Photo by Pauline Campos

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

‘Fine?” That’s usually a lie.

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

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

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

That, my friends, pisses me off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I hate that.

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

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

All of this is today’s truth.

Now tell me…

How are you doing?

 
Wishing Her True Girl Body Pride

Photo by Pauline Campos

She was two when she first asked me where babies come from. Without knowing where I was going to go with it, I pointed up and watched her her head tilt up for her eyes to focus on the night sky above.

“The stars,” I said.

Her entire being lit up upon hearing these words and she snuggled up against me “Tell me more, mama.”

A wish sat upon a star, looking down at the world below.

A woman sat in the cool night air, her head tilted up at just the right angle for the wish to watch as she closed her eyes and began to move her lips, speaking words the wish could feel but could not hear. When the woman stood up and went back inside her home, the wish smiled in that way that only wishes do. If the woman had come back out and looked up at the sky in the exact spot where she’d been looking just moments before, she would have been awestruck to see how brilliantly the star now twinkled against the night sky. For it’s a little-known fact that a star’s ability to shine is directly related to the happiness the wish sitting upon it is experiencing.

I don’t remember not knowing that my mother was a senior inb high school when she got pregnant with me. Or that she got married right after graduation and had me instead of letting her parents talk her into an abortion.

I don’t remember not thinking I was an accident. That I was never meant to be. That her life could have been different.

I hold my daughter close and tell her that she was meant to be.

 

The wish’s star was positively glowing.

It was finally her turn.

The wish had lost track of how long she sat upon her star, joyously watching as other wishes were called upon each night. When it was their turn, each wish would smile and wave to those still waiting to be called upon. And then, once they were, in the moment just before they stepped off their respective stars, they’d shine brighter than any other in the sky. And then the wish would fall, leaving a trail of light in its wake as it made its way down to the earth, ready to become someone’s something.

 

I wasn’t planned. I wasn’t wished for.

I just…was.

Maybe a wish would become a playful little puppy for a sweet little boy, or perhaps a wish would imaging what it would become as it fell, purring to its heart’s content as its dreamer got fitted it with a pretty pink collar. Or maybe a wish was meant to be a rainstorm for a thirsty flower, or maybe a wish trailed off into a beautiful nothingness, its only calling from its dreamer being the precious opportunity to see a falling star.

 

I’ve never felt that accidentally coming into existence gave me the right to feel worthy of the air I breathe or space in which I reside. Keep in mind that my mother never made me feel guilty for being born. She loves me and the four surprises that came after me. We all know that. I just can’t shake the feeling that I never should have been and that’s not her fault. It’s just the way my brain works.

 

 And while all the forms a wish might take once breathed into life are great and noble, this wish was making her star positively beam from the happiness radiating from within, for hers was a very special journey.

 “What kind of journey was it, Mama?” the little girl asked her mother, already knowing the answer and smiling a sleepy smile as she began to fall into a dream.

Because once upon a time an accident purposely wished on a star and a miracle happened. I thank almost every day for being my wish. usually as I am tucking her into bed at night. She thanks me for wishing her true. And then she smiles as she drifts off into dreams.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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Photo & Graphic by Pauline Campos

So, this one time I went to New Mexico for my first writing conference ever and I met a lot of people and one of them was Rick Najera. He doesn’t remember it, he tells me, but that’s okay with me. I’m lucky if I remember what I said five minutes ago, so I won’t guilt-trip Rick into paying f0r my therapy sessions to make up for him forgetting me like that. 

Then, this other time, the internet proved the nay-sayers wrong. Turns out the world-wide web is just as round as the world itself. Rick Najera showed up in my tweet stream when somebody else retweeted something he happened to tweet when I happened to be around to see it, and then I found myself on a train to to NYC to speak at his #AlmostWhite book launch event and I called him Motivational and Not an Asshole. He’s still talking to me, so there’s something to be said for my broken filter.

What follows is an Op-Ed by Rick himself. He’s going to be performing at The Americas Latino Eco Festival in Colorado this week. Because an arrogant reporter wanted to know Why, Rick decided this totally arrogant blog would be included on his list of the right places to respond.  (No, no, it’s okay. It’s not like I thought it was the ONLY place… Nope… I just need a minute….) 

And make sure to check back here for link details about tomorrow’s #ChingonaFest Project Hangout at 2 p.m. EST. I’ve got exciting new segments planned, Rick’s stopping by to talk about the Latino Eco Festival, and we’ve got four SIGNED copies of Almost White to give away live during the hangout. 

You’re Welcome. 

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Recently, a reporter asked me why I was going to be performing at the Second Annual Americas Latino Eco Festival in Colorado. Billed as the “the new shade of green,” this festival asks for all Latinos to fight for our planet and become leaders in the ecological movement within the Americas. During the interview, the reporter asked me, “Rick, I did my research on you and noticed you were involved in Latino issues, and diversity issues and Hollywood issues but not ecology, or the environment or any other green issues. Why are you getting involved? Why is ecology and our planet so important to you?” He said the last part as a dramatic ‘I got you’ inflection. As if I have decided all at once to care about our environment like I was some kind of green movement carpetbagger just looking for some Hollywood Swag. I thought about his question long and hard.  And this is my answer,

First off, like most Latinos I believe more in environmental issues than most cultures. In fact 93 percent of Latinos believed in global warming While only 60 percent of Anglos believe in Global warming.

Latinos also have deep conviction that acting as environmental stewards is part of their moral duty. More than 92 percent of Latinos polled in a Sierra Club study said they “have a moral responsibility to take care of God’s creations.” 94 percent of Latinos say that outdoor activities like fishing, picnics, camping and visiting national parks are important to them and their families.  Lastly Latinos are more affected by the environment

Asthma, for instance, is twice as likely in Latino children as it is in white children, according to an EPA study. Latinos live  in the environments effected by our pollution and lack of air quality.

“But Rick, what does this personally mean to you?” The reporter asked. Personally? I answer, personally I’ve seen our environment change first-hand during my own lifetime while growing up in San Diego. I remember the farms in Mission Valley, in San Diego, a chicken ranch down the street and even more farms littered up and down the coastline. I grew up with nature. I spent my weekends at the beach, feasting on freshly caught abalone. I trudged into the surf and sand with bonfires crackling in the background during summer night and gathered grunion. (A smelt like fish that came up on the beach to spawn.) I drove up and down along the coast in California with orange blossoms perfuming the air. For me, it seemed as if our world was a better, safer place back then. Now, the abalones have become rare and endangered. It’s rarer to find grunion as a kid, there were several creeks filled with crayfish, bullfrogs & all other kinds of aquatic life in my backyard. Those are all gone now.  As we enter in the second year of one of the worst droughts in California history, our state is becoming drier and drier. The Climate is changing. I’m seeing it first hand. Yes, It’s personal

I have personally added  new names and words to my vocabulary, words like: Fukishima, Katrina, Deepwater Horizon & Valdeez. Words I learned in my life time.  GMO’s, global warming, and cancer clusters.  New words new problems.  Now we have  Pesticides  that are sprayed on Genetic Modified produce, not just on farm workers, at an alarming rate, fisheries are being decimated, and more and more farms – the same places I remembered from my childhood – are being paved over in favor for the urban sprawl and profit. I remember drinking out of  cold mountain streams in the Sierra Mountains. I can’t do that anymore. It’s not safe.  And I don’t breath in air perfumed by orange blossoms anymore. I remember my childhood, and the nature I loved. That nature is in my culture and in my history. It’s in my blood and in my soul. Latinos have fought for the environment, and more importantly, we have worked in that environment. That nature is entrenched in each and every one of us. It’s part of our shared indigenous culture.

Why shouldn’t this Latino care? Why should we not lead this fight to save our planet?   In our  Latino culture, we have a belief that this world belongs to not one person or corporations  but all of us  and we are only stewards of this planet.

But most of all, It ‘s personal when look at my three children, and think what kind of world am I’m going to leave them? And that makes it very personal and this is why I’ll be in Colorado at the Americas Eco Latino Festival.  Because I’m hoping more people will begin to feel the same way.

 

Rick Najera will perform his one-man show one-man show based on his book Almost White at The Dairy Center For The Arts on September 13. On September 12, Rick will perform his Broadway show “Latinolouges”, including additional monologues with a green twist and featuring an all-Broadway cast. For tickets, visit here.

 

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