What’s that you say … retard?

Using the word “retard” is part of our language. It’s slang for dumb, stupid, moron, idiot, fool. It’s just a word — no offense meant. Okay, I understand.

But I also ask you to try to understand that using this word perpetuates a negative stereotype. When you say it to your buddies, it’s a slap in the face of every person who actually lives with a mental disability. Yup, truly it’s just a word but if you know it’s offensive to a whole bunch of people who live, work and play really hard to do most of the things you find easy to do — maybe it’s a word you can live without. Maybe it’s a word you’re willing to delete from your vocabulary, just because you’re a decent person who understands life is difficult enough when you have Down’s Syndrome (or any other number of mental disabilities).

There really isn’t anything funny about being “special” (when you are referring to a person with a disability) or “retarded” — it’s actually a road full of challenges, at best. I love a good laugh as much as the next person, just not at the expense of another. Having three kids with disabilities, I can tell you that we have shared a lot of laughs, tears and heartache.

Honestly, your choice NOT to use this offensive word, will make a difference to ME. You won’t cure any of my kids’ disabilities with this request, but you will begin to help make this a more accepting and inclusive world. A world where we all can feel okay about who we are, no matter what.

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Brianna, Today is YOUR Day!

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.

There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

“If you’d never been born, then you might be an Isn’t! 
An Isn’t has no fun at all. No, he disn’t.”     

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”  

“Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you”

“Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky!”

“You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.”

“I’m glad we had the times together just to laugh and sing a song, seems like we just got started and then before you know it, the times we had together were gone.”  

“Congratulations! 
Today is your day. 
You’re off to Great Places! 
You’re off and away!”    

AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS REMEMBER 

“Be yourself and the people that don’t mind are the people that matter.”  

Happy Birthday to my daughter who dares to be different.  I wouldn’t change a thing about you.  As Mary Poppins would say, “Perfect in every way!”

With special thanks to Dr. Suess 

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Fighting Fears & Fulfilling Wishes

I turned 60 a few weeks ago.  “Turned” is not exactly the word though.  Turned implies I executed some action, such as “turned a page in a book” or “turned to face the speaker”.  This particular “turning” was void of choice.  I believe it would be more correct to say I “involuntarily submitted.”  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have some major issue with age.  I’ve actually taken very little notice until I turned 50, and then I became acutely aware that time was finite.  No longer did I feel I had “all the time in the world” to accomplish all I wanted to do in life.  I decided right then and there to use my birthday each year to choose, and attempt to do, one thing that I had either, always feared, or that I had always wished to do in my lifetime.

It’s actually been quite fun.  One year I hiked with llamas, another year I bought a Chinese Crested Hairless puppy.

Hairless dog

The year I chose to learn to knit socks, my doctor told me that it might a bit too sedentary and I might consider pairing it with a more vigorous activity.  (Leave it to a doctor to rain on your parade!)

handknitted striped socks

Another year, it was horseback riding — an extremely fun year full of lessons and riding but my fear of falling kept me from progressing very far.  I was obsessed with finding the perfect horse that desired nothing more than walking/trotting and becoming my BFF.  In the end, I had to accept that my fears were not to be conquered and other than choosing a nearly dead horse,  this was one dream that just wasn’t going to pan out.

Not all my choosings have been easy.  One year I decided to learn to kayak.  Probably not a big undertaking to most, but to me it was huge.  I have a fear of water and consequently am a non-swimmer. (Now before any of you suggest that I deal with that fear one of these years, I want you to know that I’ve already made the attempt … many times)  Learning to kayak, was more than learning to paddle.  I took a kayak survival course in which I had to purposely tip my boat over (with me being inside), flip my boat upright and then climb back in!  Thank God, for PFD’s (personal floating devices which in my day were just referred to as  “life jackets”).  Let’s just say, I survived that training and, thank God, never had to use it!  I found I liked my kayaking the same way I like my swimming — I am able to enjoy a slightly-comfortable experience as long as the water is calm and no one else is in the near vicinity.

Even more difficult than my kayaking experience was the year I decided to track down, and apologize to, an elementary classmate whom I had been unkind to — like I said, sometimes I chose things I feared.

This year I’ve chosen two activities — both Caribbean inspired.  Returning home, I realized how much I missed our daily bike rides, so I’ve tuned up my vintage Cannondale mountain bike and started to ride again.  Yesterday was my first outing and I managed 8 miles.  Thank heavens the area out here in Everson is basically flat, much like Puerto Viejo.  What was missing was my biking partner, Mr D, and the ability to pull over at any time to take a quick swim in the warm Caribbean water before continuing on.  I’m hoping we’ll find an affordable bike for Mr D but not holding out much hope for the other missing piece.

My second choice is to get serious about  learning Spanish.  Before we left for Costa Rica this year, I used a computer program to learn the basics but I found I was so self-conscious I rarely used my newly learned skills once in Costa Rica.

Spanish Language Course

Come to find out, talking to a computer is very  different from talking to a living, breathing, Spanish-speaking person!  (I know … duh?)  So on that note, I’ve decided to enroll in a beginning Spanish class.  I have some concerns with how successful I will be.  Whereas, I believe it’s important to have a positive attitude when attempting any task, I find myself wavering as to how successful I could possibly be.  The truth is, it’s a pretty common daily experience for me to now pause during a conversation mid-sentence searching for a common ENGLISH word that has totally escaped me!!  With that said, can I really expect that I will be able to tackle a whole NEW language?  Well, I’m about to find out.  Wish me luck!

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Five Reasons NOT To Love Costa Rica

Having previously posted my Five Reasons To Love Costa Rica, I mentioned that Costa Rica is not for everyone and promised to post a follow up.  So here it is,  with reasons why one might not like this beautiful tropical land.

My top 5 reasons Not To Love Costa Rica

Mosquitos: Unfortunately, if you live in, or visit, a tropical coastal area  of Costa Rica, you will encounter mosquitos.  Avoiding them will be your on-going goal. Unfortunately there is no drug or vaccine available to protect you from Dengue Fever either.  DF symptoms are flu-like (like, worst e-v-e-r!); a person who has become infected should be seen by a doctor but the good news is, less than 1% need to be hospitalized.

A young man appears shirtless, displaying several red sores on his body.

Unfortunately, my son, Tim, was a prime target for the mosquitos.

Ants:  You most likely will encounter several different kinds.  Army ants — these are ants with a mission.  They work together, thousands actually, traveling in a column to exterminate any vermin in their path.  If encountered in your home, you simply move aside and give them free range or leave the premise.  It is best to stay out of their way because they do bite.  (And chances are, you piss off one, you piss off all of them!) Fortunately, they pass through quickly and are quite efficient, leaving no signs of their uninvited visit other than a vermin-free home.  Crazy ants — these tiny ants are found both inside and out, and are the reason you become anal in keeping your kitchen clean, and dishes washed immediately after being used.  Even still, expect to co-habitate with these, as they are just a fact of life in the tropics.  One man I know told me that as long as he keeps a small pile of sugar in his backyard, he doesn’t have an indoor problem.  Sounds fair!

A cluster of large-sized ants.

Army Ants

Road Conditions:  Many of the roads in Costa Rica are in very poor condition. Outside of major cities, many roads are not paved and potholes rule, speed limits are frequently disregarded, and road signage is lacking.  Last summer Puerto Viejo got their first ever street signs but don’t count on locals to use them when giving directions.  They’ve existed this long without and no one seems interested in changing.  During the rainy season, it’s not uncommon for roads or bridges to washout so be prepared to hunker down and wait for the rain to stop and the road to be repaired.  (“Don’t worry, be happy.”) Transportation from San Jose to Puerto Viejo is cheap ($9) but the bus ride is guaranteed to take your breath away (and I’m not referring to the scenery, which is in itself breathtaking).   The constant swerving and snaking to dodge potholes, in combination with passing on curves, while traveling at highway speeds is the norm. As incredible as it may seem, the locals have it down to an art.  Personally, I learned quickly to keep my eyes off the road!  And if you happen to find a taxi driver who drives the speed limit and resists passing every thing on the road, get his business card – he’s a gem!

Tropic tree-lined gravel road with many puddle-filled potholes.

Dirt, puddles and potholes, oh my!

Laid back attitude — at first glance, you may be surprised that I included this as a negative.  I mean, who wouldn’t appreciate a slower, more relaxed pace but depending on your attitude, you may find the wait for getting things done in Costa Rica annoying, or maybe even, exasperating.  You order a meal but your waiter has decided to wash all the dishes in the kitchen before starting on your order, and you wait and wait and … ;  you are interested in making a purchase but the sole employee is busily chatting with a friend and clearly won’t be attending to you until they’re finished so you wait and wait and … ; with the only road out of town washed out, you watch as eight members of the road crew just stand around seemingly without a care in the world leaving you to wait and wait and … (I’m not even going to touch on dealing with governmental agencies!) Living here means accepting a “laid back attitude” in every area of life, you don’t get to pick and choose.

Young lady sitting at a table with an exasperated look.

Why is it taking soooooo long?

Crime — now we’re getting down to some serious stuff.  I don’t know how Costa Rica measures up to crime in the United States or elsewhere, I just know it exists. As a “developing country”, it goes without saying, that you can expect crimes of opportunity. Tourists who flaunt their money and possessions are prime targets.  It is wise to follow the same precautions you would, or should, follow when traveling anywhere.  Here are my personal suggestions: leave your valuables at home (bring a point and shoot camera, in place of your expensive digital SLR camera), never leave anything unattended (not even in a private shuttle with your driver), take nothing to the beach but your towel (leave your key at the hotel desk or bury it in the sand), when you go out take only the cash you need and leave the rest locked in your room safe, and never walk alone (on the street or beach) at night.  It is not necessary to paralyze yourself in fear but do use basic common sense, and always follow your gut.  Unfortunately, bad things happen the world over.  Also, if you decide to purchase a house and live in Costa Rica, it’s generally not a good idea to leave your home unattended for any length of time.  Hire a caretaker or arrange to have a trusted person housesit while you are away.   While here in the states, you can pretty much count on your neighbors questioning someone leaving your house with a washing machine, here, your neighbors may just turn their heads and be glad it’s not their machine!

Young lady looking surprised to being kissed by a young Rastafarian.

Remember to always use common sense!

So … is Costa Rica, paradise on earth? Or, a beautiful land filled with annoyances, vexations and possible danger?  My opinion: both.  Now you decide if it’s for you!  Pura Vida!


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To Post or Not to Post, That is the Question!

I’ve been slack in posting these last few months.  This annoys me, because I feel as a blogger I am expected to be consistent and provide regular updates.  I realize this isn’t a rule but my own conjecture. This self-pressure isn’t at all helpful since I’m not a production writer and force only tends to stifle any possible creativity.

I started this blog to share my experiences and emotions as I discover more about myself in this latter part of my life.  When I have tried to “force” a post, it has fallen short and emotionless and worse yet, it takes me an eternity to write.   Having just returned home from spending the last two months living in Costa Rica, I realized that I didn’t blog often during that time because I was busy living.  Just as facebooking can eat up large portions of your time, blogging can do the same.

Technology is amazing and wonderful but it does have it’s downside and we must be ever-alert in keeping the intrusion to a minimum.  I remember when I began blogging, wordpress was encouraging it’s members to join their “Blog Everyday for a Year.”  Oh, how I wanted to be included but I know now that it would have been a mistake for me.  I want my blogging to mesh with my life not pull me away from it.  I definitely don’t want to feel guilty or forced.  I love blogging and want to keep it that way!

So in the future, if you notice a break in my blogging, just realize I’m busy living!  I hope you are too!

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Five Reasons to Love Costa Rica

Here are my top 5 Reasons To Love Costa Rica:

Perpetual sunshine and warmth — yes, there is a rainy season but so far, we have had only a couple of days with prolonged rain.  Most of the rain has fallen during the evening while we sleep — the occasional daytime rain can be quickly averted by darting into a restaurant for a refreshing drink or quick meal.  All is dry by the time we leave.  Even overcast days are warm and the water always inviting.

Tropical beach

And this is the "rainy" season!!

The beauty of the tropics from the fauna to the birds to the houses and restaurants decorated with bright Caribbean colors.  Color is everywhere!  The tropical woods used in homes are incredibly beautiful!  Outside walkways, bathrooms, and kitchens often are displays of artistic mosaic work, sporting bright colors.

Colorful red-eyed frog

The ever colorful red-eyed frog.

Music!  Reggae & calypso are  the typical sounds from restaurants and bars in Puerto Viejo.  Live bands make it even more exciting.  I won’t even mention the “free drinks for women” at some of the places here.

Mariah dancing with a local

Pura vida is the local expression meaning “love life” and it is reflected in the friendliness of the  people and their life choices.  Work is only a small portion of their life — when you desire less and need less, you are left with time to actually enjoy your life!

Man holding young baby wearing sunglasses.

Enrique & his young son enjoying time spent together.

Exercise and good health has never been easier or more desirable.  Puerto Viejo is a small town that is easily accessible by bike or foot.  Busses and taxis are available for those trips to outlying areas but for the every day stuff, a car is definitely not necessary.  Riding or walking also assures you will have every opportunity to interact with locals and expats, and helps you adapt to the laid back attitude of their culture.  Alternative medicine, yoga, massage, and acupuncture abound, as well as, fresh tropical fruits and vegetables for healthy eating.

A woman is massaging a person's feet.

Kayla receiving acupuncture treatment/massage with essential oils from Dr. Helen.

I’d like to say it’s also cheaper than the states but that’s not necessarily true.  There are many items, both food and non-edible items, that are not easily available here.  Importing makes them ultra-expensive so eating and buying local items is preferable in keeping costs down.  Most folks have tropical fruits growing in their yards– fresh, delicious and free!  Remember too, folks here in the Caribbean don’t need winter clothes, nor do they need to heat their houses.  There are no telemarketers or bulk mailings, fancy stores, or the compulsion to “keep up with the Jones'” enticing you to spend your money.  Does that sound as inviting to you, as it does to me?

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The Wheels on the Bike Go Round and Round … all through the town

Biking is really the way to go down here.  Last year we rented bikes for our stay and this year, we purchased a couple of used rentals with the intention of donating them to two indigenous kids when we leave.  Puerto Viejo is the perfect town for biking.  Bruce and I ride daily and have even been venturing out to other towns.  We often ride to Cocles, sometimes for a massage and acupuncture but often just to swim, watch the surfers and lay on the beach.  A couple of times we’ve managed to ride all the way to Manzanillo (17 km from Puerto Viejo).

Two bikes with backpack parked on the beach

Our current form of transportation.

Our most recent bike ride to Manzanillo, included an unexpected sighting of a troop (do you know you can also refer to them as a “barrel?”) of monkeys.

Monkey in the tree

These guys were having the time of their lives!

Monkey sitting in a tree

They put on quite the show.

I love sloths but I have to say, monkeys are much more fun to watch!  Amazing how fast they can scramble and how far they can leap, chasing each other.  They seemed to know they were being watched and put on quite the show!

Eventually we left to continue our ride, only to be enticed by the sound of the water and one of the many public access trails to the beach.

Beach at Manzanillo

We had the beach practically all to ourselves.

Table, chairs and hammock nestled under jungle follage.

The best of both the beach and the jungle.

Walking at the water's edge.

Inviting!

We should know by now to ALWAYS be prepared for swimming because even on the most overcast day, the water is warm and inviting.  What can I say, other than we’re slow learners.

Bruce trying to balance as a wave hits.

The trick is to keep your balance as the waves hit.

When all the playing has been done, it’s back on the bikes to head for home.  Thank goodness there are plenty of funky little cafes that serve delightful tropical drinks.

Cafe

Combo cafe and small organic store.

After a refreshing drink and a bit of people watching, we were back on our way. This daily bike riding is going to be greatly missed by both of us.  The roads are potholed and dusty, the drivers are wild and crazy, but somehow none of that matters — you learn to dodge the worst parts of the road and trust the drivers to slip by without an incident.  You warmly greet those you pass (strangers and friends, alike), enjoy a diversion as you turn off onto one of the many beach paths or stop at a small cafe, stay observant for signs of tropical wildlife, and delight in being alive on such a glorious day!

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