Posts Tagged ‘ Travel ’

A Goodbye to Blogging, and Many Thank-Yous

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Dear internet,

Well… it’s about that time.

I’ve been blogging for over four years, and for over a year here for Parents.  It’s been an interesting and, at times, a pretty amazing ride.  I’ve written about anything and everything, been on some awesome trips, received my share of hate mail, been published on and linked to from places like Yahoo!, Shine, and Time.com, and corresponded and shared my life with some pretty incredible people.

I have honestly enjoyed sharing my life with all of you.  Opening up about all of my experiences– the good, like giving birth to Caroline, graduating dental school, and finding a job… and the bad, like Caroline’s hospitalization, my postpartum depression, and my divorce– has been exciting, cathartic, therapeutic.  But with my new start here in a new state with a new job and a new home, the time has come for me to move on.

I’ll admit that part of it is that I’m simply burned out on the criticism and hateful email that I seem to get no matter what I write.  It is not easy to share as openly and publicly as I do, and I might just not have the backbone for some of the responses that I get anymore.  Having a job as a “real” dentist also means that I need to be a little more careful and professional about what I put out there on the internet, know what I mean?  I’ve always written whatever I feel about whatever’s on my mind, and if I have to constantly censor myself or worry about what I’m writing, then I’d rather just not write at all… or at least not write so publicly.  I also feel like I don’t have as much to say as I used to, and I really only enjoy blogging when I have something interesting to say.

I guess what it ultimately comes down to is, I just need my life to be a little more private right now.

I appreciate, from the bottom of my heart, all of you who have read and loved my blog, whether you’re a new or longtime reader; whether you’ve read occasionally or never missed a post.  Your kind words and support got me through some tough times, your advice helped me make some tough decisions, and what some of you have shared with me, in return for all I’ve shared, has touched my life as I hope I’ve managed to touch some of yours.  My favorite part has been the emails and comments I get from other single parents who have been inspired by what I’ve written to make changes in their lives, to go back to school, to move on, to find happiness again.  I’ve appreciated every word from you, more than you know.

Thanks for laughing and crying with me, everyone.  You might see me again on the internet someday, in a more anonymous or private space…you just might not know it’s me.

With love,

Julia…and Caroline

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St. Lucia Trip: Part 2

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Continued from my St. Lucia trip, part 1!

I didn’t try out too many activities to review for you all this time (sorry. I think my tailbone is still traumatized from the Jamaica horseback riding adventure), but I did do some SNUBA-ing. Let me tell you how cool SNUBA is: it is so cool. We took a five-minute boat ride to the nearby Pigeon Island, which I will also just let you know used to be a military base and a pirate hideout, because I like to mention pirates whenever possible. Now it’s the location for the St. Lucia Jazz Festival in May, which I think is far less badass but we’re not talking about me here, are we. We’re talking about SNUBA. Right. So we took the quick SNUBA course, suited up in our flippers and weight belts and masks and regulators, and took an underwater tour of the gorgeous reef just offshore. We saw tons of brightly-colored fish, spiny lobsters, sea urchins, “feather-dusters” that shoot back into their little hideouts in a hilarious way if you poke at them which I would never do because I totally respect nature (wink wink), trumpetfish, starfish, and I even got to hold a seahorse. Kids as young as age 8 can participate in SNUBA tours, and kids ages 4-7 can do the surface “SNUBA-DOO” tours. Definitely try it out and don’t let the kids have all the fun with this one. After the first couple of disconcerting underwater breaths, it’s just like breathing air, and you can go up to 20 feet deep without being SCUBA certified.

I did, however, do my sightseeing homework for you.  The capital city of Castries, in the north, welcomes cruise ships and has tons of craft and food markets as well as duty-free shopping, along with the nearby white sand beaches. We made the two-hour drive to the south of the island to visit the laid-back city of Soufriere, where we saw the steaming, bubbling sulfur springs at the nearby semi-dormant volcano (relax, it hasn’t erupted since 1600-something). Close by are gorgeous botanical gardens and the Diamond Falls, where there are also mineral baths that you can bathe in that local marketing legend says will make you look ten years younger.

Then we headed over to the famous luxury resort Jade Mountain (once featured on The Bachelor) and its sister resort Anse Chastanet. I’ll confess that I’ve sat here staring at the screen for quite awhile trying to figure out how to put the beauty of these places into words that even halfway do them justice. Anse Chastanet is easier: the villas are all completely open-air, and are constructed with open floor plans around key pieces of the landscape like boulders and trees. Gorgeous pieces of modern artwork hang on the walls.

Jade Mountain is a place that you honestly have to see for yourself to truly appreciate. The resort is built on the side of the mountain, and the sanctuaries (as they appropriately call the rooms) are all open-air and built on open floor plans as well. Each sanctuary features an infinity pool tiled with brilliant blues, greens, or reds that forms the outside wall, where it abruptly falls off into a breathtaking view of the twin peaks of the Piton mountains across the Caribbean Sea.

There is no artwork needed for the walls here. The Pitons are the artwork. The service here is exquisite also. This is a place where celebrities stay, and the prices reflect that. Probably even my marriage would have worked out if we’d have honeymooned in a stunning place like this one. (Ha ha! Just kidding. It wouldn’t have.) I think it goes without saying that you’ll want to leave the kids at home to come here… Under age 15, they are not allowed anyway. But I had to include it in my write-up because a) it’s one of the most incredible places I have ever seen, and I have been around a bit, and b) if you’re looking for a kid-free resort at which to soothe your frayed nerves, and have a lot of money saved up to do so, this would certainly be the place to do it. 

You can go pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean for sun, sand, and beautiful views, but I would say the difference in St. Lucia is that the island is cleaner, more unspoiled and less crowded, and the people don’t have that manic, exhausting, you’re on vacation let’s do this thing frenzied enthusiasm that you’ll find elsewhere– they are laid-back, accommodating of any request from the trivial to the critical, and on the whole, the most genuinely friendly people I think I have ever met on vacation. We were all sorry to say goodbye, and I hope I’ll go back soon.

What to know before you go:

  • Direct flights are available from JFK, ATL, and MIA.
  • Electrical outlet converters (European-to-American) are handy but not necessary, as most hotels have a few American outlets.
  • American dollars are widely accepted across the island, but you’ll get the much-more-expensive “tourist price” if you use them. Do your currency exchange at a bank rather than at your hotel or on the street for the best rates.
  • Tap water is safe to drink.
  • If you tend to get carsick, bring Dramamine for the roads. This is a requirement, not a suggestion.

Have fun, kids!

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St. Lucia Trip: Part 1

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Hey guys, remember when I went to Jamaica and reviewed family-friendly resorts and activities for you? (Here and here?) Guess what– I got to do it again, and this time, in St. Lucia. Same disclaimer as last time: the people asking me to review this stuff let me come down there and try it all out for free… But you know me and you know I’m always honest, so you know you can believe me when I say it was awesome. This one is gonna have to be another two-parter. Here we go!

I didn’t know much about St. Lucia before I went down there last week. I’m willing to bet you don’t either. In my opinion, that’s the best kind of tropical vacation destination– gorgeous views, sun, sand, and far fewer people around than any of the islands that Americans actually know about. Honestly, if I were you, I’d get down there before everyone else figures out how amazing it is and gets all up in your beaches.


St. Lucia is a tiny island in the eastern Caribbean sea, south of Martinique and north of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It changed hands between the French and the British about a million times in the past, which explains why the people there speak a French-based creole but drive on the left side of the (terrifyingly narrow and carsickness-inducing) roads.

I stayed at a beach resort in Rodney Bay called Bay Gardens that was so luxurious that I just assumed it was an expensive chain hotel. My suite was legit bigger than the apartment that I live in, no joke, and right on the beach. Here’s the view from my balcony:


Not too shabby, huh?

I was surprised to learn that the resort, and the hotel and inn associated with it, were actually a family-owned business. I’m going to digress for a second and tell you the story behind it, because I think it’s something that, in and of itself, makes the properties worth staying at.

Caribbean society is fiercely matriarchal, full of strong and seriously cool women, and Joyce Destang is no exception. Over 20 years ago, she bought the inn and a bunch of reclaimed swamp land in the area as well, and planned to build more hotels on it. She told us that she used to sit in the empty lot and imagine what she wanted her resort to look like. Everyone told her she was nuts for buying that land, but long story short, she basically built the three properties out of nothing, and constantly works to improve them and keep them competitive in today’s market– no small feat when you are competing with giants like Sandals. I met her and she was a fascinating woman, far too humble for the things she has accomplished and the empire she has built literally from the ground up.

I loved the story, loved the “girl power” aspect of it, and most of all loved that it was a family-owned resort that I found was a pretty awesome place for families to stay as well. Their Bay Gardens Hotel (less expensive, starting at $110/night for a family of four, but further from the beach) and Bay Gardens Beach Resort (more expensive, starting at $200/night for a family of four, but has a beach on property) have rooms that can be rented as a king-size bed or two doubles.  They also have suites with a pull-out couch and full-size kitchenette and living room, with attached rooms that have two double beds and their own bathroom that can be rented in conjunction with the suite in order to sleep up to eight people. They have sitters on property who are also regular hotel staff, so you can get to know them before you trust them with your kids. And if the beach and pool aren’t enough to entertain your kids, there are kid-specific activities scheduled when there are enough children on property to enjoy them. Really, the rates for families are pretty incredible considering the location and how gorgeous the properties are (and they’re actually running a 70% off special on their websites at the moment, just sayin’.)

Another thing worth mentioning about St. Lucia is the food. The first night we were at Bay Gardens, we ate at their Caribbean fusion restaurant Trios, and honestly, you guys, there are no words. Well, okay, there are some words: seared ahi tuna with a ginger orange glaze and pineapple chutney with shrimp ceviche. King crab and coconut chowder infused with saffron and chive oil, served in a coconut bowl. Red snapper sampler with coconut rundown, creole, and rum cream sauces, St. Lucian sweet potato mash, and a calaloo garnish. Mango cheesecake with passion fruit mousse and a cinnamon, vanilla, and strawberry rum cream sauce. I am drooling all over my iPad and also I am super fat now, you guys. It was all so beautifully presented, too. And in case you were worried about the kids, although there is no kids menu, the staff is more than accommodating with requests for simpler dishes, and that goes for any meal at any of their restaurants.

On our last night on the island, we ate at Spice of India, one of Rodney Bay’s newest restaurants. Despite its short existence, it has already been rated #1 on the island via TripAdvisor, and let me tell you, it’s well-deserved. They serve authentic Indian dishes that truly are some of the best I’ve had, and the service is impeccable. If this place were in New York City, you wouldn’t be able to get in the door unless you were Oprah or something. Go. Eat. Love it.

To be continued shortly, with details of SNUBA, sightseeing, and the most incredible luxury hotel I’ve ever seen! Stay tuned for part two…

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Parents Behind the Wheel: A Public Safety Hazard

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Guys, I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but it’s something I feel I have to put out there.

I don’t think that parents of young kids should be allowed to drive.  It’s a matter of public safety, really.  Let’s break this down, shall we?

Parents of newborns.  This one’s pretty obvious.  Probably even these parents would agree with me.  When you’re getting less sleep than an emergency room intern and a victim of CIA sleep deprivation torture combined, you shouldn’t be allowed to operate a moving vehicle, case closed.  Especially if you’re still on the Percocet from your episiotomy or c-section and all hormonal and post-partumy to boot.  This deadly combination is basically a perfect storm that transforms even the most normal woman into Crazy Zombie Unsafe Driving Mother and whoever she is, I’m pretty sure she shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

Parents of toddlers.  Once you get past the newborn sleep deprivation stage, you have other problems to contend with.  The hum of the engine no longer puts your child into a carseat coma.  They’ve developed a mind of their own and they have things that they want but they don’t know how to verbalize them yet.  After their attention span has been exhausted (translation: after five minutes in the car), what you’re left with is a lot of crying and seat-kicking and you have no idea exactly why or how to fix it, so you’re sweating and stress-eating handfuls of Goldfish at a time as you’re driving all crazy-eyed and there’s crumbs all over your shirt and people are looking at you strangely at red lights (assuming you remembered to stop at them) as you’re flinging every toy and book within arms’ reach over your shoulder into the backseat to try to comfort your child before it turns green.  (Although always brush off the Goldfish crumbs before I stop next to other cars.  It’s called class, people.  Look it up.)

Parents of preschoolers.  You would think that once your kid gets a little older, you might be out of the woods as far as driving safety goes.  But you’d be wrong.  ”Mom, can I have a snack?  Mom, I need my book.  Mom?  Are we there yet?  Mom, I said I need a snack!  Mom, can you pass me my Pooh Bear?  Mom, I’m hungry!!”  Just listening to the incessant demands from the backseat is enough to make you want to purposely drive off a cliff.  Not to mention having to screech to a stop every time your potty-training kid tells you they think they have to pee.  Besides, I’ve seen you guys, driving down the road, listening to orders bellowed by the tiny dictator in the backseat to “SING MAMA SING LOUDER”, so intent on your dramatic hand gestures to “Wheels On the Bus” that you’re veering from the right lane to the rumble strip and back again.  Don’t try to deny it.  I saw you.  Time to hand over the driver’s license, Mom.  You’re a public safety hazard now.

So, who’s with me?  I’m thinking we should probably all turn in our licenses at the hospital nursery and there should be some kind of carpool service (or limo… again, class) that comes and picks us and our kids up whenever we need it.  Sound like a plan?  Like I said, it’s a matter of public safety, really.

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Stepping Up

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Sometimes, the hardest thing you ever have to do as a parent is make a decision for you.

People keep asking me why I want to join the military. What the draw is for me. “Don’t do it just for the money,” they tell me. “Don’t do it just for the travel. Don’t do it just for the adventure.”

I’m not doing it “just” for any of those things. And none of those things are the major reason for me, anyway.

If I just wanted to travel and do field dentistry, I could volunteer abroad a few times a year. If I just wanted to leave Connecticut, I could move. If I just wanted financial stability, I’d go into private practice. If I just wanted to do dental work for soldiers, I’d be in the civilian service of the military or work at the VA. If I just wanted loan repayment, I’d work for the National Health Service Corps or the Indian Health Service. If I just wanted to avoid dealing with the business aspect of dentistry or malpractice, I’d work in a community health center. If I just wanted broader experience with procedures and new technology, I’d do another residency.

I don’t “just” want any of those things. I want all of them. With the Army I can have them, and more. I can do all of those things, and move with my daughter to a brand new place and join an already-established commmunity. I can do for my patients exactly what they need, without worrying about insurance coverage and whether or not they can pay for the treatment I believe they should have. For that reason, the military is a fantastic place to train as a new dentist.

According to all the Army dentists I’ve talked to, I should assume that I will deploy at some point just to be mentally prepared, but with Iraq over and Afghanistan winding down, it’s more likely that I won’t be deployed than that I will.  If/when I am, it will be for around 4.5 months, and I will be doing the field dentistry that I love.  (I had tried to do the Air Force, because they have shorter and less frequent deployments, but they don’t have any openings for general dentists at this point.)

Obviously there are downsides and hassles and risks. I don’t think anyone would seriously consider being sent far away from their child if the overall package wasn’t something they were very interested in for many reasons. Do I think I’ll make a whole career of it? Maybe, but probably not. But for the next three years, at least, I believe that this is the best career decision I could make. It isn’t spur-of-the-moment, either– I’ve talked about doing this off and on since I was in college, eight years ago.

This is hard for me to say, but I have always been completely honest in what I write and I don’t plan on stopping now…

When you have a child years before you plan to, and your career is very important to you, you are bound to hold some degree of resentment toward the immense, sometimes overwhelming responsibility that is your child… no matter how much you love them. I love my daughter more than life itself, but there are already enough things that I have no control over because I have her, that I wish I could do or wish I did not have to do.

I can’t let this be one of them. I will always wish that I had done it and I don’t want to resent being a mother.

The last time I did something like that, I took a year off from dental school to stay at home with Caroline, and back-burnered my own career so that Tyler would not have to. I sat at home alone, feeling like I had no control over my life or anything that happened to me. And I ended up stumbling around in a haze of postpartum depression and I could barely take care of my daughter, let alone myself. Even the memories of that time are foggy to me now.

To raise your child happy, you have to be happy. That is why I got divorced. That is why I’m doing this.

If I truly believed that I would be harming her, then I would not do it. But what is the cost to her, really, in the grand scheme of things? She moves to a new place. It gets harder for her to see her father, who hasn’t been consistently involved in her life anyway. If or when I get deployed, she will miss me terribly for a few months. And I will miss her. I know it will be unimaginably hard to spend that much time away from my daughter. But a few months spent away from her, one time, will not matter that much over the course of our whole lives. She will be with people she loves, and I will talk to her every day.

She will have amazing experiences, she will be part of a close-knit community, she will have financial stability and an undergraduate education paid for under the GI bill (assuming I stay in the reserves long enough).  She will have a mother and a role model who is happy and fulfilled in her career.  And she will be proud of me and the things I have done.  I wrote not too long ago that being a single parent should never be the reason you don’t follow a dream– it should be the reason you do.  I believe in that statement, totally and completely.

And if none of those things work out the way I had hoped and we both hate it, then, well, it was only a few years of our lives and at least I followed my heart and did what I felt was right, and I will have no regrets or lingering resentment for what might have been. Sometimes… you have to take a leap of faith.

If I were the kind of person to play it safe, I would be sitting here still married to Tyler and wishing, every minute of every day, that I had a different life. If you want a certain life you can’t sit around and hope that it will come to you. You have to step up and take it for yourself.

This is me, stepping up.

Army, here we come.

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