Weekly Photo Challenge: Stories are Light

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”
― Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

This Thanksgiving we made some light…fishing in the St. John’s River, sharing family stories under the reflecting palms.
IMG_0292We made some light… cooking pumpkin pies and Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, while sharing family recipes bathed in the moonlight of the draw bridge.
IMG_0403We made some light…traveling together in my step brother’s plane, while singing Christmas songs over the winding rivers 19,000 ft. below.
We made some light…returning to my mother’s home, and sharing our Thanksgiving stories and traditions of many years ago lit by the fountain across the street from her home.
IMG_0470We made some light… of our blended families, sharing our gratefulness and thanks for the time we can spend together before we all return to our own homes far away. Our doors are always lit…our stories are our light.
IMG_0466Begin at the beginning…share stories gratefully with others…make some light today.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected

“Most people want to be circled by safety, not by the unexpected. The unexpected can take you out. But the unexpected can also take you over and change your life. Put a heart in your body where a stone used to be.”
― Ron Hall

We are in the states for Ron’s mother’s celebration of life. The day of Jane’s celebration of life, we were greeted with unexpected surprises throughout the day. Most people want to be circled by safety…we prefer the unexpected.

                                                 Using an outhouse.
IMG_0176                           A headless scarecrow?
IMG_0180                                                   Snow???? Brrrrrr.
IMG_0041                              A little bird landed on Ron’s fingers.
IMG_0165                                      We found a secret tunnel at the museum where Jane’s
                                                    celebration of life was held.

15 Minutes of Fame

Andy Warhol coined an expression in 1968 when he said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I thought I used up my 15 minutes of fame years ago, but I have been blessed with unusual experiences in my life that have kept me jumping on my Gypsytoes.

Enjoy our First Thanksgiving on Ometepe Island from the Project Expat: Recalling Thanksgivings Abroad from NPR.

I wish everyone a wonderful and relaxing holiday season. We’re celebrating Thanksgiving in the states with family. Stay tuned for more Ometepe stories when we return.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers of Lava

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua has two majestic volcanoes…Concepcion, the active volcano and Maderas, the dormant volcano.  Layers of lava, ash, clouds, and foliage add to the splendor of the ever-changing layers like a kaleidoscope.
kaleidescope explosion


Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Financial Habits…don’t exist in Nicaragua

This week’s Photo Challenge is Habit – stuff of the everyday, places we go, things we do, people we see.

IMG_3813This is our electric bill attached to our fencepost. Last month, when the electric man came to our house to cut off our electricity…AGAIN…I said, ” What happened to the bicycle deliverer this time?” You see, as hard as I try to be efficient and pay our bills in a timely manner…it’s almost an impossibility on Ometepe Island because good financial habits that I have developed throughout my lifetime don’t exist in Nicaragua.

The first time the electric guy came to our house to cut off our electricity he told me, “The fat guy on the bicycle quit delivering the bills.” In the ‘land of the not quite right’, even though we never received a bill, it was our duty to pay in a timely manner. So, Ron raced off to town on his motorcycle to pay our electric bill, while I entertained the electric shut off guy on my porch and taught him a few English phrases like efficiency, good financial habits, pay bills online, and I am never late paying my bills.

This time, the new electric bill delivery guy was afraid to deliver the bill to us because he didn’t speak English. “Oh my Lord…just tell him to hang it on the fence,” I said. And so, coming home from paying our other bills in town today, the electric bill was posted happily and fearlessly on our fencepost.

IMG_3811Let me explain the Latin logic in our bills. The big stack of receipts…over 3 years of receipts (in the picture on the right) is our Claro internet bill. We didn’t have residency when we wanted the internet at our house, so a friend of mine who had residency used her information to get us the Claro internet dongle. Every month, I have to go to the office to pay the internet bill and every month he asks me, “You are Betty?” At first, I tried to tell him that Betty passed away, and it was my internet bill. But, when he said, “Muchas gracias, Betty” after I paid the bill, I thought… what the heck. I’ll be Betty for the rest of my life as far as Claro is concerned.

The confusion at the Claro office started when I got the Claro phone plan with my residency card. I pay the bills on the same day. “Muchas gracias, Betty,” he said when I paid my internet bill. “Muchas gracias, Deborah,” he responded when I paid my Claro phone bill. I think they are humoring me and suspect that they are dealing with a loca gringa with dissociative identity disorder.

Good financial habits don’t exist in Nicaragua. Very few bills can be paid online…only my SKY satellite TV bill…and that’s from Mexico. The electric company is the only one that delivers the bills from house to house on a bicycle…no mail service here. For the other bills, we play the game of seek and pay. First, we have to find the stack of old receipts attached to the original contract, then pay them in the right office.

It really becomes tricky if we can’t find the stack of stapled receipts because the electric and water bill aren’t in our names. We tried to change the bills to our names…but don’t get me started on that fiasco…which involved Spanish words like abogado ( lawyer), escritura (our property title), and mucho dinero ( much money).

Maybe I really have developed dissociative identity disorder? Paying bills in a fiscally responsible way in Nicaragua is a habit I’ve had to break. It’s the only way to stay sane in the ‘land of the not quite right.’


Tonight is the Night

HHI on TV  2Although we won’t be able to watch our House Hunters International episode until we are in the states next week, we hope you can watch it. Enjoy the show, and if you find that you are really embarrassed for us, don’t tell us. LOL

I have lots of stories to tell. They are patiently waiting for me to hit the publish button on WordPress. Stay tuned for “Tito Crosses Over: The life of an illegal immigrant” and many other stories. I’m not sure how often I will be able to post during the month of November, meanwhile, enjoy the show.


Tiptoeing Through November

“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don’t tiptoe.”~Shane Claiborne

November has always been a month of extremes for us. We’ve come to expect a wild ride through the November’s of our lives. From Dengue and death to awareness and gratefulness, we tiptoe through November in awe of the insight we’ve gained and hopefully the lessons we’ve learned.

This November is no exception. Ron’s mother passed away yesterday. Although, it has been difficult to wrap our heads around the fact that Ron is now an orphan and we are left with only loving memories, Jane gifted us with some remarkable insights for Jane was not a tiptoer through life. She was a dancer.

Jane                                            How Not to Tip Toe Through Life

1. The best things in life are free.
Bear hugs. Jane passed these out freely to everyone in need. “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck,” she said as she hugged children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and elderly patients. There were no strangers in her life, only friends she had yet to meet.

2. Learn the art of empathy. Too often we judge people on too little information. We must try to understand what they do instead, put ourselves in their shoes, start with the assumption that what others do has a good reason if we understand what they’re going through. Life becomes much better if you learn this art. Jane mastered empathy.

3. Be passionate about your career. Jane was born to be a caretaker and a nurse. After seeing the devastating effects of polio in Indiana, Jane returned to Pennsylvania to serve polio patients. During the polio outbreak in the early 1950’s, she worked at the Watson Institute in Pennsylvania. Dr. Jonas Salk conducted his first clinical trials of the polio vaccine at the Watson Institute. Jane was proud to be a part of this groundbreaking event, and as a result she made lifelong friendships with polio patients. 

4. When your child asks for your attention, always grant it. Give your child your full attention, and instead of being annoyed at the interruption, be grateful for the reminder to spend time with someone you love. That was Jane to a “T”.

5. You’re never to old to dance the Hokey Pokey. We’re so caught up in trying to do everything, experience all the essential things, not miss out on anything important … that we forget the simple fact that we cannot experience everything. But, Jane’s secret was: life is better when we don’t try to do everything. Learn to enjoy the slice of life you experience, dance the Hokey Pokey, drink milkshakes, and love unconditionally, and life turns out to be wonderful.

We are on our way to the states to celebrate the life of Jane. Ron’s sister rented a museum for her celebration, which will include dancing the Hokey Pokey, drinking lots of milkshakes, and recalling many fond memories of life with Jane. Here’s to not tiptoeing through life.



Day of the Dead in Nicaragua

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
― Mark Twain

November 2nd is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Nicaragua, when the cemeteries fill with family members decorating, cleaning, and painting the crypts of their loved ones. It’s a time to celebrate the dearly departed. Theresa and I walked to the Moyogalpa cemetery early this morning with flowers for our dead friends. We passed people with hoes, buckets of paint, brooms, and flowers…lots and lots of flowers.

IMG_3785The grave sites are picked clean of all weeds and the soft volcanic soil is raked. Then, they wash the crypts and apply a new coat of paint. Finally, family members and friends place beautiful flowers, little handmade skeletons, candy, and other bling-bling on the graves.

We walked along the paths admiring the variety of decorations, the arrangement of flowers, and the beautifully tiled and painted crypts. Even the poorest families, who couldn’t afford to make a crypt, lovingly placed flowers over the hills of dirt protecting their loved ones.

Theresa and I were looking for Jerry’s grave, the only foreigner buried in the Moyogalpa cemetery. We hadn’t been back to visit the cemetery since Jerry’s burial, so we couldn’t remember the exact location. Roaming workers directed us to the spot under the large Jicote tree shading his beautifully tiled crypt.
IMG_3800After a little chat with Jerry, and placing some flowers on his grave, we searched for Jose’s grave. “Excuse me,” I asked, but can you help us find Jose’s grave?” “He died 3 years ago. He was 24 years old and he worked at our house.”  Friendly and helpful Nicaraguans helped us search for Jose, but there were hundreds of Jose’s in the cemetery and we didn’t know his last name.   Some said he is buried in this dirt covered grave, but we didn’t know for sure. I placed my flowers beside the grave, and told Jose how much I missed him.
IMG_3805It was a lovely dia de muerte. R.I.P Jerry and Jose.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie Ometepe Island

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
Edgar Allan Poe

This week’s photography challenge says, “Let’s go out and capture black and white images that are eerie. In honor of the creepiest and eeriest author I know, Edgar Allan Poe, I bring you the Eerie Island based on five of the creepiest tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

1. Hop-Frog, 1849
Hop-Frog, the King’s favorite court jester, seeks revenge on the King and his court after they publicly humiliated him. He dresses them as apes for the King’s masquerade ball, then sets them on fire in front of the horrified crowd.
IMG_17752. The Black Cat, 1843
One day in a drunken rage, a man blinds his cat, Pluto, and hangs him from a tree. Mysteriously the house burns to the ground, yet leaves a silhouette of the hung cat. He gets another cat eerily similar to Pluto, but in his attempt to kill it, he kills his wife instead and hides her in the cellar wall. The police discover her body after they hear the wailing and howling of a black cat sitting on top of his mistresses cold body.
IMG_34003. The Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1841
Auguste Dupin, an amateur detective, tries to solve the murder of two women in Paris. At the crime scene, he finds a hair that cannot be human. He discovers that the murderer is actually an escaped Orangutan.
IMG_23154. The Pit and the Pendulum, 1842
This story follows the horrors endured by a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition. The prisoner is subject to terrors only Poe could dream up.
IMG_46135. The Raven, 1845
Probably Poe’s most famous poem. Poe spins the tale of a grieving lover who is visited by a talking Raven on a cold winter’s night. Although, I couldn’t find a Raven for this example, I think a giant fruit bat clinging to my ironing board demonstrates the horror of this poem.
IMG_1711Are you scared by the eerie tales, yet? Dustin and his family sure are.