“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
― Tom Bodett

The Weekly Photo Challenge was to share my most meaningful photo of 2017.

Yesterday we attended a quinceañera ( 15th birthday party ) for Maria Lilleth. During the church ceremony, the skies opened and the rain fell in sheets pounding the tin roof. We all hoped the rain would stop so that we could walk in the family parade, about a kilometer, to their house for the party. 

Suddenly, the rain stopped as quickly as it began, and we rushed outside to form the procession. This little angel was standing in the church doorway, peeking out the door, hoping the rain wouldn’t drench her beautiful new dress. To me, it symbolized a moment of hope in our troubled world. 

Hope is fickle. It has been a turbulent 2017, with moments of hope interspersed with moments of despair. The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is always a twinkle of hope within us, hope mingled with grief. Be patient, let the grief pass and the hope sparkle…if only for a moment. For our hope will overcome our fears and our despair and only grow stronger…if we let it shine. 

We wish you a world filled with hope, someone to love, and something interesting to do that will fulfill your passions, and of course…something to hope for in the new year.

Feliz Navidad and keep the star of hope shining through the darkness. 


Christmas and Summer Vacation Rolled into One

Sometimes you’re just the sweetest thing. Like Christmas, summer vacation, and a brand-new puppy rolled into one. ~ Haruki Murakami

School is out! This year flew by so quickly. For children in Nicaragua, Christmas and summer vacation is rolled into one. The Nicaragua school season is from February 1st to December 1st. Like children all over the world, they eagerly look forward to Christmas and summer vacation, and in Nicaragua they celebrate them together.

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Pondering Progress in Nicaragua

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Economic growth is one of the main factors in determining the progress of a country and its potential to satisfy the wants of individuals in their society. I am convinced Nicaragua has made significant progress in utilizing their abundance of natural resources to produce more efficient wind and solar energy. Technological development has played a role in Nicaragua to connect the population to the outside world through fiber optic internet cables. Ometepe Island public parks now have free wi-fi access due to a fiber optic cable strung under the lake from the mainland.

Yet, I wonder if all progress and advancements I see in Nicaragua truly benefit the majority of the people living below the poverty line. Are we adding to the abundance of the minority of Nicaraguans who have so much, and are we providing enough to the majority who have so little?

Last week I traveled to Managua for my regular check-up with my eye doctor. Arriving at the port in San Jorge, I noticed a new ferry, a desperately needed ferry because many people on Ometepe Island must travel to the mainland daily for work. This progress benefits everyone. And I have seen much growth in transportation with new airports, shuttles, taxis, and lots of cute tuk tuks that buzz around newly constructed roads like little mosquitoes.
The San Jorge port had a magnificent facelift. Restaurants, vendors, hotels, and major work on the sea walls benefits everyone, too.
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Feliz Navidad de Isla de Ometepe

“The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood” ― Richard Paul Evans

My annual tradition has always been to bake dozens of Christmas cookies and pass them out to my neighbors and friends. Although it was meaningful in the states, for me it is more significant in Nicaragua for several reasons.

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Happy Nicaraguan Mother’s Day

Mothers have a tremendous impact on the world in which we live. All the more reason to celebrate mothers and motherhood around the world.  Nicaragua celebrates Mother’s Day on Monday, May 30th. It is a holiday for all working mothers and my second celebration of Mother’s Day because we celebrate Mother’s Day in the states the first week in May.

To honor the mothers of Nicaragua, the La Paloma Elementary School performed dances, poetry readings, and songs for their mothers.

Maxwell was the DJ. He set up the laptop, downloaded music for the programs and connected the speakers to the laptop. He is the perfect media specialist!


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2016 Semana Santa Statistics

lifeguard quote copySharon, my friend in Granada, reported that it was eerily quiet over the long Easter week holiday. Usually there are endless “bombas” or firecrackers that only make loud and annoying booms. So, she wondered what was up with the lack of bombas. Her Nicaraguan friend said, “We have to save all our money to get drunk. We have no money for bombas.”

That about sums up Semana Santa madness around Nicaragua. Go to the beach, get drunk, go swimming, or drive drunk. We stayed home this year, not wanting to deal with the drunks and crazy drivers over the holiday. But, if you are wondering how crazy it gets over Semana Santa here are a few statistics.

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Feliz Navidad from Ometepe Island

We set off fireworks from our kayak in the lake last night. Kimo and Cory had a blast, literally.

“We shall go wild with fireworks…And they will plunge into the sky and shatter the darkness. ― Natsuki Takaya

_DSC0276“Colored lights blink on and off, racing across the green boughs. Their reflections dance across exquisite glass globes and splinter into shards against tinsel thread and garlands of metallic filaments that disappear underneath the other ornaments and finery. All it needs from you is a glance to come alive.” – Vera Nazarian

_DSC0205“Life isn’t always about fireworks. Your fireworks will come, Sarah. And they’ll fizzle out just as fast. Life’s an experience, not a destination. All of us have the same destination, but not one of us has an identical experience. You’ll find someone who will be there when the fireworks fizzle out and the sky turns black and love you just the same. That’s the one to hold onto.”
― Marilyn Grey, Bloom

_DSC0362“Just because there weren’t fireworks the first time doesn’t mean there will never be fireworks. We’re human; we’re adults; we teach each other; we communicate; fireworks don’t just go off, wham-bang; fireworks evolve!” – Marisa de los Santos

_DSC0393“You’re much better than fireworks. They’re all over in a moment, and you’re going to stay for a fortnight. Besides, fireworks are noisy, and they make too much smoke.”
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The Savior Complex

“While we as people of  God are certainly called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that whole “we’re blessed to be a blessing” thing can still be kind of dangerous. It can be dangerous when we self-importantly place ourselves above the world, waiting to descend on those below so we can be the “blessing” they’ve been waiting for, like it or not.”
― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

IMG_0016There once was a little girl who believed that all good things will come to her if she is really nice and helps people. However, for me, it has turned into a bad fairy tale. I am not sure if it is Chikungunya or my mother’s death that spoke to me this morning as I was sweeping my floor, yet I had an awakening. I. Have. A. Savior. Complex.

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Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


While children devoured the last of their Halloween candy, parents rationed and hid the mounds of treats, and frustrated teachers pulled their hair out with kids overdosed on sugar in their classrooms in the U.S., we were totally immersed in the cultural tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Ometepe Island.

For me, a little appreciation for family traditions goes a long way in Nicaragua. I am filled with gratitude to be a part of the custom of visiting the graves of loved ones, instead of experiencing a highly commercialized, sugar-overloaded, and hangover holiday of which I can find no altruistic reason to partake.

                 Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos

Gratitude strengthens relationships. Marina and her family have been our neighbors for over 10 years on Ometepe Island. At times, our relationship has been confusing and mysterious simply because our customs, language, and traditions are so different. Yet, we all count our blessings that we can share our lives together.
IMG_9453Marina sits on the grave of her husband, Don Jose, who died last October. She recalled sweet remembrances of their lives together raising five children. I believe that gratitude is about shifting one’s perceptions. No one has a perfect life. Marina and Don Jose struggled through poverty and sacrificed to provide for and to raise five strong, healthy, and good children. For this, I know she is very grateful.

IMG_9478We shared the benefits of gratitude today by appreciating what we have… as opposed to a consumer-driven emphasis on what we want.

IMG_9479One of the most powerful ways to raise grateful children is likely to be grateful adults. Raising grateful children means raising our own gratitude levels as well. Luvy, Marina’s daughter, is a perfect example of a grateful daughter.

IMG_9471We now have four friends buried in our local cemetery, two foreigners and two local Ometepinos. We visited their graves and gave thanks for their friendships.

IMG_9498At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer

IMG_9463The cemetery was a hub of flowers, rakes, shovels, and families visiting their loved ones.

IMG_9500The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.
– WIlliam James

IMG_9491Families decorated the graves and tombs. Children played while the tinkling bell of the ice-cream vendor floated softly through the cemetery.

IMG_9465 Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. – Marcel Proust

IMG_9489He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus

IMG_9494Practicing gratitude opens the heart…even for a very small heart like Piglet’s.

IMG_9504Gratitude is an emotion of connectedness, which reminds us we are part of a larger universe with all living things.

IMG_9514As we left the cemetery on Dia de Los Muertos, our gratitude led us to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further opened our hearts to this lovely day. Now, time to eat pizza with our extended family in Nicaragua. 🙂

IMG_9515Dia de los Muertos…the day that helps us rewire our brains to fire in more positive and compassionate ways.



I am off the island heading for the states this morning. I leave you with a few photos from our Nicaragua Independence Day parade.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

IMG_9368“How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?”
― Anaïs Nin

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