100% Guest Post Series

Some of my favorite posts (and reader favorites) on this blog have been about multicultural identity. My Latino Husband is White and “Not Really White”: Thoughts on the New Pope were some of my own reflections about our family’s “white Latino” identity. Alyssa wrote a popular guest post The Not-So-Tragic Mulatto: What Growing Up Biracial Taught Me

In 2013, I started collecting reader stories about their cultural identity. To see posts in this series, click here.

Do you have a story to tell about multicultural identity? 

Maybe you grew up in a culture different than your own. Maybe you or your parents immigrated to a new country. Perhaps your culture is different than your parents’. Or maybe your parents are from different races or cultures. 

I am interested in stories of all kinds from those who have reflected on their multicultural identity. Would you consider sharing your story on A Life with Subtitles? 

I'm always interested in new additions to this guest post series. 

Below are some simple questions to get you started thinking, but you do not need to feel compelled to answer one. They are here to give you ideas, but you are welcome to explore a different direction if you so desire. 

  • What are some of the things you love about your multicultural identity? 
  • What are some of the challenges you’ve faced around multicultural identity? 
  • Share an experience where your multicultural identity was particularly salient. 
  • What is something your parents (or somone else) said or did to help you become comfortable in your identity? 
  • What is something you wish your parents had done differently or that you would do differently you’re your children? 
  • Share an experience where travel helped you to process your own ethnic identity.

To submit your post, click here

Over the last several years, I have heard so many powerful and important stories from people who have multicultural experiences to share. I look forward to hearing yours as well!

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Emmanuel Loves America

I met Abby on Twitter, and what do you know, she lives in Atlanta! So we've enjoyed getting to know each other outside of the computer and watch our girls drag rakes around the back yard together. She is a high school teacher and contributes this story from her classroom on the blog today.

I ask them to write poetry in the style of Walt Whitman. We read his poem “I hear America Singing” and I ask them to copy this famous poet’s form, but find a subject matter that is all their own. I get ten poems about the football team, another three about the song on the lacrosse fields, a few about soccer and basketball. My 29 student class has only one girl. Most of the boys are of the athletic variety. The boys who don’t love sports love music. They write guitars and famous musicians. They wear heavy metal t-shirts. All of my students fall neatly into the two categories, except for Emmanuel.

Emmanuel immediately has a problem with the assignment. Walt Whitman wrote about America, and I have asked him to change the subject. He wants to write about America too. Emmanuel loves America. It is not the first time he has written of the greatness of the US of A.  In a time when being patriotic is less than cool (and cool is so very important for a ninth grade boy) Emmanuel writes and shares often about the pride he has in America.

I haven’t quite figured out Emmanuel’s back story. Either his parents brought him here when he was very young, or he is a first generation American citizen. I have learned to keep things vague when it comes to citizenship statuses and the families of my Spanish speaking students. You can’t report what you don’t know. Regardless of the paperwork, it is evident that Emmanuel is often reminded of the opportunities he has in America. His parents gave up a lot to be here. He does not take his place in the world lightly.

I got saved when I was in elementary school, at least for the first time. (I am learning as an adult that I got saved completely and am getting saved daily all at the same messy time.) Mrs. Wiegand read the Roman road after Wednesday Night Alive, and I followed it right to the cross. I am grateful for the early intervention in my heart. I can only imagine all I was saved from, but sometimes I wonder if I don’t fully understand the gift of freedom I was given. I wonder, as a fourth generation believer, if I am not just like my fourth generation American students, taking for granted all I have been given.

I have a friend who had her come to Jesus moment as an adult. She is the picture of a Baptist minister’s wife. Two adorable children, a huge heart, and a gift in the kitchen, you would never guess where she has come from. They day she gave her testimony on a Sunday evening in her husband’s first church, she warned them that it may be offensive. Her past is offensive because sin is offensive is the way she so clearly explains it. After the birth of her first baby I sat with her as she changed a stinky diaper and listened to her marvel at the goodness of God.

Later, after I heard a sermon about the grace of our God, I talked to her about the difference between coming to Jesus as a child, and as an adult. She knows exactly the consequences she has been freed from. She knows the weight of the promise of the cross. She felt it in her recent passed. I know that I have been freed, that the weight of the promise of the cross is the same. But sometimes, it doesn’t feel like the same thing. I don’t say “thank You for wooing me” but “of course this is what happened.” I don’t understand just how lucky I am.

One of my other friends recently finished a pretty serious fast. If asked about just one thing that she learned that she is excited about, she will tell you about the gravity and ramifications of her own sin. I was a bit taken a back the first time she told me that, why in the world would you want to know about that? But she explains that understanding the gravity of her sin has made her aware for the first time of the sacrifice and love of Jesus.

The students in my class writing about quarterbacks or quarter notes, many of them have not much thought about the freedom that comes with citizenship of this country. And I too am guilty of thinking of the freedom that I live in daily as ordinary. I neglect the reality that someone had to earn these rights for me. I want to live with gratitude for the freedoms that the flag allows, and live in a posture that points to the freedom the cross brings. When I hear my life singing, I hope it sounds a little like Emmanuel’s. Because Emmanuel loves America.

Abby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She has two hilarious children and a husband that doubles as her copy editor and biggest fan. If two in diapers and a full time job teaching English at a local high school don’t keep her busy, you can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies, and carries a dream of one day writing a book about teaching
in her heart.

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Gringa with an Accent

I have been enjoying the Code Switch blog on NPR thanks to a recommendation from a friend. 

They have expanded the idea of code switching from the traditional linguistics definition of going back in forth between languages (like I talked about here) to more broadly include any type of shifting between cultures.

In a post entitled Six Moments of Code-Switching In Popular Culture, they had a video from SNL of English speakers waaaaaaay over-pronouncing the Spanish names of Mexican foods. I was amused and totally convicted.

Here’s my thing, though. Living with a Spanish-speaker, it has become increasingly difficult for me to pronounce words, such as Guatemala, in the “American” way. GOO-AH-TAY-MALL-AH.

Instead, I find myself repeating the way Billy says it – more like WAH-TE-MAH-LA. (This should probably be a video post… sorry!) Ella says it like this, too, and corrects people in public

I recently had the embarrassing experience of another American asking me my daughter’s name. I pronounced “Gabriella” exactly as I hear it all the time… out of Billy’s mouth. Yeah… they couldn’t understand me! 

How awkward when I had to cough and mumble “GAB-REE-ELLA” with no hint of rolling the r’s or l’s. No. What is happening to me? But seriously, it just sounds a little weird to me in “English.”

We had the opposite experience ordering at a Taco Bell in Guatemala City. (At some point I’ll blog more about my not-so-secret shame of eating at American chain restaurants when I travel.)

I wanted a Double Decker taco. I mean… it’s pretty much amazing. A traditional (yes, I mean traditional in a “Taco Bell-sets-the-standard” kind of way) crunchy taco smeared with refried beans and wrapped in flour tortilla. Who could ask for more? (Well, me… I could probably eat two or three easily.)

Given the geography, I was ordering in Spanish, but I switched back to my “American accent” when I requested the “Double Decker taco.” The guy didn’t understand me ordering, so Billy took over, still switching to “English” (I guess?) when saying “Double Decker taco."

After much confusion, the cashier finally replied “oooooh, un taco Doo-bleh Dek-her. Si!”

We have never called it a Double Decker taco again!

Do you find yourself switching accents (or “code switching”) in ways that may be amusing to others?

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Jesus Is My Life Coach

I'm excited to be guest posting today at Accidental Devotional. I've mentioned Abby before in a post where our girls scraped pre-chewed gum off the playground sidewalk to enjoy. Fun times! She writes a lot of great reflections on faith and teaching and gender. Check out her blog and enjoy today's guest post. Here's a little sneak peak:

Pretty much since I graduated high school and my decisions became “my own,” I’ve been in some kind of life transition. Choosing a major or career… Relocating or contemplating a move… figuring out who to marry… changing jobs… deciding if and when to have babies.

The season of the 20’s is an exhilarating and exhausting time. The world was my oyster, and that was a little (okay, a lot) overwhelming.

With both feet now firmly planted in my 30’s, the last two months of my life have felt more “settled” than I have known in years.

I’ve already chosen my husband. And after four years of job searching, he was recently hired at a great company that he truly enjoys. This development eliminated any lingering thoughts of “Will we need to move?” I’m in a groove with my own job, and we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of our second child.

Suddenly, I find myself with fewer questions about the future… at least the immediate one anyway. There are no big decisions looming that I know I need to address. For the most part, I can kind of guess what my life will look like in six months. That has rarely been the case.

Read the full post on Accidental Devotional by clicking here.

Yo Prometo: Renewing Commitment to Bilingualism

“You okay, babe?” she asked me, looking over with concern.

Was this a hippie on the street? Oh no. It was my two-year old, checking in on me after a sneeze.

After all my worries that she’d never speak, the words are tumbling out non-stop these days. “I want to go in the car.” “What’s this, Mama?” “Ella do it!” (Ah… two year olds…)

What’s incredible to me is that after two years home with her Papa, she is leaning so heavily towards English. I mean, her Spanish is not non-existent. She counts in a jumbled mixture of “two, three, ocho!” and even has her preschool teachers reminding her to take home her chumpi.

Still, the limited Spanish she’s speaking is a little discouraging, actually. And since I like to dramatize things, I’ve already decided there’s no hope for this second baby since Billy won’t be a stay-at-home dad this go ‘round!

I recognize that a few big family changes have played into this new development. First, Billy got a job. (Yay!) And at his new place of employment, he works primarily with English speakers. (This news is not entirely surprising.)

An unexpected consequence of this transition, however, is the challenge he has experienced trying to switch back into Spanish at home. Of course, he also wants to talk to me when he returns from work, and well… I don’t really speak Spanish.

With him working again, my daughter has been attending an English preschool. Though she does attend Spanish class twice a week (How cool is that?), her consumption of English has dramatically increased.

So we’re recommitting.

Billy announced the other night that the kids speaking Spanish is very important to him, so a renewed commitment seems in order. As I’m watching our bilingual journey unfold… I’m thinking this process of “vow renewal” will be a natural part of our rhythm.

It takes more work to incorporate Spanish. Sometimes it’s just easier for our home life to stay all in English. But we know we will regret that move one day. So we keep trying to be intentional. We’re talking to a Spanish-speaking friend about watching the kids after Baby Q #2 arrives, and Billy is making the extra effort to switching back when he’s home.

I’m so glad we’ve chosen this path for our family, but I recognize it hasn’t been as “simple” as I originally expected. (I mean, really, I think I can say that about raising a child in general.)

Where have you had to recommit in your parenting decisions?

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Lost In Translation

We’re considering having our deck extended behind our house. I mean… we like watching Ella skip circles around the dog bed in front of the grill, but we thought a little more space might be safer. 

This first company we pursued insisted on sending a guy to our house. That guy insisted that Billy be there because he wanted to make sure nothing was “lost in translation.” Billy awkwardly responded, “Well… my wife speaks perfect English.” (Why, thank you.)

I don’t know if that’s what the guy meant or he was afraid I wouldn’t know how to sell “it will totally be worth it” after he finally told us (together) the incredibly high price. Yeah. Not going to happen.

A little word-of-mouth, and we found a guy willing to build a deck for us for pennies, comparatively. Since there was such a large price gap, I did want to make sure we wouldn’t all be plummeting to our deaths due to “affordable” craftsmanship.

So I texted a friend who’d used him. “We love our deck!” she responded. “And it seems quality to our untrained eye. Feel free to check it out.”

I relayed this message to Billy. “What’s untrainedeye?” he asked me.

But before I could respond… “Ooooh, I get it. Untrain diet!

I started laughing and shaking my head. But before I could open my mouth… he continued. “Like they’re joking that they’re fat and their deck has never collapsed!”

Wow. How on earth did we get here?

He was so proud to have navigated this witty message. Still, I blurted out, “No! Untrained EYE!” while poking myself in the face enthusiastically.

We both burst into laughter.

“Don’t you love life with me?” he asked. “So much more exciting.”

So true, my friend. So true…

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When Bad Things Happen in Good Places (or "When I Was Robbed at Target")

It all started when I broke a nail.

Last Saturday, I destroyed my fingernail in one of the most painful, tiny injuries a person can sustain. I’ve been nursing it back to health over the last several days… mainly through the committed use of band-aids. (I learned an important lesson about “re-tearing” while changing a crib sheet.)

I’m rarely at Target at 9:30 am on Wednesday, but since it’s Spring Break (and apparently my two-year old gets “Spring Break” at her preschool, so I am off work to hang out with her)… there we were. And lo and behold, they are restocking the Band-Aid aisle! (Yeah, I’m dramatizing this story too much when that statement receives an exclamation point…)

Eight carts blocked my unencumbered view of the myriad of adhesive bandage choices, so I parked Ella at the end of the aisle and headed in. She talks non-stop, so we were pretty much in constant communication, I could see her, and I was only about six feet away.

When I returned to the cart… mission accomplished… Ella looked at me and said, “Mama Purse! Mama Purse!”

Per usual, I casual repeated her words without much thought… but then I thought about my purse. I looked in the cart. Past the sippy cup and half-eaten baggie of Veggie Straws. Past the rubber stress ball and its unglued pair of eyes that Ella removed and has promptly carried around for two days. Past the slowly unraveling skein of yarn we’ve been taking everywhere, affectionately calling “Yarn Ball.” And… where on earth was my purse?

Two thoughts went through my mind. “Maybe I left it when I did my return” and “If someone took my purse, they have my car keys.” All the while with the underlying terror that someone may have stolen something out of my cart with my daughter sitting inches away.

Rushing towards the front, my adrenaline was pumping and I was trying to look around our chaotic cart of toys and snacks to see if it was truly missing. Cruising past the make-up aisle, what do I see but some guy holding my purse and going through my wallet! (A more appropriate use of the exclamation point…)

“Dude! That’s my purse!” I shout at him, rushing forward. He had unleashed my Mama Bear instinct, my former daycare worker disciplinarian, and my general outrage over the sheer inconvenience of having someone steal your wallet.

I was grabbing my belongings out of his hand while he tried to quickly stuff my wallet back into my purse while mumbling, “Sorry.” Sorry? Are you kidding me? This didn’t accidentally happen!

As he casually strolled towards the exit (I mean, seriously… he was chatting on a cell phone), I followed him while frantically searching through my purse to see if anything important was missing before he left.

“Did you take my phone?” I shouted at him across the registers while people now took notice.

“No. This is mine,” he said, slightly annoyed and holding up his phone to prove me wrong or something.

I just remember responding, “Don’t talk to me like I’m annoying you. You stole my purse!”

That’s when a cashier went to summon the security guard. He dutifully approached my frantic self, trying to calm me and ask a couple questions. What I really wanted was for him to chase down and tackle the guy, who was still casually sauntering out of the store. But I’m not sure I ever actually said, “It was him! That guy right there!” once help arrived.

All in all, it turned out uneventful. Nothing was taken best I can tell (and really…in my purse it’s a toss up…maybe he got away with a couple peanuts). When the security guard asked me if I “felt safe walking to my car” all I could respond was “oh, I still have some things I need to get.”

In all this drama, I’m impressed by Ella’s ninja-like awareness. I would have never noticed until we went to check out if she hadn’t alerted me to the situation at hand. “Mama Purse!”

I have had strangers warning me for years about leaving my purse unattended in my cart. Maybe now I will have to heed their words.

Have you ever had something stolen from your cart? Or been robbed in a public place?

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The One Where I Accidentally Stole Drugs

Sometimes these things happen. Sometimes I find myself in situations where I am naively blind to what is really going on. That and I have a hard time telling people “no.”

In this particular case, I was riding the Greyhound bus. I mean, if you want a have a phenomenal cultural experience… ride Greyhound. It. Is. Awesome. (I hear MegaBus is all the rage these days. We’ve nearly bought tickets a couple times, but it didn’t work out. I look forward to adding them to my travel repertoire.)

I was traveling with a friend, but when we boarded, there was no room to sit together. I sat down next a skinny, white girl in her early 20’s. She talked a lot, referred to herself in the third person… oh, and in that 3rd person, she was called “Big Girl.”

Big Girl told a long, circuitous story about some kind of court appearance, which was why she was riding the bus. I think her license had been revoked.

As the bus plodded along, several passengers fell asleep. I wanted to be one of these travelers, but Big Girl chattered on. The guy in front of us across the aisle had, however, dozed off. It was then that Big Girl noticed a small baggie that had fallen under his seat.

“What do you think that is?” she asked me.

“I don’t know.”

“You think it’s drugs?”

“I don’t know,” I responded again, wondering if it’s too late to pretend to be asleep.

She waited a few minutes, eyeing the sleeping man and the unsupervised baggie. I became engrossed in anything else. But nope… we weren’t through.

“Think you can reach it?” she finally ventured.

 I leaned forward pathetically, barely lifting my arm. “No, I don’t think so.”

More moments passed. “What if you stand up?” she offered.

Now what am I supposed to do? If you have a better idea, please share. My lack of ability to say “no” took over, and I’m out of my seat, reaching under the sleeping man’s chair, and snagging an unidentified bag.

Big Girl and I huddled over the find in our seat. She examined it thoroughly before proclaiming, “It’s just trash.”

Not knowing exactly how to respond, I heard myself saying, “Awh, man.” Hey, we still had a couple hours left together on our trip.

After a while, the bus emptied out. And even though I felt awkward since Big Girl and I had become “friends,” I did eventually move to sit with my “before-this-bus-trip” friend.

Still, Big Girl has remained a part of my life immortalized in this memory of that time I accidentally stole drugs.

Have you ever ridden Greyhound? Any “unusual” experiences?

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Why I Don’t Call People “Illegal”

It was such a joy this week to see that the Associated Press has decided to address the loaded use of the word “illegal."

I resonate deeply with the quote from Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll: “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally…”

It was such a jolt when we moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta and every news broadcast regarding immigration was playing it fast and loose with the word. They especially loved referring to undocumented immigrants as “the illegals,” which was particularly distasteful (and interestingly, is being underlined in my document as “not a real word”).

I love words (shocker, I know!), and I do believe that the language we use has power and meaning. That’s why I try to be conscious of how I use words. It’s not about being “politically correct,” it’s about respecting others as much as possible.

For me, this doesn’t relate only to immigrants. I’ve tried to eliminate other words in my vocabulary, such as criminal and prostitute. I do not want to define people by their mix-ups, mistakes, or the worst thing they’ve ever done. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone doing that to me!

Rather, I try to say “someone who committed a crime” or “a woman who prostituted.” Personhood is established because they are made in God’s image, regardless of life choices.

What’s even more bizarre to me about “illegal” as a substitute noun for immigrant is that entering the US illegally is a misdemeanor. Seems a bit extreme to use “illegal” as the language identity for someone who committed a misdemeanor!

I hope we can all choose language that attempts to be as respectful to others as possible. As Christians, I feel this is even more important. And I am thrilled that we may see hurtful words that have been tainted by hate disappear from the media.  

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The Milk Challenge

One time I tried to explain to Billy the college campus activity of guzzling a gallon of milk… which, as you may know, turns out to be impossible and the people throw up. I don’t know… is this a common university thing or mostly popular on the small, Christian school scene?

Anyway, I was somewhat rolling my eyes at the whole practice for its general foolishness when Billy looked at me deadpan and simply said, “I don’t understand games where people waste food.”

I must admit I hadn’t really thought about it like that. 

This conversation resurfaced after a Pinterest session where I was trying to convince Billy we needed to create bins of rice and beans for Ella’s tactile play. “I really do not understand playing with food,” he told me again.

I am thankful for the global perspective that cross-cultural marriage offers. So many people in Guatemala and elsewhere (including the States) struggle with real need for nutrition and clean water. I am convicted of the wrongness of “wasting” food when that is our global reality.
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