Still Healing

I like to live as though everything is normal, because, for the most part, it is. I go to work, play my with kid, wait in line at the bank, do the shopping, try to squeeze in workouts and time with friends, all the normal life things, fun and not-so-fun. This week I had a reminder that even though it’s been almost a year, I’m still processing that monster Irma.


NOAA infrared satellite image of the eye passing over Tortola. 

I have, by island standards, a beastly commute. The family leaves from the east side of the island to drop Husbae to work at the extreme west part of it, then the baby and I head back to town, which is right in the middle. It’s about an hour and a half of driving every morning. So much time at the wheel isn’t that unusual back in Southern California, but remember, Tortola is only 21 square miles. After years of being able to walk everywhere, all that time on the road was really tough at first, but I’ve embraced it. The baby usually naps, I listen to music or a book or podcast, and I often have the road to myself.

One day this week we had an unexpected squall. I was driving on a gorgeous flat road along the sea but all I could see was rain. They were big fat drops too, so they sounded like an avalanche of rocks hitting my little mom-mobile. A few gusts rocked the vehicle and suddenly I found myself crying, heart pounding, pulled over on the shoulder. It only took a minute or two to collect myself, but for a hot second there, I couldn’t think straight at all.

Especially as news of Hurricane Lance on the other side of the world fills the news, I know that I’m not alone in feeling like I still have some work to do when it comes to my personal post-Irma recovery. To my friends who went through it, we are still healing. Yes, we are #BVIstrong, but it’s okay to ask for support. Talk to friends and family and, if you’re in the BVI and you need help or just aren’t sure, talk to the nice folks at Community Mental Health, who are there to help us all.

On walking while fat

For those who know me, it will be no surprise to hear that I recently took part in a challenging walk around the hills of Road Town. I was so happy that Husbae and the Wee Baby Abel could join me, and we had some good friends along the trail too.

It was a chance for us to get out and sweat together, and, once the more competitive walkers had left us behind (we didn’t rush – that might have disturbed our little princeling!), it was also a quiet and meditative time to enjoy the morning. Coming back into town was delightful: We did it! I felt triumphant, and was already thinking about how soon our little family would be able to do something like it again.

As we returned to the starting point, the crowd that finished well before we did was beginning to disperse. We hailed them up, happy to catch up with several folks who hadn’t seen us since we got back to the island, or who hadn’t met the baby yet.

Then I encountered the ultimate joy-thief. Someone I don’t know well but have been friendly with for several years spotted me pushing the stroller.

“Did you walk, or you just want it to look like you did?”


Excuse the eff outta me??

I don’t even think I answered him, or maybe I said something polite through a stunned smile because Mom raised me to respect my elders but… seriously? I have many questions.

Why would anybody pretend to do a 5am walk that was ONLY for fun? As he could plainly see I have an infant. If I didn’t want to do the walk, you can be sure I’d be happily and shamelessly at home playing with him on a Saturday morning. There were NO stakes, nobody to impress, nothing to prove.

So, why would this even occur to him? And furthermore, what would give him the idea that this was the least bit ok to ask me out loud?

It’s because I’m fat. You see, he’s slim, so he assumes he’s healthier than I am. Therefore, he thinks he can look at me and decide what I’m capable of. He weighed me with his eyes and decided that I a) probably couldn’t have done the walk and, in all likelihood, b) that I am lazy, but that c) I crave the approval of the thinner community. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE??)

This guy, who I will continue to be polite to although he clearly has zero respect for me or any other fat people, is only a little further past the assumptions I am used to. People will often see me on the road or trail and assume that I am a “good fattie,” that is, someone who is actively trying to lose weight. Those people, much as it might be none of their business, are at least assuming the best of me – in their minds I am working hard to shrink down to an acceptable size, therefore it’s a “you go girl,” or “it gets easier,” as they pass me. And you know what? I just had a baby nine months ago, it’s totally normal for people to check me out and decide that I am looking pretty hot for a new mom. All those people want to do is encourage me and they are wonderful and I truly love them!


I don’t work out to fix my post-baby body. I don’t exercise to shrink myself or impress others. I am not a body in progress, waiting until I reach some magical goal weight before I begin to really live my life and love myself. I workout because it feels good, because I want to be strong and mobile, because the view from the top is incredible, because the music is amazing, or to clear my head, or de-stress, or for the great company, or the time alone, or fun photos, or fresh air, or wild animals, or to get outdoors or…

I could go on, but you get the idea. The main thing is


I do it for me.

(Ps – Lizzo is an absolute queen and everyone needs to go buy her album and if you don’t believe me watch this.)

Sweet Self Care

Recently I was struggling with some life disappointment or another: I can’t remember if it was a nasty cold or stress related indigestion or something else entirely. Whatever the case, I decided to draw on some advice I had heard from a medical pro and do some nice things for myself. Self-care, she had said, is something that people often neglect, to the detriment of their mental, and ultimately physical, health. The logic being that in life, as in the kitchen, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

I dedicated an entire Sunday to the mission, and challenged myself to do only things that I could accomplish in my home and without spending any money.

I started my day with a wholesome and delicious green smoothie spiked with seamoss gel. Armed with that nutritional boost, I was inspired to do something else nice for my body – a quick living room workout. Even though deep down I knew I’d feel better when I got through, I had a bit of a case of the “don’t wannas,” which I squashed by putting on a funny audiobook while I did my circuit of pushups, lunges, dips and crunches.

Once my healthy moves were done, it was time for a fun reward, which for me was a home pedicure. I don’t do these all the time but when I do, I take them very seriously. That means a soak, scraping the calluses and some serious moisturizing all have to happen before the nail polish even comes out. I think the years I spent on my feet working in a restaurant make it feel like a fun ritual rather than just a lot of work.

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Post pedicure nap situation.

That home-spa experience reminded me that my younger (and far cooler) sister-in-law had raved about an exfoliating face mask you can make by combining charcoal powder and white glue. I felt a little silly mixing it together and trying to put it on may face without making a sticky, charcoaly mess, but it was so much fun to peel off after it dried that I’d totally do it again.

After my feet and face were looking and feeling fresh, it was time for a few episodes of a favorite old TV show and a nap. I think under different circumstances, I might have kicked myself for not trying to get ahead on work or household chores for the coming week, but when I woke up the next day, I really felt refreshed! Consider me a self-care believer.

This column was in the Limin Times a little earlier this year.

How to handle dengue like a pro

I just had my second or third bout of the extremely unpleasant dengue fever. I know you’ve heard all the classic advice for dealing with viral illness like get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Maybe you’ve even heard about the remedies like aloe juice and papaya leaf paste. What I’m fairly certain you haven’t heard is how to handle everyone’s second-favorite mosquito-borne illness like a journalist. Follow my lead if you dare.

First of all, make sure you get sick on deadline day. This means you probably have to get bit over the weekend, have a punishing and mysterious headache on always-busy pre-deadline day, and be reaching for whatever meds you can get your swollen little paws on for the all-important actual deadline day.

Speaking of medication, take some that you’ve never tried before. Later, you can make jokes about how you’ve puked out behind the office with the best of ’em. You can hint that this is because you are a hard-partying animal, rather than a dummy with a surprise drug allergy. Again, this should all happen on deadline day, so you can alternate writing and throwing up with no hope of leaving before your pages get sent.

As unhappy as your stomach is, you still have to eat. After things have calmed down, go for something bland and easy like a bowl of instant mashed potatoes. It’s very glamorous.

Once the paper is out, go ahead and stay home from work. Seriously, the last thing you want is the entire office also getting “breakbone fever” because the same mozzies that bit you are now biting and infecting them. That’s not cool.

But just because you’re home doesn’t mean you can’t work! If you plan it right, you can be home sick on a day the legislature is sitting, and have all the fun of listening to lawmakers conduct the public’s business while lying in bed. Nap while they take their breaks, and if you still have a fever, you might get really lucky and have a dream about the legislature. Freaking fever dreams.

Spend the next two to three days napping, watching cartoons, listening to audiobooks. Write one short story after you learn that someone else in the office is also sick. Go on that photo assignment with the cats. If possible, cuddle multiple cats.

When the rash appears, don’t scratch it. I know it’s all over and itches pretty much constantly, but the more you scratch, the itchier you will feel. It’s a dreadful cycle you don’t want to start.

Go back to work. Compare symptoms with co-workers, all of whom are now either sick or on vacation. Feel better than you actually are compared to the ones who are a few days behind you on the dengue calendar. Out on assignment, show off your rash to whoever wants to see. Listen to other people’s stories about what skin symptoms they and their family members have, and the debate about whether you have dengue or Chikungunya. Continue to drink lots of water, but don’t get on the internet, because that will only distract you from all those stories you didn’t write on your days off.

At the end of the day, feel great about getting some stuff done even though you’re still kind of sick. Feel even better that you didn’t get the scary hemorrhagic variety of dengue fever or something even worse. Vow to be militant about your application of homemade mosquito repellent in the future.