January 2015 {The Favs}

I've almost finished deciding on my New Year's Resolutions, so it's safe to say January is drawing to a close. How about you? Still keeping your resolutions or are you like me... still writing them?

Here are a few of my favorite things from this month.

Favorite new TV show: Cristela

I had heard of this show, and I knew it depicted a Latino family. Still, I resisted it for some reason. HUGE MISTAKE! Cristela (also the name of the primary actress) is hilarious. She's a Latina comedian, and now I want to know everything about her. You can learn some about her on her website.

Favorite attempt to get more sleep: Talking Alarm Clock and Nightlight

This little clock lets us set a time for it to turn green. It's our futile attempt to keep Ella from wandering into our room at 6:20 on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it works.

But there's also mornings she comes out saying, "It was taking toooooo long." I think if we'd started it younger, it'd be a bit more effective. But it has super helped the rest time "coming-out-of-the-room-every-three-minutes" since I can show her when rest time ends.

Still my favorite attempt.

Favorite sunrise:

Billy and I were in Mexico for a bit this month. I didn't really have a favorite sunrise. They were all so beautiful. But here's a favorite pic.

Favorite book: Crazy Rich Asians

When I was studying sociology, one professor discussed the fact that so much research is conducted on poverty because it is impossible for researchers to have access to the ultra rich. This novel was so fascinating in its insider view of a world I know not at all. I've only got a few chapters left. Super fun read!

Favorite blast from the past:

My mom brought me this shirt she had saved since my high school days. It goes without saying that I was obviously a cool kid in high school. Once I arrived at college, however, my two girlfriends screamed and sent me back to my dorm when I appeared wearing this gem.

(Catch me on Instagram for more incredible photography like what you see here.)

What have been some of your favorite things this month?

How to Survive A Snake Attack: A Drama Queen's Guide

Image credit: Brent Myers
I'm standing in front of the mirror in our hotel room in Mexico. Suddenly, a long, skinny, limp creature lands on my shoulder.

Given that we had watched a documentary about illegal reptile trade the night before, I knew immediately what was happening. A poisonous Mexican snake had sailed through the open window and attacked me. Naturally.

I reacted as I feel anyone would in my situation.

I screamed bloody murder and jump-lunged towards the sink area of the room all the while "brushing it off" like a frenzied Jimmy Fallon. I then crashed to the ground, slamming my shins on the tile.

Meanwhile, Billy is laughing hysterically from the bed and then rushing to my side. He laid down next to me on the floor. I'm clutching my legs while he's just shaking and laughing in my line of vision.

"Vos, it was a shoelace! I tossed it on your shoulder. I didn't expect you to react like that!"

"DID YOU JUST MEET ME????" I bellowed while laugh-crying from relief and rolling around clutching my shins.

"I mean," he put his head down and laughed again, "both your feet were off the floor and sideways! At first I was laughing, and then I was like oh no, she's really going to hurt herself."

I rolled my eyes, and we laid on the floor laughing. Then he continued, "This is not how I thought you would die."

"OH MY WORD! How exactly did you imagine my death???" I'm just going to chalk this up to a bilingual marriage moment because now that I think about, we both just howl laughed and the question was avoided.

Did I overreact? How would you respond if a vicious snake landed on your shoulder?

Jane the Virgin Creatively Addresses Immigration

The CW's breakaway hit, Jane the Virgin, has captured the hearts of viewers with its lovable characters and delicious drama. The show is an adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela "Juana la Virgen" and includes all the fun you could hope for: overlapping love triangles, dead bodies, and baby daddies. Gina Rodriguez (Jane) recently won a Golden Globe for her stellar performance.

One fantastic twist is the show's willingness to tackle important issues like immigration. Early on, we learned Jane's abuela Alba didn't have proper U.S. documents. I appreciated how the show opened the immigration can of worms with an air of nonchalance. It honors the tension many families (including my own) experience between the gravity of their immigration situation and the details of regular, day-to-day life.

But last week, the show pushed forward on the topic in a way that made me want to stand up and cheer. Three beautiful themes emerged as I was watching Episode 10.

Read the rest of this post over at G92.

10 Factors for a Successful Intercultural Marriage

This week I read the book Cross-Cultural Marriages and the Church. It was not everything I'd hoped and dreamed.

However, at the end, the author includes this list from another book, Intercultural Marriage. I wanted to share it because I found it really enlightening. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it, too!

Here is what Dugan Romano lists for a healthy cross-cultural marriage:

1. Good motives for the marriage
2. Common goals
3. Sensitivity to each other's needs
4. A liking for the other's culture
5. Flexibility
6. Solid, positive self-image
7. Spirit of adventure
8. Ability to communicate
9. Commitment to the relationship
10. Sense of humor

I have been thinking about this collection of factors since I read it. I particularly agree with numbers 7, 8, and 10.

What about you? Which ones to do find especially important? Anything you'd add? Any on this list you disagree with? 

The Biggest Frustration of a Bilingual Marriage

When Billy and I were dating, we lived an hour's drive apart. So we spent a lot of time on the phone.

Well, there's only so much you can talk about. So naturally, he wanted me to read out loud to him a Spanish copy of Reader's Digest. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FALLING IN LOVE.

You read aloud in pitiful Spanish, and your Guatemalan boyfriend tells you how beautiful it is. Because who doesn't love the sound of you butchering their mother tongue?

And it goes both ways. I was endeared when he would mix up expressions. Like when he gazed into my eyes, smiled, and told me, "I just feel like everything is falling into pieces." Umm... you seem awfully joyful about that. Do you mean "falling into place"?

[Record scratch.]

And then we got married.

What is my biggest frustration of bilingual marriage? The fact that we are both more comfortable in different languages!

Seriously. Sometimes I'm talking really fast and expressing all my emotions with passion and gusto. And I see it. Billy's giving me "the look." And I want to unleash my inner Chris Tucker.

Sometimes the realities of a bilingual marriage drive me absolutely insane. And I try to be gracious because I'm so impressed that he speaks two languages and YADA YADA.

Of course, when he sees me getting annoyed, he just casually mentions that we could change our marriage over to Spanish and go from there. Well played, sir. Well. Played.

So I remind myself that part of our commitment when we chose each other is to keep communicating, keep talking (in English and Spanish and everything in between), and keep offering grace. And it's possible that this would be an issue even if we weren't cross-cultural.

After all, when I showed Billy this post, he admitted it doesn't really bother him that he doesn't understand everything I'm saying! Gee, thanks.

I think back to those Reader's Digest monologues and remember that our communication dance was once something that was fun and special when we were dating. It doesn't really make any sense to frame it as a frustration now.

But still, sometimes we both feel a little like this:

Can you relate?

What I'm Learning About Trying Not to Raise Crazy-Greedy Kids

If you had asked me four months ago if my daughter was one of those kids who begs for toys or throws fits in stores, I would have smugly said, "Oh no." I'd always been pretty grateful that Gabriella seems to be a content child whose main weakness is all that blooming candy near check out. (WHY?????) She had meltdowns to be sure, but they weren't often inspired by materialism.

Cue Christmas 2014:

Scenario #1: Me chasing her through Wal-Mart as she rushed shrieking towards checkout with a jewelry box. Gabriella thought she was home free pushing it onto the conveyer belt.... until I took it off. Then she screamed bloody murder while flinging items out of the cart.

Scenario #2: Gabriella face down and spread eagle on the floor. She's hollering, "MOM, I JUST WANT TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING!!!!!"

Scenario #3: Gabriella sprinting through the house sobbing. She's cry screaming, "MOM, WE DOOOOO HAVE MONEY!" while waving my coin jar above her head. I'm trying not to laugh.

Whether it was the frequent shopping trips or the in-your-face toy displays (or both), this season introduced us to a new aspect of parenting. Sweet girl wanted every toy. She wanted it now. And she wanted it loudly.

Thankfully, her age-appropriate antics led the hubs and me to have some really wonderful conversations. About simplicity, about what we want to teach our kids about money, about delighting our kids with material goods, and about surviving this new season.

Here are a few things that we've been experimenting with recently:

Pre-Shop Talk

I now always tell Gabriella what we're going to the store to buy. Pulling into the Target parking lot, and I asked her if she remembered why we were there. "To buy some groceries, a shelf, and medicine." Then she waved her arm. "And noooo toys. That's not why we're here."

It may sound harsh, but I straight up tell her now, "We're not buying anything for Ella today." In my conversations with Billy, I realized it was important me that she not always have to have something when we go into a store. Even if it's affordable or what not, I just don't want to nurture that expectation.

Of course, Gabriella was doing so well in Target, I bought her some stickers as a reward. Maybe that blows the whole point, but she did exhibit an attitude of gratefulness instead of entitlement. For me, that's a big step in the right direction.

Helping Her Spend Her Money

Up until age 4, I basically spent her Christmas and birthday checks for her. But this year she was going on and on about some "Dora flip flops" she had seen on a recent trip to the store. She was openly claiming, "I will get those for Christmas."

Since I'd already purchased her gifts and actually had no idea what "Dora flip flops" she was talking about, I became concerned that Christmas morning would be a disappointed sob fest. (Fun!) I was perplexed about what to do. I didn't want to run and buy something additional just because she saw it and wanted it. But I also didn't want to create drama.

Then she got an early Christmas check. So I took her to the store and let her pick out her own shoes. First of all, Dora flip flops were abandoned quickly in search of "black ballerina shoes."

Then there was a moment when I thought for sure we were going to go home with "clear, princess heels." I was stressing out, but really trying to let her make her own choice. Ultimately, she settled on some sweet, black Mary Janes.

I kid you not, she wears these shoes every day. Letting her be involved, talking how much she had to spend, and making her choice has (like all of us) made her very invested in the ultimate purchase.

We tried this again with her birthday cash. She was grabbing everything in the store, asking "Do I have enough time for this?" Ha! So I worked with her and told her she did, in fact, not have enough money and would need to make some choices.

She handled it like a rock star, putting back an adult polka dot umbrella and a pack of headbands. This one was a keeper, though!

Practicing Generosity

For the first time this year, I let her help me buy gifts for cousins. She was also involved in choosing a present for little brother Isaac. Of course, I'm still heavily directing a lot of this. (Leading questions, anyone?) But I'm hoping to cultivate a spirit of generosity.

Billy and I were both warmed when, on Christmas morning, the first gift she pulled from under the tree was the one she got for Isaac.

Workin' Hard for the Money

Billy and I are excited to start setting up opportunities for Gabriella to earn money around the house. She's already familiar with the idea of "family jobs," or chores she does for no pay. (Her recent comment to me: "Mom, I get tired of doing laundry." Tell me about it!)

But we are thinking of ways to let her do more and start earning some money she can use to grow her incredible costume collection.

The last few months have been filled with more public tantrums than I care for. But I am encouraged by the ways those outbursts have led all of us to grow a little. Billy and I have been pushed into a new phase of parenting, and Ella has also had some glimpses of precious maturity that are so fun to watch.

I'd love to hear strategies that have worked for you as you train kids in the area of money? Or values that you hope to instill along the way?

Creating Texture in a New Year

We have lived in our house for five and half years. Five years! This is like a major record for me. I haven't lived in one house that long since the home we moved out of when I was 14.

Still, most of that time, the main wall in our living room has been empty. Billy has begged me to "just hang something up," but I waffled. I've rarely trusted my own sense of "style." Too often I buy something I think will look good, only to realize I don't like it minutes after the receipt is tossed.

I'm too easily influenced by the opinions of others. And years of always trying to do what I think I should has made it difficult for me at times to have any clear sense of what I actually want.

Okay, of course I know there is no right or wrong about how I decorate my living room wall. But I have often realized that when Billy tries to corner me with the question "What do you want?" about career, relationships, and yes, home decor... I can't answer.

This lack of direction combined with my general indecisive nature makes me a joy to live with, I'm sure. And Billy had been really asking me to please finish decorating the living room. I'm mean seriously... five years.

So we headed to one of these discount home stores. The fact that we took both children and that Billy is incredibly decisive made it one of the most hurried and satisfying shopping experiences ever.

The kids forced me to rush through the aisles, simply grabbing things I thought I liked and shoving them into the cart. I held up my finds for Billy, and he would usually say, "Do you like it? Take it."

I had little time to talk myself in and out of purchases. It was like a reality show of some kind. (Of course, let's be real, I was not going to lose that receipt in case I needed to bring it all back.)

Before coming, I had shown Billy a photo of Jen Hatmaker's wall as an example of something I liked, even though it surprised me. I was particularly drawn to her willy nilly mixing of mediums. This inspiration manifested in my trip when I picked up this item:

I heard myself shouting, "Really? This? This is what I'm getting? Billy. BILLY. Are we sure about this?" He put it in the cart.

To keep Billy happy, I did not throw all our purchases in the guest room "to think about it." Instead, I laid them out that night and he finally hung stuff on the wall. Metal inspiration. Some photos I took and framed years ago. Of course, a map. Baby pictures. A ceramic owl.

And I loved it. 

That crazy metal candle holder became my favorite piece. I started to think that what had been missing in my previous attempts was texture. I loved how the new wall has wood and metal and burlap and smooth, black frames. My mind doesn't think it should work. But it does. For me, it works.

I started experimenting with texture and free form in other areas. Layering necklaces and wearing wood earrings with gold necklaces because I want to.

And I've been reflecting on the word texture for 2015.

Lots of folks choose words for the New Year. I am typically not one of those people. But if I were, I think my word this year would be texture.

What does that mean to me? 

For one, I've realized that living in the same place for five years means I'm eager to cultivate some texture. In this context, you might substitute the word depth. When you are new in a place, all your relationships and experiences are smooth. All are new. I'm looking forward to diving into friendships and activities in new ways this year to create a bumpy life.

Secondly, I feel like I can choose the areas of life that I like and mesh them together, even if it doesn't make total sense. I've heard people say that they really "came into their own" in their 30's. That has yet to fully describe my experience, but I would like it to. Maybe my true self includes burlap and grommets, and maybe I'm glad to figure that out.

So that's what I've been thinking about at the dawn of this new year. What does it mean to have more texture in my relationships, this blog, my weeks, my career, my spiritual life? Hopefully, as I try to zero in on my favorites and push them all together, I'll like it as much as our wall.

What are you looking towards this year? Do you have a word?
A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.