Are We Happy?

Recently one of my friends emailed me to question whether we are really happy here.  Whether we are at peace.   Which made me realize that a LOT of my blog posts are about the crazy and difficult things that happen to us here.  Let’s face it – drama makes for better blog reading.

But as the 3-year anniversary of our move passed in September, I thought this would be a good time to consider the question.  Are we happy?  And if we are, why?  What are the things we love about living here.  Just thinking about the question made me smile.  YES!  We are happy.  I am happy.  It is a bit hard to put into words what makes something ‘right’ or ‘good’ but I can think of many tangible things that I love about our life here:

  • The weather. I can’t lie.  The weather had a lot to do with why we moved and that has not changed.  Yes, it is super hot right now, but I still love the perpetual summer and although autumn is no longer about pumpkins and gourds and red and yellow leaves, there are changes in the flowers that bloom and the foliage that grows.  The bouganvilias are back and the pretty purple vines are now everywhere.  Soon the nights will cool and our air conditioner remote control will be put away in the nightstand for a few months.
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    Fish Taco heaven!

    The food.  Who doesn’t love a good taco?  I am surrounded by Mexican food – taquerias and loncherias – not to mention donut trucks that show up at my door and a French Fry cart that recently appeared right across the street from my house.  I almost never tire of Mexican food, but when I do there is also a great Sushi place around the corner, the best burgers ever across the highway and a delicious pasta/pizza place a couple blocks away.  All of it for less than $10 a meal and most of it less than $5.   Unfortunately, that means I’ve gained some weight, so that brings me to the next thing….


  • The beach.  Any time I want to I can walk or run on miles and miles of soft sand beach or jump in the ocean which right now is as warm as a bathtub.  Gorgeous sunrises, beautiful sunsets, majestic lighting storms – it is easy to get my 10,000 steps in if I want to.  Those are the key words and I admit I have been slacking lately – time to get back on it before my Fitbit buddy Cheryl comes down to kick my butt as she has threatened.


  • The people.  There is something infectious about the passion of the Mexican people.  Whatever they do is accompanied by loud music, loud laughter, loud children, loud dogs.  Even the barrios most touched by poverty have streets blocked off and pinatas hanging from trees when birthdays roll around.  Today we drove around town on our golf cart and we headed into the poorest communities in our town.  Groups of men sat on corners sipping from giant bottles of beer, but they all waved at us and yelled greetings as we went by.  I have no idea why I like that, but I do.  I love these people and I love being part of the rhythm of life here.
  • The meaningful work we do. The most important part of our life here is the work we do at Manos de Amor, the local Children’s Shelter.  We have seen the worst of the worst there – a 10-year-old repeatedly raped by her father, a 5-year-old with an STD, a young preteen whose mom recently went to jail for killing her husband, leaving the girl without mother or father or home.  Pregnancy, and drugs and prostitution and poverty.  I hate it all.  But we love these children and we believe that our presence in their lives matters – teaching them English, inviting them to stay in our home when they have nowhere to go, driving them to visit family on weekends, playing silly games and singing and dancing. Loving on them.  It all means something that has become more valuable to us than careers, salaries and possessions.

I guess the bottom line is that we have changed and what matters to us has changed.  We have less security but more peace.  Less comfort but more joy.  Less success but more compassion.  I could make a long list of the things that are harder here, but you can read the rest of my blog to get all those stories.  Tonight, we rest in the assurance that we are where we are meant to be, and we are indeed happy!



So dear family and friends, please stop worrying and go book your winter vacation flight – we’ll be waiting for you curbside in the golf cart with a taco in hand.



First Day Back

Here are some of the sights we saw on our first day back that reminded us why we love this place:

  • Children of Manos de Amor – as we drove up the anthem started “Karen, Karen, Karen….” and children ran to the gate to greet us with big hugs and sloppy kisses.  Some jumped in our car, Natalia barely acknowledged me but jumped on Grant and refused to let go
  • img_20160930_172243New animals in town – we have 2 new donkeys wandering around the neighborhood. We saw a donkey chasing a dog who was chasing a donkey who was chasing a dog.  The donkey won!
  • While Grant was busy unloading the truck in the garage, a chicken wandered in to check out what was happening
  • We spent the afternoon at the beach and while we were boogie boarding we saw dolphins jumping a bit further out – and a big skate or ray of some kind jumped right next to us
  • We love the kitties that wander around the restaurants looking for some loving while we wait on our food – which by the way cost us $7 for a burrito and enchilada and a rice water – all GIANT
  • The door-to-door produce truck – check out the huge grapes I bought for less than $2 right outside the door

A great first day – the simple pleasures of children and food and ocean and animals.  Really, what else do we need?

                              The view from my desk as I write this blog

Our First Party

Yesterday we had our first house party!  Well it wasn’t much of a party by Mexican standards –  no boom box, no piñata, no fireworks – but we did have guests at our house.  They were little, but still they were guests.

August, 2015

Lupita’s Birthday, August, 2015


I’ve told you about the family from the small town of San Vicente that have stolen our hearts.  We first met the Santanas 2 years ago when 13-year-old Ivonne was about to give birth to Lupita.  A few months later her twin sister Ivette brought Kevin into the world.  The twins and their babies live with their mom, their sisters Irandi and Isabelle, and their brothers Jose, Laurentino and Nasabid.  10 of them in one room.  So we have become friends and adopted abuelos (grandparents).



Baby Lupita, Sept 2013


When I held Lupita when she was only a few weeks old I whispered in her ear that I would make sure she would be okay.  I really have no logical ability to keep that promise and yet I am standing by it and the least (or maybe the most) I can do is show up from time to time and hug and kiss and cuddle this sweet little girl.   And pray for her – that God will hold her close and give her a hope and a future.  We trust that our continued presence in the life of this family tells them that we care – that we support them as they walk their own journey.  Two years ago little 2-year-old Jose looked at us suspiciously.  He seldom smiled – and never wore pants!  Now when we drive up Jose flies out of the houses and into my arms.

So yesterday we did what I have dreamed of for a long time.  We picked up Laurentino, Isabelle, Jose, Lupita and Ivonne and brought them to our house to play Wii and have lunch.  After some crazy Mario Kart, we headed down to the beach where we all played on boogie boards for a couple of hours.  While I watched Lupita, Ivonne was able to have some fun in the water, like the teen she is.  It just made my heart happy to have a normal family day with my sweet little friends.




Jose is a crazy driver!


Mario Kart – no language barrier here








All little kids love a fountain!











Uncle Grant does some repairs for Jose….



…. and acts silly with Lupita









The Ice Cream Guy is coming!











In 2015 my word for the year was JOY.  For me that word was a reminder to squeeze everything I could out of life – to live fully in every moment, to stop thinking only about the destination but rather to find pleasure and meaning in every step of the journey.  But I know that when you live life to the max it can be messy and dirty and scary and uncertain.  So my word for 2016 is PEACE.  I know that this new life is not going to be easy – heck, thanks to the roosters I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 2 weeks! – but I know that in the midst of it all, I can experience peace.  I want to wake up every day and be able to say “It is well with my soul”.  No matter what.

So yesterday, in the midst of the chaos of hanging out with children who I can’t properly communicate with, keeping a constant eye on Jose who was getting slammed by the waves, I held sleeping Lupita in my arms and knew that this was peace.  To love a child.  It is indeed well with my soul.