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The Superlatives {September 2014}


Hello Fall! September has ushered in the gleeful Facebook status updates and photos of lattes as the seasons start to change. Some would say it's the most wonderful time of the year. Wait... I think that's already taken. Anyway, here are a few of the stand-outs in my world for September.

FAVORITE KIDS BOOKS

I've searched for bilingual Bible story books over the years, but never found anything that quite worked for me. Dunt... dunt... dunt... Until now. Zonderkidz Bilingual I Can Read! books. Simply fantastic.

We picked up Daniel and the Lions and Jonah and the Big Fish. Short, easy-to-read stories in English and Spanish. Bold illustrations with characters that have some skin pigmentation. I have a feeling more of this series will be in our house before this child-rearing thing is over.

FAVORITE GROWN-UP BOOK

This month I started reading All Joy and No Fun. It's a book about parenting... and how it affects parents. Ha! I like the style of the book, which incorporates interviews, and I'm appreciating some of the words that articulate my own experience better than I could have.

I also read The Invention of Wings this month, which is an intriguing premis about a young girl who is "gifted a slave" on her 11th birthday. It follows the intertwining life journeys of these two young women.

The novel is inspired by a true story, and two fascinating sisters in history that I'd never heard of (but should have).

FAVORITE SHORTS

Billy mocks me on the regular because I still have clothes I wore in high school. It's weird because I'm not exactly the same size I was in high school. But they seem to have stretched out to accommodate. (Clothes that know what's good for them do that, you know.)

Never is this more apparent than in my athletic wardrobe. I still have a bunch of old basketball shorts I bought when I worked at Goody's Family Clothing one summer. I know other adult women seem to love spandex capris. I have a pair, but they are not awesome. And it seems some basketball shorts for adults end about mid-calf, which wasn't really working for me other.

So I bought new shorts. Ta da! I don't normally go on and on about shorts, but sometimes in the world of Amazon, I like someone to point me in the right direction.

In my opinion, these are just a great length - longer than finger tip, but not at my knee. Also, I must admit, it's been game-changing having shorts with functional elastic!

FAVORITE PUPPET SHOW


Thanks to Goldstar, we scored some cheap-o tickets to Shake A Tale Feather with Mother Goose at the Center for Puppetry Arts. If you live in or visit Atlanta with kids, this museum is a place you must check out.

They have on-going exhibits and are currently building the world's largest Jim Henson exhibit (as one very enthusiastic employee informed us). This was our first show, and it provided sweet one-on-one time with my girl that included songs, puppet making, and storytelling.

FAVORITE GROWN UP PLAY

I already wrote about this, but One Drop of Love is a terrific, one-woman show on race, heritage, and identity. Keep an eye out in your city as I have a feeling writer/performer Fanshen will be adding more shows as word of her play grows.

FAVORITE DANCER


Naturally, I'm biased. But this girl started dance at Moving in the Spirit this month. The uniform of black leotard and black pants is a little more tame than her typical tights/tutu/wings/cowgirl boots inspired get-ups. But she's having a ball. This is our first "extracurricular activity" so it's pretty fun. I'm a dance mom!

FAVORITE MOVIE

Billy and I saw Maze Runner this month. It falls smack in the middle of one of our favorite genres: young adults caught in a post-apocalyptic world being forced to do crazy things and trying to figure out what exactly is going on and how to stop it! It was no Hunger Games or Divergent, but I am interested to read the books.

FAVORITE TV

This month has been a dueling marathon. We are still finishing Heroes, which languished for a spell, but is now engaging and suspenseful once again. And Billy accused me of Netflix cheating (great article!) on him. So there's that happening.

Also, Billy got me hooked on The Blacklist. So basically our house is full of characters that we never know if they are the good guys or bad guys.

And how could I not mention... The Mindy Project is back on! Tuesday nights, people. It's about the only show I still watch when it comes on TV. The reception was terrible at first and when Billy started adjusting the antennae, I was totally confused. I didn't think we used those things anymore!

FAVORITE COMMENT

I got my first pseudo-harsh comments on the blog this month when I wrote this post. Writing about immigration, I knew it was only a matter of time. And hey, it was nicer than when a stranger on Facebook called me a lowlife last year. But still...

Then, I was searching for a toaster on Amazon. There's so many choices that I was overwhelmed and decided to read a few reviews to help me out. When I came across this one, I could. not. stop laughing. It made me realize that in the world of the Internet, any topic has the potential to go off the rails.


FAVORITE READS AROUND THE INTERNET

Laugh Out Loud: All the Comments on Every Recipe Blog

Clever: Real Amas de Casa de Soyapango (y otros programas que quiero ver)

Long-awaited explanation: Why the U.S. Chills Its Eggs and Most of the World Doesn't

Convicting: Why It Doesn't Matter How You Feel About Your Friends

Educational: 5 Famous Latinos: Role Models for Hispanic Heritage Month

Important: My Grandpa was 'Unaccompanied Minor' to the U.S. - in 1907

Inspiring: Down We Go: A Dangerous Way to Live

What were you into this month?

Carrying A Baby in Saudi Arabia


A few weeks ago, I announced a guest post series, telling stories of the places we've visited. I'm delighted to share this first post from my friend Krista. Her husband and I were Mission Year teammates many moons ago, and the world of blogging has connected us across the country. I hope you enjoy her post and check out her blog


When I went to Saudi Arabia, I never expected to be treated differently because I had a child. 

I had never been out of North America when I had the chance, in 2009, to visit the country my husband grew up in. My oldest son was just shy of 2 at the time, very verbal, but still in diapers (yes, this is relevant to the story!).

We stayed in the expat compound with American friends and only went out a few times into the “real” Saudi Arabia.

As a woman in that culture I expected to feel less than, perhaps not even be talked to, and in the more public areas like a bookstore it was that way a little bit.

There are segregated areas for families versus men. Those are the white signs you see in the photo.
But the thing that surprised me the most was how accommodating they were to me when I had my son with me. They love children and by default showed extra care to me.

It started when we arrived at the airport after something like 24 hours of travel and there was no place to change a child in the bathroom. The women thought I needed to use the restroom and let me go to the head of the line even though there were about 20 of them there. When I quickly backed out of the stall, I realized that I would have to make do with a wire shelf! (I don’t know what mothers do there on a regular basis, I never came across a changing table the entire time I was there.)

After we stood in line for 3 hours to get through immigration services we went to pick up our bags for customs. When they saw I was carrying my son on my back they wouldn’t let me pick up any suitcases, one man had me sit on a bench while they processed it, and then helped me on the other end.

Towards the end of our trip we went out to lunch with some of my FIL’s former coworkers. After lunch we went back to their house to visit. Unfortunately both my son and I had picked up some infections and I was out of diapers for him for the outing. One of the men very kindly offered to go to the corner store and buy us more. However, it was a good opportunity for me to ask for a ride back to the house because I wasn’t feeling well either. He took us in his son’s fancy yellow sports car because my son was very enamored with the cool yellow car.


I know this man was a friend to my husband’s family, but there was nothing different about the way he treated us than I would expect in any other country.

All the news stories you hear, some of them are true. However, take the time to be in the culture and get to know a few people and I think you will find that they are just as nice as anyone else you could meet.

It sure messed with my preconceived notions!

Krista has been blogging since well before 2009 at Welcome to Married Life and you can find the entire series about her trip here if you want to learn more about experiences in Saudi Arabia. She now has 4 children and keeps plenty busy chasing them around as well as taking pictures and blogging about life on the side!


Interested in sharing your own travel post? I'm accepting submissions to be published in November. You can learn more and register here.

Race, Violence, and the Airport Immigration Agent

Image Source: dcgreer
“Where are you coming from?”

I answered, “Guatemala.”

“How long were you there?” The immigration agent flipped through my passport, searching for my recent stamp.

“Six days." 

“Reason for your visit?” 

“Visiting family.” 

“You got family in Guatemala?”

“Yes. My in-laws.”

He eyed my husband standing next to me. “You’re Guatemalan?”

“Yes, sir,” Billy replied, holding forward his Guatemalan passport.

The agent did not take it. He looked back at me and quietly scoffed before asking, “And where’d you get... this?”

Assuming… he meant Billy?… I nervously answered, “Um.. we met at church?” 

He didn’t respond, stamped my passport, and uttered the obligatory, “Welcome home.” Then, he turned to Billy and quietly scanned his documents before stamping and passing them back.

I’m not sure I can describe how violated and angry I felt after that experience. Billy had made a habit of prepping me each and every time we were about to encounter immigration agents. Still, I usually brushed aside his warnings because I am used to being given the benefit of the doubt. I am used to engaging people as equals. I am not used to feeling powerless, disrespected, and humiliated. 

There have been countless other times in our marriage that the most baffling or outrageous things will happen to Billy. We analyze and rant before timidly asking, “Is this because I’m/you’re Latino?”

True. Billy’s white skin may dismiss some outright racist encounters, but his accent often gives him away. For those who are ignorant, frustrated, confused, or downright hateful about race, Billy can still be a target.

When I think about race and violence, this somewhat minor incident with an immigration agent comes to mind. Because these types of all-too-common experiences start to wear on a person. Honestly, when I hear about racial tension or flashes of violence, I understand it. 

The violence doesn’t begin with a fist or a gun or whatever. It begins with a thousand tiny comments, glances, and giggles - microaggressions - that erode the brotherhood. 

Soon after Ferguson, the poll taking began. It wasn’t long before stats were floating through Facebook that white people thought we should talk less about race. I sighed.

I realize how much it is a privilege to “not talk about race.” Race, ethnicity, and the meanings they hold in our society affect our family on a regular, dare I say, daily basis. 

It is important that conversations happen. I know we don’t all love these talks because they might make us uncomfortable, ashamed, heartbroken, or confused. Okay. We must still have them.

My hope is that one day racial tension and violence do not exist. I know that won’t happen by ignoring real experiences or silencing people’s voices. I’d rather stay in the conversation because I do believe in God’s redemptive power.

I'm linking up with the September 2014 Synchroblog: Race, Violence, and Why We Need To Talk About It. Check out other participating links:

Jeremy Myers -  It’s the White Man’s Fault! It’s the Black Man’s Fault!
Wendy McCaig -  Race, Violence, and a Silent White America 
Glenn Hager -  Can We Even Talk About Racial Issues?
Carol Kunihom -  Who is Allowed to Vote? 
Wesley Rotoll -  Race, Violence, and Why We Need to Talk About It 
Kathy Escobar - We Have a Dream

One Drop of Love: A Must See Show


Last week I was out of town bowling and doing improv with my co-workers. It was super fun, but my time away from Atlanta meant I was gone on the birthday of my dear friend, Katie. (You may remember her as my co-conspirator during the World Cup.)

After returning, we celebrated by going to the Fox Theater to see One Drop of Love. It's a multimedia solo performance produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and the show's writer/performer Fanshen Cox DiGivanni. It. Was. Phenomenal.

Fanshen tells her family's story as an exploration into her own racial identity. She reenacts experiences from conversations with her Jamaican grandmother to her travels in Africa to childhood memories with her white mother to her marriage to her Italian husband.

Hers is a fascinating narrative that spans decades and continents as she explores her heritage and crafts a multicultural identity. It offered some great conversation starters, including police brutality, the awkwardness of returning to a "home" where you don't fit, racial assumptions, and more.

Check out the trailer:



Find out where she'll be performing here. If you don't see an area near you listed, I'd keep an eye out. I have a feeling more dates will continue to be added.

Have you seen this show or another one whose message affected you?

The Easy Way to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month


September 15th is a double whammy. It’s Guatemalan Independence Day, celebrating liberation from Spain in 1821. And it’s the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month in the US, which (kind of bizarrely) extends until October 15.

I dig an opportunity to celebrate a theme, especially ones important to our family like these. Since my kids have many friends who are not Hispanic, I have also tried to think of ways to include other families in our heritage celebrations. I want to keep our family's multicultural identity incorporated into our life in ways that feel authentic and connect us to others.

So I throw the easiest party in the world. I invite friends to join us at a local Guatemalan restaurant for dinner. We're grateful for adventurous, globally-minded friends who jump at the chance to try new things and show Billy a little love by embracing his culture.


We've learned a couple things in our experience of this tradition. We call ahead and let the restaurant know we're bringing a group. And this year we pre-ordered appetizers for the hungry "kids" to eat while we wait.

I also went all out and printed Guatemalan-themed coloring/activity sheets for the kids. If you're interested in the specifics or looking for some yourself, you can find them on my Pinterest board. Finally, I have been wondering what to do with the plethora of Guatemalan coins hiding throughout our house. So I gathered them up and gave each kid their very own Quetzal.


I love parties, but I rarely have time to plan them. This gathering has become something I look forward to in September. It's a fun way to honor my kids' Hispanic heritage and an easy on-ramp for our friends to join in the celebration!

Immigration Facts to Shock Friends at Parties

Image Source: Ryan Wiedmaier

Every now and then, it happens. I've having a casual conversation about cupcakes, and immigration comes up. I'm sure that's a common experience.

But then I'll make some off-handed comment. And people will respond "What? What?" And not the good kind where we "raise the roof" even though we're too old for those shenanigans.

Source: Giphy

No, people are legitimately shocked. So today I'll share the three immigration bombs that tend to get the biggest reactions in conversation. Feel free to use them to stun your party guests and hopefully start productive conversations about our country's deep need for reform.

It's a 15-year wait to immigrate legally to the US from Guatemala.


I used to be a person who asked, "Why don't people just immigrate legally?" I never had a philosophical problem with folks moving here, I just thought it was a paperwork issue being neglected.

Turns out I was totally wrong. There are only 5,000 visas a year for "low-skilled" workers. To put that in context, in 1910, approximately 5,000 low-skilled workers entered through Ellis Island every day. (Source)

For many immigrants (especially from certain countries), legal entry is simply not an option. I have heard stories of Central American parents putting their newborns "on the list" in hopes that they might receive a visa for entry when they are older. And actually, some would disagree with my 15-year wait statement. That may not be long enough.

My in-laws are not allowed to visit us.


You may confuse friends if you say that exact sentence and it doesn't apply in your situation. But it's true. And every time I tell people this fact, they are floored.

Billy's parents applied twice for visitor visas so they could attend our wedding. They were denied both times without any explanation. After retaining the couple hundred dollars in application fees, the US Embassy simply told them to, "Try again." We have not because of the cost involved and our doubt for success. Sadly, my in-laws missed the births of both of our children.

Some immigrants must leave the country for a 10 year "punishment" in order to receive a visa.


Many immigrants who enter the country illegally are required to return home for 10 years as a part of their legalization process. Billy and I had a scare where we thought this 10 year bar would apply in our circumstance.

However, because Billy entered legally (and was able to pay to replace for his paperwork proving this fact), we did not have to move to Guatemala. This experience points to the class differences in how immigration cases are handled.

Many mixed status couples have a different result. I featured Heather's story last year. Her family is waiting out the permanent bar in Mexico.

I hope one day I won't have any facts about immigration that shock people. Until then, I pray for reform, and I hope you will too.

What have you learned that surprised you about immigration?

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World of Wow: Share Your Story!

Original Image Source: Flickr

Isn't this world we live in so incredible? Travel is definitely one of my favorite things. I've loved the places I've been, and I've got a bucket list a mile long of places I'd love to see.

So I started a fun travel series to travel vicariously to all the amazing places readers have visited. Want to see where they've been? See the posts here.

If you'd like to share your submission, here's the deal: Choose any place, near or far, and share something that surprised you when you visited or lived there. The first sentence for submitted posts is this prompt:

When I went to ___________, I never expected ____________________.

Then tell your story. I'm so excited. I can't wait to hear about your excursions. Need a few ideas to get you started? Here's a few I could write, mixed with ones I just made up.

When I went to Kenya, I never expected to need an ice pick.
When I went to Atlanta, I never expected to eat boiled pig's feet. 
When I went to Guatemala, I never expected to see a mother nursing on a motorcycle.
When I went to Thailand, I never expected to fall in love.
When I went to Pennsylvania, I never expected to learn so much about my mother. 
When I went to Uruguay, I never expected to understand power and privilege in a new way.
When I went to Cancun, I never expected the water to actually be turquoise.


I mean... seriously. That water is ridiculous. 

The story you tell is up to you. You can celebrate the beauty, the culture, the people. Or you may share honestly about the challenges. You can make us laugh or make us think. 

If you have any question, please feel free to ask in the comments or contact me directly. Otherwise, let's get this party started! You can sign up here.

To read all the World of Wow posts, click here.

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The Book Your Baby Can't Tell You He Wants


Okay friends, two out of two Quezada babies have adored this multicultural board book. I'm taking their passion to the streets since I thought several of you might enjoy it as well.

It's a simple book with sweet portraits of babies from around the world. The entire narration is basically one sentence, so the real focus is the photos. We love that the first baby featured is from Guatemala! And our copy is a bilingual, so our kids hear both languages.


Seriously, Ella enjoyed this book so much, I gave away a copy a couple years ago. And now, here I am again, and it's the only book Isaac will sit completely still through. He loves it. He especially fancies the little baby from India. Presh.

So it comes with our highest recommendation. A sweet addition to your bilingual bookshelf or a lovely little baby shower gift. If you want a copy, you can find it here on Amazon.

Note: If you purchase the book through the link, I receive a small kickback for the referral. It doesn't affect your purchase price, and it didn't influence my post. Seriously, no one asked me to write this. We just love this little book. 

21 Ideas for a Multicultural Wedding

Image Credit: Joonyoung Kim

Weddings can be so much fun: the dancing, the cake, the promises of love. Just beautiful. I nearly always cry. 

These festivities not only celebrate the couple joining together, but also their families. Mixed race marriages are becoming more common. In fact, get this: In 2010, one out of every 12 married couples was interracial. Wild!

I attended a multicultural wedding last week. It was simply fabulous, and I was touched to see the ways they chose to incorporate the heritage and traditions of both parties in the celebration. So I started asking around, doing a little research, and remembering our own bicultural wedding.

Here are 21 ideas for a multicultural wedding:

#1 Bilingual Invitations & Programs


Get this multicultural party started from the very beginning! Personally, we did English only invitations, but most of my friends and family did not know "Billy" was a nickname for "Guillermo" or that he had two last names. There were some amusing "Who is this?" moments.

#2 Local Flowers


Choose floral arrangements that give a nod to your heritage. Rina is Filipino-American and her husband is Dutch. To honor the groom's country or origin, they used tulips throughout the wedding and reception that they had flown in from Dutch florists. No national flower you want to use? Colors can also be meaningful in certain cultures.

#3 Bridal Attire


Wear culturally traditional wedding attire or find ways to incorporate elements from multiple cultures in your dress. For example, in her American-Moroccan wedding, Amanda wore an American-style wedding gown, and donned Moroccan slippers to go with it.

#4 Bridesmaids


Consider adding cultural pieces or choosing traditional dress for your bridal party. Here's a beautiful example of a bride who decided on a white dress for herself and a silk kimono for her bridesmaid. Stunning.

#5 Recite Vows in Your First Language


The wedding I recently attended chose this approach, and I loved it! I wish I'd thought of it for our own ceremony. There's something so special about making your promises to the one you love in your heart language.

#6 Recite Vows in Your Partner's First Language


One of my girlfriends is American and her husband is from Slovakia. She learned her vows in Slovak and shared her promises to her husband in his first language. I love it! She speaks Slovak and was living there, but she still said it was a little nerve-wracking.

#7 Bilingual Ceremony


If your wedding includes many monolingual attendees... in different languages, you may want to consider a fully bilingual ceremony. Whether you include a bilingual officiant or incorporate translators, your guests will appreciate being able to fully participate. And what a fun, truly multicultural, wedding!

#8 Bilingual Reading


Our wedding attendees all spoke and understood English, so we by-passed a bilingual service. However, we didn't want to have no Spanish, so we invited friends to read Scripture in English and Spanish. It was one of my favorite parts of the ceremony.

#9 Symbols


Are there symbolic elements you can incorporate into your wedding? Crystal is from Canada and her husband from Northern Ireland. She included a horseshoe in her wedding bouquet, and he added a few sprigs of wheat with his boutonniere as a nod to her home province.

#10 Traditions


Cultural traditions like jumping the broom or the wedding lasso can be lovely elements of a multicultural wedding. I asked Billy about Guatemalan traditions, and his only suggestion was my father break a piñata of rice over my head during the reception. Um... we did not do that. I LOVED this post about a German-Latvian wedding that included the Latvian tradition of challenges for the couple to prove their compatibility.

#11 Table Decorations


Consider ways to create centerpieces that reflect your cultural heritage. Here's an example where the bride and groom named each table an attribute of a strong marriage in both English and Chinese.

#12 Reception Seating


At least in movies, the seating chart is often the pinnacle of wedding drama. But at a multilingual wedding, you want to also pay attention to the fluency of guests when assigning seating. It can be fun, fresh way to mix guests and enjoy the multilingual buzz of a chatty reception.

#13 Fusion Cuisine


Fusion food is amazing. In Atlanta, my favorite food truck is The Blaxican, which serves Mexican Soul Food. Superb. Go for mixed cuisine at your reception. In her Finnish-French wedding, Annika attests that they "joyously mixed the two culinary cultures" with positive results.

#14 Toasts


You can go with bilingual toasts or include traditions from other cultures. One of my favorite parts of our wedding was the toasts. Rather than a few select people offering public toasts, Guatemalan weddings allow for the couple to visit each table independently. In a more private moment, just the one table offers a toast to the couple while the other guests continue dining and talking.

#15 Bilingual Surprises


Maybe you decide not to share your vows in your second language, but there are more opportunities to honor your partner's language. Annabelle says her Portuguese was limited and her husband's family had never heard her speak it. That didn't stop her from surprising everyone, including her husband, by learning a short speech in the language to thank guests for coming.

#16 Cakes


The sweetest way to honor multiple cultures? Cake. You can incorporate flavors, styles, or decorations to share your favorite traditions. Because we're big fans of cake, Billy and I had multiple cakes in different flavors instead of a typical tiered cake. My grandmother later told me this practice is common in my own German heritage. Perfect!

#17 Music


Multicultural wedding music is a fun way to make guests feel at home or introduce new styles. Becky's reception had a mariachi band! If you want multiple musical styles, you may want to provide your DJ or band with songs ahead of time that may be outside their cultural comfort zone.

#18 Dance


For their first dance, my friends started with a slower song that transitioned into a fantastic salsa dance. You can incorporate traditional dance into your reception. One idea is that taking dance classes together with family members before the wedding.

#19 Cultural Favors


You can choose to send everyone home with a favor that reminds them not only of your union, but also the blending of cultures. Lana represented both Dutch and Filipino cultures when her guests left with tiny painted clogs in small wooden baskets from the Philippines.

#20 International Ceremonies


Travel costs, visa requirements, or other international hurdles may mean that your multicultural wedding is actually weddingsssss. We had a separate reception in Guatemala City for friends and family to attend and celebrate.

#21 Multicultural Wedding Events


Having trouble including all the cultural elements you want to in the ceremony and reception? Don't forget other wedding events may offer a better fit. Have a Korean BBQ for your rehearsal dinner. Or include henna in your bachelorette party.

Multicultural weddings are awesome. Really all weddings are awesome. Just remember, there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to weddings. Whatever works for your families is the best way to work cultural fusion into your celebration.

Did you (or will you) represent your cultures in any of these ways? What other ideas do you have?

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