8 Unexpected Los Angeles Celebrity Sightings

Snow Jam 2014 has provided me with some much needed distraction from the grey days of winter. In fact, after Ella rode the car through our fence, Billy’s was response to me was “See, we need drama like that from time to time.” Could he be any more perfect for me?

Nevertheless, 24 hours is my limit with snow and the fact that our snowman isn’t completely melted yet has me missing sunny LA a bit.

Reminiscing about the City of Angels and her resident celebrities reminded me about the star sightings I experienced while living there. My list includes some very interesting folks. 

Marilyn Manson – Yes. The very first celebrity I ever saw living in LA was Marilyn Manson at a bar/restaurant in Hollywood. What on earth?

Mister T – Also strange? Running into Mister T at a Jewish Deli in MacArthur Park. It was truly a multicultural mashup.

Sharon Osbourne – At The Container Store. Even the Osbourne household needs under bed storage!

Katherine Heigl – So far, she seems the most traditional of my celebrity sitings. However, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I recognized her voice behind me in the human race track that is IKEA. (Apparently, me and a lot of celebrities were “nesting” during that season.)

Sean Gunn – Oh, how I love me some Gilmore Girls. I noticed Kirk sitting by the door of  Japanese restaurant as I was exiting.

Terry Crews – I recognized him from Everybody Hates Chris. We actually attended the same church for a brief period.

Judy Greer – I didn’t know her name until just now looking it up. Whenever I recount this sighting, I just kept referring to her as “everybody’s best friend.” And then occasionally saying, “You know… pot! kettle! black!” (Bonus points if you know what movie that mangled quote is from…)

Kyle Bornheimer – We spotted him at the Apple Store at The Grove. At the time, Billy and I were obsessed with his show, Worst Week. Apparently, we were the only ones because the show didn’t last long, but I felt like we should show support. So we stalked him down with his family and gushed about how much we loved it. He was kind, so that’s cool.

That’s all I can remember on this chilly night in Atlanta. Word on the street (and naturally, I’m very tuned into what’s happening on “the streets”) is that more and more celebrities are here. 

So far I’ve only seen Dr.Tancredi, but given my passionate marathons with Prison Break, that was equal to seeing about three stars in my book. Maybe I can bump into Jennifer Lawrence as they film Hunger Games 3!

I want to know your celebrity sightings! Do name drop in the comments, won't you?

Image credit: Mentat Kibernes

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When Your Car Rolls Away with Your Baby

There’s a reason this Southern girl calls it quits at the first sight of flurry. And today that lifestyle choice was confirmed when I experienced a mother’s worst nightmare.

Ella and I pulled into the driveway, home from preschool, to an Atlanta winter wonderland. I was trying to figure out if I could give our babysitter a ride home, knowing Isaac was probably already napping.

“Let me check on something. I’ll be right back,” I told Ella. I bounded into the house to check with the babysitter.

Standing at the door, she and I were discussing options when I had that horrible brain realization that my car was rolling down the driveway!

I ran up next to the car. It was the most bizarre mental experiences. I heard myself think, “Awh, I’m too late. I can’t catch it.” Followed quickly by, “I absolutely HAVE to do something! My baby is in that car and I’m the only one here!”

Thank God I was able to yank open the door, jump inside and slam on the brake. All while the car was crashing through our fence.

Naturally, Ella thought the whole experience was a delight. “Mama, the car was driving itself!” I was hyperventilating in the front seat.

This, folks. This is why I stay inside when it’s snowing. Whew!

Winter weather is waaaay outside my swing zone! I think I'll be spending the night cuddled up with TV and hot chocolate.

How are you faring in this snowpocalypse? 

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Our First Marital Culture Clash

Our first cultural confusion happened mere days after we got married. That’s right. In fact, it had to do with the post-wedding etiquette itself.

Upon our return from our honeymoon, we sat down to open the gifts from our guests. I grabbed a pen and piece of paper.

“What are you doing?” Billy asked.

“I’m writing down who gave us what.”


“The thank-you notes.” (Blank stare.) “We have to send cards saying thank you for the gifts.”

“I already said thank you at the wedding.”

And thus began the Great Gracias Debate that has resurfaced at every child’s birth and major celebration.

You’ll notice in the “bios” and what not for this blog that I refer to myself not as an American girl, but as a Southern girl. I identify pretty highly with my Southern roots. And GRITS send thank you notes, y’all! Ideally on monogrammed stationary…

And so, if I remember correctly, I wrote every single thank you note from our wedding myself. But Billy has been inching his way on board.

Perhaps ironically (I say perhaps because I’m never quite certain I’m using the word ironically correctly), Billy is actually one of the most grateful people I know. So he’s adjusting to cultural norms since he married a Southern girl and lives in the South. When in Rome… even Rome, Georgia…

And I’ve adjusted a little bit, too, I suppose. Sometimes I’ve written thank you notes to Billy’s friends that I cognitively know are not expecting them. I guess my concession is I let it go when he doesn’t deliver them.

Maybe one day I’ll stop actually writing them. But right now I can’t. It is so deeply engrained in my cultural upbringing.  

Although I will say… our last trip to Guatemala we were lavished with gifts celebrating Isaac’s birth and Christmas. I said thank you to everyone. And that was that.

It was actually kinda freeing. I could get used to this… Okay, maybe not really. But I can appreciate that we’ve got two different gratitude strategies going on here.

Do you send thank you notes? 

*GRITS - acronym for "Girls Raised in the South" and a delicious Southern hot cereal that I ate as an afterschool snack every day for years.

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Which Comes First: The Beginning or The End?

I was considering a writing prompt on New Beginnings. And then tonight I went to a friend’s funeral.

And all I can think about are those SemiSonic lyrics, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

And for some reason, this somewhat sad side of the new beginnings coin has been a large part of my thought process over the last six months. Because… for whatever reason, I’ve been really struggling with growing old lately.

Now for those of you my age, you’re thinking, “You’re ridiculous and dramatic.” But I also know I have several readers who are in the college, post-college age demographic (which I recently realized no longer includes me), and you are thinking, “I know. How is that for you?”

Something about having a second kid really tipped my mid-life crisis scale. Part of it was the adjustment from what felt like “two crazy kids and their baby” to being a full-fledged family.

Also, there was something very startling to me with Isaac’s birth as Billy and I both acknowledged a deep satisfaction with the size of our family. I may have been quoted saying, “We’ve moved out of the ‘starting a family’ stage. There’s nothing left to do except get old and die.” Yeah, I heard it. You can feel free to tell me I’m foolish.

But legitimately, I have struggled. I feel a little distracted from new beginnings. I feel like I’ve had a lot and they have all included closing a door on an alternate future. Sometimes I mourn the loss of what other lives could have been, even when I’m perfectly happy with the one I have chosen. Does that make sense?

I find myself desiring a new beginning, but not really sure what that looks like at this stage of life. It used to mean moving to a new city… or dying my hair. But now I have a whole crew that’s not in the mood to move. (I am considering some maroon highlights, but losing some steam on that one…)

New dreams feel like additional things I have to tackle on top of everything else going on. I am struggling to close any doors. To admit that every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. 

And the real truth is that some beginnings (motherhood as one example, but there are others) I cannot and do not want to close. But, of course, there’s also perhaps some things maybe I should close.

So maybe I should go to God asking what new beginnings there are for me. I know cognitively that I am still very young. Okay, well maybe not very young… but young enough to keep dreaming. But I may need to close some doors rather than just opening new ones all the time. 

What new beginnings are you seeking? How do you walk through the transition of leaving other stories you’ve written to make space for new ones?

This post is part of the January 2014 Synchroblog: New Beginnings. Here is the full list of posts:

Jen Bradbury - Enough
Abbie Watters - New Beginnings
Cara Strickland - Bursting
Carol Kuniholm - Acorns, King, Beloved Community
Done With Religion – A New Year, A New Beginning
Kelly Stanley - A Blank Canvas
Glenn Hager - Overcoming The Biggest Obstacle To Reaching Your Goals
Dave Criddle - Get Some New Thinking
David Derbyshire - Changed Priorities Ahead
J A Carter - The Year of Reading Scripture for the First Time
Damon - New Beginnings: Consider These 5 Questions Before Tying The Knot
Jeffrey Kranz - Where To Start Reading The Bible
Joanna990 - On survival – my one word for 2014
K W Leslie - Atonement
Happy - my One Word 365 surprise
Michelle Moseley - Ends and Beginnings
Matthew Bryant - A New Creation
Liz Dyer – It’s a new year and time to make some new mistakes
Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich - Foreclosed: The beginning of a new dream
Jennifer Clark Tinker - Starting a New Year Presently
Loveday Anyim - New Year New Resolutions
Loveday Anyim - New Year Resolution Dreamers
Loveday Anyim - New Year Resolution Specialists
Loveday Anyim - The New Year Planners and Achievers
Jeremy Myers - Publish Your Book with Redeeming Press 
Amy Hetland - New Beginnings 
Phil Lancaster – New Beginnings
Mallory Pickering – Something Old, Something New
Margaret Boelman – The Other Side of Grief
Kathy Escobar – One Image

Martin Luther King, Immigration & the Divergent

I love me some good ‘ole YA fiction. And this week, I've devoured all but a couple pages of the Divergent Trilogy. I’m already overly excited about the first movie coming out in March.

Dystopian society, teen romance and bizarre uni-dimensional factions… what’s not to love?

Something that has stood out to me in the second installment is the role of the Amity faction. Without giving away any plot twists for those of you that may read the series, I’ll just say that the Amity, who are most concerned with peace, harmony and friendship, desire to take a neutral position during the war.

It becomes clear, though, that when a group is being oppressed, a neutral position is really the same as siding with the oppressors.
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. - Martin Luther King, Jr. 
So often when discussion of the Civil Rights Movement emerges among Christians, there is a lament that there were too many incidents where the Church remained silent. Of course, the reality behind this statement is that we’re often referring to the white church.

I am constantly encouraged by the engagement of people of faith in the Civil Rights Movement. The black church played a central role in calling for justice, standing with the marginalized and expecting God to show up.

When it comes to issues of justice, I don’t witness the Church remaining silent.

Even as immigration reform remains unfinished, my thoughts go to the Latino pastors who are supporting the undocumented while also rallying for justice. I am reminded of the pastor-friend who helped Billy get false papers when he needed to work while still ineligible for legitimate documents.

And I am encouraged by the Latino pastors with whom I traveled to Washington to advocate for reform. I thought I was scared speaking with representatives until one friend said to me, “I am nervous sharing my story in my second language.” They are standing up and engaging!

As a white person, I also have a deep desire that the white church while engage in immigration reform and other spheres of justice. Today we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., and I hope Christians will both affirm the participation of the church in that inspiring effort and also learn from the absence of so many believers.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Image credit: Jerry Dohnal and Noah Jacquemin

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Go for it! The #1 Advantage of Cross-Cultural Marriage

When I announced my engagement to Billy, I unintentionally opened a door for people to tell me their concerns about cross-cultural marriages.

I want to clarify that these comments weren’t in the vein of narrow-minded, “you should marry your own” type of concerns. It tended to be folks with first-hand experience of a mixed marriage between loved ones (or themselves) that had ended badly. And it was known or suspected that ethnicity played a role in the break up.

The challenges were fresh on their minds. Was communication simply too hard? They never understood each other’s backgrounds. In-laws. Money. How will your marriage affect your kids?

Their experiences were raw, and I can appreciate the hurt that was evident in the responses. Still, as a giddy fiancé, I was (more than) mildly terrified. And since I didn’t have a ton of “successful” cross-cultural couples present in my life, worry began to creep in.

So from one married cross-cultural couple to any engaged folks out there, I want to say, “Go for it!”

Are their challenges in marriage? Of course! Communication? Baggage? In-laws? Money? Kids? All this and more! (Oh, wait… I’m not really making my case here…)

Here’s the thing: all marriages have challenges. You know this. Growing a deep and vibrant partnership takes some work. And I hope for you that it’s also a lot of fun.

But I believe healthy cross-cultural couples can have one important edge. We approach our relationships knowing, expecting even, that we will see things differently, say things differently and experience things differently.

Hopefully, on our best days, we can give each other grace in word choices during an argument. It is, after all, your second language.

We can be quick to say, “Oh, that’s not how I grew up,” while hopefully keeping an open, global mind that recognizes context over harsh lines of “the right way.”

We ask questions. Ideally, we listen to the answers.

In reality, most marriages have elements of cross-cultural experiences built in. All of us are joining our lives with people who didn’t grow up exactly the way we did.

But cross-cultural couples have the opportunity to walk in very aware of this fact. And I think it makes our differences less of a surprise and more of a joy. We chose this multicultural life on purpose.

I’d love to hear from other couples. What fears you had (or others had for you) before marriage or what ways you’ve seen your cultures become a strength in your relationship?

Laying Down My Right To Be Welcomed

I'm so excited to introduce you today to Heather. I found my way to her blog, A Little Yes, through her writing on SheLoves Magazine. I felt especially excited when I learned she and her husband moved to Argentina for six months with their young kids. So similar to our own family story! Enjoy her words today on entering a new culture, and go check out her blog!

 Image credit: Margaret Almon

The church had a gigantic oak in its courtyard; I watched our children collecting acorns underneath with some of the kids from their Sunday school class.  

Little knots of people dotted the patio; people moved from one group to another, kissing cheeks, tousling kids’ hair, talking about the service, Sunday school, and the family asados that would happen that afternoon.

I knew I needed to introduce myself, make connections, be charming and chatty so I could help us settle into Buenos Aires for a six-month sabbatical. I needed to put myself out there.

I really didn’t want to.

Mostly, I’m an introvert. Large group gatherings always intimidate me. The thought of breaking into the little knots of people gave me a stomachache.

But there’s also the uneasy knowledge that as a foreigner, people simply don’t know what to do with you.

I saw this during my first time living in Argentina in college. After a few weeks, I could predict what questions people would ask of me.

Where are you from?

What brought you here?

Do you like it?

How long have you spoken Spanish?

When do you go back?

Then best case, the conversation would segue into one of the pet topics Argentines always seemed to bring up: how bad their country’s situation was, or the relative difficulties of Spanish and English grammar.

Or, worst case, they would run out of questions, smile politely, and excuse themselves to talk to someone that didn’t confuse the imperfect with the preterite tense.

I’m not picking on Argentines here. I think this is true anywhere.

We just don’t know what to do with people foreign to us. We don’t know how to welcome them. We don’t know how to talk to them.

I get it, because in the US, I sometimes do the same thing.

In Argentina, it took me a while to realize that I could either feel resentful that people all asked me the same, tired questions, or I could start looking at each conversation as a chance to bless the other person.

I could start asking questions that showed a genuine curiosity about their life, their passions, their circumstances.

I’m surprised at how hard that is. Especially when you’re aching with loneliness as an outsider, you want someone to notice you. You want someone to care, to engage you, to show an interest.

Truth is, it is only fair for other people to be more welcoming than the foreigner. It’s even Biblical.

But as soon as I started laying down my right to be welcomed, I discovered something precious:

Friends. Blessings. Community.

Laying down my right to be welcomed first was a heart-transforming, life changing decision.

I almost hesitate to write this here, because I don’t want you to mistake my message. If Argentines struggle to welcome strangers, I’m afraid Americans have just as far to go. Over and over, I have heard how my immigrant friends have not been welcomed here, in ways that shock me. I think those of us who are natives have a serious task to do in welcoming strangers whole-heartedly into our country.

But the truth is, going past these cultural barriers, past prejudices and misunderstandings will require something of us.

It will require laying ourselves down. Our convenience. Our world-views. Our right to a conversation where we understand every word. Our right to not feel uncomfortable about our limitations.

I’m here to tell you something; It’s worth it to surrender our selves for the sake of one conversation, one interaction with a stranger. It is worth it to approach someone new at a park and ask about their day. It is worth noting who the immigrants are around us and make a special effort to ask them warm, open-ended questions.

It is worth it to open our ears and listen to their stories. Because as unlikely as it seems, one small act of surrender is a gigantic doorway into a life of transformation.

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"Take Off Your Shirt": When Need To Know Your Second Language

I took off my sweater, standing in a room with this stranger. I was still wearing my jeans and a tank top.

Then, I was pretty sure she asked me to take off my tank top.

Here’s the thing: When you’re having a conversation in your second language, you want to be more than pretty sure someone asked you take off your clothes before you start undressing!

“Stephanie?” I hollered for my sister-in-law. She popped into the small room and worked her translation magic before confirming I was to remove my shirt and cover up with a towel before beginning my facial.

Awesome sister-in-law that she is, she had arranged a spa day for the two of us during my last visit to Guatemala. She may have been surprised, however, by how much babysitting I required since… as it turns out… Spanish III didn’t prepare me for this day at all!

Billy and I have often joked that we have “gaps” in our vocabularies. For Billy, it occurred the day he tried to explain to me something about the car and bemoaned, “I don’t know the words for any car parts in English!”

This situation became even more problematic amusing when he worked briefly at AutoZone. His initial excitement over a bilingual database turned quickly to, “All the car parts are in Mexican Spanish! I don’t know their names!”

For me, it turns out my Spanish textbook never covered “Day at the Spa.” After I responded to a question from the two girls doing my pedicure, things unraveled.

They looked at me quietly and then both put their heads down and began shaking with laughter. I was caught in the tension of continuing to (pretend to) read my (Spanish-language) magazine or deal with what was happening.

I called out for Stephanie and began laughing. They burst out in uncontrolled giggles.

Stephanie again ironed out the details. The girls spared me the embarrassment of relaying to her what foolishness I had communicated.

So I guess I’ll never know, but hey, I’m glad I made their day. Maybe one of them has a blog out there where she is writing about an English-only customer and the amusement that transpired!

Image credit: Pan Pacific

I've now shared about this and when I accidentally ordered drugs on the streets of South Central LA. I would loooove to hear when has a second language led you to an awkward situations. Please share in the comments!

The Top 3: December

It was the month that was. And then it was no more. I’ll tell you. I can hardly remember what I did in December.

However, there is one stand-out December obsession that I cannot not mention.

#1 Pentatonix

Yes, I realize they were not contestants on this year’s the sing-off. But they were last year’s winners, and somehow, I only really recently discovered them.

And promptly became obsessed.

I tried to buy tickets to see them live, but apparently, so did everyone else. Please hit me up if you discover more tickets are being sold to any of the sold out shows in the southeast!

So my two most favoritist Pentatonix songs can be found here and here.

#2 Etsy

Secondly, I reignited my love affair with Etsy for the Christmas season. I just can’t get over how many talented, creative people there are in the world!

Submitting to my fancy of all things typography, I found this little gem. And I can’t mention Etsy without a shout out to my sister’s store

# 3 30 Rock

My third December superlative goes to 30 Rock, which I began binge consuming between Christmas and New Year's. Again, I completely recognize that this show is not new. (I like to wait until a trend is no longer hot before getting involved.)

But seriously, I’d seen sporadic episodes in the past, and even though I have a celebrity crush on Tina Fey, I never really locked in on 30 Rock. But watching them back-to-back changes everything.

She is just so smart and funny. I love me some sharp wit. It’s making me think I should try Parks & Rec in mass quantities because I dig Amy Poehler, but never really got hooked on her show either. 

I’ll wrap up this December highlight reel with some favorite reads I tweeted this month:




Awesome, Unexpected Videos

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s! Let me know a few of your favorite things from December? (You know… maybe it was the Carrie Underwood Sound of Music special?)

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A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.