What Does Voting Mean to You?

In honor of Willie Velasquez and others like him who have fought so hard to earn us the right to vote, I’m asking you to think about what it means to you personally to have that power, that privilege to vote your conscience.

Think about it and let me know. Leave a comment here or better yet, write your own blog post about what voting means to you, and I’ll add a link to your page here. I’ll also tweet it. Heck, I’ll share it with Latino Public Broadcasting, which co-produced the Willie Velasquez documentary and maybe they’ll tweet it, too. Continue reading

International Education Week

Dr. Aaron Bruce, second from right, this summer took a group of students to the Dominican Republic.

This summer, Dr. Aaron Bruce (second from right, in the first row) took a group of students to the Dominican Republic.

First you should know, I’m sick. Which means, I’m miserable.

Miserable with a capital “M.”

I’m in agony, actually. All because of the common cold, which is very irregular when it comes to me. Because I never get sick. I get the flu shot ever year so it’s impossible for me to be sick!

But maybe there are exceptions. Like now. And I know exactly who to blame for giving this wretched cold to me. (I’m talking to you, Trisha, Clare, Lois and Barbara! You did this to me and for that you’ll pay!)

Until then, I want to chop off my nose to spite my face or something like that. Because I can’t breathe. I’m hanging on by a thread. My eyes watery, my throat, raw and scratchy. It’s just me and my stuffy nose and all the tissues in the world can’t do a thing to stop my uncontrollable urge to–to–



So, while I lay here, comatose on the couch, indulge me, won’t you?  Please read a post I just wrote for the Huffington Post, on International Education Week and my good friend and colleague, Dr. Aaron Bruce, who is passionate about giving all young people an opportunity to study abroad.

After you read it, please share with me what you plan to do to “keep it global.”

So here’s a bit of it to get you started:

Keeping It Global for International Education Week

Before you start getting ready for the holidays, take a moment to think global. In fact, take a week.

For International Education Week is just around the corner. From November 16 to 20, students and educators everywhere will be finding a multitude of ways to keep it global.

IEW, which is designed to promote cross-cultural learning, started with President Bill Clinton. In 2000, he made it a joint initiative between the US Department of State and the Department of Education. Today, it’s celebrated around the world, in over 100 countries.

Which is a far cry from when I was a kid. Back then, as a student enrolled in a public school in Queens, New York, there was little emphasis on international education. In fact, about the only thing on anyone’s mind was what to do if the Russians invaded.

(read more please)

He Crossed the Line

Yesterday, someone asked me if I was having a good weekend. I said yes, but that wasn’t entirely true.

I was sad. So sad, and I’m sure you know why. In fact, like many of you I spent most of Friday in various stages of sorrow and tears. How could this be? Who can explain what happened?

Sandy Hook Elementary: People gather at a makeshift memorial near the school following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/12/15/sandy-hook-shooting-the-names-of-the-dead/#ixzz2FNf8Bfc6 Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

And, how can life go on in the face of such tragedy?

In the early hours of Friday morning, I had written a post about commercials. This was before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  Many of you were kind enough to comment, and the comments trickled in throughout the weekend.

But, I found it very hard to respond to your comments, as suddenly a post about ads and soup seemed trivial and inconsequential. I couldn’t even bring myself to visit my blog. I just didn’t have it in me.

Another asked if I was ready for the holidays and I thought to myself, are you kidding? In light of this tragedy, how can I begin to answer that question?

And, then I thought of my own children, and how lucky I am that they’re okay. That I’ve been able to see them grow up. In a few days, my daughter will be home from school and I will be off from work so that I can spend time with her.  I’m lucky, too, because my son lives nearby and visits nearly every week.

I’ve had the chance to see them grow up and have them in my life.  But, there are parents in Newtown, Connecticut who were robbed of this.

There’s a six-year-old boy who lives across from me. He has a bright smile and I know he’s a good kid, for I’ve known him and his parents since he was an infant. Recently, he rang my doorbell and asked me for a job walking Henry. I was impressed with his desire to take responsibility and earn an income. So, now he walks my dog every once in a while, for which I pay him a few dollars. He came by this weekend, and I was reminded that he’s the same age as the children from Newtown.

On Saturday, I had plans to spend the day with my son and his girlfriend. We had planned this outing weeks ago, and a small part of me wanted to cancel in light of this tragedy. Yet I needed, to be with my children at this time and spending the day with them at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park proved to be just the thing.

Afterwards, we went out to dinner at a mall, crowded with holiday shoppers and of course, the parking lot was full. But there was something else: the parking lot was teeming with police, floodlights and police-lookout towers. It startled me at first, but I assumed they were there to protect from the many car thefts that occur in shopping mall parking lots this time of year. Then, on Sunday I learned that a man had fired 50 shots into the air, while in a shopping center parking lot at another mall in Southern California, and I wondered whether that incident was the cause for beefed up security at the mall we were visiting.  I can’t say for certain.

In my sorrow, I stayed away from this blog for two days, so I apologize for not replying to your comments sooner. But in the end, I know that life goes on, and life is beautiful and precious.

Why can’t we all value human life? Why did the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary have to happen? And, why oh why did the shooter cross the line and kill so many, including 20 beautiful children?

I’ve written an open letter to the shooter. You can find it on the Huffington Post site.  Please read it and then offer your comments there. Thank you, thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you, my readers.

Here’s the beginning:

Dear Adam Lanza,

What happened? Where did we fail you?

I’m assuming something went horribly wrong in your life, leading you to this horrific day in December, smack in the middle of our holiday season.

Did it happen at home, with the breakup of your parents’ marriage? Was it in school or during soccer practice? Were you pushed to take music lessons at a young age?  Or did someone forget to wish you a Merry Christmas?

Perhaps it was something deeper, beyond our sphere of understanding, that troubled you?

Whatever it was, I’m trying to comprehend, and asking myself how it led you to take it out on the youngest among us. Our future, our children…

You can read the rest at the Huffington Post.

Huffington Post – Pundits on Parade

Ever watch the pundits on the cable TV news? They have an opinion on just about everything.

Photo courtesy, WILLisms.com.

Turns out, so do I. Which is why I’ve decided to become a pundit myself. For, I’ve been watching them and listening to them until I’m blue in the face. And, I figure, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

If you ask me, the only thing missing from our political landscape is pundit trading cards, much like the ones for baseball and action heroes–Superman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the like. So why not have trading cards for our political pundits?

Assuming I joined the pundit ranks, couldn’t you just picture my face on one? 

Well, I’d trade you a George Will for a Jon Stewart any day! Got any James Carville’s? What would you give me for an Ann Coulter? Anything? ANYTHING?

Check out my latest piece for the Huffington Post, and find out why, to me, they’re nothing more than Pundits on Parade.

You’ll also learn why I can sling arrows with the best of them. 😉

I Remember Mama

I Remember Mama

I Remember Mama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Item 1:  Whether or not you’re a mom, no doubt, you’re somebody’s child, which is why I’m hoping you’ll check out a post I submitted this week to the Huffington Post. I call it,

The Best Mom, Probably

Why? Because my son, in his infinite wisdom, didn’t want to go out on a limb and call me the best mom in a text he sent me to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. No doubt, he was afraid I might get an inflated ego over it.

Of course, little did he know, telling me I was “probably” the best mom was enough to drive me crazy and I set out to discover what exactly he meant. I first wrote the post when I started blogging, but it’s perfect for Mother’s Day, so, please read it–and comment!

My son, during a trip to Venezuela, with Tia Olga, who passed away earlier this year.

Item 2:  This time of year, it’s easy for me to get all teary-eyed and start waxing poetic. This is because I lost my mother 18 years ago this month. Plus, I’m a romantic at heart and, as such, I’m prone to getting sentimental at the drop of a hat.

For years, my mother and I had a Mother’s Day tradition of watching I Remember Mama, one of our favorite films. (FYI: Turner Classic Movies usually carries it around this time.) It’s sappy as all heck but don’t you dare make fun of it because to me, it’s such a tear jerker. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. It’s got everything–pathos, humor, suffering, a cat that dies then comes back to life, a crazy uncle who yells a lot, and a mysterious boarder who’s into reading. Add to that, a hard-working, ready-to-sacrifice-all-for-her-family kind of mother. It’s classic!

I Remember Mama, made in 1948, stars Irene Dunne as the matriarch of a Norwegian family, living in San Francisco, circa 1910. It is narrated by Katrin, the eldest daughter and an aspiring writer (Trivia: She’s played by Barbara Bel Geddes–Miss Ellie from the original Dallas series!). Here’s how Katrin introduces her mother–and the reason I start blubbering as soon as I see the opening credits:

“For as long as I could remember, the small cottage on Castro Street had been home. The familiar background was there; Mama, Papa, my only brother, Nels. There was my sister Christine, closest to me in age, yet ever secret and withdrawn — and the littlest sister, Dagmar.

“There, too came the Aunts, Mama’s four sisters. Aunt Jenny, who was the oldest and the bossiest; Aunt Sigrid; Aunt Marta; and our maiden Aunt, Trina. The Aunts’ old bachelor uncle, my Great-uncle Chris — the ‘black Norwegian’ — came with his great impatience, his shouting and stamping. And brought mystery and excitement to our humdrum days.

“But most of all, I remember Mama.”

Item 3: My mother had five sisters and one brother. Now, only one sister, Tia Livia, remains. Tia Olga, the second to youngest, died earlier this year. She was kind and gentle and deeply spiritual. She was the only one who never married nor had children. In her final years, living in Venezuela with no income of her own, it was the nieces and nephews who took care of her, making sure she had all she needed. I sent her what I could, including chocolates from the states and the latest issues of Reader’s Digest, one of her favorite magazines that she enjoyed reading in English. I loved her so much and miss her dearly.

Item 4: One of my favorite bloggers is Deborah Batterman. She writes honestly and with humor, and has a knack for making me laugh. In a recent post on her blog, The Things She Things About, Deborah wrote about her mother and how she once phoned Deborah, when Deborah was living in New York City, from their home in New Jersey, and left the following message on the answering machine:

“Close your window, there’s something coming from Jersey.”

Reading that made me fall over in a heap of giggles. What was coming from Jersey? Sounded dangerous and wicked! Well, you’ll have to read Deborah’s blog to find out more.

Deborah has also written a collection of essays titled, Because My Name is Mother.  Laced with humor, tenderness, and a bit of nostalgia, you’ll find these stories quite enjoyable, and, best of all, they’re now available for Kindle for only $0.99! A bargain, if you ask me, and makes for a great Mother’s Day gift for just about anyone!

Back to Item 1: It’s the not knowing why my son said I was “probably” the best mom that gets me and, frankly, I can’t stop thinking about it. In any case, though I might “probably” be the best mom, one thing’s certain: I know I’m the luckiest mom, for I have two great kids.  Kids that I never took to the tanning salon, nor left naked in the car while I ran errands. So, Josh and Sarah, if you’re reading this, you’re welcome. I didn’t torture you and that, if you ask me, ought to deserve more than a “probably.”

But, Readers, I’ll let you decide. Read my story in the Huffington Post, and then be sure to let me know what you think!

So, Happy Mother’s Day!

Now, how about you? What do your kids do to show you their love?