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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nie and Caramel Sauce

First, let me just say that our darling Nie is "Out of the Woods". This is the official word coming from her sister, cjane. This is such stupendous news! She still has months of recovery and then many, many months (maybe years?)of physical therapy. But, we'll take it. Never before have I been so emotionally invested in a perfect stranger! (Nie is a fellow blogger for you newbies.)

Secondly, I have a fabulous (and ridiculously easy) recipe to share:

My Favorite Caramel Sauce

2/3 C heavy cream
1/2 C butter
1 C brown sugar

(only 3 ingredients - now that's my kind of recipe!)

*Heat cream in saucepan. Set aside
*Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
*Remove from heat and add cream
*Refrigerate. It also freezes well.

This delightful caramel sauce was a gift from my dear friend Marci when we were in Guatemala for Christmas two years ago. (Remember Marci and her caramel sauce, Angie?)

The kids and I love it most when used to make caramel popcorn (which is how we became addicted to it in Guatemala). We also love it for dipping apples and adding to hot apple cider. Enjoy!

Thanks, Marci!

Now, if I could just think of something to make for dinner...suggestions?

Lovin' Fall,

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Day We Met - Part V

The Day We Met - Part I

The Day We Met - Part II

The Day We Met - Part III

The Day We Met - Part IV

Part V

The couple from Washington went on to Mario’s without me. And shortly thereafter, Dave loaded my pack into his dinghy (the other one at the dock had been his), and we went back to the sailboat called Morgenstern.

Morgenstern was docked at the Tijax Jungle Lodge just a quick dinghy ride from Hollymar. I had never been on a sailboat before, and it was all new to me. There were tiny little toilets with pump action flushers, a swaying stove that burned alcohol (I later learned it’s called a gimbaled stove), cozy geometric shaped cabins, and lots of places to bump your head. That first night aboard Morgenstern Dave gave me the quick tour, and then I headed into the jungle for a hot “dock” shower. The shower house was just a short ways from the dock, up a little path, but it really was in the jungle. There were huge cracks under the stalls and the plywood door, separating me from whatever lurked in the darkness of the jungle, was “locked” with a flimsy hook and eye. I remember feeling very vulnerable as I quickly washed a day’s worth of travel from my hair. I was anxious to get back to Morgenstern and to Dave where I couldn’t help but feel completely safe.

I got back to the boat (unscathed) and saw that Dave had whipped up some quesadillas and set out a bowl of chips and salsa. I had missed dinner and I was starving! After dinner we cozied into the aft cabin and watched Ace Ventura Pet Detective (one of our family’s favorites to this day). We talked a little that first night, but not much. I do remember that we exchanged ages. I was 19. He was 25. Deal blower? I thought maybe.

By the time I woke up the next morning he wasn’t onboard. I found him on the dock sanding a new cherry wood dinette table for Morgenstern. Oh my. Was he ever a vision. He had on a pair of cut-off jean shorts that looked like they had seen one too many days at sea, a bandana covering his hair (you know like they wear under a motorcycle helmet), and he was shirtless. Oh the glistening muscles. He saw me coming down the dock, and he turned off his sander. I could tell that he thought I was quite the vision myself. I had on a white tank top and my own cut-off jean shorts. (We loved our cut-offs in the 90’s didn’t we?) I had gone to bed the night before with wet hair and it was fabulously full of body. I felt pretty. It had been dark in the restaurant the night before and 12 volt lights on a sailboat aren’t much brighter. I think we were both pleasantly surprised by how attracted we were to each other. Of course, we didn’t discuss that until later…

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quote of the Day

There are actually two. Both accredited to Evie -- love five year olds for a priceless quote.

two days ago

Evie: Mommy? What will I be when I grow up?
Me: You can be ANYTHING you want!
Evie: Can I be a turtle?
Me: Mmmm, no.
Evie: Can I be a priness?


Me: Um...well...if you marry a prince...or if you work at Disneyland.

(I guess you can't really be anything you want when you grow up...)

tonight while she was coloring

Evie: Mommy, I drew Soli with brownish orange skin....Maybe when she grows up, she'll be orange!

She's such a funny, loving, sweet girl who reminds me of Eloise of the Plaza. She's scheming and naughty but kind and good hearted and has everyone wrapped around her little finger. She insists that she will not marry a man or have any boy children. When I ask why she doesn't want to get married she says:

"Because I don't want to kiss a MAN!"


And when I told her she doesn't really get to choose whether she has girl babies or boy babies she politely corrected me by saying, "If I adopt them all I do."


This outfit is an Evie Original - one of my favorites, actually. She dresses like this everyday. And I just love her unique sense of style - usually. One time when she came out of her room in an exceptionally exceptional outfit, I said gently, "Evie, that shirt and those pants don't really look cute together."
She looked at me with utter disbelief in her eyes. Her little chin started to quiver and she said, "Mommy, I look cute in everything I wear!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


At what the cat dragged in...

He got home Friday night. So glad to have him home safe and sound. Now just to fatten him up...

View from the car on our snowy drive home from MT.

Does that say 20 degrees?


I've been meaning to post these pics from when Cole got home from science camp a couple of weeks ago. Brace yourself...

"I hope none of my friends are watching."

I missed my Bubba!

The boys were glad to see each other, too. I found them cozied up together the next morning watching a movie on Cole's PSP.

Ocassionally, one of the kids will get a hold of a camera and take about a million pictures of...well...everything. You know the ones - couch cushions, piano keys, sister's toes, people's butts, etc. Here are a couple of my favorites from one morning when Evie was in charge of the camera. Above -- a self portrait.

Mommy and Daddy - glad to be making breakfast together on a leisurely Sunday morning.

We grew pumpkins in our garden this year. Here's one of the six we got from our "pumpkin patch" (which, by the way, took over almost the whole garden and a good portion of the lawn).

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Day We Met - Part IV

The Day We Met - Part I
The Day We Met - Part II
The Day We Met - Part III

In case you haven't caught on yet, October is Love Story Month. Mary at Owlhaven hath put forth a challenge to write and share our love stories. I highly recommend participating. Quite fun to stroll down memory lane. I'm writing about the day that Dave and I met, from my perspective. Do start from the beginning. Links available above (in red).

Part IV

...deciding that I had had enough of my drunken compadre, I picked up my glass and headed for the table of the shoeless American.

“Mind if I share your table?” I asked as I approached the unoccupied end of his rather long table. He looked up from his book and motioned to a chair. We sat in relative darkness and silence for a few moments before he said, “So you’re trying to get to Casa Guatemala.” It was really a statement more than a question, and it struck me as an odd thing to say. Had it not been painfully obvious that I was trying to get to Casa Guatemala? Had he missed all the action during the last 20 minutes? In this tiny restaurant everyone had bore witness to my plight and subsequent failure to get a ride down the river. There was no way he could have missed it.

Yes, I explained, and I was having very little luck, although we both knew that he already knew that. But luckily, I told him, Holly had been kind enough to offer that I stay with her for the night. He nodded his approval.

Another moment of silence.

I asked where he was from.

Southern California. Newport Beach, he clarified.

“I’m from the central coast!” I reported, warming up to this fellow Californian. I had to find out more about him.

“Have you been in Guatemala long?” He told me he had been on a sailboat for the previous eight months and pointed into the darkness beyond the restaurant.

“That explains the no shoes,” I stated triumphantly.

“Not much use for shoes on a sailboat,” he retorted. He was growing on me.

Just then, Holly came over, “Oh good. You met Dave,” she said to me. He and I exchanged a little look. Dave, I thought. I love that name. I reached my hand across the table, “I’m Heather.” I sat back and listened to Dave and Holly having a conversation about a couple they both knew, each of whom owned their own sailboat. Eventually, this couple got married, and the time came for them to move onto one or the other of their boats. In the end they decided that since she was the more qualified sailor they would move onto her boat, and she would be the captain. Dave heartily supported this arrangement and mentioned that he thought more women should captain their own boats. Now he was really growing on me. The bell on the screen door jingled as a couple walked into the restaurant, and Holly excused herself to greet them.

Dave and I glanced at each other, and, suddenly, the distance between us seemed excessive. I scooted down a couple of seats towards him. He smiled, seeming to appreciate the gesture. After another moment of silence he asked out of nowhere,

“Do you cut hair?”

For a second, I considered lying and saying that I did. I recognized the crossroads we were standing at. Either, I cut hair and a door would open leading to some future encounter with this handsome, Southern California sailor, or I didn’t cut hair and that door would slam shut. Sadly, I’m a terribly liar, and I’m not much better with hair.

“I don’t,” I said. “I wish I did.”

I could almost hear the hinges creaking as the door started to shut.

But then he said, “That's OK. If you’ll cut my hair you can stay on my boat tonight, and I’ll take you to the orphanage in the morning.”

(Insert sound of door banging on the wall as it swings wide open.)

He explained to me that it really wasn’t safe to travel the river at night and that the Casa Guatemala was quite a ways down river. I studied his face for any signs of funny business. I saw nothing but sincerity, and I couldn’t help but trust him completely. He must have sensed my hesitation and said, “There’s an extra cabin on the boat. We just have to move some rigging out of it, and you can sleep there.” Now this was sounding fun. My own cabin? On a sailboat? With rigging? And a cute-as-can-be fellow American? I wondered if Holly would mind if I chose curtain number two.

I was considering my options when I noticed two figures moving in my direction. As my eyes focused in the darkness I recognized them to be the couple from Washington whom I had sat with on the bus ride from Morales. By heart sank just a little as I remembered my promise to share in the expense of a ride down river should they secure one.

“Hey! Thought that was you. We got a ride! And split three ways it’ll only be 30Q each.” They looked at me expectantly. Remember my offer to share in this expense was a solid, binding contract.

“Oh,” I tried to hide my disappointment. “Great.” I glanced at Dave who had leaned back in his chair and was pretending not to listen. He took a sip from his bottle.

“Wait a minute.” Holly walked up behind them, wiping her hands on a towel. In her restaurant everything was her business. “You guys are going to Mario’s. She’s going to the Casa Guatemala. Casa Guatemala’s clear across the river and down quite a ways. It’s way too far.”

“It’s not that far!” The drunken expatriate chimed in from his perch at the bar. Apparently, it was his business, too. “I been to the Casa Guatemala, and it’s just cross the river from Mario’s!”

“It’s not just across the river, Jerry!” Holly insisted, “It’s at least a 20 minute dinghy ride down river.”

“Nonsense!” He was starting to get a little steamed. “You could throw a rock to that orphanage from Mario’s!”

"We heard it wasn't that far. We thought the driver could drop us at Mario's and then take her to the orphanage." The couple from Washington had their sights on my 30Q, and they weren't going to let me off the hook that easily.

As the conversation continued, I became more and more embarrassed that such a hearty debate had ensued on my behalf. I could feel my cheeks turning a deep shade of crimson. Mercifully, with only candles lighting the little restaurant, I don't think anyone noticed. I was dumbfounded that these people, virtual strangers to me, all seemed to have such a vested interest in determining the outcome of my evening.

And I was panicked.

It seemed to be out of my control at this point, but I no longer wanted to get to the orphanage. I wanted to stay with Dave and spend the night amongst his rigging. The orphanage could wait until the morning. But after the desperation I had displayed in needing a ride down river and the promise I had made to the Washington couple, how could I renege? Imagine me saying, “Silly me. Did I say I needed to get to the orphanage? No, no. Never mind. You guys go ahead. I got a better offer.” Couldn't happen. Not without serious loss of face. I was in a bind. And it seemed that my fate was in the hands of either Jerry or Holly.

If it was determined that Jerry was right, and the orphanage was indeed close to Mario’s, I would be obligated to share a ride with the couple from Washington. If the consensus was that Holly was right, and the orphanage was too far from Mario’s, then I could, in good conscience, stay with Dave. I sat in agony as the debate continued on for another five minutes, until finally Holly said, “Let’s ask Dave. He’s sailed this river a dozen times. He knows.”

All eyes turned to him, including mine.

Until then, Dave had been perfectly quiet, sitting back in his chair, occasionally sipping his beer and waiting patiently as my fate was haphazardly passed around that restaurant like a bottle of Captain Morgan's. Yo Ho!

He leaned forward in his chair and placed his empty bottle on the table. He turned and looked at me. Our eyes met. I knew, in that moment, that he held the fate of my life in his hands. I got the sense that he knew it, too. And after what seemed like an eternity, he finally turned to Holly and said the sweetest words I have ever heard,

“It’s really…really far.”

And just like that my fate was sealed. Our fate was sealed.

The couple from Washington went on to Mario’s without me. And shortly thereafter, Dave loaded my pack into his dinghy (the other one at the dock had been his), and we went back to the sailboat called Morgenstern.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Benefit Concert for Nie

I wonder how long the drive is to Mesa, Arizona from the Central Coast of California...Hmmm.

Click to make bigger

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Day We Met - Part III

The Day We Met - Part I
The Day We Met - Part II

For those of you newcomers: I'm joining a fellow blogger in posting my love story. If you haven't read Parts I and II you can click on the above words (Yes, the red ones. Those are direct links. Go on them.) But, don't cheat. You really must read this story from the beginning.

It was a little after 4PM when we pulled away from Morales, leaving behind a cloud of dust and a half dozen slightly stunned Mayan vendors. The rest of the drive would take 2-2.5 hours. I glanced at my watch calculating. It would be 6 or 6:30 when we arrived. I knew from our last trip to Fronteras that the water taxis didn’t run after dark. Casa Guatemala is situated on the Rio Dulce, 30 minutes down river from Fronteras and is only accessible via water taxi. It would be tight, but where there is a will there is a way, I thought to myself.

The remainder of the trek was uneventful. I sat next to a young couple, travelers like myself, from Washington state. At one point they asked me if I had been to Fronteras, and if I knew of a good place to stay. Always eager to share helpful hints with fellow travelers, I told them that yes I had been there and the Posada Ricki was clean and cheap. They exchanged a concerned glance. That was the one place they had been warned not to stay. Didn’t I know it was a brothel? That was disappointing news, and it made me wonder exactly who Ricki was. They asked me if I had heard of Mario’s. I hadn’t stayed there, but I knew that is was a hotel on the banks of the Rio Dulce with a restaurant that was known for great burgers. They were uncertain of their plans, but I told them that if they ended up going to Mario’s, I’d be glad to share in the expense of a water taxi, since I was going downriver, too. (Sidenote – Travelers like to do this…band together to share in the expense of anything and everything from hiring a taxi, to sharing accommodations, to sharing a guide for a certain adventure. This is done for the common goal of saving a few bucks and often makes affordable certain activities and luxuries that would otherwise be out of budget. And when you’re on a budget of less than $10 a day, a few bucks is a big deal. So my offer to share a water taxi was a solid, binding contract.) Later, we got into a discussion about what we thought we might like to do with our lives. I don’t remember what I said, but I do remember that as our conversation was winding down they agreed that they could imagine me living on a farm with braids and lots of kids. I suspected they weren’t too far off the mark.

As we neared Fronteras and the Rio Dulce, the air became thick with smoke and the sky turned a sickening brownish mauve color. The gentleman in front of us explained that it was the burn season when the farmers cleared their land in preparation for planting. The smoke burned my lungs and eyes and blocked out the sun. I hoped that it wouldn’t be that thick at the orphanage.
As our bus pulled to a stop near the bottom of the Rio Dulce Bridge I assessed the daylight situation. It was just past sunset, but there was still light in the sky (although dim with all the smoke). There was still a little time. I hurried to the restaurant/bar called Hollymar that was situated on the banks of the Rio Dulce, where I remembered that I could arrange for a water taxi. I glanced across the street at the Posada Ricki with a slight frown. Outside the door to the restaurant I set down my pack and considered my appearance. I had a feeling I would need to use the power of feminine persuasion in order to secure a ride to the orphanage at this late hour. As a single white female, traveling in a Central American country, I had learned to dress down on “travel days”. It was safer and really more efficient not to stand out when using the public transportation system. The less cat calls and long stares I received the smoother my day would go. Subsequently, I wasn’t exactly dressed to impress. I had on a loose pair of khaki shorts, a loose fitting softball t-shirt, my hiking boots, and a sweatshirt with one crusty sleeve that seemed to hang longer than the other. My hair was in a saggy, dusty ponytail, and I was sweaty and smelly from a day of stressful travel. I wasn’t exactly the clandestine image of feminine beauty. I quickly retied my ponytail, shed my crusty sweatshirt and tucked in my t-shirt. That would have to do. Daylight was fading faster than I expected. Armed with as much feminine charm as I could muster I walked into that bar overflowing with confidence. I was determined to get to Casa Guatemala by bed time. I would not be spending another night at the Posada Ricki.

Even though the Hollymar restaurant and bar was nothing more than a 30' x 30' hut on stilts, with wood planked floors and no walls, it had a certain charm to it. Owned by an expatriate American woman named Holly, it attracted all types of interesting characters. It was not uncommon to find travelers, locals, and expatriate retirees, off their sailboats, sharing drinks and good times in this tiny little bar on the Rio Dulce. On the night that I strolled in, there was a typical mix of folks enjoying the casual atmosphere and good company. I looked around the room and considered my options. Holly, as usual, was at the bar dispensing drinks and lending a patient ear to a retired sailor who, it appeared to me, had had one too many. I assumed that one of the dinghies pulled up to the restaurant’s small dock was likely his, which made him a potential ride down the river. Seated next to him was a young Guatemalan fellow who I recognized to be a water taxi driver. Ellen and I had jokingly referred to him as Rico Suave, as it seemed that he thought quite highly of himself and had been rather flirty when we had met him before. On this night, I thought I might use that to my advantage. Seated near the water’s edge was a couple enjoying a quiet meal. They didn’t strike me as having much potential in aiding me on my downriver quest. Across the room, sitting alone at a rather large table, was a young American man with no shoes on. He was trying to read with a flash light perched in one hand and there were several empty beer bottles beside his empty plate. I didn’t know quite what to make of him. I could tell right away he wasn’t a traveler like me. He seemed too clean and the book he was reading was a hard back copy of Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor. Travelers don’t read hard backs. We carry everything we own in our packs, and hard backs are way too heavy to make the cut. The no shoes thing was throwing me, too. Where could he have come from with no shoes? Either way I decided he was far too good looking to try and take advantage of. I did not count him as a potential ride down the river. So I fixed my sights on the two gentlemen at the bar with targets on their backs. I felt nearly certain that between the two of them I would be able to charm my way to a ride down the river.

I approached the bar and Holly recognized me right away. Ellen and I had befriended her on our previous trip to Fronteras, and I was thankful to have an immediate alliance with somebody. I explained to her my situation, that I was volunteering at the Casa Guatemala, and I was slightly desperate to get there as soon as possible. She immediately motioned to Rico Suave saying, “He can take you.” Wow! That was too easy! But my excitement was short lived as he explained to me in Spanish that his little boat was out of gas. Well, surely we could get some gas somewhere in town. I offered to pay for his gas if he would take me to the orphanage. His eyes lit up, and I could tell he wanted nothing more than to be my knight in shining armor. He heartily agreed, and we grabbed a gas can from his boat before heading next door to where the gas man lived. Rico knocked on the door and gave me a cheesy grin. He was probably no more than sixteen or seventeen, and he wore his black hair to his shoulders and neatly slicked behind his ears. We heard a baby crying inside and a second later a young woman answered the door. Rico held up the gas can, and she quickly shook her head, no. She explained that they were out of gas, and her husband was gone to Morales on business until the morning. No problem, I thought. Surely that’s not the only place in town to get gas. But as we headed back to Hollymar, Rico explained to me that there was no where else to get gas until the morning. I don’t know who was more disappointed. Having exhausted plan A, I quickly shifted my sights to my next victim. Surely, the retired expatriate with the dinghy couldn’t say no to a darling, stranded, fellow American.

It was quite dark by the time we reentered the restaurant, and I wondered why Holly hadn’t turned on the lights. Then I remembered that in this little town (like many others in Guatemala) electricity was made by a generator which was shut down every evening at 7PM. I wasted no time and sat down at the bar right beside my new target. Rico and I explained to Holly about the gas dilemma, and I quickly inquired about the two dinghies on the dock. She told me that one of them belonged to the gentleman seated next to me. I feigned surprise, and, batting my lashes, I turned to face him. I pleaded my case wondering if he might help a stranded lady with a ride down the river in his dinghy? He lifted his glass into the air and said rather loudly, “I can’t give ya a ride, but I can sure as hell buy ya a drink!” The syllables of his words smeared together, and the stench of his breath made me think I was probably better off. I politely refused his offer. I couldn’t believe that my best efforts of flirting and schmoozing had failed me. I had gotten myself out of many a predicament in Central America with that exact approach. I was rather shocked and starting to feel slightly sickened at the thought of spending another night at the Posada Ricki. Holly must have read my mind because she brought over a glass of water and told me not to worry. I was welcome to spend the night at her house that night, and then I could catch a taxi to the orphanage in the morning. What a relief! That sounded superb. I didn’t have to spend the night at the Posada, and I would still be able to save $6 on lodging. I thanked her profusely, and deciding that I had had enough of my drunken compadre, I picked up my glass and headed for the table of the shoeless American.

To be continued...

As always...please consider joining us in posting your own love story. Let me know if you do because I love, love, love to read a good love story.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Home Sweet Home

We're home! The kids and I, that is. I had to leave my hardworking, never-leaves-a-project-unfinished (which is what I love about him), husband in Montana to babysit the electrician. And finish the ceiling (the installer seems to have dropped off the face of the Earth).

So the kids and I hit the road yesterday morning and got home last night at midnight. The last couple of hours were tough, but Danielle Steele kept me company (love a good book on "tape").

The kids are glad to be home, and they're all playing a little "catch-up" with homework this afternoon.

I'm missing Dave a lot today, and I'm very ready to have my little family back together again.

We had a wonderful time with Daddy in Montana, and, as an added bonus, we were able to spend the last couple of nights camped out in the cabin. And even though it's still a bit of a construction zone, it was very cozy. We made a fire and some soup, tried out our new pebble floored master shower with rain head (FABULOUS!), tucked the kids into their nests, and watched the snow fall from our blow up air mattress. I'm pretty sure it doesn't get any better than that. You know?

Here are some pics from our time:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dear Truancy Board,

I'm afraid I will be unable to return my children to school on Monday as previously promised. You see...we're snowed in...'s snowing...a lot.

um...the roads are icy...really icy...and slippery.

and...the snow plow doesn't come 'til Monday...or maybe Tuesday.

plus...and I'm sure you'll agree with this...there is certainly more involved in the education of children than sending them to school. Like what causes a snow drift, and at what temperature rain turns to snow, and seeing elk in the wild, and what black ice looks like, and the Legend of Jack Frost.

I will be sure to have them back in school just as soon as...the snow melts....or the plow comes through...or the cabin is finished...whichever comes first.

Very sincerely yours,
Mrs. Stewart

P.S. Feel free to call and discuss this matter further...with my husband.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Arrived Safely

We're here! The cabin is FABULOUS! And, of course, seeing Dave is even MORE fabulous. Thank you all for your warm thoughts for a safe trip. The drive was just fine, and the kids were great. I've said it before and I'll say again: Thank goodness for in-car-entertainment systems! (FYI: Geriatric dogs are welcome with open arms all throughout the state of Nevada!)

I'm having trouble getting my computer on line, but when I do, I'll be posting pictures and Part III of The Day We Met.

Thanks for checking in.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Daddy or Bust

That's right. I'm pulling the kids out of school (the truancy board loves when I do that), and we're hittin' the high road to Montana. I've had enough of this whole "being apart from Daddy" business. So I'm grabbing the kids at noon, driving 'til I can't drive no more, and then driving some more. Sixteen hours and a whole lotta movies should see us arriving in the Madison Valley sometime tomorrow afternoon. (I'll probably stop and get a room near Wells, Nevada tonight. I hope they take geriatric dogs who sometimes can't hold it through the night.)

Please sends thoughts for a safe trip.

I'm off to pack.

Oh, and shave my legs...

Hugs, Heather

P.S. Dave will join us for the drive home on Sunday. The cabin should be buttoned up by then! Don't forget - it'll be available to rent starting summer 2009. I'll post pics when I'm up there.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Day We Met - Part II

*If you didn't read Part I of The Day We Met you can scroll down a few posts to find it. You can't miss it...big red heart.

We were about a block away when I saw a bus leaving the terminal. I looked at my watch. Eleven O’clock on the nose. Could that be my bus to Fronteras? For a second I thought to hail a cab and chase it down. But what if it wasn’t? I would feel like a fool chasing down and stopping the wrong bus. I decided to remain calm. Surely that wasn’t the bus I was supposed to be on. And even if it was, there was always another bus. Always.

When I got to the terminal the young girl at the ticket window informed me that the nonstop bus to Fronteras had just left, and, no, there wasn’t another one leaving today. There would be another one leaving tomorrow at 11AM she offered helpfully. Great, I thought. If I hadn’t spent 8 minutes on the sidewalk repairing my pack I would have made that bus. Again I thought to myself, "What bad luck." Seeing the disappointment or perhaps the hopelessness in my face, the girl looked back at her schedule. There would be a bus leaving at 1PM for Morales where I could transfer to Fronteras. It was a longer ride with more stops on an older bus, but I took it, gladly. I smiled gratefully as I handed over my 21 quetzales ($2.10) and received my receipt and a transfer ticket for the second leg.

I picked a sunny seat in a window of the terminal to wait out my 2 hours. I noticed my Austrian friend boarding a bus to Tikal and with a quick wave he was gone. I killed some time reading, bought a tamale for less than a dollar, and wrote a postcard. I didn’t have a stamp and to this day I still have that unsent postcard. I also spent some time perfecting the repair job on my pack. I still had quite a ways to go and I couldn’t bare a repeat of the sidewalk scene.

We pulled out of the terminal at exactly 1PM (they were, apparently, very serious about punctuality at this station) and headed in the direction of Morales. We hadn’t left the city limits when we made our first of what would be many stops along the way. I started out with a seat to myself but the bus quickly filled, and I found myself next to a pretty girl of 16 or 17. She was a student at the University in Guatemala City and was on her way home to Morales for the weekend. We talked quite a bit about our families and the differences in our respective cultures. I remember trying to explain Santa Claus to her. I don’t think she ever quite understood. After about 3 hours she told me we were almost there. Yeah!

I reached into my pocket for my transfer ticket and leaned forward to show it to the fellow riding shotgun. In Guatemala, most buses, especially longer distance buses, have a “navigator” who rides shotgun. He serves as the driver’s right hand man. He handles the public relations on the bus. He’s the guy who loads and unloads all of the luggage. He stops traffic so the driver can parallel park on a busy city street. He runs into a restaurant to see if their restroom is functioning and available to his passengers. Then he’ll return to tell everyone that yes the restroom is available, and for an additional quetzal you can purchase toilet paper from the clerk. He makes sure everyone is back on the bus before the driver takes off again. He lets you know when your stop is coming up. And he handles transfers.

So I tapped him on the shoulder and gave him my transfer slip. He looked at it and furrowed his brow slightly. That made me nervous. He held up one finger and said, “Momento”. He turned to consult with the driver who obviously did not like to be interrupted with such nonsense. They had a brief, curt conversation that I didn't quite catch, ending with the driver giving an irritated wave of his hand. What did it all mean? Obviously, something was amiss. The navigator leaned back in my direction and tried to explain that we might not be able to make it in time to catch my transfer. My stomach did a somersault, and I thought of Ellen back in Antigua. Maybe I should have stayed. This day was going from bad to worse. I could hardly imagine being stranded overnight in a strange town all by myself. The sound of a blaring horn brought me back from the depths of self pity. Who was honking and at what?

I looked up to see that we were coming into an odd clearing in the center of town where several other buses were parked at strange angles to the streets. There were Mayan vendors holding up their wares to the windows of the buses trying to entice the seated passengers. I noticed one of the buses starting to pull away and it looked like our driver was intent on getting his spot as we were approaching the back of the departing bus with alarming speed. Again a horn blared. This time I realized where the sound was coming from. Our driver laid into his horn spewing three long irritated blasts. By now the vendors, and anyone else in the nearby vicinity, were staring at us with considerable concern, and still we barreled towards the rear end of this bus. Our driver slowed a little, shouted something to our navigator, and motioned to him with that same irritated hand gesture. With my transfer ticket still in hand our brave navigator leapt from the moving bus and raced ahead toward the bus that was still trying to make a clean get away. Our driver gave two more lengthy blasts at the same time our navigator was shouting and banging with his hand along the length of the bus ahead of us. I watched in complete confusion as the bus stopped with a lurch and our navigator sprinted the rest of the distance to its now open doors. Panting, he climbed up the first step and leaned in towards the alarmed driver. I saw him hold up my ticket and point back to our bus as he explained himself. Suddenly, I realized what was going on. They had stopped that bus so that I could get on it. That was the bus to Fronteras. The raucous to which I had just bore witness had been for my sake. I was stunned. And rather embarrassed. Our navigator hurried back and ushered me off the bus. With swift precision he extracted my tattered pack from the underbelly of our bus and quickly headed across the clearing. I was amazed that he remembered which pack was mine and which bin it was in having packed it away three hours earlier. As we hurried toward the waiting bus I glanced back at our driver and said, “Gracias.” I’m sure he couldn’t hear me, but he nodded his head and gave a little wave. And, with that, I was on my way.

To be Continued....

Please consider joining us in posting your own love story. It's October after all - Love Story Month!

P.S. Jodi ~ When you read this (and I know you will) you should consider yourself "tagged". In other words, time to update your blog, Baby! We miss you! Now, I certainly do not expect you to fill us in on the going-ons of the whole year. Just start with today. (You can always fill in the gaps later). I would love, love, love to see some recent pics of the kiddos and to hear what's going on with you. Hugs, Heather

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Happy Fall!

Nothing like a rainy Saturday to inspire me to do some baking (even if it is Pumpkin Bread in a box from Costco - love that stuff!!). I bought these darling silicone muffin pans, and today seemed like the perfect day to try 'em out. Oh my - too fun!

P.S. What's better than a perfectly clean kitchen floor?

Answer: A perfectly clean kitchen floor with muddy footprints leading from the back door. Love it. Special shout out to Nie who reminds me always to see the beauty and innocence in my children (and their muddy footprints).

Click to make bigger for full effect.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Did you know that I used to be invincible? Immortal even. I could trek all over foreign countries with nary a concern for the safety of my person. But those days are, apparently, OVER! Four kids and fifteen years later I can hardly handle Target on a Friday night without fearing for my life. I am quite content safely tucked in at home, with my children happily watching Speed Racer (how darling is Matthew Fox, anyway?). Yup, just me, my blog, and I (and maybe a glass of wine...or two). Happy Weekend! ~Heather

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Speaking of Love

Last week my dear friend and fellow blogger, Tina (Musings from a Mudpie Mom), asked me to post the story of how I met my husband. Then, Mary at Owlhaven, put out an offer on her blog to join in posting our love stories. It has been on my heart to post about the day Dave and I met, and so I thought I would post some of that story tonight. It is rather lengthy, but I like to think it's a pretty fun read. Enjoy.

The Day We Met

Part I

I woke with a start at 6:45 AM to the distinct thought, “Today is the day.” Although I had planned to stay in Antigua one more night and travel to Guatemala City with my friends the next day, I knew that I would be leaving for Casa Guatemala a day early. I rolled out of bed and dressed quietly not to wake Ellen. I would have liked to have showered and washed my hair not knowing when I would have access to hot water again, but that would have to wait. I had a lot to do if I was going to make it to Fronteras before nightfall.

I headed for the town square breathing in the beauty and quiet of Antigua one last time. Only a few people were out to share the cobblestone streets with me. I passed our favorite little restaurant with the fountain and the corner where I always bought platanos maduros from the lady who wore the beautiful huipile. I felt an overwhelming sadness that I still can’t quite explain. Maybe it had to do with leaving Antigua, a town that I had instantly adored and felt very at home in. Ellen and I had stayed there on three different occasions over the previous month, using it as our home base as we traveled through Guatemala. We would usually spend a couple of days, always staying at the same Casa de Huespuedes (Guest House) with hot water and do it yourself laundry facilities on the roof. We would treat ourselves to one nice lunch while we were there. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant. (Since I originally put these memories on paper, I have returned to Antigua and I know that the restaurant I speak of is Cafe Condessa.) Or maybe I was sad because I knew that after almost three months of traveling with Ellen in Central America we would be going our separate ways that day, and I would be alone in Guatemala for the first time.

I hurried across the square and turned onto a side street, relieved to see that the door was open to the lavanderia where I had dropped my laundry the day before. No matter where you have your laundry done in Guatemala it always looks the same when you get it back. It’ll be folded nicely in a squatty rectangular stack and bundled neatly in a clear plastic garbage bag with a knot on top. I paid the young woman 15 quetzales (about $1.50) and headed to the pharmacy. I needed some supplies. I planned on staying at the Casa Guatemala orphanage for a month. When I had visited two weeks prior, intent on volunteering, they had offered me a paid position teaching English and Physical Education. I couldn’t have been more excited! Not only would I get to love on all those darling children, so starved for attention and affection, but they were going to pay me to do it. At this point in my trip I was rather low on funds. In fact, I think I was down to $80 which was another good reason to leave Antigua a day early. I would save $6 on lodging if I could get to the orphanage before bed time.

On my way back, I took a detour stopping to pick up some Dunkin’ Donuts (although I could hardly afford them) to share with my friends back at the guest house. For the previous week or so, Ellen and I had been traveling with a Canadian couple, Sarah and Aaron, and their friend, Glen, from the East Coast. Ellen and Glen had quickly become a hot item and I have to admit I did feel a bit like a fifth wheel. We had all planned on taking a night tour of the local volcano, responsible for so many of Antigua’s tremors, but that was just another $6 I needed to save. They were all headed to Guatemala City the next day and then going their separate ways. Ellen would be taking the bus to meet her brother in Mexico City. Glen was flying home to be with his mom who had breast cancer. And Sarah and Aaron were heading south to Honduras to visit the Mayan ruins at Copan.
I told my friends of my plan to leave Antigua early over a breakfast of donuts and canned peaches. We had become rather close (traveling in a foreign country can do that to perfect strangers), and they were disappointed that we wouldn’t have one last day together. I almost let them talk me into staying. It did seem to make so much more sense. I had been looking forward to the night hike, and traveling into the city alone was not the safest thing for a 19 year old strawberry blonde to do. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to leave that day. Ellen asked when I’d be leaving, and I told her as soon as I was packed. We shared a tearful hug. Even now, over ten years later, I get a little choked up.

Ellen walked me to the bus station, and I couldn’t hold back my tears. I cried the whole way. I felt slightly ridiculous. I handed my backpack up to the guy packing the roof of the bus and climbed into the seat two back from the front and across from the driver. You never want to be in the very front of the bus (in Guatemala you never know when banditos might board your bus), but you also want to be near enough to the driver that you can find out where the heck you are. Ellen climbed in after me and sat patting my hand while I wiped tear after tear away with the sleeve of the sweatshirt I had tied around my waist. Again she pleaded with me to stay and again I seriously considered it. Six dollars was no big deal. It was just money. I would be paid at the end of my first week at the orphanage. I could make my $80 last until then. Meals and lodging would be covered. Why was I in such a rush? Going to Guatemala City alone was reason enough to wait until the next day. I tried to convince myself, but I absolutely couldn’t shake the voice that kept saying, “Today is the day. You have to go today even though it doesn’t make sense.”

So I went. I left Ellen wiping her tears at the bus station, and I cried the whole 45 minute ride to Guatemala City. The woman next to me surely thought someone had died, and noticing my soggy sweatshirt, lent me her hanky. I always feel a little weird about using someone else’s hanky, but I politely wiped my tears and forced a smile as I handed it back. I decided I would have to pull myself together by the time we arrived at the bus terminal in Guatemala City.

I knew that my next bus left at either 11 AM or 12 PM from a terminal about 5 blocks from where our driver had stopped. It was about 10:45 so I knew I would have to hurry to make it by 11, just in case. I got off the bus feeling slightly drained from my emotional out pouring but encouraged that I was headed in the right direction. As I reached up to receive my backpack that was being past down from atop the bus, the whole pack separated from the frame and landed with a thud in my arms. I looked up at the bus driver and squinted as sun streamed through the naked metal frame in his hands. He looked as surprised as I felt, and, for a second, I just stood there thinking, “That didn’t just happen. What bad luck. I don’t have time to fix it.” This pack had functioned flawlessly as I had traveled all over Mexico and Central America for the previous 4 months. Of course, it had also functioned flawlessly for my parents 20 years earlier as they hoofed it all over Europe. I should have been expecting it to give out at some point, but I was dumbstruck. And at a cool 60 pounds I couldn’t exactly carry it on my hip for 5 long city blocks. Glancing at my watch, I quickly retrieved my frame and set up a repair station on the sidewalk. I fished out my clothesline and roughly affixed the pack onto it’s metal exoskeleton. As I heaved the newly repaired pack onto my back I couldn't help but smile to myself as I admired the sturdiness of my handiwork. The Austrian traveler who had stopped to see if I needed a hand (I didn’t) was impressed, too. Although I didn’t need his help, I was glad when he said he was going to the same station as me, and, together, we set out at a hurried pace down the street.

We were about a block away when I saw a bus leaving the terminal. I looked at my watch. Eleven O’clock on the nose. Could that be my bus to Fronteras? For a second I thought to hail a cab and chase it down. But what if it wasn’t? I would feel like a fool chasing down and stopping the wrong bus. I decided to remain calm. Surely that wasn’t the bus I was supposed to be on. And even if it was, there was always another bus. Always.

To be Continued....

P.S. I would love for all of you to join us in posting your own love story. Let me know if you do so I can be sure to read yours.

After all...LOVE makes the world go 'round.