Small Insanities Tue, 11 Apr 2017 15:30:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 62085857 House Sitting in Upstate NY Tue, 11 Apr 2017 15:15:49 +0000 Read More]]> Whenever anyone asks me where I’m from (after I give them a look of frustrated confusion because I can’t figure out how much of the story to tell), I generally say, “I’m originally from New York-not-the city.” I generally follow up with, “I grew up between the Amish and the Seneca Nation,” a beautiful, rural area in the northern foothills of the Appalachian region. (Which I pronounce App-ah-lay-shun and not App-uh-lach-un like the southern Appalachian foothills folks I know.)

And it’s wonderful how things work out sometimes. Like just about every other major change in our lives, we kinda threw ourselves into this head first, no plans other than getting here and continuing to apply for jobs. Then the first week, I got three interview requests after dead silence for a couple months. And it turned out that the weekend after I flew in, one of my dear friends was going to be three hours north of me for the weekend, and a half hour from my uncle and aunt, so I was able to arrange to see both her (for the first time in a year) and them (for the first time since before college). And now Easter is approaching, and my mom’s two sisters and parts of their family (again, haven’t seen in a long time) are both planning to be up here, as well as my sister and her kids.

There’s this very strange new/old cycle happening in my life right now. Growing up, all my friends couldn’t wait to get out of our small town, but that wasn’t me. For the longest time, I couldn’t imagine not coming back. Perhaps partly because my personal world was so small, I couldn’t imagine anything else. But then jobs were in the cities, and we went to Costa Rica, and I grew and healed and I couldn’t imagine living here. And it’s still not in the plans to settle here 100%, our hearts are too wild for that (and I can’t stand the winters), but I feel as though my roots have been aching and lonely and they’re finally soaking up long-needed nutrients.

A lot of that is because it’s the right time. In 11 years, a lot of the familial and personal wounds have been addressed and mended, even if not fully healed. As a batch, my family is a much healthier bunch than we were 11 years ago, if not physically, then relationally and emotionally. And even as I’m applying to jobs and imagining a life in a new place, I’m imaging a life here. A summer. A couple of months every year. Nurturing my roots, feeding my soul.

Family can be the best and the worst, and right now I’m sitting in a nest of the best. We’re all supporting each other with our individual challenges, trying to make the day easier for each other. Taking stress away from each other so that we can sit, draw back the clouds a bit, and enjoy the beauty of the land of our roots.

Do you feel the same kind of draw to somewhere in your past? Is it where you grew up or somewhere completely different?

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I’m somewhere I never thought I’d be Thu, 06 Apr 2017 02:47:05 +0000 Read More]]> I turn 30 this year. I am married, with a kid and two dogs, and I’m living with my parents.

Surprise! The problem we ran into in Puerto Viejo since I lost my job was that with Jonathan picking up work, I became the full time care taker and didn’t have time to really look for and dig into more lucrative work. And while between the two of us, we were able to stay afloat, I needed more time to get us ahead, and so three weeks ago we made the decision to move in with my parents until we figure out our next step.

When I left for college just before turning 18, I vowed never to live with my parents again. Until now, the longest I’d stayed in my childhood home since then was three weeks over one Christmas vacation. Yet here I am, the quintessential millennial.

I have this hovering expectation that society is looking down on me for this. It’s built into the questions, “Are you going to find a local job while you’re here?” “What is Jonathan doing?”

The answers are no and hopefully full-time dadding. Those answers haven’t changed. They’ve been the same goals since I lost my job in November. I’ve been applying to jobs like crazy and doing freelance work, and hopefully with our change of circumstance, we’ll be able to get back to where we want to be.

We resisted this move. When I found out about the job, we were actually on a three day visit to my parents’ house to pick up our dogs and bring them back to Costa Rica. We debated cancelling our tickets and staying then, but instead we decided to go back and see how things played out. And I’m so glad we did. On a very basic level, I despise winter, so we got to skip the worst of it in Costa Rica. But we also got to spend a few last months with our friends, and start to introduce Alex to the town that we love.

But we were wearing thin. Jonathan was working full days, and I was frustrated at my lack of time to work. When he got home, he’d be tired from a physically intense day. I’d be tired from trying to find bits and pieces of time to work. We’d stopped moving forward. Still, we resisted. But like I said in my last post, it’s all about your mindset. I changed the questions we were asking ourselves.

“What if we go somewhere new?”

A month before, I’d shifted from applying for remote-only positions (which had fallen silent over the last month) to looking for jobs back in Nashville. Still, nothing was coming through on that front. But what if I started applying to new places. We’d never lived out west. So we changed our goal, and made my parents our stop-over point. While we don’t know how long we’ll be here, we’re able to enjoy however long we get to be here because we know we have our next step forward in mind.

I’d love to hear about a time when you ended up somewhere you never thought you’d be, and whether it ended up good or bad for you!

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Mindset Thu, 30 Mar 2017 15:29:51 +0000 Read More]]> I use to feel like a fraud when I would “trick” myself into being productive. In the worst of my depressive spells, I wasn’t able to do much other than lay in bed and make sure I took the dogs out for walks. But between very-depressed and not-depressed, there’s this miasma of grey and a whole lot of “don’t wanna.” And I would trick myself into getting things done. It would start with a list. Often, following the Getting Things Done philosophy, I’d pick out my three big have-to-dos, but sometimes I’d write down everything. Every. Little. Thing. And then I’d do the smallest least important one just so I could cross something off the list.

This wasn’t a cop out, pretending I was getting things done by doing unimportant things, it was tricking my brain into realizing I wasn’t a failure, unable to get things done, but when I checked something off the list, no matter how small, my brain saw I was getting things done and was much more amenable to getting the next slightly bigger thing done. And next thing you knew, I had a whole pile of things done. Maybe not the most important ones, but not only did I have a bunch of other things done, the weight of carrying all those un-done things was gone, leaving me (and my brain) much more able to tackle the bigger things.

It’s all a matter of mindset.

It’s been an interesting year and a half. Rewinding to last year, December. Jonathan was sick with giardiasis and lost over 30 pounds he couldn’t really afford to lose. I got pregnant. Jonathan took a job in the States working a Congressional campaign that summer. His candidate lost. I had Alex 17 days early by c-section because of too-high blood pressure, 3 days before Jonathan was supposed to fly down. He attended the birth via video, thanks to my mom. I lost my job.

Even three years ago, this probably would have broken us. Six years ago it certainly would have. When I listed off all the big crazies to Jonathan the other night, we couldn’t help but laugh. When you list it all out, it just sounds insane. And each of those things has absolutely changed our lives, but it hasn’t changed our emotional or mental stability the way it once would have.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments (and days) where we collapse in puddles of stress-goo or let the baby kick us in the face because it makes him happy and we just don’t have the energy to actually play with him. But then the other one takes the baby, sends the stress-freak to the beach or the bar or the cafe and we take a few breaths, pull out the Headspace emergency meditations, reset the mindset and move on.

Learning to reframe our mindset, our personal story, is probably the most important skill we’ve learned in the three years since leaving the US. Job offer in the US? Let’s reframe: move from volunteer to politico; move from expat to national. Baby? Reframe: DINKs to parents. No job? Reframe: opportunity to pursue new things.

In marketing, you get people to connect with you, with your brand, by telling your story to them. Mindset is all about the story you’re telling yourself. When I learned to be flexible with my mindset, to control it instead of letting it control me, I learned to truly take control of my life.

Do you find it difficult to shift your mindset when adversity hits? What pulls you back from a positive shift?

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The line between reason and excuse is very gray Wed, 15 Feb 2017 06:46:05 +0000 Read More]]> There’s a lot of things I had planned to do the last couple days. Respond to comments. Get some applications and work done. Clean. Take six month photos of Little Man.

None of that happened. I did, however, manage to take the child for his vaccinations, find the new Chinese food place outside of town (and eat Chinese food)… and that’s basically it. I did cover the morning shift at the hostel I work at (normally Sunday mornings, but Saturday, Sunday, Monday this week) while the owners (my dear friends Dani and Dave) went up to San José to finalize paperwork to transfer complete ownership of the hostel to them instead of just renting it. That’s done, which means celebration time! But we have to wait five weeks because Dani left for Thailand this morning to work a women’s retreat with This American Girl and get some travel in.

Those sentences are so jumbled, but I just woke up at 11:30 after going to bed before 7 with the little man, so it is what it is.

Jonathan is working his second shift as a bar back tonight. And I mean both second shift in this is the second time he has worked there and it’s his second shift of the day, after going in to the Jaguar Rescue Center at 8:30 and it’s second shift hours. or is it third shift hours? Does that change based on how the company defines the shifts or is there some kind of generally accepted shift schedule.

Not important.

All this to say, a lot of things didn’t get done, and it’s hard not to be hard on myself for that. And yeah, my brain knows that I have a child in the midst of a growth spurt and my most important job is to make sure he’s taken care of, and I don’t have water (did I mention the water went out today? Again?) so cleaning would be limited anyway, and my wheat allergy is attempting to wiggle its way back into my life and I’m not one of those lucky ladies who gets to continue missing out on menstrual cycles while breastfeeding so there’s hormones…

I know these are reasons, but they feel like excuses. It’s hard to see the differences from the inside.

So if there’s a thunderstorm, earthquake, tsunami, AND a tornado, what’s the game plan? Mon, 13 Feb 2017 01:21:53 +0000 Read More]]> So occasionally, I’ll have these completely irrational fears about the safety of my child.

For instance, as we’re laying in bed and see of flash of light that looks like lightning, but is probably just a car, and I’ll wonder: what would happen if we had a really bad storm and/or an earthquake that destabilizes the house, or if the floor just gives way and the bed falls down to the bottom level? If it breaks evenly, we’ll be fine, and it’ll be like one of those elevator drop rides, cushioned by the bed.

But what if one side or corner goes first, and we tilt in and there’s jagged wood everywhere? Would curling into a ball around my child, assuming I have enough time, be enough protection? Gah, the worst thing would be to survive your child. Especially something like falling through your floor and getting impaled on wood.

The worst.

This kind of thing drives Jonathan nuts (not that I actually say these things aloud, it’s just how I spend my free time) because the moment he says anything that hints that he thinks one of these possible ugly futures might happen (the last time it was something I was concerned might lead to Lexi being so sick she might die. No, I don’t remember what it was. It was like, two weeks ago and didn’t happen so it’s been deleted from the fears list) I completely unload on him. Like, oh, you noticed this strange behavior too? I’M NOT OVERTHINKING THINGS! Now let me share the million thoughts I’ve been having about this over the last week or month or year and let’s discuss all the possible scenarios, likelihoods, and plans A-Z.

You would think he’d appreciate my preparedness. But no. F a man who enjoys planning for the Zombie Apocalypse (but who doesn’t?), he’s less than enthusiastic about planning for other kinds of possible but not certain scenarios.

I know I’m not the only one, though. Tell me your irrational (or rational but strange) fears about your children.

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Finding my way Wed, 08 Feb 2017 21:37:19 +0000 Read More]]> A former boss of mine has been an absolute champ, connecting me with recruiters and letting me know about job opportunities. So I had a meeting with a recruiter who is looking for possibilities for me, and while he may turn up nothing, it’s nice to have someone helping. Even if they’re getting paid for it.

In the meantime, I’ve delved deep into some design work, mostly covers for books. I’ve done this for a few years now, but really only for a couple of friends for fun, but then someone who I’ve worked on for some other projects asked me for a cover, she loved it and I got paid for it. What I love about cover design is that it’s a (comparatively) quick turn around from start to completion, I can create pre-mades for quick sales which also advertises my abilities to do custom work. So I dug in and spent a few days creating some covers, uploaded them to my fairly dormant Facebook page, and then started liking other designer’s pages and joining their groups to get an idea of how people market on FB and what the current selling trends are, etc.

One of the groups I joined was a friend I met at UtopiaCon a couple years ago, singing Disney songs in the hotel lobby at three in the morning. She, being the awesome lady that she is and totally embodying the Utopia Tribe motto of “Lift as you Climb” offered to bring me into her group as a designer to help me get started. And I immediately sold one of my pre-made covers because of someone in that group. It’s not an income yet, but it’s a start!

I’m feeling a little less at sea today, and a little more focused.

My current goal is to build the financial freedom to work on a business software with my friend Niki. We’ve been planning and working on it since November, and I’m the definitely slow point in the process, with most of my time captured by the little man. I’m looking forward to having enough steady income to let Jonathan quit his work, if he wants, to watch little man, or to hire someone to watch him more full time. I love being with him, but I feel more myself when I get to work. My ideal situation is working from home with someone watching him in the house so I can hang out with him when I have down time or need a break.

Leaving the States, even though I was fairly dependent on my job for stability at the time, gave me a ton of freedom. Losing that “stability” actually gave me more freedom. It cut my mental ties to what I think I need. Leaving the States I learned I don’t need a ton of “stuff.” Losing financial “stability” I learned I don’t need or want to be dependent on anyone other than myself for my financial freedom. And I’m still learning that. It’s a process.

So today, I’m feeling good about my path. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

It’s hard to not get overwhelmed Wed, 01 Feb 2017 16:44:34 +0000 Read More]]> I’m in the midst of job searching right now, which has been a lot of, “Thanks, but no,” and utter silence. Not unusual for any job search, but it is getting wearing. I’m picking up odd jobs here and there from all the things I’ve done as hobbies and side jobs (web design, cover design, fiction editing, book formatting, etc) while working on a BIG project with a friend that has a ton of potential to become my main job, but won’t pay for a bit.

And all of this while learning the mom thing with my now six-month old.

I feel like I’m throwing handfuls of pasta at the wall from fifteen different pots with no idea how long each one has been cooking or even what kind of pasta is in the pot. Because linguine might stick, but it’s not going to be as good as spaghetti. And tortellini is awesome, but getting it to stick would be a miracle!

Okay, it’s not a great analogy, and now I’m really hungry, but that’s basically the story of my life.

I’ve asked myself over and over if I’m being stubborn about not going back to the US. Because I have at least one if not two almost-certain job possibilities back there. But that would mean a car payment. And cold. And child care, possibly. When I drill down, combined with the fact that I just don’t want to, it doesn’t make fiscal or emotional sense.

I’m so grateful that it’s possible to live on so little where we’ve chosen to live. That every day I have the beach and the sun and the jungle creatures to cheer me up. But I’m ready for some sticky pasta.

New Favorite Day Wed, 25 Mar 2015 02:16:46 +0000 Read More]]> imageWelcome to the latest arrival to the Jaguar Rescue Center! This is Chiki Chiki (not sure how she spells her name) and her newborn baby. She is one of the howler monkeys that I have had a chance to work with over the last three months. As part of integrating into the wild, we take her and the other monkeys out to the forest and they choose whether to come back at the end of the day or not. Chiki had been out in the forest for a few days and came back today, having given birth! Holding her and her baby is definitely a memory that I will have forever. At the end of the day, I sat down next to her and she came over with her baby to sit in my lap. Coolest day ever!


Lexi Came Home to Costa Rica Sun, 08 Mar 2015 04:59:44 +0000 Read More]]> lexi

I’m one of those people. The annoying ones who have no children, so they talk about their pets. (And someday, when I do have children, I’ll probably be one of those people who can’t stop talking about their children.)

Thankfully, my Lexi gives me plenty to talk about. And for other people to talk about. Just as often as I ask someone else, “Did you hear what Lexi did last night?” others are asking me the same question.

“Did you hear what Lexi did last night? I went upstairs to get something out of storage and she was just drinking out of my toilet. No shame. No guilt.”

“Last night Lexi hung out with us at Hot Rocks from about midnight to two, just doing her rounds around the tables, then hanging out with us.”

“Is that your dog? We were calling her Midge! She rode with us in a taxi to Cocles! Look, I have a picture!”

“Lexi is, ¿cómo se dice…? Shameless.”

lexi-taxiJacinto, the man who takes care of the property we rent, said of her, “Ella está enamorada de la calle. Se novio es la calle.” She’s in love with the street. Her boyfriend is the street.

Most of my Lexi posts end up on Facebook. I have this idea that I’d love to do a series of picture books about her, but seeing as she spends most of her time at bars and running away when it’s time to go home, I don’t know that they’d make good children’s picture books. Maybe something more along the lines of All My Friends Are Dead… like All My Friends are Beach Bums. And maybe How to Eat the Best for Free in Puerto Viejo: Maximizing the Potential of Your Puppy Dog Eyes.

Poor Jake doesn’t get as much air time as Lexi. This is because Jake is a DOG, and he knows he’s a DOG. He eats MEAT and DOG FOOD. He runs for the sake of running. He guards the house with ferocity. He doesn’t care whether a sloth is chilling out in the back yard or not.

While this makes Jake very endearing in real life (except for the time he tried to bite the washing machine repair guy AFTER I TOLD HIM THE MAN WAS ALLOWED HERE), there’s only so much I can say about his sweetness before people start edging away uncomfortably.

Lexi however… My friend Ashleigh believes that Lexi absorbed the spirit of a Tico. Lexi has done and said nothing to dispute this belief. She’s probably been waiting to come here her whole life, even if she didn’t know it.

If you’re reading this via email or RSS, you might want to pop over to the site as I’ve redesigned it! Partially in hopes that a bright new and energetic look would encourage me to post more, seeing as it has been about six months since my last post. Bad me. Anywho, take a look and tell me what you think!

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Puerto Veijo de Talamanca Tue, 27 May 2014 17:00:09 +0000 Read More]]> When we first moved to Costa Rica, we based ourselves in San Jose. San Jose is in a great spot half way between the two coasts, half way between Nicaragua and Panama, and nestled in the Central Valley. The temperature doesn’t vary much, hovering between 68-85 F (20-30 C). There are great restaurants, theaters, festivals, museums and cheap public transportation.

I did not enjoy it.

Let me be clear; this is not San Jose’s fault. I don’t like cities. I never have, and there are exactly two cities I love, and one I like for non-visiting purposes. I loved everything that San Jose had to offer. I loved going out for lunch and dinner and the art festival and the markets. But the constant hum of the city, the echoes of autos and people and construction on concrete and pavement — it was like wearing an ill-fitting dress.

Jonathan loved the city. Our reactions on returning could not have been more different. As we drove back to Puerto Viejo after my trip to the US to pick up our pups, Jonathan said, “It was so good to be back in San Jose. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.”

I stared at him somewhat incredulously. “Really? I hadn’t realized how much I didn’t like it.”

Story of our lives, really.

We’d taken a few weekend trips while in San Jose, knowing that we would want to move on and explore more of Costa Rica. We enjoyed Puerto Viejo, and I was able to find a house that fit my specifications, and here we are.

Boy, did we luck out. I love where we are. I didn’t research much about the different areas of Puerto Viejo, which are defined by the beaches they surround. In order, starting from Puerto Viejo and heading south, you have Puerto Viejo, Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo, after which is the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.

We ended up in Cocles. The house is less than a five minute walk from the main street, down a dirt road, nestled in the not-so-quiet rain forest. At the corner of our road and the main road sits the community center: a cafe/chocolatier/yoga studio/hostel and a bar. Across from them, the beach.

carribeansCaribeans sits below Om Yoga, and draws the morning and day crowd. They make their own chocolate and you can pick which chocolate you would like in your mocha frappuccino. (Chile or mint chocolate, anyone?)


The evenings, the crowd moves next door to Tasty Waves, where something is going on every night of the week except Wednesday. Trivia Night, Movie Night, Game Night, Karaoke Night. If you’re a partier, you don’t want to miss Tuesdays. The schedule says they close at 2am, but that seems more a light suggestion than a rule.

I’m not sure what makes this a better fit for me than San Jose. Is it the small town? Is it living surrounded by nature? I had a fantastic community in San Jose. I’m seeing the germination of fitting into a fantastic community here. But already, I feel more at home. I think I’ve gone out and been more social in my two weeks here than in my four months in San Jose. (That may be an exaggeration, but not by much.)

We’ve got some friends passing through and coming to visit in the next month, and I can’t wait to introduce them to this chill and bright corner of Costa Rica.

(For more pro-San Jose info, visit Journeys With Jessie.)