Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Midweek Mixup

I'm finding myself at a loss for words again this week. Not really sure why.

I ran really fast this morning. It was great and yet sobering at the same time as I realized that my fast time was because it was only 58 degrees and not because I'd magically lost 30 pounds overnight.

I'm glad I ran fast this morning as my Muay Thai class last night sucked. Well, not the class. It was me. I sucked. I was feeling every bit my age and couldn't seem to mentally get past all my aches and pains. Blech.


I have been completely captivated by the efforts in our area to restore electricity. If you take a look at our major utility's outage map, you will notice that the right hand side of the state, which was the hardest hit, also has the least amount of recovery! People are frustrated and complaining. I drive on a major road every day and all of the traffic lights are not working. Dangerous. Mama Helen and all of the Helen siblings STILL don't have power. On Monday, we had everyone over for hot showers, a hot meal, use of our freezer to store food, and electricity to charge cell phones and DS players and laptops. A mini after hurricane party if you will. We passed out keys and told them to come on over anytime. That's what family is for, right?

What amazes me even more is that Irene was only briefly a Cat. 1 hurricane when it hit my state and quickly turned to a tropical storm. Yet she left behind hurricane type damage. Last night Mr. Helen got home from his karate class, walked into the living room and said, "I thought we were just lucky before. Now I'm going to say that we are BLESSED to have never lost power!" So true.

We live in one of our county's 2 'cities' which are not cities at all compared to a real city. But, my town is citified with city issues so we are considered a city around here. Lots of times friends who have fled to the suburbs and even family have questioned why we remain, especially during the time frame 5 years ago when we were buying the Helen homestead. One person literally said, "Why would you remain in the ghetto?" We remain because we don't think it's a ghetto, and in all the years I moved around, the 30 years I've lived there is the longest I've lived anywhere, and because we love our city,and it's in Mr. Helen's blood as he was born and raised there. If I won the lottery, I might move to a fancier house than the one I have but I can't imagine not living in my city.

Anyway, living in the ghetto has become a standing joke between us. So when he said that about the power I replied, "It's sort of ironic that all of our hoity toity suburban friends are still without power. Maybe this time it was an advantage living in the ghetto" Go ghetto!


The cooler temperatures have been feeling positively autumnal in the evenings and early mornings. Suddenly I find myself eating oatmeal again and thinking about throwing a pot roast together. Every year I say I'm going to continue eating "light" through the winter and then I find myself wanting pot roast. How about you?


I do not like the new Blogger editor that suddenly popped up when I changed my blog layout last week. I may have to change the layout again to see if it gets rid of it. In any case, I do not like it enough that I'm considering going elsewhere with the blog. I know Blogger is free and all but suddenly, things that used to be simple, like adding photos are not anymore. I have enough aggravation without this aggravating me too.

And how's your week going?

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Sigh of Relief

We spent all day Saturday battening down the hatches. We removed everything from the patio, filled containers with water, cleaned the house from top to bottom, did all the laundry, charged up iPods and cell phones. We really tried to do anything and everything that required electricity.

By the time Irene arrived she was only briefly a Category 1 hurricane and was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm. The Helen household survived Irene with no damage and no loss of power. Color me astonished, as if you drove through the area I live in, it looks like a war zone. We were some of the lucky few in terms of electricty. The power outages were spotty enough to make absolutely no sense. By last night there were 700,000 people in my state with no power and also many who were flooded out of their homes, especially those in the western part of the state, which was also on the western part of the storm with the heaviest rain. We were on the eastern side so we had heavier winds that lasted much of the day yesterday.

I ran on the treadmill this morning as the time frame I run it is now dark. I was afraid of perhaps tripping on debris. As I drove to work and saw all the debris along the sides of the road I was glad I made that decision.

Here are a few snapshots and a link to some much better photos. I took a video of the wind but I've been trying to upload it for over 3 hours and it's only 32 seconds long so I've given up! If I can get it to load I'll add it to another post, another time.

Poor forlorn patio. But at least our cleanup will consist of just bunches of leaves and dirt and not downed trees! My father-in-law had two trees fall into his yard and take out his fence. Not even his trees. The neighbor has already promised to clean it up and repair his fence.

Snapshots off the TV. First one is showing the windgusts. My city is across the river from Groton on the right side of the state. You can see we were getting the hardest gusts. This is after the storm had moved through.

This is a shot from a camera that is pointed to our waterfront where the ferries are that run between New London and Long Island and Block Island. Look closely and you'll see that the front part of the photo is a parking lot that is flooding!

Here is a link that shows more typical damage around the city I live in as well as nearby towns. If you click on it you'll see why I am so amazed that all we'll have to clean up is some leaves.

Lots of things are still closed and school openings have been delayed. No Amtrak or commuter rail service in the state.

The weather forecast for the week is excellent: sunny and 78ish during daylight hours and low 60s overnight - nature's A/C - a very good thing as our local utility says it may be the better park of a week before everyone has power back. Almost 50% of their customers are still without power as of this morning. And to think that my state is only a tiny piece of the puzzle of this storm!

During the past couple of weeks I'd had opportunity to see the bad side of people and to feel disappointed by some behaviors I'd seen. It was nice to see the opposite of that during the storm. It was refreshing to see the kindness of people - those who had offering everything to those who did not. Too bad it takes something like this to bring it out, but I'll enjoy it while I can.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricanes and Helen

Unless you've been under a rock you know by now that the entire Eastern seaboard of the USA is in a frenzy due to a little lady named Irene who is coming to visit. Latest projections have her hitting my fair state smack in the middle, putting where I live on the eastern side of the storm.

Can I just be honest and say I am DREADING grocery shopping tonight? Dreading it. But I'll give it a whirl and hopefully the shelves won't be completely wiped out by the time I hit the store somewhere around 5 p.m.

In other news, I tested for my green belt in Muay Thai last night. My official photographer, Mr. Helen, couldn't have done a worse job. Honestly, the man has many abilities but taking pictures is not one of them. At all. Pretty much every photo he took of me, my back was to him, I was down on the floor on an up and down move, or not punching or kicking, and most of them are super blurry. Siiiiigh! Here is one of me lined up listening to the instructions from the Sensei as we are about to begin. You will notice he had a clear shot at me because I was the only student in the entire test who did not have a partner.

I'm not sure why people don't like partnering up with me but they don't. Being the odd man out is a problem I have constantly, even in classes, but in a class you're not being watched like a hawk by every Sensei in the dojo. So, pretty much my test sucked big time because we had to do quite a few partner drills. One of the Sensei's finally stepped in to partner up with me because, really, they had no choice. But it sucked and it also dragged up a bunch of emotions in me that I am going to spend the day working through.

In any case, in the end, I still got my green belt, partner or no. The one time I wish Mr. Helen would have attempted a photo, he chose to shoot a video lol! So here I am getting my green belt.


Have a great weekend and if you're on the east coast of the USA, stay safe!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Ten

10.  I made Biz' Banana Granola Pancakes over the weekend.  HOLY YUM people, these suckers are good!  The only thing I changed was not putting the granola on my second pancake. After I took a bite of the one with granola, I wasn't a huge fan - maybe I had bad granola? Next time I make these, I want to try sprinkling some chopped walnuts on there in place of the granola.  Here's my non-granola pancakes which I am now calling Caramelized Banana Pancakes:

9.  I keep seeing comments from regular bloggers who have had to comment anonymously then sign their name because Blogger won't let them in.  I was having the same issue and discovered that when I sign in with my google account, I have to UNCHECK the box that says "stay signed in."  As soon as I do that, I'm me again and not anonymous anymore.  If you're having that issue, see if it helps you too!

8.  In answer to the people who asked why I don't pre-make dinner for after Muay Thai classes (from the Late Night Eating post): that IS what I do.  Just about every weekend, I cook our meals for the entire week.  My issue isn't finding something to eat, it's coming home and not wanting to eat a piece of chicken with rice and veggies or whatever is in there.  I've been finding it's too heavy and I don't sleep well.  (Remember, I go to bed between 8:30-9:00 almost every night so that I can get up and run in the morning. That's only 1/2 to 1 hour after I've eaten on MT nights.) That's why I've been looking for lighter things to eat after classes.

7.  I've only had one beach day since we got back from our vacation on July 29th.  That stinks!  The weather has not been cooperative and then I had another obligation on the one sunny weekend day we've had.  Wah!  I want a beach day!

6.  I'm afraid there may not be many beach days left.... we definitely have a touch of fall in the air.  Last night, the overnight temp was 57 degrees.  That's almost cold enough to have to wear a long-sleeve shirt for my morning run!

5.  I recently re-learned the lesson of not putting your admiration and faith in people.  People almost always will disappoint.  I don't need no stinkin' heroes, I'll be my own hero!

4.  Our 17 year old television that was in the living room died a couple of weeks ago.  I remember when we got it, it seemed so big - 25"!  On Saturday Mr. Helen and I went out to look at getting a replacement.  Mind you we still have other TVs (all old except the one in the kitchen) but he wanted to get a new flat screen.  To make a long story short I now have a 42" flat screen - yes, FOURTY TWO INCHES.  I don't think I've ever seen Mr. Helen act so sterotypically male as I did while we bought that TV.  It was pretty funny.

3.  The 42" TV necessitated me buying a console to put it on.  Yay for new furniture!

2.  I have sent out hundreds of resumes over the last 18 months. I have had exactly 1 phone 'pre' interview and one real interview. I did not get either position. All those other resumes? Maybe from 10 of them I got a confirmation that my package was received. All the rest went into dead air. I think the issue is my years of experiencing equaling premium salary. Still, I wish some of these jobs would just give me an interview. I am sure I would dazzle them!

1.  I can't even tell you how much I love this quote from Jennifer Hudson, who is featured on Self magazine this month.  "I can't care about whether I'm too big for some or too small for others. It goes back to how you feel about yourself. I like me the way I am. For anyone who wants to lose: Dude, if I can do it, you can do it. And for those who want to stay the same, I hope I can be an example to you, too; I was proud of being a big girl."  Now that's self acceptance!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Late Night Eating

One of the challenges I have taking Muay Thai classes in the evening is figuring out what to eat afterward.  I try to eat plenty of whole grains and some protein before the classes, as well as trying to get in the bulk of whatever I will eating that day.

It's a challenge simply because of the timing.  Sometimes by the time I get home, shower and get dinner together it's 8 o'clock.  Also, I am usually pretty hungry by then so combine pretty hungry + getting tired and it's the perfect storm for me to make bad choices.  The best option is always for me to plan dinner ahead (but that doesn't always happen!).

Lately, I have been working very diligently at eating very healthy.  Last week at the grocery store the bags of broccoli slaw were on sale for $1 so I grabbed one with the intention of making a side dish with it.

As the week went on that wasn't happening and Tuesday night when I got home and hadn't planned I opened the fridge to try to figure out what I could eat that wouldn't be too much and would balance out my day.  As I looked in the veggie drawer and saw the broccoli slaw I remembered that umpteen years ago I used to make a pita pocket with a similar mix of veggies that I had shredded myself.  So I decided to give it a go.  It came out FABULOUS!  Even better than what I remembered.  So last night, I decided to make it again with the intention of taking photos and blogging it.

Picked up the camera and SIIIIIIIIIGH it was dead.  But because I am not a food blogger, that doesn't stop me, so I immediately picked up my phone.  Herewith, I present my Veggie Stir Fry Pita, all photos compliments of crappy iPhone camera!

First I sliced up about 1/3 cup onions and 1/2 cup mushrooms.  Threw them in a non-stick skillet with 2 tsp. olive oil:

Once the onions are clear and the mushrooms are getting soft and release water, throw in 4 oz. of the broccoli slaw:

Stir fry that on pretty high heat until the veggies start to slightly brown.  Turn heat off, divide the veggies into 2 piles.  Put a slice of reduced fat cheese over each pile (I used Sargento Reduced Fat Medium Cheddar) and cover to let cheese melt.

Take a large whole wheat pita (I had Sahara brand), split it in half, then shovel each pile into each half of the pita.

I also like banana pepper slices on mine, so they were added to the mix.

If you make this just like I did, the nutrition facts are:
272 Calories
37g carbs (all of which are from whole grains and vegetables!)
11g fat
10g protein

This was a perfect dinner that satisfied my rumbling tummy but didn't fill me up so much that I was uncomfortable when it was time for bed just a short while later.  I'll be making this again!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dry As a Bone: A Midweek Mix

That would be my brain on blogging.  I honestly can't think of too much to say right now.  Maybe it's because I've really been concentrating on getting my groove back and my poor mid-life brain can't handle too much at once!


This isn't Finger Friday but I'm going to show you my fingers because I want you to see the beautiful ring I got in St. Martin.  It's sterling silver with pink mother of pearl inlaid.  It has quickly become one of my favorite rings! The polish is "La Paz-itively Hot " by OPI which was my vacation color this year. Click on the photo so you can see the ring up close.


Our weather hasn't been dry, but rather wet and cool.  I know our Texas friends would love to have some of the rain we've been getting.  Me, I'm worried that I may not get any more beach days this year as it has rained every single weekend since we got back from St. Martin!


Both Shelley and I got our hair cut last week, just one day apart.  We cracked up laughing when we texted each other photos because I'm pretty sure that we both got the same hair style, without even talking about it:  a layered bob.  She's wearing hers curly right now and I'm blow drying mine straight as I still need to grow my bangs out a bit more.  Pretty funny!  We should style it the same one day and see if it really is as alike as we think it is.


I continue to struggle with my running.  Not really sure what it's all about but my brain tells me to 'GO!' and my legs are not cooperating.  Well they're cooperating but not with any sort of speed.  Still I keep getting out there and slogging away.  I've also started doing The One Hundred workout once a week (so far) since we got back from vacation.  I first saw it on Marissa's blog and printed it out to take with us to St. Martin in case we felt like doing anything. (We didn't.)  The first weekend we were back I wanted to do a quick hard workout because I had lots of errands to run.  So I did the 100 and ran a full mile at the end.  By this last week, I made some modifications.  Remember the jump rope I bought during the winter?  Up until last weekend it stayed tightly connected to it's packaging.  Saturday morning I went out to the garage to do the 100 and saw it there.  So, I unwrapped it and instead of doing the jumping jacks, I skipped rope.  Debby, you asked me to let you know how it went and I'm just gonna tell ya:  jumping rope smoothly for 100 times in a row is hard.  Freaking hard.  In fact it was impossible for me.  Between the breathing and not being able to haul my fat butt upwards while picking both legs up at once - whoooo boy!  Much harder than jumping jacks.  But guess what?  Now my goal is to be able to do 100 jumps without stopping!  Anyway, I substituted the rope for the jacks and at the end, instead of doing 20 more jacks, I did 20 pushups.  But did I tell ya'll I can't do pushups right now?  That's correct.  This stupid nerve in my neck is still hung somewhere so even though my brain tells me I can do a pushup, when I try, the arm collapses.  Last week, at physical therapy, the therapist discovered that if I look to my left, I am able to do pushups against a bench.  He suspects that the reason I still can't do them on the floor is simply because of gravity.  At least leaning against a bench allows me to do the pushups and maintain some level of strength in my shoulders until that dumb nerve finally lets go.   Oh, and then at the very end of the 100 where you run for 10 minutes, I decided to just run a 5K.  That whole workout only took me 52 minutes but it was challenging!  Perfect for a day when I need to just get my workout on and get going.

Finally, just because it's Wednesday and I need a pick me up, how about some chocolate?  That would be the Chocolate Souffle with Pot du Chocolate that Mr. Helen and I shared for dessert at our favorite restaurant in St. Martin, Le Cottage.  The perfect end to a perfect dinner.

Happy Hump Day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

"We Now Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled..."

Life is the interruptions.  Or as I was constantly told when I worked as a church secretary, the interruptions are the job.

Let me explain.  On several days last week when I had completely planned and tracked my food for excellent eating, I was thrown the following grenades:
  • I arrived home one evening to find a package with 6 cupcakes in my fridge. From my favorite cupcake place - the one who made my birthday cupcakes.  It was Mr. Helen trying to be nice and as I told Shelley, to him, cutting back means not more than one cupcake per day.
  • My 'new' boss (the son of my old boss) asked me out for lunch. He's never, ever, EVER done that before.  As I feel like I'm hanging on to my job by a very thin strand, I felt I should go.  I tried to pick the best I could but still it wasn't as good as my planned lunch. At least the cupcakes were gone when I got home... but then after getting dinner in the oven as I sat down to enjoy some iced tea and read the paper, Mr. Helen came into the room and handed me a cold frosty Cosmopolitan (it had been in the freezer, left over from my Saturday night martini). 
  • Arrived home to my sweet smiling adorable nephew saying, Auntie Helen, we bought you a cupcake!  Yes, another one and it was Red Velvet from that same place, in case you're interested.
All of that just makes me want to heave a big old sigh, even now as I type it.  If nothing else I learned once again that we all have to figure out a way to dodge the grenades.  Sometimes I do well, sometimes not so much.  On the days when it's not so much I'm trying very hard to forgive myself and not let everything go to hell in a handbasket.  Even with an unexpected lunch or cupcake or Cosmo thrown in the mix, I need to learn how to adjust and/or say "no thank you" (although I have to admit it would be hard to say no to that little boy.)

I know part of the roadblock for me is that I tend to be an all or nothing sort of gal, which in my case means if there is not perfection in the performance, I see NONE of the good.  This of course is just ridiculous and at 51 years old I need to cut that crap out.  I'm not only talking about eating here.  Unfortunately this trait flows into too many areas of my life.

I think it's one of the reasons that I admire bloggers like Lori and Fran who state the facts and move on, adjusting whatever is necessary. (If you don't believe me check out their month end/new month posts.) Me?  I'd be wallowing in my mud puddle of failure until someone told me to snap out it.  I also admire Shelley, who kicks, fights and screams her way into situations and will start off talking about how much she stinks at something but who then digs in, stays with it, and buys herself a reward for that stick-to-it-iveness.  Me?  I don't think I've ever rewarded myself for much of anything, because whatever I've done has never been quite good enough.  Maybe I need to start?

When I originally started this blog I wanted to get below 180 lbs. by my 50th birthday.  That didn't happen.  That sort of sucked, but I lived with it.  This blog is coming up on its two year birthday in September and other than some brief forays into the 170s, I have suceeded in bouncing right back up and so, still, it hasn't happened.  Part of that is, of course, the various roadblocks that have been in my life - injuries, illness, parental issues, death, and also multiple instances like those mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Yet, while I don't talk about it much on the blog (Shelley is sick of me talking about it, I think), I do have some long and short term goals I'd like to make and I need to buckle down and figure out how to reach them.  Perhaps putting them out there will help me maneuver around the roadblocks once and for all.  I know I have a piss poor track record, but at least I should keep on trying, right?
  • My driver's license has to renew by my birthday in 2012 (March 2).  I want my face to look thinner in the photo (this would require as little as 10 lbs. of weight loss).
  • My 20th wedding anniversary is May 2, 2012.  We are talking about taking an extended trip to St. Martin.  Is it wrong for me to want to weigh what I did on my wedding day whether we go to St. Martin or not?  Why no, no it's not. That's about 8 1/2 months from now and it would require me to lose 30ish lbs. in that time frame.  My recent track record says it's not doable.  But I'm making it a goal.
  • In July of 2012, if we have the money to go, we will attend Mr. Helen's family bi-annual reunion.  It's going to be a big one - in Hot-lanta!  You know I'd love to look and feel fab for that.
  • In January of 2013, if I stay on track, I will be starting cycles to get my black belt in Muay Thai.  These are difficult, hard special classes that I will have to take in addition to my regular classes for several months.  They will, for a fact, be easier if I can get my rear in gear, and in better shape.
  • If I pass all the pre-tests in cycles I will actually test for the black belt in May of 2013.  Again, much easier if I'm physically lighter.
So there you have it.  The stuff that's swirling around in my brain. As you can see they are sort of loose goals and I'm still wishy washy on commitment to them.  Yet, they are goals I want and (truthfully) need to make both short term and long term.  Maybe, just maybe, this time I will.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Brought to you by the Number 5

• 5 years old means going to kindergarten (if you don’t believe me ask Gracie)…
• 5 pounds lost…
• 5 years at my job meant an additional week of vacation…
• 5 years older: after a certain age usually birthdays are celebrated, in 5’s…
• 5 years of dieting…
• 5 days away on vacation…
• 5 years of blogging…
• 5 days of perfectly healthy eating…
• 5 years of maintenance…
• 5 years of sobriety…
• 5 years of martial arts might mean a black belt…
• 5 pounds away from your heaviest weight ever…
• 5 years of thyroid disease...
• 5 years of remission: a milestone for many cancer survivors...
• 5 hours of sleep: not enough or a bounty…

Some 5’s are out of our control, some happen because of the passing of time and some are our choice. Control and change what you can, go with the flow on the other stuff…

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Ten

10.  Mr. Helen's traditional first night Conch Salad, made by the awesome Carl Phillips at Le Petit Coin Creole.

9.  My Saturday night dinner:  Chicken stuffed with olive tapenade served over polenta with seasonal vegetables.  I loved this so much I'm going to try to make it at home!

8.  Profiteroles.  You haven't lived until you've eaten some.

7. Conch Fritters.  (Yes, Mr. Helen has a thing about conch.)

6. Triple Chocolate Mousse (Yes, I have a thing about dessert.)

5.  The "land" side of our building at the Beach Club:

4.  Typical Creole/Caribbean building on the Boulevard

3.  Happy Hour used to mean half price drinks.  Now they just give you two drinks at a time!

2.  Made some new friends.  Martin is 15 and is the son of the owners of the Sunset Cafe.  When I would speak to him in French, he would respond in English because he was trying to practice! (So was I.)

1.  So hard to say goodbye... so many more beautiful memories made.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I have been shocked at how hard it has been to have an effective reentry into real life since our vacation.  I don't know if it is because this vacation was so overdue that we really needed 2 weeks to feel completely rested and ready to go again, or if it's just me not wanting to face the music be it work, eating, or exercise.

I struggled, struggled, struggled to stop the extra eating that I had allowed on vacation.  As usual it was easy to stick to more reasonable eating while at work because I ate what I brought.  I've never been one to be tempted by office treats whether they be from the vending machine or goodies sitting in the kitchenette.  When I got home though, the battle began... a daily glass of wine, a handful of Cheez-Its, a slice of cheese on a cracker.  All tasty but unnecessary!

In addition, Mr. Helen also continued vacation mode throughout last week culminating with me finding cupcakes in the refrigerator when I got home Friday night.  And yes, I ate one (per day until they were gone.) 

Shelley, was a great cheerleader throughout my many whining emails and texts but I think perhaps I really needed her to be here in person to threaten me.  Or watch me.  Because it's amazing how much I won't eat if I think someone is watching.

I felt the same reluctance with exercise, which is odd for me.  Though I was quite rested and many of the nagging aches were gone by the time we got home, I literally had to just make myself do it.  But I did the bare minimum that I felt was acceptable and I did not exercise joyfully like I normally do.  It all felt like a great big boring chore that I had to get done before I'd be allowed to move on to anything else.

Of course too, lately I have not been finding the joy that I usually do with my running.  I am down to running only around 15 miles a week which is the least I've run in years. Not that I need to run great amounts as I am not training for any racing, but I've always WANTED to run more than that.  Right now, I just don't. 

Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that with the various injuries I've had off and on since January (the SI joint, the calf muscle pull, the nerve compression) it has been hard to run consistently.  Another thing that has been going on that I haven't mentioned is that I have struggled since the spring with breathing.  I have never been allergy sufferer but there is definitely something in the air that is aggravating my respiratory system.  One run prior to our vacation, I struggled all the way through it and had to stop many time to walk simply because I could not take a breath in.  When I got home, Mr. Helen said I sounded like I was wheezing and about to get bronchitis. 

Since then I have been using an inhaler about 15 minutes before I run and that has helped some, but not completely resolved the issue.  It will be interesting to see if this clears up as Autumn arrives or if perhaps 14 years of smoking has finally caught up with me even though I quit 19 years ago (COPD is one my biggest fears).

And in the never-ending circle of a Catch-22, losing some weight would help running and Muay Thai not feel so darn hard, but losing weight means I need to cut out some of the stupid eating.

Charlie Hills of Back to the Fridge, had a thought-provoking post last week, Do You Want What You Want?  that has been percolating in my brain ever since I read it. Possibly because I was saying that I wanted to be back on track yet that's not what I was doing at all.  I think it's about time to figure this out. It's fine and dandy to run around spouting and blog, "I want to be a size 8," but when the actions don't match the words coming out of my mouth I have to question my want. 

Do I really want what I want badly enough to actually act as if I do?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Celebrating Nick, Part 2

When the mass was over, we quickly headed back to our room. Our friends Andre & Jean were staying on the Dutch side of the island in Simpson Bay so we invited them to just come back with us. Mind you this island is tiny but the traffic can make it a 45 minute drive from Grand Case to Simpson Bay!

I quickly put together snack plates for us and then we hit the beach for a dip. We eat a lot of cheese, bread and fruit for lunch!

We toweled off, covered up and headed for the dock to board the boats waiting for us to escort Nick to his final resting place. There were two boats: one was like a little taxi boat and had seats, the other was a fishing boat. We decided to get on the fishing boat so that the family and more of the older people could have the seats. I was so glad we did because it gave us a front row seat to the events at Creole Rock.

A view of the Beach Club on our way out.  Our room was on the top floor of the left building.

Creole Rock, up close and personal

After the boats arrived at the Rock and got situated closely together, Father Dempsey said the last blessing and then Michael took the ashes and jumped into the water with them!

Family members began to throw flowers into the sea and Michael slowly let go of the urn. As it disappeared to the bottom of the ocean people were yelling “Nick! Nicolai!” Then suddenly they all started jumping in and it became a joyous party in the sea!

Can you spot Mr. Helen?

Once everyone was back on board, we headed back to Grand Case where one of the biggest and best parties I’ve ever been to took place. Besides the opportunity to walk off the back deck and jump in the ocean, the family had hired a jet ski to pull a banana boat around the bay. So much fun! There was a huge amount of food – cooked by the local villagers and set up while we were at the Rock. There was a band, which is quite popular there “The Jolly Boys.” You can’t sit still when they are playing. I’m not kidding when I say we partied non-stop for the next 7 hours!

The Jolly Boys setting up

Great way to work off the food you ate!

That's Nick's fishing boat and Creole Rock on this cake

Nick's Guitar

When we were leaving I thanked Michael for including us and told him I wished he could be my end of life planner. It’s just the sort of celebration I would love to have. He told me that he hoped no one thought it was disrespectful to party the way we did because it was exactly what Nick had requested: "Take me home to Grand Case, put me in the sea, have a party."

I know it was a bodacious party because the next day at the Beach Club we were talking with another couple and they said they had passed by the house and asked if it was an open party and if they could come in because it seemed like the hot spot in town that afternoon.

Now, every time we see Creole Rock, or even see a photo of it, we will have great happy memories of a perfect day in celebration of a beloved friend.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Celebrating Nick, Part 1

We usually try to take our vacation to St. Martin in May. Prior to this trip we’d been in January and mid-June as well but have found May to be perfect. We are perfectly sick of winter and cool weather and we arrive in St. Martin to perfectly blue skies and warm weather. By the time we get back home, it’s not that long before it warms up there too.

July is the time of year when people native to Grand Case go home. The third Thursday of the month is a celebration they call Fete so it’s like a giant extended family reunion. Since so many family members were planning to be there at that time, Nick’s family decided that would be a good time to hold his memorial and leave his ashes at Creole Rock. So, instead of going in May, we waited in order to be a part of that. While we did not arrive until the day after Fete, three days later, Nick’s memorial would turn into a party of its own!

It is always interesting to me to see how other cultures do ceremonial things. While the family had done (American) traditional calling hours and a mass here in the USA, I really wasn’t sure what to expect for the St. Martin memorial.

Saturday evening as we sat and watched the rain from our balcony I remarked to Mr. Helen that I really hoped the rain would stop for Nick’s memorial. Mr. Helen replied that Somebody Bigger than us was in control of the weather, but perhaps if he was listening he would honor our heartfelt desire.

Sunday morning we woke up and as usual watched the clouds roll over the mountain and over the bay. There were some dark clouds that were worrisome and sure enough it started to rain a bit. Then suddenly, the sun and blue skies broke straight through. I looked at Mr. Helen and said, “We’re going to see a rainbow!” Right in front of our eyes, almost at eye level, one formed!

Can you spot the rainbow almost right in the middle of this photo?

Remembering my Sunday School lessons I said, “You know, the rainbow was God’s promise to Noah that the rain would stop… perhaps it’s for Nick today.” It never rained another drop that day.

We gathered in front of the family home to start our trek towards the church. It was like a big reunion. 

One of Nick's daughters, holding the urn

This precious baby is our friend Michael's granddaughter and Nick's great granddaughter

Grand Case really only has 1 main street – the Boulevard. Walking with the ashes or casket is a common thing on the island. I think it has something to do with the lack of vehicles for some and the general lack of parking available as well. The Boulevard really is only 1 vehicle wide.

As we walked along, some of the people who work in the restaurants and shops along the way saw us and we could hear them speaking rapidly in Patois and French and saying, “Nicolai! Nicolai!” It was moving in a way that is hard to describe.

When Nick was younger and then again after he retired and went back to Grand Case, he used to stroll the streets with his guitar and sing. How fitting that he had that stroll one more time.

About 3/4ths of the way down the Boulevard is the little Catholic Church where Nick’s memorial mass would be held. We arrived at the church and prepared for the mass. Trust me when I say, if you are Catholic or have ever been to a Catholic church, you have probably never experienced a mass like this one. The music was just gorgeous with a beautifully distinct Caribbean flair and rhythm. Plus the people were so welcoming and the whole aura of the sanctuary was calm and peaceful - a true "sanctuary."  I’m not Catholic and if I lived there and wanted to go to church, I would have no problem at all attending.

After the service, we gathered outside where there was more catching up with old friends. As you may have gathered, there is quite a large Grand Case community in the city we live in in the USA.  One of Mr. Helen’s high school friends has now gone back to St. Martin permanently. As Nick was his uncle, of course he was there to honor him. I love this photo of the four musketeers!

Stephen, Michael, Andre, Mr. Helen

After that time we had around two hours to go back to our room and get a bite to eat and change before we would gather at the dock to load up onto boats to take Nick to his final resting place.

Tomorrow, the rest of the story...