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.



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.



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


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.



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.



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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.

























We saw some local fauna…



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



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…


Mirror, Mirror, or 305

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No.2 Sis and I were complimenting No.8 Sis on her well put together outfit the other day, and we agreed that having a full-length mirror might help me do a little better with my couture. No.1 Sis was shocked that I didn’t have a full-length mirror. She had 2 that were slated to go to Goodwill, so she gave me one to take home.

I’m not sure it will really help, but I figure it can’t hurt. Or can it?

The mirror had slots in it for photos, and one of the pictures was of No.1 Sis’ grandson, “R”, at the age of 5. It was taken during a trip Sis, “R”, and I took to North Carolina to visit Dad. What a drive that was. How many ways can a 5 year-old embarrass his great-auntie?

We stopped at a motel with a pool one evening, and I took “R” swimming while Sis had a nap. “R” jumped into the pool, cannonball style, and I complimented him on the resulting splash. He yelled, “You cannonball! You’ll make a HUGE splash!” Thanks, sweetie.

I did train him to open doors for me though, and to call me “Princess Auntie Laurel”. I think it all evened out.



Back to the much more recent past, I worked a bit in the studio over the weekend and finished going through the latest crap tower. In addition to the 3 boxes/bags I pulled out of that pile the weekend before, I came up with one more item. The little plastic set of drawers had to go. I thought I’d keep it until I find a use for it, but it’s that kind of thinking that got my house into the overstuffed state it’s in. Decision made. It’s out of here.


Studio, after. (See before here.)

I haven’t been able to get any of the piles down to zero, so I may have to go through them again (and again). As they say in 12-step groups, “Progress, not perfection”. That still puts me at a total of 305 bags, boxes and small pieces of furniture I’ve gotten rid of since January, 2014.

Speaking of progress, when we arrived in North Carolina, we encouraged “R” to go to his great-grandfather and give him a hug. He stayed right where he was, crossed his arms over his chest and asked in a belligerent tone, “Hey Mister, ya got a boat?”

When we were leaving less than a week later, “R” ran to my Dad, gave him a huge hug, and told him he’d miss him.

Now that’s progress.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I shared this at Chic on a Shoestring.



Someday, My Prince Will Come

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Do you remember the song that Cinderella sang in the Disney movie? “Someday, my prince will come…” She was so forlorn, and so sure she’d be happy when her prince showed up and rescued her from her current situation, that being a crappy job, crappy place to live, and insufferable roommates.

When I saw this blog post at The Daily Positive, I realized I was being just like Cinderella.

No, I don’t dream about my prince arriving (although I had a lovely dream about Russell Crowe the other night). But, I do make the mistake of thinking I’ll be happy when…

When I get a vacation, when I get my house organized, when I make more money, when I pay off my debt, when I lose some weight, when I retire…

I have to get into the habit of asking myself what would make me happy right now.

So, last weekend, I ignored my messy house, and my herbal studies homework, and I drove down to Lanesboro, Minnesota to visit my BFF “G” on her farm.

I thought we’d tour Kinstone, but it’s only open through October. Missed it by 1 week. Oops. We’ll check it out come spring.

Instead, we hung around the farm, where the dogs and cats seem to outnumber the horses and cattle. The dogs are Pepper, Red (I thought they should have named him Red Pepper or Cayenne), and Kitty. Yes, Kitty’s a dog.

The cats are Luna, Violet, Pippi, Mini, and Little Big Man. Here’s Little Big Man getting a drink while I was trying to use the sink, and later, making my coat into a bed.

goofy cat

We also watched some old black-and-white comedies. First, “My Favorite Wife” with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. One of my all-time favorites. Then “Love Crazy” with William Powell and Myrna Loy. I hadn’t seen that one before and it was most amusing.

“G” and I went into town for a little shopping and a lot of eating. I’ve been slipping terribly on my low-carb regimen, and my blood sugar and weight are both creeping up. I decided to have a “Farewell to Sugar Tour”, and I spent the weekend (and the week or 2 before) indulging in sweets and starches of all kinds. Starting today, it’s back to the strict no-carb detox diet.

Downtown Lanesboro:

Amish store


And my retirement home, a shed on “G”‘s farm, if I don’t get my debts paid off.

farm shed

Stay tuned…


North Woods Getaway

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I just got home from a Women’s Weekend getaway with my sisters and nieces. We rented a cabin in the woods in northern Wisconsin for 4 days.

Hayward cabin

It was on a beautiful little lake near Hayward, and it came with canoes, a kayak, and pool noodles. I’m a floater, but some of the sisters are sinkers, so flotation devices are a must.

lake near Hayward WI

We rented a pontoon boat for a day from a nearby resort. No.8 Sis piloted it from the resort’s dock to our lake. It was a little hairy getting it through the narrow channels between lakes, but there were plenty of people shouting “Left! Right!” as she zigzagged between the grassy banks.

Channel between lakes-1

Of course, we should have been shouting “Port! Starboard!” but the “boat punch” we were imbibing rendered our recall of nautical terminology nil.

We returned the pontoon boat on time, and in perfect condition. Miracles do still occur.

We also spent a day in Hayward, touring shopping the charming Main Street. The rest of the time, we played cards, because we’re obsessive about our cards. And eating. Because we’re obsessive about our food.

Before leaving Hayward, No.2 Sis and I had to stop at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. I mean, you can’t go to Hayward without going to the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and seeing the one-half block long “Big Muskie”! I didn’t want to climb the 50 steps up to the mouth of the muskie, so Sis climbed up and I took her picture.

Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame

Then, just a quick stop at a roadside casino, where I lost $50 and Sis won $50 (we could have saved time if I’d just handed her my money) and onward to home, sweet home.

Stay tuned…

p.s. I shared this at Chic on a Shoestring.