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She almost threw up on the way to Penn Station. Too many sites and too many late nights had taken their toll on my seasoned little traveler, but it couldn’t be helped. My work in the city meant 50 minute train rides to my friend’s place in the Bronx and by the time her head hit the pillow the day of my speaking gig, we were well past normal bedtime hours. Seven more stops before our stop, but the she was swaying on her feet, fighting to keep her eyes open and trying not to gag. We got out at the next stop.

This is how I found myself sitting on a subway platform, back to the wall, and my luggage serving as arm rests while an overly tired and extremely nauseous child slept with her head on my lap. We sat with my legs wrapped around her and I waited while she slept because I could always catch a later train home. It was that, or figure out how to carry the girl who didn’t complain once about how far we had to walk or how much she had to carry no matter how tired and hungry she was. Growing six inches in a summer and losing four baby molars in about as many weeks is enough to kick anyone’s ass.

I yawned because I was tired, too, but I had my badass lipstick painted on and my clothes clearly stated that I don’t often find myself sitting on the floor of a subway station so my child could rest because it was that or aiming for the cheapest pair of shoes on the train.

No one wants to be that mom.

I didn’t make a lot of eye contact with anyone. They were in a rush and I was tweeting and Facebooking and taking far too many selfies for the blog post I knew I would be writing later. “Hey, remember that funny story about the time I almost fell asleep on the train to Penn Station. mama?” I imagine Eliana slapping her thigh and laughing just a bit loudly in that way that will remind me that she is only seven going on 17. It will be funny later, I figure. Most likely starting from the moment I sit my ass down in coach the train ride home. The stories worth telling are never funny during.

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There is something magical about New York, unlike anything I have ever experienced elsewhere in that you could find yourself sitting on the cold cement platform watching the 2 trains stop and go and pick up and drop off. It’s a novel kind of privacy I actually enjoy during my short visits. I might live in the backwoods of Northern Maine but I’m originally from Detroit. I know how the game is played and the first rule is to avoid eye contact if you want to avoid conversations about the weather and why you don’t speak better Spanish. Truth be told, I didn’t feel like answering questions about my face or swollen knuckles. There’s something to be said for regularly exposing my body to an allergen that I didn’t know was an allergen for seven years straight. For a moment, I marvel at the fact that I didn’t kill myself by accident tripping over a random coconut a long time ago.

I knew I looked like hell. But I thought it didn’t matter because I was (mostly ) having a good day and I was wearing my badass lipstick and I wasn’t ashamed to be seen. Until A woman offered me a phone number for help me because the program she was recommending had helprd her to find the strength to leave her abusive lover. I wanted to cover my face. Instead, I replied in halting Spanish with assurances that my husband doesn’t beat me and that the face she was eying doubtfully looked the way it did because of extreme food allergies. I thanked her for caring enough to reach out while silently screaming at her inside of my head for stepping out of the cultural norm calling for everyone to pretend the bride at the latest family wedding isn’t already six months pregnant. We play the game and talk behind each others backs because it would be rude to point out the baby born just three months later isn’t some kind of miracle premie. This is what I ecxpected, but I’m instead being sized up by an elderly Latina who doesn’t give a shit about societal norms or why so many of them suck.

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I’m too busy being embarrassed by the face I forget other people will ask me about to press further about my domestic “situation” to take the card she was offering me. I think we could have become friends. The woman looked doubtful and gently  stroked her own nose, as if she could feel the discomfort she saw and this was how to soothe the hurt. Raw and red with inflammation, I briefly wondered if Rudolph maybe has the same allergy and if Santa carries his epi pen … just in case.

The woman left On her train. And then I made $105.

The platform filled and emptied again and again and I waited my little girl out because a week in NYC is enough to kick anyone’s ass and she did it with growing pains and visits from the Traveling Tooth Fairy. One man risked missing his train to run to me and hand me a $5 bill.  You didn’t ask me, he said. But go but yourself and your daughter something. And I said thank you to the closing  doors of the man’s train because he was handing me money one moment and on the train in a blink and I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t know what it was exactly that people saw when they looked at me.
I was the well-groomed stray cat sticking out in a sea of the dirty and streetwise. I obviously Belonged to Somebody and maybe the $100 bill another man just handed me would help me be found. Lord knows I wouldn’t hand a nickel to the outstretched hand attached to the toothless begger reeking of filth and whiskey just hours later. Maybe a sandwich. Maybe two, if he would smile in appreciation like the last homeless person I have my lunch to, because there’s a difference in asking for help and asking for a boost to get drunk and stay there. I’m betting those nice people who thought I needed saving figured I looked like a sure bet. Their act of kindness wouldn’t be wasted because I wore good leather boots and $16 per tube lipstick and took too many selfies with my new smartphone, just so I could delete all but 4 when I finally found the words I needed to write this out.

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I know I was exhausted. Adhd doesn’t lend to restful nights when traveling and no sleep. Having only minimal safe foods to eat until back on my own turf didn’t help in the clarity of mind department and my attempts to shrink into myself so as to avoid a total breakdown should one more good Samaritan dropping money in my lap were a total and obvious fail.
I was looking down at the very platform on which I sat, holding my kid and trying to figure out why I couldn’t process how I felt when two pair of black boots appeared within the frame of my lashes. The police officers only wanted to ask if I needed help because they had been told, by more than one person, that I might. I can’t say if they mentioned my face and the history they imagined went with it. Maybe I was fleeing from a hell I’ve never lived with all I could carry. Maybe my little girl was the reason I found the strength to leave. Please … help that woman, I imagine the cops are told by people normally too in a hurry to see  the roses they’ve stepped on, much less stopping to smell them. She doesn’t belong down there, they might say. She can be saved.
They smiled down at me. I saw  concern and compassion and I tripped on my words as I gave the fastest version I could of the truth, hoping it would be enough for them to leave because I was about to break from the weight of concerned questions and the  pitying glances that made me wonder if I’ll believe myself the next time I say something inspirational like You Define Your Own Worth and Ignore the Haters because self-perception is only half of the equation that makes up our own realities. The cops smile and wish me luck with the sleepy kid because I was believable because it was my truth and not a well-meaning stranger’s misplaced kindess. I am grateful. The bits of dignity I have left are so close to fraying. I need them whole. I need me whole. We have a train to catch to Penn Station, and if she wakes up right about…now… I see lashes fluttering … we won’t even have to run with our Too Much Luggage and tired legs and feet.
And then she was up and standing and a bit wonder-struck because she is the girl who gave up napping at 12 months old who today was so tired she slept on her mama’s lap on the platform for the 2 train.

I’m thankful she will only know what i tell her, after we are seated on the train taking us north, because few things rattle a child more than seeing a parent cry. I will tell her pieces of truth because she knows when I’m lying but not when I’m selectively eliminating truth from that which I share with her. I’m tired and hungry, and that I just needed a minute and I’ll be just fine. She nodded and hugged me close, reassuring herself more than me, but I didn’t mind because one day she won’t want me to hold her close. She is smiling at me, beautifully self-assured and confident in herself in my love. She is my rock, this girl is, and I wondered which one of us is actually teaching the other to celebrate our Chingona spirit and owning our worth.

She squeezed me tighter for just a moment before asking if she could move across the isle to spread out and play on her iPad. I nodded before closing my eyes. When I looked up a few moments later and our eyes locked, she giggled. I know I am loved. She smiled at me and suddenly I could breathe because I can see myself through my daiughters eyes and I am beautuful and strong and her everything. Because she sees me, I am no longer ashamed.

 

***

 

I wanted to add a note here at the end to tell you that I still have the $105 in my wallet. I’m not quite sure what to do with it. The logical first step is to determine if the hundred dollar bill is real. If it proves to be, I’m going to pay the kindness forward. I’m not sure how yet, but I am sure this will all play out just as it is meant to. I promise to share more later. For now, the story is shared, the words free from the cramped space in my skull, and I’ve got a date with a turkey needing to be stuffed. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for validating me and the words I share.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Yep.. much better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Volume and visibility.

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

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

…and now you know what validation feels like.

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

(This is the part where you come in.)

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

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

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

Exactly. 

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

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

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

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

And this is the part where I say thank you. 

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

 

I think it goes without saying that I’m a bit behind. Life can get in the way sometimes and when that happens, all bet are off. These are the times when the words I write for a paycheck take precedence over the ones I write in the name of building a fucking platform without a solid set of directions because subjectivity is A Thing to clear my head so I can sleep.

A lot has happened since I posted last. No book deals. No agents fighting over me and my mad writing skillz. But I have launched two etsy shops, a podcast, and can now officially cross Be Mentioned in a Tweet with Hollywood director Robert Rodriguez by Rick Najera off of my bucket list. I’ll fill you in on the specifics about the etsy shops and the podcast on Wednesday. For now, I’ll just remind you about the Me & Robert Rodriguez in the same 140.

 

 

See? It did sound just as badass the second time around. I kinda figure it would.

For now, though, I’m going to focus on I’m concentrating on waiting out an allergic reaction and passing the time by creating a Pinterest board for my writing clips. So much as changed and so much has stayed the same. And Then There was One was written in December of 2012.

 

***

I’m selling baby clothes. I guess I didn’t think writing up ads for cloth diapers and Gymboree jumpers was going to be as depressing as it’s turning out to be, but it is. I’m not just selling clothes. I’m putting prices on memories and letting go of hope. I’m the oldest of five. The Husband is the youngest of four.

Eliana wasn’t supposed to be an only.

For Sale
* Honest baby tee 12-18 mths
* George newborn white dress worn 1x after baptism 0-3 mth, plain white diaper cover included. 
* Old navy blue striped skirt 18-24 mth 
* Gender neutral newborn sleeper (baby) 0-3 mth
* Pink striped hooded dress 18-24 mth (plain pink diaper cover incuded)
* Old navy burgundy dress pink collar 18-24 mth 
* Pink tutu up to 12 mth (used once for 6 mth photo session & Halloween) 
* Vincent size pink frog shoe sz 16 euro 
* U of m lined windbreaker 18 mths – $6
I start with the basics. Photograph each piece. List the size and write a brief description. Calculate a fair price that allows for people to talk me down a bit and feel like they got a deal. I try to ignore the images in my mind with each item I put in the box marked “baby items for sale.” I remember almost all of it. And my mind took more photos than I realized.
This sleeper she wore when I was hospitalized the third time for severe mastitis in her first six weeks. I’ve got a photo of her on my chest, head held up, nurses stunned she could already do that. I list it for $2.
* Dress my Godmother brought back from one of her trips to Puerto Escondido in Mexico. Not for sale.
 * Children’s place adjustable waist 18 mth ruffle jeans – $5
* Brown old navy winter baby boots 6-12 mths
* Matching Hawaiian  hat and onsie set (worn once for an island themed wedding right after she was born) $5
* Carter white spring sweater 9 mths (used for Easter & other special occasions, no stains) -$3
* Pink sweater, newborn, knitted for me by my grandmother who never learned to speak English & wanted my mother to name me Erika because the woman on the soap opera she couldn’t understand was glamorous & feisty, not for sale
* The yellow one she made me, not for sale
* 6-9 mth jeans with white dog embroidery. Not sure of brand. Perfect condition $2
* See Kai run black sandals sz 8-$10
* Open back summer dress top & ruffled diaper cover, white, no stains. Sz 3-6 mth (I should know when she wore this but maybe I shouldn’t. Dad died when she was 5 mths old. I’ll set this one in the maybe pile) Oh wait…never mind. We sold that one this afternoon.
* 1 Carter’s white newborn onsie. Still white. I promise this means we forgot to put this one on her and not that I bubble wrapped her through babyhood. 50 cents
* Make that 2 Carter’s unstained white newborn onsies for 50 cents each. 
* More handmade baby clothes. One for me by Guela. A few for baby by my sisters ex-mother-in-law. One outfit worn for hospital pics. None is for sale.
 * Newborn tee, super tiny, no sz, maybe hospital issued. Free with anything else you buy
* Gerber onsie, 0-3 mths, still white. I’m starting to wonder what small miracle allowed this to happen. She wore this one. I know she did. And yet I can’t keep a white t shirt stain free for longer than it takes me to cut the store tag off. I now have a complex.
* Random but not random pink flowered newborn summer romper & diaper cover. I don’t know when she wore this & that bothers me. But I need to put this one away for her with that little pile of memories to pass down one day
* 3-6 mth  cotton pants & matching hat. We’re keeping the shirt on the dog stuffed animal we made as a keepsake. Her name’s on it. I’m making myself be practical. Daffy never wore pants so I’m not allowing myself to keep those. See? Progress.
* Pink sweater for me by Guela. I see the photos of me wearing this in my mind. I see the ones of my child in the frames. Not for sale.
* 0-3 mth gender neutral sleeveless onsie. White. Stain free. I should maybe start going to church regularly again.
* 3 mth gender neutral white sleeper. I know I won’t get up in time for the Sunday morning mass. But Saturday at 5 pm is totally doable. Maybe. Fine. We all know I’m not going and spending the entire mass explaining to Buttercup that church and Easter egg hunts are not synonymous or the explicit difference between being Catholic and Mexican-Catholic…because there is.
* Gender neutral onsies of various sizing & hospital issued baby tee. All as a package. Now questioning why white is such a popular color for clothing meant for adorable little beings who live to eat, sleep, poop, & spit up.
* Pink frog face pre walkers (not in original packaging) sz 17 (euro)
* My baptismal bonnet. Wow.
* 12 mth turquoise tee. My dog Walks all over me.
You’ll buy it from us for your firstborn, still convinced your friends with older kids are all heartless bastards. *Your* dog will not get demoted. There will be 2 walks per day, trips to the dog park to socialize, & that Christmas stocking Will Get filled. The walk…right…. After you find something you can wear out of the house that doesn’t have spit up on it, the baby has woken from her nap, and you change because she spit up on you again. You give up & barely register the dog didn’t even get excited when you jingled the collar while there was still hope. But you tried. And your dog still loves you. I promise.
* Robeez pink pre walkers sz 0-6 mths. Loved this brand. You totally will too. You’re welcome.
There.
All listed and pretty on the private Facebook group saving me the headache of dealing with a garage sale.
And then The Husband comes home from work with news. We are being transferred to Maine for his job and it’s going to happen pretty quickly. It’s time to repack. And maybe I can buy enough gas to get us from Arizona to Maine after I sell the last seven bins full of the dreams.

 

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