Posts Tagged ‘Home’

16th April
written by Michelle


I was going through and organizing and deleting old photos on my computer the other night (anyone else ever do that?) and I realized it was exactly a year ago this week that we were moving.

I’ve written about it before. We moved twice last year. Granted it was just 2 blocks away while we did a remodel on our house. But, nonetheless it was a move. And moving while 8 months pregnant, and then moving back with a 3 month-old were probably equally tough in different ways and are both on my list of things-not-to-do-again.

But we did it. And for the past 6 months we have been making this place, this house, our home.

.  .  .

I read somewhere that our generation, the millennials, on average will move 10 times before the age of 30!? If I think back and count the number of houses, apartments and places I’ve lived just since graduating college it’s somewhere around 6 or 7. I think moving, whether it’s across town or across an ocean, challenges our sense of home.

Thanks to Edward Sharpe’s song I am so tempted to buy an etsy canvas with the words “home is wherever I am with you” scribbled in beautiful handwriting. The idea is both comforting and confusing. I mean I get the whole idea of feeling totally “at home” with a person. And I’ll admit when I was single I held onto this idea; that once I was married and doing life with my husband, I would feel at home whenever I was with him. It wouldn’t matter where we lived or where we went, I would be at home.

And there may be some truth to this, but for me a sense of home is deeper than just being with the people you love.

A sense of home is deeply rooted in a place. 

In a house and a community with streets and stories and people and purpose.

For me, a sense of home takes time. 

If you just moved give yourself grace. I think it takes awhile to feel at home somewhere new.

It grows slowly over months, maybe years.

It develops out of conversations and comfort and shared experiences.

It ebbs and flows, like the seasons.

Some days home feels like being in love, giddy with new things to explore and other days home feels frustrating and little things makes you furious, like noting being able to find parking at the Bodegona…again.

By home, I mean both a house and a city. 

Home is running into people you know around town and having a favorite coffee shop.

There’s a certain familiarity in being home. Like knowing which cupboard has the water glasses and where the extra toilet paper is kept.

When you’re home you see it all, the good, the bad and what needs fixing.

At home there is room to plan and dream and change. Because you’re staying long enough to do those things.

You see the mold growing in the corner above the kitchen and that crack in the counter.

You can sit on the lovely balcony with ivy growing around the railing and dream of the plants and and white lights that could be hung.

There is a certain “knowing” that comes when you live in a place for a long time. A knowing like how the weather will be in November or when high tide will come or when the jacaranda trees will bloom. No one tells you these things, you just know. Because you’re home.

There are certain rhythms that make home feel like home. Work to do, errands to run, dishes to wash, laundry to fold. There is dinner to be made, friends to visit, toys to put away and a couch to cuddle.

Sometimes in the fun and adventure of travel and suitcase living, these are the simple things I miss. Mundane and often the source of my complaining, they do make up a large part of home.

I love traveling, and I love traveling with Gerber and Elena. But when we travel we are visitors, explorers, just passing through.

But home, home is where you plant roots and stay.

Where you don’t need a map or GPS to navigate the streets.

There are a few places I still like to consider home, Santa Barbara being one. And where I grew up being another. But the truth is when I am there, although it feels familiar and comfortable, I am still a visitor. I come in and out for a set period of time.

When I am here I say, “Yeah, I’m going home in May to see my parents.” But when I am there, I say “Oh, I’m flying back home on Sunday.” It’s confusing, even to me. Maybe it’s what happens when you feel at home in more than one place.

When you move to a foreign country, I think your sense of “home” changes even more. It’s a weird feeling that the place you now call home, will always view you as an outsider.

But for now, my home is here. In Guatemala.

.  .  .

Last time my mom came came to visit she brought these hooks down for us. (well let’s be honest, for me. Because my husband would probably never pick out metallic letter-hooks from Anthropologie. But he likes the function and I like the fashion so they work :)

When you walk in our front door it’s one of the first things you see.

The letters:


And it’s a little reminder that this is my home. Our home. And I don’t plan on moving anytime soon.


What makes you feel most at home? How many times have you moved since college?


P.S. Even if I am not on the etsy canvas bandwagon yet, I really do like this song. Perfect for a Wednesday.

22nd December
written by Michelle

When you live far from family, hellos don’t come often enough and goodbyes are always hard.

I know so many of you get it. Whether its a a 4-hour drive or a 4-hour plane flight, there is just something that is lost in the day-to-day absence. And I feel it more now than I ever.

. . . 

I moved out of my parents house when I was 18 and although I had a hard time adjusting to college, I knew I never really wanted to move back. I spent most of my college and post-college years wanting independence and an identity different from my family. When I was single and living with friends in Santa Barbara going home for the holidays and family birthdays was filled with tension. On one hand it was familiar and comfortable, but at 27 I felt like a little kid going back to mom and dads. The more time I spent at home, the deeper my heart ached for my own family. I wanted a husband and kids; the people who would make me into a “we.” I wanted to feel like a grown up, instead of like an adult sitting at the kids table.

And now here I am with my own family. A husband who I love and a daughter who brings me more joy than I knew possible. I am a grown-up, if there is such a thing. And yet I have yearned for my family more in the past 6 months, than in the past 6 years. Is that normal?

I know my parents they have always taken good care of me, but I probably wasn’t always in a season of life where I was able to receive it. But things have changed. Somehow being a new mom makes me tender, and tired and vulnerable in ways I didn’t expect. And it also makes me need my family in new ways.

. . . 

My sisters have become aunts who want so desperately to be a part of Elena’s life. One flew down to Guatemala just to help us and spend time with Elena while Gerber was gone. And the other flew out to California the only weekend she had free to meet her niece and see us. And I bet my brother would do lunch dates with us every day if he could.

I have loved watching my parents become grandparents. They adore and love my little girl, they push pause on parts of their life just to be with her and sing to her and hold her. But maybe even more than how they love my daughter, it’s how they love me that makes me miss them.

My parents came to visit us in July and meet their granddaughter. And when they left I sat at my kitchen table in tears, my 6-week old baby in my arms. I flew to California in September for a 2-week visit and on the night they dropped us off at the airport I walked toward security, pushing the stroller, carrying Elena, and tears dripping down my face.

. . . 

And last Thursday was no different.

We said good-bye upstairs by the elevators. My mom held Elena, my dad hugged me and my sister kept biting her lip to keep from crying. I took a deep breath and tried to swallow my tears.

I felt like a kid who just wants to go home. And home is a hard place to define when it’s straddled between two countries.

One home is with my sweet husband and baby girl in a country whose language and culture is still new to me. And the other is in California, in the same house and on the same street where this little girl grew up. And somehow I want my little girl to feel at home in both places.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” -Miriam Adeney

13th September
written by Michelle


It’s Friday night. We have finally have internet at the new house (yay!), we ordered pizza for dinner and Elena is sleeping downstairs.

(two things I’m still getting used to: 1) her sleeping while not being carried! and 2) having a downstairs! -I’ve never lived in a house with stairs before.)

We moved last week and have been slowly making our house into a home. There are still boxes and piles in the corners, the carpenter was working on the kitchen cabinets and the closets today, and we have temporarily hung old sheets up as curtains because we don’t have curtain rods yet. We had some heavy rains and consequently a leaking roof so there were three gentlemen working at the house all week. But I know, slowly and surely it will all get done.

I’ve heard it said that if a couple can survive a home remodel together, then you can survive anything. And I think I get why. Over the past 6 months there have been a thousand little decisions; decisions about colors and windows and doors and costs. There have been a few arguments, and lots of compromises and conversations that end with “ok, well you decide because that’s not a big deal for me.” I had more opinions about design and style, Gerber about function and quality. We had a few non-negotiables: he really wanted a tall wall in front for privacy and security. I wanted a bath-tub. We both won. I learned to think in meters and centimeters and he learned to let me print off my Pinterst-inspired pictures to show to the architect time and time again.

Many times in the middle of a conversation while pointing to a certain picture, I’d look over at Gerber, mi amor, how do you say “handles” in spanish?


You know the little things to open or close a drawer or door.

Oh, jaladores.

Let’s just say my Spanish vocabulary now includes words like azulejo, jaladores and repisas.

I think in a home remodel, or in a marriage for that matter, it’s easy to let the little things become the big things. And those little things can start to take over. I can so easily forget that they are really just little things. The color of the tiles. A little thing. The outlet that doesn’t work. A little thing. The dirt and dust on the floor. A little thing.

But making a home and a life together. That’s a big thing.

And building or remodeling a house so that it is a place where we can raise a family and invite others over. That’s a big thing.

And my hope and prayer is that our home will be a place where we makes messes and memories.

Where we share what we have and find rest and refuge during long days.

A place where we are reminded daily what a privilege it is to have a roof over our heads and running water from the faucets.

A place where the people who enter are more important than the things inside.

Last Sunday, our first morning in the new house, we woke up a family of three. I was wearing the same clothes from the day before because I couldn’t find my pajamas. Elena still wrapped in her Swaddle blanket, snuggled in between us, her eyes wide awake and cooing. And my sweet, hard working, husband curled up to her left, with his arm draped above his head. My heart was full with gratitude.

It feels so good to be home. In our house.

Even with the boxes and messes and unfinished projects.

We are home and I love it. And an’t wait for you to see it!

*I will try to post some pictures once we’re a bit more settled. The Monica in me comes out and I get excited, almost giddy, to organize the kitchen cabinets and drawers. I want to label things and get baskets and hang clothes by color in the closet. And I could spent hours looking at decorations and etsy prints that I want to get. Right now this one is on my wishlist. Cute, huh?

27th June
written by Michelle

I never wanted to be one of those moms who fills your facebook and instrgram feeds with pics of our little girl.

However, I have a confession: I might just be one of those moms.

Motherhood has surprised me. I didn’t know it was possible to love a little person so deeply, so instantly and so profoundly.

We are adjusting to being a family of three, learning how to take care of each other in new ways. Little baby clippers and pink hats lay on the table, pillows once piled up on the bed often land on the floor and I’m pretty sure breast milk and spit up are on all of my clothes. But we’re making space and a home for our little one. We’re learning and going slow and being gracious. We have no schedule and little routine, expect for our daily sun time at 10am and 3pm. (10 minutes of little Vitamin D is good for mama and baby…and helps keep the jaundice at bay)

I’ve been learning to stay put, let my body heal, and let others fill in. Gerber has been husband and dad extraordinaire. It all started when he held our daughter for 6 straight hours after she was born, so I could sleep. And friends have come by to fill our fridge, clean our kitchen, hold our little one even when things aren’t put away and tidy.

Friends and family have brought us meals, stopped by with groceries and carried away our laundry. (yes, we’re doing newborn life without access to our washing machine and dryer #firstworldproblem, right? I tell myself a few months without one is better than having to carry laundry on my head, walk a mile to the local pila in order to wash clothes by hand.)

Now, the little person you’ve been waiting to meet:


Elena Gabriella Perez Acker

born on

Friday June 21st 8:35pm

7lbs 4oz 19 in long

She’ll be making an appearance on the blog, but I promise this won’t become a complete mom blog. Just maybe for the next few weeks.

Here are a few pics from our first week together. We are so in love with this little one.


{ first little manicure }

{ wat up?!? }

{ we have about 7 different types of baby carriers }

P.S. Next good nap she takes, I’ll write the birth story. Partly so I remember it and partly so I can share it with so many of you who I don’t get to tell it to in person.

28th January
written by Michelle

It has been so good to be back.

Back to grocery shopping, swerving for pot holes and waiting in line at the bank.

Back to saying buenos dias and buying fresh squeezed orange juice from the stand with the green umbrella.

Back to my messy desk and piles that make sense only to me. Back to a dog that likes to sleep as much as I do.

Back to sunny mornings, and church bells and fire crackers.

Our car needs new tiers, the house is dusty, and I feel a little behind on everything, but we are home.

And home feels so good.

I don’t exactly remember when Guatemala started to feel like home. I came here for the first time in 2007, and didn’t want to  leave. But it wasn’t really home quite yet. I visited in 2008 and 2009, and was tempted to move, but that seemed too crazy. What I do remember is for about a good two years while living in Santa Barbara I had this consistent, quiet heaviness that lived buried underneath layers of busyness and stress. I kept my schedule full and my heart just slightly disengaged. I thought I could be the best teacher, run an after-school program on the Westside, make it to the gym, meet with my small group, do some emails and cram in a quick dinner and get by.

But if you have ever tried to keep anything buried inside for too long than you know how this goes. Things buried inside eventually do come out, and often not in the prettiest way.  Mine came out through tears on Friday afternoons while sitting in my white Honda and then, eventually in a counselor’s office. I had to learn to listen to myself. And to stop being so damn, practical. My life looked great on paper and I was trying my hardest to convince myself that it was. But I’ve learned that a life that looks good on paper, may not necessarily be the life that I want.

I knew deep down I wanted a change. I needed a change. Something was missing from my life. And it scared me because I knew that in order to find it I would have to take a risk. To let go and leave.

And for me that risk was Guatemala. Maybe for you that risk is starting a grad school program, or making the first phone call, or being willing to move even when it makes sense to no one else. Risks are hard. Especially for pragmatic, controlling people like me. Risks don’t always make sense in the process, and maybe not always in retrospect either. I think that’s the nature of a risk.

It would be misleading not to mention that dating and marry Gerber was a huge part of this “something missing.” My longing for a partner and to be married for most of my twenties was obviously part of my journey, but it wasn’t everything. For years in Santa Barbara I had this ache to be settled, to feel at home. And for a reason I may never understand…this tall, white, California girl found it here, in Guatemala.

I guess 5 weeks away makes me appreciate it all the more.

Where do you feel most at home? Or with whom?


P.S And yes, I will get around to posting a few pictures from our travels- even though it is wonderful to be home, we did have a great time in the states!

2nd January
written by Michelle

I am so thankful to be drinking homemade coffee, eating homemade cinnamon rolls, sitting at my desk, surrounded by the pieces of life that make up a home. There are dishes in the sink, empty boxes on the floor and receipts scattered on the table. But…


i  am  h.o.m.e.


{and it feels so, so good}

After spending the past month living out of a backpack and the previous two months living in a swirl of graduations and good-byes and wedding planning and preparations, it feels wonderful to be settling into life. here. together.

We’re are learning how to make a home, figuring out new routines and ways of doing things. buying groceries. merging bank accounts. arguing about little things. agreeing on most of the big things. and re-discovering the fine art of compromising often and communicating well.

There will always be part of me that misses parts of life in California. I may never like the hellos and goodbyes that are inevitable when a country separates me from family and friends. And the transition of coming and going will probably always be hard. But the truth is I feel at home here.  I feel at home with him.

I think a house becomes a home when it is filled with gratitude and contentment. And I for one, feel very grateful and quite content. I believe this is where we’re going to build our home and our life. At least for now.

Here’s to 2012. And finding home. May your house be filled with gratitude and contentment in the year ahead.


P.S. I will post pictures of our new humble abode once we do a little cleaning : )

4th September
written by Michelle

I realize I’ve been absent from the blog world for awhile. Sometimes I think being absent from the blog world may mean I’m actually being more present with the real world. However, I do want to share what’s been happening…especially because there are so many people I miss connecting with. I know pictures and post don’t suffice for long distance friendships, but it’s a start.

So here’s quick update from the past month…


#1 Teaching: We have 5 more weeks (not like I’m counting) until the end of our school year here. I realize SO many of you just started back to school- and it’s still weird for me to be ending school in October. But I will miss my lovely girls from Proximos Pasos (the all girls school in Santa Maria de Jesus) and my mostly, charming students from Vida y Esperanza (the co-ed school in Santa Lucia)


#2 House Hunting: We spent August signing papers, meeting with lawyers, banks, and all those other important people you meet with when you buy a house! Yes, here it is…still a work in progress. We did some painting and cleaning before I moved in a few weeks ago… and it’s slowly starting to feel more homey. Just 10 minutes from Antigua (15 if I am driving : )


#3 Water, Coffee and Graduations: Gerber continues working in Parramos building water filters and working with families and local leaders to plan for what’s next. I have been enjoying some time with new friends and making time for coffee dates here. It’s funny how cultural the idea of a “coffee date” is— definitely not a Guatemalan norm. And many of Gerber’s dad’s students just graduated from Harvest Bible University. For many of them it was their first graduation ever! And we got to join them for the celebration.

#4 Birthday parties, Soccer and Wedding Planning: I’ve always wanted to be a tia and now I have five (soon-to-be) nieces and nephews thanks to Gerber’s wonderful family. Now none of them will probably call me tia, but that’s ok. I’ll accept la gringa. We celebrated one of his nieces birthday’s with a piñata, churasco (bbq) and firecrackers! Wedding planning is underway and so are lots of emails, skype calls and details. But we still make time for some fun- Gerber’s fun is any form of soccer and since I can’t play very well, we settle for foosball. My form of fun usually involves walking to the park with coffee or chocolate in hand, especially when someone else buys it for me : ) We’re thinking of having all three at the wedding: coffee, chocolate, and maybe foosball. why not?!?

(totally kidding about the foosball….although I bet a certain mr. someone might actually like that idea)

30th April
written by Michelle

Most days I wake up thankful, well, let’s be honest…most days I wake up, tired and groggy because I am not a morning person. But today I woke up, missing Santa Barbara.

I miss strolling though the Saturday farmers market. I miss the ocean breeze and running into people I know downtown. I miss Mesa Lane, the Good Cup, Panino sandwiches and sitting on grass. I miss going to the beach with friends and hearing my students call me Miss Acker. I miss trader joes and being able to buy pre-cut veggies and ready-to-eat chicken. I miss Santa Barbara sunsets and the purple hills behind. I miss people and places that can’t be packed in a suitcase. And I miss the smells and sounds that can’t be captured with a photo.

This is what they call homesick, right? I think it’s normal every now and then.

For anyone who has ever moved or packed up your life into two suitcases you know that you must leave something behind, in order to receive what’s to come. But sometimes, there’s a still a missing for what was left. Ingrid Michaelson’s song “Maybe” played on repeat in my car all last spring while I was packing up, storing away and saying good-byes. This line always struck me,


“oh, the only way to really know is to really let it go”

So, I let it go. I let a lot go. And some days, especially on Saturdays I miss it.

24th January
written by Michelle

Did I mention that I moved a few weeks ago? In between starting a new school year and coming back from the states I also moved to a new adorable, studio apartment on the other side of Antigua. My lease ended at my previous place and instead of paying for December and continuing my lease I decided a move to a new place with a little more outside space. So, voila.

The patio:

por el dia                                                                                                      por la noche

This is perhaps, my favorite feature of my new place. Saturday mornings sitting at the table, afternoons in the hammock and dinner with little white lights strung along the bushes. Awwww, I could live on the patio. My original idea of installing a pulley system with a tray table direct to the kitchen below so I could easily bring up a day’s supply of food and drinks was vetoed by someone who reminded me that would mean there must be someone else in the kitchen. Hmm. Good point. So, for now I climb the stairs balancing my book, journal, iced latte and computer in one hand so I can unlock the door with the other.

I still think a pulley system would be classic.

Other things I love:

The big, open kitchen space, with hanging rods for mugs, utensils and towels!

2 closets with ample storage and custom installed shelves by G.

Lots of natural light from 4 big windows.

A really comfy sofa (excellent for naps and movie watching)

Having friends and guests over.

Things I don’t love:

Not a single drawer in the WHOLE place. Not one. Makes for some creative decorating and storing. You don’t realize how much you can “hide” in a drawer until you don’t have them.

Fluctuating water pressure. Not sure why, but every evening around 10:30 I lose water pressure. And by lose it I mean, no water comes out. So this means showering and dish washing must be done before. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way a few times.


Overall, I am nothing, but thankful. Home is a good place to be. I am learning sometimes home is not a literal place, but a figurative one. Maybe home is where the heart is, even if you can’t remember which box you packed it in : )

photo credit: CurlyGirl Designs

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14th December
written by Michelle

I have a theory that there are two types of people in our world: people who thrive on change, and people who well, don’t. I am the latter. Change creates stress for me. Even seemingly good or exciting changes still creates this inner need to obsessively label boxes, organize and re-arrange cupboards and write seemingly unimportant things on post-its. This is how I cope with change. Or sometimes I just cry.

I think some people’s tears are hardwired to their anger or their empathy. However, mine are hardwired to change. Dear friends (and complete strangers) take note: I cry when there is change. And this past week there have been more than a few tears shed. I have been packing up my current apartment, so I can move into my new place in January. {insert: change} I’ve been trying to finish up work proposals and lessons here, before the new school year starts. {insert: more change} And at the same time I’m preparing to come home to visit. Two words that still feel like they don’t belong in the same sentence “home” and “visit.” {insert: Big change}


In·be·tween·ness: \in- bi-ˈtwēn\ n. is defined as the feeling or state of being pulled between two often-contrary things. (definition courteous of me) In the past 6 months I’ve had a lot of in-betweenness in my life. Sometimes I feel like I am swinging back and forth between two worlds. Two cultures. Two languages. Two different currencies. Two different ways of being. My cell phone language changes daily between English and Spanish, depending on who I am texting. My mind constantly converts dollars to quetzals and quetzals to dollars, depending on what I am purchasing. And sometimes my heart feels this pull between the here and there. Especially now as I head back to California, I feel the in-betweenness.

Here I am

I’m still figuring out this whole cross-cultural living thing. I am often reminded that I am not from here (Guatemala that is.) I will always be a little taller, a little whiter and little bit different. There are jokes I don’t get, and traditions and customs that I still don’t understand. But at the same time this is where I live right now and I am grateful and content. This feels like home, but now I am heading back to my other home. Back to California, where my family and sweet friends await me. Where I can smell the ocean and lie on the Mission lawn and consume all the wonderful conveniences that Trader Joe’s has to offer.

So I continue to swing. Back and forth, back and forth. In-between Guatemala and California. In between Spanish and English. In between where I am from and where I am going. Estoy aqui. So, I am here, somewhere in-between.