Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Although there are often lots of good things about moving--getting rid of all those cheap high-heeled shoes you bought at Target, for example, and living in a house whose yard has not yet been disfigured by dogs--there are often massive amounts of stress, work, and frustration involved too. There can be so much difficulty, in fact, that it can eclipse the good things and make you wonder if "moving limbo" feels all that different from, say, prison camp limbo. Or insane asylum limbo. Or, for that matter, hell limbo.

Two weeks into packing, the wall of cardboard boxes in the kitchen looks decidedly less impressive than it did at the beginning, when you so zealously, neatly, excitedly filled each box and wrote the name of its contents--"libros," "knickknackos"--on top with a big black marker. Now the boxes have settled, the large ones at the bottom sagging beneath those above, and their exposed surfaces have been turned into temporary shelving units for an exotic array of items: a bowl of cat food, an ancient teddy bear, a stack of notebooks, and a twisted bunch of beach towels. At first, the boxes looked purposeful and organized, a fitting rampart for the foundations of your bold new life, but now they look tired, confused, and messy--just like you.

Having moved seven times in the last twelve years, you know all about the ups and downs of vacating a home and starting over in a new one, so it should come as no surprise that you'd look at those boxes--there are only ten of them, after all--and feel discouraged by the amount of work that remains to be done. You're experienced, though, so you know everything will get done; you will get to walk around in a yard, at least for a little while, that has yet to be pooped on/dug up by your canine companions.

Of course, some things are different this time: there's the question of whether your canine companions will even make it to the new house, given that their rabies shots expire September 6th and Costa Rica might not let them in, and there's the question of what new house you're even talking about, seeing as presently there's no new house at all, just hopes of a new house. Then there's the question of how you'll communicate with people in a country whose language you don't speak, and there's the question of what happens if one of your kids gets sick and needs to go to the hospital.

But that, you know, is not the type of question you ask yourself at 11:45 pm when insomnia has wreaked enough havoc already the last few nights. Just like you don't think about the crocodiles hanging out in the river mouths, those questions should be shelved for now--on the boxes in the kitchen, next to the cat food, the teddy bear, and all the other stuff sitting around in moving limbo.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Moving burnout officially kicked in today. Since it's Friday I started enjoying Happy Hour at 4:30 with two beers I found in the fridge behind an egglant and some parsley. I've only had one of the beers, but I already feel tipsy, maybe because of all the Extreme Vacuuming I've been doing. When I realized yesterday that the bulk of my moving time would be spent vacuuming up fur shed by Astrid, I decided to get to the root of the problem and just vacuum Astrid. At first it seemed like a good idea, but then she tried to bite me, so I gave up.

A head cold started creeping in last night and all day today I felt sluggish and unfocused. I managed to fold three loads of clean laundry, but when it came to deciding what to put in the keep/sell/give away piles I was stymied. All the things we have to do--find a house to live in, buy plane tickets, get the pets immunized, apply for health insurance, clean the current house, sell the cars, hold a garage sale--and all the decisions we have to make seemed ridiculously insurmountable.

It looks like we'll be going to Costa Rica directly from California, rather than from Texas as planned. We'd thought going to Texas first would simplify some things, but the idea of making the trip there with the kids, the pets, and our stuff now seems like a whole other headache. Plus, it's been hot in Corpus recently--it was 110 degrees the other day--and I honestly don't know if the dogs could handle that.

We're still not sure what day we'll leave, but it can't be later than September 5th, because by the 6th it will be one year since the dogs' rabies vaccine, and they won't be able to fly. We'll probably leave towards the end of August, which I'm realizing now is five whole weeks away and enough time (I hope!) to get all the loose ends tied up. Regarding the effect of all those loose ends on my sanity, as long as I keep taking breaks I should be ok. This afternoon when I started feeling overwhelmed I switched gears and took pictures of my new deodorant crystal. It was so completely unproductive and idiotic that I felt energized afterwards, ready to tackle more laborious moving tasks. But by then it was almost 5, the end of the day, and it seemed silly to start something new, so I had one of the beers in the fridge. And then the other. And then when Joedy and Lula came home there was a blizzard of domestic activity and then suddenly it was 11 and I was falling asleep in front of the computer.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Just why are you moving to Costa Rica?

Because it seems like it's pretty green there, and green's my favorite color!

It's weird for Joedy and me to think that exactly a year ago we were packing our stuff up to move from Santa Barbara to Ventura, all the while hoping that Ventura would be a temporary stop on the way towards "the big move." We actually said "wouldn't it be great if we were there for just, like, a year?" And here we are one year later, packing up our stuff and getting ready to embark on the adventure we've been dreaming about.

Having never been to Costa Rica, it's possible that I'm even more excited than Joedy, who's been there four times. He's never been to the town we're hoping to call home--Montezuma, on the Nicoya Peninsula--so that will be a surprise for both of us. I feel like I should be more apprehensive, but I'm not, I'm just excited.

We told Lula yesterday that we'd be moving, and it went as well as I could have imagined. Although yesterday she said she didn't want to leave Liam, her good friend and neighbor, she didn't seem all that upset, and today she was walking around with a picture of a jungle, saying "this looks like Costa Rica." Honestly, I think all those hours spent watching Diego videos paid off in our favor: she's brainwashed to think positively of Costa Rica, and even though she's past the point of believing Diego is a real person, I know part of her is excited about going to the place where all that "animal rescuing" goes on...

The plan is to leave by the 15th of August and either drive or fly to Texas, where Joedy's parents and brother live. We'll make Corpus Christi our base for a little while, during which time Joedy will go to Costa Rica to look for a rental in Montezuma. When he comes back, we'll all fly down together, move in, and officially start the new phase in our lives. At this point we're not sure which of our furry friends will come with us: the dogs and Lapis will definitely come down some time (maybe not right away), but we're hesitating about Sapporo, the rabbit.

We decided today that instead of bringing any of our furniture with us we'd just sell it. We won't have to deal with the hassle of shipping that way, and the cash we'll get for our stuff will be helpful, to say the least. Although we'll have a small amount of income to count on after Joedy stops working, anything extra in our account will make things that much easier--liquidation (of our super high-class thrift store furniture!) is the name of the game!

I have so much more to say about all this but I'm dead F'g tired, and since it's 9:32 and we're still getting up at 3 in the morning I should hit the G'f hay. More reporting on the Grand Green Adventure soon!

Le Big News

Saturday, July 18, 2009

We waited too long to tell them the news. Thinking it would be best if some of the wrinkles were first smoothed out of the very creased "plan" part of our Big News, my partner in crime and I waited for "the right time" to talk to I Parenti during our recent stay with them in Francia. As we later learned, the right time had already passed, and when I finally told them--my partner had already left, to finish a job back home--the news was as fresh as a rotting horse's head, and the time was most definitely wrong.

"What do you mean, Joedy lost his job?"

"What do you mean, you're moving to Costa Rica?"

"Why didn't you tell us earlier? We're your family!"

Joedy's and my actions--withholding news and secretly plotting a move--wreaked more havoc than we'd anticipated, and among the unforeseen outcomes was my decision to return home on the 17th as originally planned, instead of staying in France a few weeks longer with Lula and Malko. At my mother's insistence, I decided to go back to Ventura to help Joedy empty the house and get things in order for the move to Costa Rica; although I too thought going home made the most sense, I'd wanted to create an extended remix of the weeks we'd already spent together in France so that finally, finally my parents could spend some real, relaxed, unrushed time with their grandchildren. The disappointment I felt in myself when I decided to go home--when I took back the promise I'd made my parents of more time together--was doubled by the fact that I'd thought I was past hurting them. Seeing my parents sad is one thing; knowing I've caused them the sadness is another.

Lula, Malko, and I flew back yesterday. We woke up at 3 o'clock this morning and I put my jet lag to good use, scrubbing the bathtub, vacuuming the living room, giving both dogs a bath, doing laundry (and sweeping the laundry cupboard!), and googling things like "domestic pets Costa Rica crocodiles." My googling taught me some important things (crocodiles DO like cats!), but I didn't learn anything as important as that which I learned a few days ago: that at 35 I'm still learning, for better or worse, some Big Things about family.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Just a quickie to let my hordes of fans know that I'm still alive and well. Well, not quite well, because I did have an "experience" (out-of-body) with a certain vat of fresh farm-churned butter, and it's still in my ears and in my aura, but more or less I'm ok, I think. At one point I found myself levitating above the Basque country, holding a conversation with a pottock (wild mountain pony), but he was speaking in Catalan so it was hard to understand anything. I think he said "lay off the butter," but it might have been "pay back your brother." Which brought me back to that time I found those twenties in that copy of War And Peace in our bookshelf back in Wakefield, twenties I think said brudder earned washing dishes at Ricky's...

During my levitation I thought about other peeps who I need to pay back, in more ways than one: CKMOMF rank very high on the list, first of all because they bought us all tickets to France, and second of all because they've been feeding us and generally taking care of us. Our vacay in The Land of Freedom Fries has been great, to say the least--relaxing, fattening, and all-around wunderbarring. One great big buttery merci to me 'rents--we LOVE YOU!!!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tomorrow Joedy, Malko, and I are driving south into the Basque country, where we'll stay in a 16th-century farmhouse for two nights. The owner of the farm agreed to put us up if we helped clean the pig sty, chop firewood, darn socks, thatch the roof, and peel vegetables for the meals we'll eat with his wife and nineteen children; the web site advertised it as a "genuine 16th-century French farm experience," minus the plague, and I can't begin to say how excited I am to develop blisters all over my body from all that fun hard labor.

On our noontime break we hope to drive into a town called St. Jean de Luz, which is on the coast just above the Spanish border and which quite simply seems to be one of the most charming places in the world, nestled as it is between mountains and ocean (not unlike a certain Southern Californian city) and reknowned as it is for its light, which sounds so freaking romantic that I'm getting all misty-eyed just thinking about it. I keep imagining Joedy and me walking along a lonely strip of beach to the sound of gulls and windswept strains of Edith Piaf, but then I remember that we'll have Malko, aka Birth Control, with us, and our conversation will be less about finding a place to make out than finding a place to change a poopy diaper.

This part of France, the southwestern-most coastal region, is an area Joedy and I have been wanting to visit for a few years and for a few reasons: its proximity to Spain, year-round good waves, and physical beauty have led us to think we might be happy living there--and hey, if we could make it work, why not? We planned a visit there three and a half years ago, but the trip fell through; needless to say, I'm totally chomping at the bit to go there now.

While we're gone, Lula will stay with my parents in Cap Ferret, where we've been since Monday (Joedy DID arrive, WITH his passport, WITHOUT having to sleep in a strange bush), and if I had any fears about leaving her for three days they vanished this afternoon after this brief exchange:

Me (to Joedy): "I think Lula likes being on vacation with her parents!"

Lula: "I do. But I like being without you too."

Um, okay. I didn't think that stuff kicked in until the kid turned thirteen--a little earlier if she's been listening obsessively to Pink Floyd The Wall--but whatevs. This way I won't feel too bad at night, thinking about her missing me, and we'll be able to settle into this little jaunt solo with Malko, which should at the very least be "interesting."

Between threshing hay and carding wool, back at the farmstead, I'm going to try to fit in some more devil-may-care sunbathing. I say "devil-may-care" because apparently I'm one of the only female people still doing it without the upper part of her bathing suit, a realization that filled me first with terror, then a sense of freedom, and then the desire to eat more butter. Which I did, and which I will, even if it gets all rancid and smelly in the sun--that way, at least, my herd of sheep will know where to find me.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Always on the lookout for new recipes that are easy and pleasing to the finicky palates of Certain Important Members Of My Family (CIMOMF, not to be confused with CKMOMF), I discovered this one the other day and thought I'd share it with my readers.


1. Go to market with father. As soon as vegetable stand lady yells "Bonjour, Monsieur Lalie" to your father (this is normal), hang a quick right. Walk quickly past cheese stall, fighting temptation to clear your sinuses with Roquefort fumes, until you see the fish stand.

2. At fish stand, resist urge to stick finger in the eye of a giant fish who, judging from the nasty look on his face, clearly deserved to be turned into cioppino. When fishmonger comes toward you, do a quick mental run-through of what you will say to him. Remember not to forget to say "bonjour," "monsieur," "s'il vous plait," "au revoir," and, again, "monsieur." Above all, you don't want him to remark on your lack of manners or French food-purchasing know-how. You're aware that maybe, from a young age, you were brainwashed into thinking that a lack of politeness would bring shame, infamy, and the fleas of a thousand dingos onto your family, but you don't want to take any chances now, when you're in public.

3. Look at fishmonger's face, not at the entrails casually strewn on the bib of his apron, and request two bushels of escargots de mer. When fishmonger laughs, waves his hands, and says something fast and incomprehensible, feign understanding with a light chuckle and significant nodding of your head. When he repeats himself, this time without laughing, and it becomes clear that you've placed your order incorrectly, say "Euh...attendez, s'il vous plait. Mon pere..."

4. Crane head to locate father amidst groups of polished-looking shoppers wearing coordinated outfits in varying shades of navy and white. Flag him down with the loaf of bread in your hand, mouthing the words "help me." When he arrives, throw all manners to the wind, pointing the loaf of bread at the fishmonger and not even trying to speak in French. "He, uh--I tried to ask for some snails. Can you--?" Grin idiotically at the fishmonger, who launches into a discussion with your father about water depth, temperature, and murkiness, and then shovels a hefty heap of black sea snails into a plastic bag.

5. Walk home. Mentally prepare yourself for encounter with CIMOYourF, when you'll be quizzed about what you bought and who will be forced to eat it. Decide to feign deafness if the need arises, admittedly a drastic measure but one that is strangely enjoyable, perhaps because it is sadistic. Once you arrive home, go straight to the kitchen, where your mother is waiting. When she asks, in a low voice, "Did you get them?" check that the coast is clear and then show her the bag peeping out of your straw shopping basket.

6. With mother stationed at entrance to kitchen (she can be pretending to wash the floor), empty the escargots de mer into a pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, and then dunk the snails in cold water. Dry them with Q-tips, and then remove each snail from its shell with a needle (this can also be done with a vacuum cleaner). Put the snails directly in a blender.

7. When all snails are in blender, add two cups of peanut butter, five cups of cottage cheese, three bananas, and two tablespoons of tabasco. Blend on high until creamy, then pour into colorful plastic cups with straws. Arrange cups on a tray and exit the kitchen, saying "Who wants a yummy smoothie?"

8. Hand a cup to each CIMOYourF. When they ask "What the hell's that weird taste?" mention the tabasco. You won't exactly be lying, and you can follow up by muttering something like "Southwestern tradition...peanuts...spicy," which, hopefully, will impress them enough that they shut up.

9. Once they've finished their smoothies, gather CIMOYourF and tell them they each just drank half a bushel of sea snails. Tell them this with a straight face, because if you appear to find it funny they may not trust you anymore. If they become indignant, saying snails are "gross" and your culinary abilities resemble those of a "brain-damaged baboon," remind them of the high iron content of sea snails when freshly pulverized. If they show further signs of discomfort or become enraged, gently hint at all the love that went into the preparation of the smoothies. You won't exactly be lying, and someone might offer to clean up the kitchen.