Focus On Jesus

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I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned that I’m a delicate tundra flower. Now that I live in Costa Rica, this delicate tundra flower is becoming a delicate tropical flower.

My most delicate part is my stomach, or is it my inner ear? In any case, I am prone to rather bad motion sickness.

No.1 Sis and I met a group of ex-pat women who live around Lake Arenal. They meet for lunch once a month, on one side of the lake or the other.

This month, lunch was on the opposite side of the lake from where we live. Renee, an ex-pat who lives near us, volunteered to drive us to the lunch. Very nice.

I applied a motion sickness patch before we left, and I figured that would keep me on an even keel. No such luck. We live in a mountainous area, and I’m not sure which was worse, the ups and downs, or all the curves. I just tried to focus straight ahead.

The conversation didn’t help at all either. No.1 Sis asked Renee about earthquakes, and Renee described in great detail (the shaking, bouncing, inability to stand up…) a 6.8 Richter scale earthquake she had experienced.

Yes, even talking about motion can make me queasy.

Because my patch had not protected me from feeling sick on the trip around the lake, I added another one for the trip to the airport a couple of days later. I double-patched.

Roberto, the driver, picked me up at 9:00 for the 90 minute trip to the Liberia airport. I sat directly behind him, so it was difficult to focus on the horizon. Instead, I focused on the picture clipped to his visor. It was a picture of Jesus.

JESUS

JESUS

It would have made me happier to focus on a picture of George Clooney, but alas, only Jesus was available.

Every time I started to feel queasy, I’d tell myself, focus on Jesus. Focus on Jesus.

When we were nearly to the airport, I notice the rear view mirror perfectly framed my neck wattle. Good Lord! Focus on Jesus! Look away from the mirror and focus on Jesus.

Thank Goddess, the double patch got me safely and comfortably to the airport, and through the bumpy flight itself (no thanks to hurricane Otto).

And I never thought I’d say this, but thank you Jesus.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

Entering Adulthood

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Costa Rica, like many Latin American countries, has a quaint custom called a quinceanera. It’s a lavish party with extravagant gifts to celebrate a young person’s fifteenth birthday. The girls wear ball gowns and tiaras and the boys wear tuxedos. It is a rite of passage into adulthood.

QUINCEANERA

QUINCEANERA

 

My family celebrated my transition into adulthood in a similar way, albeit without the party, gown, tiara or gifts. And I was thirteen.

My mother called me into her bedroom on my thirteenth birthday and told me, “You’re an adult now. You can go out drinking and partying all you want, but it’s your job to get yourself home safely”.

Harrumph. I thought to myself, what’s different? I’ve always felt as though I’ve been on my own.

I soon found out what the difference was, the next time I asked Mom for a dollar so I could go to the movies with my friends.

“You’re an adult now”, Mom growled, “make your own money”.

I had already bombed as a babysitter. I had an unfortunate tendency to only keep track of one child at a time. This was a problem living in a neighborhood where the average family had five kids. I should have asked the parents in the beginning which child was their favorite.

I asked Mom how I could make some money and she told me to get a job. But I was only thirteen and businesses couldn’t hire anyone under the age of sixteen. Mom’s advice? Lie.

I went to every business downtown, asking for a job while lying about my age. Of course, nobody believed I was sixteen, and I remained a sad little “adult” without a job for the next three years.

I would get an occasional babysitting gig, usually for a family with only one child (they didn’t know that’s all I could handle).

When I turned sixteen, I returned to the downtown movie theater and again applied for a job. The manager remembered me and asked how I could be sixteen now, when I was sixteen then. Um, I lied.

I got the job (that’s how desperate they were) and soon I was selling popcorn and candy and making $15 per week. And the best part of it all was that I could see movies for free.

Finally, adulting like an adult.

Stay tuned…

 

Wherever You Go, There You Are

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Like everyone else who undertakes a geographical cure for all their problems, I believed moving to Costa Rica would make me into a new person. A better, more ideal version of myself.

And like everyone else who’s tried it, I found that to be utterly and indisputably false.

I was going to begin every day with an early morning walk. No.1 Sis has been doing this, by the way, so I wouldn’t even have to walk by myself. Instead, I start every day with an early morning nap. After the first light wakes me up, I put a pillow over my eyes and go back to sleep for another hour or so.

I was going to eat healthy, and cook for myself. My eating improved a great deal when No.2 Sis was here to help cook, and I’ve lost 20 pounds and cut my blood sugar in half.

But I’m slipping. I’m partial to Elvis sandwiches. That’s peanut butter and bananas on bread. And when No.1 Sis tried to throw away a package of vanilla Oreo cookies, I almost dove into the garbage to get them.

When I told people I was retiring to Costa Rica, they asked what I was going to do with myself. I had planned to take on-line courses. Spanish, of course, and painting and photography.

My Spanish course expired before I finished it (still procrastinating, harrumph). I had to sign up to take it again.

The cute waiter at the local restaurant has been giving us some tips, though. I told him, in Spanish, that his Spanish was very good. He looked confused for a moment (as he often does when I speak Spanish). Then he laughed and complimented my English.

At the end of the meal, he gave us our check, and a list of Spanish phrases to practice. I gave him my payment for the meal, and a generous tip. Did I mention that he’s very cute?

I’m taking a watercolor course, too. I’m almost through with that. Through watching it, that is. I haven’t picked up a brush since I started (watching) the course.

As far as photography goes, I haven’t signed up for a course yet. I think I’ll finish watching my watercolor class before I start watching a photography class.

Speaking of photography, No.1 Sis called me early one morning to tell me there was a troop of howler monkeys in the trees across the street from her house. I went outside and took a few pictures of them from my porch, but they just looked like black blobs in the trees.

I walked down the hill to Sis’ house (still in my pajamas) to see if I could get some good shots from the balcony off of her Queen bedroom. The monkeys were just a little bit bigger black blobs. But look at her view!

NO.1 SIS' VIEW

NO.1 SIS’ VIEW

 

And that’s an 180 degree view, unobstructed by the three-story apartment building  (affectionately known as “The Monstrosity”) that’s next to me.

Hell, if I’m going to be an under-achieving lie-about, I might as well be an under-achieving lie-about in Costa Rica. You can’t find a nicer geographical cure than this.

Stay tuned…

Meet The Neighbor

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No.1 Sis and I walked down to the main road, merely yards from our houses, to wait for the bus into The Big City. There was already a man standing there. He was tall and scruffy and had no teeth.

MR. NO TEETH (ARTIST'S RENDERING)

MR. NO TEETH (ARTIST’S RENDERING)

We nodded politely to Mr. No Teeth and wished him a good morning. He realized he was among fellow Americans, and started to tell us his Costa Rica story.

Mr. No Teeth had arrived in C.R. about the same time we did, seven weeks ago. He spent the first week at motel on the Caribbean coast.

I felt some stinging sensations on my feet.

As he was leaving the motel to catch the bus to San Luis, he locked the keys in his room, as per the landlord’s instructions. Unfortunately, he realized too late that he had locked his only suitcase in the motel room, too.

The feet-stinging was getting more frequent. I looked down, and saw that my feet were swarming with fire ants. I shook and stamped my feet to try to dislodge the little buggers.

Mr. No Teeth continued his story without interruption. He narrated how, even though he had locked all his worldly possessions in his motel room, he didn’t want to miss the bus. He left the bag inside and got on the bus, which took him hundreds of miles away.

Meanwhile, the ants were stinging me like crazy. I bent over in half, a feat I can only accomplish in the most dire of emergencies, and started picking ants off my feet and crushing them, one at a time. My alarmed No.1 Sis dug through her backpack and found some bug spray.

Mr. No Teeth continued his story, oblivious to all the panicked gyrations occurring a few feet in front of him.

He indicated the outfit he was wearing. It was, he said, a thirty year old tee shirt given to him by his wife (now ex-wife) and warm-up pants loaned to him by his neighbor.

The ants coughed a little at the the bug spray, and then laughed, crawling deeper into my shoes. I took off my shoes and beat my own feet with them.

Mr. No Teeth called the motel after arriving here in San Luis. He asked the landlord to mail his suitcase to him. It’s been six weeks now, and he still hasn’t received his bag. Imagine that.

I wanted to go up to him, grab him by the thirty year old tee shirt and scream in his face, “You don’t knowingly drive hundreds of miles from everything you own, then ask for it to be mailed to you IN A COUNTRY WITHOUT MAIL SERVICE, YOU STUPID GIT!”

He was fortunate that I was still preoccupied with doing the roadside Hokey Pokey.

The Hokey Pokey. It really is what it’s all about.

MORE OF "DOWNTOWN" SAN LUIS

MORE OF “DOWNTOWN” SAN LUIS

Stay tuned…

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

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No.1 Sis and I had planned on taking the bus to Tilaran on Monday, so we could shop for groceries. It rained, so we stayed home.

Then on Tuesday, it rained, so we stayed home again.

On Wednesday, we arose to another rainy day. We figured if we waited until it stopped raining here in Costa Rica, with the two seasons of wet and wetter, we’d soon starve to death.

I told myself what Dad used to tell me when I didn’t want to be outside in the rain. “You ain’t made of sugar. You ain’t gonna melt.”

So into town we went. I didn’t melt, but I sure got soaked. Turns out my Eddie Bauer raincoat isn’t water-proof. What good is a raincoat that isn’t waterproof? It just gave me another wet thing to lug around town.

Eddie Bauer raincoat

WATERPROOF, MY FULL AND GENEROUS BOTTOM

Tilaran is rather lacking in street signs, and there don’t seem to be any maps available on line. I drew myself a map so I could find stores, and the post office, and the bank, and the library again. Unfortunately, I seem to have thrown that map away last time I cleaned my purse. Oops.

As we wandered about Tilaran in the rain, we made the most wonderful discovery! We found a libreria. A libreria is a bookstore. And, in addition to books, they sell my favorite thing in the whole, wide world. Office supplies.

I sold all of my office supplies and most of my arts and crafts supplies in the big estate sale in August. It wasn’t easy (emotionally speaking). But I did it.

Now I’m here in C.R. with nothing to do.

I didn’t go crazy. I bought a few sheets of card stock, a couple of stickers, a little notebook, and a sharpie. It felt so good. SO GOOD! Is there something wrong with me? Don’t answer that.

HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY, JOY

HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY, JOY

Stay tuned…

No.1 Sis And The Broken Housekeeper

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Included in our crazy rent here in Costa Rica ($675 for me and $600 for No.1 Sis) is a housekeeper once a month.

We’ve been here a month, and Sis has already broken the housekeeper.

MI CASA & SAILORS ON LAKE ARENAL

MI CASA & SAILORS ON LAKE ARENAL

The housekeeper’s name is Mayra, and she came to my house on Wednesday. Even with my limited Spanish and her lack of English, I managed to communicate which bedrooms and bathrooms needed to be cleaned and where all the supplies were. I also said I was going out and I’d return before 3:00. I knew that’s when she had to catch the bus for home.

I went to lunch with No.1 Sis, and came home about 2:00. Mayra left about 3:00. All good.

On Friday, Mayra came to clean No.1 Sis’s house. Sis asked me if Mayra had brought herself a lunch on Wednesday. I told that I didn’t think so. As a matter of fact, when I returned from lunch that day, Mayra had said, “Yo faim”, and rubbed her stomach. Then she chuckled and went about her business.

The thing you have to know about Ticos (Costa Ricans) is that they’re very non-confrontational. They don’t want to embarrass you, or make you feel uncomfortable. So “I’m hungry” is a pretty broad hint.

The thing you probably already know about most Americans is that we’re pretty direct. Hell, I can be damn obtuse even when people are direct with me. I don’t do subtle.

So it took Mayra’s comment about being hungry put together with Sis’s question about lunch for me to realize it was my responsibility to provide lunch for Mayra. Epic fail.

On Friday, before Sis and I went to lunch, we asked Mayra if we could bring her back something from the restaurant (making her eat our cooking would have been cruel). A salad with chicken, perhaps? Perfecto. No.1 Sis for the win.

But then, No.1 Sis went above and beyond. She gave Mayra a tip. Insisted. Mayra did the Minnesota refusal (say no three times) and Sis finally had to tuck the money into her bag. Mayra responded with many thanks and hugs and kisses.

So you see my dilemma. I’m between a rock and a hard place, with a broken housekeeper. Of course, I’ll feed Mayra next time she’s here, but if I don’t give her a tip, I look very cheap. If I do give her a tip, I’ll get hugs and kisses, which will make me very uncomfortable.

What should I do?

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

5 Important Lessons Learned During My First Month In Costa Rica

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DOWNTOWN SAN LUIS

DOWNTOWN SAN LUIS

 

 

In the first month I’ve been living in Costa Rica, I’ve learned a few hard lessons.

LESSON #1: LEARN AT LEAST A FEW KEY WORDS IN SPANISH.

The other night a truck drove slowly through town, blaring a message beginning (in Spanish), “All of San Luis, come to the school now”. I didn’t understand the rest.

I ignored it, figuring it was a religious revival of some sort. I don’t want to be saved.

I told No.1 Sis about it the next day and wondered aloud, “What if it had been calling for an evacuation because the nearby volcano has erupted? In that case, I do want to be saved!”

Sis scoffed and said, “Just listen for the word ‘volcan'”. Dear Sis knows about six words in Spanish, and one of them is the word for volcano. Those are survival skills of the highest magnitude.

LESSON #2: ALWAYS CLEAN ALL FOOD PREP, COOKING, AND EATING SURFACES IMMEDIATELY.

Immediately, as in before you even eat, when possible. Costa Rica has tiny, nearly invisible little ants that get everywhere. On the floor, on the counters, in the sink, on the hot stovetop, INSIDE the microwave.

The only place I haven’t seen them is inside the refrigerator, so now I keep everything in there. I’d sleep in there if I could.

LESSON #3: YOU CAN GET BY INDEFINITELY WITHOUT UNDERWEAR.

I only know this because the airline lost one piece of my luggage. The one with all my underwear.

LESSON #4: DO NOT EVER, EVER EXPECT TO GET MAIL IN COSTA RICA.

I have one dear friend who is not well-connected electronically and she wants me to write her letters. On paper. Sent through the mail.

I posted the first one last week. She should get it in about three more weeks.

But she won’t be able to reply. There are no addresses in Costa Rica. There is no home delivery. There is no Post Office in San Luis.

There is a Post Office in Tilaran, from whence I mailed the aforementioned letter. I inquired about a rental box there. It’s $45 per month. I’m a retired old lady on a fixed income. I’m not paying $45 per month for a P.O. box.

By the way, it cost $2.50 to mail that letter. That may be the last one my friend ever gets.

LESSON #5: BRING CHEESE.

You know how I feel about cheeses. Enough said.

Stay tuned…

 

Laurel’s Casita

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A lot has happened in the last six weeks!

I had a bon voyage party, I retired from my job at “The Company”, I had another bon voyage party…

I sold my car, Gypsy Blue, to No.5 Bro. Perhaps I should say I gave him Gypsy, because he hasn’t paid me yet. Perhaps I should check my bank account before I say he hasn’t paid me yet…

I got a new computer. Her name is Pinkie Tuscadero. Pinkie is the reason I haven’t been able to get into my blog for so long. Apparently, I didn’t transfer my passwords correctly.

Now I’m living here in Costa Rica. Maybe I should change my blog name to Laurel’s Casita? Would I have to go through the whole password debacle again? No, thanks.

When I moved to Costa Rica on September 1st, I was accompanied by No.1 Sis, two of her adult children, and No.2 Sis.

NO.2 SIS AND NO.1 SIS IN FRONT OF TREE WITH BIG-ASS LEAVES

NO.2 SIS AND NO.1 SIS IN FRONT OF TREE WITH BIG-ASS LEAVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw some local fauna…

MONKEY, TOUCAN, SPIDER, CHICKENS

MONKEY, TOUCAN, SPIDER, CHICKENS

…and some amazing flora, even beyond the tree with the big-ass leaves.

SOME KIND OF FLOWER, NOT PETUNIAS, ANOTHER KIND OF FLOWER

SOME KIND OF FLOWER, NOT PETUNIAS, ANOTHER KIND OF FLOWER

Now everyone else has gone home, and it’s just me and No.1 Sis.

We’re awakened each morning by the gentle sounds of howling monkeys, barking dogs, and whacking weed whackers.

We’re taking on-line Spanish lessons. We walk to Our Little Town (San Luis) most every day, and bus into The Big City (Tilaran) about once a week to practice on the unsuspecting locals (called Ticos). My most often used phrase is “No entiendo” (I don’t understand).

No.1 Sis writes every day, and I paint. At some point, when I produce something that I like, I’ll share it here. I can’t share anything of No.1 Sis’s, because that would be wrong.

I miss my home-girls (can I say that?) and my Bros and Sis’s. I miss my house, my cat, my car. I miss cable t.v.

But I have the internet, I don’t have to work, and I live in a tropical paradise where the most common phrase heard is “Pura vida!” or “good life!”

Pure vida, it certainly is.

Stay tuned…

 

Whatever Happened To Baby Bella?

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For those of you not familiar with the Twin Cities area, let me clue you in. It’s big.

Although St. Paul is hemmed in by the Mississippi River to the east and Minneapolis to the west, Minneapolis is free to spread unchecked to the north, west and south, and has done so.

No.2 Sis and I live in Cottage Grove, a far southeastern suburb of St. Paul.  Yesterday No.2 had a massage appointment in Woodbury, an eastern suburb, and I booked us for a mani-pedi soon afterward in Brooklyn Park, a far northeastern Minneapolis suburb.

That was a mistake. I thought I was booking the salon in Bloomington, a southern suburb of Minneapolis, because we needed to go to a lamp store there. Oops.

So I met Sis in Woodbury, dropped my car at the massage place, we drove up to the mani-pedi, then down to the lamp store, bought lamp shades, had lunch at a nearby restaurant, and drove home, all before rush hour. We put over 80 miles on the car, and spent about an hour-and-a-half on the road.

Around 8:30 p.m., Sis asked me, “Where’s your car?” Shit. We left Gypsy Blue at the massage place in Woodbury. Sigh. Getting old and forgetful is no picnic.

But that’s not what this post is about. I realized that in all the hubbub of selling the house and preparing to Costa Rica, I didn’t tell you whatever happened to Bella, my crazy cat.

I’m convinced that Bella has post traumatic syndrome disorder. She’s been very, very slow to warm up to anyone, including me. She’s jumpy as hell. She’s hyper-vigilant. What can I say? She’s a mess but I love her.

When I decided to go to Costa Rica, I knew Bella couldn’t come along. Although it’s legal and relatively easy to bring your pets to C.R., I knew it would traumatize my baby too much.

I called Feline Rescue, the organization I had adopted Bella from, and they agreed to put an ad for her on their website. They suggested that I write a bio for her, and send pictures if I had them.

baby bella-1 baby bella-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I have pictures? I snort in your general direction.

I’d recently read on Sarah Petruno‘s blog how to release things/people when you’re torn about doing so. She suggested writing a letter to the thing/person, thanking them for all the good things they brought to your life and wishing them the best in the future.

I wrote the letter to Bella and used it for her bio on the Feline Rescue website. Even though I included all of Bella’s personality quirks (PTSD) in the letter and adult cats don’t usually get much interest, three people called about Bella the very first day.

The first to call Feline Rescue were Bill and Mary, a retired couple who had experience with Siamese cats. They came to meet Bella, and they fell in love. I thought it was a great success because, even though B. hissed at them, she actually let Bill and Mary pet her!

I had to get Bella’s teeth fixed and give her some recovery time, so her new parents picked her up a couple of weeks later. I gave them her tower, her brand new litter box, and a box of toys and food. They packed it into their car and waited outside for me to bring Bella Luna out.

I picked up the cat, and carried her to her kennel, which was hidden around a corner. As soon as she saw the kennel she started screeching and fighting to get away from me.

I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, but my grip wasn’t close enough to her skull. She turned and sunk her teeth deep into my hand. I stuffed her into the kennel and pried her jaws off of my hand.

No.2 Sis was there for moral support, so she took Bella out to the car. I stayed inside and tried to staunch the flow of blood.

It was traumatic for both of us, but I’m sure she’s settled happily into her new home by now.

Baby Bella, Bella Luna, Bubba. I miss you sweet, fuzzy girl.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 

Retiring For La Pura Vida

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The Monday after my house closed, I gave my three week notice at The Company. Friday was my last day. I’m officially retired!

Just before I left, I stopped into my boss’ office to say goodbye. I told him I sent him and others my home e-mail address and said, “If you ever have any work questions, don’t bother…I mean, don’t hesitate…”

That was quite a Freudian slipper.

Then a co-worker caught me just as I was heading to the door. She told me I didn’t actually attach my e-mail address to the message I sent about my e-mail address.

That’s a pair of Freudian slippers.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

So what am I going to do now? I’m moving to Costa Rica! When I visited in May with No.1 Sis, No.2 Sis and soul-sister V, No.1 and I found rental properties and decided to make the move.

We’ll each have our own house on the same little street near Lake Arenal, in the northern part of the country.

The unofficial motto of Costa Rica is “La Pura Vida”, the pure (or good) life, and we plan on living by that motto to the max. That means reading, doing art work play and napping for me. Throw in a few cocktails and I think you’ve described La Pura Vida for No.1 Sis, too.

La Pura Vida

During our visit to C.R. in May, the group relied mainly on my smattering of Spanish recalled from high school. Hah, fools!

I’d read that it’s rude in C.R. to just say no. It’s better to say “un otro dia” or “another day”. When a street vendor tried to sell us an unlabeled bottle of amber liquid (liqueur? syrup? hooch?) I politely said to him, “Un otro dios”. The guy laughed and walked away. Then I realized I had told him “another god”.

Crazy Americans.

Stay tuned…