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Sherri in Paradise: What’s in a Name?

Well, it’s high tide I sat down and updated you all on what this new blog’s all about (and I promise it has nothing to do with Kenny Chesney being in town either–hmmm, wait a minute?).  It’s been some time since I’ve actually written anything, and that’s right, all it took was a little island inspiration and a “local” celebrity to kick my butt back into gear.

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Back in Key West, December 2018

So, you guessed it, here I am, back in the sunny south–my island home, Key West.  In fact, this is the third time I’ve returned since my last blog post in May, with visits in July and October, along with one quick trip to Miami in November, too.  I signed off on that last blog post not knowing exactly when I’d be returning to Key West and what adventures would lie ahead, patiently awaiting to be embraced by its magic and reunited with this tiny island once again.  But, here I am to let you know, I’m back!–fingers to keypad, and feeling the magic in the place my soul is so deeply connected to.

Spending some time this week with my lovely friend, Lou, we made our way to Mallory Square to stroll through the ever famous sunset celebrations.  Here, we ran into my sweet friend, Linda, selling her beautiful personalized seashells among all of the buskers and entertainment.  A few days prior, there were rumblings that Kenny Chesney was in town (if you didn’t know, Key West is one of Kenny’s common stomping grounds), but, while chatting away, Linda had shared with me that he rode past her earlier that day on the bike her son sold him, with a sweet customized paint job, so this wasn’t just another rumour passed down the coconut telegraph.

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Kenny enjoying some time at the Schooner Wharf, Key West (Photo Cred.: Schooner Wharf)

So what does any of this have to do with my blog, you ask? It all goes back to a balcony in St. Thomas, USVI in March of 2016, and one of those cable stations that plays music on the TV.  On a return trip to the Virgin Islands, I was relaxing on the balcony of my condo after a long day in the sun when I overheard someone singing about “Sherri living in paradise…” The lyrics immediately piqued my interest and I moved into the condo only to hear Kenny Chesney pretty much highlighting my obsession with island life as a girl from the North and this incredible pull I had to search for something, that even then, I didn’t exactly know of (you can listen to the full version of “Sherry’s Living in Paradise” here). So, ya, I was a little blown away. I confess, I don’t listen to a lot of country music, so I wasn’t familiar with this song at all.

Sherry’s living in paradise
Somehow the salty air, it soothes her soul
Says it makes her whole…

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Enjoying the balcony view from Sapphire Beach in St. Thomas

The next day, I hopped into the shuttle van of my most awesome driver and friend, Yisrael, who happens to be a big country fan. He’s even performed on the CMAs and in the video “Painkiller” as a professional moko jumbo dancer for Little Big Town. Of course, Yisrael was playing Kenny, because Kenny also has a home there in St. John, having many fans in the local islanders. When I told him about the song I had heard, he just had to play it for me and said, “That’s you!…Sherri in Paradise!”…and, well, the name just stuck.  Yisrael began calling me “Sherri in Paradise” and I started using the hashtag on my own personal Facebook page with this cute little red-haired bitmoji girl in a beach fedora.  At that time, I had no idea how I was actually branding myself for this blog.  Funny how that works, isn’t it? 😉

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Moko Jumbo time with Yisrael at Iggie’s Beach Bar, St. Thomas
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Yisrael and I saying farewell at the airport in St. Thomas

Fast forward a couple of years to this summer, August 2018.  My brain is ticking with ideas on what to name my new blog after having written several years for a magazine in the Florida Keys.  I was super excited to be branching out on my own and decided to run a few possible names across my island writing friends and colleagues–“Sherri in Paradise” being the one that called to me the most. That same afternoon I made a quick post of the bitmoji I had been using for more than a couple of years now on my personal Facebook page, taking roll call for a big event we have in my hometown, to see who would be attending. Well, surely the Universe was doing me a solid with my ever so indecisive Libran brain when, later that night, a woman I know saw me and hollered out in the beer tent, “SHERRI IN PARADIIIIISE!!!” I told Tina she had no idea how synchronistic it was for her to call out to me like that–and when she started asking me about places to stay and helping to book and plan some trips to Key West, it was surely a done deal that I’d be launching this blog as “Sherri in Paradise.”SIP Logo TRANS Green Palms.pngI’m thrilled to be able to share this space with you and, even more so, humbled that people are choosing to come along with me virtually on all of my travels. I hope to inspire all of you in search of your own paradise as I share my journey to create my own paradise here at home (Southern Ontario), everywhere I travel (Key West holds a special place in my soul), and, above all, within (You know, the place that’s the cheapest to travel to, but you’re often too busy to book the time to really “go there”?).

So, Mr. Chesney, if you’re still in town and want to share a slice of key lime pie at Kermit’s with a real-life, “Sherri in Paradise”, I can thank you in person for the inspiration.  But, let’s be real, neither one of us is sharing…unless, of course, it’s the whole damn pie!

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Kenny Chesney and Kermit of Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe in Key West (Photo Cred.: Kenny Chesney)

Get social with me!  You can follow “Sherri in Paradise” on Facebook and IG.

Inspired Action: My True “Key West” North

Happy Spring, island friends!  (And, Summer, I know that’s you peeking around the corner.  I’m so ready for your return!)

As my trusty sidekick, the Universe, would have it, I’ve yet to make it back to the Keys in this new year, and I’m still smack dab in the middle of that “walking my talk” lesson in faith I mentioned the last time you all heard from me. And, that doesn’t all have to do with not making my “planned” migration. Truth be told, I’ve really been quite happy with staying put. (Shocking!)  My business continues to grow, my furry babies are healthy and happy, I’m connecting with friends old and new, and, well, all of this is what’s kept my heart warm in the cold.

Out of the lessons, though, emerged a new problem.  I started to question just what I had to offer here, in a space where I write about all of my island adventures in paradise, when I have done nothing but staycation in the North all winter. Yep, that’s right. Not a single trip South since June!  Just what would I write about if I didn’t have any magnificent migration tales to share?  Thankfully, care of another island writing friend who was displaced from her island home during the hurricanes last fall, I was reminded that my island heart lives within me, so I’ll always be living the island life, no matter where I am.  I have strongly felt, that although I’m not physically there, that doesn’t mean I don’t carry Key West in every cell of my body.  And that couldn’t be any more true in this moment.

Along with a healthy, daily dose of Vitamin D, I have been busy creating my own paradise along the river up North. In February, I moved into a new space in an historical ship captain’s home on the St. Clair River and it was my mission to make that space my own–a reflection of this love affair I continue to have with my quirky little island where the sidewalk ends.  If I couldn’t get to the Keys, I was bringing the Keys to me.

After several past stays in historical homes in Old Town, there was no question that the décor was going to be bold, bright, and (surprise!) beachy.  With a few phone calls to friends, I had the items I had used to furnish and decorate my rental last year, shipped up to Ontario.  When I unpacked my coral and aqua colored comforter and pillows, adorned with starfish and seashells, my sense of smell instantly brought me back. It really was a strange, but wonderful, feeling seeing these items that felt like home in Key West, now in a new space I call “home” up North..

From the lime green accents and turquoise window coverings in my kitchen, looking out to the blue waters of one of the main shipping channels to Lake St. Clair, to the specially selected watercolor prints of colorful roosters and a bold, pink conch cottage from an artist in South Florida who also finds inspiration in the Keys, the essence of Key West lives on in my Conch inspired lil space in this 100-year-old ship captain’s home on the St. Clair River. It’s here where my two worlds, and my greatest loves, collide…my True “Key West” North.

Tonight, (not unlike most) I’m listening to my ridiculously talented friend, Chris Toler, stream live at The Green Room Key West and feeling very content with life; trusting I’m exactly where I’m meant to be in this moment. I could not love this space I’ve created any more.  I’m also pretty proud of myself for recognizing my own paradise within and maintaining my sunny disposition despite a lack of sunshine and loads of time outside. My heart has been missing some people lately and I’m impressed it hasn’t gotten the best of me.  I am inspired in so many ways just by switching up life a bit again.  I’ve even got some pretty spectacular sunset celebrations of my own from my new dock!

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Sunset celebrations over the St. Clair River! 

So, I guess the message this time around is that, yes, your true paradise lies within, but you can also create your very own paradise around you with a little inspired action. 😉

I raise my glass to you, Key West, and all of the gifts you’ve given me. Your sensational sunsets, white-picket-fence-lined streets, the stunning seaport and the beautiful, eclectic people who follow their big dreams every day on this tiny 2 x 4-mile piece of coral rock in the middle of the salty seas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. I have not forgotten you, and my island family, and patiently await to be embraced by your magic when we are reunited once again…

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Cheers to you, Key West, and all of the inspiration you bring me.

Walking My Talk: The Difference Between Believing & Having Faith

The busy season is in full swing in the Florida Keys, with the excitement of spring just peeking around the corner.  At the time I sit down to write this article, however, it’s nearing the end of January and I’m still up North watching the river freeze, thaw and repeat, with this crazy weather we’ve been having. Staying up North really wasn’t the plan—I was “supposed” to be in the middle of my snowbird migration, settled in Key West, enjoying the sun and surroundings of my most “magical place on earth”, along with the people who have become extended family for me there.

Now, if you’ve followed my articles here from the start, you’d know the mindset I carry for trusting the process of how my life unfolds, but it seems I’ve been more than tested these days.  Suitcase full and only a day before I was set to embark on another adventure in my Southernmost home, I had to call the whole thing off to care for a very special furry family member—which was absolutely no question for me. Since then, a whole host of changes have been set in motion, and although I know I’ll return to the Keys, right now, I’m forced to live in the unknown and, as a result, really practice walking my talk when it comes to this “trusting the process of life” thing. And, let me tell you, just because I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be at the moment, doesn’t mean it’s easy to understand.

It’s a very strange place to be when you begin to observe things happening outside of yourself.  Standing in the background watching conversations and situations happen at home that I was never “supposed” to be around for, and missing out on all of the events taking place in Key West that I had fully anticipated participating in.  I can tell you, in the beginning, this was almost like an out of body experience—just wondering where your place in life is.

One thing I know, and have written about before during my travels, is that paradise really does come from within.  You take yourself wherever you go, so it’s not all about your surroundings when it comes to your own perspective on life.  You can be in the most beautiful of places, and still feel sad, lost, or lonely.  It is up to you to make your magic wherever you may be.  Surely paradise can be found in sub-zero temps and snow then, right?

The biggest lesson I’ve been learning while living in the great question mark of life, is that there is an absolute difference between believing and having faith.  I believe everything happens for a reason, but sitting still in that space and accepting that it is for my highest good, are two entirely different things.  Believing something is the “talking”, and having faith in that idea is the actual “walking”.  And, how ironic is it that having faith in something often forces you to sit still and not walk at all?!  Patience is powerful, but there’s no doubt it’s a practice.

Patience is powerful, but there’s no doubt it’s a practice.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), along with my own term, FOMU (Fear of Messing Up), have reared their ugly heads into my thoughts on more than one occasion, and I have consciously had to take those fears and put them out with the trash.  Amidst these fears, I also get excited about forward movement and new possibilities that have shown up as a result of my staying here at home.  Everything is a dichotomy.  Wrapping your head around the duality of life can take serious work some days.

For now, I live in the great wide-open space of “what’s next?”  Really having to walk my talk when it comes to having faith in some of my biggest beliefs—not simply knowing that “a delay is not a denial” and that “there are no mistakes”, but really feeling that they are truths and fully trusting the process by letting things unfold as they may in this moment. The trick is staying at peace with what is, while still actively moving forward with the situation at hand.  The best I can do is get excited about what waits for me in this portal of possibility.

And, who knows? By the time this article is published, maybe I’ll have made my way back to the city where the sidewalk ends for another adventure. But, regardless of when I do, I know it will be at just the right time and under just the right circumstances…and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be there to join me for a sunset and a cocktail or two.

After the Storm: Remaining Strong in the Broken Places

Hurricanes, broken hearts, unexpected life changes. All of these storms, real or metaphorical, can pass through your life and change your entire world in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the aftermath of the storm hits you immediately and, other times, just when you thought you were sailing smoothly ahead. Either way, you’re left standing in the rubble of loss, hurt, grief, and any other number of emotions as you process the change that has entered into your life. Often times, you’re left feeling broken and wondering just where and how you will rebuild.

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The Southernmost Buoy Standing Tall in the Aftermath of Hurricane Irma

As this New Year begins, many of us are trying to start anew and move forward in our lives, putting the pieces back together in our broken places— homes and hearts—after the storms of 2017. For some, it was life as they knew it on an island they called home, a big move, or the loss of a beloved pet. For others, it was recovering from an injury that prevented them from participating in life as they were accustomed to, a relationship breakdown, or a large transition in life, like a job loss or retirement, that left them searching for their own identity.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

~ Ernest Hemingway

Remaining strong in our broken places requires us to be patient and gentle with ourselves. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, questioning just how long it’s going to take to rebuild and get back to that comfortable space in life we’re so desperately longing for. Sometimes, however, we confuse strength with having to handle everything on our own and putting on a brave face, when, in reality, there is incredible strength in our own vulnerability. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is an even stronger approach than putting on the armor or pushing the ill feelings that arise aside, and what we often fail to give ourselves credit for, is the strength we exude in these more vulnerable choices that we make along this journey.

Here is what being  S T R O N G  can look like, too:

Support – Asking for help and seeking support from an outside source.  Whether through close friends, a therapist, inspirational books, etc., it’s okay to ask for help.  You do not have to weather your storm alone.

Time Out – It’s okay to stop.  Taking time to yourself is a powerful choice on your road to recovery. Going for walks, taking a break from social activities, booking a vacation, or even taking a leave from your regular work schedule are all empowering steps you can gift yourself.  Too many times we equate stopping with failure, yet so much healing can come from being still and taking the time to focus on ourselves.

Reflection – Quiet time, journaling, yoga, meditation.  All are powerful tools that allow you to ground yourself, organize your thoughts and gain some insight and clarity on your journey.

Opening Your Heart – It’s easy to shut down, numb the feelings and simply protect yourself from any future hurt, but the only way we ever fully heal is to feel—all of it. Staying open to new possibilities ahead and trusting the process creates the space for hope.  Stay open.  You never know just what’s around the corner or what the Universe is conspiring on your behalf.

No – Don’t be afraid to say NO to what doesn’t resonate with you. Creating healthy boundaries with people and projects and remaining true to yourself builds personal strength.  Sometimes saying NO means saying YES to yourself.  It’s not selfish to choose YOU.

Gratitude – Being thankful for even the smallest of things and choosing to focus on the positive aspects of our lives is a huge energy shifter.  Whether mentally listing all of the things you’re grateful for while out for a walk, before bed, or writing them in a journal, bringing these things into your awareness has a powerful effect on your perspective.

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Reflecting on my time in Key West. (Historic Seaport ~ May 2017)

As we step into a New Year, and what for many of us signifies an opportunity for a fresh start, may I also remind you that there is still beauty to be found in the broken places; a new bloom reminds us of life’s natural flow and resiliency during tough times—that we can survive and thrive; a difficult life experience brings with it an opportunity to embrace our vulnerability, a deeper awareness for this life we’re gifted with each day, and a reminder of what really matters.

If you’re wondering if you have what it takes to be strong, or, even worse still, you’re judging yourself for what you perceive to be weakness while you navigate your way, remember that strength doesn’t always look like armor and feel like solitude. If you’re putting any of the above practices into place, you, too, are STRONG…you are BRAVE… and I believe in YOU.

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Walking the Rock: Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

It’s been exactly one year since I announced my “Leap of Presence” right here in the blogging world–twelve months since I followed the callings of my heart and stepped away from my 18-year career as a first-grade teacher; 365 days since I started growing my own business and working from anywhere there has simply been a good wifi signal and a phone line. There are days I have worked hard, and days I have hardly worked, but “somehow”, the Universe has fully supported me on my journey. I like to think that has everything to do with honoring the callings of my soul, because, let’s be real, there is nothing more real than the constant longings of your heart.

One of the greatest driving forces for creating this change in my life was to be where my heart has continued to be called—right where the sidewalk ends, in Key West. I think it’s safe to say, I manifested some serious time in the Southernmost City this past year, and, if I didn’t feel at home already, there was no way my snowbirding experience in the Conch Republic this past winter was going to leave me without an even deeper connection to my little island paradise.

Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.  That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.

~ Pico Lyer

One of my favorite things to do in Key West, is to “walk the rock”. Whether heading down to the Historic Seaport to catch Happy Hour with some friends or simply getting out of the house for some sunshine and fresh air, the time I spend walking from Southernmost Point A to Southernmost Point B always, ALWAYS, makes me feel like a million bucks. More often than not, it is exceptionally difficult to wipe the permanent, “feeling-ever-so-grateful”, smile off of my face and to keep myself from literally dancing in the street, headphones in place, one foot after the other. If I’m not listening to music, (and giving not a care in the world that I may or may not be singing out loud—in broad daylight, no less) the time I spend walking is generally still headphones in, on the phone with friends and family back home. Except on one “unfortunate” night, when the battery in my phone decided to pooch…

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Ready to “Walk the Rock!”

This particular incident couldn’t have come at a more interesting time. After spending the winter in the Keys, I had hopped back onto the island for another shorter extended stay when I was en route back North after my writer’s retreat in Old San Juan. It was June and my friend was in need of a cat sitter for his own summer vacation off the rock. Key West? Cats? I mean, how could I resist? These really are a few of my favourite things. A thought had come to mind, however, that somewhere along these repeated travels to the Keys, it was going to lose some of its magic. You know, where the extraordinary becomes ordinary? WRONG!

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A “subtle” reminder that “Life is Good” in Key West!

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love Key West any more…FRANGIPANI! The smells from the blooms on these trees were so alluring I could wander the island just in search of all of these intoxicating trees. And on that particular night, that is exactly what I did. With no music in ear or any distractions from an otherwise fully charged phone, I remember looking up at the stars and thinking of how fully charged I felt as I “walked the rock” for well over the hundredth time this year. I walked down William Street from tree to tree, zig-zagging from one side of the street to the other, pulling down the branches to reach my nose, and collecting the blooms that had fallen to the ground, breathing in the real essence of Key West. By the time I got back to the “kitty” condo, I had a small bouquet that I was able to place on a dish and enjoy in my room for the next several days. And so, this magical love affair continued.

I have always paid close attention to the seemingly “little things” as I’ve meandered through the streets of Key West (with or without headphones), but, after this last visit, it was even further validated that I can’t go anywhere on that tiny rock without some kind of sign from the Universe that I am exactly where I am meant to be. From the heart-shaped markings in the sidewalks, to the meaningful graffiti and artwork scattered about the streets, it always seems that I look in the right direction, at just the right time, for this little island to let me know that, even after all these visits, it still loves me, just as much as I love it.

Although I’ve had to say a somber farewell to my soul place for the next several months, I don’t have any doubts that Key West and I will pick up right where we left off, as soon as I return. And, I can’t wait to see what this great love has in store next, when I do!

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Love is everywhere…
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Farewell Key West…but I know this is “only the beginning”…