Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Week 56: Pondering the Meaning of Life

On January 9th, the world lost a great man.. my Uncle Bill. He was 96 and had an amazing life.

My uncle had the kind of life, and death, that we all would want. He was kind and funny and was incredibly fit, still riding his bike in his 90's. I was really amazed at his health and his wit when I got a chance to visit him a few years ago.  He took a fall and broke his hip over Thanksgiving and was never able to recover, but he was surrounded by so much love every day of his life, including those last days.

Even though my uncle was 96 and had a better, longer life than most of us will, his death is a sad reminder of death's inevitability. My aunt and cousins and so many people who loved my uncle are grieving and, I know very well how difficult it is to move forward with life after someone you love dies.

I know this is a bit "off-topic" of my usual 60 until 60 goals, but I suppose as I near that magic age that initiates us into elderhood, I also am facing my own mortality.. and maybe even more upsetting, the increasing number of deaths I'll need to endure as people I love die.  A definite downside of getting older.

I went to a very interesting documentary, 63-Up, on Saturday.. the most recent installment of the "Up Series" that follows the lives of 14 British people, starting at age 7 and every 7 years after, (7-Up, 14-Up, 21-Up, etc.)  They are now 63, and they, too, are facing issues of mortality.

Throughout this past 56 weeks, as I've been faithfully executing my goals, I've been for the most part, very happy. But I've also seen how easy it is to fall into a mood..  to feel sad about things that are out of my control..  Even the smallest thing.. an unintentional rejection from someone, for example, can start to make me feel negative. If I don't watch out, I can go into my "Who cares?" mode. "We all just die, so what does any of this matter?"

But then I remember this post from one of my favorite self-help gurus, Neil Pasricha, who reminds me that the short time we have left is exactly why every moment does matter.

I also remember the quote from my Carpe Diem inspiration, Craig Dunham, who wrote this when faced with his ALS diagnosis:

This time, is a gift that many people have not been given.  I especially appreciate the opportunity to show my children how life can be lived without anger, resentment, bitterness or regrets.  I have purged all of that from my life and intend to leave this life with nothing but love, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion in my heart.  I am so ready to live life to its fullest, I only wish I would have thought to do it sooner.
So, rather than carry on in this negative tone about the inevitability of death, I will thank my Uncle Bill for inspiring me to live a full life and end this week's blog post with some Carpe Diem moments from my week.

Watching my grandson, Diego, play basketball

Eating Nepalese food with Adam, wearing the shirt Matt brought back from Nepal for me

Learning about this cool aeroponics tower from my friend, Kathy, a Master Gardener!

Co-hosting a tea party with my friend, Sonja, using my teacup collection at her beautiful home 

Wearing a new fun hat to our tea party

Changing my tree to a Valentine tree and adding a new flamingo ornament gifted to me by my sweet AirBnB guest!

Life is good.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Week 55: Snowbirding in Mexico

One of my big goals from my list of 60 was to explore Snowbird locations. Last winter, after attending an International Living conference, I'd narrowed down my short list to Costa Rica, Mexico, and Florida and to spend time in each during the winter of 2020.

As luck would have it, I was invited to the January 18th destination wedding of the daughter of my BFF, Lisa, on the Mexican Riviera!

Lisa (mother-of-the-bride) and me at her daughter's destination wedding in Akumal

There's nothing as breathtakingly beautiful and romantic as a wedding on the beach. I felt so lucky to be able to share this special experience with my friend. (By the way, this is the second Akumal wedding I've had the pleasure of being at this season! My friend, Samar, also had a destination wedding here in September!) If you ever get a chance to experience this, I highly recommend it!

My almost-2-week stay at Conversa wrapped up with a beautiful wine and cheese party. I feel so good about the friendships I made at this special place.

Group photo at Wine & Cheese Party

My last meal at Conversa with my new sweet friend, Diane
On Thursday night, I headed from the San José, Costa Rica airport to Cancún, Mexico where I met up with Jeri, someone I'd met virtually on a Facebook Forum for single retired women. Jeri had met a woman on the plane, Lana, who was going to be biking through Mexico for the next few months! Jeri invited Lana to visit us in Akumal (on her bike ride between Cancún and Tulum). It was so interesting to learn more about both of these courageous women!  Jeri donated one of her kidneys to a stranger in 2018 and Lana has been riding her bike through many countries for years!

Two amazing women: Jeri and Lana
The condo I rented here is amazingly beautiful and only about $100/night. Splitting that with Jeri has made it even more affordable.  The weather has been sunny and warm and I keep marveling that it's January! There's no doubt that I feel healthier and more energetic in this warm climate!

That being said, I think Sarasota, Florida is the most likely choice for my "long-term snowbird spot". As much as I've loved Costa Rica and Mexico, it's hard to get around without a car, and I can barely manage driving in the states, so do not want to deal with driving in a foreign country.

Also walking and hiking is much more difficult and dangerous. Even though the places I've been staying are relatively safe from crime, there are a lot of wild dogs (at least in Costa Rica) and there are, of course, more scary things like snakes and iguanas and these animals that look like big rats..  

Off to the beach!

Monday, January 13, 2020

Week 54: Conversa -- Learning Spanish in Costa Rica

One of the final goals of my 60 until 60 project is #29 from my list:

Go to a foreign country and practice speaking the native language

After doing a little online research for a place to go where I could practice Spanish, I found Conversa in Costa Rica.  They had a Spanish immersion program just for retirees and after a few emails with Andy Kaufman, the owner, I decided it would be the perfect way to accomplish this goal.

I fell in love with this beautiful campus, high on a hill, the moment I arrived.  Everything about this learning vacation has exceeded my expectations. Here are some of the highlights:

Making new friends

I'm not usually a big fan of going on a trip alone because.. well.. it's lonely.  However, this wasn't a typical trip or vacation and there were several reasons that I was able to make friends here at Conversa:

  • We're sort of like students in a dorm. We have common areas and a cafeteria in which we all gather and share stories
  • Though there are some couples, there are also other people who have come here alone and were interested in socializing and getting to know others
  • Most of the other students are interested in the same kinds of things I'm interested in: Communication, Travel, Learning, New Experiences, and, of course, Spanish!
  • There have been social activities and excursions on the weekends, so we're getting to know each other outside of class.
On a Coffee Plantation Tour
Even though I've only been here a week, I feel I've made some good friends! In fact, I'm already making some plans to visit some of my new friends and I hope they'll be visiting me.

The teachers and all the coordinators and staff at Conversa are extremely friendly and helpful, too.   Everyone is so welcoming and warm.

The campus

What a beautiful place! I just can't say enough about how much I love the surroundings here. Of course, it's wonderful to have perfect weather in the 70's every day in January! But, I love the quaint houses, porch swings, beautiful views, hammocks, and just the overall feeling you get at every turn.

I've made it a habit of doing a 6:30am walk down and up a very steep hill of the street leading into the campus - quite a healthy workout routine! There's a pool and flowering bushes and trees that I pass as I make my way up for breakfast each morning before our daily classes start.

Before our morning workout up the big hill
I'll only be here another few days and I already miss this little piece of heaven. I think I'll make it an annual tradition to come back each year.

Costa Rica

The country, as well, has so much to offer, from beaches, to volcanos, to rain forest hikes, to birdwatching and such a vast array of animals and plants. Last weekend I enjoyed a long day trip to Manuel Antonio National Park with several of my classmates.

 Learning Spanish

I'm loving my Spanish classes, but I must admit, I'm disappointed that my oral skills are still so poor. I feel good about how much I've learned, but I still have a long way to go. That's OK, though.  I'm motivated to continue to learn and I feel lucky that I have so many new friends to practice with!

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Week 53: Awesome Delights in the New Year

Yay! It’s 2020 and so far it’s been a fabulous year. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting on a First Class flight headed for Costa Rica! The upgrade was a surprise. I’m a United MileagePlus Premier Member and that means I randomly get upgraded if the flight isn't full. Free drinks (I go with Baileys and coffee), yummy breakfast, and comfy big seats! I feel so pampered and like such a jet-setter!

New Luggage Tag Christmas Gift from my sis!
That’s just one of many happy surprises I’ve had this week.  Let me do a quick summary of some of my favorites:

Receiving "The Book of Awesome" in the mail

Awesome surprise gift from MB

One day last week, I was texting with my Anonymous Commenter Friend, Michael Bolé and told him that I liked the word, "quotidian," and I'd first learned the word when I read the description of "The Book of Awesome" - a book of quotidian delights! A few days later, the book appeared in my mailbox as a surprise gift! Is that awesome or what? 

Having a Zoom “Virtual New Year’s Eve Party” 

I’ve been trying to figure out what options I have for communicating using Wi-Fi so I can avoid the international data rates. Matt and Stella (my son and daughter-in-law) experimented with me and we played an online game of codenames using Zoom and it worked great! I’ve also tried WhatsApp, Skype, and FaceTime and they all have worked without any problems!  Isn’t it amazing to live in an age when we can make these International video calls for free? 

Walk2Connect New Year’s Day hike

Walk2Connect is an co-op I discovered last year which combines two of my passions: Walking and Connection! Here’s one of the owners, Jonathan Stalls, (who actually walked across America!) giving a little rundown on what the New Year's Day hike was all about:

I showed up in my colorful, cool, “Carp”e Diem hat that Stella had made me as a Christmas gift! I just love my colorful new hat, and was happily surprised when I found some other kindred Mad Hatters who showed up with funky hats of their own.

I fit right in with my "Carp"e Diem Hat crocheted for me by Stella

3AM Ride to the Airport

3AM ride to the airport is another awesome gift!

My housemate, John, heard me on the phone talking about my 5:20am flight out of DIA and offered to give me a ride to the airport! I almost always take the very convenient SkyRide bus, but the first one this morning didn't leave until after 4am, which was really too late.  My friend, Sue, also texted and told me she'd give me a ride, even knowing it would have meant a middle-of-the-night drive. I feel so blessed to have such thoughtful friends!


I safely arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, and was met at the airport by José who picked up me and a few others and drove us to the Conversa Campus in Santa Ana. I'll be writing more throughout the week about my stay here, but so far, the lodging and people have exceeded expectations! 
José giving us a tour of the Conversa campus