Archive for June, 2009

An accident looking for a place to happen: drowning in Hijas books!

My Smallest Fan

My Smallest Fan

When I was little, my dad always referred to me as an accident looking for a place to happen.  It was true; I was a bit of a clutz and I always had hysterical accidental things happen to me.  There was the time I attempted to leap onto a stack of chairs in the school cafeteria, and my momentum didn’t stop and I just kept going, landing on the other side of the stack of chairs with the chairs coming tumbling down onto me.  My ex-boyfriend was five feet away.  There was the time that I mudwrestled in front of the entire school and later realized that my singlet wasn’t covering everything that it should have been covering.  And there was the time that I tried out for cheerleading in 6th grade to help a friend out (she wanted to try out but wouldn’t do it by herself) and crashed into the judges’ table as I completed my tumbling sequence (obviously I didn’t make call backs although the crash was the least of my worries).  You get the picture, right? 

Lately, my ‘accidents’ have been less of a physical nature and more of a just mucking up life nature.  On Monday, I pulled on a brand new shirt.  At lunch, I dribble minestrone soup on it.  Not wanting it to stain, I threw it in the wash and then the dryer on permanent press.  I pulled it out after it dried only to discover it no longer fit.  Drat! 

Then, I ordered books for the Circle de Luz girls to have some fun summer reading (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The House on Mango Street) and some food from Omaha Steaks to be delivered to a friend who needs a break from cooking for a bit.  Today, when I opened my wallet, my credit card was MIA.  Can’t find it anywhere, so I had to cancel it. 

But the biggest my bad of late wasn’t really my bad at all (I promise!).  A company booked me to be their diversity speaker this year and asked that I bring books to sell.  Well, I bought a bunch of books to bring (a little behind the scenes book business stuff: an author gets a set number of free books right when the book comes out.  It’s not usually a lot– maybe 20 or so copies so I am way past having extra books lying around the house  and totally had to buy some to sell).   And then five days before I was scheduled to speak, they cancelled the event as they are cutting back on extras so as to preserve manpower.  Meanwhile, every day, boxes arrive with part of the 60 books I ordered to sell.  I am drowning in Hijas books!  Actually, baby’s closet is drowning in Hijas books. 

And what does a girl do when she’s drowning in her own books?  She puts a call out on her blog to let people know that if they would like an autographed copy of Hijas Americanas, I have the hook up.  $20 will cover the book and shipping to you, just shoot me an email at hijasamericanas@gmail.com with Autographed Copy in the memo line and we’ll work out the details. 

Here’s to ending the week without mishaps!

June 30, 2009 at 9:57 pm Leave a comment

Get Inspired.

With the economy suffering, non-profits and our communities are feeling the impact in significant ways.  We may not have extra dollars to donate outright but there are other ways to give.  Here are just a few options if you are finding that, especially during this time, you have an incredible desire to connect.     

Team in Training 2005

Team in Training 2005

Participate in the Team in Training program, an Avon Breast Cancer Walk, or an MS bike ride.   There are athletic endurance events that are tied to fundraisers that allow you to raise money for a cause while receiving coaching or support to complete the event.   In 2005, I did two century rides with Team in Training which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  It was a conrete way for me to support my dad’s fight against cancer while raising money for a cause that was dear to all of us– cancer research and care. 

Join a Board of Directors for a local non-profit.  I have served on three boards over the years and have found the experience to be so rewarding.  Non-profits need a greate deal of human capital to run smoothly and, as a board member, you contribute meaningfully to an issue and program that is important to you.  Interested in serving as a board member?  Call up a non-profit that interests you and ask to meet with the Executive Director over the phone or in person.  When you meet, learn more and offer your skills.   

Donate to Locks of Love.  Locks of Love provides hair pieces to children who suffer medical hair loss.  If your hair grows fairly quickly, this is a great thing to do.  Some salons even offer free haircuts with your Locks of Love donation.   

Give an Alternative Gift.  So what’s an alternative gift?  It’s the perfect thing for you to get for the person who you have a hard time finding the perfect gift.  An alternative gift is a donation that you make to a non-profit in someone’s name.  The great thing is that you can pick something that perfeclty captures your loved one’s spirit.  Heifer International is one of the most popular options but just about any non-profit will work with you to make your alternative gift possible. You can also use your birthday or your child’s birthday as an opportunity to ask for alternative gifts. 

Working at an orphange in Puerto Rico

Working at an orphange in Puerto Rico

Engage in your community.  I have been during regular, weekly volunteer work since I was 18.  Unless I’ve been on vacation, a week hasn’t gone by in 17 years where I didn’t volunteer in some way.  It’s how I understand how to be in community and it is how I keep my lens from just focusing on me, me, me.  Over the years, I have done whatever needed to be done for a non-profit that I cared about as well as offered my unique skills– like teaching writing classes in an afterschool program.   For example, are you a hair dresser?  Contact Dress for Success to offer job interview hair styling classes to their clients.  Are you an artist?  Donate some of your work to a non-profit’s silent auction.  Have a certain day/time to spare, check on the Hands on Network or Volunteer Match to explore some options in your area.

June 29, 2009 at 9:23 pm 2 comments

a beautiful life

The mother of one my best friend’s passed away last week.  She was truly beautiful, a bright light– absolutely radiant– and, truth be told, she is the woman that I most wish to emulate.  She had a big heart, was always inclusive, and made you feel like your words were the only ones she wanted to hear when you were talking to her.  Her compassion was accompanied by a sharp, inquisitive mind.  She was an open learner, curious and bright.   An artist– skilled in many, many mediums, her vast creativity existed not just in a studio.  Part of her artwork was the hundreds of children she taught and then the thousands of children she impacted with the Arts in the Basic Curriculum program she launched in Mississippi back in the 90s.  She believed that learning and creative were not mutually exclusive, that they were inclusive, and that they fostered each other.  Many children in Mississippi found themselves on the page or stage because of her. 

For a bit now, the piled up toll of sleeplessness has weighed on me.  I don’t feel quite myself– I’ve lost a little light, a little spunk, a little creativity, a little spark.  I’ve been less inspired, less provoked, less motivated– and I’m a person who is almost always inspired, provoked, motivated.  I love being a mother and pour everything into that aspect of myself, then find that there isn’t much oomph! left for the rest of the ways I want to be impactful.  This weekend, I attended the funeral, and I was struck with what a purposeful, beautiful life sounds and looks like at the end of it.  Every aspect of the day captured my best friend’s mother so completely, so absolutely, her beauty permeated every moment.  You could see it in the vibrant flowers arranged for the service, the tears on the faces of her youngest nieces.  You could hear it in the words her long time friends used to describe her, in the songs chosen to be sung in the service.  You could see it in the way that those who had loved her loved each other all day long.  You could hear it in the memories, the stories told, the pictures passed, the lives she helped unfold.  She was a person I was so sorry, so sad, to say goodbye to, but her life, and spending a day in full reverance for it, once again inspired me to get my spark back, to barrel through the sleeplessness to the other side where the art of life awaits.

June 28, 2009 at 7:30 pm 3 comments

10 months old, 5 months with us

 

asleep on beach, close up

 We’ve hit a milestone today.  Baby is 10 months old and has been with us for 5 months– half his life.  As of tomorrow, he will have been with us longer than he was in the care house.  That feels really significant.  There are other tid-bits to share in reflecting on his 5 months home.

He crawls like a street racer– fast and furious while making lots of noise.  

He continues to love music. 

Those two little teeth of his can do some serious damage to Cheerios and bread and even my bottom lip.      

He’s fairly fearless— he plunged right into the ocean last week like it was bathwater and kept going even after waves tried to stall him.  He became very frustrated with our body blocks that were meant to keep him out of anything deeper than his ankles.     

He’s not above temper tantrums of epic proportions.   

He is so observant that I think his head might be on a swivel.  It peels around so fast at any noise that it must make him dizzy; it certainly makes me dizzy.

His laugh, as any parent knows, is the best sound in the world.

You might be wondering about sleep and, boy, do we have a story to catch you up on there.  It’s a long one to share that has some important things to consider regarding attachment for other families contemplating adoption, and it’s one that I’ll finally sit down and write in the comings days and post for next Thursday’s Life at Home post (July 2).  What we have learned and experienced in the last two months has changed what we can do, how we can do it, and what is to come.  It has also made us much better parents and given us a baby boy who is more confident and sure.  Progress.  It’s the job of parents to create and protect the structures that allow for it.  It’s been a joy to see how our baby boy has grown in these past five months while marveling at how we’ve grown (and recognizing how far we still have to go).  Here’s to five months of family, 10 months of life, and an infinite amount of love.

June 24, 2009 at 8:47 pm 5 comments

Can you help spread the word?

Picture1

 

We’ve been recruiting M’ijas for the Class of 2015 for 2 weeks now and things are going really well.  We have 11 M’ijas signed up (meaning we have their forms in hand) to provide mentoring, programming, and scholarship support for the Hijas of the Class of 2015.  Their commitment combines for 1 and a half scholarships.  Our ultimate goal is to be able to provide this program to 10 girls in the Class of 2015 starting this September.  So we need to have the rest of those spots secured by the end of August.  Our goal is to have 3 of those scholarships accounted for by the end of June.  Can you help us out by spreading the word?  If you Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, blog, mass email, or anything else that reaches out to people and grabs them, and if the Circle de Luz story touches you, could you please consider sharing the mission of Circle de Luz wherever you can?  You are welcome to use any of the information below, and I’m happy to offer any other information that might be  helpful.  If you are able to share the information wherever you post, blog, share, I’d love to know.  Of course, if you are able to personally join this effort, we’d love to have you!      

Information about Circle de Luz:        

Latinos have the highest drop out rate of all racial and ethnic groups.  

Dropouts have an average annual income of $22,000. High school graduates will earn an additional $300,000 over the course of their career. College graduates will earn $2.1million in a lifetime.

Adolescent girls who had a serious school failure- like dropping out- are significantly more likely to suffer a severe bout of depression.  In fact, thirty-three percent of girls who drop out later become depressed.  Researchers believe this might be because girls more acutely suffer the worst consequences after dropping out like higher poverty levels, higher dependence on public assistance, and lower rates of job stability.                                                           

 Latinas between the ages of 12-17 are more likely to attempt to take their life than any other group.  Twenty-five percent say they have thought about it.  Fifteen percent have attempted suicide. 

A third of Latinas who dropped out cited marriage or pregnancy as the reason.                                          

 Fifty-three percent of Latinas will become pregnant at least once before the age of 20.                                       

Circle De Luz radically empowers young Latinas by supporting and inspiring them in the pursuit of their possibilities through extensive mentoring, programming, and scholarship funds for further education.  

This fall, we will select the Circle de Luz Class of 2015 from the current seventh graders at Ranson Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina to begin the program.  From now until the girls reach high school graduation, we will support them with mentoring and comprehensive programming to help them achieve their goal of graduating from high school and pursuing further education.  When they graduate from high school and enroll in the educational opportunity of their choice, we will support them with a minimum of a $5,000 scholarship provided to them by women, we call them M’ijas, from all over the country that pool their resources in a giving circle for the six years the girls are finishing their secondary education.  Our goal this year is to have at least 75 women enrolled as M’ijas in the Class of 2015 by August 15, yielding a minimum of 8 scholarships. 

We need your help in radically empowering these young women to live the lives they have imagined.  M’ijas can have any background and can live anywhere.  As a M’ija, you make a commitment to donate a minimum of $90 a year for six years to the scholarship fund that will support the Class of 2015’s Hijas (our scholarship recipients who are selected as seventh graders).  You do not need to make your donation for the 2009-2010 school year at this time.  In fact, all we need right now is your Letter of Commitment.  We then ask that ½ of your year’s commitment be paid by September 15 and the other half by March 15, 2010 (don’t worry, we’ll send you a reminder when the time comes!).  All scholarship donations are placed in a CD account designated for our Class of 2015 Hijas so interest can begin to accrue and provide them with an even more robust scholarship by the time they graduate.  The Letter of Commitment is attached, and you are welcome to mail, scan and email, or fax it by following the directions on the form.  Please take a look at our video at www.circledeluz.org to understand why this effort is so important.         

Thank you for helping us radically empower the lives of girls!

June 22, 2009 at 8:44 pm 1 comment

Life’s a beach

Just back from a little beach vacation where baby checked out the great blue ocean for the first time.  I’m in post vacation dig out mode so here are a few pictures until I can make my way back to the computer.  I’ll post more from the trip on Thursday!     
What's this?  Is it edible?

What's this? Is it edible?

 

Is this edible?  Five minutes later, that sand came back up along with baby's morning bottle.

Is this edible? Five minutes later, that sand came back up along with baby's morning bottle.

 

He crawls away

He crawls away

 

Come on in; the water's fine.

Come on in; the water's fine.

June 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm Leave a comment

Incorporating culture after your adoption (Puerto Rican culture)

I was recently asked what steps an adoptive family could take to help their daughter, who is of Puerto Rican descent, know her culture.  Honoring our child’s culture and heritage is so important, and I wanted to come up with good suggestions for this family.  My initial thoughts for her are below, but I would love to share suggestions from you, too!  Look for another blog post in the coming weeks on gleaning ideas for incorporating Ethiopian culture into daily life– something we want to be really intentional about doing as we raise our boy, and I know many of you have great ideas!     

Ideas for incorporating Puerto Rican culture into your life…       

1.  The food!  For a cookbook, I recommend Puerto Rican Cookery by Carmen Aboy Valdejuli.  It’s in English and really thorough.  Every day Puerto Rican meals are often a rice with meat and beans in it– like arroz con gandules– and tostones are a popular side.  The traditional holiday meat is pernil, (ham) and it’s delicious.
 
Speaking of holidays, some very easy things you can do to incorporate Puerto Rican traditions, if you’re Christian, are:
2.  Celebrate Three Kings Day. Christmas decorations stay up until Three Kings Day and usually something is done to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings.  It can be three small gifts for the kids– and small is totally fine, a special meal, a family tradition, etc.  Then the decorations come down. 
3.  Have a Parranda.  Parrandas are basically like a progressive dinner mixed in with Christmas caroling, and they are so much fun.  They are supposed to be totally spontaneous, but I think that would be hard to do stateside so I’d plan a night in December that you have a parranda with a few other friends.  You show up at one friend’s house, sing carols, they serve you snacks and then everyone moves on to the next friend’s house, sing carols, and they serve snacks, etc.  In Puerto Rico, it usually turns into a block party by the end but doing it with 2 or 3 interested families would be plenty of fun.  Here is a link to other Puerto Rican holiday traditions (and it has more about Parrandas and Three Kings Day).   

4.  Salsa music is big in Puerto Rico so buying some old classics and playing them around the house might be fun.  Here is a link to some of the history and it also mentions the big names in Puerto Rican Salsa history if you want to look for their music. 

5.  There is a very beautiful lace made in Puerto Rico called Mundillo. After it has been hand spun (and to watch it be hand spun is a thing of beauty), it is made into clothing, tableclothes, etc.  The clothes are especially beautiful.  My mom has bought her grandchildren clothing made with Mundillo, and I just love having this traditional clothing.  Boys also wear Guayaberas– and so you might get your boys those shirts instead of mundillo dresses.  
 

6.  Language!  Here’s a source for teaching Spanish to children (especially when you aren’t fluent yourself).

June 17, 2009 at 8:30 pm 1 comment

How did I get my first book contract?

When I went to graduate school for a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I had zero aspirations about being published. I’d gone to graduate school for writing because I used so much writing as self-discovery in my curriculum as a history and leadership teacher.  I wanted to be a better teacher and used writing as my primary tool to empower my students to own their own voices.  I thought getting an MFA would expose me to even more tools to use with my students.  At graduate school, we all needed to produce a book length work.  My book was a collection of linked poetry and nonfiction essays entitled Giving Up Beauty and it was an exploration of my body image, beauty perception, and ethnic identity as I came of age in the American South.  At graduation, my final advisor came up to me and said, “I noticed that you never went to any publishing workshops.”  He was right; those workshops were option and I hadn’t attended any of them.  “Yeah, I’m not planning on publishing.”  That comment began a long conversation about how publishing just wasn’t me.  Finally, he asked, “would you have felt better at 16 if you had just read any of the stuff you just spent the last two years writing?”  I imagine I looked a bit like a deer in headlights with that question because, truth be told, I probably would have less alone at 16 if I had come across the voice of a young Latina in the literature I was reading.  In fact, I had found the voices of African-Americans at that age and clung to their stories.  A few years later, I would design a major in African American studies and Urban Education issues as an undergrad.  “I challenge you,” my advisor told me, “to think of your classroom differently. It doesn’t just have to be the room where you teach.  It can be the book that you write that lands in others’ hands.  And just one book can reach more kids than you can in a decade.  Send things out for one year.  If nothing happens or you don’t find it rewarding, you can give it up.”  We made a deal, and I started figuring out what I could send out. 

Soon, the first poem I sent out won first place (and a check!) in a poetry contest.  I did readings and people responded.  Other poems and essays placed in other contests or were picked up in literary magazines.  One great place to learn about writing contests is the Creative Writers Opportunities List-Serve  .  One of the places that I had an essay picked up was the anthology Waking Up American, published by Seal Press.  I had had a few other things picked up in book anthologies by then and was impressed with Seal’s editing and packaging.  I researched them and decided to send a query letter, introducting myself formally and pitching an idea from a book.  Those conversations led to Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina.

Every writer has an interesting journey to first publication.  In my journey, I learned that it helps to spend time developing my craft and then plugging away with submission as those submissions led me to the perfect contact for what I wanted to do next.  Authors’ stories of publication and the writing/ publication business are fascinating and insightful.  A few places where I still go to learn more about the business are Allison Winn Scotch’s blogWriter UnboxedThe Renegade Writer, and Freelance Success.

June 16, 2009 at 7:54 pm Leave a comment

What role can we/ should we play in our family’s nutrition?

Honey's homegrown green beans were good and so is this bowl!

Honey's homegrown green beans were good and so is this bowl!

This question has come to the forefront of my mind with the addition of a baby to our family.  After a severe bout with hypoglycemia in my mid-20s, I became convinced that food was medicine.  At a time where I was so sick and fragile, food was the only way out of the waves of nausea and fainting spells that plagued me.  And having a careful constructed diet with fairly pure food choices and an exact number of carbs and proteins with each meal brought me back to health.  I stayed on this food plan for a year and then the uniformity of my meals— oatmeal, pb&j on whole wheat, grapes, and nuts to name just a few of my breakfast and lunch staples– resulted in massive food allergies that presented when I went into anaphylactic shock during a road race.  My new food priority was consuming food that wouldn’t consume me in hives, anaphylaxsis, or anything else that risked my health in a different way than the hypoglycemia had. 

Years later, I fell mostly off my pure food diet, although I always return diligently to its premise when it is convenient for me—I am starting to feel run down, I have a big trip or presentation coming up and want to be at my best, etc.  But I am not diligent to this premise all the time, and now I am the mother of a baby boy who is dependent on me to get it right.  I want to make sure that his food—from our earliest days together—is medicine for him—making him strong, robust, and ready for this world.  Monitoring my son’s nutrition now feels like some of the most important work that I can do for him, perhaps one of the most important foundations that I can lay down.  I am intimidated about doing this and doing it well but I am also buoyed by a sense of purposefulness that understands that food can be life giving, healing, and harmonious if I make choices that allow it to be.

A first step was planting our own vegetable patch in the little family garden that we have begun to celebrate baby’s birth parents.  The plants are growing wildly, and I’m excited to see what late July and August bring in terms of food.  I’m also picking up a book this week that Fighting Windmills recommended.  Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby’s First Foods by Nina Planck should be a real help as I navigate the land of solid foods with baby (even though the first 2 themes of the book are ones that I can skip over).  Got any other suggestions for the rookie mom who wants to do right by her kid?

June 15, 2009 at 7:52 pm Leave a comment

Please consider being a M’ija

A walk in the woods with some of the Circle de Luz Class of 2014 girls

A walk in the woods with some of the Circle de Luz Class of 2014 girls

In the first four days after we launched our efforts to get at least 75 women to support at least 8 girls in the Circle de Luz Class of 2015, we have already had six women turn in their Letters of Commitment.  They are responding to these statistics:

Latinos have the highest drop out rate of all racial and ethnic groups. 

Dropouts have an average annual income of $22,000. High school graduates will earn an additional $300,000 over the course of their career. College graduates will earn $2.1million in a lifetime.

Adolescent girls who had a serious school failure- like dropping out- are significantly more likely to suffer a severe bout of depression.  In fact, thirty-three percent of girls who drop out later become depressed.  Researchers believe this might be because girls more acutely suffer the worst consequences after dropping out like higher poverty levels, higher dependence on public assistance, and lower rates of job stability.                                                           

 Latinas between the ages of 12-17 are more likely to attempt to take their life than any other group.  Twenty-five percent say they have thought about it.  Fifteen percent have attempted suicide. 

A third of Latinas who dropped out cited marriage or pregnancy as the reason.                                          

 Fifty-three percent of Latinas will become pregnant at least once before the age of 20.

And they are also responding to their incredible desire to make a difference in the life of a young girl.  Just as we were beginning to launch our efforts to have women joing the Class of 2015 effort, we heard from our partner school.  They had 25 girls they wanted to enroll in Circle de Luz.  We would need over 200 women to commit to the Class of 2015 to offer these girls the opportunities that their school would like them to have, believes that they need.  There are exactly 2 months between now and when we need to tell the school how many girls we can support.  Will you help us make this program possible for one more girl with your commitment? 

Here are the details:

This fall, we will select the Circle de Luz Class of 2015 from the current seventh graders at Ranson Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina to begin the program.  From now until the girls reach high school graduation, we support them with mentoring and comprehensive programming to help them achieve their goal of graduating from high school and pursuing further education.  When they graduate from high school and enroll in the educational opportunity of their choice, we support them with a minimum of a $5,000 scholarship provided to them by women, we call them M’ijas, from all over the country that pool their resources in a giving circle for the six years the girls are finishing their secondary education.  Our goal this year is to have at least 75 women enrolled as M’ijas in the Class of 2015 by August 15, yielding a minimum of 8 scholarships. 

We need your help in radically empowering these young women to live the lives they have imagined.  M’ijas can have any background and can live anywhere.  As a M’ija, you make a commitment to donate a minimum of $90 a year for six years to the scholarship fund that will support the Class of 2015’s Hijas (our scholarship recipients who are selected as seventh graders).  You do not need to make your donation for the 2009-2010 school year at this time.  In fact, all we need right now is your Letter of Commitment.  We then ask that ½ of your year’s commitment be paid by September 15 and the other half by March 15, 2010 (don’t worry, we’ll send you a reminder when the time comes!).  All scholarship donations are placed in an interest bearing account designated for our Class of 2015 Hijas so interest can begin to accrue and provide them with an even more robust scholarship by the time they graduate.  The Letter of Commitment can be found here, and you are welcome to mail, scan and email, or fax it by following the directions on the form.  Please take a look at our video to understand why this effort is so important.         

 Thank you so much for considering!

June 15, 2009 at 7:45 pm 1 comment

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In a Bookstore Near You

What does it mean to be beautiful in America? For years, pop culture has insisted that beautiful women are tall, thin, and blonde. So what do you do if your mirror reflects olive skin, raven hair, and a short build? Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina offers a provocative account of the struggles and triumphs of Latina forced to reconcile these conflicting realities. Rosie Molinary combines her own experience with the voices of hundreds of Latinas who grew up in the US navigating issues of gender, image, and sexuality. This empathetic ethnography exemplifies the ways in which our experiences are both profoundly individualistic and comfortingly universal.
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