How I Found Myself Again in Costa Rica

This is what travel is about. We strain to renew our capacity for wonder, to shock ourselves into astonishment once again. ~Shana Alexander

Linda died on May 6th. Twenty days later I was on a plane going home to my folks to recover; returning to my parents who in their own right had given me two deadly scares. In October my mother’s appendix burst. Due to unforeseen negligence, 3 surgeries later, and 17 days in the hospital, she finally came home, but not before seeing Angels at the end of her bed. My dad, perhaps not wanting to be outdone, fell over on the golf course. For ten seconds his heart stopped. But being my dad, he refused the hospital and continued his game. He had a pacemaker put in that next Thursday. Suffice it to say, this year has been slightly stressful.

During this time of rest, I was invited to a press tour in Costa Rica. Now I had done press junkets all over California and Arizona, and my children had already logged in 13 state visits in their short lives, but I hadn’t gone international since I changed my last name.

This is ironic (and partly sad) because before I was married I had been to over twenty countries just in my twenties. Prior to when we actually went to war, I wanted to be an overseas war correspondent. Travel made me alive. I felt more at home in a hostel or a hut than I did in my flat in San Francisco. I felt myself.

But kids came. And with my kids, I did what I do with everything I am passionate about: I threw myself in whole-heartedly. I became a SAHM and I had no regrets. But to keep my toe in the passion pool of travel, I wrote and edited for an online travel site. When the kids went to bed, I tapped into the joy of telling stories about seeing new places.

For my trip to Costa Rica, I was returning to a land I had once explored. After calling off my wedding, I escaped to the jungle for a month to surf, to roam, and to find out who I was.

Now, sixteen years later, I was looking for her again. I had only left my kids for longer than an overnight once (when my mother was in the hospital), but I have raised my kids to be pretty independent. My 9-year-old was to be at his first week-long camp, and my 12-year-old was having special time with her Oma, so I had nothing to worry about. They were in good hands.

At the airport, I set my bag on the ground. I was determined to only go to Costa Rica with a carry-on, just like the first time. Of course, now being post 9/11, I wouldn’t be carrying a knife ON ME like I did that trip. Music in my ears and paperback in my hands, I rested my head on my bag and closed my eyes. I was free. Free to do what I like.

My grey streaks that I had just recently stopped covering, glistened in the airport window. They were a stark reminder that I wasn’t my 20-year-old self. But this 40-year-old, with her battle scars and earned merits of bravery and honor from all life had thrown at her, stared boldly into this new adventure.Arriving in Costa Rica, I was caressed with the same smells and breezes I had known before. The afternoon rain still lingered in the air. A charming guide brought me to my inn and I set my bag down and breathed out, “I’m home.”

The true fruit of travel is perhaps the feeling of being nearly everywhere at home. ~Freya Stark

That night I met up with the five other ladies I’d be adventuring with. When it’s your job to explore, you kind of assume you’re going to like other women who choose it as a job as well. And that I did. We had single moms, and entrepreneurs, one making a major professional change, and a 25-year-old. I describe her just by her age because that was me…then. Twenty-five and with the world open with unlimited possibilities.

We all knew how to tell a story. And we all knew how to have an adventure.So for the next five days, we white water rafted, swam under waterfalls, zip lined high above the jungle, and rappelled down stepping into thin air. Our nights consisted of long dinners and strong drinks. We talked loudly and sometimes crassly, like modern day female Hemingway’s. We exchanged travel stories like war stories. I was with my people.

I have learned this strange thing too about travel: One may return to a place and quite unexpectedly meet oneself still lingering from the last time. ~Helen Bevington

And I did find myself still lingering there in this country I loved so much. Each day I grew stronger and each jump off a boulder into the river was a reversed baptism of my old self coming back.In one waterfall pool, I found myself floating, staring up at the tress, repeating, “I’m so happy, I’m so happy.” I hadn’t felt that in a long time.

Every one of my senses was alive in Costa Rica. I felt, I breathed, I dreamed. I wondered how I could take this home with me.

It’s a trip of a lifetime when you get the chance to stay at one of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World” (Pacuare Lodge). But it’s a LIFETIME trip when you rediscover yourself there.

Fighting hard to keep remembering this feeling. Looking to where I’m going next…

Trips don’t end when we return home-in a sense it’s when they usually begin. ~Agenes E. Benedict

Word of the Year Workshop

Word of the Year Trust

For the last five years I have crossed the threshold into January not with a New Year’s Resolution, but with a word to carry into the coming year. This word may be encouraging, perhaps something I need more of; it may be motivating, or something to become or aspire to. In past years I have had GRACE, JOY, and last year it was FEARLESS. And with that word, I entered back into working outside the house, I began to attempt inversions in yoga once again, and started to take travel writing more seriously by putting myself out there more and actually referring to myself as a writer when asked. FEARLESSLY.

In November I was given the word SHINE. I even went as far as putting Shine on our Christmas card. I was ready to shine, let my light so shine, shine bright for all the world to know. Shine. But as the year turned over, my pretty, bright, happy word no longer sat well with me. I needed more gravitas. I need some weight to my word. This is a MAJOR year. I am turning 40 for one, which doesn’t bother me, but come on, a new decade is a pretty big thing. My husband is retiring from the military, so as I sit typing, I have no idea where we will be in six months. As a military wife, I have always warned my friends “Don’t get to close, I may leave.” But now after being stationed in the same place for TEN years (hallelujah!), I may actually leave. THIS IS BIG.

So I sat down with my dictionary (because I LOVE dictionaries…and thesauruses, as well), and began to look up heavier words. I played with REMEMBER and WAIT. My go to was GRATEFUL because I do believe gratitude can turn a situation. But it wasn’t there yet. I presented TRUST to “my girls” and they earnestly and unanimously agreed. But I wasn’t convinced. Trust seems to take away any control I might have naively convinced myself that I have. It feels very scary of a word. In therapy, you have to “trust the process,” that even though you may not see it working at the moment, let it do its work. I say I “trust” where God will lead us. The song “Oceans” has resonated with so many people of my generation with the lyrics “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.” Oh, but it’s so hard. But it wasn’t until my husband, as he was crafting his resume and I was offering my editing skills, said “You have go to trust me.” Ding, ding. This next step is out of my hands. I have to trust that God, husband, military, schools, life, is all going to work the way it’s supposed to work. So I found my word for 2015.

Word of the Year

Within the week of my word revelation, my girlfriend Alison at Beauty in All Things, invited me to a Word of the Year Workshop where an artist led us through a project using our word, and a life coach filled in all the hidden meanings and details. Lynn, the artist at A Little Blue Sky, with her effervescent smile and creative charm, designed a night with life coach Sue Robson, to take us step by step through the layers of our word and what it might mean in the new year.

We began writing conclusive words about 2014 on a piece of plywood. They could be negative, ending, beginning, factual, it didn’t matter, they would be covered up and they would be done. The next step was to lay textured paper down and cover our board (and written words). Step three had us lay down the paper or momentos we might want to see through our paint. There were song sheet music, dictionary pages, and vintage children’s books among other things, to rip up and collage onto our board. We then took paint and painted over the entire board. Taking a credit card, we scraped and rubbed and found little bits that we wanted to jump out from under the paint. I let the definition to “whirlwind” show its way through as Im sure this will be a whirlwind of a year. Very lightly you can see the title to “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” Trust takes a child like faith and that children’s song strips it down to the basics of what it’s all about. Lastly a poem with the line “She destines to be creative” makes its way through the paint layer. At the end, we stenciled our word of the year across the board. Boldly. With Confidence.

And that’s how I hope to step into this year. With trust, bold and confident trust.

 

 

 

 

Day #3: Grandma’s Jewels

I was a little homesick today. And by a little, I mean a lot. My 18-year-old nephew graduated from Air Force Basic Training today and all the family was there to celebrate him. All the family, but me. I thought it was a little too soon to ask the new job for some days off. Even in my sadness, my pride for my nephew and his accomplishment out weighed any morose thought. And because I am such a proud Auntie, here’s some photos of the graduate and his family.

31 days of writing

Sometimes when I miss my family, I bring out a box of jewelry that I’ve never worn, but means the most to me. You have one of those boxes, right? My grandmother Ruth loved costume jewelry and in the 50’s traveled around the world and collected some great pieces. Ruth never had her ears pierced, so I’ve never been able to wear her earrings. But tonight, rolling the bracelets through my fingers and draping the ornate necklaces around my neck, I found a pair of earrings that I thought would be easy enough to transform into earrings I can wear and cherish. The earrings I chose are filigree and delicate. They’ll need to be shined up, but they’re the perfect piece of my grandmother I can take with me in my every day life.

31 days of writing

To transform them, I simply opened up the clip that held the clip-ons (using my trusty needle nose pliers), slid some fishhooks in their place, and closed the original clip back up. And with that, the earrings that have been sitting in the treasure box for twenty years, now adorn my ears.

Grandma had some great style!

Mama Got Her Hair Wet

Alternative title to this post:

Searching for a Child-Like State of Being

My Summer Goal this year was to get my hair wet. You see, I’m a dyed blonde and my straw-like, over processed, yellow tresses tend to grab green from the chlorine of any amateur pool owner’s water. So there’s a lot of “Don’t splash Mommy!” and “Chill out, you’ll get my hair wet.” And frankly, that’s not fun. Even in the ocean, where I feel at most myself, I have neglected to submerge in recent years, knowing it is going to be a pain in my rear to comb through later. Again, no fun. But water is where I am the most fun and to not have my kids know that side of me is…sad. So this summer I decided to do some cannon balls into the pool and have underwater hand stand competitions (which, of course, I won). My kids saw me laugh again.

The “What Ifs” Got Me

And this was only my first step in searching for a child-like state of being. My life has become ruled by “What Ifs” and “Be Carefuls.” I’ve become a joy kill. I swear I used to be the funnest person in the room when I was younger. My friend’s 5-year-old ran up to me the other day to give me a great big bear hug. I stopped her because I had just gotten out of hot yoga and I was sweaty and didn’t want to get her wet. My girlfriend replied “She doesn’t care. She wants to show you what you mean to her.” She reminded me that kid’s don’t have those boundaries we set up as adults and continue to hide behind. I need to give more wet hugs. I need to drop some boundaries. I need to be less careful. Travel used to push those boundaries for me; how can I rediscover travel to use it again to open me back up?

The Ocean is Calling Me

CA beach

To put this child-like state of being into affect, I challenged myself to be a little spontaneous on my most recent day out. My daughter and I were heading to an art festival, and as we approached the turn off, I asked her “Should we just go to the beach instead?” The ocean is calling me, and I must answer. Caution be gone, I even ponied up the $15 to park (knowing this beach is really the gem of So Cal), and down we went to the water. At first I began with “Don’t go into the water past your thighs.” (Because old habits are hard to break.) But then we went further and further, until the water washed over us like the most spiritual baptism. We laughed and we splashed and we rode the waves in. 

One day my daughter may not want to be seen with me. One day being at the beach with her mother won’t be cool. So that day I soaked it all in-my daughter, the water, the joy. And perhaps pure joy is how to become childlike again.

***Side Note: Later that evening, I discovered I lost my driver’s license at the beach. My joy quickly subsided when it dawned on me that I was going to have to spend a day at the DMV. Trying to sustain that joy, takes purposing it into being on a daily basis. So to regain it once again, the next day when a skater rode by me with an albino boa wrapped around him, and asked me if I wanted to pet it, I did. I was hesitant at first, but reminded myself that my younger self would do it. As I went to touch the enormous snake, the skater said to me “See, you’re being brave.” And as my fingers went to the back of the boa’s body instead of near the mouth, the skater continued “Ish…Brave-ish.” That’s okay, that’s a beginning.

Here We Go: Wild and Free

Oahu, HW

I live a nomadic life. In my head. In my head I live a nomadic life. Truth be told, I’ve actually lived in the same city for my entire 30’s. My 20’s was a different story: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Costa Rica, back to LA, Las Vegas. But with children came sedimentary and as I look at entering a new decade, my wanderlust has emerged once again.

All Good Things Are Wild and Free. Thoreau

I believed (believe) this quote, but I’m just not sure what that looks like now. Last night I watched the documentary “Surfwise” (I watch A LOT of documentaries), about a family who’s patriarch was a Stanford educated doctor, but he bucked society, collected his nine plus kids in a camper, and lived to surf and travel. Love the premise, but in all actuality, none of the grown children seemed very happy. My mother always says “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” I don’t think I’m ready to live with my family in a camper. In fact, we are heading out on a road trip up the coast soon and I’m nervous just being in the car all together for a few days. But I digress. We are looking to retire from the military after TWENTY years of service (the hubs, not me), and we could go ANYWHERE! But we’re scared. There’s a whole lot of anywhere. And our kids like it here. And I finally have a good hairdresser. But we don’t feel very wild and free.

OverSeas 

Oahu, HW

In high school, one of my girlfriends went with her family to live in Costa Rica for her sophomore year. How cool is that? When everyone is so shallow and crazy hormonal, grab the kids and take them to another country to see it’s not all about them. I don’t think I got it at the time, I was actually miffed that they took our point guard away from the girl’s basketball team, but now I think they’re great parents. My husband and I LOVE Hawaii and my daughter has a connection to sea turtles after swimming behind one there and she says Hawaii like a local. We have a connection. But the reality is that’s a major move. You would think a military wife wouldn’t be afraid of a little move, but this military wife hasn’t had to relocate much. So here we are with the question “If all the world is your oyster, where do you want to spit shine your pearl at?”

And that is what we will be figuring out ladies and gents…