Archive for November, 2012

25th November
written by Michelle


Last week G and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. And I would say it has taken us a good year to understand this simple math equation: 1 + 1 = 2

one of him + one of me = two. That’s TWO people.

You know Christian culture does this funny thing where we talk about and quote the verse at most weddings “and the two shall become one.” But we rarely talk about what does this really mean? Like in practical, day-to-day, life? Because last time I checked there were definitely TWO people who had opinions, TWO people who used dishes, and TWO people who wake up at different times.

So, I’m not sure if I buy this 1 + 1 = 1 stuff. Sometimes I wonder if we have oversimplified this concept and mistaken what it actually means.  Now, before you think I’ve gotten on some heretical bandwagon let me explain.

When we got married I believed that we would become one. You know, share one bank account, one home, one life. And we do most of these things happily, usually. But somehow I believed that being “one” also meant that everything would be “better together.”  I mean that is what Jack Johnson sings, right?

Dinner always together. Morning runs together. Working together. Cooking in the kitchen together. Waking up every morning together.

Imagine my surprise when I realized sometimes we’re not home at the same time for dinner. Or that He prefers to run in the afternoon. Working together brought more initial challenges then sweet, together moments and when our kitchen has only one itty-bitty counter space having two people in there is just plain frustrating.

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Usually Sunday mornings go something like this:

G wakes up. And wakes up hungry. I’d think he’d like it we had a fridge in the bedroom. He cuddles, tries to kiss me and coax me to get up. I moan, roll over, put a pillow over my eyes and fall back asleep. He gets OJ and goes to watch TV. His stomach still churning. 20 minutes later I mope around the house, hair a mess, barely verbal. He says, he’s ready to go. I say give me 10 minutes. I throw on some yoga clothes, hair in a pony tail, check email and apply mascara. He goes outside to wait by the bike. 20 minutes later we leave. He’s starving now and frustrated that I took so long. I’m hurt that he didn’t want to wait for me. I mean why is getting breakfast more important than waiting for me? {I’m not dramatic or anything.}

you can imagine, once we get to our favorite breakfast place neither one of us are in a good mood.

This routine has happened more times than I’d like to admit.

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I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed a year ago, actually on our honeymoon. I should give her proper credit for the 1 + 1 =2 idea. She and her then fiance are in the midst of a visa/marriage nightmare; living in limbo, waiting for word from the US Department of Homeland Security for clearance for her fiance. And in the process they are figuring out how to do life together. Somehow the story and the possible fear hit close to home, but it’s taken me a while to fully understand and figure out what does 1 + 1 = 2 look like for us.

It’s meant some letting go, and remembering who I am/was before I got married. And learning that loving and living with this man, does not in fact mean we have to do everything together.

This Sunday morning we did it well.

G got up early, kissed me good-morning, let the dog out and took his motorcycle to Antigua for breakfast. He got food and coffee all before I even opened my eyes.

I got to sleep in till 10. Yes, no shame in the fact that I love, LOVE sleeping in. I got to stay in my pajamas, drink my smoothie and peruse pinterest without having to hurry.

And you know what he came home happy and full. And I was rested and relaxed.

Maybe sometimes the best way to love someone else and take care of yourself is to create some space.

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I do in fact believe that something unique and special can happen in marriage. However, I’m not sure if it’s some supernatural oneness. For me the unity in marriage comes from wanting someone else’s best. Sometimes I feel most “together” when I know that I have put his needs above my own. And I think he would agree. Maybe what we’re learning is that “better together” can also means wanting someone else’s best whether or not you’re actually together.

And if his best means I don’t make him wait for me to go to breakfast, I don’t what can be more unifying than that.


If you’re married, have you and your spouse worked out a good way to give each other space? What things to do you do apart and what things together? Do you feel like the idea of 1 + 1 = 2 just makes more sense sometimes? Do share.


22nd November
written by Michelle

I have learned since living abroad that holidays just look different here. And instead of trying really hard to re-create what I am used to do, sometimes it’s just better to make new traditions here. I can get sad and nostalgic that no one says “Happy Thanksgiving” when I leave the store or I can chose to be thankful that I work for an organization that cares about the work we do and that we have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner.

Gerber and I are still trying to figure out our traditions as a married couple, but also as a bi-cultural, bilingual family that wants to celebrate and recognize where we both come from. Needless to say we are still figuring it out. But this afternoon while sitting in our car we decided to pray a simple thanksgiving prayer together. And I think it’s a tradition we can keep.

+   +   +

As we acknowledged the abundance of things we have to be grateful for, I felt particularly thankful for one thing.

The way Guatemala treats it’s foreigners, immigrants and visitors.

You see, I am an immigrant. I live in Guatemala, but I am not from here. I immigrated here. Now, immigrant has so many connotations in our country. But really…

So, I live in Guatemala as a foreigner and I feel constantly thankful that this country treats me better than my own country treats our immigrants and foreigners.
I have so little to complain about. I am allowed to drive, open a bank account, own land, and fly in and out of the country without fear of ever being questioned or deported. I know I can walk into any restaurant or store and be served and treated fairly. I have access to any doctor or dentist I desire because I can pay for it. I don’t know what it feels like to be denied service. I have never had any one accuse me of stealing. I can rent an apartment and landlords tend to trust me because of the color of my skin or the money in my pocketbook. Maybe both. Sure, I have felt frustrated when I saw a Guatemalan get charged Q80 leaving the doctor and I had to pay Q180. It wasn’t fair. You could call it reverse discrimination. But then I stop and I remember how many privileges I have here as a foreigner. And I choose to be thankful.

Now, I know there are lots of  economical, political and social reasons as to perhaps why Guatemala treats and accepts foreigners so well. A lot has to do with money and access and wealth. I know that. It’s not fair, but it just is.

This Thanksgiving I feel grateful that Guatemala has welcomed me and allowed me to make a home here. And I pray that immigrants and foreigners in our country would feel something similar one day.

May you be thankful for wherever you have made your home. Happy Thanksgiving!

+   +   +
P.S. Have you traveled or lived abroad? Do other countries treat immigrants/foreigners better than the US does? Why do you think that is?
20th November
written by Michelle

One year ago today. This happened.

Gerber, I would marry you again today and ever day.  Te amo!

9th November
written by Michelle

Five Minute Friday

It’s interesting to me that so many adults long for quiet, but yet we often yell at our kids or students to be quiet? Why is that? In Spanish teachers yell, hagan silencio! Literally means, make silence! And it works for a moment, but usually out of fear. It’s may be silent, but it’s not quiet.

Maybe because quiet can’t be forced. It just happens. And you have to drink it in like a breath of fresh air.

Like this afternoon, not far from me there are buses honking their horns, a few minutes ago I had three different people calling, while trying to finish up a skype call.

But then it snuck up rather quickly.

This November afternoon, there is a little quiet. I am looking out my window, the dog is curled up my feet, the screen door is open and I can hear the wind chimes from a neighbors patio. A few kids laugh and run through the street. But they’re not mine, so the sound is distant, far off and refreshing.

For me quiet is not necessarily synonymous with no noise, but more so, with stillness.

And this I think sometimes in the come-and-go of everyday life and and work, and errands, and the ringing and beeping of phone calls and texts messages, quiet comes in small batches. In still moments like this afternoon.

How do you define quiet in your life?

*it’s been awhile since I’ve linked up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the #FiveMinuteFriday Community. But in my effort to write every day this month, a 5-min prompt on a busy Friday afternoon was perfect. Plus she featured my and my friend, Carrie’s story today on her blog*

Check it out and link up next month! Happy Friday.



7th November
written by Michelle

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Wherever Wednesday post, but Gayle over at Texifornia is starting it back up and I decided to join. I realize that the longer I live in Guatemala the easier it is to forget what is unique or different about life here. The truth is my sense of what is “normal” has blurred over the past few years. I forget that in the states it’s not “normal” to see people hanging on the back of buses while it’s moving, or that it’s not “normal” for women to sell little bags of pre-cut fruit on street corners or that usually (and by usually I mean never) is it normal to see a family of 4 riding on one motorcycle together.

But this is Guatemala.

If you’ve ever lived in another country or spent significant time with people from a culture different from your own, you know that what is “normal” for you is not necessarily “normal” for anyone else.  Have you ever thought about how much our sense of “normal” is influenced by  what is familiar and frequent?

For example, I’ll use California because I know it well. In most parts of California has become “normal” to spent $100+ on a pair of designer jeans. And don’t worry, I’m including myself in this “normal.” The brand names are talked about, recognized, the subtle logo conveniently advertised on fellow friends’ rear ends. And boom. It becomes the new normal. It becomes so familiar and frequent that you now would not not but designer jeans, right?

Somehow being from this culture, but living outside of it allows me to look inside with a different lens. At myself, what I used to do, what I still want, and what I consider “normal.”

Here are some other examples:

-Spending $3 or more for a coffee drink

-Getting visibly frustrated when internet pages load too slowly

- Taking a Babymoon (I’ll be honest I love this idea for one day, but when did this become normal?)

- Spending more on home decorations, than giving to those in need

-When did it become normal for yoga pants to cost 70$? (yes, I’m talking about you lulu lemon)

- Being busy is a sign of being important

- Using books and authors as a way to talk about God and feel smart, instead of just living what I’ve learned.

These things all seems relatively “normal” to me. Maybe to you, too…right?

But, honestly, I don’t like that that these things are my “normal.”

Living in Guatemala and being married to a Guatemalan has challenged my faith, my way of living and what I understand as “normal.” I probably have more questions than answers and sometimes it just leaves me paralyzed, indecisive and over-analyzing…EVERYTHING.

This is what I’ve observed is “normal” for Guatemalans:

- Sharing food is important. Quantity usually matters more than quality.

- Greeting every single person when you come and when you leave. (Parents even make their little babies do this!)

- For as indirect as Guatemalans are about confrontation, they will ask “How much did that cost?” without any qualms (about a new car, a cellphone, a computer, a house…ANYTHING)

- A family may have a dirt floor and live in material poverty, but they will have a TV.  TV is important.

-Soccer can be played anywhere.

- Typically Guatemalan parents save their money in order to give their grown child a piece of land for a home, not a wedding.

- When natural disasters strike or just a day of “bad” weather people don’t complain and ask why?. They just accept it.

I have learned these things, but they are not yet my “normal.” However, I think when we engage intentionally and learn how other people live it challenges our own definition of “normal”

What is normal for you in your town or culture? How do you resist or accept it? Do share. Especially people who have lived cross-culturally : )

P.S. And link up next month with This is Wherever Wednesday!


5th November
written by Michelle

I may not live in the United States, but I believe that voting matters.

But I’ve been asking myself, does one vote really make a difference? Is it really worth registering online, downloading and printing out my ballot, signing it and then mailing it back to my home state of California before Tuesday November 7th?


Here’s why:

I believe voting is a privilege, not a right. And it’s a privilege that women in our country didn’t have until 1920! If it means a little extra “work” for me to honor and respect what women in the 1900s fought for then I’ll do it.

If you don’t take the time to be informed and vote, then you have absolutely no right to complain. I don’t think you ever like every politician in leadership, that’s a given. But in my opinion, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.

Eugene Cho said it best in a recent tweet:

“Politics is important to me because it involves policies and policies impact people. Last time I checked people are really important to God.”


You know I won’t tell you how to vote. But I do know that the policies that our government makes affect people- both locally and abroad. It’s easy to get lost behind ridiculously expensive campaign budgets and snarky comments. But the truth is how we vote and who we vote for ultimately affects people. And I agree with Eugene, people are really important to God.

And maybe, most importantly voting gives us a chance to voice an opinion and disagree with people in power and each other. Considering certain governments in our world, I think this is a gift. We will always have two sides (and maybe more) to every political campaign. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we need leaders who can be fiscally and socially conservative to help provide for the next generation, and we also need more liberal leaders who protect equality, the immigrant and the environment. Maybe what we really need are leaders who can learn to work together. And maybe that starts with us- the voters. If we can’t be civil, supportive or work together how can we expect out top politicians to do the same?

My family is a good example. I’m sure between the 6 of us we probably “cancel “out each others votes. We’re right down the middle: 3 of us lean toward the liberal side and another 3 of us vote republican through and through. But for the most part we all still get along. We come together for Holidays and sit at the table together. There may be some political banter and jokes, but for the most part we are civil even though our political perspectives differ greatly.

What would it look like if our nation did the same?

I’ve been following this group on twitter: ElectionDayCommunion. The idea is Christians from BOTH sides of the political spectrum come together and meet at the same table, the Lord’s table on Election Day. We acknowledge that we may cast a vote for the future leader of our country, but God wants us to remember that he is the leader of our lives.

I echo this prayer for tomorrow:


Prayer for the election

By Joanna Harader, author of the “Spacious Faith” blog

God of justice and compassion,
God of Republicans and Democrats and Independents, God of the poor and the 1% and the middle class,
in the heat of this election year
we pray for our nation, our churches, and ourselves.

In the midst of meanness and deception, may our words be kind and true.

In the midst of loud speeches and harsh accusations,

may we listen well and try to understand.

May those who follow Jesus do the work of Jesus– breaking down the dividing walls
speaking the truth in love
meeting together in the face of disagreements.

Holy, loving God, have mercy on your children.


(photo and prayer source:

2nd November
written by Michelle

If you follow the blogger and writer world you probably already know that November is National Novel Writing Month. And even though I may have slightly considered the idea, I don’t think I have a novel in me. But I do believe there is something important about committing to do something every day.

I’m like 5 years behind, but thanks to online library check-outs (yes, it even works internationally) I recently finished Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and loved how she talked about the simple discipline of choosing to do something every day:

If you do something every day, you tend to fall into a routine, and routine has a bad reputation. It’s true that novelty and challenge bring happiness, and that people who break their routines, try new things, and go new places are happier, but I think that some routine activities also bring happiness.

Since moving to Guatemala 2 1/2 years ago my sense of routine was one of the first big things I had to let go of. Here there is no ok, very little routine. And it’s true at first there was a deep sense of joy found in the freedom and novelty of not having the same routine every day, every week. But I know I work better when I can give myself some kind of routine, some kind of rhythm.

Last month this friend posted an instagram pic inviting people to participate in FatMumSlim’s October Photo Day. Looking for a little routine and something simple to do EVERY DAY. I did it. Plus, October may just be my favorite month :) So it seemed liked the perfect way to start. I was pretty good about doing it every day (given a 7 day stint without internet)

Now, November is here. School is out. We’re only hosting one group. No travel plans. And Guatemala does not have Black Friday Sales or really any kind of pre-holiday frenzy. So it seems like the perfect month to write. And to write every day.

So that’s what I’m committed to do.

Write every day.

A new blog/twitter friend wrote a great post about the difference between being a writer or a blogger. Or is there a difference? It’s a fascinating question for our generation and I’m sure one with a range of answers. I for one, feel like I can be both. A writer and a blogger. I was looking back at this post from 2010…where I said I wrote almost every day. Wow, I miss that.

So this month I am going to write. Every day. Something. Here on the blog. In my journal. I have a few articles sitting in my draft folder that need to be edited and sent off.  And I have stories swimming around my head. And a few other stories that are nothing more than quickly typed notes on my iphone. My hope is to begin to compile, organize and tell these stories this month.

Whenever I read Henry Nouwen’s quote about telling out stories I feel encouraged. He says,

“We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.”


So this month I’m telling my story. I’m writing every day.


Do you do something every day? If, so what? Does the simple routine bring you joy? Do share.


P.S. It’s not too late to join FatMumSlim for November’s #photoaday or National Novel Writing Month.

1st November
written by Michelle

Yesterday I had the chance to Guest post over at Sarah Quezada’a blog A Life with Subtitles.

Sarah is a blog-friend-turned-real-friend who writes about multicultural life with her Guatemalan husband and bi-cultural daughter. One of the things I love about the funny world of blogs is the opportunity to connect with people who I might not have otherwise ever meet. If you have ever doubted that you can form an online community and connections through blogs here’s your proof.

Thanks, Sarah for a chance to share part of my story with your readers.

Being White and Looking for a Brown Doll

Last month I was visiting the States and my sister-in-law asked if I could look for a soft, cuddly doll for her 9-month-old daughter, my niece. I googled “dolls for babies” and about eight different blond haired, blue eyed dolls popped up on my screen. But my niece is Guatemalan. She has milk chocolate skin and dark brown eyes and jet-black hair that barely fits into two little pigtails. I wanted to buy a doll that looked like her. I wanted to find a cute, brown doll, but I couldn’t find one.

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