What are you thankful for? This year that question is a little harder to answer than before. Of course, there are the standard things one is grateful for: good health, family, friends, life and the ability to see one more day. But I’d be lying if I said this year hasn’t been a little tough. On so many levels.
Tough enough, in fact, to at times make me feel hopeless. Angry. Frustrated. Sad. Disappointed. And yes, even disillusioned.
Admitting that is pretty tough in it of itself. I’m not usually one to admit those kind of emotions. The older I get the tougher it is to be an open book, I think. Yet, the truth is that’s been the reality of 2016 for me. It’s kind of been a roller coaster where the peaks have been few and far between, though there have been some and I am truly grateful for those.
Believe it or not, I’m also appreciative of the valleys this year. Note I said appreciative and not grateful.
I’m appreciative because those moments have really forced me to be retrospective with myself. They’ve forced me to change certain habits, to not be so cocky, to come down from my own damn pedestal, and to really, honestly just try. To just try to not be so stuck in my own ways. I’m a stubborn son of a gun so that’s probably been the hardest part.
But when you’re accosted by life, and one thing just comes right after the other, it’s hard to hunker down and not be affected. I’m going to go ahead and caveat here that nothing that has happened in my life this year has actually been catastrophic, and that I am 100 percent certain others have had it much tougher than I. If that is you, please excuse my whining and complaining. I’m going to do more of it because that is is where my head is right now. Please feel free to stop reading and come back another day if you don’t want to hear it. I’ll completely understand. No hard feelings.
For those that decide to stay, let me just say, I guess the point of my writing this post is just to be completely honest. With myself more than anyone else, I guess.
No, I’m not excited about Thanksgiving this year.
No, it doesn’t feel like a celebration or a holiday.
No, not even all the tasty holiday dishes and desserts are making me want to get out of this funk.
But I will. Because that is what we do. And that is what has to be done.
So this past month I was in Orlando. I was there for the 2016 Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM) national conference, which this year was themed around the idea of influencers being Agents of Change. It had been a couple of years since I had attended this event, and I can honestly say it was as though I had never left.
From the camaraderie of being among my peers from all over the country – and even some attendees from Latin America and Puerto Rico, to the important discussions we continued as a community on topics like immigration, education, health, access to technology, and more, reuniting with the LATISM network really felt like being in familia.
I also had the privilege of serving as a speaker. The panel I participated in was titled “American Latinos & Their Role in Multicultural America.” As you might imagine, we discussed the role of our Latino community in the new U.S. mainstream culture, as well as the impact of assimilation and acculturation on our community identities.
It was a great conversation. For me, the best part was listening to everyone’s perspective on their own relationship to their culture and identity. It’s something I often think about on an ongoing basis.
And going back to the idea of influencers being Change Agents, I think that was a very poignant message. Especially given the current political climate and the next four years that so many in our community are concerned about.
I think for me it was definitely a good reminder about why we started the Juan of Words journey to begin with. It was never about becoming a business – although I’m not complaining that it has. It was and still is about creating a positive space to celebrate our own culture in our own way. I’m glad I made this trip, and I’m glad I was able to truly listen to what other Latino Change Agents had to say.
To say that I’m a fan of Kate Del Castillo is probably an understatement. Alright, it’s definitely an understatement. I’d say she’s probably right up there on my list of movie stars who I think are amazing… right after JLO I would say, LOL!
I mean not to sound like a total creeper or anything, but after Kate turned into La Reina Del Sur a few years ago she could no longer do any wrong. No en serio, she is an excellent actress, and I really admire the fact that she’s so vocal about her opinions and the representation of Latinos in Hollywood.
So last week she was in Houston to promote her Tequila Honor line, and we had the chance to share a quick lunch with her at a media event. This was actually my second time meeting Kate in person. I first met her a few years ago when she was in Houston to promote another business partnership with a brand. She was graceful then, and she was just as entertaining to be around this time.
Of course, being el metiche que soy, I couldn’t let her get away from me without asking her about her opinions about Election 2016. Here’s what La Reina Del Sur had to say:
This is part of a compensated campaign in collaboration with Stouffer’s and #WeAllGrow Latina Network. All opinions expressed are my own
To be quite honest, we’ve never really been that traditional when it comes to sharing our meals together as a family. Sure, when we’re together we eat together. Although that only happens around a dinner table every once in a while. Usually when we’re visiting family or friends. The rest of the time, it’s a little bit like organized chaos.
Now that I’ve given you that colorful visual let me explain.
No es que no disfrutemos estar juntos, it’s that we’re pretty comfortable just being comfortable. Because of habit I do generally like to sit at the table when I eat. Usually reading something online, browsing my phone, or just gathering my thoughts in silence. Edgar will join me from time to time, as will Anjelica, but they’re much more at home eating TV-dinner-style while watching something funny or family friendly in the living room. We’re still in the same room together – most of the time – just a little more spread out.
It works for us.
Since a few years ago now, the other thing about our meals that we’ve updated is what exactly we’re consuming. We don’t buy a lot of sweets. We don’t have a microwave at home so we don’t buy any microwaveable meals. We don’t buy sodas of any kind. Instead we opt for water or other less sugar-infused beverages. We do eat meat and dairy. We just prefer to find the best farm to table options available.
That’s not very hard to do at all these days.
Which is why this quick and easy meal idea seemed like the perfect one to share as something that you might find us breaking bread over on any given day. It’s Stouffer’s Family Size Lasagna with Meat & Sauce, and now it’s part of the company’s newly announced “Kitchen Cupboard” initiative. In a nutshell, Stouffer’s is shortening and simplifying some of its recipes so they only include ingredients that we as consumers can recognize and find at home. Think vine-ripened tomatoes, freshly made pasta, and real mozzarella.
Lasagna is one of our favorite family dishes.
We love pasta so lasagna just makes sense because you can make it whatever you want. In fact, I used to make a mean lasagna back in the day. I haven’t made it in a while, but Stouffer’s just makes it super convenient to pop that bad boy in the oven and be able to feed our entire little army! No, pero en serio, the fact that we can get an individual or family-sized lasagna to go and to pair with any sides we choose is something we take advantage of at least once a month.
Because it’s pasta and tomato sauce, our side dish of choice is usually a salad. The freshness of a good spinach salad is the perfect balance for a hearty meal.
A tasty plate like this one will usually inspire us to sit around the table together.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Stouffer’s. The opinions and text are all mine.
This is part of a sponsored collaboration ̊with the PreK12 Plaza. However, all opinions expressed are my own. #eBookPlaza #PlazaBilingue
When he was younger it was so much easier. I would tell him no and he would listen. We would say “tell us in Spanish,” and he would. Then eventually came the moment when he decided it was okay to communicate with us in both English and Spanish, and we agreed. It’s not that we didn’t want him to be bilingual. We do, and he is for the most part. What we didn’t want to do was force the relationship between him and our native language. I’ve actually written at length about the trials and tribulations of raising a bilingual kid here.
Growing up, my own parents never forced Spanish on us. We understood it because it was part of who we were, and because we used it in everyday life. The same could be said about our experience with the English language. We learned it, because we needed it to function in the society where we lived.
I kind of want his relationship to both languages to be just as organic. And hey, if he wants to learn any more languages too, even better!
What we didn’t have in the early years was a lot of technology to support our bilingual education efforts. Sure, there was Spanish-language programming online and on broadcast, but that’s not the same as something more interactive. Something more interactive is what I discovered in the new eBook Plaza App by PreK12 Plaza.
This new, fully bilingual, free app, offers parents, children, and even educators access to a ton of English- and Spanish-language educational content right in the palm of your hand.
I downloaded the app myself, and after playing with it a bit found myself pretty excited to share it with friends and family. Edgar seemed to enjoy the variety of content too.
Once you download and open the app, you can navigate content for age groups from PreK to 12th grade. It’s all neatly organized, and very easy to navigate. You’ll also find great resources for parents and teachers + you can personalize the app with a personal profile.
The eBook Plaza app is available for free at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Marketplace. Additional information and downloads are available at: PreK12Plaza (English) or Plaza Bilingüe (Spanish). Download the app today and try it for yourself.
Now if you want to hear more about the eBook Plaza App from others who have used it extensively, make sure you join us for the Bilingual eBook Plaza App Twitter Party on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT. Just use the hashtags #ebookplaza and #plazabilingue to participate!
This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Jarritos. All opinions are my own.
If you know me, then you know how excited the following ad called The Journey by Jarritos must have made me when it first came out a few days ago. I don’t honestly remember when I first learned about it, but I do know that as soon as I saw it the video really touched me. Not only because of the overall theme that rejects human labels, which I totally agree with, but also because personally I can relate 100 percent to the stories of the individuals featured in this beautiful production.
As you know, my story is one of immigration.
My family has always kind of been split in a way. Not 100 percent American. And not 100 percent Mexican either. And yet 100 percent both at the same time. If that makes any sense, jajaja! It does, if you’ve grown up the same way I have.
The first memories of my childhood reside in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Hot, sandy summers, surrounded by my brothers and sisters, playing in the dark open yard in the evenings with my father, teasing my aunt when her and my uncle would come to visit, walking to bring home drinking water from a nearby well with my mother, and even playing with livestock that we considered more domesticated animals than slaughter.
There are also other memories, though, when I think back to those days.
My dad working extra long days, being underpaid because he was undocumented. My mother cleaning our white neighbors homes and getting paid $15 in cash because she did not have “papeles” either. I didn’t know what those papers meant then, but I did know that because we didn’t have them, every time the green and white migra trucks would drive by we either had to hide or pretend our parents and elder sisters were not home. They didn’t have the legal authority to be here, according to the law, and I guess you could say they were illegal.
In the decades between then and now, I have made a conscious decision to reject the word illegal to describe any person. I don’t believe any human being is illegal regardless of his or her status in any nation.
But back then, we believed it. We understood that our place in this country was in the shadows. That our rights were not the same as those who had not crossed the rivers and the deserts to get here. And even though I myself had never done either of those things, and was actually a citizen of the United States by birth, I still believed it too, for a very long time.
That self-awareness loomed in my subconscious all of the time, for a very long time.
I would question myself when praised by others, especially if those others did not look and sound like me. Of course they were just trying to be nice to me. Of course they were just trying to make me feel more confident in myself. Of course they saw me as different as not as good as them. When I got older and worked my way into jobs that people thought were great opportunities for someone as young as myself, I still carried that feeling of inferiority with me.
I’d stay quiet as much as possible. My goal was always to stay under the radar, and when called upon all I could do was muster enough courage to say something perfectly nice and almost subservient. “Yes, of course.” “You’re right.” “I understand.” “Thank you.”
It was all I could do to not rock the boat. To not out myself as different. To not ruin the opportunity I had been granted that I believed I should have been so grateful for. So grateful I was perfectly content to work longer and harder than anyone else to keep.
This was my mentality for a long time, and it took a lot of living to finally come to the conclusion that I, just like my parents and my family, had as much right as anyone else to be here in this country and to take advantage of any and every opportunity that came my way. And no, not just that landed at my feet, but that I worked my ___ off to earn!
It was a wake up call at some point in my life. One that I now try my best to share with others who find themselves in this same predicament. Yes, I am the child of immigrant parents.
But am I illegal in any way? Absolutely not!
Because of this belief. Because I value human dignity above all else, I encourage you to watch and share The Journey video as well! I encourage you to share this message and encourage anyone feeling ashamed or embarrassed because of labels used to describe them to stand up and reject the words that others try to use against us.
This is a nation of immigrants, and we all deserve rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!
This is a sponsored post written on behalf of RumChata. All opinions are my own.
Hey… let me let you in on a little secret. I’ve always wanted to be a judge. Until last week, this was only a thought in my head that I had surprisingly managed to keep to myself for most of my life. No sé, there’s something about the appearance of power and authority in being a “judge” that really appealed to me.
Well would you believe it? The day finally came!
I was invited to be an official judge last week at Houston’s #RumChataMixOff Bartender Mix-Off held at Tango & Malbec. If you’re thinking the cream liqueur that’s made from dairy cream from Wisconsin and Caribbean rum, then you know exactly what I’m talking about: RumChata!
Six of Houston’s most talented bartenders prepared some of the tastiest cocktails I’ve ever tasted using RumChata as the common ingredient in each of their unique creations. I was literally taking my job very seriously, as you can tell. 🙂
One of the bartenders made her own apple puree, another toasted a piece of cinnamon right in front of us, and all of them just left us super impressed with their passion and inspiration for their tasty creations.
My good friend Jeff of Daddy Style Diaries was also a judge that evening, and that made the event even more fun.
We all grabbed a bite to eat afterwards, and we couldn’t stop talking about how much fun this experience was.
You can tell Anjelica had a great time as well. She actually won one of the goodie bags being raffled off that night. Uhm, pero ya nos acabamos todo el RumChata, jajaja!
If you’ve never tried RumChata, think a mix between rice pudding (atole) and eggnog.
It’s sweet, but not overpowering. And my favorite way of having it at home is on the rocks. Super easy to make and delicious!
Now for the good stuff! We do have some RumChata to giveaway, so if you’re interested in trying this creamy and smooth liqueur this is your chance. Oh, you should be in Houston in order to enter this giveaway.
Just leave us a comment here by Friday, November 11, 2016, and we will select a winner shortly after.
I’ve always been a huge fan of El Chavo Del Ocho. It’s probably one of the first Spanish-language television shows my entire family fell in love with. By that, I mean my entire family on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. It didn’t matter if we were at home in our apartment watching Chespirito in Houston, or if we were sitting around the black and white television in el rancho with all of our cousins, just laughing at the hilarious entertainment that ensued. El Chavo Del Ocho is still one of my all time favorite television shows.
It’s so timeless, in fact, that Edgar and I also enjoyed watching the show together many moons later.
This week, I had the huge privilege to receive at my doorstep a big box of goodies from Grupo Chespirito. As you might imagine, this included a bunch of show-themed items likes tee-shirts, caps, socks, and even mobile phone cases. All bright and colorful products that a week earlier I had selected myself from the El Chavo Store online.
I knew this package was coming, but when it got here I just couldn’t contain my excitement. I literally tore through the box and inventoried every single item inmediatamente. It was pretty hilarious.
Once I composed myself again, I recorded the following video to show you – alright to show off a little too – all of the items that completely made my week this week!
If you like this video, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to get even more content!