Our ONLY “Weekend Trip” thus far . . .

Sorry everyone, life has been a HUMONGOUS battle the last few weeks.  And, like the good girl I am, I chose to focus on our family, instead of fighting my blog.  My Spanish tutor calls this “THE Culture SHOCK!”  He says it is the merging of two worlds and at times it feels like a collision.  I must say . . . I AGREE!  I was so exhausted two weeks ago that I had to cancel on Juan, that’s my Spanish tutor’s name, and lay down for a rest.  3 1/2 hours later I woke up.  I was surprised, but only for a moment.  I could feel how tired I was, deep down tired, and it hit me that I was in need of some tender, loving care.

It’s ironic how we expect we can just pick up our fully functioning lives in one place and think we can just transplant it into another.  Maybe there are those who can do that?  Maybe their lives are so simple that doing such is an easy task.  Well, my life is not that way; I am transplanting more than 1 life here, I am transplanting 6 and it has been HARD WORK!  But, on the up side, we are doing it.  We have been through a HUGE wave, it felt more like being sucked into an under-toe, but our heads are up and we are safe and sound.  We made it through but we realize that if we are going to make “our move to Costa Rica work” we must stay in the ocean and face the future waves that WILL come.   Sure, we don’t quite know how to handle them yet, but we have a plan.  Instead of freaking out, we are going to catch our breath, learn from the last HUGE set of waves and then give the next set of waves all we have.

Don’t you love analogies!?!  I sure do!  They remind me of my Savior.

Learning to swim in the ocean is fun, but getting your first mouthful of salty water is NOT so much fun.  Somehow the enjoyment of the sandy beach, the touch of the ocean water on your body with the warmth of the sun outweighs the negative side-effects that the ocean brings (i.e. – under-toes, salty water, sharp rocks/sea shells, dead fish on the shore, rotting sea weed, sunburns, naughty monkeys, etc.) It is rather ironic that I am even using a “beach” analogy, we have only been to the beach ONCE since we moved here, almost 8 weeks ago (Stephanie – ago was my mastery word for the day.  How did you like my use of it in a sentence?!?).  Hard to imagine, huh!  But it is the truth. So, while I have a moment to enjoy the peaceful waves that seem to be rolling in, I’ll take this opportunity to catch you up on as much as I can.  Fortunately, you haven’t missed much.

At this point, life consists of church on Sunday, school Monday – Friday, homebound weekends (due to still only having a 5 seater car) and then repeat.  Kind of boring, huh!  But we KNOW there is a reason for it.  I’m sure there is some family development psychologist out there just LOVING what is happening to our family and saying, “Yes, YES!  This is the way to acclimate to a new life.  I’m grateful you have been prohibited from touring the sites, visiting the beaches and going outside your daily boundaries.  This is good.  VERY GOOD!”  Thankfully I don’t need “said psychologist” to tell me that this is the right path for our family.  We have a loving Heavenly Father who hears and has answered our heartfelt prayers and concerns (okay, woes is a better term to use).  He has richly blessed us and has sent us comfort in knowing that THIS is the path He would have us live at this time, and if we do, we will be blessed.  And we have been blessed, but not in the ways you might expect.

One thing I have learned from the last set of waves is the importance of GRATITUDE (why do I keep forgetting to be grateful?)  Our last set of the waves of life, felt like they might not ever end – which is the type of set surfers adore!  But I’m not a surfer, well, at least not yet!  I caught myself complaining alot and thinking negatively over this last set (well, they did last over 5 months).  I got wrapped up focusing on what I expected the waves to be like, instead of just embracing them and learning to have fun with this set of waves . . . like a surfer would.  So, how do you learn to surf when you have never surfed before?  First, I needed to decided I wanted to try to surf.  TRY is the key word here.  Then I needed to get up, out of the water, that was pulling me down, and place myself on a firm foundation; something that could float me to the shore but leave me with enough thrill that I would WANT to return out into the waves for another ride.

I “looked” around for a board I could use but I only wanted the BEST one for me – something that would truly keep me safe and carry me through whatever the waves would bring – especially since I don’t know how to read the waves like surfers do.  I was a bit frightened, so I turned to the other people on the beach, people that I trusted and admired, to SEE what board they were using.  They sure looked like surfing was easy for them, but they confided in me that it wasn’t – it was all about the coaching they had received.  I asked them where I could get a board like theirs?  They said that they got their board from their coach and they told me where I could find Him but that I had to go to Him.  Well, if He is the BEST teacher, than I think I deserve the best.  So I found this great coach, through the wonderful help of his students, and He showed me His board – it actually already had a name – He called it The Gospel.  He told me that this board would keep me afloat no matter what waves hit me.  With it strapped to my body, this board could pull me up to the surface if I ever got pulled under a wave.  He said it was a life preserver as well as an awesome tool to learn to have fun on the ocean waves of life.

This sounded great!  But, I had one problem . . . how do you USE this wonderful board, called The Gospel?  With that, He offered His services.  He said the training He would give me wouldn’t be easy, but it would make me strong.  He said He could prepare me for what the waves might bring, joy as well as sadness.  I wondered if I even wanted to ride these waves after all, but I saw my children watching me and I realized that if Mama can do it, they might give it a try too.  So I said yes and asked Him to be my coach!  It was worth a try at least . . . or “an experiement”?  (I love Pres. Uchdorfts talk last conference on “give it an experiment” – check it out here . . . https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/the-power-of-a-personal-testimony?lang=eng)  So guess what happened?  I got to ride some AWESOME waves and I got to SEE and EXPERIENCE for myself that I CAN DO “hard” things.  But then those weak or “hard things” become strengths – it is SO COOL!

It took humility, courage and great strength to pull myself up, onto that board, and then dare to ride the way my coach was teaching me. Yes, I crashed a few times, for instance, I didn’t want to go to the RS activities. I attended the first 2 activities but not the 3rd, it was learning a pioneer dance and I decided to stay home and ended up sulking/sleeping the night away.  I now see that I missed out on getting to know some people that could have helped me acclimate better to Costa Rica.  I’m sad I made that mistake (I crashed) but I am learning from my mistakes and have hope I will do better the next time that wave comes along.

I found that while riding my board that I had to have a particular focus in my mind, a positive focus.  The people crashing all around me would upset me and brought fear and doubt to my mind.  To chase it away, I had to think positively and found that counting my blessings did just that.  Soon, I could ignore the negativity and “possibility” of failure around me and JUST RIDE!  It has been a rush and I’m excited to keep learning – because I can TRUST MY TEACHER!  He only wants what is BEST for me and HE will NEVER let me down!  By the way, He is available anywhere in the world, not just here in Costa Rica.  Remember, these waves are a metaphor for life.  Your trials might not be waves but mountains to climb?  He is a WONDERFUL coach and I HIGHLY recommend Him.  His name is Jesus.

I LOVE this song .  .  . “Mountains to Climb”  Give it a listen, it will help refocus you when you are facing “your” tough waves or if you are hesitant to get back out there and try to surf again. https://www.lds.org/youth/music?lang=eng

Well, enough about the emotional/spiritual side of our experiences, I guess it is time to SHOW you what we got to do that one and only weekend we were given to “get away”.  It actually happened the week before school started.  So, forgive me, I must add a few pictures at the end of the blog that I found on Paul’s camera that capture one of our kids having his first day of school.  They are SO WORTH IT THOUGH!  I’ll break it down for you  . . .

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Monday, February 2, 2015 We got to go pick up the kiddos uniforms.  We meaning, Paul and the kiddos – mom had to stay home and wait in anticipation.  Don’t they look so cute!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015 – Paul had a client, Isabella, from Columbia in town.  He thought she might like to have dinner with our family.  So we invited her over and served her a “traditional dish from the U.S.” of . . .  Sweet & Sour Chicken.  🙂  It actually didn’t turn out very well.  The internet was terrible that day, so I couldn’t get the recipe I needed.  Oh well, I tried my best. She was so “sweet,” she brought these suckers for the kids.  They are “the treat” in Columbia.  She also gave me my beautiful tulips that are in my kitchen window.

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, February 5, 2015 – We didn’t do much on Wednesday, except for swim of course.  I had no idea how much I was going to miss those lazy days.  On Thursday we had our maid come help clean our bathrooms, sweep, dust and mop.  I love her help (at least when she shows up.)

Afterward, Paul hired a van to take our family to our school’s “New Family Meeting.”  Imagine back to school night but with all the parents being spoken to in Spanish at once.  Paul and I separated, I went to L’s and Paul went to G’s.  Then we both went to K’s class.  We completely missed E’s teachers.  The school has never seen a family with 4 kids before – we are an anomaly.

 

 

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Friday, February 6, 2015 – I decided to take the bull by the horns and do something I hadn’t done in over 2 1/2 years.  I had the kids help me pack a lunch, had them grab their rain coats and we hopped into the car for a trip to MY FAVORITE spot in Costa Rica . . . Volcan Poas.

On our way up to the volcano, we stopped for our favorite treat . .  STRAWBERRIES!  A cute, old man, in a huge yellow rain coat, stands on the side of the road and waves you down as you pass by.  The strawberries are the cheapest price but they are SO FRESH!  YUM!

We didn’t think our trip could get any better, since we were expecting the volcano to have minimal visibility, when we came upon a SLOTH!  A REAL, LIVE SLOTH!  I thought K was going to pass out because of the cuteness.  (check out my facebook page for the video . . . it is SO COOL!)

I shouldn’t have been so surprised to see him move so much, but I was.  Sloths are always known to hold still for hours at a time.  Well, after his long walk, he did just that.  He just hung there and didn’t move at all.  So we went on our way to see the Volcano.

 

 

 

 

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As I had figured, the volcano was completely covered in clouds.  No worries, we saw a SLOTH!  So, we turned around and headed back down my favorite road in Costa Rica.  We did stop and check in on the sloth.  He had moved to another wire but was stopped to take another long rest.

The kids said they were hungry for lunch, so I drove down the road and parked at a beautiful spot.  We enjoyed our lunch in the car but I had the kids get out for their favorite snack – Rikkos.  If you know G, you know all about Rikkos.

As we were enjoying our snack, two dogs came up to us.  Knowing that dogs just roam around Costa Rica, I couldn’t assume they were friendly dogs.  I told the kids not to feed them and to not act afraid.  Well . . . that freaked K out, so she ran to the car.  That made the dogs all the more curious.

The kids didn’t like how close the dogs were getting and decided to hide in the car.  E didn’t want to let his Rikkos go but that was what the dogs were after.  G did his best to stand guard, but the closer the dogs got, the more scared K was.  She was so scared she actually FELL into the car.  Luckily no one got hurt and we headed home.

 

 

 

Saturday, February 7, 2015 

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Playa Dona Ana – E took all of the pictures for this trip.  Give him a round of applause!

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Can you SEE how tired G and L are.  Poor kids.  The waves were too much fun.  They were ready for a long nap after today!

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Paul had his company car delivered Friday, so that meant we had 2 cars available to us.  The rental wasn’t due until later the next day, so we decided to take advantage of the rental and FINALLY hit the beach.  We of course chose our infamous “monkey beach.”

At first there was no sign of any monkeys.  We could hear them in the trees, far away from the picnic areas, but the beach was so crowded (I’m sure the were just “normal” crowded for a Saturday – we were used to having the beach all to ourselves during the week.) that the monkeys stayed away . . . until lunch time.

One by one, the monkeys came out of their trees and into ours.  The Ticos coo-ed with joy!  The fed the monkeys anything they had: watermelon, pineapple, sandwiches, tortillas, even a fruit pouch (like we give to babies in the U.S.).  It was rather amusing to watch the Ticos, more than the monkeys.  E got some GREAT photos of the monkey in our tree.  He was right above our head.  But this monkey didn’t get to eat any of our Rikkos!

 

 

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We had set our belongings up on a little spot of sand but while I was changing into my swim clothes, a nice man near us offered to share his family’s spot at a cement picnic table.  Paul actually took him up on his offer!  I was thrilled not to have to eat PB&J sandwiches on the sand.

We got visiting with the man and his family (his wife, his son and 2 daughters).  The family loved watching our family interact with each other.  They couldn’t take their eyes off of the kids.

The man was so kind, he showed our family what a coconut was and how to open it so you can drink the juice inside.  K was all over the experience.  G did not (and still doesn’t) like the juice.  L thought it was okay.  E didn’t mind it, especially when he found out it was good for him.  But K LOVED IT!

We enjoyed cracking open the shell on the cement bench and then eating the flesh inside.  It was a fun experience.

 

 

 IMG_6958Don’t we ALL look SO TIRED!  It was a hard move and we needed this trip to the beach but we were ready to go home at the end of the day!

 Sunday, February 8, 2015 – Ironically, I woke up very happy this morning.  I was actually thinking how grateful I was to be able to sit with Paul, after 3 years of having him sit on the stand, and enjoy our Sunday classes and Sacrament meeting together.  So I wasn’t surprised when we got to church early and the Stake President happened to be visiting our ward and whisked Paul away for a moment.  Paul joined me in the chapel, just minutes before the meeting started and whispered to me if I would support him in a church calling.  Of course the answer was yes, but the real question was “What is the calling?”

He smiled and said, “Do you have Faith that you can do anything?”  You’re kidding, right?!? My heart sank and instantly I knew that my blissful Sundays, the 4 that I got to have with Paul by my side, had come to an end.  I didn’t know that I needed to know the exact calling but I did want to know what would be pulling my husband away from our family every Sunday.

He said, “I’ve been called to the High Counsel.  I’ll know my assignment later this evening but I will most likely NOT be attending this ward with you.”  I was SHOCKED!  I hadn’t thought about THAT before.  No Paul AT ALL when I go to church.  Me ALL ALONE with 4 kids, KIDS!!!!, and I don’t speak ANY Spanish.  Wow!  I must REALLY be ready for this experience.  So with a few tears streaming down my cheeks, I lovingly raised my hand as Paul’s name was called to be sustained as a member of the High Council (thus the picture of the “High Council” – funny, I know, but this is what came up when I googled high council.  Ironically they have 12 members as well.  Hum, something to ponder?!?)

IMG_6959After Sacrament meeting, the Stake President asked to speak with me alone. Really?  How would he do that?  I don’t speak or understand Spanish and he doesn’t speak English.  But amazingly we actually understood each other.  It is literally one of my most treasured moments in my life.  To see the Stake President search, even strain for words and then have the exact one he needed come to mind was amazing to watch.  He also understood me so well – but not so much with my words, he could feel the truth of my spirit.  It was difficult to “let Paul go” but I felt it was right and the Stake President wanted to make sure I would support my husband.  I liked that too, he held me accountable.  It was a great experience.

Well, after church was over, the shock started to really sink in.  School was starting the next day, my husband was not going to be with me at church anymore, I just felt like I was being left alone.  I was going to miss my family.  I really wondered how THIS was going to be for my good. (I would find out little by little, but it really was. Hind sight is 20/20)  Later that night Paul did confirm his calling.  He was to help a struggling ward, 15 minutes away, that was lacking a 2nd counselor in the bishopric.  It was a ward with ups and downs but with a lot of potential.  Paul felt a bit overwhelmed but he has tackled this assignment like a champ.  I am truly blessed to be married to a man of his stature and virtue.  (see, a blessing!  I have an awesome husband and I was able to see it!)

Monday, February 8, 2015 – L’s first day of school but she was sick.  I already covered much of it in a past post – so check it out if you missed it.  Here are some fun details I left out of the last post about this first day of school and our “new life” we were starting.

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First things first, this is my NEW DRIVING SCHEDULE start time.  (It STILL shocks me that I am up and ready for the day at this time; my parent’s should be so proud.)  Paul was a gem and volunteered to take E to early morning seminary. Unfortunately, after a week, we could see that the schedule was too hard on him.  Fortunately for us, our crazy sleep schedules are blessing us once again.  I have only ever needed 7 hours of sleep a night, plus a nice 2 hour nap on the weekend.  Paul needs AT LEAST 8 hours of sleep a night, plus a hopeful afternoon nap on Sunday (which is rare).

So, it only seemed logical that I take the early morning seminary gig, so Paul could get the extra hour of sleep.  It has worked out perfectly, as long as we BOTH get to bed by 9 and asleep by 9:30.  My rise time is 4:25 am (3:30 am Utah time).  Crazy huh!!

I gently wake up, say my prayers, get dressed, do my hair and make-up and head out the door by 4:55 to get E to class by 5:00.  Paul gets up at 5:30 and gets ready by 6:00 to help wake up the kids and get them going for the day.

I bring E back by 6:05, in time for all of us to eat breakfast, make lunches & a snack for school, say family prayer and then I hit the road to take Paul to work, while the kids work on “koosh” (a balance and focusing activity from dyslexia mastery), brush teeth and do their hair.  I am back by 7:00 to take the monkeys to school by 7:20.

 

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Here is a pic I didn’t know Paul had taken of our morning routine.  It gets pretty crazy in our house from 6 – 7am.  We are hopeful to have a better routine in the next couple of weeks.  A second car should help us with that tremendously.  Prayers for the “right” vehicle to be found would be welcomed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After I drop the kiddos off to school, I get to drive back home in this . . .

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 That is a LONG LINE of cars!  But once in a great while, I get to drive home in this . . . 

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 I LOVE these moments.  They have become a joyous event to look forward to.

I previously mentioned that Paul got to join me in taking K, G and L to their first day at school.  Here are some of the photos I took with Paul’s phone (the reason I didn’t see them to add to the previous post – so much to learn, so little time!)

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 Paul, K and G walking through the front gates of the school.  G was making sure his mom was coming!  She was, she just had to lug L along – she was terrified she was going to be forced to go to school!  What do you think happened? 

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 G is growing up SO FAST!  I had to snap this pic of him walking alone.  He had such confidence.  Proud Mama moment!

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 G insisted we take K to her class first – “Ladies first!”  K wanted to go into her class, all on her own.  Sorry, no cute “sitting in her desk” picture.  Those days are probably gone Mama!

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 Out of our 4 children, only one allowed us a sneak peek into his new world.  Here is G at his class door.  

His teacher’s name is Dahiana (you pronounce it like Diana). 

IMG_5858 Inside G’s classroom.  No smartboards, computers, ipods, stacks and stacks of school supplies or even a class computer with printer here.  This classroom is very simple and dare I say “old fashioned.”  But guess what – We FEEL great about it!  

IMG_5855I ADORE children.  This picture reminds me how joyful a child can be on Christmas morning with a simple box wrapped in wrapping paper.  Why do we think we have to give our children all the bells and whistles this world has to offer in order to make them happy?  Children simply NEED to feel they are loved, needed and have a purpose in this life.  We make parenting too hard!  Look how happy this boy is to be in his new classroom.  Smartboards don’t make children smart, LOVE DOES!  

Yes, we too noticed that G’s name was misspelled.  We truly gave our children some tough names for Latins to pronounce.  You should hear them say their names.  Only L’s name comes out correctly.  Oh, they can say Wendi just fine but Paul is [Pow-ool] or Pablo. 

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 And look who made it through her first day of school and didn’t die after all!  I shouldn’t joke, this really did stress L out quite a bit.  It truly amazes me what power we give to fear.  If only I can teach L to not let fear stop or hold her back any longer. I’m so grateful to a loving staff who reached out to L during her time of need. Bless her heart, she is such a sweet girl.  Fortunately she has been blessed with an amazing teacher!  Teacher Milena [Mee-lay-nuh] has not only been a love to L but a life saver for me at the school.  Her english is better than most and she is so willing to help me with whatever I need. She is truly an angel.  I’m SO GRATEFUL L has her for her teacher! 

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I had to show the front of this beauty’s face.  This is K after her first day of school.  She has been a real trooper!  Being attacked by a classroom of kids because you have pale skin, covered with brown dots and red hair can’t be easy.  She has had her ups and downs (like being teased that she is friends with a boy who actually treats her with respect or having her classmates try to get her to say swearwords in Spanish – stupid to us adults but it hurts until you figure out not to listen to them and walk away) but she is striving to always do her best.  We couldn’t ask for more! 

End of our ADVENTURE!

Well, I have literally spent over 5 hours today trying desperately to get this post finished.  I have been working on it for over 2 weeks.  I’m sorry things aren’t going as smoothly as Paul and I had hoped they would, but eventually they will.  It is just going to take some time to figure out our new life here and see what is reasonable to expect and what is not.  We hope you will continue to be patient with us as we make little tweaks here and there.  We also hope these posts bring you joy and happiness.

We love you!  We miss you!  We KNOW we are supposed to be here, ups and downs and all.  In closing, I will end with my traditional UP and DOWN.

UP:  I get to drink all the fruity drinks I want.  Fruit juice is SUPER CHEAP here (a dollar a boxed liter) and they come in SO MANY different varieties.  My favorite drink right now is a mixture of crushed ice (from my wonderful ice machine in the door of my fridge – a first for our family), half water, 1/4 orange juice, and 1/4 pineapple or guava juice.  I have also discovered Costa Rican grape juice.  YUM!  I don’t like it with just water but with orange juice, it is an incredible drink!

DOWN: Culture shock and striving not to think negatively about the people who live in Costa Rica.  It has been quite the shock moving to this country, rather than visiting it.  Due to us NOT visiting touristy sites, I have had very few “happy moments” with the locals here.  I am struggling to fit in with this culture because 1) I’m from the U.S. and we carry a certain arrogance about us that we have had since we were born.  Humility helps but then they walk all over you.  I’m trying to figure out a balance.  Prayers would be gladly accepted. 2) I DON’T speak their language and I can’t just learn it over night, even though they insist that I do. 3) I am overwhelmed with the transition part of this adventure.  I try to ask for help but when I do, the response I usually get is one of “You are so ignorant.  You’re bothering me.”  There have been days I have literally wanted to google translate a retort to these people who are so impatient with me and say, “How would you like me to treat you like this if you moved to the U.S.?  How would you feel?  Would you like your child to be expected to learn English in 4 weeks?  Would you like me to force you to learn English or would you rather I be your friend and help you fit into living in Utah?”

Well, I get as far as a thinking these things, when I take a step back and ask myself, “Was I nice to “new people”, let alone foreigners, when they moved into my neighborhood?  Did I offer to help them acclimate, make new friends, feel a part of my community?  Did I show patience when they spoke to me?  Did I expect their kids to just jump right in and fit in with my kids?  Did I invite them over for dinner or offer to help them understand our area and what they could do to make themselves for comfortable here?”  Unfortunately the answer was more times a no, than a yes.  So, until I can deliver what I am “expecting” from the Ticos, it is best that I just keep quiet for now.

I do however need to come up with some kind of saying to tell Ticos when they are acting impatient with me and I need them to try.  If any of you speak Costa Rican Spanish and could help me come up with a saying, much like, “I am respecting you, would you please respect me in return?  Thank you.” I would appreciate the help.

Well, that’s it!  I am WAY past my bedtime for my 4:25 wake-up call but a sense of accomplishment should hopefully be worth the sacrifice.  Remember, the phone works both ways.  I might be busy and up to my eyeballs in figuring life out in Costa Rica, but I’m never too busy to answer a phone call from YOU.  My home number is the same and it’s free.  If I’m not home, I’ll call you back.

Take care,

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