So I'll Tell You (Y Te Digo)

This is what getting your groove back looks like, I think. BFF Heather is blogging again (CAN I GET AN AMEN?) and came up with an idea to build a poem from her writing playlist. It's crazy good, and you should click here to read it

Of course, I had to try to get in on this bandwagon of awesome. I seriously got goose bumps as this came together. 

 

So I'll Tell You (Y the digo)

 

I heard that you were talking shit

And you didn't think that I would hear it

you with your penchant for spontaneous advents,

For sticky and raspy, unearthed and then gone,

I can be an asshole of the grandest kind,

 

and you're still here.

We heard the fireworks, 

rushed out to watch the sky

happy-go-lucky 4th of July,

How can you live in the Northeast?

Y te digo

Soy sangre de me tierra

but that 

doesn't mean I’m plain. 

Loca. Loca. Loca.

I’m crazy but you like it. 

 

 

Songs Credited:

HollaBack Girl/Gwen Stefani

Bees of My Knees/Alanis Morisette

Everything/Alanis Morisette

How Can You Live in the Northeast/Paul Simon

Mujer Latina/Thalia

One Girl Revolution/Superchick

Loca/Shakira

 

 

 

The Blossom, the Camera, & the Bonnet

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I'm looking at a page in a book. It's one of those prompted journals with sections devoted to writing and drawing. I've had it for more than two years and I've only filled out three pages. It's time to let it go.

Before I do, though, I flip through the book to see if the pages I did do are worth keeping. One, a prompted story, makes me think I need to tear our the page and save it in a journal somewhere. For safe keeping. I might want to look back on it one day, I think. 

Almost as quickly as I had dreamt up the idea of saving the physical page, it is discarded. If I'm being entirely honest with myself, I won't remember I saved the page until I am in the middle of my next book purge and ridding the shelves of the book holding the page I might not save now because I'll just end up throwing it away later. The smarter choice is to save my story here, where my physical words do not take up physical space. One day, I'll remember I wrote this. And here, in my digital world, I will find it.

The prompt asked me to create a story using drawings of a tiny flower, a camera, and a little girl wearing a bonnet. And so I wrote these words:

The bonnet's job is to make her look like Laura from Little House in the Big Woods. It was her portal to the past; her Tardis, only with less room and a much more accurate GPS system. With the too-big floppy bonnet on her head, her blue jeans, 1 Direction tee, and Converse had become a homemade dress and the only boots she would own until she grew. That's when they'd be given to Baby Carrie, the sister she hoped she'd have in real life. Maybe one day, she thought, if Mama and Daddy would do more than just nod their heads and smile whenever she brought up adoption centers and babies nobody wanted. 

The falling leaves crunched beneath her feet as she bent to pick up a small fallen branch from the apple tree under which she stood. The branch, which reminded her of a wishbone from a Thanksgiving turkey, still laid claim to a tiny blossom on one branch of the "V" and a shiny red apple on the other. The girl who was Laura because the bonnet made her so didn't hear the "click click" from her mother's 35 mm camera as she took a bite of the apple, the tiny blossom already tucked behind one ear. 

Irrelevant

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I'm not an It-Girl.

I don't have legions of fans. I am not a household name. The Internet is not waiting with baited breath for my next witty social media update. I know all of this. Usually, I'm good with it. 

My blog comment section is made up of mostly crickets with a few (welcome) exchanges tossed in for good measure. My Latina Magazine column is widely read but I've yet to see a letter to the editor from anyone who has ever promised to send one in after stopping me in a public bathroom gushing about their favorite question and answer - I think the reigning champ is the on where I told the woman complaining about hating sex with the boyfriend who paid for her prescription medication that she needed to get a J.O.B. (For the record, I love that one, too.) My book cover is a thing of beauty with blurbs from authors I admire and still can't believe were happy to go on record in front of all creation as saying it's worth reading. Sales are decent -it's a slow build - but I'm nowhere near the literary sensation I had let The Husband's supportive cheerleading convince me I was going to become once the book launched. 

I'm not an It-Girl. In the grand-scheme of things, I think, I fall in to the irrelevant category. 

Before you stop me and tell me I'm being too hard on myself and tell me to believe in my ability as a writer, well-meaning reader, know this: I am not ... and I already do.

I wrote my first book when I was nine or 10 and have been looking beyond each No to the next horizon every day since.  Rejection is part of the profession and a tough skin is a requirement, but I don't think there's anything wrong with a little pity-party to get the and jou-jou tied directly to where we think we should be right now out of our systems before putting out big girl panties back on and getting back to work. 

I know I can write.

I know I am good at what I do and I take pride in my ability to craft a story that draws the reader in. If you're reading this as a writer yourself, you know damned well that no matter how panic-worthy each submission process may be that there's a little voice in your head talking all the smack because you are fucking fabulous and you KNOW it. 

Never stop believing that. That little bit of ego? That's what keeps us going when we've got nothing else with which to measure our success. 

I'm not an It-Girl. But I am a writer. Relevant or not, it's me against the blinking cursor and my words against the empty spaces waiting to be filled. I know this. And I'm good with it. 


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.

 

Catching in the Rye (in Spanglish)

If The Catcher in the Rye had a sequel based on a Spanglish-speaking Mexican-American homeschooling, allergic to everything, eating-disordered writer mama of one, I’d be a happy girl. Because then, at least, I could just hand people a copy of the book when they ask how I’m doing.

‘Fine?” That’s usually a lie.

“My cat just got ran over, thanks for asking,” could possibly be the truth, but when people ask other people how they are doing, no one really expects an honest answer if honesty means replying with anything other than “fine.” Except  I don’t have a cat. I do have three dogs, though. And a kid. And two websites and an agent and a manuscript sitting in a file because I don’t have a platform big enough to stand on and wonder if I ever will.

This isn’t a Poor Me post. Don’t get your violins out, folks. This is a Truth post; one in which I step out behind the bullshit and tell you that fine is a lie and that I miss my nonexistent cat because I am, in short, a fraud. Not the Push Up Bra and Spanx Coming Off On the Third Date kind of fraud, mind you, but the Holden Caulfield kind in which I find myself standing in the middle of the high school cafeteria, holding my lunch tray, not sure where to sit because I have no idea where I really belong.

I preach body pride and self-acceptance because for some of us, we can't do the work required to care for ourselves if we don't value ourselves. I encourage you to find your inner chingona, redefine your path on your own terms and to celebrate the hell out of her because no one else is going to do it for you. I say thing like Love Yourself As You Are NOW and Our Daughters are Counting on Us to Get (and Keep) Our Shit Together (And I mean them...for you). I want to mean them for me, too, and I figured that if I shouted it long enough and often enough from my soapbox that I’d start to buy my own bullshit, but that hasn’t happened yet.

That, my friends, pisses me off.

I want to connect and inspire and feel validated for what I say and what I do and what I am hoping to become and I see so many others doing exactly that while I sit back and cheer them on, not sure what I’m doing wrong to keep missing the boat or if the boat’s going to bother coming back to the dock again to give me another chance. I want to speak to women on the same journey and let them know it’s okay to be where we are right now as long as we keep trying because that’s what matters. I want to organize inspiring workshops and a regular conference for women to focus on fixing the mess inside of our own heads because our kids aren’t going to believe in their own self worth if they constantly see us tear ourselves down.

It’s the old airplane analogy: No point in passing out from oxygen deprivation while trying to get our kid’s mask on first if the cabin depressurizes. The only way we can truly be effective role models is if we fight every maternal instinct and put ourselves first for fucking once. Once our heads are clearing from the oxygen-deprived fog can we be there to ensure our children are breathing, safe, and secure in the knowledge that Mommy has her shit together. And this Mommy is busy focusing on raising a future self-respecting bitch who (I hope I hope I hope) will never second guess putting her happiness before society's complex.

Maybe, I think, the boat is on to me. The boat knows I’m a fraud and frauds are not allowed on board. Only passengers who are truly at ease in their own skin who don’t look for and rely on approval and validation outside of themselves are allowed on this boat. I’m not there yet. I used to be. I will be again. But right here, right now, I’m a self-destructive mess who’s best bet it is to just let it all hang out because it’s the truth and it needs to be said.

I don’t have The Answers. I’m not standing at the Finish Line waving the Official Flag of Self-Acceptance because I haven’t run my own race yet. What I do have is a burning desire to share the crazy idea that it’s okay to be a fucking mess. It’s okay to have bad days and worse days and throw a party on the good days because they are so very worthy of celebrating. It’s okay to not love yourself (but want to) yet and it’s okay to talk about the bad in public because if we don’t then no one else will and the world will just continue to assume that “Fine” is the only acceptable answer to be given when they ask how we’re doing and that’s really just a giant disservice for those of us who need to know it’s okay to celebrate The Journey because The Destination is just a little too far away right now.

I’m not fine. In fact, I’m a royal fucking mess. My ADHD and anxiety are triggering my seven-year-old’s anxiety into fodder for her therapy appointments which happens to fall under the Mexicans Don’t Talk About That Sort of Thing category because it’s uncomfortable and much easier to sweep under the rug with the rest of our emotional baggage (like  the whispers about how pregnant the bride really was at the last wedding we went to while we collectively pretended to believe she wasn’t because it matters even though it really shouldn’t). It’s why I told The Husband I wanted yellow gold when he asked what kind of ring I would like when he was fishing for engagement ring hints because that’s what my family wore. It took me ten years to admit I hated yellow gold and really wanted platinum because that shit doesn’t work for me anymore, either.

Away with the rug. Let the dirt fly. And when the dust settles, I’ll still be standing here holding my lunch tray because I’m not sure where to sit because no matter where I choose, I feel like everyone else will judge me for my choice even though none of that should matter. But it does.

And I hate that.

I most decidedly do NOT have my shit together. You need to know that. It’s okay to be a royal fucking mess. You need to know that, too.  I miss my imaginary cat and I have very real cellulite and I have a sweet tooth and a closet eating habit. I don't sleep enough and I am never on time unless a deadline and a paycheck is involved (or someone else is driving the bus.) My yoga mat is my zen place and I'm working my way back to being brave enough to step into the raging quiet inside my head (I'm almost there). I make sad things funny and funny things funnier because that’s how I deal.

I'm almost 37 years old and sans The Husband and the child, the words you see and the words you hear could be the same words I wrote when I was seven, 17, and 27.

All of this is today’s truth.

Now tell me…

How are you doing?

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!

My Writing Process (The Blog Tour)

 

I'm doing something a bit different today. The always wonderful Kate Sluiter of Sluiter Nation invited me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Obviously, I said yes.

Kate even said some very pretty words about me so I need to buy her some fancy chocolate, I think.

Now I get to answer a few questions about how I put words on the screen and you get to stop by Kate's post (and leave a comment because they are sparkly and shiny and we writer blogger people love sparkly shiny comments) and then you get to read mine (and leave some sparkly shiny stuff over here, too.)

Ready? Good...

1 - What am I working on?

A stroke? A brain aneurysm? Setting a world record for the least amount of recorded sleep in a lifetime? Possibly all of the above. But I'm also trying to keep my blog slightly relevant by occasionally remembering it actually exists. That's important. I've also got the weekly Dimelo column online and my monthly column for the Latina Magazine. That, and digging through my column inbox, takes up a fair amount of my time. Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm also working on deciding if I should selfpublish a memoir that got me agented once upon a time (we've since broken up -- on good terms, y'all --  and agreed to see other people) or if I should just let it go. Many a writer has many a manuscript written and revised and polished to perfection that will never see the light of day. For some, it's the book that got them the agent. For others, it's the book that was written to prove to themselves they could, in fact, write a book. I'll let you know when I figure out which way I'm going with this one.

The main reason I don't sleep right now is because the paying gigs (hello #Dimelo) come first and the Wanna Do's come after. My current Wanna Do is my new novel. It's tentatively titled Diary of a Mexican-American Teenager and follows Mina, a 15-year-old Mexican-America eating-disordered girl, as she struggles to find herself in a culture that prefers to save face rather than bring disgrace upon the family. It's very much based on my own experiences, but like any fiction piece based on real events, I have a lot of room to address topics I wouldn't otherwise be able to touch in a non-fiction piece, seeing as how my family knows what the internet is. I'm still in the early writing stages, but I'm finishing this thing it kills me, dammit.

2- How Does My Work Differ from Others of this Genre?

Lots of Spanglish typos.

Okay, seriously, I think it's my lack of filter and my ability to turn the filter completely off and tackle the hard stuff. I'm sarcastic and self-deprecating and inappropriate and like to use the word "fuck" like most use salt and pepper in the kitchen -- add just the right amount and what tasted good before now takes fucking fantastic with just a few shakes of the right seasoning. But add too much and Perfect turns into an episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey minus the bleeps.

I also am proud of my ability to capture fatalistic humor -- a trait Latinos are known for -- in my writing. I once wrote about the moment my father died and those who've read it have cried and then laughed and then laugh-cried. And in all the right places, too. I think my dad would be proud.

All of these traits are going into Diary. And yes, even the F-bombs. I was 15 once, after all. And so were you.

3- Why Do I Write What I Do?

Because I'd be in a padded room otherwise. Writing is my release. They say to write what you know and I was doing that before I knew "they" were a thing and that what I was doing was a saying.

I talk about motherhood and body image and eating disorders and self-confidence and self-perception and growing up balancing the tightrope of a hyphen between two cultures because this is what I have lived (and and am living). Too many of us are raised to internalize. To not rock the boat.

I hate that.

From my blog to my journals to my books (written and yet to be) I am the happy accident rocking the boat and ignoring the grumbles and glares from the crowd. I'm the one with the sailor-worthy language cheering on the chingonas while people who know me in real life secretly hope I just shut up for once. I won't. Because I say what I need to hear and write what I need to read in the hopes of connecting with others searching for the same.

4 - How Does Your Writing Process Work?

BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!

Oh that's rich. *wipes tears*

Let's see if I can capture this accurately.

* Wake up at 10 a.m.

* Curse the sun

* Drag myself out of bed

* Feed self & child with food items that do not require actual thought

* Check email, twitter, Facebook, and grumble about the lack of book deal offers in any of my social media channels

* Work on homeschool lessons

* Open laptop for quick writing session while the child reads independently

* Close laptop to take care of the dishes, the laundry, bill-paying

* Open laptop to write and get lost in Pinterest-hell instead

* Open Word to write when Latina editor texts for a We Need it NOW revision

* Finish revision about the time the child finishes reading time

* Tell myself I'll write after dinner

* Tell myself I'll write after book, bath, bed routine

* Tell myself I'll write after the dishes are done. Again.

* Tell myself I'll write after The Husband gets his happy time

* Cross "sex" off the To-Do list

* Tell myself I'll write after I pack his lunch for work the next day

* Tell myself I'll write now because it's 11:30 p.m. and my writing process is going exactly as planned

* Open laptop

* Stare at blinking cursor

* Say the words "You are totally my bitch" to the cursor.

* Wonder if anyone else is convinced the cursor is actually telling them to "go fuck themselves" with every blink back

* Grit teeth

* Glare at the cursor for being so...judgmental

* Grit teeth again

* Dive in to the words already written for reference

* Because I totally pantsed the first three chapters

* Just like I did the first book I wrote that was never published

* Because I'm ADHD and planning and outlining are super cute

* Plus? I'm a realist

* Find myself staring at the bitchy cursor again

* My brain is formulating

* Because I can't type a word until the entire scene (or blog post, column, news piece) has written itself in my head

* EUREKA!

* Tell myself I am FUCKING BRILLIANT as I furiously type and type

* Plan my first extravagant purchase to celebrate hitting the NYT bestseller list

*Re-read what I just wrote, grumble, delete, start over

* Type furiously some more

* Gasp, spent, when the jumble of words being channeled from brain to fingers has come to an end

* Swear profusely when I realize it is now 3:30 a.m.

* Close laptop

* Doubt everything

* Talk myself out of not sharing because

* If it needed to be written, it's meant to be shared

* Brush teeth

* Utilize ninja-like skills as to not wake The Warden as I sneak into bed

* Fall asleep almost instantly because the words I needed to get out have been written

* Rinse, lather, repeat.

And there you have it. The not-so-structured writing life I lead. If madness is a process, I've got this.

 

Now for the next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Megan Jordan of Veleveteen Mind is the brilliance behind Story Bleed Magazine, a knife-juggler (or so she says), host of the BlogHer People's Party, and writes for Babble. Basically, she's all that and a bag of really good chips. Plus? Megan has a way with words I can only describe as magical.

Robin O'Bryant of Robin's Chicks is a syndicated humor columnist and the author of Ketchup is a Vegetable (and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves) . This woman busted her ass, took her self-published book to the NYT bestseller list on her own, and scored a two-book deal because THAT'S HOW YOU DO IT,  BITCHES.

 

The. End.

 

 

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!

 

Tacos & Other Firsts

It's midnight. Technically, it's tomorrow, but I've always preferred to separate the todays from the tomorrows with dreams. Since I'm still awake, I'm going to carpe the hell out of this diem right now because stopping my truck halfway up my driveway to take a picture of pine trees heavy with the day's snow that is still coming down is my version of stopping to smell the roses.

It's been snowing all day. The slow, fat snowflakes that make it seem like we live in a snow globe. The roads are shit and visibility is nonexistent, but we have 6-8 inches of soft powder for snowshoeing and snowman building and snow angels and snowball fights. This is the kind of snow we've been waiting for since winter arrived here in northern Maine this year. It's the kind that just feels like it's happy. Dorothy fell asleep in the field of poppies and I was smiling it's this kind of snow that has me thinking that maybe that snow globe idea isn't really crazy and I wonder if we are turned upside down, for just a moment, and shaken gently while we sleep.

 

***

My Weather Channel app tells me it's 33 degrees outside right now and Eliana didn't wear her gloves on the way into the house. I didn't bother to zip my jacket. Cold is subjective, but I'm pretty sure even the Midwest -- after having dealt with unthinkably bitter temperatures and polar vortexes and requisite references to The Day After Tomorrow --  will agree with me that anything above 0 degrees is practically sunbathing weather.

We've lived here just over a year now and after four years in the desert with 100 plus degree temps in the shade being the norm, I think my Maine is starting to show. Proof? Here's a snippet of an actual conversation with The Husband this morning --

Him: it's already 17 degrees out.

Me: (incredulous) Really? How warm's it gonna get?

Remember, people. I'm first-generation on both sides. Pretty sure I may have lost my Mexican card.

 

***

Saturdays are our favorite day of the week, I think. For my kid it's heaven because she loves working with the horses more than I think she pretends to hate our dogs. I'm positive she's going to rebel as soon as she gets her own apartment by becoming a crazy cat lady just because she can, Goddammit. But while she cringes at the thought of a dog licking her and touching her skin with the same tongue that just licked its own ass, this girl loves the horses and saw nothing wrong with dropping onto her back in a relatively clear patch of snowy whiteness to make a snow angel. I should probably sanitize the winter jacket but it just makes more sense to make this her Official Farm Winter Coat because it now and forever shall more smell like horseshit.

I couldn't be prouder.

***

Good friends are moving from one house to another in town and today we got to enjoy the first meal cooked in their new house. I drove by the place twice because I couldn't make out any addresses with the snow coming down so thick. When I finally just guessed and pulled into the drive of the home I thought may be theirs behind the vehicle that I hoped was theirs, I didn't know if I should laugh or cry.

I was right.

And the house I had driven by, twice now, was directly across the street from the farm we visit each Saturday. And it had only taken me 20 minutes to find it.

***

Eliana had her first taco tonight.

You guys? She's 6.

Oh, she's had her fair share of black bean quesadillas before we swore of grains and went paleo. But a taco is new and she loved it in the way all children have sworn to hate anything new that we actually want them to eat, like broccoli. My Jewish friend Shosh pointed out that her 2-year-old eats tacos all the time. I pointed out that mine tells me when her sunbutter, full-fat coconut milk, avocado, and kale smoothie is missing something because "More kale please!" is something I will never tire of hearing.

And then I shared the story about the missing Mexican card and Shosh totally said she understood because she's just that kind of friend, you guys.

***

Time always passes to quickly when we laugh, I think. Before we knew it, it was somehow 10 p.m. and our children needed to be in bed and The Husband was rubbing the sleep from his eyes from exhaustion. He helped move the heavy furniture. I helped hang the curtains.

We had a 20-minute drive back to our own house and time must have still been fast-forwarding because now it was 10:30 and The Husband had already left in his Jeep so he could get the fire going again. We'd been gone most of the day, after all. So Eliana and I drove a little slower than usual on our usual route home and it only took us a little bit longer than usual to make it from Point A to Point B and then the headlights illuminated the drive leading to our house, hidden from view by the thick walls of pine, and the usual suddenly looked new. I had to stop midway up the drive to take this picture because it makes me think of wardrobes and magical kingdoms ruled by wise lions with Liam Niesons' voice.

It's the moments like these that, I think, are a test for us put out by The Universe to see how much we appreciate the moment we are in right now. Welcome to Narnia, y'all. This is where I live.

 

Elizabeth Gilbert on Most in Show

You know what's refreshing? When a writer more famous than the rest of us actually takes the time to respond to something we've said on our various social media channels. That's the kind of stuff that makes us smile all day, brag to our friends that s0-and-so tagged us in a tweet or Facebook update or in response to our many fan-girly comments on instagram. No matter how many friends I see moving on to incredibly successful writing careers or how many times I have to pinch myself as my own career begins to be worthy of stuff to write home about, I'm always going to feel like I'm on top of the world when a name on a book in my shelves says hello. It's that important, this reaching out and connecting.

Today, author Elizabeth Gilbert shared a beautifully written memory-snippet on her Facebook fan page about and clicked Like, along with thousands of other fans. I liked it so much, in fact, that I left a comment asking if I could share it here with you. And I promptly forgot about it because she's Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Roberts played her in a movie based on her best-selling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, for crying out loud.

Until I saw that she replied. And she said yes.

 

I found this photo the other day at my mom's house, and I burst out laughing.

This is me in 1980, ten years old, showing off everything I had made that year for our local 4-H fair. (That's an agricultural fair, for those of you who aren't so familiar with 4-H.)

I had a dream that year. I wanted to win BEST IN SHOW in the Home Goods department. I'd been coveting that giant purple ribbon for years, and wanted to make it mine.

My plan was to enter as many items as I could in every single category (cooking, canning, baking, gardening, sewing, industrial arts) in the hopes that at least one thing would be BEST.

I worked all summer at this. I drove my mother crazy. I cooked, I canned, I baked, I picked (and pickled) beans and beets and cucumbers, I made a teddy bear (!), I built a coat-hanger, I made a automobile first aid kit, I did needlepoint, I was out of control. (By the way — thanks, mom. Because of course I didn't really know how to do any of this, so she spent the summer helping me as I hijacked her kitchen, her sewing machine, her craft table, her garden…)

After all that, I didn't win BEST IN SHOW. Another kid did, for a dessert that he had made. I don't even want to talk about it. I'm sure he was a very nice kid and the desert was probably fine — but seriously, it killed me. I was a sobbing mess.

But then some sympathetic judge must have put it together and noticed that — out of the 300 exhibitions in the Home Show that year — about 175 of them had been made by the same girl. Somebody must have been like, "Oh my god, that poor pathetic child." Because later in the day, I was given a special award — a giant ribbon upon which some kind soul had written: "MOST IN SHOW".

Which soothed my sad heart and made me very proud, though today in makes me laugh my ass off because: MOST IN SHOW? That it the best turn of phrase ever. "You, little girl, are not the best at any of this stuff…or even the second best…or the third best...but, by god, you are the MOST."

But you know what? I've always been MOST IN SHOW. I wasn't the best writing student in any class I ever took, but I was the MOST — I was the one who tried hardest. I think I finally got published because I was MOST IN SHOW — because I spent years writing and writing and writing and writing and sending out those stories to publishers and getting rejected and rejected and rejected, and sending out more and more and more stories until I finally wore them down and they published one at last.

I'm not the best at anything, you guys. Not the smartest, not the most talented, not the prettiest, not the strongest, not the best traveler, not the best journalist, not the best public speaker, not the best with foreign languages, not the best novelist, not the wisest, not the best meditator, not the best yogi, not the anything-est. But by god, I show up with a truckload of effort and participation and preparation, and I give to life the absolute MOST I've got. In every category I can.

The uniquely talented guy with the fancier dessert still usually wins the big prize, but you know what? I still wear them down (the great judges of life, that is) and they still have make up special ribbons for me all the time.

Because I just won't go away.

Not one of us should go away, not ever. Make up your own rules. Give what you love to do all you've got. Be Most in Show. Be fabulous.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your words, allowing me to share them in my own space, and for that Acknowledging My Presence Thing.
Yeah, especially that last one.
That was awesome.

Be...

I don't do resolutions. But I did talk to my agent yesterday. And that conversation got me thinking. I had reached out to ask her where I need to concentrate my efforts in 2014 for that ever-elusive book deal. I've got a column. I've got a massive readership now and am still all Jaw on the Floor that any of this is real. And I'm thrilled when I realize, again, that it is. But I'm still chasing that book deal.

What am I doing wrong/not doing right/wasting my time on I asked my agent. What should I be doing differently?

I'll admit part of my reason for calling her was because I was feeling insecure. I've heard of first-hand accounts from writer-friends who've outlived their free-pass from their former agents who eventually grew tired of them not building that platform fast enough. They got dropped or they and their agent mutually agreed to part ways. I was worried, since it's been two years (or is it three now?) that my agent signed me. I thought she might need to at least hear my verbalize the fact that I wanted to make good on her investment and belief in me and my future.

And then she reminded me why I love her so. First, she told me to shut up and breathe. Then she basically told me to stop comparing myself to everyone else and stop trying to hurry fate. Things happen as they should and when they are meant to and if I'm not there yet, it's because the timing isn't right yet. Not never. Just not yet.

She told me to focus on what my voice and that my humor and self-deprecating ways are the reason she signed me and that it's a voice people can relate to and that I need to remember that.

And she told me to just...be. Then, the best part? She reminded me that she's still here. And that she's not going anywhere.

So...

No resolutions. No promises to break on myself come 24 hours after making them. Instead, I'm focusing on the moment in the new year. And when that one's passed me by, I'm taking a deep breath and starting over again. The finish line and the eye on the prize aren't good for my mindset. Perhaps I tend to get so focused on the When that I let the Now pass me right the hell on by. I'm done with that. So, for 2014, I'm going to..be.

There...I feel better already.

From Nothing

 

I tried planning ahead this year. Working from home while homeschooling and trying to keep up with the laundry usually means everything is last minute and so many things get pushed off until tomorrow. Or the next day. And then the day after that. I had planned to met my deadlines a week early and enjoy this week with my little family and some close friends. The house was going to be clean and the Christmas menu set and the food prepared so all I had to worry about was what to do with the leftovers.

We never got to that part.

I got the flu. The kind that came out of nowhere and hit my like a frat party hangover. Suddenly the world was spinning and my head was too heavy for my neck to lift. I sat there breathing slow and shallow breaths like the kind usually reserved for labor pains. The column I had started working on was put on hold as The Husband silently took away the Macbook and I shuffled off to bed. Tomorrow, I told myself. One day wouldn't change anything.

Three days later I was still sleeping more than I was conscious, burning up even when the thermometer didn't register a temp. Every breath felt like fire in my lungs. My body ached. The Husband took to sleeping in Eliana's room on her tiny little twin bed, hoping ti avoid the plague, while my little shadow crawled into our big queen and snuggled up next to me every evening. "I'm taking care of you," she told me. "Don't worry. I'll hug you all night so you feel better."

By focusing on me, she was letting herself forget the suitcase she had packed in her room. The one full of randomly selected clothing and toys and even her toothbrush and toothpaste for her "trip" to see her Guela in Detroit. My mom had moved with us to Tucson when Eliana was 18 months old and lived with us for three years. When she moved out, Eliana was lost, but the presence of a very close-knit friendship circle did wonders for soothing her anxieties. Then we moved again and this time, Eliana was old enough to miss those we left behind and want so very badly to wave a magic wand and instantly recreate something out of nothing in our new home. Northern Maine is beautiful. We love it. But it can also be a little lonely when it's time to explain to a child that making friends takes time. Making friends that become family takes even longer.

So she packed her suitcase and pretended she was taking a magic airplane to see her grandma and would be back on Christmas morning in time to open gifts. I was the flight attendant. Her daddy was the cab driver. And then for the entire day before I got sick, I was my mother and our home became her home and I wished so very badly for Santa to fit a new friend-family under our tree. And then I couldn't move without the world spinning and her make-believe was forgotten because Mama had the flu and Daddy was either working or trying to help out when he got home and she dealt with it by comforting herself by comforting me and I love her for it.

Day four was better. I was able to get out of bed. The world was still again. My body ached and I moved slowly, but I was out of the woods and still planned to get those fucking deadlines met and out of the way. We were going to make cookies, dammit. And drive around to see Christmas lights. And play board games and listen to Christmas music and drink hot chocolate. And then on my birthday, we were going to drive the two hours to Bangor for the sales and a movie and a birthday dinner. That was the plan. Then the plan changed again.

Both Eliana and The Husband got knocked senseless by the same flu I had just weathered. My laptop sat open and waiting as the laundry piled up and the sink over-filled with mugs from tea with honey and hot toddies and broth. I didn't shower because I was too busy shoveling snow, carrying more logs inside to keep both woodstoves piping hot for heat, and making sure my husband and daughter stayed hydrated. I took their temperatures and grabbed my keys to drive to Walmart for Nyquil for The Husband and more albuterol for Eliana's nebulizer and learned I wasn't going anywhere until I shoveled away the snow the plow driver had piled four feet high against the garage door.

Christmas did happen, though. They opened their gifts from the sofa bed. Santa was nice this year, even if he didn't get a chance to tackle that last request from me. Eliana was well enough to get out of bed and play with her new toys but the suitcase stayed packed because she's not done imagining her grandmother closer.  And The Husband apologized for not being able to take me out for my birthday. I told him to shut up and just feel better.

Today was my birthday. I spent it taking care of my patients and picking up more prescriptions. We ate leftovers and the sink is still full and the laundry untouched. Then I made homemade pumpkin ice cream floats and they sang Happy Birthday to me before our ice-cream melted and we watched Mary Poppins and my laptop sat, waiting just a while longer, while plans were ditched in favor of The Moment that was right there for us to grab on to.

"I'm sorry about your birthday," The Husband told me before he dragged himself back to bed.

"Don't be," I told him. "We're together."

#Dimelo: The Wonder Woman Close-Up

Another week...another #Dimelo column on Latina! He wanted sex on the first date...she's new to dating after divorce. Click here for my response and let me know what you think! And send me your questions here for consideration in upcoming Dimelo columns!

Also? I'm not exactly new at the publishing thing, but I'm still easily amused (and probably always will be.) When my copy of Latina arrived in the mailbox yesterday, I found this inside...

Hold your ponies, people. I've got a close up so you can read the actual words. Which you should. Because this little paragraph took me longer to write than it should have. Nothing like 3 million readers to spur on a tiny bit of anxiety on the BUT WHAT IF I SAY SOMETHING STUPID front. (Don't worry, I got over it.)

Seeing my words in print is wonderful, but it's not as much of a WOW-factor to me as seeing my face. The words are something I'm used to; the picture is proof I'm exactly where I've always wanted to be. And that? Feels amazing.

 

Redefining Flowers

 

My mother's birthday is tomorrow. She'll be 55.

My father's death anniversary is tomorrow. That makes things awkward. It probably always will.

Six years ago my father went into the hospital for heart surgery. All signs were good that he'd be in the hospital recovering and bitching about the crappy Thanksgiving meal and begging us all to sneak him in some of the good stuff. But signs can sometimes be misinterpreted. Or maybe they weren't and fate just decided to throw us a curve ball.

Either way, our family stood beside his bed while he took his last breaths. Then I caught my mother before she hit the floor.

They'd been married 30 years and he'd just turned 50 that year. I know that because I was just 6 weeks short of my 30th birthday when he died. I'd always kept track of my parents' anniversary and ages by adding 20 to my age for the anniversary and my dad's birthday and then subtracting one to get my mom's age.

That's how old they were when they got married and welcomed me into the world before the ink dried on their wedding certificate at the courthouse. Nineteen and 20.

So young, everyone said when my mother dropped me off at school.

So young, everyone said when she became a widow, quite unexpectedly, at 49.

I want to send her flowers for her birthday but flowers make me think of death. I want to send her something sparkly and frivolous but that makes me think he's been gone long enough for it not to hurt so much anymore. It's the same struggle every year. And I still feel guilty for being thankful no matter what day Thanksgiving falls on now. Pretty sure I always will.

The year my dad died, Thanksgiving happened to be the day before his heart stopped working and my mother celebrated her 49th birthday. Ying and Yang and good balances with bad and the world spins round and round. It's Thanksgiving week in 2013 and I learned of one friend losing an uncle just moments before I learned another lost her home and everything she owns in a house fire last night. Even her purse.

I breathe. And I remind myself that for every bad thing in this world, there is good. And that the good balanced out the bad. That equation works both ways. For every last day, there is a tomorrow.

Flowers. I'll buy her flowers, dammit. Flowers mean spring and life and a cheap vase my mom is never going to use again but never get rid of after the bouquet finally gets thrown away because she will always see it and know that is the vase her birthday flowers came in.

And she'll smile every time.

 

Butterflies for Everyone!

If you're new to the blog, I'd like to welcome you with a little bit of awesome. As a pre-holiday thank you to my readers (and a little reminder to ourselves to be thankful for the bodies that carry us through our days) I've decided to make the Girl Body Pride Strong Like Butterfly anthology free on Smashwords through Sunday.

The anthology contains the work of many Girl Body Pride writers like Shoshana Rachel, Elan Morgan, and Jessie Sanfilippo, along with novelists Therese Walsh and Mercedes Yardley. Each story shared speaks to women struggling with body image issues. And each story is so beautifully told.

I'd like to invite you to take this opportunity to get your free copy of Strong Like Butterfly and, of course, to pass the information on to your friends. And please, know that I look forward to your thoughts after reading the book. It was an honor editing this collection. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I still do.

(Twice) Upon a Time

I'm not cheating. I'm reminiscing. There's a difference.

I was curious about the first November for Aspiring Mama. It's been a while since I've looked in the archives, and even then I didn't go back to the very first few months. In November is 2009, Aspiring Mama was just 4 months old. In the muddlings of a brand new blogger and always writer trying to find my way, this is what I saw...

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a middle-aged mother who was long passed being mistaken for a beautiful young maiden.

This mother had traded in her ability to sing woodland animals into helping her whistle while she worked, her penchant for taming even the most wild of the beasts, and her magical coach and footmen for a humble life with The Man She Loved and a Child for whom she’d give her last breath, along with piles of dirty laundry waiting to be done, dishes that just wouldn’t wash themselves, and an ass that magically expanded at the mere sight of food.

It was a mundane existence, but one filled with its own inspired moments. For the love of the Child could not even compare to the perks her Fairy Godmother once provided. Dreams of princes, beautiful ball gowns, and happily ever afters might have been nice while they lasted, but this mother understood that her place in Reality was one she could take great pride in, even if that place was a precarious one and sure to drive her as insane as her crazy Step-Sister who spent her days in a padded room trying to shove her size 10?s into a size 5 glass slipper.

“Who wears a glass slipper, anyway?” the mother wearily sighed. Forget the mere idiocy of the thought and the smell of nasty foot sweat sure to come part and parcel with wearing the damned things, but if it broke? Good Heavens! How unsafe it would be in her humble home for The Child while she cleaned.

One night, the mother dreamed. She dreamed vibrant colors, swirling images, and magic-filled words. She woke to hear The Child crying for her and tucked her dream away for just one more moment, one more day in the land of Reality, and tended to The Child’s, filling her sweet head with visions of singing mermaids, beautiful princesses, and houses built of candies.

Her own dreams could wait. For just a little while longer.

 

This post originally appeared with the title Once Upon a Time on Aspiring Mama in November of 2009.

The Stupid Sister

Can I call your sister stupid? No? Does that bother you? I'm not sure why, seeing as how you don't even like your her. You tell anyone who will listen and rarely go home for holidays. What? What was that? Oh, so you think your sister is stupid? So what's the problem? Why is it that, even if you agree wholeheartedly with my sentiments, that it seems somehow inappropriate for anyone other than yourself to comment on the obvious lack of intellect with which your loved ones were gifted?

You're mumbling. I didn't quite catch that? Oh, you don't know why? That's just the way it is? You don't take too kindly to others doing the name calling? She's your family, not mine? I can think it but I'd better not say it?

Okay then. I'll play nice. But turnabout is fair play, my friend. I'll respect your right and your family and keep my jokes to myself if you can stop being an idiot about a teensy weensy little issue I happen to be dealing with, myself. I have to admit that I'm even embarrassed to be bringing it up, but I guess it's better to get it all out in the open, right?

I'm not trying to be overly sensitive. But you know about the bulimia and the body image issues and the whole body image cheer-leading train I've jumped on, right? I'm not here just to blow sunshine up other people's asses, my friend. I'm here to help me by helping others because that, in that Circle of Life Kind of Way, helps me continue to help because that's usually how this shit works; Yin & Yang and all that jazz.

So when I see careless social media updates making light of eating disorders, even if they aren't meant to hurt my feelings because you'd never dream of doing that, I get a bit pissy. And then I get pissy that your words got under my skin because if I'd never stuck my fingers down my throat to let the feelings I couldn't deal with just fucking escape already, I'd probably be laughing with you and everyone else who doesn't get it. I'm jealous that you don't understand and can laugh.

I'm mad that I do and I can't.

I'm not 'bulimic'. I'm a 'conscientious recycler of edible organic material.' -- says Nobody In Particular.

I had to read that twice to make sure I understood it. Then I got mad. And even madder still when I realized I wanted to ask you if you ever actually had been bulimic because if you are or were or were planning on starting tonight, then, in a darkly comedic and self-deprecating kind of way, your joke would be funny. It would be...

...acceptable.

Can you maybe follow up with a disclaimer? No...actually it's probably better that you don't. I'm not sure how either answer would make me feel. If you made the joke because Bulimia is your stupid sister, I will smile and laugh with you.

Secret Hand Shake In The Club.

If Bulimia isn't even a distant cousin, I'm happy for you for not ever having dealt with the emotional hell that comes with internalizing everything to the point of food and self becoming the enemy. But I'm also pissed because that means you called my stupid sister stupid.

Even if she is.