Friday, July 21, 2017

Part 1 Feeling Like David Copperfield

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And so it holds true for me.

When I last blogged Jim and I were at a resort in Arenal and on our way towards the beaches of Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Playa Hermosa, Manuel Antonio, and Matapalo. Quick rundown before I head into the goat rodeo of this last week since I've returned.

Warning: If you ever consider moving to Costa Rica be forewarned that every single thing you do to achieve that goal will take three times longer and three times more money that you are told. I have almost completely demolished my money market account in this dream of Jim's just getting everything done, from the house remodel to shipping our belongings and now just trying to get everything past customs. It's an expensive travail to get here. That's not even counting the thousands we're going to have to lay out to pay for residency. NO ONE tells you this. I researched all of this thoroughly, read books about moving here, talking to piles of Americans living here. Truthfully, it is a crap shoot sometimes depending upon the mood of whatever government official tells you.

Arenal: In Arenal we asked around about houses to our local friends there we've visited a couple of times, but there wasn't much open at the moment. Which turned out to be a good thing because although today was supposed to be Jim's last day teaching we got a call in Arenal begging him to stay another three weeks because his replacement teacher from the States flaked out and decided not to come. And now that we've returned from the trip the school is now begging him to stay at least until September. This puts us in an awkward situation because I'm not liking where we are at all. More on that later.

I did have a good and relaxing time in Arenal. We spoke to our pipe connection there and he's making us a special sample assortment to use on our website and in a sample case. This is for Jim's import business he's going to launch doing artisan made craft importing into the States. Beautiful things made here!

That left me time for birdwatching at the resort and I got to see toucans again, plus hummingbirds and a plethora of beautiful birds and flowers. The resort is really one of the most refreshing, soul-restoring places on the planet, no television, no cell phone reception and limited internet in a beautiful rainforest. A few photos.



When we left Arenal and drove to Tamarindo we stopped for lunch at a German bakery on Lake Arenal and had the best authentic German meal. It also gave us both the perfect opportunity to brush up on our lapsed German, which turned out to be a good thing..

Sadly I saw no monkeys at the 'Do Not Feed the Monkeys' place on the road. Here's the sign.

Tamarindo: On the way to Tamarindo Jim started to become fixated/obsessive with the idea that  we were going to live in Guanacaste near either Liberia or Tamarindo and spent a lot of our time where going first to universities and later to private schools to ask about a faculty position teaching English. I don't think it's a bad or unreasonable idea at all, but my patience was stretched pretty thin as he spent all three of our days there traipsing from school to school to apply. We were supposed to be looking for a house and spending some of our time on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The most we were at the beach was during breakfast and right afterward. Here's the view from our breakfast table every morning.

Here's the claim to fame for the restaurant at our hotel. Do they even realize how big that could be?
We did get to reconnect with friends we'd made on our last trip to Tamarindo and heard about an awesome house for rent about five minutes by car from Tamarindo beach proper. We went to take a look. Turns out it was owned by an elderly German couple and we spend a full afternoon with them speaking a mixture of German, English and Spanish.

I love the house! It's been vacant for five months now and smells musty. Needs a serious scrub down but those are things that can be easily overcome. It's octagon shaped and set in the most beautiful garden with stones and Costa Rican statuary. The inside was very nice, nicer than the usual Tico house and it had that rarity of rarities here - A DRYER!! An electric dryer. It has granite countertops, brand new stainless steel appliances, beautifully done granite bathrooms and most importantly of all, AIR CONDITIONING IN EVERY ROOM!!! and comes with a swimming pool. Can you tell I'm excited? It's $750 a month including utilities. A bargain.

The drawbacks. There is a loud Evangelical church right next door that was doing that rollicking Jesus rock when we were there. But that's nothing that cannot be overcome by having a shaker of martinis in the pool if it gets too annoying.

But... with Jim's extension here we have to put it off as a rental. They know we're interested and when we'll be free. But Jim wants to look at other places too.

Playa Grande:

We also went house hunting near the national ocean park there and there were plenty of rentals but all Gringo prices. The ocean was so wild and beautiful there. I got some photos of a bird I've never seen before - the magpie jay.

You cannot see it but this pretty blue bird has a quail-like curl of feathers on his head.

Playa Hermosa:
We left Tamarindo to house hunt in parts south along the coast. We stopped in Hermosa at the restaurant right along the beach to have a late lunch and started talking at the restaurant to the people we'd met there in January, asking about house rentals in the area. Turns out one of the houses right near the restaurant would be coming open in August. We toured it. Torn to shreds because the person living there now has ten dogs in it. Needs major fixing up. The owner swore he'd repaint it and fix all the problems and give us the bargain basement price of $1,700 a month plus utilities. I was so turned off by the dirty that we're not even considering this place.

I did get to see a huge flock of Scarlet Macaws, another of green parrots and some sort of pelicans during lunch. I would love to live near Hermosa, but that price is crazy. Pictures of the beach.

Manuel Antonio
Once we got to Manuel Antonio we had a huge fright. We weren't staying at any of the other hotels in that area we have before and didn't know where our hotel was. The GPS would not pick it up and the map only gave us a vague idea where it was. Raining down buckets, pitch black darkness on windy unlit roads. We came to this steep driveway marked with the name of our hotel and tried to get our tiny wheezing rental car up it. It took several tries before we got up the hill. Once we were there the hotel was dark, looked uninhabited like something out of a bad horror movie where people wandering into the place stand the risk of being added to the stew in the hotel kitchen. No one around, pitch black. Eventually a surfer climbed the hill clutching his surf board and pointed to the twisted tiled unlit path down to the registration office.

Now I'd already made a few corny jokes out of 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' during the drive and Jim tells me that this is one of those Brad and Janet situations walking up to the door of the mansion looking for help. During the long dim jungle walk I could not help but start singing 'There's a Ligt' from RHPS.

Yeah, like that exactly. But we did find the manager, get our room and get settled in. He let us park next to the office, a space closer to the road instead of high in the trees up that pitted driveway to heaven. The next morning we got up to the most spectacular view of the beach, worth the scariness and the muddy trek.

We looked at apartments, but they were not exactly what we had a mind plus located five minutes from the park and subject to hordes of tourist traffic. Hung out with friends and got a little toasted one afternoon in a bar overlooking the beach.

One of the days we went back to Matapalo to see if the house I loved in January was still up for long term rental. It is, right now it's being used as short term AirBnB house, but the owner is looking for someone to rent for a year because he's burned out on the work involved in turning the place around for a stream of visitors. The price is still doable. However they've since paved a road on the edge of the beach right in front of the house, making it much less attractive to stay it.

It is likely the only really good paved road in the area. The ride through Matapalo to get to the place was bone-jarring, much worst than last time and the town does not look like it's as prosperous as it was back in January. We stopped by a guesthouse on the beach owned by a guy we'd friended a couple of years ago and he told a tale of a very depressed economy in CR since Trump took office. He's having much less tourist traffic to the point where he does not know what he is going to do. It was sobering and quite depressing. Strike Matapalo off the list of possible places to live.

And then thing go really crazy... more later.




Sunday, July 09, 2017

Escape From Nicaragua or We Rode the Tica Bus

This morning we very sadly had to leave the paradise behind at Playa Marsella, Nicaragua, leave the beautiful beach and the lovely cabina for a return to Costa Rica with renewed 90 day visas to stay in country. We took a last long look at the beach as we packed up and made our way down to the waiting taxi.

On the way back to town to catch the Tica Bus we both clearly saw that the area was lovely, no lurking French robbers on motorbikes, no dumped trash or anything else negative, at least until we came to the obstacle in the road, two large dogs merrily screwing and refusing to move over for our taxi. There were fields of horses, cattle, the occasional mule-drawn cart containing a farmer and lots of lovely countryside. Even the river we'd forded three days before had trickled back down to nothing.

We made it to town and caught that bourgeois Tica Bus, with the wifi and air conditioning. Because we had to leave so early we didn't get breakfast at the hotel and by the time we got to the bus we only had time to board. So no breakfast, and most importantly, no coffee for me. I distinctly do not do well without coffee, but I knew we'd soon be at the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border and the border had hordes of vendors, both junk and food. I'd just get coffee and food then. Not quite how it played out.

When we'd crossed three days before we'd walked, having plenty of time to do whatever we needed. Riding over in the Tica Bus we had to surrender our passports, 4 bucks each and an exit form, which the bus driver presented to the authorities while we wandered around for thirty minutes at the border. Oh sure, there were plenty of food vendors, but no one with coffee, save one elderly lady with instant coffee. After viewing the cooking food offerings I was afraid to buy anything, open grills cooking meats, every possible candy and prepackaged cooked chicken and plantains. But the cooking/serving areas were pretty filthy and the last thing I wanted was projectile diarrhea while riding another four hours on the bus. No fresh fruit, but plenty of cigarettes. I was reminded of my trips to Mexico many years ago so I decided to play it very safe and buy some baked goods from an elderly lady. These tiny pastries were supposed to be stuffed with a bean and cheese combo in a poppy seed pastry shell. Gross and disgusting tasting and hard a a brick. Literally could not eat more than a spoonful serving. So all I had for breakfast/lunch was a tiny piece of this stale pastry and a diet coke. Not enough if you suffer low blood sugars or high.

While I was puzzling over what to eat and what would make me sick as a dog (a real fear - you cannot drink the water in Nicaragua, even the hotel insists you only drink from their supply of bottled water) Jim spotted Leticia, our border crossing buddy. She was trying to get a free ride on any bus going back into Costa Rica. She told us what happened after we departed over the river to the hotel.

The taxi driver abandoned her on the riverside, telling her to get stuffed and she walked for miles in the dark before bedding down and sleeping by the side of the road. The next morning a local took pity on her, driving her back into the city where she'd ended up in the hospital. She mentioned nothing further about visiting her sister or having surgery in Nicaragua.

What I noticed today that I didn't on Wednesday evening is that Leticia had track marks on both arms. She's an addict of some substance and before we reboarded the Tica Bus she wanted money from us. Yeah, not happening after the crazy things she'd claimed and now turning up strung out with more crazy sounding stories. I wish her well, but once I found out she'd tried to claim to the hotel that she was with us and sleeping in our room I was done with her. I hope she gets off drugs, but I am not prepared or capable of dealing with another person in my life with substance abuse issues. I've fought that battle with loved ones too many times.

We got back on the bus and I told Jim I knew that the bus would stop again in the beautiful rest station that they'd stopped at on the way up and I'd get something to eat then. I had the shakes by then. Because the bus was running late it ended up bypassing the stop, but a local man got on the bus with Fantas, Cokes and sandwiches for sale.  Yeah, so I paid 4 dollars for a coke and a grilled cheese and baloney sandwich. It didn't help. Started developing nausea and a bad headache which spiraled into a migraine an hour later. The sandwich was delicious, but I'm still quite confused by baloney turning up randomly in things where you least expect it. The man selling the sandwiches said they were all grilled cheese.

By the time we got to the San Jose airport I was sicker still. Jim had some drama when the guys on the bus could not find his laptop case in the cargo hold for ten minutes and then we had to fight off a pack of taxi drivers fighting for our fare not knowing that when we emerged from the bus we were planning on taking an airport shuttle to the rental car company.

Picked up the rental car and now we're off to look for a place to live in areas of the country we love. Right now we're at our favorite resort in the Arenal area and we looked at a beautiful place on the way down here owned by one of the managers at the rental car company. We have some leads, it's going to take time. We're looking near Lake Arenal, the Atenas area, near the beaches of Guanacaste area and down near Quepas/Matapalo/Dominical.

Sadly enough Jim has decided to extend his teaching of English at the school in Copey for another three weeks beyond his contract ending in late July because his replacement flaked out on the school and they begged him to stay. So a few weeks longer in our pokey little room. I just hope it stops raining.

Friday, July 07, 2017

If It's Not One Thing, It's Nicaragua

So bright and early on Wednesday morn Jim and I left Copy, Costa Rica for three days beachside in Playa Marsella, Nicaragua. We got a beautiful beach cabina for a great price for our 72 hours outside of Costa Rica to meet our visa requirements.

While I haven't been here the 90 days you can stay Jim is getting close. We both qualify for residency in Costa Rica, we have the monthly income, etc, but I'm reluctant to file for permanent residency certification this soon. Quite frankly I'm not really loving life in Copey between the daily cold rain, shivering at night, substandard accommodations and food situation I'm reluctant to commit so soon and fork over the rumored 2,500 we're told we must pay before finding our new home and happiness.

So we decided to do what long lines of Americans here tend to do, take the bus into Nicaragua and have ourselves a little mini vacay. Boogie in, boogie out clutching new 90 tourist visas in our hot little hands.

We ended up taking a taxi through the mountains back to Santa Maria, then catching a bus into the capital city of San Jose, changing buses again into one going up to the border. Most Americans catch the official Tico bus in San Jose, taking a modern double-decker air conditioned bus with wifi up into their vacation destinations in Nicaragua. We could not. You have to buy your Tico Bus tickets a couple of days in advance, you cannot just wait until you show up at the bus station.

Didn't matter. You can get tickets pretty easily to what I call the local milk run buses. No wif, no air conditioning, but way way cheaper and about like our average bus ride into San Jose. There was just one problem, when we got into San Jose we discovered that the bus station we were at was the WRONG one. Taxied to the only bus station that had space for us on the bus, but were taken to the cleaners by the taxi driver. He drove us around the city of San Jose, running up the meter to over fifty bucks even as I kept protesting that he was driving us in circles. Tourist taxi, they see Americans coming and automatically assume we're rich, behaving accordingly.

Turns out we had a two hour wait for the next bus to the border, so we decided to get lunch at the only place to eat at the bus station. Jim had pizza that had the texture, colors and consistency of Playdough. My hamburgeusa wasn't much better. It had a thick slab of bologna on it with the ground meat, tomato and lettuce. Now I've had hamburgers in this country before and been surprised by things like a layer of cucumbers, but never bologna. This meal was something of a harbinger for the rest of the trip. It looks one way, but it's something else.

Once we bordered the bus we found a mother and toddler sitting in our assigned seats. I felt very guilty about having to kick a mother out of our seats. She stood with the child for the entire five hour journey. We found out later that she, and others standing in the bus, didn't have tickets. Apparently sometimes the poor ride these things and hope that there are seats for them.

I noticed that one of the ladies standing was crying and making a big scene over not having a seat, demanding a seat because she was disabled and had a letter of medical necessity. Later at the meal stop she asked me for money and I gave her enough so she could eat.

The bus ride was pretty miserable, back roads, bumpy riding and hot as hell even with the windows open in the rain. No way to even read because I don't do well on bus rides or cars because of motion sickness. Jim was so sick with a cold, was shivering and sweating against me in that tiny confined space.

As we got closer and closer to Penas Blanco, the Costa Rican bordertown, I noticed that the roads got worse. I didn't think that was even possible, but it was. All southbound traffic was routed on a detour and the southbound lanes closed. We arrived at the border at sunset, paying our Costa Rican exit fees, declaring we were exporting nothing beyond personal possessions. The bus dumped us out at the border and hightailed it out of there. The Costa Rican side seemed pretty normal, a big building, a restroom, a well lit fully staffed government building. But.... when we exited the building we had to trudge down a dirt road with our suitcases, dodging mud puddles and semi trucks about 300 meters in the pitch black dark.

While we were going through Costa Rican passport control the lady who'd been making a scene on the bus and who I'd given a few bucks approached us crying. She could not read and as a result could not fill out the customs form to leave the country. We helped her and she attached herself to us, going with us through the rest of the border crossing. Her name was Leticia. 

When we got to the Nicaraguan border control it was one lone guy in a paramilitary type uniform with an assault rifle slung over his back presiding over a wooden picnic table, who proceeded to search Jim's suitcase, seemingly disappointed that all Jim had was clothing in his bag.

This was repeated many times over a few hundred more meters, a picnic table or rough shelter like  bus stop, showing our passports again and again before getting to the actual visa and immigration office. I was seriously scared! Everyone had assault rifles and it was very clear we'd arrived in a third world country.

But the immigration office was modern and well lit. We had to each pay a buck as soon as we entered, it was never explained to us what this was for, but we got a stamped piece of paper showing we'd paid our buck before we had to pay another 12 bucks as an entrance fee each. They xrayed our luggage and we were off.

While all this was going on a young guy started pestering me, insisting that he would drive us to the town we were staying, San Juan Del Sur, for fifty American dollars. I kept telling him to talk to Jim, the Big Boss, the Jefe and he kept shouting lower and lower prices until he'd finally agreed to drive us to the hotel for 24 bucks. Leticia kept whimpering that she was coming with us and would get a room because the bus for her sister's town didn't leave until morning.

We took the taxi because we'd just missed the last Chicken bus for the night (old American school buses that are used in Nicaragua as local buses). Armed border patrol checked our passports one more time in the parking lot of the taxi area. There were a ton of what Jim terms 'Le Tourista Traps' at the border, chockablock filled with junk, but I didn't get a chance to check for a souvenir thimble. We left because it was well after dark and we had a forty minute ride ahead to the hotel.

I kept asking Jim if he'd given our driver the name of the hotel, the Mirasella Beach Hotel, and he said he had, but when we got in the middle of San Juan Del Sur the driver stopped, wanting to know what hotel we were staying at. Why, the Mirasella on Playa Mirasella. The driver went nuts, refusing to take us there except if we paid him another twenty bucks. He kept repeating how far away it was, how horrible the road and ranting about 'French robbers' on motorbikes on the back road. Jim and he had heated words with Leticia trying to translate/intervene.

What choice did we have? None. We agreed to pay him. The taxi driver pulled onto the beach access road and we were plunged into pitch blackness on the most rutted dirt road through the jungle. There were houses for sale along the road that looked like Italian palaces deserted and dark and we passed gated developments here and there while the driver muttered semi-hysterically about robbers in the woods and trash dumping illegally and other weird things and crimes as we rode around. At least that's what my pigeon Spanish and Leticia's translation was...

We were following the signs through the pitch black night to the Mirasella Hotel when we hit the weirdest obstacle yet, the road was washed out into a deep pit, half the road five feet deep into a sink hole and the road ended at a river bed, a river bed holding swiftly flowing water. The taxi driver refused, flat out refused for any amount of money to try and ferry us across.

It was about this time I came out of the taxi to try and access the situation, doing what I do best, tripping over my feet and face planting right into the mud and rock road.

Now the taxi driver was screaming about ghosts and robbers and calling on the powers of the Lord and Mother Mary while Leticia was freaking out too.



You can't see it well in this photo but there is a foaming river in the middle of this photo.

Finally Jim decided to call the hotel and beg for rescue while our driver was counting off and calling on all the saints in heaven and the manager said he would send someone down to pick us up and carry us over the river and the last 200 meters to the hotel.

We wait, and we wait, and we wait, in the darkness with a screaming praying Latin caricature of a cab driver, a woman also freaking out that looks like she might just be strung out on heavy drugs while she's somehow attached herself to us. I start wondering if this is some sort of shakedown and if we're going to die here, but eventually we hear the sounds of some vehicle missing a muffler and misfiring madly making it's slow way towards us. Hooray! It's the hotel manager and the handyman come to rescue us! They load the trunk with our suitcases while we climb in the back.

Leticia starts speaking rapidly with the manager, in Spanish, begging to stay at the hotel for free as far as I can tell. Later the manager tells me that she has insisted she is with us and will be staying in our room. No way did we ever discuss this! The manager rebuffs her, even after she claims that she's afraid of the cab driver possibly raping her (ha! He's too busy calling on JesusChristo and assorted Catholic deities to be thinking about that!) Later, he tells me he was pretty sure she was strung out on drugs and all sorts of trouble. Our last view of Leticia is her standing on the other side of the river with the cabby as we ford the river.  He's still calling out 'Dios Mios'

Hopefully he took her back to town and dropped her off at one of the very inexpensive hostels back in San Juan Del Sur.

We get to the hotel, get our room and flop into bed, exhausted by a crazy day where we thought we might die a couple times over. The room is all wooden, old fashioned but so clean and beautiful. We can hear, but not see the ocean mere steps from our front door.

And the next morning we're treated to the most beautiful private beach.......



For the last several days we're swam in the ocean, swam in the beautiful infinity edge pool. I've climbed the cliff over to the next beach, eaten squid and worn a swimsuit that Lori Alexander would so not approve of with a bikini bottom that's French cut showing off more of my lumpy booty than I have in years now. I've been wearing almost no clothes here and I don't care. This is paradise.

Sadly tomorrow we are returning to Costa Rica, but we're taking the spoiled entitled peoples bus with the wifi and air conditioning. Then we're picking up a rental car in San Jose and heading out to first Arenal, followed by Tamarindo, a few days in Playa Hermano before going down to Manuel Antonio. The official househunting in paradise has begun.

There's a house on this beach for sale but the asking price is over 700,000 bucks and it's repped by Sotherbys. Out of our price range. I did find a mountainside lot with water and electric hookups in a gated community with a view of this beach for the firesale price of 8 thousand. Might be perfect for a tiny home. Just not sure I want to live in Nicaragua.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Finally Adjusting

Well my oxygen levels finally came back up again to low-normal and it's helped with the mood I've been in. Yesterday when I talked to Cindy Kunsman I described what I'd been feeling since arriving in Copey as 'Cranky as fuck' Not so cranky now and it's not just the oxygen levels.

Jim has a cold and is rather cranky himself. Right before the cold manifested he picked several rather dumb fights with me over my mother, her plans for her estate and the fact that I refused to pay a high price in Culpeper to get my will notarized. The will is the only one I have any real control over and I was told that since we're likely going to be staying in Costa Rica that I need to have it notarized at the Embassy in San Jose. It would certainly be cheaper. Not sweating it because it's pretty simple and I think my children would divide everything the way I listed anyway.

After a morning of working on NLQ and trying to take care of various things we took the bus into Santa Maria after lunch, back to the bank in order to pick up the debit card for our colones account. The funny thing is that the bank makes you keep your accounts separate if you use colones (local currency) and dollars. So we have a dollar account and a colones account. Seems redundant to me.

The interesting thing about the bank is that it took forever and we were shuttled between departments just to get the debit card for the colones account, get online banking and to add my name to both accounts. In the states doing these things at our local bank would have taken mere minutes. Here in the CR it took well over two hours and I had to fill out the same damn forms again and again for each thing we did. A lot of hurry up and wait.

It was pouring down raining during our day too, complicating matters by soaking both of our feet, in leather hiking shoes no less and soaking our clothing even with umbrellas.

After the bank we managed to catch a ride up to Larry's house. Larry is a local American living here and he and his wife graciously agreed to meet with us, as we both had a million questions about relocating here. Over coffee an marzipan cake they answered our questions and I started to feel just a little bit better about our decision to relocate here. Jim had been agonizing over the fact that I shipped 35 boxes of household goods here, but they told me that I should have shipped everything. Apparently we're not going to be hit with very high tax rates on household goods and it's impossible to get many of the things we're shipping.

Also they gave us contact information to those that can help us navigate the complex residency maze to get our residency approval. For now we'll have to leave for 3 days out of the country in Nicaragua to keep on the right side of the immigration tourist rules. We're going to leave in a few minutes to purchase bus tickets, on the Tico bus up to the resort area in Nicaragua. I've booked a beachfront room for three days there. Excited to add another country to my world map.

After a taxi ride back into Santa Maria proper after a long visit with our new friends we dashed around in the monsoon like rain to get Jim some cold medicine, using Spanlish and a few other things we needed. Took the bus back from Santa Maria and ended up very sick to my stomach from the twists and turns of the road combined with the fogged in windows of the bus. I've always had motion sickness problems

One shower using the suicide shower method of jumping in when the water is warm and leaping out the second we heard the heater conks out and a pile of Panadol cold medicines for Jim we got into the bed to cuddle and read as soon as it got true dark outside and the temperatures dropped again. We didn't stay in the bed long because as I was reading a spider almost as big as my Ipad leapt into the bed, between Jim and I and landed right on the screen of the Ipad. We both screamed and leapt from the bed.

Our bedroom here:





And the plastic paneled bath:





Thankfully only our home until July 23 and we'll be traveling the next two weeks. Photos and stories from on the road coming.



Sunday, July 02, 2017

More First World Problems

Friday we managed to catch the bus into Santa Maria and change money. After I did a little shopping. Things I ended up with:
  • Hand towels (apparently the landlord does not use these?)
  • Thread
  • Bathmat
  • Drying rack to dry my underwear in the shower 
  • Basket to hold toiletries
  • Assorted yummy snacks
What I could not find no matter how I looked or looked up item in in English-Spanish dictionary.
  • Wash cloths - Everyone was puzzled by my requests for these and our landlord does not have them. I'm not sure why no one here uses washcloths, but I had to sacrifice a half skein of nice yarn I'd brought with me to finish up a scarf and now have yarn crocheted washcloths. 
  • Yarn - Again something that puzzled the shopkeepers even if I brought a sample. It was my fall back for turning out a few washcloths. Turned out to be easier just to use what I had with me.
We had the most delicious iced coffee at a cafe connected to the local coffee co-op before spending some time in the park before the bus hauled us back up the mountains.

Yesterday evening we went with our hosts/landlord to a restaurant a few towns over.. Learned on the way there that the constant rain we've had this last week has knocked out power in many areas of Costa Rica, including San Jose, and in large swathes of Central America.

The ride to the restaurant was sort of terrifying, we were riding over those narrow windy mountain roads with our driver driving RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROADS at a high clip of speed. Between the crazy ride and the fact that I started having an asthma attack because of the driver's huge amount of cologne I wasn't in the best of moods when we arrived.

The restaurant was an interesting place. The guy that runs it kept bringing us shot glasses of some sort of secret liquor he makes that tastes like a combination of Kalua, cherries and chocolate. I had some problems with the food because they mostly serve huge racks of ribs and I'm not really a ribs kind of gal. Ended up with a burrito, filled with rib meat. Tasty, but not at all what I wanted. While I was ordering the landlord jumped in and ordered it for me. Uh! But the array of homemade candies and pastries made up for my distaste over the meal.

Today has been all day myself engaged in trying to rectify Jim's dying laptop. Literally, all day spend updating software and tweaking the damn thing. Not like we can replace it easily or cheaply here.

Tomorrow, more bus rides to Santa Maria, visits to the bank and store and planning out the next two weeks traveling around the country and a possible side trip up into Nicaragua. Thankfully it seems to have cut back on the rain now. And napping, still lots and lots of napping.

The clouds creeping down into the mountains around Copey.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Coping With Copey

Today was evidence of some of the glaring challenges of living in Costa Rica. I awoke when the electricity hiccuped and shut off my VPAP machine. Little did I know that small electrical skip-jump-hop also meant that the telephone and internet died suddenly in the tiny town of Copey.

I've been here a week today and I have to admit it hasn't been as easy and charming as I fantasized in my frenzied rush to remodel the house and get here. Copey is lovely, a tiny town of tin-roofed ramshackle houses painted a fantastical array of pastel pinks, blues, yellows and every other shade suitable for the grand Victorian homes in San Franciso. It sits in a valley, surrounded by mountains so steep that the clouds obscure the mountain tops. There's a beautifully landscaped community soccer field, an antique Catholic church wearing peeling yellow paint the same shade as butter, there are terraced apple orchards on the mountain slopes and even farm animals on those tilted meadows.

Most of the locals I've met seem to be very nice, if devoid of much English. I am forced to use more Spanish than I anticipated every single day. There's a small store, the contents of which would not be out of place in an American 7-11. We stop there daily for fruit juice and snacks as we wander the town on foot since our car is being shipped overseas right now. There's one nice restaurant we visit daily for freshly squeezed local apple juice, that is when it's actually open and not on the distinctive Tico Time.

Tico Time is a tricky thing. It means that people here don't always stick with posted times, preferring to operate their lives and businesses when they feel like it instead of on schedule.

Stray dogs wander the streets and it's not unusual to see roaming cows, chickens, horses and the rare cat. The streets are rutted and patched, but still nowhere near as awful as those leading up into the mountains out of town. We took a treacherous ride with a local teacher twice upon twisting, winding roads filled with potholes up into the mountain communities in the clouds to judge at school spelling bees.

Twice now Jim and I have judged at local community school spelling bees on the grand round leading to the area spelling champ and we're slated to judge the regional and finals at the end of next month. The spelling bees have been a lot more fun that I anticipated, smiling school children wearing a grand array of elaborate hairstyles and pretty starched uniforms. We're both treated like celebrities at these things, asked to get up and speak about our lives briefly before being given beautiful gift baskets stuffed with local fruits, candy and houseplants.

Jim has been teaching his classes religiously, sometimes for long hours. I usually come with him to the school, sitting in another part of the lone classroom working on posting for No Longer Quivering since the english language school has the strongest internet connection in town.

We're going to Santa Maria today, a much bigger town, to convert dollars to colones, make a bank deposit and for me to get a few extras we need in our tiny apartment in the local guesthouse. That means a bus ride up over these mountains over hairpin curves, steep dropoffs into the valley and past a beautiful waterfall.

The apartment isn't much. It's bare bones, one medium sized room with a closet, a bed, a nightstand and a desk. We do have a private bath, with what I always laughingly refer to as the 'Suicide Shower', one of those Latin American horror shows with electrical wires affixed to the showerhead so that if you time it exactly right you might get a few minutes of lukewarm water instead of bone-chilling icy needles pouring onto you.

Costa Rican Suicide Shower....


And it's cold here at night. Very cold, like maybe in the 40s or 50s degree range. We sleep under a pile of blankets, six or so, huddling together like little puppies trying to steal each others body heat to stay warm. I didn't bring enough warm clothing since my only experiences with Costa Rica is the tropical heat, so I'm wearing my lone pair of jeans, unwashed, every single day with my lone sweater.

The food here has been a continuing problem for me, our landlady, who also fixes all our meals, has no idea about nutrition and carbs. Since having all those bouts of MRSA and having to find ways to control my blood sugar flares I've been vigilant in what I eat. I did well our last trip here, but had much more control over what we were eating and were eating clean, no processes foods. Our landlady is all processed foods and uber-carbs. I saw the family and noticed that everyone is pretty large, figured out quickly that it's the way they eat. I had to have several conversations with her about what I need to keep well.

She tries, but it's been frustrating when you explain to her more than once that you cannot have french fries, noodles, beans and rice all at the same time and she immediately serves you soup containing a sliver of chicken, two types of noodles, potatoes and rice at the same time. This family is eating meals that are comprised of perhaps 90 percent carbs! I see this as the terrible eating habits of America infiltrating another culture.

It kind of shocks me how incredibly bad for you most of the food here is. Our guesthouse host also runs a bakery, a soda (small snack bar) and has apple orchards plus avocado orchards here, yet she virtually never serves us anything like avocado, apples or bread. I've had a few bad reactions to some of the processed things, like something she served one night that tasted like strawberry flavored Nestle Quik powder.

I have had a number of things when I go out and about I've never had before, like fresh passion fruit, the best fried fish ever, raw sugar cane juice, every type of juice imaginable. Some of the fruit I have back at our apartment are things I don't even know the name for. So the food here isn't entirely bad, there are some great things to eat, just not where we're staying.

I'm still struggling with my asthma because of the high altitudes and the fact that it has literally rained for days here. The rains are affecting my moods, it's depressing and since the house and nowhere else has anything like heaters or air conditioning when it rains here for hours on end everything you own is quite damp. I've had underwear that's been washed and hanging to dry for three days now in the shower. Speaking of which, the bathroom is constructed of all corrugated plastic panels, sort of a sturdy version of those huge political signs that sprout on American lawns during voting season.

But this is just temporary. There is light at the end of the tunnel, we leave for a few weeks on Monday, going to house hunt near the beach. It will be warm, there will be better meals and I can wear the pile of thin cotton beach dresses and shorts I packed. When we get back to Copey it will be only for a week

Monday, June 26, 2017

First World Problems

Cranky today. I barely slept last night and I think it's an indicator of my asthma getting ready to ramp up into an attack. I have all the precursor symptoms, bad mood, lots of coughing, no sleep.

It does not help that we're up above Denver as far as altitude and I'm having issues with low oxygen levels. 

I'm a little less enchanted with this place today. The room is just awful, small, pokey and filled with bugs. Not enough electrical outlets to run my various lung appliances. Electrical problems. Every time Jim turns on the light in the bathroom it cuts off the electricity to my VPAP machine.

But... I'm writing a list of what I need to buy on Friday when we take the bus back into Santa Maria to make that pokey room just a little less awful. I feel sort of like this today, I know I'm judging this place on my first world standards, which is so unfair.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

I've Finally Arrived!

Sleep.

That's the main thing I've been doing since landing here in Copey, Costa Rica. Sleeping.

It's hard not too. The remodel of my house was fraught with stress, problems and was turning into an endless money pit. I finally broke, tossed a few things in my suitcases and blubberingly hauled ass across the country to my mother's house. Things didn't go any better once I got down to South Louisiana. I discovered the day that the car was supposed to ship out that I was missing one of the crucial documents for shipping and had to contact Virginia DMV to get a copy sent out. The shipping company handling my household things suddenly decided to bill me and demand payment right then after me calling them for two weeks wanting to pay the bill, at a bank that does not even exist in Louisiana. Add in my mother and her myriad issues including her panic over the Tropical Storm and you have me getting a rental car and decamping early for New Orleans to wait out the time for my flight to Costa Rica.

In other words I've barely slept for months on end, when I wasn't eating Xanax like M&Ms that is. I have hit the wall and crashed. Every afternoon here in Costa Rica during the rainy season you can count on it raining and raining copiously. The rhythm of the downpour on the tin roofs puts me right to sleep.

Jim picked me up at the airport yesterday. I came trotting out in all my glorious white privilege with a train of redcaps hauling my numerous suitcases. That's the funny part of all of this, since leaving my mother's house I've been operating in a very bourgeoisie way. It has nothing in common with our usual simple life. I stayed at a 500 buck a night hotel for next to nothing because I had saved a boatload of travel points with that chain. It's the high end hotel of the chain that uses 'Game of Thrones' actor who plays Tormund Giantsbane as their advertising mascot. I got to see his smiling face all over the place. First time I've stayed at such a luxurious place! But I did the most middle class thing and swiped all their nice toiletries. Lots of room service food too! I rented a bag cart at the airport and even sprung for uber overpriced food on my Spirit airlines flight. Tiniest glimmer of what being rich must be like. I even got to bypass the long lines for immigration and customs courtesy of the redcaps.

The not so fun part of the trip included having to leave the rental car in outer Cajunlandia at the New Orleans airport and schlep all those bags through criminally high humidity levels and heat before getting anywhere near the terminal. Did I mention that Tropical Storm Cindy was bringing driving rain at the same time? Sodden luggage and I made it into the terminal just in time to check in for my 5 am flight.

It was a two hour ride in a tiny car from the airport to Copey. Beautiful countryside, hair pin turns up and down the mountains and the most spectacular views down sheer drop offs into the valley. We passed a waterfall visible from the open road and groves of coffee and apple trees.

The place Jim is staying at, that's about to be my temporary home for three weeks, is a far cry from anyplace I ever imagined I would live. Our 'apartment' is a half of a converted former garage, cobbled together from tin roofing, plastic paneling and tile. It's about 180% from the place I stayed the night before. Yes, there's a Shower of Death, but it seems to be properly grounded, but like all those types of showers you get a minuscule amount of lukewarm water in between rushing gluts of cold water. I am learning to step out for the bouts of cold and wait for the electrified shower to do its thing and make with the lukewarm water.

I guess you can live with anything for a few weeks. I'm so thrilled to have a bed, sheets, pillows again that I'm not even concerned about the third world nature of the accommodations. It is scrupulously clean.

The tiny village is charming, chickens, cows and horses wander about at will and there is virtually no traffic. The mountains surrounding the village have clouds dipping down obscuring the tops. We went for a long walk in the village in the morning. Jim took me to the small store to get drinks this morning, juice and his favorite drink – local chocolate milk. After lunch and another in a series of naps I started taking immediately upon arrival we took the bus into the next town, slightly bigger than Copey.

We hadn't been in town more than a few minutes before we spotted that sight you can count on seeing, no matter how tiny the village, worldwide – Mormon missionaries. We talked to them for a few moments, but they immediately tried to convert us, but they quickly figured out that it was the impossible task.

I have been trying new odd things this afternoon. First freshly squeezed raw sugar cane juice, a local delicacy. Was very curious about this because growing up in South Louisiana you get to see the fields of sugar cane growing, the blessing of the sugar cane by the local Catholic priests and you get to dodge the cane trucks hauling the harvested sugar cane to be processed. It's not very clean or appetizing when they first extract the juice, it's gritty and brown. The juice undergoes processing, boiling and skimming to remove the impurities (squashed bugs and dirt) before being reduced down into sugar.

Sure enough, fresh sugar cane juice has gritty dirt a-plenty. Didn't much like it no matter how 'natural' it is, or what the locals claim about it's health boosting abilities. Yep, I drank dirt.

We had ice cream, and I got to encounter one of the things I loved about living in Germany years ago – booze ice cream. I had a double cone of rum ice cream studded with dried fruits heavily soaked in rum. Kill your sweet tooth and get a buzz on at the same time.

Followed by a taxi ride back into Copey and more napping.

Tonight we walked down to the town's only restaurant and had pork, potatoes and steamed vegetables with a tamarind mousse pie. Deliciouso!

More sleep about to happen. I have three months of crappy sleep to catch up on. Pretty easy to sleep with the pounding of the rain on the tin roof and the fact that we're close enough to the equator to get about 12 hours of night.

Tomorrow – mass at the local Catholic church by the local priest – a Tanzanian with limited Spanish skills and likely a lot more napping.

Monday, June 05, 2017

More Goat Rodeoing

I'd have thought by now some of this would have settled down and I'd be closer to moving. Sadly no.

The wrong counter top was delivered. Apparently between the Big Box retailer I ordered it at and what was ordered by the installer someone transposed a number and I got a completely different counter. Much cheaper than the one I ordered.

On the upside I like it better than the one I ordered. So I wasn't upset. I did request a discount because of the screw up and that this one was less.

When the copper sink came out of the box it had two tiny dents. Since it is a hammered copper sink I wasn't particularly annoyed. The dents were also where the faucet plates cover them. Again, I asked for the Big Box retailer to knock something off the price.

The rest of the week was the usual paint this, tote that and I'm starting to cull through and do a re inventory for the boxes for shipping. This time I put back in storage more things.

The weekend was filled with helping my youngest adult children to move from a spacious townhouse in Centreville to a inside the Beltway condo three short blocks from one of the Metro stops nearly to D.C. They start a new chapter in their lives. Time flies. I hope they'll be very happy there, the building is filled with young adults in their age group, and the condo is gorgeous if a little old. Hardwood floors and copious windows overlooking a park.

Then back to the salt mines of the move again. This morning I started going through my suitcases, culling out clothing to bring lamps, books and maps for the Peace Corp run school Jim is at. It dawned on me I haven't seen my passport a few weeks. I remember taking it from the safe and putting it in one of my cases, seeing it while I was staying with my friend during the painting and not seeing it since, but the suitcases had been sitting in the living room with the packing boxes and Cletus and Bubba had started tossing the stuff around and in different  boxes, what was on the coffee table.

One long day later of me completely unpacking the storage room all the way back to the safe and it's not in the safe. I've unpacked and repacked my suitcases and the shipping boxes and still no sign of my passport. I have no idea where it's at. Tomorrow I'm going to shuffle through the boxes one last time and then go poke under my friend's guest bedroom where I seem to remember having it.

If it's lost it's really going to delay the trip. They only do 24 hour expediting when a family emergency occurs or someone dies. The earliest I could get it is two weeks. Ugh. I need more Xanax if this is going to be the way the rest of this packing goes.

At least the house is almost done now. Just some minor repairs and waiting for the stove to be delivered along with the usual yard work.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Heavy

Sunday went so sideways after a Saturday and Friday night of misdialed phone calls of horny guys looking for the sex worker with a phone number like mine that I was very done Sunday and much of Monday. Lonely, short on sleep, trying to finish up things. It seems like every single time I think something is done and finished I discover another nail hole incorrectly patched, or a new sprig of poison ivy lurking, or another repair that needs to happen, or Jim Skype's me and asks me to pack or order another item for the move.

I ended up taking most of Monday off and some of today. I'm just beat.

But I did do several very pleasant things. I recorded a pretty funny custom voice mail message on my new Iphone informing the cretins looking to get laid to stop dialing phone numbers with their dicks, stop letting the little head do their thinking for them and adding a message at the end that Stacy should be charging them double for sheer dumbness. Mean, I know, but don't judge until you've had your phone blowing up with middle of the night calls from guys for weeks on end. Now I'm going to turn it to silent at night, and let those calls all go to that voicemail.

While I was doing a little gardening in the patch I grow sweet potatoes surrounded by flowers I've spotted a fat little bunny coming quite close to me, unafraid and curious. I'm also been watching the first of the bird parents of the season taking the babies out to teach them to hunt for worms and best places to get a drink of water.

I was just starting to feel a little less frazzled and depressed today from Sunday's bummer that was my short and last stint at church when I got a phone call at 7 am from the company doing the kitchen counter top install. They'd told me the week before that they expected delivery on the counter top today, but when I called several times late last week they kept telling me it had not been shipped yet, and they still had no real idea when it would really arrive. I kept bugging them because the plumber I use has to be scheduled the day before the counter install to remove the old sink and pipes, and come back a few days after the counter goes in to put in the new sink.

What did they want today? To show up and install the counter top before noon because they had a couple other installs in our town today. Today? With the sink still in? When I told them that the sink was still in situ they said the next time they were scheduled for my area will be Friday afternoon, which means I'll be without a sink until Monday.

Then they tell me that the counter top I ordered and the sink that I bought were incompatible, that the sink was too heavy for the counter top to support without cracking. What??? They knew which counter top and sink I ordered for a full five weeks now! They said nothing, not when I ordered it all, not when they came in to measure, not when I talked to them last week. They sprang this one me like the painters trying to shake me down, insisting I pay them to put in extra supports for extra money of course or switch to a different lighter sink. The stone sink is 37 pounds in the box.

To tell the truth I wasn't entirely wild about the color, it looked much darker at the website and in the store than what was delivered. Plus I had originally wanted a copper sink, much lighter than this stone sink, but it was quite expensive. Since I ordered the stone sink the copper one has been reduced to just under what I paid for the stone and has the exact same measurements. So guess what I'm going to do tomorrow? Return the heavy sink and pick up the 15 pound copper one I wanted in the first place.

It's just the disorganization and incompetence I've been dealing with that's making me crazy, well, crazier than usual.

The rest of the day was shot picking up a pile of toiletries and essentials we will need in Costa Rica that will be harder to get and much more expensive. Looks like I'm getting ready to deal otc drugs and hair products when I get to Costa Rica.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Last Worthless Sunday Morning

 or Why I'm Totally Breaking Up With American Christianity Finally

I've been circling the drain on leaving organized religion for a long time, since well before I switched the name of the blog to Every Breaking Wave. When I heard U2's song of a love gone very wrong by that name I couldn't help but reflect on how I felt about my relationship with God.

The lyrics fit the way I was starting to feel after 20 plus years doggedly hanging onto my faith in the face of abuse, ugly behavior of people that claimed to be my brother or sister in the Lord. So many things, too many to list here.

It's felt like a break up with a lover to me. Over a long period of time. Like a longer, more hurtful version of my divorce after my early marriage. In the course of the ten years I've been out of Evangelical Quiverfull Charismatic movement this has been an ongoing thing.

What makes my shifting theology so difficult is that I cannot just go full out balls to the wall atheist like so many I know coming out of toxic abusive faith environments. Why? Simple. I have had just too many experiences with the dead since I was three years old, seeing spirits, talking to the dead. I know I don't talk about that aspect of my life much here. But it is the one thing that prevents me from letting go of the idea that there is another dimension out there. To quote a worship song I still love "It shines in the darkness and I've touched it at times."

But I think the realities of the spirit world and what's in the Grand Adventure beyond death is nothing like anything in American Christianity.

When I came out of the old toxic church ten years ago I followed Jim to our local Methodist church while my former friends were lobbing stones at me. I wasn't entirely happy to do that, but as someone that has spent many years on worship team I could see why I was supposed to be there as the Methodist church was starting up a contemporary worship service. I was immediately asked to join because the team was minuscule and only the leader had any worship team experience. I was so burned out from being part of the 5% of hardcore True Believers at my old church that I was relieved to only being involved in worship team instead of the myriad of teams, services, prayer teams and complete drama at the old place. Being able to simply sit on the pew was a relief after all those years.

The church kept trying to plug me into the activities, but I resisted. My experience at Possum Creek taught me that small groups, cell groups and prayer circles that were toxic with the possibility of abuse and gossip. I held myself pretty aloof at the Methodist church because the theology being taught seemed shallow, simple and pretty middle of the road.

The problem of my inner damage and spiritual abuse from my old church robbed me of my ability to participate or be open to anything besides our little worship team family. There, I could be myself and continue on. After the pastor found out I'd been a major part of the old church's healing and prayer team I got recruited for that as I started to feel a bit more comfortable and grounded there. But it was a total disaster. I got called upon the carpet hard after operating in a word of knowledge for a lady, something simple and encouraging. Turns out this was extremely frowned upon and I got quite the dressing down. I quit the prayer team.

When we first joined the Methodist church and I joined the contemporary worship team the service had perhaps 20 attendees. Over the last nine years it grew to the biggest service in a church that is the biggest one in three counties. But I started just gagging over the flood of new members carrying in clearly IFB, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God theology and trying to take over the contemporary service. The very Evangelical theology started to trigger me horribly. I could not even sit through the sermons any longer.

During this same time I'd been doing a great deal of reading of things that would have been frowned upon, like Bart Ehrman books, historical books on the origins of Biblical translations. The church has started to turn more ridiculously conservative.

While I was only participating with worship, aloof and quiet I could see that many of the members were more pontificating, self-focused and hypocritical. I got more and more turned off, I stopped reading anything Old Testament related, only concentrating on the worlds of Jesus, gagging over the sermons of submission of women.. I'd started to realize that the things people were praying for, both at the new church and the old were ridiculous, stupidity like the closest parking space at Wal Mart and against gays, transgendered, the poor. Prime Donald Trump territory.

During my last three years at Possum Creek I'd gotten heavily involved with volunteering at the homeless shelter, the soup kitchen the USDA surplus commodities give aways and the senior nutrition site. I was dismayed to see that a few of those things, while they were happening in the Methodist church, there was a great deal of people behaving horribly to the poor, yet were going on mission trip/vacations around the world. I took my volunteerism to the poor going on but not affliated with the new church. That people at the other traditional services behaved horribly holier than thou towards our service, making cutting remarks if our service ran five or more minutes late. I remember one instance where a blue haired older lady in her expensive suit started railing at me that the service was very late and it was going to inconvenience her by making her late for her Sunday dinner at the steak house, while I hissed through gritted teeth that someone had a heart attack at the first service, meaning every service was running late and someone's life was more important than being the first one at the restaurant.

It wasn't an ending to my faith in a huge severing of everything I believed, it was more like a gradual drip drip drip of a Chinese water torture.

But it spend up quickly in our last two years at the Methodist church. People started fighting, gossiping and trying to tell people they were doing things very wrong among the church. Jim was recruited to run the offering counting team, and he begged me to help him. Biggest church in so many counties, taking in as much as anywhere between 20 and 50 thousand in offerings each week. We both started getting a lot of push back from church members when we reorganized how it was to be done to make it conform to IRS rules and state rules. I had many experiences where I walked into a room only to hear the church mega gossip Faith complaining about Jim or calling him incompetent. She kept interfering in much that we did and started complaining that to anyone that would listen that we were craven liberals that were leaving for Costa Rica to 'run away from Donald Trump."

The church service started to have people engaging in power struggles to control everything. One man I don't agree with or like much seized control of the prayer team and just about everything else. He would get up and teach on things that run counter to the teachings of the United Methodist Church's stated positions, like he taught on how evolution was a lie of the devil. Over the course of the last year he told me I had severe asthma because I didn't take communion, not realizing that the worship team members took communion together before the service. He started nagging me to attend home group, telling me I was sinning by not attending a home group.

Things started to really fall apart and the contemporary service that we'd grown from 20 people to standing room only of around 700 has slid to about a 100 folks that would have fit in perfectly in my old cult church due to these politics in leadership and power struggles.

All of this started triggering me horribly, I never got the space and opportunity to heal from the spiritual abuse from my old church and as things got worse and I started to think seriously about large swathes of the Bible and believe that much of it was a misinterpretation mish mash. The behavior of so many up at the church acted more and more like self congratulatory assholes I knew I had to leave, and the move to Costa Rica would solve that.

I couldn't support the theology, stand the behavior of the most unloving people on the planet and kept backing away, only still loving worship, even if I was having to watch the dismantling of the dismantling of our service.

As soon as Jim flew off the Costa Rica last month and I stayed to finish the packing and remodel I started staying home from church every weekend. Two weeks ago I ran up against someone else that the church gets so wrong. I was attacked and sustained some injuries from the rogue painters. Jim was concerned because every time we used Skype I was in tears over what happened and getting the mistakes fixed. Jim decided he would call on his Wesleyian Building Brothers to help me out. I held out little hope because it was my experience that no one at the Methodist church helped out with anything that didn't earn them brownie points with the clueless pastor.

I have to admit this is one of the big things I miss about the old Quiverfull church. People would come out of the woodwork to help members, casseroles, help moving, so much help and support it was a blessing.

After Jim emailed the list, got no response, emailed the pastor who emailed the list again no one volunteered to come by and help me at all. I was not surprised at all. They just don't help anyone. It' all about them.

For the last two weeks I've been listening to scads of worship music here, feeling at peace, feeling connected to whatever force it is that exists in this realm. I've been thinking about how far from the words of Jesus and other great spiritual gurus across the world these people at the Methodist church were acting, how religion in America bears zero resemblance to anything spiritual at all. It's a mean spirited game.

This morning I decided to go to church just to say goodbye to the few people I am friends with, like the worship leader that I had helped train at Possum Creek as a teen, who now leads worship here. I got there just in time to discover she's been fired. Several people approached me in the narthex to tell me that they didn't respond to Jim's email because it was not the role of the church to help the members with crisis like that. The pastor himself talked to me for a few moments and he was very dismissive of the fact that I hadn't attended church since the confrontation with the painters, insisting everything worked out fine since I'm such a strong woman.

I turned around and walked out forever. Another cult, but more like a society country club cult that resembles the churches mentioned in some of Jason Uptons songs 'Freedom' and 'Lullaby For a Petrified Sacred Society'



I'm going to continue on with my meditation, my journey to what is truth and worshiping when I feel lead. But I am done with American Christianity.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Stacy's Grandma Ain't Got It Going On

I'm up late and experiencing more of those phone calls and texts looking to party with Stacy. Snoozing hard, the phone rings, jolting me out of a dream involving demon trees, flying cats and my ex pastor from the cult church. My groggy ass has to explain that I have no idea who Stacy is and how the only partying I do involves Netflix binging while crocheting.

Now that I'm awake, just like last Friday night,from repeated calls and text, I ask the guy where he found Stacy's number and I discovered there is a big website for the D.C. area escort services. I look up this Stacy and discover all these middle of the night horny clown are just transposing the last two digits of her phone number, which would be my phone number.

I guess when Mr. Happy starts doing all the thinking instead of the brain then dialing the wrong number happens more frequently.

What makes this particularly annoying is that I spent today mowing our lawn after all most two weeks of rainy days, pulling weeds and trimming bushes while not cutting any limb, toe or finger with the rusting trimming shears. That's when I want furiously poisoning the sea of poison ivy that is trying to carpet the back yard. A hard work  day since the grass was really too soggy to effectively mow and the contents of the grass catcher felt like I was mowing brick it was so heavy. I crashed at 9 pm accidentally from lifting that bail of hay and toting a barge filled with mulch. I am dog tired, too tired to deal with idiots that cannot dial the right number.

Almost 28 years ago when we moved into this house we used to get drunken middle of the night phone calls trying to order a pizza for delivery from Pizza Hut. Same situation, except these folks were more beer-addled than horny. After telling many of them that they had transposed the last two digits in the phone number and dealing with some belligerent people jonesing for pizza I just started sighing before pretending to take their orders. It was just easier than trying to get a chemically addled caller to accept they screwed up.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

In Which I Lay Around Crocheting

Not really. Just at night when my allergy meds and the Xanax kick in and I'm incapable of doing anything more complex than stare at the television catching up on things like "The Handmaid's Tale" and the third season of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmit" with some "Law and Order: SVU" thrown in for good measure.

This week the very sweet young man I hired to repair the nefarious wall painting shenanigans of Bubba and Cletus showed up, painted, patched walls and ceilings and did a bang up job! He was amazing.

Turns out the counter top for the kitchen is being delivered sooner than expected, on next Tuesday. So there's forward progress.

I'm still not done with the weeding and annual spring mulch-a-thon of the garden because we've been having lots of rain for over a week here. Garage needs some work and every day I'm discovering some small new thing I must do, like mounting in new smoke alarms, cleaning and whitening the grout around the fireplace tiling, putting in new shower curtain rods and some sockets because Cletus painted right over them. Today I removed the oak soap dish and toothbrush holders from the downstairs bath and replaced them with pewter-toned ones. Cletus and Bubba also managed to chip up the edges of the mirror in that bathroom so I decided to put a grey circular tiling up on the edges of the mirror to hide that fact.

This remodel is costing more money at a faster rate than I ever imagined. Every day I'm having to run down to the building supply place for something else. I've had to do some jobs I'd never handled before, like get a pair of tin snips and cut away the old gnarled metal fireguard curtains from the fireplace right after the chimney was cleaned. I had to laugh because by the end of the night I looked like I belonged in the chimney sweep song sequence in 'Mary Poppins', like a sooty little urchin.

Today I did very little. The asthma suddenly reared it's ugly head with no warning. One minute I was sitting here trolling through a local appliance site for a new gas stove, not eating, not drinking, not around anything that I'm aware that I'm allergic to when I suddenly felt my throat start tingling and it tightened up. Just like that the day was done, meds and a nap. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

It is my son's 29th birthday today so I did talk to him awhile. I'm visit him and bring him a gift this weekend. Has it really been 29 years? Seems just yesterday that he was a newborn that I could not put down, that I wanted to hold and be with every second of the day.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

High as Well, You Know

Friday morn I went out early to start weeding and mulching the front flower garden before moving to the vegetable garden and my mini orchard. I figured I'd make more progress in the cool of the day before it hit the miserable mid-90s again. It's no wonder I have a sinus/ear infection thing that just refuses to go even with meds.

Trying to clean my big hedge clippers before getting started with the flower garden I somehow managed to cut one of my fingers rather deeply with the rusty clippers. And I cannot remember when the last time I had a tetanus shot was. Around 2000, I think.

So it was change out of my ratty gardening clothes into something sleeveless and comfortable, while trying to avoid bleeding my stupid blood everywhere at the same time. Why is it that even tiny papercuts on your fingers bleed so profusely that your bathroom can end up looking like a scene in a slasher-movie?

Down to urgent care, where I lucked out and got a doctor that would sometimes and help out with the patient load at my old General Practice doctors office and the clinic I worked at. He's a good doctor but due to some of the constraints our state and the new health care laws placed on single providers, like electronica medical records he went to work for the big company that owns the chain of Doc In The Box urgent care clinics around here. Better deal for him. Less paperwork to deal with, perks and extras with someone else dealing with the regulator crap and a much less stressful work schedule.

I was happy to see him because going to urgent care is kind of a crap-shoot, you're really rolling the dice. Do you get the nice Mennonite young man who is a Physician's Assistant that can prescribe what you need and has awesome diagnostic skills, or do you get the doctor who seems like something of a dullard doing a job that a monkey with a bottle of Tylenol and a box of bandaids would be just as, if not better than.

Got there and started complaining that my sinus infection was returning after a mere three days of finishing up my antibiotics. I was explaining about the damn close to migraine headaches I'd been having with the sinus infection and Dr. Friendly told me he'd heard about my international move and he thought I was having tension or stress headaches if he had to guess not sinus headaches.

I know the difference. I really do. I get the very rare true migraine every two or three or four years where I see wavy lines, smell weird orders, get suddenly very intolerant of light and sounds, know I have to take the damn imitrex and go sleep it off in a cold dark silent room.

So while I'm 99.99% certain that this is my annual hard to kill spring sinus infection hell involving high pollen levels, fluctuating temps and copious rain I also ended up with a big old bottle of Xanax and the orders to take it easy for a few days while swallowing a few Xanaxes.

I came on home, took one and ended up giggling and sitting on a piece of lawn furniture in the living room in front of the television binge-watching season 3 of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt' while itching to crochet. I did nothing... and I was glorious. I feel completely unlaxed today without taking one of those Mother's Helpers, or what they at my old church would likely term 'The Devil's Pills'

Have to admit I've never done a move without them before. Before the Opiod-noids ruined it for everyone if I was going through the huge overwhelming thing like moving I'd get a few xanax or ativan to get through it, not many, a week or two's worth. This it going to make the last few things to do to finish the house easier to do and it's given me a  lovely reprieve to my lack of sleeping in the past month.

Today I spent with my two youngest kids and sig-os touring apartment buildings in Falls Church. The guys are tired of a one hour commute from Centreville and my daughter can use Metro to do the reverse commute from Falls Church. We looked, the places were lovely and an improvement on their townhouse. But it did one thing for me, made me realize I was correct to bring in an interior designer for advice on painting and carpeting the house. The apartments were all in off white and I was reminded again why artists and beige do not get along.





See my current abode? I'm living in the dining room with a cot and lawn furniture and discovering as long a I kept my possessions to a minimum I could probably love living in a tiny home considering the long dining room/kitchen/downstairs bath are about the size of a tiny home. So happy with the shade of blue gray we used in the house and think I could live with it, unlike beige. Beige is good for some folks, but I love love love color. Didn't know this color would be the closest to neutral I could live with.

Not sure I'm liking the carpeting quite so much but I'll be replacing it with more wood flooring when we move back, that's if we ever move back.




My xanax is kicking in again and there's a crochet hook calling my name. I've realized I need to do something with my hands when I watch television to relax, but there's really a limit to the number of awful and crazy things you can make from string and a hook.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Funerals and Mulch

This morning I started on the front flower beds, weeding and mulching. But the temps climbed to an unseasonably high degrees for mid-May in the Piedmont, the mid-ninties, so by the time I'd pulled up weeds and schlepped and spread ten bags of mulch on the right half of the front of the house I was just done, done with the heat and hauling.

Today I concentrated all my efforts after lunch on patching walls, sanding and painting many of the places Cletus and Bubbe botched last week. Tomorrow I'm going to continue with that and try to get outside first thing in the morning to get the flower bed on the left half of the house done because it turns nasty hot again.

Jim and I are still slightly knocking heads. He's worriedly contacted our pastor to explain I'm falling apart from the situation with the first painters and getting the garden done, asking for help for me.

As if! These Methodists at this church seem to be all about mission trips to third world countries, gabbling and babbling about their own personal righteousness with a copious amount of Bible studies/potluck dinners thrown in without giving a rat's ass what happens to the church members.

This is one of those few things I really miss about Possum Creek. Moving? People would volunteer to help, or just show up without even being asked. I cannot tell you the times I was hospitalized where church members showed up here at our house with casseroles clutched firmly to hand over to my family so I wouldn't have to get out of the bed and cook. The members took care of the other members quite well, sometime so much so that you'd feel just a little bit overwhelmed at times. That is something that Possum Creek did well that the Methodical ones haven't a clue about.

Jim contacted the Methodists 2 days ago and I've heard nothing yet. I'm just marching on. Talked to a pile of licensed and insured painters today to start getting someone in here to paint my bedroom and repair a few of the more boneheaded mistakes of the dynamic painting duo.

This evening brought a sad chore. I went with Laura to a funeral of a lady she once worked with at the credit union she worked at during high school and the first few years of college. I think it really drove home to her that she'd made the right decision in leaving our small podunk Southern town to continue her education and work towards her masters in business degree. I admit, I still am annoyed by the branch manager attempting to get Laura to drop out of college to work full time at the credit union, telling her that a career didn't matter. Tonight after the funeral the same bunch started asking her why she wasn't married yet. We got a good laugh out of that. While she's changed and matured I don't think many of the ladies there have changed at all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dust, Carpets and Weeding

The last few days I've had to scrub my house, get rid of the piles of sanding dust from the lackidasical haphazard wall repair and general disorganization wreaked by Cletus and Bubba. Two days to get the house clean and dust free, trek out all the bags of trash and organize.

Before they'd arrived I'd stacked the shipping boxes from each room neatly in the center of each room. By the time they were done the boxes were tossed this way and that. Part of that cleaning was clearing a central space to put the boxes and corralling them all together for the shipper to pick up soon.

Toting boxes, dusting, scrubbed the paint spilled and tracked over the floors took the better part of two days. I also set up to live in the dining room because today the new carpeting went in and I started weeding my massive garden.

I am so tired right now, but pleased with the carpeting.

One thing I have noticed is that if I'm dealing with a construction company using a large Hispanic staff that the job is done quickly and right with minimum fuss. I don't want to hear any more Trumplestillskins complaining about Hispanics taking all the good jobs when they work to a higher standard I've not seen amount the locals.

If there's a fly in the ointment of this move it' my husband getting online to nag me relentlessly each day to hurry up and get everything done, either unable or unwilling to understand I'm not superhuman and I cannot control others. It's so frustrating that I usually end up dissolving into fits of weeping every time we talk on Skype. He's just adding more stress to a frustrating situation. I'm tempted right now not to go to Costa Rica at all. It's just too much.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Continuing Adventures of Cletus and Bubba - Or Rednecks Ruined My House!

This last week has been so awful and so bat-shit crazy at the same time I hardly know where to start. Let's back up to the arrival of Cletus and Bubba, the local painters with a local bend who keep saying that they will do this or that but never do.

It gradually went sideways, just like my inner voice was warning all along.

They showed up bright and early on Monday morning and hopped right to it, with Bubba painting the ceilings and Cletus smearing the uneven bits on the walls with plaster and sanding. Everything seemed to be going well, they acted normal, well as normal as they ever get.

Except they look a very long lunch break, worked another hour and packed it in at 3 pm, telling me one of them had an emergency dental appointment and the other one had to get home to mow his grass.

This after all the verklempting and complaining that they were going to have to work 16 hour days to finish on time?

The only real bit of weirdness was that every time I left the house they cranked the radio up to 11. That very first day I came home from running errands to the police at my home warning the duo that my neighbor was complaining about the volume. After years of loving classic rock before the week was over I came to hate it.

I was pleased that my asthma didn't seem to be reacting to the paint much at all because I knew I wasn't dealing with the sharpest guys and I needed to be there to make sure they did what they were supposed to do.

The next morning I got up and noticed that the ceiling bit over one of the bedrooms and adjoining bath had not been painted correctly. A year before Jim had tried to run a snake to unclog the tub drain in the master bath upstairs and broken the pipe. We had the pipe fixed immediately by our plumber friend, but never bothered to paint knowing we were leaving soon and would paint then. It left a water mark in the hall and downstairs bed and bath.

Cletus and Bubba, in all their unknown mental lack of prowess just simply painted over the stains without using Kilz or any other primer and I was looking up at a water stain coming right through the freshly painted ceilings. When the dynamic duo arrived that morning I pointed out that it needed to be sealed and repainted they reacted like we'd never pointed it out or asked for it to be painted with Kilz or sealer and said 'Oh'. All painting stopped so they could buy a can of Kilz.

We had a number of weird conversations during the week, including things like them claiming that the contract stating that they were going to paint the entire interior of the house did not mean they were to paint the insides of closets, or any built in shelving. 

Once they started with the Kilz my asthma went rogue hardcore and I found myself struggling to breath as I finished packing my suitcases and hastily decamping for my friend's home for the week. We talked about my letting them in and out of the house in the mornings and evenings.

Came back to lock up at  5pm and they had long gone. But everything looked good still. Walked around and looked at the progress they made, mostly pleased.

The next morning they had another crew member with them, a woman that looked like she'd led a hard life and she went to town scrubbing wall paper paste from the walls while the guys continued on. I pointed out some incorrectly done spots and spent most of the day outside dealing with the overgrown garden. I noticed again a two hour lunch and they knocked off around  3 pm again. While they were eating lunch on my front lawn I overheard the first of the complaints of Cletus. He was upset, claiming he'd seriously underbid the job, that my husband and I had been pressuring them to do more and more and he wasn't happy.

Remember that I'd originally asked him when he did the estimate for additional things to be done, and told him to price it out accordingly to get these small other things done, repair a few seams in our Pergo floor, take down a ceiling fan and several light fixtures. I'd passed on getting him to install the kitchen counter top and a few other things after discovering that he didn't know how to do those things, even if his truck had a long list of repair work he did and listed those things.

But at the last minute we'd decided to ask them to strip all the wall paper in our bedroom and paint it as well. Cletus went back and forth on that at least four times, saying yes, saying no and apply, rinse, repeat.

By the end of the third day I could see they were getting sloppy as hell. I went around that afternoon and wiped down a few places where the paint had been so thickly and sloppily applied it was running in rivulets down the wall. My eldest daughter had spent the day with me, both of us holing up in my bedroom doing the last of the cleaning and packing. As Cletus and friends were preparing to leave he told me that he'd changed his mind again and he was not going to take the paper off my bedroom and paint it. My daughter made me laugh because she said 'Good!' and started removing the paper in front of Cletus with abandon, leaving him open mouthed and stunned looking, like a toad that had been hit with an electric prod.

On Thursday morning the guys from the kitchen counter top company came to measure and tell me that the factory was three weeks behind on all the orders so instead of it being installed next week it was going to be first week of June.

I noticed that Cletus and Bubba were working slower than ever, getting even more sloppy, taking longer breaks and less care. When I walked into the kitchen I caught Cletus telling the measuring crew how unhappy he was that he'd under estimated the job and I was screwing him in this deal.

After an afternoon in Charlottesville picking up my new VPAP machine I stopped back around 3 pm. No Cletus, no Bubba, no rough looking female friend. Some hard work, huh?

I'm observing on my nightly walkthrus that they aren't getting much done.

I'd started leaving the key for them after Tuesday and usually wasn't there when they arrived or left. I slept in on Friday, went by to check on them around 10:30 am. They weren't there. I didn't get a chance to go back later, as I got sucked into some drama with the couple I was staying with (they are sniping at each other over money troubles while I was there) when they both turned on me and stared chewing me out over something said by Jim on Facebook over his rejecting of the only available rental house in the tiny town he's teaching English in. They kept at it all afternoon nattering at me that Jim was showing how he didn't love me by refusing to rent that house and how little I mattered to him.

I know they're both broke and pretty unhappy right now. I think their misery is the thing driving their turning to me like that. I was also having to go home to shower after Cletus and Bubba left because the house I was staying at had the pump to the well break that week and water was sporadic. Their business isn't doing too well, their basement where the water pump resides is so filled with junk that the plumber cannot get back there to fix it until the man of the house sorts it out. I'm getting the typical fundigelical misdirected passive agressiveness combined with a pile of 'Come to Jesus's thrown in. Relearning again that life outside of that fundigelical bubble that does not allow you to directly talk about being frustrated or upset is much much better! I decide to move back into my house on Saturday or Sunday as the bickering is getting to me and I don't seem to be reacting to the paint any longer.

Saturday morning I arrive and the dynamic duo is working. I'm seeing more and more things very poorly done. They painted right over the wall paper glue instead of removing it. The repair of the Pergo looks like someone simply shoved dogshit into the seams. I ask them how much longer before they finish the repairs and redos and they tell me that they will be finished by some point on Sunday afternoon and I should have my checkbook ready.

Around 10:30 am that very morning, Saturday, the two of them come up into the bedroom where I am peeling wallpaper between asking emails and present me with an itemized bill. I'd told them I would pay for their third helpers time and the extra supplies they needed, but this bill was almost double what the original contract stated. They'd bid it at 3,100 and were now asking for 5,400 dollars! Told them both there was no way on God's green earth I was paying that much, that I hadn't agreed to it. I sat down with a pen and started slashing items off their bill. I refused to pay the $300 for the Pergo repair, but did offer to pay for the repair kit. They were clearly trying to gouge me for every penny they could, listing repairs we'd talked about and that they decided not to do along with inflated prices for things like extra paint and Kilz, clearly not remembering I bought the original paint and knew what it ran. Plus I deducted because they broke my expensive floor lamp and other items, including most of my person tools walking out of the house.

Feast your eyes on what the dog shit colored Pergo repair ended up looking like. Those huge blackish blotches...

...and it all went downhill from there. I refused to pay a dime until they sanded off the paint runs, repaired where they painted over the paste and neglected to mud and sand. No repairing their fuck ups, no check.

When they both started making menacing moves towards me and one of them said something about he knew I was living here by myself and it would be ashamed if something happened to me I started to get seriously scared! They backed me into a corner and instead of continuing the confrontation I offered to just go ahead and pay them, the original contract, the additional supplies and the wages for the lady. I decided it was just safer to deescalation the situation and get them the fuck out of my house.

They left. After they did I went to the police station and filed a report about them threatening me and came home to change the locks. I've moved back in now and it makes me nervous knowing they are out there still. Now I'm hiring someone else to fix their screw ups. I am never ignoring my inner voice ever again since it kept screaming at me in the week leading up to the painting that they were a bad thing.

Tomorrow the carpet is installed, even if I have some repairing of the old paint job. I'm continuing on waiting for the counter top and cleaning up after this dumbass duo.