Bring on Autumn

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A peek through the mangroves

Far from the poetic color-changing leaves of New England, or even from Instagram’s fall favorite, pumpkin spice, autumn in the Caribbean is a different flavor altogether. In general, we lucky island dwellers can expect things to remain pretty much the same from season to season: We keep visiting the beaches, never lose track of our shades, and definitely have no need to un-mothball any scarves or coats. Still, there are a few signs it’s not summer anymore around here.

Cooler temps: Granted, we probably won’t have anything you might describe as “crisp” any time too soon, but it has already started to cool off a touch. I can tell because I’ve switched the fan from “gale force winds” to “stiff breeze” setting and the heat rash that the baby and I have both been battling since May has finally subsided. Soon I’ll want to put on a light sweater!

Shorter days: I have to admit, it’s a bit harder to jump out of bed in the morning now that the sun isn’t shining into my face before 6am. But it’s nice to have dark in the evening. I can even use the oven again without the entire apartment feeling like a sauna.

More visitors: Although they aren’t quite in daily just yet, the cruise ships are back at the pier on a regular basis. There are also a lot more vessels dotting the territory’s waters than there were just a few weeks ago. All those extra sailors are a sure sign that the Christmas winds aren’t far off. Which also means…

Re-openings: Some of the restaurants and bars that took a break over the slow summer period are opening back up again, meaning we all have a lot more options when it comes to going out, socializing, eating and drinking. Whether you’re revisiting old favorites or trying someplace new, fall is a fabulous time for foodies and going out in general around here.

Events galore: Hands down, my favorite part of fall is the return of the BVI’s busy event schedule. You’ll start to see the events listings here in the Limin Times get pretty crowded with parties, festivals, sailing races and other entertaining events. Later this month the annual favorite BVI Food Fete will kick off, then we will all get to enjoy a month of food, fun and culture before the pressure of Christmas.

What are your fall favorites?

This column first appeared in the Oct 19 edition of the Limin Times.

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Island Time

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A gratuitous pastel sunset in the BVI.

Island time is a phrase that could mean a lot of things, but it bugs me that the most common usage seems to be the disparaging way we talk about Caribbean people or institutions running behind schedule. Not that I don’t respect a punctual operation, because I do. No, the reason it bothers me is because in my experience, at least here in the BVI, island time is not about simply running late. Instead, it’s a nuanced and complicated way of describing different aspects of time, being on time, or levels of rushing.

The most eye-opening such phrase, for me, is one I have heard exiting many buses and taxis: Take your time. If you’re not used to hearing the phrase, it can seem off-putting, almost like a commandment, but it’s actually sound advice. Even though a load of people might be waiting on me to exit the vehicle, it would inconvenience everyone a lot more if I wasn’t careful on my way out and wound up injuring myself or another passenger in my rush. I’ve also heard people say taking time ain’t laziness, which speaks to the way that a task well done is worth waiting for.

Along the same lines, some people say hurry, hurry, never done. This phrase tells you that the more you rush something, the more likely it is that you will make a mistake and wind up having to start the whole task over. When I was a kid, the old people used to say “haste makes waste” in much the same way.

Describing time can be a source of confusion regardless of where you are, but I’ve found the BVI is pretty consistent. One time means that something should be happening immediately or right away. If I ask you when you want me to pay back that money you loaned me last month, you would probably answer “one time,” and hold out your hand.

For things a bit less urgent, you will hear just now, which means in a while, or that there’s no rush. This is the one you use when your partner wants to know when you’ll be ready to leave the house but you just need to fix up your look before you can go: “just now, babe.”

If something has been going on since before the discussion began, the phrase is all now. This is the one you can use when you’re waiting on your buddy and they ask you when you will get to the meeting place: “I’m here all now.”

I know there are a lot more time phrases out there. I’d love to read what other people’s favorites are in the comments.

 

This column first appeared in the Aug. 16 edition of the Limin’ Times.

Island Retail Therapy

dsc01364-e1537903935348.jpgEven if you’ve never heard the phrase retail therapy, you can likely guess what it’s all about. You’re having a low day or week and you buy yourself a gift to lift your spirits. This is not the kind of shopping for something specific that you either need or really, really want. It has to be at least a little bit frivolous. For some people, it might be entertainment like music, movies or books. Others might head to the shoe store for a pair of killer stilettos, or to the nearest arts and craft supply spot to pick up the inspiration for a new project.

I may be the cheapest person in the world, but for me to enjoy this kind of thing, it has to involve minimal spending of actual cash. Years ago, my preference was for someplace where everything cost $1. I would grab an assortment of small, joy-bringing goodies, for example, a new candle, a sweet snack, a greeting card, a book and a bunch of silk flowers. It was great because I would walk out of the store feeling like a total baller while having managed to spend less than $10.

Living on an island makes retail therapy a little harder to come by. Since the geography and our small population means that we are either importing our goods, or buying from small-scale suppliers who don’t get the cost advantage that mass-production brings, many of things we want to buy cost a lot more than they might elsewhere in the world.

Still, there are a couple of ways I satisfy the craving for retail therapy without breaking the bank. Starting with the cheapest, there’s heading to a favorite online outlet and filling up my shopping cart. Nope, this is not a shopping spree, it’s a game of make believe. After my cart is full, I close down my browser and go to bed. By the next day, if I still want any of those things, I check what it would cost to ship them down here and mentally estimate the customs fees. That’s always enough to make the items look much less desirable.

Another way to bargain the retail therapy is to stick to secondhand shops. Normally, I head over the the Red Cross’ Thrift Shop. The stock is always changing, so pawing through the merchandise feels like a treasure hunt. Sometimes I don’t find anything that suits me, but there’ve been plenty of times I’ve come out with a great dress, a $1 necklace, or some wardrobe basics for the baby. The resale and consignment shop in Fish Bay is also a good spot, especially if you’re more into home décor or kitchen goodies. There’s another secondhand shop in East End that’s on my list to go check out but haven’t made it into yet.

Am I the only island dweller who’s stingy but still feels the occasional need for some retail therapy?

This column originally appeared in the Sept. 20, 2018 edition of the Limin Times.

Get Your Gratitude

I was having one of those mornings. You know the ones: it was raining, the roads were covered in rocks, puddles were hiding the new potholes, and to top it off I got stuck behind a trailer truck blocking both directions of traffic because its wheels had lost traction as it was backing into a driveway.

Then I remembered that not so long ago, it would have taken all day to get from where I live in Josiah’s Bay to Frenchman’s Cay and back because Irma mashed up so many of our roads. And not so long before that, I would have been making the trek via bus or several thumbed rides because I didn’t have a car. And then I remembered that I’m fit enough that even if there were no charitable drivers to be found, I could always walk, an option not everyone has.

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And thank you, Lil Jon.

In other words, I remembered how fortunate I am to have problems like an inconvenient commute. Suddenly I was giving thanks for the same thing that was annoying me just a minute beforehand. Getting in a grateful head space is an instant mood lifter for me, but did you know there’s a lot of science showing that gratitude is good for you?

There’s the Northeastern University study that found a link between gratitude and more patience and better decision-making. One Swiss study found that people who were more grateful also took better care of their health. A UK study showed a link between more gratitude and more sleep. Yet another study on people with chronic illness found that those who kept a daily gratitude journal experienced fewer painful symptoms than their counterparts who didn’t journal. Then there was the study that found grateful people also have better self esteem than those that aren’t as grateful. There have also been a bunch of studies that show that the more you count your blessings, the happier and less depressed you feel.

So grateful people feel better and happier, which is pretty great, but in all this research I saw another theme emerge: gratitude actually makes you a better person! In one study of people in Germany and the US, those who said they “regularly and often” experienced gratitude were also more likely to do “pro-social behavior,” social scientists way of talking about good deeds. Another study, this one in Kentucky, found that grateful people are kinder to others, even when faced with unkind treatment themselves.

All these PhDs seem to agree that the best way to get more grateful is to practice gratitude daily with something like a gratitude journal. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m going to start mine tonight!

This column appeared in the May 3, 2018 edition of the Limin Times.

Just for fun: revisiting the 1987 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Animated lady-journo April O’Neal

When I was a little girl, I loved to play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the playground. Unlike other ladies of cartoon-based make-believe, it was totally cool to “be” April, because, at least in this version of the game, April did sweet roundhouse kicks on Rocksteady and Bebop. Is this just how we played, or was that how the show really was? Just for fun, I’m going to re-watch some vintage TMNT, see how the show measures up to my very fond memories of it, and share my thoughts.

In case anyone wants to watch along, I’m building a playlist of the show on youtube.