The Magic That is The Latino Community

n-suit

This week I’m giving thanks for community, and the Latino community specifically. Let me tell you a story about something that happened last weekend.

Carlos and I had just returned from grocery shopping, literally still in the driveway with bags in the trunk to unload. My 16 year old son, who hadn’t seen me since leaving for school early that morning, greeted us and then launched into a “Mami, I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to need some money…”

This is a good moment for me to dispel a myth for some of you. Young parents have a tendency to believe that kids get less expensive as they get older — it isn’t true. Maybe this feels true for a few years after the diaper days, but there comes a point where your children out-grow the kid’s menu at restaurants and it’s downhill from there, financially speaking. Soon they start needing things they never needed before – cellphones, deodorant, face scrubs, and all manner of personal hygiene products.

They become increasingly conscious about the way they look, so your famous bowl haircuts will no longer suffice – now you must shell out for a trip to the barber for fancy Cristiano Ronaldo-style haircuts. (If you think you can recreate this look yourself with a pair of clippers, trust me that you probably can’t and your kid will hate you for a couple weeks.)

Then they start eating twice as much as you do. Groceries that used to last a week are gone within days. Just when you financially start to catch your breath and think you can make it work somehow, they start talking about getting their license. You can’t afford a car for them but you call your car insurance company to find out how much it will cost to insure them at the very least – You end that phone call sick in your gut, because you have to tell your kid that they have to wait for their license because you can’t afford to insure them. Meanwhile “all their friends” have their license already, and some of them were even gifted cars. You have a good kid though, and while disappointed, he understands. In a way, this makes you feel even worse because he’s a good kid and deserves things you can’t provide.

On top of these expenses, your kids’ free public school education is not so free after all. In addition to increasingly expensive school supplies, laptops, a printer, printer ink and paper to ensure your teen can type up and hand in presentable assignments, there are fees for everything imaginable. Dances, clubs, science projects, yearbooks, class trips, fancy calculators, musical instruments – God help you if they want to play a sport. And when you have an especially ambitious teen who wants to take advanced college-level classes, you pay even more.

When your child becomes a Junior in high school, it’s time to start seriously looking at the cost of college. There are days your brain just can’t take anymore. Your child will be talking about tuition, room and board, meal plans, books, and other expenses. With glazed eyes you will just nod your head while fantasizing about running away, except you don’t even have enough gas in your car to make it out of town, let alone enough money in the account to book a flight to Cancún.

So, back to the original scene – we had just grocery shopped, which is less and less fun the older I get. When I make it home, I’m just thankful the whole process is over – and then my son tells me he needs money.

What does he need money for? He needs to buy a suit. We’ve long put this off because of the expense but it was becoming unavoidable. His admittance into the National Honor Society and various other upcoming events would require it.

I felt panicked, frustrated, exhausted.

“I don’t know how we’ll find the money for a suit.” I sat at the dinner table surrounded by the bags of groceries and put my head in my hands.

My older son, thrift-minded thanks to his upbringing and the necessity of being so, offered, “We could look at Goodwill and Salvation Army?”

“Maybe,” I responded, but I wasn’t optimistic about the idea. I had looked for suits there before and even when I’ve been lucky enough to find the right size, they’re usually horribly outdated.

“What’s wrong?” Carlos asked, because apparently he had tuned out the whole conversation. So I explained that our son needed a suit within the next two weeks and I wasn’t sure how we’d afford one.

Carlos was uncharacteristically calm. (It seems we switch personalities every now and then.)

“A suit? Hmmm… Let me make a phone call.”

Carlos disappeared into the bedroom and came back 10 minutes later.

“I may have found a suit for you.”

Carlos had called a local Salvadoran woman who has been somewhat of a surrogate mother to him the past few years. She’s well-connected within the local Latino community so Carlos simply told her our older son would need a suit within the next two weeks and asked her if she could keep an eye out.

Her response?

“I have a closet full of suits. Come to my house with your son at six o’clock and we’ll see if any of them fit… And bring Tracy so she can make sure they look nice.”

At six o’clock we arrived at her house. She showed us into a bedroom with suits hung in the closet and some laid out on the bed. She later told me that she had actually had twice as many not long ago because a lawyer she knows had given them to her so that her visiting brother could take them back to El Salvador. These suits were just the remains of what he didn’t want or couldn’t fit in his suitcases.

It turned out two suits fit our son and she encouraged him to take them both. “If a suit fits you, too” she said to Carlos, “take it, please. You’re welcome to it.”

And so that’s the story of how Carlos procured not one, but two suits for our son, (plus one for himself) within just a few hours, thanks to our friend and the magic that is the Latino community.

carlos-suit-2

Podcasts, Jane the Virgin & Resolutions

Thankfully “Jane The Virgin” continues to be a much needed source of entertainment and distraction in my life. The scene in this past Monday’s episode when Jane prepped Rafael for dinner with her family was hilarious, but what really made me laugh out loud was Rogelio’s interactions with Xo after Xo had vowed to remain chaste.

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(Image source JaneGifs.Tumblr!)

By the way, if you’re also a “Jane” fan, you might like an article I wrote for Latinamom.me this month, 7 Reasons to Watch ‘Jane The Virgin’.

Writing for Latinamom.me again has kept me a little busier than usual. As many of you know, I took a break from freelance writing for a couple months last fall so that I could work on my manuscript (book writing) instead, so getting back into the flow of balancing my time at the computer between freelancing, book writing, this blog, social media, and the constant flow of emails, not to mention responsibilities away from the computer like family, household and my own self-care – Well, that’s been a little challenging, but I’m attempting to figure it out. (And I know so many people struggle to balance even more, so I’m not complaining.)

Anyway, if you’re looking for more of my writing since I’m not updating this blog quite as often at the moment, here are two more articles I wrote on Latinamom.me that you might enjoy.

10 Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep (in GIFs)

5 Must-Listen Podcasts for Latinos

In February, be on the look out for more posts from me over at Latinamom.me. I can’t tell you what they’re about before they publish, but I think many of you are going to love the topics!

¡Sonríe!

smiles-are-universal

Disclosure: Latinaish.com has partnered with Cricket Wireless as a 2014 Blog Ambassador. All opinions are my own.

I can’t resist any sort of “random acts of kindness”/”pay it forward” love-spreading-movement, so when I found out Cricket Wireless started #MissionSmile, I was totally in.

#MissionSmile is simply a mission to make others smile. That’s it! It can be an act as small as sharing a photo of your cute perrito on social media, or as big as paying for all the groceries of the person behind you in line at the store.

Here are a few things I’d like to do:

1. Hold a sign that says “Abrazos Gratis” and give away free hugs.
2. Smile at every stranger I encounter and see how many smile back.
3. Visit the dogs and cats at the Humane Society and spend time playing with them.
4. Give any overabundance from my garden to a neighbor.
5. Buy diverse children’s books and books in Spanish for my local Head Start program.

How about you? Which good deeds do you like to do? How will you make others smile?

For more from Cricket Wireless ambassadors, follow the #VidaConCricket hashtag and @MiCricket on Twitter.

No Tengo Sueños, Tengo Metas.

desk-before

As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

The title of this post comes from a quote my oldest son loves. The other day at dinner he was talking about all his plans for the future. He’s an ambitious, goal-oriented, Type-A sort of guy; he’s had it all mapped out for years. He wants a career in aerospace engineering. He’s been taking AP classes since his Sophomore year of high school, he’s an honor student, he’s a member of the Science National Honor Society and other academic clubs, he keeps a folder of colleges he’s interested in applying to. He’s a driven kid who pushes himself hard, and in a few weeks he’ll be starting his Junior year of high school – a very important year academically.

His little brother, our younger son, is also an honor student, but personality-wise he’s the opposite. He’s a happy-go-lucky laid back sort of fellow. Things just seem to fall into place for him so he doesn’t tend to plan too far ahead – He enjoys the moment and doesn’t worry. If he had a theme song, it would be Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, because in his mind, “every little thing is gonna be alright.”

So at dinner the other night, when our older son was talking about all his plans to conquer the world, his younger brother responded, “Well, I guess it’s good to have dreams. Maybe they’ll come true.” Our older son put his fork down and stared his little brother down. “I don’t have DREAMS,” he said, “I have GOALS.”

“Wow, that’s a good quote,” I said.

Carlos had zoned out. He was enjoying his panes con pollo.
“What’s a good quote?” he asked.

“No tengo sueños, tengo metas,” I answered in Spanish, so he could feel the depth of the quote.

“Wow. That is a good quote,” he said.

Carlos and I have done everything we can to support our boys in whatever they want to accomplish. A few weeks ago that meant lugging home a new desk for our older son even though we just bought him one last year. The problem with the old desk was one of size – it was just too small to accommodate the way he works. The new desk helped him spread out, but as you can see in the photo at the top of the post, he still needed a little help clearing space. Despite appearances he can be really organized, but when he’s in the middle of working on homework or projects it doesn’t look that way.

When Lowe’s said the August theme would be “Back-to-School” organization, I knew I’d be helping our older son organize his “office” area, as he calls it, but I wasn’t sure how. It took hours of walking around Lowe’s before I stumbled upon a creative idea and an easy solution all in one.

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This is a shower caddy, designed to hang over the shower head and hold shampoo bottles, soap, razors, washcloths, and things of that nature – but what if I hung it on the wall instead?

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I easily moved the majority of the clutter off the desk and into the caddy. I just put a screw in the wall and hung it on there and it’s super sturdy. On the top shelf, I placed a few binders and folders. On the middle shelf there was plenty of room for cans of pencils and other office supplies. More little office supplies fit nicely on the bottom shelf, but my favorite use for the shower caddy for office organization is this:

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The bottom rung which is designed for hanging washcloths, is perfect to clip up notes which need to be typed up with the simple addition of two binder clips! This worked out so well I may have to go buy two more to install at my own desk and my younger son’s desk.

I think my boys are ready for back-to-school!

Want more creative ideas?

Spring 14 Blogger Badge_Summer rectangle

 

Check out more from Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network by subscribing to their Creative Ideas Magazine and E-Newsletter, following them on Pinterest or Facebook and by seeing what the other Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network members are up to.

I’m a madrina! (and you can be too)

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The other day I received a message from my amiga Denisse Montalvan over at The Orphaned Earring, letting me know that she is once again accepting donations to give a quinceañera to the orphan girls in Mexico and Guatemala who are coming of age. This is something a little extra she does for these girls, because her organization supports many orphaned children, both boys and girls, in various Latin American countries throughout the year with food, fun activities, and more.

This cause is really close to my heart, and there’s a sort of ugly truth behind my reason. One thing Denisse pointed out has really stuck in my mind, and that is the fact that there are sick people out there who lure teenage girls to run away with promises of a better life. A girl with unfulfilled wishes may be especially vulnerable to falling victim. We need these girls to know that they are loved and make sure they feel special on their special day. They are no less deserving of having their special day than any other girl in Latin America, (and Denisse tells me they are all such good girls – super kind, helpful with the younger children, and they do well in school.)

So, when I received the email from Denisse the other day, I asked Carlos if we could donate a sum of money again this year and he not only agreed, but told me to double it. It wasn’t a huge sum of money, but Denisse makes the money go far – you’ll be amazed with what she can do on a small budget (Just $30 a month feeds about 60 children daily for a month in Guatemala! That’s one fast food meal for a family of four in the U.S.!) and every little bit helps, so if you want to be a madrina or padrino too, even if you can only give a few dollars, please do – it could make all the difference in the world in their lives.

Details from Denisse:

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Guatemala girls: The celebration will be held Sunday, August 17th. Thankfully our three beautiful girls already have quinceañera dresses that were donated for last year’s quinceañera celebration. We just need to raise money for the party and gifts for the girls!

Mexico girls: To our surprise, the girls in Tijuana want to do a history tour in D.F. Mexico. They’ve read about the history of their country and dream of traveling to visit the museums and historical sites in D.F. Instead of spending money on a party, they would like help with plane tickets. Once in D.F. we would find a church or friends to allow them to stay with them.

Become a quinceañera madrina o padrino (godmother or godfather) and help raise money for celebrations for 4 girls in Mexico and 3 girls in Guatemala. This is how you can help!

• Donate using The Orphaned Earring Paypal Link or send your donation to donation@theorphanedearring.com

• Help meet our goal by contributing to the #QuinceDreams Fundly campaign and encourage your family and friends to #DoGood by donating any amount. Simply click here: https://fundly.com/quincedreams

• You can also become a monthly supporter to help us continue to bring smiles to over 300 children! Become a monthly donor. Any amount helps! Click on this Paypal Link, enter the amount you want to donate in the amount box and click on the recurring monthly payment.

It might be ambitious of The Orphaned Earring to think they can make all their orphaned children dreams come true, but with your support I know nothing is impossible!

We Need Diverse Books!

Image created by:  Icey Design

Image created by: Icey Design

The past couple days, I have had the immense pleasure of helping organize #WeNeedDiverseBooks with some amazing people – (You may have seen me tweeting already from my @Latinaish account as well as my personal @TracyDeLopez account.) The campaign is described in detail below, but it is basically a call for more diversity in books – something many of us have been talking about for a long time. I remember when Latinas for Latino Lit launched with this same mission, and through that I had the opportunity to express my views on the topic, as well as host authors René Colato Laínez and Meg Medina here on my blog. So I am really excited to see so many people coming together, from la comunidad Latina and beyond – to hopefully bring about some real change in the publishing industry. I hope you’ll join us! – Tracy López

A Joint Message From The Organizers of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, And Details On How You Can Get Involved:

Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT, CNN, EW, and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.

Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:

May 1st at 1pm (EST) – There will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. [People are already using it, so join us!] We want people to use Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.

You can also support #WeNeedDiverseBooks by taking a photo holding a sign that says:

“We need diverse books because ___________________________.” Fill in the blank with an important, poignant, funny, and/or personal reason why this campaign is important to you.

The photo can be of you or a friend or anyone who wants to support diversity in kids’ lit. It can be a photo of the sign without you if you would prefer not to be in a picture. Be as creative as you want! Pose the sign with your favorite stuffed animal or at your favorite library. Get a bunch of friends to hold a bunch of signs. However you want to do it, we want to share it! We will host all the photos at WeNeedDiverseBooks.Tumblr, so please submit your photos by May 1st to weneeddiversebooks@yahoo.com with the subject line “photo” or submit it right on our Tumblr page here and it will be posted throughout the first day.

At 1:00PM EST the Tumblr will start posting and it will be your job to reblog, tweet, Facebook, or share wherever you think will help get the word out.

The intent is that from 1pm EST to 3pm EST, there will be a non-stop hashtag party to spread the word. We hope that we’ll get enough people to participate to make the hashtag trend and grab the notice of more media outlets.

The Tumblr will continue to be active throughout the length of the campaign, and for however long we need to keep this discussion going, so we welcome everyone to keep emailing or sending in submissions even after May 1st.

May 2nd – The second part of our campaign will roll out with a Twitter chat scheduled for 2pm EST using the same hashtag. Please use #WeNeedDiverseBooks at 2pm on May 2nd and share your thoughts on the issues with diversity in literature and why diversity matters to you.

May 3rd – At 2pm EST, the third portion of our campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries, and there will be some fantastic giveaways for people who participate in the campaign! (More details and giveaway entry HERE!)

We hope that you will take part in this in any way you can. We need to spread the word far and wide so that it will trend on Twitter. So that media outlets will pick it up as a news item. So that the organizers of BEA and every big conference and festival out there gets the message that diversity is important to everyone. We hope you will help us by being a part of this movement.

Perro Portero

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

¿Necesita un momento de ternura? Este perro de raza beagle que se llama Purín y vive en Japón está listo por La Copa Mundial! Mira como defiende la portería.

Fuente: MAS.SV

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Need a moment of cuteness? This Beagle named Purín who lives in Japan is ready for the World Cup! Look how he defends the goal!

Source: MAS.SV