Friday, August 26, 2011

SPANISH FRIDAY: Un Sorteo de Libro, Leemos en Espanol! | A Book Giveaway, Let's Read in Spanish!

¿Quién quiere leer el libro ESPERANZA RENACE por Pam Muñoz Ryan con migo? La verdad es que nunca he leido un libro en español. Todos sabemos que para mejorar nuestra comprension y vocabulario, en cualquier idioma, tenemos que practicar lo mas posible.

Who wants to read the book ESPERANZA RISING by Pam Muñoz Ryan with me? The truth is that I've never read a book in Spanish. We all know that to improve our comprehension and vocabulary, in any language, we have to practice as much as possible.

Escogí este libro, no solo por que se me hace fácil a leer,  (hello -- es para ninos!), pero también por que se trata de un tema universal: lo que hace la persona para sobrevivir cuando tiene que buscar oportunidades afuera de su país.

I chose this book, not only because I think it's easy to read, (hello -- it's for children!), but also because it's about a universal theme: what a person will do to survive when they have to seek out opportunities outside their own country.

Cita de Barnes & Noble:
"Esperanza Ortega tiene todos los tesoros que una chica pueda desear: hermosos vestidos, una linda casa llena de sirvientes en Aguascalientes, México, y la promesa de que un día llegará a presidir el Rancho de las Rosas como su mamá. Pero una tragedia inesperada destruye ese sueño, obligando a Esperanza y a su madre a escapar a California dónde tendrán que trabajar en una finca junto a otros mexicanos. Allí, Esperanza tendrá que olvidar su pasado y enfrentarse a las nuevas realidades de su vida: trabajo duro, aceptación y dificultades económicas. Esperanza descubrirá que la verdadera riqueza está en la familia y la comunidad. Pam Muñoz Ryan nos presenta un retrato elocuente sobre la vida de los mexicanos en California en esta apasionada novela que le da voz a aquellos que históricamente se les ha sido negada."
Quote From Barnes & Noble (My Translation):
"Esperanza Ortega has all the treasure that a young girl could wish for: beautiful dresses, a lovely house filled with servants in Aguacalientes, Mexico, and the promise that one day she'll oversee Roses Ranch like her mother. But an unforeseen tragedy destroys that dream, forcing Esperanza and her mother to escape to California where they will have to work at a country residence alongside other Mexicans. There, Esperanza will have to forget about her past and face her life's new realities: hard work, acceptance and financial difficulties. Esperanza will discover that true wealth resides within family and community. Pam Munoz Ryan presents us with an eloquent picture of the life of Mexicans in California in this passionate novel that gives voice to those whose own have been historically ignored/denied.
Instrucciónes Del Sorteo | Giveaway Instructions:

1) Deje un commentario abajo, dime por que quieres leer este libro, y
2) Sigue mi blog.
El sorteo solo es para residentes en E.U. y
termina a las cinco de la tarde E.T. el 4 de septiembre, 2011.

1) Leave a comment below, tell me why you want to read this book, and
2) Follow my blog.
The giveaway is only open to U.S. residents and
closes at 5 p.m. E.T. on September 4th, 2011.

Anunciaré los dos ganadores aquí mismo.
I will announce the two winners here.

Luego, comenzando el 16 de septiembre, discutiremos los capitulos aquí (en ingles, español o spanglish) cada lunes hasta que leemos ESPERANZA RENACE de pa a pa. ¿Se animan? : )

Then, starting September 16th, we'll chat about it every Monday (in English, Spanish or Spanglish) until we've read it cover-to-cover. Are you up to it? : )

Vamos aprendiendo y practicando nuestro español juntos!
 Let's learn and practice our Spanish together!


Horario por Fecha y Capitulo(s)
Schedule by Date and Chapter(s)

Aguascalientes, Mexico 1924 y Las Uvas
Aguascalientes, Mexico 1924 and Grapes

Las Papayas

Los Higos

Las Guayabas

Los Melones

Las Cebollas

Las Almendras

Las Ciruelas

Las Papas

Los Aguacates

Los Esparragos

Los Duraznos

Las Uvas

Mis Cinco Seis Palabras Esta Semana:

Presidir = preside, oversee
Inesperada = unexpected, unforeseen
Finca = property, country residence
Riqueza = wealth
Negada = denied
Pa a pa = cover-to-cover

 Participo en Spanish Friday, la invención de Tracey Lopez de, para practicar y mejorar el idioma de mi ninez. Soy Mexicana nacida en los E.U. Ingles es mi segundo idioma.

I participate in Spanish Friday, the invention of Tracey Lopez at, to practice and improve the language of my childhood. I'm a Mexican born in the U.S. English is my second language.

Ya casi termina el verano! Noooooooooooooo ... | Summer's almost over! Nooooooooooooooooo ...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Homeboy Industries: "Jobs Not Jails" and Boundless Compassion ...

"But isn't the highest honing of compassion that which is hospitable to victim and victimizer both?" Gregory Boyle, TATTOOS ON THE HEART


"Tirate!" Our mother screamed as she fell to the floor in the hallway.

I watched as she went down. Bad as I wanted to sit up in bed, I resisted. The little voice that often whispered in my ear, said, "Don't get up."


Were those fireworks going off, or rocks bouncing off our home? Whatever they were, several hit the window above my head.

"Blanca!" My father called out to my mother from the living room.


I turned to check on my sisters. One was still in bed, white powder all over her dark hair. The other one, the little one hid under hers.

My thoughts can't catch up. ¿Qué pasa? What's happening, here?

The kitten poster hung only minutes earlier by our father, while my sisters and I jumped on our beds, now, looked as though it had been punched through with a hammer.

Seems minutes. Maybe hours. The next thing I know, I'm peering out from under my bed at darkly-clad policemen cramped between our three single beds. The air fills with crackling radios that emit incoherent voices, as shiny black, leather shoes walk across the floor.

"The bullets went through the window, wall, the two garages, and into the neighbor's living room," one of the uniformed men, said.

"Another two went through the front of the house and ricocheted off this door-jamb." Another officer points to the door frame my mother had stood at when the first shots were fired.

My mind screams, "Where are my parents?"

I was in the 4th grade the night the two-bedroom, white stucco duplex we rented was sprayed with bullets. By the grace of God, my family, and those living in the two houses flanking ours, survived the drive-by that night. 

That's how I remember events unfolding that night.


A couple of months ago, a friend I'd reconnected with on Facebook messaged me and said she had a book and some magazines she wanted to send me.

Source: Homebody Industries
When I received her package containing TATOOS ON THE HEART by Gregory Boyle and several issues of THE SUN, a literary magazine, I had to take a "time-out."

The magazines I loved. But the book? Why would I want to read non-fiction about gang members' lives? I had ZERO sympathy for them, but she didn't know that.

Although I'd worked alongside her for several years in Costa Mesa, CA, I'd never discussed my childhood growing up in the neighboring town of Santa Ana. As soon as I crossed the city limits into the surrounding towns, I disassociated myself from all the "bad" stuff that had touched my life, there. 

So many negative things happened to us at the hands of gang members over the years that when I finally had the courage and opportunity to move away, I did, and never looked back. The jumpy little girl, hiding under her bed didn't exist anymore. I'd effectively buried the past.

That was fifteen years ago. I moved, married, worked for some great companies, started my own business, traveled, had a baby. I did all the things that normal people do. It wasn't until I began to write for "fun" in 2008 that everything I'd buried came to the surface.

Understandably I read TATTOOS ON THE HEART with one-foot-in and one-foot-out. Within pages it absorbed me with the stories of gang members Father Boyle met and tried to help through his non-profit organization Homeboy Industries.
Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and formerly gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training and education.
My hardened heart softened, as I experienced life through the eyes of the young men and women who didn't get to pick their circumstances, either. Many didn't have parents and those who did were either abused or neglected. Nobody had told them that they had other options, that they could make better choices. Resiliency held no meaning. Enter the lure of gang-life. The few who found their way out on their own? How many? Who knows? (Recommended: I Choose by Jen Marshall Duncan at Empathea)

TATTOOS ON THE HEART is a compilation of parable-like stories that each ends with an affirmation. As I read about the dangerous situations Father Boyle put himself into, I came to understand what it means to have boundless compassion. In spite of the despicable nature of these youths' acts, the indiscriminate killings, irrational thought, Father Boyle did not condemn them. Rather he guided them with kind words, tough-love and patience. He pushes forward knowing he'll save some, but lose many.

In the end, I'm glad I read it, because it gave me a level of clarity that I didn't have before. My loathing of what had caused much of the pain in my childhood had turned to empathy.

Thank you Father Boyle for opening my heart and showing me another perspective. Also, a big hug of gratitude to my friend, Rita, who somehow recognized that I needed to read this book, that I've since forwarded on to a friend. : )


Homeboy Industries Soundtrack

"Close both eyes; see with the other one. Then, we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments, our ceaseless withholding, our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened, and we find ourselves, quite unexpectedly, in a new, expansive location, in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

JUST FOR FUN: Cutest Continuing Ed Catalog Cover, Ever! ; D

"Don't Get Tied Down."

I'm on the mailing list for a couple of continuing education centers in the area and this Assabet After Dark Fall 2011 catalog cover has got to be the most creative one I've received, yet. Love it. Makes me want to try reading Gulliver's Travels, again, a book I had a hard time getting into as a youngster (and no wonder, come to find out it was published in 1726!).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Note-to-Self: Losing My Job Does Not Make Me a Loser

The hydrangeas in my backyard remind me of pom-poms.

What's a girl to do when she finds herself without a job?

For the first time in my professional career I've joined the ranks of the unemployed -- 13.9 million persons looking for work in the U.S., to be exact. (United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary)

My biggest surprise, since learning that my position was eliminated, has been how deeply I've felt the loss of my job. For anybody out there who's never been laid off, believe me when I tell you, "It's an awfully humbling experience." You don't realize how much work becomes a part of your identity until it disappears.

Back to the question about what I've been up to the last couple of weeks:

Unemployment Arc by Days

  1-7: Ginormous pity-party (read, adopted a dwarf hamster, ate ice cream, read some more)
  8-9: Attended a wedding in New Jersey (had a blast with the hubs, worked on my wip, felt better)
   10: Decided to get my body moving, showed up for yoga class and kick-boxed instead :)
   11: Sore, but motivated, I exercised, again and took Tylenol all day
   12: NOW -- Sitting at McDonald's, sipping scalding coffee as I scour the internet for opportunities

Yes ... I'm much relieved and happy to report that I've crawled out of my hidey-hole.

A book I've been reading that's helped me put my circumstances into perspective is THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle. Rather than spend my energy wallowing and regretting something I had no control over, and worrying about the future, I've made a few promises to myself.

I promise to ...
  • Enjoy the rest of the summer with my family.
  • Keep my body moving; I'd forgotten how good it feels to exercise.
  • Seek personally enriching and rewarding work.
  • Write more.
  • Cut myself some slack.
  • Find a volunteer opportunity where I can be of service in the education non-profit sector.  

(Note-to-Self: Losing My Job Does Not Make Me a Loser)


"Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life."
Eckhart Tolle, THE POWER OF NOW

"Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions that blocks all true relationship." 
"The more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering -- and free of the egoic mind."
"Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life."

Cruzando La Calle | Crossing The Street