Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

28 October 2015

Thinking of doing NaNoWriMo? I am.



NaNoWriMo is upon us once again and the deadline to write 50,000 doesn’t seem any less of a challenge. This is especially so for moms who may have to juggle jobs with children. How can we stick to the schedule of writing 1667 words each day for 31 consecutive days, while remaining creative? 

The only reason I am seriously considering it this year is that Ella will be participating through school. The whole 7th grade is participating! If I'm gonna be bugging her about her 1667 words a day, why not join her?

But how? The Internet is full of advice about how to undertake NaNoWriMo successfully. But no one yet has asked the writers who do it each year for their best strategies and tips for staying committed to the very end. Until now, that is.

Fortunately, Stop Procrastinating, the productivity website, has surveyed 2000 NaNoWriMo writers ahead of this year’s challenge to find out what kept them going until the very end.

There’s no doubt that writers face many obstacles during November, from distractions, lack of time and creativity and fatigue. Some may even be tempted t give up entirely.

But the survey found that writers use a number of strategies to keep going. From learning to write just about any where, from a moving taxi to the toilet, to taking a very philosophical approach to their writing – it’s an opportunity for many to let their creativity out rather than produce a fully formed novel. Managing expectations and focusing on enjoyment are critical.

Stop Procrastinating has pulled all the results of their survey together in the infographic below.  

Now to figure out what I will write about! 


Habits That Can Save You Money - Sponsored Post



Subscribing to advertising and cultural norms can lead people to try to live beyond their means. In fact, statistics show that most families live paycheck to paycheck. To reverse this cycle, drastic measures may be required. Below are some habits that can save you money.

 Purchase with Purpose


Your money should always have a purpose. You should develop a realistic budget and stick to it, focusing on things that will help to enhance your life. You should also consider making purchases that may be a bit costly to begin with, but will save you quite a bit over time. A few smart ways to purchase with purpose and save money include:

·       Buying a water purifier instead of using bottled water
·       Purchasing smaller plates to manage meal proportions and decrease food cost per meal
·       Getting produce when it is in season
·       Utilizing coupons and sales for purchases

Use Cash


As long as you utilize credit cards you will have debt, unless you only utilize as much credit as you know you can pay off each month. Other than that, try to use cash for your everyday purposes. This gives you something in hand to work with. As you see it physically leaving your hands it can help you to make more frugal decisions and enhance your desire to save. You may also find yourself being more conscious about your future and making sure that you have enough.

Do Not Depend On Retirement


Though individuals today do not expect to work with one company and retire with a reasonable retirement after 40 years, many people still establish and grow retirement funds on their own with plans to stop working in their late 60s. However, if you take good care of yourself you can expect to live another twenty, thirty, even fifty years.

If you are in good shape, why just sit around the house all day? Consider continuing to work past regular retirement age. Not only could it continue to grow your fund, but it can also help to keep you active and healthy, depending upon the work load that you maintain. Keeping this attitude can help you to stay on the right track with your health as well.

Be Fully Informed


Many people do not take the time to completely educate themselves on common necessary payments, especially for things such as insurance. Though many of the plans do follow the same regulations and carry some identical benefits, there is a lot of money being left on the table when people do not take the time to fully read and understand their policies. A few things to watch out for include:

·       Payment caps
·       Limits
·       Scope of coverage

You can always consult with a knowledgeable professional if you have any questions about a policy or specific benefits (learn more here).

Going against the grain may come with some backlash at times, however the gain of financial stability can be worth it to the right individuals. Take some time to truly explore these habits and see how implementing them could benefit you.

27 October 2015

Review: Supergirl


DANGER! SPOILERS BELOW!
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This show has the same potential that Kara Zor-El has as a superhero. The pilot did not reach the full heights that I came in hoping to see, but that is why it is a pilot. There is a lot of good for the show, a few plot holes that we are supposed to ignore and because I sometimes read spoilers know a little too much to enjoy the pilot on its own.

NPR has dueling reviews today, both with valid points. David Bianculli correctly points out that the most vivid character is that of Cat Grant, played by Calista Flockhart. It may be due to the fact that we have seen this character before in many incarnations, including as Bianculli notes, The Devil Wears Prada. I am eager to see how Winn Schott evolves from love-struck-guy to her Q after his excellent work on her costume, even if there is a cape.


And let's not forget the handsome and oh-so-grown up James Olsen.  He reveals (I told ya, spoilers, yo!) at the end of the pilot that Superman (whom is never actually named. I guess that costs more money than "Supergirl" has in its budget.) sent him to National City to watch out for Kara as she decides to move into the family business.

This is where I still am not buying that 1) Clark and Kara hadn't met since she landed and that 2) He knew exactly when Kara would have her epiphany.

I agree with Eric Deggans that this is a good start to the retelling of the Supergirl mythology. We have our Kryptonite, villains from Krypton and a a fast-talking smug boss to make our hero feel insignificant! And while we're talking about the villains, why can't they just call them Kryptonians  and not "aliens"? I'm gonna assume that this show will dive into the immigration debate for the better. I hope. Please gawd, let it be that! Cause I hate the way Big Government Dude says "aliens."

A sign of progress may be that I was tired with the comments about someone underestimating Kara because "she's a girl." I hope the writers get past making that point cause, duh...we get it. She's a not a man. I prefer to focus on the weakness she has because she's a rookie superhero.

If you are into superheroes, I think you'll like this. If you are looking for a good show to watch with your kids, I think this will be a fun one. Supergirl isn't taking itself too seriously. It is far from the current Superman movies, but rather has a touch of the wit that made Buffy smart to watch. But rising to Joss' standard is a high one, so I forgive them for not hitting that super high note, even if Kara can fly.

Did you watch? What are your thoughts?

21 October 2015

#OneConversation - Why Latinos Need to Talk about HIV/AIDS


Not talking about HIV or AIDS is our first instinct.  Everyone's first instinct. It is a scary topic, even with all the progress the medical community has made to turn a once certain death sentence into a chronic disease.

studies show that talking about HIV/AIDS helps people to know what to do to prevent and treat HIV. This saves lives and protects health. The things to talk about are HIV prevention, HIV testing, and condom use, all of which lower new HIV infections.

For many in our community, family is our primary social unit and source of support. Our family also is the first line in preventing HIV infections. Parents talking with their children are very important. Young Hispanic/Latinos, ages 13-24, made up 20% of all new HIV infections among youth in 2010. This is not acceptable.

Disclaimer: I am being compensated for participating in this campaign. This is a sponsored post. 

09 October 2015

Thoughts on DC Super Hero Girls


The sexualized depiction of female superheroes has always been a point of contention about anointing Wonder Woman or Xena as feminist icons. The male-gazed bodies out weigh the feminist messages for some. As one friend’s daughter asked, “How can Wonder Woman save people in her underwear?” A meme that continues to pop up in my Facebook feed has Wonder Woman announcing that if she doesn’t get pants, no one gets pants.

So when I found out that Mattel was being tasked with creating the action figures for DC’s Super Hero Girls project, I was skeptical. How could the company that brought us “I hate math” Barbie (No, I’ll never let them forget that one!) create anything but a Batgirl who looks more in need of a sandwich than one who can bust down a door? Well one quick trip to Mattel HQ and I was proven wrong.

As a disclaimer upfront, I was a gender and body image expert brought into review the line and offer my point of view. I was paid for my time including travel and hotel. I did NOT leave Mattel HQ with a suitcase of swag.

It was a full day meeting with reps from Mattel, DC and others involved in the launch of this new universe. I heard of their market research including that they found no gender difference in superhero worship. Girls like ‘em as much as boys do. Surprise! Surprise! Not. There were differences though and the one I was struck by was how kids want the superhero to save the day. Boys are much more likely to want the bad guy to die or be locked up, while girls want the superhero to talk some sense in the villain and convert them into a hero. With me at the table were, as Bloomberg put it, "half a dozen of [Mattel's] biggest critics: a collection of feminists, bloggers, and academics." I really expected to go into that room and spend all day lecturing on gender, body image and put my two Gender & Women's Studies degrees to more use in 6 hours than in the last 20 years.

Instead I was blown away by most of what I heard and saw. While I did critique some of their research - pointing out that girls are just as guilty as aggression as boys, but they don't hit as often - and the toy mock ups, overall I liked what I saw.

The first thing we got a sneak peek of was the cartoon series. The show's premise is that the DC superheroes are now all teens and in high school together. Wonder Woman does not show up right away. Rather Bumblebee and Harley Quinn are the superheroes already at the school. The cartoon's intro is embedded below. I know, I know, locating all the superheroes, except Batman, in high school is not canon, but hell, after the new 52, what is canon anymore! It's a cartoon and it looks fun. "DC has major plans to put Super Hero Girls everywhere kids are. It will have dedicated Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, there are plans for TV specials and direct-to-video projects, plus girls will be able to read the characters’ continuing adventures in a Random House middle-grade novel series and in DC graphic novels."

Next we saw the toys. I was really nervous because I could see all the early concept drawings and I was in a room full of Monster High dolls. Would I be able to remember all the things I was sure would be wrong with these dolls? Then the reveal.

I think the last time I examined something so closely was when I made sure that second pink line was an actual line. The action figures stand on their own. Christine Kim, the lead designer, said she made sure that the dolls could stand on their own. After a false start on the dolls, she told her team to use photos of athletes and dancers as models. This is why these dolls have muscle tone. Sure the legs are longer than this short lady would want, but I was told it's about the fact the dolls have a lot of joints so they can be posed in many different positions. And the photos here are of the smaller actions figures, there will be larger dolls that are even better in terms of body size.

This line should blow up in popularity. Those of us who grew up on Linda Carter's Wonder Woman will want this doll. And we will buy another for the young people in our lives. As the Mary Sue points out, this is an entire line of superheroes created just for girls. But as we stressed in the meeting, it should be a line for both girls and boys. There are boys at the high school and the action figures are large enough to fit with other action figure lines. Marketing this line as gender neutral as possible was one of our big pleas. Alas while Target has removed gendered aisles, that's just one store. Will boys be brave enough to walk over to the girls' aisle in Wal-Mart to grab a Batgirl?

Hopefully they will. I want to go back to the research finding about how boys expect the villains to
die or be jailed while the girls expect the hero to help turn the villain around. We saw a clip from the cartoon where Harley Quinn is so excited to have Wonder Woman as a roomie that Wonder Woman is annoyed to death. We've all been there right? We pull back and the annoying friend walks away. I've also been that annoying friend and it feels terrible. Wonder Woman realizes that Harley is just excited and goes over to hang out with her. It was a sweet moment. And while not all depictions of superheroes shows the villain getting killed, they rarely turn the villain into a superhero. Maybe, just maybe this cartoon will give boys an image that not all "bad guys" are bad, but are people who do bad things. I know, it's a lot to expect from a cartoon and a plastic doll.

But wait, that's not all. We will not only be getting cartoons and action figures, but we are getting accessories! Yup, one of the accessories we are getting is a Wonder Woman shield that shoots out little discs. Oh, my dear readers, it took the threat of sure arrest that I did not walk out of that room with my own Wonder Woman shield. I seriously teared up when I held it. It is exactly the type of toy I would have begged my parents for when I was a kid. It shall be the only thing on my wish list until it is mine. Oh, hell, who am I kidding? I'm gonna be at Target the day they hit the shelves.

This universe is not perfect. In fact what we saw were mock ups. Things can and will most likely change before we can get our hands on them. The show will run and something offensive will be in it. Mattel and/or DC will screw something up. But I did not go into that room looking for perfection. What I found were a lot of people who appeared to want to do the right thing. Change is incremental and I saw a lot of incremental changes and then some. Muscles on a doll is a world away from the unrealistic Barbie and Monster High dolls. Girls and boys will play with these toys, watch the cartoons and, hopefully, color in the coloring books with a more realistic view of what bodies look like.

As the header on this post shows, my family is a family that does superheroes. We go to the movies, wear the costumes and watch the shows. I love superheroes which is why I have been such a critic of how they not only depict women, but been so pissed when women superheroes vanish when it comes to merchandise. In my Bitch piece about Wonder Woman I express fear of what that movie will look like. I do not trust Hollywood to do her justice. But this cartoon and the action figure I held, those should do her justice. That is if someone higher up doesn't screw this up.

08 October 2015

Book Review: She Takes a Stand By Michael Elsohn Ross

We're into the first month of school here in Chicago. It's now time for book reports and research projects to become due. One of the biggest challenges to many kids is where to start. Who to write a biographical essay on? And the idea of reading through a mountain of biographies can be daunting.   

She Takes a Stand: 16 Fearless Activists Who Have Changed the World By Michael Elsohn Ross is a must have for your kid's library at home and at school. In the same vein as Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys, this collection of short, accessible and fact-packed essays about 16 inspiring women.

My 12-year-old daughter read the book for her current book report project. She reports that the essays are easy to read and finds the women profiled interesting. Her favorite? Mother Jones. BE STILL MY HEART!! Why? Because she felt that essay read more like a story than a series of facts.

I read the essay on Rigoberta Menchu and thought it summed up her life and struggle well. These essays are short, so they touch on highlights of each woman's life. As I said with Women Aviator, this is an excellent book to jump start larger biographical projects or perfect for those mini-projects.

To continue learning about Mother Jones and fellow activists, please purchase a copy (and support VLF) from Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from a publicist.

07 October 2015

#OneConversation - Latino HIV Awareness Campaign

web banner: We can stop HIV One Conversation At A Time.  Campaign Image of a middle aged Latina and a speech bubble with a message: We need to talk openly about HIV.

You may notice an ad on the sidebar that says "We Can Stop HIV". That is because I have been asked to join the CDC's HIV Awareness campaign. One Conversation at a Time, a CDC campaign, is a call to action for our community to talk about HIV and AIDS, increase HIV and AIDS awareness, and decrease HIV-associated stigma and shame. Now you might ask why we need a special emphasis in the Latino community. The fact is that "[m]ore than 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States and about 50,000 people become infected each year. As Hispanics/Latinos, we account for 21% of these new HIV infections."Compare this to the fact that Latinos make up 17% of the population in the United States. This is unacceptable.

Stay tuned throughout the campaign as I share more information about HIV and its impact in the Latino community.

Join LATISM’s Twitter chat on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 9:00 ET.
Use either use the #OneConversation or #UnaConversación hashtag.


Disclaimer: I am being compensated for participating in this campaign. This is a sponsored post.

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