Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last Beauty Product Review of the Year

I tried two new dry shampoos towards the end of 2015 and the winner is still Batiste. I tried Pantene's Original Fresh and Salon Grafix "Invisible" formula.

The Pantene spray left my hair just as oily. It was like I had just sprayed product and mixed it with the oil in my hair to create a thicker more oily film on my hair. Not good! I know I have especially oily hair, so in order to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe Pantene is good if you just have semi-oil or non-oily hair.

Salon Grafix was just a step up from Pantene but still not great. Nothing over the counter has worked as well as Batiste so far.

Of course in the more expensive salon category I still chose Bumble and Bumble. The only negative point I can give them is that they come tinted with color and it does come off on your pillow. So use at your own risk or cover your pillows with a towel.

If you're looking for a way to freshen up your hair, and you don't have time to wash it, I still recommend Batiste Dry Shampoo.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

End of Year Recap

Before I Die wall in Midtown Houston.

This is the year that I have blogged the least out of any year since I started this blog 11 years ago.

Here is recap of how many blog posts I have written every year. 2004 doesn't count because that's the year I started the blog and I started it at the end of the year.

Blog Archive
·    ►  2015 (16)
·    ►  2014 (35)
·    ►  2013 (39)
·    ►  2012 (29)
·    ►  2011 (42)
·    ►  2010 (47)
·    ►  2009 (60)
·    ►  2008 (207)
·    ►  2007 (150)
·    ►  2006 (176)
·    ►  2005 (142)
·    ►  2004 (13)

I wonder what was happening in 2008 that I was able to blog 207 times!  2006 was also a busy blogging year. I will do better in 2016. I’m going to set a goal to blog at least 52 times, or once a week on average.

I have several creative ideas for 2016, as usual. Part of me doesn’t want to set any goals for 2016. I hate disappointing myself, but I know I can’t do that. I have to set goals whether I reach them or I don’t, just like I have monthly revenue goals at work. I need some direction on where I’m going in life.

One big goal that is going to be made simple is to do what I need to do to live longer. Simple. If eating chips is not what I should be doing to live longer then maybe I shouldn’t eat too many chips. If I should start exercising regularly so I can live longer then maybe I should exercise more.

My other main goals are going to be about me and finding my center and getting back to the financial place where I need to be. Once I’m financially sound I can fix things around my house that need fixing. I can afford to eat clean, which is something I want to do. I want to do what I did in 2014 when I lost around 10 pounds from just eating clean and not drinking.

I also need to think about my word or words for 2016. What word will describe what I want to achieve this next year? That will be my topic for my next blog.

Finally but most important. What do I want to accomplish before I die? (See photo at the top) It will be here pretty soon, whether I die form a tragedy, an accident or bad genes and bad health, it's out there! And we don't know when it can happen. I saw on Facebook that a friend from high school was very sick. Her daughter posted about it and it seemed that it was serious. Like she was almost dying. She pulled through and when I finally got to email with her to see what had happened she told me that she went in for knee surgery and the next day she passed out from too much anesthesia and didn't wake up for six days! Just like that! Thank God she did wake up and she can talk about it. We do not know when our moment may arrive.

So that's the other thing I want to really think about in 2016. I want to make a bucket list for the last half of my life. I want to live like I'm leaving soon and I want to get the most out of appreciating art, literature, writing and making my own art and literature. I want to help my kids become successful teenagers. What do you want to do before you die?

Monday, October 26, 2015

We Are All Like Stairs, One Step After Another

The thought of my children’s fetal cells living on in my body is pretty amazing. The article I read today from NPR says that some cells may act as little sentinels looking out for breast cancer cells and killing them.

Normal Cells from WikiCommons

I’m comforted by that thought. Also by the idea that their cells stayed in my body long after they were born and traveled to my heart and other vital organs. But it’s the idea of them being in my heart that especially makes me feel like there’s even  more reason why we love our children so much. A part of them is technically inside our hearts until we die. How poetic!

The other theory is equally amazing. We very likely have the cells of all of our siblings who shared our mother’s body with us. Since I’m my mother’s sixth child that means that I possibly have the cells of my 4 older sisters and my brother, who I never met because he was born premature and died shortly after birth. He was born right before me so he left the most recent fetal cells when I was growing in my mother’s womb. And if the theory is correct, then I am the only sibling who carries his cells because I was the only sister born after him. Amazing!

Another thought that warms my heart is that my sisters and I all carry cells from our beloved eldest sister who passed away in 1995. The thought that I carry part of her inside of me is so remarkable. I love thinking that part of her is really here with me.

In reality we each carry part of our mother, grandmother and great-grandmother inside of us too. It reminds me of a line in The Joy Luck Club from the character An-Mei when she said that when we are born a girl to our mother we are “like stairs, one step after another, going up, going down, but always going the same way.”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Being My True Self

This week I received my new copy of O Magazine in the mail. I love that magazine. Every month when I receive it I turn to the back and I read Oprah's "What I Know for Sure" piece first. The main themes in this month center around Thanksgiving, being yourself and belief.

October issue of O Magazine, published by Hearst Magazines.

I'm really interested in the "being your true self" subject and also about belief. I've been searching for a way to still believe without having an organized religion. I still want for my children to believe and I don't want to make excuses for my beliefs.

Just recently I had a bad experience with social media and I learned a very important lesson. I learned who I should and shouldn't allow into my circle of friends. It made me really sad for a few days and it almost made me lose my trust in humanity. I say "almost" because in the end I made the conscious decision to not let it change me.

For the most part I'm a very trusting person. I'm an open book both on social media and on my blog. I may even over share sometimes. I also think the best of people before I think the worst. I don't want to change that about me. I am not going to let another person's unkind actions change who I am and how I think about the world. Because if I do that then they will have won and I refuse to lose.

I love who I am with all my imperfect and flawed parts. Sure I get mad, I'm mean sometimes and I make mistakes. I'm human! But I love that I'm an open book and that I trust too much. I don't want to be a negative and paranoid person. That kind of person is not a happy person and they block the good energy in life.

Which reminds me, for the past 20 days I've been participating in the #100daysofhappiness project. Every day I post an image to Instagram and I write about what made me happy that day. At first I worried about repeating myself and I tried to keep my posts original. Then I thought, "Who cares?" If my kids make me happy 50 of the 100 days then I will say that, I don't care. I will post what made me the most happy that day, whatever it is and however many times that one thing or person makes me happy. That's the whole point of the exercise anyway.

Speaking of happy, I'm in Week 4 now of my new job and I am very happy to be back. I have a truly awesome team and management who really backs us up. I have a good feeling about this.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Houston Chronicle- Part III

I wrote my last blog post on September 9 about experiencing more and being grateful, then on September 14 I received an offer from the Houston Chronicle to return home.

I have worked for the Houston Chronicle for most of my adult life- almost 17 of the 23 years since I graduated. I started right out of college at the tender age of 22, two months shy of my 23rd birthday. I left at 24 because I thought I wanted to go into teaching. What I ended up doing was working for the University of Houston as the sales manager of the Student Publications department, a perfect combination of advertising and training/teaching.

I returned to the Chronicle at 28 and worked there for the next 14 years in a variety of positions and it was during those years that I gained the most experience about paper, printing, operations, circulation and so many things. I loved the years when I was a project manager for special and new sections.

When I left at 43 I needed a break. A lot of things had happened in my life, like a divorce, my elderly father became ill, maybe a mid-life crisis. I don’t know, but I had the intense desire to take a break and get out on my own. I did that for a little over a year and then it was time to go back to work. An opportunity came up with a community newspaper group and I took it.

It was a good year and a good experience. I learned more. There’s always more to learn, no matter how long you’ve done this.

So here I am on the eve of my 3rd start, thinking of the things I’ve missed. I missed being a part of something big. I missed that knowledge that every day people fire up their computer and go to or still go out to their front lawn and pick up their newspaper. I missed knowing that in my little way I was a part of this city’s day. I was part of an institution in this city, part of its 114 year history, and that feeling is awesome. That is why I’ve loved working there all these years. Third’s a charm!

I’m going back this time older and wiser. Questions I wondered about have been answered and I may not have known if I hadn’t left. I had to venture out “daring greatly” to the unknown and I do believe that I’ll be a better employee and leader now.

More than anything, this past year has really been a great lesson in humility, gratitude and budgeting. I have learned to live with so much less in my life and we survived. I tell the kids that all the time and they agree. I lived a year without Starbucks, haircuts, pedicures and internet and it has made a difference. But I can’t lie, once I’m back to where I want to be it will be so nice to get a pedicure and a manicure.

Tomorrow is a new day and a new beginning. I feel like I do when the kids are starting the school year, New Year’s and my birthday, when I make or review my goals. I’ve made new goals, both professional and personal and now I need to set out to reach them.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Experiencing More by Being Grateful

I’m still thinking a lot about the movie “Boyhood” and that quote that just resonated with me.

If you haven’t seen or heard of “Boyhood” it’s that amazing movie that was filmed over the course of twelve years with the exact same actors. Ethan Hawke plays the dad and Patricia Arquette is the single mother juggling school, two children and bad choices for husbands.

With the kids at the end of a day in Disneyland

Towards the end of the movie Patricia Arquette is getting ready to send her son Mason off to college.

Mom: You know what I'm realizing? My life is just going to go. Like that. This series of milestones. Getting married. Having kids. Getting divorced. The time that we thought you were dyslexic. When I taught you how to ride a bike. Getting divorced... again. Getting my master’s degree. Finally getting the job I wanted. Sending Samantha off to college. Sending you off to college. You know what's next? Huh? It's my f--ing funeral! Just go, and leave my picture!

Mason: Aren't you jumping ahead by, like, 40 years or something?

Mom: I just thought there would be more.

The reason this quote touched me is because I’m in the thick of it right now and the years are passing me by so fast. My daughter is 14 and just started her freshman year of high school. In four short years she’s going off to college. My son is three years behind her so I only have seven years left with him. I have less years left with him at home than I have had with him so far. Wow!

After watching this movie I said to everyone, “I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want to say, ‘I just thought there would be more.’”

I want to know that I did do a lot and that it was good. I want to cherish the moments I have now and appreciate them. I don’t want to miss out on anything.

So then I thought about an exercise my friend Kimmi had been doing. She has been posting #100daysofhappy on her Facebook page and she keeps posting what she’s grateful for. It’s based on a book called “The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a wonderful personal project and one I want to do too. Most importantly, watching Kimmi do this has made me think about all the things that I’m grateful for and there are a lot.  

Showing gratitude honestly acknowledges the good things we have had in our lives. I’ve thought about how I received my education early, before having kids, which is less stressful. I traveled abroad a few times prior to the kids. Since I had the kids I’ve traveled a lot in the US too. I realize that’s more than a lot people.  Two years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to take the kids to Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York for the first time. Last year we went to LA and to Disneyland.  They loved traveling as much as I do so I’m in big trouble.

I have a roof over my head, even if that roof needs a ton of work. I’m grateful that thus far my kids have been great and I hope that they continue that way. We’ve had our challenges, just like every family does, but we work through them.  Most importantly, they are very healthy and they hardly even get sick from colds. I know that in itself is a blessing.

I’ve loved and lost and I’m okay. I survived and I have a pretty good relationship with my ex husband. We work hard to co-parent our two kids. All in all I have to admit that I’ve had a really interesting life. I have tons of travel stories to tell and great experiences. I will not be one of those older ladies who says, “I just thought there would be more,” because so far I’ve already experienced “more.” I have nothing to fear.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The End of Summer and Another Milestone

On the Friday prior to school starting I reflect on this summer that just flew by so fast and how we never really made it to the beach and to the sounds of the glorious ocean rolling up on to the sand. I missed the beach this summer. We only went maybe once or twice. I can’t even remember how many times, but it was not much.

It started with torrential rain all around Memorial Day in May. Then Miranda was attending the Kinkaid EMSI program and before I knew it half the summer was up. We attended a family reunion in July in the Rio Grande Valley and that was our summer vacation- a long weekend in South Texas.

As we prepared for the kids to go to their grandparents’ house in San Antonio in August I realized the summer was already over. I was tasked with buying uniforms and school supplies to prepare.

So here we are, practically on the eve of the first day of school. We are crossing over into new territory this year. Seth will be starting middle school and Miranda high school. I feel like the mother (Patricia Arquette) in the movie “Boyhood” when she says, “You know what I’m realizing? My life is just going to go. Like that. This series of milestones.”

I don’t want to say, “I just thought there would be more.”

I want to be able to say, “There was so much in life and I got all that I could out of it.”

Here we are at the end of the summer and I wanted to go to the beach this weekend. We had the rain at the beginning then weeks and weeks of extreme heat with no rain. So wouldn’t you know that it’s been raining this week? 

It’s supposed to be overcast with scattered showers all weekend but I want to see if we can squeeze in one last beach visit on Sunday morning. I want to sit on the beach with a drink and the waves at my feet before heading back to the crazy schedule of the school year.

Monday, August 03, 2015

The Cost of Healthcare

About a month ago I went in to have my routine annual mammogram. A few days later I opened my results and was surprised to read that they wanted me to go back in for a follow up. I quickly called my OBGYN’s office to find out what they knew. The nurse, who has known me for years, called me back. She told me that I had a small nodule in my left breast, more center and under the nipple. I was shocked, but instead of thinking the worst or obsessing and reading everything I could find on the internet, I just waited until the following week for my follow-up appointment. Believe me, this was really hard to do, but I did it.

My insurance covers the first mammogram as prevention, probably because I’m over 40. However, the insurance wasn’t as generous for a second mammogram or an ultrasound.

Honestly, when I made the second appointment money was the furthest thing from my mind. All I was thinking about was getting that second check and finding out if I had a malignant “nodule.”

I went in and the lady checking me in let me know that I was responsible for my co-pay of $500+. I told her that I didn’t come prepared to pay that amount. She called someone and handed me the phone. The woman on the other end asked me how much I could pay.

"I can pay a hundred, but that’s all,” I replied.

“Can you pay two hundred?” she asked.


She told me that they would make an exception this time but to be aware that I would owe the balance. I told her I understood.

I paid my $100 and went on with the mammogram and the ultrasound. The great news is that it was a benign lump and that I didn’t need a biopsy. I just need to follow up in six months.

I was relieved. Thank goodness it wasn’t cancer. Thank goodness I didn’t need more procedures. I don’t think I would have been able to afford it if I had.

Today I received an additional bill for $141 from the radiologist. Lovely. Add that to the $400+ balance I still owe.

Yes, I have insurance, provided my employer, but I still have a deductible and co-pays. Plus, I opted for the less expensive insurance because in general we don’t get sick often. I only needed the insurance for check-up, vaccines and of course, God forbid, an emergency or unexpected illness. Surprise!

I have been very fortunate to have insurance my entire adult life. I remember a time when I paid the co-pay of a few hundred dollars to go in to the hospital to  have my first baby fourteen years ago. After she was born I received a refund in the mail because my insurance had covered all the expenses.

In just fourteen years healthcare has become so expensive that it’s made it virtually impossible for that same scenario. Both healthcare and pharmaceuticals have skyrocketed and the people paying the price for the increase are us, the consumers.  

So what if I had needed additional care and I didn’t have the money to cover it? I know I would have had the care anyway, but I can’t help but wonder how I would have paid for it. Forget the fear of death, people can't afford to get cancer. 

Another incident happened recently that was also a reminder of these rising costs. I’m allergic to shellfish. I have a pretty life-threatening reaction if I come in contact to shellfish. I consider that a matter of life or death. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I’m even more sensitive and I know it’s important that I carry an epi-pen in case of an emergency.

I noticed that my epi-pen had expired so I made an appointment with my allergist, thinking that my co-pay would be the same as the co-pay for my OBGYN or any other specialists. Wrong. The co-pay was $120 for my allergist. $120 to see a doctor who has to prescribe me a medication that keeps me alive in case of an attack.

I couldn’t wait to see how much the epi-pen was going to cost. When I called the pharmacy to check on my co-pay before going in to pick it up the pharmacist told me it would cost me $500. I almost fell out of my chair. It turned out that she didn’t have my insurance information entered correctly so my cost wasn’t really $500, but that is the cost for someone who doesn’t have insurance. My cost was $40 but then the doctor’s office gave me a pharmaceutical company card and my cost was $0.
When I went to pick up my epi-pen I asked the pharmacist what people do if they have no insurance. She said they either don’t have one or they keep the same one well after it expires. This is what we have come to.

That made me so sad for people with nut, seafood, bee, and all other allergies. That means that there are probably thousands of people walking around out there without an epi-pen because they can’t afford to have one. I could barely afford the $120 co-pay at the doctor to just get the prescription.

This is why we need health care reform and I’m not just talking about insurance for everyone. That’s great too. I mean the part that says, “Decrease the cost of health care.” Until we reform and regulate how much hospitals, doctors and pharmacy companies are charging we won’t get anywhere because healthcare costs will continue to increase and so will insurance deductibles and co-pays.

I received two epi-pens in my pack and it made me think about how I will probably never use the second one. I wish that I could find a way to donate the extra pen back to my allergist or to a public clinic to give to someone who needs it and can’t afford it. That’s an idea worth exploring.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Quest for Hamilton Vanguard

As the 2014-2015 school year came to an end each child was accepted into a Magnet program/school and I thought we were done. Miranda was accepted into DeBakey, the High School of Health Professions and Seth was accepted into the STEM program at Hogg Middle School. However, Seth was not completely happy with that and he asked that I still try to get him into Hamilton. I spoke to the Vanguard Coordinator and found out that there is a Phase 2 application process.

Hamilton Middle School

This is how that works for you parents out there wondering about this. If you applied to Vanguard and your child didn’t get accepted based on his last year test scores or testing you can reapply in the summer. Let me use Seth as the example so you understand exactly what I mean because when I say “last year” it can be confusing.

So when we applied to Vanguard for 6th grade this past school year, Seth was in the 5th grade. The application asked for his test scores from his 4th grade year. Seth didn’t have the best year that year but his 5th grade teacher wrote him a great recommendation and I had high hopes. We also applied to magnet school programs. When we received the results he had been accepted into two magnet programs but not into the Vanguard program at Lanier, where I initially applied.
Important lesson to note here. Now that the application is done online you MUST apply to every Vanguard school you are interested in attending, not just one. In the past it was only one application and you chose the three schools you wanted in order. This year it was different because it was online. I didn’t know that and I applied to Hamilton late.

However, since he didn’t qualify for Vanguard all together he still wasn’t accepted into Hamilton. So the Vanguard coordinator told me this. You can reapply this summer with his last report card of 5th grade and his Iowa test scores from 5th grade. It took FOREVER for them to send us the Iowa test scores but last week they made them available and I dropped off a copy of Seth’s report card. I was thrilled when I received the news that he had been accepted to Hamilton into the Vanguard program.
I think this is important to know because there are so many parents out there that have no idea that they can still apply to the Vanguard program or Magnet schools, that still have space available, as late as the summer. It was a learning experience for us too and I thought I knew everything there was to know about applying to Magnet and Vanguard schools, but everything is a learning experience.

Hard to believe that this fall I’ll be the mom of a high school and middle school student! I have to cherish these next 4 years because in 3 years we’ll be dealing with college applications and more.
In additional good news, Miranda was invited to go back to Kinkaid next summer so I have 4 busy years ahead of me, between high school, middle school for Seth and summer programs for Miranda at Kinkaid. Hopefully Seth can also attend Kinkaid and his first summer will be Miranda’s last summer in the program.
I don’t even want to think that far ahead. I want them to stay exactly the same age they are right now. They aren’t babies any more but they are still young kids. In four years all of that is going to change.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monsters, Zombies + Addicts by Gwendolyn Zepeda

The first thing that attracted me to Gwendolyn Zepeda’s first published book was the hilarious title, To The Last Man I Slept With and All the Jerks Just Like Him. (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2004) It’s a great collection of short stories that are candid and comical observations on life.

I’ve always loved the titles of her books. When she was recently named Poet Laureate for the City of Houston she published Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners, (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2013) another great title. In her second book of poetry, Monsters, Zombies + Addicts (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2015) Zepeda has written an exceptional collection of musings about life in the big city.
She writes about the mundane activities of life but adds an interesting point of view to things as common as going to the dentist in “New Teeth.” She shares her experiences as a working woman and the challenges we sometimes face with our identity as a woman in a male dominated profession. We also get to know more her Aunt Sylvia, whom Zepeda obviously loved very much.

The “Ringmaster’s Daughter” is written in a wonderful lyrical verse that is both intriguing and haunting. I had to read it a few times and it left me wondering who is the true Ringmaster of her poem. This was one of my top favorites.

Her “No Title” poem about the dog in a yard, dumb, drooling and flea bit, is a sad contemplation on life.  The last two lines evoke so many thoughts and feelings, “blocked by fences that nobody else can see.”  This reminded me of the saying that sometimes we are our own biggest obstacle.

Houston is a big city and a lot of things happen. We encounter so many different characters day to day and sad experiences. A few years ago a co-worker who worked in the office across the hall from me didn’t come to work. Later in the day his boss got a call from his wife that he had died. We learned that he’d taken his own life. “Sad Shock” reminded me of that experience and how we all felt that day and it made me wonder how many people have had a similar experience.

The book ends with “Aunt Sylvia’ almost as if Zepeda put it there as a tribute to her beloved aunt. It made me laugh out loud when I read it because I fondly remembered Westheimer near Montrose.

My daughter went to middle school down the street from that main drag area and I’ve told her, “Kids used to cruise this street on the weekends.” She looks around unimpressed, with no idea why we would have done that. Now trendy restaurants line the street right in that area where kids used to hang out of their cars having conversations with kids in other cars that passed them, blocking the street and slowing down traffic to a crawl. I think the city finally cracked down and prohibited that past time. It was the place to go and see “marvelous things” like Zepeda says. It was a rite of passage for many Houstonians in the 80s. It was part of our city's history.

That is why I love Monsters, Zombies + Addicts. It reminds me of Houston and all of our eclectic experiences, from going to the dentist, to our neighborhoods with flea bitten dogs, our work place where we struggle with our feminine identity and to the memories of growing up here. It covers all of this and more. I can't wait to see what else Zepeda has in store for us in her next book.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Social Media, Great for Procrastinators

I woke up today thinking about a lot of things. First of all I woke up thinking about how I have to clean out a broken refrigerator and also around it. That is enough to make me want to procrastinate and think of something else that I’d rather do. But the truth is, I have to do it. It’s one of those things that just has to be done and I’m the only one who can do it. Social media is always a great excuse to procrastinate so here I am.
My Pinterest Page that I'll talk about more here.
The other thing I thought about writing about is my recent deeper foray into social media. I’ve always blogged on here for fun. I’ve never done a lot to promote my blog or to sell advertising on this space. In other words, I’ve never made a business of this. I’ve also never really written about shoes, even though I do love shoes and that is the title. I’m more of a lifestyle blogger that blogs about being a mom, working and the many adventures I’ve had over these 11 years since I started this blog.
I blog a lot about education and the Magnet School program in the Houston Independent School District a lot. In the last three years since I’ve been divorced I blog about co-parenting. As a native Houstonian that loves her city, I blog about Houston, and here lately about caring for my elderly dad. I have a project I’m working on with my dad called Dicho a Day. We record these videos where he says a dicho in Spanish and then I give it its best Spanish translation. Those can be found on my YouTube channel. I also started writing about caring for my dad on Latina Lista in a column called Padre Care.
I finally decided to change my social media descriptions on all my profiles with one uniform theme. So if you go here on my blog, to my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google +, YouTube and Pinterest you see six main hashtags. #shoegirlcorner, #dichoaday, #loveHipHouston, #workingMama, #coparenting and most recently, #PadreCare in my profile description. These are my six main themes on social media, whether it’s me posting a photo of the Houston skyline on Instagram or directing people over to something about my dad.
Here recently I’ve learned a couple of new things. One is that my Pinterest page gets a lot more traffic than any of my other social media channels. Like a crazy amount of page views for just a regular me. The board that gets the most action is my Someecards board. Coincidentally, or not, that’s another one of my obsessions. I love writing and making Someecards under the User Cards. I’ve created a bunch on their site and then I pin them over to my board. I have a few of my own creations that have been re-pinned quite a few times. As well as some of the ones created by others that I just share. It turns out a lot of people have my same my wacky sense of humor.
So my new idea is to try and leverage some of that Pinterest traffic over to my other channels and especially to my blog. My poor little blog that has been getting the least attention from me lately. This is the same blog that has its own URL, but that I haven’t done anything with that. My designer friend has given me three layouts to choose from and I still need to get back to him on which design I prefer so he can help me launch my blog on my own platform.
Another social media channel that I recently joined and that I really need to learn more about it Periscope. It’s owned by Twitter, it allows you to video live and the video goes down after 24 hours. I really tried it for the first time last night with Dicho a Day.
I learn so much about social media from the Blog Elevated group. This is a group of fantastic women who have so much information to share and they will be hosting their third conference this year. It’s lead by Lisa Stauber and Bobbie Byrd. I’ve participated in their Twitter chat on Tuesday evenings and I’m trying to do it more consistently so I can learn even more. The more I learn the better I will hopefully get at promoting all my writing and creative efforts. That is my goal!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Return of the Lost Blogger

Here I am squeezing one blog in before the end of June just so I can't say I didn't blog at all this month. May was the last time I wrote anything and that's very bad. Especially since I've read Gwendolyn Zepeda's newest book of poetry, "Monsters, Zombies + Addicts" and I need to review it on this site. Next! I promise! Here are some of the shenanigans that I've been up to...

So Rey has this crazy app on his phone that can scan your face and it gives you an approximate age. I loved what it had to say about me. Thus the reason why I say I'll be 29 forever. Just kidding, I'm not going to be on of those women who does THAT. I will be proud of my 45 years and tell everyone so they can tell me I look 30. Win-win!

The kids are well into the summer. Miranda is loving the Kinkaid program and I love that she loves it. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful program for public school students. This year she's taking electricity, robotics, drafting, biology, marine science and math.

The boy is hanging out with his best friend this summer until his sister finished with summer school. He has a summer reading list that we still have to tackle. The main book is the Malala book.

In other mundane news, my refrigerator died. I came home Thursday night from an event and it had just died at some point that day. It was totally defrosted and dead. Now I have to buy a new refrigerator. An expense I did not need but life is like that sometimes, just trying to teach us more and more lessons, like I need any more. Thanks Life! I'm good!

If you want to see what else I've been up to check out my PadreCare column on Latina Lista and I'm revamping my Pinterest page to cross-promote my projects more.

Next up will be that review of Gwen's new book of poetry.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Update on Schools and Kinkaid EMSI

Update on the schools:
Great news! Miranda was accepted into DeBakey High School for Health Professions and Seth was accepted into the STEM program at Hogg Middle School. My babies are growing up!

Miranda's first day of Kinder and Seth trying to get into the picture.
Kinkaid EMSI:
When I was in elementary school I thought I was really smart. I was chosen by my principal to take a test to attend a Vanguard middle school and I passed and was accepted. When I arrived at Hamilton Middle School in the Heights I quickly found out that I wasn’t as smart as I thought. I found out that I never really learned the seven continents, where the Tropic of Cancer or Tropic of Capricorn were and other important geography lessons I should have learned in elementary school. Thank goodness I at least knew about the equator!  So although, yes I probably was the smartest kid in my class in elementary school, I learned that other kids at other schools had received a better education than I had.  That was the first time I really understood that different schools received different funding and different resources and that this affected the quality of education that kids receive. (A topic I have written about in the past.)

I struggled in the Vanguard program but I never gave up. I worked hard until the very last 9 weeks of the 8th grade when I finally made honor roll for the very first time in my three years in middle school.  Also in 8th grade other kids who were taking Algebra, and had probably made good grades all along, were invited to apply to a summer program. I first heard about Kinkaid when I was in 8th grade and only 14 years old. Before the school year was over we knew what students had been accepted so I had an idea of who was going. I remember feeling a little jealous but I also realized and accepted that my strengths did not lie in math and science.

I forgot about Kinkaid but later throughout the four years of high school I would hear about it now and then from some friends who were attending the program each summer. All I knew was that Kinkaid was a very prestigious private high school in Memorial and that every summer they had a math and science program for public school students.

Around 15 years later when my step-daughter was living with us and attending middle school she was invited to apply to Kinkaid and she was accepted. This was a wonderful opportunity for her and she thrived that summer. She was accepted to return but sadly she decided to return to Louisiana to live with her mother so she didn’t get to complete the program.
In the years since Facebook became a place to reconnect with old friends I have been back in touch with middle school friends. I quickly noticed something interesting.  All of my middle school friends who attended the summer program at Kinkaid are successful adults. At least two are attorneys and one is an aerospace engineer. Others are HR executives and sales managers.  I found that trend interesting.

Now my daughter is 14. Unlike me, she’s very good at math and science and she attends a Vanguard middle school like I did. I hadn’t heard about Kinkaid in a long time but I assumed the program still did exist so I decide to Google it. It does and I was very interested to learn the history. The summer program is called the EMSI- The Kinkaid Engineering, Math and Science Institute and it was founded in 1975. It is completely underwritten by Houston companies, foundations and generous donors.
I told Miranda about it and she was very interested.. She applied and we were so excited for her when she was accepted. I’m so proud of all of the things that she’s accomplished thus far and I hope that she builds on that foundation this summer at Kinkaid.

When she was accepted, and I checked to make sure that they had received our postcard, I told the program’s director the trend I had noticed in friends who attended Kinkaid. She thanked me for sharing that note and she said she would share this with their donors. I’m glad because I think it’s important for organizations and individuals who give to educational programs like this to know that they truly do make a difference and that they'll make a difference in this little girl's life.

I can not stress enough how the quality of education that our children receive makes such a difference in their future. I didn't attend an elementary school with a lot of funding but thank goodness I attended a better middle school and high school. Thank goodness I was a part of the Magnet programs at these schools and I received an even better education because of the Vanguard and IB programs.

Now that I'm a mother I understand how these programs shaped my life and I want even more for my children. That's why I've worked so hard to make sure that my kids also attend magnet schools and that they have the best education available to them. I want them to do more and to be more than I was. I want for them what every parent wants for their child.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Time I Was the Victim of Racial Profiling

I was at the light on Fulton and Boundary when I saw the police car facing me on the opposite side of the street. I was talking to my father, no doubt using my hands, because I’m Hispanic and that’s what I do. The light changed and I continued down Fulton. Right about the time I was in front of Moody Park, the site of the famous riot of the 1970s, I saw the lights flash behind me. I was perplexed. What had I done? I wondered.

The young police officer came up to my window. I couldn’t tell if he was Hispanic or White. He could have been a White guy with dark hair or a light skinned Hispanic, or maybe half and half. He didn’t look any older than 25. He asked me for my driver’s license and my insurance. I told him that the driver’s license was in my purse and that my insurance card was in my glove compartment. I reached for both and handed them to him.

As I reached across my father’s lap for these I noticed that his partner had also gotten off the car and was standing next to my car on the passenger side looking in at my 90 year old father.

I asked him puzzled what I had done wrong. First he told me that he’d stopped me because the light was out on my license plate. Second he told me that the reason he had noticed me and decided to follow me was because I had flipped him off at the light back there.

I was dumbfounded now. I realized that he was the police car that I had seen just earlier at the light facing me. So he had made a U turn and had followed me because he thought I had flipped him off.

I was at a loss for words but I told him, “I’m not the kind of person who would flip you off,” and not knowing what else to say at that moment to plead my case I added, “I’m a very educated person.”

“Oh are you?” he asked in a mocking tone as he walked away with my driver’s license and insurance.

I turned to my father and told him what the policeman had said to me. My father was just as puzzled and surprised by the whole thing.
The policeman returned and handed me my information and I told him I had no idea what I may have done to make him think I was flipping him off. I explained that I speak with my hands and that maybe that’s what had happened back there. He told me to get my light fixed and he didn’t give me a ticket, but he left me with a really sad and uneasy feeling.

I’ve seen so many stories about people being stopped by the police and about racial profiling. I was a Hispanic woman driving in Northside. There are many types of people in my neighborhood. Sadly, there are the types of people who would flip off a cop, but there are people like that everywhere, not just here.

When I told my ex-husband about the incident he could not stop laughing. First of all because he knows I’m not the type of person to flip off the police. He thinks I’m one of the biggest nerds he knows. The other reason he laughed so hard was because of the type of car that I drive. I drive a little Honda Fit. Hardly a loud car and not the kind that usually attracts the attention of the police. I have stickers on the back of my car supporting my daughter’s lacrosse team and school. He asked me if I had been playing my NPR too loud.

When my ex pointed out all these obvious things it made me realize even more how ridiculous all this had been and it made me wonder about the policeman’s judgment.

But in addition to how ridiculous it all was it also scared me. I had never before in my life felt fear when being stopped by the police. Yes sure I felt nervous like everyone else does, and I hoped they wouldn’t give me a ticket, but there was something different about it this time. I hadn’t done something that I knew was wrong, like running a stop sign or not coming to a complete stop at a light. This time I was being accused of something I absolutely did not do. I was also scared by the way his partner had also felt the need to get out of the car for back-up. I didn’t know what they were going to do if they really felt like I had insulted them.

I couldn’t help but wonder how they had felt when they saw that I was a middle-aged, over-weight lacrosse mom, in a Honda Fit with a 90 year old wearing a tie riding shot gun. Did his partner laugh at him or did they still feel justified in their stop?

There was also a weird irony that he stopped me right in front of Moody Park, the historic site where thousands mostly Hispanics protested the light sentencing received by police for the beating death of Joe Campos Torres.

In that moment, on that day, I felt that I understood how people feel when they are singled out and stopped by the police. I couldn’t help but wonder if all he had seen was a Hispanic woman in a poor neighborhood and that he had assumed that I was the type of person who would shoot the finger at him.

What had he expected when he stopped me? I’ll never know the answer to any of these questions. I just know that in that moment I felt like this person who is supposed to make me feel protected and safe, saw me, thought he saw me do something I didn’t do, and then made assumptions about the kind of person I was and about my character. And that is not a cool feeling.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Next stop- Middle School & High School

Today I find out where my two children will be going to high school and middle school. Yes, that little girl who I blogged about nine years ago when she was taking the Vanguard test for the first time is about to go to high school. And that little boy who was just born 11 years ago (in April) is going to middle school. We are playing the waiting game today!

Last year at the Rodeo carnival on the death machine that takes you across the park.

This year the application process was all online so all the parents are receiving email notifications starting at 4 p.m. today. I can barely stand it! I have been keeping busy at work and I worked on some lacrosse charity stuff during lunch, but I keep watching the clock. I know the kids are thinking about it at school today too.

Miranda applied to four high schools and I applied to about six schools for Seth. I am praying that Miranda gets her first and second choice schools and I am praying that one of the schools with a great Magnet program accepts Seth. He has made so much progress this year and he needs a good school where he can continue to thrive and grow.

As a mom it's so heart-wrenching when your kids don't get accepted into a program or a school they want. It's the first step in that realization that you can't protect them from everything, from heartache and disappointment. It's a learning experience for me as a mom too. It's part of learning about life for them and about reality. It's also a lesson about how we have to work hard to get what we want in life. I wish my babies the best today. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Embracing 45 with Open Arms

I turned 45 last week and I embraced it like a champion. Turning 45 is not going to be something that I will be sad about. Some people don't get the privilege to grow older. So I made it all about gratitude and for 8 days I posted what I was grateful for. I called my week of celebrating my Big 4-5 VD, because my birthday falls right before Valentine's Day.

So here is a compilation of all of my gratitude posts for the week.

Day 1 of Gratitude: Grateful for this amazing beautiful day & for being alive to see it!

Gratitude Day 2 & Day 3: (I forgot yesterday) I am grateful for great friends/family who really surprised me on Saturday & really warmed my heart. Today I'm grateful for my long & interesting career in newspaper, for my small business, that I'm employed full time & for my new PadreCare column with
 — feeling loved.

Day 4 of Gratitude on the Eve of my Big 4-5 VD: I am grateful for my name and my identity. Forty-five years ago my mother didn't know if she would have a boy or a girl but she had my name picked out. I'm so glad she chose such a unique name. She used to tell me that my sisters chose my middle name, Yvette, so I was named Loida Yvette Casares.

Day 5: Today I am grateful to have lived another year. Some people don't get that privilege. I think of my sister Hilda who only had 42 years on this earth and I am humbled and grateful that I got to wake up today. My children got into bed with me, hugged me & wished me a good day. I am blessed.

The celebration continues this week but so does my commitment to show gratitude. Day 6: Today I am grateful for the setbacks that have formed me and made me stronger. Setbacks teach you a very good lesson and remind you that you should never take things for granted when they are good. They make you see all the good things that you do have in your life and what is truly important. And they also show you what you are capable of accomplishing.
 — feeling grateful.

Day 7 of Gratitude. After having attended this luncheon I must say I am grateful for my health, so far, & the health of my children. I heard stories about experiences children have had with heart disease & damage from chemo. I promise not to take this health for granted any more for the years I have left on this earth.

Happy Valentine's Day to Me! Day 8 of Gratitude: I am grateful for ME! For my strength & my resilience that has seen me through so many things in life. 

Yes, I am humbled and grateful to have lived another year. Every year that I live past 42, the year my sister died, will be a celebration of life and I'll wear a strawberry pin in memory of her. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Coparenting with an Ex-Husband

I would be lying if I said it was easy. It isn’t. It takes work just like any relationship does. The guiding force in this relationship is your mutual love for the same people- your children. No ifs ands or buts about it, the only way to look past your own feelings of anger, resentment or jealousy is to think about the children and what this means to them. Think about how they feel when they see their parents getting along and think about the example that you’re giving them about being mature adults.

The first year after our divorce was the hardest for many reasons. He had moved on and was in a serious relationship and I started dating. We had a really rough time, including about three full months that I didn’t speak to him. Even then, we didn’t let our differences affect the children as badly as we could have. He still took them every other weekend and spent time with them.

Eventually we got through that tough first year and we were able to move forward. We are now at a very different place from where we were three years ago.

Example. It’s Sunday night after a weekend with the kids and my ex calls me to tell me he’s on his way home after my daughter’s lacrosse practice to pick up all their things to bring them home. He asks me what I’m making them for dinner and I tell him I have some tuna. He says he has some chicken and vegetables and offers to make dinner at his house. I say okay and go over. We eat a great dinner and then the kids pack up their things and we go home.

Another day, my best friend and I are going to go out for drinks. Our boys are best friends too. My son wants to know if he can have a play date with his friend so my ex calls my best friend to tell her that he’ll keep her son while we go out. He picks him up and my best friend picks me up and we go out. He does this quite often because my best friend’s ex lives in another city. This is our village. Are we perfect? No. Do we still fight? Yes. We’re human and things happen, but we are still friends too.

In the end we know that we are working together to raise two very strong and smart kids with a huge personality and sense of humor. When they were younger and I realized how loud they both were I told him, “Why can’t one of them be quiet?” He looked at me and said, “Are you seriously asking me that question?” We are both loud and so are they.

I don’t want do anything to change that about them. I don’t want to do anything to affect their development as adults. I want for them to grow up strong and confident and for them to think about how we worked hard to get along for them. When I’m old and it’s my turn I want for them to remember that I took care of my dad in his old age. (ha ha) More importantly, I want for them to have a good relationship with each other and with their future partners in life.  Because one day we’ll be gone and our example will be all that they have left.