Monday, June 22, 2015

Moody Monday

It's Monday, but with a lack of any routine, it doesn't feel like it. Outside the neighboring children pad past the house, on their way to school, dogs bark, motorcycles rev up in the distance, and the local flour processing plant kicks up its usual hum. But inside this house, everything is quiet.

I know i should be enjoying these last couple weeks of solitude and the lack of places to be. I should be soaking it up and using this time to get stuff done -- organizing the thoughts in my head and finishing off the novel i started when i got here. But with the bed on the opposite corner of the pool empty, it all seems so empty.

I came here, mostly, for my daughter and for her education in this wide world. So with her out of here, i barely have energy left to try anymore. I can't say i'm entirely looking forward to the financial strain and the general stress of finding a new place to live and returning to my U.S. life, but this place also doesn't feel right anymore either.

In a couple days i will muster the energy to head to the mountains with some friends -- a welcome respite from the heat. Up there in coffee country, everything is mas fresco, they say, and maybe it will bring back some of my mental energy and help me start looking ahead...

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We may be headed to coffee country, but that doesn't mean i'm not in the mood for some tea once in a while... If you are too, check out Teasenz, an online retailer and wholesaler of authentic Chinese tea, sourced from traditional tea regions and shipped to your door.

And if you're traveling in the Adriatic and looking for something to do with your kids, check out this helpful site of things to do in Dubrovnik with kids -- it looks gorgeous there! 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sola

Now is the time of the year when i'm usually alone -- when my daughter goes to her grandparents' for a summer of tennis, country clubs and swimming. Most years, i spend it biking around town, catching up on work, and of course, living more like a single person would.

Parting shot of the lil lady, under a Nicaraguan martyr
This year though, i'm still in Nicaragua, where the dating scene is pretty sad for people my age -- and where i am more content just to stay home and enjoy the afternoon in the AC. I go outside to sweat and walk the streets a bit, but truth be told, i am sort of biding my time until it's time for me too to go home. In short, i'm over here.

I have a list of things to do and places to see while i'm still in Nicaragua... even the nice museum down the street from my house that i have yet to visit after 10 months here. But for the most part, i am loving being sola...






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For those who are less-than-content flying solo, two things to check out:

First, Music Match 2 Love, which connects music lovers with others with the same tastes -- opening soon!

And also, The Catholic Guide to Dating After Divorce -- written to help people find love again!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Global Citizens

Something strange happens when you spend time wishing for what you're going to do after the thing you're currently doing. While you wait, you make friends... and all of a sudden what you thought you wanted to escape is what you want to stay with you.

Those are the kinds of experiences i've wanted to teach my little rebelangel on this grand adventure of ours.
She's been waiting and wishing for the time to come when she would head back home to the United States and leave Nicaragua behind -- but when the time was almost near, she cried her eyes out. Mostly, on account of the good friends she was going to leave behind, and one in particular. She'd been so focused on getting the heck out of here and getting back to her old friends, her bike, her sports teams and her old routines, that she hadn't even considered that she'd made a life here that she'd also miss.


Maybe it's strange to wish for that exquisite type of pain for your child -- to want her to feel that complex feeling of wanting to be in multiple places at once. But behind the obvious pain of coming and going and saying goodbye is the knowledge that you have options. You no longer live a life that is tied to one city or one school; you are now a global citizen, complete with all the joy and pain that comes with it. There is gratitude and wisdom in that title, and yes, also heartache.

But it was worth it, wasn't it, my dear?

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Far or near, when you're looking to connect with other parents for advice on parenting, check out this platform on the Android App Store which encourages communication and working together between parents.

Did you know that you can write an ebook and start selling it on the Internet? You can start a new income stream for yourself and family. One piece of the puzzle is about delivering your ebook to your customers. Check out DIPPEC, a php Paypal script that can help you sell digital products.






Thursday, June 11, 2015

Nica Scene: Driving in Nicaragua

I don't get to do it often, but when i do, there's always something to report about driving in Nicaragua.

Here in this country, driving is a privilege that is not given to very many. In the campo, (country) you're far more likely to know how to handle the reins of a pair of Brahma bulls than you are the wheel of a car -- and in the city, you're probably far more likely to have a heavy steel mountain bike be your steed.
Nica driving feat: backing onto a ferry in a full-size truck.


As a result, the larger roads are in pretty good shape -- but since many people aren't drivers, they really have no idea that drivers don't always have full control of their vehicles. Young men frequently sit on the edge of the pavement of the Pan American Highway, (stretching from north to south in this country and all of Central America) checking their phones while truckers speed by inches away. One flick of the truck driver's wrist and there would be no more phone, no more young man.

On the side streets, boys toss baseballs from one side of the street to the other, over the hood of your car. Most times they're using a tennis ball (they're cheaper), but still, it's disconcerting. Meanwhile other young kids walk side-by-side in the streets, waiting for a horn to signal to them to move to the side. In the rainy season, you'll need to drive ever-so-carefully past the large tents set up in the street, placed there as a cover for the people attending the velas -- funerals that go all night, kinda like a Latin American version of shitting shiva. It might be just be, but it seems that the rainy season seems to mean an uptick in the number of velas.

Horses pull out weedy grass from the paving stones, not caring that you're driving past. Dogs barely escape the whizz of your wheels as you drive 100 kilometers per hour past them. And everywhere, on nearly every street corner, are tire repair places, (called Vulcanizadoras -- in homage to my family namesake, the god of the fires) fixing up sad old tires one more time, one more time.

Driving at night here is literally not for the faint of heart, as pedestrians seem to pop out of nowhere and set your heart to pattering, glad you didn't hit them. Hitting a Nica, even if it wasn't your fault, is a sure way to stay in the country for an extended vacation, courtesy of the country's welcoming penitentiary system.

Indeed, driving in this country is a privilege not afforded to all... but maybe it's better that way...

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Need a way to be seen in the dark? BlazeBands are great for strapping on your kids (or adults) and help everyone be seen better by cars day or night while playing, running, walking, biking, skateboarding, you name it.

Let's get a load of these and hand them out on the Pan American highway!


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sunset San Juan

Infinity pool at Pelican Eyes, San Juan's luxury resort
 It's been a fun week of showing my parents around Nicaragua.

It's always interesting to see things through someone else's eyes -- to notice again the dust and grime, but also to see other people's impressions of Nicaraguans (friendly and jovial, for the most part) the food (not quite as good as Mexico maybe, but basically good and wholesome) the roads (could be better, especially near the beach) and the accommodations in the various towns (not much in the way of luxury places -- it's more of a backpacker or mid to low-range tourist destination)

We are devoid of many of the creature comforts we
The sunset view from our casita at Pelican Eyes
have back home, but we still have amazing sunsets, gorgeous beaches, and "experiences" galore. (If you're looking for a way to get those creature comforts you love at a discount, check out iherb, a site where you can get low prices on vitamins, supplements, non-toxic household items, and more, all at a discount!) 

There's good and bad, different and same -- and one of these days really soon, there's going to be no more of this life -- at least for a while. I took this photo of the last sunset over San Juan that my baby is going to see for a while... Maybe even until she's of backpacker age and can travel here herself...

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Next time you're on the road, check out the Motor Club of America's roadside assistance program -- helping people get tows, credit card protection and more. Great for single parents or anyone who needs a helping hand... And speaking of insurance -- if you're in need of more life insurance (and most people are!) -- P Seth has you covered! Send him an email at pseth@ft.nyl.com


Monday, June 8, 2015

No Hay Lugar Como Hogar

Check out this girl.


This is her, long before there was Spanish or theatre or living abroad in her life. She was total love then and she still is now.

Getting ready with Grandma
Today, she's celebrating her success in playing the lead in the school play - El Mago de Oz -- or The Wizard of Oz, as it's known in English. In this version, all of the dialogue was in Spanish; all the songs in English. She and the rest of her cast members are all comfortable enough in both languages to toggle back and forth throughout the production.

 It's just yet another wonderful way she's experienced life here and lived it to the fullest -- these last moments of being an expat kid straddling two worlds.

Posing with some of the cast
At the end of The Wizard of Oz, there's that famous line, "there's no place like home," or in Spanish -- "No Hay Lugar como Hogar." You can bet that when this girl was saying it in the play, she was thinking of how in a few short weeks, she'll find out how true indeed that really is...

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I really admire single mamas who have the gumption to go out and live life to the fullest -- like Katie does. She's written a book, Single Momma Doesn't Have to Mean Drama, which ya'll should definitely check out!

And while we're featuring books written by mothers -- here's another one worth a review. Mummy's Still Here is a sequel to Jeanne D'Olivier's novel Mummy Where Are You? This one is the story of how a mother who reported the sexual abuse of her son and eventually lost her child to the alleged abuser. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Company's Coming

This morning i am stocking the house with a good supply of coffee and snacks, trying to get some last-minute work done, and just generally tidying things up. Company's coming!
One of my favorite shots of Laguna de Apoyo, and great friends!

My parents will be here for the next two weeks, which means lots of fun times exploring Nicaragua and taking them to all the great vacation spots we have around here. There are so many -- and after spending most of the past month holed up in Granada, i'm really looking forward to it.

Laguna de Apoyo, Pacific Ocean, Masaya market and volcano, Cocibolca isletas, Corn Islands (and the Caribbean -- yay!) here we come!!

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No good coffee near you? Check out the Arabica Wild "Noble Luwak" Indonesian coffee -- a top quality option which supports animal protection too!

And if you're still on the fence about moving abroad or working for yourself, here's a way to make money while you're online. Sign up, view ads, get paid.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gratitude Moment

This is a pretty old picture (like a few months old, in the Casa Bambu days) but it reminds me of something i've been thinking of today: How grateful i am that i get to stop and take photos like this in the middle of the work day.

This is me, fresh out of the swimming pool, with my reading glasses on top of my head, about to get back to work. In a bikini.

When i'm here, i'm often thinking about being elsewhere -- when really, here is a pretty good life. I can live this "laptop lifestyle" and still have money left over for fun stuff, and time left over for midday swimming sessions, even in January.

That's a pretty good life indeed...

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Kat also gets to live the laptop lifestyle -- and she's helping others do the same! Check out her site, WizMumi, to find out how she's helping people work from home.

Got a baby in your house? Lots of my friends have been having them since i left the US -- so i get to come home to all sorts of new faces! If you're in need of a handy gift for the babies in your life, check out this baby bear teether blanket and all the other stuff available on ComfyBabyToys.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ladies Night

It seems that no matter how hard life seems to be, it all gets just a little bit easier when you have your ladies to lean on.

Great service in the Intercontinental sushi bar
When i arrived here in Nicaragua, i was quickly introduced to a great group of ladies who love to laugh, play games and just generally cut loose. We've been loyal to our Thursday night ladies nights for quite some time, and indeed, that just makes life so much sweeter.
Elevator dancing

Action shot of getting ready in the cool AC
This week though, we decided to take ladies night up a notch and head to the capital city of Managua for a night in one of the city's nicest hotels, complete with employees opening doors, sushi, a sprawling pool and a delicious breakfast buffet. Oh, and tons of air conditioning. (If you're in need of your own AC unit, check out Neil's reviews for the best portable air conditioners here) When you live in the constant heat, a room blasting with AC is just pure heaven. You almost never want to leave.

The Hotel Real Intercontinental is not a place where you have typical Nica worries like "how long is it going to take to get another drink around here?" ....did i leave the house clean so i don't have to come back to a disorganized mess? (if you need some help organizing a colonial house, check out these handy FECA suction cups, great for tile walls!)...or even "what about bed bugs?!"

Nope. Just luxury, like you'd find anywhere else in any big city in the world. (In case you're dealing with a case of bed bugs in your part of the world, check out Defensive End, a natural solution for that ugly problem)

Mimosas poolside. Are we really in Nicaragua?
Getting out of the city was filled with its usual doses of pre-trip anxiety -- can i get it all done? Will we all be ready to go on time? Will the kids behave? But that was quickly washed away -- like the moment we got out of town.

Then it was time for a luxurious dinner, live music at Quilombo, a cool artist's enclave, and dancing the night away at Chaman, a bar whose building is literally a pyramid. It's everything a good Latin American club should be -- with a clean white blacklit dance floor and good DJs inside, and outside, a live salsa band to mix it all up.

The next morning it was lounging in our AC enclave, great breakfast, and to top it all off -- mimosas. What ladies night would be complete without mimosas in the morning?

We might all be back to our lives today, but we're all still dreaming about the best ladies night ever...



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Before i sign off, i have two great e-books to tell you about. First, check out this ebook that gives you tools for eliminating stress and anxiety from your life.

In this crazy developing country, (where mimosas and AC are far from the norm), I can definitely use some of these tips!
http://igniterbox.com/prod/eliminate-stress-and-anxiety-from-your-life.html#.VWyInqZmnWo

Second one: If you're a homeschooler (like many of my expat friends are), these ebooks can help you design curriculum based on the months of the year. Super handy and stress free!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mother's Day #2

When you're living in a country that is not your own, you get to pick and choose among the holidays you want to celebrate. Don't like Christmas? Go somewhere that doesn't have it! Love Mother's Day? Celebrate it twice by living in Nicaragua.
Happy Mother's Day, Nica style

Today is Mother's Day in our adopted home, and so that means i woke to yet another Mother's Day card left on my bedside table. On American Mother's Day i awoke to breakfast in bed and made calls to my own mom. Today, i awoke to the sounds of music drifting from some city park or another, which, in grand Nicaraguan fashion, will be celebrating a single-day occasion over the entire weekend.

Extending holidays as long as possible is just how they roll. Yesterday it was the Feria de Madres at the mall, complete with displays of all the material goods you could buy for mama. Last night it was live music in the central park and all the satellite parks around, with loud music competing for dominance across the airwaves. Today, it will be mothers bustling from this kid's house to that one -- a lack of taxis as a result -- plus fireworks, food, and Nica ladies coiffed and dressed in their finest heels. Naturally, these mamas who become mamas at an early age and have lots of kids deserve a day of recognition.

Me, the expat, gets two days...

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New mom? Check out the 6-in-1 and 4-in-1 beds that make putting babies to bed more comfortable at any age -- offered by ComfortBaby. 

Mom with a statement? Check out the inspiring, uplifting and empowering tees offered by the GreaterThanTees Etsy shop!

Mom with kids with special needs? Download the Words for Kids free app -- meant to help kids with autism link objects with words.

Happy Mother's Day -- again -- everyone!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Good Review

As a single parent, it's up to me to get myself up in the morning on time, make sure the house is handled, the lights stay on and that i stay in front of my computer long enough to make the dough we need to survive. I suppose you could say i'm doing OK thus far -- because the lights are still on and people still come back to re-hire me for new writing jobs.

The bright, bright light of my life.
But i'm always up my own ass for something or another. I berate myself for not getting enough done, for not pitching enough articles to top-quality magazines, for letting this or that slide, or for being a grump with a lack of positive self-talk. I love the "10 Signs You're Making Life Harder than It Has to Be" post on the Power of Positivity site today, which included this: 

"We are usually our toughest critics, so start giving yourself more positive reviews."

In a world where we're reviewed by our bosses (or our clients), where we read reviews before we decide where to eat -- thus letting other people's opinions overshadow our own -- and where everything has been talked about, rated, graded and degraded to death, we do it to ourselves too.

Thus, i'll just keep trying to adopt an attitude of gratitude that the lights stayed on. That my daughter loves school and gets up and gets herself dressed with little prodding. That i'll have a nice cold beer tonight, mixed with yummy lime and chile. That simple things like this will get me through to the next day.

Today, i give myself a good review. 

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Need some help finding your way after divorce? Check out Lisa's program, "3 Keys to Kick-Start Your Life After Divorce," including this free e-book, to get started!

And if you're like me and could use just a WEE bit of help with keeping things on track -- check out the RemindMeAt app -- helping you keep track of door codes and other important details, by location.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teen Beauty

Every night, the rebelangel twists her hair into some strange combination or another, trying to achieve big wide looping curls for school the next day. Often they're pinned up with bobby pins; last night she used some of the many plastic bags in our bag drawer.
Green clay -- a wonder for Nicaraguan grime.

(When you live in Latin America, your plastic bag collection -- which you reuse, of course! -- warrants an entire deep drawer.)

In typical tween fashion though, she usually gets frustrated and doesn't like the look and ends up putting her hair back in a braid every day.

The rebelangel, who really has become more angel than rebel since we've been here, has always been into hair, makeup, and other girly things her mama can't seem to care too much about -- but when you live in Nicaragua, both of our inclinations toward beauty have been amplified. OK, mine are still decidedly hippy-ish -- getting the mercury out of my mouth, finding coconut oil a great substitute for the organic lotions and hair products i can't get here... but for her, the combination of getting close to being a teen and living in a country where femininity is encouraged has turned the rebelangel into the girl who pores over YouTube every night for just the right treatment for her (non existent) acne, and the girl who tries turning all manner of tropical fruits into hair gel.

I tell her she's perfect just the way she is, but it's also kind of fun to see what she's going to do next...

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If you're ready to take your beauty routine to the next level and to actually become a makeup artist, The Event Makeup Artist just released a new at-home certification program! Looks like a fun new career...

And when it's really, truly time for us to fly away from our Latin American home, we'll be checking out AddFlight, where you can get quotes for cheap flights, and only pay the finder's fee if they find you one!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Nica Scene: Joyita

When i first started mountain biking with my friend K and her team of teens, she told me she didn't ride alone on certain roads on Sundays. Since Sundays are the only days many people have off from work, it's the day when a lot of men on country roads are wasted -- and that's not a good scene for a single gringa riding an expensive mountain bike alone.

But dusty campo roads are not the only places you'll find people wasted on Sundays.

Yesterday afternoon, a Sunday, was hot and unusually humid. Just rain already, we say in our heads, willing the sweet wet drops to fall so we can all get some relief. In the heat of the day, it was all i could do to lie on the couch in front of a fan.

That is, until some neighbor guys decided to post up on the balcony that overlooks the arroyo (drainage ditch) just outside my house. In the U.S., this affront would be akin to a bunch of neighbors sitting on the sidewalk in front of your house. In the U.S., a peek outside your window would encourage them to move on. It's public property, but it's just not something people tend to do.

But in Nicaragua, i chalk the difference up to the Sandinistas and to Joyita.

The Sandinistas

In 1979, Sandinista rebels took control of the government from the longstanding Somoza dynasty-dictatorship. On the heels of that effort, the notion of community property -- a natural inclination for a communist Sandinista party -- took root. For soon-to-be corrupt Sandinista leaders, it meant seizing nice homes for their own. For the average José who drinks on Sundays, it meant anything that was not locked down, guarded, or behind the tall walls of a compound was community property. Including their crops -- and that sucked for them.

And including, of course, the balcony outside someone else's house.

Joyita

Joyita, meanwhile, meaning little jewel, is a sugarcane-based alcohol that costs about 60 cents. It comes in a plastic bottle and renders even the most well-mannered Nicaraguan into a shifty-eyed, slobbering mess in record time. In China, its equal is baijiu, a white spirit that tastes like bottled lightning. In the U.S., its equivalent is moonshine. Joyita's taste may be tolerable, but its effects are terrible.

And then of course is my temper.

I am hot and resting and outside are four dudes drinking Joyita on my balcony, yelling and slurring and just generally being annoying -- so annoying that they don't dare sit in front of their own mamita's house. Nicaraguans are typically not confrontational, but occasionally i am -- especially in the heat of the day.

First i asked them to leave politely. The youngest of the lot, who didn't appear drunk, said disculpe and waved me off. I thought that meant they were leaving.

Twenty minutes and much Joyita later, i wasn't so nice about it. By that time the youngest was also slurry-eyed and wobbling, attesting to the speed at which Joyita brought her little jewels to the man's liver. I lost it on them, yelling as Nicaraguan mamitas rarely do, and yet they still didn't leave. For the most part i hold back on this kind of temper, knowing it makes me look like the foolish, over-expectant foreign lady, but sometimes i don't.

They didn't actually leave until two of them got in a fight, one fell off the balcony railing (onto the balcony and not into the arroyo, thank goodness) and several mamitas came to haul them off. That was quickly followed by crying, shouting, cajoling, hugging, and general mayhem along our sidewalk for the next hour... all while one of the mens' children and wife huddled around the balcony corner waiting for the dust to settle.

I'm fine with community property being used as a hangout for a woman and her scared kids... but not the men drinking Joyita...

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When you buy roller blinds from Australia's OzBlinds, you'll be able to filter out the hot sun -- but probably not the guys just outside the window.  Still, something to beat the heat would be great on my big door-windows!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Nica Scene: The Cage Truck

Our experiment into family living abroad is seriously getting close to over -- at least for now -- and that means i'm in the phase where i'm trying to store the memories so i don't forget. There's so much to remember!

So i resolve to write at least one or two "Nica Scenes" a week, giving you a sense of what it's like to live here. Little snippets, the way memories flash for a second and then are gone...
No cage truck, here's my old street.

Nica Scene: The Cage Truck

When people are arrested in Granada, they're not hauled away in a paneled truck that hides its contents. Instead, there's a cage for that. A metal enclosure has been welded to the back of a small pickup, with black bars close together enough to keep even the skinniest of accused criminals inside, and tall enough for the average Nicaraguan man to be able to stand up while he's hauled off to the jail outside town.

It seems it's best to stand up, because there's nowhere to sit down except the hot black metal of the truck's bed. 

The truck used to be parked outside the health center near Casa Bambu, ostensibly to get some medical treatment for one of the arrestees. Occasionally it would drive by, loaded down with a handful of prisoners, the truck's back end listing toward the rear with the weight.

(If you own a truck in Nicaragua, you can bet that you'll be replacing its shocks often -- not just because of the occasional pothole, but because you're sure to get hop-ons. In fact, you'll probably be happy to take them, because it's a measure of good will around here to give a ride to a person who can't afford the 10 cordoba (40 cents) bus fare. Many trucks roll by on the streets, loaded down with a haul of people, all who too casually hold onto the roll bar or just stand near the rear.)

You'd think that the folks headed for the jail in the cage truck would be quiet and sullen -- but no. Being hauled off to jail doesn't seem to stop their compunction for whooping, hollering, goofing off and catcalling -- as if jail was just going to be a little vacation from a life equally squalid back home. Or at least i can only imagine.

So it shouldn't surprise me when i'm walking down the street -- dressed in shorts and a t-shirt instead of a tank top and skirt as i'd like to do, in order to stave off some catcalls -- when the biggest, loudest catcalls of the day come from the cage truck whizzing by toward the health center.

"I looooooh you baby!" he says, grabbing at his pants and heart at the same time, making him wobble a little inside the cage truck.

Apparently, heading to jail for who knows how long doesn't stop a man from trying.

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Shasta Grimes writes about roadschooling -- that traveling/school combination i so admire -- as well as out-of-the box education, missions and traveling on her site, Live Love Learn Go. She's written a book called "The Power of the Do-Over," available on Amazon.

And since you'll be shopping on Amazon, why not check out The Giving Assistant, a program that lets you get 5-30% cash back at online stores. What's more the site donates a meal to a needy family for every purchase!




Thursday, May 21, 2015

Then Things Go Awry

Isn't it always that when you think you've got everything in hand, something falls apart?

As a freelancer and single parent, keeping the lights on is always a challenge. For me, it's a delicate dance between writing regular content gigs, finding publishers willing to post my essays and news reports, and also working on my own projects on the side. Let one thing slip through the cracks and all of a sudden the balance is upset, the tower topples, the queen is dead.

When this takes place in a foreign country, where it's not possible to go sell some of your expensive outdoor gear for cash or to get a bit of side work from a willing friend, it is even scarier. When we set out on this journey to live abroad for a year, it only came after setting backup plans upon backup plans to ensure the money would always be coming in. It still is today -- but after losing one key moneymaker this week, the fear and anxiety all come back. Hard. 

When a publisher tells you they don't want you, it makes you think you're a total failure. As if the years of studying and working and then making it on your own were nothing -- and that denier is the only one who can make the final judgement. You're a fraud, a failure in this career, it seems to say. Creative writing is always scary -- made scarier when editors say you're not good enough.

With that kind of mentality stewing around, how in the hell am i supposed to do the things i meant to do before leaving Nicaragua, including finishing the young adult novel i've been penning?

I guess it comes with a stubborn, slightly desperate dose of perseverance. A feeling that you can't let one stupid publisher down all the dominoes at once.

As a single parent i constantly have to bring that back, time and time again... and then again. So i'm doing it again! I'll get the bills paid! We'll end this journey with a bang, and when i get back home i'll buy a car that doesn't come with a loan to boot! It will get done!

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For a lesson in perseverance, check out "The Autistic, The Racer and the Test Subject," written by an 18-year-old girl with autism.

Her proud mom tells me her daughter is a strong girl who accepts her shortcomings while working to her strengths. We all can learn from that...

Oh, and the teen did all the illustrations herself!



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Travel Wish List: Armenia

I've been to the European continent, but never to anywhere that might be called Eurasia. But since my friends over at Arara Tour turned me onto it, the region -- and Armenia in particular -- is looking like a really fun place to travel as a family!

If you're not familiar with this part of the world, it's time to start. Armenia, bordered by Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran and two small republics, is surrounded by the stunning Ararat mountains referenced in the Bible. Like Nicaragua, it boasts one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Sevan -- but unlike Nicaragua's, this one is situated at more than 2,000 feet above sea level, according to Arara's Summer Tours page.

And that's just the start. The country also boasts a rich history, endless churches, and delicious foods. The surrounding mountains are a gem, filled with flowers in the spring and summer and bountiful hiking. Since some of the roads outside the capital city are still relatively rough, they make for a perfect foray into mountain biking -- as i've now done on many "roads" here in Nicaragua. In fact, nearly anywhere with relatively low traffic and less-than-stellar dirt roads make for a great mountain biking destination for you and the family...

As far as family trips, Armenia is a relatively safe country -- something that's always a concern in an area known for frequent unrest. Ancient history and archaeology abound there, so it's a perfect destination for a family of history buffs. In short, the country offers a diverse range of things to do, delicious Mediterranean-style foods, and a tourism industry that's just now beginning to blossom.

Sounds like a great fit for a mom raising a young revolutionary...


Groundhog Day

When i first moved here, a new friend told me he felt like every day was like the movie Groundhog Day. Every day the same, not much in the way of variety. I wasn't totally on board with that -- yet.
Running back to the border on Saturday, again!

Now that i've been living in Nicaragua for a while, i get where he was coming from. So much of life here is the same, day after day. It's always hot, for one. While i love warm weather, no changes in the seasons can make you go a little batty. It's been wicked hot for about two months though, so now that it's starting to get a bit cooler (like 94 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 99) you begin to appreciate the subtle changes.

For me, work is also like Groundhog Day. Every day, writing career articles, garden pieces, and SEO content for clients. It pays the bills and allows me to live in a house with a maid, pool and cable, but it also keeps me in the golden handcuffs where i don't break out much. Yesterday though, coincidentally the first day of mercury retrograde, one of my longstanding gigs ended, making me feel, today, a bit desperate and ready for some change. I have a big article coming out in a major magazine soon, so that's progress. I have to remind myself that i can be successful as a real freelance writer, and to spend less time doing things that are the same, same every day.

Every night, with me doing the cooking, is also like Groundhog Day. I make the same seven or eight recipes, and the rebelangel complains. But with the ingredients i'm used to quite limited, and some of the old standbys even being wild cards, it's tough to branch out. A week or two ago i decided to make fried chicken -- something i hadn't made before -- and it turned out i'd bought the wrong brand and the chicken tasted like soap. I'm not making that up. So it was back to the same Groundhog Day recipes we eat all the time.

Breaking out of your norm and living life as an expat involves a lot of changes and adjustments, but eventually, it all becomes normal, mundane, and even downright boring. Such is life, all over the world...

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If the stores you shop in online are starting to make you feel like it's Groundhog Day, the 99StoresLike site should be a godsend! The site lets you put in a well-known store, and then find other stores like it, to give you some variety. Check out the stores like Travelsmith here.

And how's this for an alternative to the typical party tent? Tobbox.com has inflatable domes, inflatable party tents, and all kinds of fun inflatable pool toys and party supplies for kids.

Monday, May 18, 2015

On Dating in Nicaragua

Everyone seems to ask about it eventually, so i suppose it's something you're all wondering: How's the dating scene in Nicaragua?
My Valentine's Day date.

To put it plainly, it's non-existent.

That's not to say it's going to be like that for everyone, but that's been my experience. As a single parent expatriate, men here seem to fall into one of several categories:

- Too young. Think ramblin' backpacker types.

- Too old. Think retired.

- Too drunk. Unfortunately, there aren't as many concerts or art openings or street fairs or festivals or lectures or events in general, so people's hobbies eventually turn to drinking Toña (beer) and Flor de Caña (rum) in large quantities.

- Married. Because most people who make this kind of leap to move abroad -- at my age, mid-career -- do it with someone else, and that "someone else" isn't typically a tween. 

- Living in Managua. While there is no shortage of Nicaraguan men around, most are married, and the ones who are my age and educated and perhaps divorced or not-yet-married live in the capital city, where things are a little less traditional and there are more jobs and more well-heeled restaurants and bars.

So there you have it: The characteristics of most of the mid-30's and 40's men in Nicaragua. In the end though, i don't really feel that i'm missing out on all that much, and i'm quite content. So stop asking already!

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A new one relationship website you can find me on: I Left Venus For This?! - A Website About Women and Their Relationships with Men, Each Other and Themselves.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's the Little Things

It's not over yet, but there's certainly plenty to look back on regarding this grand Nicaragua adventure we've been on.

My kiddo is darn near fluent in Spanish and sounds like a Nica -- even in spite of herself. She's gone through many episodes of total denial of host culture, but she's come out on this side as a person with a lifelong skill and a load of life experience. That's something, for sure.
Cool kids painting the view of Casa Bambu, so we don't forget.

Through her Nica friends, she knows what it's like to live in a house with boards for walls and no shower.

She knows to be grateful for little things like having more than one pair of shoes. She delights in things like having a toaster (which we now get to enjoy in the new house).

She knows that her instincts tell her a lot and she should trust them -- but at the same time, that most people are just people trying to get by and mean no harm.

She knows she has the best family in the world, because one of them is willing to take her on an epic adventure, while some others are willing to whisk her away from it and take her shopping. She loves shopping, even though she really hasn't done it in a year.

When she gets home, she'll love that she gets to buy clothes that fit her and aren't 100 percent polyester, and she'll get to decorate her room the way she wants. (You can bet she'll be gunning for some of these tree wall stickers or other cool stuff for her walls.)

She knows that friends don't have to be in your social class, your school class or of your own nationality. Some things just click.

She knows her pets are lucky too -- and she cares for them like they mean something.

She knows that her home country is pretty dang great -- and even if she goes through the typical young-person thing of questioning everything, she'll already know what it's like to live both in and away from her home. Some people have to wait til college to do that -- or they never do it at all.

She's ready to go to said home, but at the same time, she's also starting to talk about where we should go next. Asia anyone? 

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We are headed home this summer, yes, but this digital nomad lifestyle means we could be planning our next adventure sometime soon, and Asia is definitely on both of our lists. If and when the next adventure includes Phuket, Thailand, you may just find us at the PhuketFit Retreat, a retreat center and fitness center featuring yoga, detox and other great programs.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Dose of Gratitude from the Drainage Ditch

Our new house overlooks a drainage canyon -- or an arroyo, as they're called in Spanish. It might not sound like something to be grateful for, but it is.

Old house, corner chaos.
I've been pretty unproductive and on edge lately. When i look at the root causes of things, I think the old house was jangling my nerves something fierce. First and foremost was its positioning on a corner, where not one but two streets' worth of loud engines were constantly on the move... as were a steady stream of kids coming to and fro, yelling and tossing rocks into the mango tree. Then there were the neighbors' roosters and their warren of hens, cackling, crowing and just generally kicking up a cacophony at any hour of the day.

In the afternoons the sounds would rise to such a crescendo that i thought i would lose my mind. It killed my productivity and made my blood boil. I started to dream about becoming a hermit, living in the woods and never talking to anyone again. I practically lived like a hermit, because going out of those walls meant even more chaos, on top of the chaos i couldn't escape even inside the walls. It was getting hellish.

New house, colonial quiet.
But now. If you're sitting on the sofa of the new house, you look out at a patina of green. Trees grow tall from the bottom of the arroyo and spread their verdant leaves across the view. It's nice from there.

Way down below, a bright green riverette snakes from in front of the house to the side, signaling phosphates are in the water. Goats feed on the trash that's been spread in the bottom of the arroyo from the last big rain. But from the sofa, you don't see any of that. You don't hear anything but cicadas and the occasional dog barking -- usually mine. There are screens on the windows to keep out said cicadas. There are kitchen cabinets to keep out the dust -- even though there's less of that with no street out front. And no diesel engines either.

It is far from perfect, but it is an absolute oasis compared to our last place. I think i can do this for a couple more months.

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There's so much to be grateful for, and knowing anything can be taken away at any time only makes me all the more grateful. Especially in the face of stories like Kali's. She's raising funds to help her get custody of her eldest daughter. If you can help, i know she could use it...