Posts Tagged ‘thankful’

20th October
written by Michelle


I was talking to my Gerber on the phone tonight because he’s gone working for the week with a team from Canada. He asked, “Are you excited about your birthday?”

I am, I replied.

I could hear him smiling through the phone.

I know he loves me dearly, be he doesn’t totally understand why birthdays are a big deal to me. And that’s ok. If I have learned anything in my marriage, it’s not about convincing the other person to be like you, it’s about accepting the other person as they are. And he accepts me. Birthday hoopla and all. 

I will be 32 tomorrow. And although I love kind words and little gifts and free things, the truth is I like those things any day of the year. But what makes a birthday significant for me is that it’s a marker. A reference point if you will. I can clearly think back and remember where I was or what season of life I was in for each birthday.

5 years ago I was in Santa Barbara. I sat at one of my favorite restaurants and shared a hamburger and beer with two of my best friends. I cried tears of disappointment. Instead of pretending everything was fine, I learned that maybe that was an ok place to be. 

4 years ago I wrote a vague blog post about surprises and someone special. I had moved to Guatemala and we were newly dating. He surprised me with chocolate and white twinkle lights and dinner out and then, FIREWORKS. Like real live fireworks. 

3 years ago we were engaged and trying to plan a wedding and a honeymoon and get birth certificates notarized and somewhere in the mix I got sick. I spent my birthday curled up on the couch with a fever. Gerber refilled my water bottle and rubbed my feet.

2 years ago I turned 30 and I wrote about What I learned in my 20s. I remember this birthday well because it was also the day I found out we were pregnant. I celebrated my birthday and the new little life inside of me. I carried around our little secret for almost 3 months before we told people my family at Christmas time.

Last year at this time, we had a 4 month old who would only sleep while being carried. I wrote this post and remember that I carried her in the ergo alllll the time. Those were rough months. Gerber bought me an hour message at my favorite salon. He dropped me off and then drove around town for an hour with Elena in the carseat, trying to get her to nap with a bottle and the vibration of the car. He picked me up and we went to Hector’s for dinner with Elena. I bounced her in the ergo throughout the whole dinner and we took this picture. We look like tired, happy new parents. Which we were.

And then this year, 2014. The house is quiet, except for the buzzing of the baby monitor. Elena is sleeping upstairs, by herself. I have a cup of tea at my side and my flannel wrapped around me because the cement walls always make me feel cold at night. Tomorrow is my birthday. And in many ways it’s an ordinary day. I am going to breakfast with a sweet friend and I’m looking forward to sweet messages and texts from family and dear ones far away. They’ll be emails to respond to, diapers to change and probably a stop by the grocery store. Gerber will call in the evening. And I’ll be one year older.

And you know what? I couldn’t be more excited. Or maybe thankful is the better word. There is something about getting older or maybe it’s watching a little one grow and change that makes me thankful. Thankful in new ways for life, for health and for another year.

I think getting older makes you realize just how fragile and precious life is. One thing I love about Guatemalans, is that most people inherently view life a gift, not as a right. Sadly, when you live in a country with increased violence and lack of adequate medical care, it means everyone knows someone who has lost their life too soon. If you ever have the chance to hear a Guatemalan pray, almost always before they get to the amen, they will give “gracias a Dios por darnos otra dia aca.” 

I like that. I am not sure often I have actually thanked God for giving me another day of life.

But on my 32nd birthday. It seems appropriate. I am grateful for life. For mine, and for my family’s and for my sweet little girl’s and  husband’s my and good friends’. These lives make my life richer. And that is worth celebrating.

16th March
written by Michelle

Photo on 3-16-13 at 2.37 PM

Oh, Saturday

these days feel suddenly like they are worth gold,

knowing they will soon be


or at least different.

they will probably not involve

sleeping in until 9,

and staying buried in the covers for another hour

with a book.


enjoying spoonfuls of yogurt

with freshly cut-up fruit

for breakfast

Having an entire afternoon free

no plans.

no where to be.

no one who needs me.

Sitting in the sun,

on the grass

sipping iced tea

listening to this.

This is Saturday.

Spontaneous afternoon walks in Antigua

with my love

stopping for ice cream

without carrying…

a diaper bag,

a burp cloth,


Grocery shopping

or maybe

Chinese take-out.

No schedule.

just me and him.

It’s easy, flexible and




Saturdays will look


So I will

soak up,




and treasure.

But I’m ready

to welcome









{self-portrait: taken outside, sitting on the grass, feeling much better and so happy for Saturday}

12th March
written by Michelle


I’ve spent the past three days battling this horrible cold. Today I finally made it from the bed to the couch- big improvements I tell you. But the whole time I kept thinking, How do mom’s do it when the baby is outside the womb? I mean the only decent thing I have done for anyone else the past two days is feed the dog and that doesn’t take much energy or thought. He’s not picky. I did not have to hold or rock a baby, patiently nurse or change yet another dirty diaper. To be honest the idea frightens me, how do sick mom’s take care of themselves and a little one or two?

I mean mom’s can’t call in sick.

I have been extremely thankful that my work is flexible and supportive. I can do emails and coordinating from home and my husband can take over translating and driving and night-time debriefs in a moment’s notice. Those are the benefits of job sharing (don’t worry there are countless other challenges, but I won’t go into them today). He makes me a smoothie before leaving the house and brings home soup for dinner. The dear woman who cleans our house made me the best homemade mint, ginger, cinnamon tea this morning. I’m convinced she’s  like Guatemalan’s version of Martha Stewart. And I’ve had some good friends who have shared their cold fighting home-remedies. My midwife was a phone call way when my fever was up to 100.7 and I tend to appreciate her calm response. “don’t worry your body will protect the baby at all cost. Just may take you longer to get better.” And the little girl inside of me hasn’t seemed to mind so much lying still for 3 days. She’s kicking and flipping as much as ever… and I love it. Every little tap and movement, somehow reassures me and makes me pause to listen to her, to wonder what she’ll be like and pray for her. It’s really the only form of communication we have right now, so I’ll take it.

Somehow bring sick and being forced to rest has also made me realize something. I can’t keep doing everything the way I was doing it and be a healthy mom. I’m sure all moms-to-be discover this ah-ha moment at different points. Probably some at the 1st trimester when your morning sickness turns to night sickness and you have to cancel plans and change schedules, or maybe for some moms at 30 weeks when you have gestational diabetes and sciatic nerve pain you are forced to slow down and put your feet up, and maybe for others it hits you on night 5 of the 2-hour sleep cycle. I don’t think there is any need to compare. For me, it’s been this week. Week 25. For the past 5 months I really haven’t had to change that much in my routine. A few more naps at the beginning and a few more calories in recent weeks, but that’s it. I’ve continued working full time, and walking with friends, making time for yoga class or a visit to the gym. I’ve been making meals and going to the market. Granted because it’s harder to carry large boxes of stuff I have gifted myself my own pregnancy spot right outside the grocery store…yep, on the red-line with my blinkers flashing. It’s totally illegal, and totally working for now. I’ve been up at night reading and browsing the internet, working on some articles and writing projects, but probably not getting as much sleep as I should be. And these few days I’ve realized something probably needs to change.

I want to enjoy these last 15 weeks of pregnancy and I want to be healthy, but I know that means making some changes. Saying no. Asking for help.

I guess mom’s really can’t call in sick, but I do think we need to learn to call for help. The closer I get to motherhood the more I realize how important it is to have girlfriends, other moms, family, babysitters and a spouse who I can ask for help.

I don’t think motherhood was meant to be done alone. I am thankful for sick days when I am reminded that it can’t be.


photo credit: digital journal (I wish my profile was that cute)  :)



11th February
written by Michelle
Left: 4 week picture taken on my birthday          Right: 20 week picture taken a few days ago
{ I sent the one on the right to my mom to say thanks for my new LuLu birthday outfit, little did she know I was 4 weeks pregnant. Now at 20 weeks I would wear this shirt every day if I could }

We’re at the half-way point and there is definitely a growing, kicking, little life inside of me.  For those of you who are following the life of Baby P and his/her mama (that’s me) here are:

10 Things I Didn’t Expect While Being Pregnant


1. How much I would really enjoy being pregnant.
I’ve always wanted to be mom, but I never really thought much about being pregnant. In fact, I used to imagine making up fun games and science experiments to teach my kids and enlisting their help in the kitchen. Whenever I imagined having kids I always pictured them about 7 or 8. (all of you with 7 and 8 year olds, just let me keep holding onto my idealist picture of child rearing :) I imagined having conversations with my kids and going on hikes together, but somehow imagining the baby years escaped me. Maybe because I spent a lot of time around babies and toddlers and I knew how much work they take, and underneath their baby soft skin, and adorable smile is a little creature who depends on you for everything and doesn’t understand, I’m sorry, sweetie can you wait 5 min while mommy goes to the bathroom?  I’m obviously not in the baby quite stage yet, but I have so enjoyed being pregnant. Watching my belly grow, feeling little kicks against my stomach and praying for this life inside has been better than anything I could have imagined.


2. How for weeks I couldn’t tell the difference between gas bubbles and the baby kicking.
The first time I actually felt him/her kick was in yoga class at about 19 weeks. As I was relaxing in child’s pose I felt the slightest little tap, tap- like someone poking at me from the inside. I imagine the baby saying oh, I like this or hey, mom stop squishing me…probably the latter. Since then I often sit still with my hands on my belly to just feel his/her little movements. I’m convinced that the baby also has an affinity for top 40 tunes- which will make your aunts so proud- because every time we’re at the gym or cleaning the house he/she also starts kicking.
(You didn’t know I listened to top 40, huh? Well let me tell you it makes doing dishes and cleaning the house so much more fun. Next time you have a sink full of dishes or a floor to mop try playing some Gangnam style or Kelly Clarkson or a little Usher. Warning your baby may kick, too.)


3. That Google has become my first go-to source for all questions.
yeah, yeah…I know it’s probably better to email my midwife or ask a dr or a good friend, but sometimes I just want to see what Google says. Here is what I have googled so far: “pregnancy chai tea” “pregnancy bikini wax” “pregnancy iron rich foods” “pregnancy and sex” “pregnancy curly hair” “pregnancy varicose veins” “pregnancy coconut oil” and just this past week “the belly bandit.” As you can see these are very serious topics and questions. Thankfully google has not let me down.


4. How being pregnant is such a great conversation starter with strangers.
I like meeting new people and don’t mind at all when a conversation starts with “So, when are you due?” I find that even across cultural lines and language all women have something to say about being a mom or an aunt or a grandma. And for some reason I don’t even mind when they reach out and touch my belly.


5. How I could love someone who I’ve never even met.
I don’t know how, but I already love this little baby so much. We both do. It’s kind of miraculous really. The whole thing…how a little piece of me and a little piece of Gerber and a whole lot of God make this growing, living, kicking, now blinking and thumb sucking thing inside. We often will talk to the baby at night and as I rub my belly I whisper, te amamos mucho. We love you a lot!


6. How excited G was the moment he felt the baby kick for the first time.
usually our conversation would go something like this
m: ooh, the baby’s kicking…come here!
g: {resting his hand on my belly} I don’t feel anything.
m: I think it stopped.
g: {disappointed}
Of course baby’s don’t kick on demand. But the other night Gerber had his hands resting on my belly and he felt it! I don’t think I have ever seen him smile so big!


7. How extra kind people are because you’re pregnant.
Seriously, I don’t know how it is in the states…but here someone carries my grocery to the car when I ask for help, I get escorted to the front of the bank to the pregnant/with children/elderly line and people in general just seem extra patient. Now, my hope is that those same people are extra patient when I have a screaming, agitated little one strapped to my body and am taking like 30 minutes just to get them into the car-seat.


8. How there is really so little I can do for my baby.
Maybe this is part of being a mom….I mean, I can eat well and take my vitamins and try to get rest, but there is this humbling point where I’ve had to realize I cannot protect you little one from a car accident or from some explosion or a horrible earthquake. Of course, these thoughts enter my mind and when they do I say little prayer.


9. How generous people have been by sharing baby carriers and outgrown clothes and helpful pieces of advice.
We are having the baby here in Guatemala and although there may be lots of things I’d like to have from the good U S of A, we’re going to get by with less. But people both in the states and here have been so kind. Giving us used baby carriers, and newborn clothes. A friend from the states packaged up blankets and baby toys and a nursing cover and sent it down. Another friend who came on a team brought us a baby first aid kit with all those things you need but don’t think about buying. We have felt blessed and encouraged and dear Baby P, you should know how many people love you!


10. How relatively un-stressed I am.
This is so uncharacteristic for me. Any big life change, or really any change at all, usually involves lots of lists and some tears and a whole lot of stress. But for some reason the anticipation and actual pregnancy has been joyful and easy and well, really exciting. When I think back about the past few years and some of the big life changes I am reminded how transitions have often brought me stress. Moving, job changes, dating, even planning a wedding and figuring out marriage were all good, but filled with ups and downs. Almost like a roller coaster, where every so often you want off because it’s just too much. You get a little too scared, too overwhelmed, and too worried that you just cant do it right. Maybe this is what I’ll feel with a newborn. But some part of being pregnant has brought this peace. This odd feeling like this is what my body was made for. And for the moment that feeling has graciously consumed any stress…and I kind of hope it stays that way.
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?
14th October
written by Michelle

A week from today I will 30. And I couldn’t be more excited. For so long the idea of thirty sounded, well… old.  So grown-up if you know what I mean. But I don’t feel old or really grown-up. I feel healthy and strong and content. For the first time in years I am thankful for who I am, how I look and where I am in life.

My twenties were characterized by questions, moving and lots of change. Internally and externally. If you’re in your 20’s- hold on. I don’t think it always feels so unknown, so turbulent, so exciting, and confusing all at once. I’ve spent a lot of time this past month thinking about my twenties.

In no particular order, here is what I’ve learned:





  • And that break-ups suck. no way around it.


  • Some point after college I learned to view food as a source of nourishment and pleasure, not something to be counted and kept track of.


  • Know how you like your eggs* (Figure out what YOU love, before you find the Love of your Life.)


  • How to have an adult relationship with my parents. This is an ongoing process for me and probably for them.



  • I’ve learned to be thankful for what my body can do, not what my measurement are.


  • Counseling is worth the investment. Seriously. Counseling has helped me know myself better and learn how to ask for help. I would easily spend an hour with a physical therapist to become physically healthy, so why not spend an hour with a counselor to become emotionally healthy? One of the best decisions of my twenties. hands down.


  • Be the kind of friend you want to have.


  • Ladies, HEIGHT is not everything. It took me 27 years to realize this.  Stop waiting for some dreamy, Mr. 6’5 to walk by. You could miss out on the LOVE of your life. Give the short men a chance : )


  • What it means to be surrounded by people and yet feel alone.


  • Be able to laugh at yourself. One day I’ll write about how I ended up in the ER with a broken nose, on a “first” date.


  • Invite the new person. If you see someone by them-self at church or a birthday party or in the corner at an awkward work function, invite them to sit by you or come join your table. Because if you’ve ever moved or been the “new-girl” you know how much you appreciate those people.



  • “Everything happens for a reason” is a load of crap. I’m sorry, but at some point in my twenties I realized there are a number of things that I had heard about or had witnessed and there is no good reason or explanation. Best perspective on pain and loss is Rob Bell’s here


  • I’ve learned the world is a better place if we just give people the benefit of the doubt. Oh, that man who just flipped you off on the free-way, you ask? Don’t worry he just had a bad day. It’s not personal.





  • If he doesn’t call, and doesn’t respond to your text…Then he is probably not that into you. I am not the exception, I am the rule.** Repeat.


  • Feeling lonely is a universal emotion. Somehow I never knew this. I was shocked in college when I learned that married women feel lonely. And when a friend who is a mom of three told me she sometimes feels lonely, too I was floored. I thought only single people felt lonely. I was wrong.


  • Jesus is not a white middle-class American.


  • Loving someone doesn’t mean making them more like you.




  • Having roommates is one of the best preparations for marriage.


  • Pay attention to the kinds of questions people ask you or the kinds of things they invite you to, these are probably the things they want to you do for them.


  • You don’t have to change the world or be anyone extraordinary. Sometimes I think the most radical thing I can do is acknowledge the stranger on the street,  pay attention to the men who pick up my trash and leave my husband a smoothie in the fridge without expecting anything in return. Those ordinary things become extraordinary.


What do you remember learning in your 20s? or What was the best part of your 30s? Do share.


*Run Away Bride…in case you missed it.

** He’s Just Not That Into You (wished I had seen this when I was 21, not 27. )

9th September
written by Michelle

Perhaps the best part of a vacation is who you choose to spend it with. And I just got to spend a week away with one of my favorite people at one of my favorite places. In 2007 I experienced Lago Atitlan for the first time, and I said a little prayer that one day I’d get to take my future husband there. Fast forward 5 years later; and now I’m living about just 2 hours from that lake with a man from the country I fell in love with 5 years previously.

Since being married we’ve taken a few day trips, then I went to a writing conference and he to a water filter conference, but we have not taken any kind of real vacation. Since September and October tend to be our slower season for hosting groups from the states, we seized the opportunity.

We packed up our backpacks, strapped on our helmets and I left any sense of fashion at home because G convinced me to wear his motorcycle jacket. I objected for all of 3 seconds until he muttered something like…safety, padding, and protection.  My mom would be pleased. I have come to enjoy riding the motorcycle and we have developed a series of hand signals to communicate while riding, things like, “You, ok?”, “Look at that,” “I love you” and the all important,  “Bathroom break.”

And riding a motorcycle has taught me the art of packing less clothes and only bringing two pairs of shoes. My dad tried to train us girls on every family vacation. He always told us, “You can only bring what you can carry.” Luckily, I was a pretty strong 10 year-old girl so I learned to carry A LOT. However, Gerber’s rule: we each get one small backpack. Thankfully, my man is pretty low maintenance so I got to use 3/4 of the space in both backpacks. Yes, he gets major good husband points for being willing to carry my crap.

Thanks to a very generous friend, with an incredible lakeside property this was our home for the week. It’s the perfect combination of cozy, rustic and romantic. Most walls are made of windows which means you can see the lake and volcano from literally every point in the house. You can wash dishes, read in a hammock, wake up in the morning, and take a shower all without compromising the view.  The bottom right photo is the view from the bed pictured to the left. I have never been so happy to wake up.

We made and ate most meals right here on the patio. I mean if you saw the view and the garden you would as well. Breakfast was fresh yogurt and granola with papaya, piña and sandia, oh, and coffee. I have converted from my former tea-ways to be come a full-fledged coffee drinker. Dinners were pasta with spinach and artichokes or tomatoes and cheese. Simple, delicious and goes good with a glass of wine. A few nights dinner consisted of homemade chocolate chips cookies while we watched a movie.  Hey, it was vacation, now : )

I recently read something that said, every couple should have an outside game and an inside game. We have lots of outside “games” that we do together, but nothing really for the inside game. Gerber, was shocked to learn that I didn’t know how to play Checkers, or Damas, as it’s called in Spanish. Yes, truth be told somehow in my southern California upbringing I’m not sure how I missed this.  So with the lake as our backdrop, and candles on the table I had my first lesson. I was Paperclips and he was Rolled-up-pieces-of-napkin. It was perfect, except I lost every game. But the good news is I think we found our inside game. Just need to buy a real Checkers board, now.

I think one of the challenges of vacation-ing with someone else is when you have different vacation-ing styles. Anyone who has vacationed with a person who has a different vacation style knows just what I mean? Thankfully, we both like the same kinds of places- outdoorsey, simple, close to nature, but within walking distance of cities and towns.  However, I have a pretty high tolerance  (read: enjoy) for sitting and reading and only getting up to change locations based on the direction of sun. G on the other hand needs to physically DO something. He’s active, adventurous and gets restless if I suggest we sit and read for longer than 20 minutes. So we learned to do some things on our own.

He explored the town, kayaked for a few hours and rode his motorcycle. I did some of those things, but I spent a fair amount of time rotating between the dock and a hammock upstairs where I finished a book on my Kindle and read a Vegetarian Cookbook that was in the kitchen from cover to cover. Did I mention I think this house has the best library in all of San Marcos? There were 3 different bookshelves full of titles from the NY Times Best Seller list, some old classics, and some obscure titles. I copied down quite a few to add to my, “Books to Read” List.

One morning we took a 2 hours hike up along the cliffs over looking the lake, wound around through some corn fields, crossed a few streams and ended up with lunch at this gorgeous hotel. I often am reminded in Guatemala what a luxury it is to “take a hike” for pleasure. We chose to explore and walk and climb this trail, but the truth is many local men and women do it daily for their livelihood, not for pleasure. They harvest their corn and look for firewood on the same trail we took for fun. I am reminded that things like exercising and hiking are really a privilege, not a necessity or a right. It’s easy to confuse those things.

These are a few of my favorites because the capture the peacefulness, fun and love I think we felt that week. Not just for each other, but for the opportunity to get away, and to appreciate the beauty of people and a part of the country that we have both been to numerous times separately, but never together.

Perhaps the best sign of a good vacation, is when you are eager and ready to get back home. I will always love weekend trips and vacation get-aways, but there is something so good about coming home to ordinary days, simple routines and meaningful work.

Here’s to Lago Atitlan, my husband and many years ahead of coming home from vacations.

* * *

P.S. If you are seriously interested in coming to Guatemala or renting this lakeside house email me at [email protected] and I can send you the vrbo web-address. It would be the perfect house for family vacation, a group of friends or just a couple. The house sleeps 6-8 and there is a tree house and little cabana that are also for rent. It’s about a 10 min walk to San Marcos La Laguna and a 2 hour drive from Antigua.

Do you know your vacation-style? Is it compatible with your family or spouse?


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12th August
written by Michelle

I have fond memories of watching the Olympics ever since I was a 9-year-old sitting on the edge of the couch, staying up way past my bedtime to see if Kim Zmeskal and Shannon Miller would win a medal at the 92′ Barcelona games. Twenty years later I sat on the edge of my couch watching the Olympics once again, but this time I am in Guatemala. And I watched the Olympics on a Latin American station, with no Ryan Seacrest, with no nightly medal count and maybe most refreshingly, with Spanish commentators who had more positive things to say than negative.

•   •   •

I have heard it said that it takes about two years to really adjust and begin to understand a new culture, and that it takes even more time to fully analyze and understand your own culture. Sometimes it’s hard to see and understand the cultural values that are deeply embedded in us because we don’t know anything different.

But now I do. I am beginning to see and know a different way of life. A new country. A different understanding of cultural expectations and values that makes me also question and re-look at what my own country has taught me. And it has never been more apparent to me than as I watched the Olympics. The US sent 530 Olympic athletes to the games in London- 530 athletes who come from top training programs, expert coaches and entire lifestyles and training camps focused on making them the best. Success is measured by how many golds we earn and we keep track to make sure our medal count is ahead of China. We like athletes who win and also who happen to look good while winning.

Now compare that to Guatemala. If the US is the Olympic Goliath, than Guatemala is the David.

Guatemala is about the size of Tennessee and has roughly 14 million people. We sent 19 athletes to the games in London. One of the local papers here celebrated these 19 before they even boarded the plane to London. Because in Guatemala just to make it to the Olympics is a huge honor. Many athletes spend their weeks working full-time and training. There are no such things as sponsors or a national Olympic training center. To be an Olympic athlete is seen as nothing less than a privilege. Don’t get me wrong every athlete at the Olympic level has worked extremely hard and deserves the right to represent their country and compete, but the attitude and expectation is different in Guatemala. Let me show you:


1) The Olympic Coverage: In the states Olympic coverage tends to only show the top three contenders or super-powers, which since the US is always in the top three for nearly every sport, there’s no problem. Since gymnastics was been my favorite sport growing up I used to think the only gymnasts competing came from the US, Russia, Romania or China. That’s all the broadcasts showed. This year however on my local channel 13, when I watched the night of the Olympic Gymnastics qualifying round I saw gymnasts from Basil, Italy, Greece, Venezuela, Switzerland, Guatemala and of course, the US, China and Russia.


2) Matter of Perspective: I was particularity struck at how Victoria Komova, the Russian gymnast who “lost” the gold medal to Gabby Douglass in the Women’s All-Around Gymnastic event, was crying after she saw the score. Her head hung low, buried in her knees as she sat on the chairs because she “lost” the coveted gold medal and only got the silver. She was disappointed, and maybe rightfully so for being so close. But, now meet Ana Sofia Gomez Porras, Guatemala’s only Olympic Gymnast since the 1992 games. The 16-year-old performed solid qualifying day routines and was excited and honored to get a chance to compete in the Women’s All Around finals. Before she even competed the media here was ecstatic. She finished in 22nd place out of 24 gymnasts. In the US you would have heard the commentators say something along the lines of, ” and 2nd to last is Ana Sofia from Guatemala.” But not here.  Do you know how they announced it here in Guatemala? “Ana Sofia is the 22nd best gymnast in the world!” 22nd best. Not 2nd to last. Maybe just a matter of perspective, right?


3) Erik Barrondo: You probabaly haven’t heard this name, unless you follow race-walking (yes, it’s an Olympic sport) or Guatemalan Olympians. Erick is a 21-year old Guatemalan Olympian who was born in a poor, indigenous village near San Christobal Verapaz, about 5 hours away from Guatemala city. Erick started out training as a middle distance runner, but due to an injury his coach encouraged him to try race walking.


This is a picture of him in front of his home after he won a gold medal at the Pan America Games last year. Before he left for London he bought his parents a TV so they could watch him compete.


And last Saturday he competed in the 20k race-walk and won the silver medal. Let me clarify…

He won Guatemala’s FIRST Olympic medal EVER.

You can imagine what it felt like to be in a country where they had never watched one of their own athletes on the podium. Gerber and I watched from a local coffee shop last Saturday morning as Guatemalans cheered and screamed as Erick crossed the finish line. He stood on the podium, next to two men from China, and received his silver medal with a humble pride. You can read more of his inspirational story here or watch this:


Erik told a reporter after he won:

“I feel like this is the biggest privilege life has granted me…to win the first Olympic medal for Guatemala. It’s a country that has suffered much, but it also has dreamed much.”

•   •   •


It makes me wonder if that gratefulness wears off in the US because, for better or worse, because we are used to winning gold. Can there be too much of a good thing?


I value my country’s effort to create a land of opportunities and unlimited access to things that most people in the world could never imagine having. But I sometimes mourn the fact that we become greedy and focused on winning for the sake of numbers, for a score. It seems that we easily forget the individuals and the honor that it is to simply compete in the Olympics. We forget to give thanks and acknowledge what a privilege it is to represent one’s country, even if there were no endorsement offers, no parades, no promises of fame and glory.


I like that the attitude deeply embedded in Guatemala is different. Nothing is taken for granted. Gratefulness is the only expectation. Not gold medals.


6th May
written by Michelle

Carrie and I met online.  Really, she is proof that blog friends can become real friends.

We both were following this blog written by a women who knows what cross-cultural marriage and coming-going looks like. Carrie and I were each writing our own fiveminutefridays when one day I got a comment, asking if I lived in Guatemala?


From that comment on, we became friends.

We found out we both speak myers-briggs, enjoy coffee, and doing crafty DIY projects. When we met she was months away from marrying her husband-to-be and I was weeks away from getting engaged to mine.


And she gets what some people just can’t.

The beauty and challenge of doing life in a culture that is not your own.

The crazy, in-betweenness of feeling at home, but still being an outsider.

The wonderful complexity of navigating marriage not just between two people, but between two cultures.

I never understood until being married just how important it is to have other people in your life as a couple. The first thing I’d say to newly married couples is find some friends who will tell you your not alone, who will laugh at you when awkward things happen and will encourage you to keep going.

Today Carrie and Mardo celebrate their first year of marriage!

I am thankful for their honesty, their friendship and their example to how to live together.

 {It is an added bonus that they like The Office,  live music and having dinner together every Tuesday}


Felicidades a uds! Vamos a estar aqui para celebrar su segundo año!

{i think this is the secret to a happy marriage: sharing desserts like this }

What’s your advice for the 2nd year of marriage?

13th April
written by Michelle


“What if the only things you had today were what you gave thanks for yesterday?”

My friend Jen shared this quote with me last week because she and I both know it’s much easier to complain, than it is to give thanks. I am the kind of person who likes (and unfortunately is quite good at) pointing out the things that are not quite working. If you’re familiar with the Enneagram I am a classic One; The Reformer.

I like to make things better. I can walk into a room, a meeting or really, any situation and my immediate thought is, “Ok, how can I make this better?” Words like change, improve and fix are my manta, but I am finding that these words leave very little space for gratefulness and contentment.  When you’re often focused on what’s not working it’s easy to lose sight of what is.

What if instead of trying to make everything better, I started trying to be thankful for how things are?

• I want to be a person who gives thanks for my health and the ability to move and run free from aches and pains. •  I want to be a person who sees the opportunities I’ve had to travel, attend college, and own a car as a privilege that I have been given, not a right that I have earned. • I want to be a person who gives thanks that I have enough money to buy today’s meal and plenty to share tomorrow.  •  I want to be thankful for my country, but not abuse its power or support its’ abuse of others. •  I want to be grateful for running water in my house, a soft bed to lay my head and a roof that protects me from rain—luxuries that almost 2 million people in the world don’t have. • I don’t want to take for granted the fact that I can read a book or breathe in clean air or walk without fear in the street. • I am thankful that I have the freedom to choose what I want to do, who I want to marry and what I believe. • I want to be person who gives thanks for the small things; a hand to hold, a friend who knows me, a gorgeous sunset. • I want to learn how to have a thankful heart, even in hardship and loss. • I want to be a person that can be thankful for the what, even when I don’t understand the why.


So, I ask you dear reader: “What if the only things you had today were what you gave thanks for yesterday?”

What would you give thanks for?