Life

Doing hard things

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A view from the Greek island of Amorgos

Last time I had them checked, my lungs were 82 years old. I see a pulmonologist and one of their favorite things is to have you blow into a machine to test your lung function. Take a deep breath and then blow out hard. Really hard. And keep blowing until you think you are going to pass out. Repeat three times. Definitely not a favorite test of mine.

On the outside, I look completely normal, though. At least I think I do. But the truth is, I can get winded from a flight of stairs. The other truth is I like to be active. I want to go out there and capture the world, see everything there is to see and do it all too. Two weeks ago I was in the most beautiful place I have ever visited, a small Greek island surrounded by the amazingly blue Aegean sea. The beauty would take your breath away.

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Getting things done

Organization!

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If there is anything I’ve ever wanted to excel at in life, it’s organization. I often fall short but that’s okay because it means there’s going to be more organizing in my future. The theme for this week is organizing for multiple trips while also deep cleaning the house. I’m not sure this is such a good idea because I’ll probably arrive at Friday, which is the go date for trip one, feeling overwhelmed that I still have things to prepare.

I’ve also been obsessed with “what to pack” videos on YouTube despite the fact I’ve been packing for years on my own. It’s just that I’m curious how other people do it so I’ve (wasted?) spent many hours on this (for entertainment purposes only). Whenever you watch videos on YouTube, they also kindly offer up other videos you might be interested in and so my second favorite genre has been Amazon travel purchase videos. This has been very dangerous! There were so many things I didn’t know I needed to have for my travels.

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Healthy Life

Kicking sugar (part 1)

1A6E17FC-6EDC-4A93-8B78-882D34811C67.jpegIt’s been three and a half years since I gave up alcohol completely. I had a lot of stops and starts before that but the conditions had to be right before I could admit that I had no control over how many more drinks I would put in my body after I put the first one in. It’s been one of the very best decisions I have made for my life. Life didn’t get better right away but many days at a time later, I have a wonderful life today even with all its ups and downs.

Early in sobriety I was told it was okay to substitute sugar for alcohol. If you crave a drink, have a sweet instead. You don’t even have to give me a reason to treat myself to sugar because I have been a lifelong fan. Twizzlers, sweet tarts, gummy bears, sour patch kids, tootsie rolls, swedish fish, ice cream (mint chocolate chip, please), and the list can go on and on. I have no problem with chocolate, though. I always had a stash of candy in my night stand and if it got low, off to the drugstore I would go.

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Life

Summer is almost here!

Life accelerated on me in the past couple of months. How is tomorrow June 1st with only one week of school left?! There have been concerts, field trips, a book sale/mini-concert, grandparents day, a special mass and countless out of school activities. As I write, my son is at Taekwondo, working on his hours toward membership on their coveted leadership team. When he’s done we’ll pop home for a quick change before heading to the end-of-the-year sports banquet. How do people do this with multiple kids? I am in awe of them!

Did I mention we’re also in the final run-up to having braces installed? We had both an orthodontist and dentist appointment in this very short week. I don’t even pretend my time is my own anymore. But while we’re running around, I CAN carve out time while I’m waiting. Usually I will read or watch YouTube videos but I could spend some of that time writing (and I’m not talking to-do lists). I need to put my writing time back on the schedule and I’ll start today.

Other than operating as chief transportation officer of our household , I have been doing a few different things. I’m still unemployed so I’m looking for a job and I joined a job club that is basically a support system for and by the unemployed. It’s been interesting to say the least. I have no clue what I’m going to do next professionally but I’m hoping to figure that out over the next few months.

Being that I am unemployed and hope to spend some quality time with my twelve year old this summer, we have a few trips planned starting with a visit to our home in Florida after school ends next week. This is what’s keeping me going right now. For two weeks there will be absolutely no orthodontist appointments, Taekwondo classes, lacrosse games or homework to be done. Hello pool, shuffleboard, reading and relaxing.

In early July we’re going to visit Williamsburg, VA and this will be the first time just he and I will be on such a long road trip (about 8 hours one way). My husband bid on it at a charity auction but cannot join us because we have a vacation in Delaware the following week. This is going to take a bit of organization due to all that we need to bring to Delaware but I’m sure it will be worth it (and fun). I’m trying to compile a list of podcasts or audiobooks we can listen to on the drive.

Our annual beach vacation in Delaware is always something to look forward to and we’ll meet my husband there along with a couple we always vacation with. That is a laid back week where sitting beachside with a book is the top priority.

But the very best getaway is saved for last because that is when I go to Greece with my longtime friend to a yoga retreat on one of the islands. And THAT is what’s keeping me motivated. To prepare, I’ve embarked on a health/nutrition/fitness program, but I’ll save that for next time.

What are your plans for the summer? I hope you make some time for a little (or a lot) of R&R.

Life

Ingredients for Spring

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Annual Spring trip to NYC

I’m so happy to see the sun today and feel Spring in the air. It was a bit of a surprise last week when we woke to a thin ground cover of snow (actually not so unusual for the Northeastern town we live in). But eek, my husband and I were about to head to New York City for the weekend to see a couple of shows and I wondered if I had to rethink my clothing choices which heavily favored lighter fabrics (I’m one step from putting away the winter coats). I decided to stick with my spring coat and added a scarf and sweater for layering which worked out just fine. We had a fantastic time, but as is the case with these kind of trips, it went by all too fast.

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travel

My definitive packing guide for a spring trip to Costa Rica

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Pants and sturdy shoes necessary for horseback riding!

A few weeks ago I was here sweating over what I should pack for Costa Rica. Now that the trip is behind me, I can share my experience of what to bring on the trip in a more helpful way. Anyone clicking on this post was probably questioning the veracity of the headline because it left more questions than answers about what to bring on a trip.

I must first do a little bragging that I mostly hit the nail on the head with what I ended up bringing. I made a few notes to myself about what would have been nice to round it out. Here is my definitive list for a week that included San Jose, light to moderate hiking in the rain forest (sans rain) and a couple days of activities that included horseback riding and zip lining.

Here was our seven day itinerary: Continue reading “My definitive packing guide for a spring trip to Costa Rica”

travel

The Time Zone Challenge

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I am in the midst of writing a post about the last leg of our Costa Rica journey, which was my favorite part of the trip! The weekend was all about catching up on laundry and cleaning and here we are at Monday again. Back to work. And I am exhausted! I’m not sure if it’s due to the time change but it’s leaving all of us sleepless (except my husband, Jim, who can sleep anytime). I had trouble sleeping on vacation too and I think it’s catching up with me.

This is probably not the best time to be traveling to the west coast for a work conference in which I’ll need to adjust to another time change before I’m back on the east coast late Friday night. Hopefully I’ll have time to finish my post about northern Costa Rica during the week. I’ve also asked Liam (the eleven year old) to write an essay about the trip and if he’s up for it, I’ll post it here. It will be interesting to see what he deems important from the trip.

Today will be a bit of a rush catching up on work from the past week and a half. And then packing to leave for the trip west tomorrow morning. This will be my first visit to California, so even though I’m a bit travel-worn, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll also have a large bed to myself for a few days which will likely help my sleep issues.

MC

travel

A Walk in the Jungle

Today is already day six of our Costa Rican adventure with two very full days left. Yesterday was a very long day of travel from the eastern Caribbean coast of Tortuguero Nation Park, where we explored the jungle, to the northern area where we are staying at the base of the Arenal Volcano. You know how you get a butterfly feeling when doing/seeing something awesome and new? I’ve had that fluttery feeling so many times on this trip. And we have yet to do zip lining which I imagine will be a new level of flutteriness (and fear).

I have to say, I’m not adjusting to the two hour time difference well. I’m wide awake at 4:15 every morning but not too tired until late evening which is good. It gives me time to lay in bed to reflect on our time here and how blessed I feel for the life I have. We have passed through many poor looking towns on this trip and have seen some of the hard physical labor that goes into harvesting bananas from the soft, air conditioned seats of our tour bus. It gives me pause. Today we have a tour of a coffee and sugar plantation which will likely be eye opening too.

Our visit to Tortuguero was quite interesting and a little different than what I had in my mind as a rain forest. We have been so lucky with the weather and while it was fairly hot directly in the sun, the jungle allows many opportunities to find shade. It is humid, though, and when I went to unpack at our next stop last night I found much of my clothing to be damp from the humidity. I realize I also didn’t pack enough clothes as I was taking a couple of showers a day while in Tortuguero. Fortunately they have a laundry service at the Arenal hotel and I could get a few things washed.

I was kind of hoping for rain in the rainforest. I have always loved listening to nature sounds, especially rain. Our accommodations would have been perfect for an evening rain shower – with a long rooftop porch and comfortable rocking chairs, surround by palms, flowering trees and grasses. White headed (capuchin) monkeys have been as prevelent as our northeaster US squirrels, but much cuter in my opinion. We took a canal tour and a jungle walk and while we saw a variety of wildlife, the sloth, disappointingly, remained difficult to spot. There were lots of weird spiders and beetles and yours truly dained to try a termite as if I were on Survivor. My report is they are minty.

The jungle walk we went on was paved and highly civilized which was not what I was expecting. We saw more wildlife walking around the grounds of Evergreen Lodge where we were staying, so that was a little disappointing. On our way back to the boat, near the pool of the resort where we took the walk, we saw the biggest Iguana I have ever seen and the boys were estatic!

This has been a fantastic adventure for the eleven year olds. They still have that unending sense of wonder, playfulness and energy that starts to dissipate as they head to their teenage years. It has been wonderful to watch this experience through their guileless filter. Of course there have been moments where we’ve wanted to throttle ours for his sarcasm and moments of insouciance. I try to remind myself it’s the hormones.

In addition to the sugar and coffee tour, today we’re also going on a long horseback ride through this part of the country. Hopefully I’ll be able to walk tomorrow!

Until next time…

MC

travel

What to wear, Costa Rica edition

We are in the mad dash to the final days of prepping for our trip to Costa Rica. There are still a few days before we go but I’m anxious about forgetting something important. I’m also fretting about what to wear which should not be such a consideration – what’s more important, having a great time with my family or looking good? Preferably both.

I’ve researched and re-researched the climate we’ll be going into. I’ve scoured videos and blogs for lists of what to bring. There are also different kinds of Costa Rica vacations. We are doing less the beach kind and more the jungle kind. I looked at all the hotels we’re booked into and found one place we’ll be staying for two nights doesn’t have a hairdryer. This was mentioned in many of the Trip Advisor reviews so it was also important to other travelers so I don’t feel so vain.

My mind keeps replaying a trip Jim and I made to England many years ago where I didn’t bring a hairdryer and for the most part everywhere we stayed had one. The London hotel did not and that was also the least of our problems with that place. The fact that we had to run out and purchase our own toilet paper was a much bigger problem. But I digress. When I look back on our pictures of this truly amazing trip – it was the number one place I wanted to travel to from when I was young – the thing that stands out for me is how FLAT my hair is. So that’s why whenever we travel, I try to be sure there will be a hairdryer or I will bring one.

 

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In London with a waxy Dalai Lama circa 2002

The nice thing about Costa Rica is they use the same electrical outlets we do so I can just pop one in my luggage. I don’t know why I’m getting stuck on this seemingly insignificant detail and Jim rolled his eyes when I told him there was a place, deep in the jungle, without hairdryers. But it’s the pictures. I don’t want a scrapbook of flat hair!

Also the clothes. I am not a fan of the exercise, hiking attire look for myself. I feel dowdy or something. I decided to buy a few moisture wicking tops but they decidedly have very little flair. And the L.L. Bean hiking pants, because they said we need long pants for some of the things we’re doing. I’m keeping the tags on just in case I don’t need to use them because it was a rather expensive purchase for something I might not use again. I ended up getting a couple of cute looking tops so I’m not always looking like I’m about to go on a run.

The other thing I stress about is the temperature. I really hate to be too hot or too cold (doesn’t everyone?) so I want to be ready for any weather. Does it get cool at night? Some say yes. Is it super hot and humid? Some say yes. Will it rain? Better be prepared. Will I run out of clothes? Maybe. Will it matter in the end? Probably not. I was also worried about wearing a hat because of my hearing aid that is attached to my scalp behind my ear. I bought a jungle type hat but it was too big so I took an old baseball cap and cut a hole around where my hearing aid goes. I will probably just try to work with that.

You may say this is pretty trivial. We are going to a foreign country that will be full of adventure, beauty and cool wildlife. I just have a certain style that I want to keep to. And when I look back I’ll probably be thinking how silly it was to worry. To worry about packing the right stuff and the kind of clothes I wore. That’s just me.

At the end of the day, I might make a little youtube video of my packing because I find those type of videos very helpful, myself. Most of the videos I found were geared toward beachy Costa Rica vacations so this one will be more about visiting the jungle, zip lining, horseback riding and such. We have a couple of GoPro’s so we’ll be able to capture all aspects of the trip.

 

Life

Airport Crazy

Airports are not for the faint hearted especially when one is under renovation/construction which always seems to be the case. Orlando airport, Southwest terminal is a veritable mess and at first glance, seems like organizational mayhem. Thursday morning I dropped my dad here and the plan was for me to park and meet him inside to help him navigate the system – get his ticket and check his bag.

If you’ve been following along, as we were leaving for our trip, he told me he could never fly alone because my mother was the “brains of the operation”. Fast forward to Thursday morning, just getting curbside was an exercise in extreme automotive manipulation, and he said, while we were in the middle of the road, “just drop me here”. I was hesitant but after convincing me he could do it, I quickly jotted down all the flight details and told him to ask someone for help if he needed it.

He did make it to his gate (he called me to let me know this 45 minutes later) and he sounded quite proud of this accomplishment. As I navigated my way through the mess of Terminal A this morning I am doubly proud of him. Fortunately, I too made it to the gate seemingly against all odds. Goodbye sunshine and hello snow.

MC