In Memory – Memorial Day Thoughts

Perhaps it seems a bit ironic that I sit here writing this while living in another country. But it’s absolutely relevant and important.

I am a daughter of the American Revolution. I have used genealogy to trace my roots back to Virginia in the mid 1700’s – before the American Revolution began. Which means I had ancestors that fought and died hoping they were fighting for something better than what they had. They died not knowing what would come next. They died bloody awful deaths not by machine gun weapons and drones – but by blunt swords and by gaping wounds that medicine didn’t yet know how to heal. And these men and women didn’t know when they died what would become of the loved ones left behind. But they must have thought it was better to die fighting than to leave the world they knew as is.

I have prayed and thanked them today. I pray they hear me and I pray they see their lineage now and know that our lives ARE better for their sacrifices. That the world they fought to create – while it isn’t perfect – it is safer, more just, more loving, and free.

Free enough that I can choose where in the world I want to live. And though I don’t choose to live in the United States at this time – the mere fact that I have such a freedom, and by being American am welcome in most parts of the world, speaks volumes to sacrifices made by so many.

I watched this sunset last night and thought of you all. Pondered what it must have been like to die in battle. Wondered if you feared. Wondered if you felt loved. I watched this sun set and wished you peace and harmony wherever your soul lies today. I watched and wondered what your last sunset was like.

So, to my fallen family, to my grandparents before me, to the family of every fallen soldier that ever fought:

Thank you. I hope you hear me. I hope that not only on this day, but all days, as we drive our cars to work and make 1000 choices every day, as we eat food we choose, as we raise our children in safe neighborhoods – that you see us. That you see us and know your painful sacrifices were worth the price you paid. Those children laughing and dancing and playing ball are only because you made way for freedom.

To my grandmothers who were left widows to raise gaggles of children on their own – I salute you too. You sacrificed too – I see you. And as a mother I cannot imagine how you went on. I can only hope the village of widowed women gathered together. But I know you went on with courage because our family would not exist today if you had given up. You give me strength. You give me choice. You give me hope. The 1700’s were no joke. I can’t begin to fathom the challenges you all faced in a world so tough. Thank you. Thank you for kissing your husbands and brothers goodbye as they walked away to certain death. Thank you.

And to the hundreds of thousands of men and women that fought in following wars – your sacrifice it seems cannot be repaid. I suppose the only way to “repay” is to vote and continue to advocate for peace and make the best choices we can to further our free America. I think as we drive through our safe suburban neighborhoods, and drop our kids off at large expensive schools and then -without hesitation or worry of being hurt- take ourselves to work to earn money to support our lives that we ought to remember more often those who gave their lives so we could live ours in peace today.

Personally, I only knew one soldier that was killed in action. Marine Sgt. Byron Norwood. Seeing up close the devastation his family endured after his death was heartbreaking to say the least. It gave to me a new understanding of sacrifice and began my journey to learn more about my own family’s wartime sacrifices. Thank you Byron. The enemy killed you that fateful day – but you have not died. Your family makes sure of that. You live on in your nieces and nephews to come. You live on in conversation and dreams and in your mother’s heart. As do all the fallen.

America may be littered with inequalities, lingering racism, corrupt government, and a host of other indecencies. But it is America. It is a place of continuous change and development. It is a place where votes count (no arguing on this one, its not perfect, I know) and voices can be heard without lives being lost. This would not be possible without wars before us and fallen fighters. My prayer is that we can continue to seek justice in our country while less and less lives are lost or tortured or maimed in the process.

Thank you for my freedom to choose where I live. Thank you for fostering a better world for my daughters and their daughters to come. Thank you for being courageous. Thank you for watching over us. I see you in the stars at night and in my dreams. I see you in my children’s laughter as they play in the streets without fear. And I see you in the American flag.

Thank you.

Big (Thankful) Love

Stop Contributing To Abusive Families By Watching Reality TV

Why are you suddenly shocked the Duggar girls were abused?

What show have you been watching?? Because the one I know about has always been abusive. Maybe they don’t chain their kids to the wall or beat them – but they family beliefs are oppressive and abusive.

I don’t watch the show. I’ve seen it. Never cared for it. But hey America, you’re the ones that should feel guilty because you’re part of the problem here. You want this family to be perfect so you can keep watching them be the coolest family yours will never be. You like being a fly on their wall because it entertains you. And if you’re a fan, you’ve been contributing to this families abusive mind controlling ways all along.

I loathe reality TV.

Except HGTV. But lawn renovations hardly ruin people’s lives. Reality TV families more often than not end up in shambles. It’s your fault. Quit watching it.

I’m given dirty looks when people find out I let my teenager watch Game of Thrones. At least it’s meant to be fiction! At least I’m not contributing to real families making fake drama and living fake lives so she and our family can be entertained.

So get over it. Quit posting articles {after this one of course} about how bad you feel for the Duggar girls or how much you loved the family until this or how you don’t agree with how the father handled it with authorities. Do you also agree with their other family and life teachings? Like that women are meant to have twenty babies and not allowed to have any say or control over their bodies?

Those poor teenage girls you talk about have been indoctrinated with lots of beliefs that leave them helpless – yet you’ve been contributing to this abuse for ten years now by watching their show and now watching them have baby after baby of their own. Those women are not given a choice. They’ve been brainwashed!

Women only allowed to wear skirts? Women have NO say in anything that goes on in that cult. Their opinion does not matter

Once Jill Duggar was asked what kind of man she wanted to marry . Do you know what she said? “Go ask my dad. He knows what kind of man I’m looking for.”

Not allowed to fraternize with unwed mothers?  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2928339/19-Kids-Counting-stars-Jim-Bob-Michelle-Duggar-BANNED-midwife-daughter-Jill-helping-relative-unwed-mother.html

The family has openly called all transgender people pedophiles!? Are you shitting me? Your own son is a fucking pedophile.

And now it is apparently okay for the men of the family to play with little girls but I dare to ask what would happen if it was a female child of their caught playing with a boy. OR worse, one of the boys playing with another boy.

They are never allowed to befriend anyone outside their cult system.

Older girls are forced to raise and home-school the younger children. They may say they like it – but they have no other choice! Once Jill talked about being a lawyer on TV and the episode was said to have been “deselected” by the family because they cant have their girls thinking outside the box like that. They’ll be teachers and midwives. And that is all their choices. If that’s not abusive – then I don’t know what is! I pray that these girls find loving husbands who chose not to control them in these awful ways.

Josh Duggar and the parents have been longtime supporters of the Family Research Council. Have you ever looked into what they support? It’s abusive. I think you might find it appalling. They are an anti gay hate group. Well they are a hate group for anyone outside man/woman relationships and God forbid you have an abortion – they’ll probably kill you too. It’s a hurtful group with the sole purpose of keeping women under the control of men. Gross. *throws up in mouth*

The whole family cult is abusive. Stop acting like you cared. They also abuse little girls on Dance Moms. I don’t see you throwing a fit about those kids. And don’t get me started on Honey Booboo. It makes my heart ache. These are REAL children not given the choice to be put on public display for your entertainment.

Do you really care?? Then make a difference NOW!

So if you really care – stop watching these kinds of shows altogether. Stop setting your DVR. Stop thinking it’s ok. It’s not. You’re actively contributing unhealthy lifestyles. And in some cases abuse. Mental. Physical. And certainly emotional. I’m sure that’s not what you set out to do.

Game of Thrones is on tonight 🙂 Just saying. They might portray rape. But it’s fiction peeps. It’s not a real family.

Do the right thing and stop supporting online TV families.

Do another right thing and love and support your family even if you don’t agree with their beliefs. We ALL need love.

Big Love ❀

Ashley

Choose to be Happy

To say this summer has been hectic is a gross understatement. The last few weeks have been the crap icing on the shit cake. So when my husband burst into the house on Sunday asking me to “pack our bags so we can get out of here” I honestly wasn’t sure if he meant ALL our bags – as in we are leaving Belize – or if he just needed to get off the island for a few days. “Are we taking Sabrina and Seth with us?” I asked. Knowing this would answer my question. I mean, if we are leaving for good – we’d obviously take the kids, right!? And the nanny??? “Just us for a few days” he said.
 
When we don’t take time to connect with the ones we love it becomes easy to forget why we love them. Kids, lovers, friends – all included. We forget how special people are. Even when they are right in front of us oozing specialness every single day.
I was a little bit worried about how our alone time would go. Barry and I haven’t had much quality time together in months. We’ve been side by side but not much face to face. I started to get grumpy this morning because Love is hung over form a much needed night of guy-football-booze bonding. And I want to be up and out. Walking around, shopping, and looking at people. I don’t see many people and I am an avid people watcher. Read – I secretly like to drink coffee on the beach here and watch the tourist stumble by in their “vacation outfits”. Vacation outfits are clothes you would never wear at home. It’s great fun. Anyway, I want to do things I can’t do at home. Barry needs rest and more rest and lots of lovin’. I want to have fun outside the hotel room too! I sat on the porch alone this morning beginning to feel I was missing out. Rum punch cruises going by that I am not on. Diving adventures leaving for the day. And damn, let’s go parasailing or something. I started to feel a little resentment coming up like throw up in my mouth. And I knew – that more than a rum punch cruise – I want to NOT feel like this.
Maybe Barry and I don’t’ have that much in common anymore. We like to do different things for fun. Are we growing apart? This is bad. I start to feel sad that maybe we are becoming more incompatible as time goes on.  I had to stop myself. Because the thing is if I keep thinking that he’s no fun – he will become no fun. So I stop. I remember how he held my hand last night and kissed my forehead at least every hour. Or every drink. I think about his honesty and integrity and how he makes life choices and I remember how sexy that is. I think about how he holds our daughter in his arms and reads her stories. That is really sexy. I consider how often we laugh together and have the same jaded sense of humor. Right now he is sitting next to me at the pool reading out loud a funny part from ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’ and we are laughing about how it is exactly like our first experiences in Belize. I AM having fun, after all! But it only came to me once I let go of all preconceived expectations and focused on what is right in front of me; My dear friend and life partner!
Choosing to be Happy
I got un-grumpy by telling myself truths instead of telling myself wants. I want a Land Rover. The truth is I don’t need a Land Rover. The truth is it would be a huge waste of money and we wouldn’t even use it that much. I want a husband that is fun and adventurous. Who likes hiking and exploring and invites me to do outdoorsy type things with him. The truth is I love my relatively quiet husband the way he is. I love the way he treats me and our family. I love the way he treats other people. I love that his love for me is selfless. The truth is he IS fun. And the other truth is I get bored with outdoorsy things easily. The truth is when we are alone or together with our friends we laugh all the time. Not only is that fun but it is also healthy! The truth is I would rather be laughing with good friends than hiking, or stumbling drunk to reggae music on a rum punch cruise.
The truth is always better than the fantasy we imagine in our heads. The truth is tangible. The want is invented. And after all we’ve been through in our lives, isn’t it time we let go of the fairytale and rejoice in the reality when it comes to people and love? Damn Disney. We are not damsel’s in distress for crying out loud. No one will save us from the castle tower. Once women earned the right to vote all castle tower takeovers were voted out. Don’t’ get me wrong here. I’m a dreamer by all accounts. I often daydream. All. Day. Long. I will never stop imagining great things for my life or coming up with ideas to improve. But often we put onto others we love the responsibility we should be taking on ourselves because we are holding onto fantasy, un-real, expectations of those we love. I expected my husband to entertain me. Instead I entertained myself and he came to join me. I got want I wanted by telling myself truths and doing for myself what I previously expected of him. Now we can go on to take over the world, Pinky and the Brain style! 
I can note that it is currently going well – I mean I am sitting by a pool sans children on TripAdvisor’s #1island in the world. How could it possibly be going bad? We’ve dinned with true friends. We’ve made sweet love. We’ve reconnected with why we want to be together. Or at least I have. I’m not sure Barry has ever lost sight of why he loves me. I’m so perfect 😉 
Kiss someone you love today. Hug someone who you don’t want to kiss. Tell the truth. Be kind. Remember your Kindergarten class rules, follow them in your adult life. I’m going to try to do the same thing as tomorrow we go back to reality. Back to life pressures. Back to managing hooligans and entertaining the unreal expectations of travelers.
Big Love from Belize!

Recommended Reading: Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk

Christmas in Belize

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from Belize! We enjoyed a warm, sunny day on the island with our family, including Barry’s mother, Cyndy, and son, Seth! The resort was bustling and busy with happy guests taking in the warm sunshine, so Barry and I did have to work some. We opened presents, played violins, put together bikes, discovered we didn’t have the right parts for Sabrina’s toy (not that she seemed to care) and baked Grandma’s coffee cake, twice! It was so good we had to make a 2nd batch. Nothing like the smell of coffee cake to remind me of home!

Lilly, Barry and Sabrina put together Lilly bike, I apparently didn’t get a picture of it all together. It is a beach bike with big wheels and a big basket on the front. She has been riding it all over the island. Christmas day she rode without shoes (it’s been a while so i gave her some slack on this one) and sliced her foot open. Not too bad, but she’s still riding through the pain. 🙂
Emma was thrilled to receive the electric violin she’s been wanting for a year! She graciously handed over the “old” one to Lilly and fell in love with the black electric. Watch out Lindsey Stirling! (She’s a hip violinist, YouTube her, she’s amazing!) I came out of my room to the sounds of TWO violins being played and was SO LUCKY to snap this shot. As soon as they saw me with the camera they stopped playing.
 


Sabrina enjoyed everything. The bows, ripping paper, throwing paper and climbing in and out and in and out of Lilly and Emma’s boats. She enjoyed her first coffee cake, and loved it of course.

Above is Sabrina and Daddy opening a present together. We didn’t get many pics of Barry or Seth but we did enjoy having some family around for the Holidays. Seth will be here until mid January and Mimi went home to Texas yesterday.

Left is Sabrina and her Mimi (Barry’s Mom)

Right is me, a brief moment in the Santa Cap caught on film 🙂

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Wishing you all Big Love in the new year.

And now, for your entertainment viewing pleasure, may I present Miss Beena Bella in a little Christmas dance….

Carnival

This past Saturday we were invited to watch the Carnival parade at a friends house in the City. Barry and I gladly accepted the invitation and took the older girls with us. (Since we didn’t know what to expect we decided to leave Sabrina at home) Our gracious hosts were friends of Barry’s from Rotary and, we discovered this week, the parents of Emma’s new friend at school 🙂  It is a small place here in Belize, and it feels more and more like “home” as our social lives begin to evolve and we settle into a more “normal” way of life that is not solely centered around work and the resort. Balance.

Back to Carnival….this was fun! This was my first time seeing anything of its kind. The closest I have been to something like the Carnival parade has to be ACL Fest in Austin. Lots of people, a variety of music, great outfits, and lots of booze. Some of the costumes were so detailed and so big! Many of the larger costumes actually sit on wheels so different people can wear it, and pull it around. Too heavy for one person to go for miles, which is how long the parade route is. Every now and again as the people passed by dancing and playing music I would recognize a face, which was fun! And when you are a tall white woman in Belize people remember you, too! So it was fun to say hello to familiar faces.
I think the girls had a good time. They only only appeared briefly to get something to eat or drink, and then were off with the other students. Or hiding in a corner. Either way they seemed to enjoyed themselves.

Thank you to Michael and Ninette for a great Carnival!

(I am pretty sure you can click any of the pictures to see them larger)

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 B and I hanging out and enjoying the day.
By the time the parade got to where we were
they were all so tired. It was HOT!

Beautiful colors, beautiful people.


 

School in Belize Begins

We made it through the first day with a BANG! Thank God.  Sunday was quite the scene here on the island as we hosted hundreds of people (this coming from an operation that is full serving 30 people) and Saturday  Barry and I went to our first house party in Belize…so needless to say after a weekend of parties it was a bit taxing to get up this morning….. BUT WE DID IT! 6:45am the school boat left and all kids were dressed to the nines in their uniforms and ready to face the day!
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Emma, Lilly, Jessica and Ronnie on the school boat with Carlos and Maria.
Not really wanting to stop for a picture… The girls walking into school.

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Lilly and I in her classroom.

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Emma in her class, of only 17 students!!!! Love that.
 

Today Emma started Standard 6 (8th Grade) and Lilly began Standard 4 (6th Grade).
The Belizean school system reflects its British roots. There are two levels of education preceding University; Elementary and High School (called college in many places here). The girls are both a little dissapointed that they still attend a school with the word ‘Elementary’ in the name. I like it. I like so many things, thus far, about their educational and cultural beginnings in Belize.  Let’s start with uniforms. Um, yes please. Parents, uniforms at school are amazing. It truly does help the students focus on what they are at school to do… LEARN. And for teenage girls it takes the opportunity away from them to judge each other by the way they dress. No makeup is next on my list of favorites for the same reasons I gave for loving uniforms. It has been so wonderful to see my 13 year old student, a beautiful young lady, actually look like a beautiful young lady. And not a fully eye lined, eye shadowed, face powdered, mascarra wearing, wanna-be some kind of person she can be when she’s in college. Before classes begin all the grade levels so this same thing. When the bell rings all the students file out into the hallway and form two lines, boys and girls. When the teacher prompts the girls, followed by the boys, file into the classroom and quietly sit down to officially begin the day. Another thing I like, in contrast to the schools in the States, is that the students all have rotating “duties”, better known to Americans as chores. This is part of school, taking care of your community together. Janitors do no lurk behind every corner sweeping and wiping up behind them. (Although our housekeeper at home does that for the girls even though I ask her not to!) The students clean up themselves.

We are fortunate enough to be able to afford what is considered the BEST elementary school in Belize. Many of the elite families in the country send their children here. And many families sacrifice greatly to send their children here. It is an international school with students from all over the world. The parents I have met are from Germany, Bulgaria, Honduras, and England. Oh, and one from the US too 🙂 For now, this is all I’ve got. Thank you to all our family and friends thinking of us during this transition back to school for the girls. And thank you to our new family and friends in Belize for welcoming us and accepting us into your world here. We are most grateful for all of you.

Best Regards!
Ashley

Home from a Texas Visit

All three girls and I traveled back home to the island this past Sunday. It is always a bit difficult to leave Texas. Leaving is like taking off a bandaid; You can do it slowly, draw it out as to not endure too much pain, or you can rip it off quickly which will make you tear up but the pain doesn’t last as long. This time was ripping. I’ve done the slow peeling, the saying goodbye for days and wishing I had more time. Life is too short. Take the moment you have and enjoy it. Remember the smell, the feel of the laughter, the friendship….it all has very real energy and power. But if we don’t focus on it, even for the brief moment during which we acknowledge it, we can never feel it.

The children and I all enjoyed so many wonderful friends and family members while we were in Texas. For this I am so grateful. I have learned so much packing up and moving to another country. One thing I have learned that surprised me has been how little I miss and remember about the things we left behind, and how deeply I miss the people we left in Texas. I knew Barry and I had some first class friends as well as incredible family members. But true love, even if simply in friendship, surpases distance and time. What a beautiful thing love is. May everyone know and feel loved like we do.

We are still very much in transition back to Belizean life. I have learned not to put any expectations on our first few days either leaving Belize, or returning. Each place has some stark differences that even adults I know have a difficult time with. So this week the older girls are setteling into their rooms and reaquanting themselves with a more tranquil world that has niether shopping malls nor 24/7 texting capabilities. Ha. Sabrina has bounced back like she never left. True Belizean style this girl has. I am very thankful to be home with my family together.

Here are a few pictures from our homecomming.  

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Estel grabbed Beena straight off the boat 🙂
Playtime with Dad.
 
When our boat arrived at the island Sapo had drinks
waiting for us, just like we do for our guests! There was
even a bottle with punch for Sabrina!! We missed our staff
and they missed us too.
Familia. 🙂