Thursday, November 22, 2012

Slow Economy? Quick Fashion Fixes!

We read an article this week in a beading magazine that we just HAD to share with you all.  Since many of us are finding ourselves short on expendable cash these days, AND the holidays are coming up, I (Rachel) think more than a few of us are feeling a little overwhelmed with the prospect of 1) Gift Buying, and 2) Holiday Attire Shopping.  This article made an AWESOME observation.  It said the quickest and most inexpensive way to change the look of an outfit is by changing your accessories.  It can be as complicated as a schnazzy scarf or a sweet pair of boots, OR it could be as simple as a different pair of earrings or a new hairdo.  The more I thought about this, the more wisdom I think it holds.  I mean, a little black dress can be one outfit with a cute pair of Toms and some boho chic jewelry, and something COMPLETELY different with some sparkly earrings, an updo, and some sexy pumps.  But the most expensive part of the outfit (i.e.-that perfect little dress) does its job in both scenarios.  All YOU have to do in order to create an entirely different look is change your accessories.

Gift BUYING for other people can become a task also.  You want to make sure the people in your life feel loved and appreciated, but money is so tight sometimes.  How do you come up with a truly inexpensive gift option if you're not the "DIY" type?  And even if you are, sometimes that "DIY" gift is just not fitting for the "recipient" OR you just simply don't have the time to devote to it.  Because the same thing holds true for everyone, purchasing a fabulous accessory for someone as a gift is something like giving them a gift that keeps on giving!  They get something cute and fashionable that will ALSO expand their fashion options!  Quick fix, fab results!

So this holiday season when you hit the stores or those sales, remember that sometimes the simplest gift can be the most profound!

What's going on with ADKOF this fabulous Black Friday Weekend??  Here's the info:

Friday 12:00 AM-11:59 PM : FREE SHIPPING!

Saturday 12:00 AM through Sunday 11:59 PM : FREE SHIPPING and 15% Off Your Entire Purchase With Code SBSFLAIR

Monday 12:00 AM-11:59 PM : FREE SHIPPING and 20% Off Your Entire Purchase With Code CYBFLAIR

So make sure you go and take advantage of these awesome deals!  We've been posting new stuff like crazy in the last few days, so you'll definitely need to head over to THE SITE stake your claims.  We've got some super cute Christmas Party Accessories that you'll definitely want to get your hands on.  See for yourselves:


Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Last of the Bahama Problems

Though I am SURE there will be a list just as long of "Dominica Problems" here in a few weeks, I thought I would leave you all with a little insight and some humor.  Right now, Jonathan and I are probably sitting in an airport somewhere (I pre-scheduled this post for today since I knew I wouldn't be writing for a couple of days...).  Our minds are likely FAR from these Bahama Problems as we are most certainly looking forward to being home in the states.  That being said, enjoy a few tidbits from life in the Bahamas...

Bahama Problem #1) Have an appointment at 10:00 AM, call a cab to pick you up at 9:00 (factoring in 'island time' which means they will likely not be there until 9:50 anyway), taxi picks you up at 8:45 and you sit there waiting for your appointment for an hour...

Bahama Problem #2) Have an appointment at 10:00 AM, call a cab to pick you up at 9:45 (since they were so prompt last time), cab shows up at 11:00 AM, you miss your appointment by an hour...

Bahama Problem #3) You and 4 friends call a cab to pick you up at the port and take you home, cab shows up ON TIME (what a concept!), cab is a glorified VW Beetle, all 5 of you cram into the back seat (couldn't be closer if you were Siamese Quintuplets), cabby's son is in front seat with feet propped up (super comfy) while playing a video game...

Bahama Problem #4) Have a hankering for a panini sandwich from Solomon's, walk up to the sandwich counter and ask the girl what her best sandwich is, she goes into detail about what her favorite sandwich to make is and how delicious it is, you say "Mmmm...sounds great!  I'll have that!", to which she responds "Oh, no sandwiches today..."...

Bahama Problem #5) Go to Zorba's (most approachable restaurant in the port), ask for a chicken gyro, waitress says "No chicken gyros today", to which you respond "Ok, I'll just do the souvlaki then", to which she says "No...we are out of everything on the Greek menu", you sit there confused (in the GREEK restaurant) about how best to proceed...

Bahama Problem #6) Go to After Deck (another fairly approachable restaurant in the port), find nothing entirely appetizing and decide to order the chicken fingers from the kid's menu (even if they ARE $10.95), waitress says "No.  You can't have that..." and leaves your table to talk to her manager, comes back and says " can have it, but you have to pay $13.95 for the 'adult portion'", to which you say "Fine...whatever...", and when they bring it out, the only thing adult about it is the piece of wilted lettuce they've placed under your 3 chicken fingers...

Bahama Problem #7) Go to the grocery store with ground beef/turkey on your list (never know which one will ACTUALLY be there this week), find ground meats in the back meat bin, pick up a tray, read the label, which says "Center Cut Pork Chops", put the tray down cuz you're not sure you want to risk eating what type of animal might ACTUALLY be ground up on that tray...

Bahama Problem #8) Try to make a grocery list that is simple, include chicken breasts on it (easy peasy dinner option), go to back meat bin, find chicken wings, chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks, chicken livers, chicken gizzards, chicken necks, and NO chicken breasts.  The entire chicken is there...except the part you actually want to eat...

Bahama Problem #9) Buy milk that is not due to expire until next week, have a craving for a nice tall glass of ice cold milk later that night, pour yourself that tall glass, sit on the couch and take a giant swig, realize AFTER you swallow that swig that your "fresh milk" tastes more like sour cream, proceed to bathroom to commence gagging...

Bahama Problem #10) FINALLY get rid of the tiny little ants that crawl around your kitchen countertops (no matter how clean they are), put box of cereal on top of the fridge (where you've NEVER seen ants), begin running out of groceries toward the end of your last week in Freeport and decide to snack on some multi grain cheerios, examine the sealed cereal bag thoroughly to rule out ants (SCORE!), begin eating 5 or 6 handfuls of cereal, realize THEN that there are ants crawling all over you...and inside the bag...proceed to bathroom to commence gagging...

Bahama Problem #11) Wake up after a fairly restful sleep to find your entire body stuck to the industrial plastic that your mattress is covered in, peel yourself off and head to the bathroom (cursing that stupid plastic all the way there), and think better of that cursing realizing what the alternative would be if you decided to sleep on the mattress WITHOUT the industrial plastic, decide either way that it sucks...

Bahama Problem #12) Run out of toilet paper at home, head to the store to buy some, find a package of 4 rolls for $12, decide that is OUTRAGEOUS, send husband to campus to steal some from the public bathroom, curse yourself for not thinking about this earlier in the semester...

Bahama Problem #13) Sweep entire house, open front door to sweep everything out, gecko drops from door frame and scurries into house, you run into your bedroom and shut the door to escape certain death...

Bahama Problem #14) Sit on futon after a long day in the Bahamas, decide that hubby is looking particularly delicious tonight, hop over to his side of the futon to get a little frisky, futon snaps in half, landlord doesn't replace it for 3 weeks...

Bahama Problem #15) Mosquito net in bedroom is hung, dog sleeps on bed, dog cannot see mosquito net, dog gets tangled and confused, mommy and daddy are trapped inside mosquito net, dog begins to panic, mommy and daddy are powerless to help...

That's all for now folks...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's Been Real Freeport (#1)

Today is the last full day in Freeport.  Tomorrow, in the EARLY morning, we will be taking Michelle and Matt to the airport.  We'll see them off to Indiana, and then Jonathan and I will buzz back home, grab the pup and the suitcases, and head out.  We don't actually get to leave until 2:45, but since we have Matilda and it's an international flight, we will have to be there more than 2 hours early.  So we will plan to get to the airport around 12:00.  If leaving was as easy as coming here was, it really shouldn't take us long to get through customs and everything, but we can't take any chances!  So we'll hit Zorba's in the port one last time for a little late breakfast and then head to the airport to drop off our rent car and get checked in.  I can't believe it's almost here!  To quote the best Christmas movie ever (The Muppet Christmas Carol) "After all, there's only one more sleep til' OKC!". So to round out our countdown here, I'll treat you to #1!

What I Will Miss About Freeport #1-
The close-knit-ness of MERP.  This semester only "entertained" about 150 students.  So that, plus being on a tiny island has meant that we've grown to know and love so many people here like we've known them for years.  It really is like a pressure cooker situation as far as relationships go here.  You're forced to become each others' family because you're so far away from your own.  I have been so appreciative to Jonathan's fellow students and the MERP faculty for being so welcoming to me and also for being there for Jonathan.  For making us both feel like we belong here (even if we are old farts...), and for stepping up and being family for us.  We hope that we've done the same for some of you.  This little dysfunctional family has been a lot of fun to be a part of!  This little group will be split up and broken down before we actually get to Dominica (since some will head to St. Maarten), so I know the next 4 semesters won't be like this one has been.  But we are so grateful for the great relationships we've built here and for all the memories we will have of this experience.  This really has been a great place to start.  It's helped us "get our feet wet" in regards to island living, and has really solidified that this medical school thing IS for us.  Isn't that the point of MERP?  So going into Dominica we are solid and confident and ready.  And we couldn't have asked for a better class to matriculate with (no Matt, I did not say micturate...)....

What I'm Looking Forward to in the States #1-
Getting to meet Emma Henderson!  I probably can't express to you how excited I am about this.  I have to confess my intense jealousy of all the people who have already gotten to see her and hold her.  I just can't wait!  We are beside ourselves excited about spending time with Jared and Sara.  We've missed them so much!  And I thought for a while that it would be weird to come to Houston and see them with a baby, but as we get closer to that day, it doesn't seem weird at all.  Emma has just slipped right into the picture and now we are just so pumped to get to meet her.  We are bringing her a little Bahama love (in the form of a baby elephant and an 'island girl' dress)!  Excited doesn't really touch it honestly.  We are excited to spend time in Houston in general and getting to see all our Houston family members (I would list them all, but it would be a phone book y'all...).  We will be in Houston on the 25th (either morning or evening...we're not sure yet...) and we are pumped to see everyone and spend time with everyone.  But this little darling has been sucking my attention for the last week and a half.  So she's in the forefront of my mind.  As are her mommy and daddy...words don't do justice the excitement I feel when I think about me and Jonathan getting to wrap our arms around all 3 of them!

One Day More!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

We're DONE With School, Just 2 Full Days Left

Well, the MERP end of our med school journey is over, and we could not be more thrilled.  Jonathan did well on his test and we have his hard work and all of your prayers and well wishes to thank for that!  He won't get his official scores for a few days, but he feels really good coming out of the test.  He has worked really hard this entire semester and it really paid off in the end because the final wasn't "live or die" for him.  He went in relaxed and confident which was a total 180 from how he felt going into Mini #2.  That made me feel so much better.  Today we will be errand running like crazy!  We have to take Matilda to the vet for her health clearance to fly home, we have to get some bubble wrap and tape to make sure our stuff gets home safely, and we have to vacuum seal the last of our clothes and linens so they'll fit into our suitcases.  Somehow we've managed to consolidate our packing MUCH better as we're coming home than when we left.  It's all a learning process, so hopefully we'll do better packing for Dominica than we did for here.  At any rate, tomorrow is our last full day here in Freeport.  It's getting real people!  But I do have to say that it's been a little strange for me the pack up this little apartment and get it ready for a move.  It doesn't feel like we're actually leaving!  I think part of that comes from the fact that we've only lived here 17 weeks.  But the other part is just my brain not processing how quickly this time has flown.  It gives me so much hope and peace about the future of this journey.  It's a long road, but God has blinded us to the time it's gonna take to walk it and has accelerated our perception of that time!  What a great God we serve.  He never asks us to do something He won't equip us to do.  Medical school at all might have sounded like an impossible feat in the beginning, but He called us to it and He'll get us through it.  Here's looking forward to the next 18 months which will be the LAST 18 months we'll spend in the Caribbean (at least as residents)!  Here's #2 in our countdown...

What I Will Miss About Freeport #2-
The many Sunset Lodge stories.  This is more of a memory than something that I will actually miss.  Even though we don't live at Sunset, a large majority of the students here do (including the Wellses).  So we find ourselves over there a couple of times a week, and we spent like 3 straight days there during the hurricane.  Sunset is sort of like "grown up dorms".  It is an actual apartment complex, but they only lease to students.  So you can imagine what kind of place it is when you cram a couple hundred med students all under one roof.  When they're hitting the books or in class, it's quite pleasant.  When the tests and quizzes are over, it's the party spot.  During the hurricane, I literally had flashbacks to my freshman year at OU roaming the dorm hallways doing stupid stuff.  Us old married farts get fed up with it a lot of times, but it does provide us with lots of laughs and plenty of stories.  Oh to be a 28/29 year old married couple interacting with 21/22 year old college students in a college setting again.  It makes me feel old and young all at the same time.  I imagine that Dominica will probably revisit some of these same feelings, but this semester specifically has been one big giant flashback.  We call it our "alternate universe" because it really is.  Some days I look around me and go "Wow, this is a pretty cool opportunity we've got here. We live in the Bahamas!", and some days I look around me and go, "Wow.  I'm surrounded by college kids.  Where the heck am I??".  Sunset Lodge has been a sort of time machine for me...

(Just thought I share a little glimpse of my world with you.  Where am I??)

What I'm Looking Forward to in the States #2-
Shopping!!!!!!  I don't have a lot of money, therefore I will most likely not be doing much buying, however I am so excited to actually get to walk around a mall and hit a Target.  Goodness, that makes me happy!  Things won't be outrageously overpriced (for example-a t-shirt here in the "straw market" will run you about $20 and will not last you more than like 3 washes).  I'm even looking forward to grocery shopping!  For whatever reason, everything in Freeport is crazy expensive.  I'm hoping and praying for at least a little break from that in Dominica, but I'm not holding my breath.  I do think that the upside to having to pay so much for things here is that we've become quite stingy with our money.  Hopefully that will translate to the states when we officially move back there in 18 months.  At any rate, I just can't wait to do some shopping at Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Macy's, Target, you name it.  And if any of you are in the Houston or OKC area and need a shopping buddy, call me!  I will DEFINITELY join you.  Just don't make fun of me if tears of joy stream down my face when the sliding glass doors open...

Tomorrow is our LAST (full) DAY IN FREEPORT!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#3--It's Almost THE Weekend!

Right now, Jonathan is taking his final here in Freeport.  He has studied really well this week and I'm actually not nervous for him at all.  I'm just ready for him to be done and have something to show for all his hard work this semester.  Pray for him, though.  This test is 4 grueling hours long.  Parts of it are over new material and parts of it are comprehensive.  Thanks to all of you who sent prayers or sweet notes his way this week.  They are SO very appreciated!  Today, I myself am literally sitting around waiting for him to be done.  The bags are packed, the kitchen is cleaned and empty, the floors are mopped and swept, the travel documents are organized, and we are ready to go!  I am really excited for him to get home because it means our 6 week vacation will have officially begun!  But for now, here's #3 in our little countdown:

What I Will Miss About Freeport #3-
Vedant!  Vedant has become a part of our little close knit group here in Freeport.  I started hearing his name towards the beginning of this whole Freeport experience when he became a part of Jonathan and Matt's little study group.  He quickly evolved from study buddy to true friend and we are so grateful to have met him!  Vedant is part of the group here in Freeport that will be going to St. Maarten in December instead of Dominica (he is an American University in the Caribbean student).  We will miss him dearly, and wish him all the best in St. Maarten and in his future endeavors.  He will actually be leaving on Saturday (lucky dog), so Jonathan and I and Matt and Michelle will be seeing him off at the airport.  It'll probably be a really long time before we get to see him again.  We are so happy that Mara and Fatema and Matt and Conrad (and many others) will be accompanying us to Dominica, but it truly will be strange to not have Vedant around when we get there!  Vedant...we love you man!

What I'm Looking Forward to in the States #3-
I was gonna save this one for #1, but I just can't stand it anymore.  I simply MUST write about it.  I am more excited than I can probably express to get to spend time with our families.  I can't wait to see Bernice (who, by the way, is more than halfway done with chemo AND will be completely done with it BEFORE we head down to Dominica!).  I can't wait to put my arms around her and see her face!  I can't wait to see my mom and hug her and talk to her and catch her up on everything.  I can't wait for a big bear hug from my daddy.  Can't wait to spend time with Charlie and for him to see how different Jonathan is after his first semester in med school.  I know he's gonna be so proud!  I can't wait to see Patrick and Nicole!!  Skyped with them Tuesday night and it made me miss them more (if that's possible).  I hear that Granddaddy is doing REALLY well right now too, so I'm looking forward to seeing him and Helen for sure.  And again, I can't wait for him to get to see Jonathan.  I would REALLY like to find a way to get to Alabama to see my Mimol and Pa and Gammy, but I'm not sure we're gonna be able to sway it.  However, just being in the states means I'll get to talk to them more easily which is a SUPER perk in my book.  So in short, I'm just ready to be surrounded by family during the BEST time of the year.  The holidays are built for spending time with family, so I'm so blessed to be coming home during that time.  Jonathan and I will both be soaking it up as much as we can since this time next year will most likely be spent in Dominica (we might get lucky and be able to come home for a week or 2 during Christmas if we can afford it...).  For now, though, we will just be thankful that we get this time this year.  So excited to be HOME!  Even though we are literally nomads right now, HOME is wherever the people you love are!

Can you believe that we will be home in less than 80 hours?!  Ok...mind officially blown...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#4--The Day Before "The Test"

So today is Jonathan's last day of studying.  Tomorrow morning he will go in and take his final.  He is so ready, but I know he'll be nervous later tonight when he goes home.  He has deactivated his Facebook account for now (too distracting), but if you want to send him a quick "good luck" note, email him at He would LOVE to hear from you I'm sure! Today also marks the last full day without him here at the house with me.  So today is also a big day for me.  I'm cleaning out the fridge (we won't be eating here any more this weekend), deep cleaning the apartment (don't want to waste precious time with my hubby mopping floors), and organizing our travel documents.  Among other things...  But for now, here's #4 in our countdown!

What I Will Miss About Freeport #4-
Tyrone.  Though his prices leave my wallet empty (and me pretty irritated as well sometimes...), I will miss him.  We have developed a nice little friendship with him.  He's one of our favorite Bahamians and is definitely the one Bahamian we have spent the most time with.  I will miss his jokes and his coined phrases.  I'll also miss him raving about his wife Victoria (she lives in the states).  Tyrone is a pleasant person and we will miss having him around I think...

What I'm Looking Forward to in the States #5-
MOBILITY!  Although we will miss Tyrone, we WILL NOT miss not being able to get around here on the island without a taxi driver.  My Trailblazer is calling my name at home and I cannot wait to get behind the wheel.  Honestly, though, the best part about having a car is that we at least have the option of going somewhere, even if we stay at home.  If you've never truly experienced that feeling, there's really no describing it.  It's sort of a stranded feeling.  For instance, Jonathan has been gone from 7:00 AM and not coming home until 11:00 PM this week, and we are almost out of groceries (that was on purpose).  I am SO hungry, but can't go grab something.  Neither do I want some creepy pizza delivery person coming to my house in the dark while I'm here by myself.  It's a very restrictive feeling.  I know Dominica will have it's challenges in that department too, but I'm at least looking forward to the fact that most things are within walking distance there.  Here, everything other than Taino Beach is a minimum 30 minute walk one way.  When it's super hot or you're bringing something back with you (or just walking alone), it's basically not an option.  So Trailblazer, here we come!

We are oh-so-close y'all!  Say a prayer for Jonathan tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#5 In the Countdown..My Happy Little Family...

Ok, so the ticker hit 5 this afternoon.  This time next week I'll be in the living room at my parents-in-loves' (thank you Micah Duckett for using this term...I hate calling my in-laws "in-laws"...this is SO much better!) shooting the breeze with Bernice.  Oh I can't wait!  But for now, in keeping with my theme this week, here's the #5's:

What I Will Miss About Freeport #5:
Spending lazy days with my puppy!  The decision has been made that we simply cannot bring Matilda to Dominica.  At least not right now.  We're planning to scope things out and see whether or not it would be an okay place for her this first semester and then decide whether we should bring her down in the summer time.  But I have so loved my morning puppy snuggle with her.  Before we came to the Bahamas, those were restricted to Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoon naps.  She's by my side all day long.  Usually she's sleeping, but every once in a while she'll walk over to me and just put her head on my lap.  It's like she's saying, "Mom, it's so cool that you're home with me during the day now!"  It hurts my heart to think about leaving her in the states while we're in Dominica, but I feel like that will be the best decision for her.  I would feel so much worse if we were to take her to Dominica and she were to get sick or something.  It will only be 18 months and I'll get to see her periodically during that time.  Including Skype dates!  I do so love my girl...she's the best puppy in the world and I'm luckiest puppy mommy in the world...

What I'm Looking Forward to in the States #5:
Uninterrupted time with Jonathan for more than 48 hours!  Jonathan has been so busy studying and going to class since we've been here in the Bahamas.  I'm so proud of him and the standards he has set for himself.  The downside of those perfectionist standards is that he has been literally buried in books and notes for 15 weeks here in Freeport.  He is SO ready for a break and I'm SO ready to get to spend some time with him!  As the wife of a future doctor, I know that there are many more years of having to go long stints of time without getting to spend the time with him that I'd really like to.  Med school isn't for sissies, y'all!  This is no surprise!  But I'm really excited to have 6 weeks where both of us will be together and he won't have school or studying to do.  It's gonna be great!

PS-Our jewelry business, A Different Kind of Flair, is doing a follower shuffle for the next 3 days, we need 7 more blog followers HERE and 25 more Facebook followers HERE (or you can click the links on the right!).  Help us out y'all!  If we meet these goals by Thursday we're offering a 50% off coupon code (just in time for holiday shopping!) and one lucky follower will win a FREE BRACELET of their choice from our shop!  Get to following!

Stay Tuned for #4 Tomorrow!

Monday, November 12, 2012

6 Days of Anticipation

Today marks the first day of our last week here in Freeport.  I am SO excited to come home that I literally wring my hands and chew my nails to nubs every time I think about it.  So instead of putting myself through that, I thought I'd spend a few minutes every day thinking both about the things I'm looking forward to in the states and the things I will miss about Freeport.  Though we not-so-lovingly refer to it as FreeFart (clever I know...), there are definitely some things I will miss.  I realize what a cool opportunity Jonathan and I have been given to come to such a beautiful place for him to start the first leg of his medical school journey.  I am a lucky woman that I have probably more than 6 things to rave about when it comes to the Bahamas!  But for #6 (we're counting backwards...) here goes:

What I Will Miss About Freeport #6:
The "Better Than A Screen Saver" Beaches!  Oh my goodness, I will definitely miss the beaches here. I hear good things about the beaches in Dominica, but I'm afraid it will be difficult to top these beauties here in the Bahamas.  They are like no place I've ever been, and I've been to many, many beach locations.  The powdery white sand that is tinged golden in some places and slightly pinkish in others.  The amazing sand dollars, sea biscuits, star fish, coral, shells, and beach glass we've found here is amazing (yes we are packing as much of it as we can carry back home with us...hello bubble wrap...)!  I also love that each beach is slightly different and unique in its own right.  For instance:

-Taino Beach is the party spot.  It's a popular "cruise excursion spot" and it's also the location of the famed Wednesday Night Fish Fry.  It's also my (and Michelle's) favorite beach glass hunting spot, and the boys' favorite snorkeling spot.  The coolest "beach finds" we've come across have been at Taino Beach.  Of course, I'm a little biased because it's a hop skip and a jump away from my apartment, but it truly is my favorite spot here on the island.  When it's not in "party mode", it really is the quintessential sunbathing spot.  Picturesque, native, and gorgeous!

-Gold Rock Beach is the nature spot.  It's almost like you're on a different island when you walk across the marsh bridges to get to this beach.  And as soon as you come out of this jungle-y clearing, there stretches this spectacular beach with shin deep, impossibly clear water for hundreds of yards.  The lazy waves roll over sand bars and we've even spotted dolphins here!  The ocean is this insane color of turquoise and indigo and it's quiet and untouched.  So serene and, yes, GORGEOUS!

-Xanadu Beach is sort of abandoned.  There used to be a really popular resort over there, but it closed down after the last big storm that passed through here and has never made a full recovery.  That's perfectly fine with us, though, because an abandoned beach is quiet and relaxing, right??  The sand here is much more gold and it's not as powdery (beware of the wind that creates a free microdermabrasion if you're facing the wrong direction...).  But it's right next to one of the mouths of the canal so the view is really pretty.  Lot's of locals drive down here during lunch breaks to sit in their cars and enjoy the ocean views.

-Lucaya is the more touristy beach.  It's a great place to people watch!  The side of this beach that's by the hotel is beautiful and the hotel itself is simply spectacular.  I am so jealous that I won't be able to stay a night there (count your blessings Chris and Angie!), but we've been guilty on more than one occasion of sitting in the lobby and "blending in".  The ocean views here are spectacular (and I hear they're even more gorgeous from the infinity pool)...

-Banana Bay is quiet and usually not very populated.  We LOVE the little beach bar here, and the color of the ocean is breathtaking at this spot.  The man who owns the little bar (he's European) can be seen in his mankini scooping up sponges and shrimp from the surf to add to his fish tanks inside.  It's got a FABULOUS hammock there (the site of maybe the funniest "blooper" scene I've ever seen in my life...) and it's just a great place to hang out.  And the beach chairs are FREE! Whodathunkit??

What I'm Looking Forward to in the States #6:
RESTAURANTS!  I am SO looking forward to some American food.  I know what you're all thinking, though.  "Rachel, you love seafood and you're living in the middle of the ocean.  Sounds like a foodie's paradise!".  And you would be wrong, my friends!  I have to be honest and tell you that I thought the same thing.  But that is a sore misconception, unfortunately.  Other than grouper (over it) and Bahamian Lobster Tail (a less tasty knock off of Maine Lobster Tail which is easier to catch and costs about the same if not more) all the seafood is shipped in.  Since I'm from the Gulf Coast, I'm VERY picky about my seafood.  Unfortunately, Freeport is NOT the place to come for good food.  Our favorite spots here are the places that are the most American.  But I'm SO looking forward to a nice Shrimp and Mango Tostada Salad from Jimmy Changa's, some fajitas from Lupe Tortillas, and just about any Asian food you could think of!  I'm also looking forward to some good old fashioned home cooked food.  I'll even cook it!  I just want a meal cooked with good pots and pans, with good appliances, and ALL the ingredients that I need.  So Bernice and Charlie, get ready for the Rachel Invasion.  It's happening...

Stay tuned for #5 tomorrow!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The World Seems Just a Little Brighter Today...

Our sweet "niece" is finally here!  Emma Katherine Henderson was born yesterday at 3:44 pm weighing in at a petite 6 lbs. 15 oz.  She is seriously the most beautiful baby I've ever seen!  Let's be honest, a lot of the time newborns are puffy and alien-like.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE babies, but "fresh out of the womb" sometimes they're just not as cute as they are a few hours later.  Not this beauty queen!  Minutes after she was born she had her eyes open and she was so alert.  Well...just see for yourself:

Admit it, you gushed didn't you?  She's just so beautiful.  I woke up this morning with this little bundle of joy and our dear friends Jared and Sara on my mind.  Jared and I have been friends for like 15 years and yesterday he welcomed his first child into this world.  She is literally the spitting image of him.  It is so surreal!  To think that 15 years ago, he and I were just a couple of goofy teenagers, and today he is a daddy is just so bizarre, and yet AMAZING!  How great is our God??  I am so proud of Sara and what an incredible job she did carrying this sweet girl and bringing her into this world yesterday afternoon.  She's going to be such an amazing mom.  I just can't wait to wrap my arms around all 3 of them in a few short weeks.  

This little baby has me so thankful this morning for the gift of life.  For the opportunity God gives us women to carry the life of our children for 9 months so close to our hearts and then bless us with this amazing life that is the perfect blend of us and the person we love most in this world.  It's incredible that such a beautiful (downright breath taking) life can be created by two tiny microscopic cells!  And that somehow those two cells blend and multiply and create 10 perfect fingers, 10 perfect toes, a beating heart, a soul.  It's just out of this world!  I can't wait for my turn!

If I wasn't before, I certainly am NOW ready to be home immediately.  I was literally attached to my phone all day yesterday waiting for the text saying she's here!  And now that she is, the only thing I can think about is getting to Houston to see her and her mama and daddy!  What a special day that will be!  And it won't be long now...we are almost at single digits there on my countdown...

So Jonathan and I are very blessed to call this little family of 3 OUR family too.  Sara and Jared, we are SO beyond happy for you guys and this precious, beautiful baby girl you've blessed our hearts with.  The world really is a little brighter today because she's in it!  Here's to a lifetime of joy and happiness with your sweet Emma Katherine, and many more years ahead of all 5 of us (and eventually more!).  How blessed we are that God has placed you in our lives and stuck us together like glue!

Happy Birthday Emma!

Monday, November 5, 2012

12 Days and Hours...

I am chomping at the freaking bit to come back to the states.  These past few days have left me REALLY anxious about getting things ready for leaving Freeport AND preparing for Dominica.  Those two things smashed so close together make things really stressful/exciting/nerve wracking.  My list making self has gone literally nuts!  But today I actually packed a bag and that helped me to sort of woosah for a minute...

Not to mention, my bestie Sara is due to deliver her first baby any day now.  I know I've been saying that a lot...that's because she's been in "almost" mode for weeks now!  But this week is definitely the week.  She will have a baby by Wednesday night at the latest no matter what happens!  I told her today that it's so surreal to think that in a few weeks when we show up at their house for a visit they will have a baby.  That's just crazy!  But I'm REALLY excited to meet Emma and to spend time with friends and family for a few weeks.  Thinking about that reduces my level of stress SO much!

Nicole and I signed up for a 5K (our first one!) in December.  So in addition to prepping to come home, I've been trying to get some good running in so I don't look like a fool on December 3rd.  I ran down to the cove where the dolphins live the other day.  I didn't see any dolphins, but I'm very optimistic that this week I'm going to see some!  I'll take pictures when I do.  That definitely gives me motivation to strap my running shoes on and take a jog!

So in closing, I thought you guys might like a little glimpse into my To Do Lists for the next week and a half.... Enjoy!

-Call Freeport Airport and US Airways to make sure they are expecting Matilda as a service animal
-Reserve barrel for shipping items to Dominica
-Call and make doctor's appointments in Houston (including chest xrays, HIV tests, and TB titers for visa health documents)
-Organize the document binder for traveling
-Get shot records for Matilda faxed over from OKC (since the fab Freeport airport insisted on taking our original copies when we arrived in July...)
-Square away rental car situation for last weekend in Freeport
-Cook/Eat/Toss all remaining food items in fridge/pantry
-Pack suitcases (take vacuum bags to Wellses to be vacuumed and purchase bubble wrap
-Stock up on serious beach glass from Taino Beach
-Jonathan get text books sold
-Fill out visa forms
-Buy Dominica plane tickets
-Deep clean apartment

And it goes on and on.  This is just what needs to get done in the next 10-11 days!  Whew!  I'm hoping to get as many things checked off my list BEFORE we come home, so that I can spend the maximum amount of time spending time with people that we love and miss so dearly.  Here's hoping!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dear 18 Year Old Self...

So ten years ago today I was a mere 18 years old.  We were partying it up right, me and Sarah Schwarz, because she and I have birthdays that are right next to each other (hers is October 31st).  We had a rockin' dance party with about 50+ of our closest friends.  We had a DJ and cakes with our pictures on them and everything.  Total blast!  Probably one of my most memorable birthdays ever.  Complete with choreographed dance moves to Vanilla Ice.  Yeah...that's right...I said it!  Now you're probably envisioning 18 year old Rachel rippin' up some Ice, Ice, Baby moves right??  Ha! commemoration of my birthday today (and the hopeful birth of sweet Emma Henderson!), I thought I'd write a letter to my 18 year old self.  She ought to know what she has to look forward too...

Dear 18 Year Old Rachel,

     First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What a special birthday 18 is.  It's the birthday where you are officially an "adult".  It's the last birthday before you head off to college.  It's a big one.  But I wish you could see what lies ahead of you.  18 years old might seem ancient to you now, but looking back, we were so young!  So innocent!  So green!  We had the world at our doorstep!  So many options, so much to look forward to.  I bet you have no idea what you're about to experience in the next 10 years.  You have no idea who will still be by your side in 10 years, what new faces will emerge, what you'll leave behind, what you'll take with you.  There is so much I want to tell you!  

Let's start with what you think college will look like.  You are SO excited now to embark on this whole University of Oklahoma thing.  You think you're gonna play in the band, earn your scholarship by playing "a little" while you pursue a psychology degree and eventually go to law school to be a child advocacy lawyer.  That's what you think!  You're telling everyone that says "You should be a band director!" that you have "absolutely no interest in that".  Interestingly enough, you'll only be at OU about 4 weeks before you'll decide they're right!  And you'll switch your major and never look back.  You'll excel at music education and realize that you can advocate for children on the podium of a band classroom.  That really, there are more kids there that need you, and that advocating for them WHILE passing down your love of music to them will be so much more rewarding in the end!  When you walked onto the OU campus last Spring, you felt something different.  A vibe.  A feeling.  The pieces were falling into place.  But I bet you didn't know that it will be there that you find your niche.  It will be there that you'll find some of the greatest friends you've ever known.  It will be there that you meet the love of your life!  It will be on that South Oval that you'll hold his hand for the first time.  It will be in your first apartment where you'll share your first kiss.  You'll laugh more than you ever have!  You'll stay up way too late, do way too many stupid college things that in 10 years you will STILL be laughing about!  If only you knew now what you have to look forward too.  You'd have more than one foot out the door headed to Norman sister!

What you think about love.  Right now you think the person you're going to marry is going to be a lot like the relationships you've had so far.  A boy who will be kind, compassionate, caring, and cute.  You've got your little "list" of the 10 "criteria" you have for the man you're gonna marry.  But what you don't know now is that your little list is obsolete.  When God drops that man in your life, all lists and logic go out the window.  You really will know!  And believe it or not, he will be NOTHING like what you thought he would be (though he WILL be dark haired, blue eyed, tall, and handsome...Score!).  He will have all the good parts about the boys you've already dated, but he won't have the bad.  He will make you melt, inspire you, make you laugh, and introduce you to his fabulous family who will absorb you immediately!  Right now you might even be thinking that your current relationship might "go the distance".  You might be considering something long term.  But you'll know in your heart that it doesn't quite fit.  It will be hard to let go, but in the end it will be right.  You'll learn lots from him, but when it's over, it will really be over.  Never fear, though.  Because it will only be a short year after the end of that relationship before you'll meet your Jonathan (that's his name by the way).  And you'll be sold on the first date!  Really!!  

What you think about the future.  You probably think that you'll get a job right out of college.  You'll get married, buy a house, have a baby, and live the dream!  But things won't work out quite like that.  You will get married right out of college.  You'll be engaged for a year, and that year will DRAG by (if you had it to do over again, you would have shortened that to like 8 months...max...).  You'll get married, and move into a teeny little apartment.  Your husband will start teaching, you'll start teaching, and then you will buy a super precious house in Houston.  And you'll decide it's time to start a family.  Be prepared.  This part is a little scary.  Things won't work out like you planned.  You'll get pregnant in the first month of trying!  You'll call family and announce the news and everyone will be so excited.  They'll start buying baby presents and tell all their friends.  And then, a few weeks later, you'll find out that your pregnancy is ectopic.  And you'll have to go through probably the most difficult time in your life both physically and mentally.  But you'll survive, I promise!  You'll keep trying but you won't be successful.  And it will hurt.  But you'll keep getting little thumbs up from God letting you know that He's got this.  It will all be okay.  But your little idea about your future is way off.  God has something else TOTALLY amazing in store for you!  The baby thing will have to wait for Him.  And the waiting will be tough...

A few short years later you will sell your precious little house.  And you'll move.  To the Bahamas.  Cool right??  Jonathan will be accepted to medical school and you guys will take a giant leap of faith.  You'll leave behind what is safe and comfortable to pursue what God has promised you!  It will be trying, yes.  But every day you'll get a vote of confidence from God that you're going in the right direction.  You'll leave your very successful middle school band program in the hands of two new teachers and trek off to the Caribbean. You will have developed so many great relationships at your job that it will make it almost impossible to leave.  You'll become great friends with a girl named Marivy who will be the orchestra director.  You'll laugh and cry together and make great memories. And even though you'll be living in the Bahamas, you'll still talk to her really often!  And then you'll meet Matt and Michelle there the Bahamas and you'll wonder where they've been all your lives!  You'll find so much in common with them and that will just be one more thing that reminds you that God is looking out for you.  My 28 year old self can't see beyond that right now, but my 32 year old self will be able to tell you all about the adventures and triumphs and successes.  Stay tuned for that letter!

The people that are really close to you now...some will still be really close to you.  Some even closer.  Jared??  Yeah...of course he will still be in your life.  But guess what??  Sara Figgins...the girl who interned at UBC the summer after 8th grade?  He'll marry her.  And you and Sara will become great friends.  They'll be expecting a baby together in 10 years!  They might even have her on your birthday! And you and Jonathan will consider yourselves Aunt and'll be that close to them!  Jonathan will have a younger brother Patrick who you will get along with great.  He'll be like the brother you never had.  And he'll marry Nicole and she will become like a sister to you.  Your parents will move to El Paso.  Yep...El Paso.  Crazy right?!?  They'll live there for a few years and then they'll start building retirement property near Ft. Worth.  Your dad will get his pilot's license and practically become a jet setter!  You and Jonathan will find a sweet little puppy at a shelter in Norman and you'll name her Matilda.  She'll be the worlds best dog and she'll go literally everywhere with you.  She will be more than a dog though.  She'll be like your baby.  And she will travel to the Bahamas with you and keep you company.  Be prepared for that shelter're really not going "just to look"!  

If I have any advice for you, dear 18-year-old Rachel, it is to expect the unexpected.  Don't try to plan things out. If you plan it out, it will most likely NOT turn out that way.  Learn to rest on God's promises.  Learn to listen.  Learn to be compassionate, but also stand up for yourself!  Take risks.  Listen to people who know better.  They're usually right!  But listen to your heart too.  It's usually right too.  Work hard, be selfless, be understanding.  Learn to communicate.  Learn how to maintain relationships in your life that build you up...not tear you down.  Learn to look into the future with anticipation and not fear.  Because God is going ahead of you.  He's preparing the way!  All you have to do is follow! 

Happy Happy Birthday!
Your 28-Year-Old Self  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Our Grown Up Christmas List

So as we are moving into the holiday season (which directly relates also to our mad dash to shop/prepare for Dominica!), I've felt the need to make myself an unGodly number of lists (if you know me at all this should not surprise you).  So I decided that I would post some things here both for my own quick reference, AND for any of you family members who are racking your brain trying to figure out what in the world to get for two people moving to a tropical island in the Caribbean for a year and a half.  Not to mention, it's REALLY hard to find things appropriate for tropical living in the states since it's true winter weather there.  Most things will have to be ordered on the internet, though there are a few things on this list that could be bought in stores in the winter time. goes:

Shoes appropriate for hiking in muddy/wet situations (think waterfalls and rain forests):
Rachel's Pick-in size 9
Jonathan's Pick-in size 10

Umbrellas (seems obvious, but two of these babies would be SUPER...):

Walkie Talkies (for when cell towers and power is down...):

Wellies (the walk to campus and most other places is on a dirt road...):

"Better Than Shower Shoes" Flip Flops (we will be walking A LOT and have each torn up a pair of flops here in Freeport in just 14 weeks...guess it's time to get serious...):
Jonathan's Pick-in size 10

Rice Cooker (gotta have ways to cook when the propane is low or out...):

Mini Crock Pot (we won't have much counter space...):

Mini Tabletop Grill (again...when propane is low or out...):

Big Beach Towel (big enough for 2 people...):

Beach Towels (these towels are chair sized...what a concept!):

So there ya have it.  A small portion of the things we will be needing to gather and ship before we leave for Dominica.  Add things like gallons of bug spray, sunscreen, cortisone cream, a couple of good rain jackets, and a few other household items to that and we are set!  We will be shipping either 2 barrels or 2 tupperware bins down with all of the big things in them.  We have luggage restrictions which only allow us each a 50 lb. checked back and one carry on.  Clearly we won't be getting everything into those things!  This whole ordeal promises to be quite an adventure (bring on the Afro circus).  As we get closer and closer, I'll be sharing more of the cool stuff we are looking forward to in Dominica.  For now, enjoy perusing!

A Different Kind of Flair