Archive for April, 2008
What I love about being Latina:
When I was a teacher or a college administrator, no one ever really asked what my days were like but I’ve noticed lately that it’s a question I get a lot. It’s a question that I even discuss with other writers. The funny thing is that when I became a writer, I imagined that 40 hours a week would be so much time and that I could teach two days a week, write two days a week, and volunteer one day a week with no problem and no overlap. I figured out that wasn’t true in my very first week as a full-time writer. It’s an interesting job, filled with chase and quiet, creative spurts and languishing blocks, and, not surprisingly, lots of deadlines. Remember what it felt like to have a paper due in college and then play that out by 10 or 15 a month, and you get a little bit of the flavor. But here’s the thing, in college, your professors assign you those papers. As a professional writer, you find a lot of your work in the form of pitching ideas to editors– some of whom you have worked for before and some of whom will not even open an e-mail from you. Here’s a sampling of the work that I am doing this week:
* Writing articles. I have three articles due next week that I am hoping to get turned in by the end of day this Friday. I like to turn in my stuff early if possible; it allows me to avoid that college deadline looming feeling of terror. I’ve also been actively trying to write my pieces as soon as I wrap up the research and interviews on them because I’ve waited for months in the past on articles assigned really early and then I just want to beat my head against the wall over having to look up every single detail because I remember nothing. It is much easier on me if I write while it is all fresh on my mind. Two of the articles are ideas that I pitched and one is an assignment that an editor asked me to do.
* Book research and organization. I have a book proposal currently under consideration with a publisher so I am doing some research on it to keep abreast of the news surrounding the idea’s themes and doing some organizing with my notes to allow myself a smooth transition if the book is soon approved. You mean the book’s not already written? That’s right. For researched non-fiction where you will interview various people, you usually put together a book proposal that outlines the book and your vision for it chapter by chapter but you don’t have to go ahead and write it. I did, however, have to turn in sample chapters for this one so I have two chapters mostly written already which will be especially nice if the book does go to contract.
* Idea research. I have an idea for another non-fiction book that I am excited about– maybe a project for next year if the above book gets a contract this year, and so I have been doing a little dabbling into the research for it and just compiling notes in a file to tear into at a later date.
* Speaking Prep and Gigs. I am spending Wednesday afternoon helping to facilitate a Women of Color Leadership Forum in Charlotte. In addition, I am speaking at a breakfast at the Boys and Girls Club National Conference next week in San Francisco so I am drafting my remarks, making sure I have business cards printed, etc.
* Circle de Luz research and prep work. Circle de Luz, the scholarship giving network inspired by the Hijas experience, officially launches on Thursday and so there’s stuff to do with that, the IRS non-profit application, and preparation for our scholar selection next year.
* Story Pitches. I have a few article ideas on board to pitch tomorrow to some editors- likely new editors to me. I’ve written the queries. Now I just need to get them out to the “targeted markets.”
* San Francisco Planning. So I am in San Fran for a few days next week and hope to meet up with some women who were involved in the research for Hijas and I also want to check a little bit of the city out. Sometime this week, I am going to get that all organized so I don’t lose the precious few minutes I have on the ground there next week figuring it out.
* NYC event planning. I have a school and bookstore event at the end of May in the Bronx and so I’ll spend some time thinking through those events and working on the promotions for them.
* Odds and Ends. At some point each week, I balance my checkbook, track my business expenses and file my receipts, and record my business mileage along with other little keeping the business going tasks like that.
* Misbehave. And there is always something that derails me for at least a little bit each day or week. This week’s tempests are newspaper articles about the Panthers’ draft choices and web-surfing, including a long session on Nick Arrojo’s (from What Not to Wear) salon web-site. If I had the guts, I would totally book a haircut with him for while I am in NYC. I am working on getting up the guts. Look at me, I’m acting like I am asking him out on a date rather than to just do my hair. Too funny.
Other than that, I work out daily, keep the television completely off or I know I’ll get sucked in, fight with Lola the wonder dog about where she wants me to be in reference to her, endure Lola the wonder dog’s howling when the town’s fire sirens go off, look outside and wonder why I don’t just take my laptop outside to write, make a couple laps around the little cottage that could when I am feeling sleepy, answer BF and my sister’s 17 phone calls a day (only a slight exaggeration), remember to take something out of the fridge for dinner, get caught up on something surfing the internet and then wonder where the time went, think about doing yoga poses or stopping everything to read for thirty minutes, avoid doing my hair and putting on makeup and then realize that people are looking at me strangely out in the world because my curls have gone all cotton-ball headed on me without my noticing, and answer a lot of email.
I imagine that soon I really will add 30 minutes of reading outside to my daily work life and that I will run to the nearby Y a couple times a week for a Yoga or Pilates class. The one thing I know for sure about my work style is that I should not, under any circumstances, schedule anything to do in the morning except write and research. I am sharpest in the morning, and I hate when I give away that time. I want to become much more disciplined about saying no to morning things that could just as easily happen in the afternoon.
Got any questions or advice about the writing life or the working at home life? Holler. You’re the closest thing I have to water cooler talk!
What I love about myself is my capacity to be open and truly interested in all kinds of people, from all walks of life, from every cultural background. Meeting new people enriches my life a thousand fold.
My biggest challenge in accepting my body and beauty is when that monkey-mind thinking leads me to believe that I’m not doing something right. And that “right,” I suppose, is according to the world outside myself. When I get quiet, go inward, am creative, I become more accepting of self again.
My biggest support in learning to appreciate myself is that deep-still voice within. It also helps to surround myself with people who support my creative way of being and thinking—people in my writing and creative circles, my husband and family members who support who I am.
Beauty is deeper than body image. Over the years, I’ve actually positioned my young nieces in front of a mirror and have them stare into their own faces repeating, “I am beautiful inside and out.”
I am strong because I believe in a higher source, and I don’t mean a big man in the sky. That higher source (consciousness) permeates everywhere—in nature, in healthy foods, in you and me. Being strong means being authentic, truthful, loving—including sometimes being firm, standing ground, setting tough boundaries, which has been something I’ve really had to learn over the years.
I am beautiful because I take good care of myself by eating healthy, especially eating organic food, by using alternative health professionals, having energy work done on me, working out, journaling, writing, reading, meditating and following my passion of living a creative life.
Women must know that we are powerful beyond measure, that we have intuitive abilities that can lead us onto paths bigger than our ego-self can image, that it is time for the female to truly have an equal say in all aspects of life, so that we can get this earth back on track.
So I just finished reading the book This I Believe. It’s a collection of short essays inspired by the public radio series of the same name. In each essay, the author writes about the one thing he or she believes in and why for a few hundred words. I am leading a writing workshop this summer where participants will ultimately write their own This I Believe essay. Preparing for teaching the workshop has me thinking about my own statement. As I brainstorm, I am coming up with multiple ideas on the way to honing in on the ultimate thing I believe before putting it into essay form. Here’s my first idea.
I believe that life keeps handing you the lesson you need to learn until you learn it. Miss your lesson in its first context and the volume is amplified. Miss it again, the scenario is amplified even more in the hopes that it instigates your learning. Ultimnately, we often get our lesson when the volume is deafening and there is no subtlety to it any longer. Then we start on our next growth and learning opportunity.
One of life’s beautiful moments is when we start to willing receive our lessons at a more subtle volume. So the question for each of us is when we face a challenging situation is what lesson is being delivered to you right now and are you ready to receive it at this volume? When people say “this keeps happening to me” they are missing a valuable point. That’s life trying desperately to make its point.
Want to know what BYOB has to do with going green. Find out here.
And what happens when I park the car? Find out here.
So, a few years ago, my best friend, whose son was going through treatment for cancer, desperately needed a vacation. I offered to babysit while my students were on spring break and flew out to Texas to care for three children under the age of 4 (my husband asked me later what I learned during that week. My answer? To not have three children in rapid succession because you can hold one’s hand, you can put the other on your hip, but if you are alone and you are corralling three kids, what in the world do you do with the 3rd kid? You let him run free and trust that he is old enough to listen to exactly what you say. But if you don’t know to say “Don’t drop trou in the front yard and pee,” well, then there could be some surprises. Don’t look at me like that. This is what you get with a free nanny service.). When I would load up the kids in the mini-van for excursions to here or there, I was struck by the fact that it seemed like every single mini-van, Suburban, and Tahoe in Texas had these stickers on the back side that represented each family member with a stick-figure sticker (including the cats and dogs). I didn’t love them, but to each his own. However, the thing that really threw me over the edge was that many of them of these stickers had the kids’ name under their stick figure. So a stick figure of a little boy standing next to his mom might say Jack and a little girl might say Lily and under Mom’s it says Sarah. Am I the only person who has a terribly over active imagination and who thinks, “If you advertise your kids’ name, you are just asking for the scary kidnapper to go up to them at the bus stop and say, ’Jack and Lily, your mom, Sarah, just got hurt and asked me to take you to the hospital to see her. You dad, John, is going to meet us there. And don’t worry, I let Pepper out in the backyard before picking you up.” Now, it seems the stickers have made their way East– I am seeing them all the time here. If you have them on your car, you have to go peel the names off your car window now– if for no other reason than to give my very active imagination peace of mind. Thanks!
What I love about being Latina: The ability to travel to other countries and feel like a world citizen because of my knowledge of more than one culture and the ability to identify, to some extent, with the large Hispanic immigrant population in the U.S. I also love the overflowing energy and deep family roots and pride that my Cuban relatives show and have instilled in me. When growing up, I loved the transition of leaving snowy Michigan at Christmas to road trip down to Miami and experience the fake frost sprayed on cars and the Santas on top of tile roofs and pastel buildings. I loved falling asleep in my abuela’s home to the Latin music playing outside and thinking the striking thought, “I belong here.”
What I love about being Americana: I love that I also feel like I belong at the large family reunions held every summer in Ohio with my mother’s family. I love the homemade ice cream, the potluck dinners, and the games of Scrabble. I love that I have grown up with the belief that I can play any sport, go to any university, and accept any job just as well as my brother can. I feel blessed for the opportunities and advantages that growing up in the United States has offered.
My biggest challenge in growing up Latina in America: Feeling insecure that I don’t know Spanish as fluently as some of my cousins and feeling like an imposture when people found out my background and exposed that I didn’t speak Spanish fluently.
My biggest support in growing up Latina in America: My parents have never stressed one cultural background over the other. They encouraged me to explore both sides of my family and to become the beautiful blend that I could be. I never thought of myself as “growing up Latina.” When I did discover I was different than my peers because of my background, and when I felt uncomfortable about it, I would visit my Cuban aunts, who I highly respect and look up to for their beauty, strength, and intelligence. They, as well as my parents, have supported me the most by believing in me as a Latina as well as an Americana.
Why I am beautiful: I am beautiful because of the family values, the love of different cultures, and the self-confidence I have because of my loving parents and my family that reaches from the island of Cuba to the state of Ohio. I am beautiful because of how my heritage’s past has connected to form my diverse present and for the power I have to continue my bicultural identity and family history into a grounded future with my own children.
So I need a favor. A big ‘un (‘un is what BF says for one). A reader recently contacted me to ask how she could get Hijas carried in her public library. I grew up on the public library. My dad took me to the library every single Saturday morning and let me stay however long I wanted– gathering up the 17 or 12 or 22 books I wanted to check out that week. He never asked me to hurry. He never told me I had too many books. The library was my great indulgence. When I think about Hijas not having found its way to some libraries around the country, I am sad that the stories that so many dynamic women shared may not make their way to some who would really enjoy learning from them. So, I am asking your help in getting Hijas out to more libraries. Here’s what you can do. Find your local public library system here. Look to see if they are carrying Hijas Americanas by Rosie Molinary in their catalog. If not, please request that they carry it (that’s often an option right by the catalog pages online). If you want to go another route, you can pick up Hijas Americanas yourself at your local bookseller or on Amazon and donate it to your library system. I am happy to send you a signed book plate dedicating the book in your honor to your library system. If you decide to do either of these things, let me know (with a note about what the name of your library system is and where it is located)! I’ll keep a library list to see the ripple effect we can have. Thanks for believing in the book and helping to make it more available to readers!
Every year, we go to the beach for a summer vacation and the most important things I pack are the books I am going to read. It’s hard for a book to make it onto my beach list, but I knew right away that The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch was going to make the cut last year. It tells the story of a young breast cancer patient as she navigates her diagnosis, treatment, and the what next. I have done a great deal of work around breast cancer in the last ten years and write a good bit about it, too. So the subject was compelling to me. But so was Natalie, the main character, who becomes a Body Warrior in the process of her experience. So, it’s with great joy that I introduce you to Allison Winn Scotch who is in her own right a Body Warrior (hence, how she can write one into being). Check her out below, The Department of Lost and Found on Amazon, and while you are buying The Department, go ahead and peek at (and pre-order, if you want) her new one which has one of the best book covers this year.
What I love about myself: That I pretty much believe that I’m capable of doing anything that my mind sets out to do – failure isn’t an option, and in some ways, I believe this has been a self-fulfilling prophesy.
My biggest challenge in accepting my body and beauty: For many years, I wished I were a little thinner, despite having been born with skinny genetics. But as we all know, often times, we can be dissatisfied with even the best of situations, and for whatever reason, I always thought I was at my happiest when I was at my thinnest. So a few pound gain or tighter pants (oh, those horrid seam lines that ingrain themselves into your thighs!) might torpedo even my pretty high confidence in myself. Over the years, however, and especially in my thirties, I’ve really felt like I’ve been achieving my personal best in so many areas of my life that this has carried over to my confidence and acceptance of my physical self as well. It’s hard to begrudge, for example, a little softness around my waist when I know that this same waist expanded so perfectly to accommodate my children.
My biggest support in learning to appreciate myself: Probably age. I know that this is very Zen-on-a-mountain, but I truly believe that I’m an ever-improving entity, especially as I’ve grown older, even though, to be sure, sometimes I’ve wanted to slow down the ticking of time. But now that I’m out in the world raising children, contributing to society, challenging myself, always learning and bursting with curiosity, I’m able to step outside of my little world and look down and say, “Yup, that’s a pretty good life I have,” and I feel pretty blessed by it.
Beauty is: Courage. Intelligence. Confidence. Bundle these together and you have a formidable woman, one that I strive to be.
Why I am strong: Because I don’t allow roadblocks or adversity or even just having a really crappy day get me down. I fully believe that happiness is a choice, and almost inevitably, I choose happiness. It’s a conscious decision, and it isn’t always easy, but it’s put me on the road to a life that I’m proud of.
Why I am beautiful: Because I am happy. Because my children are crazy for me. Because I trust myself. And because I allow that trust to permeate everything I do.
What women must know: Sometimes, good enough is good enough. A lot of us run around, getting caught up in the rat race of it all, and along the way, we lose perspective that perfectionism isn’t worth it. Our children don’t care if we slave over a hot stove every night – they just want to bask in our love. Our husbands or partners don’t really care if we’ve gained a few pounds – they just want to sit on the couch and enjoy our companionship. Work will survive without your overtime hours; your house won’t fall down if there are dirty socks on the floor or a little grime in the bathtub. Good enough is good enough, and self-satisfaction begins with self-acceptance.
Last week I had lunch with the sixth grade girls I visit at the local middle school.
“What’s up?” I asked them as we started settling into our seats with lunch. There was a sigh here, a shrug there. And then one of the girls, who I will call Sara, said she was a little sad.
“Why are you sad,” I asked in Spanish, as our lunch conversations are usually in Spanish.
“Because my boyfriend and I broke up.”
“Why did you break up?” I pressed.
“I did something that I shouldn’t have done,” she said, regret in her voice– an emotion that was hard for me to hear from a sixth grader about a boyfriend although I am sure I probably expressed it myself at that age.
“So what are you most sad about?” I asked.
“I don’t have anything to do now,” she explained.
“But, of course, you do, I insisted, you had things to do before he was you boyfriend, didn’t you?”
She looked at me surprised, like ’what does that have to do with anything?’
“Sara, what did you do before you had a boyfriend in your free time?”
“Hung out with these girls. Read. Drew pictures. Wandered around the neighborhood.”
“Well, then do that,” I told her. “Do those things. You don’t need a boyfriend to do those things or to have fun. You owe it to yourself to always do things that you enjoy.”
She nodded, eyes squinting, trying to comprehend.
And it struck me again that girls learn the lesson of giving their very selves away in order to be in a relationship at such an early age– an age that keeps them from questioning and that ultimately turns them into automatons of pleasing personas for the person of their dreams. 11, 13, 15 or 17 year old boys don’t sit around, brooding in their rooms, their lives on pause, waiting for a girl to call them, text them, want them. They go out and play ball. They hook up their Wiis and play ball. They live. We owe it to our girls to raise and encourage them to not sacrifice themselves. They’re so vulnerable, so precious, so impressionable, so very rare. They are one of our lovely natural resources, and their preciousness, their purpose, needs to be preserved.