All posts by Lindsey

Once they’re gone .. they’re gone. pt2










Tanzania, Africa

With populations in Western and Central Africa virtually gone, the mass killing is now spreading to East and Southern Africa. Criminal networks smuggle raw ivory into China, where it is carved into luxury items, fueling a multi-billion dollar trade. If the trade continues the African elephant could become extinct in 15 years.  Every elephant is at risk. We are losing much more than just an individual elephant. We are losing families. Elephants have an amazing memory and can live 60-70 years. They are much more connected to each other than even humans are these days. The reason why thousands and thousands of elephants are killed every year is because there is a legal market in China. The problem is that this legal market can rely only on small quantities of ivory that the Chinese government distributes every year, about 5 tons. The demand is much higher. Thus the reason for illegal ivory. Imagine if there was a legal market in Europe for cocaine or heroin. It would be really easy to launder cocaine and sell it as legal. It is exactly the same for ivory. China has a legal market for something that is basically illegal all over the world. Hundreds of tons of ivory enter into China every year. Ivory trafficking is a serious business. There are powerful individuals making a lot of money and they are able to control politicians or security officers, so it makes it harder to go to the police to report a crime. Traders in ivory want extinction of elephants. That is probably the biggest danger. The less elephants there are, the more the price rises, the more that people want to kill them. It is a never ending cycle that will end up  bringing them exactly what they want, extinction. Workers get paid 6% for the killing of the elephant and carrying of the tusks. Old men, with all the hardships they face in the bush and the life they risk, sell their products for 6% while the one selling the ivory to China goes away with 94%. If this business continues, there’s no chance for our sons and daughters to find an elephant in Africa. They can only hear of an elephant in the history books and see elephants in pictures. Within the past five years, elephants have gone from 100,000 only to come down to 50,000. We cannot sit down and look at this happening. It pains me a lot to see these greedy men who just want to get easy money by merely killing, ruthlessly, these animals. It’s people and wildlife living together in the same place. Where an elephant starts to damage farmland, that farmer is not going to view an elephant positively. As long as that continues to happen, poaching is something that is going to be excepted. At the very least, it is getting rid of something that is ruining livelihood. How have we gotten to this stage as a human race? We just lay waste to anything we value, anything we see just gets consumed. There are over 100 shops in Hong Kong that sell ivory.  In China, ivory is a luxury item that some rich people see as a status  symbol. Many people still see animals as natural resources that they can use. This is why everyone buys diamonds, why everyone buys gold. It is not like in the west that most people see animals as living beings that they are. The ivory investors are stockpiling the ivory because they are sure the prices are going to keep rising. When ivory was outlawed back in 1989, they registered their stock with the Hong Kong government. But the record was not in detail. So when the ivory is sold, illegal ivory is used to fill up stock. And the ivory is legalized this way. The government has absolutely no idea how to regulate this. The system in Hong Kong is heavily flawed. What do we do? It is more than fighting a war. The most difficult part is to identify the enemy. The business itself is conducted secretly. The buyer is secret. the seller is secret, the killer is secret. Everything is secret. Very different from conventional war. Fighting anti-poaching is also saving Africa from terrorists. Some of the poachers, they go hunting for elephants, sell the ivory, get money, buy more arms for their jihad war, which is terror war. In Vietnam, a village name Nhi Khe is special as pertaining to the ivory and its trade. Other villages have potential risks of getting caught by police. People there have their connections. They will bribe the Vietnamese and Chinese police in order to get the ivory across the border. It only becomes a problem if you can’t pay them off. Millions and millions of dollars and a gigantic quantity of ivory keeps getting into China, it’s a  black hole.  It is a war zone. The poachers are traffickers, each one is trying to win. We cannot allow them to win the war. Elephants are led by a dominant mother who is making the decisions of where to go when and if one is to lose that mother figure, suddenly we are left with teenagers, we are left with young animals having to make decisions without any historical memory in a world that is massively dangerous and threatening. As long as ivory is worth money, these poor animals are going to be annihilated. The poachers will keep going until the elephants are finished. Are we really in our generation going to allow the biggest mammal on earth to disappear? Losing elephants from Africa is just a slow erosion of humanity. What’s next? We lose a rhino? A giraffe? A lion? Suddenly we are going to have an empty world full of people but nothing wild. It’s a global responsibility, the world wants elephants. Sadly, Africa continues to face unprecedented challenges in terms of poaching driven by the flourishing illegal trade in wildlife parts. The elephant population has crashed from 1.3 millions in 1979 to now just 400,000. The rangers face grave danger every day. Over the last 10 years, over 1,000 rangers have given their lives in the name of conservation. We live in a story world when an  elephant requires the sacrifice of a human being for its own survival. There are some locals of China trying to bring this issue to light. There are high hopes that the government will wake up and make it better when they see what the traders are doing, legal traders doing illegal stuff. A one man war can never be won. Working together to be sure that these endangered animals grow again to the old numbers where there was once over 100,000 elephants in Tanzania. When the buying stops, the killings will stop too. The stockpiles of ivory in Kenya are burned and taken out of the circuit. The ivory is being moved so vastly across continents, sold under the table, it is black money that is fueling international crime. This in an international problem, it’s not Africa’s problem. The individuals fighting this battle can’t fight it alone, it’s too big, it’s too complex. Fencing development is the future when you look at Africa. There is no choice involved, it’s going to happen. The people of Africa want the same things that everyone else wants. They want to be able to have a T.V., they want to have a house which is not knocked over. They want to be able to store their food in an area where an animal doesn’t get in there and finish it. Internet, which nobody really has and without it they will never agree to living with the wildlife unless they get the best of both worlds. The United States and China have made a commitment to stop ivory trade. US president Obama and China president announced that they will ban commercial trade of ivory in their respective countries. China and Hong Kong are home to the largest ivory market in the world, while the United States is one of the worlds largest wildlife markets. In April of 2016, Kenya destroyed its entire stockpile of 105 tons of ivory. More than 600 tons still remain in government stockpiles across Africa. In July 2016, the US banned all trade in ivory. Hong Kong has announced to end it by 2021. Meanwhile, an elephant is killed approximately every 15 minutes. The fight continues.

Join the fight at

Once they’re gone .. they’re gone. pt1

Gorilla gorilla beringei
Mountain gorilla
Family at play
Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

Poaching, Profit and Pain

Virunga National Park

Poaching since the 1600’s has increased greatly because of the growing world population. Since 2006, approximately 16,000 animal species were considered to be “threatened with extinction”. There is no doubt that poaching for the demand for food and other products has contributed to this destruction of animal species. Various species of animals are poached around the world. Their remains are used in various ways, often for luxury or medicinal purposes.

-Elephants: poached for their ivory tusks which have “great aesthetic value”. They are intimidated into traps or pitfalls and the tusks are painfully detached. The elephant is then left to die.

Tigers: Their bones have medicinal value and powdered tiger bones are prescribed in for strengthening muscles. Their skin is used to make bags and coats.

Rhinoceros: Their horns are believed to have aphrodisiac properties and are widely used in traditional medicines. Like elephants, they are driven into traps for their ivory horns.

Tibetan Antelopes: They are poached for their fur, which is commonly used as a light wool, and is in great demand world-wide. 20,000 Chirus, as they are called, are killed each year.

Sturgeon or Paddlefish: Often poached for their eggs to make caviar.

Gorillas: Goriila poaching isn’t commonly heard about. They are poached for their meat, capture for collections, and trophies. Collectors and trophie holders are after gorilla hands, feet, skins, skulls, as well as infants.

Porbeagle: The porbeagle is a type of shark that lives in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are poached for their meat and fertilizer uses.

Spiny Dogfish: This species of shark is valuable for its meat. They live in the world coastal waters ad usually travel in schools.

Red and Pink Coral: This is the most valuable type of coral, known for its use in jewelry and decorations. Not only does the poaching of coral effect coral population but it also effects the population of coral reefs and fish.

European Eel: They are poached because of their valuable meat and large international demand.

Great Apes: Great apes include gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. They are killed for their meat, illegal trade, disturbance and destruction of land, and disease and habitat control.

Sea Turtles: Sea turtles are often poached for their meat and eggs. Poachers trick the turtles into nesting on the beach, while they are actually walking right into a trap.

Blue Whale: Blue whales have almost been hunted to extension. They are poached for their blubber and oil, which are then used in candles and fuel.

Poaching occurs on every populated continent around the globe. Poaching occurs in more remote areas because of avoidance of laws and for the greater opportunity for business.

Africa: elephants, rhinoceros, gorillas, seashells

Asia: tigers, panda, Tibetan antelopes

North America: wolves, bears, pumas, bald eagles, American paddlefish

Australia: koala bears, marine turtle, dugong

South America: jaguars, sharks

Why are these animals being poached? Money, ivory and fur, religion, food, clothes, wool, medicine, cosmetics, ornaments, fat and sport.

How you can help stop poaching? *never buy anything made of ivory *spread the word *never buy uncertified coral *don’t keep exotic animals as pets.


Not many people have heard of Virunga, which is a great shame because it is probably one of the most remarkable places on Earth.

1885 Africa carved into colonies rules by European Nations. Only Congo privatized and ruled by corporations under King Leopold II. Resources pillaged. Millions killed and mutilated.

1960 Patrice Lumumba leads Congo to independence. Foreign mining interests rally against him. The Congo’s richest province Katanga was set up as a separate state, with the aid of a force of European missionary soldiers.

1961 Lumumba executed with support of western governments. Law and order broke down. Mining continues. Vast quantities of precious metals exported.

1994 Genocide in Rwanda sparks long Civil War in Congo. Rebel groups profit trade in rare minerals. Global electronics industry continues to buy them. (Play Station, mobile phones) Over 5 million Congolese die from fighting

2003 Fragile peace agreement reached.

2006 First Democratic elections in 40 years.

2010 Oil discovery claimed in Eastern Congo under Lake Edward in Virunga National Park. A home to thousands of people and the last Mountain Gorillas.

2012 Instability returns.

It is one of the most beautiful yet forgotten place of the Earth, Congo. It is a place on the brink of destruction where the last Mountain Gorillas live. Greed, corruption and violence .. right in the heart of Africa. Within the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country still ravaged from years of Civil War lies an oasis, Virunga National Park, where the rangers try to rebuild their country after twenty years of war. Volcanoes, glaciers and savannahs makes it quite a diverse place. Virunga is the largest National Park on the continent of Africa and also the oldest. It is also a sanctuary for the last 880 Mountain Gorillas in the world. A place they call ‘home’. We are very closely related to gorillas, they’re one of our closest relatives. Seeing them with their children and a mother holding a baby, you can see that it’s basically identical. You see a reflection of yourself and that they respond to fear and happiness. They are so close to us yet their future is so delicate where their survival really hangs in the balance. Bordering on Rwanda and Uganda the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a part of our planet that the world has decided is so special and important. But the park, like the Congo itself, has a brutal history. Foreigners have pillaged the land and the park of its natural resources. Virunga National Park has barely survived. A fourteen year Civil War has left the country in ruins and caused the death of more than 5 million people, half of them children. In 2003, a fragile peace was forged and like the park, the country struggled to heal. You meet people in your life that have a strong belief about something, but it’s very rare to come across those who would literally die for something bigger than themselves. The Rangers that work in Virunga lay down their lives for the park. Maintaining the park for the gorillas is just one of the concerns. Sadly, there are far more deadly matters, like poachers. Not everyone believes that the gorillas and their habitat should be saved. In July 2007, poachers stole into the park and committed a horrific crime. Nine gorillas were killed. The logic was that once the gorillas were killed, there would be no more reason to protect the park anymore.  Congo’s political instability and weakened army gave rise to a dangerous and heavily armed new rebel group, M23. It was reported that a dozen different armed groups within the region were united against the Congolese Army. Every single armed group that uprated in Eastern Congo being tied to the illegal exploitation of natural resources, that’s how they survive. They all have mixed agendas. Foreign oil companies eye the park as profit. The rich resources of the park could mean billions of dollars .. but at what cost? SOCO International, a British company was granted a  concession to explore for oil. They could have legally explored for oil in part of the concession that wasn’t in the park. Yet, they chose to only explore for oil within the Virunga National Park. It is illegal to be exploring oil in a National Park. Congo has suffered from foreigners coming in exploiting its natural resources for centuries. In the past it has brought a  lot of violence. There are other places around the world where the oil rarely bring in any money to the local people. It brings money in the hands of a few people for a short amount of time. Since the 1990’s, about 140 rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty. On average, one staff member a month is lost to the poachers or to the militias that are trained to attack the park for its resources. The Rangers want to protect the park because they see that protecting the park and its resources are essential for their children and their children’s children. It takes decades to build up a park after a period of trauma and a period of great destruction. However, it can all be destroyed in three days. Fifty percent of species on the entire Africa continent can be found in Virunga. There is no way you can find that concentration. It is globally critical from a conservation perspective to protect Virunga, to keep it alive. We have to draw the line at some point and think about what parts of the world we are going to leave for other forms of life. Wouldn’t it be tragic if Mountain Gorillas or any of these wonderful species to disappear? This is the only planet in the entire universe where we have certainty that life exists. Why should we let any other form of life disappear when we can save them with such little effort. Although there is a very serious situation happening, there is hope  and we can do something to change things and we can all be apart of that. Do we want our children to inherit a world with no mountain gorillas? Do we want our children to inherit what today are beautiful parts of our planet but tomorrow could be another oil field? If it is happening in Virunga National Park, who is to say it is  not happening in other World Heritage Sites around the world? Can you imagine drilling taking place in Yosemite National Park or even The Grand Canyon?


Project 333

I can’t remember how I heard or came across Project333 however, I thought is was such a  great idea created by Courtney Carver .. I had to share.

Simplicity = Love.

Be more with less is about simplifying your life and really living. Living with less creates time and space to discover what really matters. Through decluttering, and focusing on the best things instead of all the things, you can create a life with more savings and no debt, more health and less stress, more space and less stuff, and more joy with less obligation.

Project 333 is the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.

The Rules:

*When: Every three months (It’s never to late to start!)

*What: 33 items including clothes, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.

*What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing when working out)

*How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.

*What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

This is for those of you new to Project 333. You may have just heard about it, or perhaps you have been quietly watching others live with less for the past three months and you are ready to jump in.

1. Take inventory.
2. Working with your “I Love” pile of clothing, start to build your wardrobe. It will help to make a list on paper.
3. Consider signature items like a trench coat or pair of boots. Your signature item might be your sunglasses. You will find that having one well made version of something will be far better than 10 of the knock-off.
4. Once you start dressing with less, pay less attention to what you are wearing, or not wearing and more attention to something more important.
5. Get connected and ask questions.

For more information visit online

Project 333 is designed for men and women of all ages and lifestyles.

Happy Decluttering!?


What is ‘The American Dream’?

Many people try to fill their voids with stuff. Therefore, we make  consumer purchases. A lot of consumer purchases. We are really good at spending money faster than we earn it. Everyone wants to find happiness and we think that next purchase will make us happier. Shouldn’t happiness be just right around the corner? So many of us live paycheck to paycheck so we can acquire more stuff. We live for a paycheck. We live for stuff. The thing about it though, is that we are not living at all. We always long for more. We are like puppets, whose strings are being pulled by mother nature and evolution. We constantly feel restless and are continuously scratching for more. Its why lottery winners are miserable and why homeowners have three car garages. As humans, we are wired to become dissatisfied. It’s almost like an addiction. We are encouraged to maintain the addiction through media. There is an illusion created of what our lives should look like. Open Esquire or Vanity Fair and you see sexy women and glamorous lives. That’s when the project begins .. we ask ourselves how can we achieve that or get as close as we can get? Advertising has polluted our culture. Movies, TV’s, books, it’s even on taxi cabs. It’s not something that has happened overnight. It’s been sold to us for the past 75-100 years slowly yet surely by those who want to make a lot of money. They want us to believe that you really do need these things. Every year that passes there is more noise, more media, more pressure, more options. How can we change this? By simplifying and learning there are more options .. it’s a wakeup call that is critical. At what point do we realize what is important and what is just stuff? Books, dvds, movies, closets full of expensive clothes and jewelry, drawers upon drawers of things. Things that I brought into my life without much thought or question. Every possession should serve a purpose or bring  joy. If only every individual could justify if what they have adds value to their life and if not, let it go. We should all learn to live more with less. Money seems to be the root of all evil. Getting a newer car, a bigger house, a better paycheck, the next promotion. We are constantly trying to get more money to get more stuff. So I ask what is the ‘American Dream’? I always thought I knew, until recently. You name it, we’ve probably had it.  I have been so guilty as to buy something just for pure joy (in the moment). I would often purchase a trinket here or there for the coffee table or grab the latest fashion pillow to throw on the couch. The American dream started out as a concept that was more about opportunity. The US is the land of opportunity where someone could start out at the bottom work hard and do well. There is no question that what it means to have made it to achieve the American dream in the US has increased tremendously in material terms. $100,000+ income became more an aspirational norm across society because that is the norm that is on TV.  In 1983, companies spent $100 million marketing to children. In 2006, companies spent $17 billion. We end up accumulating so much stuff we need space on top of space. Therefore there is a 2.2 billion square foot personal storage industry. It’s a sad truth however, I’m guilty of that in the past as well. There are people living in these gigantic homes yet if you really look at it people don’t use the space that they have. There was a study that was done with a heat map of a family of four to show where people traveled within their home on a normal day. What they found was that they used maybe 40% of their space. It creates this big vacuum that you have to fill so people are throwing more stuff at you to fill your homes with things that you don’t need. We are living our life depending on the space we’ve got instead of creating our space to live our lives. Who needs more than one dining table? Nothing is more responsible than living in the smallest space you can. I opt for a Tiny House. Imagine a life with less. Less stress, less stuff, less debt. Imagine a life with more. More meaningful relationships, more time, more contribution and contentment. In 2006 my husband had purchased a family business that has grown over 300% (current year 2017). We have three full time employees with my husband working part time. I am 32 years young with 2 kids, 9 yr old and 7 yr old and have been married since 2005. I’ve been with my husband since the 7th grade (this year marks 20 years!) We have sold most of what we have and are making the leap to live a happier life with less stuff in Costa Rica this fall. It is so freeing with each item gone. You can have it all and still be unhappy. Its a happiness within yourself, not within the stuff you purchase. My kids are getting older and before I know it, they’ll want to be on their own. Before that happens, I want to try and show them life. If you sit and ask patients who are dying often look back on their lives and wish they still had the chance to do things that they didn’t. Unfortunately it is too late for them. For you though, you still have the opportunity to do the things that can make you more content and fulfilled in life. Top five regrets of the dying:

I’d wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I wish I  hadn’t worked so hard.

I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

We have things that we are obsessed about  then the new version comes out which is new and improved in a dozen ways. Now, you no longer care about the one you have. If fact the one you have is a  source of dissatisfaction. I think we are confused about what it going to make us happy. It is clear as human beings we have strong attachment in our lives to people who are caring for us. Sometimes it feels like those attachments spill over into objects as if they were as important as people. How is our relationship with things? ie. Black Friday Shopping. (not so good). We are too materialistic in the every day sense of the word and we are not at all materialistic enough in the true sense of the word. We need to really care about the materiality of goods. Instead we are in a world in which material goods are so important for their symbolic meaning and what they do to position us in a status system based on what advertising or marketing says they’re about. Our moms and grandmothers would shop maybe four times a year – sometimes only twice a year depending on the weather, the hot season and the cold season. Now you see a fashion cycle of 52 seasons a year. They want you to feel out of trend after one week, so that you will buy something the following week. There have actually been accounts of big fashion retailers that will slash through more than just the prices. They slash the clothes with box cutters or razors to make sure that they never would be worn or sold. They want consumers to buy as much clothing as quickly as possible. The concept of fashion it embodies in it the idea that you can throw things away, not when they are no longer useable but when they’re no longer fashionable or have that social value. I have come across very successful men and women with all of this money and all of this prestige and all of this professional background behind them that they weren’t happy. They’re very successful but not in an absolute sense. They are dollars and cents successful. It seems far more likely that I can find a definition of success that will actually get me to a place where  I am successful and incredibly happy. Jim Carrey once quoted, “I wish everyone could become rich and famous so they could realize it’s not the answer.” You think that more money is going to give you more security. The problem is you don’t necessarily have control over making more. One thing you do have control over is spending less. What you do have control over is having less and that by having less you automatically stretch what you do have. There is more to life other than bills money and work. This life is yours. Make it a wild and flamboyant one. Keeping up with the Jones’ is not what life is about. Once we realize that, we can create a template of our own.



Out with the new, in with the old?

I can’t remember feeling any more proud than I was when I purchased my first brand new car with my own paychecks at seventeen years old. I was a junior in High School. I would drive that car like it was the best thing on the planet. The car I drove before this had no power steering, no power windows and if I remember correctly didn’t have a radio or a/c and heat. It was a mess to say the least. However, it did get us from point A to point B and that’s all that mattered. After signing the papers, I climb into my newly washed and polished car. The first thing I did was roll my windows down, with one finger versus the arm workout I would acquire each time I wanted the wind blown look. I don’t know about you, but I love my windows down, it makes me  feel  like I’m apart of the earth. Radio played in full blast and I would sing my heart out. I was in my own little world. My 2002 Toyota Celica never gave me any trouble and I would have kept that car forever if I could have.  The exciting news that we were adding a second baby to our little family of three came and we knew we had to part with my car to get a bigger one that could fit not one but two car seats. I wanted to keep that car so badly, I tried to place both car seats in the back only to learn the hard way it wasn’t going to work. After tossing the idea around of getting another vehicle I was ready to start looking. We looked and looked and looked. For months. With just purchasing a family business, one baby already in diapers, one on the way, we had to find something that we could afford. Going to a car dealership was out of the question because not only were those vehicles priced way up, we didn’t have the credit we needed in order to get approved. I was about ready to pop, both from being 9 months pregnant and being frustrated and over car searching online. A few times we would pull up to test drive the car to find only half of the information was correct while the other half was misleading of false all together. It was a live and learn instance and we quickly knew the questions to ask or avoid before driving to see anything else. I knew what I was looking for, I just hadn’t found it. Nothing against mini van moms, cause those are cool too, I wanted more of an SUV. After driving many miles to and from Houston, we finally found a Tahoe on craigslist. (I know, that sounds bad.) Come to find out the address was at a Porsche dealership. I about died, of course, wondering what we got ourselves into. We pull in and my husband insists that we are in the correct place. I climb out very cautious trying to find the vehicle we spotted online. Not seeing it parked anywhere, we walk inside to get assistance. The gentleman proceeds to lead us out the back of the building and to our car we inquired about. We test drove it and asked the important things we knew to ask at the time. It was a 2002 Chevy Tahoe. It had 120k miles on it. They were asking 12k for it. We had enough to put half down in cash. We hoped that with the cash, that would prove we were worthy of ‘something’, even if our credit didn’t show otherwise. Lucky for them, more luckily for us, we were approved and had the keys in hand. We marched out of that office and drove home to show all of our close family members. I remember driving up honking, waving while they would slowly come out with a confused look on their face not sure who is at their house. In the beginning of being a brand new SUV owner, I would not let anyone eat or drink in it.  By the end, there was suckers stuck in between the seats we would find only when we would pull the seats down to let other passengers in the very back. One hundred thousand miles and six years later, it was time to trade my Tahoe in. We knew that if we didn’t make the trade sooner than later, we would be in deeper than we wanted to be $. It was accumulating more problems than it was worth. Our kids were getting older and a bit more responsible. Our business was much more established so the thought of a new car didn’t seem so out of reach like it had once before. In my immature mind, I always thought that having good credit really didn’t matter. I knew I could always pay cash. If you are one to think like I used to .. you may want to change your way of thinking, because there are perks. (Like having zero percent interest on a brand new car.) My better half wanted to make sure I had everything I needed so we purchased a fully loaded Ford Explorer 2014. It had everything except a sun or moor roof. It cost me $800/month not including gas to keep it rolling. Some may say, ‘not bad.’, while others may say, ‘holy sh!t.’. Again, the no eating rule came into affect. If a door was shut too hard, if fingerprints would drag my newly cleaned windows, if feet would scrape the back of the seat, I would go berserk.  I never did tally up the total cost spent on cleaning suppies or car washes but it had to be quite a bit. I continued to drive it for two years to the exact date before wanting to trade it in. Although I didn’t trade this car for a newer car, I traded it in for one with less miles and less up keep. A 1998 Honda Civic. Handing over $1750.00 has never felt so good to get a set of keys in return. The windows are automatic, the AC/ heat works and the sunroof works (the kids get a kick out of that). The only thing missing is a radio but I am just fine cruising with my windows down, earplugs in, listening to my radio on my phone.  It’s kind ironic seeing others watch me sing and dance and just be happy in my old beat up car while they are like robots in their brand new spiffy washed and polished car. It’s as if they almost wonder how am I this happy when I drive such an old and beat up car. I used to be them watching, wishing I was just as happy. It is a freeing experience – that’s for sure. (And bravo to you that want and have new cars, I’m not here to down you whatsoever. It just wasn’t for me!) After getting the extended warranty and gap insurance, we ended up profiting 2k back into our pockets. Had we not had good credit, we could have been upside down and it not go as smoothly as it did. My kids were uncertain at first but even they love the car and want me to honk when I leave from dropping them off at school. It’s not about the outer exterior, it’s about what sparkles underneath. I can’t fail to mention  the time I had gotten  pulled over (so far at the time of writing this at least ?) when I was traveling with my daughter from dance one evening. I often just drive not paying much attention to my speed. A cop driving in the opposite direction of me flipped his lights on a made a u-turn. I knew automatically he was after me. I pull directly over not giving him any more reason to ticket me. His lights shine on my rear view mirror as he parks behind my car and walks up to the passenger side window. I handed over my lisence and was readily available with my insurance information on my phone. The gentleman walked up to me and gathered my info from me. He kindly asks where I was heading so I tell him we are on the way home from dance. He proceeds to tell me that I was going 49 mph in a 35 mph zone. I sit as he walks back to his car to run my information. I tell my self it’s okay because I hadn’t gotten a ticket in over 9 years .. so it was what it was. He walks back up to my car what seemed to be about 5 minutes later.  He hands me back my lisence and asks me to sign his warning. Warning? What?? I grab his pen and slop my signature on the paperwork. I will never forget what he asked me next. He asks, ‘ma’am, can you promise me that you won’t speed any more?’ Of course I apologize for speeding and he lets me continue on my way as he goes on his. On the way home, I wandered had he not given me a ticket because he ‘knew’ by the looks of my 98 Honda that if I had to pay for this ticket my daughter just might not had been able to be I dance? It never know, but I can bet you it didn’t hurt anything by driving my rugged little beat up car. Lastly, it costs me a whopping $16.00 to fill my gas tank up. And even better, I still get from point A to point B, and that’s all that matters.

oh and P.S. If you happen to drive a car like mine … ROCK THE SHIT OUT OF IT!! ✌️

*** UPDATE ***


I got in my car after running errands to go back home when I had turned the keys of the ignition and heard a sort of distant sound like people talking. Thinking it must be the stores outside radio, I pull out. The noise kept going. After about 20 seconds or so I realized the sounds was coming from my speakers in the car.


I freaked out!


Although the radio won’t turn up or down, nor do I know what station I am listening to … but that doesn’t stop me from jamming one bit. ????????????????


Costa Rica trip #2 Tamarindo + Arenal Volcano

Like most everyone else in America, we would be allowed one week of vacation per calendar year. It would take us about that long to save up for the next vacation anyhow without having to put it on a credit card. When we bought and while owning our own business, it makes it even harder to take off, even if for just that one week. Owning your own business can be fun and have its perks, but it is definitely a lot of hard work to get it to where you want it to be. With that being said, nothing is impossible! We worked Saturdays and Sundays, there was no off at 5 p.m.’s and we would bring work home. We did that for several years. This particular year was a first for us to travel more than just that one week. It was five months in between visits. And we were itching to be back. Packed and ready to go, we head to the airport to meet some friends and catch our flight. We board the plane and get ready for take off.



Our friends also been to Costa Rica prior to this trip, we were all stoked for what was coming. As the wheels of the airplane hit the ground, I get goose bumps all over my body from head to toe in excitement. Seeing the airport workers doing their daily duties, the first thing I notice are their smiles. I take note that the young lady from Costa Rica boarding the back of the airplane is the same one from the last trip. Gleaming with a sense of pride, she climbs up the airplane steps and enters the plane. I just remember the words, ‘cross-check complete’ being said as it is my turn to gather my things from under the airplane seat and make way towards the front of the plane. If only I could re-live the moment of landing over and over again. As soon as my feet hit the ground I feel some sort of obligation to countdown to the days until we have to leave. Knowing we had seven full nights made it a little easier to breathe. No phone calls, no texts, no answering to anybody. We take the bus transportation from the airport over to where we rent our car. After loading the car with the luggage we take the same route as before and start for Tamarindo. Windows down, radio up, we enjoy the moments we have together taking in the views and the people. Smiling and waving at the kids at each bus stop that we pass gives me pure happiness seeing them as they smile and wave back. We see the fruit stands that we had in the previous trip offering the different types of delicious fruits. The one fruit I wanted but was not in season was rambutan. You’ll find that a lot of people call it lychee and the locals will go along with you. I just recently discovered the correct name for it thanks to my girl, Google. If you ever get the chance to try one, you won’t be disappointed. The fresh fruit has a ‘delicate, whitish pulp’ with a  floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor. We pull into the town of Tamarindo and notice how alive the town is. Much busier than the last visit. Locals mixed in with people visiting from all around the world left such a positive vibe. I just wanted to jump out of the car, walk in the middle of the road and throw my hands out to the side making a T, while turning in circles.  Almost like you could envision a little girl doing in the middle of a field of flowers twirling her dress around and around. It was not long before we figured out that January and February were there summer months. And this month was January. There is something about Costa Rica that makes you feel young and vibrant. And I love ever inch of it. We drive through town and head to The Suizo.


We booked the exact same room as before, room #4. As we are about to pull in, we notice a guy about to take off on his motorcycle. He sees us and removes his helmet. We all make eye contact. I jump out of the car and run straight to him to give him a hug. It was Brando. We couldn’t believe it, I don’t think any of us could. We all stand together exchanging numbers so we can get together and keep in touch. Luckily we were able to catch him just in time as he had just gotten off of work for the day. After parking the rental car and checking in, we see a lot of familiar faces throughout the hotel. The same gentleman working in the concierge, the same pool guy, the same bartenders. It was so nice. We felt at home and at peace. We felt like we never missed a beat in those five months. We throw our luggage down on the bed and head to the bar. Another familiar face .. Luis Diego. I smile from ear to ear, astatic that we are connecting with our friends from CR. Our friends that came with us to CR happen to be staying in another hotel just a few minutes down the road from where we were.


We all spent the next few days together surfing and eating delicious cuisines, laughing and catching up on life. On the last full day at the beach, we booked a fishing trip in hopes to catch sailfish like we had in the past. I guess you can say, we wanted luck on our side because we booked the exact same boat we had in August. Good for him, but unfortunately for us, the deckhand we had prior, had moved up to captain on another boat. However, this Outcast crew still outdid themselves. Although no one caught a sailfish, a 25 lb. amberjack was caught along with two tuna and three shark attempts.




The beer was cold, the sun was hot and we all had a great time that we will never forget. The deckhand filleted the amberjack and put it on ice so we could take it back to our hotel and have them prepare it for us for dinner.  He had definitely cleaned a fish or two before in his lifetime and it showed. As I looked around the boat, I noticed we all had our eyes peeled watching him work his magic. And just like that, he was done and the fish was in the bag and on ice. Before we knew it our half day trip had come and gone. We climb back onto the dingy boat that had taken us out to The Outcast and head back to the shore. Fish in hand, we jump over the boat into the ankle deep water and make our way onto the sand and back to the hotel to get cleaned up. Brushing my shampoo’d hair from the tangled mess in the shower, I sit and watch the waves lap over the rocks and sand. Everything was calm and relaxed.


No crazy people running around like a chicken with their heads cut off, no kids screaming for a phone to play with. It was just simply peaceful. Once everyone was ready, our friends met us at our hotel, The Suizo. Walking to the restaurant, I notice Leo, the restaurant manager (he is also a chef). In my head I’m thinking, ‘no way’. It had all come full circle.  I throw my hands up in the air almost in disbelief and give him a hug. It was so good to see him too. We introduced everyone to each other. We drank. We laughed. We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore.


There was no way we were all going to eat the entire twenty-five pound fish and gave half to the employees to cook for themselves. We played ping pong on the beach until the sun went down and you couldn’t see the white ball any longer. The trees around the hotel on the beach were lit with different colors of strings of light. It was beautiful. We hung on the tree branches, swinging like monkeys.


We laid on our backs in the sand side by side looking at the stars and the moon trying to point out where the big dipper and little dipper was. Nothing else mattered. No war, no media to tell you what to think, no politics. It was like heaven on earth. I actually felt free.


Truly free. I did not want that night to end. More than that, I didn’t want to end the peaceful vision I had on life. The following day we were to get in the rental car and head to our second destination of the trip, Nayara Springs Hotel at Arenal Volcano. It was time for our friends to head back to Texas, as they had just been to Arenal several months before. We say our goodbyes in the streets of Tamarindo and locate waze on our phones to see our route.


The drive didn’t really feel like a drive. You would constantly find something to look at along the way whether it be the mountains in the distance or the big tall windmills that swooped overhead.



The closer you get to the rainforest and hotel, the more you can start to see the volcano through the clouds.


I have never in my life seen a volcano in person. Only on TV or in magazines. Four hours and some amazing views along the way, we made it to our destination. In Costa Rica – 206 kilometers = 121 miles. The roads are narrow, some rocky and almost all the way up it is turn-y. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone on their phone while driving. It’s either stay focused and drive or go over the side of the cliff and you know what happens next. Guard rails are almost non existent. Unless it is pouring rain, you will find my hand outside the window feeling the wind blow through it. The grass is tall and leans over onto the road so I will reach my hand out hanging my body half way out of the car door trying to flap the grass on my hand to make a noise as we drive by. We arrive at the hotel, park the car and walk towards the concierge to check in.


They hand us our welcome drinks, we look into each others eyes and ‘cheers’ each one.


Once they show us our way around the hotel on a map, they load our luggage onto a golf cart. As they are loading, they ask if we have seen the sloth. Sloth? Where? They point to a tree adjacent to where we had been standing and would you believe it .. a three toed sloth sitting in the branches not even bothered by what was going on down below.


Not everyday do you get to walk outside of your hotel and see a volcano or a sloth.


We are in awe over the sloth and stand there watching his every move for about what seemed to be 15 minutes. We forget that we had even been checking into a hotel, we were in the moment. Actually LIVING. We climb into the golf cart with the hotel employee and he drives us to our room. The first thing you notice are the two big glass doors to the right that lead out onto a porch. It featured a hammock, two Adirondack chairs with foot stools .. an outdoor jaccuzi. *my favorite spot to be* A yellow sheath curtain lined all the way around the top and sides.



Our hotel room we stayed in was right in the middle of the rainforest. In the morning, during the day and at night you could hear the sweet sounds of the wildlife surrounding the hotel. You could see the volcano straight through the glass doors. For the most part, the weather depended on if you could see the it and at what points during the day. The clouds move fast so during the moments of the volcano being clear, we’d stare in amazement.The grass was lush and green while the forest was thick and plentiful. The weather was also cooler in the rainforest than at the beach.  It didn’t feel quite as humid. However I love to be hot so the beach weather did not bother me one bit. Nayara Springs is hidden in a lush paradise in the heart of Arenal Volcano National Park. It has been recognized as one of the world’s best resorts. It offers wondrous natural surroundings of tropical gardens and pristine rainforests. If you get the chance to go, check it out, you won’t be disappointed one bit.

The following day we call for a taxi to go into the town of La Fortuna. It was only a five minute drive from the hotel to town center. The first thing we notice as we pull up, is the church and its steeple. It was a beautiful open air church.



Directly across the street sat central park where we see a mariachi band that was playing under the pavilion. It was Sunday. There were locals and tourist mixed among the crowd. Some were sitting on the park benches visiting, others listening to the band. Some kids were running around the grass playing tag and some dancing or tapping their foot to the music. Their were no phones out, other than ones that were snapping photos.


Shops lined the street on all sides of the park, other than the side where the church had sat. We continued along the sidewalk across the street into more shops looking for the kids instruments we had promised we’d bring them back this trip. Along the pathway was a chocolate shop. The glass windows enticed you to come inside. And being as I was in culinary school, I was curious what they offered. Each chocolate filled plate had a card that read the names; Beer Chocolate? and Chocolate Covered Pineapple?


A few meters down sat a fruit market where bananas hung above the shelves while watermelons sat in shopping cart baskets. An assortment of fruits fill the crates and shelves along the walls.




Noticing that was the last store before we need to turn around, we wait for the cars to pass so we can cross the street. As we cross the street, we look up and see the volcano.  It seemed it was only a few hundred meters away, almost like an illusion. You could only sit and wonder what would happen to that small town and the people in it if the volcano erupted. In awe of its beauty, we made our way across the street towards more shops before getting run over by passing cars. With the kids new instruments in hand, we see our driver had been waiting on us and make our way into his red taxi and back to Nayara Springs.


We had been talking about riding the zip lines while on this trip and had booked through the hotel we were staying at. The transportation was included in the price. One of the most amazing places to visit while in Costa Rica is the Arenal Volcano, where Sky Adventures Park is practically located. It is one of the most, and if not, the most impressive and breathtaking Volcano of Costa Rica. Until 2010, the Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes in the entire world, but for now that eruptive cycle has been paused. As we get to Sky Adventures in Arenal Park we get geared up and ready to go with our helmets, shop gloves and harnesses. It was about 12 paying customers and 8 employees total. They have a small zip line located directly off of the porch area. They have each person clip up to the line to try it to make sure we know what we are doing. I wait in line until it is my turn. Thinking to myself, “I’ve got this”, I climb up the metal stairs so the attendant can reach my harness to the zip line. I do as he tells me, lean back, legs crossed and arms straight out. He unclips me and I go. Easy Peasy.  I did no research whatsoever, so here I am, thinking in my mind it is going to be fairly short and barely above the ground the entire time. Once everyone has had their turn they usher us to the Sky Tram cars. Assuming there was just a little way to go, I climb in reluctant and ready for what lied ahead. The tram kept going. And going. And going. I was starting to get anxiety and my hands were starting to sweat. Don’t get me wrong, it was one beautiful sight, but my goodness I was freaking out inside. It must have been a 10 – 12 minute cable car ride up to the very tip top of the mountain. Once we arrive, I am somewhat relieved to have my feet back on solid ground (I know, live a little right?!). The wooded platform that we stepped out on from the tram has a hangover with a lookout vantage point for photo ops. Once the crowd gathers the photos they are wanting to capture, we make our way to zip line number one. Looking for that short, barely off the ground zip line like we had previously practiced on, I was enamored (yet shouldn’t have been surprised from how far up we traveled) to see where the other side of the line ended up. You couldn’t see it at all. Now the sweat was starting to roll and my heart was starting to pound out of my chest.  I kept telling myself, ‘this is the only way back down’ to help make it better. I knew I was in for an experience of a lifetime. The first 6-7 people go. The gloves that were strapped around my harness, I know have to put on as it is my turn next. I wipe the sweat from my hands onto my shorts and shirt as best as I can. I take the gloves off only to put them back on over and over again to make sure they are tight and do not fall off. I climb up the metal stairs and stand waiting for the tour guide to clip me in. He tells me to do just like before, lean back, legs up and crossed with arms staying straight. I hold onto the handles with my sweat drenched gloves and pull one leg up and then the other. I cross them and lean back. I think for one split second and place my feet back on the metal stairs, terrified of what lied ahead. The only thing I kept thinking was, ‘What if that line breaks half way through?, What if I stop in the middle?’ I quickly shook it off as I hear my husband tell me I’ve got this. I take a deep breath, not sure if it would be my last and get back into ready position. The guide looks me in the eyes and asks to make sure I am ready. And with that, he unclipped himself from the line and let me go. That was the first time I had done something like that on my own. Even when I went skydiving, I had someone strapped to my back. This .. was all me. It’s a scary yet exuberating feeling once you achieve it and make it to the other side. Although I never got comfortable with the 7 zip lines and had  to keep my gloves ‘tight’, I did it! I realized that when my heart was pumping and my head and hands were sweating only meant I was living. And it felt exhilarating.  When they say, ‘life begins at the end of your comfort zone’ please believe it. We had about 3 hours before our next tour, the Sky Limit. It was at the same location so we did not have anywhere to drive to. The park had a restaurant and bar along with some amazing scenery of the volcano. We figured we’d grab a bite to eat to waste some time before the tour started.


While we were ordering our meal, we start to ask the waiter a few questions about the volcano and it’s history as we really didn’t know much about it at all. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story for as long as I live. In 1967 the water temperature of the Rio Tabacon, a spring-fed river that descends the slopes of Arenal, suddenly rose. It was a warning of danger, but so few people lived in the area – and no volcanologists – that it went unheeded. At 7:30 a.m on July 29, 1968, Arenal Volcano erupted with a pyroclastic flow that raced down the mountainside and incinerated villages of Tabacon and Pueblo Nuevo – taking the lives of 78 townspeople. Huge incandescent boulders exploded out of the cone, halfway up the mountain, and left large craters as far as 10 km / 6.2 miles away. Things are much quieter today, but Arenal can still be deadly. During the summer of 2000, an eruption down a crevice and enveloped a young American woman, her daughter and a Costa Rica guide while they were on a hike at the edge of the safety zone. All three were badly burned. Sadly, the guide died two days later; the girl a short time after. I sat thinking about that story for a while. It puts things in perspective that you never really do know when will be your ‘lasts’. We finish our meal and head to check on the time for our tour. The gentleman at the front desk kindly lets us know it is still about 2 hours out and offers us to do the Arenal Park Sky Walk. We kindly accept, purchase two waters, and take off for the trail.

Sky Walk uses trails and a series of suspension bridges for a more relaxing introduction of the flora and fauna of the forest canopy. It allows the vision of the forest from a different perspective which starts with a hike on the ground and then taking you to explore the treetops, a hardly discovered habitat called the “canopy”. There are 5 hanging bridges that stretch over canyons that bring  unique viewpoints. The trail was 2.2 miles in distance and took us a little over an hour and a half to walk. Along the way, we come across an elder lady (60’s) that was also hiking the trail. On our way back we happen to see her stopped sitting at a waterfall.


Whether she had been from CR or not, I thought it took some sort of bravery to go it alone. We watched her for a few minutes stating that we want to be like her – out and enjoying life.  We figured it had to be time for our next tour, Sky Limit and head back to the front desk to check in.


Sky Limit is a high performance circuit that combines a high ropes course, zip lines, canyoning, rappel and Tarzan swing, bridges. Sky Limit begins with an ascent in our aerial tram, Sky Tram, to then start a circuit – that can also serve for competition – consisting of twin zip lines, and other defiant challenges as it is walking a tightrope and descending a ladder hanging on trees. I have never repelled before in my life so I was a little nervous.  Again naively thinking that it was going to be a story or two off of the ground was laughable. After seeing what we were really about to conquer had me like OMG. We had the same safety measures as before .. helmet, work gloves and a harness. It was just BJ and I on this tour with about 8 guides, some there to help and the others that had wanted to do the course for fun along with us. We talked and got to know the guides and about their personal lives. It is always interesting and we listen with open ears taking in all the information we can. We repelled down a cliff next to a waterfall. The feeling when they told me to step over the side of the mountain so I could dangle off … my anxiety level went through the roof. Trying not to show it, I smile and slowly sway my body over the rolling water below next to this enormous cliff. I had complete control of the cable with my right arm behind me giving me slack while my left hand was closer towards my head keeping the slack out of the rope as I go down. I wanted to so badly but I could not look down. I was concentrating too hard on just getting down.




We climbed up rocks that were on the side of a cliff.

We jumped off of rocks into the river.



We ran across an obstacle course that was suspended in the air, racing each other running down a mesh screen and up a rope ladder. BJ ran through the course having no fear. Me .. well, I finished last. The Tarzan swing was pretty awesome. We jumped from a platform and swung over two waterfalls. (of course the go pro would accidently turn off just seconds before we take the plunge)

We ended the tour after we zip lined down two more cables.

This time, we didn’t have the handles to hold onto, we strictly used our hands. Putting both of our hands in an ‘O’ shape onto the rope that is over our head just barely letting our hands glide as we speed  through the rainforest at speeds up to 60 mph. They let me know not to hold on too tight because it would brake my stop and I definitely did not want to be stopped in the middle of the cable 2,000 feet up. My death grip on the cable got the best of me and I ended up stopping 3/4 of the way through. When going at speeds like that, it was only normal to me to ‘hold on’. I made it about 3/4 of the way before I had to turn myself around backwards and pull myself across to the end of the cable using my arm strength (which is slim to none).  Ten long minutes and two arms that felt like they were going to fall off later, I pulled my way across, not looking down in Bob the Builder style saying “I think I can, I think I can.” I can only imagine the look on my face at that moment. I had a full day of emotions. It wasn’t until we got back to the hotel room at Nayara and started looking at the days photos of what all we had done that we realized we DID some things that day. We couldn’t believe we did half of the things our camera was showing us we did. We made new friends that we will never forget. Alejandro, Freddy, Levy.

Through tears not wanting to believe our seven days have come and gone, I gather my luggage and wait for the golf cart to come pick us and our luggage up and bring us to the concierge to check out. I close my eyes to listen and take note of all the sounds before entering the rental car that would take us straight to the airport. From the wildlife, to motorcycles and Costa Rican accents. I knew when I got home, I had more garage selling to do amongst a list other things.

a peak into my culinary world

October 2015

Today was a little different than any other day. Although we had the same morning routines .. wake up, brush hair and teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast, I knew the afternoon would be filled with a lot of unknowns. I had registered and went to the local community college and had only two classes before getting my associates degree.  However not knowing what to go to school for has always stopped me from continuing to finish. I had always gotten good grades (when I would attend the class) and it wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was that I didn’t want to continue to waste money on classes I wasn’t even sure I would need – depending on the career I would end up choosing. So I quit. Not once. Not twice. But several times.

After we landed back in Houston from our trip to Costa Rica, I had a vision for my life and was going to do whatever it was necessary to achieve it. I took the steps to get into The Art Institute, got my ID, parking pass, uniform and knives. I was ready to go.




I felt like a kid again; I felt eighteen although I knew I was almost thirty-one. Now, I know what they mean when they say age is just a number. I remember when I used to think thirty was damn near on a death bed. All I can do is laugh when my kids tell me how ‘old’ I am.  I remember laying in bed wondering who my new friends would be, if I would like my teacher, if I would like the class. That feeling of the first day of school never gets old, no matter if you are entering first grade or college.

This particular day was a little different than any other day. Although we had the same morning routines .. wake up, brush hair and teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast, I knew the afternoon would be filled with a lot of unknowns. I shuttle the kids to school and come home to get my things ready. I grab the starched white chef jacket out of the closet and throw it in the dryer in hopes of making it less stiff so I didn’t stand out like such ‘newbie’. After getting dressed in my chef uniform neckerchief and all, I head out the door with my backpack and knife kit. I guess I should have been nervous but I wasn’t one bit. I felt a sense of pride. I was elated that I found my niche. I had only signed up for two classes that semester, not wanting to get in over my head. The first class was knife skills. I honestly loved cutting. I made two friends instantly and still to this day, keep in touch. I never missed one class and was always on time. It was not something I had to do, it was something I wanted to do. It made a world of difference from the time I attended community college. We made things like hollandaise sauce, poached eggs, chicken broth (pretty much the basics of cooking).



School work would consisted of 15-20 hours a week. It wasn’t hard for the most part it was just time consuming writing down recipe cards and learning things like, ‘what is mirepoix?’. Cutting seemed to be just as important as the cooking. At first it was a little stressful trying to get the cuts exactly right but after a while of finally getting it, I had it down pat. I made A’s in both classes.


And for those who know me know I have a consistency of a B average. I wanted to study, I wanted to learn .. for me. My husband and kids were a huge support. He would often pick the kids up from school, help them with homework and start dinner all before I would get home. On the weekends I loved making new meals and trying new desserts – I felt like a mini chef in training. Each semester is eleven weeks long with one week break in between semesters. For Christmas, we had a two week break, however it so happened that we had already booked another trip to Costa Rica (prior to me starting in culinary school) in January which is during the start of the second semester. Being that I wanted to keep a good reputation in school, I emailed my chef to let him know that I would be absent the first day. And with that we were back in the air again off to discover more of Costa Rica.

*For the record, I only cut my thumb and scalded my finger (cooking peanut brittle) once during the whole first semester.


Step #1. Garage Sale

September 2015

It didn’t take me but one day after we got back home before I was going through my entire house to rid of the things that were no longer necessary. When daydreaming about Costa Rica, the first thing that comes to mind is how little they had but how happy they were. Here I was, living on almost 2 acres on a private lot in the middle of town with 2 – 2 car garages, a pool and a barn.


I was nowhere near as happy as they were. But I wanted to do whatever I had to, to get there. All along, my mindset was just in the wrong state. I was wanting to live ‘The American Dream’.  Whatever that was supposed to be. White picket fence, two kids and a dog? That may be someone’s dream, however I realized after that trip, it wasn’t mine. I started in the kitchen and living room, moving to each room combing it top to bottom moving items from the house to the barn. Before I knew it, I had the entire barn completely full. It would actually give me anxiety to go in there each time I would add an object to the sale pile. Just seeing the things that we had bought and collected over the years was astonishing. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of trips made to Hobby Lobby or Pier One Imports and the amount of money that was spent there. I definitely believe whole heartedly we could almost be millionaires had we not bought all of this ‘stuff’. If we needed something, even if just for one use, we would go out and buy it rather than ask someone to borrow. We don’t like to ask much from anyone, we like to do things on our own. If you want something, all you have to do is ask – all they can tell you is no. But if you never ask, they will never know you are in need. (I’m happy to say from this moment on throughout our journey, we will be partaking in the latter.) Each day the kids were in school, I would fill the barn with things that had not only cluttered our home but also our lives. They took over in so many ways. If they broke, we’d have to take the time to fix them. And there’s always cleaning. If it’s there, it’s going to collect dust which in turn requires cleaning. I figure the less stuff you have to keep up with, the more energy you have to put towards things that really matter. Tears, blood and sweat was shed in the process of gathering the items for sale, but I knew it was something that I had to get done. Tagging each object was mentally draining not knowing what to price them. Weeks upon weeks of the same thing finally came to an end and I was ready to have my garage sale. I posted it in the local paper and social media in hopes that everything would be gone in one weekend. Ha. Who was I kidding? I had more stuff than Wal-Mart it seemed. I did end up making about $1200.00 that weekend. So I had high hopes of having several throughout the year to try and sale everything I had. Two couches, our beds, TV’s and clothes are the only contents not being sold. With each thing gone, you wouldn’t believe the huge weight being lifted off of my shoulders.


(Its been a year later to the exact month since I started my garage sales and I’ve made almost $8k. I have had 5 garage sales total and plan to give away what doesn’t sale to the needy, schools and churches.)

What do you desire?

”  What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like? Let’s suppose I do this often in vocational guidance of students. They come to me and say, “Well, we are getting out of college and we have the faintest idea of what we want to do”. So I always ask the question, “What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?” Well, its so amazing as a result our of kind of educational system crowds of students say, “Well, we’d like to be painters”, “We’d like to be poets”, “We’d like to be writers”. But as everybody knows we can’t earn any money that way. Another person says, “I’d like to live an out of doors life and ride horses”. I said, “You want to teach in a riding school? Lets go through with it. What do you want to do?” When we finally got down to something in which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him “you do that and forget the money”. Because if you say that getting the money is the  most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing that a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you are doing it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually become a master of it. The only way to become a master of something is to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good feel for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much. Somebody is interested in everything. Anything you can be interested in you will find others will. But it is absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending things you don’t like doing things you don’t like to teach your children to follow in the same track. See what we are doing is we are bringing up children to educate them to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same things. It never gets there. So therefore it is so important to consider this question. “What do I desire?” ”

– A. W.

August 22.. the first day of the rest of our lives.

August 22, 2015 ” “Y tu, y tu” Talk about music to my ears today! (what Captain Arturo yelled when we had a fish on) Deckhand Leo would sit us down, strap us up and tend to the other 3 lines while my better half matched me sailfish for sailfish on our half day trip. 4! Talk about a million dollar day with a billion dollar woman! Couldn’t ask for more! Much respect to the two man crew who will never know how much this day will always mean to Lindsey and I! Pura Vida!”

Every time I read BJ’s post I can do nothing but smile, remembering the feelings we had that day and how magical it truly was to the both of us. We booked the fishing trip the morning before with the concierge at the Suizo. We were lucky to get on the boat we did. It had a bathroom (which definitely came in handy after about the third or fourth Imperial.) Offshore fishing is something I have always enjoyed doing.  My first time out, I was hooked. Waking up at 3 am didn’t bother me. I tossed my hair up in a bun, put on my sweat pants and sweat shirt, no make-up, but was certainly bright eyed and bushy tailed. It was a private charter so we knew everyone that was going out other than the crew that helped us for the day.  Our crew was laid back, drinking their choice of beverage. As we were watching the sun come up, the reels and fishing lines begin to reflect off of the water. We went out 20 miles which took about 2 hours by boat. Once we made it out to the designated spot, it didn’t take long and I had something on my line. I reeled in with all my might, having to squat down with my butt almost touching the boat floor. With each reel the fish seemed to get heavier and drag even more. The crew was able to see what was on the line and I could hear their expressions. “A shark. You caught a shark!” I didn’t know what to do, whether I should continue to reel it in or if they should cut the line. In mode of “I caught this thing, I’m reeling it in, I am going to do whatever I have to do get a photo with it”, I reeled it completely up to the boat. Slightly giggling to myself thinking THIS is what gave me all that fight?? It was a baby shark, about 4 feet long from tip to tip. I was pumped after that only hoping for something bigger on the next line. Needless to say, the baby shark was the only thing caught that day. Being the only female on the boat, I beamed from ear to ear. Once we arrived back at the dock, I carried the shark up towards the front where you measure and weigh to get my photo taken. (Thinking about it now, I wish I would have never kept that shark.) I was young and naïve.

August 22nd, waking up to the sweet sounds of howler monkeys in the trees and the birds singing as they fly ever so gracefully right above the waves of the water from side to side, flying a football fields length and turning around only to fly in the opposite direction. Everything looked happy, genuinely happy, the grass, the trees, even the squirrels. I took in every second as if it were going to be my last. Smelling the sweet fresh air, breathing like you would at an annual family physicians office when checking the clearness of your lungs. The best part was all of this could be done without even stepping a foot off of the bed. I felt like a bride on her wedding day. The sun was shining so brightly, it seemed like it was screaming for us to get up. By the looks of where the sun was, it seemed it should have been maybe 8:30 or so. We were certainly surprised to see that it was only 5:30 a.m. Refreshed and ready for what may come, we jumped out of bed, showered, got dressed and headed for the breakfast buffet that the Suizo had provided. The restaurant is located directly right behind the bar area. The breakfast each morning consists of 3-4 different types of loaved bread, bagels, fresh fruit from watermelon, cantelope, kiwi and pineapple, along with scrambled eggs and my #1 favorite.. gallo pinto (black beans and rice). We say hello to Brando as he has the first bartending shift and make our way to enjoy our first meal of the day.

**Wages, Taxes, Holidays in Costa Rica & a little information I found useful**                                                                                                                                 Wages in Costa Rica are much lower than in North America or Europe. Despite a comparatively lower cost of living, nominal salaries are common in many job sectors for non-skilled or semi-skilled workers. The average Costa Rican earns between $500 and $800 a month. To compensate for such wages, the government grants employees rights to special benefits. Minimum wages are revised every six months by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Labor.

Non-Qualified Worker: $2.24

Qualified Worker: $2.54

High School Level Technician: $2.73

Specialized Worker: $2.93

College Graduate Technician: $3.37

Bachelor Degree Holder: $4.13

Master Degree Holder: $4.95

The minimum hourly wage estimates are based on the exchange rate of 507.85 CRC per U.S. Dollar. Working days in Costa Rica are classified into day shifts and night shifts. These are the minimum number of hours employees may work during a normal work week. Day Shift: From 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; 8 hours per day; 48 hours per week.

Night Shift: From 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.; 6 hours per day; 36 hours per week.

Mixed Shift: Schedule includes day and night hours between noon and 10:30 p.m., or hours between 1:30 a.m. and noon; 7 hours per day; 42 hours per week.

A 45-minute break for lunch and two additional 15-minute breaks are permitted during work hours. The law allows domestic help to work up to ten hours per day and eight hours at night, with no  more than 48 or 36 hours weekly, respectively. All workers are entitled to a one hour break per eight hours of work. Employees aged from 15-18 may work no more than six hours per day and a total of 36 hours per week.

Overtime is paid at time and a half, or the hourly wage plus and additional 50%; employees may require no more than four hours of overtime, for a total of twelve working hours per day. In Costa Rica, every employee is entitled to a Christmas Bonus, known as a Aguinaldo. The bonus is equivalent to one months salary, and must be paid within the first twenty days  of December.

The Social Security System, known as the Caja, provides employees with free health care, sick leave, disability pensions and retirement benefits. It is mandatory for all employers to register employees to Caja. Total contributions amount to roughly 34.5% of the salary by employers, and 9.5% by employees.

Costa Rica’s labor laws stipulate that pregnant women are given one month of paid maternity leave before the birth of her child and three months after the birth of her child. The employer is required to pay 50% of the salary for four months of leave and the Social Security Admin pays the remaining half.

Employees are entitled to two weeks of vacation for every 50 weeks of employment. Vacation days may not include weekends or paid holidays, they must be regular working days. If an employee’s contract is terminated and he or she has not yet used the earned vacation time, the employee must pay the equivalent of one day’s salary for each month worked during the year. Employee cannot be forced to work national holidays. If an employee agrees to work a holiday, they are entitled to double their normal salary. Paid national holidays include:

*January 1 (New Year’s Day)

*April 11 (Juan Santamaria Day)

*Holy Thursday and Friday (Easter Week)

*May 1 (Labor Day)

*July 25 (Annexation of Guanacaste Day)

*August 15 (Mother’s Day)

*September 25 (Independence Day)

*December 25 (Christmas)

Unpaid national holidays:

*August 2 (Virgin of Los Angeles Day)

*October 12 (Culture Day)

Salaried employees are also paid for the August 2 and October 12 holidays, but wage-earners are not. Employees that are fired or laid off without cause are entitled to severance pay, which is paid on the last day of employment. A worker who is fired with just cause is paid only his or her acquired vacation days and Christmas bonus portion earned that year. Workers laid off without cause by the employer are entitled to further remuneration. For employees that have worked for a period of three to six months, they are entitled to the equivalent of one week’s wages. Six months to one year equals fourteen days for wages, and one year of employment of more entitles them to 20 days of wages.  Costa Rica law requires employees to pay taxes on income earned within Costa Rica. The fiscal tax year ends October 31, and taxes must be filed by December 15. The income tax is graduated, so that those who earn more are placed into a higher tax bracket.

*Up to $5,418 USD; not subject to income tax

*Between $5,418 and $8, 090 USD; 10% tax

*Between $8,090 and $13, 497 USD; 15% tax

*Between $13, 497 and $27, 047 USD: 20% tax

*More than $27,047 USD; 25% tax

After filling our bellies with breakfast, we head back to the room to gather the items we are needing for our half day trip. Our meeting place was about 100 meters down the beach from where the Suizo was located. Walking in the sand hand in hand, we feel the suns rays beam down on our face, neck and shoulders. It must have been about 90 degrees Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the sky. Surfers sit out in the ocean waiting for the next wave to come in. Kids, some digging in the sand with their hands and toes while others play in the shallow parts of the water splashing, jumping over the waves as they would enter into the ocean water. Everywhere you looked was happiness. I found myself smiling just seeing everyone else be so happy. It was infectious.  I could have pulled up a beach towel and sat there for hours. We finally make it down the beach and see several boats docked on the beach which we assumed were waiting for their days’ guests. A gentleman greeted us halfway between where we were walking in the sand and where the boat was sitting in the water.  The boat he arrived on to pick us up was a dingy boat which would take us out to ‘The Outcast’, the boat we reserved for half day trip.


Really having no idea what we were going to be catching or not catching, I was laid back knowing it was all out of my control. We made our way into the water and climbed up onto the small boat. It contained 4-5 seats and a outboard motor. The tico drove the dingy boat about 50 meters out to where the fishing boats were sitting in the water. The two boats meet as the smaller one glides up to ‘The Outcast’.  Two other men greet us once we make it on board. The boat has fast twin 250 Cummins and a wide 11 + beam so it was roomy and comfortable, length 27′.  You could feel the energy these men exude as we pull up. Leo and Arturo. Captain Arturo has fished the waters of Costa Rica for over 20 years. He loves to fish, always works hard and wants everyday to be successful. Our trip was not supposed to start until 8:00a. m., however when we arrived at 7:25a. m. they were ready to go. I remember them saying to one another, ‘Lets go. Lets go. Lets go. We are on Pura Vida time! Pura Vida Mei!’ I remember thinking to myself, if we were back in the states and the same thing happened – I don’t think action would have been taken until right at 8:00a. m. I took mental note of how happy they were to be there, doing what they do each and every day, for others.

Located close to the deep water, Tamarindo is the perfect base with Sportfishing. Spectacular year ’round fishing for sailfish, marlin, dorado, yellowfin tuna, roosterfish, cubera, snapper, wahoo and assorted other inshore species are all accessible with a short run time. Conservation of the resource is important so they use techniques to make sure the billfish are released unharmed. With edible fish, they are happy to keep  your catch fileted and on ice for the day so you can have it cooked at one of Tamarindo’s many superb restaurants. We took our seats. And with that, the motors of The Outcast were roaring and we were off.


Knowing I had eaten breakfast shortly before, I didn’t feel so bad making my way to the front of the boat to grab a beer. 8:08a. m. – The first line took off screaming. We turn and look at each other.  My eyes light up. Deckhand Leo made his way to the back of the boat towards the line. We all had big smiles painted over our faces, anxious to see what was on the end of that line. B.J. grabbed the GoPro and started filming as I sit in the chair, strap up and hold the pole between my legs. Shaking and nervous, I reel with all I have. I reel it in once. I reel it in again. And before you know it, there it was.. jumping out of the water. It was a 6 foot sailfish. I could see the line was about 150 meters or so out. My skin was crawling with excitement. Here it was 90 degrees outside and I was sweating with goose bumps. I didn’t care how long it was going to take me, I was determined to not let it go and not give up. I wanted to do it on my own. The sailfish would jump completely out of the water and wiggle its body trying to do whatever it could to get off of my line.  Fifteen minutes of fighting the sailfish later, I was able to get him close enough for Deckhand Leo to grab. He held onto his bill to tire it out so he would be able to lift the sailfish out of the water just enough for me to get a quick pic.


I was able to run my hand across its body just before it was released back into the ocean. ((The two main subspecies of sailfish, Atlantic and IndoPacific, range throughout the warm and temperate parts of the world’s oceans. They are blue to gray in color with white underbellies. They get their name from their spectacular dorsal fin that stretches nearly the length of their body and is much higher than their bodies are thick. They are member of the billfish family, and as such, have an upper jaw that juts out well beyond their lower jaw and forms a distinctive spear. They are found near the ocean surface usually far from land feeding on schools of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which they often shepherd with their sails, making them easy prey. They also feast on squid and octopus. Their meat is fairly tough and is not widely eaten, but they are prized as game fish. These powerful, streamlined beasts can grow to more than 10 feet and weigh up to 220 pounds. Individuals have been clocked at speeds up to 68 MPH, which is one of the highest speeds reliably reported in any water organism. When hooked, they will fight vigorously, leaping and diving repeatedly, and sometimes taking hours to land. Sailfish are fairly abundant throughout their range and their population is considered stable. They are under no special status or protections. The sail is normally kept folded down and to the side when swimming, but it may be raised when the sailfish feels threatened or excited, making the fish appear much larger than it actually is. They can swim 100 m in 4.8 seconds.)) We watched Deckhand Leo get the hook from the fish and release it back into the ocean. We stood, watching it swim back off in its natural habitat. My heart was pounding, head dripping with sweat, I high five B.J. I was so proud of myself for doing what I just did. I can’t remember what number fish we were on when the deckhand came down from the captains deck to check on the lines. We engaged in conversation, trying to learn about his daily life. We offer him a beer and ‘cheers’ our 3 cans together. As soon as we placed the can to our lips to take a drink, the line takes off. We quickly throw our beers down and run over to peak over the boat to see what it was. Before any of us could say anything, we hear commotion in the water and see the sailfish jumping. Each time, was like the first. It never got old. We matched each other, sailfish for sailfish totaling four each.


(To this day, I can still close my eyes and see us on that boat trolling, catching those fish.) We had so much fun and stayed busy the entire fishing trip. Before we knew it, it was time to reel in the lines and get all the fishing gear back in order for the next charter. I would have been okay with catching one but the ocean and weather were just right for us.  On the way back towards the dingy boat which would take us back to the beach, we saw a 4 foot sea turtle swimming. Moving its arms up and down, slowly floating over each wave. Sea life is very beautiful, mysterious yet can be dangerous. You don’t realize how small you really are until you find yourself looking around in the big ocean. Knowing I am merely a spec on this earth really puts things in perspective. We take a quick selfie with our crew on The Outcast and climb over onto the dingy boat.


We tell the tico driver what we caught, as we are still stoked and could not believe what we were able to catch ourselves. Honestly, he was too. He mentioned that it was rainy season and should have been raining. We walk back up the beach back towards the Suizo. We say hello to our friends at the bar and continue to our room to get cleaned up. After grabbing a quick bite to eat in the center of town we head to take the beach access back to the room.  We see Barrett (the beautiful red head, sorry Barrett) sitting at the bar socializing with the bartenders. We take a seat next to him, ready to continue our conversation where we left off the few nights before .  He invited us over to his parents home as his mom was having two other friends coming over as well. We finish our beverages and head to the hotel room to freshen up. It was just a five minute walk on the beach from our hotel room door to his house. The waves of the ocean, the sounds from the insect species in the trees, the moonlight on the ocean.. Such calmness and peace. We walked using the light from the cell phone hand in hand strolling down the beach letting the wind blow our hair. I remember feeling like a kid, no worries in the world. All that mattered was that moment and that moment only. The concrete pathway led us to the porch of the house. Greeting Barrett’s mother and his mothers friends, we take a seat next to them around the circular table. So soft spoken, she introduces herself as well as her friends, Jackie (Jax) and Mike.  We all literally drank the night away and laughed until we cried.


I wanted to pinch myself it was so surreal. The ocean lapping up and crashing on the sand. The air felt like nothing at all. Not hot, nor cold. It just, was.  We played games around the table (most I had never heard of) and cris crossed conversation between the six of us. It was such a perfect evening, you could not have written a better day. After having to excuse myself to the bathroom  because my stomach had its fill of mixed drinks, I knew it was time to go before I had a mess to clean up. We said our goodbyes and nice to meet you’s and headed towards the beach to make our way back to the hotel. Having such a good day, it hadn’t even dawned on me that we leave …. tomorrow. I sadly throw myself in bed, make-up and all and go to sleep. Laying in bed the next morning, BJ leans over to me and asks, “Were you there when Mike was talking to me about our business?”  I hadn’t been, but knew there must be a story coming.  He continues, “He asked me what we did for a living. I told him. And then, he asked me what do I want to do for a living. And I sat there, not really sure what to answer.” I remember thinking to myself what a clever question to ask. It hit us both pretty hard, in a good way. But we needed that like we need oxygen to breathe. When we were twenty years old, we had the opportunity to buy a family business. We took that opportunity and ran with it. With a lot of hard work, sweat and tears we were able to turn the business into something we had always wanted. We wanted to be known locally by everyone. Even if they don’t choose us, they know we are here. I graduated from high school. BJ got his GED. Neither of us went to college. We don’t know everything, but we know how to run a small business. If we wanted to, we could do the same things until we decide to retire or die, whichever comes first. But is that REALLY living? Not in my book and I want to do more than just exist.  My mind was running and I’m sure BJ’s was too.  Sadly having to pack our things we tell our friends at Suizo bye and mention that we will be back .. Soon.


Of course they chuckle and say okay, not really believing us as I’m sure they hear that way too often. Being that we rode that transportation bus from the airport to the hotel, we needed to do the same to get back. We made a stop along the way to pick up another couple to take to the airport. As the bus driver stops to open the doors, we see a small group of four hugging with a mixture of laughter and tears. I don’t know about you, but when I see someone else cry, it makes me want to cry too. I try to wipe the tears before they are seen. But too late. BJ grabs my hand and tells me everything will be alright. I had my heart on my sleeve from not wanting to leave this beautiful place. Its a heartfelt feeling you just can’t explain. And to be honest it wasn’t because my vacation was over and I’m a snotty little brat, but it’s because I felt ‘at home’, I felt aLIVE. I knew from that moment on, I had some living to do and no one else was going to do it for me. I needed a new outlook on life. I sat and thought for a few days.  What am I supposed to be? What is it that I WANT to do? More importantly what is it that I could do here, in Costa Rica. We have often threw the idea around of moving to Austin when we retire (who knows when that would have been), so for us to want to do this on such a whim would become a surprise to others.  After some thought, the first thing that came to mind was eating. Everybody eats, no matter what language you speak. Growing up my mother would make things in the microwave. Quite frankly if it didn’t cook in the microwave, we didn’t have it or my dad made it. I often love learning to cook from my grandmother who has taught me how to make things like sausage kolache’s or homemade spaghetti. I had my mind made up, I had contacted the school and was set to start out to my next chapter in life. I had started culinary school at The Art Institute of Houston about six weeks after our plane hit the ground back in Texas. I knew with that piece of paper, I would have more of a chance at getting a job, no matter where in the world. I got my school ID and parking pass and was ready for my first day. I was nervous but more excited knowing the steps needed to take in order to get to where I wanted to be. And with that, I started my first day as a culinary student.

(We will be forever in debt to you Mr. Mike. Thank you for your inspirational words.)