Managing Expectations

Warning…. this is a real life post. Just transparency. Again, not trying to be negative or complaining but just telling how it really is.

When Nathan and I started dating (18 years ago) I quickly learned that he had two very memorable quotes that he tried to live by. One was “manage your expectations” and the other was “growing up is awkward.” I’m not sure if either one of these are original with him but I know that we have used them a lot since then.

Both of these quotes have been very useful. I know as we were young married people getting to know each other and how to live with each other we could use the “growing up is awkward” a lot and dealing with our children and other family members at times we use the “manage your expectations” quote.

When we were telling our family members that we were moving, and several times since then, I have heard my mom use the “managing my expectations” one. They all handled it very well but In some of our more honest conversations she has told me that she has to do that often.

This move has not been easy. Yes, social media makes everything look perfect and great but moving far away from family and dear friends is very difficult on everyone. And sometimes it just sneaks up on you.

Almost 2 years ago when we were trying to make this decision I remember feeling surprisingly calm about the decision. I think we were in a place where we were feeling overwhelmed and needing a change. Honestly, I had been looking at houses (for change) and also trying to figure out how I was going to change my work schedule to accommodate Benson’s new hours in middle school. In my profession nights and weekends are pretty busy and I was seeing how I was probably about to have to give that up. So when Nathan approached me with the idea I kind of surprised myself with how open I was to it.

Looking back, I do feel like it was the change we needed and I have no regrets. I do face challenges. I would face challenges if I was in The States as well and I realize that. My biggest challenge upon returning back to Costa Rica after being in the states for a month has been feeling a little bit like I have regressed.

If you would’ve told me two years ago that I would still not be fluent in Spanish and still have days where I wonder what in the world I’ve done I probably would have said no way to moving! I’m glad I didn’t know that in the beginning.

One of our challenges is that we are not exposed to much Spanish and have not learned as much as we expected at this point. That really bothered me this summer but I have decided to “manage my expectations” and move on. No, I’m not taking any Spanish classes right now but I am very involved at school subbing a lot and keeping busy in that way. 

Another one of the challenges that I’m having to manage is missing home which is funny because one of the things I told my mom when we were in the process of moving was that I was looking forward to going somewhere where no one knows my name. I love the show Cheers and that song is always in my head. But with the work that I was doing and being very involved in church I was kind of looking forward to removing myself from being ON all the time.

I also really miss our church family and the kids would be starting youth group. They have programs at the church we are at now but the kids aren’t just real comfortable there yet. When we were at home I really enjoyed seeing my kids enjoy Bible classes. 

I am an extreme introvert. Many people don’t realize that because I am able to function pretty well socially but I’m always exhausted when it’s over. Sometimes I mumble and talk too much and sometimes I just sit and observe others feeling very overwhelmed. Moving to a new place, especially a different country, causes you to come out of that comfort zone and it has been a long time and I’m exhausted!

I have listed a lot of our daily challenges on here before and I won’t do that again. I think the exhausting part is that I have not been able to go on auto pilot. Doctors appointments, driving, and even simple things like getting groceries is still difficult. It makes me frustrated at myself that I have not acclimated better and that is what is exhausting. 

I can’t change my personality but I’m trying to learn to be comfortable in this new existence. I’m having to be ON in a different way. I think I thought I would be much more further along in the acclamation experience at this point. This should be my new normal but it’s just not yet. Being home for Christmas I think really made me realize that.

I am OK, I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I am in a bad place. I just I am trying to be honest with myself and others about the difficulties of doing something so drastic. One wonderful thing about this time in our lives is that our kids are very happy. They have blown us away with how they have adjusted. Benson is headed to Orlando next month without us for a performing arts festival, Sloane has made some really sweet friends and is playing the drums and Blake Leigh is just growing and changing before our eyes. They are real troopers. They aren’t just making it through they are really thriving!

Nathan’s job is challenging and a really good fit for him.  I am really proud of him for taking this role head on and challenging himself. He has also had to “manage his expectations” and has been a great example to us.

My next plan in getting my spirits up is to try to plan a little beach trip or some thing with a girlfriend. Unfortunately, my weird family doesn’t like the beach so I may have to go by myself! I need to “manage the expectations” of where I would be at this point and always be looking for the positive. We live in a beautiful place and have some really sweet friends.Thank you to those who pray for us and keep the prayers coming!

Side note…… my mom retires in seven days and I couldn’t be happier for her! Bring on the flexibility and rest! 

Accepting Growth and Change

As I sit here preparing myself for a meeting at the immigration office this morning I have so many contradicting thoughts running through my head. We are having this meeting to get permission for Benson to travel alone to The States at the beginning of next month. He is attending a performing arts festival in Orlando.

When Benson first approached us with this idea I was very hesitant. For many reasons… He is my baby boy and has never traveled out of the country without us, he didn’t know really who all was going, and selfishly, I’m a little bit jealous that he gets to go to Universal Studios. 

The more we looked into it the more we realized that it would be a great opportunity. It is associated with Juilliard and he is very passionate about music. Playing and writing. 

We spoke to his band director, who is going with the group, and he really encouraged us to let Benson sign up. So here we are, giving our permission for our little boy to travel to Orlando by plane without us. The thoughts that are going through my head are things like “he’s still a baby.” “I’m so proud of him.” “He’s only 12!” “He’s getting to be so independent!” I’m truly all over the place. I’m so excited for him to get to do something like this. He very well may get homesick but I know in the end it will be a great experience.

I still can’t believe that he wanted to do this. If you would’ve asked me, or even him, two years ago I think we both would have laughed. It’s almost been two years since we decided to make this move. (March 2018) and we have all changed and grown a lot since then. I look back at the little shy boy that we brought here and now see him maturing and gaining more confidence every day. I attribute a lot of that to his band experience but also putting himself in a position to except a change and run with it. None of the kids wanted to move and he was the most resistant. I’m very proud of him and hope that we are making the right decision. Benson in front of Carnegie Hall

From Bensons Perspective

To commemorate us being in Costa Rica for 18 months I want to share a story that Benson wrote for a school assignment recently. They were supposed to share a story of something that happened in their life that really affected them. I really enjoyed hearing from his perspective. Although, it’s a little bit funny to see how concerned he was about the dog!

When I Moved to Costa Rica

By Benson Bland

Sometimes you have to move. It could be because your dad made you do it for his job. Or to a bigger house etc. My friends have had to do that and maybe yours too.

It was 6 in the morning. My entire family had slept at my house. You should’ve heard how loud my house was the night before. I couldn’t sleep that night because the next day I would move to Costa Rica.

I got out of bed in my house in Bartlett, Tennessee. I was extremely tired because I didn’t sleep that night. I looked at my watch, 5:59 am. Nobody was up despite the fact that we were moving that day. I waited thinking of my life to come until my cousins, grandparents, parents, aunt, or uncle got up (If my sisters got I would pretend I was asleep until someone else woke me up so they don’t annoy me). Once everybody got up (13 people including me in my medium-size house in the States), we got our luggage 17 bags and a dog went to Gibson’s Doughnuts in downtown Memphis where when I was little, I and my dad would go there every Saturday morning for some donuts. We all were very anxious because we all knew that soon we would have to say goodbye.

Once we all got the delicious donuts (I got maple bacon) we started heading towards the Memphis “International” Airport (It only goes barely to Canada or Mexico) the tears started coming. You might think I have no heart but I never cried. We unloaded all of our luggage and I got the dog (we faked him as an emotional support animal so he could be with us on the plane  (Don’t worry we drugged him). We left our big suitcases with the people who worked there so we didn’t have to put them as carry-ons. When we finished with that, we said our goodbyes to our big family.

My grandpa on my dad’s side doesn’t really like dogs but he actually said bye to my dog and petted him! Then my uncle on my mom’s side (Context: Brothers and sisters don’t like each other but they were fine with each other but this is very deep) was crying and he said he loved her.

When about a gallon of tears was shed we went to security and we got some weird looks from the officers when we came in with my dog but we got through perfectly fine. With all the people there, my dog was going nuts.

As we were walking up the stairs a HUGE American flag appeared. It was probably 50ft long and 20ft wide.                                                                                                                                      Once we got to the gate, we still had about an hour. So, we gave my dog some food and water. He is an Aussiedoodle. He has beautiful blue eyes and he has a white head. Underneath his mouth it is copper. His ears are greyish and his body is black and grey.

Once the people finally let us in we got on the plane. The foot room is super small and we couldn’t move around until the plane was in the air. We couldn’t go for another hour so we waited and waited. When the plane finally started we got our to get up once the plane took off.

We played a few games and listened to music. Suddenly my ears felt weird and my head started spinning and I realized we were landing. Once we landed we grabbed our carry-ons went to our next gate. Once we got there we left our stuff with my dad and went to get food. I got a hamburger and got my last Dr. Pepper. And we went back to the gate.’

We took our dog to the bathroom over and over and he never would. He had gone 4hrs and never gone (that we know of). After about four hours. of doing that and watching movies we finally managed to get on the plane.

Once we were on it was about 3 pm. We finally got on and the plane took off and it was good on the 5hr flight. About halfway through the ride, a guy was probably heading to the bathroom and passed out. I was watching something so I didn’t hear what was going on. My dad told me that he was the guy who pressed the flight attendant button.

Once the flight ended somehow the time ended up to ten (I’ve counted the hours and still don’t know what happened that made it so late.

We went through customs and after that, it was 12 am.

We got all our bags and I had the dog which is enough. And we headed to the taxi. Once we got home  Blue (my dog) and I went straight to the back yard and went he went to the bathroom.

When he went I felt like the happiest person alive because he is a small dog and going 12hrs and not going to the bathroom is VERY HARD. It felt like I was going to Disney World. I went outside to tell the good news. Everyone was really happy. Then, we all went to look at our long-awaited house.

Going to the bathroom,  it is a problem every living creature faces. It makes you miss movies and causes video game deaths. It can ruin road trips and can cause stinky disasters. My dog is very small and surprisingly could hold it for that long. We all glad he didn’t end up going on the plane because that would have been a disaster.

I’m really proud of Benson for being able to put all this in words. His teacher obviously asked for a lot of details and I think we will be glad to have all that looking back someday.

Showing Kindness

Yesterday, something happened that I have been dreading since we moved here… I got pulled over by the police. No, I wasn’t speeding or disobeying a traffic laws, but I was driving by a prison and they do routine stops. I have been fortunate up until now to not be stopped. The man had me roll my window down and started speaking Spanish, of course, because I live in a Spanish-speaking county…. sometimes I have to say that out loud to remind myself that I do know this fact.  I always assumed that I would turn to mush and forget how to speak if this happened but luckily I didn’t. I told him that I don’t speak a lot of Spanish so he started speaking to me in perfect English. I was shocked and grateful. He asked me for my license and fortunately I have a Costa Rica drivers license. I showed it to him and he very slowly walked all around my car, looked at all my stickers on the windshield (you have to have about a half a dozen different stickers on your windshield here to meet regulations) and then handed me my license back and with a smile told me to have a wonderful day.

I tell that story to say that I am much more appreciative when I’m shown kindness now. I could also tell stories of times that I have felt like I was walking around with no clothes on because everyone was staring at me or times that I really did turn to mush and couldn’t think of any words when I needed to speak to someone in Spanish because I felt very intimidated or “like i was sticking out like a sore thumb.” That actually happens a lot…. going to the grocery store, restaurants, the business office at school. Mostly places that only speak Spanish and it’s like a silent alarm goes off when I walk in the door. 

This experience living in another country has taught me many things but lately I’ve really been focusing on one… Showing kindness. I was brought up to be kind. My dad didn’t give me a lot of advice when I was growing up. One, because he was a very quiet man who didn’t say much but when he did say something we always listened. And two, because he showed us by example how to be. He always told us to be kind. And it wasn’t so much advice as a command. And what a simple command. If you are kind then others will see Jesus in you. 

There are so many times during the last year and a half that I have really been thankful for someone showing kindness. One of the first was at an office depot store right after we moved here. A woman heard me struggling at the desk to tell the lady what I needed done so she translated for me. Later she found me in the store to give me her phone number in case I needed her help again.  Turns out, she is the church secretary where we are attending now.  She did not have to show me scripture or invite me to church for me to see Jesus in her. ***On a sidenote, her number is still taped to my refrigerator. She wrote it on one of those little ‘take a number’ tickets that you get at a place when the line is really long.

I have many more stories like this but for now the police officer and the office depot lady can get my point across. I feel like now like my eyes are much more open to people who don’t always “fit.” I think of different times in my life where someone was visiting at Church or I saw someone confused in the grocery store. I will be much more quick to help these people. I think I’ve always let my “shyness” or just plain ignorance get in the way.  I’m also learning that you don’t have to speak the same language to communicate. There of been many times where I have seen kindness in strangers helping me find my way. 

17 Month Observations

Yesterday marked our 17th month here in Costa Rica. I try to at least update once a month and today I have two main points although they have nothing to do with each other and are super random. 

1. Driving in Costa Rica is insane!

So I’ve been driving here pretty much from day one and I thought it would get better by this point. NOPE! The day-to-day things have become pretty easy and I think it’s safe to say that I’m on auto pilot going to the grocery store and a few other places.

BUT going anywhere else, especially between 3:00-9:00pm can make a person say words that they normally don’t say. The traffic is terrible and people drive as if there are no laws. For example, I had taken the kids to the orthodontist one evening and we were headed back home and sitting at a red light, people were honking and yelling at me like crazy because I wasn’t going. The light was obviously red! **On a sidenote, if you are familiar at all with Costa Rica you know about the Pura Vida attitude. (If you are not familiar it is a saying that locals and tourists use here about the laid-back easy-going attitude.) Well, it is pura Vida until you get into a car here.

Another problem with traffic is we have several tolls that have about 6 to 10 lanes which then drop down to two lanes immediately after. You have to be very aggressive driver around here and that is so not me. Nathan, on the other hand turns Tico (Costa Rican) as soon as he’s in the car.

Parking here is also brought me to tears on several occasions. I think that people that are born here are born with a genetic ability to park and very tight spaces and find places to park that no one would ever have thought a car can go. Nathan recently took Blake Leigh to see paw patrol and when they came out of the show this is what the parking lot looked like.

I have avoided certain places and gone at strange times to stores because I knew that parking will be an issue. There will be a store that is super close but has no parking so I will specifically go out of my way to another one because I know I’ll be able to park. I know this sounds silly to many people but it is definitely a huge stressor for me. On that same orthodontist trip last week there are only four spots in front of the orthodontist so we’re always crossing our fingers on the way there for a parking spot. It is also in front of a very busy street right next to the national stadium of Costa Rica so it’s a very intense place. This time we found one but it was about the size of a small car. We ended up all having to get out of one door which was actually pretty comical. I have learned to try to laugh in these moments and be grateful that I didn’t hurt our car or another car in the process. 

I know people here who are able to avoid driving because they use Uber or they have personal drivers but I have too many places I have to go every day with three kids and dog to make that actually work for us. 

I am constantly in need of a massage because of all the tension in my neck and shoulders after being in the car. I recently got Nathan and I massages for his birthday and the lady could not believe how bad my neck and shoulders were. I blame this entirely on driving here!

2. There are times when I feel extremely homesick

Living in another country is kind of like a roller coaster. I’ve explained to friends and family before that I almost have to live minute by minute with my emotions. It has become more like hour to hour, which I guess is progress🙌🏽. Some weeks I will go on and be so grateful for this experience and other weeks, like this one, I wonder what in the world I’m doing.

I had to have some medical test this week on my shoulder and the language barrier makes a huge difference. Also, our insurance here is very different and complicated and I honestly don’t even understand it. I’m very thankful for Nathan’s assistant because she helps me with these matters. 

Anyway, I say all of that to say that I was sitting at the hospital waiting for my test not knowing where to go or who to pay or even understanding people who were trying to help me. That is hard. I say this a lot, but I feel like it’s important… We chose to do this and put ourselves in this position but I do want to be transparent with the realities of living in another country. Not understanding the language or the dialect can make you feel very hopeless and lost. Luckily, we have lots of people that are willing to help us and I’m very grateful for that. Saying that, I don’t always want to bother people with my every day issues and know that I need to figure them out for myself for personal growth and future problems.

I was sitting there waiting with tears in my eyes but then within a couple of hours I felt very blessed to know that people here are willing to help. Even though several of the techs didn’t speak English I was able to understand them and with hand motions we were able to figure out what I needed to do during the exam and tests. (For those who are interested it turns out I have a torn rotator cuff.)

Yesterday, I lost my debit card and that was one of those things that I had to rely on someone to help me. I tried to use my Google translator and talk to people around the area where I lost it but that was just a huge disaster. I’m so used to being able to figure things out on my own. I ended up calling Nathan’s assistant and she called the bank to stop the card. I can’t say enough how grateful I am for her.

Today, Nathan and I both have been a little homesick. We found out this week that ESPN game day was going to be in Memphis and there’s no place Nathan would rather be today than there but luckily, it was on here, and even in English! We were able to watch this morning before Nathan took Benson to flag football. We are also crossing our fingers that the game is on tonight to where we can see it. Days like this it’s nice to have a connection to home.

We are still feeling very fortunate to be here and I definitely don’t want to sound like poor pitiful me. Our children are still amazing us with how they have adapted and are excelling in this new environment. Benson (6th grade) has been chosen to play his trumpet with the high school band in a couple of weeks in a performance at the school. Sloane is out of her sling and splint and is back to swimming. She was recently part of a math team from the school that got to compete against other schools in the area. And Blake is really starting to love to read and write chapter books for us. They each have their challenges but your mind then that they would be going through some of the same things even if we were still in the states. As Nathan has been down to say… “Growing up is awkward” and we are all still growing up. 

Here are some pictures from lately. Today when I was feeling homesick I decided to take a long walk and saw some funny things on my walk and help brighten my mood. It is also hard to be homesick when you see such a beautiful creation around you.

our school has its own Nemo and DoryNathans birthday. Part our little Costa Rica tribe Sloanes Math teamWatching Gameday Random petting zoo in our neighborhood this morning. .

Checking In

It’s been a while since I’ve last updated so I thought it was time. Nothing earth shattering going on. But I just want to document this point of our life.

We have been in Costa Rica for 16 months. I know that sounds like a mom who insist on only giving her children’s ages in months, but just like in child raising, when you’re doing something completely different every day counts!

We have been back in the swing of things for about six weeks now with school starting. Nathan’s job is going well and the kids are in full swing of their afterschool activities. One of the things that I love here is that all of their extracurriculars are immediately after school so we are not running around at night to get to practices.

Benson is involved in cross country, art and tech, and trumpet, of course. Sloane is doing engineering, swimming, (although, she is out for a month with a broken arm, I’ll get to that later) Chess club, and cooking. Blake Leigh is doing STEAM, swimming, and basketball. I am still substituting at the kids school. I even taught Spanish class for a whole day.

I was at school last week teaching PE class when Sloane’s friends came and got me saying she had fallen off the slide. I was thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal because my kids are kind of clumsy but of course, I was wrong. Luckily, I was able to leave quickly and take her to the hospital. The doctor confirmed that her wrist was broken. She was very calm about the whole thing until then because she assumed it would be like last time where the doctor had to set the bone and put on a cast. Luckily this doctor recommended a splint instead of a cast. He said the cast will be useless in a few days after the swelling went down. She still has to wear the splint and sling 24/7 for 4 weeks but it’s still so much better than the cast.

Another cool thing that has happened since school started is that Sloane got to join band this year and she is doing percussion. She was really hoping that she would be able to do that. Just one more way that she and Benson can drive each other crazy in the house. That was one unfortunate thing with the arm breaking because now she has to do with one arm. Her band director has been very supportive and is working with her on this.

In September we were able to go whale watching. That was an amazing experience. It was only about an hour from our house and we hope to this again. It is a seasonal activity.

I have joined a hiking group that goes out most Monday mornings. It is a group of people from all over the world and has been a cool experience. These are some windmills that you can see from our house. We were able to celebrate Costa Rica Independence Day. We also had to make a very tough decision about church. One of the pulls to us moving here was the relationship that our church back home has with the church here. It has been a great experience for us to get to know these precious people. Although, over the year we came to realize how hard it was to actually worship there. The language barrier was really difficult. I think when we went into it we thought we would learn Spanish much more quickly and that would make it easier for us but unfortunately we have not. We made lifelong friends there and plan on continuing that relationship but have decided to go to an English-speaking church closer to us. I have found myself in tears a couple of times because I had missed that connection.

The real kicker for me was the kids. They are the age now where we would really like for them to WANT to be baptized. I tried to force Benson to go to a youth event and he wanted to hide in a corner the whole time. Again, it has nothing to do with the congregation it’s totally us and our inability to communicate.

The new school year has brought new friends and strengthened old friendships. I have a new friend from California with two little girls that Blake Leigh and Sloane connected with instantly. And they even live in our neighborhood. Benson is still super sad about his friend from last year, Nolan, leaving but we’ve been very proud of him for making some new friendships this year with some new kids.

On another positive note we now have someone here helping clean the house two days a week. She speaks zero English so it’s bound to help us with our Spanish. Her name is Norma and she’s very sweet. She knows much more about taking care of a house like this than I do.

Overall, I would say things are going very well. I’m also happy to say that next month my parents are coming for Thanksgiving and then shortly after will be home again for Christmas. I just to end with a few pictures.

Thoughts…….

We recently were able to go back to The States for a month. It was a wonderful time and it was honestly kind of hard to come back here to Costa Rica. Mostly because we really enjoyed time with family. We got to spend a whole week on vacation with my parents and we stayed with Nathan’s parents the rest of the time. His grandfather passed away while we were there but we were so thankful to get to spend time with him before he passed.

One of the questions we get asked very often especially over the last month was “when are you coming back?” And “how much longer do you have in Costa Rica?” And the answer is we really don’t know. This used to frustrate me because I kind of always want to know what’s next but isn’t that kind of ridiculous?

From the time we are a little we always kind of know what’s next. After kindergarten, first grade. After high school is college and then we have to get real jobs. When we get married everyone wonders when we’ll have kids and so on…… We are in a unique position right now where we are really not sure what our next step is. But aren’t we all?? We are not promised tomorrow, or that promotion, or our good health. That’s why I feel like a relationship with God is so important. I do pray that we are learning things that we need to know now for our next experience and I do kind of have an idea of what I want that next experience to be but never in 1 million years would I have expected that I would be moving to Costa Rica if you had asked me a few years ago so I have to have an open mind of what is next.

I have decided to enjoy this time of living in the moment and not having to worry about what is next because when that time comes it will be stressful trying to decide where we will live and where the kids will go to school and what I will do for work. For now I’m going to enjoy taking my kids to a school that they love and having lunch and coffee with friends that I adore.

I’m extremely thankful that I have made close friends here and with the start of a new school year I’m looking forward to making new friends. This year we were asked to help with a buddy family system here at school. I have already made a new friend and looking forward to helping her transition to this country. I know how much my buddy family friend, Mariana, helped us gets settled and I now consider her a close friend.

So no, we don’t know how long will be here or what the next step is but I pray for patience for myself through this process and hope that I can enjoy the time that we have here now.