February: The Top 3 List

Oh, February. Such a short month… with enough snow and ice to last me a lifetime. I mean, I guess I should least admit that it was only about six days. Whew! Too much. I get very melodramatic when it’s cold and snowy.

But there were some really great things to share from February. First of all…

Yes. Absolutely. Billy and I got a day to ourselves (thanks to the grandparents) and nothing at the theater really intrigued us. Then I remembered I’d seen this movie advertised at the Fernbank Science Museum.

Originally, I knew Billy would love it, so I suggested it. I did not expect to feel any kind of way about the film. It. Was. AMAZING.

I don’t know if I’ve ever gone to an IMAX movie not with a school group as either a student or chaperone. But I’d forgotten how awe-inspiring the filming is. On top of that, I was fascinated by the city of Jerusalem and the spiritual significance it holds for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I highly recommend it!

Secondly, one night I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up and someone was kicking chickens on TV. And this, my good friends, is how I got tricked into watching Food, Inc.

Normally, I don’t like to watch movies like this because I do occasionally resist learning things that may cause me discomfort. I didn’t want the tension, especially around something as basic as food, when I know that making changes in that arena will require some serious intentionality.

I also erroneously assumed the end game is to try to get me to be a vegetarian. While I actually don’t eat a lot of meat, I’m not eager to eliminate it entirely. But that wasn’t what I took away from the documentary.

I definitely felt convicted that the process by which we consume meat these days is a far cry from God’s original intention. So we’re looking at ways to incorporate more sustainable food practices into our diet. Which is what I really wanted to share.

Farm Burger. Given our recent documentary viewing, we went here for Valentine’s Day. I wanted to put it on your radar if you’re in the Atlanta area. Delicious, grass-fed burgers and fresh, seasonal sides. Such a yummy meal and casual, rustic environment. 

Lastly, February has been a month of big risks for me. I’m excited (read: terrified) to admit I’ve been working on a book proposal. I am a big fan of Michael Hyatt’s guide to writing a book proposal because it basically tells me step-by-step exactly what to do. That’s what I’m talking about! If you're working on something of your own, you may want to check it out.

I’ve used our immigration love story blog series as a jumping off point for a longer memoir. My hope would be to tell the story in such a way that provides additional nuance to the conversation of immigration.

Some dear friends read it over and offered me beautiful feedback to try to make the story better. I think I’m still scared to dive in full throttle, but I’m getting there. Slowly, but surely!

Those are my favorite things from February. What makes your top list of the month?

Full disclosure: I have an affiliate link for Michael Hyatt's products, meaning if you purchase an item via my link, I will have the opportunity to toss money in the air and holler "make it rain!"

One Reason I Have No Idea What’s Going On in Venezuela

Billy and I have often joked that while we may come from different countries, we are actually cross-cultural in another, very important way. In high school, I was a nerd and he was a cool kid.

And sometimes high school still plays out in adulthood. I don’t mind. I’ve always enjoyed being nerdy.

But given our taken-for-granted social roles, you can imagine my shock and horror when it became obvious that Billy knows more about world history than me.

I don’t remember how it came up, but he kept referencing historical events about which I had little to no knowledge. “I don’t understand,” he told me. “Didn’t you study this in school?”

As it turns out, my only real memory from history classes involves Europe and the US. Billy and (as he likes to put it) “the girls who did my homework” studied all that plus, you know, other parts of the world.

These days, I rarely watch the news. Partly because I’m not totally convinced it’s a good source from which to learn what's happening in the world. Of course, I won’t argue that my alternative is superior.

Basically, I get all my news from Facebook. Something happens and before too long, all my thoughtful and brilliant friends share blog posts or articles and keep me up-to-date. I will admit, though, that there’s a delay.

Recently, however, I have realized there’s another weakness in this model. Most of my Facebook friends are more or less like me… in a lot of ways. And this means that when things “go viral” in my little subset of the Internet, there’s content cycling elsewhere about which I have no clue.

This reality became evident again last week while Billy and I were “hanging out,” meaning sitting next to each other both looking at our phones. Oh… is that not what you do? Really?

“What’s going on in Venezuela?” he asked me.

“I have no idea. Why are you asking me that?”

“My Facebook feed is all about Venezuela. Everyone’s praying for peace…. changing their profile pictures.”

Naturally, I scurried to BBC, where I do occasionally try to read the news. All it had was one small article: “Students are protesting in Venezuela.” That was basically it. And my Facebook feed would be silent about South America for a few more days.

Eventually, a couple posts would pop up. Links to this article and this video. And I’ve been trying to keep up a little bit more about what’s happening. You can also read this post on BBC.

But I have been struck by how much my Facebook feed is now determining what I know about the world. It’s almost enough to make me start watching the news… or listening to NPR or something. After all, I gotta keep up my nerd rep.

How do you get your news? Do you find that your Facebook feed shares a lot the same types of information? 

P.S. Have we connected on Facebook? You can find me here!

Image credit: Fernando Flores

Waiting for the World Cup

We've started talking about the World Cup. Basically, I've been driving Billy crazy.

First of all, I thought the tournament was two weeks long every three years. To which he replied, "You would've missed the entire thing!"

And then I made a comment about how Leo Messi is maybe not as hot as you would expect for a soccer player. Billy just kept shouting, "He's the best soccer player in the world!!!!" I'm still a little unclear what influence that response has on my original statement...

But anyway, we're plotting some fun parties and shenanigans, and I am cooking up some fun ideas for here on the blog. The World Cup is definitely something I paid little to no attention to until my life became more international.

To be clear, I still pay little to no attention to the actual game, but I'm in the room, I own a jersey and I know names like Leo Messi. We've got a fun summer ahead, folks!

Thinking about the World Cup has brought to mind a video my friend Andres shared in his 100% post. I wanted to embed it here because I appreciate this message so much. I hope it resonates with you, too. Enjoy!

Do you have any World Cup traditions? Would love to hear them or what you thought of the video as well!

Do I Belong in This America?

We were stopped at a stoplight when the truck pulled forward in the lane to our right. It stopped beside the van in front of us and the driver rolled down his window.

A slew a hate was unleashed and screamed through the driver’s window. Lots of the F-word. GO HOME! Illegals. The word Mexican spat out like sour milk.

I could taste the hate in the air.

It happened so fast and so unexpectedly. To our knowledge, no driving transgression had occurred. It felt random and fierce. And of course, not really random at all.

We didn't know how to respond. In person, I would feel some sort of compulsion to step in. But in cars rumbling at a red light, it felt like the only options were to ram them or pray for green.

We frantically rolled up the windows, trying to press out the hate. I looked at the dark-skinned, Latino face in the side mirror of the van in front us. He stared ahead. Tears wet my eyes.


I have been empathetic as long as I have known myself. But this goes deeper for me than an “I hurt for you” response.

Witnessing this type of horrible-ness, whether in real life or on Twitter when a child sings the national anthem… it chips away at my soul. It drives a disconnection inside me that makes me feel homeless.

It feels almost inappropriate to say this as a white person. My white skin and my husband’s white skin means we avoid much of this direct racism spewed our way. I am aware of that privilege.

And yet.

I wrote a sentence in my Coke ad post that surprised me: Sometimes I sigh and wonder if living here will ever feel like it “fits” again. I guess I didn’t know that I often feel like I don’t fit.

I resonate with the stories of immigrant children, who wear both cultures but sometimes feel exposed as fitting into neither. I hear the same experiences echoed by missionary kids, recent immigrants or people of color raised in an environment of a different culture.

I don’t want to “steal” their stories or pretend that my experiences are exactly the same. I know that, if I want to, I can blend into majority culture, and from the outside, appear to fit right in.

But there’s a reality in my heart that I’m uncomfortable. I am sometimes taken aback by how much my worldview has changed and how much mainstream culture in the news reflects an America I haven’t experienced in a really long time.

It feels like two worlds. And it hurts because it used to fit. But it’s also freeing because I feel more like myself.

But when I hear the hate... when words like, “Go home!” are screamed at a stoplight, I know I’m not the one yelling. But I’m also not standing behind the screamer thinking, “Don’t say that!” or “I don’t agree! I don’t feel that way!”

No. I’m in the same lane behind the Mexican drivers, listening as the shouts echo on my heart, thinking, “But where will I go?”

I am linking up this month with SheLoves Magazine around the theme "Belong." You can link-up your post here.

I'd love to hear your thoughts around belonging and multicultural identity. Please feel free to join the conversation in the comments!

3 Takaways from the Superbowl Coke Ad

If you’re like me, you missed the Coke ad during the Superbowl. Somehow… between wrangling children, baking mozzarella sticks and chatting with friends, I forgot the reason we were together in the first place: commercials.

As soon as it was over, someone mentioned it to me. Apparently, given my love for culture and my love for Coke, the ad seemed right up my ally. And it was.

In case it hasn’t been all over your news feed this week, you can watch it here. For my own twist, I’ll show you a little feature on the young lady who sang the song in Spanish.

Watching and reading the fall out, I have a few thoughts. 

“We Speak English” means “I ONLY speak English.”

Several years ago, I was mildly aware of some English-only laws being debated regarding public education. That summer I worked at an upper class, predominately Jewish camp. Almost 100% of those kids were multilingual.

Some of them were from multicultural backgrounds, but the driver was economics. Their families were preparing them for the future economy by making sure they were fluent in English, Mandarin, Farsi and other languages. I felt so behind.

I’ve also interacted with a good deal of Latino children from very modest means here in the States. They are also bilingual.

So the middle class, in my opinion, are often the holdouts arguing for English only in a society where lack of multilingualism will hold you back. It just doesn’t make sense.

I’ve sat in Spanish class with 40-year old professionals, frustrated at being passed over for promotions because they don’t have the necessary skills to advance. And that skill is language.

So many of the hateful tweets talked about “We speak English here.” As you see in this video and some of the others featuring the voices of the ads…. So do those singers.

Anyone With a Phone Can Tweet

Sometimes the critiques of social media include ideas that we all think our thoughts, opinions and voices are too important. Probably true.

But as I scrolled through tweets about this commercial that ranged from ignorant to racist to non-sensical, I must remind myself that not eveyone else’s opinion is always so important either.

Easier said than done, I know, because I feel rattled when I realize that there’s an ugly undercurrent I try to ignore sometimes. I fully acknowledge that racism cannot be ignored and there are times I need to stand against the status quo. But Twitter doesn’t always seem like the most productive place to do so.

Maybe We Can Belong Here

If you (like me) do spend a lot of time online reading about race, ethnicity and culture, you can get the hint really fast that there are many in this country who don’t welcome us.

Especially being connected to the Latino story, that sentiment of “Go home! You are not wanted!” is shouted from the virtual rooftops over and over and over again.

And even when I try to let it roll off my back, sometimes I sigh and wonder if living here will ever feel like it “fits” again.

I’ll try not to be overly sentimental, but when I watched that Coke ad, there was this tiny flutter in my heart that says, “Yay! Our family is part of this beautiful America.”

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It’s Official: My Daughter Is Smarter than Me

We’ve all been spending more time indoors than I prefer lately. I’ve seen enough Daniel Tiger and Super Why to hold me over for a couple years. We’ve painted, we’ve colored, we’ve baked, we’ve talked non-stop.

But this week, I convinced Ella to spend a good thirty minutes or so just brushing my hair and wielding a hair dryer. Definitely my favorite game so far.

So she brushed and teased and dried. And then she circled around to see my face and assess her work. “Muy bella,” she declared.

Actually, I didn’t know what she said. But all the sudden, startled, Billy hollered out, “Yeah, muy bella! That’s right!” And started hooting and whooping. (I would've thought that would be a word I would recognize, but Billy pronounces it "vay-yah," which I didn't expect.)

I think it may be on the very first times she just busted out Spanish un-coerced and without any English.

Little by little, she’s been speaking in Spanglish. In the grocery store: “Mom, we need more rojo yogurt. It’s muy good.” At home: “Where’s my amarillo cup?”

And my favorite: "In Spanish "cape" is capa." Wait for it... "Mama, can you say capa?" Thank you to our Bat Girl pajamas for teaching us that word.

Overall, I’m simply fascinated. I mean, I know this was our hope, but it feels so surreal to see my baby speaking two different languages. And one I don’t really know on top of that.

It’s official. She’s smarter than me. Now I can return to my original insecurities that my trio of bilingual loves will talk and joke and leave me out. Ha!

Okay, well, we’re not there yet. And maybe if that ever happens, I’ll actually be quite proud of them.

Photo thanks to David Park. 
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A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.