My Place of Solace

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ― Mark Twain


People often ask what we do all day since we are retired. One thing is for certain. We have stopped watching world news. It is too depressing. Besides, there is very little we can do about fixing the big problems in the world. But, there are many little things we can do as expats to help make the world a little better for our local communities.

I started a children’s library in our small La Paloma Elementary school two years ago. It has become my solace and place of refuge from this mad, mad world in which we live.
It is my place of hugs, laughter, and wisdom absorbed through my skin.


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Thoughts from My Mother

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Future.

This is what I learned about the future from my mother…with quotes and my photos from Cartagena, Colombia.

When I was young, I ate breakfast with my mother and we would share our dreams of the night before. Our colorful dreams were usually joyful and telltale of our outlooks on life.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
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Old Year Reflections

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

It is time to embrace the new, but first, I need to release the old. I am not one to make New Year resolutions anymore.  Every year at this time, I have vowed to lose weight…exercise more…eat better…and ___________ (fill in your own resolution). However, nothing…absolutely NADA has stuck with me for very long.

Instead, I make daily resolutions…sort of like my goals I want to accomplish for the day. That way I don’t have to live with unfulfilled expectations and I can do little things each day. At any rate, the temptation to “resolve” is strong at this time of the year! So here is a tip: The resolutions most likely to be kept are the ones rooted in reflection.

Nicaraguans have mastered the skill of reflection and of letting go through their unique Muñecos, or stuffed dolls packed with gun powder. They symbolize blasting away their vices of the past year, and ushering in the new year with a clean slate. I like that concept. However, it takes reflection to make it work.

Last year, I made a Muñeca, or a woman doll.  A Muñeca New Year
This New Year, I think I will spend a quiet day reflecting on the past year because life can only be understood backwards.

I made a list of my top five year-end questions to help me through my reflective process.
IMG_1145Then, I will be ready to usher in the New Year with a BANG!
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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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Service Learning and the La Paloma Library

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

In my case, change the word “door” to “a library.” I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how we first encountered Nicaragua. In 2003, my husband, son, and I delivered over 500 pounds of school supplies to an impoverished school in Granada. I found the need on the Lonely Planet forum when I was searching for an international service learning project to do with my high school classes.

Service Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enhance the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Learn and Serve America Fact Sheet

I am trained as a service learning instructor and have completed many service learning projects with a variety of age groups. We built playgrounds, water fountains, picnic tables, painted school cafeterias, and then, I branched out internationally to help a school in Nicaragua.

So, when I received an email from Go For Hope/Supporting Community Libraries in Nicaragua, and they were bringing a service learning group to Ometepe Island, it was another serendipitous moment. I had asked for some help, and they arrived with paint brushes in hand and a willingness to spread the love of reading to my little elementary school library.

Joe Hafner organized the service learning group. When they arrived, we were ready for them to begin two days of fun in our little library.


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Things I’ve Learned About Life After 500 Blogging Posts

500Yesterday was a milestone day. I wrote my 500th post on my blog. Believe it or not, becoming a blogger was never something I planned. I was looking for a way to network and market my book, Pretiring with the Monkey Lady. But, a strange thing happened along the way in my little corner of the blogging world.

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The Grand Opening of the La Paloma Elementary School Library

“In a good book room you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain


The Grand Opening of the new La Paloma Elementary School Library was held the end of November, 2014. After months of remodeling, painting, categorizing, making book shelves, and organizing the books into simple genres, we held a book party with a piñata, food, a dance, and a ribbon cutting ceremony.  All 85 children enrolled in the elementary school received a new book to take home.


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Los Ramos Says Many Thanks!

The Help Los Ramos Rebuild donation website has been extremely successful. Thanks to YOUR support for this lovely indigenous community, you have given them hope and encouragement to rebuild their community of 125 families who were affected by the October 8th landslides on Ometepe Island.


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Goodie Bags for Los Ramos

It’s not often that one gets to see immediate results of their donations or knows that all of the money received goes directly to those who need it the most. For $800 we bought over 1,000 pounds of food for 125 families. That averages out to be $6 for each goodie bag.  Thanks, Kris, for figuring that one out for me.🙂 No overhead costs, no administrative costs…all the money goes directly to these lovely families of Los Ramos.

On Saturday, Ron and I walked…and sometimes climbed, scooted, and tramped over boulders to get into Los Ramos to help distribute the food bags to each family. See my earlier post.

When we arrived, Ever’s family was busy scooping rice, pouring cooking oil into small plastic bags, and packing the bags for 125 families living in Los Ramos. Landslides destroyed their community.

"Say Pizza," I say as I snap a photo. "Pizza? Where's the pizza?" they all laugh.

“Say Pizza,” I say as I snap a photo. “Pizza? Where’s the pizza?” they all laugh.

Ever's uncle has the slippery job of scooping the cooking oil and pouring it into plastic bags.

Ever’s uncle has the slippery job of scooping the cooking oil and pouring it into plastic bags.

Ever's mother organizes all the bags, and says "Hello world. Thank you for everything."

Ever’s mother organizes all the bags, and says “Hello world. Thank you for everything.”

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Travel Theme: Broken Lives

“This planet is a broken bone that didn’t set right, a hundred pieces of crystal glued together. We’ve been shattered and reconstructed.” ~ Tahereh Mafi

Broken lives…125 families forced to reconstruct their lives from the devastating rock and mudslides on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. Yesterday, Ron and I tramped over boulders and through mud to reach the Los Ramos community to deliver supplies to the families. Take a walk with us so you can see for yourselves Mother Nature’s powerful and destructive forces.

Supplies were delivered at the top of the hill. “So far, this doesn’t look too bad,” I said encouragingly to Ron.

Keep reading. You can’t believe the destruction ahead.