Top Ten Thursday – More About the Mutt

Some of you may remember when we first decided to adopt little Meera and be her forever family back in July. We decided to keep her island name, rather than change it, and she has definitely grown into her own personality.

She has lots of names, actually. Pooper scooper, stinky breath, stinker, squirt, silly butt, pee pot, mutt, poopy butt, wiggle britches, and dill pickle (the Mister came up with that one), among others. I don’t know how she knows we’re even talking to her. Slowly but surely, though, she is learning to answer to her name and come when she is called – although her listening skills are still very selective. (She will sit and lie down on command, though, and we’re getting a good handle on “stay” and “bring me the ball.” Although fetch only lasts a couple of throws before a shinier object catches our attention.)

She is very much my baby, though, and has grown very attached to me, something I was irrationally afraid wouldn’t happen. She loves her momma, likes to follow me around in the early mornings and if she loses track of me she will automatically go into our room and look on my side of the bed. Apparently she’s learned that momma likes to sleep. Wonder how she came to that conclusion…

This week’s top ten is a list of the puppy’s quirks that we’ve come to know and love.

1. She LOVES swimming in the pool. We are trying to teach her that it’s only ok to jump in the pool if we are already in it and tell her that she can, but if anybody in the water makes a loud noise – yelling or laughing – she takes that as her cue to leap in and come to the rescue… even though the “rescue” usually ends up as her using the offending swimmer as a pool raft. (When she’s swimming, she looks a little like a very large gray rat with her long tail floating along behind her.)

Swimming with the roommate and Brutus

Swimming with the roommate and Brutus

2. Our neighbor’s dog, Kane, also loves the pool. He’s a rottie and a very good swimmer, and will jump into the pool anytime he’s outside, whether there are people around or not. Apparently he gets hot. He knows how to use the ladder to get himself out and will often climb onto a pool raft so that he can stay in the cool water without actually having to swim. The problem with this is that Kane is Meera’s best friend in the entire world, and if he’s in the pool she likes to use HIM as a raft. Literally. She will run around the edge of the pool and time her jumps so that she lands right on top of him, and then will spend her entire time in the water chasing him and trying to climb back on. But at least he’s taught her how to use the ladder too, so we’re not as worried about her drowning. (Although we are trying to discourage the practice.)

Kane loves to be in the water, but has learned how to beat the system.

Kane loves to be in the water, but has learned how to beat the system.

3. Meera loves rawhide bones, but Brutus – our housemates’ male boxer – often steals them and crunches them up. She’s recently developed a strategy though, and when she gets done with her bone she puts it under our bed. It’s out where she can easily chew on it again, if she likes, but Brutus is too big to get to it. She’s turned out to be pretty smart after all.

4. Under our bed is her new favorite place in the house. If you can’t find her, that’s probably where she is. I don’t know if it’s cooler under there, or if she’s just figured out that she can fit, but either way it’s definitely her spot. She often falls asleep with only her head tucked underneath the bed, presumably to block out the bedside lamps if the Mister and I aren’t ready for sleep yet.

Or, on the few nights we've kenneled her, she sleeps like this. Really doesn't seem comfortable to me...

Or, on the few nights we’ve kenneled her, she sleeps like this. Really doesn’t seem comfortable to me…

5. And she barks in her sleep. It’s the cutest thing, and I can never catch it on video because she will only bark a couple times and then it’s over and she never does it again during that nap. It sounds like she’s barking underwater, and oftentimes her big feet will twitch like she’s chasing something. At home we say the dogs are “chasing rabbits,” but it occurred to me that Meera has never seen a rabbit, so I wonder what she’s chasing. Mongeese maybe, or egrets.

6. She wakes up at 6 a.m. like clockwork every morning, and we are trying to teach her to lie quietly until we wake up and are ready to let her outside and give her breakfast. It doesn’t always work very well. However, the past two mornings she’s woken me at six, like always, and I tell her to lie back down. And then some time later, I wake up and she is sitting up on the rug by the bed, perfectly still and quiet like a good girl, staring at me. Not playing with toys or chewing on the rug… just staring at me. Waiting for me to show signs of life again so she knows she’s allowed to get up. It’s cute in a mildly creepy sort of way. Maybe we’re finally getting somewhere.

7. While she does love her momma, she is definitely a daddy’s girl. If she’s out in the yard or the front door is open when the Mister gets home from campus, she runs out to greet him at the gate, tail whipping everywhere. If she’s out on the balcony, she whimpers, her whole body wriggling in excitement, until he gets up the stairs, where she meets him at the door and snuggles with him on the couch for a while. If she’s already on the couch and too tired or lazy to move, she hears his whistle in the yard and that long tail starts thumping against the cushions. It’s adorable.

8. While cute, she ALWAYS seems to be dirty. Always. Even when she looks clean, even when I’ve just given her a bath or rinsed her with the hose, every time she stands up she leaves little piles of sand and dirt wherever she was just sitting. I don’t understand it. (Even as I write this post, I had just to stop and take her back outside to hose her down because she came in with mud all over herself.)

9. But she does love to be rinsed and dried. She will come obediently to the hose and stand still while I soap and rinse her, and then she loves to be wrapped in her towel and dried off. (This makes sense though, since who wouldn’t love a free full-body massage?) She sits obediently while I get her back and legs, and then will roll herself up in the towel – wrestling with it – while I dry her belly. It’s some sort of game where she gets all the points.

She does not object to be wrapped up and dried off. In fact, she will voluntarily stay that way for a while after I'm done.

She does not object to be wrapped up and dried off. In fact, she will voluntarily stay that way for a while after I’m done.

10. She is not an instigator – that job belongs entirely to Brutus and Kane – but she is always happy to take part in whatever mischief they create. For example, earlier this week she participated in the stealing and eating of a loaf of white bread (Brutus pulled it off the top of the microwave) AND an entire bag of Dorito chips (stolen from the neighbor’s grocery bags while they sat on her doorstep). Needless to say, her little puppy belly was feeling pretty full that night and she moped around with an “I don’t feel so good” expression the whole next day. Silly dog.

Does your dog have any silly quirks? Do you?

Also, I would like to give a big “thank you” to all of you who are avid readers and who have shared my writings with your friends and family members. This is the Nut House’s 100th post, and if we had any money I’d host some sort of awesome prize give-away. But we’re poor students living on student loans, so you’ll have to settle for an appreciative italicized comment and a virtual pat on the back. Please keep reading, commenting and sharing. I’m amazed by how many people in how many countries care to know how we’re doing on this floating rock. Thank you.

“Let’s Learn About Our Great Federation”

Last week my housemate, B, and I were entertaining one of the little girls she nannies at our house, and I was letting her play school with my small dry erase board. The first grader grandly announced that I, her student, would be learning about “our great federation.” Obviously a phrase she’s heard used many times in school.

(The fact that the Mister and I are temporarily part of the Federation is a wonderful technicality that seems to be lost on most people, but I love it.)

It was requested a few weeks ago that I have a post about the island itself – what sorts of businesses and activities we have here, what the land is like, etc. So this is that post, albeit probably not as in-depth as some would like.

The Federation of Saint Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis is made up of two islands (obviously called St. Kitts and Nevis). We are located in the upper Antilles islands in the West Indies, also known as the Leeward Islands. The Federation is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, both in land and in population. It was among the first Caribbean islands to be settled by Europeans and was home to the first British and French colonies in the area.

This is where we are in the grand scheme of things.

This is where we are in the grand scheme of things.

The total Federation is approximately 104 square miles, and that is divided between two islands and includes the small amount of water area claimed by the country. The two islands gained independence from Britain on September 19, 1983, and Nevis is still trying to gain its independence from St. Kitts.

The middle portion of the island is mountainous and not many people live there. There are no roads going through the island and only one road – “Island Road” – going around the shoreline. Driving around the main part of the island takes about three hours. Most of the population congregates along the shoreline and a majority of that is at the southern end of the main part of the island (before you go onto the skinny peninsula), because that’s where Basseterre and Frigate Bay are – the two most popular areas of the country. The peninsula is very under-developed, but at least one luxury resort and several high-class condominiums are under construction with the hopes of attracting big spenders. (The cover image at the top of this blog is a view looking down the peninsula. The Atlantic Ocean is on the left and the Caribbean Sea is on the right.)

Doesn't it look like a chicken leg?

Doesn’t it look like a chicken leg?

I’ve been told there are about 40,000 people on the island and approximately 80,000 green vervet monkeys, which are native to the federation and found nowhere else. There are probably about that many centipedes, too. . .  but that’s a different story.

As far as businesses, we have a Subway, a KFC and a Church’s Chicken in Basseterre (the capitol city), but they get mixed reports as to whether or not the food is totally safe. There are no drive-thrus anywhere on the island, which makes sense because a “quick meal” anywhere takes at least 30 minutes between the time that you order and the time you get your food. And that’s when a full staff is focused and attentive, which doesn’t happen often.

A view looking north from Brimstone Fortress, a National World Heritage site originally built by the British to defend the island from the Spanish navy.

A view looking north from Brimstone Fortress, a National World Heritage site originally built by the British to defend the island from the Spanish navy.

There are three “major” (as in, not just a hole in the wall) grocery stores. There are several independent restaurants, including a pizza place, a sushi place, an Indian place and a French place. There are also a couple higher-end restaurants for those who are on luxury vacations and can afford to spend more money. I think there are about five, and two are inside the Marriott Hotel and Casino, which is easily the largest and most extravagant building on the entire island. The largest percentage of restaurants are beach bars, which can be found on almost all of the island’s beaches and typically serve hamburgers, French fries, seafood and alcohol. Mainly alcohol.

Sunset from Timothy Beach - aka "The Strip" - as Friday's cruise ship sails away.

Sunset from Timothy Beach – aka “The Strip” – as Friday’s cruise ship sails away.

Main island activities for those who are interested include going to a beach (we have both black and white sand beaches) or swimming pool, snorkeling, hiking, golfing at the Marriott and, for those who can afford it, going on Catamaran trips (like a large sailboat with an open bar). Key words: open bar. Basically, the main island activity is drinking and the primary food group here is alcohol.

There are three major international schools on the island: Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Windsor Medical School and the International University of Medical and Health Sciences. (The Ross University Medical School is on Dominica, not Nevis as mentioned earlier. Thanks to Jackie for finding my mistake.)

Let me know if there is any else you would specifically like to read about and I will do my best to find the answers for you.

(All the historical facts and specific statistics I got from Wikipedia, since the St. Kitts tourism site doesn’t seem to be working at the moment.)

Top Ten Thursday – Old Habits That Die Hard

I’ve been taking note over the last few weeks of things that used to be commonplace in our lives that simply aren’t practical or useful here. So this week’s top ten list consists of things I haven’t done in months (or at least not since we moved out of the dorms) and that I probably won’t do again while we are still on the island.

1. Sleep underneath the blankets (why add additional layers between you and the meager air flow? This includes pajamas.)
2. Take a hot shower (you don’t want to heat up yourself or the bathroom, since the steam will only cling to your skin for the rest of the day and make you feel like you never showered in the first place).
3. Drink hot chocolate (one of my favorite comfort foods, but no thank you).
4. Drink anything that hasn’t done a short stint in the freezer.
5. Wear tennis shoes (at home, I hardly ever take them off, and I am certainly never barefoot. Here, I only put them on to go out at night, when there are centipedes afoot).
6. Enjoy hot food. (We make it because we have to eat sometime and sandwiches got old quick, but I regret every mouthful as it slowly heats up the inside of my stomach.)
7. Snuggle (with anything. The Mister, the dog, an extra pillow. It’s not worth building up trapped body heat).
8. Go outside after dark without a flashlight and some sort of shoes on (last week a flashlight saved me and the dog from a giant centipede near the front stairs, and then helped the boys hunt it down and kill it so it didn’t get into the house).
9. Go outside between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., if I can help it. (The exception to this rule is going to a pool or to the beach to cool off.)
10. Stay in any room that doesn’t have a ceiling fan at minimum and a couple of stand up fans at best. (Otherwise you melt into the tile floor.)

What is something you had to change about your routine when you moved to a new place or started a new job? Any new habits you’ve held onto, regardless of their practicality?

Cold Showers for All!

When looking for a main water valve, it’s typically connected to a larger pipe running from the malfunctioning object back to a main water source.

Or at least, that’s how it works in a normal world.

If you could see the maze of piping running around the walls and through the yard of our house, you would understand our confusion. Not to mention the fact that it’s 9 p.m. and very dark, hot water is spraying from the laundry room wall like a fire hydrant, the dogs are jumping around like they’ve lost their minds, centipedes are lurking in the grass and there is a very real threat of electrocution from the nearby washing machine with exposed wires in the back.

Yeah, last night was interesting.

Our housemates went down to check on their laundry in the dryer and found a river of water flooding the yard. Never a good sign. One of the two random water spigots in the laundry room had been forced off the wall by the water pressure and the uncontrolled flow was now trying to create the next great flood.

Poorly repaired water spigot

You see how the spigot on the right is connected to the wall properly? Well, the spigot on the left (which I couldn’t find for comparison) was connected only by that green piece, which had been reattached to the wall using a smaller bit of PVC pipe to plug the gap (seen in the photo, still leaking water). Now, I’m the farthest thing you can get from a contractor, but that just doesn’t seem like good construction to me.

So, after about half an hour of searching for the main water valve (or a valve of any kind, for that matter), we finally turned a knob on a big pipe heading AWAY FROM the laundry room (which is why we hadn’t tried it sooner) and the water stopped. Hallelujah. What sense that really makes, I don’t know, but at least the steam was dissipating.

In the meantime, I’d called our landlord three times and gotten her voicemail options menu – not even her voicemail, but that automated lady that says “Please enter your mailbox password” – texted her and gotten on Facebook asking for the housing director’s personal phone number. The director finally called me back but it was after we’d gotten the situation under control. The landlord texted this morning saying she would come by first thing, but it’s almost 10 a.m. and I haven’t seen her, so I don’t know what “first thing” means exactly.

I finally got the dryer to work again this morning after it had been disconnected last night in the flood, but I had to flip a switch marked “hot water heater” from “on” to “off” in order to turn on the dryer. Which, again, doesn’t make the first bit of sense. And nobody in the whole house (3 apartment units) has any hot water for the foreseeable future, since we had to shut off the valve. (I say this because today AND THURSDAY are national holidays, which means nobody does anything, even in emergencies.)

So it’s a good thing we all like cold showers here in St. Kitts, but it would be nice to properly wash some dishes.

Post Script – I just went down to check on the dryer again and found a huge centipede lying outside the laundry room door. It’s in the sun and not wriggling, so I’m really hoping it’s dead, but I’m glad none of us found it with our feet last night.

Top Ten Thursday – Ten things to cram into your suitcase when you come to visit

This post is a requested topic from an uncle of mine (which makes me wonder if the uncle is planning to come see me?), and it actually makes me happy to write because my mom and maternal grandparents are coming to see us next month.

[21 days from now, actually. Yes, I do have a countdown on my iPad.]

When they asked if there was anything they could pack for us in their extra suitcases, I have to admit I went a little crazy. One short list turned into two short lists and that soon turned into a couple of emails and many Facebook messages. . .  and I had to make myself stop. I know they are already spending way too much money to come, so I feel bad asking them to bring things. But at the same time, when the opportunity arises to get things from home, only a stupid person doesn’t try to take advantage of it.

So there were way more than 10 things that I asked for, but here is a list of the top 10 things I think we need someone to bring most. (Besides themselves, of course. We’re most excited about that. But when someone offers to bring a second suitcase of stuff for us, that’s not an offer we’ll turn down.)

1. Hand-held vacuum cleaner (to get the dog hair off the furniture and the sand out of the bed.)

2. Capri pants for me (I only have three pairs of shorts that I rotate endlessly throughout the week.)

3. Tide detergent pods (because laundry detergent is like gold on this island and just as expensive.)

4. Towels (because people bought us a ridiculous number of towels when we got married, but somehow here we only have five. And that’s for showers, beach and pool time. And the dog.)

5. Flip flops (because the puppy likes to chew on mine.)

6. Small kitchen items, like plastic containers and rubber spatulas (again, because we have so many from the wedding and hardly any to use here.)

7. Retractable leash and small bones or toys for the puppy (so she doesn’t feel the need to chew on my flip flops.)

8. Gatorade powder and cooking mixes for muffins, cookies, brownies and sauces (you wouldn’t believe how expensive it is just to make cookies here! And mix packets are easy to pack between clothes.)

9. Lightweight tank tops (because the t-shirts I would normally wear at home are way too hot here on most days.)

10. Masking tape and permanent markers (because strange things always need to be labeled, in particular one of our stove knobs, which was put on wrong and “MED HI” is actually OFF and you have to count the notches clockwise to figure out what setting you’re actually using. And yes, we’ve tried taking it off and putting it back on correctly, but we can’t get it to come off.)

Island kids – what’s something you’ve asked family to bring you from home?

Shameless Self Promotion

It’s getting harder and harder to come up with something to talk about each week and, obviously, sometimes I forget. I really love writing for this blog and I’ve worked hard for and appreciate each and every person who has ever taken time to read my ramblings.

But nothing happens here worth talking about.

Literally, the highlights of my life since the last post have been finding four dead centipedes in the living room on consecutive mornings, getting 38 mosquito bites the size of quarters, trying to teach my dog not to eat plastic and finding out that our mechanic hasn’t found a rear axle for our car yet, so we’ll likely be without transportation for a few more weeks.

Oh – that and the few moments of panic yesterday when I looked out the porch window and realized the dog was in the yard playing with a pair of my underwear that she’d stolen from the bathroom floor. But aside from that. . .

The company I work (very part-time) for has put me in charge of launching a new campaign, however, so I guess I could do some shameless self-promotion and talk about that.

Logolope

                Part of speech: verb

                Definition: Love God, Love People.

                History and usage: Coined in 2013 by the founder of LOGOLOPE, inc., a business and aviation consulting firm, the term “logolope” is intended to remind company employees and those in the community that the easiest way to begin building a Christ-centered lifestyle is to remember how much love God has for us and then reflect that love out into the world. Treat others as you want them to treat you, but more importantly, treat others as God has already treated you. It includes patience, understanding and kindness, as well as a desire to be more like God.

The logolope campaign is primarily social media-based and focuses on the use of the logolope “hashtag” (#logolope) on Twitter and Facebook to create a conversation among social media users. Promotional products are also being created for distribution to those who would be interested in helping spread this idea in other communities. You never know who might walk by and ask about your shirt or your wristband, thus creating a door of opportunity to introduce them to a simple way to begin their own foundations.

Visit the campaign Facebook page or follow @logolope on Twitter to get product updates, tips and ideas to strengthen your foundation, applicable Bible verses, and to share your stories and hear stories from others who are striving to Love God, Love People in their daily lives. Also, try to include #logolope in your own Facebook and Twitter updates, maybe when you see someone loving others as God loves them or when you feel inspired by a particular Bible verse or sermon point. Join the conversation and be part of the movement.

Thanks for the support, and let’s see how far we can take this. Who knows? WWJD was pretty big.

[Also – if you’re a business owner,  you may be interested in LOGOLOPE, inc. itself. They provide technical writing services for both print and web content, web design and hosting services, and business consulting services in the government and military aviation industries. They are currently offering free, one-page websites with hosting services to any church, small business or organization that is interested. Visit www.logolope.com to learn more.]

Top Ten Thursday – Things I’ve Learned From Losing

Ok, so I was going to do something island-related, maybe about the top ten things I’ve said to our puppy that I never thought I would say to anything, but I saw an article on Facebook this morning that’s gotten me on a soapbox, so congratulations, you get to hear what I think (that’s why you’re here, right?).

According to this radio broadcast, the Canadian soccer association in Ontario has eliminated score-keeping from youth soccer. And not only the concept of score-keeping, but THE BALL!! Yes, there is no longer a ball in youth soccer in Ontario. (Doesn’t that just make it a group of kids running around swinging their feet at nothing? We’re not only raising bad losers, but crazy people.) The idea behind this is to teach kids that “sport is not a competition, rather it’s about using your imagination. If you imagine you’re good at soccer, then you are.”

What a load of poppycock.

Are we going to take the football out of the NFL? Or the puck out of hockey? Or the ball out of basketball? We’re going to have to, because all the players grew up imagining they were good at playing imaginary sports with an imaginary ball. They won’t even know how to play with a real ball. And of course, heaven forbid they play with a real ball and lose.

I lost a lot of competitions as a child. I competed in science fairs and didn’t win an award. I competed in a spelling bee once and was the second child to sit down. I played little league softball and lost a lot of games. I spent the most miserable summer of my life between the fifth and sixth grades when a large group of girls that I had thought were my friends suddenly stopped hanging out with me because I somehow wasn’t worthy of their company. But you know what? I grew up to be a successful student at the top of my college class with one of the most impressive undergraduate résumés in my department. I grew up with acceptable social skills; I found and married a good man; I can accept both failure and accomplishment.

I don’t say this to toot my own horn. I say this to show that I am not emotionally and psychologically traumatized by those times that I wasn’t victorious in whatever it was that I was doing. I had good parents who taught me that winning isn’t everything, that it’s ok to not always come out on top, and that when you fall down you find a way to get back up again.

Why is that so difficult for kids and parents today to understand?

Little league sports are just the beginning. If we hand out trophies willy-nilly just for showing up and lead every child to believe that he or she actually won the game, what are these same children going to do when they get to high school and someone else is voted class president? Or they get rejected by their top-choice college? Or they fail a class because just showing up wasn’t enough? And what about the work place – being passed over for promotions, losing clients because the pitch wasn’t good enough, not being hired in the first place? The world is a harsh place and kids who are wrapped in fluffy blankets and bubble wrap their entire lives are going to be the ones who bring automatic weapons to their old high schools or to their workplaces and lash out against those who didn’t let them continue to “imagine they were good enough.”

I could go on and on about this forever, but I won’t. I think you get the point. So here’s my top ten list for this week: Ten Things I’ve Learned From Losing.

1. I’ve learned to be resourceful, creative and self-sufficient. You shouldn’t need to have a constant cloud of people around you in order to make your ideas and dreams work.

2. I’ve learned to stand up for myself and my ideas. I got pushed around a lot in middle school and I hated it, but looking back on it, those kids taught me a lot about choosing friends wisely, standing my ground and not being afraid to be different when different is good.

3. I’ve learned to be on time and be prepared. Have ideas already jotted down when you walk into the meeting because if you don’t, you end up sitting there silently as the others dance professional circles around you.

4. I’ve learned how to take charge and how to delegate. If no one steps up to the plate then nothing gets done and the project fails.

5. I’ve learned to take responsibility for my own actions. If I didn’t listen to my coach and swung too early, I struck out. I returned to the bench. I watched my teammates get to round the bases and I learned to listen the next time.

6. I’ve learned that winning isn’t everything, and sometimes it’s better to lose a few times on purpose than to win every single game and beat someone else’s spirit down. Sometimes you just have to sit a round out and let someone else enjoy the limelight for a moment.

7. I’ve learned to go above and beyond whenever possible. The bare minimum gets you to McDonalds; shooting for the moon gets you friends in high places and connections with corner office openings.

8. I’ve learned to be humble about my accomplishments. When you are lucky enough to hit your stride and have success come naturally, you shouldn’t feel the need to rub it in people’s faces. Nobody likes a braggart or someone who always has to one-up the other person.

9. I’ve learned to choose good role models. If you’re trying to mimic mediocre, you’re going to end up less than mediocre.

10. I’ve learned not to trample on others during my own climb up the ladder. You never know who you may see again on your rise to the top, or who might pass you and be calling the shots one day. And you never know whose skills you’ll need on a team or who might unexpectedly have your back in a tough situation someday. It’s good to have friends at all levels of life.

What about you? What is something you learned from losing? How do you feel about the Canadian soccer changes or the way kids are being taught these days?