It’s 2:05 a.m. and instead of forcing my brain to create something new and brilliant tonight, I thought I’d take the easy route and try reposting something from way back when. It’s not something I do often, but each time I’ve searched the archives — which date back to September 2009, by the way — I’ve found the experience to be something like the writer-equivalent to reminiscing with an old photo album.

There are squeals — I forgot about that!

And frowns — Oh shit…I forgot about that, too.

There are emails to friends mentioned in shared stories with links and love and laughter.

And sometimes, the beginning of a story we didn’t know was actually starting surprises us when we stumble across the words, marveling at the moment captured in words. Looking at that moment from the After side of things is much different than the Before, what with hindsight being ever so much clearer than tomorrow’s uncertainties. Could I have told you that the first time I met The Husband that we would marry and move across the country? Not when I met him.

Looking back, though, I can see it. All the little bits and moments that made that first encounter so very different from all the rest. Because everything is obvious when you walk the steps already taken.

Four years ago, I met a man at a writing conference named Rick Najera. At the time I couldn’t have possibly told you that our paths would cross again. An hour ago I couldn’t have told you the words below even existed — five years of blogging can do that to you. Right this very minute, I’m rereading the bits and the moments captured in a post written in May of 2010 and counting the steps taken between my yesterday and my today.

***

 

the pain of the macho

“What do you want me to say? I’ll write whatever you want.”

It’s Rick Najera speaking. He’s holding a copy of The Pain of the Macho in his hands, pen ready to personalize the first page for me.  My response is nothing but a “blink, blink.”

“Come on,” Rick says. “Tell me what to write.”

I imagine sweet little lies. Empty words of praise that might look good on paper but ring false to anyone with a heartbeat.

Pauline Campos is the best writer I’ve ever met!

Pauline Campos will be more famous than me!

Pauline Campos is so good I’m going to ask her to become part of my Hollywood team and she can work from home because it’s just safer that way!

The man might be a comedic genius and a highly respected actor/writer/director who told me my work has serious potential doesn’t suck, but he only met me 24 hours earlier. To ask him to lie to me verbally is one thing.

On paper?

That’s just sacrilegious.

“I really have no idea,” I said out loud. “I don’t want it to be bullshit.”

Rick stood there for a moment, probably amazed by both my lack of a filter and the fact that I didn’t want him to whisper meaningless sweet nothings that would just piss me off when he handed the book back. I hadn’t planned on buying anything else that would add to my already busting-at-the-seams suitcase, but we all got yelled at by the higher-ups at the conference for not supporting our fellow writers during the first book sale/book signing. So I bucked up, bought the smallest book there, handed it to Rick, and made a mental note to send my receipt for having a 55-pound suitcase back to the conference organizers for guilting me into buying more books (I already had five on the nook written by conference faculty that I paid for) with a demand for reimbursement.

I almost asked what he had been asked to sign in other people’s books, but decided I really didn’t want to know.

“Let’s try another route,” Rick said. “Where do you want to be a year from now?”

Ding, ding, ding!

That one was easy and I answered without hesitating.

“I want my book on the New York Times best seller list and America Ferrera pegged to play me in the movie based on my book.”

Rick smiled and began to write. This is what he “put out into the universe.” Which, he says, means it has to come true…

*****

This break is brought to you by our sponsors, Chicken Scratch and Man Writing, as the author of this post tries to decipher what was written. Please, ladies and gentlemen, your patience is appreciated…

*****

Um…I think it says:

This book was my beginning. Yours will end up on New York Times with America playing the lead. Best, Rick Najera

*****

Disclaimer: And I only got that far because he read it out loud to me before handing back my book. There’s something to be said for memory retention, people.

 

 

ricknajera

So I traveled to New York to speak at Rick Najera’s #AlmostWhite NYC book tour stop and you bet your sweet ass I wasn’t leaving without picture proof that he knows who I am.
Yes, I *know* he’s an actor and good at pretending. I take adderall and am good at forgetting. I think that makes us even. Moving on….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet Dennis Sanchez, the genius behind MVM Events. He’s the lucky guy smack in the middle between me and the only white chick in the room. That’s Sarah Fader and I think it’s important to note we became friends because I saw an update about Three Year Olds being Assholes and was all It’s Like you KNOW Me and this is proof that you can be friends with someone one Facebook and not know who the hell they are until they post an update you could have written yourself. This is *also*probably  a good time to mention that she’ll tell you she’s Jewish and that isn’t the same thing as white.
I’m not disagreeing. I’m only stating that it wasn’t the Not White chick’s face I had to work my ass off to make visible while editing this photo.
Also? You can step away from the tanning bed now, Dennis. Or plan for better lighting at the next Thing for Latinos because…Obviously.

photo(8)

This girl introduced herself by her social media handle and it went something like this: “It’s @VDLR, youknow, like for my name but think Venereal Disease Lion Roar?”
And that, boys and girls, is how you make a first impression. Don’t ask me her for her actual name. I got nuthin’.

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

This girl is hereby nominated as President of Any Fan Club Ever Created in My Honor Should I Become Important Enough for One. Her name is Joyce and you should follow her on twitter and instagram (@hvnlee) because I just made her important.
And yes, thanks, my therapist says I’m making major strides on that self-confidence thing. Oh right…and the adderall wore off before I got to water-marking the rest of my pictures. So, don’t be an asshole and we can remain friends.

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

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

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

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

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

And this? This makes me want to plan a trip devoted to interviewing the subway artists and performers. There are so many stories to tell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo 3(1)

The stop in Boston on the way home?
Three hours.
So we explored. Instead of eating, my kid earned my appreciation at the Boston Children’s Museum for a week proving to the haters that homeschooled kids don’t live in closets and are, in fact, very socialized.
Thankyouverymuch.

photo 5(3)

A text message led to a change of plans. We left New York City a day early for an overnight stop in Albany to visit with Ana Roca-Castro and her family. Eliana is in love with her daughter and I’m under orders to ask Miss Ana if we can stay with her every time we happen to “be close by”.

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

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

CameraAwesomePhoto(4)

And then it was over.
We were in Maine.
On an interstate that got emptier as we drove further north. It’s still light out. We still had hope we’d arrive home before midnight, seeing as we had four hours between us and home at this point.

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

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

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

The End.

***

UPDATE!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* The rules:

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

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

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

** Deadline is midnight, EST, April 22.

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

So…who’s in?

 

 

Welcome to WEEK 4 of #ChingonaFest Fridays on Aspiring Mama. Technically, it’s week 5 because I missed last Friday due to the NYC craziness for Rick Najera’s #AlmostWhite book launch, but let’s not dawdle on the Me Dropping the Momentum Thing, shall we? I’ll be talking about all of THAT craziness on Monday. For now, let’s get back on the Spanglish Bitchfest Wagon.

 

If you’re new to the blog, here’s the link to the my Latina Dimelo column that sparked the conversation that’s still going strong. The premise is this: I want to raise my daughter to be a Chingona — on purpose, Las Tias and cultural backlash be damned. If you like the column, I’d love for you to share with your social media circles, leave a comment on the link, or whip up a happy lil’ Letter to the Editor telling them how you feel and send it off to Editor@Latina.com. You may not think that kind of thing makes a difference, but trust me when I tell you that it does.

 

Have you checked out my past #ChingonaFest ladies? Lori Luna and Veronica Arreola were two of the most recently featured wonder women. Each week, I’m featuring one fabulous Latina who’s moving mountains and raising hell because their stories are worth telling. Twenty questions will be presented to each and 15 will be answered and presented here to you in a Q&A format, like the fancy features in magazines, only with more typos and less airbrushing.

 

This week’s Chingona is Helen Troncoso, doctor and title-holding beauty queen with her heels firmly dug into the feminist camp. Helen has been featured pretty much everywhere (including Latina Magazine as a Top Ten Health & Fitness Blogger) Her most recent endeavor is as co-host of a new show,“El Bien Estar del Hogar con Casa Latina”, on V-me TV, the first national Spanish-language network to partner with American public television, and the fourth largest Spanish network in the United States. This show will follow Helen as she will work with women to transform their health and lives. Catch up with Helen on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and check out her site for some healthy motivation.

 

And now! Time for the interview!

 

 photo(11)

Dr. Helen Troncoso

Dr. Helen Troncoso


 

Pauline Campos: Chocolate or vanilla?

 

 Helen Troncoso: I’m not a big ice cream fan, but when I indulge I’d rather go for something more fun like butter pecan.

 

PC: Okay then… *pushes The Box Helen Doesn’t Like to Be Put In to the side*. Let’s try this one…What’s your favorite quote?

 

HT: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” by C.S. Lewis. I found that many times we as women tend to get caught up in other people’s dreams and forget about the ones we made, for the good of the family or the relationship. In my case, I totally reinvented my life and health just 4 short years ago. To make a long story short, I left an abusive relationship, broken engagement and had to move to a new state and start all over. I was scared sh**less, and yes there were lots of times when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I did it.

 

PC: Starting over can be a huge pain in the ass. Go You for making it happen. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

 

HT: Feminism is defined as, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”  I know some may not consider a woman who has done beauty contests a “feminist” but I do! Beyond equal rights, I believe a woman should have the right to choose what’s right for her life. Feminism is not a, “zero sum game” as Nancy Redd once said. It’s not about having to look or act a certain way so that other people can feel comfortable labeling you. We have certainly made strides as women in many different fields, but, it’s no surprise that we still have leaps and bounds to go. Whenever I talk to young women, I always tell them to support their fellow sisters. We have so many other people coming down on us, that we need to stop the attacks and division amongst us. How are we supposed to tell women “si se puede” when our own words and actions don’t reflect that.

 

PC: Yes, people will bitch because that’s what people like to do. I, for one, am all for going against the grain. Feminist Beauty Queen? Why not? Now, describe yourself in third person.

 

HT: Helen is probably the most determined and hard-working person you will ever meet. She’s also one of the most sensitive women ever. She’s a dreamer and a doer who completely reinvented herself and is fearlessly living the life she always imagined.

 

PC: You said “probably”. I say “Definitely”. Who inspires you?

 

HT: All of those women who fearlessly continue to go after their dreams, no matter how many times they may have failed, or how crazy their ideas may seem. 

 

 

PC: I’m a fucking mess, which — if you connect the dots inside my head — means I inspire you. This is where you lie to me if I’m wrong.  Everybody else does. So, who is it you hope to inspire?

 

HT: Any woman who feels like she may have gotten off track and wonders if her dreams can really come true. Women who can’t recognize who’s staring back at them in the mirror. I’m there to tell them sometimes God’s rejection is blessed redirection.

 

PC: Redirection is a good thing. Do you dream in color or black and white?

 

HT: I don’t dream often, but occasionally I do dream like what can best be described as a black and white film. 

 

PC: I like black & white. Let’s play word association. I say CHINGONA and you say…

 

HT: Pa’que tu lo sepas!

 

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

 

HT:I don’t think we’re represented correctly, but I think that applies to all women. I don’t thinker should bash Sofia Vergara (who is actually an amazing business woman) or think to be successful you have to be just like Sonia Sotomayor. We have enough labels and boxes people (our families) put us in, that we need to stop doing it to one another as women. If we want how we’re represented in the media to change, then we need to do more than get mad for a few moments and then forget about it.

 

PC: You’re damned right about that. One childhood memory that has stuck with you…

 

HT: My dad is truly my best friend, and I don’t ever take for granted our relationship. I grew up knowing that I was loved, and that I could do anything, and he would always be there right by my side.

 

PC: I love hearing that. Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?

 

HT: All of the above. English is definitely my dominant language, but I’m finding myself speaking Spanish more so nowadays. It’s all good! If I’m tired or you’re a good friend and you won’t judge me, you’ll probably hear my crazy Spanglish. 

 

PC: Is there any other kind of Spanglish? Exactly. Now, what’s your favorite dish? Why?

 

HT: Pollo guisado. To this day there is not one restaurant, or another person that can make it as good as my mom! It’s the ultimate comfort food.

 

PC: *Sigh* I miss my mom’s homemade flour tortillas. Do you feel “Latina enough”?

 

HT: I think I’ve come full circle. I grew up in Long Island, and went to high school where I could count on one hand the number of Latinas. My “Latino” experience was limited to my family members. It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand how amazing being a Latina was! It’s not about speaking Spanish (although that’s important to me), nor is it the color of our skin. It is about our culture and traditions and the intangible things that make us Latinas.

 

PC: *Nods head* One Latina stereotype you despise?

 

HT: That we have tons of children out of wedlock. Hello! No kids, and if that’s how the Universe wants it, not having them until someone puts a ring on this finger. 

 

PC: I’ll let Beyonce know. Last one! One Latina stereotype you embrace (or is there one?)

 

HT: That we’re family orientated.

 

And there ya have it. To nominate a Latina for a future #ChingonaFest Friday feature, email me at aspiringmama@gmail.com or tweet e with the hashtag #ChingonaFest. And don’t forget to check out this week’s Dimelo Advice column on Latina Magazine and be sure to send me your questions to dimelo@latina.com.

 

Check out my Mexican in Maine Etsy shop for Sassy Spanglish Digital Quote Prints and sign up for The Tortilla Press Newsletter (Look at the sidebar, y’all)! Follow me on Twitter, instagram, and here’s the FB fan page! I know. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

Week THREE, Y’all! I’m keepig count because you should be impressed. I usually suck at anything that requires follow-through. Except deadlines. Gimme words to  write and have an editor light a fire under my ass and, for some reason, I hit the ground running. Anyway, I’m loving the energy and feedback I’m receiving about #ChingonaFest Fridays. Have you seen Pili Montilla and Veronica Arreola’s features yet?

 

It seems I’ve added Chingona Cheerleader to my soapbox recently (Mostly by accident but I’m running with it anyway). Each week, I’m featuring one fabulous Latina who’s moving mountains and raising hell because their stories are worth telling. Twenty questions will be presented to each and 15 will be answered and presented here to you in a Q&A format, like the fancy features in magazines, only with more typos and less airbrushing.

 

Lori Luna’s bio speaks for itself. She is the Vice President of Events Operations, overseeing all operational and logistical elements of BlogHer conferences. Since joining BlogHer in 2009, Lori has helped grow the conference business from one annual conference a year to include BlogHer Food, Entrepreneurs and BlogHer PRO, as well as the annual flagship event. With more than 12 years in the event/conference industry and background producing events such as COMDEX, N+I, and ad:tech, Lori has been instrumental in growing attendance for the events, as well as revenue for the company.  

And now! Time for the interview!

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me headshot 8.28.30 PM 8.28.30 PM

Lori Luna

Pauline Campos: Chocolate or vanilla?  

 

Lori Luna: Always vanilla, I know that is boring to some but it makes me happy.  Vanilla is so versatile and can make anything taste good.

PC: I’ll go with that. Vanilla is kind of the blank canvas of the ice cream world. Favorite book and why: 

 

LL: Anything that has a political nature.  I love to read autobiographies of political people.  I find it fascinating as to why they do what they do and how they came to where they are whether it was in the past or current.  Another is the Book of Questions…it’s an icebreaking book that asks random questions that both starts conversation and generates fabulous discussion.

PC: So you’re saying the Twilight series is out. Okay, then..lWhat’s your favorite quote?  

 

LL: Fake it ’til you make it

 

PC: No wonder we get along. I say that all the time. I won’t ask you how I’m doing till I’ve crossed the finish line. Do you consider yourself a feminist?  

 

LL: Most of the time.  There are certain things I am passionate about such as equal pay for equal work and then there are things that just don’t bother me like they would bother someone else. I guess I am an issues oriented feminist.

 

PC: Issue Oriented? I LOVE that. *Adds to mental Rolodex to use in stimulating conversation* Describe yourself in third person  

 

LL: Lori is a kind, generous, thoughtful person.  She has passion and fire and that is both good and bad.  She is fiercely loyal and will live and die on principle.

 

PC: I like the honesty. My fire isn’t always nice, either. Who inspires you?  

 

LL: Smart people.  When I have the opportunity to meet really smart people who are doing something fabulous I am inspired.  I also just watched the Tina Turner interview by Oprah and wow!  She was very inspirational.  I think I’m inspired in the moment..I don’t have a single person that I think, she (or he) inspires me to be “x”

 

PC: *Blushing* It’s okay, Lori. You don’t have to talk in riddles. You inspire me, too. Do you dream in color or black and white?  

 

LL: Color

 

PC: ME TOO! But I don’t remember my dreams very often. How do you feel about Latinas and how we are represented in the media?  

 

LL: Frankly I am tired of how Latina women are always showcased with an accent. As if none of us were born here and can speak without the accent.  I find it annoying!  Oh and there aren’t enough of us!!!

 

PC: Amen on the accent thing. I don’t think I have one, either, except I roll my ‘R’s’ when I say “three”. Go figure. Quick! One takeaway you want your children to hold onto after they’ve grown and flown the nest…  

 

LL: I don’t have kids 

 

PC: And let’s add “a million children running around in diapers” to the Latina stereotype. I’ve got one and the last family wedding I went to, I had tias outright ask me why I only had one. Like I failed the Mexican test, or something. Anyway, one childhood memory that has stuck with you…  

 

LL: One of my favorite memories is riding in the car with my mom and I was about 5 and Ricky Nelson was on the radio singing Garden Party.  My mom specifically called out these lyrics: You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxdiraVxwkI)  Ever since then I live by the idea that you can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.

 

PC: Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?  

 

LL: Sadly I only speak English, what a pathetic Latina!

 

PC: Stop it right now. Language doesn’t define us. We do, sister. End. Of. Story. What’s your favorite dish? Why?  

 

LL: Anything my father cooks!  He makes a mean chorizo and menudo and oh, that always makes me feel like home.

 

PC: CHORIZO – yum! MENUDO- *blech!* Do you feel “Latina enough”? 

 

LL: Not when I’m surrounded by other Latinas who are fluent in Spanish and doing something in the Latin community…then I feel lame.  I am never ashamed or embarrassed by who I am I just feel lame that I haven’t embraced my culture as much as I think I should.  

 

PC: Stop feeling lame, woman! I used to feel the same way, but now I just focus on my own perspective on Being Latina. Also? You like menudo. That automatically means you earned your Mexican card. Now…You have the chance to eat dinner and drink wine with one person, living or dead. Who is it, what do you eat, what kind of wine, AND WHY THAT PARTICULAR PERSON? 

 

LL: President Clinton! I have had an absurd political crush on him for years.  He is brilliant, charming, charismatic and did I say brilliant?  

 

PC: It takes a special kind of charm to make us all question the meaning of the word “is”, that’s for damned sure. Do you chew your ice cream? (Or is that just a Me thing?)  

 

LL: No. Chew ice cream???

 

PC: Okay, then. Just me. MOVING ON! Describe your perfect day.  

 

LL: Any day where I can be with my dog and just relax – Missy first!

 

And there ya have it. To nominate a Latina for a future #ChingonaFest feature, email me at aspiringmama@gmail.com or tweet e with the hashtag #ChingonaFest. And don’t forget to check out this week’s Dimelo Advice column on Latina Magazine (this week’s reader hid in her bathroom to email me about the dogshit her mother-in-law left on the carpet. I suggested wine and a bendy straw. Send me your questions to dimelo@latina.com.

Check out my Mexican in Maine Etsy shop for Sassy Spanglish Digital Quote Prints and sign up for The Tortilla Press Newsletter (Look at the sidebar, y’all)! Follow me on Twitter, instagram, and here’s the FB fan page! I know. You’re welcome. 

 

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.

This one wins for Best Title.

 

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.

 

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