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.

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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*.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

Follow the words, y'all

 

Sometimes I like to look up the search terms that lead people to Aspiring Mama. Usually this happens after a random conversation I have with a real person like The Husband or my kid or the one neighbor who’s house I can see from the end of my drive (as opposed to the pretend people that live inside of my iPhone).

Today’s foray into RandomSearchTermLandia was spurred on by Monday’s blog post showcasing my girl and her daddy in their kilts and The Husband muttering something about his legs being all over the internet again. When I called him Kilt Daddy and told him to show me his Irish, he totally thought he was getting lucky later and, sadly, I had to tell him that was gonna have to wait for me to finish writing for the day. It took him a minute before he was all Who is this Kilt Daddy?

Reason # 9,487 I usually write nonfiction

So I showed him. Since publishing the original post two years ago, that very term has been one of the most popular internet searches leading readers directly to Aspiring Mama. Other winners include

*Advice Columns of Satire

* Funny Stories About Maine

* Pictures of Finger Monkeys

* Do Cats Blink

* Multiple Women Naked Bodies

* How Much is a Baby Finger Monkey?

*Autosucking

and

* Broken Legs or Sprain Ankles of Famous Persons

 

Just remember, y’all, while Google may be telling you the truth when it shows you The Husband’s sexy legs when you ask it for the Kilt Daddy, Google is a damned liar about the finger monkey expert thing. That, my friends, was one blog post from way back when that was the first thing ever pinned by a reader and how I learned Pinterest had been invented.

Oh, and that one about the broken ankle? In my defense, there was a lot of meat on that sandwich.

 

 

 

Welcome to a new weekly feature on Aspiring Mama. I’m calling it #Chingonafest Fridays because 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.

Pili Montilla, an EMMY award-winnig TV host & producer of the music show “Te Para Tres (Tea for Three) with Pili Montilla,  decided to make me look good by agreeing to go first. Pili is also an entertainment reporter, actor, blogger, lover of music, and considers herself a “life absorber”.

Told you she’s a chingona. I’ll give you a minute to go do that liking and following thing on Facebook and twitter (and twitter.)

Ready?

Good.

Now it’s time to get on with that interview.

Pili Montilla

Pauline Campos: What’s your favorite quote?

Pili Montilla: “Un ‘NO’ te acerca más a un ‘SI’.” (“A ‘NO’ gets you closer to a ‘YES.’) My dad tells me that every time I don’t book a job. It reminds me that a ‘No’ is not equivalent to failure. Instead, this quote teaches me to be patient, that everything happens for a reason and at the perfect time.

PC: Do you consider yourself a feminist?

PM: I’m the youngest of three girls. My mom raised the three of us to be feminists, yet she really doesn’t practice feminism. She’s always depended on my dad and she never pursued a career.

I am certain that for those exact reasons she was so adamant about us finding something we were passionate about and pursue a career around it. My parents have never pushed us to get married or have kids. Quite the opposite! It was very clear that we should grow up to be independent, strong women. They succeeded!

So, I definitely have an inclination towards feminist ideals, but I am pro-equality more than anything else.

PC: Describe yourself in third person…

 PM:Pili is a hard working, disciplined Latina who dreams big, but is clear that dreaming is not enough. She knows it takes sweat and tears to make dreams reality. She’s also a bit of a goofball. She makes the weirdest, funniest faces when she’s alone in front of the mirror. She’s opinionated, which has it’s pros and cons and has definitely gotten her into trouble. If there is something Pili feels passionate about, it’s music. This girl LOVES her música! She feels most alive when dancing at a live concert.

 PC: Great. You’re writing the bio for my book jacket when the time comes. Sounds like you’re pretty confident. I like that. Where do you draw that strength from? Who inspires you?

PM: Those who fearlessly go in full pursue of their dreams. 

PC: Who is it you hope to inspire?

 PM: Through my music show “Té Para Tres con Pili Montilla” I’ve created a space where up-and-coming artists can truthfully open up and tell their story while also sharing their music. It is through their heartfelt stories of failures and triumphs that I hope to inspire others. My biggest reward is getting messages on our Facebook page of fans that have watched the show and tell me that they are back to pursuing their passion because they were inspired by the stories presented on the show.

I hope to continue giving these artists a chance to share their talent with the world. Their work undoubtedly inspires others. 

 PC:  Let’s play word association. I say CHINGONA and you say…?

 PM: Fuerte.

PC: I’ll take that and a bag of chips. Speaking of strength,how do you feel about Latinas and how we are represented in the media?

PM: I don’t think we’re represented in the media. At least not in a truthful manner. There is a perception of what Latinas are like that is being represented in the media, but that’s mostly stereotypes of Latinas.

Look at Sofia Vergara for example. Exaggerated accent and curves, fake tan and died hair. Like her, I am a blonde Latina but she has had to dye her hair dark to get more roles. I refuse to do that (¡Y mira que me lo han preguntado!) Why? Because I am not going to succumb to stereotypes. Instead I want to break them.

PC: One childhood memory that has stuck with you…

PM: I was brat when I was 8 years old. I mean, a big time malcriada. I misbehaved that whole year, so instead of los Tres Reyes Magos bringing me a bike,  I got “carbón” (charcoals) and a floor full of camel pee.

 I learned my lesson.

PC: Sounds like it. I may need to talk to your mother about parenting lessons in being a hardass. And I think I’ve got the answer to my next question, but I’ll  ask anyway. Do you think in English, Spanish, or Spanglish?

PM: I’m all over the place. Spanglish is definitely by strongest language (Yup, I am trilingual!) However I usually think In Spanish when speaking in Spanish and in English when speaking inglés. 

 PC: What’s your favorite dish? Why?

PM: Tostones. Why? Two words: Fried plantains. 

PC: Do you feel “Latina enough”?

 PM: Oh si. I feel super Latina. With this gringa look and all, I am as Latina as Latina’s get. I’ve never ever questioned my “Latinahood”. I’m truly blessed to have been born in Puerto Rico and have been raised in such a colorful and interesting culture.

PC: Do you chew your ice cream? (Or is that just a Me thing?)

PM: I usually chew it, but that’s because I like ice cream with things in it. You know, like Heath Bar crunch, nuts, granola and all that yumminess.

PC: Right. I chew the plain stuff. Ayway….Gimme one Latina stereotype you despise?

PM: That we all have big butts. I’m still waiting for some junk in my trunk.

PC: I’ll gift you some of mine. Now for one Latina stereotype you embrace (or is there one?)

PM: Being loud. We let ourselves be noticed. I am extremely proud of being Latina and loud. By nature we are happy people. We love to laugh, dance, drink, eat, have a lot of friends and talk. We are very animated human beings. And we’re loud. AND I LOVE THAT!

PC: Your perfect day.

PM: “Sun is shining, weather is sweet…make you wanna move your dancing feet!”  Bob Marley.

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 #ChingoaFest. And don’t forget to check out this week’s Dimelo Advice column on Latina Magazine (this week’s reader wants t know if he dumped her because she wasn’t ready for sex)!

 

I am broken.

Today one of my dogs died. His name was Fezzik. He was four and a border terrier and he was fuzzy and sweet and his heart was so full of love we joked he would pop. He annoyed our 12-year-old terrier, Finnigan, as is a little brother’s right. And he became our rescue rottie’s adopted baby because Lola never had a chance to mother the puppies she was used to produce before being dumped in the desert. And because Fezzik was the runt of his litter and was pushed away from his own mother, kept from her warmth and his food supply, until we brought him home and made him ours and she made him hers and it was perfect.

Fezzik is the furball on the left. He kind of needed a haircut.

He was so tiny. His food bowl was one of those little white restaurant ramekins you get ketchup in to dip your fries.

The first time he had a little bowl of kibble and a water dish to himself, he ate and drank so quickly that he made himself sick. The Husband held him for over an hour while Fezzik’s tiny self shook and he burped himself into a happy sleep against the warm heart beating against his. And that night, he curled up against my neck, his head on the pillow next to my own, and sighed blissfully as he fell asleep. Just like he has so many nights since.

When we moved to Maine, it took Fezzik the longest to adjust to the weather and the snow. He was a desert dog. But he love us so much that he hunkered down over the last year and a half and he dealt with it. This year, he didn’t even need a winter jacket. Little man was good at rolling with the punches.

I let him down today. And I’m so very sorry. We live on five acres of remote land in northern Maine. Our driveway is long and lined with evergeens and there is an apple tree at the end (or the beginning, depending on which end you are looking at, I suppose). It’s that tree that our SOLD sign was posted on when we bought the house this past summer. And it’s that tree that the Lola, Finnigan, and Fezzik liked to run to in search of fallen apples. It became apparent that we had a problem when the neighbor called to let me know the dogs had been in the road.

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From the end of my drive, I can only see her house. And while remote with little traffic, the cars that do drive by aren’t paying attention to the speed limit. There’s no one around, after all. No police cars to be pulled over by or tickets to deal with. We have the equipment for the electric fence we talked about putting up. But the snow came early, before Halloween, and we figured we would wait it out. So far, so good. Until today.

I let the dogs out while Eliana was finishing a math lesson and went downstairs to take care of the laundry and get more logs for the fire. It was almost out, so I added bits of torn up cardboard and nursed it before remembering the dogs. I heard Eliana open the door for me and call them in by name as I finished up downstairs and moments later I was back on the main floor, taking care of sorting the clean clothes and checking her work. I saw Finnigan on the couch as we marched to the beat of the 10 times tables.

I saw Lola sleeping in her crate. I didn’t see Fezzik, but I didn’t think anything of it because there’s so many places for him to snuggle up in the house. I didn’t hear my phone ring when the neighbor found him in the road when she came home from work because I was trying to figure out dinner and get the folded clothes put away (and plan my work for the evening to allow for a bedtime before 4 a.m.) so that Eliana and could work on a craft after dinner. We already had our workout clothes on for a planned family health time, too. It’s been too long since I’ve fought beyond the haze I let myself sink into and it was time to pull myself out. For me. For her. For The Husband. I wasn’t waiting for tomorrow anymore. Maybe that’s why today got away from me.

I noticed a missed call and realized it was my neighbor, so I called back. She told me about the dog in the road and that she had him and I didn’t understand and apologized for them getting out again and I asked which one as I grabbed for my jacket so I could go get the troublemaker. My brain hadn’t processed yet that I was looking at two of our three or that two hours had passed since the neighbor called and another hour before that since Finnigan and Lola had come inside. That’s when my neighbor told me she was sorry. That it was too late. That Fezzik was in a box in her garage. She found him, already lifeless, in the middle of the road. His poor, broken body had been hit by one of the assholes who flies around the curve and left there because they either didn’t notice or just didn’t care.

The Husband had just arrived home and he drove to pick up our Fezzik. The box with his body is on our porch, covered with Eliana’s sled, because she doesn’t need to see him like that. Twice already I’ve told her it wasn’t her fault. Because it wasn’t. Countless times since, I’ve accepted the blame as my own.

I sat on the porch by that box for hours tonight apologizing to my little guy for letting him down. I am still crying. Today I was starting over and hauling my ass out of whatever self-imposed pit I had let myself fall into. No more pointless all-nighters. No more not working out because when I do, I can’t help but feel good and be better for myself and my family. No more aggravated ADHD craziness made more severe with each passing day from each sleepless night piled on top of the last. I had my gym shoes on, Goddammit, and today was the day. But today was yesterday’s tomorrow. For Fezzik, it was too late.

I know I didn’t kill my dog. That was the driver that didn’t stop. I did forget him, though, and I am truly sorry for that.

In his honor, I still got on the elliptical after paying my respects to his sweet little soul. I kissed my kid goodnight and high-fived her before leaving the room for the 10 minutes she got in before I took my turn at being healthy and strong. And at 1:17 a.m., I’m hitting publish, adding a log to the fire, and getting myself into bed three hours earlier than my usual. I may not have control of how my brain works, but I do have control of how I take care of myself. Not doing so affects more than just the face blinking back in the mirror. Because my dog died today because I forgot him, I will promise to try harder — starting today — to never again wait for tomorrow.

 

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