Thursday, December 29, 2011

Roughing it

As you can see we're having quite a good time at home here in the Bahamas. Here's the short list of things I love about the Bahamas:
The sun
The sound of rain on the roof at my parents house
The food
Having no cell/mobile
Actually relaxing.

We're leaving soon. Heavy sigh. But I'll be glad to get the kids back on their schedules and back to reality. But for now: sun, sand, conch fritters and family. Good stuff!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gearing up for Junkanoo

Since we've been here, Fen and I have been going to bed early and sleeping for nine hours a night. It's heavenly. I didn't realize how exhausted I was until I started to sleep. It's been a bit manic here what with his accident, the running around, meeting my new nephew (more on that soon!!!) and just seeing friends while trying to entertain two little ones - it's tiring! And I'm working (of course I'm working!) but I've promised to stop until next week now.

Being home is always wonderful and nostaligic while being a bit odd and frustrating at the same time. I love my family and I love being with them, but the Bahamas is a trial. It's SO different from the country I grew up in - it's so much more developed, overrun with foreigners taking over the hotels and major businesses, it's like the Bahamians are being squeezed out of their own country. Many of the old buildings are being torn down to make way for new ones. I find that depressing. So many parts are run down now too, don't like that. But it's still my homeland, and I still love it.

One thing that I will always love is Junkanoo. When I was in my teens and twenties we would go to Junkanoo, which started at 4am back then (starts at 6am now) we'd hang on rooftops, have a blast until the sun came up. It's a tradition here in the Bahamas that stems back to the slave days. On Boxing Day (December 26th) and New Years Day they have the parade down Bay Street in Nassau (and all over the Bahamas). You can read about it here.  We had the Valley Boys play at our wedding, was the high point (after the nuptials, natch!)

Fen and I are debating whether we want to go or not. The kids are far too young right now. And there's no more climbing onto rooftops -you have to buy tickets or know someone (I know people). But it may be too much this year. Perhaps we should save it for when the kids are older. We won't be back for Christmas for at least two more years so they will be old enough then.

Whatever the case, I'll want to run down around 6:30 to have a glance. I'm here, can't miss it. And I hope my Valley Boys are playing when I get there! Here's a taste of them  in the post below.

New Year's Junkanoo Valley boys 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Rocky Start

Our trip here was trying. The flight from London to Miami did not have individual screens behind the seats and the movies they showed were dreadful tween movies. Thank heavens we have enough electronics to entertain both kids for 10 hours!

Then, I nearly lost my mind in Miami Airport - which is still the worst airport on Earth - as we had 1 hour to go through immigration, grab our suitcases and car seats, make it through customs, recheck the bags, get through security and run miles and I mean miles with Cate on Fen's shoulders and me pushing X and dragging two carryons, to gate 60 to catch the bus which took us to the death-trap propeller plane. We made it three minutes before the flight closed.

It's a bit disheartening when the airline reps greet you at the airport with hotel vouchers in hand! They didn't expect us to make it in time. Encouraging. Well, we did. And I plan to write a scathing letter to customer service on they way they handled us. I do it every time I go through Miami. Everytime they give me an upgrade or a voucher for the VIP lounge and I always forget to bring them. Not this time (she said to convince herself).

 My brother picked us up and we made it to my parents just before midnight. The kids went down immediately and we weren't too far behind them.

We decided to go over to the island for the day and set off on the regular tourist boat with the masses. It was a glorious day. We had a great time just playing in the water, they all swam (too cold for me), we had lunch with my brother and decided to leave around 2:30.

At 2 a pick up game of volleyball started near our little camp and I encouraged Fen to go and play. He'd spent the bulk of the time chasing X all over the place while I managed to read about 100 pages of my book (the most I've read in one sitting in months) so I thought he deserved a little fun. Cate had made friends with some tourists and was making sandcastles.

I went to the changing rooms which were about 50 feet away, leaving Fen happily playing volleyball and Cate dashing around on the sand in the bright sunshine. I quickly changed X and came out no more than five minutes later. The game was over, the sun was behind a cloud and neither Cate nor Fen were in sight. I was baffled. I made our way back to our seats when one of the volleyball players called over to me.

"Aren't you the wife?" he asked.

"Oh, probably. Where'd he go?"

"There was an accident and he's with the medic. He hit his head."

I didnt' panic because this is life with Fen. He is an athelete, he plays rugby, he's a tad accident prone and he's seriously tough. I looked toward the lifeguard station and sure enough a crowd was gathered. I could see my brother - laughing so I knew it wasn't dire.

"Of course he did," I said casually and thanked the man as I headed over to see Fen.

A lot of staff was gathered around laughing nervously, probably relieved it was just us and not guests. Cate was standing around and was very happy to see me. Fen was sitting in a chair with a medic holding gauze over his head. I deposited X with a staff member and went over to look. He was fine, looking sheepish but he had a two inch  gash on his head which was gushing blood. Not pretty.

We jumped on my brother's boat and sped across to the main island to my sister's house. We met my mom who took the kids and off to the hospital we went. Four hours, one CAT scan, five stitches and about four hundred laughs later, he was patched up. They wound gauze all around his head and I was howling that he looked like John McEnroe circa 1979. He thinks he looks like Rambo!

One of the reasons I love Fen is his timing. On December 16th, 2002 he proposed to me for the first time. He proposes to me every year at some point every December 16th. I figured he'd forget after knocking his head on a picnic table while playing volleyball. No. He waited until he was sitting on a gurney, dressed in a blue hospital gown, head wrapped in blue gauze waiting to go for a CAT Scan. I walked in to see him and we laughed about how it's usually me on the gurney and him waiting around. I leaned in to kiss him and he said, "Oh, and would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?" I burst out laughing. My reply: "Not today, you're broken." But I think I'll keep him.

Here's the story of how we met, if you haven't read it. It's one of my favourite posts ever.

He's fine now, the big lug. And here's what HE thinks he looks like:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two days...

We get on a plane and head home in two days. I cannot wait. I'm under the weather, exhausted and ready to just sit on a beach (well, probably by the pool overlooking the beach as I'm not fond of sand) and relax.

The photo above is of Blue Lagoon Island just off Nassau, Bahamas. This is where I'll head by boat almost every day to just sit, swim, explore and snooze. I cannot wait. The kids are still a little young for the dolphins and sea lions but we'll take them over to see them. This is in case you're interested. It's my favourite place on earth (other than the porch at our lake house).

Two days, two days. Hopefully this cold I can't seem to shake will be gone and I'll be ready to enjoy the heat. If not, I'll manage to suffer through...somehow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Birthday Boo

Tracy and her Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Poster In Central Park

Today would have been my sister Tracy's 40th birthday. She passed away this summer after a four year long battle with breast cancer. My heart is aching something awful right now. I just simply don't get it. Four months later and I still cannot accept it. She should be here and she should be turning forty at a huge, ridiculously over done party. It's just not acceptable to think it's just not going to happen.

My original plan for today was to head to Paris by myself. Tracy and I headed to Paris a few times. We travelled the world together for years. Even after I met Fen, Tracy still came along for many of our trips. She lived with us for three years when she first moved to Brooklyn and then eventually moved into a flat right next door. God bless Fen for his patience with the two of us! Peas in a pod were we. Even the Atlantic wasn't big enough to keep us apart. So now I feel a huge void in my life. One I will always feel. I miss her. I didn't go to Paris because the thought of being there alone on her birthday was too ... well, sad. I didn't want to be alone. Work is also very demanding right now. Finally, Fen really thought I should stay here. I'm glad I did. Instead of hitting all our favourite spots in Paris all alone, I decided to fill my day with things that are busy.

I'm going to my women's club white elephant board meeting which should be fun. I want fun. I have to work in the afternoon, but Fen has promised something nice for lunch (that I don't have to cook). Distracting myself is the best thing I can do right now. I don't want to think about reality at all.

But I will leave you with the obituary I wrote for her memorial this summer. This way you can get a glimpse into the wonder that she was.
Took this photo of her in our bedroom window overlooking the back yard in Brooklyn.

Tracy XX was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on December 6th, 1971 to Al and Carol XX. She joined older siblings Scott, Kelly and Erin and became the light of their lives.

Tracy attended St. Andrews in Nassau, Bahamas, The Berkshire School in Berkshire, MA and graduated from Belmont Abbey College outside Charlotte, North Carolina. She moved back to her beloved Bahamas to work in public relations for several years before turning her attention to publishing. She then came to work for the family business before deciding to truly follow her passion - gardens. She always had a knack for growing plants and flowers. Tracy loved being outside surrounded by nature and her animals.

Tracy moved to Brooklyn, NY to study landscape architecture and design at the New York Botanical Gardens. It was during her studies there that she learned she had cancer and her four-year long battle began.

With the same eloquence and tenacity that she approached life, Tracy took on cancer. Because of her resilience and spunk, she helped change the laws in the state of NY so that all women, regardless of where they were diagnosed with breast cancer, could receive financial assistance for care. By joining forces with Susan G. Komen for the Cure in New York, she became the ‘face’ of breast cancer.  For several years, this year included, Tracy’s beautiful photo hung in Central Park in New York City during the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

In addition to helping change the law, Tracy donated blood and tissue samples for research at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center to help develop new treatments and to help study her aggressive form of cancer.

Through it all Tracy remained upbeat, undefeated, filled with her trademark wicked sense of humour and hilarious one-liners. She never complained and surprised all of her doctors and family with her determination to beat her disease.

Tracy was a loving and generous woman. She was elegant, intelligent, delightfully funny, thoughtful, and unassuming.  She will be forever cherished and missed by all of her wonderful friends and her devoted family.
The four of us back in the day....

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Victorian Attitude?

I've joined the PTA - not running it, mind you - and it's been going well. The old regime ran it for three years but all bowed out so a crew of newbies are at the helm trying to bushwhack our way through things without much guidance (but with a lot of comments!). It's all fine, not a problem, but it's difficult trying to do something when you have so many jaded folks watching your every move. There are a few good eggs who are helping out, thank heavens!

We're having our Christmas fair soon and we've been busily planning it - doling out booths to classes, writing up notices, sending flyers, designing the posters, trying to drum up donations for the tombola and raffle, etc. It's busy work, but I've done all this before so it's not that big a deal.

We held a meeting last night so some of the parents who work could attend a meeting. Everyone is fantastic (although two of the old regime did exchange a smirk at my expense when I volunteered to make a cake or some goodies for the fair - not sure what that means). All the ladies present (and gents) were in good humour and generally nice. It was a bit chaotic and loud as we were in a pub but we got all our business done in good time even though there was a lot of chatting - which is to be expected!

After a few glasses of wine one of the women thought it would be a good idea to have one of the celeb mums at our school open the fair, cut the ribbon, etc. and then have me invite the press. I had never heard of the woman before - I've seen her at school - she's tall, beautiful and looks like someone, she's got that X factor about her. But I didn't know she was famous. The same lady called her to see if she would do it. She agreed.

But then I came home to slap together a press release and googled her to get a bio since I have no idea who she is. She's been around for a while but all the recent stuff is nude photos from a spread in a big men's magazine with headlines declaring 'she strips off,' etc. It's not X-rated, nothing is really showing but she's in the buff in provocative poses. She does look fantastic, so good for her.

But here's my dilemma, this is a Church of England school, we'll have the pastor from our church, our head teacher is a Reverend, we have a whole bunch of clergy who will be around and this is PRIMARY school. I didn't think it was appropriate for her to open the fair. Not the right message for the school and certainly not someone I want my daughter to emulate. I felt like a prude - a grouchy suffragist from the Old West wielding my Bible at the harlots in town. While I'm not an uptight goodie-goodie, I really felt like one.

I asked Fen, who is certainly no prude (he plays rugby after all!) and he agreed with me. Still, I felt like perhaps I shouldn't say anything to upset the apple cart. But today I saw two reception mothers, one who is on the PTA committee. They were both in the same camp as me. One even said she wouldn't go if this celeb opened the fair because it wasn't right.

I called the head of the PTA and told her our thoughts. She agreed too. Our decision: leave it to the head teacher - if he says it's all right - then we'll leave it be. But if he says no - then that's it.

My worry - I'm going to be labelled like Hester Prinn - the old regime will sew a scarlet P for me to wear in shame for being such a stick-in-the-mud. But you know what? That will be fine with me. Because I'm not going anywhere, I'm a tough cookie and when it comes to my child and her education I'm going to do what I think is right, whether it's popular or not. Cate is ALL that matters to me. and I want her to have good role models. I wouldn't want her to end up a Page 3 girl because, in the end, I guess I am a prude.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Good Awfternoon!

As you may know, I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey - the great historical drama here in the UK. One of my favourite characters is Mr. Carson - the fabulous head butler of Downton Abbey - the ancestral home of the Crawleys. It's so deliciously British - with the drama from the aristocrats upstairs and the working folks downstairs.

Mr Carson is played by a wonderful character actor - Jim Carter. Who happens to live in my neighborhood. I've spied him a few times lately, to my absolute delight. I'm not much for celebrities - I really couldn't care less about them, yet quite a few live around here. However, there are a few folks I just dig. He's one of them.

So, when I see him I can't resist myself and blurt out, "Good afternoon, Mr. Carson." To which he replies with a nod, "Good awfternoon, Madam" in full character. I giggle myself silly everytime.

Fen thinks I'm nutty. I don't care. If I can pretend the great Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey is addressing me on West End Lane for a few seconds, good for me! What does it matter if it's really just Jim Carter dashing into Tesco Express for milk and being recognized by a stranger? I think we both get a kick out of it (If a restraining order shows up at my door I'll be sure to let you know).