I used to miss my flip-flops, now I miss my clogs.

You’ve probably heard the saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Well, maybe we should start realizing that the grass can be pretty darn green wherever we are if we’ll just give it a chance to grow.

When we moved to St Kitts two and a half years ago, we left our comfort zone in a big way. Life was good in our small town. We had a house in a quiet little neighborhood. Kylie had recently made friends with two little girls that lived down the street and life was moving along at a nice easy pace. We made weekly trips to the grocery store where we could find anything we were looking for and more. We had our favorite restaurants where people knew our names when we walked in. We were within a comfortable driving distance of Matt’s family, shopping malls and entertainment venues. We were close enough to my job and Kylie’s school that we could walk and enjoy watching the world come to life. We even had my parents close enough that Matt and I regularly enjoyed “date nights” together. And we had great friends that were there for us in good times and bad and were like a second family. We loved our life.

As good as things were, we both felt a need for something new, something completely different. We were both feeling mired down by the day-to-day routine of work and household responsibilities. Some days it was hard to take a breath and realize how good our life was. Then this email appears out of the blue…

Fast-forward two and a half years. We’re living the dream. Beautiful turquoise waters surround us. There’s salt in the air. We’re within walking distance of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Life is good. We are renting a nice house that’s large enough to host our family and friends. Our niece has moved with us to attend vet school and realize her lifelong dream. Kylie attends a wonderful little private school where she has lots of friends and life is again moving along at a nice easy pace. Matt’s commute to and from work has reduced from a high of three hours per day to a high of a half-hour per day. My job has gone from managing multiple design and print projects to managing our household and working a couple part-time jobs. Grocery shopping has become a multi-day chore and we still can’t always get what we want or need. There are no malls and a very limited amount of entertainment venues. We are multiple flights away from both of our families and “date nights” have dwindled to a few a year. We have our favorite restaurants where everyone knows our names when we walk in. We have made some wonderful friends from all over the world who have opened our eyes to many things. They are there for us in good times and bad and some have become our second family. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and grown so much from our experiences here. We love our life.

I know that everyone has also heard the saying that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes though, it’s worth repeating; even if only to ourselves. If you noticed, there were both good and bad things about both places I described. We can love our lives wherever we are if we just give it a chance. As long as we have the most important thing, which is love (that of our family, our friends, our community), we can be happy anywhere. I’ve definitely learned this lesson on our journey; no matter where we end up in the world, as long as I have the support of those I love and trust the most, I can make any place feel like home.

Sometimes Chocolate is the Best Therapy

A few weeks ago, I posted some thoughts on our yellow lab Molly and how she has taught me so much but we have another furry member of our family that has taught us some important lessons as well. Bailey is our nine-year old chocolate lab. Of our two dogs, she is the most laid back and truly the easiest kept dog ever. As long as her basic needs are met (food, shelter, potty breaks), she’s content to just hang out by my side. She’s my alarm clock, my reminder to let things go and not stress so much, my constant in this sometimes chaotic life. No matter what is happening in our day, she’s the one thing we can count on to be “normal” and completely unaffected by our craziness.

When Bailey was born she was pushed from the rest of the litter and almost died. Found cold and barely breathing, she was taken to be warmed and bottle fed until she was strong enough to return to her family. She slept in the bed with her people and was spoiled from day one. We were honored when we were told that we were the only people that she would be allowed to go to (otherwise they were keeping her). Because we were entrusted with this beautiful sweet girl, I’ve tried to be even more vigilant when it comes to her safety and well-being than normal. She’s my four-legged baby and always will be. My Bailey.

When we first brought her home, Molly was only a year old and was still pretty rambunctious. Poor Bailey could hardly use the bathroom without being upended by Molly on one of her romps through the yard. Because of this, Bailey has always seemed like the submissive one…to Molly. However, if she finds something that will run from her, she’ll chase it until it’s out of sight and then come running back to me with the biggest “smile” on her face. She’s so proud of herself! She might be bullied by her “sissy” but she’s no pushover. It makes my heart happy to see the sheer joy on her face.

Sweet Bailey would have made a perfect mommy dog (if I believed in breeding) we’ve found. When she was two, Matt brought home a 2 lb kitten that had been found in the median of a busy intersection where he worked. Within a few days, the kitten realized that the dogs weren’t going to eat her and proceeded to “adopt” Bailey as her mother. She’d curl into her as she laid on the couch and suckle on Bailey’s lower lip. I couldn’t believe it when Bailey just laid there and let her do it. I think it was more of a comfort thing for the kitten than a need for food though because she only did it when she wanted love. To this day, they are still the best of friends.IMG_0368

A few days after she turned two, Bailey had her first TTA surgery to fix a torn CCL (basically the same an the ACL in humans). The recovery was rough but after about nine weeks, she was better than ever. However, the surgeon who did the surgery advised us that 60% of dogs that tear one CCL will likely tear the other one within a few years. Like clockwork, the second CCL was torn about four months before she turned five. She had her second surgery at the end of October and this time took almost six months to heal. It was horrible watching her struggle through the winter with one arthritic leg (due to the first surgery) and one leg that was taking its sweet time healing properly. She pushed through it like a champ though as long as I stayed by her side as much as humanly possible. At night, I’d lay on the floor with her while she would try to get comfortable enough to drift off to sleep and she’d lay her big head on my chest and sigh. She’s never been an “in your face” affectionate dog so this time with her was really special to me. She’s such a brave and happy girl. I think that helped in her healing. Of course, it also helped her become even more spoiled and even more essential to the beating of my heart.

There have been times when I’ve wondered why she was pushed from the litter, if there was something her mom sensed about her that wasn’t “normal”. If there was some abnormality in her legs from birth that couldn’t be seen by the naked eye. But then, I look at our special girl with her crossed-eyes and stiff-legged walk and I am reminded of the movie Forrest Gump and how, even though the character was a simple man who started out life with some physical disabilities, he still had an amazing ability to love even those who seemed unloveable. I couldn’t imagine what my world would have been without Bailey in it. It makes me thankful that we, as humans, don’t always “let nature take its course” and that we sometimes go above and beyond to save something we feel is precious enough to be saved.

When I look at Bailey, I’m reminded me to never give up, no matter the odds. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed even if our greatest joy is only an occasional burst of energy that makes us feel free from the burdens of our physical pain. Instead of seeking material things beyond our basic needs, we should all be content to just breathe a sigh of relief when those needs are met. We should enjoy every moment we are given with the ones we love and live life with a big goofy smile on our faces, just happy to be alive because life really is “like a box of chocolates”.

Cotton Candy and Carousels

Our first trip home since the big move held a mixture of emotions for all of us. We were all so excited to see our families again but were also missing our “girls” who stayed behind with some friends while we travelled. I think the hardest part for me was the fact that both of our dogs love our house back home as much as we do and would have been so happy to be back to see their friends and neighbors as well as lay in the cool grass of the front yard where they’ve both spent almost their entire lives. I’ll admit, I felt a little guilty. Continue reading “Cotton Candy and Carousels”

Ah…life on an island…where the pace is relaxed and reliable internet service is non-existent.

So, it’s been about two weeks since my last post due to internet issues on the island (the whole island) and a lot has happened since then. First of all, my in-laws arrived for a two-week visit after having their first-ever flight cancelled, being told that there were no hotel rooms available in the area due to a conference, being sent outside the security area for a “complimentary toothbrush” for their overnight stay in the airport (and not being told that once they left the secure area they would not be allowed back in), and being told that they would not be allowed to get their gate-checked bags back (which contained daily medications). Thanks for the memories US Airways…you suck!

At one point we had a moment of phone service here on the island and Matt’s mom was able to let me know what was going on. Immediately I began the search for a place for them to stay for the night (not knowing that they were outside the security area without access to any amenities). Having connections with someone who works for a chain of hotels comes in very handy as does Facebook which I was able to access from my cell phone. Through this connection, I was able to ascertain that there were, in fact, many rooms available in the area with shuttle service for the airport, just none that the airline wanted to pay for since the cancelled flight was their fault. After finally being able to call back to the US and get in touch with them, my husband and I felt much more at ease when they told us they’d be staying in a hotel for the night and getting a hot meal instead of trying to sleep in the lobby of the airport beside the ticket counter.

The next day as they were rerouted through St. Thomas we found out that their bags had been lost by the airline. Under normal circumstances, this would just be a huge inconvenience but the bags contained critical medication needed by my father-in-law and we had no idea if the medication was even available here in Saint Kitts. Another round of phone calls back to the US (this time on my cell phone at international rates) began trying to trace the bags and make sure they made it to the airport in time for their arrival. We each spoke with no less than three people both in the US and in Saint Kitts giving information about the bags and flight numbers, etc. only to be told that there was nothing we could do without a tracking number (which Matt’s parents had with them and they were in the air on their way to St. Thomas). Luckily they were rerouted through St. Thomas though because, being a USVI, they were able to find a pharmacy that could call back to the US and have the prescription transferred there to be filled; something we would not have been able to do here without taking him to see a local doctor who wouldn’t be in until Tuesday (Monday was a Saint Kitts’ Labour Day Holiday) Since our internet was down, we weren’t able to help them with rescheduling their flight or even communicate with them during much of their trip. Being first-time fliers they were at the mercy of the airline and airport personnel. This made things very stressful on both ends of the spectrum. So, after leaving home early Friday morning, the Hagas finally arrived at our home around 10:00 pm Saturday night. Though they were tired from the trip, all it took was one hug from Kylie to help ease the stress.

Since their arrival, the in-laws have experienced first-hand the realities of living on an island. Not because of things they’ve been able to do here but because we spent almost ALL of last week waiting on the internet guy to show up and fix our line. He came every day for a few minutes at a time; each day leaving without being able to fix the problem. Needless to say, I’m sure they were bored to tears. At least we have the pool and they were able to travel back and forth with me to pick up Kylie from school so they were able to see some of the island along the way.


By Thursday, we finally gave up and decided to start exploring the island with a trip to the southeast peninsula and Reggae Beach Bar & Grill. Lunch was the Mahi-Mahi sandwich and it was delicious!!! Best food on the island so far! We visited the resident monkeys and spent some time people watching on the beach before heading back to pick the girl up from school.

Of course, we’ve also taken them to some of the normal tourist spots like Brimstone Fortress and Port Zante/Downtown. Overall it’s been a very enjoyable time with them and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye Monday morning. But, there’ll be trips home to look forward to as well as visits from family and friends. Hopefully next time everyone can travel with much less stress though. Until then I’ll get back to writing about our experiences as a family of three (plus two big baby dogs).

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Writing and Speaking for the Pop Culture Literate.

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