This Whole Foods also included a wine bar, a coffee bar, a bar (serving hip and trendy micro-brews, of course), a diner, a sushi/Chinese station, a gelato station, Panini and sandwich stations, a full bakery with freshly baked breads and cakes, two soup stations and an enormous salad bar full of fresh veggies and a variety of salads.  Oh, and the meat and fish departments were stocked completely full of any cut or type of fresh meat you could ask for – just flown in from any given part of the world. 

 
People would literally go there to hang out, or perhaps relax and have lunch, or a coffee.  Maybe there would be a wine tasting that day.  You simply never knew how this store would outdo itself, once again, when you stepped inside.  To me it was like looking upon a lively rainbow of health and a wonderland of nourishment each time you went there. 

 
I could go on and on about the friendly service, the fully stocked shelves and the endless frozen food section.  Oh, and that area of wacky health drinks ready to alleviate whatever ailment you may have, or could potentially get.  However, this is supposed to be about grocery shopping in the VI, so I’ll stop elaborating over this dreamlike store and move on. 

 
Where do I begin?  Well, think of the store I just described, then think of the exact opposite, and that’s where I’ll start. 

 
The store I typically shop at...
 
 
Of course, Whole Foods or any stateside grocery store has the unfair advantage of easy and quick shipping.  I now know that this is essential to getting fresh food.  So, I’ve learned that if you want ‘fresh’, which means non-moldy or fly-ridden food, you really can only go to the stores when they get their shipment in, which is typically on Sunday, so Monday is the best day to go since that’s when everything is fully stocked. 

 
Keep in mind that if it wasn’t flown in, then it was shipped in on a cargo barge, which can take 2 weeks from the states.  So, imagine those bright, beautiful blueberries that you just bought at Kroger, or Jewel.  Now imagine them after they’ve been sitting in your refrigerator for 2 weeks – wrinkled, with a bit of fuzzy mold.  Or, imagine them 2 ½ - 3 weeks later, should you not be able to make it to the store on Monday.  Would you pay full price for them?  Needless to say, we don’t really eat blueberries anymore. 

 
The produce department.  Note that everything is still in the boxes they were shipped in.
 

Speaking of full price, I think there are times when our price is fuller than the stateside full price.  Again, the shipping issue is a huge part of this, but I also think it has to do with availability vs. demand.  Of course, shipping costs money and that trickles down to the consumer big time.  I once paid $20.00 for a liter of olive oil.  Okay, well maybe it was $19.99.  That was at one of those ‘fancy’ St. Thomas grocery stores that I only go to when I can’t bear the thought of having to go to more than one store to get everything I need, since it is rare that one store will have all of the items on your list.  Part of this lack of inventory is because stores aren’t going to pay to ship something down here that there isn't a huge demand for, and part of this is that if they do ship a rare item down here they certainly aren’t going to ship a lot of it.  So, if you didn’t come on the first day or two when it was available, it’s sold out. 

 
People often comment on how great and healthy island food must be.  They fantasize about having fresh fish every night and snacking on tropical fruit throughout the day.  However, the simple fact is that for a variety of reasons, there is no commercial fishing down here.  Most of the fish is flown in from other parts of the world.  As for the fruit, we do get some mangos and some other exotic tropical fruits like soursop that is most excellent (especially right off our trees in the backyard), but we don’t have the land on this little island to produce enough for commercial re-sale.  We are not a self-sufficient island - nearly everything is shipped.

 
So, here is my top 10 list of what have I learned with respects to grocery shopping…


1)      There is a substitute for everything.  Google it if the store doesn’t have it.

2)      Go to the store on Monday if you want the freshest food you can get.

3)      Make pit stops throughout the week to stores that may have what you couldn’t get on Monday.

4)      Inspect everything – touch, look and smell.  Take a long, hard look at those onions, or tomatoes before you buy them.

5)      Check and re-check the expiration date.  The shelves are often still stocked with expired food.

6)      If they have it now and you think you may need/want it in the near future, then buy 2 of them.

7)      The check-out lady is still going to be rude to you even if you say ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’.  Try to get to know who the nicer ones are and get in their line, even if it’s longer.
 
 
Those boxes are for people that forget to bring their own bags in which to put their groceries.  How environmentally savvy!
 

8)      The wine selection at the store I routinely go to is never going to change, so I typically drink the same type of wine every week.

9)      Bring instant hand sanitizer like Purell with you every time.  The chicken will juice you.  As a side, you will get a dirty look from the cashier when she sees that you have put the chicken in a bag from the produce department.  She will resent you for having to do the extra work of taking the bag off slightly to scan the chicken.

10)   If it doesn’t look good, don’t buy it even if you need it.  Just go with what’s available and make do.  You’ll just have to wait until next week.
 
 
I needed this ginger, but it was rotten when I got home.  Yum!
 

 I suppose these are all of the work-arounds that I’ve learned, but what I’ve truly learned is that somehow, someway, not having a micro-brew, or a coffee bar, or perfectly fresh food at the grocery store has still worked out for me.  Sure.  It’s not as pleasant of an experience – the store I go to has a distinct smell that I have grown to dread – but, life here has somehow worked out for me, regardless. 

 
Even more, I understand what it’s like to not live in a consumer society anymore.  This has been a big, huge eye opener for me.  Before living here, I didn’t realize how easy and quick companies made it to consume.  Everything is at your fingertips, and if you live in the city, it’s even more so this way.  Want a Starbucks?  No need to get out of the car, you can go to the drive thru.  Already past the Starbucks?  No problem, there’s another one 2 blocks away.  Buying on Amazon?  No sweat, you can make your purchase without having to even put your credit card number in because they already have it on-line.  Even buying music is easy, just hop on iTunes for the latest single, enter your password from your phone and voila.

 
When I lived in Chicago, I could spend an entire weekend shopping for material items.  This is how I would spend my time - shopping for clothes, shopping for furniture, shopping for food, etc.  It was a past time.  Had I not moved out of that climate, I would have had a stunning condo, full of beautiful furniture, rugs, dishes, etc. (which I still very much long for).  But, I’d be spending my entire life in a store. 

 
Here, the store is the last place I want to be.  It’s dreadful.  I want to get out of there as soon as possible.  So, while I won’t be eating organic food anytime in the foreseeable future, I’m thankful that I will be nourishing my life and soul with tons of sunshine, saltwater, friends and...wilted lettuce.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rita


I have a high-class problem that I can’t help but use this blog to vent about.  I highly dislike (hate is a strong word) our pool lady, Rita.  I can almost see all of my friends on the island rolling their eyes now because I have been complaining about this woman to them for months.  But, I simply can’t pass up this cathartic opportunity to release a bit of frustration over my inept pool lady.  So, allow me to self-indulge a bit as I rant on.

Kevin and I moved into our house last December, and the main reason why we moved into the place was for the absolutely beautiful outdoor space that it offers.  Especially, the pool.  Kevin and I have never had a pool before, and since the weather down here is always warm, we were excited about having the opportunity to be able to cool down at any time in our own pool, conveniently located in our backyard. 
 
                                                                      Our Humble Abode

When we signed our lease, our landlord made a deal with us that she would pay for pool up-keep and we would pay to keep the lawn nicely manicured – a fantastic deal for her, I might add.  Anyway, she has been working with the same pool lady for years and continued to arrange to have her come once a week to maintain the pool.  Apparently, she did not get on the hot-pool-guy bandwagon when she hired Rita, which was a huge miss on her part in more ways than one.

Anyway, since Kevin and I have no clue how to keep the chemicals in a pool balanced, we relied entirely on our pool lady to do so, which is how we understood our lease.  Unfortunately, we quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be adequate enough to keep a nice, blue and clear pool going. 

When we first realized that the pool was looking a bit e-coli-esque, we asked Rita what the issue was.  Rita said that the pool needed to be painted.  The paint chips were keeping it from working properly.  Then, the next week when she’d come, we’d ask her again what the problem was.  She’d blame it on the rain.  Then, the next week it was a broken pump.  Next time it was not enough rain/water in the pool.  Or, too much sun on the pool.  Or, not enough chlorine in the pool.  Or, perhaps we had too many people in the pool.  Maybe the skimmers weren’t working properly.  It was the algae.  Etc., etc., etc.

So, our pool continued to be green, or yellow, or any other color than clear blue.
 
This is the way our pool should look.
 
This is the way our pool typically looks.
 
These are our friends, Jen and Stephen.  They're actually in the ocean, not our pool.  I know, it's hard to tell the difference.
 
 
This is what I like to call, The Rita Special.

We reached a climax with this situation when I got an email from our landlord stating that she had received a huge bill from Rita, and we needed to start contributing to the cost of chemicals for the pool.  Huh?  Let me get this straight.  We are paying an insane amount of rent to live in a house that was built in the 1970’s because we like the outdoor space with the pool, which I only swim in about 30% of the time because it’s so unappealing, and you want us to pay more?  As a side note, she also asked this of us about a month before our wedding.  So, her timing wasn’t good, and I almost feel sorry for her after she bore the brunt of my bridezilla frustration coupled with yellow-pool angst.  Not a good combination.  Needless to say, we did not comply with her request.

Instead, I went to The Home Depot and bought something that I could start testing our pool water with to see if the chemicals were balanced.  I wanted to keep Rita in check, and this was just the tool I needed.  Of course, what I found was that most of the time the chemicals weren’t even close to balanced.  So, we started bringing this up with Rita and learned a bit more about how our pool worked, or (more accurately) didn’t work.

We expressed to Rita that we were expecting a lot of friends and family in town for our wedding and all we really wanted was to have the pool in shape for the week of our wedding - just 1 week out of the whole damn 12 month period of our lease.

Rita agreed to stay on top of it for us that week.  She came the weekend before the wedding and shocked the pool.  However, a few days later, while Kevin’s best friend was staying with us, the pool was yellow again.  I called Rita.  She said she’d come the next day to fix it.  She didn’t.  Her and all of her excuses came the day after the next day.  Once she arrived, she proceeded to yell at Kevin in front of our guests for not putting in chlorine after she shocked it.  That didn’t go over well.  I believe Kevin’s exact words were, ‘I’m just not sure why YOU are yelling at me for not balancing the chemicals properly.’  Rita apologized.

So our pool looked like crap during the week of our wedding, and I had had it.  The next time I saw Rita I went down to ask her if she could review all of the issues with the pool for me so that I could bring them up with our landlord.  I felt that our landlord needed to be informed of these issues.  We had been patient enough.  Rita did not take too kindly to this, and rather than reviewing the laundry list of issues that our relic of a pool has, she looked at me with demon eyes and said, out of nowhere, ‘IT’S THE DOGS!’ 

And that is the point in time when my alter ego came out.  In my mind she might as well have said, ‘IT’S YOUR KIDS’.  I lost it.  I reminded her of the broken pump, the broken skimmers, the high chlorine, the chipping paint, etc.  And I asked her that if what she was saying was if I simply removed my dogs from the pool, then all of these other issues would have absolutely no impact?!?!?  Kevin, hearing me yelling, came downstairs to the rescue, but not before I shouted at her from the top of the stairs (and my lungs), ‘FINE!  WE’LL KEEP THE DOGS OUT OF THE POOL AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS.’

After further discussion with Kevin, she cleaned the pool better than she had ever cleaned it, and in spite of the situation, we allowed the dogs to joyously swim in it all week long.  Regardless, the pool still looked pretty good at the end of the week.  Of course, upon arriving at our place for the following week’s pool treatment, Rita presumed that she had won this battle.  That is, until Kevin told her that the dogs had been in and out of the pool all week, and that he thought that if she just cleaned the pool well every time she comes, as she had the prior week, then we would be in good shape.  Yes, we have to remind her to clean the pool properly. 



                                                   


 

Our dog, Thor, who is a labradoodle that does not shed.
 
 
Our other dog, Oakley, who is in and out of the pool every 5 minutes.

Naturally, after my outburst I proceeded to give Rita the silent treatment for months, during which time she seemed to have completely fallen in love with Kevin.  Telling him that she thought he had ‘kind eyes’ and that he had a ‘kind soul’.  Telling me with a smile and a giggle that she, ‘really liked my husband’.  I didn't think it was possible, but this made me like Rita less, and I responded with a silent, inanimate glare.

During this down-time in my relationship with Rita, I brought up my pool issues with some girlfriends one night over drinks.  They agreed that the issues I was having sounded like ‘maintenance’ issues.  They further backed up their opinion by stating that their little kids poop in their pool all the time, and after shocking it, their pool always goes right back to normal.  Wait a minute, their kids take a dump in their pool and it bounces back no problem?  Meanwhile, my dogs shed a few dog hairs in our pool and it’s a colossal disaster that goes on indefinitely?  This is an outrage.

This saga is still going on now.  And, we get all kinds of excuses from Rita when the pool isn’t cleaned properly.  Her excuses include the following: she’s sick (mildly acceptable because we’ve all used this one), her legs hurt, our cars are parked in the driveway, so she can’t get through on her hurt leg, family issues…on and on.  However, my all-time favorite excuse is the one where she said that she couldn’t put enough chemicals in our pool because our pool is too hot in the afternoon sun, so it’s always the last stop of the day for her when the sun is down, and it’s not her fault that she doesn’t have a truck that can transport enough chemicals for an entire day’s work.  I couldn’t come up with a more classic island-style response if I tried.

Last night, Rita came to do her thing.  I’m back on speaking terms with her and I feel as though with time things have gotten better between us, if not the pool.  So, I went down to the pool to give her an envelope that our landlord had left for her.  I’m hoping it is a bribe to get her to do her job since our landlord wants to put the house on the market and needs it to show nicely to potential buyers.  She mumbled on about how she was late because the last pool she worked on was so bad it took extra time to clean.  I’m betting this is a more common than usual occupational hazard for her, than the average pool guy.  Anyway, as I turned to walk away from her, she sweetly asked me if I was wearing lipstick, or if that was my natural lip color.  This was beyond awkward for me, and I was unsure about how to take it.  Since I wasn’t wearing lipstick, I told her that it was natural and thanked her for the compliment.  Then, I politely said that I should, ‘let you get back to your work’ as I went inside. Oddly enough, I think we’re turning over a new leaf, Rita and I.    
 
 






Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Returning to Normalcy


I feel obligated to write about my wedding because it seems like the obvious thing to write about.  Frankly, I’m pretty resolute that it’s over.  The wedding is over.  Time to move on.  I've chopped off my hair, and I'm considering selling my gown. 
Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of my wedding day.  It is a day that I will never forget.  The best day of my life – by far.  It turned out exactly as we wanted it to, and words cannot do justice to how euphorically happy I was on that day.  When the pictures were finally ready I couldn’t stop looking at them.  Seriously, I obsessively looked at them over and over again for an entire weekend.  I will cherish my memories of that day forever.

However, aside from all the joy and elation that I felt on that day, I also felt a tremendous amount of relief.  In fact, I felt as much relief as I did happiness.  Mainly, I was relieved that everything went well and that everyone seemed to have a great time.  After all, aside from becoming husband and wife, all Kevin and I truly wanted was for everyone to have fun. 

So, when I found the following at our wedding venue after everyone left, I was assured that we did, indeed, throw a fun party:

1)      2 wet bridesmaid’s dresses.

2)      1 wet pair of panties.

3)      1 wet bra.

4)      Several inexplicable scrapes and bruises on my new husband.

As a side note, I later confirmed that the bra and panties were, in fact, from another bridesmaid.  If we were still 25, I'd be mildly impressed by my bridesmaids, but at 35 I'm overwhelmed with pride.  Nice work out of you, ladies.   
 

Of course, everything was wet because at about 11:30 pm, I couldn’t resist it any longer…I pushed Kevin into the pool, and he pulled me right in with him.  It didn’t take long for the rest of our friends and family to either get pushed in, or mercilessly jump in with us.  Yes, in true spring break fashion we were all in the pool, and that is where we stayed for the rest of the night.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, I’m relieved that the wedding is over.  No more planning or worrying or constantly feeling like I need to do something for the wedding.   I feel --- free!  I can simply reflect on the memories of that day and night fondly.  It was a moment in time.

So now it’s time to get back to some normalcy.  Just the normal day to day life of newlyweds.  Working.  Making dinner.  Hanging out with friends.  Reading by the pool.  Making last minute plans for the weekend.  I have to say, being a newlywed is MUCH better than being a fiancĂ©. 
So here we go, off on our journey through married life.  A new chapter for us has begun and an old chapter has closed. 

We are moving on.  Together. 

 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Getting Married - A Rite of Passage

I’m just over a month away from getting married, so the topic of this blog seems pretty obvious to me.  How can I not write about it?  After all, I can’t think of anything that I’ve put more time, stress, effort, thought, concern, emotion, money, attention, anxiety, frustration, etc., etc., etc., etc. into ever in my life.  And, if I’m being perfectly honest I can’t say that I’ve dealt with it all too well. 

I know that when I look back on the planning of this day, I’m going to regret stressing out over it as much as I have.  However, the honest truth is that I feel this overwhelming responsibility to have the most beautiful, put-together day of my life.   I want everything to be perfect, and I’m anxious that this may not happen.  This is probably because perfection is an all-too-familiar illusion that I battle with on a daily basis, so I know I’m aiming for the unobtainable.    

When I first got engaged, I was over-the-moon excited at the thought of Kevin and I spending our lives together.  We had been together for so long that I was thrilled to finally make our relationship official.  I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet.  And, while I wouldn’t consider myself to be the type to plan a wedding, we decided that we wanted to share this special time in our lives with our closest friends and loved ones.  Of course, there was also this side of me that had, over the course of the last decade and a half, seen most of my girlfriends get married and have the attention on them, so naturally I wanted that, too.      

At that time, I didn’t realize how unselfish of a decision sharing our moment with others was going to be, because what I didn’t see coming at me, like a damn freight train, was what all of this planning was going to entail.  One decision after another about everything from location, to venue, to food, to colors, to bedding, to flowers, to dresses.  Oh.  My.  God.  And, it never really stops.  The decision making just keeps coming.  In fact, I just received an email from my wedding coordinator about our final invoice.  Do I dare look?! 

I’ve gotten to the point where if I don’t receive a reply from a wedding vendor quickly, I’m happy because that means that I don’t have to deal with that particular matter for now.  So, I don’t even follow up with them anymore.  I just wait for them to get back with me on their own time, too jaded to really care.

So, now I can see how some women become complete and total bridezillas.  I understand how women are able to get so totally caught up in their wedding day that they forget why they are planning a wedding.  The wedding itself is a demanding distraction of colossal proportions.  And, since there are so many decisions to make, there are going to be disagreements among those involved.  You simply cannot make everyone happy.  With this in mind, I give a lot of credit to all of my married friends that have gone through this, and a) still had a wedding, and b) kept their sanity.  In fact, I found a shirt on Pintrest the other day that said, “Engagement, When People Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real".  I couldn’t have said it any better myself. 

I’ll admit, there have been moments when I’ve questioned whether we should continue to have this wedding - fantasizing about just the 2 of us eloping to Italy, instead.  Quite simply, it hasn’t been as fun as I had pictured it.  My good friends and sister are nearly 2,000 miles away, so it’s been a bummer to miss out on the girly part of wedding planning, even if I don’t care too much about the details.  And, I love Kevin, but those of you that know him will understand that when I say ‘Chartreuse’, he says, ‘God bless you’.   

Regardless, this entire year-long process really made me learn and think a great deal about myself, my fiancĂ©, my friends and my family.  Some of those realizations were really disappointing.  For example, I learned that I have no idea how to put on fake eyelashes, and I'm kind of afraid to try them.  More importantly, other realizations were gifts and assurances that I never would have had without this experience.  I've had some friendships grow tremendously over the last year, and I've received a great deal of support from friends that I never expected it from.  It has meant a lot.
Either way, with every decision and experience that the past year has brought, I’ve come to understand that getting married is a true rite of passage.  I no longer have to figure out life on my own because I’ll have Kevin by my side to support and love me along the way.  He will always be there to put a smile on my face and tell me everything is going to be okay…even if I can’t make up my mind about whether to wear a veil, or not.    

              

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thor and Iggy


Before moving to the island Kevin and I didn’t have a lot of time to look for places to live, so we took the first decent house we could find.  However, after a year in our old place, we agreed that we wanted a change.  So, we searched around for a new place for several months before finding a house that we loved, only 4 doors down from our old house. 

The new house is great, and we really couldn’t ask for anything more.  In particular, the yard is pretty spectacular.  It’s set up on the side of a hill, overlooking the ocean and other islands.  In addition, it’s full of coconut trees, mango trees, banana trees, bougainvillea and hibiscus.  It seems like every time we wake up in the morning we find a new plant blooming and blossoming.  Also, the house has a pool with a nice, open pool deck to lay in the sun during any given breezy tropical afternoon.  To top it off, there’s an empty lot next to our house that provides for lots of privacy.  It truly is a tropical haven (stick with me, here).

Since the yard and the lot next to the house are fenced in, we’ve been letting our dogs roam around to explore freely for the first time in their lives.  Initially, the dogs stayed relatively close to us, perusing the yard.  Oakley had some fun chewing on coconuts and obsessively bugging us to the throw the ball for him, and Thor simply smelled around a bit and chewed up every one of Oakley’s balls that he could get a hold of. 

However, as time went on, Thor got more and more confident with his surroundings, and he realized that there is a whole other world to explore back in that empty, thickly wooded and viney lot next to us.  Ya, know…the one providing all of that privacy for our tropical wonderland? 

So, after a couple of months of walking the perimeter of the woods, Thor decided to further explore.  At first he stayed at the edge of the woods where we could see him, sniffing around for whatever dogs sniff for.  Then, he started obsessively barking up at the trees.  We had no clue what he was barking at, but he was convincingly barking at something up there.  Afraid that he would alienate the neighbors, we’d walk back and grab him and put him back inside.  As a side, it’s not that easy to simply walk back and get him.  Even when on the perimeter of the woods, you have to put on shoes (not flip-flops) with socks and long pants.  This, of course, meant going into the house to change because I never wear shoes and socks anymore.  It’s a pain in the ass, but otherwise I’ll break out with some sort of rash and/or get stung by a bee, or (in Kevin’s case) several bees.  And, EVERYTHING has thorns on it down here.

Regardless of our efforts, Thor crept back further and further into the woods, and his barking continued.  He was on to something, and he wasn’t going to quit until he got whatever he was after.  So, we wound up letting him go back there on his own.  We’d hear him barking and if we had the time and energy, we’d go get him.  Otherwise, we’d wait him out and call him to come in when we could. 
At first when we called for him, he would come home covered in dirt and grime.  Then, he would come home with a swollen eye…then, 2 swollen eyes.  Sometimes, he looked like his feet and/or legs were bothering him.  Many times, his nose would be all scraped up and bleeding.  Since we couldn’t see him back there, we had no idea how any of this happened, but he proved that he wasn’t going to let any of it stop him because the next day he’d be right back out there, barking and carrying on. 

Then, last week while I was out of town with some girlfriends, Kevin sent me this picture…

 

Saying that Thor brought this over to him, and dropped it in front of him with a big smile on this face.  I think that smile looked something like this…


Then, shortly thereafter he brought Kevin another one, for good measure…

 

Yeah.  Apparently, we aren’t alone in our beloved tropical paradise of a yard.  All of those fruit trees and lovely flowers are an Iguana’s dream come true.  In addition, like us, they enjoy a nice day of sun-bathing on the warmth that our pool deck provides.  So, I’m not convinced that our killer dog is going to deter them from sticking around, especially since the mango season is only a few short months away.  Isn’t that nice?!

Anyway, Kevin had nothing but pride for Thor, but I couldn’t help thinking about what I was going to do when I got home and had to deal with a dead iguana carcass, or several while Kevin is away for 2 weeks.  Gross.

So, the day after getting home from my most excellent party weekend with the ladies, I let the dogs outside.  Thor immediately made a run for the woods and started to frantically dig.  I watched in horror while an iguana, in all out panic-mode, ran out of the woods, across the yard and straight for our pool.  Without any hesitation, he dove right in, swam to the bottom and stayed there…all day.  That’s right, this thing took “The Plunge” right into my pool! 

At this point, I know Thor will never dive down to get this little bastard, so I let Thor have his fun with him, barking and swimming around him.  Even Oakley, who apparently doesn’t have any killer instinct whatsoever, chimed in from time to time.  Then, I made the dogs come in and took them for a ride in the car, assuming that the iguana would take off at his first opportunity. 

When we got home, the dumb iguana was still at the bottom of the pool in the same place he was when we left.  I quickly Googled how long an iguana can stay under water and found that it can be anywhere from 28 minutes to a couple of days, depending on the breed.  Not really wanting to learn anything more in this department, I gave up on my search and called in the dogs for the night. 

I woke up the next morning without any doubt that our Iggy friend would be gone.  I let the dogs outside and poured myself a cup of coffee.  And…on cue, there was Thor barking and barking.  Oakley was barking, too, which wasn’t a good sign.  I came down to the pool, and there was the iguana…face up, floating at the top, not moving – dead.  It looked like this...

 

The iguana had literally drowned itself overnight and it’s 10 lb dead body was floating in our pool.  Now what?!  I text Kevin, who tells me (like it’s no big deal) that I need to use the pool net to get it out and put it in a heavy duty garbage bag and take it down to the dumpsters. 

Okay, where are my ladies at?!  Ya know when you know you have to do something that your husband (or whatever) would typically do, but he’s not there.  So, you feel like you really have to suck it up and do this nasty thing that he would normally do for you.  And, you really, really, really don’t want to do it, but if you don’t, then you’ll feel like a total girl about it, and you’re way too proud to call someone to do it for you.  So, you pump yourself up to get this absolutely repulsive thing over with, and you kind of want to cry while you’re doing it because it is thee #1 most disgusting thing you’ve EVER had to do. 

You know that feeling?  I do.

So, the iguana is gone and Thor is now on heavy duty, full-on, four-alarm lock-down.  I mean house arrest like one could only compare to LinLo, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Martha Stewart.  I’m not taking my eye off that dog until Kevin gets home next weekend. 

To make matters worse, a few days after this episode happened, I met a couple of friends at the beach with our dogs to run them down and catch up.  I laughingly told them about the dead iguana in our pool, and my friend, in a very cavalier way, told me, ‘Oh, yeah, you have to take the iguana out of the pool while it’s still alive because they can’t find their own way out’. 

Okay, wait.  The iguana died because of me? 

Hold up.  I should have taken a living, 10-15 lb lizard/rodent out of my pool in order to save it? 

Clearly, I have mixed feelings about this whole situation.  However, if faced with the same situation again, knowing what I now know, I’m not sure that I would have handled it any differently.  I mean, what’s worse than having to take a dead iguana out of my pool?  I’ll tell ya - taking a living iguana out of my pool.  That’s just not going to happen.

So, RIP Mr. Dead-Iguana-In-My-Pool, or Mr. Future-Dead-Iguana-In-My-Pool.  Sometimes things aren’t as they seem, so stop eating my fruit and my flowers and move on out of here because Thor isn’t giving up, and I can’t help you. 

 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Identity Crisis


It’s been almost 2 years since we moved down to the US Virgin Islands, and I think saying that there’s been a lot of change in my life is a major, major understatement.  Frankly, besides still having Kevin and my 2 dogs in my life, nothing is the same as it was.  It’s been an overwhelming whirlwind of emotions, experiences, frustrations and personal growth unlike any other time in my life.

Culture shock aside, the hardest part of this experience for me has been letting go of my professional life in Chicago.  Now that I’ve been living down here for a couple of years, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but my identity was entirely wrapped up in my career.  It wasn’t just a job to me, it was my life.  It was what gave me the freedom to support myself in a lifestyle that was comfortable to me.  It gave me the independence I enjoyed so that I did not need to rely on others financially or personally.  It also made me feel really good about myself.  It gave me a lot of confidence, and I was proud of myself.  After all, I was doing what society, friends and family had always encouraged me to do throughout my entire life - work hard, make money, advance professionally.  Why wouldn’t I get caught up in it?  When I think about the influences I’ve had throughout my life and how much time, effort and energy I put into my job, it makes sense.  I defined myself by the work I did.

Couple this with the fact that the big city life can be demanding in a very materialistic way.  Everywhere you look there are nice cars, designer clothes, expensive condos furnished with gorgeous furniture, beautifully manicured women, hip bars and restaurants – the list goes on.  Of course, since I had the good job, I could keep up with all of this which only made me more wrapped up in things.

But, that lifestyle got to a point where I felt like I was missing something.  I felt that there had to be more to life than what I had at the time.  I was very restless with the idea that all that I had didn’t seem to be enough for me.  I wanted more out of life than working long hours and wearing designer clothes.  And, I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t being the person that I truly was underneath all the hard bargaining and fast pace life of the city.  I didn’t feel like I was experiencing life.  I felt like I was just going through the motions – day in and day out.  It wasn’t enough.

It is for all of these reasons that I decided that moving to the island was a great idea.  It was our way to re-evaluate life and see how other people live.  We would be able to put less demands on ourselves and enjoy the world around us.  And, I have to admit that we have experienced just what we thought we would.  I have had more fun with Kevin since moving down here, then we did during the entire 4 years of our relationship prior to our move.  Quite simply, we enjoy life more than ever.  I’ve traveled the islands with Kevin.  I’ve developed interests in golf, photography, scuba diving, etc.  I’m healthier and more physically active than I’ve been since high school.  I have more girlfriends than I’ve had since college.  And, I’m not nearly as stressed-out and rushed on a daily basis.  In fact, right now it’s 10:45 am on a Wednesday, and I’m writing this blog at my kitchen table while looking out the (open) window over the ocean with the sun shining and the palm trees blowing.  Needless to say, it’s been all that I could have asked for.

But, I still have moments when I struggle to let go of the life and person I used to be.  At the risk of sounding dramatic, it has been a painful experience to give up my old life.  It’s like losing an old friend, or something.  All the safety and security of what was familiar is gone. 

In fact, for the first time since I was probably 15 I don’t have a job.  I’m unemployed.  The job that I had when I moved down here did not work out for me, and I really needed to take a step back to decide what I want from a professional perspective.  For a while I’ve thought I’d like to be an independent insurance agent, which I’m currently still looking into.  However, right now I’m substitute teaching at a local private school.  Let me just say that spending my day telling kids that ‘no, they cannot go to the bathroom’ and telling 7th graders to ‘quiet it down’ countless times is a gigantic change – worlds away from my prior life.  The other day, as I was reading to some pre-kindergarten kids, one of the girls in the front row gently touched my fingers and while I was reading whispered, ‘your fingernails are so soft’.  Flash back to three years ago and my day would have consisted of frantically running around the office in a full-on suit and high heels, preparing for a presentation and/or answering an impossible number of emails and phone calls.  How’s that for a whirlwind?

So, I’ll fully admit that I’m going through a complete identity crisis.  There have been tearful days of disappointment and total confusion, and other days of utter boredom.  I have to give Kevin a lot of credit for all of his patience because sometimes I’m just not sure what mood I’ll be in from one moment to the next.  And, I’ve come up with the most ridiculous ideas of what I should do next.  For example, one day I told Kevin that I was thinking of working at a flower shop, which is great, but I kill every plant I touch, and I don’t know a peony from a petunia.  So, he’s been an incredible source of support and encouragement. 

I should also say that the people on the island that know me and know that I’m not working have also been very supportive.  They don’t really care.  I mean, they care about me, but they don’t care about what I do for a living, or what car I drive, or the clothes I wear.  Those things aren’t on the list of an islander’s priorities – well, most islanders.  Most of the islanders I know just want to see if you’d like to go golfing or boating this weekend.  To me, this makes life easier to figure out, and it’s given me the space and time to move closer and closer to decide what I’d like to do with my life while we are here.

I know that it was my decision to turn my world around with this move, and I’m confident that I’ll find a professional path down here that I’ll enjoy.  However, more than ever, I realize that life is all about trade-offs and this was a big one for me, so what I choose as a career doesn’t seem as important to me as it used to.  I know I need to find something, but I don’t think I need to have my entire focus and identity dedicated to my job anymore.  That’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned from all of this, and I’m glad that I have discovered this so early on in life.  My life will be better because of it.