Welcome Back to the Big Love Blog

This is a kind of a re-grand opening – a welcome back to the blog – I’ve been writing but not posting and also busy learning while moving the blog to an actual webpage. www.thebigloveblog.com

It’s time for something new. Something more bold. I’m ready – and I’d love for you to come along with me. I’m not exactly sure where we’re going but it’s all about the journey. All about Love – Belize Island Living – and just being a human. Being an expat. Being a friend. Being a useful human.

I’ve been writing but not posting and that’s about to change. I’ll be posting about events that have happened over the last year and will date them so you can follow along chronologically if you’re nutty like that -like I am. Otherwise, jump in! Join me as I discover Love and overcome obstacles. Ask me questions. Tell me I’m crazy. Or just follow along.

Whatever you do, Love Big.

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

A New Normal

January 12, 2014

Lilly and I had grand intentions of using our 3 hour layover in Houston to shop and have dinner together to celebrate her 13thbirthday. Instead –due to flight delays and an insanely long Immigration line- we settled for choking down a sandwich and a quick happy birthday toast – in hot pursuit of not missing her connection to Indiana. There was little time to feel sad as we hustled thru the airport and I didn’t want our last moments together to include me sobbing like a baby and begging her not to go. Not exactly good form.
On the tram before her flight.

Once we got to the gate it went fast –a blur. I hugged her and kissed her face one last time before she walked down the jet way onto the plane. Disappearing all too quickly without even looking back. Then it hit me. I wondered when I would hug her again. When I would get to have another meal with her. I wondered what she was thinking. Right then I wanted to hug her again so bad it hurt inside my chest. I thought my heart was going to explode. My body was frozen and emotionless. Completely numb. I found a seat next to the window and stared at that plane for 40 l-o-n-g minutes until it was wheels up. And then cried. Quietly in that little corner of the giant Houston airport my heart was breaking.

I let her go.
Because I love her that much.

Today I sit here and write this and I still weep. I just want Lilly here with us. There are days like today my heart aches and aches and aches because one of my babies is absent. Because everywhere I look I see her face or I remember how she played with Sabrina and kayaked with me on the weekends. I really miss watching her learn and study. And yes, I even miss the older girls arguing. I think of her each time I feed the animals, which was her job. Her cat, Alley, misses her too. Alley follows me everywhere now and insists on sleeping in my room. She has left a void in our lives that we are all working to fill.

We are all still in transition. Our family feels different. Since it is different. Sabrina asks where Lilly is every single day. Thank heaven for FaceTime and Skype. Emma even asks to talk to her and has openly admitted to missing her sister. Amazing. Lilly’s friends from school have sent me messages telling me they wish she would come back – they say the 7thgrade isn’t the same without her. Even the staff at the Resort ask about her and wonder how she is adjusting to all that snow! There is not a piece of her life here in Belize that doesn’t feel her absence.
Our new normal around the house is surely quieter. Our new normal no longer includes teenage girl fights about whose shirt/dress/underwear belongs to whom. Or whose music is too loud. Or who looked at who “that way” first.  There is less food to prepare, clothes to wash, and far less shampoo to buy. Our new normal is making sure only one student gets to and from school each day, not two. It feels like I am forgetting something when I leave school with only one in the car. Our new normal has a little less laughter.

Our new normal is also fostering an interesting metamorphosis of Miss Emma. The energy she previously used arguing and competing with Lilly is now being channelled into herself as well as connecting with the rest of the family. The new normal involves FaceTime video chats where Sabrina shows Lilly EVERYTHING in her room –one by one. It involves instant messaging to talk about our days instead of doing it over dinner. The new normal is sending  her packages and flowers (yes, more than once in four weeks) to make sure she knows without a doubt she is loved and thought about here in Belize EVERY DAY.

And Lilly’s new normal? I can’t be certain. I do know she is happy and adjusting well. Although she has yet to begin school because they have had huge amounts of snow, she has been for a tour and is excited to pick out her classes this Monday. She is enjoying a room all to herself. She has sent pictures of snowmen and talked about how much fun it is to sled in the snow. My little bird seems to be thriving in her new nest.
We are all a work in progress – working towards accepting our new normal daily routines.

FaceTime screenshot – The view out Lilly’s window in IN, and the view from our lanai in Belize.

Some of my favorite lyrics for my loved ones…

 “I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who love you and the place you left

I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get

That you’d find God’s grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take
But more than anything my wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold”


-Rascal Flatts – My Wish Lyrics

Good Friends.
Best Buddies.
Zip Line!
Sisters.
Lilly and Selena!
Happy in the Jungle.

Before You Go Know I Love You

Well, you only need the light when it’s burning low,
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow,
Only know you love her when you let her go.
And you let her go.
 –Passenger, Let Her Go Lyrics
Written on December  15th, 2013  Letting Go of Lilly

Sometimes in life we have to let go of things or people – especially when we don’t want to. Especially when that something has been a part of your day since you can remember. Even when every fiber of your genetic makeup is telling you it’s not time. Even when we want to keep fighting for what we believe is best. Even when your heart aches at the mere thought. We have to let go to – in order to go on.

This week we are having to let go. Even though it is not what we want. And our hearts will surely ache.

Just as our daughter Lilly turns 13 next week she will be moving to Indiana to live with her Father, step-Mother, and little Brother.  After careful consideration, unprecedented communication with her Father, counsel from family, and some soul searching of my own, we made a family decision to allow her to move.  The decision was made months ago but I kept secretly hoping that Lilly would change her mind, or plans would fall through. Selfishly – I just want her here with me. I want my baby bird under my wing where I can protect and groom her. She’s not supposed to leave the nest yet. My brain is hardwired to be with her. But I have come to terms with the reality. The truth is she’s not leaving the nest, but rather going to experience a new nest where she WILL be loved and cared for as she continues to become a young woman. And she knows she can always come back to us. She knows our unconditional love.

For the first time in 13 years I won’t be waking up to her face. I won’t be calling her name 10 times every morning trying to get her up.  I won’t be taking her to the first day at her new school. This is my first time to miss a “first day” of anything in her life.  I won’t be there for every school event or performance. And I will no longer be the one drying heartbroken tears or packing her favorite things for lunch. It will no longer be me. And this makes me very sad. I will be homesick for her – our whole family here will miss her.

I also feel very proud and am confident in Lilly.  Because for the first time in 13 years Lilly is confident enough in herself to be able to handle such a big change. Because she is brave and strong. She is ready. She knows she can pull through any hard times. She strongly feels that more educational opportunities are available in Indiana than here in Belize. And possibly most important -I know she wants and needs to connect with her father. I have to feel good knowing Lilly has grown to not fear the world and its possibilities. I take comfort in her attributes as we are learning to let go of Lilly.

I have always taught my daughters these things, but I want all 3 to now be able to read it and know these things are true no matter how old you get, or how smart you think you are. I want, you, Lilly to know my thoughts and advice, even from many miles away since I won’t be there myself to remind you.

So, girls, if you can’t remember here are a few basics you can always count on:

  • Do not be afraid, be cautious instead – making choices out of fear usually results in a mess.
  • When you don’t know what else to do in a moment of stress – take a few deep breaths. Or twenty.
  • It is better to say nothing at all than to speak hurtful words. You can never take the words back.
  • When you are hurting and angry, remember that your feelings are valid and REAL. But don’t hurt others because you are upset. 
  • Kindness never goes out of style. Just Be Kind. It’s not really all that difficult to do. Smile at an old person, feed the homeless, thank a soldier or just call your mother.
  • You can be a kind woman and not be a pushover. 
  • It is always okay to say NO and expect to be respected. In your future career, with someone who says they love you, to your best friend. Do not compromise your standards for anyone!
  • LOVE is the greatest thing in the world. To love and be loved is at the core of the choices we make every day. It is the core of our being.
  • You can always count on your Family for LOVE. No matter who – what – when – where or why, we are here to share our love with you. You never have to go looking for it at the bottom of a glass (unless *maybe* its wine). Kidding. You don’t need to search for love from a stranger. Or a drug. Or recognition in a job that makes you miserable. Come home anytime, you will be loved without question. 
 
Be-still my heart – L to R: Emma, Sabrina, Lillian.
Big Love ❤
Ashley

Work and Parenting ….

“Wherever you are doing it, I am somewhere doing it too. We are together even when we’re not.” -Barry (the Hubster)

I must get in the habit of writing more. So many things have been going on I would love to tell you all about. When I do sit to write it is difficult to pick one or two things to talk about 🙂 So this blog will be an update on the family and resort, then I will write the more editorial piece that’s in my head about living in “Paradise”. Then perhaps during my few day off I can write the “Raising Kids in a Village” and “Learning how to go from almost never seeing your husband to living and working together 24/7”   Hahaha…

As I mentioned before, Barry and I have a few insanely needed days off. We are so tired and worn down are bodies are getting sick and our patience is wearing thin. The fantastic upside to this ailing we both feel is the the Resort is more successful than it has ever been. February with only 28 days yielded the highest guest nights in the history of  St. George’s Caye Resort. BOOM! It has been two years and 3 months since Barry came to start working here in Belize. (I have been here just under two years.) Not bad. My hubster is a genius; a master at social networking and managment. He has taught me so much about how to treat people, including myself. And he does that with the young men and women who work here. When you can inspire and empower others I believe the whole world is drawn to you. So it seems, our guests who pay to come stay with us can feel this too. And in case you want to read it for yourself check us out on TRIP ADVISOR 🙂 Ignore the review about “managment holding us hostage”…. that was nothing…. 😉

Emma is gearing up for High School already! I get the chills typing the words. Mi primero nina! My first baby. Life is so bitter sweet. I’m trying to deny it and I tried to “forget” to sign her applications for HS but she kept peskily reminding me. She is so excited. And we are excited with her. Learning how to navigate a completely new educational system has been a challenge and learning about HS curriculum has snuck up on us as we were JUST getting used to the Elementry level. She is taking HS entrance exams next week and then another in April. In Belize HS is not for every child; it is not affordable to all nor required by the government (if I understand correctly). Emma is succeeding in classes very well, and even learning to enjoy some of the subjects she found cumbersome earlier in the year. She has made some of the neatest friends from school who have so kindly opened up and let her into their cirlce like they have known her for years. *Such a young lady you are now, Miss Emma. Your mother is SO proud of you 🙂

Lilly has been busy getting involved in school activities including band (playing keyboard), participating in the spoken word elocution contest, and recently entering a nationwide virtual city design competition. The competition is actually quite involved. It requires 6 or 7 training sessions on how to use the design software to create the virtual city, and how to incorporate social services into their plans. Check it out at www.MyVirtualCity.bz Lilly has also made some very cool friends at school who encourage her and share some of her interests. I really enjoy when her friends Quincy and Jordan come over; getting to watch them talk about writing screen plays and becoming young directors all  while saving  the unfortunate animals of the world 🙂 I love your scense of caring, Lillian!

Sabrina Bella is 19 (almost 20) months old. She is the littelest light of our family. A tiny ball of 20 pound goodness. She repeats (in baby talk of course) every word we say, english or spanish. She talks in both languages every day, even sometimes saying mixed phrases like “Agua please” or she will reverse it and say “Porfa wawa” (Por favor water) She is basically potty training herself. WAHOO! Mom likes this alot. She tells me daily she needs to go and wakes up dry most mornings (I just need to get her nanny a little better on board with encouraging her to go… but anyway…) We are a short time away from big girl panties!!! Ok, I am done with the potty talk 🙂 THIS KID is so loved by our resort staff who have watched her grow from infancy. I caught Eli wipping her runny nose the other day and his brother Elbin talks to her in Spanish everday so she can learn the language. She calls our dive master, Jose, “Poppi” because his daughter works here too and Beena hears him being called that all the time. When the staff meals are ready the chef says “Pick-Up” and when Beena hears it she RUNS to the door to get food. Hahah, textbook Pavlov’s dogs. I just love the toddler mind. It truly fascinates me to watch her grow and change daily.

Our island life continues… One day at a time. BIG LOVE.

(I was going to add photos but it is rainy today and our “high speed” internet is on the fritz. Will upload when I can.)

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….

Lion fish stings, tattoos and more!

Getting these kids to school is a village effort.
 

This week has been interesting. I learned from the older girls that when the teacher says “bristol board” she means poster board. And when she says “blanks” she means composition book. I tell you what, we all speak English here but sometimes I have no idea what Belizeans are saying. :/  Catching on slowly but surely.

We have finished our 3rd week of school. And I say we because this is a whole new ballgame for Barry and I as well; organizing transportation by boat and car, learning what is expected of the parents, and making sure they all have the right project materials on the right days because WE CANT JUST DRIVE TO WALGREENS and pick up whatever they need. We are learning to plan ahead, but mostly to be FLEXIBLE (or maybe I mean patient!?). Most days all is well with the logisitcs of this whole process; other days it just sucks. The boat ride messes up your hair every time, “bristol board” presentations flop around, its wet sometimes and the ocean is beautiful but when its splashing onto the clothes you have to wear all day, es no bueno. But most days riding the boat is twenty minutes of fresh air, relaxing scenery, not much talking and provides a relaxing experience. Almost like a mini meditation period before we get to the busy activities of the city. We are now boat-pooling to school with a family who lives down the beach, and their son is actually in Lilly’s class. In another blog I will talk about why this is so cool. The Bischof Family takes the kids to school and usually we bring them home in the afternoon. The picture is of all five students on the neighbor’s boat heading off to study hard.  Our shared desire, as their parents, for the children to be educated  broke down barriers and has brought together people from very different backgrounds and countries, and strengthened our tiny community. It feels good. For some reason the universe has brought our families together 🙂

SO PROUD of these two young ladies!!

We had a guest at the resort who got THREE tattoos while sitting on the beach. I’ve asked around and this is definately a first. We have guests who ask for ALL kinds of things/services but never tattoos. Here is John with tattoo artist, Fish.

Barry got stung by a lion fish, right on the knukle of his thumb. We hunt them. Well, Barry hunts them. I watch. Lion fish are good to eat but hard to kill without being stung by one of its poisonous spines. They are not native to the Caribbean and although beautiful these fish are destroying the ecosystem of the reef because they eat, swallow whole rather, the juvenile fish. So there is a big push to kill them in Belize and surrounding countries. It is hard to tell but his thumb and whole left hand are huge swollen!

 
Sabrina is now 14 months. She says mama, dada, papa, up, down, ojo, Lili (for Lilly), she says “Emma” which sounds like mama, and she says NO. In sign language she now tries to say two words together mostly with the word “please”; up please, down please, milk please (her favorite…she is still not totally weaned), change diaper, more milk. She runs. And stands on her tip-toes to try and reach anything she can get her little fingers on. She loves boxes of all sizes. And putting my clothes around her neck. She needs CONSTANT suppervision, haha. This girl.
 
Finally getting some hair growing 🙂 These are
some of her first little pigtails!!!!
Always on the move!

 Top left picture she is 13 months, top right she is 14 months. And clearly the picture in the middle Sabrina is having some playtime with Daddy 🙂 Those two are so in love with each other it makes my heart melt. Never gets old watching them play together. <3<3<3

Love to All,

 
Barry ansd Ashley