Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Dirty Work....Someone has to Do IT!

Happy Independence Day Costa Rica! We were fortunate to participate in our third Independence Day celebration this past Thursday. It was a hot morning, with bright sun beaming down on us before the rains came. A nice farmer's tan I have!

Michael, still coughing, opted to stay home with Dad, so John and I put on our walking shoes and headed toward Santa Elena for the Independence Day Parade. We arrived at 9 a.m., just in time to see the first folks take step out of the MEGA Super parking lot onto the road which would wind through the main street in town, culminating at the gymnasium. I, myself, felt quite proud that I timed our arrival to the tee - finally understanding what is meant by "TICO TIME".

The Friends school was first in line and a hard act to follow, I might add! The 'act' did not come without some give and take! Over the last three years, I recall much discussion during Parent/Teacher meetings about how to best represent the Friends School in the holiday activities. Founded over 60 years ago, the Friends School has grown and now serves not only Quakers but a huge population of local Costa Rican families. I can see both sides of the coin on this one; is there a happy medium where the simplicity of Quakerism can be preserved while recognizing the civic and patriotic traditions of the Costa Ricans? I am delighted that committed parents stepped up this year to make the experience more 'cultural' for the Friends school students. In the past, the 'showing' by the Friends school has been light on Costa Rican tradition and heavy on statements and banners promoting peace and conservation. The national holiday is celebrated by Costa Ricans, of course, and pride in one's country should shine through especially during a holiday such as this. So, thanks to those dedicated teachers and parents for combining tradition and the message of peace into this year's parade presentation. It was lovely and truly a class act!

John and I opted to join the parade and walked along side with other parents and supporters. Lower school girls were decked in traditional Costa Rican dress and danced to typical music blasting out of the back of a oxen cart. Backing up the littlest of dancers were half a dozen older dancers who often perform Saturday morning's at the Farmer's Market. The oxen cart was painted in traditional colors and showcased local produce as it marched through town. Other local schools were kind enough to lend us traditional skirts, so we certainly looked authentic!

This is where John and I come in....we see Manolo (a father of two students) walking behind the oxen cart, with big shovel in hand. Not only is he carrying this shovel, he is trying to manuever this tiny wheelbarrow through the line of dancers so he can clean up the oxen poop before the dancers find it! Showing our support, John and I quickly grabbed a handle and became part of the "Poop Pickin Up" Trio! As we headed onto mainstreet, the streets were packed, folks dangled from outdoor balconies to get a glimpse of the parade. All of a sudden, one of the oxen lets loose, and we're on! We rose to the occasion and got our moment in the spotlight front and center as we carefully balanced the tiny wheelbarrow as it was loaded up with a healthy dose of oxen plop. Hey, we even got a healthy round of applause from the spectators - or were they showing their appreciation for the dancers that followed? Well, one will never know? John gave me a shy smirk as we quickly took our position back on the side of the road, behind Manolo, as we wheeled the pile of poop onward, holding our heads high!

Signed: S

Too Much Monkeying Around just might get you in Trouble

We were greeted by this creature one morning as we strolled down our driveway. We debated whether the poor soul was a monkey or a sloth?. What is your guess?

Most likely, it got fried during an electrical storm, so there it hangs over the entrance to Bromelias (the outdoor music theater) beside us. What a welcome!

Finally, after much rain, the creature relinquished its grip on the electrical wire and dropped to the ground to start the decaying process. Perhaps it will be consumed quickly by a hungry dog, cat or coati.

Just another exciting day here in Monteverde.

Signed: S

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cats have 9 Lives - Toucanets are Close to Follow!

How can one little Tookie be so lucky? Just after nursing him back to health, and having the boys spend all morning making a thunderstorm-proof house for Tookie out by the fire pit, another escape from the grasps of death....ermerges SUPER TOOKSTER!

Tookie was enjoying himself quite a bit when Mike mentioned that we should put him up high to keep him safe from the cats! So, up went Tookie onto a pull-up bar underneath our overhang, and off went the boys to Casem to ride their bikes with Dad, while I restrung the clothes lines in the back room. There in lies the problem - WHO WAS WATCHING OUT FOR TOOKIE? I guess him taking the leap of faith and flying down to the patio didn't cross my already cluttered mind :(

All of a sudden, I heard the familiar squeal of Tookie in trouble "WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE COME ON ALREADY!!!" is what I am sure he would scream out in human talk if he could. I then came bounding out of the back room only to see Orange cat trot off into the woods which separate us from our neighbors and YES, Tookie was clearly lodged in the mouth of Orange cat. "UGH" I thought - "how come this always happens when I'm around"? I did not run after Orange cat or pursue, because I wanted to remember Tookie in all his glory (healthy and perky) and not a mound of crushed bones and feathers wafting all over Monteverde.

So, I looked around for the boys and called out, but to no avail. How was I going to break the news to the boys? An overwhelming feeling of sadness came over me as I saw them ride up the driveway with big smiles.

As I explained what happened, Mike shook his head and darted off in our neighbor's direction. Much to my amazement, Mike came across the path with Tookie cupped gingerly in his hands. He had not been lunch for the cats, he was still very much alive! Mike listened for the tweets of Tookie and found him on the neighbor's patio, with the Orange cat sitting proper in front of him. Was this truly a game of CAT AND MOUSE? What, was Orange cat just taunting Tookie or did he really have intent on eating him? Thankfully we don't need to go there!

Tookie, now the MIRACLE bird, in my eyes, was quickly checked over by us -- we administered Neosporin cream as I had donated the other cream I got from the vet a couple of weeks ago to another friend. Hey, Neosporin is a 'cure-all', so I'm sure it will do the trick.

We wrapped Tookie up in a warm blanket, as he is probably very weak, in shock and very tired from his busy day in a cat's mouth! John tucked him into the warm blanket and Michael placed a paper airplane by his side to give him comfort. We've got a heating blanket under him to keep him warm tonight.

It was just a couple of days ago that I told the boys that we would need to get rid of Tookie (in fact, I already received the okay from another family who were waiting in the WINGS to welcome Tookster into their family) as I was tired of being the only one to clean up all the Tookie poop. Well, Michael and John wanted nothing to do with relinquinshing Tookie to another family, so since then, they have cleaned up their fair share of bird poop. We have a full roll of TP readily available on the end of the dining room table just for this very duty.

So, here we are again, back in the same spot we were three weeks ago - I guess I'll spend tomorrow morning with the Vet, acquiring more oral antibiotics. Let's just say this bird has someone wrapped around it's little beak!

Prayers would be appreciated and stay tuned!

Signed: S

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Calamity to Chaos to Clarity...almost!

Chaos: Defined as...
1. A condition or place of great disorder or confusion.
2. A disorderly mass; a jumble:

So, with time comes clarity, perhaps that is what is meant by "Hindsight is 20/20"! I am now able, after three months, to reflect on our most recent trip back to the States this past June. If you read my previous blog, I wasn't kidding when I mentioned 'cranky kids and even crankier adults". I remember, back in April, when Mike and I started to plot out how much time we would need to accomplish all that we had heaped upon our plate for this past summer. If you've ever planned or managed an Estate Sale, well then, thank you for your sympathy in advance! "Six weeks should do it" feeling overly confident and "give us time to attend the family wedding, Josh's graduation party and farewell celebration as he heads to Basic Training, organize an estate sale and spend a week or so in North Carolina with my family! " With that, the tickets were purchased and we flew northward with not even an incling of what was ahead of us.

Sometimes it seems like yesterday when we sold our house and crammed our remaining 'stuff' (that which was not parsed out among family members or neighbors) into a 10X10 storage unit, . Pulling down the 'garage-door like' partition, putting the padlock on our buldging unit and walking out of the newly built and airconditioned "LOCK UP" storage facility in Willowbrook, Ilinois, we felt our 'stuff' would be well taken care of until we decided it was time to deal with it again. That time, was this summer and oh what a time it was. I remember trying to talk Mike out of going through our stuff this summer, 'really, can't we just keep paying the monthly fee for the unit?", I asked. Mike quickly did the math in his head, monthly storage fee multiplied by 12 more months, equals, WELL, YOU GET THE POINT! One has to ask, whether one's stuff is even worth the money being forked out each month to keep it.

Our blessings on this trip were plentiful; our challenges, at times, seemed incredibly overwhelming. Our home church, Community Presbyterian Church, blessed us with the opportunity to use an empty house next to the church for the summer.

We were also fortunate to have family willing to help, be it watching the boys, tagging items for our sale, cooking dinners or coordinating the move of our belongings out of storage and into the church house prior to our arrival (Thanks Chop and Pop)!

Michael and John were happy to discover some of their long-lost toys (hotwheel tracks and cars, animals, both stuffed and plastic and legos). They also enjoyed a bathtub and took full advantage of it, I've never had such an easy time keeping them clean with hardly a fuss!

While the kids busied themselves, winding their never ending orange track down and around the stairs, Mike and I had the dirty work of delving into each box and making the sometimes painful decisions as to how to dispose of each item. Mike and I did most of our work after the kids went down (8 p.m. to midnight)...I must say, after a few glasses of red wine, the criteria for KEEP, SELL, GIVE AWAY got a lot easier for me :)

The process of determinging the fate of our stuff, for me, was no big deal - One quick glance over, and my decision was made... the item ending up in the appropriate pile - for Mike, an entirely different process which was grounded in thoughtfulness and memories.

We lived for two months in a state of chaos, laundry all over the place, dishes piling up in the sink and the four of us in the same bedroom, most nights intertwined on our king size mattress. Is it any wonder, we were cranky?

As I started peeling away the tape, opening the cardboard boxes which had held our possessions for 600 plus days, I too began to feel a little unravelled. With every dish I had to unwrap, my hands became stained and dirty from the newsprint of two years ago - I glanced at the headlines from the summer of 2009 and wondered where the time had gone. No time to remeniss - there was work to be done.

Oh, the Rooster plates I just had to have for the kitchen...the everyday dishes from Bed, Bath and Beyond, were too, carefully unwrapped and placed with the other crystal, glass and ceramic wares. Mike and I commented on our dishes and the fact that we never even used them, thinking they were too nice to use, we opted for the old, scratched plates and bowls that he had used in his Chicago condo for over 20 years.

All the kitchen gadgets, placemats, tablecloths, napkins, holiday linens, pots, pans, toaster, irons, they all went out for display and pricing.

Next came the pricing process - thanks to friends and family members who donated their time and assistance. I remember making signs at midnight before the sale, UPSTAIRS - LINENS AND CLOTHING, DOWNSTAIRS: HOME DECOR, TOYS/GAMES, APPLIANCES, PORCH: SPORTS EQUIPMENT AND GARDEN/TOOL SUPPLIES. Certainly if there was an award for the most organized Estate Sale, we surely would be in the TOP 3! I even marked my wedding dress to sell - but there were no takers. I was grateful to a woman who purchased several bags of my business-casual work clothing. Finally, the day was upon us and we opened our doors at 8:00 a.m. with a strong cup of coffee in hand and somewhat of a forced smile on our faces!

As Mike and I reflect, we cannot believe how much of our stuff was what I call 'nice to have' and not 'must have'. I think the biggest regret Mike had was selling the long, heavy-duty orange extension cord. "How could we have let go of such a functional item?" he remorsed. Pictures, knick-knacks, candles and other home decor items had overtaken our life - and I thought I was fairly practical! So, where does this leave me now? Well, I can say, my next home will be decorated in a minimalistic style - less clutter, wide open space for sure.

What did not sell, and there was a lot, was then walked across the parking lot to our Church to include in their Bazaar sale the next weekend. Twin bunk-beds were given to a niece and other items that actually do hold memories for us (the boy's scrap books from their foster family, family photo albums, keepsakes from our trips to Guatemala) were moved into a 5 X 5 storage unit. So, although we did not off-load all of our belongings, we did scale down from a 10X10 to a more manageable 5X5! Of course, we still have furniture and other items stashed with family members through out Chicagoland, (not to mention our car - thanks Barb and Kevin), but we have lightened the load!

The boys were troopers and great helpers! They lended their muscles carrying boxes back to storage and helped dad assess the best way to pack the unit to the top.

The skateboards from cousin Josh were great gifts and the boys enjoyed their first experience at the local skateboard park.

All said and done, the experience was rich in learnings and gave light to things that are most important to us. As we transition back to Monteverde for our third year - we take our summer experience with us and are grateful for the support and family we have in Chicago.

Two months of our life gone, dealing with stuff - unloading, unpacking, classifying, pricing, repacking, reloading, moving, locking up - so much energy put out just moving STUFF around! Perhaps this is a lesson you really can't learn until you live it. Do I miss my stuff? NOPE - you have it one moment, and then the next, it is gone - easy as that! My mind was in the right place and that perhaps, is the hardest of all!

This year will prove to be as unique and rewarding as the previous two. Stay tuned as we continue to make decisions throughout this year that will enrich not only our current lives here, but our future journey - full speed ahead!

So, I can finally say, that we are enjoying the CALM after the CHAOS and are ready for when the tables turn again and turn they will.

Signed: S

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Little Tookie that Could!

I am a little overwhelmed (to say the least) to think about starting another year here in Monteverde and wondering how the heck to kick off my first POST here on No Breadcrumbs. After talking with a good friend earlier in the week, she gave me some great advice. " Sally, Don't feel as though you need to recap the last three months (two months in Chicago, hectic schedule, estate sale, parasites, medical procedures, road trips, cranky kids, even crankier adults), just focus on one little thing and start composing from there!" So, thank you to Deb for the great goes!

Allow me to introduce you to the newest member of our family (although not a permananet fixture), he has been with us a month now and has survived a cat bite and let's just say "an abundance of TLC" from Michael and John. Tookie as we call him, came to us by way of a group of students from BankStreet College in the U.S. The story goes something like this....the group of students happened upon Tookie in the forest - they believe he fell out of his nest and was alone/parentless on the forest floor. With the group's eminent departure looming, an announcement (or rather a plea) was made at Meeting for someone to take the baby toucanet and need I say more! Yes, Mike scooped up the opportunity to be caretaker for little Tookie. Need I remind you that he is not the parent at home all day, so the 2-hour feedings and the poop duty falls on yours truly! I have always been weary about touching birds in the past but must admit that this little guy is really pulling on my heart strings! He is a tender, dear little bird! So, his week stay has turned into a month and that leaves me with a house that smells like bird and droppings of Tookie poop all over the floor. We often play a guessing game as to the last meal Tookie consumed. "ORANGE MUSHY" poop, Oh, that would be papaya! "WHITE HARD" poop, compliments of hard-boiled egg and best of all, "GREEN BABY POOP", if you guessed avocado, you get the prize! You can imagine the fun we have! You get the idea...right?

Enter the neighbor's cat! The one time I leave the door open for a minute, in comes orange cat! I am in the bedroom with Rachel (our house guest from Philadelphia) giving her a lesson in how to use the internet when we are interrupted by a screaming bird. I grab Tookie, while Rachel chases off the cat who has a full mouth of feathers as he exits stage right. Tookie, I am sure in shock, clings to me for security, poor little soul.

The next day, Tookie, or Tookster as the boys now call him, is weak, skinny and naked with a good portion of his feathers consumed by Orange Cat. In comes another friend to survey the damage. She quickly dials up the Vet and arranges a 9:30 visit at his office in Santa Elena. As she is on the phone arranging for the consult, I am thinking to myself ("it's a bird for goodness sake - how many colones am I going to have to cough up for this?"). Well, being a good sport, I put Tookster in a plastic bin and we were off. A 10 minute consult, two days of oral antibiotics and cream and he would have a fighting chance. 7000 colones or $14.00 for the treatment. Tookie left the tip, a big blob of poop that landed smack dab on the Vet's shoe! Way to go Tookster. Not two steps out of the Vet's office and Tookie stood up and then fell over! I was sure he had croaked, but I was not so lucky - he revived himself and made it home. We kept a several day vigil, watching and waiting as I shoved the daily pills down his little throat and coated his cat bite with cream. He wasn't eating and I was sure he was a gonner. Oh no, this bird was a stubborn little thing!

So, where does this leave us now - Tookie is stronger than ever, his feathers are back to a brilliant green color and his coos for food and attention are louder than ever. Thanks to Maria and Elan for building a little caged-in play-yard outside for Tookie - this way he can have some fresh air while the cats are kept at bay. What will become of Tookie, one does not know. He needs some open space to learn how to fly before he gets too heavy. So, fly Tookie and be free!

The boys supplement Tookie's meal plan with any insects they can find around the house - the baby lizard they caught provided several day's worth of protein I'm sure! Remember the food chain folks!

Check back for updates on Tookie or if you know someone in Monteverde who is willing to take him on, please pick up that phone!

Signed: S, a Tookie lover in-deed!