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5 Apps for a Busy You


Somehow, April became the month of the app. I started a new job, and maybe it was that sharpened pencil, start-of-the-new-year feeling that had me seeking new levels of efficiency.

Well, that and the reality that we were returning the lifestyle of two working parents that often feels like it’s about to crush us. So I thought for this month’s “What I’m Into” link-up, I’d share some of my favorite new (or a few tried and true) apps.

Google Drive


If there is one text message from my husband that makes me want to respond “Lose this number!” it’s this: “Hey, I’m at the grocery store. Do we need anything?”’

We now share a shopping list on Google Drive. So far… awesome. We both update it when we run out of something so that whoever is at the store knows what we need. We delete items we’ve purchased so we don’t double buy. (We have enough WetSwiffers to last a lifetime thanks to a Costco miscommunication.)

Google Calendar


I mentioned this one in the past when I finally said a painful good-bye to my paper calendar. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s been a game changer.

I have three calendars. One for work commitments. One Billy and I share anything that affects us both. For example, he may not really care that I have Book Club, but it’s on our shared calendar since he’ll need to stay with the sleeping kiddos and not make overlapping plans. And then I have one just for me.

Sworkit


Okay, so this is an app that is designed to help you workout. It gives 30 second activities (jumping jacks, run in place, calf raises, etc) and keeps you moving. Great gym alternative.

Even better use? Ella LOVES it. She will do all the exercises with me. Then, she keeps going on her own. It beeps when you’re supposed to change drills or stretches and she looks at the diagram and responds accordingly. Is she always right? No. Does this keep her occupied for swaths of time? Yes!

DreamBot 


I’ve tried this one night, so I will concede I cannot offer a longitudinal review. Basically, it’s an app that watches you while you sleep. Ha! Okay, not really, but sort of.

You lay it next to you in bed and it tracks your movements and sounds. (Note: It means your phone is on all night so you’ll want to plug it in and check your data plan. Learned that the hard way….)

You set your alarm and the phone basically agrees to wake you up within a half an hour before that time. It targets when you’re in a light sleep pattern so you wake up more easily and more refreshed. This was true for me 1 out of 1 times. Try it!

Wunderlist


This app is my new heartthrob. It’s the to-do list I’ve been searching for. I think… I mean, I hope. I’m still playing around with it.

My main thing is I have wanted a to-do app that will let me set up repeated to-dos every week or month or what have you. I simply do not have the head space to remind myself to do the same things on a repeat basis.

So I’m eagerly combining my scrap pieces of paper and mental routine to-dos to create the most amazing Wunderlist system ever seen. We’ll see how it goes!

Last on my list this month is not an app at all. It’s my new laptop bag


Now, normally I have like a $20 spending limit for any one item. As I’m getting older, though, this self-imposed bar is becoming more of a challenge. For one, I have recently discovered that paying a bit more for a pair of shoes means I may find they are quite a bit more comfortable. 

Still, I kinda feel like I didn’t do my due diligence if I pay more than twenty for anything. So springing for this bag was a huge splurge for me. 

But I was in need of one and I started thinking I was tired of carrying a laptop and a purse, so why not combine? Therefore I purchased the mother of all mom bags. And I love it!

It has compartments, so I’m actually able to find some things more quickly than I was in my catch-all purse. Billy’s reaction was, “It’s nice. Kinda big.” Ella’s commentary was, “Mom, that is a big purse!” So yes, it may go from armpit to mid-thigh, but I’m digging it!


So that’s my list this April. What are your favorite apps? Have you tried any of these?

When You Look in the Mirror


My dearest daughter,

Since before you were born, I have spent a lot of time thinking about your identity. I wonder about who you will see when you look in the mirror.

I’ve never really worried about your self-esteem and appearance because you are just so stinkin’ adorable. And pretty much you already know it. Even when I tell you that you have “crazy hair,” you look at me and say, “No, mom. I have boo-ful hair.”

But I see so much more than wild tresses and over-enthusiastic smiles when I look at you. And my prayer for you is that you, too, will see more of who God has created you to be when you look in the mirror.

First and foremost, I do hope you to rest in the assurance that you are a daughter of the King in God’s story. I want you to know you are deeply loved and cherished and forgiven and redeemed.

I hope you also never doubt that you are loved on this earth. By your papa, by me, by grandparents and abuelos, aunts, uncles, tios and tias. By your brother and even the doggie whom you overwhelm with affection on a regular basis.

My hope when you look in the mirror is that you see a bicultural, global woman. Whether you choose to identify as 2nd generation Guatemalan-American or American with Guatemalan history or biracial white and Latino or any other language that articulates your ethnicity, I hope you are confident in that identity.

I know right now you’re angry about bilingualism. You tell me in no uncertain terms that “I only speak ONE language and that’s ENGLISH!” Then you hold up your finger for emphasis and add, “UNO!”

But one day, when you look in the mirror, I deeply hope you will be proud of your skills. Of your ability to be fluid among different cultures. Of your gift to communicate across languages.

I also hope when you look in the mirror, you will experience confidence as a woman. That all the effort your papa and I make to affirm your creativity, your problem-solving skills, your stick-to-it-iveness will stick to you. That you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are more than your looks. That you will inspired to follow your dreams.

This, my daughter, is what I hope you see when you look in the mirror.


Love you.

We're writing on the topic of "Mirror" over at SheLoves Magazine this month. Click here to link your post. 

Going for the Goal! {#WorldCupWives}


It seems Billy has interpreted my World Cup Wives project as the dawn of an actual interest in the World Cup. He keeps trying to talk to me about the upcoming games, and he recently suggested we watch “The Road to Brazil” on… get this… a special soccer channel that has recently appeared on our television.

He just kept saying, “Look, there’s Maradona. Look at him go!” as this man from the 80s dribbled (that’s the right word, right? I’m a basketball girl!) up the field.

To which I responded, “Wow… look at his shorts!” That’s a trend I certainly hope never returns.

But I do love me some hype, which is one of the reasons I introduced Billy to this World Cup game from Coca-Cola® on the Dollar General website.

Basically, you get to take a turn playing the striker (which is not, as I originally thought, like a bully who leg sweeps people, but what I would just call “the kicker”) and the goalie. I am terrible at this game.

Of course, it’s hard to concentrate when someone is squatting beside you, hovering and waiting for his turn. When I abdicated the keyboard, I couldn’t figure out why he was looking at me until I was like, “Oh yeah, here’s my chair, too.”

But the game is simple. You try to slide the ball to kick it past the goalie before you take a turn moving yourself as the goalie back and forth to block your opponent’s goal attempts.

So the hubs had some fun trying to advance his beloved Argentina through the “Going for the Goal!” game. Naturally, I liked that it includes digital applause when you score.


I have a feeling our own “Road to Brazil” will involve more of the Coca-Cola® game and, of course, Coke itself. Well, maybe not for the kiddos... We’ll have to let them try the new Tropical Mango POWERADE®.

Give the game a try and let me know if you’re able to score! Of course, what I really want to know is which team you choose? Any other Argentina fans out there?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, I only share products or services I think will interest my readers. The opinions are all mine.    

Standing on Church Bridges


When we choose cross-cultural marriage, we have chosen to become people on a bridge between divides. Whether we like or not. Whether we meant to or not, we no longer “fit” easily into the cultural norms for individual groups.

One of the areas where this reality seems to be most challenging for many couples is church. Unfortunately.

We’re all familiar with the situation. That often quoted, heart-breaking statement about the most segregated hour of the week.

While many of us are connecting in at congregations with space for us all, most of us are admitting that we will not grow old in congregations similar to those in which we were raised. There’s the reality that we’ve chosen a third way.

Multicultural families are standing on the bridge between cultures, reminding us that there is another way to love God together.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m still moving through the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. Over and over again, I’ve been amazed when it’s pointed out how my cultural background has influenced my understanding of the Bible. My marriage has opened by eyes countless times to this same truth and has served to expand my view of God.

When we talk about racial division or reconciliation in the church, we often hear how its an opportunity for the church to be a witness in a world that hurts and wounds one another in the area of race. And I believe that. It is certainly an opportunity to testify to God’s restorative power and the call to unity.

So maybe I’m just selfish, but over time, I have been drawn back to multicultural faith because I have seen that when I only worship with those who are like me, I only see one sliver of such a big God. I have found so much awe and peace in the fullness of God. And I have discovered so much excitement and adventure in the the reality that after spending my whole life seeking God, there is more of God to know.

Perhaps the best way to collate my thoughts is to say that I see both individual and collective benefits to pursuing a more diverse body of Christ. For me, I come to know God in new and powerful ways. For the body, we experience God’s redemption of pain unleashed by the fall.

So what do we do to bridge these divides? After all, everyone and their mother has been talking about this topic for quite some time.

Well, I won’t claim to have the perfect answer. My response is simply to make the first move. Go to a church that’s different from how you grew up. It doesn’t have to be a total 180. I think for many of us, something too far outside our comfort zone won’t be sustainable.

In my experience, I’ve been to a couple churches that actually had much in common with my church of origin. The main difference was the background of the congregants, and I was moved by some of the ways their experiences influenced their faith.

We cannot sit back and claim to be ready for unity. We cannot simply say we are waiting for “everyone else” to desire unity. What is often the underlying message there is that we want unity when it means that others come to us.

We must walk humbly, step out and join our brothers and sisters. We must choose to bridge the divide. And sometimes it may mean a bit of loss: pieces of our identity, our traditions, or even letting go of some of the ways we believe when presented with a different view of our God.

Still, I believe that God desires for the Church to be united. And we must take that first step onto the bridge.

Where do you see divides in the church? What steps are you taking to build bridges?

This post is part of the April 2014 Synchroblog: Bridging the Divide. Here is the full list of posts: 

What Divergent Taught Me About Raising Bicultural Kids



Clearly, the Divergent book (and now amazing movie) is about race and ethnicity. No, just kidding. I don’t think it is. Or is it?

Well, it does offer some interesting perspective about how much comfort people gain by categorizing people.

For those of you who have no idea what Divergent is, I’ll give a quick, Sarah-fied recap. Post-destruction Chicago. A mythical past of an America torn apart by war. A desire to purify human nature by dividing society into five factions, each one focusing on a positive human attribute.

Amity faction exudes kindness. Dauntless are brave. The smart ones are Erudite and the selfless are Abnegation. Finally, Candor are honest. The Divergent, however, do not fit neatly into one of these categories according to the society’s fail-proof serum test.

The leader of the Candor, Jeanine Matthews, says, “The future belongs to those who know where they belong.”

When the main character, Tris, is labeled Divergent, she is told, “You’re different. You don’t fit into a category. They can’t control you.”

In general, categories make us feel comfortable. We use them as shortcuts in our brains to help us understand the world.

But this gravitation towards factions does reinforce the point that my children, who may identify with a several different cultural groups (white Latino, American, Guatemalan, and 2nd generation immigrants for starters), may feel uncomfortable. Or maybe… the more frustrating reality is that their multiculturalism may make other people uncomfortable.

It’s like the man looking at my white husband and exhausting his list of explanations why a white guy would have an accent and say he’s Guatemalan. When Billy responded “no” to all his questions about missionary-status, all he could say was, “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

Divergents threaten the system.

People who don’t easily fit into our categories can make others uncomfortable. Sometimes they experience dismissal: “Oh, you’re not really black.” They might be excluded from all groups like the Faction-less in Divergent. Or they may be confronted with confusion or abandonment when people walk away, unsure of how to understand someone outside their paradigm.

Typically, the multicultural divergent find each other: missionary kids, immigrants, biracial/bicultural kids, etc. Countries of origin may be different, but the experiences overlap enough to offer community.

But I am constantly inspired, interested and encouraged to see how much those of us who don’t fit easily into a category are growing in number. (And I include myself because while I may ace the census with clear responses, I have a divergent heart.)

This cool National Geographic project shows some images at what our future multicultural society will look like. So maybe Divergents don’t threaten the system. Maybe we are building a new system.
A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.