Monday, March 31, 2008

Amy Tan & My Year to Publish

I love Amy Tan. In fact, my husband calls me the Latina Amy Tan. Kinda like when they called Alisa Valdes Rodriguez the Latina Terry McMillan. Seriously though, I fell in love with Amy Tan in college when I took a Women in Literature class, one of my many English Lit classes to fulfill my minor in English. I loved that class and I loved the professor. And that's where I met Amy Tan when we read The Joy Luck Club.

A while back I bought my daughter a children's book by Amy Tan, The Moon Lady. For some crazy reason I had never read it to my daughter. Tonight I read it to my daughter for the first time and we loved it!! It is so beautifully written. I only wish that one day I can reach the same level as Amy Tan. She is on a totally different level of many writers and often I wonder if it's because she has a doctorate in Linguistics. I love the images that she weaves with her words. Plus her illustrator was wonderful.

OK. It's late. It was a tough week. I'm trying very hard to be positive and to focus on the good things in my life- like my beautiful brilliant children, my husband, my weight loss, and making it to finalist in the Glimmertrain short story contest. That's what I focus on and I think about come what may, I have those things.

I am going to publish my first novel this year. I know it. I know this is the year that it will happen. Something just tells me that. And if that happens I will be happy and complete. When I found out I was having a boy during my second pregnancy my best childhood friend told me that I was getting all that I wanted, a girl and a boy. If i publish my book this year then I will have all that I ever wanted personally and I will be happy.

I have been putting myself out there a lot more and I think it's working. Some people may think I am the total bragger, but I call myself my best PR agent ever. I will never need a PR person, because after being in sales for 19 years I can't think that anybody can possibly sell me and my work better than ME. I will sell my first novel, come what may. This is my year.

Seriously, if you haven't read my blog entry over at skirt! check it out and let me know what you think. I think it was a pretty ballsy entry for me in a very White magazine, but I think it was educational too. Send me your thoughts.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Family Tree

I know a lot about my Casares family tree, thanks to my father's wonderful oral story telling tradition that he learned from his father.

Also, in great part also thanks to my third cousin in Utah who is a genealogy expert and who had extensive research on our family tree. When she and I met via e-mail around nine years ago she was thrilled to find the piece of the puzzle that she was missing. She couldn't understand how the Casares came to Texas. When I explained to her that somewhere in the 1830s he'd been kidnapped by Indians from a carnival in Linares it all made sense. After that we corresponded often and she shared a lot of what she had uncovered about our family line.

Today my dad came over and we were chatting about his family. He told me something that I had never really gotten before. I think he told me when I was younger and I didn't take as much interest. This time I paid more attention and I made note. He said that my grandmother Sara Isassi never really knew her true origin. Some said she was French others said she was Swiss. One thing she did know was that her grandfather came over when the French invaded Mexico in the 1860s and that he brought his family. What she didn't know was if her grandfather was actually French.

I did question this theory because my grandmother's father's name was Trinidad Isassi. I told my father that Trinidad sounds more Spanish, but when I did a search the origin came back as Latin. So I guess they could have been French and they could have named their son Trinidad.

I'd also like to research if any of the French brought over their family, which didn't really make sense. I wondered if maybe they came over when the French settled Louisiana and then moved down to Mexico, if that's even their origin. I really won't know unless I do the study of their genealogy. That should be an interesting one to study.

Check out my Skirt Blog

I wrote a commentary on my POV regarding Literacy and being Hispanic in America.

Lap Band Update

I'm giving y'all (people who know me) an update because I know you've probably been wondering. Eventually I think it would be a good idea to post a picture, but I'm too lazy. For those of you who know me and remember me four years ago after I had my son, I'm that size now. Yeah, I'm like fitting in clothes that hasn't fit me in almost 4 years! Pretty snazzy!

Yesterday we were invited over to a friend's house for a bar-b-q and I couldn't find my jeans. I was looking in my closet when I saw these khaki pants I haven't worn in about 3.5 years. I tried them on and voila, they fit. It's been three months and I've lost close to 25 lbs.

So I'm wearing them again today to remind myself of the awesomeness of it all. It's Saturday and I'm enslaved to cleaning my house so let me go so I can go do that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Room of My Own

This is a writing prompt I wrote about an essay in Literary Mama. -Loida

Virginia Wolf’s famous quote is. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I thought of this quote when I read Terri G. Scullen’s essay, “Green Means Go.”
I believe Virginia Wolf whole-heartedly and since I already have the money part (I work full-time) I figured the room part wouldn’t be too hard, especially now that my kids aren’t babies anymore.

I set up an old wooden desk in my upstairs guest room and told my husband that once a week I was going to retreat into my room to write. My husband built a wooden bookcase all across the back wall on each side of the single window. The shelves are filled with many of my favorite authors. Hemingway, Amy Tan, Baldwin, Cisneros and many others. I surrounded myself with three beautiful framed pictures a friend gave me. They each have a Maya Angelou quote. I also have a print of the Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens to inspire me. I pictured myself sitting in this room writing a great novel. It didn’t quite work out that way.

First there were the children. No matter how much we told them it was my writing time, they chose to ignore it and they insisted on coming upstairs, breaking my concentration.
From the moment that I went upstairs I could hear their little voices asking where I was. When my husband told them I was busy the little one would start to cry. It’s hard to reason with a five and two year old, the ages they were at the time.

Next I tried to get away once a week to write, but that was short lived. By the time I drove out somewhere, or dropped the kids off and picked them up, I felt like the process took too long. I might as well stay at home and write, I reasoned. I would actually get more writing time on a good day when the children kept busy.

Finally I gave up and I started writing in my kitchen. Far away enough from the television in the living room, but close enough when needed. Somehow the children took me for granted when they could see me.

The kitchen is medium sized, not a small kitchen of newer houses. Our house was built in 1940, when the kitchens weren’t open community areas like they are now. It’s its own room with its own doorway, but we don’t have a door up. The doorway is open, but somehow due to the position of the kitchen some sounds are muffled. I could hear the sounds coming from the living room but I tuned them out.

This is how I finally finished writing my novel. I clicked away on my laptop, while listening to the sounds of the children and my husband in the background. Sometimes my little one would wander in and would climb on my lap or would stand on my chair behind me and would pat me on my shoulders. But when I was in the zone it didn’t matter. I kept right on writing.

In my dreams my room upstairs is a perfect oasis. It’s decorated with prints from all of my favorite artists and quotes by writers. Patchouli candles are burning and the lighting is just right. I lock myself in for one hour every night with my laptop to weave my words. No one comes in to bother me and I have a whole glorious hour to myself. This would be my perfect writing environment.

The truth is, now that my laptop died, I write at my desk top computer almost every night for one hour, in the middle of the house. I write almost every day. Because when you have that fire burning in your belly you can’t help but write.

I read about a new author in Book Magazine who wrote her first novel while rocking her newborn baby in a baby swing. I write many times with my four year old sitting next to me, asking me to read to him. I stop in between typing and I read to him. Then I start writing again. It can be done. We can do it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I'm a Glimmertrain Finalist!

First of all I must share my good news with all of you. I submitted a short story to a literary journal for probably only the second time ever, and the first time to Glimmertrain, and I was a finalist! What that means is that out of the 1,200 entries I made the top 5%, but not the final 25 winners. Still very exciting for a first time effort! One of the publishers called it “an excellent read.”

The story I submitted was one that I published in part on this blog and that I read at The Houston Institute for Culture. It was unfinished at the time, but I already had the end in my head. I finally finished it in time to submit it to this story contest that I read about on Literary Mama. The theme was Family Matters, so I submitted “The Canal,” a short story based on a real story that happened to my dad and his brother when they were little.

This has really encouraged me to keep submitting and of course to always keep writing. Yay!!!

Apagen las Luces! The Party's Over!

I've been on an Anne Taintor kick lately, but I also love Dolly Mamas! Check out their site and all the great merchandise. This one just cracked me up!

I am back from vacation! Gone are the days of sleeping in late and marching to the beat of my own drummer. Oh wait! I kinda do the second one already. The only reason I don't do the sleep late part is because I have to get my daughter to school. Just kidding! Of course I get to work at a respectful time in the morning. (smirk)

Okay, it's back to reality this week. I also have good lap band news to report. I had my third fill last Wednesday and I can totally feel the difference. I finally feel the restriction everyone has been telling me about. I think I'm down almost 25 lbs now. I'm going to be stylin' and profilin' in no time at all! Watchale!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chernobyl Lemon

Talk about a giant lemon!! Take a look at this. That's me holding it to put it in perspective. I don't know what my lemon tree has been eating, but it must be good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Six Word Memoir

I love a
sense of humor!

Six Word Memoir that I picked up from Coco. (I'm not counting "a" as a word.)

Here are the rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir.

2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.

3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post.

4. Tag more blogs with links.

Calling all Alisa Valdes Rodriguez Fans

Alisa Valdes Rodriguez is taking a very creative marketing approach to promote her new book, Dirty Girls On Top. Okay, I know how that title sounds, but really, it's the sequel to her first book that took the chick lit genre by a storm a few years ago, Dirty Girls Social Club. Okay let me try again!

Seriously, Alisa Valdes Rodriguez started a movement of a chica lit genre. It was a genre that the literary world had never realized existed. It was a whole new audience that I don't think the publishing world even thought about.

I think about my mom, who spoke more Spanish than English, yet read in English voraciously. She loved Eleanor Hibbert's Victoria Holt novels and she and my sisters read almost the whole collection, including other books by the same author under the pen names of Philippa Carr and Jean Plaidy.

The reason I think about my mom is that my mom loved reading and she passed that on to me. So many Hispanic women love to read. If my mom were alive today she would be so thrilled to read novels by Latina women about other Latina women. She would have been so excited to read the novels by Alisa Valdes Rodriguez.

Which brings me back to Alisa's ingenious idea. She knows her audience and she knows that women pass books on to other women. So if you're an Alisa Valdes Rodriguez fan go to her website and sign up to host a book party. You only need to have 10 people there to make it a success! Do it!

Mini skirt! Event@Bohemia Restaurant & Bar

I'm so excited about the Mini skirt! Event tomorrow night at Bohemia Restaurant & Bar. I don't know if it's too late for y'all to RSVP but if you are interested in attending RSVP to I'll be there with my new Shoegirl business cards and all. I'm SOOO excited!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Love Old Fashioned Logos

This one is one of my favorites. The Del-Dixi maid.

I just learned that this is a Texas product and they only distribute in Texas and states immediately surrounding us. The owners' little girl Margie modeled for the little girl logo that was added in 1940. I love that logo of that little girl. She evolved into the caricature named Smiley.

That's All

Copyright: Anne Taintor

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Am a Domestic Diva

I did it again! But last time I did it without the cool Anne Taintor art.

I’m halfway there. I wanted to clean my house so that I’m not struggling with that while I’m on vacation next week. Well, I’m halfway there. I still have a ton of clothes to fold and put up, but at least I’ve narrowed it down to that, cleaning my bedroom, and cleaning out the kids’ toy box.
Cleaning out the toy box consists of making 3 groups. 1.Keep 2.Throw away and 3.Give away.

Believe me this is not going to be an easy feat. Right now the toys are in every nook and cranny of the kids’ room. Even when the kids clean their room you still see small toys peeking out from under the bed, dresser and closet. The majority of the toys are in the small wooden IKEA toy box and the rest are inside of my son’s crib. Yes, sad but true. The old crib became a toy box instead of a toddler bed.

But this is the weekend that’s all going to change. My plan is to clean out all of those toys, so that my husband can change the crib into a toddler bed. I want to get all this done tomorrow and Sunday. That way I can start off my vacation on Monday totally relaxed and I can get my cleaning lady to come in to do the floors, etc..

Oh the joys of motherhood and housecleaning! I’m such a domestic diva!

School's Out for Spring Break! Already!

I'm cheating today and I'm duplicating my blog from my other blog. It's late and I'm tired!

It’s Spring Break time! My daughter is off starting tomorrow and doesn’t go back until Tuesday, the 25th. I’m off next week.

My vacation time just snuck up on me! I’m not going anywhere, but we’re planning a lot of activities together right here in the Bayou City.

Here’s a list of some of the places we want to visit and do next week. We may do all of these or most of these. We’ll see!

Discovery Green (something new and whatever we can see that’s open)
The Downtown Tunnels (my daughter has wanted to go here for a long time)
Rodeo Carnival (an annual tradition now)
Ride the Metro Light Rail (from Downtown to the Rodeo Carnival)
Children’s Museum (oldie but goodie)
Museum of Natural Science (my son has never seen the dinosaurs)
The Movies! “Horton Hears a Who!”
A day to relax and hang out at home.
A shopping day.

That’s the great thing about Houston. There are so many things to do that it doesn’t matter that we decided to postpone our trip to San Antonio until May, when my step-daughter comes to visit. We have plenty to do in our own great city!

For some more great ideas I received this awesome mail piece from the Downtown District at my home. What are your plans for Spring Break? Are you taking some time off with your kids?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm Sooooo Starbucksing!

I entered our new term, coined by my 3 year old son, "starbucksing" into the Urban Dictionary and it looks like they accepted it. If you like the term and agree with its definition give me a thumbs up!

Today was a busy day! I started the day going to a Black History Wax Museum at my daughter's school. Her teacher and class did a fantastic job of putting on a great show. Each child represented a different person and they memorized a speech of the person's biography. They stood around the multi-purpose room with a light in front of them. People walked around and pressed the light in front of them with their foot and when the light went on the child presented his or her speech from memory. My daughter was Tiger Woods. She was adorable in her golf t-shirt, Tiger Woods hat, golf club and ball.

I loved Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou, and Malcolm X. Super cute!!

My printed and spiral bound copy of my novel, that I've had since December, has finally moved from my table to my truck. I'm finally going to have it with me so I can work on editing it when I have lunch by myself or I'm waiting somewhere. I also have three copies out to friends since December and no one has finished it. I don't take that as a good sign! I know that when I love a book I can't put it down and I can't wait to see what's going to happen. That's not happening here. It looks like I have some major editing before me.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

It's Spring!

The time has changed and Spring is on its way. The azaleas are blooming and as usual I forgot to take a picture of mine when they were in full bloom, so I'm going to share pictures of my half dead ones and also my neighbor's beautiful ones. These above are my neighbor's. Sorry the picture is a little dark!

My half dead ones.
These are also mine, and a little pinker.

Oh yeah! I have an orange tree. The oranges are sour and are only good for making marmalade. Not that I am running off to make any marmalade. I wouldn't know the first thing about it. What a waste of oranges!

Here are my giant awesome lemons. They are as big as my oranges.

And no Mexican home would be complete without your very own nopales growing right in your front yard next to the gate, so that every person who drives by your house can see them. The old couple who lived in my house before me planted it.
I always think of my mom and how she would be cutting off the new ones to cook them up with egg and pork. Yes, this is actually a cactus plant for those of you wondering.

OK so now I've given you a tour of my garden and even my neighbor's. I can't grow anything that requires any care at all.

All's Well That Ends Well

The walk was good. Did I mention the walk here? Now I'm getting my two blogs confused. So OK, in case I didn't say it here- Rey and I did the 5K "Stride 4 Stroke" walk with the kids and with my daughter's 1st grade class/team, The Chocolate Dogs. It was a lot of fun! We got some great exercise. In American terms I think 5Ks are 3.3 miles. So roughly Memorial Park. I told Rey that one day I want to do a run.

Sorry for the venting yesterday. It was much needed. I got a couple of things done today, but not too much. Rey did more than me. He cleaned the garage out of tons of junk.

Blast from the past! He found two business cards, one from Beat Temple and the other from Global Village, two bands we used to go hear play in the’90s, before we were married or even knew each other. I used to go hear them at Fitzgerald’s and he used to go hear them somewhere else.

Fitzgerald’s was my account when I sold advertising for the Daily Cougar at UH and I used to go there every week to pick up their check. If Global Village, Beat Temple or Panjandrum were playing that weekend I would ask them to put me on the guest list. A friend from high school played with Panjandrum. Those were the days of no responsibility and freedom. Little did I know then what I know now.

I have said this before and I'll say it again. Being a parent is absolutely the hardest job in the world. I've stayed up all night finishing papers for school, I've taken very hard exams, but I have never experienced the stress that I have as a parent. It's joyful and all that too, but at the same time, it's hard work.

So tonight is Daylight Savings time and I don't even have to change the clock in my bedroom. I never changed it since last Fall, so now we're back to the same hour on the clock. See how it all works out in the end?

It's late. I'm tired. I'm going to bed.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Leftover PMS

Is it possible to have leftover PMS? Like leftover hormones that didn't go away? I wonder.... This is going to be a rant of some sort.

I'm still feeling crazy overwhelmed and frustrated with my house. Sometimes I wish I could just pack up everything and start over. Can I have a do-over like Florida and Michigan? Yeah, pack up my entire house, throw away everything I don't need, and just start over like I should have before moving into my house. OR better yet, knock down my garage, build a new house, move into that one, knock over this house and build another new house here. Rent one out and live in one. Now wouldn't that be cool?

That frustration, in turn, causes me to be very frustrated with other things and other people. I need something new! If it's going to happen it's going to be up to me!

Other than that, this was a fabulous day. I was on the radio and I was happy. No leftover PMS there. I was very excited about that. If you don't live in Houston, or if you missed it, check it our here. And if you want to read more of my rants on skirt! go here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

My Step-Daughter the Movie Star

I haven't blogged on here about my step-daughter and her recent accomplishments. Those of you who know my step-daughter Mandi will probably remember that she was very math and science inclined in middle school, back when she lived with us. She was even accepted into the HISD summer program at Kinkaid that emphasizes their studies on math and science.

She just graduated from high school in New Orleans this past year. Imagine our surprise when she told us recently that she had been cast as an extra in several movies being filmed in the New Orleans area.

A couple of weeks ago we watched her in the background in around three scenes on the Lifetime TV movie, Racing for Time. It was very exciting, especially for my six year old daughter to see her big sister on TV.

Then last week we found out that she has been cast as a plus size model with K.A.B. Modeling agency in New Orleans. She had her first big event introducing the new models last week. We are very happy for her and glad that she's finding her niche. She's busy this week filming another movie. Baby you're a STAR!

Never Enough Time

There aren't enough hours in the day or enough days in the weekend to do all the things we need to do. My house is in a very very sad state right now and I'm about to lose my mind. I know it's the PMS, but still.... How do I keep my sanity? Skillets and a cleaning lady, that's how!

Still blogging for skirt! and loving it. Check out the March issue in print or online. OH! And check out this great essay by a writer who I admired in the Feb printed issue. This essay is an online exclusive.

Oh and if you are interested in donating to my daughter’s Jump for Heart effort go here and donate. Shameless mother promoting her daughter’s Jump for Heart cause.