L4LL’s Dia Blog Hop with Author Rene Saldana

I am participating in the Latinas 4 Latino Literature  Día Blog Hop (L4LL’s Dia Blog Hop).   Established in the United States by poet and author Pat Mora, Día is a celebration of books and children. The month long program celebrates Latino Children literacy by pairing a different author or illustrator with a different blogger each day.  The 2nd annual blog hop has 24 authors/illustrators paired with 24 Latina bloggers.

I’m honored to be paired with Professor René Saldaña, Jr.  today.  His children and young adult books inspire us to pursue our dreams through passion, dedication and hardwork.  I can relate to many of the books he has written, especially, The Jumping Tree.  The book is a coming of age novel about the experiences Rene faces to become a young adult while living between Mexico and Texas.

I was raised in a bicultural home by a Latina mother who instilled the importance of  hardwork.  We celebrated the arts, literature and culture with our familia across the border.

Consider carving out some time in your day to follow the month long celebration at Latinas4LatinoLit.org Dia Blog Hop after reading today’s inspiring reflection.

REFLECTIONS by René Saldaña
FOR Latinas For Latino Literature

This morning in Lubbock, Texas, it rained. It’s such a big deal here when it does rain because it doesn’t happen often. A local news station even runs a sort of a pool, wherein viewers predict when we’ll get our first rain and they’ll win goodies in the form of paraphernalia from the TV station. I’ve yet to participate myself, but I’m happy somebody won because it means it’s rained.

We are several years into a drought in West Texas, which makes sense because we’re basically a desert out here. It’s bone dry, I tell you, and the local meteorologist occasionally will put up on the screen how much it would have to rain daily for us to catch up to normal levels. Though I get it that we’re so far behind, I’ve seen these numbers before, and I still can’t quite wrap my brain around how dire our situation.

So, this morning, there were puddles on the ground. And though I tell my own kids not to walk through them because they’ll ruin their shoes, they still do it, and inside, I smile. I smile because I know how fun it is to stomp on a puddle, making a big or small splash depending on the size of the puddles. I used to do it myself as a kid, against my mother’s wishes. Incidentally, she gave me the exact same reason why I shouldn’t plow through a puddle: I’ll ruin my shoes. And yet, today, inwardly, I smile when my own kids “ruin” their shoes that way. Because secretly, I wish I had the guts to do it still. But I’m an adult, and so I don’t.

What I do, though, is to look down into the puddles as I’m stepping over them, and I see my own reflection in them and that makes me happy. In the middle of this drought, puddles are so infrequent that I take any and every chance to see myself reflected in them. My reflection is precious in this format because it is as uncommon as the rain. You know what? I admit it: I’m so egotistical because I can’t get enough of myself in these puddles. I have to wonder: is it the reflection of myself that is attractive, the puddle, or both? I think it’s both.

Recently, Walter Dean Myers wrote in the New York Times (03/15/14) that there is a similar dearth within the publishing industry of books by writers of color about kids of color: books in which young readers might see themselves represented accurately and fairly: books in which young readers of color are “struck by the recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgement of their value by someone who understands who they are.” I’ve been arguing the same on behalf of young Latino/a readers for years now. So has Matt de la Peña in Arizona of late, where the powers that be have seen fit to do away with Mexican American studies, in essence rubbing out of existence Americans of Mexican descent by outlawing the culture’s literature. (For more on the subject of the futile attempt at the unmaking of a people, follow Tony Diaz, founder of Librotraficante, on The Huffington Post.)

When such titles appear on the scene, imagine the response on the part of young Latino/a readers at seeing their own reflections in the characters therein: they are validated, they see for themselves how they are very much a part of the American-Dream tapestry.

They will experience the same joy I do at first stomping a foot into a puddle, making a splash of indescribable proportions; second skipping over the puddles to see a flash of myself flying; and last, seeing myself clearly reflected back at me, not as stranger, not as other, not as illegal, but very much at home in my own skin, in my own story, in my own books.

Tonight, there is a hint of more rain in the air. A sort of coolness in the breeze. I’m waiting for the first sign of rain: the pitter-patter of drops on the skylight as I’m typing this. The prognostication for tomorrow says no rain, though. It’ll be dry, dusty, and windy, says the weatherman. But man, having seen myself in those puddles earlier in the day I’m comforted because for a brief moment today I saw myself in countless puddles and the next rain can’t be far off. So like our kids must who wait on the next book about them, I, too, will wait for the next storm. At first, I’ll wait patiently. And then anxiously. And then I’ll be out of my mind waiting. Mad like that because I’ve caught that clear reflection of myself in the puddles now, and I know how right that is, and how wrong the drought.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

René Saldaña, Jr., is an associate professor in the Language, Diversity, and Language Studies in the College of Education at Texas Tech University.

He is also the author of various titles for children and young adults, including The Jumping Tree, Finding Our Way: Stories, A Good Long Way, the Mickey Rangel bilingual detective/mystery series, among others.


In May, his first picture book will be published; it is a bilingual counting book that follows a boy on the day of his birthday fiesta. It is titled Dale, dale, dale: una fiesta de números/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers (Piñata Books).

He, his wife Tina, and their children Lukas, Mikah, Kalyn, and Jakob have adopted a puppy that they named Chito, after René’s pet dog from childhood.

San Diego Japanese Garden Cherry Blossom Festival

Updated 3/4/2015

I love Japanese Art & Culture and spend several weekends throughout the year visiting Art Exhibits and Gardens.   We spent an afternoon at the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden to celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival.

 

The Cherry Blossoms are beautiful and in full bloom!     There are about 150 Cherry Blossom Trees in the 9 acre expansion of the San Diego Japanese Garden.


Several volunteers and performers from around the community dressed in traditional clothing to showcase the arts, music, street food of Japanese culture.   We started our day off with a traditional Japanese tea and a tour of the grounds.  One of the artists created a beautiful cherry blossom bookmark for me.  She shared that the Cherry Blossom is a traditional flower which symbolize transience of life.   The color of the flowers also represent simplicity and purity.   I will cherish my custom made bookmark featuring cherry blossoms in a vase.

 

There were several youth throughout the park enjoying the beauty of the Cherry Blossom and celebrating Japanese culture.  We also met up with other friends who also love Japanese culture and met two sweet girls with purple hair.

 

The Cherry Blossoms will be in full bloom thru mid April.  It is definitely a trip to enjoy with a date or as a family.   If you plan on visitining, make sure to arrive early to give you enough time to enjoy the grounds as well and wear a hat to protect you from the sun.   I look forward to visiting the Cherry Blossoms soon!  In the meantime, enjoy these Cherry Blossoms.

 

 

Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego
2215 Pan American Road. E,
San Diego, CA 92101

March 7 & 8, 2015

 

Google Remembers Zora Neale Hurston

Google’s latest doodle celebrates the life of Zora Neale Hurston, an American author and trailblazer during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891 to a baptist preacher and school teacher.  She was very close to her mother.  When she was nine years old, her mother died and her father sent her to boarding school.

She attended Howard University and received a degree in Anthropology.  She wrote four novels and published over 50 short stories, plays and essays.  Zora Neal Hurston influenced several writers such as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, and is best known for her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.   Zora was a very controversal, but private person.

Photo Credit: Google

 

Her work is valuable to African American Culture and helped shape the black literary and cultural movement of the twenties. She is also a huge influence of many African American authors of today, including Alice Walker who resurrected her work in 1970.

Make sure to stop by www.google.com today and celebrate the life of the great American pioneer & author and listen to the documentary below.

 

Zora Neale Hurston Raido Documentary

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V


Question:  Have you read any of Zora’s classic novels or essays?  What inspires you about Zora’s story?

Behind The Scenes At The Rose Parade – DOLE Sunrise At The Oasis

Are you planning on attending the Rose Parade?  We had the opportunity to visit the float behind the scenes and created some of the palm tree leaves for the float!   A three time Sweepstakes trophy winner, DOLE is the only float to win the Sweepstakes award every year they have entered thus far.   You don’t want to miss the DOLE Rose Parade tropical float, “Sunrise on the Oasis”.

Congratulations to the Rose Queen and Royal Court!

Behind The Scenes at the Rose Parade - DOLE float

The DOLE Rose Parade Float, “Sunrise at the Oasis,” brings together a dazzling floral display of live and animated entertainment as three waterfalls cascade into an abundant oasis filled with palm trees, tropical flowers and animals that command attention, such as the white peacocks and camels adorned with elaborate tapestries and jewels.  As the sun rises, the whimsical oasis awakens from its majestic dreams, bidding its traveler adieu.

DOLE Rose Parade tropical float, "Sunrise on the Oasis"

Bohemia Dance Company will perform with DOLE float

 

FUN FACTS

Here are additional FUN Facts about the DOLE Rose Parade float to share with your family when you watch the Rose Parade:

  • The float weighs more than 22 tons and  is 55 feet long, 18 feet wide and stands over 26 feet tall.
  • The camels are made of sun-bleached sheet moss then shaded with cinnamon spice.
  • The elephants have hides of finely chopped Ming moss with accents of Sphagnum moss.
  • The playful monkeys have fur fashioned in dried cranberry foliage with highlights of pampas and pharmitas grass.
  • Shades of bronze and cream strawflower petals with black chive seed create the fur on the mother and baby tigers.
  • The white peacocks are fashioned in coconut chips with tail accents of purple dendrobium florets.
  • Over 40,000 hot pink Princess roses will be used to decorate the float.  The float will also feature healthy fruits, including bananas, pineapples, strawberries, mangoes & papayas.
  • The animals will come to life via a sophisticated hydraulic system used to lower

We Love the 2014 DOLE Rose Parade Float!

VIRTUAL TOUR #ThroughGlass
I had the opportunity to videotape a tour of the float via wearable technology using my Google Glasses.  Hope you enjoy the tour!

For additional information, please visit www.tournamentofroses.com.

HSF & Coca Cola Scholarships – $200,000 For College Bound Students #CokeForEducation

Disclosure:  This is not a sponsored post.  I am an advocate of higher education and support HSF’s initiatives to help Hispanic students further their education.

Did you know that Coca Cola and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund are offering $200,000 in scholarships to college bound Hispanic seniors to help close the college attainment gap among Latino students.

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund was founded in 1975.  HSF provides internships, mentoring opportunities and connects scholars with other organizations.   Each year HSF awards 150 types of scholarships and has administered over $400 million dollars in scholarships.  I had the honor of attending the Leaders in Educating Awards earlier this year and met  students and Hispanic Scholarship program alumni that have been helped by HSF Scholarships.

As part of the HSF & Coca-Cola “Share Possibilities/Comparte Possibilidades” Scholarship program, the grand prize winner will receive $20,000.  Four students will be awarded $10,000 and sixteen will receive $2,500.

What:

HSF & Coca-Cola Scholarship Program

When/Important Deadline:

December 15, 2013

Where to Apply:

www.Coke-HSF.com

Students are encouraged to share their profiles and gain community votes. Each eligible participating voter is automatically entered for a chance to win a $500 gift card and can vote up to five times a day.

HSF will select the scholarship recipients based on the Fund’s standard selection criteria for awarding scholarships, factoring in community votes gathered online. Final winners will be announced by May 2014.   Official rules can be found here.

Make sure to apply for the scholarships if you are a college bound Hispanic student or forward the information to someone you know who is a potential candidate.

In Support of Higher Education,

Giving Guide For Giving Tuesday Ideas

After Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday.  Giving Tuesday is a great way to support local & national nonprofits during the Christmas Holidays by giving back to nonprofits that are making a difference to our local and global communities.  The  nationwide philanthropic event will be as huge  of a success for nonprofits as Cyber Monday and brings together families, communities and nonprofits.

My family celebrates giving everyday by giving back  to local charities and making contributions to multiple nonprofits. It has been a way of life for us since childhood.   Giving Tuesday is driven through social media and is a global effort to highlight the importance of giving.  Last year the initiative raised over 10 million dollars for charity.

If you are a parent, this is also a great way to share the gift of giving globally with your children.

Google+ Hangout-a-thon

Guide To Celebrate and Participate in #GivingTuesday

  1. #GivingTuesday Google+ Hangout-a-thon – Google is hosting an all-day Google hangout-a-thon with Mashable and 24 charities and brands.  The event is occurring all day and will feature several nonprofits and provide viewers with the opportunity to donate or purchase goods for good.
  2. Give Gifts that Give Back: www.givingtuesday.org also provides resources for partners and 501c nonprofits that are participating. Recommend you also visit the Giving Tuesday Facebook page for highlights and ways you can help nonprofits get funding by participating in initiatives, such as following hubspot on Google+ to donate 50 cents to charity water.
  3. Spread the Word: If  you are a nonprofit with a qualified 501c make sure to use the #GivingTuesday hashtag to encourage others to give to your charity.  It’s never too late to spread the word.
  4. Support Charities: If you are a nonprofit advocate, share a list of qualified 501c nonprofits with others and use the hashtag #GivingTuesday  to encourage others to give.
  5. Volunteer:  There are many nonprofits that could use volunteers to grow their nonprofit.  Visit your local community center for resources or www.volunteermatch.org to find a match.

Recommended Nonprofits To Support On Giving Tuesday

  1. The Orphaned Earring – Buy bracelets or donate your orphaned earrings & jewelry.  The funds go towards arts and crafts programs for four orphanages in Latin America. (Los Angeles, CA)
  2. The Sheepfold – Your donations provides abused or homeless mothers with children shelter, refuge and hope.  (Orange County, CA)
  3. Help A Mother Out – Your donations provide diapers to children in need (Silicon Valley, CA)
  4. International Sanctuary – Purchase with Purpose and support victims of human trafficking.  The jewelry is handmade by survivors of human trafficking. Visit their showroom M-F from 8am-4pm daily or attend the 2nd Annual Holiday party on December 12th for additional shopping. (Orange County, CA)
  5. Jacob’s House – Addresses the financial, spiritual, geographical, and time-sensitive needs that people in crisis require when their loved one is in the hospital. (Riverside County, CA)
  6. March for Babies – Provide resources and education to help premature babies start a healthy and strong life. (California)
  7. Mujeres para Mujeres – Masectomy bras are needed for breast cancer patients. (San Diego, CA)

 

Question:  How will you be participating in Giving Tuesday?  What nonprofits will you be supporting on Giving Tuesday?

Free Virtual College Fair

Here are 2 great resources for  students and parents to prepare for the college application process.  Whether you are planning on attending a local college or out of state college the application process can sometimes be a time consuming process and stressful when you try to do everything on your own.    The first event is primarily in Spanish and is scheduled for October 10.  The second event is in English and scheduled for October 24.  Join the online conversation and obtain great resources to prepare your child to submit college applications, write essays, apply for financial aid and scholarships.

Virtual College Fair #1 – October 10 – 12pm-10pmEST

On Thursday October 10 from 12pm-10pm EST, over 100 colleges will gather together to participate in College Week Live to address the higher education needs of Hispanic students and their families.   Participants will be able to get access to expert advice on financial aid, tips on college study skills and participate in video chats with college admission representatives and students.

This is a great resource for parents who have children who is planning on attending college.

                

WHO
Hispanic/Latino Teens and their families

WHAT
Free Virtual College Fair as part of Univision’s Education Week

WHEN
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 at 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET

WHERE
www.eselmomento.com

AGENDA

Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 (All Times Eastern)

12 p.m., How to Prepare for College: A Financial Aid Overview
Leslie Acosta-Martin, management and program analyst with Federal Student Aid (FSA) at the U.S. Department of Education.

1 p.m., Choosing a Major (in Spanish)
Elizabeth Romero, vice president of learning, New Futuro.

2 p.m., Admission Process
Adriana Flores, senior director, Diversity Initiatives at The College Board.

3 p.m., Excelencia in Education: Tracking Individual to National Latino College Success
Jose Cabrales, program manager at Excelencia in Education. 

4 p.m., I’m First – First Generation College Students
Chelsea Jones, student support associate at I’m First – Center for Student Opportunity.

5 p.m., The Gates Foundation – Academic Skills to Help You Succeed in College
Teresa Rivero, lead senior program officer at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

6 p.m., Financial Aid
Eyra Perez, executive director of the San Antonio Education Partnership.

8 p.m., UC Davis Video Chat
N/A

9 p.m., ACT
Juan Garcia, assistant vice president – Strategic Partnership ACT.

 

 

Virtual College Fair #2 – October 24 – 10 am – 10pm EST

All Access October is one event that is highly recommended by CollegeWeekLive. There will be over 280 schools participating to discuss topics for seniors like writing and essay and finalizing your application process.  They will also provide tips to prepare for college entrance exams, narrowing your school list and more.

WHO
High School Juniors and Seniors and their families

WHAT
Free Virtual College Fair as part of College Week Live

WHEN
Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 at 10a.m. – 10 p.m. ET

WHERE
http://www.collegeweeklive.com/en_CA/Guest/College-Events-October

AGENDA

10am, Why Letters of Recommendations are Important

11:30am, NCAA presents: Path to the Student-Athlete Experience

12:00pm, Three Skills to Minimize College Debt

1:00pm, The Who, What, When and Why of the Campus Visit

2:00pm, Choosing A College Based On Your Return on Investment

3:00pm, Indiana Tech Video Chat

FULL Schedule

LATINAS THINK BIG NATIONAL TOUR

I was raised by the hardest working Latina entrepreneur on the planet.  She  baked and sold the most beautiful wedding, birthday and quinceañera cakes.  My mom also launched several home-based businesses selling hand-made crafts,  jewelry, Tupperware, Shaklee, Avon, Mary Kay, Home Interior, Princess House and managed to find the time to raise a family and help people in need in our community.   During the holidays she would make tamales  to share and for school fundraising.  Her drive and passion for entrepreneurship and social good lifestyle was passed on to my siblings and I.  As a child I use to watch her carry a notebook with lots of lists and wondered how to automate a lot of her administrative tasks of  setting up appointments, billing and collecting money.  I believe that is why I chose a career in Software Development & Engineering and I still code to automate a lot of my day to day technical tasks as a Telecommunications Engineer.

Today’s entrepreneurial Latina is a lot like yesterday’s savvy business woman, except we have a lot of tools at out disposal to automate and facilitate day to day tasks and enable us to focus on our goals.   Today’s Latina is entrepreneurial and Tech Savvy.  However, before many of us take the leap of faith to launch on our own or  to further our career path, we need  resources to help us build our networks and connect with like minded goal seekers.  We also need to sharpen our skills and  find communities with a solid foundation and support system.

 

ELLA Leadership Institute was born out of  similar drive and passion that is instilled in all hardworking and goal seeking Latinas.   ELLA Leadership Institute recently launched the  LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour to inspire and showcase Latinas who are making a difference.     The second stop of a national and international TED-style tour showcasing innovative professional Latinas will be held on October 11.   I’m  really excited to attend the event and support the ELLA Institute initiatives as a Twitter Ambassador.  I will be joining over 150 attendees to connect  and celebrate Latinas who are breaking new ground.  I’m looking forward to the featured speakers and discussions about careers, business, entrepreneurship and innovation.   Whether you are planning on launching a business or need a word of encouragement from Latinas in Leadership, LATINAS THINK BIG event is for YOU.

The onsite event has SOLD-OUT.  However, you can join the conversation online via Google hangouts and Twitter and be a part of the life-changing virtual event.  I had the opportunity to join the historic LATINAS THINK BIG launch online and  felt like I had the best seats in the house.  I walked away with a lot of resources and inspiration to develop a business idea.   I also felt the presence of a sense of community among the attendees.

The Los Angeles tour was a historical event  and attended by over 100 empowered Latinas, including ten TWITTER AMBASSADORS.

LATINAS THINK BIG VIRTUAL TOUR – LOS ANGELES

EVENT HASHTAG: 
#LATINASTHINKBIG

EVENT AGENDA
4:00PM – 5:00PM New York Life Career Consulting Hour
5:00PM – 5:50PM Registration, Hors d’Oeuvres, Mingle & Live Band Music
6:00PM – 6:20PM Welcome Remarks
6:20PM – 7:40PM LATINAS THINK BIG™ Presentations
7:40PM – 8:00PM Monica Gil Interview
8:00PM – 8:25PM Awards Ceremony
8:25PM – 8:30PM Closing Remarks
8:30PM – 9:30PM Mingling with Presenters and Honorees

”LATINAS

TWITTER AMBASSADORS
Jacky Diaz | @amigapreneur
Monique Frausto | @BLOGSbyLATINAS
Deborah Deras | @DeborahDeras
Eva Smith | @Eva_Smith
Gina Linn Espinoza | @ginalinn
Graciela Tscareno-Sato | @GraceTiscareno
Hilda Ramirez | @HildaRamirez1
LaLa Castro | @latinageeks
Nelly Cardinale | @nycrican2
Stephanie Bravo | @stephanierbravo

 

 

 

 

 

Question:  How have your parents inspired you to seek your career? What are some of the career and entrepreneurial areas you need leadership inspiration in?  Will you be attending the Latina Think Big Virtual Tour?

Virtual Tour of 911 Memorial in New York

I had the opportunity to visit the 911 Memorial.  The memorial commemorates the September 11 attacks in 2001 and stand in the same location where the World Trade Center stood.  The experience was very solemn. 

We stood in silence for over an hour and crossed several lines and check points.  Once we entered the memorial  we walked through the park full of walkways and trees.   The memorial plans to install 400 oak trees in stages and symbolize hope, rebirth, renewal and resilence.   The trees will eventually grow to 80 ft in height and will also provide environmental benefits to Manhattan.  We also walked through the paths of  the twin memorial pools where the WTC twin towers once stood and read the names of victims who lost their lives.  

Towards the end of our tour we visited the survivor tree, which withstood the 9/11 attacks.  The callery pear tree was found among the rubble of the WTC and was badly burned, but still had a live branch.   The tree was nursed back to life at the NYC Parks and Recreation and returned to the 911 memorial site in time for the grand opening.  

Today on the anniversary of September 11 we honor the memory and service of all men and women who lost their lives and the families affected by this event. We also honor the men and women and families who protect our freedom.

For more information about the 911 memorial or to plan a visit go to www.911memorial.org.

Virtual Tour of 911 Memorial in New York

Question: Have you visited the 911 Memorial? Do you plan to visit the 911 memorial?  Do you remember what you were doing on 9/11? How has this event impacted you?

Find Your Island Google Glass Challenge


I’m so excited to share the news!  I will be participating in the Find Your Island Challenge with four other Google Glass Explorers. Take the time to meet the Find Your Island Google Explorers, read our bios and join us on an adventure of a lifetime by following the #FindYourIsland hashtag.   This seriously feels like a high tech version of survivor challenge!

 

Travel Details

We’ll be traveling to the  Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel from September 6-9 and sharing our experience through a series of Google Glass challenges.  We’ll be kayaking, eating delicious cuisine and enjoying beautiful sunsets.   I’m so excited to be a part of this campaign with a great group of Google Glass early adopters.

 

 

Giveaway

You can also enter to win your own Google Glass vacation experience at  http://woobox.com/g9nns5.  The grand prize includes your very own trip to Fort Meyers & Sanibel as well as a pair of Google Glasses!

 

I’m off to finish packing!   I hope you will join us on our adventure!

 

 

 

Question: What will you do with your Google Glass vacation package if you win?

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