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.

My Top Ten Gratitudes this Holiday Season

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10. I am grateful for generators. Our Puesta del Sol neighbors rented a generator for their premier film festival. It was a good thing, too, because the electricity was out for hours that night. Over 100 people attended the premier of ten short films created by a group of Quebec film makers.

9. I am grateful for sugar…brown and powdered. Even though we had to cross the lake to buy bags of powdered and brown sugar, I couldn’t have made my Christmas cookies without them. Sweet treats for all my wonderful neighbors and friends.

8. I am grateful for cool tropical breezes. Ron and I bought kites for the neighborhood kids for Christmas. December is a windy month…just right for sailing kites over the lake.

7. I am grateful for a Miami IP address. For days, I had been unable to get access to my blog or any WordPress website. I was frantic! Fortunately, with the purchase of a Miami IP internet address, I can reach my blog, as well as Pandora and Hulu, which are blocked from other countries. Unfortunately, my speed is still too slow for streaming video.

6. I am grateful for Skype. Six years ago, communicating with family and friends in the states was difficult. We had to walk over a mile and a half along a rutted black sand beach path to town. Then, we had to call from an internet phone to reach our family. Now, we have the internet in our house, and we can make daily Skype calls to our families.

5. I am grateful to be living in a place where tolerance and respect for different lifestyles is accepted and welcomed…where drag queens provide the entertainment at Christmas celebrations and people of all races, nationalities, and cultures dance together.

4. I am grateful for running water. Our extended Nicaraguan family in Los Ramos walks over two miles, one way, to get water from a well. In six years, they have been able to save enough money to run water lines, buy a pump, and prepare for running water in their homes. Now, they need to buy a $2,000 transformer from the electric company to run the pump. They are performing historical plays about Ometepe Island and asking for donations for their plays. It will take them forever to collect enough money to buy a transformer! I am detemined to help them, so that they can have running water in their homes soon! If you would like to make a donation for the transformer, or if you know of an organization that gives money to help rural communities supply running water to their homes, please contact me.

3. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience an old-fashioned, traditional Latino Christmas. My senses are bombarded: The church bells peal, the bombas explode with acrid smells of gunpowder, parades composed of drummers and trumpets march through the streets, radios blare Jingle Bells and traditional church music throughout the community, children dress in their frilliest clothes, and colorful Christmas pinatas sway in the wind in all their glory.

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of my local community. Several days ago, friends walked to our house from town. They asked Marina, if she could direct them to the gringos in La Paloma. Marina pointed next door and said, “Debbie and Ron live next door, but they are not gringos. They are Nicaraguan and part of our family.”

1. Finally, and most important, I am grateful for my family and friends throughout the world sharing love, compassion, and peaceful understanding this holiday season.