Waiting on the Storms: point of view.

For some islands this has been a particularly devastating storm season. In September we watched Irma slowly creep across the Caribbean, gaining strength along the way, until she became a Category 5 hurricane, wreaking havoc and destruction. She didn’t weaken, hitting Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla, the Lesser Antilles, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, The Bahamas and Cuba. She finally made landfall in Florida.

Who was spared? Jamaica and The Cayman Islands. We weren’t always sure, though, that we would be spared. In spite of projected paths showing that she would indeed turn north before hitting us, we knew that could change. We watched. We prepared. The wind projection maps showed us with a 10 percent chance of getting tropical storm force winds, with more severe winds expected in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

Fortunately for us, the storm did turn north just before reaching Grand Cayman. We did have something resembling tropical storm force winds, powerful enough to move our outdoor furniture around.

While waiting for this storm, I found myself feeling agitated. I have a strong sense of empathy, so sometimes I feel like I’m absorbing the feelings of everyone around me. In this case, those feelings were anxiety, concern and fear.

We watched the news while damage reports came in from our fellow Caribbean islands. We checked and double checked our hurricane supplies, our plans, the forecasts. We watched our sea become rougher and enjoyed the wind as it took away some of the stifling heat and humidity, the persistent biting insects. We waited for the day, the time when we would know for sure if we were safe from a direct hit.

The thing is, we can withstand a tropical storm and maybe even a Category one hurricane, but Irma was another story.  Then came Maria, and the pattern repeated.

Amid all this preparation and anxiety, I was alone. I had just come back from a trip to Canada and my husband and I had not even crossed paths in transit. He’d been home until a day before my return, when he went to his annual golf weekend, also in Canada.

Being alone, with no one to talk to and prepare with, my anxiety increased. I had to do yoga, exercise to the point of exhaustion and meditate. I relied on the neighbours more and more for company.

One day, a calm day on island before the storm, I was meditating by the pool, after a swim. As I stared out at the sea, I thought it looked different, more like a lake or even a deep ocean. It didn’t have its usual brilliant layers of colour, the turquoises and blues, but instead had a steely greyish blue shade. My glance shifted slightly to the right through the Casuarina trees. There was the brilliant turquoise, deep navy, and the fading turquoise as the sea becomes shallow over the sand.

When my eyes shifted left again and continued left, I could see George Town and two cruise ships looming like the floating resorts that they are, and houses and hotels lining Seven Mile Beach, and boat traffic. I thought, it’s all about perspective. We can choose to see what we want.

After being spared by both Irma and Maria, which storm caused the most damage, at least to our little corner of the island? Tropical Storm Nate, hundreds of miles away. We didn’t get the devastation that took place in Costa Rica, but somehow, the wind direction on our side of the island caused major damage to trees and plants.

At the end of this month, we’ll have an end of hurricane party. We’ll all be thankful for each other, for supportive neighbours in the storm, and thankful that once again Cayman was not in the path of any of the destructive cyclones.

I want to be your warrior, but you hurt my friend.

I last wrote about warrior women, and how they’ve looked out for me all my life, sometimes unappreciated and unnoticed.

I want to be a warrior for someone, I really do. I know more than one person who has been hurt recently, and I know the women responsible have their own stories and their own reasons, but my friends are hurting.

I’ve tried to see the other point of view and to make excuses, but there is also something called loyalty. If you hurt my friend, I need to be strong for him. Is it wrong that I’m taking the man’s side in both situations? Part of me understands the break up and the hurt the women must be feeling, but my inner warrior wants to be there for my friends. I feel their hurt more.

So, ladies, I think you already have your own band of warriors to help you through this time. My friend, my long time friend, has his buddies, but he has my support, too. I don’t know how many women friends he has, but I’m not taking your side just because you are female. I might consider reaching out and getting your side of the story, but my husband is not feeling very conciliatory towards you right now. You gave up a chance at our compassion when you laid this on our friend without warning, refusing to even get marriage counselling.

To the other lady who has hurt my friend, I don’t know you very well and I haven’t known you very long. I liked you and thought you were good together. Now it’s over and again, I’m sorry, but I have to be a warrior for him. He is like a son to me. I will not talk to you about him and neither will I  trash talk you to him. I’ve let you know that I’m here and don’t blame you, but it’s in your court. I will not act as a go-between. I will not betray his confidences, nor will I betray yours if you choose to share them with me.

What I’m saying is that I can be your warrior if you need one, but my priority is my friend.

I guess what I’ve learned through this is that men need warriors, too. Boys and girls need mothers and strong female role models as well as good male role models. Friends need friends who are in their corner, male or female.

If you hurt my friend, male or female, I will be there for them.



Warrior Women; how I survived my life

I fully intended to write up some entertaining pieces about our recent travels, and I still hope to do so. I need to retreat alone somewhere and simply write.

At the moment I’m visiting my parents and certain events have reinforced my feeling that strong, warrior women have had my back for years. I didn’t always realize it or appreciate it.  I feel compelled to address this issue.

At the film festival we watched a short film with a female protagonist who went out on her own to start a new life. What we found sad, initially, was that she was so alone. Did she not have parents? Friends? Siblings? I realized then, as I often have, how much of a safety net I’ve carried around with me my whole life. She found her makeshift family, just as I now have a birth family and a makeshift family.

I’ve always felt fortunate to have a loving family. Yes, we’ve had our issues, but we love each other and we want to see each other. We’re interested in each others’ lives. My mom and sisters were there in the early years. I have an older sister who was like a second mom to me and another older sister who has been kind of an ally my whole life. I have a younger sister who looked up to me at one time, and now is always on my mind, even though I don’t see her much.

When I left home for university, my sisters were there again. I also made friends and continued some high school friendships.  I have different sets of friends, some with overlap, that I have taken for granted too long. It’s only in recent years that we’ve started having reunions and that I’ve really appreciated what these friends have done for me.  Through different dates and boyfriends they have been on my side, looking out for my best interests.

In my internship, I would not have survived, never have gone back or moved on to finish elsewhere, without their faith in me. It took losing one of these lovely ladies to bring us all together again.

The pattern continued when I started working. It continued when I had children, in my baby group and in the women I met through our children’s school friends and in Brownies. Some of my best warriors I met in Speed Skating.  It goes on even now that we’ve started this life so far from our friends and families.

By the way, when did I forget how to make friends on my own, without the connection of children? I’m trying to learn that skill all over again.

I’m afraid I didn’t always appreciate this warrior force. Sometimes I wasn’t the best of friends myself. Sometimes I forgot that it wasn’t all about me. I love these ladies so much for standing by me and being there, no matter how oblivious I might have been to their needs.  I can  pinpoint the moment when I started to be someone else’s warrior. It was when our first child was born, but like the people who have had my back all those years, I don’t restrict my support to family members. I can almost pinpoint when I became a warrior for someone not related.

We recently saw the movie Wonder Woman, and I loved it for so many reasons. I know I’m not Wonder Woman, but I love what she stands for. We have one thing in common and that’s being surrounded by an amazing support group of warriors. I want to be an Amazon warrior and help to shape the Wonder Women as well as the men of the future.


Expectations vs Reality and self fulfilling prophecies.

I have an artistic friend who sees art everywhere. She can look at the close up of boxes stacked together and see a pattern that, to her eye, creates a work of art.

I often look up from what I’m doing and marvel a little at the beauty that surrounds us. Little things capture my attention, like the way the sun or moonlight is glimmering off the rib of a palm frond. I take photos of the sunset almost every night, because there is always something different in it that appeals to me. The setting sun might be casting perfect palm tree shadows on the pool. A cloud will be glowing pink and gold. Even the storms here are beautiful, with the contrast of dark clouds against the varying blues of the sea.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve started looking at people in the same way. I expect the best of everyone. I expect honesty and kindness. I used to be more wary of people, and I still find it difficult to get to know someone. I have found, from talking to neighbours and friends, that if you look for the worst in people, you’ll probably find it.

Consider some of our prejudices, and I’m sure I have my own. People of my generation speak dismissively of “millennials”, yet I wonder, what age is a millennial? The young people I know are not glued to their phones. They are not selfish and self-absorbed. They don’t have any sense of entitlement. They are hard-working, social, intelligent and thoughtful.

Yes, we hear about certain behaviours that make us say, “Entitlement!” I don’t think that word is exclusive to any age group. There are people in their 30’s, 40’s 50’s, 60’s and older with a sense of entitlement.

My point here is that when we have these prejudices, we treat people a certain way. Are you giving everyone a fair chance to demonstrate what is great about them? Are you open enough to accept people with their differences and still see their inner beauty. Have you had a real conversation with that young, single guy, or that beautiful young woman? You’ve made your assumptions, but do you really know them? Do you know how much loss they’ve had in their lives? Do you know if they are happy where they are in life?

Look for the best in a situation, the “silver lining” to use a cliché. Look for the beauty in your surroundings. (I know, easy for me to say that here in Paradise, but I find beauty wherever I am.) Finally, expect the best from people. Sometimes you’ll be disappointed, but I think, more often, you will learn how complex each individual is and that almost everyone has something wonderful to offer.

There is a lovely quote from Mother Teresa. I am not a religious person, but I did like this. “People are often unreasonable and self centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best, anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Whether you believe in God or the power of the universe or nothing, what can it hurt to be kind and generous and honest? It can only help make the world better.


Flowers Sea Swim: Mission accomplished!

My training period was short, only a week, but I knew I could go the distance. Three days before the race, I swam for sixty minutes. The sea was very rough, but not any rougher than what I’d experienced so far. I didn’t think I would take longer than sixty minutes to do the course, so I was satisfied with my training. It was time to taper.

I was supposed to do a shorter swim on the Thursday, but I was feeling a little queasy and exhausted, so my son told me to take a rest day. I had a little pool swim and did some yoga, but otherwise it was a rest day.

The day before the race I went out for a fifteen minute swim, just to get a feel for the sea. It had calmed down quite a bit, but there was still a strong current. I was getting concerned about swimming against the current on race day.

When I got home from the beach, I learned that the direction of the race had changed. Instead of starting at the Kimpton, we would start at the Royal Palms and swim to the Westin. In other words, someone had noted the direction of the current and wanted us to actually finish the race. That news made my day! Surely I could finish the mile going with the current!

Friday evening I ate pasta to provide my body with carbohydrates which would be stored as glycogen. Glycogen is the main source of energy during exertion.

Friday morning I swam for a few minutes in the swimming pool, just to loosen up. I did my yoga to relax and help my breathing. I carefully taped my foot and sunscreened everything except my arm, where my race number would go. We scoped out the parking areas and planned when we should go.

Our neighbour and his friend agree to join us, to save on finding parking. I have to admit that I was relieved to have them along. It helped me relax to have someone to chat with on the way there. I was feeling pretty relaxed when we arrived and I picked up my swim cap and got my race number on my arm.

It was time to sunscreen and pack up my belongings to be picked up later. My husband was walking along the beach, but he didn’t need to carry all my things. I gave him my phone, but that was it.

We were all counted off as we walked through a sort of gate to the water. I had prepared my goggles to defog them, so I rinsed off the defog, put my swim cap on, which was too small for long hair, and put on my goggles. We found places to start in the water and we were off!

Not very far in I realized my goggles were leaking. The seal had come off the lens portion. With great effort to keep moving on my back, I managed to put them back together, but not before the whole eyepiece fell off.  I’d guess that cost me at least 3 minutes.

I remember seeing the first eighth of a mile marker. After that I was in survival mode. I tried to find people to catch and pass. I tried to breathe rhythmically. At one point I was gaining on someone doing backstroke. He suddenly looked up and looked at me with a pleasantly surprised expression, and then I felt it. It was the current actually giving us a bit of a push. I hadn’t really noticed it before that.

I ploughed on. I told myself, like Dory, just keep swimming, just keep on swimming. I tried to recognize the buildings along the beach, but I don’t walk that beach enough. I alternated between front crawl, breast stroke and back crawl. The back of my knee began to hurt with what I thought was a cramp. I could no longer do whip kick. I was so tired, but I pushed myself to do the crawl as I noticed the race officials. They were waving everyone to the right. I realized that I must be almost done. I swam under a rope and pushed myself to finish and get my number. It said 855, but I later was listed as about 844. As I walked out of the water to the beach I saw a time clock with 51 minutes on it, but again, I later learned I’d finished in about 50 minutes. I felt a little disappointed that my time with the current wasn’t better, but happy to have finished.

Race volunteers put “Finisher” medals around our necks. I took my number to an official and got my gift bag. I found the food and beverage tables. I took way more food than I would be able to eat, a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade. I still hadn’t seen anyone I knew.

Finally, after I managed to claim my belongings after what seemed like ages, I saw my friends, but not my husband. My neighbour saved a spot with our stuff and we went off to find my husband.

What followed was the most exhausting part of the Flowers Sea Swim; waiting around on the beach, in the afternoon sun, for the prizes to be announced. The Flowers Sea Swim is known for their generous prizes, but in order to qualify, you have to finish the race and be present for the announcements. We could have gone home and showered and come back in time for the prize draws, but we waited through the speeches, chugging our water and Gatorade, munching on fruit and sandwiches and pizza. Honestly, I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I’d be. I was thirsty and hot.

So, we waited, while speeches were made, winners announced and finally, draw prizes. Names were called and sometimes a name would be recognized, but none of those names were ours!

By the end of the day the prize announcements were cutting well into evening plans for others, but not for us. We hadn’t planned to do anything that evening except eat and crash.

In retrospect, I’m glad I did the swim. I’m proud to have finished with so little time to train, and yes, I would do it again.






Flowers Sea Swim: New goals, new discoveries and a rude awakening

I returned to Cayman with the best intentions. I planned to train for the Flowers Sea Swim, the one mile swim along Seven Mile Beach that has competitors from all over the world. There are up to 1100 swimmers in this competition, all ages and abilities.

I’d been told that it was a fun event with lots of prizes for anyone who can finish the mile swim within the allotted 75 minutes. I was told that was a generous amount of time and would be no problem for me, a daily swimmer.

I discovered a few things when I set out to prepare for the competition.

First of all, the date was a lot earlier than I remembered from previous years, when I’m sure it was closer to the end of June. This year, the race is on June 10. That left very little time to prepare after over a month away. Sure, we’d done lots of walking, but I didn’t have a sea handy to swim in or even a pool.

Secondly, it’s  much less convenient to prepare for a sea swim every day than it is to jump in the pool in the morning and kick off  a set number of laps. The sea has no shade, so that means either thorough sun screening or  a sunscreen shirt. The sea outside our door is rather rough this time of year. We require a drive to a more well-situated beach for access and calmer seas.

With an attitude of “Let’s do this!” I set  out the first day, a little queasy, presumably from the rum punch I’d had the night before in addition to wine with dinner. There was a current, but not too strong. I swam for 35 minutes, feeling every one of them as if I was going to die or at the very least, throw up. My head was pounding. My goggles kept fogging up. My hair kept getting in my face.

I came out feeling worse and spent the day in the prone position after a soothing bath. Throw up I did, leaving me completely spent. I was unable to eat anything all day. I had a slightly high temperature, which told me that this was not a hangover.

After some sleuthing, we determined that I had eaten some bad leftovers. It was food poisoning. I swam in the pool the following day and I was very careful with my food intake. It was time to get some training advice as time was running out.

After a long Skype session with our son, I had a training plan. I can do this.

On Monday I went for my next swim, wearing my sunscreen shirt and swim shorts and a swim cap. Here’s the thing about the sea. There are waves. It’s salty. There is no shade. For every stroke in the pool I would need at least two or three to make the same distance in the sea. I swam for 40 minutes, swallowing sea water when I took a breath, resting frequently and wondering if I was completely out of my mind. The positive was that I’d defogged my goggles and they worked just fine.

When I finished the swim, I felt good. I stretched a little, drank a whole bottle of water and enjoyed my little shady spot on the beach until my husband came to get me.

Tuesday; it was a rough looking day at sea, but I checked the forecast and determined that it would be okay in the afternoon. No sunscreen shirt today, as it seemed to hold me back in the water. Swim cap on, goggles defogged, better sunscreen on my face, I went in. It was much rougher than the day before. There was a small craft warning, but fortunately, I’m not a small craft. I stayed in the swimming section for safety purposes while my husband went for a snorkel.

It takes some skill and practice to breath without having a drink of sea water. I tried to build up a rhythm, but my pace didn’t match the pace of the waves. I later found out that the waves were 4 to 6 feet. At one point, I almost choked on a mouthful of sea water. That unfortunate delay was quickly followed by a feeling like something had bitten me on my chest. There is life in the sea. Some things bite. I still don’t know what it was, but sometimes when the sea is rough the jellyfish come closer to shore. Maybe it was a baby jellyfish.

I finished the 50 minute swim, and surprised myself at how good I felt afterwards. I just wish I felt good during the swim. Here is how it goes. I start out and immediately feel the fatigue in my arms. I push through and start to feel stronger, but eventually I need to switch to breast stroke. I look up at a buoy marker and set a goal. I swim for what feels like 10 lengths of the pool and look up, only to get a wave in my face. The buoy doesn’t look any closer. I continue on and check my watch, setting goals for myself along the way.

At one point I took twice as long to swim between the marker buoys as I had the previous run, but I cheered up when the return swim took much less time. Obviously, the current was getting stronger.

I have a 60 minute swim to do today. The forecast hasn’t changed. I know I can do it and I’m actually looking forward to it. I hope the weather improves, but I’ll go anyway, unless there’s a lightning storm.

This is even more important to me now than when I signed up. I need to show myself that I can do it. I also need to do this now, while I’m healthy. I learned yesterday that I may need another foot surgery. I don’t know how long the recovery would be, but this is my window to do the swim.

Three more days to train! Let’s do this!

Birthdays and expectations

There is something about birthdays that is still so special to me, even after celebrating so many of my own and others’. Our children were always given a choice of what they’d like to eat on their birthdays. For mine, I would simply ensure that I had something I liked, or maybe I’d get taken out for dinner. I started making my own cake or my daughter would make one for me. I was always disappointed in store-bought cake.

Last year on my birthday I was completely spoiled by our visitors. They cooked for me and made cupcakes. This year I thought it might be grim. We were away from home and staying in a house with my in-laws, but we were the only ones not jet-lagged. Our children weren’t there.

I woke up at my usual time but no one else was awake. We had no car or method of travel yet we were out in the country, miles from any public transit. I went for a walk to calm myself. I did some yoga to focus my mind. I sent messages to my family, still all asleep, thousands of miles away.

There was nothing wrong with the birthday, but I started it too early, before the rest of my world woke up. By the time I went to bed, and even the next morning, I had lots of birthday wishes and love sent my way.

In fact, I was offered my choice of what to have for dinner. I was also tasked with finding a cake on our trip to the store. It was the best store-bought chocolate cake I’ve ever had.

I still love birthdays, no matter how old I get. I have to adjust expectations sometimes, but usually it all ends up happy.

A brief and unplanned hiatus

Doing nothing but sit around with one’s foot up isn’t always a bad thing. I managed to find many things to keep me busy, including planning a trip and learning a new language.

Now that I’m on my feet again, in a limited capacity, I still have the language to learn and the trip to plan, but I also have the food to buy and prepare and the apartment to clean. We’ve been away for three weeks as well. To top that off, we had company for four days, so I’ve been trying to fit it all in on limited sleep.

Now that I am able to walk, swim and exercise, I’m trying to get back in shape. This recovery business is not for the impatient. While away I found myself lagging at the back of the group many times on our way to dinner. I wasn’t ready for the trip, physically, so took lots of time to put my foot up and ice it.

I’m much better now, but still have swelling and I’m still limited in the shoes I can wear. I often think “I’m all better” and immediately the following day I’ll have to baby my foot again. As my surgeon says, the body will heal itself.

I’m going to be going away again, for five weeks. Unlike some very organized bloggers, I haven’t prepared anything to automatically post while I’m away. I have so many things in my mind about which I’d love to write. I guess it will all have to wait!

Our next travel adventure awaits and I can only think about coming home with a healthy foot and cooking again. Until then, I’ll try to take good notes on our travels.

It’s beautiful in Cayman today, slightly overcast and about 27 Celsius. Why do we leave? Life is too short to stay home when you’ve always wanted to go somewhere in particular. I confess to being a travel addict, but the good news is I’m always happy to come home.

Post op in Paradise continues: how long does this take?

After over two weeks of showering on one foot with a bag over the other, or bathing with one foot propped on the edge of the tub, I was looking forward to getting my stitches out.

I imagined that I could not only shower, but go down to the pool and go for a swim. I can dream, can’t I?

I went to have my stitches out and unfortunately, I was told to wait a little bit longer before I attempted swimming. In fact, the day I was supposed to be able to shower without keeping my foot dry, I took one look and changed my mind. The incision just didn’t look healed.

The stitches were out, but I had all that dry, scabby skin around the incision. It seemed like there were small patches where it hadn’t healed yet. I waited a day.

My first shower was actually a little painful. Water on the foot hurt. Trying to balance on one foot hurt, but trying to put even just a little weight on the bad foot while I was barefoot in the shower? That hurt. It was exhausting. It was back to bathing with the foot propped on the edge of the tub, although at least I could wash it and rinse it under the tap. Those Tortuga bags could be used for something else.

So life without stitches continued on a lot like life with stitches. I reviewed my journal from the first surgery and indeed, I had waited at least four weeks post op to go swimming.

Another two weeks of hobbling around, gradually putting more weight on the foot, and I was sure I’d be ready to swim. I was still in the post op shoe, which made my foot feel safe and protected, but was also very bulky. I managed to spend more time outside. I was feeling a little more confident about getting back inside in case I needed to go to the bathroom, but rarely made the trip back outside again. One trip up and down the stairs in a day was enough.

Next step, x-rays and maybe it would be time to venture into the pool? Oh, how optimistic I was!




Resident Diving: Another bonus!

As if living in a place with perpetual summer isn’t enough, we have “resident diving”. Resident diving is this wonderful option of diving on a Sunday morning with Red Sail, and maybe other dive operators do it, for half the cost of a regular dive. In fact, as a resident, all my boat dives are half price.

I signed up for resident diving last year, but I wasn’t able to take advantage. I finally gave it a try when our daughter was here.

Every week I receive an email from Red Sail with an update on their resident specials, and an invitation to the Sunday resident dive. They always tell me where they expect to be diving. I look forward to the North wall dives. Having done most of my early diving here in the summer and on the north and east side, I didn’t realize that they aren’t always the best choice at certain times of year.  Sometimes it’s just too rough, so the West wall is the place to be. I still have that attachment to some of the North wall dives, though.

This week there is a lion fish cull. If you aren’t familiar with the Caribbean and our lion fish problem, you might wonder why they want to cull the beautiful and striking lion fish. I remember being so excited to see lion fish in the South Pacific.

The lion fish is an invasive species. They eat native fish at an alarming rate and have thrived in the Caribbean.

Personally, I really like the taste of lion fish. I find it is expensive here, though, so don’t always feel inclined to order it when it’s on the menu.

This is one resident dive I’ll be missing, but I’ll be cheering them all on! Catch those lion fish and cook them up!