Submitted

This Artist/Writer/Photographer thing is still new territory for me. Fear wasn't the only reason I held back from just running with it all because, and let's be honest, it's gonna be a bitch redesigning business cards. I'll deal with that later, though. For now, it's Show and Tell time because I spent entirely too much time making Scrunchy Faces I never selfie'd while over-thinking the Artist Statement portion of a recent art show submission. I apologize to Instagram for robbing you of the chance to point and laugh.

I'm sorry. I'll try to do better next time. I promise.

 

Image by Pauline Campos

As a mother, I strive to teach my daughter that she can go anywhere...do anything. I want her to know that it's more important to create her own space rather than try to fit in. We moved to Maine two years ago and do not blend; our olive tones made more obvious by the white snow covering the ground for most of the year. But we are creating our space. In this photo, my daughter, 7, stands in a barn beneath the princess pinata made by a local woman, also Mexican, for her birthday party. She is fierce, focused, and stands tall, daring anyone to question her presence, her choices, her right to wear that crown or the cape she says makes her royalty. In this moment, she has claimed her space.

 

Photo by Pauline Campos

As the founder of the #chingonafest community, I strive to empower Latinas to embrace (and celebrate) their true selves and voices in the face of cultural dictates telling us to do otherwise. As Latina Magazine's #Dimelo advice columnist, I made some waves of my own when a conversation with my daughter turned into a column on Latina.com called "5 Ways to Raise a Chingona". And as the mother watching this girl grow sure and strong, I hope she never loses the spirit and determination that I was lucky enough to capture in her eyes and her stance when the flash went off.

 

Autobiography by Pauline Campos

I was running behind so I forgot to copy and paste this one but basically I said lots of words and then wrapped it up with "This is my story told on canvas." The end.

 

 

#SheSePuede by Pauline Campos

My goal and my purpose is to inspire women to embrace and celebrate our voices while forging our own paths -- and inspiring the next generation to do the same -- despite a culture dictating we do otherwise. I am the daughter of a Mexican-born father and was raised by my village, including my parents, tias, tios, and Abuelo. I am the mother of a second-generation daughter who is being raised by the girl who grew up to break away from the accepted in order to find myself. I am Chingona. #SheSePuede. Because alone we can, but together, we thrive.

 

A Thanksgiving Transcription

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends List:

I wanted to thank you all for helping me sort out the Cooking of the Turkey in the Roaster Thingy that goes on the Counter minus the Rack Thingy I couldn't find. You are all geniuses and I wanted to let you know our little dinner turned out wonderfully.

Or not.

Actually, the tutkey turned out okay. The pre-dinner conversation was fucking fabulous. I'm a writer, so obviously, the evening was a total WIN.

Keep in mind that the following transcription is mostly true because totally true would mean I KNEW it was going to be this good and I'd have had my phone on record and that would mean I'm psychic and why would I be bloging FOR FREE THEN? So, let's jump on to the convo, shall we?

The sweet potato casserole I made that never made it onto instragram. I must be slipping.

The Scene: Thanksgiving, Somewhere in Maine with Lots of Snow and a few Moose, 2014. The Husband has returned from work and dinner is *not* ready to go as he'd hoped.

Him: turkey smells great. How long till we eat?

Me: 2 hours later than you are hoping.

Him: Why?

Me: Because I got it going 2 hours later than you told me to.  Obviously.

Him: What the hell, woman? Can we start with the pie, then? I only ate half my lunch to save room.

Me: No pie. I was too busy asking FB if could cook the turkey in the Roaster Thingy that goes on the Counter minus the Rack Thingy I couldn't find. Don't worry, 27 friends liked my confusion and 19 commented, which is the only reason you aren't giving thanks for peanut butter and jelly right now.

Him: Twenty-seven, huh?

Me: Or five. Whatever. The Queen of Spain says I'm good. That's all anyone needs to know.

Him (checking the turkey): UPSIDE DOWN? You put the turkey in Upside Down? Who DOES that? And what does Facebook have to do with my lack of Pie?

Me: I had to wait for people to COMMENT, yo. You know how the Internet works, right? And what the hell? Upside down? What are you talking about?

Him (speaking deliberately and now enunciating every.single.syllable lest he scare the jumper off the bridge):  Wait. The Queen of What? Pauline, look at the turkey. Can you tell me where the breast went ?

Me (indignant): I went to high school with royalty. Jealous?

Him: Not really. Just hungry. The breast? Show me. (Calm down, people. He was pointing to the turkey.)

Me: (Looking. Processing. Y'all might wanna thank The Husband for not making you wait ... ): Ummmm...

Him (reaching into flip the bird over): It's RIGHT HERE, babe. (And yes. He pointed. Multiple times. As he turned the bird "right side up", his eyes saw something else apparently even the manliest of men already know, and when he picked his jaw up from the floor, he said...) and so is the plastic. (Dramatic pause) ...and all the bits normal people pull out of the Turkey before stuffing it.

Me (meeting his raised eyebrow with my own): We agreed we weren't stuffing the Turkey.

Him: That's all ya got?

Me: Is it edible?

Him: Yes, thank God.

Me: Exactly. And now that we've acknowledged the true meaning of today, do me a favor.

Him (grinning): Yes?

Me: Shut up, sit down over there, and give your little girl a kiss. I've got a conversation to transcribe before we eat.

END SCENE

Prologue: I didn't finish baking till 9. They had a few store bought cookies for dessert. and yes, the upside down turkey was delicious

 

Casa Latina Home Expo: I'm SPEAKING!

   

casa-latina-blogher-logo-featuredWhen one door closes...Another opens.

My head is still reeling from my recognition as a 2014 Top Bloguera and subsequent passing on attending this year's pre-LATISM conference retreat for the 100 blogueras due to time and distance. I'm sad to be missing out on this year's event, but excited that Fate decided this weekend was going to be worth writing home about, anyway.

As of this very second, I have no idea where I am staying once we arrive or how we are getting there, but come hell or high water, I'm booked to speak at the Casa Latina Expo Home Expo in New York on  Saturday, Nov. 15. The event, co-produced by BlogHer (and featuring many of my Latina blogging and social media amiga-friends like Kathy Cano-Murillo, Jeannette Kaplun, and Helen Troncoso! From start to finish, the entire event looks like a winner and I am all kinds of excited to be a part of it.

I'll be speaking on the 3:45=5 p.m. panel on Getting Recognized with Jeannette, Mercedes Sanchez, and Mariela Dabbah. The panel will focus on how to become a multi-media entrepreneur and market yourself as an expert in your niche. And pardon me while I go pack my big girl 'chonis, 'cuz wow.

I'll figure out the logistics sometime between now and 3 p.m, on Saturday. Until then, let's stick to one syllable words and very short sentences.

Yep.. much better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hastags Explained: #Latism14 & #TopBlogueras

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I'm not on a plane right now on the way to an event I've been looking forward to since last year. Turns out that sometimes it actually is just too hard to get from Point A to anywhere involving a plane when Point A is smack in the middle of nowhere.

#MexicaninMaine. That's me, remember? I am defined by the hashtags I have created to suit me.

#Dimelo. For the name of my Latina Magazine advice column.

#ChingonaFest. For my growing community and podcast supporting the spirit of the Latina women and our desire to raise the next generation to always celebrate their voices and their spirit.

#BitchRedefined. For the non-Latinas finding themselves drawn to the ChingonaFest community. I get it. I'm hyphenated and usually straddling the tightrope between both halves of my identity, never quite standing still long enough on either side to catch my balance. My Spanish is too choppy to be considered fluent and my English spoken in the same rapid-fire rhythm of the language I once didn't realize I thought in. My skin brown enough to arouse curiosity because What Are You seems to be considered an appropriate question to ask a perfect stranger while checking out the asparagus. My hair kinky curly enough for the person asking to step back, grin, and tell me that I do not fit their perception of who and what I claim to be. No way, they say. You're mixed, right?

I used to not know how to answer that question. Of course not, I'd think. I'm Mexican. That's what I'd want to say, but it felt like I was denying the unknown. I see my hair. I see my body. I know that when I tell people which area of Mexico my maternal grandfather was from, the asker will sometimes nod knowingly because they've now matched my appearance to the other side of the tracks in their minds' eye. Now, I just raise an eyebrow in silent warning to step away from the line in the sand. I may raise it higher and ad an eye-roll if the asker misses the first hint. Should they miss both, I feel justified in responding with many words considered inappropriate for mothers shopping with their little girls to be using. I'm not worried. My daughter is brilliant and is perfectly aware of the words Mommy uses verbally and in my writing and -- yes, I am bragging here -- she even knows which ones she is not allowed to repeat until she's paying her own rent.

I am mixed. Every Mexican is. And I live in Maine. Not every Mexican does that. In fact, I'm pretty damned sure I am the the first ever in my family to own a pair of snowshoes. That makes Eliana the second. Paths are being forged, my friends. We are pretty fucking fabulous at falling. That means we are even better at picking ourselves up.

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#SheSePuede. Because I can. Because I believe she can. Because we all can. Because I have to remind myself of my strength and pull myself up from the dark places that never have enough chocolate just as often as you do and because I know I always will. Don't be fooled by my resume. I will never have the five steps to unfailing happiness and self-acceptance because I am my history and my history is the Spanglish version of My So-Called Life. What I do have is a stubborn streak. I am bull-headed. I am determined. I am a realist. And a dreamer. I know I will fall again. I know I will pick myself back up. I share that because this is where we connect and relate and why it won't seem strange when we meet in person and squee and hug like we have known each other forever and really, in a way, we sort of have. So it's okay.

I'll be missing many hugs and Spanglish-lovin' this week as many of my friends and colleagues travel to Anaheim, CA. for the #Latism14 conference. I already am missing the party before the party I still can't believe I was invited to when I was named a Top Bloguera. I am honored and humbled and in need of a thesaurus, and I truly wish the four hours between me and the airport weren't an issue. The extra plane ticket I would have needed to buy for my daughter that just wasn't in the budget didn't help matters. One door opens. Maybe it closes. Another appears. I wish but I'm not. I am not but I was. And the sun will rise again. 1 of 100 selected of 400 applications. I suck at math an am easily impressed, but I still like what I see here.

I'll still be a badass. You'll still be a badass. And my daughter will still be working on my last nerve and saving my sanity at the last minute with a giggle and a smile. Thank you, Ana Roca-Castro. Thank you for today's reason to smile when you reminded us all that even if not at the retreat, the title is still ours to hold on to.

#TopBloguera. This is the one for which I thank you, my dear friends and readers. Because you read and you support and you share the words I write because we did that relating thing. Thank you. Let's do more of that, okay?

Volume, Visibility, and Buses, Oh My!

Not So Fine Print: blah blah blah Sponsored Post blah blah blah Full Disclosure blah blah blah That Thing About Any and All Opinions Being My Own. Moving on...

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Volume and visibility.

The first refers to how much noise we are capable of generating when combining our own voice with our community to bring notice to a particular message; the second is specific to how many pairs of eyes follow the yellow-brick road to the land of Oz. Enough noise and you re-energize your existing audience and hopefully expand your reach with a few new voices. Enough eyes and you see the difference between a ripple and a wave.

The wave, y'all, is when one of your social media friends texts you excitedly because your links have started showing up in Facebook shares from her IRL friends. The wave is what happens when momentum starts working for you, turning that snowball you've been working on and turning it into a straight-up avalanche. That's when you no longer have to bust your ass and begging your friends to help promote your blog post, new book, new product line, or otherwise fabulously fantastical idea, because the ginourmous  bus that just drove by in the middle of Times Square with your blog/book/or otherwise fantastical idea all over it...

...and now you know what validation feels like.

I'm proud to announce that Zuesvision Public-- the company that prides itself on leveling the advertising playing field for the little guys -- has selected Aspiring Mama to take part in it kickstarter awareness campaign. In exchange for a blog post sharing the Zuesvision message with you, I get two weeks of bus-sized Aspring Mama ads wheeling their way through high traffic areas in both LA and NYC. II'm not an idiot, so I said yes, but I'm also a hard-ass when it comes to being convinced to sponsor up the blog, so I think it goes with0ut saying that any and all words written on behalf of Zuesvision are my own, right?

(This is the part where you come in.)

Here's the thing, y'all...we all know that it takes more than hard work and busting our asses to make an actual go of whatever it is we feel we are called to do. An advertising budget and/or pure dumb luck tend to play a big part in who we are talking about and who's talking about us. Whether it's building a successful nonprofit like my friend Denisse Montalvan with The Orphaned Earring, getting your glitter on with a new product line launch with a major retailer like my girl, Kathy Cano-Murillo, a.k.a. Crafty Chica, or selling the hell out of their book like friends Rick Najera with Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood and Mercedes Yardley with her new release Pretty Little Dead Girls, or if it's big dreams of bringing your bling to the front lines like my friends Jessica Mazone and Lucy Ball, the struggle is the same: We can write the hell out of the blog posts and share the links on our social media channels like the seasoned social veterans that we are, but we only have so much time to devote to being all self-promotional and shhhtuff.

None of it matters if no one bothers to click the links. We are busy and we'd love an intern and imagine the day when we can afford a reliable assistant to keep us (mostly) on track and of course we don't have time to click every link from the very friends we'd support at the drop of a hat if we knew they needed it (without having to click the links, of course). So here goes nothing...

I want Zuesvision to succeed. I want to see their kickstarter campaign bring it all home and cheer when the company announces the addition of more digital billboard buses to their fleet. Why? Because we need Zeusvision just as much as they need us. We raise our chances of success when we join forces and who doesn't think that ginourmous buses inching its way through Times Square with your $99 URL-containing ad aren't a good idea?

Exactly. 

So pay attention, because I'm about to play hardball.

This is the part where I ask you directly to click the link to Zuesvision's kickstarter campaign. 

This is the part where I ask you directly to donate $5, because five bucks gets you a single 30-second ad on a bus. (If all the $5 spots are taken, this is the part where I tell you to team up with friends to pool funds for one of the larger sponsor spots because...)

This is the part where I ask you directly to gift your ad spot to a worthy cause. Go with your gut, but I'd like to suggest donating that ad spot you just bought Denisse Montalvan of The Orphaned Earring. She is doing incredible things and this is so much easier than scaling a mountain and shouting myself hoarse on her behalf.

And this is the part where I say thank you. 

Let's see what we can accomplish together, Internet. I believe in you.

That Time I Referred to Rick Najera as Motivational and Not an Asshole

  ricknajera

And when I say traveled, I mean four hours driving from my home to Portland, Maine, for the hotel that happens to be located right by the Amtrak depot, an overnight stay at said hotel, two hours on a bus the next morning, and then six on a train into Penn Station. Eliana travels with me. Score for Team Crazy Mexican Homeschooling! Kiddo was so excited to see the New York City skyline it made me a bit teary to think about packing up for the Land of Moose and Snow, but turns out we both love living in the Maine tundra as much as we love our little forays into Places Normal People Live. So it all works out in the end.

We had just arrived at Penn Station. How warm is it, she wanted to know. So I told her. 50 degrees. Back home it was was 27 and look like the tundra. After looking around a bit, maybe weighing her options, she made up her mind. Mom, she says, do you mind if I take off my fuzzy sweater? I answered by taking off my own.  While we exchanged sly smiles at the New Yorkers rushing by bundled in their winter layers, because we left winter in the back of my Yukon which was parked in the hotel lot back in Portland. All we brought with us? A fleece pullover and a spring rain trench.  'Cuz we're hard core, that's why.

The only SNAFU occurred when my original babysitting plan went out the window because that's just how shit works. Instead of a relatively easy drop-off in the Bronx, Eliana and I ended up taking a train to upstate NY to meet a Wendy DelMonte, my forever friend whom I now owe a pony, who drove an hour and a half south from Connecticut to pick up Eliana for the night. My child had the time of her life because Wendy and her kids are fabulous and that two-minutes I had on the platform before jumping in the return train for the hour-and-a-half ride back so I could haul ass yet again to my hotel to drop off my Too Much Luggage, shower off the travel stink, and change just in time to get lost on the way to the venue and show up an hour late?  Yeah...those two minutes may be the only time I actually breathed that day.

Meet Dennis Sanchez, the genius behind MVM Events. He's the lucky guy smack in the middle between me and the only white chick in the room. That's Sarah Fader and I think it's important to note we became friends because I saw an update about Three Year Olds being Assholes and was all It's Like you KNOW Me and this is probably also a good time to mention that she'll tell you she's Jewish and that isn't the same thing as white.  I'm not disagreeing. I'm only stating that it wasn't the Not White chick's face I had to work my ass off to make visible while editing this photo.  Also? You can step away from the tanning bed now, Dennis.  You're *welcome*.

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This girl is hereby nominated as President of Any Fan Club Ever Created in My Honor Should I Become Important Enough for One. Her name is Joyce and you should follow her on twitter and instagram (@hvnlee) because I just made her important.  And yes, thanks, my therapist says I'm making major strides on that self-confidence thing.

I spoke. Dennis spoke. Rick spoke. And after calling Rick a motivational asshole and only stuttering three times, there was much merriment at the after party (I drank water because allergies suck), and then I went back to the Hotel from Hell to not sleep because security couldn't figure out the door I was pointing to was actually mine when I called about my key not working. I woke up at 2 p.m. after going to bef at 5 a.m. and suddenly it was time to drag my Too Much Luggage back to the subway and the train for the hour-and-a-half ride to upstate NY to meet Wendy and pick up Eliana just in time to go back the way we came, hop another bazillion subway trains once in the city, and make our way to the Bronx to meet up with another friend for the rest of our stay.

So many subway stops. So many flights of stairs to drag my Too Much Luggage up to catch the next train. My Jawbone Up band tells me I clocked an average of 23k steps per day while in NC. But this?

And these guys? They all made me want to plan a trip devoted to interviewing the subway artists and performers. There are so many stories to tell.

Eventually we made it to the Bronx. My friend Heiddi was worried I'd be worried because Bronx and Perception. I smiled. Then I reminded her I might *live* in Maine but I'm *from* Detroit.

A surprise planned for the next day meant pulling out the stick on nails I had brought home from BlogHer 13 and Eliana had saved for a special occasion. Girlfriend was all kinds of proud of these nails -- which, by the way -- she made sure every person on every train *knew* she was wearing fake nails because she was fancy.

We hustled from train to train to take our kids to a surprise involving The Story Pirates and were delayed when these guys swarmed my kid. So I took a picture. Then the minion pointed to his necklace which says "Tips".  Heiddi said this is why she doesn't stop for these idiots. The minion stopped pointing to his necklace after I pointed out they may wanna reconsider baiting the impressionable children of bitchy mothers until they've collected the requisite cash from said bitch mom.  Heiddi nodded. Detroit, right?  Detroit, born and bred.

This is, obviously, a first-grader. At least, that's what they script says. The Story Pirates were worth the throwdown with Strawberry Shortcake. We will be returning.

A stop at Jennifer Esposito's gluten-free bakery was in order. I bought what I can't eat because I'm allergic to ALL the Things, but even the non-gluten free were impressed. Also? Thank you to Victoria for hiding my iPhone until I frantically returned in search of my sanity. Jennifer? Victoria totally gets a raise.  Victoria? *You're Welcome*.

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Leaving New York for upstate for our final stop and New York wins. She gave up naps at 15 months. I may have to move. Or at least visit regularly.

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Because my life is a sitcom without the laugh track.  11:00 p.m. and still 100 miles from home after various stops for eating and car sickness and more eating because throwing up left her hungry but eating made her car sick again.  Then of course, there was Starbucks two hours ago because Obviously and me not making her go potty and the child with the bladder of a camel decides she must pee and she must pee NOW. She told me to pull over. In the middle of a deserted freeway where moose and Random Wildlife live, because she wasn't kidding.  I'll squat, she said. She didn't, I observed.  We changed her, bagged up her wet clothes, and as settled back in to drive. Just as my own bladder reminded me that I'd knocked back two trenta green teas and maybe I should consider squatting.  I opted for getting the hell out of whatever scene Stephen King was writing before the evil clowns showed up and held it until we got to the only rest stop between nowhere and home.

And now we are home and slowly getting back on track and there is much snow and no subways and I'm firing my dogs for not noticing the herd of deer leaping through the backyard as they circled for a spot to do their thing. Also, stick around if you're new. That #mexicaninmaine hashtag will start to make a lot more sense.

The End.

***

UPDATE!!!

I forgot to mention that Rick sent me home with three copies of his book, Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood. One is mine, so step off and we can still be friends.

The second I gave to Ana Roca-Castro because I know Latism stands for all that Rick discusses in his book. I can't wait to hear what she thinks.

The last, y'all, I saved for you. Or...well, one of you, at least.

Picture Proof that I actually HAVE the book in my possession. The line for My New Best Friend forms *here*.

Rick Najera's autograph. Related: My favorite things are Starbucks Iced Green Teas, ponies, and MAC Russian red lipstick. Priority consideration will be focused on those who try to buy my love. *Nods head*

To enter for your chance at the book, here's the not-so-fine-print:

* First let's make sure everyone knows I am incapable of kissing ass so a free book isn't going to buy anyone a flowing review. If I don't like it, I'm simply not going to mention it. End. Of. Story.

* The rules:

**Leave a comment on this post. It can be anything as long as anything includes your email so I can contact you if you win. Bonus points if your comment actually pertains to the discussion at hand. Giving a damn is always nice.

** Share the following on your social media channels and leave me a separate comment for each share with the URL:

Check out this post by @pauline_campos: Enter to win an autographed copy of  by  

** Deadline is midnight, EST, April 22.

And that's it. I'm excited to share this book with all of you and am live-tweeting quotes as I read a chapter each night. Which means that yes, I love #AlmostWhite.

So...who's in?

 

Rick Najera: Hollywood's Best Kept Spanglish Secret

Rick Najera

 

A few years ago, I had an idea for a book and a blog come to me while I was trying to fall asleep. Any writer will tell you that ideas are fleeting -- and that sleep is optional-- so I quietly slipped out of bed, tip-toed out of the room as to not wake the sleeping husband, and promptly grabbed my purse and my credit card before sitting down at the computer.

I had URLs to buy, dammit.

That's the night I launched Aspiring Mama and started working on the memoir I hope to publish one day. I didn't know any successful writers personally. I didn't even know any Pretty Shitty But Determined to Make it Happen writers. Hell, this was five years ago, people. That's a lifetime in the digital age. Twitter was a verb describing that noise birds make and Facebook was MySpace's slightly more respectable older cousin I didn't feel like wasting my time with.

It's okay. Obviously, I smartened up.

Back then, though, me and my Blackberry only knew how to make phone calls and I was still trying to figure out how to wash the used car salesman smell away from my soul after my previously brief (but highly convenient and yet utterly soul-sucking) foray into the world of blogging. The blog written from my dog's point of view was brilliant but I don't think the world was quite ready for that kind of genius. And the baby product review blogging phase means we scored free things like expensive car seats, but I walked away from it because I knew I needed the break to clear my head. My writing "voice", the one I had honed in the newsroom, had been lost in the free baby-carrier and teething jewelry carnage, you see.

Six months later, I was awake at 3 a.m. buying Aspiringmama.com and began working on the memoir I had titled "Baby Fat: Adventures in Motherhood, Weight Loss, & Trying to Stay Sane." (Think Erma Bombeck but with more "F" bombs.) It was this manuscript, coincidentally, that led me to Rick Najera and why I'm talking about his new book  -- Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood.

Buy it on principal, y'all. Because the title alone is fucking hilarious and that needs to be recognized.

 

Also important? I'll be speaking at Rick's April 3 reception celebrating his book launch in New York. Because that's not the kind of thing you almost forget to mention when writing about the event at which you happen to be speaking. But I digress...

I attended the National Latino Writer's Conference in New Mexico the following year and had been smart enough to sign up for a chance at a critique of the first 15 pages by two of the conference workshop teachers. I was already signed up for Rick Naerja's comedy writing workshop -- not because I knew who he was, mind you, but because comedy has always been a part of what I do -- so I figured, "What the hell? This guy might know something about being funny." And a few months later, there I was, sitting before Rick in our on-on-one session discussing my manuscript...and something amazing happened.

This Hollywood writer who, it turns out, is actually quite the big deal, told me I had a voice. And that it was a good one. Rick told me I was funny and more importantly, that I could write. I remember texting my husband frantically after my critique session to tell him that I had the potential to go mainstream ... because RICK NAJERA SAID SO.

I could feel The Husband smiling back as I read his response. He said he liked this Rick guy. He said Rick was smart.

I read between the lines. My husband was thanking Rick for giving me something he couldn't because This is GREAT, honey! is always suspect when sex is the end goal. While The Husband has told me from the beginning he believes in me and my words, the creative spirit in me needed the validation of an objective party. I needed to know the sleepless nights pounding away at the keyboard, the rejections, and the days where I kicked myself in the ass for thinking I could make something of this little dream, were all worth it.

It is worth it, by the way. I'm proud to be able to say to Rick that I listened, mainly because I don't do that very often. But this time, I did and I can say I'm Latina Magazine's Dimelo advice columnist because I kept at it. And y'all? Did you know you can actually get paid for telling people what to do while sitting on your couch without a bra on?  You can thank Rick for that visual, because he told me I had potential.

But I'm not the only one. Rick has played a crucial role in not only encouraging fellow Latino writers, actors, and comedians to not only fight for their dream, but also in creating opportunities focused on showcasing their talents. While picking up honors like earning a spot on Hispanic Business's 100 Most Influential Latinos in America, an Alma Award for Best Writer for the 2008 film Nothing Like the Holidays, and most recently, a nod from Latin Teen Heat Entertainment for being a Hot Hollywood Dad, Rick also has helped launch the careers of countless performers in his role as director of the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase. The 2014 Showcase alone delivered three writers to Saturday Night Live and 16 series regulars to TV. I'm sure, of course, that Rick also serving as coach, mentor, and teacher during the four months of preparation has something to do with that.

It's because he makes us laugh. You know that, right? Comedic writers wield a power like no other, because it is through laughter that so many of us are able to process and discuss controversial or difficult subject matter. If you've watched one episode of In Living Color, you know what I mean. Rick Najera is a master of comedic timing and knows exactly which buttons to push so that when we get to the punchline, we aren't just laughing...we're thinking, too.

"Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood". I'll give you the short version because I know you're already planning on buying the book -- which -- by the way, was just nominated for Most Inspirational Non Fiction Book by Int'l Latino Book Awards. Basically, Rick says dream big or go home. The focus, of course, is on the Dreaming Big part, because Rick is inspiring and not an asshole. When you want something, you make it happen.

Since we're talking about change and forging our own paths, let's talk about diversity and Latino representation in Hollywood. I've always subscribed to the Write What You Know philosophy. For a long time I think I had convinced myself that every writer thinks like this, but the truth is that white males dominate in the writer's rooms. Without real world experience from which to draw upon when creating the Latino characters and culturally-themed story-lines the public is calling for, their attempts fall flat and are oftentimes stereotypical and offensive.

Jesenia, Co-Creator of The Comedy Girls (and apparently too fancy for a last name) is another Latino fighting for more diversity. She's made it her personal mission to get a Latin American FEMALE cast member on SNL. She says, and I quote, "Because Latin Americans are only represented accurately when we are representing ourselves, we need to not only continue creating high quality, non-stereotype content - we also need to step out of constantly boxing ourselves into the Latino category, and instead create work that speaks to all audiences of every race."
I'll high five you Jesenia for that one later. Because what she says here is that the responsibility in how we are portrayed in the media is not one we can just pass off on Hollywood. And that, my friends, leads us right back to Rick, being Almost White in Hollywood, and encouraging Latin American writers to keep knocking on those closed doors. If it never opens, we knock a new hole in another wall, pull up a table and some chairs, and write the stories that we know need to be told.
***If you're in New York, I'd love to see you there! Click here for ticket information. I'm driving four hours to the closest train station so I can not have to think for the remaining 6 hours of the trip, so I don't want to hear bitching about how traffic in the city is a nightmare. Suck it up, show up, and a good time shall be had by all.

 

Robin O'Bryant and Ketchup is a Vegetable

  Robin O'Bryant

Back in November of 2011, I had the honor of pimpin' one of my favorite writer friend's new self-published book to you guys. The writer was a sweet and sassy mom writer I had connected with (and fallen in LOVE with) on twitter named Robin O'Bryant and the book was none other than Ketchup is a Vegetable (And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves).

I shared a book excerpt and a hilarious interview here on Aspiring Mama and then I stood back, grabbed a pen, and took some notes as I watched Robin show the world how self-publishing should be done. (I'll give you a hint: New York Times Bestseller List and a two book deal.)

But I'll let Robin tell you the rest. Just make sure to stick around for the entire post because Book Giveaway and SIGNED COPY, y'all. That's why.

You're Welcome.

***

9781250054142

 

 

Pauline Campos: Let's just hit the ground running here, Robin. Exactly how many kinds of awesome are you?

Robin O'Bryant: I think maybe one shade, because I'm really excellent at doing nothing and being more than one shade seems like it'd be a lot of work. Right now, I'm trying to decide if I have the energy to read or if I'm just going to watch Netflix and drool.

 PC: I like the second option. But we can talk about movies later. I wanna know if I can be you when I grow up. You started with an an idea for a book that got you your agent, self-syndicated a very popular (and utterly hilarious) column, self-published Ketchup is a Vegetable, worked your ass off to make it to the New York Times bestsellers list, and earned a two-book deal for Ketchup and the forth-coming Are You There God? It's Me, Mommy-- all in a -- what is it now? -- four year's time span?

RO: Yep. I keep track because my youngest daughter was 1 when I started and is 5 now! It's been a whirlwind. 

PC: And somehow, with all of that husslin', you somehow managed to feed, clothe, and interact with your children, not alienate your non-writer friends, and your husband is still speaking to you? Not to outshine the major book drop news but exactly how does one replicate this? (I'm asking for a friend.)

RO: I answer a lot of those questions in "Are You There God?"-- it wasn't easy or effortless. I spent a lot of time feeling like a terrible wife and mother. But I'd say the short answer is: Jesus, Zoloft, therapy, yoga and a group of friends you wouldn't believe existed. 

 PC: I know you're a Christian woman and grace is a Big Thing for nice folks like you who don't drop F-bombs like drunken sailors *coughs* but I'm imaging Toby Keith's How Do You Like Me Now is on repeat in your writing playlist, like, ALLTHETIME. And before you answer, know that I'll be slightly less crushed if you say no than I was when I learned that reality TV is actually scripted.

RO: This is another thing I talk about in "Are You There God?"! I am a Christian but I cuss like a sailor in real life. For me, in my own writing, curse words seem to take away from my message. I just can't do it on the page, it distorts my voice. You should have seen all the words my beta reader took out of the next book! 

 I don't like Toby Keith's music-- I'm Southern but not that kind of Southern. But I definitely have moments when I feel like screaming, "IN YOUR FACE WORLD!! YOU SAID I COULDN'T DO IT AND I DID!"

 When I was first starting out I sent a piece to an online humor site and got a scathing reply from the editor telling me that I wasn't really writing humor because all I was doing was transcribing what my kids said. A few years later she started following me on a social media site. It took every bit of strength I had not to have a Pretty Woman moment with her and say, "Remember me?? Big mistake. Huge." 

 PC:  See? I was right. That felt just like I thought it would. Maybe there's still hope, though. I shared a room with you and Sister Wife once at a BlogHer conference. Do I get to call you Robin still? Or does the fact that you got to hear me snore mean I'm now to refer to you as Ms. O'Bryant?

 RO: Robin is fine. I'm just not sure you'll be able to call me roommate again. ; )

 PC: That one hurt, Robin. Seriously. But The Husband is currently sending virtual high-fives your way. Whatever THAT'S about. Anyway, finish this sentence:

 RO: I'm at the beach...

 PC: No, really. I totally got distracted by a squirrel just now. When you stop laughing at me, I'd really like you to finish that sentence.

 RO:...my plan is to drink coffee until lunch then switch to alkeehol. I'm going to get some Vitamin D and be in bed by 7:30. 

 PC: YOU DO LOVE ME! Okay, back to Ketchup. Remember when you first launched and then the government declared tomato sauce on pizza was considered a vegetable and I was all THE US GOVERNMENT HAS APPROVED THIS MESSAGE because BEST TIMING EVER? Good times, right?

RO:  Lol!! I know! I used it as a hook for my press release thanks to suggestions from Ariel Gore's "

 How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights, " which you recommended to me. 

 PC: I think I've read that book about 10 times. Obviously, you took way better notes than I did. Can I borrow them? And what's the game plan for the big Ketchup relaunch? A book tour? Who gets to play you in the eventual sit-com? Or would you rather go the RoseAnne Barr route and just play yourself?

RO: I am going on book tour, you can find all of the dates here. If I'm not going to be close to you, you can order books from my local indie store, Turnrow Books and I'll personalize them & they'll ship them to your front door!

AND I'm highly available for private speaking engagements, you can email me at robinschicks(at)gmail.com if you are interested. 

 Honestly, I used to fantasize about being an actress but it would be so weird to play me with Not Zeb, Not Aubrey, Not Emma, and Not Sadie. Zeb O'Bryant would die first and I don't have the money to spend to send all three girls to Promises for their 15th birthdays so I guess that job would be up for grabs. If, in some alternate universe, any of my stories were made into movies, I would want Jennifer Lawrence to play me because she's the only person I can think of who is as ridiculous as I am.

PC: Last one-- If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

RO: Absolutely not. I am so grateful for the way everything unfolded. Self-pubbing first gave me the opportunity to take baby-steps before I made the plunge into traditional publishing. I would have been lost in this process, but I'm more confident now. I've done this before, the only difference is that instead of it just being me and my agent, I have a whole TEAM of people who are helping me. I am so in love with every single person I've worked with at St Martin's Press.

***

Now for the giveaway details: St. Martin's Press is offering one copy of the shiny pretty new Ketchup and Robin has graciously offered to make sure it's personalized. Considering the fact that I forgot to bring my own copy to BlogHer in 2012 to get my ROOMMATE to sign for me, I think this is a pretty sweet deal for y'all.

How do you enter? Leave me a comment. It can be about anything, really, but bonus points will be given to those who say something that tells me and Robin that you do, in fact, realize this post had nothing to do with knitting turtle cozies or the earliest time of the day during which it is socially acceptable to add more vodka to your orange juice (The answer is: I'm not judging). The contest will close at midnight (EST) on Monday, March 31, and one winner will be randomly selected via twitter or email. And don't forget -- you can pre-order Ketchup is a Vegetable at major retailers right here!

#ChingonaFest Fridays: Veronica Arreola

It's week TWO for the Aspiring Mama #Chingonafest Fridays. Last week, Pili Montilla graced the blog as the first Chingona and it was fabulous. Today, the fabulous continues with proud feminist Veronica Arreola sitting in the hot seat. It seems I’ve added Chingona Cheerleader to my soapbox recently (Mostly by accident but I’m running with it anyway). Each week, I’m featuring one fabulous Latina who’s moving mountains and raising hell because their stories are worth telling. Twenty questions will be presented to each and 15 will be answered and presented here to you in a Q&A format, like the fancy features in magazines, only with more typos and less airbrushing.

Veronica is a a force to be reckoned with. By day, she runs a women in science & engineering program at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Research on Women and Gender and by night she's a PhD student in Public Administration. I'm assuming that means she earned her veteran blogger stripes (and became a social media addict while doing the public speaking thing) when she should have been sleeping. Oh, and that #365feministselfie thing the entire internet is talking about? Yeah, Veronica founded that, too.(Of course, I'm posting the daily selfies because I like words that start with the letter "F".)

And on to the interview!

photo(11)

Veronica Arreola

 

Pauline Campos: Chocolate or vanilla?

Veronica Arreola: Vanilla bean.

 

 

PC: So you're a rebel and don't like boxes, then. *nods head* Can you tell me what favorite book is and why?

 

 VA: This is like asking me to choose my favorite child! Oh wait, I only have one. Damn...still, you can't ask a bookworm this.

 

 

PC: I should have seen that one coming. Okay, let's go three for three. What's your favorite quote?

 

VA:  "Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel." Bella Abzug

 

 

PC: Alrighty then. Um, and now for the obvious. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

 

VA: OF COURSE!

 

 

PC: Good. You had me worried there for a minute. Let's talk about who you hope to inspire.

 

VA: My daughter. She is everything that I had hoped to have as a daughter. Smart, witty, strong, athletic, caring and with an eye on justice. It is an honor to be her mom. Watch out world!

 

 

PC: Sweet. When she's old enough to say Chingona without getting grounded, send her my way, will ya? But back to you...do you dream in color or black and white?

 

VA: Technicolor. When I was a kid, I often got dreams and real life mixed up. I'd swear things happened and my mom would have to explain that I dreamt it.

 

 

PC: Why am I not surprised? Okay, so, let's play word association. I say CHINGONA and you say...?

 

VA: VIVA!

 

 

 

PC: How do you feel about Latinas and how we are represented in the media?

 

VA:  Hijole! The sad thing is that I think of the awful representations first. SNL's Cecily Strong's continuing to play the ditzy Latina, Sofía Vergara's Gloria on "Modern Family" is like a Latina Peg Bundy without Peg's sharp wit and then there's a new Latina character on "The Walking Dead" who looks to be drawn by a 13-year-old boy. ENOUGH! But then we go to the news part of the media and we see Latinas like Maria Hinojosa and Soledad O'Brien, who show our intelligent side. Thank goodness for America Ferrera and Rosario Dawson making movies with strong and intelligent Latina characters..or at least not a stereotype of a Latina which the rest of us have to dispel over and over.

 

 

PC: hmm..I see your point, but I also loved Peg Bundy. But it was probably the sharp wit thing. Anyway, NEXT! One takeaway you want your children to hold onto after they've grown and flown the nest...

 

VA: To keep exploring the world.

 

 

PC: One childhood memory that has stuck with you...

 

VA: Hard to choose just one! Why do you do this to me, Pauline? OK, so my dad always had pick up trucks when we were kids. I loved riding in the back, especially when he didn't have a cap on the back. It was heaven. I vividly remember my girlfriends & I tagging along while he want to the auto-part store. We piled in with my boombox, turned up the music and sang all the way there and back.

 

 

PC: Oh that makes me think of my Guelo's station wagon and the seats that flipped up and telephone poles with signs with phone numbers for the "Yunk Yard." *sighs wistfully* Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?

 

VA: English

 

 

PC: Yeah, unless I'm drunk (and I mean like College Frat Party levels), I think in English, too. So what's your favorite dish? Why?

 

VA: Cheese enchiladas con mole. My mom use to make the best enchiladas. When I moved out of my parents' home, I started my now 20+ years of trying to replicate her recipe. No canned mole for my mom's enchiladas. And since she died 11 years ago, my quest for that perfect recipe so my daughter has the same memories keeps me going. BTW - Anyone know where I can get some California Chile powder?

 

 

PC: Going out on a limb here, but California sounds like a good place to look. What? The door..it was RIGHT THERE. You can glare at me later. For now, I wanna know if you feel "Latina enough"?

 

VA: Not really.

 

 

PC: WHAT? You so NO and leave us hanging? That was just mean. Let's see what you do with this one: Describe your perfect day.

 

VA:A warm day, full of sunshine, cool breeze, then climbing up a tree. I'll find a comfy nook, then settle in to read a good book. These perfect days happened almost every day when I was a kid. Now I substitute biking to a park with my family. Still toting a book along.

And there ya have it. To nominate a Latina for a future #ChingonaFest feature, email me at aspiringmama@gmail.com or tweet e with the hashtag #ChingonaFest. And don’t forget to check out this week’s Dimelo Advice column on Latina Magazine (this week’s reader says she's twelve and that love hurts like hell. Yeah, y;all. I KNOW...! Send me your questions to dimelo@latina.com.

The Finger Monkey, the Kilt-Daddy, & the Sandwich that Sprained my Ankle

 

Sometimes I like to look up the search terms that lead people to Aspiring Mama. Usually this happens after a random conversation I have with a real person like The Husband or my kid or the one neighbor who's house I can see from the end of my drive (as opposed to the pretend people that live inside of my iPhone).

Today's foray into RandomSearchTermLandia was spurred on by Monday's blog post showcasing my girl and her daddy in their kilts and The Husband muttering something about his legs being all over the internet again. When I called him Kilt Daddy and told him to show me his Irish, he totally thought he was getting lucky later and, sadly, I had to tell him that was gonna have to wait for me to finish writing for the day. It took him a minute before he was all Who is this Kilt Daddy?

So I showed him. Since publishing the original post two years ago, that very term has been one of the most popular internet searches leading readers directly to Aspiring Mama. Other winners include

*Advice Columns of Satire

* Funny Stories About Maine

* Pictures of Finger Monkeys

* Do Cats Blink

* Multiple Women Naked Bodies

* How Much is a Baby Finger Monkey?

*Autosucking

and

* Broken Legs or Sprain Ankles of Famous Persons

 

Just remember, y'all, while Google may be telling you the truth when it shows you The Husband's sexy legs when you ask it for the Kilt Daddy, Google is a damned liar about the finger monkey expert thing. That, my friends, was one blog post from way back when that was the first thing ever pinned by a reader and how I learned Pinterest had been invented.

Oh, and that one about the broken ankle? In my defense, there was a lot of meat on that sandwich.

 

 

The Luck O' the Mirish

Mirish is A Thing. The quick history lesson is that many Irish fought for the Mexican army during the Mexican-American War in the mid 1840's. The result is is blending of cultures that doesn't get a lot of air time in history classes. The Husband is the son of a Mexican-born father and a Canadian-born mother of Irish decent. That makes him Mirish, according to the (also Mirish) cousins who've married into the family. I'm willing to bet, however, that he's the only one who went out and bought an authentic kilt at a Renaissance fair a few years back (and has actually worn it.)

Back in 2012 -- when we lived in the desert, The Husband and I packed up the kid and drove the two hours to the closest Ren Fest for our fix. Before moving from Michigan, you see, we were festival regulars with the whole costumes pieced together because it was our thing. We both loved it. We couldn't go as often in Tucson with two hours being a slight headache, but we dived in with our usual geek-couple gusto and left with a kilt for him...and one for little Eliana. Of course, I made him put it on (he added his Ren Fest boots because they kick-ass) because there was most definitely going to be a blog post. I just needed a picture first.

That's when I caught the first moment. Eliana stood next to her Daddy and just as she looked up with those adoring eyes of hers, I clicked. I melted.

Fast forward to today's St. Patrick's Day, 2014. Eliana and I went holiday-themed-craft-crazy and watched too many Irish step dancing videos on YouTube. It was a blast. But nothing tops the moment her daddy walked in the door after his work day.

"DADDYYOUREHOME!? she screamed. NOWGETYOURKILTANDWHERESMINESOWECANGETREADYFORSAINTPATRICKSDAY" 

The Husband stopped dead in his tracks and glared at me because I'm the one with the blog. I just shrugged. I had nothing to do with this, I told him. You're the one who reminded her I've got a kilt, he said back. That was last week," I said, smiling.

Not my fault the child has the memory of an elephant. I got the iPhone ready for a few pictures because I couldn't have planned it better myself (and I wasn't about to miss photo and internet documentation). Whether or not I looked guilty was totally beside the point.

After changing into the kilt, The Husband walked into the living room in his socks, thinking he was off the hook with no more being asked of him. He got the idea when Eliana ran into our room and came back out with a pair of his black cowboy boots. He put them on as she beamed. Now, she told him, they had matching kilts and were both wearing fancy boots. She tried talking him into a pair of leggings he doesn't own so they could super match, but he managed to convince her that he was totally okay with his socks poking out the top of the boots. No matter how badly either one of us accidentally fucks up this parenting thing, she can never claim her daddy didn't love her enough.

The Husband is a smart man. Without having to tell him, he knew exactly what I wanted before I said anything. We chose a spot, they stood up against the wall, and I clicked away, knowing I was going to throw away 14 of the 15 shots I had just taken. Or maybe 20 of the 21. I still didn't have the one I needed.

Without much direction from me, he assumed his usual stance and guided Eliana into place. Turn her head a bit...look up at me...put your hands on my waist...

She did as she was asked because the child has grown up with a smartphone camera in her face and complying just makes life easier.  I held my breath until I saw it.

Not yet. Cute, but no. Almost...

WAIT!

Right...there.

Two years in between. And my heart melted all over again.

 

Stop Blaming the Media

I'm a little on the crazed side with deadlines and trying to keep up with life in general. In an effort to pretend I'm not going insane, I am posting one of my most popular entries here on Aspiring Mama. The following was originally published in MArch of 2013. Sadly, the topic is just as pertinant today as it was the day I wrote it.  

A friend recently sent me a link to an article on Ed Bites regarding the author’s thoughts on the media and eating disorders. The article, to be published in Emirates Woman magazine, is well-written, thought-provoking, and importantly (to me, anyway) written from personal experience.

The author, Carrie Arnold, recounts her own experience as an anorexic in treatment. When handed a sheet of stickers and a stack of magazines as a project for a body image group. The stickers were to be used by the patients to label the images of models and celebrities either with a smiley face promoting a healthy body image or a frowny face pointing the finger of blame at the image (and by default, the media as a whole), for promoting eating disorders.

Says Arnold on her blog, Ed Bites: {the latest tasty tidbits in eating disorder science}:

“I was no stranger to advertising. No one really is. But I knew that most ads were digitally altered and that bodies – real bodies – didn’t look a thing like what was portrayed on the pages of glossy magazines. Weighing roughly half of what I currently do, what I did know was that I was terrified of food and eating. Consuming more than the bare minimum of calories left me feeling dirty, and I felt oddly compelled to purge the extra calories via exercise or other methods. 

“Although I couldn’t see it in the mirror, I knew, on some level, that I had long since passed even the most whacked-out culture’s definition of ‘thin’. I didn’t want to look like a model – I’m a geek, not a fashionista. I wasn’t attractive, all sallow-skinned and bony, and I didn’t care. Starving myself was the only way that I could turn down the cacophony in my head. The less I ate and the less I weighed, the quieter my anxious thoughts got. Fashion never crossed my mind.”

And I get that. I’m a self-described life-long recovering bulimic. I was hiding in my parents’ pantry at the age of seven binge eating long before I knew the term and condition was one recognized by medical professionals and at the age of 15, took a news special on a woman treating teens with eating disorders as a “how to”. I was home alone and had been eating mindlessly all evening. At 5’6”, I was curvy but athletically built, wore a size 10, played varsity tennis, and thought I was fat. Random attempts to “become” anorexic had failed horribly and only proved to my warped sense of thinking that I had no self control. Binging, I learned that night, was what I had been doing most of my life, which only served to stuff down and quiet the chaos in my mind.

The answer I had been looking for

Purging was the release I had been looking for. As a first generation Mexican-American, I grew up observing the fine art of Not Acknowledging the Obvious like brides pregnant months before their wedding dates were to take place and family happily ignoring the fact that the premature baby born healthy and adorably chubby. Alcoholics weren’t alcoholics if they didn’t go to meetings and as long as I remembered to not throw up oranges in the shower, I didn’t have to avoid eye contact with my parents after they found the evidence i had forgotten about on the drain.

As Arnold points out in her article, it is very easy to see how the media and the models and celebrities portrayed take the brunt of the blame for “causing” eating disorders. Everything is photo-shopped. Headlines boast the Secrets to a Perfect Body and tell us How to Lose 20 Pounds by Labor Day in issues released just weeks before the actual holiday. And every Hollywood mom seems to either be under contract to drop the baby weight in six weeks, pose in a bikini, and show us how we can do it, too, or become the newest spokesperson for whichever major weight loss program hands them the biggest contract to sign. The message seems loud and clear: Perfection is at the finish line and you better work your ass off to get there before you have the right to feel good about yourself.

 

But is the media at fault?

Yes.

And No.

As Arnold says, compliments from strangers on how skinny she was may have given her a temporary boost, but they didn’t fuel the need to continue with her disordered behavior. I can relate to that, too. I never once looked at a magazine or a celebrity and thought myself less. My mindset was obviously disordered to begin with. If the media did cause eating disorders, every single person watching the same news special I did would suddenly have jumped off the deep end and embraced anorexia and/or bulimia just like I did.

“So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter what causes eating disorders? For one, it affects who we think are at risk and how quickly they are diagnosed… If we think eating disorders are the preserve of vain women, we are less likely to view them as requiring treatment and more likely to blame the victim. No, we can’t just snap out of it and, although normalising nutrition is crucial, eating a cheeseburger won’t cure us.”— Ann Arnold, Ed Bites. 

Changing our focus

No, we can’t snap out of it. Eating a cheeseburger won’t cure an anorexic and learning the definition of self control won’t suddenly help a bulimic figure out how to diet. Similarly, a society hell-bent on proving a market exists for glossy magazine covers of photo-shopped and over-sexed female celebrities and models is doing nothing more than giving the media reason to continue on the current path. If this shit sells, you can bet your ass it’s going to be printed. And while I firmly believe that the media is at least responsible for fueling body image issues in both susceptible children, teens, women and men, I can’t say the media has the power to turn a non-disordered person into an eating disordered mess.

Yes, the media plays a role in how we as a society have come to define beauty in ourselves and others. And as Arnold notes, printing celebrities and their own eating disordered struggles in the “style” section of their publications only trivialize the issue and reinforce the myth that eating disorders are a choice. That, my friends, is complete and utter bullshit.

So who do we blame?

No one, Everyone. Ourselves. Our mothers. The doctor who sent in a nutritionist with a pamphlet on the food pyramid when I was 16 and settled on telling her I couldn’t stick to a diet because I choked on the word “bulimia.”

“The girl thinks she has an eating disorder because she can’t stick to a diet,” I heard her say to the nutritionist in the hallway. “Send her home with this. I’ve got to get back to work.”

Okay, fine. That doctor I actually do blame for choosing to dismiss a cry for help. But is blaming her, or The Biggest Loser, going to help those already suffering? No. It’s not.

Does that mean the media is off the hook?

Not by any means. The media might not be the reason those of us unfortunate enough to have our brains wired in such a way that disordered eating behaviors actually make sense, but there have been plenty of times I have been written about my own good days being ruined by checkout lane headlines telling me I have no right to feel good about myself until I’ve managed to get my ass into the same bikini I wore before I got pregnant almost six years ago.

I’ll give The Powers that Be a pass on my disorder. But I’m holding the media responsible for perpetuating a false ideal of perfection, creating an environment in which our daughters (and sons) are learning to hate their bodies while they should still be playing with their imaginary friends, and reinforcing the belief that self-worth is based on a number on a scale. Eating disordered or not, that line of bullshit is the reason so many of us think happiness isn’t a right we deserve, but one we earn when the scale, the salesgirl, and Other People say we have.

I’m not good with that. I truly believe that until we learn to accept and love ourselves as just the way we are right now, none of us is going to find anything other than a skinner version of ourselves who happens to still hate who we are and what we see in the mirror.

Your job begins now

This is where you take responsibility, my friends.

If you felt good until you picked up that copy of whatever glossy magazine it was that gave you a complex and suddenly had you reaching for a bag of chips out of despair, stop buying, reading, or watching what is obviously a trigger for you. The stories might still sell. The stars might still be selling weight loss programs post-baby because we have turned yesterday’s A-listers into today’s headline just so we can talk about what they’ve gained and how quickly they’ve lost it. Turn your focus inward and focus on changing what you can (how you feel about and perceive your self and body image) and just ignore the rest because it’s not going away anytime soon. We live in a body-conscious time where numbers are given more value than self-perception and worth.

If you need help for an eating disorder or body image issues, seek it out. NOW. If you feel comfortable, share your story and let others know it’s okay to do the same. I applaud Arnold for doing so.

So where does that leave us?

Shut out the noise. Fix the mess inside your head. Then let the rest fall into place.

NEDA Awareness Week: Let's Talk Ideas

It's National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and because I'm on a roll this week with the Not Funny Words on the Blog theme (trigger warning on that one, y'all) I'm back and I'm here to tell more stories. Maybe they are new to you. Maybe they aren't. If you have been reading Aspiring Mama for more than, say, the last four weeks, (or following me on twitter, instagram, Facebook, or google +) chances are you've seen at least one update pertaining to body image or self image. Trust me when I say that every time I talk up self-worth, the motivation stems from my own internal dialogue and the constant effort it takes to talk myself down from the very slippery slope that separates a bad day from a full-fledged bulimic slide. I'm including the full text of one post and links to previous posts relating to eating disorder issues here, here, here that may speak to you or to someone you know.

This year's NEDA theme for the week is I Had No Idea.

Well, now you do. So let's keep the conversation going, shall we?

 

 On Random Thoughts & Raising Girls

Because raising girls is hard, y'all. Consider your own childhood the prequel.

 

* I once worked in a strip club as a (fully clothed) waitress. While there, I learned that most of the dancers making the big bucks only pretended to get drunk on the $12 mocktail containing only cranberry & orange juice because it made the guys paying for the drink feel like he was going to get somewhere, that the two-and-a-half minute average pole dance on stage was just the right amount of time to scan the crowd for the sucker who would be an easy mark for the $20 lap dance, and that lap dance time was exactly when they composed their grocery lists in their heads because doing the same old thing gets tedious, ya know?

Other highlights included the realization that I could make $300 in tips just from charging $12 for a cup of fruit juice with a tiny umbrella in it and that sometimes the naked girls dancing got pissy if the clothed ones serving drinks got more attention than they did. But the best lesson of all was that sometimes it’s the stereotype exploiting itself that has the upper hand. No one expects to be outwitted by the chick shaking her boobs in the face of a man who isn’t aware he was marked as prey the moment he handed his baseball cap to the bodyguard. It isn’t, after all, just about shaking what your mama gave you. It’s about knowing how to use it.

* I’m Catholic with an asterix, thereby indicating a footnote in tiny print at the bottom of the page. In the interest of time, I’ll just get to the point and tell you that I have always described myself as Mexican-Catholic because it’s exactly not the same as Catholic Catholic. Most Mexican-Catholics that I know are first and second-generation Americans, believe in God and make the sign of the cross whenever an ambulance passes by or they drive by a cemetery, and only go to church for Easter, weddings, funerals, baptisms, and First Communions. We grew up saying the Our Father in Spanish but have probably forgotten most of it by now, truly believe in God and Heaven and that our deceased loved ones will come to watch over us even if we don’t celebrate El Dia de los Muertos, and roll our eyes skyward while forcing ourselves to remain silent when our elder Tias and Tios start going on about things like gays and black people and how white people don’t know how to raise their children while they themselves are preparing a bottle of Pepsi for the four-year-old sitting in the stroller in nothing but a diaper.

We drive past a church on the way to school every day. We’ve only been inside four time in the four years we have been in Tucson. And without being told, Buttercup knows that the day we go to church is the day she gets to wear a pretty dress and hunt for Easter eggs in the courtyard.

* I cried when the ultrasound tech told me I was having a girl. This is not an exaggeration. I had been hoping and praying for a boy and not because of the reasons you might think. Cultural chauvinism and machismo had nothing to do with my tears. Instead, I was bawling while The Husband tried not to laugh too loud and the tech holding the wand on the goop on my bump stood there, silent and utterly confused. But she’s perfectly healthy, she eventually managed to say because It’s a Girl wasn’t usually followed by tears cried by a nearly hysterical pregnant woman who seemed perfectly sane when she had walked in for her ultrasound.

It’s not that, I sobbed. It’s just that…she’s going to eventually turn into a bitchy teenager who hates me and drives me to the closest wine bottle with a bendy straw. I barely made it through my teens the first time.

That’s when The Husband jumped in with The Mother’s Curse and Payback’s a bitch and I just nodded, wondering if maybe God was, in His own Divine Way, giving me the finger.

* I am a body image/healthy self-image/happiness activist who is and most likely always will be broken. I am not standing here looking down from my soapbox telling you that the three keys to happiness and life’s successes are (insert bullshit here). Instead, I am a mostly no-longer-practicing-eating-disordered-behavior-mother-to-a-five-year-old-daughter and I love her with all of my soul. I am imperfect and vain about my eyes, my lips, my curves. I am self-conscious about the size of my ass and always sucking in the muffin top. I tell my daughter that we eat and exercise to be healthy and strong and that our bodies perfect and made exactly as they are meant to be and that what other people think isn’t of any importance, not now and not ever. I am the mother who corrects strangers when they call her big because she stands taller than most kids her age because I stood taller than most kids my age because that word got stuck in my head and manifested itself into bulimia, and I’ll be damned if history is going to repeat itself. So I am the mother who smiles and says Why yes, she is tall for her age, isn’t she? And then I change the subject and wonder how much good I’m actually doing.

That’s when I remind myself that I’m trying. And all I can do is to put the oxygen mask on myself first before taking the time to assist any children or elderly people who may need help with their own. To make a difference for her and anyone else on this analogical airplane inside of my head, I need to take care of me first.

Learning to Shout: In Which We Discuss The Triggers

I need to stop you before you start because if I don't, I'm leading you into a landmine without warning. What you are about to read (or quietly click away from should you decide that is best) is written in response to a news story about two kindergartners caught "having sex" in a school bathroom. If that sentence alone was triggering for you, please be kind to yourself and don't read any further. What I share was difficult to write if I stop to take into consideration the years it took to get to the point where just writing it seemed normal. I'm sure it's as difficult to read.

Just do me a favor, will ya? If we meet at a conference or speaking engagement and you want to thank me for the words you see, please know that my 6-year-old travels with me. We can talk and hug and sing Kumbaya, but just make sure it's just me first, okay?

 

I’m five. At last I think I am. A little boy I know is my hide-and-seek partner and we run off for one of our usual hiding spots. Our families are close, but it's the kind of closeness that makes grown-ups realize that it's our friends we get to choose. So we rationalize that the lack of actual blood relation makes it less bad to touch each other just because it feels good. We’re too young to feel guilty about it and we never talk about the fact that we both somehow know it’s supposed to be a secret because I’m not sure we understand why.

Sometimes I wonder how we learned this game. Today I just wonder how we are supposed to explain where are hands are when we are caught. Later I wonder only briefly about the twin bed being pushed against the wall, eliminating the hiding place. Much later, I wonder how much may have been avoided had therapy been an accepted part of dealing with obviously oversexed children who couldn’t explain how they got that way.

I'm terrified. I want nothing more than to fix the misstep before this one and the one before that until I can breathe again after having wiped the slate clean of any reason to be ashamed. I want to feel the relief I felt knowing that nothing more would come of the moment my mother and doctor stopped whispering about why I had jumped on to the exam table, laid on my back and spread my legs wide open for a rash he needed to look at on my bottom. I wasn't supposed to have done that, you know. I don't remember why but I do remember the slowing of my heartbeat and the sudden ability to breathe normally after overcompensating on the kindergarten antics to distract the doctor as I flipped onto my tummy. I giggled. I made jokes. I felt the doctor let the question in his mind sweep itself away.

And then I felt safe.

I never ask if my parents were told and they never bring it up if they were. I don’t connect the less frequent joint weekends because I'm a kid and I'm not ready to give up my presents from Santa yet. We see each other at birthday parties for friends and cousins and cousins of friends and here we are at another one.

I am wearing a blue dress that I love but itches my skin on the inside and white tights and a pair of shiny, black Mary Janes. My kinky hair, which falls midway down my back when wet, has been arranged into two braids, each hanging down from above my ears. There are balloons to sit on and pop for a prize and piñatas and cake and an the boy I now and and older boy I don't. We walk to an upstairs bedroom where I somehow understand I am to lie back on a table and let them do things I can’t remember exactly except for the older boy being on top of me because my mind learned to disconnect from my body long before I learned my ABC’s.

Magically, we are downstairs again and no one asks any of us where we were or what we were doing because there is no reason to. Nor is there any reason to blame any of the adults present for missing what isn't obvious at all no matter how so it may seem to the opinionated outsider. Every adult and every child present was on familiar territory and no one ever had to ask where the bathroom was because we already knew. Another day. Another boy. A cousin, I think, maybe just a bit older than I am. It's hot outside so we are inside, playing in the cool dark of the basement while my mother does housework upstairs and plays with my little sisters. My memory is choppy and I only recall the cold feeling of the concrete floor on my back and him on top and just as quickly, we are pulling up our shorts and my mother is calling our names and it's time for peanut butter sandwiches. He never comes over to play with me again. 

My daughter -- she's six -- and she's the Because to my Why. When she was born I was reviewing car seats and blinged-out pacifiers on a blog I don't bother including on my resume. The words I share for me I share because of her. Because she thinks horses have to get married to have babies together and because she thinks little boys and girls used to be wishes sitting on stars until their moms and dads wished them true. When a little boy she is friends with was kicked in the crotch by his sister, she told me with all the certainty in the world that her friend -- the boy -- had just been kicked in the vagina. It's because of my daughter and her innocence that I came to realize how truly fucked up my own childhood was. I simply should not have known the things I did at her age. And neither should the boys I was with. But we did, and we aren't the only ones.

It's not a pretty topic, is it? Hypersexual children and peer sexual abuse  are words laced with implied guilt on the part of the adult who was supposed to be in charge. They point the finger away from the problem instead of directing us to it. There's shame for the children and shame for the adults and sometimes it's just easier to hope the kids forget and sweep that nasty little set of memories under the rug. It's easy enough when these things happen amongst family and friends.

But what happens if two five-year-olds are caught "having sex" in the class bathroom by their kindergarten teacher? And what happens if the teacher, Kathy Mascio, reports it, not stopping to think of how doing so will reflect on her own abilities as a teacher? It's easier and more comfortable for us to point the blame and shift the focus than it is to think about a little boy and a little girl with at least a general understanding of how sex actually works.

None of us know exactly what the children were doing at the time their teacher found them, but we do know that the teacher immediately went to her principal who then contacted authorities because we all know that was the right thing to do. Now she's in danger of losing her job and that seems to be the focus of almost every news story I've read since yesterday  (and that includes the comments). It's all What she didn't do and should have done are what the media focuses on because we are not emotionally ready to think about our children as sexual beings because they shouldn't be  -- not yet.

While experts are weighing in on the situation with their thoughts, no one can provide anything more educated than a guess about what actually happened in that bathroom. All anyone knows for sure is that the naked kindergartners told their teacher they had been having sex when they were discovered. Whether that means they simply looked at each other or if physical contact occurred, we don't know, but we'd sure as hell like to know what exactly in these children's' lives that sparked the classroom incident. Somewhere, somehow, these children were exposed. Why isn't that the focus?

Information is not going to move quickly. The two children involved are very obviously minors and are most likely in individual therapy to figure out what did happen, and how to help them heal. Hyper-sexual children and peer sexual abuse are not topics we often see in the headlines, and uncomfortable or not, it's time we stop whispering when we should be shouting.

Got a Story to Tell?

I'm taking a minute to share a great essay contest for my Latina #Dimelo readers I just learned about from Latina and SheBooks.  

From the SheBooks site about the I am Latina Essay Contest

Win $1,000 and publication in Latina and Shebooks!

With over 52 million Latinos in the U.S., it’s easier than ever to keep our cultures alive. Latina & Shebooks, a new e-book publisher, want to read about the moment that you felt the most connected with your culture and were proud to call yourself a Latina. Starting January 10, 2014, you can submit your essay up to 1000 words, and you'll be entered to win $1,000 and publication in a future issue of Latina.  Winner and runners-up may also be featured in a future Shebook.

 

Sounds great, doesn't it? And I love what I'm seeing about SheBooks, a new e-publisher of short books written by and for women. I'm also excited to see my column about raising a chingona as one of the many listed as examples of essays Latina loved.  Click here to get the full details on the essay contest and get to writing!

 

Self-Worth & Raising Chingonas on the Latino Talk podcast

Have you heard of the Latino Talk podast?

It's pretty fabulous. And I'm not just saying that because my first interview with host Ray Collazo is now available on iTunes.

I did share yesterday, but the post was about a few things and one of those things was date specific, so rather than promote a blog post that contains old news I figured I'd dedicate a quick one to my interview and Ray's show.

In this segment, we talked about the Dimelo advice column with Latina Magazine, self-worth, and why I am all for raising our girls to be chingonas. For the new kids in class, that’s a not so nice word in Spanish, kinda like “Bitch”, which has been embraced by many Latinas as a positive. There are plenty pissy about my use of the word and it's many connotations, but I’m good with it because Sandra Cisneros is all for it and probably because my Guelo called us his little cabronas our entire lives  (which roughly translates into calling us his little assholes).

I know….just thinking about it makes me all Smiley Faced.

Have a good day, y'all. I'm off to work on that novel I'm writing.

#365FeministSelfie: Validation Has Nothing to Do With It

I love me a good hashtag. It took a bit of convincing to get me on board for the #365feministselfie movement, but my friend Galit Breen as a way with words. The eye-rolls have been replaced, every day that has passed since the first one, with just the tiniest bit less bullshit and slightly more unapologeticness. Because that's a word, right?

The ringleader of this little Love it Or Hate it project is Veronica Arreola and I'm thinking we're gonna be hanging out lots at BlogHer14 in California this year. I happen to think anyone who can convince a bunch of random women -- who for the most part don't know each other --  to plaster the selves our significant others don't get to see until at least one good round of crazy sex has to be made of magic. Especially when you stop to consider how much work we put into getting naked to begin with, what with the perfectly applied makeup, hair that took hours to curl, and  lingerie that cost way too much for the amount of time we actually spent wearing it before it got tossed to the floor ... hell, you guys! I think it was six months of dating The Husband before I was comfortable enough to fart.

All this to say that I have issues and we all tend to keep up whatever appearances during our little courting periods before we stop trying so hard.

Maybe we start out with the bells and whistles. In my case, I wasn't about to turn the camera on myself unless I didn't look like shit. And by "look like shit", I mean no bra, no make-up, no clever Instagram filters or photo editing...

 

I've seen some chatter here and there referring to the #365feministselfie as self-serving and a sad reality for feminism. Now, I want to make it clear that until very recently, I hadn't even stopped to consider myself a feminist. But I guess writing columns about raising a self-respecting Chingona automatically got me in the club. And I'm okay with that. I figure I have to be if I'm announcing to the world my intention to encourage my little girl's hell-raising ways.

I also want to make it crystal clear that there is nothing self-serving about this. I'm not posting selfies so you can tell me I'm pretty. Every one of us is taking our own journey throughout the coming year. We each came to it with a predetermined level of individual comfort and we will each have the comfort level challenged as we progress. There's no way I'd have started off with a no-make-up-full-face-allergic-reaction, even if I instinctively knew my friends and readers would come to my ego's rescue and tell me how brave and beautiful I am for sharing because that's not the point.

 It's about dropping the facade, digging deep, letting go of our own self-judgement, and that defining moment when we hit that share button after taking one last big breath. After we pin it and hit publish and share and send on the singular images that, when when combined, reflect who we really are.

You can tell me I'm pretty. You can tell me I'm not.

I'm more interested in what I tell myself as I share that which I would normally hide.

The Beauty of...Almost

Hindsight isn't always 20/20. Sometimes it's incredible and mind-blowing, as well. See this update here from my friend Melanie Mendez-Gonzales? It's from the recent TedX Salon event she helped organize in Texas. The topic? Transcending Negative Body Image and Gender Stereotypes. She's pictured with The Beauty of Different author and main event speaker Karen Walrond, aka @chookaloonks. I'm sure you've see her Upworthy video celebrating the beauty of women -- many of which I m proud to know -- because if you haven't yet, I'll wait a few for you to click. Do it.

You won't be able to stop smiling.

Go ahead. I'm waiting....

Back yet? Good. Because I'm not done yet. I'm sharing this because that was almost me standing next to Melanie. That was almost...me. This is not sour grapes so please don't mistake this as a Poor Me story. It's far from that, actually. Instead, this is a moment of awe, really.

Why?

Because my name was on the same table as Karen Walrond's. I had no idea who else was being considered during the process and I didn't cry when I didn't get it because I was honored. It's not every day I get to daydream about this kind of klout, ya know?

So I was close but I didn't get it and that was okay and then I found out who did and I was...ecstatic.

Now that I know, I'm smiling. I'm giddy. And I feel pretty badass because, you guys, I came in second place to Karen Waldond.

That was almost me.

Almost feels fucking fantastic.