Archive for July, 2012

19th July
written by Michelle


I saw this posted on facebook last week and it caught my attention. I always talk about wanting to have community and get to know my neighbors but sometimes I don’t really know how or don’t make the time to do so.  Sound familiar?

I sometimes use language and culture differences as an excusemost Guatemalans don’t just invite someone over for dinner or have organized potlucks. (and dinner and potlucks are what I know how to do) People are friendly, but very private. But this is where we call home. We own a home and live in a neighborhood and one day hope to raise a family here. Our neighborhood is diverse- a lot of families with kids and retired people and working people. Mostly all Guatemalans, but Guatemalans who have all moved here from other parts of Guatemala.

So I’ve been thinking and praying: What are ways to connect with our community here? Our neighbors? Gerber and I both work and have responsibilities teaching, training and helping in other communities, but I wonder how can we be involved here?

Kids seem like an easy place to start, because we have lots of neighborhood kids that run around and occasionally knock on our door asking if we can come out to play. (not sure what it means when our closest neighborhood friends here are under the age of 7 : ) I have visions of having a community library because there are so few in all of Guatemala and we live about a block from the public school and central park. There is a dirt soccer field by our house and I sometimes imagine groups of kids playing soccer and having relay games. Or maybe a community garden. I think about practical ways to bring people together- a community clean-up day to pick up trash that litters the sides of the road or an Art camp for kids with their work displayed somewhere in town.

We live in a community that is 5 km from Antigua and has some of the nicest homes in the area, but the majority of the people live in simple, cement block homes with plastic lamina roofs. It’s easy to hide behind walls and gates, but I think something important happens when we learn to meet somewhere in the middle. In parks and front yards and soccer fields. We may realize that community happens when we acknowledge that we actually need each other.

In fact I believe everyone’s life becomes a little richer when you start by getting to know your neighbors.

So, hold me accountable. And if you’re a person of prayer start praying that we could form a community here in our neighborhood.


How do you build community? Do you know your neighbors?


P.S. A few weeks we did go to a HUGE community event- la feria! (the town fair) Every Guatemala town has a fair on their anniversary of being founded. So June 28th-July 1st is our towns’ celebration. The cathedral in the center of town dates back to 1541- and was rebuilt in 1672! Sometimes I forget that I am living in a town that is older than most of the buildings and cities in the US. For 5 days every year the whole central park and surrounding streets are filled with street vendors, video games, foosball, nightly music and amusement park rides that are assembled out of the back of pick-up trucks! I know, I know…try not to be too jealous.

from top-L: the above mentioned assessment park rides, taco stand Guate style, pizza America style and the church built in 1672

somehow, I always think I have a chance…but I lose everything single time we play.


17th July
written by Michelle


Last night I posted a [before] picture of my first attempt at making kale chips. 10 minutes later I pulled out something that resembled burnt seaweed, and looked nothing like the crispy, curled lovely chips seen on the recipe’s website. I immediately chalked it up to the fact that Guatemala kale must be different than kale in the states.

However, I was not about to post an [after] picture of my failed kale attempt because some how failures and mess-up don’t seem Facebook and Instagram worthy.

I sometimes wonder if the danger with Facebook and instagram is not what we do post, but we don’t.

Next time you’re scrolling through instagram or Facebook notice what do you and I tend to post pictures of? Cute kids and smiling couples, gorgeous landscapes from recent travels, fun weekend outings and our pinterest inspired recipes success, right? And I believe all of these things are true and worthy of celebrating and sharing, but I have to remind myself that it’s not the whole story.

I think the whole story is that most of us have some hard days and some lonely days and some days where nothing goes as we planned- like burnt kale. But we don’t usually post those pictures. Now, I am not advocating that Facebook become a confessional for venting every lonely, angry or frustrating moment. But I do wonder if sometimes we find it harder to admit and acknowledge these small daily failures or feelings when it seems like everyone else’s instagramed and facebooked life doesn’t have them.

I’ve mentioned Shauna Niequist on here before, not because I’m a slightly stalkerish, but because I really like her willingness to share the whole story. She spoke at her church this Mother’s Day and talked about “taking off your fancy facebook self - because no one’s life is as good as they make it appear on Facebook.” And then my friend and writer, Lesley Miller wrote her reflections to that talk and what it means as a new mom and wife of cancer survivor.  The hope in writing or sharing the whole story is that someone else will feel less alone.

I appreciate both of them for their honesty and their bravery to share the real story of motherhood, of less than perfect families and less than perfect recipes.

Facebook and Instagram don’t tell the whole story, and maybe they are not meant to. But I do believe we need people in our life who do see the whole story. Other writers, friends, moms, mentors and couples who see and tell the whole story. It makes me appreciate the kind of friends who are committed to telling the whole story:

When the recipe works and when it absolutely fails.

When the adorable baby is nothing but joy and when she is cranky, spiting-up and won’t-sleep-for-more-than-three-hours.

The beauty of when you promised, “I do” and the difficulty of keeping it three years later.

When you’re planning an exciting vacation and when you are tired of traveling by yourself.

When you purchase a new home and how you struggled to get out out of debt.

These kinds of friends inspire me to want to do the same: to share the whole story….

…starting with posting how I failed at making kale chips.

 What keeps you from telling the whole story?



11th July
written by Michelle


Perhaps it’s because I grew up in southern California or because my family is a little health crazy, but for whatever reason if there are two things Ackers do well its a) make a really good salad and b) make a smoothie. I mean salads and smoothies- what else better categorizes so cal living, huh?

So on this Wednesday I will share my smoothie making secrets. Gerber and I both love smoothies. Granted we make them differently, but almost every morning we have one for breakfast. Believe it or not we use our blender more than our coffee maker- so very un-guatemalan of us, I know.

My definition of a good smoothie is one that tastes good and is packed full of good things for you (i.e. spinach, flaxseed, natural bee pollen and some power-packed moringa- more on this later). When I make smoothies like this Gerber looks at me and then inspects his glass and asks, “Did you add that healthy stuff?”

To which I always respond, yep. 

He shakes his head ever so slightly. I know what he’s thinking, but he drinks it anyway because it really does taste good. Healthy stuff and all.

The Art of the Smoothie

{my disclaimer: this is recipe for a super healthy smoothie }

Step 1: Frozen fruit- I usually add a handful of frozen strawberries, one banana, a few blackberries and if we have pineapple or papaya I throw that in too. (really you can add whatever fruit you have on hand- fill your blender about 2/3 of the way full with the frozen fruit)

Step 2: Frozen Spinach- I like freezing it in little plastic baggies so it’s always on hand. (Now, if you’re making this for picky eaters or picky spouses, I’ll just tell you straight up, you usually can see little specs of green, but you really can’t taste anything. promise)

Step 3: Flaxseed, Bee Pollen and/or some Moringa- I don’t know if Moringa is available in the states, but its should be. It’s packed with plant based vitamins and minerals. It’s grown here locally, but I think you can order it online if you’re interested. Obviously this is all depending on what you or your family have in the pantry. I add ground Flax for some good omega-3s and fiber, locally grown bee pollen, which is supposed to help with seasonal allergies and has all kinds of B-vitamins and the moringa, well I think is kind of like a plant miracle. {you could also add honey if you wanted)

I also usually add about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt- or whatever kind you have in the fridge.

Step 4: Orange Juice- To me this is the secret. You can use soy milk or another kind of milk product but the orange juice adds a little natural sweetener and flavor. Pour the OJ almost up the same level as the fruit.

Step 5: Blend- add a little more OJ or water depending on desired thickness.

Step 6: Pour - And know that you’re drinking one of thee healthiest smoothies around. Bonus: it’s great to take on the go.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

Happy Wednesday!


10th July
written by Michelle

Yesterday was Gerber’s birthday and he was gone the whole day and the whole night….working.

He had already committed to start building water filters with a new community in the southern part of Guatemala and he had four eager volunteers waiting to go. So at 7:00am he left with his truck bed piled high, four guys seated in the cab and our Guatemalan technical nestled in the back between shovels, sifters and a wheelbarrow. I did at least send him off with a birthday smoothie.

Antigua has relatively mild temperature year around- and yesterday was one of those perfect, mild-75-and-sunny-with-a-slight-breeze-and-volcanic-views, kind of days. Where they drove to is almost always HOT and HUMID. Temperatures hover around 90-100 degrees. And when you add in the humidity and some manual labor, it’s a recipe for constant sweat dripping down places you didn’t know could sweat. This is where he went to spend his birthday, my brown skinned, dark haired boy who complains when I ask for a table in the sun!?!

I talked to him last night on the phone and he seemed happy. The kind of happy that comes from somewhere deep within, because you’ve spent the day doing something you love- working with Guatemalan families, sweating and laughing and lifting. Watching kids still too young to attend school help wash sand and carry shovels three times too big for them. Helping teenage boys from the states learn how to mix cement and take a shower without running water. Attending the evening service at the local church and wondering why with so little resources they are so welcoming and sometimes our big, fancy churches with entire committees dedicated for “welcoming” don’t feel that way. I know there is something he loves about setting up tents and mosquito nets and working hard and being thankful.

One of the reasons why I love this man so much is that he is passionate. He is passionate about helping people get access to clean drinking water. He enjoys serving others, and maybe even more so, teaching others. He has vision, ideas and goals and he’ll even give up a birthday so he can be a part of making these things happen.  His passion and direction make me proud and excited, but also, they give me a sense of security. I know that the same passion he feels about bringing clean water to communities, he also feels about me and about being a dad one day. And I know that he’s the kind of man who will sacrifice a birthday, or his own plans or needs to take care of something or someone that he is passionate about.

 {a little dating advice if I may: I think having a spouse who is passionate about something is one of the most attractive things. And when what they are passionate about happens to align with what you are passionate about I think you have a pretty good match. }

I love this man because he would rather work on his birthday doing something he loves, than be celebrated and taken out to dinner*

Happy Birthday, mi amor! Te amo.



*I did make a little dessert last night in his honor and tasted it to make sure it was fit for a little belated birthday celebrating.

7th July
written by Michelle

me and my love


I introduced you to Yumbo and our first date here last August. And now 1,56k later I’ve fallen in love.

It was really a practical decision at first. A scooter is much cheaper than a car and since the home we bought is about 5K outside of Antigua I needed a way to get around town. But now I can’t imagine not having a scooter. I was surprised when I was back in Santa Barbara to see just how popular the little two wheelers have become. I realize it may not make sense for everyone to have a scooter; kids, winter weather, and Costco trips are all factors that do not lean in favor of scooting around.

However, here’s how having a scooter has changed my life and how I think about the privilege of transportation:

+ There are limits to what I can do. Having a car gives you the impression that you can go anywhere, anytime, whenever you want. A scooter changes that. I don’t drive it at night. And if it’s raining I can choose to stay at home and wait until it stops or put on rain boots and a huge tarp like thing. Usually I opt for option 1.

+ I find by by losing a little independence and control, I learn to ask others for help or just wait. Neither of which are my forte.

+ That being said, I do love that I can pass buses and scoot around long lines of cars #yessss

+ I spend 21 Queztales every week on gas - that’s about $3 - THREE dollars, people. That’s pretty good, huh?

+ I can only buy what I can carry* and let me tell you I have gotten very, very good at packing my little scooter full after a run to the grocery store.

(* to be totally honest, I should disclose that G does have a truck that we share and we use when it is raining, or when buying big things or making long trips.)

+ Most Guatemalans don’t own a car or a scooter, so their transportation is limited to when the bus system runs. I learned that rather quickly when trying to host a small group at my old apartment at 7:30pm- no one came unless they owned a car, because they didn’t have a way to get there.  It reminds me that having transportation is a luxury, not a right.

+ It’s fun! What could be better than scooting along a cobblestone road under the Antigua sun, with views of coffee plantations and volcanoes in the distance.

+ Makes me very aware of other drivers on the road. I read the manual: Always assume cars can’t see you.

+ Parking is free and if you live in Antigua…or really any city… that is a major bonus! #ilovefreethings

+ I have learned to master road conditions that would never be permitted in the states. Mud puddles, dirt roads and small boulders are no problem. #makesmestronger

Now on the wardrobe front:

+Dresses and skirts are not scooter friendly. Most days I opt for jeans or yoga pants.

+I have quite a few pairs of flip flops and sandals that are collecting dust on the bottom of my closet floor. #thisisntsantabarbara

+I have traded in any kind of fashionable purse for my trusty, Northface backpack. 0 points on the style front, but a perfect 10 when it comes to carrying my computer, groceries and a rain jacket.

+Now, if I could just figure out how to not have helmet hair like I would be a happy camper:

this is how I feel about helmet hair


Besides the helmet hair, have I convinced you to become a scooter owner?

Happy Saturday!

me and my bro: he gives it a thumbs up