Monday, January 13, 2020

First we Break. Then, we Grow

I couldn't believe when I opened the Blogger browser my homepage popped right up. Like I'd posted yesterday, like I'm not a stranger to this place, as if I'm here regularly. But not so. It's been well over a year since I wrote (I don't even remember my password to get in here), with my writing tapering off considerably the year before that. And many of you wondered "why?" The simple answer is this: when you are going through hell, it is very, very hard to write about it. You must get through it, and write about it on the other side.

I'm back. I'm not on the other side yet, not even close I'm afraid, but I'm at a place of reflection where I finally feel ready to share. I knew this time would come, because the need to write - to share, connect - for me, is as integral to my life as food and drink. Not writing hurt me deep in my soul, and I was lost without it, but I didn't want to force it or rush it, because that wouldn't be fair. Sure, I could've ignored the elephant in the room and written happily about this day or that, but it didn't feel right. It didn't feel honest. How could I write about a lovely day at the beach with the kids, while something so momentous and life-changing was going on in the background? How could I not give credence to that? I simply couldn't. So, I sat. Stuck.

I haven't been completely gone, as most of you know. I have been posting little glimpses into my life on Instagram (and Facebook) which has mildly satiated my urge to share. But as we all know (or should know) by now, no life is accurately depicted in a series of prettily arranged boxes on your screen. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but no picture could (or really, should) sum up what has been happening behind the liquid crystal curtain we all sit behind. Some of you began reading between the lines, and noticed something was amiss. But I wasn't ready to explain, to tell. The time wasn't right and, frankly, putting it out there would make everything more real, tangible and painful. Also? Many of you are not going to like what I am going to say and I will, once again, be opened up for scrutiny, judgement and God knows what else for telling my story.

As I alluded to in my New Year Instagram post, Scott and I have separated. We have been separated for a year now. While I understand this will come as a tremendous shock to many of you, to almost everyone closer to us, it was not. The demise of our marriage wasn't an implosion, or sudden impulse (as some might wish to believe) driven by rash decisions or clouded judgement, it was, rather, a slow erosion that began many, many years ago. It's impossible to say exactly what went wrong, if we could've altered course to change the outcome, or if we were just ill-suited from the get go... Suffice it to say, I have learned a lot this last year, and one of the things I have learned is that everyone has a story. And, more often than not, their story will serve their views and opinions. They will grab on for dear life to that story, convince others their story is true, and believe wholeheartedly that their version is the "right" version. But - as with all stories - there are two sides. What is truth for one person, is not the truth for another.The real story often lies somewhere in the middle. But the bottom line is, Scott and I were not good together. We both made a lot of mistakes over the years, hurting each other terribly in the process, while consistently and systematically bringing out the very worst in each other. By the time we realized how bad it had gotten (after years of on and off therapy), it was too late. I had nothing left to give and had been worn down to a version of myself I no longer knew. I truly saw no way out of the devastating and terribly unhealthy cycle and put a final stake in our marriage by finding refuge elsewhere, thus kicking off the most painful and difficult year of my life while simultaneously shattering the image I had unwittingly created of "the perfect family".

You see, breaking up a marriage is one thing. Breaking up a family? That's another. There are no words that encompass the magnitude of this anguish. The only one I can think of and use regularly is: agony. It is agony. While many - if not most - aspects of our life as a couple were unhealthy and toxic, there were many beautiful parts as well - namely our three girls - and it would be wrong to recall a decade together without recognizing that there was some magic in our union as well. Make no mistake, the dissolution of  a marriage is a death. And just like any death, it is a devastating loss. The grief and sorrow come in waves and without warning. The memories trickle in and trigger tears without consideration of time and place. Then come the pain, guilt, and shame. They are so very heavy and always there, camped out in a spot in your heart where they will live forever. You don't forget and move on, these new roommates make space. You learn to live with this little hole in your being, and try as you might, it cannot be filled with anything, ever. You must acknowledge the presence, recognize you are a different person, and adjust. This is much easier said than done, I'm afraid.

Scott and I have been very good about putting the kids first and being as cordial and civil as possible, and the kids, for the most part, are doing amazingly well considering. We share custody, we live five minutes from one another (I am on the boat with the kids, he in a condo down the road), and we attend recitals, school events and the like together. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day together as a family at Scott's house with some friends, we laughed and hugged and had a great time. We are trying as best we can. It's hard, I cannot lie. And there are many days I think "Is this all a dream? Will this pain go away? Will all this be worth it? Will this ever get easier?" and my friends and family assure me, that no, this is not a dream, yes, this is for the best and for sure it will get easier. But friends, it's hard. It is so, so, so very hard.

This new year has brought me a sense of release and purpose that I have not had. I can now write again, share my feelings and pain as well as my triumphs and adventures. I'm inspired and free. This unfortunate development is yet another layer in my life, and something I cannot ignore or gloss over. It is there, and will be here. This has been, and will continue to be my safe space in which to share. And I truly believe that maybe by sharing as honestly as I can (without airing dirty laundry or being disrespectful) it will lead me to a better place and, if I'm lucky, maybe help someone like me feel less alone.

Because we are never alone.

I am ready to share again but I understand if some of you no longer want to stay here. That's okay too.

Thank you for being patient with me.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Indecision and The Question that Drove it Away: How I Made up my Mind to Sail South

If action is the basis for success, indecision is the birthplace of failure. And dear god, have I been indecisive this last month...To be fair, I have always considered myself a pretty resolute person; I typically know what I want and go for it. I follow my gut - which usually leads me in the right, or at the very least, an interesting, direction - and I've never been one to hem and haw and change my mind, which is why this past month has been...well...driving me batty.


Ever since our last boat and most of all our worldly possessions were taken by Hurricane Irma last summer, we knew that our next boat would not be left in the path of harm (aka: hurricane alley, which is where we happen to live). The storms of last season took away a whole lot from a whole lot of people, but one good thing they swept away in their wake: complacency. No one wants to be caught with their pants down this year (and probably for the next few following) and neither do we. So our plan: sail ourselves south for the peak hurricane months of August and September and haul our boat in Grenada, where storms are "statistically" less likely to strike (knocks on wood). This way, we can enjoy time back with friends and family with relatively little stress (watching hurricane Irma on her death march to our home was pure agony) and our boat will not be a sitting duck in the water. For months this has been our plan; re-visit our former island-hopping cruising days for a short while. The girls are older, they are all great swimmers, and our boat - a Hallberg Rassy 46 - is a legitimate thoroughbred on the water. She loves to sail. This was our plan since we returned in January and I was all about it.

Until the time to leave grew closer and indecision set up shop in my brain.

My first guest was doubt... I turned over a million scenarios in my head and came up with as many excuses why sailing south wasn't really a good idea: "Is our boat really ready?" "Are the girls really ready?" "Would it cut too much into our time back home with friends and family?" "What if the twins get sick and don't sleep well?" "We really need more fans...." "Our dinghy leaks air..." "We don't have solar power or a water maker, we should have those to cruise..." "What if we get into shit weather and I have to help Scott, what will the girls do?" and (shameful to admit) "What will I do without regular wifi!?"  these questions, along with a myriad of others plagued me day and night and opened the door for indecision. Do we stay or do we go? Ultimately (hindsight being the best magnifier) - it was fear that caused me to make the "chicken out" decision to flying home from here - though I didn't think it at the time. I had made up my mind, we were opting out of the sail.

But for some reason the decision was not sitting right.

If I was honest, it did feel very much like a cop-out, the idea of flying home. Sure I had all the excuses and everything sounded hunky dory, but I knew the truth. Scott and I would have a chat, he'd convince me that all would be fine and it would be fun, he'd beg me to come with the girls, and then I'd say, "Okay! We are in!" Two days later, doubt would creep back in and I'd back out again. This flip-flopping happened no fewer than 15 times people! It was driving me (and Scott) crazy. WHY COULD I NOT MAKE UP MY MIND!? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GIRL WHO KNEW EXACTLY WHAT SHE WANTED?! WHY ON EARTH WAS I HOLDING BACK ON THIS?!

I still don't exactly know what my indecisiveness was about or where it was coming from. I suspect a nice chat with a therapist could uncover that, but ultimately, after talking on the phone with my sister and best friend no fewer than thirty times combined, and going over ideas and scenarios with Scott, I - at Scott's urging - looked at my options and thought to myself: what will I regret not doing? Would I regret not flying home a little early to see friends and family while Scott sailed our home south, or would I regret not taking this opportunity to show our girls an adventure, do some traveling, and spend some time at sea? Once I posed the question to myself in that way, the answer came clear as a bell: adventure.

I chose adventure.

And until making this final decision (and, yep, it's final now!) I had no idea how badly I've been craving a little adventure. Call it wanderlust, call it fernweh, call it whatever you want - but that insatiable urge for change, travel and life experience, I have it. It went a *tiny* bit dormant while the kids were small and I had barely any time to come up for air, let alone dream and scheme, but that fire that once was inside and drove me toward the unknown is beginning to flicker again. And I am so excited.

The plan right now is to head to St. Croix on Tuesday to drop off a bunch of stuff we had in storage for friends, and from there we're going to make the 35/40 hour hop to either Guadaloupe (my absolute favorite!) or Dominica. We'll spend a few days in that area and then continue island hopping down the chain, stopping where we feel, finally ending in Grenada where we will haul our boat and fly back to Chicago for fun with friends and family.

This decision feels good. It feels right.


If I've learned anything - particularly in the wake of Irma - it's that life and circumstances can change very, very quickly.  My grandfather - a true hedonist and man who lived a life of travel and adventure - always said: if there's an opportunity, take it. And for most of my life that little snippet of advice has carried me to some pretty amazing people, experiences and places. Sometimes it's scary and vulnerable to take a leap into the unknown, but we all know the little venn diagram about comfort zones and where the magic happens (hint: it's outside of it). So we are going to take this opportunity and we are SO excited. I'll be keeping our Facebook and Instagram pages updated where we can, so follow us over there if you want to keep up with us, though my posts will likely be sporadic.

Time to get back to our cruising roots, for a little while at least...

Friday, July 06, 2018

Nevis: A Journey through The Best Caribbean Island You Haven't Heard of

It's pronounced "NEE-vis" and this island is like something out of a dream. Perhaps it's the impressive peak of Mount Nevis which juts from the islands center and seems to always be cloaked in shadowy clouds, or maybe it's the perfectly manicured homes, gardens and streets...but on my approach to her in the sleepy sun drenched sky of late afternoon, she took my breath away. Yes, even after years of island living the birds' eye view of an island approach still makes my heart pitter patter.

Welcome to Nevis: The self-proclaimed island of the "discerning traveler".

I'm here because my fellow island sister, Riselle, of Travelling Island Girl organized a familiarization trip with the Nevis Tourism Board, and I was chosen to join her (insert happy dance). I jumped at the opportunity. Not only was it a great chance to have a little "me" time (read: kid free!), but it was a way to get to know this tiny island better since Scott and I only breezed through for a night back in 2013 on one of our sails south. What follows is the travelogue of this trip through Nevis, and should you want to visit this magical little place (which you absolutely should!), you might just want to take this as your itinerary because we did a LOT...Hang on and enjoy the ride...


If you happen towards the cruise ship areas of island towns, you will likely find a shirt that reads "Same Sh**, Different Island". While islands obviously share similarities this could not be further from the truth. Immediately I'm struck by the difference between this island and mine. Lawns are tidy and manicured, the town is quaint, clean yet bustling, and vendor stalls bursting with home-grown fruit are never far. Did I mention the monkeys? Yeah. THERE ARE MONKEYS HERE! This is one of the few Caribbean islands with a monkey population and who doesn't love monkeys? (Turns out, Nevisians don't. The monkeys here are a *serious* problem and considered vermin, but more on that later...) My first impression? Me Likey.

We are greeted by the lovely Angelique of the tourist board and immediately she feels like a familiar friend. We are going to be dropped at the beautiful Mount Nevis Hotel, our home base for the next few days, to clean up and then taken for dinner at the gorgeous waterfront Nisbet Plantation. Nevis was a veritable sugar bowl for the Caribbean back in the day and the ruins of sugar plantations (even that of the famed Alexander Hamilton!) dot the countryside adding to this islands vintage allure.
The Mount Nevis hotel is absolutely heavenly and breakfast on a verandah with a view? YES
Easy and breezy, thats the feeling you get at this beautiful place. @Mount Nevis Hotel
My room in the Mount Nevis hotel is incredible. With high beam ceilings, a balcony with an ocean view, an open floor plan and clean tropical decor, it feels spacious and light. I throw myself on the bed, arms and legs splayed. "This is the life!" As former cruisers, hotels were one area of travel life we almost never experienced and living on a boat means spaciousness is a luxury so this. is. a. treat. I enjoy my shower and head to the lobby where I meet up with Ris and Jen (of Jen There Done That) for a very welcome rum punch while we wait for our ride. Cheers!

Our first outing is to the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club where they have an amazing Thursday night barbecue buffet followed by a live band. This place does not disappoint. The buffet is incredible and offers something for every palate. Freshly prepared, local, and bursting with color I'm drawn in for two plates full of food before I force myself to stop. (OMG, the bbq'd shrimp! Drool.) My girlfriends and I enjoy our dinners with cocktails, and shake it off on the dance floor later to the live band. We go to bed happy.

The next morning I enjoy my fruit and yogurt parfait and strong black coffee on the breakfast patio of our hotel (views sooo good at Mount Nevis Hotel!), and we are off to visit the home of Ermine Hendrickson. She's one of Nevis's local agro processers and makes jams and jellies from her home. We hop into Angelique's car, zip by the beautiful landscape and perfectly manicured home and lawns, fly by a few "monkey crossing" signs (yes, they are REAL), and we are there. Ermine is shy and soft spoken, but kind and wise. She is going to show us how to make a local treat that consists of coconut, simple sugar, and ginger (a few drops of bitters is the secret to her recipe!) We watch and drool as her concoction takes form - the smell of toasted coconut and ginger filling the air - until finally we get to taste the yummy gooey treat. It's sweeter than sweet can be and I cannot stop pinching pieces....We thank her for her time, leave with some of her famous home-grown pepper sauce and are on to our next adventure.

Mount Nevis pool and view. BLISS.

Jen of Jen there Done That and Ris of The Traveling Island Girl enjoying our breakfast to prep for a long day of fun.

A wander through the small town with highlight stops at the local Jewish Cemetary (very cool, very old) and the Clifton Estate Rum Shop (when in Rome!) leads us to the waterfront where we dine at the wonderfully eclectic Cafe des Arts. This is my kind of place. Open and breezy, casual and comfy. Signs and trinkets fill the space and the garden is abuzz with life and color. We take our seats under a wide sunbrella and enjoy our light lunch before the afternoon craziness: The Patterson Pub Crawl (to book call Patterson directly: 869-661-9184) starting at the famed Pinneys Beach. We are told there will be moonshine. I am equally excited and terrified.
Clifton Estate rum sampling. When in Rome, right?
Pub crawls haven't really been my "thing" since, oh I don't know, 2001, but when a guy like Patterson invites you on a tour of some of Nevis's local rum huts (read: off the beaten path), you don't say no. We meet Patterson at his super chic lounge and he immediately emanates charisma and charm. He's funny, friendly and boisterous and I know immediately this will be a fun afternoon. We zip from rum hut to rum hut, with Ris and I taking two shots of the local moonshine at each place (#islandgirls can hang). In some places it's called "bush tea", others "Hammon" but my favorite moniker is "monkey piss" for obvious reasons. This stuff is no joke and after four stops, the girls and I are giggly and loopy and feeling the love. Because everything in the Caribbean is an aphrodisiac.
Patterson's Place on Pinney's Beach. Loved it here.

Can you tell he's a charmer? The host with the most, and SO much fun.

One of our rum bar stops. Always greeted with smiles and shots. Could be worse! 

We head back to our hotel where we sober clean up. We are heading to the Yachtsman Grill for dinner. Right on the water and offering killer sunset views, the vibe is decidedly "yachty" (duh) and laid back; excellent for both couples and families. Lisa, the hostess, greets us with a huge smile and Jersey accent and we chat and laugh like we've known her forever. Her daughter, Chef Mary, is a young and inspiring chef who has recently taken over the kitchen and menu. She is unique and fresh, affable but with an edge, just like the amazing food she produces. Our dinner lingers on punctuated by occasional bursts of laughter and we toast the end of another amazing day.

The next day we are in for a real treat: an afternoon at the Four Seasons Resort. But first we view a few AirBnB properties to get a taste for what else is available here at a different price point. The stand out for sure are the Firefly Cottages which are the cutest, quaintest most fairytale-esque little one room cottages nestled deep in a jungle that SCREAM "honeymoon". I wanted to unpack my bags and move in forever to write a novel. If you are looking for a unique experience away from it all, definitely check these out.
Firefly cottage #1 of 2. They are sooooo adorable.

Vintage, eclectic, cozy and simple create the most magnificent ambience

Coziness abounds
One room cottage nestled in the rainforest, does this scream romantic getaway or not!? Swoon.
From there it was to the Four Seasons Resort. Having never been to a Four Seasons save the occasional wedding, I had no real idea what to expect as high end resorts are usually not my 'thing'. This place is INSANE. The grounds are expansive and gorgeous featuring an 18 hole golf course, private villas, manicured lawns and babbling brooks. We also had our first monkey sighting here! (SCORE!) We toured some absolutely incredible villas that rent for many thousands of dollars a night, as well as touring some rooms. Four Seasons Nevis lives up to it's world-wide reputation and every single aspect of this place - from the decor, to the food, to the (free!) kid's club - is top notch. Fellow islanders, it's definitely worth noting that they offer us a >>>CARIBBEAN RESIDENTS RATE <<< from May to December. I fully intend on using this in the future (TRAVEL TIP: it's also worth asking if other hotels offer such a rate as well!) 

Hi! I am in a 10K per night villa I have no business being in but it's fun!

The Four Seasons Resort in Nevis leaves no stone unturned. It is perfect in every conceivable way.
After a tour and an absolutely delicious lunch (fish tacos, FTW!) we were treated to a couple hours in our very own private beach cabana. Oh. My. God. We had bottle service, a selection of magazines, fresh baked treats, and our own luxe beach chairs with a beachy little tented living room to retreat in. Move over Beyonce! (Insert "z" snap) Feeling quite legit we kicked back with a bottle of prosecco and reveled in the magnificence of the ocean before us. The reggae rum cart rocked up just as we were packing up so we took a roadie. I honestly did NOT want to leave. But more fun was to be had...we had a sunset sail to catch.

Hanging out in front of our private beach cabana. Yeah, I could definitely get used to this!

You guys, when the Reggae Rum Cart calls, you answer! Thank you Four Seasons!
Still buzzing from the Four Seasons beach, we meet up with our hosts for the sunset sail, Leeward Islands Charter, and are welcomed aboard by Captain Lennox and first mate Stallone. Nicknames are part of the culture in Nevis, and with nicknames like that, we knew we were in for a good time. Stallone kept the rum punches flowing en masse, the tunes were jamming and before we knew it, we were full-on dancing like fools on the trampoline. Many, many boomerang videos were made and miraculously, no one fell overboard. This was for sure a highlight evening of Nevis and a sunset sail is a must-do if you visit this amazing place. A LOT of rum was consumed and the laughter was non-stop. We held down the "fun" button, hard.
This was basically us THE ENTIRE SAIL. Laughing, laughing, boomerang video, more laughing.
The next morning we were all feeling a bit worse for wear, but THERE WAS MORE TO SEE. The lovely Angelique whisked us up from our verandah breakfast where she deposited us with the Funky Monkey Tours - we were embarking on a three and a half hour tour that promised "beach and bush, resorts and ruins, and savannahs and rainforests" which is precisely what we got. It's hard to imagine this tiny island offering this much varied topography, but it does. Exploring in an open-air polaris was a great way to get off-road and feel the wind in our hair. This trip offered two highlights for me: my very own "horse whisperer moment" (you had to be there. I basically tamed a stallion.) and a trip to a natural healing hot spring.

You can just call me the "horse whisperer" this magnificent creature and I had a moment. I swear.
The volcanic-heated spring ranges between 104 and 108 degrees celcius and you must enter slowly. The pool promises to cure you of your aches and pains and while I have no such afflictions, I did feel incredibly relaxed and rejuvenated after soaking for the suggested time. We had a lovely conversation with a local women who's arthritis has been almost completely eradicated thanks to her daily 15 minute sessions. Aches and pains or not, this is a definite must-see on and a unique little experience uniquely Nevis (sadly not for kids, way too hot).

Of course the tour had to live up to it's name ("Funky Monkey Tours") and we were treated to a few monkey sightings which elicited squeals of delight. Unfortunately, however, we learned that the monkeys are a legitimate national issue here and are more or less despised by locals the way city dwellers loathe rats. While it feels almost unnatural to liken monkeys to vermin (they are SOOOOO cute) they are detested that much. They destroy farmers crops and multiply quickly. In fact, there are more monkeys than people here and when they migrate to the lowlands, they wreak havoc for the locals. While there are steps being taken to control them, getting rid of them is not an option either, as they are just another box on a long checklist of highlights that make Nevis special. Me? I love them and really, really wanted to snuggle one and take it home (shrugs).
The tour was so fun, getting off the beaten path was a great way to really see Nevis.

A trip to Nevis would not be complete without stopping at an old sugar plantation, right

Our day ended at the incredible Chrishi Beach Club in Cades Bay. Swanky, chic and a haunt for the local expats, this place reminded me of South Beach and St. Barts. Laid back and beachy with modern decor, contemporary food and great chillout music in the background, it feels very hip. Bubbles were in order for this lunch and we spent a few hours laughing and lounging, enjoying the beautiful scenery and company. Our last day was upon us, and in the morning our whirlwind tour of the little island that stole our hearts, would be over.
This is SO the kind of place you want to hang with your friends on a #sundayfunday and drink all the bubbles. We had a blast here.

Did someone mention bubbles? @Chrishie Beach Club

Nevis is an island that - even though it's technically part of St. Kitts and often mistaken as the "little sister" - stands alone. With her amazing people, her lush curvature and her sleepy authentic "island" vibe (no big box stores or chains here, they keep it quaint), she is, indeed, the island for the discerning traveler. Whatever your budget, there is something for you here. Nevis is for couples, families, yogis, thrill seekers and everything in between. Whether you are looking for off the beaten path adventure or a relaxing week being pampered on the beach, Nevis will ace it. And you will see monkeys. Lots of cute, little monkeys.

*Stay tuned for more specific posts on where to stay and what to do while in Nevis.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Motherlode: Finding Balance Where There is None

It's 10:24 am and I have but one precious hour left of time before having to get the twins from their preschool. The minutes hang over my head serving as a constant reminder that I do not have enough time. I have a deadline to keep, I am writing about my trip to Nevis and going through hundreds of photos; editing and trying to organize my post so it's not too long, so that it stays interesting. This has been weighing on me for weeks, and I keep procrastinating. Must. Keep. Going. I have at least eight hours of stuff to do today, but they will not get done. I know this. And it adds to my frustration. Obligations, expectations, personal wishes, distractions, lists in my head, important decisions to make, a business to help run (but I don't because I leave that to Scott by default, causing him stress as well)... It's crazy hair day tomorrow and next week Isla needs to dress like she's one hundred years old. These sorts of things are icing on the cake that I do not want to eat. Do you know how hard it is for me to get out of the house with my kids by 8am!? And now I need to give her rainbow troll hair!!?? (Insert GIF of woman sliding down a wall slowly in exasperation) All of these things combine with about a million other tiny things - including my own personal struggles, wishes and desires (which get pushed to the side and ignored) - and chip away at my sanity, my peace. I freeze. I opt for an evening with friends drinking strong cocktails as opposed to tackling the contents of the overflowing cupboard or doing some much-needed yoga. I'm simply too tired. The devil in my mind shakes her head in disgust: "You are not enough."

Welcome to the motherlode.


I know I'm not alone. It's not a new concept; the mental load that a mother bears. It's well documented and every single woman who runs a household knows exactly what I am talking about. Lots of people see me and think that I have it pretty together. And sometimes, I do. But deep down, I'm just grabbing at straws like everyone else. Things that are currently bugging me (this just off the top of my head): my computer is a mess, files everywhere, 18K+ photos just floating around with zero organization, and in desperate need of a backup. Our lockers, cabinets and drawers? Dear GOD they are ALL overflowing and jammed shut. Hidden away. Is this a metaphor for my life? Tidy on the surface and a mess underneath? I ponder this question regularly. Our fridge needs cleaning and organizing, and speaking of the fridge, I really need to step up my cooking game because I'm failing there too. Must do more family dinners....I need purge some of our stuff; kids clothes, toys, extra markers and all. the. things. Living on a boat means it encloses around us much more quickly until I snap and just start grabbing stuff and throwing it in bags. Confession: I keep almost NONE of my kids art and crafts and when it comes home in their bags, more often than not it goes right to the trash. Am I the only one? TELL ME I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE.

I want to take pictures of their creations and scribbles as keepsakes for them, maybe set up email addresses for them to act as a time capsule where I send them cute things about their lives and their days but FACT: I can't be bothered. Will I regret this? Thoughts like these keep me up at night. I yell at my kids too much and sometimes their attitudes make me see red. ACTUAL RED, people. Am I failing them? Kids are, after all, a mirror unto ourselves. Each day when they are mean or sassy or hurtful I think: "Did I do this to them?"...I spend too much, am careless with money, and have no idea how to do taxes or properly manage finances. I have approximately 4K emails in my windtraveler inbox, many of those from wonderful and loyal fans and followers who deserve a response, but I just can. not. do. it. I simply do not have the energy or the time to craft thousands of email. I have so much I want to say, want to write...but I'm blocked. I feel pulled a million directions and instead of it all lighting a fire under me to work work work and #getitdone, I freeze. Am I lazy? Am I a failure to launch? Am I living up to my potential? I don't like the answers I give myself. "You are not enough."

This is just the little mundane stuff. I won't even get into the fact that our livelihood and business still dangle precariously in front of us, our future almost totally uncertain. The next 18 months are critical. I push the thoughts out of my head...

And people wonder why I cannot sleep at night.

It's not one of my better traits, this tendency to stand like a deer in headlights in the face of a mountain of tasks. I get overwhelmed easily and my knee-jerk reaction - the carnal fight or flight instinct that evolution has fine tuned for us - is to run. I escape in many ways; some healthy (spending time with friends, talking, writing it out), others not so much (drinking in excess to distract, wasting precious hours on social media). But to tackle it is all too much. I want to take a photography course (my skills are so limited), get back into health and fitness (I'm a former marathon runner and medaled triathlete), I want to write at least once a week and resurrect this blog... I want to be a better mom, a better friend, better sister and daughter...I want to submit articles to magazines, maybe even start a novel and there are SO MANY books I am longing to read because one every couple weeks isn't enough.... These are just a sampling of a long list of wishes and desires I have but instead I let out a heavy sigh, lay down during my downtime hours and scroll on Facebook or find some other distraction. "Another day" I tell myself. My energy level is too low. My inspiration gone. I need more coffee... Which reminds me, I really need to drink more water.

On the flip side, I am also hyper aware that we are in an intense stage of life right now. Everyone tells me this and I get it. We are "in the trenches" as it were... We had three kids in less than two years (chaos is an understatement), are the parents of twins (well documented to add stress to a marriage), live on a sailboat (stressful) on an island where we are complete outsiders (and often made to feel unwelcome), and we run a (now fledgling) business. Our lives were completely overturned and future made uncertain by the largest recorded hurricane in Atlantic history, adding insult to injury. To steal a lyric from my favorite 80's rock ballad, we are "living in a powder keg." I still am looking for the spark. Maybe it will get my tush in gear?

We are lucky, I know that. I feel guilty for even winging about this because WHAT RIGHT DO I HAVE? There are many people with real problems; terminal illness, family death, poverty, abuse...the list goes on. My litany of stresses and worries are of the first world variety and I know that (adding guilt to my self-deprecation list right now). I know that what matters most in life are people and our relationships with them. That our health is our wealth. We have three beautiful, healthy children and wonderful family and friends. We get to live in paradise, enjoy international travel and our lives are full of adventure. I am grateful for all these things, believe me. Will I be on my deathbed and wish I had written one more blog post? Most likely not. Will I sob at the mountain of email I never got back to or wish I had cooked more organic vegan dinners for my children or lament that my drawers were a mess? The dispatches I read of hospice nurses tell me unequivocally "no". I will wish for more time and maybe that I had spent mine wiser. I will think of my family and friends and hope I made a positive impact on their lives, in their worlds. I will lament hours wasted agonizing about things that don't matter, days like this. And this is what I think I need to keep focusing on. One foot in front of the other. Day by day. What is important right now is to make someone smile, help a friend, have a laugh, make a memory with my children... I remind myself that soon enough all three of our girls will be in school all day long and before I know it they will be grown and suddenly I will have many hours throughout the week. I will miss these days. I will look back and think how wonderful - maybe even how easy - it all was. And I will long to come back here.

But for now, it feels like the motherlode.


Yesterday, I bought three cans of colored hairspray for Isla's rainbow hair tomorrow. When I showed her she would be able to have the hair she wished for she jumped up and down with the biggest smile you could imagine, threw her arms around me and exclaimed, "Oh my gosh!! Thank you SO much mommy, you are the BEST! I am so excited!" In that little moment, I was winning, and everything else was just noise. This morning, I was more than enough. And that's good enough for now.

Monday, April 16, 2018

How We Got our Groove Back: Piecing together Life Post-Irma

Haven looks at what used to be our home.
Our first charter for our daysail company, Aristocat Charters, was April 10th. It might not seem like a massive announcement in the grand scheme of things, but getting our flailing business back up and running (we lost both our day charter boats to the storm and have been income-less since) was the last piece of the "Irma puzzle" we had to put together to resume life as normal. It's a laughable concept - "as normal" - because life here after hurricane Irma is anything but "normal"... so much has changed. People have left (both by choice and not), "disaster relief" groups have taken their place, buildings are destroyed, construction is booming, tourists are few and far between, new industries and companies have emerged, tides have changed in a million ways, and many lives and livelihoods face uncertainty...The fact that our first charter was six months overdue is just one *tiny* anomaly among many. It's pretty much the same plot line for every single one of us that lives here: adjustment and recalibration is part of the new normal.

Life post-Irma has been an equally strange and amazing time, living in what some might describe as a "disaster area" that, in many ways, has not quite found it's footing is...interesting. From a global perspective, this situation is not unique. Every day there are a whole host of geographical areas effected by natural disasters, wars, and extreme poverty. These are polarizing predicaments, to be sure. But coming from the relatively bubble-wrapped perspective of a privileged "first worlder", this is very unique. Despite the "different-ness" (life will for a long time be discussed in a pre vs. post Irma vernacular), however, the beauty shines through. My heart continues to swell with gratitude every single day that we can live here, our girls continue to thrive in their wild and carefree childhood, and the tourists who have chosen not to cancel their travel plans all echo the same sentiment: "This place is amazing!" Because it is. Sure, you will see a whole host of cars driving around with only plastic for windows with mangled bodies and, yep, you will probably turn to gawk at some buildings who's second floor is no more, and - true - there are some areas where the destruction and damage will be shocking and possibly depressing, but if you can get past that - you will see that so much beauty remains unchanged. And to be able to see beyond the destruction is, I am learning, a gift.

Those of us that live here, we have to see beyond it. We have no other choice. And so we do.

When I lived in Tanzania my best girlfriend from college came to visit. I picked her up from the 8:30pm KLM flight that arrived from Amsterdam in my old beater of a Land Cruiser and we made the long, dark drive back to my house. We chatted and caught up as we passed a flicker of a roadside oil lantern here and there, and I was giddy with excitement to have a visiting fried. The drive to my house was an hour and to get there we passed through a little roadside shanty town to get up the hill to where I lived. I walked or drove through this little neighborhood every day. Ramshackle dirt-floor homes made of propped up corrugated roof bits and sticks, cardboard mats, and whatever was available. Stray dogs, mamas collecting firewood, and barefoot little kids kept a regular buzz of activity along the was all very normal to me. "Oh my gosh Brittany!" my friend gasped when the askari (armed guard) closed the car gate behind us. "How could you not warn me about that?" I was confused..."About what?" I asked, perplexed. "That poverty down there" she said with wide, sad eyes. And suddenly it dawned on me: this was NOT normal to her. It was shocking to her. She had never seen anything like it before. To me, however, those were the kids I hugged and high-fived on the way down the hill. Those were the mamas that sold me my daily maize and welcomed me home with a smile. To me, it was normal. My brain had adjusted.

And it's kind of like that here.

This lesson that I learned so long ago and am re-learning again is the amazing ability of the human brain to adapt. I have always wondered how people in war torn areas were able to live day to day, marveled at the horrors of history such as concentration camps and how people persevered, and my heart breaks daily at the thought of losing a child and how parents (like my own mother) go on after such utter devastation ... while our situation absolutely pales in comparison to those above, what I have learned is that people are often stronger than we think. And when you don't have a choice, your brain does this amazing thing: it adapts. "If you don't bend you break" is a mantra that has resonated with me for a long time - and as a very "type A" person it's not always an easy one for me to embody - but life post-Irma has taught me that more than anything. You need to be flexible. You need to be patient. You need to bend. Choices are a gift, for sure. But when they go away, you learn to work with - and appreciate - what you have. And you go on.

Do not get me wrong, our family is by no means "choice-less" in the literal sense, we are still very much in the top percent of the world's population, but leaving this place would mean abandoning a dream, a life we love, and it would set us back financially in a very significant way. We, in our thought process, had no choice but to stay and try to salvage what we could of our life and business. Irma took us out at our knees; we were at the top of our game, making more money that we had even predicted and growing our business in leaps and bounds. Last season was a record breaker for Aristocat Charters and this season was on track to break that by a LOT...we were doing so well and excited about future plans and goals, dreaming big travel dreams and plotting some exciting getaways. Irma changed all that over the course of a few hours but focusing on the past and how good we had it is easiest way to sink into an anxiety ridden depression. The only way to look now is forward. And one fact remains: we still have it very good. We still have a wonderful life. We are healthy and have our kids. We live in a beautiful and inspiring (albeit imperfect) place.

Perspective is everything.

"What's it like there now?" people ask me. I tell them that it's different, yes, but there are what I describe as "pockets of normalcy" where things feel okay and even like they were before. The main grocery store is unchanged and fully stocked, the roads are clear and free again, Isla's darling school is a haven of happiness and joy (and looks just as it did pre-Irma), our beloved Nanny Cay Marina - while very different - still feels very much the same and the community here is stronger than ever. These are just a few examples... Every day things get a little bit better.  These are still some of the most beautiful islands on the planet and one of the best places for a water-based vacation. Despite what is a very uncertain future in regards to tourism - not to mention the very real (almost palpable) terror that is inside all of us about future hurricane seasons - I am grateful. Our family - no doubt about it - are some of the lucky ones.

So yes, this past month was a big one for us. Our new boat is here meaning we finally have a place to call our own again (stay tuned for a tour and pics!), our beautiful new (to us) daysail boat for Aristocat Charters is up and running (and arguably better than our other boats!), and life is beginning to feel more "normal". Things are coming together and it feels so, so good. As the islands build themselves back up and nature restores itself, so does the human spirit. We are all of us changed from the hurricanes, but I also believe most of us have a new layer of empathy, understanding and an inner strength that has grown. We have nowhere to look but forward.

Our new home and boat, s/v Sonder

These islands still need help! The best way to show support is to come and visit us! People who have been here since the storm are RAVING about their amazing times on charters...this place is still amazing, awe-inspiring and beautiful - ESPECIALLY from the water. Check out my post for Marinemax about what to expect on your trip. See you soon!

Also, if pictures are your thing and you want to see more - please follow us over on Facebook or Instagram where I post pictures of our life and adventures every day. Thank you!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Our New Boat, Sonder, is Homeward Bound: How Hurricane Irma Took but also Gave

I got little choked up as I re-read Scott's last "I love you message" as he sailed out of cell reach this morning.  The culmination of six months of shock, anguish, gratitude, uncertainty, stress, exciting new beginnings and heart breaking disappointments suddenly bubbled up as it dawned on me that - finally - things are starting to come together. Part of the emotion, of course, is also a healthy dose of anxiety around the fact that Scott will be largely out of communication for the next ten days as he sails our new home offshore with his trusty crew of two. I will be getting daily "we are okay" or "send help" messages that will come through our basic but effective satellite communication system on board, but not much more than that. Long time readers know I am, and have always been, a professional worrier when it comes to boating. The trepidation is compounded after having been affected so completely by Hurricane Irma; we are now closely associated with loss and intimately aware of how quickly things can change. I'm trying to push those thoughts out of my head and keep a positive outlook, but I'd like the next ten days to hurry up and be here.


Anxiety aside, my heightened emotional state was also out of sheer joy that finally we will have our very own home again and, after spending almost half of the last six months apart, ours will be a (more consistently) two-parent family. While I am very accustomed to solo parenting our three girls, it's not always easy and sometimes can get downright ugly (ask me about how many balls I drop on a daily basis). Daddy being a regular presence and influence around here will be SO welcome. The fact that Scott is also sailing our dream boat (and home) back to us is also quite incredible and surreal. Scott and I have been dreaming of owning a Hallberg-Rassy 46 since we owned our very first Hallberg-Rassy, Rasmus. The other week, in fact, a blog follower wrote me with the screenshot of a three year old Facebook post in which I had posted a picture of a Hallberg-Rassy 46 and wrote, "One day we *will* have this boat". I have no recollection of putting it out there like that, but I did, and if that isn't a point for how the Universe works and manifestation, I don't know what is. 

The truth is, for as much as Hurricane Irma took from us and all the stress she bestowed on our family, she gave us so much as well. Not only do we now own the boat of our dreams - an ironic turn of events that is not lost on us - but we have made some truly incredible new friendships that began and grew because of the storm. We are under contract on a new boat better suited for our daysail company, and every single day I am so grateful that we are able to live on the island we love, slowly putting the pieces of our life and business back together with some amazing people in our corner. People hear our story and often express sorrow for us. I am the first one to say, "NO! Please do not!" While obviously we'd have preferred Irma to have not upturned our life and those of so many others, we are some of the really, really lucky ones. We had insurance for both our home boat and business boats, we were paid our claims in full, we had a nice chunk of money saved in the bank, did not have to endure the horror of a Cat 5 hurricane with our kids, and we had the open arms and incredible generosity of friends and family to fall back on when we were lost...we were and are FINE. There are others who were - and continue to be - way worse off. Our hearts go out to those people who continue to suffer and who's lives have been changed irrevocably. We are not those people. We took a hit, for sure, and our path and inner-selves are forever altered by the events of the 2017 hurricane season, but we are back and - ultimately - stronger for it. Irma, it seems, might just have changed us and our lives for the better...

Our new boat, after much research and deliberation, has been named Sonder; the suggestion of my good friend Christel from Stell and Snuggs (the merry family of roving sailboat musicians). We loved it immediately. Our criteria was 1) one word 2) easy to read and pronounce 3) unique and 4) a great meaning behind it. Sonder is a sort-of made up word from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (fascinating and worth a gander) and means:
Sonder: n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
In short, the word means everyone has a story. As both a writer who loves stories and someone who, particularly after Irma, is hyper aware of the fact that we all walk around with a well of stories and scars within us that are not apparent to the naked eye - it just made sense. So s/v Sonder she is.

This story is ours, and today marks the start of a brand new chapter. s/v Sonder is finally homeward bound, and we are so excited for what lies ahead.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Back on Island Time: A Recap and Update on our Return to Post-Irma Tortola

The only time I actually got teary about our return to Tortola was during take off on the puddle jumper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It had been an emotional few months. We were back in the US on holiday, when - days before we were scheduled to fly back - a massive hurricane named Irma demolished our island, home and livelihood. As a result, we were 'displaced' for over four months. We made the most of it, as any of you who follow our Facebook Page know; we met up with friends, we made new ones, we fundraised almost $170K for our island, and spent the holidays with family. We went to movies, dinners and we even went skiing....yes, our time in the US was nothing short of wonderful, but it was still not "home". So on that flight - that tiny little nine seater that I love and loathe so much - I felt four months worth of heartache, anticipation and excitement bubble up in me and, well, I got a little choked up.

But that's where the emotions subsided really, at least the ones that brought tears to my eyes...which actually surprised me. I had mentally prepared myself for this return, both out of self preservation and on Scott's urging (he'd been back and forth several times since the hurricanes). I also prepped the girls. There was no question that the place we left for our annual summer holiday in July was not the place we'd be returning to in January. "Tortola is not going to look like it did when we left it" I kept telling them. "We know mommy!" they would sigh (we had this conversation a lot) "It's all broken up, we *know*..." they'd say like it was no big thing, like I was asking what color the sky was. As for myself, I prepped like I do for any big moment in life: moving abroad, long sailing passages, cruising with a baby, twins, flying with kids and just about every other occasion that warranted planning: expect the worst, hope for the best. If there is anything I can pat myself on the back for it is an ability to know what I am getting into due to very calculated and ninja-like method of preparation. I was primed for some sadness and shock, and I was definitely ready for tears.

So as the azure blue of the Caribbean sea made way to our beautiful island of Tortola, I was struck by one observation: from a distance, she looks the same. (And I, for the life of me, could not get that damn Bette Midler song "From a Distance" out of my head...) But when I came to that realization, that beautiful and simple realization, the only emotion that was left was pure, unadulterated happiness. I knew then that we were going to be okay, and whatever tears I thought I might shed upon arrival were replaced with a shit-eating grin.


Our plane touched down on Tortola soil and I was hit by the familiar sweet, sticky heat that I missed so much. The girls were giddy and punch drunk from almost twelve hours of travel, and as we clamored out of the tiny plane they giggled and jumped and we took in our surroundings. "Look mommy, a broken palm tree!" "Look at that broken car mommy!" "There's no windows over there mommy, hurricane Irma did that!" they observed... Sure, things were a bit worse for wear, there was no doubt about that. But it wasn't that bad. It was nothing that we hadn't seen in pictures and nothing that some time and hard work couldn't fix. The blue sky, the sun shining, and that lovely winter trade wind breeze was still there. It was all I needed to know we were back where we belonged, and it felt so. very. good.

Driving back to our home marina of Nanny Cay, we saw closer up what the aerial view from the plane did not expose; broken buildings, abandoned cars, entire homes demolished with only a single toilet left standing to let you know that, yes, just four months ago someone actually lived here. Sure, it was sad. And to know that so many people are still unemployed and struggling on a daily basis, that is very hard. But nothing about the state of the island was utterly shocking to me. Nothing really took my breath away. Call it a point for social media; but I knew more or less what to expect. Sure, seeing it in person is a little bit different, but after scrolling through hundreds of photos and having spoken to many on-island friends, I felt well prepared. As our taxi man, Larry, navigated potholes new and old, the girls pointed out all the broken things around us (like it was a game) I challenged them not to find the broken things, but the beauty around us instead... And, as kids do, they changed their tune completely; "Look at those beautiful pink flowers!" "And those baby cows! Look, beautiful cows mommy!" and "Look at the water mommy, the water is beautiful..." and it is, the water and the views are still breath-taking...


We arrived to our temporary residence, the catamaran that my mom had bought right before the storm to use as her base for visits. Miraculously, it survived - almost unscathed - only a couple slips down from where our boat sank. The girls ran into like it was no big thing. They claimed rooms, started un packing their things and playing. Like we'd lived here forever. I immediately went into organizing mode and started assessing storage and where things would go, keeping in mind that this is a temporary dwelling and we'd be moving again in a couple of months, and that's when I saw her out of our front window: Legato. Our old boat who had been found on the bottom of our marina a month after Irma and who'd been raised and laid haphazardly on her side along the break wall in the place that is now referred to as "the graveyard". She is a sorry sight and almost unrecognizable; her name nearly completely rubbed off, her once-sparkling navy hull now a dullish gray-blue due to the murk from a month on the seabed, and her rigging in tangles on her deck and all around her. While it is sad to get an eye full of her nearly every day, she is a reminder that we have not given up and we are moving on. Life after Irma gave us a lot of perspective, namely: a boat is replaceable. People are not. We are blessed and lucky and can and will rebuild. We unpacked a few things and hit up the beach bar where we were greeted with happiness and hugs, the girls went running off on an adventure on their own, they didn't miss a beat... We even left a pair of flip flops buried in the sand like old times. It was almost as if we hadn't left.


"How *are* you?" people will ask us in earnest with a gentle shoulder touch and heavy look in their eyes. I feel almost guilty shrugging and saying, "We are fine, we are really just *so* happy to be back." I also feel guilty for people thinking that we have any reason not to be fine. Sure, we lost a hell of a lot in Irma and she really knocked us off our feet - but she did that to every. single. other. person who lived here as well - and we are far luckier than most. We didn't have to live through the horror of the storm, were 'displaced' in a familiar place with familiar people, we had solid insurance (that has paid out!), a roof, power, and take-out and Uber and organic food... we could flush our toilets, come and go as we pleased and we could cook on a stove. We were fine. Coming back we have returned to a very comfortable boat with air conditioning, a cooking stove and electricity. We live in Nanny Cay, arguably the most recovered and comfortable place to live at the moment, with a vibrant community, a fully stocked grocery store, coffee shop and beach bar with nightly barbecue specials (THERE IS TACO TUESDAY NOW, PEOPLE!)....we cannot complain. "Honestly, we are just so happy to be back" is what I say to everyone, and I mean it with all of my heart. Maybe that makes me odd, but the destruction doesn't really bother me that much. And the girls? They don't give a hoot about it. Kids are truly amazing in that way, their resilience is inspiring.


We have been back just over two weeks and the thing is this: while everything looks VERY different, (the destruction from this storm is everywhere, overwhelming and almost too much to comprehend)  the BVI still FEELS the same. In fact, in some ways, I even like it better than before. It's a little grittier, a little more raw, a little less crowded and it feels more rustic. As someone who used to live in a little cowboy town in East Africa, I like rustic. We didn't move here for the architecture, the restaurants, or the cuisine...we weren't here for the glitzy night-life, spas, fantastic road quality or the bustling city center. We were here because we love living on the water and beacause we love this community. Because we love the melting pot of cultures Tortola provides and the fact that our girls greet at least ten different nationalities and dialects on a daily basis...we were here because most of our waking hours are spent outside in the sun, running around barefoot in the sand or climbing trees or swimming in pools.... we were here because the pace of life is a little slower and planning an outing with friends takes minutes, not weeks....we were here because this little group of islands - the BVI - are so. damn. beautiful and unlike any other place on earth.... we were here because we can hop in our boat and have lunch on a new island in less than an hour....we were here because people are more laid back, rules are not so rigid, and we can be a bit more "heathen" and a little less "uptight"....we were here because the characters we meet on a daily basis range from the crazy to the quirky to the profound and we learn from all of them... we were here because I truly believe this is one of the greatest places to raise little children in the world...the list goes on. My point is this: all of that is *still* here.

So - don't get me wrong - Tortola is still struggling and the road to recovery is a long one, I do not want to sugarcoat that. I have an overwhelming amount of respect for those people who were here for the storm, and those people who have remained to rebuild in the aftermath. I honestly cannot imagine what they all endured....Help is still needed here and it will be an uphill battle for quite a while, years in fact. But for us, at least, it's okay. In fact, it's better than okay.

It is so, so good to be home.

To see more pictures of our daily goings-ons, please follow us on Facebook (@sailwindtraveler) or Instagram (@windtraveler), where I am posting daily.  More blog posts and updates to come! Thank you for your notes of concern and patience. My email has been more or less neglected since having the twins (cringe) but I appreciate all your kind notes. Thank you for being an amazing community for us.

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