Hi ho, hi ho

Last week was my first week back at work after almost four months off to take care of our newest bundle of joy: 

I’ll be honest, being home that long with two kiddos was challenging for me. We were also potty training Jake and transitioning him to his own room, so there were lots of changes and challenges for all of us. As hard as it was at times, I’m thankful I had this time at home to spend with them. I’m gonna miss all of Jake’s daily antics and words of wisdom-he’s growing up so fast and it was nice to have long days to talk to him, show him how things work, and teach him new stuff. He turned three today and I just feel so privileged that I get to be his mom. 

Contrary to popular belief, I was pretty excited to go back to work. Mainly because I was starting to go stir crazy, but also because I know my kids are in the best care possible (grandparents and a very close friend) and because I love my job. Coworkers are excited that I’m back and that’s a pretty great feeling. I also get to work along an awesome supervisor this year without any limitations (I’m not hindered by my pregnancy and he has a better idea of what’s going on now that he’s got his first year down). I think it’s going to be a great year! 

One week in and I still find myself driving to or from work and wanting to point out when I see a dump truck or trash truck or a cement mixer. We also have some major construction projects going on at our work so it’s been fun to send Jake pictures and videos of what’s happening (even if the driver of the forklift freaked out when I was taking a video of him).

It’s also still strange to leave the house without any babies attached to me-you mean I can just get in and out of the car THAT quick?! It’s strange and awesome and magical. 

I’m hopeful that my blog content will increase now that there’s more of a personal balance, but I won’t make any promises (we all know better).  

My eyelids are getting heavier by the second so we’ll leave the catching up to that :)

Repurposing Old Furniture


, , , , , ,

My amazing mother-in-law recently upgraded some of her furniture and was getting rid of her china cabinet.  Have I mentioned that I’ve always wanted my very own china cabinet?  It took some convincing with Jeff, but after planning a little facelift for it, we decided to give it a new home.  We’re VERY happy with the outcome :)



I didn’t get a good before image, but the top of the china cabinet had doors and a glass shelf. We took off the doors and replaced the glass shelf with a wooden shelf.


This is what happens when you turn your back on a toddler and a can of paint…



Hello there stranger!


, , ,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve posted tid bits here and there, but nothing really of substance lately. I still keep a running list of all the ideas of things I want to blog about, and most of them become outdated before they become a reality.

A big reason why I don’t blog as much is the lack of time.  With a two-year old running around and a home to keep up, and let’s be honest, my general laziness, the time available to just sit and put my thoughts into written word is pretty limited.  When I do have time, I feel guilty if I’m not spending it working on something for Haiti Scholarships, or writing a blog for Nuestras Manos or The Merry Ministers instead (neither of which have been done in a long time…see: laziness).

So I’m trying to turn a new leaf.  I’m trying to let go.  I’ve often wondering why I work the way I work: why do I always have to have multiple things going on?  Why am I not happy with just my 9-5 job?  Why do I have to add on volunteering on projects or organizations, or trying to promote side businesses?  I know each of these makes me happy to a degree, but with baby #2 on the way, I’m really trying to be realistic about my expectations of myself.  I feel constantly stressed about the to-do lists that I’m not getting done…so I wonder…what if I just didn’t have those to-do lists?  What if all my worries focused on home, kids, hubby, and work?  That seems like enough, right? Haha.

So here’s my plan: I’m trying to de-clutter.  I need to start letting go of Haiti Scholarships tasks and start delegating things (this is VERY hard for me because I’m very specific about how I think things should be done, ha!).  I don’t need to write the agenda and the minutes, and do the newsletter, and our yearly taxes, and thank you letters, and update databases, and respond to emails, and update social media.  I’m just hoping I find someone to take over a thing or two :)

I need to start being realistic about what I can do with Nuestras Manos and The Merry Ministers.  I have a long list of ideas that I’d love to accomplish, but the reality is that now isn’t the time.  So I’m no longer putting “write a blog for Nuestras Manos” on my to-do list.  I’m no longer saving my Bloglovin emails in hopes that I’ll find inspiration for a blog that I’ll never write (I still have hundreds saved that I can resort to should the occasion arise).  Deleting those emails every morning is already reducing some of my anxiety.

And probably most importantly: I just need to stay out of things that require monthly meetings, haha.  I thought this year would be the year I could re-commit to the Corazon Annual Meeting Committee, but I’ve attended 1 of 3 meetings so far, and I’ve found it challenging to keep up with the two tasks I’ve been assigned.  It’s not fair to them or the organization.  I also got myself nominated as the secretary for our local school district employees union, which requires two meetings a month (one for the e-board and one for the chapter meeting).  I’m already two meetings behind on getting my minutes typed up.  So I think I need to finish up my tenure on these and understand that once the kids are a few years older, maybe I’ll be able to pick up where I left off (if sports and activities aren’t all-consuming at that point, haha). And hey, maybe then I’ll actually get to write about all the things I’ve been wanting to write about for the last couple years! :-P

Literate Lushes: December 2014-April 2015


, , , , , , , , ,

December: Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

Same author as Gone Girl, our pick from March (2013).  This book was pretty dark, but it was a nice, suspenseful read!  It’s honestly been so long that I don’t remember the details of our book club discussion, but some minor things aside, I think most of us enjoyed reading this one.

January: On the Road, by Jack Kerouc

It’s a classic, but I never got around to reading it.  I read the first few pages, but it didn’t grab me from the get-go and it was such a busy time that I just never went back to it.  I hope I do some day, I love reading “classic” books just so I can be in the know!

February: Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Back

Again….I failed at reading this one…but I still feel like I should give you guys a complete listing of the books that other people in the Literate Lushes have read ;)  Even though I didn’t finish this book either, I did like what I read, and the discussion at book club was actually quite excellent.

March: And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

Most people have probably already read this book or are at least familiar with it.  I could not put this book down once I started it.  Although I tried at the beginning because it opens with a heart-wrenching story–I almost didn’t want to keep going, but I’m glad I did.  I think the author did a great job with this one, sharing different stories from the perspective of different characters (one chapter is even a letter from one character to another).  The basis of the story is how one act can have repercussions that last a lifetime, and that affect people around the world.  It was sad and uplifting at the same time.

April: Every Day is for the Thief, by Teju Cole

This was my pick.  I heard about it on NPR and it sounded amazing.  I like picking books that expose me to something different or allow me to see/understand a different culture or country: this book takes place in Nigeria, and revolves around the main character returning to visit Nigeria after he’s been living in the U.S. for a while.  The book had promise but it wasn’t written very well: it was almost a little House on Mango Street vignette-esque, and I just am not a fan of short stories, especially when it’s supposed to be one long story.  The author had so many opportunities to grab your attention, but failed every time.  You never got a chance to really get into the book, it seemed like you were always just reading the first couple chapters of the book.  Howeverit did provide for amazing discussion points during book club about democracy, development, poverty, education, access to self-improvement, cultural differences, etc., which I LOVED, so I’m still happy with my pick :)

Next up: If I stay, by Gayle Forman

Don’t forget: if you shop on Amazon for these books or ANYTHING else, please shop through smile.amazon.com and select Haiti Scholarships as your charity of choice!

Discussions on Development: kidnappings in Latin America

Many of you probably don’t know this, but one of our few famous Guatemalan artists won an “award of excellence” at a Latin awards show this week, which prompted me to binge on all of his albums on repeat, haha.  Which means that now I get to share some of my favorite songs with you guys :)

Some of my favorites are songs that might not be “mainstream” songs, but they’re the ones that have the greatest impact on me.  Arjona is a lyrical mastermind, and his songs are always very clever and have a point or message.  One of my favorites is called “La Nena (Bitacora de un Secuestro)”, which is the retelling of a little girl being kidnapped.

Kidnappings in Latin America are very common, hovering in the thousands per year.*  This doesn’t include the number of kidnappings that go unreported because of fear or lack of confidence in the local police (or fear of collusion).  There are also different types of kidnappings: 1) your good ol’ traditional kidnapping, where the victim is followed for a period of time (could be several months) to trace their steps/routine, then kidnapped to obtain a large ransom–these victims are usually picked because of their wealth. 2) “Express kidnappings,” which was news to me but seems to be very common: basically the victim is taken for a period of 24 hours or less, during which time they are forced to take all their money from ATM’s and bank accounts and the family is contacted in order to provided whatever money they have available as well.  The victim’s in this scenario can be anyone–regardless of your income level. Another play on this is the “paseo millonario,” or “millionaire tour,” which happens when you take a taxi–the taxi stops slightly ahead of where it picked up the victim, where his friends hop in to the taxi with guns/arms and rob the victim of whatever is on him.

Like many things, the causes of why these countries have so many kidnappings (and violence in general) are many: financial instability in the region, lack of financial opportunity for people (no job=get money instead), lack of enforcement or punishment by local police force (which can also include the fact that many times kidnappers are better armed and have more technology at their disposal than local police forces), corruption and collusion by local police force, as well as a huge gap between the poor and the wealthy.  Basically, “rule of law is weak, economic opportunity is scare, and education is poor.” Wikipedia.

For example, the “millionaire tour” type of kidnappings are only able to exist in an atmosphere where taxi’s are not strictly regulated.  If each taxi had to have a clearly labeled registration number, and these were enforced by making sure that each taxi had legitimate paperwork, then kidnappers would no longer be able to use this method (they would be easily identifiable or hopefully law enforcement procedures would reveal that the “taxi” was not a legitimate taxi).

I found this in a document that pertains specifically to Guatemala:

During the years of 2010 and 2011 the judgments/sentences for kidnappings increased up to three and four times respectively in comparison to prior years.  Not withstanding we have to take into account that of 632 reported cases during the period from 2008-2011 only 330 reached a judgment, which amounts to a 52% total of the cases.

– Area de Transparencia.

To be honest, I’m surprised that even 52% of cases reached a final judgment.  When I was doing research on a similar issue in law school, I think it was something like only 2% of cases that were reported were actually investigated and prosecuted.  Granted, this was ALL reports of crime, not just kidnappings, but still, I’m actually quite happy to see that there’s a 52% here!  It’s sad to be excited about statistics like these, and expecting such low standards.

One final thing before we get to the song (if you’ve made it this far!), there’s one line in this song that strikes me and gets me a little angry every time: when the kidnapping occurs, all the neighbors close their doors and pretend like they haven’t seen/heard anything.  You can’t blame people for not wanting to get involved, really, when they are probably afraid of getting caught in the crossfire and have little to no faith in the local police, but it’s still hard to accept the fact that people live in a situation where their best option is to just ignore everything that happens around them–until they’re the next victim. **

I couldn’t find the official video, so this will have to suffice.

Translated lyrics (taken mostly from here)

The housemaid woke her up at 6:42,
The girl wrinkles her eyes to keep out the light,
Recites the same prayer as always to do her duty to god,
Right after she makes the sign of the cross on her chest,
Whose is the car which is waiting two blocks to the south.

The chauffeur takes her, loaded up with her books,
Mom waves goodbye to her at the door,
The girl is 9 years old; how was she was going to know
That for more than 4 months they have been tailing her,
And the the car awaiting two blocks away starts its engine.

A shot in the chauffers temple, the girl drifts away,
A tree stops the momentum; they have her surrounded,
Her forehead struck against the glass and has opened a wound,
The neighbors all lock themselves in-no one has seen anything,**
and the hand which killed her chauffeur now silences her screams,
The girl is a one with a lot of zeros from here on out.*

The girl is a bulk tied up in a brown Chrysler,
A shoe presses her spine, a handkerchief her mouth,
The girl is scared to death and doesn’t understand why.
The girl doesn’t know that even God sometimes makes mistakes,
The girl is sleeplessness and news, the girl is not there.

Her planet changed size, and measures 4 x 3
Her sun is the light that leaks in beneath a door,
The girl now sees no difference beween a day and a month,
The girl doesn’t know whether she sleeps or stays awake,
The girl has now spent 3 months looking for a reason.

The girl now doesn’t wrinkle her eyes, she hasn’t seen the light,
There are no windows in this branch of hell,
Her fate is listed in currency of another country,
Her life is a vulgar trade resembling death,
The girl isn’t going to her English class this afternoon.

Six kilos lighter the girl has pink sores,

Dad almost crazy, mom in hospitals once again,

The delivery is agreed with a disguised voice,

The same one that has come offering bodily souvenirs,
And fear laughs at everyone and rubs his hands together,
The future will look dog-faced if it wants to.

Now the girl doesn’t wrinkle her eyes hasn’t seen the light,
In hell’s branch office there are no windows,
Her fate is bought and sold for another country’s notes,
Her life is a vulgar trade resembling death,
The girl now hasn’t been to ballet for 10 months.

On the specified day the money is under a bridge,
the girl at last leaves the room where the was kept,
Everything goes as they agreed there is nothing pending
Suddenly the boss bursts into the house without covering his face,
The girl recognises someone familiar
Plans since the incident have had to change.

The closing line always makes me sad, to think this girl was so close to getting back to her parent but one little mishap now counts her as those that are killed anyway, simply because she knew the person involved (which I think is quite common).

Movie: “Tiny: A Story About Living Small”


, , , , , ,

Here’s another short movie I came across by searching randomly through Netflix, and Jeff and I were pleasantly surprised when we watched it last night. 

Aside from making us want to sell what little we have and hit the road, I think it brings up some really great concepts about the society we live in, and how your success is measured by how much stuff you have and how big your house is.  I think it’s naive to think that this movement is going to take off and really change the way people live (people love their stuff too much), but I think it can inspire those people that have thought about simplifying their life to actually do it.

It also reminded me of when I was in Haiti and I came to the realization that you really don’t need a lot to get through life.  I had a bunk bed with a backpack of clothes, and it was all I needed.  We get so wrapped up in having all these nice comforts (like my amazing craft desk!) that we often forget we don’t need these things.  Not saying we shouldn’t have them, just that we should all appreciate how much we really do have.

I will say that the idea of retiring into a tiny house with Jeff and settling down on some large tract of land with amazing views is something I could see us doing…

Discussions on Development: Living on a dollar a day


, , , , , ,

I heard about a movie that Whole Foods helped to finance, and now part of an organization called Living on One. It’s called…”Living on One Dollar a Day,” and goes something like this:

I think more than anything, I really enjoyed seeing the Guatemalan countryside and it’s people.  It’s been over seven years since I’ve been back to Guate, and seeing this made me really sad that I haven’t been able to go back.  I loved seeing the familiarity of the faces, the colors, and the landscapes.  It also made me hope that someday I can support local charities in Guatemala that promote education– the Guatemalan version of Haiti Scholarships ;)

The short movie, which is streaming now on Netflix, was entertaining and interesting, but like all things relating to development, the issues they addressed are far more complex than they gave them credit for.  As one commentator mentioned in the youtube comments (I know, I know, most of those are garbage…), “extreme poverty” to you and me might not mean extreme poverty to indigenous people.  The commentator made a point that there is nothing wrong with farming and weaving being your source of income, but I guess where this becomes problematic is when an individual doesn’t want to be a farmer or a weaver, but is forced to because they can’t afford an education.

Someone also commented that this film looked like a long ad for micro finance, which it seemed like to me too.  There was one scene where it actually had me researching who financed the film, haha.  But I still think it gives some great basic insight into microfinance and how the idea works: one very small loan can help people go pretty far.

My own initial thoughts as the movie started were, “huh, I wonder if that’s kind of insulting.”  You know, I actually-have-a-really-comfortable-home-and-plenty-of-food, but-I’m-gonna-come-to-your-house-and-pretend-like-I-don’t-so-I-can-try-to-understand-how-shitty-your-life-is-compared-to-mine.  I feel like that criticism can be said of a lot of humanitarian or international aid work-there will always be a cynic about everything, regardless of how well intentioned the work is.  With projects like these though, I think the main goal is to simply bring awareness to other people viewing it that there are less fortunate people out there.  You and I might already know this, but there are a lot of people in our world that really have no clue how well they have it.  And for those people, this really simple look and comparison could be eye-opening.

So, in short, watch it, know there’s a lot more to it, maybe do some research of your own, and tell me what you think!

The Evolving Nature of Friendships (maybe?)*


, , , , , ,

An old college friend was coming through town today on his way to a work meeting, and he messaged me yesterday to see if we could meet up for lunch.  We figured out the logistics of time and place (he met me right around my work because I wouldn’t have enough time on my lunch break to meet him near his meeting), and got to catch up today about our little boys, work, and some serious discussions about the socio-economic challenges faced by our Latino youth (nerd alert, I know, but it was awesome to talk to someone about this).  It really meant a lot to me that he thought of me when he knew he was going to be in the area, and went out of his way to accommodate my location so we could meet up.

And earlier today two friends from law school checked in via gchat to see when we could meet up.

This all really made my day.

See, I’m usually the planner of things.  I contact people to figure out what day works best between everyone’s busy schedules (which can be challenging) so we can meet up and catch up on life.  After having Jake, I find that I don’t have as much time or energy to dedicate to these efforts, and I was a little bummed to see that in some situations, if I didn’t make the effort, it just didn’t get done.

Jeff always reminds me that people leave planning things to me because I always do them, and they probably don’t want to step on my toes.  Which I get.  But sometimes it’s nice to see other people make an effort: it makes me feel like people want to hang out with me, they’re not just hanging out because I asked them to, haha.

A related issue is just getting older and growing further apart from some friends as our lives become more busy with adult responsibilities and parenting, or as personal interests change.  The thought of growing more and more distant from some friends is truly saddening.  In some cases it’s just an inevitable part of life: you can’t be super close friends with everyone you meet or have the time to cultivate friendships like I did when I was 20, and that’s something I’ve slowly come to terms with, haha.

Other friends, though, are friends that I know will be in my life forever, but maybe just with longer hiatuses in catching up than I would like.  And I just hate the thought of having a friend that I truly love and care about, and yet don’t know the slightest thing about what’s going on with them and with their lives.  It seems weird to be so close to someone emotionally, and yet so far removed from what their lives are.

I don’t really having any kind of conclusion for this, haha, as I’m still learning and trying to figure out how to deal and process with these situations in this new stage of my life.  I think that this year I’ll try to spend some time reconnecting with good friends that I haven’t been able to keep in touch with as much as I’d like.  And maybe after that I’ll have some more insight on this topic :)

*Couldn’t decide on my title.  It started as “Friendly Visits,” but then my post transformed into a wider conversation about friendships, rather than just my lunch visit.  So this popped up, but it seems misleading.  Or not.  I just can’t decide!!

Ni la tierra ni las mujeres…


, ,

I saw this image on Facebook a while back, and found it to be incredibly powerful.


“Neither the land nor women, are territory to conquer.”

The translation is difficult for me to make for it to make sense, but what I felt most powerful that doesn’t translate smoothly is that the quote takes on a possessive quality, the second part of the quote says “we are not territories to conquer.”  I think there’s something very powerful about a woman or the land making this statement, rather than just a blanket statement.  I am not a territory to conquer, I am a woman, I am my own, I own myself.  It also makes me sad that these things need to be said: why should a woman have to declare that she’s not to be conquered, if it’s not because people try to conquer her all the time?