Saturday, October 24, 2020

Living in our Island Bubble

 Hey Friends!

I recently posted a video to my Instagram story of an event we attended on island. The Kimpton creates these super cute pop-up bars on a regular basis and they had created a speak easy lounge circa Prohibition days. It was really fun - they had live music and all the staff was in character. You were greeted by a "character" who asked if you wanted to visit the "library" for some reading, and then you replied with a pass word to gain access to the secret bar. The ambiance was fantastic and I posted a little video of the bar to my story. Quite quickly I was inundated with comments, "Where's the social distancing?" "What about masks?" I was like...WHOA. I kinda forgot what everyone's mentality is everywhere else in the world. You see, my friends, we are literally living in an island bubble. 

Since our strict lockdown back in March, April, and May, our island has basically eradicated any community transmission of Covid-19. We had a little fright a few weeks back when a student in public school tested positive. The island went into sheer panic mode for about 24 hours; however, thousands of tests were immediately carried out through contract tracing and volunteer drive-by testing centres, and miraculously, everyone tested negative. Perhaps the student was a false positive? No one really knows. The bottom line is...we do not appear to have Covid in our little island community.

Travellers are slowly being allowed in but the rules are strict. They must quarantine for 14 days and wear a tracking device if they are not isolating in government facilities. Self-isolating is taken very seriously, as a few of our travellers are testing positive on arrival. One traveller breached quarantine and was quickly picked up by the police - I'm certain that if they released the law-breakers name, locals would have showed up with pitchforks. This is serious business when you've basically created a virus-free island during a Pandemic. 

So this all sounds quite wonderful, doesn't it? We have access to the most beautiful hotels and beaches in the world without any tourists. Businesses are in stiff competition so they are hosting special events such as pool parties, movies on the beach, and incredible staycation deals that you would never see offered to locals otherwise. It's the perfect time to take advantage of all that the island has to offer with your island buds and without any fear of contracting the virus. We truly are incredibly lucky to be in our current state, and although I read the world news daily, I sometimes forget what the rest of the world is presently up against. 

 It's been an interesting progression since this all began. Initially when we were placed in strict lockdown, having no access to the beach, or even the freedom to ride out bike down the street on certain days, there was a feeling of resentment. While helicopters monitored our every movement, we watched all our friends and family in the US and Canada carry on with their day-to-day. Although social distancing was a thing,  I saw pics of my friends having deck beers with each other and felt a little bitter that I wasn't able to see any of my island friends for basically 3 months. 

Once our lockdown was lifted, there was a feeling of trepidation. We gingerly began leaving our houses, wearing masks (it was the law), social distancing, and drowning ourselves in hand sanitizer. Once it became apparent that Covid was no longer a "thing" on our island, we gradually began to let loose. The masks came off, people began hugging again (yes! hugging!), the crowds became larger - and here we are today. We are living "normally" amidst a global pandemic. everything, there is a downside to all of this. We are essentially unable to leave, nor are we able to bring our loved ones here. Although we are enjoying this freedom that is unique to our situation, I can see that people here are getting worn down. This island is comprised 60% of expats. That means that at least 60% of our island have family and friends residing elsewhere in the world. As Christmas approaches there is a sense of resignation - we are all processing the fact that seeing our family is unlikely. You hear people expressing their gratitude, but also communicating their need to be reunited with family: 

 "Yes we are so lucky that we can do this but this is the longest I've gone without seeing my Mom." 

"I'm so thankful that the kids are back in school but my family hasn't seen my daughter in a year now. She is growing so fast and they are missing it!"

"I know I should be grateful but I haven't seen my son in a year!" 

You can also hear the tourism industry begging the government to lift the travel restrictions. Businesses that have operated successfully for years are closing left and right, which is really sad and I'm sure quite frightening for those who make a living off of tourists. 

As for myself...I really miss my family and friends in Canada. I think that the absence of Dundee has increased my feelings of loneliness. I'm experiencing "island fever" on a regular basis where I just desperately long for stretches of prairie land and partaking in road trips that extend longer than 22 miles. In addition, as my knee deteriorates steadily I am concerned about getting to Philly for my cartilage transplant. To add to this concern, I just found out that I require overseas dental surgery (YUCK!!) So, you know, to quote Maroon 5, "Even the sun sets in paradise." ;) 

I'm not sure how much longer until our island bubble bursts. Until it does I guess we live life to the fullest, seize the day, YOLO, and any other cliche you can think of. 

I wish that I could bundle up all of my friends and family (Oh and my knee surgeon too), send a fabulous private jet, and fly you all to my island bubble!!

Cheers friends!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

When shopping hurts - the angst of online shopping on a tropical island

 My eyes stung from the neon lights that lit up each storefront. The smell of Cinnabon and perspiration filled my nostrils. My sweaty hands gripped the slippery handle of the the shopping cart. My heart began to race. I was in West Edmonton Mall - the largest mall in North America. I had one hour until the mall would close it's doors forever. I desperately needed shoes, sandals, blouses, work dresses, happy hour attire, shorts...the list swirled frantically in my mind as I imagined all the purchases I was about to make. "Go!" someone screamed authoritatively over the loudspeaker. I tightened my grip on my cart and attempted to push it forward towards "Express," on of my favorite clothing stores. Sweat began dripping down my face. I was immediately met with resistance. My cart was stuck. I examined the wheels - one wheel was square in shape, one was triangular, one was the size of large truck wheel, and one wheel was just blatantly missing. Tightening every muscle in my body, I pushed and pulled the cart to no avail. It would not budge. After an hour of failure to move the cart, I awoke with a start. My face was wet from the tears of disappointment.

That, my friends, is the nightmare of someone who needs to shop. 

Bahahaha! True story. 

My last legitimate shopping experience took place on December 27, 2019. If I would have known that was going to be the last time I would have embraced the experience in all of its glory, I would have caressed the polyester fabric of that flowery-print blouse one more time.

Although our borders are slowly opening in a phased approach, it is not in our best interest to presently leave the island if we expect to come back in a timely manner READ: or if I expect to stay employed. 

Presently, the government is allowing residents, work permit holders, home owners, and - this just in - parents/children of residents to come to Cayman. They require a negative Covid test within 48 hours of travel, must attain permission from the Government to come, are fitted with a tracking device on arrival, and must quarantine for 14 days. They are now allowing people to quarantine at home instead of the Government facility but everyone in that house must quarantine as well. So, for example, if I wanted my mom to come and visit (which I desperately desperately do), all 3 of us would have to quarantine together for 14 days, which would prevent me from attending work for 2 weeks (working remotely is no longer approved in my line of work).  I'm still cautiously hopeful for a Christmas miracle. 

I suppose that we have good reason for being so cautious in Cayman. We are essentially Covid-free at the moment. The only positive Covid tests are coming from travellers who are presently quarantined. We are basically living in a safe little bubble on our island. We freely meet with friends, attend events, eat at restaurants, go to the movies, etc. Masks are only required on buses and in medical facilities, but overall, there is definitely a sense of safety and freedom here right now. The fact that we are free, safe, and healthy does not evade me - I feel very grateful to be living in such an incredible place while the rest of the world appears to be struggling.  

But as you can imagine, given our large population of expats,  most people who reside in Cayman have family elsewhere. I know Teachers who have spouses and children in Jamaica, co-workers who have children in College in the US and elderly parents in the UK. We all really miss and desperately want to re-unite with our families. You can feel a sense of desperation when you speak with colleagues about October break, Christmas break, February break...Summer break??? When will we be able to see our families again? It's sad. We are all experiencing this sadness. 

And on top of that ...we all want to shop. 

You would think in today's age that a swift click on my keyboard would easily generate shiploads of goods from around the world. However, this is not presently the case. Most of us are utilizing freight forward shipping companies. You can send your purchases to the freight forward's address (usually in Miami), they will consolidate all your purchases and eventually ship them to Cayman. Once they reach Cayman, the purchases typically hit a massive roadblock at customs. Customs can choose to inspect each and every purchase in your order and you are required to attach detailed (very detailed) descriptions of each purchase. For example, if you have purchased a black dress you cannot just add "black dress - $40.89." Your description must look something like this:

"Kinda slutty 30% polyester 70% lycra black dress that I will probably only wear during one alcohol-fuelled girls night out where all my friends will drunkenly slurrr, 'OMG You looook sooooo hot mama!" - $40.89" 

I wish I was joking. 

Interesting fun is illegal to bring "adult toys" into Cayman. Illegal! So whether you are hoping to add some spice to a bachelorette party or wanting to add a new category of self care to your regime...don't even think about shipping these naughty goods onto our virginal land! haha. 

I digress.. In addition to waiting months for an order to arrive, it often arrives in pieces (one day I received 3 bottles of Japanese Cherry blossom lotion in 3 separate boxes) or random purchases become lost (floating out to sea with Wilson???). When an order does arrive, there is an initial momentary spike in endorphins as you tear open your boxes in a frenzy. What did I order? What could it be? But much like a spoiled kid on Christmas, nothing you open ever meets your expectations. 

"What? This dress looks like a bed sheet! Small? Does S stand for 'sheet'??" 

"Evan! Why did you order 475 stickers?" 

"Why the hell did I order a f#@$%ing shirt with a pineapple on it? I need work clothes not a stupid #@$%ing shirt with a pineapple on it!!" 

When the dust has settled and the boxes lay on your floor in heap, you wipe the sweat from your brow and feel disappointed...disappointed in your hasty purchases, disappointed in your inability to predict what you would actually require in 3 months time, and disappointed with yourself for eagerly anticipating this shipment for 3 long months. 

Cheers Friends - go socially distance with a family member today and embrace the satisfaction of caressing that garment on a sales rack.  ;) 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Why Losing a Pet Can be So Painful

 It's been a week since we said goodbye to our little buddy, Dundee. Dundee, our lovable little 10 year old pup, was diagnosed with degenerative heart valve disease just over a year ago. It progressively developed into congestive heart failure and he was eventually unable to play, go for walks, and was experiencing a cardiac "crisis" on weekly basis that occasionally led us to the vet clinic in all hours of the night for oxygen therapy. My poor little friend's quality of life was diminishing quickly, and Ev and I made the decision last Wednesday to book a home euthanization. It was very important to me that Dundee had a "good ending," and I feared that his ending would come in a frantic and scary 2am cardiac crisis at the vet clinic. We ensured that Dundee's last few days were his best (cheeseburgers on the beach, steak at Macabuca, visits with his bud, Stacey). However, essentially living 3 days with a countdown to your precious pet's life over your head is very difficult. When Friday afternoon arrived, our wonderful and compassionate vet, along with his assistant, sat down on the floor with us. We all gave Dundee sausages as he wagged his tail. Dundee laid down on his bed, Ev and I held him and told him that he was the "best boy," and then he quietly and gently fell asleep.

This is what I posted the next day:

We said goodbye to our sweet and devoted Dundee yesterday. His heart was just too big - I like to think it was a result of loving everything and everyone just a little too much.
Technically I am not a mom, but Dundee made me feel like one. I loved caring for him, even during his sickest nights. The pain of losing that role and losing my sweet little guy is overwhelming right now.
But as we said goodbye to Dundee, we held him close as he peacefully fell asleep and I repeated, "Thank you, thank you." In his last moments I was overwhelmed with thankfulness.
I am thankful that he chose us. We intended to take his calm brother 10 years ago but, but his wild hair and daredevil personality instantly drew us to him.
I am thankful that he was so loved. There's a long list of friends who have cared for Dundee when we went away. He won everyone over and brought joy to their home. He especially felt loved by Scott and Shelli his first few years.
I am thankful that he spent 6 years of his life on a tropical island. He hated cold and experienced more Caribbean sunsets and beach walks then most people.
I am thankful that he experienced Candle Lake. He loved it there and always assumed visitors were there specifically to see him.
I am thankful that he was able to celebrate his last birthday with his favorite humans. I'm also thankful that we were able to spend so much time with him during lockdown.
I am thankful for modern medicine and excellent veterinary care. His life was extended 4-6 months due to people who really cared.
I am thankful that we were able to give him a good ending. It was calm. He wasn't afraid. He ate sausages and then fell asleep in our arms in his own home.
I am thankful that he is with Monty again. He loved Monty and I can picture Monty laying on the floor while Dundee covers his face in puppy kisses. ❤

The initial feeling of relief was quickly replaced by intense sadness, and I'm not going to lie, I'm still having a really hard time with all of this. I know that people lose pets all the time, and I'm certain that there are others out there who have surely felt or feel as awful as I do right now. I've spent the week trying to sort through my feelings and understand why the loss of my dog is as painful as it is.

This is what I've come up with:

1) Change in Routine

Regardless of how much pain I was in, I got up every morning and took Dundee for a walk. It never felt like a chore for me, and although Evan frequently offered, I knew that Dundee preferred me on his morning walk because I walked slower and allowed him to sniff everything! ;)

I'm finding it difficult to get out of bed this week knowing that no one is depending on me for a walk. I would actually like to get up and go for a walk around the pool, but it feels aimless without Dundee, and perhaps I'm not ready to address the neighbours about Dundee's absence.

Our pets become a huge part of our routine. My morning always included a walk, my arrival home was always met with a little white face waiting for in the window, my bath always ended Dundee rushing into the bathroom to lick my feet (gross! I know!) In just a week, my entire routine has changed, and I'm feeling lost with these huge gaps in my day that were once filled with Dundee.

2) Change in Role

Like I said in my post, Dundee made me feel like a mom. Unlike our independent cat, I always felt as though Dundee depended on me to keep him safe and healthy. I'm not necessarily an affectionate person by nature, but I enjoyed coddling him, singing silly made-up songs to him, and kissing his little black nose. I constantly showed him affection and love and he reciprocated by gazing adoringly into my eyes, and offering me incredible friendship. In addition, as Dundee became sick, I became his care giver. During out last few months together, Dundee was taking 8 different medications for his heart. I was getting up at midnight, 3am and 5am to deliver his medications. I'm sure the neighbours thought I was crazy, standing outside in the grass at 3am in my nightgown helping Dundee take a pee. I spent hours plotting his respiratory rate on an app that tracked his heart function. Caring for Dundee's health needs became my full time job.

Now that Dundee is gone, I've gone from "Dog Mom" and "Dog Nurse" to....well, that's the problem, I don't know what my role is right now. I'm still automatically waking up at 3am, but I have no medications to deliver. As much as tracking Dundee's respiratory rate was extremely stressful, I miss the important job of ensuring that he was healthy. I've lost 2 very important roles in my life and I'm presently feeling a loss of purpose.

3) Feelings of Shame

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by like-minded people who understand the pain of losing a pet. The multiple messages from friends, family, and even friends who haven't reached out in a long time, has made me feel very supported. Thank you for this!

I'm also cognizant of the fact that some people don't value the life of a pet to the same level as I do. The Caribbean culture, for example, does not necessarily view animals in the same respect as the North American culture. We tend to view animals as members of our family, personifying them, dressing them in clothing, and allowing them to sleep in our beds. I know that many of my Caribbean colleagues believe this is ridiculous - an animal is not a human and should not be treated as one. Likewise, the loss of an animal should not lead to intense emotional feelings.

For this reason, I've been repressing the sadness that I'm feeling about the loss of Dundee during the work day, and then completely falling apart when I am alone in my car or at home. I've been feeling quite weepy all week, and my worst fear has been breaking down in tears during a school meeting, explaining that my intense sadness is related to the loss of my dog, and feeling shameful about that.

4) Feelings of Guilt

I read an article about man who has lost 2 dogs in his life. One dog died suddenly and the man felt guilt for not noticing that his dog had not been well. The other dog had been ill and the man opted for a scheduled euthanasia, which caused him to feel guilt about the decision to end his dog's life.

I think that regardless of how your pet's life ends, you will feel some level of guilt.

Thankfully, this is not a feeling that I'm experiencing on an intense level. I do question if perhaps Dundee could have had a few more weeks of life with us - perhaps we prematurely ended his life? I'm not sure. However, I do know that if his life would have ended in a frantic cardiac crisis at the clinic, the guilt that I felt would have been enormous. I do not regret the ending that we were able to provide for him, and I do believe that this was the final gift that we were able to provide him with after 10 years of undying loyalty and unconditional love.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Chronic Disease and Mindset

Yoga poses that I flowed through easily 2 months ago are now painful. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to get up after remaining seated for too long. I hear myself saying, "ouch ouch ouch" at least 5 times a day. I know what this means. I've been through this before. I've tried to blame it on the weather or excessive time on the bike but I know what is happening. My disease is progressing. Again. 

I knew this was inevitable. I mean... my disease is progressive in nature. Two years ago I met with my surgeon to discuss my future. I had just overcome the most challenging recovery from knee surgery numbers 9 to 11 and was wondering how long I had until the other knee would require the same surgery. Dr. Carey carefully examined the multiple MRI's of my right knee and attempted to make a prediction about an expiration date. I knew that once the lesion became too large, I would no longer be a candidate for a I needed a date. Dr. Carey estimated Spring 2021. At the time, that seemed like eons away and up until about 2 months ago, I had no indication that my right knee was deteriorating at all. It felt stable and pain was very minimal. But, as to be expected, my pain is increasing, and I feel my mood, confidence, and self-esteem wavering as well. 

The narrative in my head has flipped from "I am strong. I am healthy. I am well" to "I am broken. I am sick. I am useless." I went from feeling proud of my body to feeling disappointed and frustrated with my body for failing again. My narrative establishes my mindset. As my pain increases, I can feel my mindset shifting. I have experienced this before so I know that I need to put an end to this quickly. I have found myself in dark, lonely places where I question why Evan would love someone who is defective. I have questioned why my friends would want to hang out with someone who requires so much assistance. I have felt guilt for being such a burden to my family. I know that these thoughts are harmful. I know that it's very important for me to change my narrative ASAP so that my mindset doesn't shift into "whoa is me" territory. 

Like many people with chronic diseases, I have found myself searching for someone to help me. I know fellow chronic illness sufferers who spend hours on the phone, in doctor's offices, and online searching for Doctors and treatments, all in the hopes that they will experience relief. I've been there. Luckily, I did find my guy - Dr. Carey - a cartilage specialist in Philly. However, Dr. Carey offers one solution for me which is a series of very difficult surgeries with a long and painful recovery. He is the last resort solution, and presently, with our borders closed, not even an option at this time. So who is going to help me? No one. I need to help myself. That thought might throw one into a frenzy; however, I choose to look at it as a way to maintain some control over this disease. I might not be able to control the physical aspect of this disease, but I can control my thoughts around it. 

I wish that I could present you with a nice little list: 4 Things you can do to shift your mindset. But...I don't have a tried and true list, to be honest. Even after 11 years of dealing with Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), I am still in the experimental phase, and continue to make many mistakes along the way. So...I've compiled a short list of the strategies that have not been effective for me and have offered alternative solutions. Perhaps if I write this down I will follow my own advice! 

Here it goes...

1) Push a little harder

Ahhh....this is my go-to when I begin to suspect that things are deteriorating. Instead of taking a day off the gym and elevating my knee with heat and ice, I "bravely" limp into the gym and try to "walk it off." I cycle on the bike for an hour or do an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical - like I can spin the cartilage disease right out of me! My buddy, Darren, tried to walk off decompression sickness (AKA "the bends") after a dive. You can't "walk off" the bends. Likewise, you can't "walk off" Osteochondritis Dissecans. 

Narrative: "Look at all the things you can no longer do. You are getting worse."

Alternative Solution:

Although pushing yourself harder when you feel like crap is not an effective treatment, I would highly recommend continuing to move. Laying dormant for too long can increase pain as well as invite negative thoughts into your head. Let endorphins be your friend and find a way to sweat without aggravating your affected area. For example, even when my knees are painful I can lay on a mat and do an ab workout or pick up a weight and work on my triceps. The burn in my muscles makes me feel athletic and fit, which promotes my "healthy" mindset. 

2) Booze

We've all heard the saying, "You booze, you lose." In most cases I would tend to agree with this statement when it comes to chronic illness. Drinking alcohol might temporarily ease some pain, but nothing is worse than dealing with a hangover on top of the pain you are already experiencing. 

Narrative: "You are so stupid. Why would you inflict this upon yourself?"

Alternative Solution:

I do highly recommend getting out and socializing with friends when you are suffering with pain. The other day I was lying listless on the couch as I was experiencing significant pain. As I flicked aimlessly through the channels, I could hear my inner voice saying, "Look at you. You are a loser who lays on the couch all day." Harsh, hey? But then my buddy, Stacey, dropped by and suggested we go out for some ice cream. To be honest, I didn't want to go but I knew that I needed a change of scenery. We ended up at our favorite local beach bar and I added a couple of drinks with my ice cream (Macabuca punch pairs nicely with cookies and cream). I found myself laughing with the bartender, reminiscing with Stace, and feeling like a fun friend! Don't get me wrong, the sensation of a screwdriver twisting into my knee was still present, but I was able to distract myself and get out of my own head for a few hours. 

3) Getting wrapped up in your disease

Yikes. I have found myself avoiding social events and spending way too much time on the online OCD support group lamenting about how awful this disease is and how hopeless I feel. Misery loves company. After a few hours of falling down the OCD rabbit hole, although I know that I am not alone, I typically feel pretty shitty and demoralized. 

Narrative: "Well...we are all stuck in this hopeless rut together."

Alternative Solution:

I do think that talking about your disease with others is helpful. Instead of attempting to conceal the pain and pretending that everything is fine, I try to warn my friends before meeting up with them, "Just FYI it's a bad knee day" or I let Ev know, "I'm sorry I'm in a bad mood. My knees are really bugging me." I think that it is important to not feel shameful about your pain, and although no one wants to hear you drone on and on about it, communicating to your close peeps is vital so that they can understand why you may be a little more quiet than usual or why you are grimacing when you move. In addition, I've found that informing my buds that I am nervous about an activity helps take the burden off a bit. For example, one of my most dreaded activities is getting up at a table and walking out of a restaurant. I am fearful of falling or drawing attention to myself. In this situation, I quietly let Ev know that my knees aren't great, and he helps me up and holds my hand as we walk out. In addition, instead of sitting on the OCD support group page and lamenting with others, I try to offer solutions for members who are having issues. I have suggested different medications, sleeping positions, and gentle exercises to alleviate pain. Although I'm not always feeling so solution-based, I find that the "fake it until I make it" strategy can alter my narrative to, "I can help people by sharing my experience."

4) The Medication roller coaster

I've been on both ends of the spectrum with regards to prescription painkillers. I have been dependent on a medley of various medications and suffered through horrible side effects and excruciating withdrawal symptoms. I have also eliminated prescription meds from my life and suffered through pain while relying only on "natural" painkilling methods. Neither plan was successful for me. 

Narrative: "Just suffer through it. If you take a painkiller then you are a failure again."

Alternative Solution:

I am presently in this predicament. I have felt so proud to be free of prescription painkillers for the past few years that I find myself boasting this fact to others - like it is some type of feat for which I deserve a medal. The fact is, the pain that I am experiencing sans painkillers is now affecting my ability to function. The pain has begun to affect my ability to think clearly and to enjoy interactions with others.  I know that I need to stop associating prescription painkillers with failure and seek help. It's time to meet with my Pain Specialist and create a new safe medication plan that will keep my medication risks to a minimum, yet help me to enjoy more "good" days. 

So...maybe this post resonates with you and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. I think that the first step in shifting your mindset is listening to what your inner voice is telling you. If you are saying things to yourself that you wouldn't say to your worst enemy, you need to re-evaluate these thoughts and find strategies/activities to alter your thinking. Easier said than done...I know. I am still figuring it out. 

Cheers Friends. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Just hanging with my famous friends - No big Deal

Hey everyone - what's up?

We are still stranded on a tropical island, but very safely stranded at this time. We haven't had any new cases of Covid in 17 days and there are currently no active cases, so it's not really a "thing" here at the moment. We are still mandated to wear masks in all indoor locations, as well as at outdoor bars/restaurants until we are seated, but overall, it's kinda nice being free to do whatever we want while having the island, essentially, to ourselves. There is a plan to open the border in phases, with phase 1 beginning September 1.  However, our government is really making travellers work for it. If you wish to come to Cayman, you must test negative for Covid and submit your results to the government within 72 hours of your flight. Once you arrive, you will be equipped with a "bio-button" for your entire stay, which is a tracking device that monitors your heart rate, temperature, etc to detect any early signs of the virus. You must also self-isolate for 5 days and then generate another negative Covid test before you are free to explore the island. I mean, let's be honest, only those who have property or family in Cayman - people who truly have a desire to be here - will come in phase 1. But I appreciate that the Government is diligently creating plans that will ensure our safety, so I'm all for it. This also means that we are not leaving anytime soon. 

I am thankful that I am safe and able to move freely in such a beautiful place. That being said, I am so homesick that it hurts. I was thinking about how our 10 months in Cayman, 2 months in Canada plan is so ideal for a couple like me and Ev. Evan is an introvert. I am an extrovert (I bet you are mind-blown with this new information 😂). Our life in Cayman really suits Evan's introvert personality. Although we have incredible friends and an active social life in Cayman, we do spend a lot of time at our home - just the two of us. Our home is quiet, serene, and tranquil. We seek out social events when we crave time with our buds and because we are all spread out across the island, we are more likely to meet friends at the beach, bars, restaurants, etc. In Candle Lake, on the other hand, our lifestyle is conducive to my extrovert personality. Our cabin is a "hub" of activity and we are constantly welcoming visitors on foot, bike, and boat. Our weekends are spent mixing cocktails on our deck, boating, and visiting with friends and family in our hot tub. Although Ev and I rarely have time to ourselves, we are always surrounded by laughter, popping corks, and music. I know that by the end of our 8 weeks in Canada, Evan is typically craving serenity; whereas, by the end of June I am anticipating the buzz of Candle Lake life. 

Obviously this year I lost my 2 months of extrovert heaven. I'm missing my buzz. 

I have been diligently booking lunches, pool dates, beach excursions, and happy hours with my awesome island buds, but I am still finding the days long, lonely, and quiet. 

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I am a huge Candace Cameron Bure (AKA "DJ") from "Full House" fan. I follow her on Instagram and enjoy her style, as well as her workout regime. She hired a personal trainer by the name of Kira Stokes, who happens to have an app. After doing Instagram live workouts with Candace on a few occasions, I decided to invest in the app so that I could work out with Kira on a daily basis. In addition to Candace Cameron Bure, Kira also trains other celebrities, such as Ashley Graham and gymnast Nastia Liukin. Often the workouts are broadcasted live on Instagram and I can actually work out with my famous "friends."

One day Ev and I went for a dip in the pool (which is presently hovering around the 95 degree mark) and Ev asked me what my plans for the week were. I enthusiastically responded, "Oh well on Monday I'm doing arms and abs with Candace. Nastia says that we will do shoulders on Wed. You should have seen it was sooo funny Ashley dropped her weights yesterday while she was bridging...." I stopped abruptly as I saw the look on Evan's face. Evan's facial expression, which began as "interested," quickly morphed into "concerned" and then into "pity." Yikes. 

"Hey guys! Wanna grab a cocktail after our workout?"

At that moment it occurred to me that making an effort to see "real" people on a regular basis needed to be a top priority in my life. 😂

On another note, it was nine years ago today that we lost our bud Ryan Holowaty. I really don't like to remember that tragic day on the river; on the other hand, I feel like it's important to acknowledge July 31. In 10 days time, it will be exactly one year since we lost our Monty. During these quiet, thoughtful summer days, I find myself reflecting on such huge losses, but also wondering if Monty and Ryan found each other. I imagine them randomly meeting up at a beach bar, sharing a beer, and coming to the realization that they both know me and Ev. I can hear Holowaty's excited squeal and can picture the expression on Monty's face - the one he made when he was thoroughly entertained by another human. This image brings a smile to my face during a time when I'm not smiling so much. 

Well...that's all I have to report from here. I just got off Facetime with my Baba. It was so nice to see her face and hear her voice. I miss her so much. She told me that she checks my blog everyday so I knew that I had to post today for my dear Baba. I Miss you, Baba, but it is so nice to see you looking so well and so happy at your home on the farm.  💓

Take care everyone. If you are somewhere where hugging is allowed, go hug someone special today. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

I miss you a waffle lot!

Hey guys! How's it going?

Things have changed a lot on our little island since we last spoke. The number of positive cases being identified weekly is dwindling; in fact, we haven't had a positive case in over a week! The island is still testing at a rapid rate and at this point, almost half of Cayman has been screened. Although they were still finding positive cases up until a week ago, no one has been exhibiting any symptoms or has been admitted to hospital with Covid in months. In addition, our only death continues to be patient zero, the unfortunate man who passed away in our hospital when he fell ill on a cruise ship in February.

So, overall, Cayman is in pretty good shape. I mean, compared to the rest of the world, we are flourishing. We have moved to Level 2 suppression which means that all of our businesses are now open, we are permitted to shop, eat, drink, scuba dive, and staycay in hotels. Groups of 25 or less are allowed and there are definitely small groups congregating at the beach, pools, etc. On July 19, restrictions relax further and we are allowed to sing Karaoke and wait for - which I think is hilarious! I know Evan can't wait as he's been holding his hips back for months now! 😂(It's like we are living the Caribbean version of "Footloose").

Masks are mandatory in indoor spaces, and we must wear our masks when we are en route to be seated in outdoor bars and restaurants. Even though it's HOT AF right now, no one is really complaining about wearing a mask, and many are donning fashionable face coverings with palm fronds, Cayman Island flags, and even sequins! I do feel for the servers who are working outdoors and dripping in sweat under their face masks -but I think at this point, people who are working in hospitality are fricken happy to still have a job.

Staycay at the Kimpton

The plan continues to be to open up the schools at the end of August, which I feel comfortable with - although it will be challenging to navigate social distancing and masks with 500+ children. We really are living in a relatively safe little bubble isolated from the rest of the world. With our borders still closed, I certainly do not feel vulnerable to the virus - although I am happy to wear my mask and sanitize the crap out of my ugly chapped hands. The concern, however, is the re-opening of our borders. There seems to be a division of opinion on this one. There is something to be said about segregating ourselves from the rest of the world and having the ability to basically live life as "normal" without worrying about becoming ill. However, our island relies heavily on tourism. Given that most of the Caribbean has opened it's borders, Cayman is definitely feeling the pressure to open to tourists as well, in order to keep our once thriving economy going. It will be interesting to observe our Caribbean neighbours as they open up their borders.

The present theory is that whatever strain or version of Covid that we are experiencing in Cayman is much weaker than what they are experiencing in New York, for example. The concern is that if a stronger strain enters are safe little space, it may spread quickly, making us sick and overwhelming our few hospitals on island. My worry, from an "educator's" standpoint is that our borders will open soon after our schools and we will be in jeopardy of school closures again. Our poor little kiddos are in desperate need of structure and consistency, and it would be such a shame to be finally settling into school routine again and then suddenly reverting back to "home schooling" (I put this in quotations because very few of my students were legitimately participating in home schooling). We have worked so hard maintaining compliancy for 4 months to get to this safe place - it would be so unfortunate to regress back as a result of opening our borders. We shall see.

In the meantime, although I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom of dining out, attending beach BBQ's with friends, and even partaking in a Kimpton staycation, I am homesick. I am really really really homesick. I know... I know - I am so grateful to be living in such a beautiful and safe space, especially when so many in the world are essentially back in lockdown mode. I have no right to complain, but I'm just being honest. I am so homesick that it hurts.

Everyday I realize something else that I miss about being home. Here's a sampler:

  • I miss sleeping with our windows open and breathing FRESH AIR
  • I miss tea and cookies with my Grandma
  • I miss my daily Paddle board workouts with Kayla
  • I miss lounging on mom's couch while we watch some version of 90 day fiance
  • I miss stopping at the farm to see Baba
  • I miss the smell of pine trees and campfires
  • I miss riding my bike to Dad's for a deck beer
  • I miss surfing with the Hunters - and I really miss Darren's loud boat tunes ("Jason Derulo!" ;) 
  • I miss my morning coffee visit with Janna
  • I miss sunset beach floats with Linds and Brad
  • I miss cheering on Evan and Peg during a corn hole champion match
  • I miss not sweating straight through every damn outfit 10 minutes after going outside
  • I miss shopping at Winners and celebrating the exchange rate ("This is practically free!") 
  • I miss laying on the dock and watching the Northern lights
  • I miss the random stop-bys - we always have friends and family stopping by for a visit
  • I miss the sound of the loons echoing across the lake 
  • I miss Tim Hortons and the really nice Filipino man who says "Here you go pretty lady," when he hands me my tea

I mean...I could go on and on. You get the point. I miss home. I have anxiety about not being able to get back home if something happens or if someone becomes ill. I also feel a bit panicky about hurricane season. It is predicted to be a bad one and we have been warned that evacuation flights in the event of a hurricane will likely not be an option for us. EEEEKS. But man, everyone in the world is experiencing heightened anxiety right now, hey? I miss precedented times!!!!

Well that's the update for now. To my Canadian buds - I miss you so much, please do not have any fun without me 😜, and I look forward to the day when we can be reunited.  

Stay cool - or HOT AF like me! 😝

This is as close as I could get! 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Puke, Pills, and Pity.

Hey guys!

It's been a while. Well let's be honest, hasn't the last month felt like the equivalent of about 2 years?  I don't even know how to articulate my feelings about what has been going on in the world over the past month. It's been upsetting, unsettling, frustrating, and rendered me speechless - for a while. I am listening. I am watching in horror.  I privately reached out to a few people who I knew were struggling, but honestly, I just didn't know what to do (I still don't).  I feel like I'm watching the terrible version of Back to the Future IV and am desperately looking for Doc to get the Flux Capacitor in working order so that we can go back to whatever year(s) it is we need to return to in order to fix the f'n mess of a world we live in today.

Anyway - reigning it in...I don't think that people read my blog for political insight and I do have a story that might make you giggle. God knows that we all need a laugh right now...

Feeling as though I was experiencing a total loss of control, I decided to focus my energy on something that I could control (to an extent) - my pets medication protocol.

As I have mentioned previously, my sweet little dog, Dundee, is suffering from congestive heart failure due to a degenerative valve disease. His heart failure is progressing and it's important to monitor his respiratory rate in order to determine appropriate daily doses of 5 different heart medications.  In addition, Biloxi, the most interesting cat in the world, is now nearing 19 years of age and is experiencing some liver issues, as well as dementia, which causes him to place his little orange paws on my face at 3am and scream bloody murder for 3 hours. Super relaxing.

This is the screaming face. All. Night. Long. 

We have a Vet Extraordinaire, Dr. Colin, who patiently responds to my Whatsapp messages at 11pm when I am panicking about a 10 breaths per minute increase in Dundee's respiratory rate. He listens calmly to my explanation and provides an immediate plan for me ("Ok, let's increase the lasix by 1/2 tonight and monitor"). I appreciate him and his team very much.

Thankfully, Dundee takes his meds like a champ. Five large heart pills (twice daily!) are not an easy thing to disguise. I simply bury them in a small peanut butter pill pocket and Dundee happily thinks that he is getting an influx of "treats" for being such a good boy. He cheerfully crunches down on the bitter pills and licks his lips, thanking me for such a wonderful surprise.

"Hey guys! Can I bother you for another one of those crunchy peanut butter balls?"

Biloxi, on the other hand, is seasoned. He is old and has a wealth of life experience. From traveling across the United states with his little orange head resting on Evan's steering wheel to being quarantined at Heathrow for smuggling catnip into the United Kingdom, he has experienced it all. There is no way to disguise the one tiny pill in his favourite cat food, the tastiest of cat treats, or even in the ultimate delicacy - tuna. He's just not having it. So we purchased a "pill gun," a tortuous device that quickly shoots the pill down his throat. I enlisted Evan as the "shooter," and this procedure immediately became the most dramatic event to occur since Colton jumped the fence on the Bachelor.

Here is the procedure for administering tiny cat pills via the "torture gun":

1) Evan chases Biloxi around the house (Biloxi knows Evan's intentions are tortuous in nature).
2) Evan places Biloxi in a (compassionate) choke hold.
3) Biloxi begins salivating in preparation to puke prior to administration of the pills (AKA: pre-puke stage).
4) Evan shoots the pill down Biloxi's throat and blows on Biloxi's face to encourage swallowing.
5) Biloxi swallows the pill and immediately jumps to the ground in a fit of rage and begins frothing at the mouth like a demon feline from Pet Cemetery.
6) Biloxi pukes at least 3 times in various locations (preferably on expensive items of clothing and/or furniture).
7) Procedure is repeated two to three times until pill is ingested.

We did this for 2 weeks. Two. F'n. Weeks.

The last straw occurred one evening as we were preparing to head to bed, and Evan had administered Biloxi's bedtime pills.

Warning: If you are currently eating or vomit makes you squeamish, stop reading here.

Biloxi frothed and heaved around the house and I followed closely with paper towel and lysol wipes - and can I just clarify that the sound of the cat puking may possibly be the most cringe-worthy sound in the history of cringe-worthy sounds. As I cleaned his first round of puke, he quickly ejected his next deposit, which included the pills still intact. Before I could reach over and clean it up, Dundee enthusiastically bounded over and ate the pills. Yes you read that correctly. Dundee the dog ate the regurgitated cat pills.

I immediately panicked, concerned that Biloxi's pills would instantaneously stop Dundee's heart. Now in tears, I called my Dr. Colin and frantically explained the situation.

"Ok. So Dundee ate Biloxi's puked up pills?" questioned Dr. Colin.

"Yes! I sobbed. Is he going to be Okay?"

There was a delay and some muffled laughter.

"Yes. He will be fine, Kirstie," laughed Dr. Colin.

Oh. Ya. Ok. Perhaps a slight overreaction?

"Ok thank you. Have a good night, Dr. Colin."

Long story short, everyone survived. We did make an executive decision to discontinue Biloxi's medication. We have limited his evening bourbon consumption in hopes of delaying the liver damage. hehe.

"Get this camera out of my face!"

"Make them go away!"

"Hey guys! I eat cat puke!" 

So you know...this is what has been occupying my time as I continue life in my tiny bubble on Grand Cayman.

In other news, Cayman is moving to Level 2 suppression this weekend - basically all of our shelter in place restrictions are being lifted. I am hopeful that this helps us return to some sense of normalcy. Three months has been a long time without the ability to socialize with friends in person.

The island is still activity screening hundreds of people daily and are generally finding anywhere betweeen 1-10 positives each Covid-19 is definitely present and active on island; however, there has only been 1 symptomatic case since April, so for whatever reason, people are not getting sick in Cayman. Despite the re-opening of all of our businesses, our border will remain closed until at least September.

The school year is winding down and will end next week. There is typically a buzz in our office and amongst my colleagues - usually the excitement and anticipation for the impending summer holidays is palpable the last few weeks of June. I don't feel that this year. I feel the loss of Monty now, more than ever. The end of the school year was always a time we re-convened in the office, listened to Monty's 90's CD's, and shared so many laughs. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will not see my Canadian friends and family this summer, which still makes me feel incredibly sad. On the other hand, I acknowledge the fact that we live in a relatively safe and harmonious place in relation to the rest of the world, and I am very thankful for the fantastic group of friends on island with whom we will soon be reunited.

If you know me well, then you know that I enjoy age-inappropriate T-shirts. I possess many of these shirts that say things like, "Not without my wine," or "Drinks well with others." The other day I was donning my latest, "Available for Drinks," shirt whilst sipping wine on my patio. It was raining sideways and visibility was limited in that you couldn't even see the pool from our patio through the wall of wet. I began sobbing, feeling lonely and experiencing the "island fever" anxiety of being trapped on a rock, when Evan came outside to see how I was doing. He read my T-shirt, "Available for drinks," took in my pathetic presentation, and chuckled a little. I couldn't help but laugh along with him. The contrast between my enthusiastic T-shirt and my pitiful demeanour was pretty entertaining. It's good to laugh when you can. What else can you do?

I'm fine! It's fine. It's all going to be fine. 

I hope my pet med tale (tail?? haha) made you laugh as well.

Take care everyone. I miss you!