Posts Tagged ‘writing’

1st October
written by Michelle

IMG_8974.JPGFor the month of October I am joining thousands of others writers and bloggers and committing to write for 31 days. I haven’t written consistently for years. I compose drafts in my head and never write them. I start posts, only to save them for later, where they accumulate in my draft box like a stack of old photos. I am well aware that some seasons of the writing life are for soaking up, gathering ideas and paying attention. But sometimes there is wisdom in just starting, in putting words on the page, fingers to the keys and practicing the discipline of showing up every day and just doing it.

If you’re new here you may not yet know how much I like questions. I like questions that challenge me, like when Andy Stanley asked, “What does Love Require of me?.” I ask a lot questions about raising a bicultural and bilingual daughter like, “Will she feel more Guatemalan? or American?” I’ve written about what I learned in my 20’s and that being able to ask good questions and listen to how someone responds are of equally importance.

For the next31 days I am going to write 31 questions that I think all cross-cultures workers should ask themselves and those they work with. If you’re reading this and thinking, what on earth is a “cross-cultural worker?” I would say it is anyone who specifically devotes part of their life working with a group of people or culture different from the one they most closely identify with. That encompass expats, missionaries, non-profit leaders who live internationally, and locally. But I would also like to extend the definition to include educators, pastors, nurses, administrators, business owners and really anyone who has consistent interaction with people from a culture different from their own. Be it at the gym, in the classroom, around the board room, or in the living room. For me, the majority of my cross-cultural learning has taken place in Guatemala. And as a result, the majority of my writing will stem from my experience as a cross-cultural worker here, but I will also draw on experiences and questions from being a teacher, a wife and mom.

My hope is that the questions I will ask and discuss will apply across generational, socioeconomic and ethnic lines. My hope is that teachers, working with students from a minority (or majority) culture can also relate. And that youth pastors working with teenagers who are almost an entirely different culture altogether will also be able to relate. I hope that parents trying to connect to their kids, will be able to relate. I even think many of the questions also apply to marriages, because even when both spouses come from the same “culture” we all know that people have very unique family cultures.

Questions have the potential to help us get to know someone else better by first helping us know ourselves.

So, join me for the next 31 days to find out what are the 31 questions worth asking.

You can check back to this page and I will list the questions by day. Or you can sign-up on my blog under the “email option” in the righthand column so you get an email delivered to your inbox with each new post.

Look forward to writing and discussing this with all of you.

Here’s to 31 days,



Check back here for links to each day:

Day 1: Do you use person first language? 

Dat 2: How do you define poverty?

Day 3:

21st August
written by Michelle


My Dear Blog,

Hi, it’s been awhile. I mean I know I have written a few posts this past year about Not Hiding Elsa and letting Expectations Melt Away, but overall my posts have been rather sparse. Maybe once a month, maybe. I start drafts and don’t finish them. I stare at the white screen and type nothing. My daughter is sleeping better than ever before but I am writing less. I have been stuck. I analyze the words in my head before I write them. Which is the worst thing you can do as a writer. I know this. I have had so many things I have wanted to write important about: thoughts about being Pro-woman and why I whole heartedly support #Blacklivesmatters. I have wanted to write about race and privilege and my life in Guatemala where as a light-skinned foreigner I am often treated better than my dark-skinned husband who in his own country.

I have wanted to write about the gift of friendships recently and how I dream of writing a children’s book. I have wanted to tell you how wonderful my parents are and how they both came to visit this summer because they love being grandparents. I have wanted to write about how Elena is almost potty trained (!!!) but still nursing and once again I continue to let go of expectations about motherhood. I have wanted to write more about our bicultural marriage and how some days I still can’t believe that I have been living here for over 5 years. I have wanted to write about the prayer I say most nights at dinner and how I am learning to really listen to others,  but also to myself. I want to write about what I am hoping to teach my daughter about the art of awareness and the profound mystery of God and importance of rest.

I have wanted to write about random things like the my favorite birthday gifts for toddlers and how I have found the best natural deodorant that actually works! I forgot to write here about my piece that was published on Scary Mommy’s site. It was one the most fun posts to put together because it was full of reasons why traveling to Guatemala with kids is so great. I have wanted to write how my bilingual child is talking in both languages, correcting my spanish and teaching me new spanish words. It’s both amazing and kind of humblig. I have want to write the story about how we helped start a preschool in Coyolate and what I have learned about poverty and asking the right questions.

But here’s the thing I realized, I have been writing about all of those things. Just not here.

My dear blog, I hate to break it to you but I think you are being replaced by Instagram.

I don’t know exactly when and why it started. But for some reason the simplicity of the space made it easier. Less really is more. The tiny white box offers less distraction, less room for self-editing and analyzing my words and more room to just write. And that’s what I have been doing. With my two thumbs I can now tap out sentences faster on my iphone than on my computer. Ridiculous, right?! But I am writing. And I actually love it. I am sure my long posts are annoying to some, maybe indifferent to most, but for me they are a little place to create and reflect and share my heart.

I know dear blog, you are the better platform in the long run. You control funny things like SEO and keep track of clinks and views per month. You make it easy to search back and find a story or a post from last year. Friends can share a link easily from a blog, but not as much from Instagram. Instagram is like an album of your favorite pictures and some have notes scribbled on the back and some don’t. But you have to go back through and look at each one to find out. But in-between those squares on my screen I found my voice and offer you a glimpse into my life and my thoughts. It’s beautiful and lovely, but long-term not the best way to organize your words. I know this.

I am just not sure what to do about it. Maybe I’ll copy and paste some of my favorite posts over here? Maybe I’ll try to blog from my phone, take advantage of my stellar thump-tap. I am not sure.

Blog, don’t give up one me. This isn’t a break-up, just a break. I need a little time to think and disconnect and figure out why and what and where I want to write. Maybe you just need an updated look, like a fresh hair-cut and I need a few weeks off, you know to let my thumbs rest.

Dear blog, you keep such good track of my life and posts. You make it so easy to remember how last year around this same time we drove down to Nicaragua and spent a few weeks traveling around. Well, next week we’re going back to our favorite little beachside town where we will swim in the ocean, try to help Elena get over her aversion to sand and enjoy the pace of life where the biggest decision each day is which swimsuit to wear. I’m not bringing my computer and I am considering not bringing my phone (I know, gasp!) so you dear blog will just have to wait.

Don’t worry though, I’ll be back. Hopefully tan, relaxed and ready to keep writing more here.

Thanks for waiting,


P.S. In the mean time if you’re not on instagram you should be. There are hundreds of pictures filling up those squares and even more importantly to me perhaps, are words behind each picture. You can click here to see most of my #mysimplycomplicatedinstablogs

14th March
written by Michelle




Last December as we cruised down 101 freeway, enjoying the rare moment with Elena asleep in her car seat and one of not signing wheels-on-the-bus, I started talking. Gerber drove and started listening. A usual pattern we find ourselves in; the talker and the listener.

I want to write more, I began.  I have so many ideas about articles and books. But everything gets stuck in my head. I feel like there’s not enough time or there’s always other stuff to get done.

Blah, Blah. I have heard myself say versions of this same thing before. It’s been on shuffle, coming up in conversations for years.

We all know these are just excuses. But the feelings are real. Life in this season IS full. I write for work, a lot. I respond to questions and make schedules and draft project proposals. I write emails to dear friends who live far away and thumb tap Instagram novel length posts. Sometimes at the end of the day my words-for-writing tank is empty. I once went to a conference where one of my favorite writing teachers said the best thing you can do as a writer is use your first words for the most important thing.

. . .

We keep driving, as the freeway hugs the cliffs on one side and the ocean sparkles in the reflection out the window on the other.

He looks at me, “So, what do you need to write?”

His questions are simple, so direct. They take the hundreds of feelings and thoughts swimming around inside and get to the essence.

Space, I answer, thinking more about figurative space, like space during the day to set-aside for writing.  

We drive on in silence, both staring straight ahead.

I used to think oh, great. thaaaat conversation ended well, interrupting his silence for an ending. But a few years of marriage has taught me to respect the silence. Usually, it just means he’s thinking.

It’s not an ending, but an invitation to pause.

“What about if we divide the space in the office, so you can have a desk.”

It wasn’t really a question. More of a solution.

When we moved back into our newly remodeled house last year, I had the idea of using the kitchen as my work/writing space. We even got a special bar stool because I was convinced this is where I wanted to write, in the middle of cutting up grapes and making phone calls and picking up those ridiculous letter magnets that never seem to stay on the fridge. I imagined writing between life at the table and the high chair and the kitchen sink.

And I do spend a lot of time in between those places. And I enjoy most of them. But I cannot write there. I have tried.

I tried to set-up my laptop at the kitchen table, after the dishes were cleaned off and the dreaded high-chair tray wiped down and the baby in bed. I grabbed my tea and something sweet and aimlessly meandered through work emails and checking facebook and starting blog drafts. But there was no place to leave my post-it notes with scribbled down ideas or pin-up pictures and quotes for inspiration. There wasn’t any space for consistency.

The other thing that writing teacher said was, writers need to create a place to do their work.

She was right.

Physical space for me is deeply connected to figurative space. I needed an actual location, a desk, a work place to call my own, to take my writing and my time seriously. Of course there is nothing wrong with working from couches with babies nestled next you and kitchen tables and stolen moments in-between nap time and dinner time. That works, and for some seasons, that may be all you get. So dear writer, take it. Make it yours and write with whatever time and space you have.


But I was ready for a desk.

Last week, Gerber spent a Thursday night re-assembling the corner desk piece he had bought for himself. He separated it, installed an extra base and set up a work space for me, next to the window because he knows I love the sun. He made room. He gave me a physical space to write, and maybe equally significant the encouragement that he values what I want to do.  I sometimes think in marriage the most loving thing we can do is create space for your what matters most to your spouse.

So I am now typing this at my desk, my space.


I love how the afternoon sun bounces off one of my favorite pictures from our wedding. We are dancing. You can only see a small corner of Gerber’s mouth, but his eyes are smiling. My nose is scrunched because sometimes just looking at him brings me joy. Elena’s little face is framed in a gold rectangle that I bought for Q10 at a store called Buen Precio. She is my arms and about to laugh. Of course, I love it when she sleeps and takes extra long naps like she is right now, but my heart leaps when I see that girl smile. Probably, because she has her Daddy’s smile.

I am not one for lots of tradition. I didn’t do anything like something old, something new and something blue for my wedding. But I did kind of by accident for my desk. My favorite blue anthro candle sits in the corner. It smells like Santa Barbara at summer time. I don’t even light it that often, I just like to smell it.

I guess that is my something blue.

I have never been a fan of tequila, but one summer in Santa Barbara I went around to bars and asked if I could have their empty Patron bottles after they poured the last shot. Bartenders always were a bit surprised by my request, especially because I was in my gym clothes and never offered to buy any tequila. I explained that I thought they made lovely vases and I wanted to use them at my wedding one day. I collected eight empty Patron bottles that summer. And I did in fact bring them down to Guatemala for our wedding. They were set on tables and by the fountain, filled with white and yellow daisies and wisps of eucalyptus leaves. I never got them all back, but I did save one. And now that one mini-patron bottle sits on my desk to hold the flowers that Elena often picks and hands to me saying, “fo mama.”


After my Grandma died 3 years ago, my mom and aunts invited us to go through some of her things. My Grandma was a German immigrant who became a doctor. She re-used envelopes and washed out yogurt containers to use in place of Tupperware. I think of her with fondness because of her love for reading and letter writing and general resourcefulness. When we were going through her things I told myself I could only bring things back what I could actually use. In my suitcase back to Guatemala I packed this heavy-duty Swingline stapler, which I am pretty sure is older than I am. And a pair of black handled scissors that have the letters “Steel no.28” engraved on the edge. They’re the heaviest, sturdiest scissors I have ever owned. I use them often, imagining my Grandma nodding approvingly because her things are being put to good use.

Those are my something old.

The small clock I splurged on and bought at Pottery Barn after we got married. It is one of those new-antique-looking things. Gerber never understood why I would buy something new to look old. I admit, it was probably over-priced, but now it sits on my desk and reminds me that I have time. Or better yet, that I can make time for what is important. My dad used to always tell me we all have the same amount of time each day. The number of minutes each day is fixed, but how we spend them is not. 

This is my something new.

In my blue Mason jar I have my favorite stabilo pens that I first found, 11 years ago in a German post-office while studying abroad. At the time I don’t think you could find them in the states. They felt special, something strictly European. Now you can get them on Amazon and at any little libreria, even here in Guatemala.  There is a cork board right above my desk with our most recent Christmas picture pinned up and a card from my mom, with the word Joy penned in pretty calligraphy. I like the word and the colors match my space with swirls of blue and grey and turquoise.

There are still a few things to add and organize. I need to buy a chair and I’d like this print or this one.

But I am writing.

My motto recently has been start with what you have, where you are.

So I am. I am writing from my desk. With the words and space I have, when I can.

I have been reading, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite writing books. She is direct and wise and so cleaver. In her chapter titled, “Writing Is Not a McDonald’s’ Hamburger” she says:

“Give yourself some space before you decide to write those big volumes. Learn to trust the force of your own voice. Naturally, it will evolve… but it will come from a different place than your need to be an achiever. Writing is not a McDonald’s hamburger. The cooking is slow, and in the beginning you are not sure whether a roast or a banquet or a lamb chop will be the result.”

I am learning to trust my own voice. And to keep letting my writing evolve and accept that like fine cooking, it is a good, sometimes slow process. And that that is an ok thing, because we all know, I really don’t like McDonald’s hamburgers. And I am guessing you don’t either.

There is something powerful and even dare I say, transforming in writing down your stories. Giving words to the emotions and thoughts that swirl around inside. Somehow writing them down, creating space for them to be, helps me. And maybe, just maybe, whispers to someone else in the quietness, “it’s ok, me, too.”

. . .


P.S. There’s still a big open space between our two desks. Gerber and I want to find a big world map to hang in that shared wall space because we share a love of traveling and seeing the world and we would most likely not agree on any other kind of art. I would want inspirational words and lovely lettered quotes and he would want landscapes of far off mountains and oceans and motorcycles. A map seems like the perfect compromise, amiright?! Any recommendations for a finding a large (like 4 x 5 foot) world map print? Do share!

P.S.S. Thank you for reading my words, encouraging my writing and following along here! If you’re not following along on facebook would you do me favor and like this page. Thank you, from the bottom of my writers’ heart.

13th June
written by Michelle

We have been back in Guatemala for almost 2 weeks and I juuust feel like we’re getting back in the swing of things. We came back from a whirlwind 3-week-loving-summer-trip to a rainy, cloudy and flooded Guatemala. Then the baby got sick, I got mastitis (again!) and we welcomed our first group for the summer.

I have realized all the coming and going doesn’t really get easier the more you do it, I just now know what to expect. And I can expect that it always takes me a week or so to settle back into Guatemala life. It’s a rainy Friday night and the baby is sleeping (on the floor nonetheless- but whatever, she’s asleep!) so here are five quick things before I too fall asleep (in my bed, not on the floor: )

1. My iphone is gone. I tried to bring it back to life. But sadly after it’s 2nd toilet swim and intense rice treatment it’s officially dead. And I realized just how much I miss it. Is that pathetic? I miss my phone. Like a lot. I use my phone like it’s part of me. I keep my notes, my contacts, my pictures, my email, my calendar, basically my entire life in that phone. God bless Steve Jobs and whoever created istream because I think all of those things are backed-up somewhere. But for now I am using my frijolito and cursing myself just a bit for keeping my phone in back pocket. Do tell, where do you keep your phone so it does not fall into the toilet??

2. I’ve had to say good-bye to THREE dear friends in the past month. One friend left in May, another last week and another one leaves on Monday. Needless to say I’ve been a little sad. When I moved to Guatemala 4 years ago I was prepared to say good-bye to friends when I left Santa Barbara. I was prepared to set-up skype dates and write emails and work to maintain  friendships. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the revolving door of good-byes here. I think since moving I have had almost 10 close friends leave. That’s been hard. I loved this post about Staying Well: 10 Tips for Expats Who Are Left Behind. And for my friends who are leaving I liked what he said,  “Leaving is a PROCESS- not an event.”

3. You may have already seen it, but an article I wrote was published over at Relevant Magazine last week. One of my favorite writing instructors said writing and publishing is kind of like dating, you have to keep putting yourself out there. It has to be the right piece and the right time. I think this piece was both. So thank you for those of you who shared it or commented on it. One of the best parts has been some new connections & friends like Tim over at and Maria who lives in Haiti and blogs at I love how social media works like that.

4. The World Cup! I know, I know…you’re thinking, Michelle, I didn’t know you were a soccer fan?! Shh.. I’m not, really. But I live in a country whose love language is soccer and my husband and my first date may have been to watch a World Cup game 4 years ago. I have loved being part of my friend Sarah’s group of #worldcupwives. Follow along on twitter for some hilarious commentary. Also, if you still don’t know who is playing who and how the teams and groups work use THIS!  It has helped me make sense of the whole World Cup.

5. Our afternoon walks have been replaced by Baby Einstein videos. It’s true. I have given in to the world of television and technology and I must admit it’s kinda wonderful. The rains have made it tough to take our usual afternoon walk so I have been setting Elena in her high chair with an array of food options on her try and Baby Einstein on the computer. And guess what? She loves it! I have never seen a little one so engaged with the screen before. When the teddy bear or kitty cat comes on the screen she starts pointing and yelling, “ahhh, ahhh.” These are her current two favorite: Babies! and Music! I would have taken a video but alas no iphone (see #1) She watched 20-30 minutes of this and I make dinner. #winwin

ok, one last one….I made brownies this week for an afternoon play date and I forgot how you’re supposed to use a plastic knife to cut them. Have you ever heard this? I have no idea why it works, but I swear it will save you and your brownies from frustration. Use a plastic knife to cut brownies, always. You’re welcome.

ok, so maybe that was 6 things on a Friday.

Happy Weekend!


11th January
written by Michelle

My word for this year is little. It’s a year about the little things.

I don’t have big plans or huge dreams for this year. Oh, of course I have writing dreams and teaching dreams and places I’d love to travel dreams and big projects that I’d love to finish. But, I am holding those dreams and plans loosely. This next season isn’t about accomplishing big goals or dreams. It’s about the little things.

It’s about figuring out how to feed myself and my family something other than pasta with sauce from a jar. I want to make healthy, quick and easy meals. Emphasis on the quick and easy. I need to figure out how to meal plan better and go to the grocery store with a baby and a box full of groceries when there are no shopping carts to push to your car.

It’s about choosing to turn my computer off at 10pm. Gerber and I made a deal. No technology after 10pm. For me that’s my computer, for him it’s the TV. We both get energy at night, but I know that we will be better parents, kinder to each other and healthier if we get more sleep. Plus, the newest member of our family still doesn’t understand the words “sleeping in.”

It’s about appreciating my little neighborhood. I love where we live and I have big dreams about activities and soccer nights and all the things I want to do to connect with people where we live. But for now it has to be about the little things: intentionally walking around the block to say hello, learning people’s names, being available, bringing over cookies. These little things I can do.

It’s about playing with and enjoying our little girl. Watching her eyes light up when I walk into the room, listening to her sweet laugh and watching her take her first steps. Let’s be honest, it’s also a lot of diaper changing, poo cleaning, & milk pumping. But I prefer to focus on the former.

It’s about letting others into our home even when there are piles in corners and boxes yet to be unpacked and projects yet to be completed. It’s letting those little things not take away from the place we want to it be. A place to welcome others in, a place of rest and refuges, a place to play and fun.

It’s about doing my job well. Part of my job requires that I plan and coordinate about a gazillion little things for each of our different groups that come down to serve with us. I want to do those little things with a big heart.

It’s about finding little bits of time to write. Maybe not polished essays and books just yet, but simple posts about life in Guatemala, motherhood and raising a bilingual and bicultural daughter. I want to keep writing because I believe it’s kinda like running. The more you do it, the easier it gets. But if you stop for weeks or months, it’s so hard to get back into it, right?

It’s about supporting and loving my husband. It’s taken me 2 years of marriage to realize that the way to best love someone whose love language is act of service, means actually doing things for him. Practical, simple, little things every day.

It’s about carving out a little me time. Once a week, at least. Meeting a friend for coffee, going to yoga, sitting in a coffee shop, getting my eyebrows waxed. These are luxuries I tell you, luxuries! This has probably been the hardest change has a mom. Before I could do these things whenever I wanted. But now these little things feel like big things that take a lot more coordinating, planning and time.

And maybe the biggest thing of all is inviting God into these little everyday things. I am a firm believer that God shows up in the kitchen and at the table, driving on the road and waiting at the airport. Some of my most holy moments happen while sitting on the floor with Elena or walking around our neighborhood. Sometimes the prayers uttered in the shower, or at 1am while feeding the baby remind me of how I need God in these moments, the little ones and the big ones.

Here’s to 2014. A year of little things.

Do you have a word for 2014? What are the little things that you want to do this year?

31st December
written by Michelle

Why, hello 2014.

New Years Eve is a HUGE celebration here in Guatemala. Fireworks, late night music, parties, the whole shebang…but we’re still in that sleep-is-too-precious-stage-of-parenting so we stayed in. We put Elena down by 7pm, made pasta, drank wine, left the dishes on the table and curled up in bed to watch a movie. Boring, maybe? But perfect for this season of life.

A quick recap of 2013

2013 felt like a year with a lot of changes, good changes, but changes none the less. And we all know how I do with changes : )

We moved. Remodeled our house. Had a baby. Moved back to our house. Went to the states. Came back. Adjusted to life with said baby. And I feel like just now we are on the brink of getting in a grove, dare I say routine, with our two work schedules, home life, an adorable 6 month old…and a babysitter.

This blog community has grown quite a bit this year, which I think is probably due to sweet Elena. You guys seem to really like babies and pregnancy posts. At least most of you : ) Hopefully as I have bit more time to think and write this year, I’ll try and write not just about parenting, motherhood and babies. But let’s be honest, that is what has consumed most of my past year.


The top 5 posts of Simply Complicated in 2013

I blog because I like it. It’s a way to connect with friends and make new ones, near and far. It’s a way to practice my writing and get instant feedback. And I’m always surprised a bit by which posts get the most traffic.

#5  I guess my husband should technically get credit for this post since he wrote A Letter to my Daughter from Daddy 

#4 The One Question I Ask My Students on the First Day of School

(according to google, technically My About Page was the fourth most clicked on page!? But since it’s not a real post I’m gonna skip it. However, makes me realize I really need to update that thing! It’s like 3 years out dated. whoops.)

#3 This one surprised me…apparently, you guys really were interested in my  Pregnancy Update at 31 weeks

#2 A post about Christmas: Tamales, Cinnamon Rolls & Baby Jesus resonated with many of you.

#1. And of course Elena’s Birth Story was number 1. I couldn’t agree more :)

These post didn’t necessarily get the most clicks, but they meant the most to me:

Thoughts on Waiting, A Mini-Spanish Lesson and The Bible

Thoughts on Friendships, Seasons and Being Present

Tears at the Kitchen Table

When You Live Far From Family

And these two guests posts capture some of my thoughts as I enter this new world of raising a bicultural and bilingual daughter:

On Spanglish Baby: Dear Mija: A Letter to My Future Bilingual & Bi-cultural Daughter

And on InCulture Parent: Cross-Cultural Parenting in Guatemala: Rethinking Cultural Norms

I am grateful for you, my readers, both ones I know and those I don’t yet. You make the big, blog-world a little bit smaller. Thank you, for being part of this past year!

Cheers, as we welcome 2014!


P.S. Here’s a little glimpse of our 2013 instagrammed life…ya know, all the highlights, none of the hard stuff : )

6th October
written by Michelle

I have one hour. One hour to myself. And here I sit at Starbucks. Realizing how much I have missed this time; time to write and think and let my mind wander amidst, the buzz of milk steaming, people chatting and the computers keys tapping. I have always worked well in a coffee shop; studying during college, writing papers and lessons plans during grad school and spending an afternoon writing always just comes easier when I’m away from home. I am not distracted by the piles on my desk, or dishes that should be washed or  the sudden urge I have to keep opening the fridge looking for a snack. Somehow I find clarity through the noise of a coffee shop. And I have missed it.

There have been a million changes in the past three months. Maybe the biggest is that being a mother is all-consuming. When I go to yoga, I find myself glancing down at my cell phone throughout the entire class. Will Gerber call because she’s still fussy? Is she ok? When I go the office for a meeting, I am consciously aware of her schedule. Is she sleeping? She should be tired. She napped 3 hours ago. Did she take the bottle? I put my hand over my chest. Did I feed her on the left side or the right side last time? Ugh. I can never remember, but I am always thinking about it.

And maybe more than sleepless nights or the hours of walking and bouncing and wondering why my child won’t nap, the hardest part of being a mom is that she consumes my thoughts, my mind, my heart- my everything. I think this is normal and probably good. She is my daughter, I am her mother. She is so little, and depends on me for nourishment, for her food. I am thankful that breastfeeding has come rather easy for us. I know for so many moms and babies this is such a source of pain and discouragement. So I count my blessings. But it is this strange, wonderful feeling to know that a tiny human is dependent on me. There are some days I find it beautiful and down right amazing how God created my body to produce milk with exactly the right nutrients and fats and antibodies that she needs. But there are other days it’s just downright exhausting. Sometimes I feel like she’s attached to my boob 24/7 and I am reminded that yes, being a mom is a “full-time” job.

This trip to the states has been such a gift. Gerber left last week because he had to get back to work, but Elena and I got to stay. My family has loved and held and bounced my sweet girl. They adore her and take such good care of her, but they have also taken care of me. I’ve been pumping more so someone else can give her a bottle. My mom has offered to watch her so my sister and I can go to a Zumba class or run by Target or stop and get frozen yogurt. And nearly every morning this week, when Elena wakes up and starts cooing before 6am, I bring her into my sister’s room. Who thank the Lord, is a morning person, and is thrilled to spend a few extra hours with her little niece. Which I means I get to spend a few extra hours in bed. This is like winning the lottery for a new mom.

I am eager to get back home to husband I miss and a home that needs decorating and a job that I enjoy. We are still figuring out this work-life balance and how to have some kind of routine. I am not teaching for the rest of this year, but I am still working, coordinating all of the volunteers and short-term groups and teams that come down to Guatemala. Gerber has flexibility in his schedule which is so nice, but it means some days he’s home by 1 or 2pm and other weeks he’s gone overnight for 5 days straight. He’s great with Elena, but we realize we probably need to hire a babysitter or nanny on a more consistent basis so I can work during the day and not try cramming everything in during the hours between 7-11pm when E’s usually sleeping.

And all of this scheduling, and mothering and planning makes me remember I want to make time for writing, too. But maybe I need to change the way I write. I read a post last night from a writer and blogger I really like. She talks about how sometimes our pride and desire to write something great, can prohibit us from sometimes writing something good. Sometimes I spend so much time, thinking, writing, re-thinking and editing before I hit publish.

It feels so frivolous to get a sitter or leave Elena with Gerber just so I can just go write. I have this horrible, practical voice that says I should be “getting something done.” Things like laundry and organizing my closet, or prepping meals for the week and responding to an always full inbox of questions. And then, and only then is there time for writing. But I have found all of those things are never going to be done, they will be ongoing. So if I am going to write I need to be willing to set-aside time and just write. I need to be ok with less than perfect writing. I need to accept that in this season of my life my writing may be scattered and un-edited and that’s ok. And instead of being paralyzed to make it “good” before I press publish, I need to be ok saying it is “good enough” for now.

I’d love it if I could get away once a week and write in a coffee shop for an hour like I am right now. But I know realistically my best writing may happen on my iPhone, taping the keys with one hand while breastfeeding with other other. This is my life right now.

How have you found time/discipline to write? What’s your secret? Do share. 

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.

9th October
written by Michelle


I have been home from CCDA for over a week and haven’t given myself much time to write or process the conference. Sometimes those two are one and the same for me; the writing and the processing that is. I think that’s what writers do- Because the very act of writing can help make sense of what’s swimming around inside.

So here’s my attempt:

CCDA brings people together; people from across the political spectrum, with different colors of skin and and a range denomination affiliations. Some come with dreadlocks, fresh out of college, others with strollers and kids on tow, and a few with their greying hair, and years of wisdom and experience. We sang in English, then Spanish and Mandarin. We heard speakers, preachers and professors from every walk of life.

A Palestinian Christian. A Native American from the Sioux Reservation.

A Duke professor. A  recovering addict. An 88-year-old son of a sharecropper from Mississippi.

There were some of speakers you’ve probably heard of: Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, Barbara Williams-Skinner, but there were probably even more that don’t have big names or famous book. They are every-day, extraordinary people who are working, serving and living in communities with the very people they serve. They presented workshops about:

Christian Community Development, Immigration Services, Racial Reconciliation,

Leadership Development, Toxic Charity, Social-Entrepreneurship, Welcoming Refugees, Acting White,

Combating Organizational Fatigue and Burnout, Mobilizing the Church to Address Systemic Injustice,

…and I could keep going.

My sister did one workshop titled, 9/11, Al Qaeda and your Muslim Neighbor. I probably learned more in that one hour than in any history class I ever took in school. She talked bout the Muslim faith, how our news-media represents both sides so poorly and what does it really look like if we are called to be neighbors and friends.

My Twitter-friend-turned-real-friend, Sarah and her husband did a fascinating workshop discussing the Multicultural family; looking at everything from cross-cultural marriage, raising bi-lingual kids and living biracially. I was all ears.

+   +   +

CCDA is definitely geared for people working in urban centers doing some kind of community development work, but much of what is discussed applies to churches, families, teachers and really anyone with a desire to be more intentionally involved in serving your community.

As a first timer to this kind of conference, what stands out to me is not the richness in our differences and unique perspectives; no, it was the shared commitment to keep asking what it means to do this together. 

How do we commit to keep loving Jesus and our neighbor?

How do we keep caring for the widow, the foreigner, the immigrant?

How are resources distributed and who has access to them?

How do we create a world where women are just as valued and heard as men?

What does justice look like in public eduction, tax laws, churches and neighborhoods in your community.

These are questions that were asked. And we keep asking together.

And just like we keep seeking Jesus and Justice and asking these important questions. CCDA recognizes that we also must keep asking for forgiveness. And keep acknowledge what we have done wrong in the name of the Church and capitalism and consumerism.

Reconciliation is not possible, until there is an acknowledgement of the wrong, the pain, and the grief. Sometimes, reconciliation needs to make way for lament, before rejoicing appears. Maybe reconciliation and any kind of justice seeking starts with an apology and a prayer.

Father forgive me. Forgive us.


++ If you’re still reading I’m impressed ++ And, if you just skimmed to this part, you’re in luck++


In no particular order here one some of my favorite quotes from the conference. I’m working on putting together a book list, but that will be another post.  For now:

When will a nation of immigrants apologize to the indigenous  population?” -Richard Twiss, question from a Native American


“We cannot fall into the trap of us and them. If you want to follow Jesus you have to love your enemy? Who is your enemy? -Sami Awad, Palestinian who uses nonviolent approaches to end the Israeli occupation


“One of the most important things you can provide for a man is a job.” - John Perkins, on Empowerment


“You know how it goes…If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Well, it’s not true. Whoever owns the pond, controls how long you fish. It’s not just teaching a man how to fish. You gotta have capital. That’s empowerment.” -John Perkins, discussing Christian Community Development


“Reconciliation is as big as bridging the biggest social divide, but it’s also as SMALL as loving the person who irritates you the most.”
- Chris Rice, “Theology of Reconciliation”


“We have one of the best productive system in the world, but one of the worst systems of distribution.”-John Perkins, on Stewardship
“The Psalmist did not say be busy and know that I am God.” -Rey Rivera, on Rest


We’ve made God into a white, middle-class American, but what does Jesus of the bible say?” - Shane Claiborne, on his new book “The Red Letter Revolution”


“I wish we had the same courage for reconciliation as we do for taking up the sword, war, and guns.” - Tony Campolo


“After going oversees for a one year service project, my friend noticed, that students returned more committed to Justice, but less committed to Jesus.” - Chris Rice, on not taking the Jesus out of Justice


“Don’t give people what they don’t need. No one wants your used clothes. If you’re gong to feed people, eat with them. If you have a food bank, make it your goal to shorten the line. People want a job and to be a part of something, not just to keep receiving your food.” -wisdom, straight from Mr. John Perkins


And this was perhaps this most powerful, raw example of the beginning of reconciliation: A Korean American’s Confession

P.S. CCDA 2013…Don’t miss it: New Orleans. September 11-14.

P.S.S. If you want more info from this years conference check out Twitter #CCDA2012

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?