9 January 2018
A New Year...
I don't know about you, but for me the new year is always a little bittersweet. More and more as I get older. Every year ~ without fail, I have more people to miss, places to reminisce about, gatherings of loved ones that will never again be. Friends and family continue to move into the next realm & die off on us. It's all just so much to handle. Every blessing becomes another memory.
Maybe all this is why my favorite Christmas song is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." That song is so sad, so sweet, so true to life for me. I covet the Judy Garland version. Somehow it becomes a little richer with meaning every Christmas.
Anyhoooo, it's now 2018 and it's been more than 4 months since I've last written for my blog....
Turns out our planned October '17 camping trip fell through cause of a hurricane (bummer), but Chad and I still escaped to magical Ginnie Springs, Florida in early November. Without the kids. We scuba dived a cavern called Blue Grotto and snorkeled Ginnie & Dogwood springs, absolutely crystal clear freshwater springs that flow into the tannic Santa Fe River, creating a rainbow optical effect where the two meet.
To say it's magical is an understatement. I was inspired for the first time in a long time. This location is so photogenic that I've also added a photo gallery ^up there under "Florida Springs" :} We bought our GoPro in Costa Rica, used, and it has been the most fun technology thing to have for several years now.
I sent out a Christmas letter this season and felt pretty proud of that. I enjoyed devoting some time to correspondence, even if it was printed copies of my Christmas letter that I signed at the bottom. Some years ago I recall saying, "it's only right that I write a personal note on each Christmas card/letter." Well, that went out the window.
But you know what? I sent those fuckers. Sometimes you've just gotta do your best and say, that's alright. That's ENOUGH. I didn't write a personal message on each and I'd really have loved to do that. Says my overachieving self. Sometimes that's just not life, ya know? BUT it's really all gonna be OK. If I didn't believe that deep down somewhere, some days it'd be hard to go on.
I will say, in 2017 I became an Instagram addict (whoopsie~find me @lizfaidley <3) and in the process started following a lot of body positive advocates and celebrities. #bodyposi , you guys. Looking back, I think that one of the biggest messages I internalized last year thanks to this movement is: stop being so hard on yourself.
You'd be shocked, and you should be, at how many amazing women I have found myself explaining this concept to. Like some guru of self-love (omg). Think of the horrible, awful things you say to yourself and then consider saying them to someone you love. If you would never do that, you should never do it to yourself, either. It actually makes a lot of sense.
There's a great saying somewhere in cyberspace: in a world that profits from your self-loathing, loving yourself is a rebellious act (something like that). So look at it as sticking it to the man, OK?
Maybe you can try it too. let me know how it goes, kay? xoxoxoxo 2018: the year of radical self love.
Along these lines I've decided to stop chewing my nails. It's so gross. Thus far I'm doing well and we've got 9 days under our belt. Rejoice all!!!!
I'm feeling a little blurry from maxing and relaxing for a few weeks ... but overall life's super good. Wait, one more thing. We all got sick over christmas break ~ it was super sad ~ but we're healthy now and back to our normal routines. It's always a bit of a relief after the holidays crazy. I mean, I'd prefer to stay in vacation mode forever. But I tried that once and it didn't pan out for me ;) maybe next time!!!!
5 September 2017
Amber and Eric's birthdays! A very happy birthday to my super wonderful amazing siblings!
Finding the Balance
Lately I’ve felt, like, really at the right place at the right time. Which is a nice feeling to have after years of turmoil, big city jitters, second guessing, confusion, and angst.
When I got sober I thought, naively, that it would be like unblocking a dam of inspiration, creativity, motivation, and all these good things that I had locked inside myself. It turned out to be more like a trickle. I definitely became more artistically and creatively productive, but it ebbed and flowed. Some days I had no inspiration. Other days I was overflowing with it-cruelly, about half of them end up being too busy with “real life” and the inspiration is lost.
Since that time I’ve realized that ebbing and flowing is actually, for humans, a normal thing. My dad calls it “riding the wave.” None of us can create something amazing every day. At times, maybe even when we feel totally stagnant, things are incubating; and at different times things are actually blossoming, but it’s all a part of a larger cycle going on inside of all of us.
The last few months have been like a delayed opening of the dam, though. Things are happening. I’m still ever so slowly growing my website. I’m connecting with new people who are interested in or moving to Costa Rica. That remains very interesting and fulfilling to me. I particularly enjoy making connections between clients & solid businesses we have personal experiences with in Costa Rica.
Vaguely speaking, I’m growing a couple business ideas, but they aren’t totally blossomed yet & that’s OK. Thinking like an entrepreneur takes time, I’ve discovered. The key is persistence, and in believing in the instrinsic and business value of the little things I’m dreaming up. Believing in the value of myself & my ideas.
It’s worth noting when I was drinking every day, I did not believe in myself. So it’s no small thing that I’ve moved into this type of thinking. So it took years and years-what?!
In my work life things are phenomenal. I have never worked in a job that I was SO HAPPY in. You know, there are those DAYS of course. But in general I go in excited to do my work. I treasure the opportunity to work with science scholars and help solve biological mysteries with my head and hands. Also, we just get along; we’ve been told by other labs that they are jealous because they always hear us laughing. I feel so lucky.
I think about how it happened and it’s so weird. I was desperate for work by the time I interviewed for this job in Dec. 2015. I had gotten to the point where I was applying for work at Costco and other non-scientific (gasp) workplaces. I was terrified, grieving for my life in Costa Rica, approaching rock bottom, drinking myself to death.
I had started applying for jobs from Costa Rica in early September, and come December, I finally had my first interview for a staff job at Kennesaw State University. It was awesome to get an interview. The pay wasn’t what I was wanting, and in every way this position would have been a big step down from where I was when we left Iowa in 2014. But, I thought, maybe I deserved that for taking a year off. I wasn’t naïve to the thought that I might lose some professional ground by taking time off “just for fun.”
I had another interview at Georgia Tech – cool place, kinda downtown in Atlanta, really beautiful facilities. This interview was in a mass spectrometry core facility. It would’ve been new work, technically, for me-if repetitive. Before they would invite me back for another interview round I met my current boss Kathy.
Being in her lab has turned out to be everything I would have chosen in a dream job, and at the time it came into my life I was desperate for anything at all. What’s the message here? When you release your expectations it frees up space for your dreams to manifest themselves? Like, relax and trust in your persistent good luck. And good things will unfold. I really believe that.
Recently I got the promotion I’ve been dreaming of. I was promoted from Lead Research Specialist to Senior Research Specialist. It’s really a dream come true because for about five years my career has been plateau’d. Now, at 37, I’m in my dream job, with my dream job title, and I have broken out of that plateau. I’m SO HAPPY.
Socially, I’ve tried to get out there. I have some friends now. A few (haha -I’ve never been a person of many friends). I’ve found lots of great people here and it’s another message from the universe: Atlanta is good for you right now. Life is good. Maybe you didn’t expect to be in Atlanta 10 years ago. But you probably didn’t expect to speak Spanish, either. (surprise!) Go with it honey. Enjoy the heat and the magnolia blossoms.
I’ve been plugging away at my art. I’ve continued with my cross stitching venture (so fun). I’m filling in a sugar skull piece right now that’s about 5”x7” final size. Really bright and fabulous.
We have two Florida vacations coming up. A whole family camping (yes tent camping) adventure to white sand Perdido Key Beach, and a brief romantic getaway for me and my man <3 to Ginnie Springs, a crystal clear natural springs system known for its scuba diving, snorkeling, and sometimes manatees! I visited this park many years ago with my dad’s brother, Tom, and his family. It has proven to be an excellent memory and I cannot wait to see this sparkling, magical place again. This time, Chad and I will be going as certified scuba divers. Woot!!!!! CANNOT WAIT!
Thanks for reading & keeping up. Life is good. Pura vida y’all <3
OMG it’s August and I need to blog
1 August 2017
Hi everyone! I just paid my obscenely expensive yearly bill for my website domain/hosting/builder things and that reminded me I should probably blog. Ha!
Life is good.
Wyatt is 10 and Sunshine is 5 (what. Happened.). They enter 5th grade and kindergarten at the same elementary school this coming Monday the 7th! WHAT!
They are healthy and happy. We are all very grateful that Chad works part time and so can accommodate school breaks. For example, this week is a week off – no summer program, no school yet. When we both worked full time this week would have been one of those awkward times we had to finagle an arrangement with a caretaker--would they have room? How much would it cost?
Now, these kinds of things are much simpler. Chad’s work gives him flexibility to be with the kids before and after school, and during breaks. Amazing! How something like this has made such a drastic difference in daily quality of life and happiness of every member of the family. Much of this is thanks to Chad’s work on the home front – dealing with kids (>full time job, as we all know—drop offs, pickups, doctor and dentist appointments, school functions), making real food dinners, making smoothies for breakfast. True story. I can’t believe all the things he does EVERY DAY.
My work is going fabulously but let’s move on to more exciting things:
I’ve recently become obsessed with sewing. In the vacuum left behind by not drinking away my evenings, I’ve struggled to occupy myself in healthy ways the last year and a half. Ways that feed my creativity but also don’t squander lots of money, or load on the body fat. (The struggle is real.)
Not long ago we got a new craft store in our town and when we visited I discovered, to the sounds of angels singing, an entire aisle of counted cross stitch kits. I’ve been looking for these for years. These are the ones where you get a pattern, a piece of cross stitch fabric, a needle, and all the threads you should need. Side note~I’ve since discovered that having all the thread you should need isn’t always true, but hey, that doesn’t keep me from finishing these little projects! Turns out sewing floss is only about 50 cents per thingy. I don’t know the proper term here. It’s several yards of a certain color. And color matching is no problem at this new art store – they have, surely, every shade of the sewing rainbow.
There’s something about counting the squares, following the flow of each color, watching the image slowly, ever so slowly, emerge from a blank white grid over time. The pixelated-ness is captivating, enchanting somehow. It’s very relaxing and satisfying. And at the end you have something you can give someone that is really unique, took some hours to make--something special that you have the joy to give and that someone else might treasure for a long time. All around, it’s a big win win.
I am also obsessed with Instagram. Like, obsessed. It’s definitely one of the things that has filled the vacuum of sobriety. A creative outlet where I can post quotes I love, art I create (mostly from quotes I love), photos of my family & birds & dog, and of my life day to day in Hotlanta. I view it as a huge canvas of my life, a life bulletin board, and it’s fun. It inspires me to always look at my world from that angle – find the beauty every day, share it with the world. That and my struggles, too (those posts are far less popular!). Cause it’s gotta be REAL. That’s what is important. Not that I have over 500 followers now. (Follow me @lizfaidley <3)
Finally, a project I have been dreaming of for quite some time, years really, is in the manifestation stage, hallelujah -- so stay tuned for that. Especially if you are one of the many folks who have complimented me on my Costa Rica dresses and hair comb! PURA VIDA to you all. Thank you for reading my blog. I want to hug you!
6 April 2017
It's April, y'all.
Azaleas are in bloom all over atlanta. The air smells like roses. Magnolias bloom as big as dinner plates. Atlanta...is... gorgeous.
We've only hit the beltline twice or a few times in the year plus we've been here (FAIL). It's a miles-long stretch of wide smooth path through the city. It is dotted with art installations as diverse as the folks of Atlanta, and lush townhome complexes with water fountains and Porsches. It smells like food and coffee and there's no shortage of yuppies wearing puppies in dog carriers.
I've been walking to work every day for a month now. I walk through Lullwater Preserve on Emory's campus. Today was day 23/24. It has done wonders for my creativity and inspiration.
Since my February trip to visit my family in California -- creating art has come back into my life again. It's been a welcome change. Self care that I had let go of years ago.
My work and Chad's work are great. Sufficiently busy, allowing us to enjoy a comfy lifestyle in the city suburbs.
So, life is pretty good. We've been conversing on the issue of "settling down." What does it even mean, would we be settling? or what.
We've also discussed Costa Rica. A lot. Always. She's like the dead beloved auntie who everyone has only good memories of.
Basically the ocean is calling.
Chad and I (unbeknownst to each other til recently) have held the same mental fantasy of returning to the beaches of Guanacaste and looking out onto the horizon -- the Catalinas in profile and FEELING LIKE THINGS ARE RIGHT AGAIN. We both have this distinct feeling that it would be the right move for our family and our values.
And then the thought becomes very clear, that to deny ourselves that happiness, and hopefully many more years of a lifestyle that suited us so well, would be tragic.
We regret leaving. We've tried to fight it, we've bought into the rationality of the American Dream again when it's anything but rational. We know, again, and with some more finality this time around, that it doesn't do it for us. We fit in even less than we did before.
We try to be the best and make the best of every situation, but going back to Costa Rica feels right in our bones. We know just as deeply that we never should have left.
Strangely, and in many ways fortunately - because many wonderful things have happened here in Atlanta -- we had to make the decisions we did & go through the last year and five months to see all of this so clearly.
THAT BEING SAID we will still be in Atlanta for a while. Life is good, and that's fine with us.
19 January 2017
(post from our facebook page with some additional ramblings added here and there)
Before I share a memory of a moment that really resonated and stayed with me:
I used to have (at least) a dozen coach bags. I shopped for recreation. It was no big deal for me to spend $300 or $400 on a purse. That happened to be my favorite accessory besides watches.
I completely understand the look good/feel good thang 'cause I lived it. But it DIDN'T make me feel good. It made the void grow only stronger.
The question, can I ever be happy? Was always on my back.
When we came back to the States, the in-your-face-ness of consumerism and external appearance to signify status was part of our return culture shock. Atlanta, being a big city, is definitely a prime example.
I remember being in line at a Hy-vee, this one in Iowa, and seeing a woman ahead of us chat with her friend. (Here, chats are so much shorter than they are in Costa Rica. I remember running into a neighbor and talking for 35 minutes at the Mercado once.) Anyway, the lady said to her friend, "We never see each other or talk, I'm so busy! Work, work, work!" It was definitely feigned.
And I could suddenly see that between her purse, boots and outfit, she was easily wearing $1,000. Probably more. Between her commute, probably, working full-time, and keeping up with the Joneses, she had very little left for meaningful social interactions in the grocery starbucks line, let alone dinner parties or the such.
This was a resonating confirmation in my life, part of a continuing epiphany that has shaped over several years--
time is SO MUCH more valuable than these things. Time to talk to, time to connect with, time to CHERISH my friends and family. I have to let go of the distractions from that to truly BE HERE NOW.
In my life, I have struggled to not define myself by my career or by my salary. When you're an adult that's kinda what you are. What you do. People say, "what do you do?" You're supposed to advertise it in your clothes, your skin & jewelry & fashion, your car, your home and estate.
I think a lot of people are feeling a longing for meaning in this crazy, overflowing but somehow empty time we are all sharing, this era of more more more.
For us, we continue along the minimalism path. Finding out what "minimalism" means for us and embracing less.
I hope this little post might keep you pushing through the difficulty of similar realizations in your own lives. Pura vida ❤️
22 November 2016
the Season of Gratefulness
Lately I’ve hit a point in my life where I have realized, finally, that happiness is not another place or another time or another accomplishment away. Happiness can only be now. I can say:
I am grateful for my family. They are my PEOPLE. They see me at my worst and love me anyway. We fart and laugh together. My husband is my best friend, and he and my kids are constant reminders of how lucky I am to be here now.
I am grateful to have work. To be employed by an extremely inspiring and gracious woman who values me and pays me to do work that I am skilled at, that I believe in deeply, and that I love. I am grateful for kind and interesting and hilarious co-workers. I am grateful to be employed at Emory University, a prestigious institute for higher learning and scholarly pursuit, again, something I believe in deeply and am honored to be a part of.
I am grateful for our home. It is humble. I am much closer to my work and that has been a welcome life improvement. Our neighborhood is quiet and safe. Our home is much more affordable than our rental apartment. We have all been through a lot of changes and ups and downs the last couple of years and it’s been almost miraculous to just settle down and submit to the routine of life. To just exist, and work through the changes we have invited into our lives. To remember the reasons we chose uncomfortable change over numb comfort. We didn’t settle, but now we are settling into a new life that we have redesigned, and it feels great.
I’m so grateful for our new life. Three years ago, we were waking up at 5 to get out of the house by 6:30. Kids to daycare (Sunny) or before school care (Wyatt) by 7 or so. Work til 5. Commute back to North Liberty. Pick up the kids, and at this point everyone is exhausted and cranky. Get dinner (lots of times fast food), get home and eat in front of the television. Proceed to drink (alcohol) basically every single night. Put off the deep feelings of unhappiness and lost-ness of a life that felt devoid of all the normal joys of being. Devoid of time together as humans, as family, we were all lost.
Today, alas, we still wake up early. (Chad earlier than me; he’s an early bird!) And the kids are older. But we have mornings together. We talk and laugh and hug and kiss. We eat breakfast together. Chad brings Sunny to her school, and Wyatt catches the bus to his school. I go to work, Chad goes to work (he works at a library now! Having achieved another lifelong dream!), the kids have only a school day at school. No more before and after school program. Wyatt takes the bus home at 3; Chad picks up Sunny at 2:30-3:00, and the three of them meet at home for a snack and homework.
I head home between 3:30 and 4:30. We eat dinner together, around the kitchen table, EVERY NIGHT. We hang out with each other and our animals. We talk and laugh and dance and play. Alcohol is no longer a necessity to make it through to the next day. Alcohol is gone. Kids are off to bed around 8, mom and dad to bed around 9 or 9:30 (yeah, we value our sleep!)…. Repeat with smiles on our faces (mostly).
I’m grateful we have less. After some serious cognitive struggles I’ve FINALLY come around to this. It’s something I started learning in Costa Rica. I saw very clearly that somehow, people with much less are much happier. More GRATEFUL for basic things. More cognizant of how lucky they are to be here, to have family, to have clothes and food and a roof overhead. But I wasn’t there yet.
In Costa Rica I lived over the top luxurious because I didn’t know any other way. It was where I found my comfort and security in that phase of my life. Doing whatever I wanted with my money because that was happiness to me. Even though I KNEW it wasn’t, and that it was leading me down a path that would have a crash and burn at the end, I was too scared to actively live with less and invite that kind of change into my day to day life. Being frugal was the unknown, and I shunned it with all my might.
Fast forward to our move back to the States. In Atlanta, we have absolutely had to make do with less. We have struggled to make ends meet. We struggled to buy our own place again, because we realized we had to bring our housing costs under control and seize financial viability for our own sanity and survival. We have struggled, but we have also broken through.
Now we know that the time we were the richest financially was the time we were actually poorest in the thing we value the most. Time. We were apart more time than we were together. We weren’t able to take care of each other. We weren’t on a path that felt right in our hearts. We abandoned our riches, quite literally, and we have broken through to learn that what we have now is everything we need.
No matter what happens, no matter who is the president, no matter where we live or what jobs we have -- if we have each other, time to value each other and love each other, the ability to furnish ourselves with actual human NEEDS, we are lucky beyond measure. We are rich beyond measure. We have learned gratefulness. I can say that now.
I am grateful for gratefulness. It’s been a long road, but I finally see the light. Having less has given me a new lease on life, a totally new perspective that excites me for the future and for my children’s futures. A belief that change is great, it’s empowering, and so anything IS really possible. I’m finally back.
To close, a poem posted by a lovely friend we made in Costa Rica (her name is Bru and she was featured in the Antares chapter of my book, Costa Rica Dreamers):
“Cuando menos cosas esperas,
mas cosas son las que te llegan.
cuando menos cosas deseas,
mas valor daras a las que ya tengas.
Cuando menos con la mente interfieras,
Mas libre te sientes y te encuentras.
Cuando dejas que la vida sea,
La vida te llena el alma entera.”
Author Arnau de Tera
Translation by me, not by google, so please forgive any inevitable errors:
“When you wait for fewer things,
more things are what will come to you.
When you wish for fewer things,
you give more value to what you have now.
When less interferes with your mind,
you feel more free and you find yourself.
When you let life be what it is,
life fills your soul completely.”
Happy Thanksgiving from the Faidley Family! Thank you for reading and sharing in our journeys. If you think any of your friends or family would enjoy our story, please SHARE our facebook page:
www.facebook.com/famadvtime <--and please give us a like if you haven't already :}
and our website (where you are now)
Finally, Mama is on Instagram @Lizfaidley ~ let's connect! Pura Vida <3
19 September 2016
The Poverty of Excess
The crazy thing about being back in the States is quite honestly the overabundance of everything and the corresponding lack of fulfillment and happiness. The sky is the limit, and anything your little heart desires is available to you. The only limiting factor is how much money you have at your disposal.
Our society has indoctrinated into us various ways of advertising and conveying this important status information to others. People we know and people we don’t know. So much of day to day existence here is based on the notion that selling your time for money is essential. It’s the REAL WORLD. It’s real life. Sure, that’s true, but when you start to say, “how much do we really NEED?” and frame it in that context, it gets interesting. Do you really need a brand new car or granite countertops in your kitchen and bathrooms? Or do you just want those things more than you want to own the hours of your life. (This is just how we frame the questions of want in general.)
I mean basically selling your time for money should be seen as a massive and tragic sacrifice but it’s not for most people. This lifestyle distracts us from what should be important – family, time to actually enjoy life together, gratefulness for simple things like health and a roof over our heads and the opportunities to be creative and learn every day.
When there is so much excess we are completely pulled away from the simple pleasures of life and living. We are distracted. We are trapped into the mindset of more once again, happy to auction off the minutes of our lives, happy to keep drowning in a sea of stuff. Yet
I’m there right now. I want these things: at least one newer car that I’m not worried about breaking down. A house with a yard, even closer to work, with more space. Classes for the kids like Karate and Swimming or whatever they choose to do. Money to take in the culture of Atlanta, like the museums and festivals and what have you. Some new clothes for work. Seriously I am drowning in wants and I feel that misery again, keenly.
But you know what I want even more than that?
I want to teach my kids that they can live the life they dream without selling their souls. I like to think that is a real life possibility. That they can find what they love to do and make a life from it. Even if it’s being an artist, or a bird trainer, or a vagabond hippy. I want them to have the wisdom to not fit in, because that’s the way to misery. Conformity is so comforting but it’s sick. It’s an disease. Let your freak flag fly, people.
Truth be told, having bought into the illusion for so long, I don’t really know how to teach them different & I'm totally making it up as we go. Our Costa Rica adventure was an attempt to interrupt the routine of our lives in a way that would wake us all up to each other and to having fun again.
I think we are continuing our vision of embracing different by having one stay at home parent, like a small crack in the glass that lets some light in. It has been far from easy. But if you want to, you can be free. I have to believe that, and I have to keep trying to show that to my kids. It’s all about your choices and how you prioritize your hours. Are they above your material desires, or below?
28 May 2016
Six Months Back
Six months back in the states. As I may have mentioned before, it does feel like it’s been substantially longer, but here we are.
It’s funny that we even went to Costa Rica at all, really. In retrospect it still shocks me beyond words. Historically, we are not uprooting gypsy like people. We have been settlers, and root growers, and in fact that is what we basically did in Costa Rica until the time came to leave and get back to work.
Some people don’t know that our original plan was to move into the central valley after a couple months on the “gold coast.” That plan quickly fell apart, because we all became immediately entranced with the beach and the ocean and the HEAT. Also, we do tend to dig in and stay. Flitting about isn’t really our style. So in stunning Guanacaste we stayed until we returned to the states on October 28, 2015, six months ago today.
I feel like I’ve hammered this point home, but leaving was heartbreaking. It’s been challenging to stay sober. I still want the quick fix, the instant gratification and disconnection from psychic pain. The instinctive side of me does, but the rational side doesn’t.
Coming down from Costa Rica and leaving our beloved bird behind has all been more than sufficiently painful without adding insult to injury and numbing my pain with booze. It is undeniable that being free from other forms of withdrawal has given me the space to process beyond the surface level. John O’Donohue says :
Every heart has to manage the emptiness of its own dark….When you stop resisting its dark work, you are open to learning what it wants to show you. Often, we learn most deeply and receive profoundly from the black, lonely tide of pain.
And the pain of leaving Costa Rica has been like the tide, in and out, ever present but more potent at some times than others. The recognition that we are not in Costa Rica anymore is actually nauseating sometimes, and always vividly coupled with the memory of my last visit to Brasilito, and sun rays shooting through the aqua water, tropical fish, smiles and laughter.
I did go off of anti-depressants in Costa Rica, and I’m hesitant to get back on that wagon, but being back to work full-time and struggling with the one income commitment, oh and not drinking EVER, I’ve been struggling. I wonder if I should be medicated, but I’m still not. I feel like sometimes I am just winding tighter and tighter and never decompressing.
I get mean and self-absorbed and in my tunnel vision I can see only the bad. The anxieties and the stresses just drown out everything else. I’m back to that old familiar feeling of not having enough hours in the day. This is the most distinct characteristic of being back to what people like to call “real life.” This expression is a pet peeve of mine, but I digress. I really believe that your “real life” can be whatever you want it to be if you’re willing to define what that is and work towards it with a vengeance. That must include making difficult sacrifices and leaving your comfort zone.
Anyway, after commuting and working and working out some days too, I just want to come home and vegetate. Sometimes I neglect my book, my calligraphy, and all the creative pursuits I have floating in my mind. I feel sad/guilty when I’m not creating and working towards new horizons, whatever those might be. I think of every new endeavor as a new door, and who knows what will happen if I just walk through it? To dream is a major achievement in itself, and I try to stay on track where that's concerned.
Overall there’s a light that is getting brighter somehow. I’m doing better. I’ve been working out, probably not as much as I’d aspire to in a perfect world, but several days a week. I do cardio, I swim, I do strength training machines, and I walk on the trail with the family.
I do have days at work where I’m just miserable from having to go to work at all. This happens after taking a gap year. (The struggle is real.) I have heavy days that are just a barrage of things going wrong that I am tasked with resolving, and sometimes powerless to resolve....
BUT I also have awesome days where I make good progress on my list – AND I have lots of laughs with my coworkers and I talk about babies and life and science with people I adore and look up to. With each day I am more grateful to be where I am. I don’t think I could have lucked into a better group of people.
I’ve always been lucky, and I plan on continuing this streak. Chad jokes that when I want something, it happens.
Since the start, Costa Rica has been a grand reassessment of life – where we are versus where we want to be. The way I see it, change is good, but uncomfortable, even downright traumatic. The fact is I’m Exhausted with a capital E. I lost a lot of stuff, some sort of treasured, but I’ve also lost more of my sanity than I’d care to admit over the last couple of years.
Between October 2014 and present we have moved EIGHT FREAKING TIMES. Not even kidding. I’m destroyed. I am a pile of rubble.
Looks like we may move a ninth time. We made an offer on a townhouse today. It’s funny, because I know neither of us is particularly attached to the place. But here’s the important stuff: it is much closer to my work than where we are now and our monthly payment will be cut by almost half. The school is good. There’s a patio in the back where Chad can grill and I can pot some plants, and a shed where we can keep our bikes and outdoor stuff.
The townhouse is small, but would be functional for us, a place to work back up to whatever we want in the future. A place to recover. This is an issue of making a sacrifice to make one income work, which is not happening right now. I fear commitment. I fear being tied down. Yet I feel equally drawn to it.
We will come back from this stronger than ever, and continue our lucky streak with Atlanta as our home for now, and perhaps future home base. Atlanta is an international travel hub, after all. :}
23 May 2016
Why We Had to Leave Costa Rica
Why we needed to leave Costa Rica.
Whenever I mention that my family and I lived a year abroad in Costa Rica and recently moved back to the US to settle in Atlanta I hear the same question. “Why did you leave?” What would possess someone to leave paradise?
I usually give the short answer of a lack of income and job prospects. It’s what most people want to hear, a short answer. Also the true reasons have only recently become clear to me. The longer answer to this extremely important question demands introspection and like most things in life, is rendered clearer in retrospect.
We needed a reset of our lives. To gain some perspective on a life that was a little out of our control. We assumed that taking a year long vacation would clear our minds and open the channels of creativity. We figured that change would be simplified and we could just slide into the life we desired. We were right but we were also wrong. We have made many of the changes we needed to build the life we want but it wasn’t while we were in Costa Rica. The changes happened after we returned to “real life”.
While in Costa Rica we drank almost every day, just like we did prior to leaving the US. Once back in Atlanta we realized that drinking just made us unhappy and unproductive. During our time in Costa Rica we still ate out quite a bit although it wasn’t possible to eat fast food. Once we returned to the states we realized how much better we felt when we ate more natural foods and how sick we felt after we ate fast food.
The two biggest changes we made are still things we struggle with all the time. The first is having only one working parent and trying to live on one income. The benefits of this lifestyle change are enormous; happier children infused with the values we share, better food choices made simple by someone at home to cook, relaxing weekends without chores and time to spend together as a family.
The struggle comes from having a strict budget and not having enough money. Atlanta is an exciting but expensive city and we aren’t the type of people to sit at home and stare at the TV. We like to go out and explore, we’ve been to art festivals, the Georgia Renaissance Fair and 6 Flags, the Zoo and many other cool places. We are also members of the local YMCA where we swim and exercise and play and take classes every week. Love being busy but even being frugal it all adds up.
This problem has made our second biggest transformation easier though. Our second big adjustment is to live a minimalist lifestyle and to collect experiences, not stuff. We would love to have a better car and bigger house and newer clothes but we’ve determined those things get in the way of happiness. In our hearts we know possessions don’t pave the way to satisfaction but living in the US is an exercise in restraint.
As incredible as it may sound, it took leaving to make us recognize what we wanted but it took returning to force the changes.
14 April 2016
Walk Through the Door
In my last blog I promised I would discuss some life changes we have made since our return to the States on October 28, 2015, after a glorious eleven months on the northwest coast of Costa Rica.
First and foremost, we are now a one-income household. In our pre-Costa Rica life, we both worked full-time AND commuted. The kids were in day care or school/before and after school program for about 11 hours a day. For years, we were super stressed but raking in the dough, going on anti-depressants, getting fatter and wondering what the hell we were doing with our lives.
We felt puzzled and ungrateful for feeling unhappy. We were super successful. We went to Costco and spent hundreds of dollars at a time. We bought a red speedboat and a boat slip and even a boat lift. Our house was walking distance to Coralville Lake and our sweet boat.
We couldn’t seem to buy more time, or force the contentment we always assumed we would feel once we “made it.” But we were in the top 5% and pretty much miserable. We thought we should try something different, which turned out to be Costa Rica retirement/mid-life crisis/epic life reboot that we both desperately wanted.
When we came back to the US we were very reluctant to go back to that same lifestyle. The mutual decision was that whoever got a job first would work while the other tended the home front. When we both worked and commuted, we got home at say 6 pm, all four of us tired and cranky, facing a myriad of chores and clean up marathon style ‘til we hit the sheets at 10 or so only to start all over again bright and early the next work a day. Weekends we played catch up and Sunday night always came too fast.
Truthfully I’ve never been a stay at home mama kinda lady, and I really hoped that I would be the one to land a job first. I did, in a lab that is really a perfect fit for me – just a bit too far from home! Who would have thought that covering 12 miles could take 2 hours in the afternoon? Only in Atlanta.
Chad spends his days with our 3 year-old Sunshine. She is so happy being home with him. They go to the library and the YMCA and the Chattahoochee River. They visit with Chad’s sister and her two babies. Wyatt can catch the bus in the morning and take it home in the afternoon (that is new for him as we always left for work too early and got home too late for him to do that ever before). They all go to the park together and Wyatt has time to ride his bike around or play soccer with neighbors during daylight hours. Even though I am at work a lot, with my commuting, everyone is better taken care of and more relaxed because Chad does the playing, the homework, the dinner, and I can just get home and enjoy our time together.
We are very happy in our apartment. We are in a complex in Smyrna, GA, which is a suburb of Atlanta known for its good location to the city. We are just outside “the perimeter,” in Atlanta terms. We are in a good elementary school district, and very close to a beautiful trail system along the Chattahoochee River. Our neighbors are all very nice, as is management, and Wyatt can walk the dog and play with his friends at the playground without us worrying.
Living on one income has proven to be a difficult adjustment to make. So much of it is mental. We have improved vastly, which is an important perspective to keep. In Chad’s words, shopping used to be our recreation and he is right on. We haven’t just stopped wanting things, but we have made different decisions. For example, we both drive cars that are old and cheap. Though we are living simpler, and with a lot less, we are still using credit to make ends meet by the end of the month.
In spite of minor money stretching and concerns, I feel really good. Better than I’ve felt in the longest time. Lately, I’ve been motivated again. Which brings me to the next big life change:
We are sober. Not a drop of alcohol for, I can say now (which is unreal to me) – MONTHS.
I will leave some extra space above and below that one just to let it settle in. It’s something I had thought about, sure, but never that seriously. Coming back the USA from CR really pushed us both to the limit. Change is freaking hard. Particularly when it includes transitioning from a vacation life to “real life.” And so we drank.
We drank in Costa Rica, probably too much, but heck. We were on vacation from life, vacation from the grind. Sometime in the spring, like in February or March 2015 when we lived at Villa Ferlito, I finished off a bottle of whiskey in the course of 2 nights. Maybe 3. Maybe 2. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a blur. After that transpired, I took a step away from the whiskey (my vice) but still drank beer, or sometimes mixed drinks with other liquors--which definitely weren’t as appealing to me, so I was drinking less but still drinking.
I never again bought a bottle of whiskey until we were back in Atlanta. I felt gross, and I knew I was messing up – that I was settling for being numb, accepting this cycle of self destruction and feeling bad, with total knowledge that I was spiraling closer and closer to some sort of vortex that I didn’t want to meet.
When we first moved to Atlanta we lived with Chad’s brother, an incredible, amazing, ambitious and incredibly giving human who gave us (free) use of his basement apartment space for 2 weeks. We weren’t in a good place mentally, and he was so loving and gracious during this time, even with us invading his home. It’s one of those life debts that can never be repaid. We love him.
We felt guilty, for being a mess, and frustrated we hadn’t landed a job yet, and so we drank. In retrospect we knew it was bad for us, particularly at this vulnerable time, but we didn’t know how to cope. We had run away, experienced glorious freedom, and now we were back. It was the age of reckoning.
We knew it was time to come back, and yet we regretted leaving Costa Rica. Being back in the states was (and is still) so shocking. I missed beaming smiles, white teeth against brown skin, and people loving on my kids. I was jonesing for happy.
Time was strangely nebulous. Life here was over stimulating and in fast-forward, but time also felt slowed down by the density of stress. One night at Monty’s house (yes, where were were staying for free) Wyatt broke the cold water faucet right off the shower and cold water came shooting out on my two little babies taking a bath. In retrospect, and I can only thank God for an absence of how to approach this situation-thank GOD it was the cold water.
They were so scared and I totally lost my shit and freaked out, yelling at Wyatt, “what did you DO!!!!” and screaming bloody murder for Chad to come to the rescue. I lifted the kids out so fast that I wrenched my back. Chad busted his ACL running down the stairs to all of our screaming, and then there was more screaming.
The kids hid in the bedroom. They were hiding behind the bed - from me, from life, from ALL the stress that was all around them. Chad hobbled and I ran around the house for 5-10 minutes looking for the water main, finally shutting it off before doing a home repair and cleaning up some water spray.
The damage was actually this: I wasn’t there for my kids, I was scared, and I totally freaked out. It was an illuminating experience, I think, that planted itself and started incubating inside me. John O’Donohue said,
“there are huge gestations and fermentations going on in us that we’re not even aware of. And then sometimes when we come to a threshold, crossing over in which we need to become different, that we’ll be able to be different because secret work has been done in us of which we’ve had no inkling.”
Was I drinking that night? Sure, without a doubt. I could not look this thing in the face any longer and deny that alcohol was degrading my ability to cope. In fact, I was allowing it to degrade me. And I was choosing that over being better. Over being a strong mom and wife and a person who was half with it.
I was on a one-way escalator of despair over leaving Costa Rica, self hate, masochism, and anesthetizing the mental anguish of it all with alcohol. Ultimately my kids were feeling the price of that. That was the first night the notion of sobriety probably seriously entered my mind. When I said to myself, I need to cross that threshold.
Against our basic plan to find work first and a rental apartment second, we weren’t finding work and we had to go with that plan in reverse. We moved into a 2 bedroom apartment in November that would flood on Christmas day, and then again a couple days later. And so we drank. We moved over Christmas/New Years break to a 3 bedroom in the same complex. (Not the way I wanted to spend the break. There was more drinking.)
Chad stopped drinking before me, and I knew it was a good idea, but it took me maybe a couple or few weeks before I joined him. I did a lot of thinking and everything rational inside me knew it was a no brainer. Like a stubborn child, I resisted. Then I quit. I said no more. No beer, no liquor, no nada. No mas.
It’s been something like nine weeks. Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t mark it on my calendar, but maybe I didn’t want it to seem to serious, too intimidating...I just went with my gut and did it like it was no big deal. Besides the times I was pregnant with my children, basically this is the longest I’ve gone without alcohol probably in my entire >21 years old life. So wow.
I don’t plan on drinking again and that’s hard to wrap my brain around. I mean, celebrations, holidays, all of it. I should probably join a group for support in the long-term perspective but I’m feeling in a good place with the decision and I don’t really miss it as badly as I expected I would.
I don’t miss the shame I felt when I drank, because I know that for me it was an actively destructive behavior, a self-fulfilling expression of “I am not good enough.” I should not be numbing myself to life. I should be experiencing it, all the ups and downs.
I walked through that door of sobriety and my world has changed. I actually feel like there are open doors everywhere that I just need to walk through. I believe in myself again because I’m taking action towards a dream. I don’t exactly know what that dream is. Go back to Costa Rica again and stay some more time? I definitely didn’t feel like I was done with Costa Rica. Travel around and be location-independent somehow?
I know being back in the USA has absolutely reaffirmed what we felt before we left, which is that this life and this culture doesn’t fit us. We’d like to get back out into that big wide world again whenever we are in a position to do that.
I’ve been working on my book, clarifying my vision for that (which has been amazingly fun and challenging). I’ve gotten out there and shared my writing, not without fear, but then getting amazing feedback from people all over, getting new fans on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/famadvtime) and just in general feeling awesome about our message. And feeling totally jazzed to share it with the world in my book.
Having emerged from my depression spiral, the hope is back, and it is fueled by the adventures we had and the friends we found in Costa Rica. I am feeling at peace with and proud of what we did, moving away from the regret and the shame I felt when I was drinking and grieving.
I say to myself, and I say to you, keep excavating your dreams. Don’t let them be buried and fossilized. Let them be new, let them be crazy, let them evolve! Don’t let harsh words and judgments keep you down.
I have been reading John O’Donohue for years. This man’s words truly led me out of my life of dissatisfaction and zero inspiration to the one I am standing in right now: in Atlanta, Georgia, of all places, with the crystal clear realization that the world is my oyster and the only thing holding me back is me. It’s time to get out of my way and find that freaking pearl.
John O’Donohue said, “Each of us has a reservoir of unknown freedom, yet our fear holds us back. The worst chains are not the chains which others will have you wear.”
What is weighing you down? And if you keep carting it around, what price might you pay?
Which door are you going to walk through, and what do you have to lose?
17 March 2016
Four Months in the USA
We left Costa Rica on October 28th. So we have been in Atlanta, GA for over four months. It has definitely not flown by. I sort of feel like it’s been a year.
My heart is so heavy. It’s hard to put myself out there and talk about this, but as some of you know I have this crazy dream of publishing a book this year so I pretty much have to get over this fear.
The great news: I love my current job and coworkers. I work at Emory University as a Lab Manager, and I am God damn good at it. I am super thankful for the opportunity to use my skills to make things better, to work with people I admire who appreciate me and who support me professionally and personally. My job has been a saving grace for this girl who was mortified to go back to work after a year off in paradise. (I mean, talk about setting yourself up for a fall. Wow.)
The lame news: the campus I work on is in Decatur, which is a suburb of Atlanta to the east of the city. I live in Smyrna, a suburb that is west of the city center. About 15 miles apart, the trip to work takes 30 minutes in the morning but the trip home takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours in the afternoon. There’s a good thing to say about rush hour-it’s given me a time to listen to my music.
I started applying for jobs about 6 weeks before we left Costa Rica. I thought, probably naively, that I would find a job easily. I was willing and actually sort of hoping to leave my “box” of academic science research and I applied for jobs across the board, anything that sounded interesting that I considered myself qualified for (even if creatively). Turns out I scored a grand total of three interviews, all in biology research. Oh well. I do love me some science, and even more, my fellow nerds.
The third time was the charm and it felt meant to be from the get go. When I met my current boss and my coworkers in the interview - I felt so grateful. I was at home with these people. In all my despair and my sea of self-doubt, things were happening for me. I never expected to feel blessed to be going back to work (that sounds ungrateful, but that’s the truth). And there I was, saying, thank you, universe, this is THE job for me and I’m going to rock it so hard. I was elated. The day I accepted my current job, I was offered a “round three” interview for one of the others I was going for. Things were falling into place for me, but way later than I had expected or planned.
I didn’t start work until December 15 and it was just in time, financially. We had rented a place of our own before I had a job offer. The emotional stress was extreme. There were many times I regretted running away to Costa Rica to live the good life for a year.
When I interviewed, people were definitely intrigued with “what” I had been doing in my time away from lab work. I don't know if intrigued is the best word. Concerned, maybe. I would explain I simply took time off to be with my family and experience a different culture, to get healthier and happier. (Cool, right?!!) I felt like it was perceived as a negative. Let's be real, that’s not what one does. You create stability, particularly when you have children to think about. I think our family adventure did hurt me in my job search, but there’s no telling if that’s actually the truth. It’s not like people say out loud, “wow, you’re a freak, and I don’t think you’re the right fit for our organization.”
One of the great signs when I interviewed with my current boss, a grandmother with five kids and two grandkids: she was interested and fascinated with the whole Costa Rica story and clearly viewed it as a plus for me and for her. I have to agree that after taking 14 months off of work I felt rejuvenated and recharged in a big way, and I was surprised that she seemed to be the first person to realize this. Maybe because she is a working mother – I don’t know.
Lots of people didn’t ever ask what we did in Costa Rica, what it was like, anything about that eleven months of our lives. It was unnerving. Like that year disappeared, poof! People were so completely weirded out about what we did that they just pretended it didn’t happen. (This, or they said, what was your job there? Because culturally, in the US, we are what we do for work. Sorry, that’s not me. It’s a job, but I digress.) By doing something subversive we felt ostracized, and this was not limited to the job search. (Not totally surprising or unexpected but it really smarted.) An obvious realization has been that it also hurt because I judge myself, right? I genuinely wondered/wonder if the judge-y ones are right. Was I just ungrateful for the easy life I had spent many years building? Who leaves that voluntarily? Maybe I deserve to be punished in some tangible way.
Yet my time in Costa Rica, a country I had never visited and just relocated to in an epic mid life crisis, was absolutely the best time of my life. December 8, 2014 – October 28, 2015. RIP.
We went big. We watched sunsets without any weight of going to work the next morning. In a moment where the universe stopped completely, my husband and I hovered above the volcanic rock of the ocean floor 60 feet under and listened to Humpback Whales singing. I grew my brain with a new language. I met other immigrants looking to invite change and challenge, and got to know locals with perspectives shaped by a very different society. I played my violin for more hours in that year than I had in the previous ten. I lost 40 pounds and I lost my anti-depressant medication.
We created a temporary dream life. Some would say it was artificial, because we weren’t working (again – who does that?). I assure you it was very real and we gave ourselves a priceless gift.
Everything has a cost, and here is the other edge of that sword: we discovered happiness, and then we left.
Now my life is this. I go to work every day, I keep really busy, I enjoy my new friends there and having a paycheck so we can pay the bills. But with every step and every breath and every minute stuck in rush hour traffic I am dreaming of the day I can go back to Costa Rica and burrow my toes into the brown sands of Playa Brasilito. When I can snorkel again off the north end of Playa Conchal and be in the quiet of the ocean with blue starfish, sea urchins, zebra moray eels, and puffer fish. When I can break out my bad Spanish and receive kind compliments and laughter from my Tico friends.
I think the best of my life might be behind me. But even if it is, you know what? I went out and lived 24/7 for almost all of 2015. At 35, I bought myself a mini retirement with my husband and young kids. By virtue of that alone, we are among very few other people who choose to sacrifice a lot of easy comforts to find some challenging life changes. Every possession given away or lost, every lost dollar of income or damage to resumes, all the abstract disruption of serious, adult life plans or stability we experienced over the last year and a half – all of it made us grow and that does not come without pain.
I bonded with many beautiful people from all over the globe. We all went to learn something from Costa Rica, so we shared in that search. Slow down. Live your minutes, because selling them will never pay the same dividends. Spend time with loved ones purposefully. Stand on the beach and just say, “wow.” For God’s sake, laugh, obnoxiously and often.
I hope to travel to other countries besides Costa Rica in my life, but for obvious reasons this tiny green country and its smiling people took a juicy piece of my heart that will never be replaced.
Turns out, much to my disappointment, Costa Rica was just the first step in what looks to be a much longer journey. In my next blog I will write about the changes we have made in our lives based on what we learned in our year away from the rat race.
Yo llevo la pura vida conmigo. Para todos mis dias soy una persona diferente. Nunca puedo vivir lo mismo, porque mis ojos estan nuevo.
I carry the pure life with me. For all my days I am a different person. I can never live the same, because my eyes are new.
11 October 2015
"The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe." (Joanna Macy)
We will leave Costa Rica this year. October 28, 2015 we depart from the turquoise waters and white sands of Tamarindo, Conchal, Brasilito, and Flamingo. We are heading for yet another new start, another move in a long list over the last year:
Oct 2014 North liberty to Solon, IA--sold the house, stayed in apartment for a month or so while downsizing to our one storage unit and loading everything we would keep into our minivan.
Nov 2014 Solon, IA to Atlanta, GA--family Thanksgiving after a very eventful trip in previously mentioned family minivan. (Actually, as we would learn in Atlanta, we still had way too much shit and ended up having yet another pre-CR purge in Atlanta.)
December 8 2014 Atlanta GA to Condor Lodge, South Conchal Beach, outside Matapalo and Brasilito, Costa Rica
February 2015 Condor Lodge to Villa Ferlito, Flamingo, Costa Rica
April 2015 Villa Ferlito to The Oaks, Huacas, Costa Rica
Costa Rica has this sneaky way…I joke it makes people crazy, but maybe it’s just showing them the light and bringing them to normal. Here I have found majestic beauty I never could have imagined, and incredible people who value living life much more than currency. A different approach that, admittedly, feels better. Suddenly you’re in it, you’re living la pura vida, you’re really alive again, and the time goes SO FAST. I truly cannot believe that almost 10 months have passed. It’s been the best “crazy” decision I have ever made, walking away from my career, my house, my stuff, and a daily life that I really didn’t want.
So let’s get to the questions on everyone’s lips:
Why leave happy? What about Pura Vida? Because, you guys, we came here on an extended vacation. We haven’t had an income, and we need an income once again. Simple as all that.
Lots of people have asked if we would stay if we could. That’s a tough one. It feels like an important question but a black and white answer is impossible. I love it here, I’m happier and healthier, but admittedly I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want and yeah, that will alter your life no matter where you are on the globe. I’m not a self-made millionaire who can just stay cause I freaking love it here. I’m just a middle aged mom of two who wanted to free myself from a life I was bored with, a society I didn’t agree with, an unhealthy body. I had a mid-life crisis, maybe, and it was even more epic than I expected--in a good way. But now I need to go back to the real world. (I know. Talk me down, Lemon, TALK ME DOWN.)
Maybe a more accurate question. Would we stay if we could work here and earn wages on par with cost of living? Very possibly. We are happy here and we love the culture and the stunning natural beauty that surrounds us every day.
Some background on wages in Costa Rica. We’re sort of in the countryside being in Guanacaste Province, and work is in service industries or otherwise very low paying jobs. There are people in CR who make it on under $1000/month. $500/mo. Generally speaking they are each doing a variety of different things, being a very entrepreneurial people, and also basically because they have to in order to make it.
Coming from the USA, I have never seen “poor” before Costa Rica. People living in shacks that are falling down around them. People who do their damn best every day with a huge smile on their face even though they, by our forms of thought, should be struggling to, like, survive. It’s almost shocking coming from the culture of consumerism in the USA, where we are very much defined, even stratified by our material possessions.
But the people here, overwhelmingly more so, are RICH! You see, not like we think and aspire to as estadounidenses (USA-ans). Rich in happiness, laughter, gratefulness to be here, for family, for children and grandparents and friends. For nature. For life. They laugh anyway. At first it seemed so amazing that it had to be untrue, like what am I missing here? We have such vulgar views of our incomes, job titles, cars, houses (etc) defining our identities and lives in the USA. Consequently, to generalize, la gente (the people) of the USA invest many hours of life in the quest for these things, and wake up too late to realize that time didn’t yield anything really meaningful or experiential.
In CR I know people who have money enough to live, or maybe close, but they are happy. The really revolutionary fact is they are absolutely not so chained to their desires for material things and as an estadounidense. I constantly feel this deep difference in culture as the primary life improvement I discovered in Costa Rica. It’s like instead of drowning in the waves of life, they're riding on top, enjoying the view. The things that don’t really matter (tons of money, tons of stuff) aren’t draining their lives of happiness and joy and moments.
I don’t think I could ever really describe Costa Rica. Maybe that’s why I’ve been sitting on this blog for a few weeks… What it gave me, what it changed in me, the strange and wonderful people I’ve met, not only from here but from all over the world! I learned a new language and a new culture and mixed up the doldrums of my middle ages. It has been just amazing and I definitely mourn the impending end of our time here.
For people who wonder about the consequences of making a crazy decision and walking away from everything to just try something different (sight unseen), yes, there have definitely been times when I’ve said, “Did I mess it all up? Did I take a huge step back? Did I make a mistake?” Oh, honey, there have been many. Even more there have even been times when the only answer I had was “Yes, what a mess I am.”
But don’t lose hope, people. The reality is a great one. This has been an absolutely priceless life experience that we will have forever. WE DID IT!
Later, when we are gone from this spectacular little emerald country, and back in our home the US of A, my family will have these memories forever. We will have this strength and courage and some profound, amazing life stories forever. We went out and did something crazy. It totally scared us but we did it anyway, and we had so much fun! We tried new things, we wrote books, we learned to surf, we learned Spanish, we connected with people from all over the world and made dozens of fabulous new friends, we got healthier, we got HAPPIER, for 10 months we lived steps from the most beautiful beaches I have ever set my eyes on, we swam and snorkeled and scuba dived and heard Humpback Whales signing 60 feet under the ocean surface.
Thank you, Costa Rica. It’s like you cracked open my heart and filled it up with so much love and joy and inspiration that I almost can’t sew it shut again. But I will carry la pura vida inside me forever.
Hasta la proxima!
24 July 2015
Make or Break
In the wake of our most recent travel adventure to beautiful Monteverde, Costa Rica, I’m lacking sleep and mental power to drown out the negative voices.
I had it all and I left it behind. Turns out, the brainwashed ways of thinking didn’t just fall away when I moved here. I feel guilty every day, so many times a day, for leaving a paycheck. For using my savings to live my life and basically do whatever I want and feel passion for. Is that irresponsible? Damaging to my children? I think not, rationally speaking, but the voices say otherwise.
I regularly fantasize about looking at job postings “back home” (USA, no idea where), not because I want that life. It makes me die inside to remember how miserable I was, how unhappy, how disappointed in myself I felt when I went on anti-depressant medication just to make it through the day to day. But I was “successful” in that life. I had status, I had a great job, a home on the lake, a boat, a silver minivan with automatic doors.
I also had a husband and babies I adore and almost never saw. So I said, fuck no, because in this tremulous life situation other words won’t suffice.
We quit our amazing jobs, sold our dream home on the lake, sold the boat, put our “important” stuff in storage (still regret this one, but hey, we had a lot going on). We flew our two children (7 and 2 at the time) and loyal dog, Pepper (13) to Liberia, Costa Rica. We lived first on Playa Conchal, next near Playa Flamingo, and finally (now) about equal distances from playas Tamarindo and Conchal.
We have been in Costa Rica for seven months and moved two times. We were able to move using our Toyota 4runner, and made 2 trips per move. Yes, we still have stuff, but now there’s a major difference. We are mobile. We’ve sort of settled in to our current place, but we could be up and wherever we want relatively easily because we rent a furnished apartment and own very little now.
And it has been life-altering, literally priceless. But I’m just not going to sit here singing Pura Vida around the campfire with my toes in the sand, you guys. It has been hard to move here with my two kids. There have been a lot of days where I feel a general sense of “I don’t understand anything here and I’ve had my fill of feeling clueless. Maybe time to return to what I know.” Also, “I miss all my crap.” (True story.)
But I have an awesome problem. I fucking love the ocean. I need the ocean. This is SO MUCH BETTER. There are not beaches like this anywhere else in the whole wide world, and I am in love. I am excited to live again – and this was my GOLDEN goal. Wake up in the morning without that heavy sense of dread in my mind. Wake up in the morning and pursue MY dreams and MY desired daily life.
Luckily I am in a land of dreamers. In coming here to live my dream, I have found a lot of other people living their dreams and finding ways to stay. Are there at least 10 jaded people for every one dreamer? Probably.
It’s the dreamers I love. They inspire me. I want to be one of them, living my life on my terms, making money, because it does matter, let us not bullshit one other. I now view money as a means to LIVE LIFE not as a means to BUY STUFF.
To maintain ownership of my most valuable commodity, that which has no dollar price: my hours, days, weeks, months, years of my life. They are mine.
I am working on a project that is very dear to me & I will e-publish my work in the near future. Stay tuned!
4 July 2015
I completely endorse a mid-life crisis and corresponding abandonment of that job that just might be sucking your very soul straight from your being.
This little blog is for you guys. For you, sitting at your desk, slouching, feeling trapped in a life that doesn’t excite you anymore. I get you. It’s a dark place. You read of escape but it doesn’t feel possible. Please remember, my friend, that you make your own reality. So it is scientific truth that when you begin to envision a life where you will make different choices, where you will deviate from the path that isn’t bringing you happiness anymore, this very reality will unfold before you.
Living life on our terms was our core dream. We are a young couple with two kids, 8 and 3, and one old dog. The crazy dream started this time last year, we moved in December 2014, and now for six months we have done it! Every day I am shocked at this reality. I'm happier and healthier than I’ve been in years, and dreaming of ways to continue this new way of life where I control my own destiny, where I work when I’m inspired and I play when I’m not.
I think a lot of people back home (Iowa City, Iowa, USA) were confounded when we left secure jobs for no jobs. That we would live off our savings for a rather substantial period of time and just LIVE. Almost universally, people just don’t understand it. Maybe they love their work, and are happy. There are those (few, in my opinion) that are happy, and for them I am happy! It just didn’t work for me. The whole American Dream didn’t lead me to health or happiness, and I didn’t like the way the future looked for myself, my husband, or for my kids.
How many of us are stuck in that comfort trap? For at least 10 years I was unhappy and puzzled at the life I had worked so hard to accomplish. A life of lots of money and comforts but not even one that generated happiness, when it came down do it. I had done it all just right, right?? College, two bachelors degrees, good career, married with kids, beautiful home, boat on the nearby lake. Yes, there were really wonderful and happy times in there but I was totally overwhelmed and stressed and in debt. Why didn’t I leave earlier? I’m 36. I’ve definitely asked myself that. Because— primarily — of fear of the unknown, fear of NOT following the formula. I said, “Brave people do that (not me).” Are you saying that right now?
It took some losses. One of a childhood friend who died last year, tragically, before even reaching my own age. He had a passion for travel and saw a lot of the world before he left it, but he had perhaps 70% of his life ahead of him. Another of a family member who, before reaching 60 years old, had a stroke and died suddenly. The final loss was of my grandpa, my best friend and favorite person. I watched him deteriorate for seven years and in that time he survived two serious strokes.
After these losses, and exacerbated by the realization that I had no interest in continuing down my existing career path for another 40 or so years of my life, I existed in a different reality. Mortality was palpable; I had a raw understanding of lost potential, lost years, lost happinesses. My frame of perspective shifted dramatically enough that it became a much smaller deal to consider quitting our jobs and having an adventure. We decided it would be our Family Adventure Time.
So we finally did get brave and jump right into the unknown. A new language, a new country that we had never even visited before, a totally different society. Most importantly, a goal: find experiences, not things. Speak Spanish with people who don’t know English, learn new ways to be, try to create a new career! One more fitted to our desires and future dreams.
We haven’t worked for anyone else besides ourselves for over six months. We can do whatever we want (mostly). This is good and bad. Really great, and it’s why I have lost thirty pounds in six months. But this much freedom can also be a dangerous thing, because in a country with an abundance of outdoor activities it is very hard to work.
When I write my blogs, and I attempt to describe what is so different, I have been guilty myself of not discussing in great detail the fact that I voluntarily left my job, my career of 15 years, because I just couldn’t imagine doing it indefinitely and I didn’t know what else I might even do. What better reason to take a break from it all, more than a week or 10 days, a real break?
When I try to envision sitting through a day of my life 9 months ago, it makes me absolutely cringe....I was so unhappy. I was depressed, I was fat, I was a seriously burned out mom of two young kids who had come to dread my daily life. I was obligated to a boss who had no vested interest in MY life, to an organization that didn’t encourage ingenuity or passionate work, and where mediocrity was the accepted norm. I had a really great job, fortunate, with fabulous benefits and protections. The golden trap. I didn’t have to look very far to see my future, surrounded by many other comfortable but unhappy, unhealthy people, working for that paycheck with little life leftover in between to be active, or healthy, or vital anymore.
We knew that, because of the medical care situation in the USA, we could not live freely, and pay for medical care out of pocket, anywhere in the USA. Hence the rather easy decision to expand our family’s horizons. We discussed Europe: beautiful and varied but too expensive, too consumer driven, too similar in obsession with work. We researched Costa Rica and there was a relative boon of information, offering a society that seemed slower and simpler, where less is more, and where priorities are different. (Now, we know everything is different, which is overwhelming some days!)
We were also exhausted of consumerism. We were dense enough to literally buy in for years, but observant enough to see that it wasn’t leading to happiness, only more stress and more bills.
We purposely sold most of what we owned, but yes we are guilty of having a storage unit in the states. Truth be told I wish we had sold EVERYTHING because less IS more. I don’t miss keeping track of, cleaning, maintaining, using or not using, storing and organizing all that stuff.
These days, I am busy living life: snorkeling, boogie boarding, scuba diving the Catalinas and Sombreros islands off the gold coast of Costa Rica, learning Spanish, spending time with new friends, enjoying my children a lot more than I used to, making real food instead of driving through, and life is good. Life is pure, for me, so much purer and so much simpler.
Envision yourself taking a break from working. Leaving behind or selling your stuff, using your savings, if possible to invest in your life. Living your life. Waking up each morning and saying, what would I like to do today? What would I like to learn, or do, or see, or become?
Make that fantasy your reality! I will tell you that my experience has been even better than I imagined when I was sitting at that desk. The reality is better. Cross over to the other side and make your life the one you want, not the one you are trapped by or buried under. Believe in a new way of being, take action towards it and hold the vision in your mind. A vision where each day is alive with new possibilities.
What’s so different now?
I wanted to break free of life boredom, leave the system. I wanted change. Did I get it? Thankfully, yes.
I can say almost six months into this whacky adventure that I’m better off now than I was a year or two ago. That makes it all worth it. I think.
I’m off SSRI medication now. Chad is off his SSRI as well. (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, a class of anti-depressants whose action is described by their name.)
Summed up in a few sentences it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it represents a longtime goal of both of ours, and it seemed insurmountable when we were working, commuting, and being parents of two young kids. I remember going on my anti-depressant, and saying, if my life necessitates me taking drugs to not feel really depressed … something is very wrong with my life.
Getting clean of SSRIs has been really hard—even not working, having so many fewer obligations—it’s still been hard. We have done our best to support each other, remind each other of the value of this decision. Some days we are just assholes, though. Sorry, friends.
Turns out leaving the rat race has been WONDERFUL, but also difficult.
But I’ve lived in a new culture, one that values living life over working, where children are revered, where women of all sizes proudly wear bikinis on the beach or in the grocery store. Where you can stop your car on the road to chat with a friend, and not be the subject of road rage. Yeah, other drivers will just pass .. no big deal. Where children play in the trees and in the dirt.
Hard to imagine?
Another great life change: just being outside all the time and so much more active. All four of us are more engaged with fresh air, using our bodies to enjoy nature, surfing (Wyatt), snorkeling (us), boogie boarding (we all try!), playing at the park and on Playa Brasilito (Sunshine) …. really the ocean is so inspiring and fun, it doesn’t ever feel like exercise.
We are all healthier and more vital. Once I had given my notice, my boss said, “an investment in your health is an investment in your future.” I have to agree.
Have I used some life savings to pull this off? Yes. And it’s scary, because I’m young. Is it an investment in a better me, in better priorities, in a life lived freely for a while? Yes, yes, yes.
We are keeping our heads above water in Espanol classes. Our teacher is exceedingly understanding when we don’t really have our homework done and such. We really enjoy our time learning the language and using what we learn, but it is always an intimidating prospect. It’s so frustrating to have this barrier between you and people you really want to understand, to learn about. It’s good motivation to keep learning even when it’s overwhelming.
The kids are thriving in school and they both love their babysitter, Dianna, and her family. We all love to visit them on beautiful Playa Brasilito.
New news: we were (finally) pulled over by the police for the first time, between Brasilito and Huacas. We had picked up Wyatt from school, and Sunshine from her babysitter’s in Brasilito, so both kids were in tow. The officer asked for Chad’s license and passport, and also for the copy of the most recent passport stamp (providing number of days legal in the country). All was in order and off we went. Chad thanked me for my foresight and organization since I had all the copies on hand :)
Our car decided to break down the next day. There was a strange hissing noise and smoking, stinking fumes that coincided with the car overheating. Off we went to the side of the road. Chad thought it was a vacuum leak, a hose he couldn’t see, so we hobbled to Huacas, pulling over every once in a while to cool off. At Huacas the mechanic charged about $40 to replace a hose that was broken. Off we went, happy with a $40 repair; how lucky! As we pull into our parking spot at home we smell the fumes and hear the hissing again. A different piece is broken, a metal and ceramic piece that appears to be irreplaceable. Also, it might have something to do with the air conditioning being functional, so it’s KINDA a BFD. I’m trying not to think about it right now.
We have a rental car now. A RAV4. We love it. It’s so expensive we can’t afford to take a road trip. We can go to the beach, though. Best free activity EVAH! That’s our plan for today. Probably Playa Flamingo with a cooler and some snacks.
Speaking of road trips, we have our second visa run coming up on May 29th. All in all this is a whole day venture to get a new 90 day tourist stamp in our passports. We have planned a visit to San Juan Del Sur, which is only about 30 minutes past the Nicaragua border. It’s a hip beach community that a lot of people have recommended, and it meets the criteria of being a quick visit. I’m hoping for a nice lunch on the beach, maybe a little shopping. We hired a service that does all the driving for us and we really wouldn’t do it any other way. It’s wonderful to just be able to watch the scenery and chat with each other instead of worrying about all the details.
After our Nica Run, we will have yet another 90 days in this beautiful place. Pura vida.
Back to Life, Back to Reality!
OK, admit it! You're singing that! ............Awesome :)
As some of you already know, I'm emerging from an epic battle with a virus that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I am finally sitting down to type a blog that I, in all seriousness, wrote by hand on March 28th, almost one month ago, during one of Wyatt's surf lessons. Yes, time flies in Costa Rica (except when you are barfing).
Anyway, I thought I would take the time to post a more detailed, real life kind of synopsis for our family and friends and fans. Can I say we have fans? I think I can say that! I love you guys!
So, "what" do we do all the time? Honestly, it's a fair question. As my husband said, not working is a full-time job. (Jaja.)
On our routine, with major developments in bold font:
I should start with Dianna, our babysitter. Nanny. Life saver. Dianna is an amazing woman and I love her. In the end of January, I said to Chad, and to the universe, I can't be with these children 24/7. I don't want to, it's not good for me, and it's not good for them. Obviously I love them more than life itself, but any parent knows how children can drive you to your very last fiber of tolerance and self-respect.
So come February 1, and our accompanying move to Villa Ferlito, I exchanged some correspondence with a new amiga, Amy (one of the landlords). I inquired whether she had any local employees with a wife or sister or daughter who could watch the kids a few days a week. The name Dianna came up, and we met her ON February 1st at our new villa. We clearly were not delaying things longer than necessary...
She speaks no English. As of February 1, we spoke very little Spanish. However we worked through her daughter, who is more bilingual than any of us, got to know each other a bit, and agree that we'd love to have her work for us. All we expect is babysitting, but she insists on cooking, cleaning (and I'm talking REAL cleaning); really, this woman does it all. I can't say the price because it is too low. I pay her more than she asked because I value it higher. She lives on Brasilito Beach and she reminds me so much of my mother that I will never let her go as long as I am nearby.
Now that it is approaching May and we have been learning Spanish from our Tico teacher Victor for almost three months, it's normal that we can have conversations with Dianna and her family in Spanish, or with Victor, or with friends we have made from Espana or Nicaragua. And we are getting to know new people more each day. People who come from different worlds, so to speak. It's a fascinating experience to learn to think and speak in a new language. Mind expanding is an understatement. The understanding you begin to gain on a cultural level is one that cannot be achieved unless you break through that language barrier. Speaking from experience, it's definitely challenging, and I probably wouldn't be able to do 2-3 hours of Spanish per week with homework if I were living my old life. But I'm not, and it's awesome! I'm learning all kinds of things and I feel like a kid again! I look a million times better than I did six months ago, too, which isn't as great as the correlate -- I FEEL better. I'm carrying less weight, I'm more active, I get sunshine every day, oh, and I'm not chained to a desk anymore. That's pretty wild. Basically a daily dream come true.
The kids started real school at Educarte on April 13th. The school year concludes in the end of June. Wyatt obviously attends Monday through Friday, but Sunshine attends two days per week, generally Tuesday for Music Day and Friday for Swimming Day. (These are titles I've given them to keep track.)
Thus far I know Wyatt has had struggles, being in a bilingual environment, but it is heartening to report that he almost always describes his day as either "bien" or "muy bien." When I say something and he doesn't catch it, he says "?que?" instead of "what?" He loves that there is more time each day for physical activity and for lunch at school here, both of which were very limited back home in Iowa.
Sunshine's teacher is a former neighbor of ours, Romy, a tall beauty who is married to a fellow olympian. Romy loves the babies and they love her. Sunshine always gravitated to Romy when we were neighbors, so for her to be in her class is really amazing. Sunshine is always SO excited when she gets to go to school, too. It's a sight to see.
Chad and I are jamming in a band. Yeah, for real. I dusted off my violin, but now I need to learn it more like a fiddle, which has been HUMBLING. Mark and Chad are gracious and sweet and always give me spaces to play little diddies and what have you, but I'm pretty helpless at this point. Learning to read music and play classical music is a whole 'nother animal from improvisation, just injecting yourself into the moment. I hope I will improve on this. We have met to play once a week since February, up until this week, when my sickness had me and poor Chad (Mr. Mom) quarantined in our apartment. There's talk of an open mic on Wednesday in Tamarindo, which in all likelihood Chad and Mark will do because I surely do not feel performance ready. That being said, they rock it, and I have a lot of fun trying to play with them.
Wyatt surfs 2 hours a week. His teacher, Richard, a cool surf dude from New York, works from Pedro's Surf Shop on Tamarindo Beach. We actually had several people recommend Richard for surf lessons before we finally stopped by and signed Wyatt up. It has been Wyatt's saving grace, his rugged nature time, away from mom and dad and Sunshine time, and he loves it more than words can say. He and Richard have seriously bonded over some waves and every hour he gets better and better. Who knows, maybe we will find a surfboard for his upcoming 8th birthday!
When Chad and I have "free time," we get into the ocean. The sea is a magical thing. Therapeutic, spiritual, when I'm in the ocean it's like I'm in the heartbeat of the earth. Seriously I sound like Cheech right now but I can't describe with it does for me, and I never want to live away from the ocean in my life.
We have scuba dived together several times, but taken somewhat of a hiatus of late, what with school starting and Elizabeth with her fast ascents. What? Oh yeah, on the last scuba dive Elizabeth participated in, she was one of those people who popped up too fast and had a pressure injury to her right sinus cavity, causing numbness in her upper right teeth and gums. For weeks. Is this going to stop her from scuba diving again? Hell. No. (Did it scare her a little? maybe.)
Snorkeling is an awesome free activity. Playa Conchal is always our go-to, but now we are closer to Tamarindo so we need to start checking out the snorkeling there, too. There is an astonishing quantity and diversity of wildlife just under the water, waiting to be joined. It is magical! We see puffer fish (two types), eels, sea snakes, fish of all colors and sizes and sometimes in massive schools, sea urchins, oh the list goes on and gloriously on. Nothing better than being in the ocean.
Chad is doing a country radio show, Sunday 5-7 pm on Shark FM Tamarindo. Locally in Tamarindo it's 96.9 but if you'd like to stream Shark FM go to their Facebook page and check it out. Please listen to your Flip Flop Cowboy every Sunday night ;)
Finally, we are working on some books. I don't want to divulge any details at this point because, heck, who knows what the future holds, but we aspire to be self-published authors and we don't limit our minds or our hearts.
The Big News? Get ready Costa Rica, the Faidleys are staying for a while.......we just signed a one year lease! We freaking love it here! Please come visit! PURA VIDA and I love you guys!
or in Costa Rica, 4/4/15, "the 4th day of the 4th month of 2015." Really the Costa Rican way is better. OK, not the best example.
This blog was written a couple weeks ago roughly. Refined (finally) today :)
Yesterday I dragged Wyatt to Playa Conchal to a PRIMO snorkeling spot. You drive over a large point. You can’t see if anyone else is coming up the other side and it’s a one lane mountain path. Right as you reach the bottom of the point, to your right you see WHITE sands and crystal clear aqua colored waters. Dark brown and gray rocks are all along the cove and at various depths. It’s really a stunning, sparkling vista. (I am reading this weeks later and I still go to this spot a few times a week. It is always different and there are hundreds of different forms of life within 30 feet of the shore.)
We got in the water for a bit, and it was very very cold. I don’t have a scuba watch or anything, but it was quite cold. Visibility was amazing, probably 15 feet. Tide was very low, and there were a lot of spots where you only had a good two feet of floating space over some rocks that can pretty easily slice you open.
Amongst the rocks Wyatt and I saw electric blue fishes of various sizes and species, a long skinny fish that is neon blue, yellow, and purple, some spotted grouper type fish, some plant life, and lots and lots of dark brown rocks against the white sands.
During our first break on the beach, I realized I had been stung on my right leg. It looked like a big bee sting at the top of my right thigh, but it was sort of a long line of a welt. It definitely hurt, but I kept snorkeling and it didn’t really bother me until the evening. By this morning, the spot had probably grown in size about 15x and it hurt and itched. I got to Huacas Beachside clinic at about 11:00, had a quick consult in the hallway with a female doctor and a male nurse named Harley. They were concerned about infection and prescribed an anti-inflammatory injection hoy (today) and three prescription tablets each once per day for three days. I was told to rest and place ice on the site.
Here’s what I paid at the adjoining pharmacy (C 500 is approximately $1):
C 12,000, 3 tabs azitromicina calox 500 mg
C 1,440, 3 tabs loratadina 10 mg
C 3,720, 3 celebra capsulas 200 mg Pfizer
C 535, dexaton 1 mL (injection)
C 90, jeringas 3cc 22gx1 1/2
C 4,000, advil liqui-gels, 10x600 mg each (unrelated)
or roughly $43.57 at the 500C per dollar rule. (The exact exchange rate changes every day, and some places go by this program, whereas others do the 500C rule.)
Once I paid, the pharmacy tech in the pharmacy consulted with the doctor directly, who had Harley administer the anti-inflammatory injection. Not very dignified, but it has helped decrease the reaction where I was stung.
At the end, there was no charge for the consultation. We all had a good laugh that they would see me again soon. Our family is getting to be regulars there.
I do return on Wednesday for a necessary follow-up with the doctor, and may be charged a consult fee on that day. I think it was previously $50. (Update: was charged $50 on that Wednesday.)
Another happy customer.
Envision this. You are shopping at Conchal Consignment with the kiddos. They are driving you crazy, but in your consignment shopping bliss, there are so many things to look at that at this time, all is well. You are looking for a few particular things. A water cooler (like a Culligan cooler). Some used books. No water cooler, but you do find The Color Purple by Alice Walker, which you have not read before. You rejoice.
Next, you walk across the complex to the new location of La Oliva, the local spot with lovely imported foods, wines, what have you. You leave your husband and beautiful little blond daughter behind to play in the plaza area while you and your boy leisurely stroll the aisles of the new and larger La Oliva. You hear your little girl screaming, but chalk it up to the terrible twos. And, oh, they have been sort of terrible. You actually walk away from the sound, wishing you could have more than the 2 minutes you have had. Not your best mothering moment. One that will soon bring you shame.
Very shortly you hear lots of chaos, including your boy saying, “mom, Sunshine is covered in blood! It’s everywhere!” Drop your rolling basket where it is and run. Just outside the door, a gaggle of beautiful concerned ticos surround your husband and little blond baby, who is yes, covered in bright red blood. They offer concern and paper towels. It is positively all over her face and hair. She has a small split in her forehead right between her eyebrow and the top of her forehead, and it’s a gushin’.
One tica says she will call ahead to the Beachside Clinic in nearby Huacas, and we should go there right away. We know where it is and thank her, while we run to the car. Thank God it is only a few minutes down the road. You drive a little too fast (but carefully) while your husband holds your poor beautiful blood-covered baby girl in his lap. Right now, comfort and keeping pressure on the wound take precedent over seatbelts and such.
When you all rush through the clinic doors, there are no less than four people waiting for you, holding doors for you, setting your baby girl on a table and asking, what happened? When? Are you sure all of this blood is only from the cut on her forehead? Are you sure there was no blood coming from her nose, her ears? How hard did she hit her head?
You are a blubbering idiot. You weren’t there. In fact, you walked away from her screams, irritated that you couldn’t look at more pastas and wines and meats and cheeses.
Your husband explains what happened. That she was walking along, fell forward but caught herself, but then lost her balance, bumping her little head right into the corner of a square stucco column. She did not hit it very hard, but hard enough and at just the proper angle to split it right open. You see that the cut is actually much smaller than you expect, after they clean it up with gauze and saline. The bump is quite large, though, and you try to take comfort in your husband’s words that she really did not hit her head hard enough to crack her precious little skull.
The concerned doctor does attempt to use butterfly bandages, to no avail. Poor Sunshine is absolutely soaked with sweat at this point, completely exhausted and in pain, so hot and tired that she is practically delirious. You are basically in the same boat, but combined with that ever so potent mothering guilt. Soon, it will get even worse. The sweet doctor says, I’m very sorry, we will need to stitch the wound closed. It is too large. Cue deep breathing and nausea. You’d really truly rather stitch yourself closed, with no anesthetic, any number of stitches, but here you are watching your 2 year old suffer. Get tough.
First they will poke a needle into her wound, and inject the anesthetic. It doesn’t seem to do much, probably because they start the stitching immediately. Really, it’s for the best. This ordeal needs to be concluded ASAP. The doctor ever so carefully applies one stitch, pulling the skin nicely back together, and goes to work applying gauze and tape over the wound. All this takes maybe 25 minutes beginning to end. Some of the worst 25 minutes of your life.
The doctor explains to you that you should be very aware of potential signs of concussion or worse. Vomiting, abnormal pupil activity or response, not waking up from sleep. They do not have x-ray facilities available locally, and the nearest are in Liberia, which is 1 hour away. If there are any signs of deeper problems you should drive there immediately.
The last thing on your mind is the bill, but you figure in the states this “emergency” visit would easily run $800-$1,000. You carry baby girl to the car while your (strong, amazing, rock of a) husband pays the bills. He tells you it was $110 when he comes back to the car. You feel grateful for good medical care that is also very affordable. Coming from the states, you feel lucky, even in awe of what you just received for the paltry sum of $110. It includes the removal of the stitch five days later, and the request to call the doctor at ANY time day or night if we are concerned. You have her business card with her personal cell phone number.
OK, now I will write as “me,” mama, aka Elizabeth, aka Bobo. I hope you enjoyed that little journey through my psyche. Again, not my best moment.
Sunshine’s visit in the very beginning of February, actually shortly after our move to Villa Ferlito, would not be our only visit. Thankfully our second visit, just a couple of days ago, was much less exciting. Wyatt complained for a few days in a row that his right ear was itchy and painful, and I was pretty sure something was up. Sure enough it was infected and we were sent on our way with a $50 visit fee and 14,060.00 colones (just a little more than $28) in prescription medications. Plural. One for ear drops (6,660 colones or roughly $13.50) and another for an antibiotic suspension (7,400 c. or just under $15).
Two clinic visits with no appointments, one including a follow up stitch removal: under $200 total.
Pura Vida: priceless. Thank you, Costa Rica.
Hola Mis Amigos!
Today I became a certified open water scuba diver. It was phenomenal. I had a great
instructor who made the entire experience fun and easy. His name is Jorge and I will be recommending him to everyone who asks me about scuba. He is employed by Pacific Coast Scuba and I will also be recommending them to any and all divers and anyone interested in learning.
Elizabeth and I visited the dive shop on Thursday the 5th and spoke with Mauricio, the manager, who signed me up and invited Elizabeth (who is already certified) to dive with me. I spent Saturday the 7th in the swimming pool of the hotel next door learning my “skills” in water that was so shallow I could stand up if I panicked. Luckily I didn’t panic and took to scuba like a fish to water. OH YEAH! I have been waiting a long time to trot that one out.
All joking aside (as if) I truly felt very comfortable breathing under water and finished Saturday's training eager to “get wet.” Elizabeth and I spent a lovely few days hanging out and Tuesday the 10th were on the boat at 8:00 AM to dive the Catalina Islands. This was Elizabeth’s first ocean dive and we were both a little nervous, her about the ocean and me about having to take my mask off 30 feet below the surface. Both of us quickly discovered our fears were totally unfounded and after a quick run through of my training followed Jorge through a magical wonderland of Starfish, colorful Angelfish and awesomely evil looking Moray Eels. I have a new passion and it involves breathing under water.
Having done my first two training dives and only needing two more to become certified, Elizabeth and I immediately signed up to dive the next day. Still in the honeymoon stage, I would have liked to dive again that same day but was assured tomorrow would be soon enough.
My second set of training dives began with a skills test, can I put the equipment on in the water, can I put on and remove my weight belt in the water and can I remove my mask completely, put it back on and clear it, 40 feet below the surface. I performed all my skills well and we were soon swimming along with 60 feet of water above us. Once again I swam among the rocks, plants, fish and reefs of the Pacific coast.
On the way to the dive site we were astonished to see large schools of Spotted Eagle Rays swimming just below the surface. There were hundreds of rays and they were leaping out of the water like dolphins. Opinions varied as to why, with the most reasonable being it helps remove parasites, but my favorite was Dive Master Hannah’s explanation: they are just trying to see where they’re going.
Under the water we glimpsed only one ray, but during the first dive we had the extraordinary luck to see a huge (to me) White Tip Reef Shark. I was certain it had to be at least 8 feet long but Jorge said he guessed it at around 6 feet. Later, Hannah told us, “sharks grow fast, at least one foot per telling of the story!” It was a magnificent animal at any size, and the speed at which it moved was intimidating. Once the shark noticed us it shot away, leaving only a cloud of underwater dust.
Learning to scuba dive has opened up a lot of new opportunities for us to meet new people, learn new things and have wonderful new experiences. It also allows us to shop for gear, one of our favorite pastimes. If anyone reading this is interested please let us know and I will set you up with our new friends at Pacific Coast. We can all dive together and share in our new lifestyle.
We have moved into our new little apartment at Villa Ferlito and are settling in well. The pool is nice and large, the apartment is nice, but not large. It’s 500 square feet of tile floor, the walls are pink and yellow stucco and the windows are huge. Thank the lord because we only have A/C in the bedrooms. It’s got a small patio in the front with hooks for a hammock and two different clotheslines, a small one for swimsuits and towels and a larger one for full loads. We do have a dryer but it’s so dang hot we aren’t going to use it much.
We were able to move everything we own in two trips which is pretty spectacular considering we were using our 4Runner and the entire family, including Pepper rode along both times. Luckily we’re a close family and don’t mind a little dog hair. It was an odd move since we don’t own any furniture or kitchen stuff. Just our clothes, a few toys and all our computer stuff.
It struck me once again how free I feel when everything I own fits into a suitcase, one duffle bag and my Ogio backpack. We took our time and I was still able to watch the Superbowl last night at the local bar, Tiki’s.
We need supplies for our new apartment. The first thing Elizabeth noticed was that we now have ants. Not steady streams of ants but enough to freak her out and demand we purchase ant killer. I think the last straw was the cereal she bought (Zucaritas!) had ants in it before she even opened the bag. So we are also going to need some air tight containers for food. I am already picturing our next move; maybe it will take three trips or four trips. The one after that will be a one trip move but we’ll be using a moving van and towing a horse trailer.
It’s time for another purge, this is an idea I took from Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Work Week”, every 6 months he goes through his life and determines what 20% of his clothes he wears 80% of the time. The 80/20 rule is of course, Pareto’s Law and Tim uses it on all facets of his life, including his friends. Which 20% give him 80% of friendship (read rides to the airport) and which 20% give him 80% of his problems (requests to help move).
Villa Ferlito is a complex of 8 buildings that each have 4 apartments, 1 on each corner. There is a very nice 22x48 pool with a smaller kiddie pool attached, several thatched roof shelters and an admin building where the superintendent lives. It’s got several families with children and a nice mix of locals and ex-pats. There is a gym and a yoga studio just up the road and the SuperMassai (grocery store) is just past that. Much more convenient than Condor Lodge but smaller and no view of the ocean. Still it’s better for the children who were so desperate for playmates that they were making up siblings.
We are ready for the next phase, the smaller apartment phase, the working phase (at least we’re going to try) and the home-schooling phase. This will bring new challenges, living even closer together, no A/C and a tube TV (you read that right) but also new rewards, new friends, nicer pool and far more convenient location. We will also stop beating the snot out of our car every time we drive anywhere, we are now located on a paved road! I never thought I would be glad to move into town but the unpaved roads in Costa Rica are terrible and will destroy a vehicle fast, even one as tough as a Toyota. The Faidley’s are even tougher than a Toyota and now that we are onto this next phase I know we will rise to meet the challenges and take full advantage of the benefits our new home presents.
Pura Vida! !
We have started home-schooling our 7 year old son. He will have one assignment per day, and maybe spelling or something. So far it’s been a little bumpy, because he’s used to being on vacation and is not “feeling school,” which is understandable. I’m not feeling teaching either. However, I must make a man of my little fellow and part of being a man is being educated (at least in my “liberal elite” opinion) so our family is learning together.
We started with spelling, handwriting and learning about volcanoes, due to our recent volcano visit to Arenal. Today we are going to hit him with some math problems, something that fits into our lifestyle in Costa Rica, i.e., if the exchange rate for dollars to colones is $1.00 to C535.00 how many C7000.00 drinks can Daddy buy with $30.00? Or how many liters are there per gallon of gasoline?!
He has certainly been educated by our travels and those lessons will be invaluable later in life. He has learned that other cultures have vastly different values and ways of thinking. He is learning to speak Spanish. He has always held an interest in insects and in Costa Rica there are some spectacular bugs and spiders. He’s held 6” grasshoppers, 3” leaf bugs, and a hand sized spider. He’s learning all about wave patterns and the tide, riptides, tide pools, high tide, low tide and washing with Tide.
He has several chores to teach him responsibility, he walks and feeds Pepper, he takes out the garbage and he watches over his little sister. He keeps busy with daily swimming lessons in the pool and the ocean and gets tons of physical fitness walking on and to the beach. What a school year! When I was in second grade I think we learned all about head lice, eewww!! The opportunities for education during travel are unlimited and can’t be overstated. The growth we have seen in both our children is awesome and we have barely begun our journey.
I realize of course that travel is not for everyone and that many children will not get the chances my children are getting but there must be ways to extend these lessons to everyone. As the internet brings the world to your doorstep and our children grow ever more net and computer literate we need to utilize these tools to educate children in the USA about children in India, and children in Taiwan about children in Germany, and children in England about good tasting foods. (You see the problems inherent in allowing people to learn about other cultures through Monty Python.)
Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice,bigotry and narrow-mindedness” and with the possibilities the internet provides we can bring the world to the doorstep of every child in every classroom across the globe. Our children can be the first generation to say, I am a true child of the Earth.
Hola Amigos and Merry Christmas from Costa Rica. It doesn’t really feel like Christmas this year; I’m sitting on our balcony in shorts and flip flops, looking out over the blue Pacific ocean and the temperature is a balmy 82 degrees. A far cry from last year when I was sitting inside looking out over a beautiful, but frozen, winter wonderland, and temperatures were averaging way too cold!
The gorgeous climate and scenery aren’t the only differences for us this year. We have not put up a tree or any decorations, and in the spirit of having only what we can carry, we are limiting gifts to candy and a few games for the kids. Physical gifts, that is; our mantra for our adventure is “Experiences, not things!” and in keeping with that we each get to choose an experience for all of us to share.
Wyatt has already chosen Horseback Riding, on the beach of course. Elizabeth wants to go snorkeling and I think we are combining that with a sailing trip on an 80 foot schooner (or whatever you call it, I look forward to learning). Sunshine is still up in the air being somewhat limited in her choices due to her small stature but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. I’m still up in the air regarding christmas but for my birthday we’re all going sport fishing for Marlin, this time of year it’s fantastic and there are several grand slams in Costa Rica each season. For those of you who don’t know, a Grand Slam is a White Marlin, a Blue Marlin and a Black Marlin on the same trip. I had no idea either but understand it’s a pretty big deal, especially for the Charter Captain who gets to brag about it for the rest of his life. Although to be fair, I’ve picked a Captain who has one already, I really want to catch a Marlin! I’m not bigoted though, I love Marlins of every color.
There are other ways this Christmas varies from past Holidays. We will be without our families, which has been on all our minds lately. I haven’t spent a Christmas without seeing at least one of my parents since the early Nineties when I was in the military. This will be Elizabeth’s first Christmas without visiting her Auntie and we will both miss the Duhme family Christmas which we have attended for many years. Each year at Christmas brought the opportunity to be with my siblings, my sweet nieces and nephews and friends we saw only once per year, at Christmas time. That’s making this year a little bittersweet. After all, what good is paradise if you have no one to share it with.
That’s not to say we will be alone. We have met many spectacular people and have been invited to a few parties. Costa Rica is a friendly place and we have definitely been made to feel welcome. We will also have each other and as we are learning, that’s what makes wherever we are home, being together (all day, everyday, without a break from the kids) has been our most difficult trial and our greatest source of joy.
As you celebrate Christmas (or whatever) this year, please remember us and raise a glass to family, love, joy, and of course, ADVENTURE. We will be thinking of all of you and raising a glass to each and every one of you, even if it takes two (or three) bottles to do it. We miss you and love each and every one of you and are feeling it keenly. All we want for Christmas is an email, from you!
by Mama! (Can you tell who is uploading this? And who is feeling VERY PROUD for having written a blog? :)
Hola, Amigas and Amigos!
My head is spinning; where should I even start? Tomorrow is our two week anniversary in Costa Rica. We still say, "can you believe this?" Meaning, we did it. We're here. Look around and say WOW.
It is, needless to say, a tropical paradise here. A postcard come to life, in technicolor and with stereo sound! Everything you could imagine and more. Roads that will make your teeth rattle. Squawking parrots, howling monkeys (I don't think "howling" really does justice to the amazing sounds that come from these creatures, like primal harmonics), birds of all sorts riding thermals over the jungle outside our balcony, millions of stars--I've never seen so many stars! Have you ever looked at stars with binoculars? It is astonishing, and you should totally do it. Dragonflies, butterflies, lizards, even iguanas, hummingbirds, massive grasshoppers (we're taking half a foot long, and these, we are told, are the small ones of this variety). Actually, the first time I saw one of these massive grasshoppers, I naively thought it was a bat that had flown into the wall. I was shortly thereafter horrified to discover it was a bug, and it was flying very clumsily and quickly in my direction. This has actually happened many times since, and it always gives me a smile to consider what I must look like, vacillating between screaming and laughter, running my ass off to escape a grasshopper that is really just being a grasshopper. These poor creatures seem very directionally challenged. They love the light but are constantly smashing into things and falling to the ground, only to try again and again. We could all learn something from that, no?
I have read estimates that Costa Rica contains 5% of the entire planet's biodiversity, and this in spite of the fact that it covers only .03% of the planet's surface. Isn't that just wild and crazy and cool?! I know we have just started to see a small variety of what this amazing tiny country has to offer, but it is always awe inspiring and I simply can't wait to see what else we will find. As it turns out, we ALWAYS see something cool when we walk or hike somewhere. It's the substantial plus side to dripping in sweat for miles at a time.
In terms of physical fitness, we are really improving our game. We hiked to Brasilito and back one day to get minutes on our phone (4.5 miles ish). We hiked to Playa Piratas and back another day (not as high on the mile count but way more terrain). Sadly, my visions of gentle snorkeling on Piratas died with the waves that ground me into the sand and almost ripped my suit off. I felt very violated (and disappointed), but hey, I was still on a beautiful white sand beach in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, so I'm not bitching. I also got to see other people wipe out, which made me feel slightly less embarrassed. Mother ocean was showing her power that day and it was truly impressive.
The best part of Costa Rica? The people. As a cynical American, for the first couple few days here I wondered, is it for real? Are they really THAT happy and THAT nice? I mean can people be so sweet with no strings attached? It sounds horrible but I'm just giving my thought process. It is totally different here in the way people interact with one another, and yes, it is for real. People just smile and say hello and chat with one another. They let kids run around and play and scream and don't get all bent out of shape about it. In fact, they laugh, and play with them, and give them hugs and kisses!
People here are from all over. I'm not talking only the tourists. I'm talking people who live here, who have been here for years. We have met people from Spain, Nicaragua, Austria, England, the USA, and Canada. Lots of Canadians, eh? Surely I'm missing some countries of origin, but you get the idea.
As we were discussing with some new friends from Canada, people who are too high strung/type A are pretty well weeded out by the culture here. Things do not move fast, people are not in a hurry, and convenience is a word that you might as well just forget 'til mañana (LOL!). Those who can't deal end up bailing on the whole scene, luckily for the remaining folks who aren't into the teeth grinding stress.
I have had some time to think about the word "convenience." I now view the convenience we had back home as a small reward for the price we paid there, offering our lives for money, instead of living our lives. Could I find anything and everything I could have desired within a 15 mile radius of my house in North Liberty, Iowa? Yes. Was I stressed as hell all the time and never making enough money to buy all the things I thought I wanted or needed? Yes. So what's more important?
Maybe I can't find a hamper here, or a collapsible hamper for that matter (that would rock!), but hey I have Automercado totes that work pretty well so what the heck.
In recent news, we have made some new friends and Chad is even going fishing tomorrow! I'm so excited for him because this was one of his favorite things to do to unwind at home, and now he can do it on the beach! With a new friend!
Pura Vida, Everyone!
Wyatt and I have had the first Costa Rican "Experience of A Lifetime." On Thursday Bobo and I decided we needed to rent a car. We were nearly out of groceries and the importance of a cell phone was becoming apparent. I had hoped to avoid this "curse of modern life," but damn, it's a convenient item to be cursed with, especially since we are having a lot of issues getting things handled in the states. The condo staff was extremely helpful in the rental car process and within an hour we had a cute little SUV to drive around. Our first stop was a local consignment shop where we found a small plastic bathtub for Sunshine (she refuses to take a shower), a beach ball, a baby doll and an (as yet) unwatched beginner Spanish DVD. We then visited ICE, pronounced eesay, which is the local cellular store. $170 later we had a smart phone. The clerk spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish but we managed to get it done. Finally we went to the local grocery store and stocked up on food for the week. All in all a successful, and expensive trip. Later that day Wyatt and I decided to head to Playa Mina, a nearby, secluded and "locals only" beach. As we followed the directions to the beach we turned onto a tiny dirt road that was fenced on both sides by long black pieces of cloth. The fabric fence was about 8 feet high and ran the length of the road on both sides. We were beginning to get a little nervous; what were they hiding back there? Since there are no signs to follow and the road was little more than a rock filled washout I had visions of drug dealers or paranoid, gun-toting end of the world types just waiting for us to fall into a deep rut, at which point they would rob us and send us back naked to our Condo. However, we finally arrived at the beach and discovered an absolutely gorgeous stretch of white sand that backed right up to the jungle. As we strolled up the beach I noticed another family huddled around a pile of sand pointing excitedly. As we approached to find out what was happening I saw my very first baby Green Turtle! It was crawling determinedly toward the ocean and I became an instant turtle fan. OMG, I could not believe my eyes as that little forerunner led the way for dozens more tiny, velvety, gorgeous Green Sea Turtles. Wyatt and I watched as more turtles pushed their way out of their sandy maternity ward and headed for the ocean. Each turtle was around 3 inches long and would often get stuck in people footprints during their journey. They pushed on through it and persevered with the entire family making it safely to be washed away into the Pacific. It was absolutely amazing! As Wyatt and I bodysurfed and played until dark I pondered the miracle we had been a part of and thought to myself that this was the reason we made this life change. This beautiful beach, this gorgeous sunset, this closeness with my son and the spectacular vision of baby turtles would be the highlight of many people's lives. But for us it was just the start of a lifetime of adventure and experience. No car or house or amount of money could provide me with the natural high I felt right then and I will carry that feeling forever. Barring total amnesia I will be able to remember that feeling and this experience until my life is over.
We have arrived in Playa Conchal, Costa Rica. It’s as beautiful as I imagined and we have a lovely two bedroom, two bath condominium on the second floor with a view of both the mountains and the Pacific ocean. Every morning I am awakened around 6 AM by the crowing of a rooster,. He takes his job very seriously and continues to crow all day, also awakening me from my siesta (at least he would if the kids would take naps).
Everyone we have met from Costa Rica has been extremely friendly and helpful, and we are absolutely thrilled by the weather. It ranges from 70’s in the morning and evening to the upper nineties during the day. I have seen exotic parrots, a small black Rat snake, many exotic birds and an Iguana. I was also attacked by a spider our first day. I had walked out onto our balcony and something hit me in the back of the head, bonk! I thought I had backed into the fan pull but when I turned around I was shocked find a large black spider fleeing up a strand of webbing. I shouted into the house for witnesses and Wyatt and I watched as the spider disappeared into the fan housing. “That leads right into the house” I told Wyatt, watching as horror spread across his face. One of the benefits of being a father. I can imagine the spider telling his son, “You should have seen the meal that got away today! It was enormous and extremely dangerous.” (I still look carefully at the fan each time I walk outside. That spider was gigantic.)
Every house in Costa Rica has a name. We are staying in Condor Heights Condominiums, I’m unsure if it’s so named because Condor and Condo are so similar or if it has to do with the multitudes of buzzards flying overhead. Condor Heights is very secluded and the closest town is 15 minutes from us,. This presents us with today’s challenge: buying groceries. Grocery challenge part 1.0 - Getting to the store. Imagine living in the rural United States (in a condominium complex) and needing to get to town. We have no car, there are no taxis and one of our children has extremely short legs. We have already met a laid back, cool and generous SoCal surfer dude who might give us a ride and Elizabeth has a friend nearby who offered to pick us up so this is not insurmountable but it’s well out of the norm for us. The second stumbling block is our poor (understated) grasp of the Spanish language. Do you know how difficult it is to buy food when you can only look at the pictures? So far we’ve bought fruit, milk and chicken, all easily recognizable by their shapes. This has made for some interesting meals; thank heaven for the restaurant nearby. These stresses have given me a new perspective on being a foreigner but stress brings growth and we are all adapting quickly. In fact, I believe Wyatt has already increased in height by 6 inches. As I watch flocks of Parrots fly by me toward the deep blue Pacific I know it’s all worth it. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
It's 11:20 pm and Chad's asleep. I can't figure out how to turn of the clicky clicky of my iPad (screen) keyboard. My fancy keyboard folio for my iPad mini self disintegrated en route to Georgia.
For several weeks, I've wanted to post a blog. I even started a couple. Inspired, but sporadically, and never with what felt like a "complete post." Somehow imperfect.
We are in beautiful Kennesaw, Georgia visiting my spectacular brother in-law. We arrived Tuesday night the week of Thanksgiving, but not without some new stories along the way.
Let's backtrack. So, we said, we probably won't need COBRA, we said. We did have the luxury of a sixty day grace period during which we could choose to be covered (at cost) per my previous contract with the University of Iowa.
One ER visit and a couple of chest x-rays later, said contract has been reinstated. I am feeling very fortunate, blessed, lucky, happy to have the option available to us to purchase such world class coverage (if it does hurt the pocketbook).
Let's get back to Iowa. We haven't left Solon yet, our temporary home of a month or so following the sale of our home in North Liberty. The best part of Solon is the Salt Fork Kitchen, a locally sourced, comfortable little restaurant run by a woman named Liz. Liz has the most ebullient smile and likes to say "Cheers!" Beautiful place with really very good VERY good food.
It's Sunday the 23rd of November. We've been busting ass for several days; and really, we just moved a month prior. So this is all proving fairly painful and drama-making. We finally tag some garbage, load our van with everything we own and are keeping (plus several loads of dirty laundry taking up very valuable real estate in the back of the van), including Wyatt, Sunny, and the dog, not so happily crammed between the kids due to the excess of stuff we have mentioned.
Really on Sunday I just remember thinking I wanted to get out of our apartment in Solon. Clean it up, return the key, close the chapter. We succeeded and made it maybe an hour, to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. I took Wyatt swimming at the hotel pool, we stayed the night, and in the morning I woke up violently ill.
I am not kidding. I wish I was kidding.
Suffice to say I think I had a combination of (1) a reaction to a medication I was on for walking pneumonia, and that I had taken on an empty stomach; (2) a panic attack, which I have never experienced before and is still surreal when I think about it, and (3) the aforementioned pneumonia. My poor desperate husband loaded our things and our bodies into the van and promptly delivered me to an ER, where I struggled to even speak to the receptionist in triage. I was diagnosed basically as described above, and also with low potassium, after many hours of horrendous nausea that would continue into Tuesday morning.
Once we were released and picked up my new prescriptions (in two locations), it was probably 2 pm. Keep in mind I'm still actively ill, but at this point all dignity and vanity has been lost, truly. I valiantly make it to Wentzville, Missouri, only because there was no pet friendly hotel in Troy, MO! So I'm sick all night but thank the universe all night and with every very hot bath I take (five or six, we agreed), for this was the only time I wasn't so miserable I wanted to cry. That bath saved me that night. The next morning Chad told me he kept wanting to take a shower for a headache and I was always in the tub. Poor Chad!
I didn't fall asleep 'til 6 am Tuesday morning, and at 8 am I woke up a new woman. Unprepared to endure any more nausea, I did not take any of my new medications and I started the drive, fueled by saltines and gatorade. We did have to turn around after a few miles and return for Sunny's blankie, which was left intermingled with one of the beds. Ultimately we hit the road determined to make it to Kennesaw, which we did, that very evening at around 8:30 Georgia time.
It was a trip of new memories. This much is for sure. Boredom be gone!
I will report back again soon about all the fun and excellent things we have done in Kennesaw area with my husband's family.
As for the future, I am signed up to Scuba dive THIS Friday at the Georgia Aquarium. This is an impressive indoor exhibit where I will become certified to dive with Whale Sharks! I am so scared and so excited to challenge myself again with Scuba. I expect to emerge from this with my mind blown, and possibly changed forever. I feel a lot of apprehension, but I really want to NOT live out of fear, but out of excitement and eagerness for the next adventure. I want my children to see THAT me, not the scared me that talks about doing crazy things but doesn't act on it. :}
Is is possible to hold no opinion? Can a person be completely impartial? I get extremely frustrated when my opinions are challenged and I am unable (or rarely, unwilling) to defend them. I will steam over this for hours or even days, which is a poor use of my limited time and energy. Honestly, I have always been "that" guy, who has to be right and will debate my viewpoint to the end, though the results of this are unlikely to be positive for either party. I always regarded this trait as being a benefit to me (and others who received the full weight of my intellect, easily eight to ten ounces!), but lately I see it as more of a drawback, a challenge for me to overcome.
This trait, as with many things in life, can be both a blessing and a curse. I am not easily swayed by others thinking and have often followed my own path to success. I have also followed my own path to failure when, if I had listened in the first place, I could have avoided the pitfalls. Too often the latter has been true, but making my own mistakes is one of my trademark moves. The fact remains, however, that I have spend needless hours coming up with arguments and sulking about my "opinion" that could have been used much more productively, not to mention the damage it did to my psyche when I felt wronged or ignored.
All this would be avoided if I could just be totally impartial, listening without judgement to others ideas and never defending my own. I spend an inordinate amount of time defending my ideas, both to other people and in my own head. What a waste.
How then do I meet this challenge? If someone has no opinion aren't they just pawns to be pushed around? I hate being pushed around and will always go my own way, how can I justify this while at the same time not defending my position? Can a person with strong opinions let go of them and be happier, or will they just feel more and more pent up until they explode in a ragged mess of arguments and poorly aimed insults?
I am going to start by letting go of expectations, tougher than it sounds but a good place to start, in my opinion (LOL). I will take things as they come, how they really are, not how I want them to be. If someone or something happens to fall short of what I expect I will just remind myself that life flows continuously and this is just a little bend in the river, not the Hoover Dam. Also I have no idea what led up to that point from anyone's perspective but my own and it's an extremely limited viewpoint.
That's the second way of meeting this challenge, try and see things from other points of view, it's easy to see them from your own. Often when I see someone driving like a jackass I feel my stomach tighten my shoulders tense up but if I tell myself, "Self, maybe this person woke up to a screaming child and a nagging spouse" I feel more empathy toward them and can easily see why they are angry. I also try and remember a time when I was acting in a similar manner (yesterday) and recall what led up to my being angry which increases my feelings of empathy and reduces my own stress.
Third thing I am going to do is never defend my point of view, this will be the most difficult task for me; not only do I feel like my entire manhood is in question when I'm challenged but I truly enjoy a good debate. I am going to listen as impartially as is possible for me and then just be quiet. Developing this as a skill will be awesome for my personal journey toward enlightenment.
How this will keep me from holding opinions? I don't know that it will, and it could be I'm just wired as a strong personality. If I can lower my stress level by doing them, that's good enough for now, I'll worry about reaching enlightenment some other time.
Where's My Keys?
I can't find my keys. I know I had them on Saturday night but come Sunday, poof, they disappeared. Now that we have moved to the condo everything is a little out of sync and we haven't determined where everything will go, which means that I put my keys down wherever I am standing. This may or may not be the best place to put them for future use. Once I put them in the freezer and spent two days tearing the house apart, finally spent I decided to have a drink to relax, I lift the ice tray out and bang, there's my keys. I'm pretty sure I was drinking when I put them there, a great example of Homer Simpson's wisdom, "Alcohol, the cause of and solution to all of life's problems!"
Back to the condo, where Bobo has spent much time getting things put away and making the place feel like our home. It's a nice place and a good transition to an even more mobile lifestyle. However, we have noticed a few issues. Number one, the cold water valve in the upstairs bathroom sink won't work; this is not as big a problem as you'd think because the hot water never gets very hot anyway. Number two, the hot water only lasts about five minutes; "it's good practice," I keep telling my wife, also cold showers are good for weight loss--they stimulate heat production, which burns fat to keep warm. Always look on the bright side of life. Number three, there are many missing trim pieces, which aesthetically is unpleasant doesn't affect us much. There are other issues which I won't get into but suffice to say upkeep on the unit has been lacking. We also receive tons of mail for previous residents, who must have never paid their bills. This Saturday we received three separate past due notices from the electric company, so I hope they don't shut us off, because cold showers in the dark is too much even for me.
Our lives are in flux, we are stuck mid move, not yet out of our old lives and not fully in our new lives. I just keep reminding myself this is what we wanted...this feeling of freedom, as frightening as it is, is what we are striving to achieve. To throw off the fetters of home ownership and jobs and all our "stuff," to be free to go where we want, when we want. I am also in flux, halfway between excited and terrified. "I embrace change and know that we are safe" is my current affirmation, and it's a great one for any stage of life.
Here are some practical bits of advice for families entering into this stage of "Adventure Development." First, designate a spot for keys and other important items you need every time you leave the house. Second, begin packing for your adventure now, and don't wait until the end when everyone is freaking out and trying to say goodbye, a few things culled here and there make a big difference in your stress level. You will feel stress, get used to it. It's good for you, promotes growth and makes everything easier for the next move. Keep in mind the mistakes you made last time and do your best not to repeat them. Give yourself a place and some time to be alone in the new house. Going from 1800 square feet to 900 will feel cramped at first and having your own spot is essential. Keep in mind the weather you will have prior to leaving on your adventure. I tossed a lot of jackets and sweatshirts and other warm clothes because, hey, we're moving to a tropical paradise! Except now that it's Fall in Iowa I need those clothes and I'm stuck wearing the same sweatshirt every day. At least Bobo had the foresight to grab all our winter clothes, thanks Baby!!!
It truly feels like the adventure has started for us, exciting new place and home, saying goodbye to everyone and finishing up at work have brought home the feelings of anxiety and excitement. I can't wait for the next step. Hopefully it will be much warmer.
The Space Between Action & Reaction
Yesterday I threatened my boy with an "Ass Beating" if he didn't sit down and keep quiet. We were at McDonald's (already enough to piss anyone off) and signing the paperwork for the closing on the house. I was stressed and tired and hungry; we had been busting ass for weeks to get to this point and were almost at the finish line. We had moved, tossed, sold or given away everything and the house was empty. I just had to make one more run to the dump(ster at work) and we would be done.
My son was doing what all seven year olds do, dancing around, teasing his sister and complaining that he was bored and hungry. I ran out of patience, and luckily he knows exactly how far to push me and sat down and was quiet (for thirty seconds) so no beating was necessary.
This put me in mind of something my Dad once told me, "Son," he said seriously, "there is a space between action and reaction. Use that space to decide your reaction and you can take control of your own life." At the time I thought it was bulls**t. Of course your reaction is decided by the action. When someone attacks me I fight back, when someone yells at me I yell back, it's "just how I am."
Over time however, those words played over and over again in my mind. Could I really decide how to react in the split second between my conditioned response to a given action? I decided to do a test, whenever anyone addressed me in any way, I silently counted to three before answering. At first this was unbelievably tough, as anyone who knows me will tell you I like to talk, but little by little I became accustomed to thinking before acting. This silent pause between action and reaction made me realize that I blurted out a lot of words I didn't (necessarily) mean and often made my own life harder than it needed to be, because my reaction became that person's action and they reacted to that with more negativity causing a downward spiral of bad feelings.
I have improved on this immensely since then, and it has become a way of life for me. Although I still become impatient as the above story shows, I am much more patient than I used to be and working hard to become more patient still. Nothing like having kids to increase your level of patience. Muscles grow the more you work them and my children occasionally work my patience muscle to failure.
In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl discusses how even in the most brutal and dehumanizing conditions, in his case Auschwitz and then Dachau concentration camps, a person can still decide how to react to his situation. In the face of forced labor, beatings, starvation and the constant threat of death, one can still be free in his or her own mind. Nothing short of death can imprison the imagination.
This example is extreme but excellent, if Viktor could remain a free human in a concentration camp it should be no problem for me to not yell at my son. The decision of how to react to any situation is in your control, use it wisely.
Happiness is an Empty House
"We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without" Henry David Thoreau
I hope this quote is true, as we are testing this thesis right now. Tomorrow is moving day, much can be learned from moving day, increased patience, the value of labor and who your real friends are! Ahhh, I remember well our last moving day, my friend Dathan sacrificed his truck to get us here, the ultimate sign of friendship between men. Thanks Dath, we're gonna miss you and Patti, we are tough to be friends with but you have persevered and Bobo and I are better for it.
Back to doing without, especially difficult when you have and are giving it up, as opposed to when you never had in the first place. Giving up my tools, unbelievably difficult, giving up my jetpack, easy as giving up my wife's purse collection. I had no problem with it at all. In fact, I never saw the point of them anyway, she could easily carry my things in a plastic Fareway bag. She was always patient with me on this point, quietly offering to sell one purse for each hat I gave up. Smart woman, my wife, she knows her man.
Our plan for the move is to take only what we can carry, aside from the dog cage needed for travel. It's ambitious but we have made huge strides toward it and we will succeed (thanks to a 10x20' storage unit) though it has been the source of many "debates" on need vs. want. Having (almost) everything we wanted has been fun but not fulfilling and fulfillment is what we are seeking on this journey.
My bride and I have found it liberating to get rid of things and it became easier and easier with each item removed. We began with garbage and things we disliked, that was the first round of removals, next we found things that we hadn't used since we moved in in 2008, also very low stress. Round three began to get a little tougher, it was clothes we hadn't worn in a year, which was rough because I could need them again, if I lost some weight, or we had another big flood. Those thoughts seem so ridiculous now that I'm admitting them to everyone, if I do lose weight I'm buying new clothes and if we have another big flood I plan on wearing nothing but swim trunks from then on! Continuing from there became much more difficult, it became things we paid a lot of money for and felt stupid for buying in the first place, or things we wanted for so long but never used, or things we used once a year but that once per year it was very nice to have, our ice cream maker for example. We are finally down to the nitty and the gritty, most of my tools are gone, we are selling the boat, the patio set went yesterday and the bedroom set goes tomorrow. The most challenging item was the bedroom set, it was the nicest thing we owned and I slept great every night on our dreamy mattress. Possibly the site of conception for my daughter, but truthfully that could have been anywhere, anywhere.
Awesomely enough the day before we moved both those items miraculously sold, another example of "The Process" working for us. I can't say it enough (for me anyway), "Hold the vision, trust the process".
Everything that heads down the road is that much less to carry, whether it be mentally or physically, each item you possess also possesses you. I'm tired of being possessed by the demons of the american dream, we are taking back possession of ourselves by ridding ourselves of the symbols of "success" and in so doing we are making room for new experiences and for our creativity to flow. If only for a little while we will be empty vessels, sailing lightly through the ocean of life, ready for anything.
This past weekend was a busy one. On Saturday morning we pulled the boat to our house and got it ready for cleaning then headed off to Maquoketa for a BBQ. Sunday we cleaned and waxed the boat and dropped it off at Coralville Lake Marina, awesome bunch of people, where we have it winterized and stored. I also was able to sell some more tools and get rid of our sectional. Everything is falling into place; it's amazing how our plan is coming together and a seemingly unending list of coincidences is making it possible.
It's the universe, it's delivering us what we need because we believe it's going to happen for us, taking action and not giving up. Once you determine your dream, plan how to make it happen and then take action, the universe will bring you what you need. I believe everything is connected and reality is what you make of it, so think good thoughts and good things will happen to you, think bad thoughts and bad things will happen.
While it's impossible (for me) to think only positive thoughts (wait a sec, I need to change that thought), I do try to turn every negative thought into a positive one. For instance, "it's possible to think only positive thoughts" would be my answer to the first sentence, "I just need to keep trying". Once you give up taking action, it will never happen for you, that I guarantee. It's like that old joke.
There was an old man who desperately wanted to win the lottery. He prayed hard every night and asked God over and over to win. One night he became so angry at God and said "Why do you not answer my prayer, why haven't I won the lottery?" Suddenly a light shone on him and a voice boomed from the heavens, "Why haven't you bought a ticket!"
Here are some needs we had, followed by actions we took and how it worked out for us:
We needed an apartment for 3 weeks, we made a few calls and bang, an old colleague of Elizabeth's just happened to have an empty place in Solon, since he knew us he was willing to keep everything in his name and we would not need to put down deposits and wait for utility companies to show up. That's a large hassle avoided, not even something I had thought about until he brought it up. Just imagine getting everything turned on for 3 weeks and then back off again, it makes my head hurt (in sympathy for my wife, she handles these things).
We needed to sell our boat lift. It's still sitting in the slip we rented and would have been expensive to pull out and even more expensive to store. I called the marina and spoke to the manager and told him we would not be renting the slip again. He asked what we were doing with the lift and I told him we were selling it. He called me the next day and offered to buy it for the marina, I said heck yeah! So I picked up a check that night, another thing off our plate. Also that check came in just as we are about to have another round of expenses, awesome!
These are just two examples I have, there are others, of things happening for us at just the right time. Maybe not the way we expected but nonetheless the end we desired. Hold that vision, Trust that process! Find your dream, envision it, take action and the universe will do the rest. Just hold onto that vision!
(started Thursday 10/9/14, completed Friday 10/17/14
warning: very schizophrenic...)
John O’Donohue says, “Possibility is the secret heart of time.” Is there any possibility left in your time? Or are you scheduled into life with barely a moment to unwind? Truth be told, this society doesn’t prioritize time with family, time to rest, time to decompress in healthy ways…. everything is convenient-ized, monetized, and in a big freaking hurry. That’s the thing that has always really driven me crazy. Why the rush? I’ve never been the rushing type. I just need some space, man. I need to move at my speed, not yours. I was reading an article called something like "why women can't have it all" in the Atlantic (ok, so I saw it on Facebook, but still). The author, a high level consultant type, found that her desires as a mother could not come into line with her demands for her work. Yes, her husband was the parent more readily available when she traveled, and they made it work. But their kids were paying the price and having problems. As a woman, as a mother, she came to the realization that for HER, work was not her priority anymore; it could not be... I was far from high level anything, but as a mom I felt some of the experiences she discusses in her article. I think part of being “feminist” (and what that means has sort of become blurred, I think) has to include giving ourselves and each other the right to do what works for US, and this is absolutely true where religion is concerned as well, but that is another discussion. On my fourth day home, and during my first week as a stay at home mom, albeit temporary, I'm really enjoying it and yes, Amby (my seester), wondering why didn't I do this sooner? It's a sort of disturbing concept, as I was discussing with my husband this morning. Because was this the answer all along? Could we have made "this" work in a way happier and healthier for everyone? Maybe....but... Does that get at the real stuff of a culture that I want to extract my kids from? MySELF from? Or at a society that doesn't value the same fundamental things that my husband and I do? No....it does not. So we come back to Costa Rica. And womanhood. I worked for 11.5 years as a professional & scientific (P & S) staff member at the University of Iowa. When I had my babies, I had the flexibility available to me to go part time. I did this with both children, with two different male and very supportive bosses. I had immense support and understanding. While working fewer hours of course cut my salary accordingly, it was priceless and it is the main reason I was able to keep a really cool job for that long. I enjoyed it, I met incredible people along the way, and I was really very good at it. As long as I was over half time status, I had full benefits status. Do most people have flexibility available to them in that context? No. Are they making nearly what I made? Probably not, or maybe not, and it really does matter. Lots of people don’t make enough to get buy let alone live a life of relative luxury with world class health and dental benefits. Long story short I have been VERY fortunate and I am grateful for that. What else can I say? I’ve only walked in my shoes, and I’ve been very blessed, fortunate, or whatever word I might choose to use here. I do believe I’ve made my own luck to whatever extent that is possible. Yes, I work hard; yes, I take pride in creating, whether at work or at home. I am woman, hear me roar! Speaking of roaring, I think as women we need to work on not judging each other. Don’t we all do it? It is something I have only realized consciously the last couple of years, and observed in myself. I have found I can be pretty judgemental at times, but truly, everyone is going through their own personal battles and I can't even begin to know what it means to live their life. I think the longer I have lived the more truth I see in that concept—the more I am able to view the world through that lens. We need to embrace our womanhood. Our motherhood. We need to support each other! Being women, we have special powers. In my family we joke that my mom and sister and I have a psychic streak. Cause it's true....More on that later :D
Who Are You?
Remember the truck commercial (Ford I think) set at a block party, where one neighbor asks another, "What do you do?" and all the things he does start flashing through his mind as he searches for an answer? He is a Father, a husband, a friend, a contractor, a boater, a motorcyclist and many, many other things that involve his truck. Except for the husband thing which shows him at a restaurant, presumably having just arrived, in his truck. This guy does it all and refuses to be pigeonholed by his nosy neighbor. It's a good commercial and made me want to buy a new truck, I want to do those things too, unfortunately we drive a minivan.
When people ask me I always answer the same way, I am the Operations Manager for Hupp ToyotaLift, I'm in charge of all the service and parts departments at each of our locations. This satisfies most people, it's the answer they expect to hear, what I do to make money. This job and title are what defines me to many people, and they are also defined by their profession, both to themselves and (sadly) to me. However, like the truck commercial guy, I do much more than just manage Toyota forklift dealerships, I too am a Father, a husband, a boater, a writer, a guitarist, a joker, a smoker, midnight toker and Steve Miller fan. I am all of them combined but there's no good way to compress that into one short answer. I am extremely complex, as are most people, not all, but most.
A focus on profession as definition is no longer good enough for me, I want to know what people really do, are mechanics going home and fixing cars, do Doctors go home and still cure people? In most cases probably not, although if you love it that much more power to you. I want to know what people dream of doing, the mechanic that's an amateur geologist, the Doctor who trains rescue dogs, the manager who collects hats, or whatever else. By adding even one thing to the definition of what you do, you suddenly become far more interesting and then you can talk, not about work, but about your dreams and the dreams of everyone you meet.
I want to be redefined as someone who lives their dreams. A dream liver, if you will, although that sounds like a cat food flavor, who inspires others to live their own dreams, realize their own potential and become more than just, what they do to earn money. I want to help people become more interesting.
Imagine us meeting at a party, I walk up to you and introduce myself, we begin chatting and, after a short discussion of the weather, the inevitable question comes up. "What do you do?" "I help folks become more intriguing". Now that's an answer sure to stimulate discussion (or strange looks). Perhaps the next question will be "How do you do that?" or "What do you mean?" and then I can explain my dream of helping others realize and live their own dreams. This will lead to me asking my new favorite question, "what do you dream of doing?" and sparking something inside you. If you have an answer, awesome! If you don't it'll make you think about what your dreams were and could be again. Rockstar, Actress, Policeman or Mime, whatever you dream of being, Skydiving, Boxing, Spelunking or Clowning, whatever you dream of doing, Fast Cars, Old Whiskey, Dance Club or Banana Farm, whatever you dream of owning, just write it down and email me, you can make it happen, I will do everything I can to help.
Do you ever feel creative? Do you wish you had an outlet for that creativity, a way to show the world your inner self, your talent or your ideas? Or maybe you don't feel creative, maybe that part of you has shut down from lack of use, or because you have no audience, or you're just so wiped out at the end of the day. Most people feel similarly, they want to be creative and sometimes they have creative ideas but they never have the time or energy to focus on their creative spirit. This is due in many cases with a lack of motivation or a lack of attention, quantities of these are limited and the majority of it is used to play out your regular routine. Get up, get the kids off to school, go to work, come home, get dinner, chores and homework finished, kids into bed, does this sound familiar? By the end of the day my wife and I are drained of both motivation and attention, so we watch TV or play on our iPads or phones. This is not a recipe for creative development, it's a recipe for depression and stagnation.
So what, you might ask. This is what life's about, working and earning a living, raising kids, maintaining your house and vehicles, these things don't go away just because I want them to, they are as fundamental as needing water. If only I had more time, this is the line most uttered by people who feel stuck in their routine, as if three more hours in a day would make a difference. If more time was all that was needed wouldn't we get more done in the evening instead of collapsing on the couch, just needing to unwind and zone out. I know that I could get up earlier and go to bed later, but I need 7 hours of sleep to function normally, I also work for about 10 hours per day (including lunch and commuting), eat for 2 hours and do 2 hours of chores, for a total of 21 hours each day, so not counting bathroom breaks and playing with the kids (they like to combine these two things) I have 3 hours left over for me to do... whatever I want. Why do most people not take advantage of these hours? It's because they have used up their daily rations of attention and motivation. Finding time is not the challenge, finding extra motivation and attention is the challenge.
Increased motivation is the first challenge, it's nearly impossible to make any (life) changes unless you have some inspiration first. Most often this comes from some outside influence, a new baby, a new job, a new girl or boyfriend, a near death experience or anything that forces your life in a different direction. However, you can't always plan (or successfully) execute your own near death experience so finding internal motivation is the key.
I use a few different techniques to find my internal motivation. Give yourself a concrete goal and make it cost money, sign up for a 5K run or a sprint triathlon, tell everyone you know on Facebook and promise regular updates, set up a deadline with your boss or fellow employees, or get an accountability buddy to ask you about it every day. Don't underestimate the power of shame or possible embarrassment, it's powerfully motivating to avoid looking like a jackass. Don't fall into the "make goals achievable" trap, make them difficult to reach and give yourself short deadlines, if you're goals are easy you won't push your boundaries and if your deadlines are too long you won't push yourself, remember Parkinson's Law, "Work expands to fill the time available for completion".
The harder part of this puzzle is increasing attention. You have a limited amount of attention, it's why movies are only 2 hours long and most tv runs no more than an hour. Think about your daily work schedule, how much actual work do you get done in a day, when do you get most of it completed, how much of it is just busy work? If you can work four hours at a time doing the same thing, you have a great attention span, if you can only work for an hour or two without a break, you are a normal person. Increasing my attention span has proved difficult, once I hit my limit, even if I force myself to sit down and focus, my mind wanders and little is accomplished. Two ways I've found to be successful, number one is daily meditation, I focus on my breath and have been able to increase the length of focus time from basically zero to around 3 minutes. My mind still wanders but I pull it back and refocus on my breath and keep trying. I've been meditating daily for about 3 months and have improved one minute per month. That'sdisheartening, but maybe I'll reach a tipping point and have sudden success with it. It has shown other benefits however, so I will definitely keep it going. The second way I've found is similar but I can do it almost anytime, I just focus on whatever I'm doing. If I'm doing the dishes I feel the hot water, I carefully wash and rinse each item, looking it over and consciously being aware of each step. In this way I have managed to both increase my overall attention span and impress my wife. It's a win, win! You can use this technique while doing anything, I use it while I'm mowing the grass, driving my car or anything you do where your mind wanders and your body takes over. These are two ways I have increased (somewhat) my attention span.
If you really want more attention to spend, you need to treat it like any other commodity, take the attention you are spending in one area and start using it in a different area. Instead of checking your email 50 times per day, only check it once per hour. Instead of trying to make a gourmet meal every night, make quick easy meals and save the heavy cooking for the weekend. At work become aware of the time you spend most effectively and use that time for your most difficult and consuming tasks. Also, and this is important, don't be bogged down in bullshit you can't control, if it's outside of your sphere of impact, just leave it alone. If there is interest I will write another post outlining some ideas on reducing the amount of time and attention you spend at work. Also read Tim Ferriss's book "The 4 Hour Work Week", basically an outline for reducing work "time" while increasing work "output".
Once you start taking steps to reallocate attention you will start to feel that creative talent welling up inside you, you will automatically have more creative thoughts, you're motivation will spike and you will be forced to do something, anything with it. Start writing, painting, dancing, singing, sculpt bushes into animals, learn to fly, wakeboard, snow ski, whatever you are into or have always wanted to be into, channel your inner child and let him or her run the show. Take this newfound attention and put it to good use, once you make room for your creativity to blossom it will carry you along as far as you're willing to go. How far are you willing to go? I'm going to use it to live my dream, how will you use it?
Every morning in my car I list out loud (Even alone I can't shut up) things that I am grateful to have in my life. Things like my wife Elizabeth, my beautiful daughter and handsome son. My understanding bosses, my job and our home. I try and think of as many things to be grateful for as I can. It's an exercise that helps me stay upbeat and positive about my life and it's no harder than listing the negatives. I used to let that list of negatives run through my head all day long and those negative things would not go away and more would crop up. However, once I changed that pattern of thinking the opposite happened, negatives dropped away and positive changes became the norm.
There's mountains of books written on the power of positive thinking, including Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking". Great title, so succinct. I had trouble however, thinking positive about the future, until I became grateful for what I had today. The universe will respond to your thinking exactly, if you think grateful thoughts, more things will come into your life to be grateful about. For me this has held true, I still have challenges to face and bumps in my road but they seem insignificant when held up against the awesomeness of my life.
When I first became the Operations Manager at Hupp ToyotaLift I was given a red Toyota Camry for my company car, it was a little plain, cloth seats, no navigation system, somehow though, I made it work, and I was grateful to have it. The company paid for gas and insurance, it started every time and ran great. I thanked the universe every day for that car and after I'd been driving it for about a year and a half my boss called me and told me I could pick out my own car! So I called the Toyota dealership we partner with and told them what I wanted and now I have a beautiful gray Camry with heated leather seats, navigation and even Apps. Am I more grateful for this car? Every time I sit down in the winter I am.
I know a lot of you are thinking, what a stupid story, but it was the best example I could come up with from recent memory and I'm grateful you are still reading this post.
The act of being grateful has extended into many more parts of my life, I try and always thank everyone I meet who helps me, whether that be a fellow employee, a server at a restaurant or (especially important) my wife and kids. Saying "Thank You" takes nothing for me to do and can add huge value to someone else. People like to know they are appreciated and it's a great motivational tool. Everywhere I go I am helped by someone and I am grateful to all those people, so I tell them.
Here is a short list of other things I am grateful for, my parents, my friends, my family, my bed (it's so nice), my health, the internet and Louise Hay. She's the one who taught me that gratefulness and forgiveness will change your life. Be grateful for what you have, thank the universe out loud, let people know how much you appreciate them and I guarantee you will be happier and more motivated and good things will happen for you.
Gratitude also helps me to put things in perspective, is it really that bad? Others might be grateful to have the problem I'm having (cloth seats), they might have to be grateful for far less (vinyl seats) or even worse (no seats!). Since gratitude enables me to see the good in my life, it makes it easier to see how good I have it. It also keeps me from complaining about things.
Not complaining is an enormous benefit of being grateful, how much time do you like to spend with complainers? If you are like me, as little as possible. I want to be around upbeat, positive and cheerful people with big ideas and dreams, people who want me to be my best and will do everything they can to help me. Those kind of people are not attracted to complainers, they are attracted to other people who are positive and upbeat. People who think like they do, that build them up, not bring them down. If you seem to be attracting complainers to you, startbeing grateful about your own life and those people will fade out and be replaced. If you are a complainer, you WILL attract other complainers (misery loves company) and your life will become a downward spiral of bitching about everything. Replace each complaint with something you are grateful for and the universe will reward you. Also you'll be happier and probably become better looking.
In our culture of commercialism we are constantly contacted by commercials claiming contentment can come from consumption. (Oh Yeah, Alliteration!) Being grateful for what I have has really helped me to decrease "wanting". Seeing what you have instead of what you don't is empowering and it's also a simple way to save some cash. That's something else to be grateful for, having a little cash. Or at least more money to buy things you will be truly grateful for instead of things that you never use. If desire is the root of suffering, is gratitude the antidote?
An attitude of gratitude, that's another of my secrets to happiness. I hope you'll remember this post the next time you're in your car alone and you'll remind yourself of all the great things in your life, say them out loud, scream them if you like! You won't regret it. In fact, I'll bet you'll thank me for it.
Children Are Our Future
I have a wonderful, caring, handsome, intelligent son. He's seven. He is wonderful with his little sister, patiently playing with her and he's also her interpreter when her parents can't understand what she's saying. She's two years old and quite loquacious but as adults we occasionally can't catch a word. "Wyatt", I'll say, "What's she saying?" Wyatt without even looking over will answer "She wants some Squirt" or he will just answer her, "No Sunshine, you can't go outside right now, it's raining". Amazingly he communicates with her on a much different level than we, as adults, can.
Sometimes however, he can be a little difficult. He still occasionally throws a fit if he doesn't get his way. He is sensitive and will become easily offended and he does love to tease his sister... in other words, he's a little me. That is the source of almost all our conflicts. I see so much of myself in him and I want to teach him the hard lessons I learned through trial and error, so he can be happier and more self assured. However, like me, he already knows everything and no one has ever experienced what he is experiencing so how can I, as an adult, even begin to tell him how to live his life. It's both frustrating and amazing. Frustrating because I have been where he is and I can foresee some of the challenges he is going to face (or am I just projecting?) and amazing because I have a unique opportunity to guide him (like someone might guide a fish) toward adulthood.
Now my daughter is a different story. She is absolutely fearless and convinced the world revolves around her and her wishes. She climbs on chairs to get food from the cupboards, she falls off the couch doing somersaults, she tries (unsuccessfully so far, whew) to leap out of the boat while it's moving. This is the other side of me, the crazy side, the side that also saw its share of injuries (more physical than emotional) and the side that got me into the most trouble with authority. I can't stand to see her get hurt and I know she will; it's in her genes. Wyatt is far more cautious and if he gets injured, he takes time to think about doing it again. Not Sunshine-she climbs right back on the horse, sometimes while she's crying about the initial injury. I'm sure all parents have similar feelings but until you write about them in a blog and share them with millions of other people (slight exaggeration) you aren't fully aware of them.
Here's my number one worry regarding my kids on this adventure we are having, can I handle being with them all the time? I love them and love to be with them but there are times when they drive me nuts. Christmas last year I took ten days off and stayed home with them, and I was ready to go back to work on day 3! I don't know how my Mom did it with 5 kids, dang, I owe her some flowers or something.
The fantasy of spending more time with my children will soon become a reality, they will be there when I wake up, be there when I go to bed and be there all the time in between. That's a lot of there for someone who can barely make it ten days. I just keep telling myself that it will be an adjustment for everyone, including them, and maybe they don't want to be around me all the time either. Just because I don't mind my company doesn't mean everyone won't.
Honestly, this is a challenge I look forward to taking on. I will get to know them so much better, I will have energy and attention to spend on them, to learn what they like and to teach them what I enjoy. We are planning on spending time each day reading, swimming, walking and playing. Between my wife and I we will be able to split our time so we both have alone time. I want to do more yoga and play my guitar, she wants to snorkel and scuba dive. Meals are something else we plan to do as a family, not just eating together (awesome) but planning and cooking as well. Get everyone involved in it and make it a special time each day, at least for dinner. I can hardly wait to have 2 hour meals where everyone takes their time and talks about their day.
We are planning on limiting screen time to 1 movie per week, we'll watch it as a family and take turns choosing what to watch. Otherwise no screens at all for the first two months, then my wife and I will start to work seriously on our muses, which we will need to use our laptops to do but even then we plan on limiting it to no more than an hour each day. Is this possible? I think so, as long as you make that hour effective you can produce as much as a 4 hour day in the office.
This may be the toughest adjustment for the kids. They are used to being entertained and making their own fun will take some effort. This is also going to be a challenge for their Mother and I, because we won't have our electronic babysitter, and we will have to teach them how to entertain themselves. I predict growing pains, for each of us.
In the end this is what we wanted for our family, to be together, to love and laugh and learn. Will it be easy? No, but nothing worthwhile is easy. Will it be worth the effort? I believe it will, and we will come away from the experience a closer and more loving family. If not, it won't be my fault. After all I did blog about it.
The Secret to Happiness
I know the secret to happiness. It's so simple and so freeing that most people don't believe it. Despite what the song may say, if you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, don't (necessarily) make an ugly woman your wife. All you have to do to be happier, healthier and more spiritual is forgive. That's right, forgive.
Forgiveness lightens the load you carry, it brushes the clouds of resentment away and it can even cure diseases of the body. Louise Hay says "Cancer is often caused by long held resentment, and the best cure for it is forgiveness." Even if you don't believe this could be true, even if you think it will do nothing for you, why not give it a try. It can't hurt anything and the potential upside is huge. So many people carry around the emotional and spiritual wounds they received years ago, long after the physical wounds have healed. They nurse these hurts and cradle them in their hearts, they replay them in their minds and believe that these old injuries have brought them to their current state. "It's all his fault for hitting me", "She told me I was stupid" and my favorite "I can never trust anyone again because he/she treated me so poorly", have you ever said any of these?
When I was in 6th grade I had a bad teacher who ridiculed me and allowed other children to do the same. It was a very tough year for me and I remembered that time for 25 years or better. I blamed that teacher for making me hate school and for my poor grades and the fact that I didn't finish college. She was a whipping post for many of my own problems. Once I matured and realized that my choices were the catalyst for my life I no longer blamed her for those things and I finally finished college (at 35) and my life moved on, however, I still thought about her and despised her. I had fantasies of going back to my old hometown and telling her off or writing a letter to the editor of my hometown paper describing in vivid detail all the suffering and humiliation she put me through. This was not a productive use of my time and talents and did nothing to move me forward in life. In fact it held me back from being the person I wanted to be and fulfilling all my dreams. Then one day I decided to try Louise Hays idea and I said out loud "Miss (I ain't sayin) I forgive you for humiliating me, I forgive you and I set you free, I forgive you and set myself free".
That's it, that's all I had to do. I didn't know how to forgive someone or what, if anything, would happen once I did but I said those words out loud and suddenly in that moment of time a giant weight lifted off me and I literally felt lighter. I said the words and the universe heard me and took the negative feelings I had for her and replaced them with caring and empathy. Perhaps she was having a bad year that year or maybe I reminded her of herself at a young age and that can drive someone crazy. Nothing makes me more irritated than when my son does something that I used to do, or still do, it's like a mirror of my bad habits, Yikes!
I certainly don't condone that kind of behavior and I still have many of the fears and doubts I did before but I rarely think about her anymore and I never feel anger or a need for revenge against her. I have been set free from that memory and it was a large step on the road to enlightenment. Since then I have forgiven others as well, my high school bully, ex-girlfriends, ex-bosses and my parents (this was made easier once I had my own kids and realized how tough raising good kids can be) and my life has taken on a new light and direction.
Here is all you have to do to free yourself, picture the person in your mind and say out loud (it's important to say the words) "I forgive you (insert name) for (insert crime), I forgive you and I set you free, I forgive you and I set myself free." Sometimes you will have to do this more than once depending on the depth of the wound and the length of time you have carried it but for most sins against you, just saying the words one time will allow the universe to "poof" blow the memory away like dandelion seeds. (I'm working on my similes)
Heal yourself of these old wounds by forgiving the person who wounded you, don't stay wound around a wound but release your resentment to the universe. Holding onto them only hurts you, it does nothing to punish anyone else. You feel the pain, you are held back, you can't live to the fullest, not them, those terrible people who hurt you have probably forgotten all about that. So what, who cares, you need to worry about helping yourself and if the universe does send your forgiveness out to that person and it eases their pain a little, even better, you'll receive like forgiveness for something you've done to someone else.
The hardest person for me to forgive is myself, so I also say the words out loud for me. I list the hurts I've given out and the sins I've committed and I forgive myself. This step may seem foolish (this whole post might seem foolish) but it works. I don't know how it works and I don't really care, I was just so tired of carrying all that baggage with me. Until I started forgiving people I had no idea how much it held me back and where my life could go if I allowed it to happen. Remember you and I, we deserve all good, but you won't feel that way until you have forgiven others and yourself. Not much of a secret but it has certainly worked wonders for me.
I am available to both give and receive forgiveness at any time so let me know if you need one or the other. Much love.
The Price is Right
I wanted to write a post that dealt with more practical aspects of our move. However, since organization is more my wife's forte, I asked her to post some of her lists--to which she replied, "I'll put it on my list of things to post." What a smart-ass! I love it.
I have been in charge of selling everything, so here are my ideas for quick and easy sales.
First, pick things to sell based on what people want to buy. My best sellers include: tools, recreational equipment, kayaks, fishing gear, camping gear and exercise stuff. This is important because you can spend a lot of your time, which is valuable, listing, photographing and cleaning items that will never sell. Look on Craigslist and Ebay to get ideas for what people are able to move (and don't forget to check the price).
My second piece of advice is to set pricing based on similar items and how soon you would like to sell it. The longer you can wait the better price you can get, however you still have to be realistic with pricing, just because that tent cost you $300.00 doesn't mean you can get $250.00 for it. Even if you've never used the dang thing and it's still in the package once it leaves the store, its value drops by a 3rd. So your $300.00 tent is sellable for around $200.00. You have to do your pricing based on facts not feelings; look at similar items for sale and price accordingly. If you are in a hurry to get rid of things, price them at what you feel they are worth and cut that by another 20%, people love to get "deals" and will buy things they don't even need. Take advantage of that and you can move a lot of items in a short time.
While selling things always keep the end goal in mind, have nothing left you aren't taking, it's better to get some cash and have it gone then no cash and throw it away. The end result is the same.
Another thing to think about is giving stuff away to people who need it, or who you know will appreciate it. This is especially wonderful for things you love, i.e. my Weber Grill, which I am giving to my best friend Manny. He loves to grill, and I know it will be appreciated and cared for by him. Not only does this make you feel good; it also builds up cosmic Karma, and the universe will return your generosity to you. Unless you are doing it specifically to build up Karma--then the Universe will only give you back shallow, meaningless ideals, because you are selfish. It's not that the Universe knows or cares....it's just going to reflect back to you what you put out and if that's selfishness, that's what you'll get back. That's an idea for another post,. Keep checking back and I will publish something on that eventually.
Getting rid of everything is going to be an issue for most people. Even getting rid of "most things." Things you own take on a meaning based on the memories you made (or planned on making) using them. Even though I know I won't be able to take or use our boat, I still have yet to even attempt to sell it. I just love that boat! We've made a lot of good memories in, on and behind our boat, maybe we'll keep it til the spring.
So it's weird.
As my husband mentioned, people have somewhat gone from, "oh, cool, man! what an adventure!!" to, "what kind of work you got lined up down there?" We've gone from talking about it to CODE RED people, our house sold, we bought plane tickets, and we booked a place. For real.
So, work. We don't want to work for a while. Cue: stunned looks, dropped jaws, fidgety nervousness. It's sort of funny how awkward it is. I think we all have different lives, what works for some doesn't work for others. I guess what I'm saying is lots of people probably think about this but not very many of the opportunity and/or balls to do it. I think some people, heretofore referred to as haters, might think about all the things they've compromised on in their lives and not really want to be confronted with people who won't continue to compromise their lives for their "living." What I am saying is, what we're doing is literally incomprehensible to some people. There is judgement, sure, but I've gotten way past caring much about that. It's been empowering on every level of my life to say WHY NOT NOW. This is our time and we are going to do something amazing for a while because there are just no great reasons not to.
As plans click into place, everything is going incredibly smoothly, all things considered. I was just discussing with my husband what the heck we are going to do with our remaining furniture and "stuff." Lo and behold yesterday I talked to a good friend whose boyfriend desperately needs furniture, like all kinds of furniture. Also this good friend drives a truck, cause she's badass like that. So they haul! Click, Click!
My most incessant worries are, of course, for the children. Mainly my oldest child, being 7, because he has friends, a school he has always gone to, teachers he's gotten to know. I think the fact that his school currently has NO PLAYGROUND will make the transition somehow easier, though. He has always loved the beach, too, so that will probably ease the pain (for him and for everyone). I am confident he will meet other English speaking children since we will be in Costa Rica during high season (read: lots of (other) tourists), and that will be good for him I am sure. We will all learn Spanish as part of our routine via a private tutor hopefully, and as part of interacting with the world through osmosis as well, I'm sure.
Why do I feel so confident about this crazy life move?
There are SO MANY reasons. Besides that every life vector seems to have converged on this happening rather flawlessly for us, there is more.
I have many problems with the way this country is heading. It could keep me up at night if I didn't medicate to sleep. I think, without going into politics (difficult for me, HAHA), it's really a society and a political climate that I want us all to get away from. I want to slow down. I want to wean myself off anti-depressant medication. I don't want the life that I see in our future, extracurriculars clogging up the precious few "free" hours we have with our kids outside of work ….. running here to there and there to here, putting dreams for adventure and excitement in the back seat. Choosing a boring routine over an exciting risk, medicating through it, slogging through a reality that is more draining than replenishing.
I want my kids to see that crazy can be OK. It can even be smart. Don't let fear rule the choices you make. Lots of times following the formula isn't the best way to go. I don't want to knock anything or anyone. I'm saying this lifestyle doesn't prioritize the same things we'd like to, including:
***time to be healthy,
***time and contemplation enough to be in touch with our bodies and
***time and HEALTH to use our bodies to do active, FUN things and engage with the beautiful world around us
(P.s. Am I scared? yes....yes I am.)
It's really real, really!
Wow, we accepted an offer on the house. Our closing date is October 30th and my last day of work is scheduled for November 21st. We will be in Costa Rica for Christmas, Feliz Navidad everybody! That being said, I am suddenly realizing, this is for real. We are really moving to Costa Rica, we are really leaving everything we know behind and we are really going to live our dream. Living our dream has been a dream of mine my entire life.
I'm sweating. We have a lot to do, in a hurry. Oh well, it will get done or it won't and if I know my wife, it will.
Other people are coming to this realization as well. It's becoming less of a "Hey that's so cool" topic and more of a, "Hey, we're worried you're ruining your lives" topic. Or worse, "Hey, we're worried you're ruining your kids' lives." I don't agree of course; I think we are saving ourselves from a culture of commercialism and instant gratification where the most important people in our children's lives are Pokemon and Caillou. If you don't know who Caillou is you are one lucky person, normally I don't say this but ignorance is bliss in this case.
I am also beginning to see a pattern in people's reactions when they hear the news. First is disbelief, "you're kidding me?" or "no way". Honestly this was my first reaction when I thought of it. Next comes jealousy, "Take me with you", "I wish I could do that" and "I hate you" are common phrases. I'm assuming the hating is from jealousy and doesn't stem from years of pent up loathing that they can finally express. Whatever, I love to make people feel better, no matter how. After this comes admiration and usually some expression about the size of my...
guts. I have yet to run into someone who is totally against it, most people are supportive and genuinely wish us success. I am going to miss them all and that's the part that hits me most often.
Those are just some of the realities that have hit me so far. I'm sure there will be many more, you can't leap out of your comfort zone and change your entire life without running into a few (hundred) unexpected things. As much as I have read and learned about Costa Rica and a mobile lifestyle and as excited as I am about making it happen the reality is going to be far different than my imagination. Far better!
In some ways however, it still seems unreal. I still imagine being at my Dad's cabin for Christmas, the whole family together (almost) singing Christmas songs, eating candy and drinking bottles of wine. We will not see our families again until who knows when and that hasn't hit me yet. Maybe it won't until after we're there, I'll just have to learn to be patient. I am still in the "hurry, hurry" mindset, which puts me squarely in the majority of U.S. citizens and while I can picture a slower way of life, I have trouble picturing me doing it. I mostly picture myself racing from yoga to meditation and then to a hammock for a nap, where I'll dream of sitting still.
Really, really still.
Who Inspires You? Over the course of my lifetime I have been inspired many times and by many different people. There have been people who literally changed the way I lived my life, Louise Hay, with the power of affirmations, my wife Elizabeth who made me want to be successful, and of course, my parents who brought me into this world from wherever I was previously. That last one was huge. Steven Covey, the author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People" taught me to look at each decision and base it on my personal mission statement. That way I never make bad decisions that don't fit into my value structure. Except for during times of high stress, or great celebration, or just when I feel like it. I have read and reread the 7 habits and each time I take away another positive lesson. Absolutely this is a must read. Another must read is Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People". Despite the author putting pen to paper damn near 80 years ago this book is still relevant and an awesome tool for being not just charming but being a quality person who people will want to follow. Man, I loved this book. Dale Carnegie's masterpiece discusses everything from being a good listener to how to give negative feedback in a positive way. This book is truly the granddaddy of all self help books. The final author I want to mention is Tim Ferriss. He wrote "The 4 Hour Work Week," an incredible book which outlines the way to free yourself from the 9 to 5, if you're lucky, or 7 to 6, if you're not, daily grind. Get away from it all by taking a mini-retirement, find your muse, make your life the way you want it and do it all from anywhere in the world. This book has become my Rand McNally Atlas to freedom. Tim also has a great blog, 4HourBlog.com. Read his book; it will make a difference. There were two other blogs I wanted to mention as good inspiration for life changes: Zen Habits, zenhabits.net and Becoming Minimalist, becomingminimalist.com. Leo Babauta is quickly becoming a household name in the realm of habit change, living your dream and simplifying your life. I knew he was becoming popular when my MOM asked if I read Zen Habits and gave me Leo's most frequent piece of advice, "breathe." Good advice for any situation, Thanks Mom! Another huge influence on my life has been Louise Hay and her emphasis on Positive Affirmations. I started doing Affirmations last year, mostly regarding wealth. I would say "I now receive my good from expected and unexpected places" or “The ocean of life is lavish and abundant." At first I received a bonus in the form of cash but then was offered a trip to Palm Springs with my wife (highly recommended vacation spot) and a trip to Hawaii with my brother where we renewed and strengthened a connection we've had since childhood. It was a fantastic trip and we enjoyed many adventures. This "wealth of experiences" really awoke the dreamer in my heart and also convinced me that Affirmations work, just not always how you expect. My brother Monty has been a long time influence on me. When we were young we dared each other to do things that we never would have done alone, and as adults he has risen within the ranks of his company and never failed to share his advice (mostly good) as well as his time (always good!) with my family and I. It was Monty who turned me on to Tim Ferriss and the 4 hour work week, it was Monty who inspired me to write my book and it was Monty who encouraged me to jump my bike over the pit where we roasted a hog. That jump left a lasting impression on me, I landed flat on my back and vowed then and there that, going forward, all stunts would be initially performed by Monty. His presence has been felt in my life since I was one year old and it's reassuring to know that no matter what, someone has my back. It makes taking risks easier (as long as he goes first). Other family members have also been very inspiring to me. My sister Jessi Fay who is a musician, living her dream of performing and teaching. My sister Kerri who danced ballet her entire life and now teaches dance at the University of South Caroline (the GameCocks - Best Mascot Ever!). Talk about living your dream, she has and still continues to be a positive influence on everyone who meets her. My sister Nikki who taught me that being different and going against the grain was a good thing. My Father who left a promising career at the age of 35 to go to graduate school and fulfill his dream of helping people through better medicines and safer foods. This is a man who had 5 children and a stay at home wife, who left a management position at a good company to risk it all on higher education. It was a gutsy move and it has inspired me throughout my life to try new things. Finally my Mom, who taught me to question authority and the status quo, to not care what other people thought and to be a rebel for life! She was always inspiring all of her children to be who they were and to love themselves for it. Also, she and my Stepdad took off in an RV a few years ago and have never looked back. It's too large an RV to see what's behind you. These are just a few of the influences behind our decision to sell it all and head to Costa Rica. Listing them all would take an entire pamphlet, and who has time for that. I am grateful to all of them and I hope I have a chance to thank each one in person and, if they're ever in Costa Rica, I'll buy them a beer.
The Valley Between Two Peaks
When I contemplate this title, I think of (a) How Green was my Valley, a most favorite book of mine, and (b) cleavage. Books--and boobs--are great, but in all seriousness the title is a representation of my tenuous mental state. OK, that’s a little dramatic but anyway.
^^Quitting my job. I’ve been a career Research Assistant for 11 plus years of my life. Not all full-time, but that’s a lot of years. I’ve been burned out for a couple of those. Academic research is kind of a depressing place to be right now. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion!So telling my boss that it’s over was an exhilarating relief. Mount Everest.
^^Costa Rica Dream: It’s kind of beyond the dream phase now. Definitely impending reality. A beacon of hope, a new start of a really exciting time in our lives as a family. An acknowledgement that “this” life isn’t really working for us, so what the hey hey, let’s do something AMAZING and memorable. It could be anywhere (but Costa Rica DOES have sloths). We really believe life is good now, but there’s absolutely no reason it can’t be great. You have to go for the gold. “Keep your eyes on the prize,” my grandpa always said. Good advice, grandpa. Obviously there’s a strong undercurrent of discontent with the American Dream, such as it is. We’ve been really successful. By all conventional measures, we are living that dream. But the almighty dollar takes priority over the ownership of our time. And time is really all we have.
So there are the peaks.
What about the valley, you ask?
Oh, the valley. This is the land of the unknown, the uncertainty, the worry. So great, self, you quit your job. What precisely are you, a suburban mom who loves Clinique and Spanx and Essie nail polishes, possibly going to do with your 2 year old daughter all day day in and day out? You have lost your damn mind……...Also, when is the house going to sell? Then what? How can I PLAN with all this uncertainty? I’m a listmaker, people; I live on lists. They are my lifeblood, my mojo, my greatness. Sometimes I’m just scared out of my mind with the uncertainty. But does it make me feel more alive than I have in years? Yes. A big resounding Yes. Some days the reality and the fear, which is really brainwashed into us pretty effectively I think, are just like a cold fish to the face. The reality I knew was coming. The valley. But have you seen anything more beautiful than a valley?
Really I’m in quite a good place. It’s been a good spiritual exercise, in a way, really saying to ourselves, “what do we want in this life?” And then, open to the possibilities of making everything on that list happen. Really believing it will happen and visualizing your dream chart. I have had many inspirations lately. It keeps me going. I will just list some for you, and clearly recommend them all. For love, just pure love, John Denver or Stevie Wonder. Our First Dance was to John Denver’s “Annie’s Song.” In terms of, what, spiritual philosophy (I struggle to describe him in mere words), John O’Donohue has very beautiful writings on getting to know yourself, doing the soul work, and also discusses the Celtic idea of time as a circle. We are born from darkness, we return to darkness. Fascinating stuff, but I diverge. Who else? The legendary Mary Oliver. For honesty and freaking fabulous folk (female) music, Laura Marling never disappoints. Finally, for raw survival and laughter, author/goddess Ann Lamott. I definitely need to end this post with a gem of hers:
------------“It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life.” ---------------------― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith
Yesterday was a big day at Hupp ToyotaLift. I told my boss Kevin Hupp that I was leaving the company. It was a very difficult thing to do, but a huge weight was lifted once I said the words. Immediately afterward we got two more showing requests for our house, one of which was a family who had seen it the previous evening. The universe was reacting to this renewal of my commitment to our dream, one more example of the Law of Attraction. This morning we had an email from our realtor saying that both families loved the house and one is considering an offer and the other is just waiting to be released from a previous offer to put in an offer on our home. Once our dream was expressed to more people it became that much closer to becoming reality
Believe and Achieve! This idea hangs on the wall of many a school and office, perhaps captioning a picture of a mountain climber reaching the top, or a runner "breaking the tape" at the end of a marathon, or something with a kitten hanging from a branch. Maybe not that last one, I might be getting my motivational posters confused. While belief can be followed by achievement I "believe" there is more to the equation. Between believing in your dream and achieving your dream, you have to take ACTION! However I can't find a synonym for action that rhymes with believe. Believe, heave, achieve? Sounds too much like throwing up. Believe, cleave, achieve? Perhaps for a serial killer, but to specific for a poster. Believe, weave, achieve? Getting closer, it could be captioning a poster of a beautiful spider web covered with drops of dew. The point is captioning posters is difficult but if I don't take some action, the dream of hanging a motivating poster I wrote will never come true
Action is the key to life. Prior to Bobo and I taking action to fulfill this dream we were unfulfilled, unhappy, unhealthy and undeniably drinking to much. Than we decided to take action! Any action is good, even if it does not seem to be related to your dream it will give you a boost to take more actions and the Universal Power will respond to your action by helping you along. Here is some indisputable, anecdotal, evidence to prove my theory
I was at home, desperately searching for my muse, with little result. I decide to mow the lawn and while mowing away, thinking of what I like, it hits me like red sauce on a white shirt. 5S! One of the first initiatives I took at Hupp was to begin implementing a culture change to the 5S way of doing business and I became our "expert", this led to me heading the 5S committee and eventually becoming the Manager of Operations. Realizing that 5S is something I have some passion for, I decided to write a 5S manual, as soon as I finished mowing. Having decided this I finished mowing and took a shower. While I was scribbling some ideas about my new book onto a notepad my brother Monty called me, "I have an idea for a book" he says, "can you be my accountability buddy to ensure I write for at least 30 minutes per day?" I was in shock at how quickly the universe reacted to me taking action, literally SECONDS after beginning to write down ideas. Of course I agreed and asked him the same question and we have both made amazing progress toward our books. I know this story sounds unbelievable but if it were, would my book then be unachievable? Action baby, Action!
Since Bobo and I took action our lives have been immeasurably improved. She is a certified scuba diver, I have written essays and blog posts and an entire book! We have updated our home, put it on the market, quit our jobs and sold much of our possessions. We took action and are more fulfilled, happier, healthier and now we drink to celebrate our newfound joy in life, instead of trying fill a gaping hole in our souls with liquor. So if you are tired of being depressed and bored with your life, don't believe it will get better and sit on your ass, believe it will get better and mow your grass! It could change your life.
I am in recovery today. On Saturday I started getting what I thought was a "bit of a cold." Turns out it's really a "bitch of a cold"! Or as Dr. Mark put it yesterday, Acute Bronchitis. I spent the next few days getting more hoarse, achy and coughing like a first time smoker. Yesterday my bride insisted I go to the urgent care in town and I've been resting at home ever since.
Being idle at home has brought into focus what our lives might be like after we move to Costa Rica. Just laying around, reading and napping, maybe watch a movie or play some video games, in other words totally non productive. To be fair, I plan on being healthy the majority of the time and so able to be more active, laying around on the beach, reading and napping outside in a hammock, and watching birds and sloths from our back patio. However, this presents an issue. Inaction produces self doubt and depression (not good) and an impractical lack of income (worse). How to avoid these things has been running through my mind like my dog when someone fills the bathtub.
The very first thing on my list is to become conversationally fluent in Spanish and be able to read and understand Latin literature. I've always enjoyed reading Spanish authors in English but to read and understand them in their native language must bring out nuances that translation loses out on. What gems of literature am I missing out on because they have never been translated? What ideas and thoughts cannot be stated in English and so never be clear to someone who doesn't read other languages.
My current plan for income is to finish and market my 5S instruction manual. It's completely outlined with chapters 1 - 3 actually fleshed out and a hard push could see it ready for proofing and editing in 8 to 20 hours. After I have finished my "opus" I will market it and learn the ins and outs of e-book marketing while at the same time researching my second book, a series of essays about a family selling everything and moving to Costa Rica. I will then either write and market more "how to" books or find other authors and market their books on-line for a small fee. The end goal is to live my dream of making a living reading books, which I have had since I started reading at the age of 4. This would be a job which would allow for travel, since I could work from anywhere, goal achieved! I could also surf the net "looking for authors" without feeling like I'm wasting time, another goal achieved and I could work when I wanted and set up my life and schedule around the people I love, GOAL ACHIEVED!!!
Part two of my plan to avoid inaction is to have time to fulfill other non money making dreams. My wife has already become a Certified Scuba Diver, awesome. I want to improve my guitar skills and do stand up comedy. How's this for a first time joke writer: A man walks into a bar and screams, "there's soap in my eyes!" I'll keep trying. I have so many things I want to do, and see and read and eat. As long as I can keep from being lazy I will have the time to accomplish all of them while still spending far more time with my family. Probably more time than they think is necessary. Thoreau says, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Not me, I am living a life of tumultuous freedom! Why strive to be ordinary or even slightly better than your neighbors? Find your muse and go get it. Stop believing what you're told and start making your own truth. Get your ass out there and be special, be different and be free.
FEAR ITSELF Fears I have. I have many fears about many things. This is difficult to admit, even to myself, but living with fear is something, I'm afraid, everyone does. It's the effect fear has on you that decides whether it's good or not good. For purposes of keeping a long story short, I'm going to limit this post to fears I have regarding "The Big Move.” Fears such as "I'm putting my children’s futures at risk" or "We will return in disgrace having failed to make this work.” Most of the time, putting my fears in writing forces me to face them and determine how realistic they are and what the heck I will do if they are true. So here I go! Fear #1 This is a biggie, Fear of FAILURE! We sell our house, we move to Costa Rica and spend all our savings in record time without replacing any of our income and have to move home and live with family members. This is likely my families’ greatest fear also. I know they love us and would take us in but... who wants to be reduced to mooching off people? Not me. I pride myself on making my own way and as I said in an earlier post, I hate (read fear) asking people for help. Maybe that should be fear #1. Irrational I know but it's what makes me, me. Also what makes my wife crazy. "Just ask for directions!" she says, "No" I tell her, "I know where we're going.” Sometimes it's even true. Fear of failure is common and relatively easy to overcome. I have affirmations that I say. "Each failure is a success" or "The path to success is fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed!" I also force myself to do that which I fear (fail) and it's never life ending and always teaches me one more way to not do something. I read somewhere that Edison tried 10,000 different filaments before he discovered that carbonized bamboo would last 1200 hours. I also read that he tried 3,000 times, which seems more realistic, but less impressive for this post. Another great way to get past fear is to spell out the worst case scenario and how I would recover from it. Barring some great tragedy, I am certain I could get a decent job to support my family if we fail to make enough money to stay free. I would certainly be intrigued by a potential employee who had just sold everything and left the country for a grand adventure. I would probably spend most of the interview getting tips on how I could do the same thing. Finally, on the more practical side, we are also leaving some money in savings so we won't have to live with anyone else. It's much easier to overcome fear of failure when you have a little cash in the bank. There you go, fear #1 shot down by reason and logic. Fear #2 Fear of ruining my children's lives. The most incredible, life-altering and precious creations are my two babies (babies to me anyway). I fear greatly that they will suffer if we take them away from all they've ever known. Their friends, grandparents, the security of our home, all these things and more. What if they are kidnapped, or fall in the ocean, or hate me forever. Of course, these are all just as possible now as they will be in Costa Rica, except the ocean part; here, they would have to fall in a farm pond. In Iowa however, I am comfortable with the dangers; in Costa Rica there will be new and scary dangers for them. They can't speak or read Spanish yet. They are used to having constant entertainment in the form of iPads and Kindles and cable TV. Furthermore they will be with their parents ALL THE TIME. Now that's a horrifying prospect! For them and for us. Rationally I know they will be fine and that these fears are groundless, but rational people don't run off to make their fortune in Central America. Or maybe they do. I guess I'll know when we get there. This fear is more difficult to overcome because it's much less tangible and more ambiguous. The fears of every parent who does anything at all. Affirmations for overcoming this fear include "Culture and travel make well rounded people" and "My children are divinely protected.” Truthfully I believe they will adjust far faster than their parents and will grow up to be far better and more intelligent for the experience. This will also force us all to get along as a family and to "do" and "experience" instead of seeing other families do it on a 9" screen. When people go through a tough or horrific experience together they grow closer. That's why I still have the same dentist.
TOOLS, MAN! In the beginning when my wife and I decided to make this life change, I thought shedding accumulated "stuff" would be the easy part. After all it's just things--items I purchased and rarely, if ever, used. My wife will have a much more difficult time doing this; she is very attached to things related to our children and is a little bit of a packrat. Contrary to this idea my wife immediately began sorting through closets and tossing things right and left.... I started with my wardrobe and had some success with shirts and pants I never wore. I did toss a few pairs of shoes and managed to get rid of all the socks and underwear that had holes in them. I pondered getting rid of all my underwear "briefly" but thought better of it and moved out my winter work out clothes. "A good start," I thought to myself. "Gotta keep the momentum going." I moved onto our kayaks, my sports equipment and then ran into my first problem: books. I have a SMALL collection of a few hundred titles (maybe a thousand) which I have collected over my lifetime, and each one is special to me. We held a garage sale at which I sold my Harry Potter collection and some of my other books but I still have many great books left. I know I can't keep them but until I find some worthy soul to give them to, they're still taking up space. What I really need is for my wife to make them disappear while I'm at work. She did that with a cat we had and it worked out great, for me. She still carries some guilt but I can live with that. My second problem came when I opened my tool box. As a former mechanic with an appreciation for quality, I have all sorts of tools for every sort of repair. Some I rarely used but some are consistently handy. "How can I live without my tools?" I said to my wife. She reminded me that MY original idea was for the entire family to carry one backpack each and make do with only what we could carry on our backs. After reminding her that I don't like it when she quotes me to me, I set off to figure out what tools are the most important and what issues I might run into that need repairing. I am the type of person who would rather lose an eye than ask for assistance, and I have a full blown phobia of repairmen who won't do the job to my satisfaction and will probably steal one of our children while they are at the house. To be fair, my children are the most beautiful, intelligent and well-rounded kids ever born and anyone who had a chance would be a fool not to take one home with them but, I may be slightly biased. At any rate my wife has seen me pull apart almost all our appliances, our vehicles, and even parts of the house to do repairs that normal people would either have a professional do or just buy a new one, and I have been successful most of the time. Once I even replaced the lift pump for our downstairs bathroom. That was a "crappy" job, and while my wife outwardly supported me in the effort, in her mind she was convinced I'd bitten off more than I could chew. (Eww....) I am still working out what tools I need to take with us. This occupies a large amount of thought and working through the many angles is taking much longer than it should. Here are just some of the questions in my mind. "Since we won't be owning a home or car, how much repair work will I actually need to do?" Perhaps none, but possibly many. And tools are valuable for earning money and possibly working off some rent costs. "What are the absolute minimum tools to finish most jobs?" Obvious ones include a set of screwdrivers, metric and standard wrenches (sizes to be determined), a 3/8" ratchet and both metric and standard sockets, a pry bar, a hammer, measuring tape, pliers, needle nose pliers, crescent wrench, vice grips, cordless drill and bits, level and of course, duct tape. This will take a backpack of its own to carry but in my mind will pay off many times over. I wonder if I can get my son to carry it? Probably not. Are these tools I will actually use or just tools to soothe my troubled mind? Tools are a good insurance policy against asking for help, and in a pinch you can always sell them for some quick cash (God Forbid!). This decision is tough! Too much and I'll have a sore back, too little and I'll be forced to give up a small part of my manhood to some other dude. The right tool in the right place makes a job simple and the wrong tool in the right place makes a job doable. However, no tool in any place makes me cringe. Maybe I'm thinking about this the wrong way; maybe instead of worrying about not having the correct tool I should just plan on buying new tools once we're there. I really do love hardware stores.
Our house is offically on the market. It has been listed for 17 days according to the internet. Kinda feels like longer than that. Our lives are somewhat in storage in the name of a staged home. It does look beautiful, but it feels much less like "ours" now that it is devoid of family touches like my beloved gallery wall. Probably for the best, since it's time to move on to new and different things. HOPEFULLY BEFORE THE SNOW FALLS.
Lately I've been waffling a little. Not as yummy as it sounds. I think to myself, this seems so extreme....Maybe we should just stay here? We can move closer to my husband's work. I can stay home with the kids, which we all agree would be best for lots of reasons, and my husband can keep working, and we will have all these cushions and security nets and that is SO MUCH LESS SCARY!
Parting with everything we know for a new and simpler life in a different country: as you can imagine, temptation to let go of this dream is incessant and strong. In my life I've ALWAYS played it safe. I do what's expected; I excel, in fact. Life is great by all the standards we have in this country. We have the home and the boat and we can buy whatever we want.
Except for time.
Time is THE commodity. This is the central epiphany we always return to. Time is what we need to recapture. We want to own our time, if only for a year. We hope it will be a forever scenario, because we do plan on creating income streams once we have reawakened our souls a bit. We will use our passions and our unique affinities to birth a new life.
One thing we are not short on is passion. We both believe that truly, the only people who achieve their dreams are those who are willing to seize them, even when it scares the bejesus out of them. Even when everyone around them would say, "what are you thinking?!"
In short, my friends, the dream is still on.
In other news it is now much cooler in Iowa. I love the Fall weather and I always have. But this Iowan has visions of an ice covered world as soon as the temperatures start to drop. Before too long it will be snowing, and icing, and in general miserable-ing. I really REALLY do not want to be here over the Winter.
Who Am I Kidding Why who I want to be is not who I am I am trying to write down my primary aim. Recurring themes like inspiring others and being healthy throughout the whole damn thing. Is this true? Is this what I really want? What I really want is a life without responsibility. Except for ones I choose to take on. I don't want deadlines and bosses. I don't want to work for anyone else. I really just want to play all the time, read books, learn a new language and be totally independent. I want to wake up in the morning and decide to stay in bed because I have no place to go. I don't have meetings or any must do items. Everything is a "could" do item. If I want to do it. How can I maximize this time and minimize my "work" time. Is it just a matter of working at something I love doing? Or would that just ruin my love of doing it? I just need to come to an understanding with myself that I need lots of downtime to recharge my batteries. I have worked and worried about money for my entire life! Who needs that hanging around their neck. I want freedom from money worries and business worries and family finance worries. Perhaps I need to further investigate who I want to be? Does anyone know? Is that the secret? Am I unmotivated because I'm lazy or because I'm uninspired? How do I get inspired? What sorts of things inspire me? The close in a sale. Nice clothes to wear. When am I happiest? Is there some way to become happier? Run more? Who knows. Perhaps I am as happy as I can ever be and no amount of drugs or exercise can change that. How can I run off to Costa Rica with my family and no prospects? What kind of work can I do to support us while still being happily lazy? What do I like to do? I used to like interacting with people but now I like that less and less. Is that because people are so negative? Is it because I hear the same things over and over, mostly complaints about others? Is this essay just one long complaint? Am I complaining about complainers?
Well, I told my parents yesterday.
Since my amazing husband and I have two children, 7 and 2, we have our own dear little family now. Somehow, though, telling my parents that we are selling almost everything and heading to Costa Rica, sight unseen, has been one of the most terrifying aspects of this adventure. My whole life, being the oldest of four very cool children (if I do say so myself), I have been the leader. The leader of the pack, my parents say. I have earned two bachelors degrees; married my soul mate and had two (exceptionally) beautiful children; worked over ten years in the research sector; bought the house on the lake, cars, boat (beautiful boat), STUFF oh stuff. So much stuff. I'll come back to that later. Anyway, Yesterday, I told my parents (who live approximately 2,200 miles away) and was surprised to find them uber supportive, if my mother did remind me that she definitely doesn't think I have the patience to home school my 7 year old, and my dad's first response was, "why not just move out here?!" They also said, hell, why not. Life's an adventure. It's all about the journey, not the destination, right? Go for it! I admit, I did not expect encouragement, so it was heartening to say the least. In their own way my parents have always lived their own adventure, so I don't know why I was surprised. All in all, it has been very psychologically uncomfortable to start thinking perpendicular to the mainstream ways of thinking. ....Maybe all the crap we buy isn't filling the void inside. ....Maybe following the formula laid out for us is NOT what works best for lots of people. ....Maybe I should, as my husband has always said, find the courage to do the opposite of what most people do, because most people aren't happy; they just get stuck and subsequently can't conquer their fears to try something drastically different. Life-altering. I am the queen of security, stability, insurance policies, retirements, college funds....I am ready to admit that I'd like a bit (or a lot) more adventure than all this security/stability has offered me. I believe that there is deep value in experiencing change and challenge as a family and I know we will have plenty of both over the next several months. I have faith in our abilities to handle them and the inevitable closeness that will evolve in the process. And no, I cannot wait!