Thursday, March 23, 2017

Too Real Now

So today Jim was offered a position with a school in Costa Rica and he accepted it. It's up in the mountains, but around 30 minutes from the beach. We'll end up with the best of both worlds. The fresh mountain air for my asthma but the nearby ocean for swimming a couple of times a week.

Now I'm scared. It's too real now.

Not taking tons of things to the second hand stores made it real. Not even having one of the antique stores stop by to pick up some of the furnishing they both from us. But the job offer makes it real, scary real.

Even as I really want to go I feel devastated and sad for unexamined reasons. Nail biting time.

I think it's because I'm the worrier, and he is the eternal optimist. I hope he's right and we're not making a big mistake here. I guess even if we go and it sucks horribly we're only committed for a 90 day stretch. You can do just about anything for 90 days.

If it does not work out we have a freshly painted and carpeted refreshed home with a new kitchen to come home to. That could work.

The school has arranged a room for us at a local family's home for the first month and has promised to help us find an apartment for rent. But it's pretty apparent that Jim is going to have to fly out to take the position while I stay behind to finish up the packing and home renovations plus shipping out our things.

Nervous now.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Presidents, Paper, Ponies and Puzzling

Been an interesting and extremely busy few weeks again.

Yes, we're still engaged in the epic struggle to remove all wallpaper, but we've finished the stairwells, hallways, landings and living room. The most challenging part. We've moved onto the dining room, next the kitchen area and then master bedroom. More area but a much less challenging job. Twenty or so years ago when I'd taken down the living room wall paper and decided to paint my father came to visit. Thinking he was helping me while I was at work he painted, painting over all the still on the wall wallpaper paste I'd not removed. The result was a horrible mess. So in addition to pulling paper and dissolving the glue I've had to scrape down in the areas of paint over glue right down to the bare wallboard.

Took last Friday off because we had the opportunity to see the President of Costa Rica speak at George Mason University while he was in the US to meet with the new administration. Here's the thing I found puzzling about all of this. Trump, the president, did not meet with the leader of a country that has lots of financial ties with our country and imports a great deal of stuff from the USA. President Solis. Solis was palmed off on Mike Pence.

I've reached a sort of zen state of giving zero fucks now about my possessions after fighting, crying and zealously guarding them. Now I cannot haul stuff off to Goodwill fast enough. Thursday one of the second hand store that uses what they raise to fund many of our local social services programs is coming to get the beds, some of the dressers and a few piece of heavy furniture we're not taking with us.

Part of that grand things purge has been running Ebay auctions every week. Last week I sold my entire worship flag collection, with the exception of a few I'm keeping for myself. I thought last week was nutty, dealing with the types of Evangelical Christians that buy flags on Ebay always is nutty. I used to sell a lot of them on Ebay and dealt with haggling, whining and people copying my designs. I got the haggling and crying and whining only. So far none of the other makers of worship flags on Ebay has stolen my original designs.

Well, sir, I forgot about an even stranger bunch of consumers, model horse people. Something like 13 or 14 years ago my youngest daughter joined my eldest in her hobby of buying Breyer and Peter Stone model horses and going around to shows throughout the Eastern US to compete on who had the best models. My youngest only did it less than a year. The two sisters fought the entire time, it was stressful and unpleasant as a result so those horses have been locked in a series of plastic crates lo these many years.

During our listing of stuff on Ebay I offered to list the horses as she has at least four rare high dollar value models and about ten more that are decent models. I'd forgotten what that world was like and now I'm being deluged in constant questions through Ebay over the smallest nit-picky details, things like asking why I posed the horses a certain way in the photographs and questions about who the manufacturer was for a custom stand one of them sits on and it goes downhill from there. Every single day since Saturday I've had to revise the auctions and put the information requested in the auction. I'm looking forward to this week's auction being finished. People that buy my listed art supplies, books and china do not ask a million questions.

If you get the chance you should watch the documentary on the oddness of the model horse competitive world - Not Just Plastic Horses. It's both entertaining and eye-opening. I cannot find it any longer anywhere but it exposes the just plain weird over-the-top crazy folks that spend huge amounts of money to have their horses - which are in reality just childrens toys - judged by those they are paying for the privilege.

Yeah, I know, I collect thimbles so I have no room to talk. But I don't spend tons of money on thimbles, I don't take them to shows and pay to have their quality judged. I know people need hobbies, but sometimes there are folks that just take it a little too far.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fundamental Misunderstandings About Health, Hunger and Poverty

I've been attempting a half-hearted post here for a few days, wanting very much to rant at/about Lori Alexander of The Transformed Wife and her half-assed incomplete unBiblical ideas she pushes in her blog and that vanity project book of hers. But, some of what I wanted to talk about in regards to Lori I'll be posting now because my original thoughts didn't jell enough for a full post on the lack of reality in Lori-World.

I haven't posted much in a last few weeks because in many ways it's a very boring stretch of lather, rinse, repeat. Going from room to room removing wall paper, contractors in and out giving bids/doing work and a million things going to charity bins or into packing boxes for the big move. No one wants to read about that shit, or my battle with a zillion shreds of old wallpaper that keeps escaping my frantic efforts to keep swept up. Who wants to read about that? Very boring, very futile like trying to keep the sea out with a bucket.

This morning early one of my relatives by marriage triggered my mind and a long rant on his Facebook page when he posted a meme about every person in the U.S.A. is 100% responsible for the state of their own health by every choice of food they make on the tines of their fork.

But.... that's not quite how it works. The person that posted this meme has always lived in middle class abundance, never missing a meal or having to worry about budgeting for food. He is assuming that everyone has access to the same food and has the same options as him. He's never been sicker with anything more complex than the common cold. He just does not know that his reality is not everyone elses reality.

If I had a dollar for every single time some trying to be helpful but completely clueless person, be they friend or just mere acquaintance, tried to tell me that my asthma would be 'cured' if I just followed a certain eating pattern/food/diet/scheme I'd have enough dough for a deluxe vacation to the Four Seasons resort in Costa Rica. I'd be living up there like I was a Kardashian, or a Hilton.

Let me just state - DON'T DO THAT TO ANYONE SICK!!!!!!! NEVER SAY THAT STUFF!!! Not only is it not helpful all you're doing is exposing your complete lack of understanding, lack of compassion and making the person dealing with the chronic ailment feel worse. Was that your intention?

I admit, I have food issues. I need to lose weight, I'm always watching my weight and blood sugar levels. But I've been hungry too. I know what it's like to have to carefully plan for every dollar you spend on food. I know what it's like from my single mother days to enroll your child for free breakfast and lunches at school because you're working a dead end job at the same time you're working on your degree and qualifying as an impoverished household. I know what's it's like to do without so your child can eat. Which is why I've kept my pantry overflowing for years now. I don't like to feel I might have to do without again.

So whenever some conservative friend or relative starts carrying on about lazy freeloaders buying steak for the dogs with the SNAP program, or blaming the weight of children on their free meals at school, or making healthcare claims like the one in that meme it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. It's just not that simple. Most issues never are. This one is complicated by American belief in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and equating monetary blessings with morality.

Lori Alexander ignores the reality of utter poverty in her book in the chapters where she insists you cook only from scratch every single day and makes fantastic health claims about eating the way she does. She ignores the fact that most Quiverfull families are unable to afford a diet of nothing but organic and raw foods. She ignores the fact that healthy diets do not cure long term health issues like brain tumors or arthritis or asthma.

It's a way to simplify and assign blame to these people. They aren't knowledgeable and they don't care to be. It's just easier to come up with a way to blame-shift and relief themselves of any possible responsibility or action that they might be required to take to ether understand the situation or to help the hungry. It's always easier to blame.

The six months I worked in the grocery store turned out to be eye opening as to what happens on the SNAP program for families. I've seen the same poor people trying to stretch that money to go as far as possible and feed everyone. It's not always possible to use the small sum SNAP pays or the scanty food budget you have if you are working for minimum wage to encompass healthy foods like fresh fruits and veggies. If you have limited funds you're always going to go for the least expensive options, which here in America means heavily processed foods laden with fat, sugar and chemicals. Blaming someone for not eating right when they don't have nearly enough money to do so is ridiculous!

Add in that in a lot of rural areas and inner city sections there's a scarcity of grocery stores with any  variety. There are lots of convenience stores with that limited cheap processed food section, but not much in the way of healthier non-processed options. When's the last time you saw a salad or fresh fruit in a bodega that mainly deals in malt liquor, flavored cigars and potato chips?

If people are making bad food choices because they have no access to better foods and do not have the money to pay the extra you can hardly blame them! The same goes for families that have had absolutely no exposure to nutrition information. Without knowledge you cannot make better choices.

Once upon a time most everyone was required to take some sort of basic home ec or health classes where you at least had exposure to the ideas of the food pyramid and healthy eating choices. As more schools lose funding these programs have fallen away. Leaving a newer generation without the information they need.

Here, in our small community our social services system has started doing something that does make a difference. They started issuing bus tokens to the weekly farmers market and wooden script coins to be used on fresh foods at the farmers market only. It's a small step, but it's a beginning. I'd like to see more places try to address the access to healthier food for those at the bottom.

I'm starting to get more worried over this issue as I've continued to volunteer at the local soup kitchen, food pantry, senior nutrition site and other places that feed people. The need is greater than ever before, yet people are getting more parsimonious and judgmental towards those that need the most help. But then again look at what's happening in Trump's administration.

Fits, doesn't it, with the newer reality of the new administration. Just look at the new healthcare proposal the Republicans are trying to push through - Trumpcare. Most Republicans do not want it, people are freaking out because everyone is worried that they will be losing their healthcare. Looking at the bill it's pretty sure to raise everyone's premiums and only benefit the rich.

Hearing yesterday that the Meals on Wheels program and the funding to many senior nutrition sites is ending makes me think that this is the real death panel that the Republicans keep yarping on about when the ACA was being set up. It is Trump and his cohorts that are preparing to put seniors out on an ice floe to slowly starve to death without being able to keep affording their insurance, drugs or medical treatment. If you look closely at the new health care legislation there is a section that talks about reducing the costs of Medicare and Social Security payments by increasing numbers of seniors dying than there are now. Why would they be dying in greater numbers? Could be because of the lack of desperately needed services. The real death panel is this administration.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Costa Rica Day 8, 9 and 10

Yeah, yeah, I know I'm very late transcribing the rest of my trip notes. Here they are..

January 31, February 1 and 2, 2017

I was still feeling wrung out from the bout of IBS or whatever traveling bug I'd picked up so we didn't do much the next day. We walked on the beach at Dominical before breakfast.






I'm starting to get slightly tired of typical Tico food, even if that's what this hotel is serving us for breakfast and dinner. They did offer us pancakes this morning, which we had instead of rice and beans.

We also started talking to the many artisans at the stalls selling tourist type things at the beach. These are the typical handicrafts, mostly dildos and dope pipes. I have to say pot is everywhere here, I smell people smoking it just about everywhere, asked a few locals and yes, apparently while it is illegal as long as you are not selling it the policia leave you alone.

You get the idea. Not long after walking on the oceanfront and Jim haggling with the artisans while exchanging business cards and contact information Jim just flaked out, passed right out onto that sandy bed in the room. I went outside, taking the time to sit out on the beautiful tables with umbrellas in the courtyard between the rooms so I could take notes on our trip so far.

As I sat there writing in my notebook about our trip a lady looking like she was in her forties came over and started talking to me. I unintentionally made a friend, introverted me. We talked for a few hours in the heat before taking a swim in the hotel pool together. She's newly divorced, struggling with a lot of crazy health problems not too dissimilar to my own, and she's traveling around Costa Rica trying to decide if she's going to relocate there. One very bad marriage, rental income and no kids, I don't blame her. It's beautiful here, much cheaper cost of living here and the weather is fabulous, warm and sunny every day.

I am not mentioning her name for a couple of reasons, mostly for privacy sake. But we really connected and ended up hanging out together for meals and at different points in the day. I was still pretty beat up/worn out by the bout of asthma followed by the stomach troubles at that point, but discovered that the hotel restaurant had some of the oddest flavor smoothies you could imagine. I got a banana-white rice smoothie for my stomach and it killed off whatever was plaguing me.



Jim woke up just in time to walk on the beach again before dinner and then we had dinner with my new friend and some other Americans staying at the same hotel that were taking full immersion Spanish classes down the block at a language school. Then we made a new friend, the hotel's resident gato, a sweet faced kitty that wanted petting all during dinner.

There's not a lot to do after it gets dark here and it gets dark pretty soon around dinner time. Being so close to the equator it's pretty much 12 hours light and 12 hours of darkness. We were still pretty tired and turned in early.

February 1 - Last full day here. After another breakfast and walk on the beach we drove to the next town over Matapalo so Jim could visit a place he found online that he'd wanted to book this leg of the trip with but was full up - Charlie's Jungle House. It's a beautiful place, and we met the owner, his son and a few of the folks that work there and just fell in love with Matapalo. Most beautiful beach and I completely neglected to take any photos or bring my Ipad. There's a large public beach with parking that's deserted and a gaggle of private homes and a few rentals mostly inhabited by Americans right on the beach.

Charlie took us around, introduced us to a couple of people in the area, including a couple that spent three months in their Matapalo home and three or four months back in San Francisco. I was fascinated talking to the wife because she was a retired criminal investigator with the city and we had many things to talk about. Charlie took us to this couple because they've had trouble finding reliable house sitters for the months they are stateside. Right now they have someone for their trip from April to August, but we exchanged contact information for a possible house sit in the future. Apparently you can live for just about free in exchange for housesitting for Americans in Costa Rica.

I really do not want to do that, I made that clear to Jim on this trip. I want to find a place and settle. We did enough moving around during his Army years.

Unlike the sky high rents anywhere near Tamarindo you can rent here quite reasonably. There are very nice townhouses on the hillside overlooking Dominical beach for 300 US dollars a month. You can get a rental house in Matapalo for five or six hundred and we toured a rental right on the beach in Matapalo that I was trying mightily to twist Jim's arm into renting. Pricer than the rest, right on the beach, four bedrooms modern home with all the luxuries you could want and coming open in May, just when we're arriving, a thousand dollars a month. Just think! Step out of your front door and step onto the beach and the warm waters of the Pacific ocean.

There's really not a lot worth saying about the rest of the day, our last beach sunset, packing our suitcases and leaving the next morning after a last dip in the Pacific. We drove back, turned in the car and then started what felt like the never ending wait at the airport.

We changed planes in Fort Lauderdale, zooming through customs at the speed of light and not even being stopped or hassled or questioned once. We were still on TSA pre check status for some reason. Our flight from Fort Lauderdale to BWI was only about a quarter full, we were upgraded to better seats near the emergency exits and ended up chatting with the flight attendant most of the flight.

Horrible reality hit the minute we got back to the BWI airport and called the number for pickup to the parking place. The phone number was disconnected. Finally remembered the name of the other hotel that was also using this pickup and parking service and called them, but it was a frantic five minutes worrying about if our car would even be there. Stepping out into that 30 degree wind after having gotten up that morning and swam in the 90 degree weather was a shock. I wanted to turn around, get right back on that plane and go back to Costa Rica immediately.

We came back armed with knowledge of what we needed to do, information and contacts on moving there. We plan on being in CR for good in about six or ten weeks. It is happening.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Tossing Muffin Tins and Undeserved Guilt

We're still in the midst of the great purge and remodel to move. One of the interesting things about that is now I'm unearthing a pile of artifacts from a distant past. Many of them I am so just tossing. Some I really should toss because of the negative connotations of the times they remind me of.

Example. I found a set of muffin top baking pans in the very back of the kitchen cabinets. A lady I was friends with for about a year gave them to me. It was one of those friendships I had no business taking part in because it wasn't long into our interactions before she started to try mightily to make me doubt myself.

Okay, so that's not the hardest thing ever to do to me as I tend to live in my head, overthink everything and mentally beat myself up often without the feedback of others. Like the time recently I brought back a small glass jar filled with the most beautiful shells I collected and then found out after I was home that it's against the law to take sea shells from their beaches and out of the country. I guilted stressed over that small thing for a week.

I inwardly go D'oh all on my own, keep it to myself and try to move on. I don't need others piling it on.

I'm finally starting to learn in my old age that I'm my own worst enemy many times. I tend to get obsessional and tense about too many things, winding myself up. Didn't even realize I was doing that to myself until recently.

Back when I had this friend who gave me the muffin tin I didn't realize how much of my own anxiety I was driving, and I didn't recognize her attempts to push my buttons into feeling worse about myself. We were roughly the same age, studied in the same field in college, but took totally different paths in life after our educations. Miss Muffin Pan forsook stability, relationships, money and a number of other adult objectives to live her life as a self-supporting artist. I went the other way, I got married and had a family, relegating my art to a past time, a hobby, and working in another field.

She just relentlessly drove the notion at me that I'd somehow betrayed myself and art, settling for a lesser life, while she'd fully embraced what it meant to be an artist. I couldn't see at the time that what she was doing was pretty sick in its own way. She was trying to punish me for making the choices I did.

For awhile I felt that guilt, carried it around like a heavy backpack of rotten carcasses that really weren't mine to carry. She had me so effectively gas lit that I started to rethink and second guess every important decision I'd made since college. Guilt, useless guilt and feeling like I'd wasted my life. Until one day I started to question why someone who claimed to be a friend would try to push all my crazy buttons down at the same time. Why would someone tell me that my marriage and children were a cop out, the easy way out? Why deliberately try to trigger someone like that,... unless, just perhaps.... you were pretty miserable yourself.

She broke off our friendship and I didn't come to the knowledge of why she had said the things she did until much later. But it made a rough time in my life just a little harder, all of this went down back when I was having the first seeds of doubt about my religion happening and I got so sick from the constant attempts to have another child because of the teachings of our church. I ended up having to have a complete hysterectomy.

For a long time I really missed talking to her because we had so many things in common, that we both enjoyed, not just the arts. But I missed the warning signs that she wasn't the most stable when she started fighting with most of my other friends. 

Another sad thing is that I looked up to her for staying artistically 'pure' and her sacrifices to stay true to her real self. I admire that in folks, just not those people that try to knock you down so they can scramble up over you to feel better about themselves.

I do enough screwing up on my own. I don't need others trying to make me feel guilty over my path. Those muffin pans are going straight to Goodwill, and hopefully, someone else will feel blessed, not reminded of unearned guilt by them.

Don't let anyone try to tell you that your path is inauthentic. It's yours to live, not theirs. 


Friday, March 03, 2017

Pianos and Tears

Before I listed my piano on Craigslist I'd contacted a number of antique piano dealers around this area of Virginia and I've been corresponding with one of them for a week now. Emails with photos of my piano, pictures of the serial number plate, dimensions, etc.

Officially it's a vertical professional size. Yesterday he called and made an offer to pick it up today. He gave me a sum it was worth, what he was sure he could sell it at and we talked contract, making arrangements for him and his crew to come down today and pick it up.

While I was happy I was going to get something for it, something in the tens of thousands range because of the rarity and restoration, by the time I got up this morning my words of a few weeks ago about feeling nothing about this important part of my life are wrong. I got up depressed, weeping and wailing that I was selling what had been in our family, my father's family for nearly 80 years now. It hit me hard.

I cried all day. I cried while I polished the mahogany top, the wooden carving of curlicues across the front. I cried polishing the keys. I cried while vacuuming out the innards and dusting the felt hammers. It started to feel like a betrayal of a family member, not a sale of something I cannot use any longer.

Talked to my cousin who'd had the piano for about five years immediately after my father had to fetch it during the divorce and she told me a piano tale in the family that I'd not heard. Apparently during a hurricane in the 40s the family homestead on Bayou Manchac was suddenly flooded and during the wild wind, rain and flooding the floor in the living room started to come apart and my grandparents pushed and pulled that monstrously heavy instrument through the living room and into the kitchen to save it from the storm. I had no idea. Apparently I'm not the only one in the family that treasured it.

But about the time I fully made peace with letting go of this family member the piano dealer showed up, did a quick play and broke the news to me that the sound board is starting to crack. Meaning it's not worth piles of money. It makes it nearly worthless, closer to five hundred bucks. Oh well.

I had started to notice a slight buzz/burr sound on a few notes only in the last year, wondered if it had anything to do with the last tuning or a need for adjustment, not dreaming that the sound board had started to crack. Once that happens the wood of the piano is worth more than the instrument itself.

We have an appointment with the local antiques auction house on Monday, and I'll add my piano to the bulks of furniture and china we'll be selling through the auction.

On a very sad note the auction appointment had to be pushed back because of nephew of the auctioneer died this week. A kid that had attended high school with my two youngest. Funeral is tomorrow. Another young person in our community dead from an opioids.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Costa Rica Day 7

Monday, January 30, 2017

We lazed around the Valley Vista Lodge for the morning after arising with the birds. Today was a short drive around the Pacific coast to the beach area at Playa Dominical. Tried to get a photo of all the 'Iguana Crossing' signs on the highway to no avail. The traffic was moving too fast.

During breakfast I had two surprises. I tried fresh squeezed star fruit juice for the first time and secondly, a local lady started ranting about Donald Trump, saying she hoped someone would bump him off. I'm not wild about him as president, but I have no wish for him to be harmed in that way. Likely it would only make him a martyr.

In the morning we were finally able to get a great view of the countryside around the hotel and I got a few shots of the iguana that lives on the grounds of the hotel.











Jim had to do all the driving today and we were seriously delayed leaving because I contracted travelers tummy, or maybe it was my IBS reacting to the star fruit juice. I ended up feeling rather dehydrated and dizzy sick.

We had to stop for a late lunch since I felt so crummy just north of Jaco - at a surfing school and restaurant named 'Bowie's Point'. The restaurant was on the beach and open air. I managed to get some invalid food, plantains, white rice and toast along with some of the other traditional Tico food. I started to feel better almost immediately after having the rice. I think that the stomach troubles gave me too low of a blood sugar.



But the magical part of the stop was that a big splash of color in the trees caught my eye. It was a group of rainbow-hued Macaw parrots in the wild, living and nesting in the beach front trees. We stayed on that beach for an hour just so I could try and snap a few parrot pictures. Didn't get a good one, either too blurry, too much sun, too much shade in the trees and too much movement by the birds. Incredibly moving sight for someone that has been involved in parrot rescue for years. This is how they should be, free and wild, not living in cages or zoos. If you look closely the colorful speck in the middle of this photo is one of the parrots.



We revisited Quepas, and the resort we stayed at two years ago in Manuel Antonio. Jim has several ideas for businesses in Costa Rica he's working on involving motorcycle tours of the country. The hotel owner in Quepas is on board, willing to give us a break on a group of rooms for the tour group.

But the shocker of the day was Playa Dominical. You turn out the main highway onto this suddenly bumpy dirt road, dirty, touristy and very down market. The hotel was nothing like the online photos or description. We opened the door to our room to be greeted by a 3 inch long roach dead in the middle of the floor. Dirty, old and beat-up rooms. But on the beach and cheap, cheap, cheap with breakfast and dinner included.

I suppose the view at sunset from the Dominical beach makes up for the crappy room and the hotel welcoming committee....


After I got over my white middle aged entitlement and squeamishness we had a pleasant evening there complete with a visit to a beach bar owned by a guy from New Orleans. He used to be the soundman at a place I spent many evenings watching bands - The Warehouse. I saw Mott the Hoople for the first time at The Warehouse. Had a drink called a 'Dirty Banana' before it was bedtime for this old coot pair.