Monday, April 27, 2015

The First Thread

A few weeks ago NLQ blogger and friend Bruce Gerencser asked for readers to ask him any question that they liked and he would try to answer it.

If you don't know Bruce you should scooch on over to his blog - The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser - and have a read. Bruce's life story is a fascinating one. He used to be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist minister for many years and now he's an atheist.

While I'm not entirely done with faith and cannot call myself an atheist in good conscience I think I'm more of an agnostic. If there is a God, and I suspect there might be, then he really doesn't give a crap or intervene in our day to day lives like I was taught during my years as a sold out Christian.

The question I'd been wondering about and had to ask Bruce was what was the first thing, the very first thread pulled from the tapestry of his faith, that caused it to completely unravel. Was it a slow process or all at once. Bruce was kind enough to answer my question.

His answer made me start thinking about where exactly that point was in my own journey where the first thread was pulled and the tiniest seed of doubt sprang up.

My moment of thread pulling occurred because of Yoga.

At some point in the early 2000s we were all handed a paper booklet and told to pray, then fill out the book. It was a spiritual inventory list, all the sins you'd done, things you'd done that might open the door to Satan, etc.. a self-shaming checklist catalog that was a companion to the book we were fixing to study. I no longer remember the book name or the author but some of the questions on the inventory still stick with me, like having to admit to and renounce bathing in urine to glorify the devil.

I had no problem checking off the boxes on standard everyone knows it's a sin stuff like lying or stealing, but all the things on Satan worship and the lists of normal ordinary things they were trying to say were sin, such as watching television or practicing martial arts was extremely off putting to me. I could not see what the sin was in certain types of exercise.

One of the biggies in exercise-sin category was yoga. Yoga?

Now that I really could not see because I'd practiced yoga off and on for years, starting in the late 1970s when my oldest child was a new born. Every afternoon and morning, religiously you might say, I put my baby in the baby swing, took off my shoes, switched on the local PBS station and did yoga along with Lilas, host of the yoga program on PBS.

I was trapped in a bad marriage with a man I should never have married, home all day with a new born, trying to regain my pre-baby body and deal with the stress of a mother in law that lived next door and hated me. My twice daily yoga was a ritual that helped me cope with the hopeless situation I lived in. I kept up my yoga practice through the divorce but at some point stopped doing yoga more than once in a while.

The poses helped with my stress levels and the breathing exercises helped the asthma. It was a win-win in my eyes.

So when this spiritual inventory book went around the church and we started going through the booklet, talking about the sins, one by one as a group, I could not help but very timidly ask why yoga was on this list. It had helped me and I felt no need to repent from it, didn't think it should even be on this list.

Up until that moment I'd been a true believer Koolaide drinking Quivering momma. Believed every word of the Bible was true. Believed that believers would never lie to further their own agendas, that there was a demon under every bush.

When I voiced my concerns about yoga I was told that yoga was a sin because you had to chant the names of demons while doing yoga. Yoga opened a door to the demonic and I had better repent and ask God's forgiveness as quickly as possible.

There was just something about that I could not accept. I'd done many hours of yoga and in my spirit felt like what this leader said was very wrong indeed.

I didn't dare talk back but... I shrunk down in my pew and thought about this list and yoga. I could not ever remember doing any chanting in my yoga practice, certainly nothing 'demonic' I kept my mouth shut, but started thinking for the first time since we joined that church that someone was spewing bullshit about something they knew nothing about.

Later that day, after we arrived home from our usual five hour Sunday church service, I pulled my ancient and yellowing copy of 'Lilas Yoga and You' from the bookshelf and started reading through it. I noticed in the very first chapter that the author referred to their faith in Christ and practice in yoga. Confirmation of what I thought, that yoga was simply a harmless gentle exercise that held no religious connection in the way I'd practiced it. I realized for the first time as a Christian that sometimes people put additional rules onto believers that had nothing to do with Christ, reality or faith.

Once that first thread was pulled out others followed until the big messy tangle of threads that was my leaving the old church happened.

Funny how some small thing can start your journey in an unimaginable direction.

Yes, I still do yoga, but I stick with the water version now. If you lose your balance in the Warrior Pose and fall down it's much gentler to fail into the arms of water than the cold hard floor of the gym.

Coughing, Honking and No Talking

We're back in the big Culpecker, but we'd done nothing more than unpack our bags. We returned last Wednesday night after a hard two day drive up from the Fort Lauderdale airport.

The first thing we did on Thursday morn was drive straight to the local doc in the box. Jim's cold has morphed into bronchitis and mine (because of my lung problems) had already turned into walking pneumonia according to the chest xray.

So since Thursday there's been piles of pills, lots of swilling of various liquids and rest. Lots of television and horizontal attitudes.

Plus I completely lost my voice for the last six days, quite horrific for a talker like me. I've been silenced.

But I think that the meds are finally kicking in and I'm going to be trying to clean the house and just catch up on all the things I've let slide since Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lava Fields, Circling Key West and Driving Cold

On our last day in Costa Rica both Jim and I had colds, his still ongoing with coughing all night and mine just starting. Clearly I picked up his. Which made the hike we did onto the lava fields of the volcano park at Arenal something more like a nightmare landscape of ash, sulfur smells (not me farting for once) and sore feet. I complained beaux coup.

But we did get to see ring tailed lemurs, native raccoons and a number of exotic birds. As usual Jim found friends of all ages and nationalities to show off his various languages and linguistic skill set.

As much as I moaned during the hiking, the last 300 meters straight up straight up rocks instead of a trail, the view was well worth the insane sweating I did in the high humidity high temps of Costa Rica.

and Jim being most naughty like a bad little boy....





By the time we got back we were both pretty exhausted, packing our bags for the flight out in the morning.

Jim must have still been on tico time because we were slow getting out of the hotel and away to the aero port in San Jose, C.R. The drive down the mountains was torturously slow, winding around dogs in the streets, crazy drivers, goats, sheep, chickens and one lane bridges. I was stressing out big time because I was sure we'd never get there in time. But we did...

....and the flight was pushed back several times. We left Costa Rica a few hours later than planned. When we were a mere half hour from landing in Fort Lauderdale the captain announced that the Fort Lauderdale airport was closed due to bad weather, wind sheers and dangerous conditions. We circled Key West for quite a while until the pilot announced that we were running very low on fuel and were temporarily diverting to the Fort Myers airport for a refueling. By the time we were refueled and up in the air again they'd reopened the Fort Lauderdale airport.

We landed, but because the airport had lost power for awhile they could not get the air gangway thing hanging off the gate to roll up to our plane. So we sat and we sat and we sat on the runway. By the time we got off the plane we were very late. Because of all the international flights landing at the same time we stood in lines going through Customs for over two hours. By the time we collected the luggage, dealt with US Customs over our luggage, rode out to the parking lot on the shuttle bus and gotten to the hotel it was nearly 11 pm, about six hours later than we'd anticipated. Plus our colds were worse, we both got some remarks/dirty looks from fellow passengers with all the honking and sneezing the two of us did.

Walgreens for a cough syrup run, Wendy's Frosties as dinner for sore throats and we collapsed in the bed.

Today my fever is worse and I felt like hammered shit so I sent several friends I'd talked with about meeting up messages that I was too sick to inflict myself on them and infect them as well as me and we left, driving up I-95 towards home. Stopped for the night just over the Georgia/North Carolina border. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spas and Ahhs

Once the bird song started at the eco hotel we're staying at here in La Fortuna yesterday morn I was up, awake and drinking the best coffee I've had this side of New Orleans. Almost as good as Community Coffee. I spent several hours in the early morning drinking coffee, surfing the internet and bird watching on our hotel room deck.

 I saw both toucans and huge condors during my bird watching and lots of others I've not seen before. I've always loved birds. Amused that our hotel room has large watercolor paintings of local birds and the bath is decorated with a bird theme.

The hotel is the Green Lagoon and it's one of those green eco lodges with everything geared towards health, from the food to the activities and it could not be any better. One of the nicest places we've ever stayed.

Jim got up just in time for breakfast, one of the best meals I've had since arriving in CR. A lavish spread with every type of tropical fruit you could imagine, cheese, eggs, sausages, plantains, rice and beans and yogurt.

We spent most of the day either drinking rum laced smoothies on the hotel pool deck bar or in the natural hot springs of the volcano soaking. It was a very low key day. Jim's cold is much worse and he refuses to go to the pharmacia in town to get over the counter meds. I've managed to mess myself up pretty badly the day before by slipping in the nasty tub at the Hotel Karahe back in Quipos. When I fell one leg shot one direction and the other leg in a different one. My left hip ached some on the drive up to Arenal but not too bad. By yesterday I started having groin pain on the left side and some pretty significant pain. I'm hoping I haven't fractured something. So between the two of us we weren't exactly in any shape to climb up to the lagoon or down to the waterfalls.

Because we both felt so miserable physically we both spent most of the afternoon at the hotel spa sitting in the hot tub before both of us getting massages. The massage was something else, a luxury like I've never had before. Sure,  I've had massages, one of my relatives in Northern Virginia gives the best medical massages and has worked on me in the past. But.. she's never given me a massage in a spa built on a ledge of volcanic rock outdoors looking over a huge lake on one side and a volcano on the other. I was totally nekkid, outside, getting pummeled and stretched by a local lady.

Unfortunately for Jim the masseuse got our massage packages completely mixed up. I got the deep tissue massage and he ended up getting the relaxing massage. But I think I needed it more than he did with my hip problem.

Dinner followed by bed after that. I am finding that we are living not only a simpler life with no stress here, but we're following the cues of nature, up with the sun and bedtime once it's full darkness and there is little to do. That can't be bad?

Today we're supposed to do the lava fields and rainforest tours at the national volcano park and later pack for our flight back to the US tomorrow. But right now it's raining too hard to do anything but drink more coffee and write.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

GPS Follies and Sloths

Yesterday morning shortly after we got up, and it's hard to sleep past 5 am because that's when the howler monkey living in the hotel trees get up and sing, we decided to take the morning and visit the Parque Manuel Antonio. It was less than a mile or two from the hotel but we decided to drive because that less than a mile or two was narrow, curvy, steep ups and downs. The thought of traipsing back from the park in that insane traffic didn't hold any appeals.

Right away the park trip started on a pretty sour note. We got about 500 yards from the park entrance according to the signs and our GPS when this local guy jumped in front of our car and told us we MUST park right there in the lot to our left. Well I could clearly see and read the signage even if it was in Spanish that indicated that the parking and park entrance was just ahead so I started arguing with him in my broken pigeon Spanish and English. Jim complied with him but I was angry and fighting all the way. I hate people that clearly take advantage of others and their ignorance.

So when the guy was trying to sell us a tour of the park I really wasn't having it. His shout after me was that you cannot ever really 'see' the animals of the park without a tour guide to point them out.

From where we parked it was quite a slog to get to the park entrance, we had to criss cross through hotel and restaurant back alleyways, skirting trash and sewage (lot of open sewers in the local areas, even in the town of Quipos). We finally got to right where the park entrance was only to be assaulted by various locals selling a huge variety of things, including tours into the park. After talking to one of the tour guides we realized that if you book a tour that the tour guide has a mono-ocular on a stand for you to see the far away animals like sloths in the trees. We bought tour tickets.

While we were waiting to start I had a refreshing coconut water. I sometimes drink coconut water in the States but it's always in a little bottle or box. This was a young man with a machete slicing open a green coconut, poking a hole for the straw and handing it to you, all for the princely sum of two bucks. Delicious! All the fruit has tasted better here, but that's because it's locally grown and picked, none of this imported on a ship for a month stuff we get at the supermarkets.

The tour was amazing, we walked a couple of miles through the jungle park, seeing three different types of monkeys, some bats, many different types of iguanas and some sloths high in the trees. We stopped at the beach where Tom Hanks filmed "Castaway" and where some television shows like "Lost" and 'The Amazing Race" have filmed. Incredibly beautiful beach filled with teenaged monkeys trying to fiddle with tourists things. The monkeys are bold.

We had to really move it on the way back in order to get back to the hotel, shower and check out in time and get on the road for the next part of our trip, three days in the Green Lagoon Resort near the volcano park in Arenal.

It should have been a four hour drive, but quickly took on a nightmare quality. Back in the states I'd downloaded and printed out a map from Quipos to La Fortuna where our hotel is and the route looked pretty simple. At the Adobe car rental place the nice man at the counter drew out the route on a Costa Rica map, Hwy 34 to Hwy 27 to Hwy 1 to Rt 702. But... we plugged in the GPS that he had also programmed and didn't realize till we were pretty far into the trip that the GPS had the trip listed as over eight hours. They had us programmed in some crazy way way way out of our way. I tried reprogramming it to no avail. Friends had warned us that GPS didn't always work right in the CR. We had to turn around to go the way the map indicated and the trip took a total of six houts.

Once we stopped at this modern mall, complete with KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell and McDonalds to ask the way. All this primate third world surroundings and up pops a modern mall that would have fit in any American city. I am sad to see of all the rich culture in our country that the thing that is exported time and time again overseas is American fast food, M&Ms and Pringles. You can get both M&Ms and Pringles even at the most ghetto frutas stands.

A big part of that six hour stretch had been eaten up by the fact that by the time we turned onto Route 702 it was all up and down switchbacks on a super narrow road around the mountains with very low speed limits. This was compounded by the fog that had crept over those roads. Neither of us could see much of the road for long stretches, causing us to creep along at very slow speeds. We crossed at least twenty bridges that were one lane and it seemed everyone in the Guanacaste state was out and about walking on these roads in the dark, compounding a difficult drive.

I was positively losing it, cursing up a storm and we finally arrived to the most beautiful resort on the side of a mountain. We're in a two bedroom suite that is like night and day from the last hotel, Hotel Karahe in Manuel Antonio! The suite is beautifully turned out and the sheets are soft. At Karahe the sheets were that super old percale polyester mixture popular in the 70s and the pillows limp thin slabs likely new back in the 70s or 80s.

Writing this while I'm having several delicious cups of coffee sitting on the porch watching a wide variety of birds I've never seen before. This place is so otherworldy and serene. I love it.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Iguana Style

Yesterday morning I was awoken around 5 am by the sounds of monkeys, hoots and chattering breaking the otherworldly silence. I got up and still in my nightgown climbed all 88 of those stairs to the top of the resort to try and catch a glimpse of the howler monkey group. No monkey sighting.

Later I heard that this one particular pack of howler monkeys lives in a large tree right next to the building we're sleeping in. What a wild alarm clock.

Poor Jim is coming down with a cold so we took it easy yesterday, wandering down to the hotel's beachside restaurant for a breakfast of rice, beans, eggs and tropical fruit before heading to the beach. Jim sat in a chair and read. I walked a mile or so out to the large rock outcropping and took more photos before going for a long swim in the Pacific.

When I got back to Jim he was talking to a native Tico (what Costa Ricans call themselves) who had the most beautiful handmade pottery. I ended up buying a candle shade to give to Laura and an unusually shaped blue vase with iguanas carved into it for us.

Because Jim was feeling miserable we followed the beach with a short dip in the pool. The same large iguana was there. Apparently the pool deck and the surrounding trees is his territory.

Jim wasn't able to stay out in the sun too long as he's burning even with limited exposure and sunscreen, plus the cold was kicking his ass so we spent a long time in the room, from about mid morning to early afternoon. Jim slept, I read.

Because he still felt bad we didn't do what we'd planned, we never made it to the big wildlife park, instead we went back to Quepos again, talking to someone at the local bank because we'd been told that the interest rate on certificates of deposit were 7 percent here. They are. You're lucky if you get one percent in America right now because the Feds have kept the rate artificially low.

Jim wanted to visit and talk to some furniture store owners to see if he might be able to import furniture to the area. This whole furniture import business idea of his 'friend' is starting to be a bone of contention between us. The night before, just when I was extremely relaxed, his friend Mark pops up on Skype and starts his usual hard driving bullshit about all the millions they're going to make with Jim acting as a factory rep for this furniture factory he has contacts to. Then he went right into con man scammer mode and told Jim that the factory would need our bank information and routing numbers. This was followed by Mark insisting that his name be nowhere on the business and that we not have a website or anything with his name on it. Two huge red flags. First of all, this is how scammers from Nigeria drain your bank account, by obtaining the routing numbers and information, and secondly, why is he so eager to not be on record as part of this business. This is the point where I jumped into the Skype conversation and told Mark off, told him that we would not be participating with any wire tranfers, and ranted about how we did things very differently when I worked at a computer place that routinely dealt with factories and middle men in the far East.

But Jim did go talk to a few furniture stores, I bought a few local things as gifts back home before we went back to the same restaurant we ate at the night before. We had pizza and I had the most delicious drink - Monkey Business - a mixture of Bailey's, coconut rum, vodka and a fresh banana. While we were eating monkeys came down out of the trees and came into the restaurant. Squeal!! But I didn't bring my camera into the restaurant.

I cannot say enough about how much better the fresh fruit here tastes, I've never eaten bananas that taste so good! Makes what we get in the US tasteless.

By the time we finished lunch/dinner it started raining so hard so we ended our day early, around 6 pm local when the sun went down. We were caught in that torrential downpour and ended up totally drenched between the hotel parking lot and our room. More reading while Jim rested. It's amazing how less stressed I feel with the complete absence of a television.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Iguanas and Monkeys, Oh My!

We spent a few days near Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach to be exact, at the most lovely and delightful hotel right on the beach. M. Dolon Hickmon, his wife and precious daughter arrived that first afternoon and we all sat out on the lanai just out of the rain, drank some excellent wine and enjoyed a few hours of good conversation.

I have to give the owner/manager of this hotel their due because I admit when we pulled in and I read the clearly Indian name of the manager I started to cop an attitude inside. I've not had good experiences with hotels managed by Indians or Arabic people. Many times it seems like they cut corners or don't exactly pay attention to details. Not this place or the workers. It was outstanding! My new favorite place to stay in Florida!

Monday we relaxed on the beach in the morning and in the afternoon Jim went to the local furniture stores in the Daytona area to try and sell some of them on the idea of buying Malaysian imported furniture in his new business venture with the scammer friend of his now in Malaysia. He got one store to commit to a full container of furniture. I was impressed because I figured he'd strike out. Seriously, if you were owning a store and some guy came in off the streets to try and sell you something of an unknown quality would you buy?  I wouldn't be inclined.

Tuesday morning we had to leave the hotel very early to get to Fort Lauderdale and our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. Again, Jim amazed me with his ability to make friends with anyone by befriending and spending the entire flight talking to an old native Costa Rican lady. I read my magazine and slept during most of the uneventful flight. This was the first time we've flown Spirit Airlines and I was amused by the fact that they freaking shake you down for every tiny thing. This is the first time I paid to have a packet of nuts and a soft drink on a flight. Plus all the prepaying to get bulkhead seats, pay for bags in advance to get cheapest rates, to board first, you name it.

The the nickeling and diming Spirit did represented the entire trip so far in Costa Rica. We arrived at the airport and stood in this line and that line for customs and immigration. By the time we got our bags and got out to the sidewalk we were surrounded by taxi drivers shouting that they wanted to take us to wherever we were going. Finally I spotted the sign held by the rental car agency rep with our name on it and it was off to pick up our rental car. We were talking to various other Americans on the flight, in customs and in the car rental place.

The short ride from the airport to the rental car place was fraught with me almost freaking out over the way the native Costa Ricans were driving. At one intersection a motorcyclist, a bike rider and a huge bus nearly collided and the cyclists were weaving in and out of traffic. I've driven in Rome, I've driven in Mexico City and I used to regularly drive on the Autobahn in Germany and this topped any crazy driving I've experienced.

The guys at the car rental agency were pretty awesome, even if the other Americans warned us to get the maximum insurance package to keep them from claiming we did something to the car and charging our credit card a thousand dollars after we left. I realized pretty quickly that we needed to have GPS in the car as well, another deposit, another set of expenses we hadn't discussed. But the nice man waiting on us, Raphael, programmed all our hotel locations and airport locations into the GPS and we left for the nearest bank to exchange money for the local currency, Colones. The money exchange at the airport wanted to give me 460 colones for 1 dollar but I was able to use a local atm and get the regular exchange rate of 530 colones for a dollar.

We passed a huge Wal Mart just across the road from the airport along with a long list of other American things like Popeyes, McDonalds, Burger King and a million ads for Pennsoil. It was an almost three hour drive to our hotel near Manuel Antonio along windy narrow roads around and between mountains. Beautiful country but no one seems to obey stop signs, traffic signals, yellow lines or speed limits. A few near misses on hairpin curves.

Jim drove about half way and we switched drivers, stopping at this roadside fruit stand. We ate there and it was delicious. Had a burger with some odd cheese on it with lettuce, tomato and cucumber along with coconut biscuits and (of course) Champagne Americana - Coke Light. We bought fruit and ice cream for the road. The men running the place were so nice and the price so damn cheap I could not believe it.

We drove through landscapes of incredible beauty and also great poverty, tin roofed shanties with chickens, donkeys and some unusual looking boney cattle. There were men riding bicycles carrying huge sacks of bananas and every area you went through had roadside produce stands. People were out in their yards harvesting papayas, guava, coconuts and bananas with old fashioned apple picker poles and baskets. My personal favorite part of the road trip was when we were driving through vast fields of low palm trees with the towering mountains just ahead.

And then we got to the hotel......

....and I discovered our travel agent booked us in a villa at the only hotel in town with direct beach access. We were promised a beachside room but the hotel insisted we were booked into a villa at the top of the property, a good 88, yes 88 steps up the mountain, instead of the beach front building. I just about fell out and had a fit. Between my asthma and my thin disks in my back there was no freaking way I was going to be able to climb up 88 steps multiple times a day. We ended up upgrading our room to one in the same building as the reception office. We paid extra to have air conditioning (which the original room did not) but decided the additional 80 bucks a day to have beachfront room with television was too much. No tv.

This place isn't very nice, the furniture is old and worn, the building needs a lot of upgrades, but again, it's got beach access. The first room they put us in had mold. I had an asthma attack, pretty severely, I blacked out and fell down on the pavement for a few moments. Drugs, air conditioning, lots of water and it passed. I was ready to leave Costa Rica that first night and never look back.

We thought someone kept knocking softly on our door several times in the night but it turned out to just be the noise of a local lizard! We kept opening the door to a lizard. Ha.

I am so happy I did not leave and not come back. I got up this morning after a ten hour sleep and felt well again. We went out to the breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant and it was pretty good, black beans and rice (never had that for breakfast before), fresh eggs, every kind of tropical fruit you could imagine, good local breads and a variety of jams I'd not had before like guava.



We spent the morning on the beach, right on our little cove of the Pacific ocean, before going swimming in the hotel pool. While we were showering off the beach sand to get into the pool an iguana came up, stopping about a yard away, watching as we showered.

During the afternoon we drove around to a couple of the local schools that teach English to Costa Ricans and it looks likely that Jim might be able to line up a teaching gig if we were to retire down here. He has his years of teaching English at the community ESL classes in our town. All he needs is a certification that he can get in four weeks for around two thousand dollars.

We talked to local real estate agents and visited a huge local market in the middle of town, buying fruit and other local foods to eat in the hotel room for dinner. When we travel we usually eat a good breakfast, a decent sized lunch around 2 pm and something light for dinner. I cannot get over how cheap, plentiful and fresh the produce is.

Our day here is almost over and despite the high temps and humidity making breathing a bit more difficult I am ready to move here, move here for good! The slow pace of life, the wonderful people and the beautiful flowers, plants and animals are just what I need after twenty plus years of living in the go-go world of Northern Virginia.

A little while ago I happened to glance outside of the hotel window and see a monkey on the power lines across the street, running across them to jump on the roof of the other hotel building to joint his friends. Jim and I were treated to the sight of a pile of small monkeys playing like little children on the rooftops.

The parrots and the frogs are singing in the twilight so I'm about to go take another dip in the pool and hit the sack.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cakalacy

First day of Vacation to Costa Rica

We got kind of a late start. Why? Well, Jim didn't start packing a thing until about thirty minutes after we said we would hit the road. Then it was a slow slog of about an hour of him shuttling between his suitcase and his lap top looking at Facebook. We finally left close to ten am, two hours late. I had been packed and organized for days. FOR DAYS!

Men and women sometimes have vastly different ideas of time and how to do things. Me? I'm rushing around two weeks in advance trying to figure out which pair of pink shoes best matches which outfit and wondering how many clothes weighs forty pounds and obsessively weighing my suitcase.

It was a mostly uneventful drive down I-95, with the exception of a few people that mistakenly thought they were part of the stunt drivers for those Fast and Furious movies. I'm no slouch at speeding on the interstate, but these folks in North Carolina blew past my old lady mobile like I was standing still. And I was SPEEDING, LOL... not enough obviously.

One bad steak from a chain restaurant where everything felt sticky and gross and we landed here in St. George, SC for the night. Hotel room is okay, nice enough, but not happy with the rest of the hotel. Starting to realize what a pampered spoiled girl I am. Pool closed and the entire exterior could use a scrubbing and painting. Guess it's good that the place doesn't seem to have bedbugs, just the slowest internet in the history of hotels. Plus we walked in on a mob of angry customers bitching about things wrong with their rooms.

Simply grateful this is nothing like the last time I stayed in South Carolina, when Jim and I went down to Tom Hauser's old church The Vineyard for 'Deliverance Ministry” We should have run, run as fast as the guys in the movie 'Deliverance' should have run from the guys that cornholed poor Ned Beatty's character that time. It's sort of soured me on the entire state.

I've written about our deliverance ministry for No Longer Quivering in the past, it was a Thanskgiving weekend where we were separated by two different ministry teams and prayed for, lead through repentance prayers. What was so completely absurdist about that weekend was the notes the prayer teams had written of things that they said the Lord had told them about Jim and I. They said Jim loved fishing and all things 'Star Wars' and that both of us were having affairs.

Nope, no affairs ever and you could not pay Jim to ever see a “Star Wars” movie or go fishing. He dislikes both. There were other pronouncements from that weekend, like saying that Jim had a demon of rage within him and would kill me one day if it were not mastered. Of course, this is from the same group of people that tried to say I was having an affair with someone named 'Walt' The only Walt I knew of at that time was Walt Whitman, now Walt Whitman and Walter White neither of them, very obviously I would ever have an affair with.

The last time I Googled Without Probable Cause (Thank you for that stupid term L. Anne Carrington – known plagiarist and porn writer) Tom Hauser and his church they'd changed the church name and turned the name of the ministry from 'Deliverance Ministry' to 'Prayer Ministry' but the page explaining about this prayer thing read exactly like the old deliverance thing they did. Makes me wonder if they got sued and had to change up the names of everything.

Still sort of skeeved out being in the same state as those folks. Nope, we're neither one of us having affairs, killing each other in rage, watching Star Wars, banging Walt or fishing....but there is always hope for tomorrow. Who knows what will happen.

Tomorrow we'll be completing the short drive to Daytona Beach and an afternoon with the author of “13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession” M Dolon Hickmon and family. I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Stomach Aches and Head Aches

Tomorrow morning as soon as my housesitter (aka one of my kids) gets here we're gone. It cannot come soon enough because today has brought some serious weirdness.

Jim's been working from home today and that meant my final packing and cleaning was impacted, but a worse impact was that we picked up salads from our local grocery store around noon and now both of us are wiped out with stomach cramps and riding the porcelain throne. Would rather have the iron throne if I had a choice. Yeah, some sort of mild food borne illness from the salad bar. Add in throwing out my back, a gall stone attack and what seems to be likely urinary tract infection plus Jim's assorted bones and groans and we'll be limping off the plane to flake out on the beaches of Costa Rica.

I went around and talked to some of our closer neighbors about joining our lawsuit against the HOA but no one wants to rock the boat  at all. They just want to complain about the fact that we haven't had a legitimate audit or financial statement from the HOA in ten years. When we get back from the trip I'm going to start knocking on doors and trying to add others to the court petition. I know this will mean war with the treasurer. She's already sent us threatening emails in the last few years when we've asked for the financials so I'm thinking I might end up having to take out a restraining order against her before this is over. Getting access to the financial statements just should not be this difficult, our bylaws on file at the courthouse say that any member can receive a copy upon request.

There are roughly 7 households I know will join us, but the other 70 I have no idea for sure. 3 will be a no and the rest, who knows..Not looking forward to the hours of research on who owns the rentals and going door to door to get names to join the suit. It's going to be daunting.This mess has been going on for over five years now - time to go to court.

It would be different if the treasurer before this one hadn't stolen 100K from the HOA and not been legally charged. This is getting insane. Cough up the financials and this wouldn't even be an issue. Why so evasive and defensive?

The other pretty sad thing that happened was that I got an email from my sister in law, a wonderful, kind, compassion, all-around great gal named Karen. My Maw In Law is living in a retirement home near Karen and Jim's brother. My Maw In Law has developed dementia, it's been happening for quite a while and her health, which has been not good for three years now, seems to be taking a turn again.

Three years ago in January I really thought we were going to lose her. Jim went down and stayed with her for three weeks as she bounced in and out of the hospital. We were told she had lung cancer and had at most six months. Here we are, three years, some months and two retirement village moves later and she's still ticking like a Timex watch in those old commercials.

But the dementia is worse again. She's stopped taking baths, will not change her clothes or wash them. At her new retirement home the other residents are complaining about her wearing the same pair of adult diapers for days on end and smelling really really bad. She has another oozing chest situation going on that has happened off and on since her breast cancer. Rather than get a nurse to clean and bandage this large oozy spot my Maw In Law cut a piece off her flannel pajamas and used another bit of dirty cloth to bind it over the wound.

My poor sister in law is at the end of her rope dealing with the Maw In Law. And it turns out that the Maw In Law is defending all of her choices to ignore basic hygiene rules because... wait for it... drum roll please.... IT COSTS MONEY!!!!!!1111111eleventity!!!

Karen wants Jim to talk to her, since she does listen to Jim, and insist she not worry about money and cooperate with the staff at the retirement home in all their attempts to keep her clean.

When all this was happening at the other retirement place Bob and Karen were insisting that the staff wasn't doing their job. Now that the Maw In Law is five minutes away they are starting to see that the issues are more complex than that. I told Karen that I believe that it's time to put Maw In Law in the locked dementia ward as she's clearly not capable of doing any self care.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Small Town Politics & Travel Preperations

So I'm almost ready to leave on my trip to Costa Rica. We're leaving on Saturday morning, driving down. I've gotten someone to house sit/pet sit so that my cats and birds are well cared for and no thieving folks steal the almighty teevee. The car is washed, waxed, vacuumed and has a full tank of gas. The mail stop order in. Someone from Coin Telegraph hired and trained to admin the comments over at NLQ. Two weeks worth of postings loaded into NLQ so that there is new content the entire time I'll be gone. I've paid the airline for the bags, priority seating, business class seat upgrades and a few other things...Spirit Airlines shakes you down for every teeny tiny detail.

The plan is that we will be driving down from our home here in the Virginia Piedmont, as soon as the house sitter arrives on Saturday morning, and leisurely drive down to Daytona Beach, Florida for a couple of days r & r, followed by a week in Costa Rica, a few more days afterward in Florida at the beach. In other words, a vacation before the vacation and after the vacation to recover from the vacation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Today so far has been mostly taken up with a meeting with our new lawyer. I'm spearheading getting the residents here to sue the HOA treasurer and president. If you're a regular reader here you'll remember we've been trying to get a legitimate financial statement out of the HOA president and treasurer for the last ten years. I'm a board member and I've been spit upon, cussed out, called names by the two of them. But the worm is about to turn.

This attorney is someone I know from church, someone that has four or five other clients who've tried to get the same info, who've wanted to sue. He's managed to get some of the outstanding HOA unpaid dues dismissed in court because the HOA is so completely illegally run. Basically we're going to all band together to sue. I'll be doing some of the leg work to collect resident signatures to add to the lawsuit and he'll file the paperwork. I'm doing a lot of the unpaid research to get this thing moving forward to at least get these two to account for where ten years of our homeowner dues have been spent.

Our attorney has done a great deal of research already, none of them is bonded or insured to handle money, none of the state registrations for HOAs have happened, no taxes have been filed by the organization for way more than ten years now and a whole huge pile of laws flouted.

The other very interesting fact I learned is that at least seven different residents here have approached our local district attorney, Tea Party darling who's gotten into piles of the strangest troubles and situations since taking office, and our DA has refused to lift a finger. My attorney is incensed over her behaviors as the DA. So much so that during our meeting he took a phone call from someone else I know in our small town, the head of the local Republican party. The entire call involved strategies to get Miss Tea Party voted out during upcoming election. After her reaction when I approached her about our HOA mess I say boot the bitch! She's nothing but drama and does nothing for the residents of this town. She spends much time fighting with the town police and the local sheriff's office.

What I find intriguing about Miss Tea Party is that she is beloved by the homeschooling Quiverfull Evangelical group in this town. Those folks that have only the slimmest idea how the real world works, that don't understand that sadly enough it's who you know and what social class you come from that seems to matter the most in the world of politics, even in a small town.

I deplore that it's like that, but am not sure how to change the culture so that everyone is viewed as having equality. It sure doesn't happen in small Southern towns.

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Am super super busy right now. Not only am I about to have to do a bunch of research at the courthouse on who owns what properties in our HOA I'm also picking up oodles of website clients again, a big local law firm, an entertainment complex, a coming luxury hotel, a restaurant and two, count em, two furniture wholesalers. Looking forward to a vacation.

Unfortunately one of the furniture wholesalers is my own husband and his friend the possible con man. Jim is going to be the salesman/marketing rep here in the US and his friend will be working with the furniture factories in the Singapore area. It could be a huge flop, he could be trying to con us even if I told Jim and his friend that we will not be putting up penny one for this, but it could be a success too. Jim did once own a waterbed manufacturing company in Louisiana before he met me.

I'm trying to treat Jim and his partner like just another set of graphic design website clients and I think I'm going to straight up bill them for my services, LOL..

Lots of irons in the fire right now.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Don of Thrones or Yes, Please Send Me More Magazines!

I seem to have picked up some sort of silly stalker. By their actions I have to think it's some Quiverfull woman who hates NLQ, everything it stands for and me for being the admin. Likely I might have banned this person at some point for something less than graceful behavior. It's always the most religious that come onto NLQ and use the dirtiest words. Some folks get caught out and banned before their comments are ever seen by anyone.

But what's interesting about this person is their means of revenge or payback, which is no payback at all. It's the same sort of juvy stuff people pull in middle school. They signed me up for a pile of the most boring magazines.

Seriously? That's your response?

Not to me personally, but to my address with a fake name that Googles to no one. When I've received the bill confirming this fake person's subscription I've merely called up the magazine, told them I didn't order it and tell them it might behoove them to check the IP number and/or phone number these requests are coming in from because it's not mine.

But the funniest part of all of this is when I got the first issue of TV Guide in the mail last week I was somewhat confused, never looking to see what name it was coming to, thinking my husband likely ordered it and being thrilled because there was a huge cover story on my favorite television show "Mad Men". This week's issue has my other favorite, "Game of Thrones" as the cover show.

THANK YOU ANONYMOUS CREEP!!!!  I LOVE YOU!!! MAD MEN!!! GAME OF THRONES!!!!!!!!!!!...

Here's a list of magazines you can accidentally on purpose sign up this fake name at my home address for:

  • Vanity Fair - Great political articles, lots of photos of the latest overpriced fashion and exposes of crime and the mega wealthy.
  • Mad Magazine - I love a deep belly laugh and Mad has been providing that for years now.
  • Bitch Magazine - This magazine has a lot of in depth pieces on feminist issues and popular culture.
  • Fons & Porter Quilting - Intricate patterns, gorgeous photos and all the latest must haves in quilting. I've gifted this magazine out a few times to friends. They love it.
  • Mother Jones - A different take on the issues facing America.
  • Interweave's Crochet Magazine - It is always filled with yarn reviews and patterns.
  • Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine - All around arts and artists, a fascinating read.
  • Gourmet - I like to cook
  • Fiber Arts Magazine - Again, I need to use my enormous fabric stash
  • The New Yorker Magazine - Smart talk, funny cartoons and interesting subjects.
  • Private Eye - From across the Pond in merry Ole England another humor magazine
We already get:
  •  The Nation
  • Birds & Blooms (gift from a friend)
  • Living Without - food allergies cooking magazine
  • Various newspapers
I love getting magazines!

But seriously you won't stop me. Even if you signed me up for those dreadful British tabloids with the topless girls on page three or porno magazines. I'm going to keep on keeping on, updating NLQ, showing the Patriarchal Christian Movement for the scared, cowardly, weak, damaging system that warps people that it is. 

Easter Bitches

This is the first year in many that I haven't done one of my favorite rituals and one of Andy's favorites, usually every year right before Easter we watch together "Jesus Christ Super Star" Plus we sometimes sing along with the songs and laugh. It started out as a religious thing and now has morphed more into fun along the same lines as watching 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' but starring Jesus instead. I've loved that musical since I was thirteen.

Andy recently showed me a parody by the team at Mr. Show "Jeepers Creepers Semi Star". Pretty funny. Starring Jack Black as Jeepers Creepers.

 Today I'm making Virgina Ham Biscuits and other Southern food for a get together with my kids and assorted others. Last night I slunk into the grocery store well after dark when I knew there would be very few customers just to get the things I needed for our feast. I picked up a couple of packages of Virginia ham from the deli case along with other stuff before heading home. This morning after I split the biscuits and opened up the ham imagine my surprise to discover these packages of Virginia ham were actually turkey, not ham, meaning I had to go get ham at the store, today, in the middle of oodles of frantic Easter shoppers. I avoid crowds because of the asthma and people's cigarette smells and personal hygiene products that trigger the asthma.

The store was nice about it, refunding my money for the supposed ham and the lady in customer service told a young blonde working there to return the turkey to the deli and tell them to stop mislabeling the meats.

I went back to the deli to get them to slice the right meat and make sure it was the right meat before they wrapped it up in the white paper. As I walked up to the deli counter I overheard the young blonde from the customer service desk tell the deli manager that 'some bitch was complaining about the deli.' I came up and stood right behind her, when the blonde turned around I swear I thought she was going to have heart failure realizing I overheard what she said. This is why you don't refer to even horrible customers by dirty names where any customer could overhear.

Walked away laughing. Of course I did complain to customer service about being called a bitch by their young blonde clerk.

Happy Easter everyone. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Cry Me A Liver

So today was rush about and get several sets of drug tests and physicals. The great irony of the day is that I am having symptoms that my liver is very unhappy and it's likely because my lone gall stone is blocking the bile duct again.

Meaning I wasn't exactly a 100% honest during the physical, pretending that my asthma is my only real health problem instead of also copping to various bouts of diverticulitis and gall stones and arthritis. Ouch! In pain and only a mere week from a trip outside of the country.

I hope I can get my gall bladder gladder in the next few days because the trip is unrefundable, not even for medical emergencies. Jim hates monkey wrenches so I'm doing the gall bladder diet and putting down anything that might irritate my liver, like most of my prescription drugs.

Haven't had gall bladder and liver issues for well over a year now. Crummy timing.

Also hoping the drug test doesn't reveal that I was with a bunch of pot smokers a few months ago in a closed environment, so tightly sealed that I ended up with a contact high and didn't take one bong hit. If I'm going to flunk a drug test there better be some fun in it for me.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Clothes, Makeup, Shade, Interviews and Interviews Past

Yesterday was rather strange. Started out strange and stayed that way. Maybe it's just me that is strange. I don't do well when I have to spend long stretches pretending to be normal, like today. It is emotionally draining to be 'on' for such a long stretch, but three part time positions in my field that I would kill for came open and all set up interviews with me on the same day.

I had three job interviews and I woke up to the assumption that I was fully prepared. Went to the closet to get dressed, pulled out the dress slacks, suitcoat and my lucky interview shirt only to find a rip in the pants and the shirt had a big stain. Made a lightning fast trip to Kohls to pick up another dress shirt and slacks, not what I wanted to do first thing in the morning.

Since I've stopped working outside of the home I'd gotten rid of my Corporate Wear. No suits, one pair of dress slacks, one dressy shirt and the rest comfortable old hippie wear, flowing tunics, leggings, clogs, the odd dress or two but nothing that would be remotely suitable for a professional type job or an interview.

These are all positions I might just be able to handle with asthma. I was scrambling to get to all three.

It also feels odd to be wearing makeup again. Makeup and normal clothing. Ugh.

Got to the first interview and it went well, they are sending me for a physical and a drug test in a few days. The second one I got there only to be told I should have been called and told that the manager decided that morning to promote for that slot from within. No interview.

The third one was some ways away and I got there with bare minutes to spare. Of the three positions it was the one I wanted the most, an editing and fact checking position dealing with the scholarly publications of a certain university. I could not read the interviewer as to how the interview went, but I was told that I didn't have the educational background they were looking for. I didn't react to that statement but I wanted to ask why they'd brought me in the first place.

I'm just grateful nothing went as poorly as a job interview I went on ten years ago. I did the same things, got dressed, made up, made sure my grooming of my hair and eyebrows was immaculate and left. As I got out of my parked car I tripped, breaking the heel on one of my shoes, ripped my pantyhose, ended up with a cut oozing blood on my forehead that dripped onto my white dress blouse before I could get it to stop. I still went into the interview, even in that shape, and didn't get the job.

As always when asked why I left the big medical clinic in the next town over after the years I worked there I got to tell my story of while working there how out of control my asthma suddenly got. How on my last day there someone used canned air within five feet of me and I'm extremely allergic to the propellant, ending up in the bushes outside the office throwing up and having possibly the worst asthma attack yet. My co-workers loaded me into a wheelchair and pushed my silly self across the parking lot to the ER. I spent about four hours in the ER being treated until I was stable enough to go home. On the way home I had another attack and ended up in the ER of the hospital here in my town. The hospital admitted me overnight and the day after that I returned to work only to be fired because the doctor that owned and ran the clinic decided I had to be faking, that no one could possibly be that allergic to a chemical spray. I filed for unemployment, they fought me and the state ruled that my firing was unjustified and violated my ADA rights.

It's always fun to see the shocked looks on peoples faces when I explain why I left that job. The doctor is pretty prominent in this area and now he's been stripped of his license to practice or prescribe any sorts of drugs because he started running an oxycodone pill mill after I left.

The only downside of the day was that I wasn't feeling my most physically attractive due to the new girl at the salon the day before waxing my eyebrows into a very thin pencil like line. I hated it immediately, I like my strong natural brows and the regular esthetician knows to only clean up the stray hairs. I told this lady the same thing and she removed 90% of my brows.

So there I was, way too thin brows, business suit, done hair and lots of MAC Viva Le Glam makeup stopping by the Mennonite store on the way home to pick up a few things and I got to experience something I haven't in a long, long time - the Mennonite ladies working there that are usually friendly to my usual makeupless and casually dressed self treating me with grumpy disdain. I'm sure my sudden switcheroo appearance wasn't pleasing to them. Too bad.

One of the things I've noticed in the most restrictive religions that it's always the women that harshly judge you and let you know they are judging you, based upon your hair, your makeup and wardrobe. Which is very silly because it's all external. I wasn't any happier to be wearing all that stuff. It's a hassle.