Month: September 2015

Shine Theory: If you shine, I shine!

Shine Theory is a term coined by Ann Friedman who wrote about it for New York Magazine. I listen to her podcast, Call Your Girlfriend (she co-hosts with her bestie Aminatou Sow and I love them both) and after hearing them talk about it I googled the term and read her article. I liked it a lot. I also read an interview of Jam Wilson for Styleite where the discusses Shine Theory and what she makes of it. Instead of Friedman’s “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine” she modified it to “If you shine, I shine” and I actually like that better.

It’s a well established talking point that women are taught that we’re always in competition with one another. I can’t speak for men, as I am not a man, but there does seem to be a tendency to compare ourselves to other women. I remember being much younger and immediately taking a dislike to any girl I thought was smarter, prettier, or more popular than me. I quickly came up with reasons to justify my dislike of her: she dressed like a tart (hello slut shaming!), she was stuck up, she was arrogant, etc. I basically reduced her to things that I now know are nothing but toxic garbage. I think it’s okay to be insecure at times but it is important to learn to recognize that insecurity and see it for what it is. There will always be people who we perceived to be more accomplished than us in something. Instead of begrudging another woman her successes we should celebrate them! Instead of making their accomplishments about us, and how they make us feel inferior we should work on silencing that negativity that sucks the joy and genuineness out of our friendships.

Powerful, confident women are wonderful and instead of cutting them down in order to make ourselves feel better we should regard them as mirrors in which we can see our own awesomeness and potential. I know that it can be a struggle to see those closest to you moving onwards and upwards but instead of snarking about them behind their backs how about we practice being legitimately happy for other women? I have friends who are at different stages in their lives, some are stay-at-home parents, others are working parents, some are authors in addition to the previous two, some are lawyers, teachers, PhD candidates, etc. They are all amazing in their own right and every time they achieve something I am genuinely happy for them and it feels great to be happy for my friends. To celebrate them and their lives instead of measuring up how their lives stack up to mine is one of the most positive things I can do.

What do you do when you meet somebody you find intimidating? Imagine they’re well put together, oozing confidence and poise. Do you recoil from them, thinking that you’re not good enough to befriend them? Do you immediately hate them, assuming the worst of them? Or do you simply see a shine that mirrors your own? We should all strive for the latter.

I recently interviewed and went on to secure a seasonal job at a nearby retailer. It’s a part-time thing I’ll be doing twice a week and I’m excited about it. When I told some of my friends I saw a wonderful example of shine theory. They were SO happy for me! They were as excited as I was for this new job. I cannot describe how wonderful it feels to have people legitimately share in your joy. I am at a point in my life where I WANT to see my fellow women succeed. I want them to reach that highest peak, get that doctorate degree, build that multi-million dollar dream house, all without any ill feelings. When you stop making other people’s lives about you, you become happier.

Something else I think ties into Shine Theory is perception. How we perceive ourselves and others is not necessarily reality. The person you think of as most confident might actually feel like they’re falling apart on the inside. The woman whose figure you envy might struggle with body confidence and even admire your own figure. The point is that we are all worthy and we are all good. Life is not meant to be lived in one way.

To me, Shine Theory is about uplifting all women starting with ourselves. Self-hate is real and I see it too often in women and girls. The worst part is that we take this internalized hate and project it outwards. I recently read a blog post that was talking about being thankful for girlfriends. It was a lovely post with good intent but it left me feeling bit off. The author mentioned that she doesn’t like drama but that a lack of drama is hard to find in women because women like to talk. This was such a backhanded jab at women and it really bugged me. Putting down other women in order to lift up your friends is the wrong way of cerebrating anything. Women being gossipy and drama-prone is such a tired stereotype. If it was an attempt at humor by the author it fell flat (for me). The idea that women make shitty friends because they are drama queens might be supported by anecdotes but in reality any human being is capable of pettiness. To be honest I once shared that perception about women but I have since learned that it starts with me. My attitudes, my beliefs about my fellow women greatly impact the interactions I have with them.

Shine theory resonated with me because it’s something I was already doing in my life and it took a conscious effort to make the switch from insecurity and jealousy to unwavering support and genuine enthusiasm for the accomplishments of other women. In a way it’s one of those fake it til you make it type of things because breaking years of bad habits is difficult and silencing the snarky thoughts you once voiced about women you resented instead of admired is difficult but it’s worth the effort. Even somebody you might not get along with should be celebrated for their achievements and perhaps this is not a person you would personally congratulate but you can silence the unkind words you would have expressed before. I don’t have to like you but I won’t put you down either.

As Jam Wilson said in her interview, “Shine Theory is all about supporting, uplifting, complimenting, and encouraging women who are just doing great. Whether that means she looks great today or she’s doing really well career wise, Shine Theory is celebrating other women for their achievements without jealousy or ulterior motives. I just want to celebrate women in any way I can!”

I don’t mean to end on a sour note but I figured that I would also add my opinion on disliking other women. It’s okay to not jive with everyone you meet. Shine Theory does not mean you have to be kind and friendly towards all women just because but I think it’s about being more intentional and mindful of what we put out there and why. We are all capable of differentiating between toxic pettiness and legitimate gripes we might have with an individual 😉

Lastly, I wanted to give a shoutout to my fellow book loving friend, Sarah who just launched her book rec blog Between Two Books. I am thrilled for her as she had been talking about doing this for a while. Please check her out if you’re looking for book recs. She has a reputation for picking winners 😀

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. Remember to shine.

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Book Fridays: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

I had no idea who Juan the Pareja was before picking up this book. I found it while browsing the children’s section at the library. I read the blurb and thought it sounded interesting. The book, while a good read, is not without its problems. Juan de Pareja was slave to Diego Velazquez one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. This story is told from Pareja’s point of view which is both wonderful and problematic.

Juan de Pareja was born to a mulatto mother and Spaniard father. He was born into slavery. Diego Velazquez inherited him after his original masters succumbed to disease. I’m going to go ahead and discuss what I think the book has going for it before I delve into what I took issue with. Having a Newberry Medal winner be a book about a black protagonist is significant. Almost 50 years later we still face diversity issues in publishing but it is important to note that the author of this book is a white woman. I’m not saying that she won because she was white but if you look at the list of Newberry Medal winners you will see which way it skews. One book about a 17th century slave does not change the reality of publishing.

When we talk about 17th century Europe many people overlook the fact that black people lived among all the white people we read about in books and see in movies etc. set in that time period. They are not often discussed or depicted but they were there because: slavery. This is why a book about and told from the point of view of a black man is significant.

The writing is good and the story engaging. There were a couple of scenes that stood out to me.

When I started reading the book the foreword bothered me and 40 pages in I declared the book garbage on my GoodReads status update. My feelings have mellowed somewhat but the main issue I have with the book is the handling of slavery and racism. The author doesn’t go as far as to justify it but she does almost excuse it. She doesn’t go as hard on it as I think she should have. The contempt for slavery is mild and Pareja is characterized as a docile slave who loves his station and his masters. Her foreword is basically a declaration of that’s just what was done back then rather than a condemnation.

Something else that I found disgusting was the way in which the white slave owners were heralded as kind, good people. Heroes even for treating their slaves with common decency. This is the kind of bullshit that I honestly cannot stand. A person who owned slaves is scum, I don’t care how well they treat their “property”. They are still in the ownership of human beings. I feel that the author went to great lengths to make the reader sympathetic to the slave owners. The idea that a slave and master can have a real loving friendship is a fallacy. There is too much power imbalance in such a relationship.

What saved this book for me was the character of Brother Isidro who finally lays down some truth when he says, “They look at a black boy and they see only a slave who is capable of doing work. They do not see what I do.” and adds, “Well, I see a person.” He is the only character that acknowledges Pareja’s personhood. Another character that tempers the complacency depicted throughout most of the book is Loli, a fellow slave who later becomes Pareja’s wife. She is the opposite of Pareja. She hates being a slave and she resents the white people. Her anger is not dwelled upon but it is expressed in a conversation she has with Juan. These two characters have a minor presence in the story but the fact they were there gives me hope that Treviño was a sincere detractor of racism and slavery.

The bottom line: this is definitely a worthwhile read. It’s a good book and for all the faults I found I still enjoyed it. Being critical of something doesn’t mean you can’t also like it. I think it’s important to read critically. To consume all things critically. It’s not always comfortable but it is necessary.  There is a lot more I could say about this book and the issues but I have dinner to prepare and so I must end it here.

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Book Fridays: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I finally started my Harry Potter journey. I am a fan of the movies, loved them and for as long as I’ve been a fan of the movies I’ve told myself I was going to start on the books. I can now declare myself Harry Potter trash, officially. Haha. But seriously, this has been a long time coming. I wanted to read the UK versions of the books but those are hard to come by here in the States. This frustrates me to no end. I refused to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! It was by lucky happenstance that I came upon this UK Edition at my local Library. See? Visiting the library pays off. It had never occurred to me to look for the books there. I am only sorry that I could not keep the copy forever. Now I want the full set.

I won’t go into the story because these books have been reviewed and written about to death. I just want to share that I loved the book and I loved that the movie adaptation was so faithful. I was honestly shocked. I can say with all sincerity that of all the book to movie adaptations I have watched and then read this one has been the most true to the book. Of course I noticed a few changes etc but overall it was really, really good. I hope that I can say the same about subsequent books in the series but so far color me impressed.

Have you read Harry Potter?

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Book Fridays: El cumpleaños de Baldomero by Isabel M. Febles Iguina

This book caught my eye during our last library visit and I was pleasantly surprised when I got it home and read through it. I’ll be honest, I picked it up because it was published by the University of Puerto Rico. Currently, I am on a mission to find children’s books in Spanish. Diego’s library is pretty large but he’s got more books in English than in Spanish. This isn’t a huge issue, I often translate for him or simply talk about the book. Pictures can be discussed in any language after all. I try to balance story time so that it favors Spanish but includes English so I read to him in both languages almost every day. I just try to read an extra book in Spanish. Anyway, these aren’t hard and fast rules and quite honestly I have no idea what I am doing.

But back to the book, this book is a two in one. It is printed in both English and Spanish. I really like that it’s two books in one. Instead of printing the different texts side by side the book starts over in English after the Spanish language text. The story is about Baldomero’s birthday party. We start out with Baldomero and his parents coming up with the guest list. His parents allow him five guests but he has trouble with his fifth guest. When his parents probe him he explains that he really wants to invite his classmate Tito but he’s deaf and Baldomero doesn’t know sign language. His parents are very supportive and tell him that the fact that Tito is deaf is no obstacle to being his friend.

There are many things about this book that I loved. Firstly, I loved that these characters were not whitewashed. I find that even in texts that are written by and for a Latinx audience the illustrations favor fair skinned, green/blue eyed characters with straight hair. And while there are Latinx who do look like this failing to include people of color is erasure. Afro-latinx people exist! Puerto Rico in particular is inhabited by people of all ethnicities. There is diversity in our community even though media does not often represent that. And just in case there is a person of Latin or Hispanic descent that feels misrepresented when we talk about brown and black peoples because “we aren’t all dark!” please take a seat. I don’t have time for you, go away.

Anyway, the illustration of this book stood out to me in a good way. The inclusion of a child with a disability also adds to the diversity. Diversity is not just about representing people of different colors, races, etc. it is also about representing those who are not able-bodied. The message of the book is a positive one: people who are disabled/different in some way are still people. Tito was humanized throughout the story and he was not reduced to his hearing impediment.

You don’t have to be bilingual to enjoy this book and I encourage you to seek it out for your children!

Lastly, I always try my best to use correct language when discussing communities of which I am not part of. If I have expressed myself incorrectly or offensively please let me know.

Thank you for reading.

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I am a failure.

How often do we feel this way? When things aren’t going my way or the way I think they should be going I feel like a failure. When I am at my lowest I become very critical of myself. This is true for many things in my life. My most recent “failure” has been potty training my son. Intellectually, I know that I have not failed and that each child is different. I know this but I can’t help it, I slip up often and have little pity parties in my head. I wrote about potty training here and since then we had a good few days and then he decided he wanted nothing to do with the potty. Naturally, I keep trying to figure out why. He had only positive experiences with the potty and he enjoyed the sticker chart we were doing. His refusal is without tears, just very matter of fact. I suspect that this is not entirely unusual and I’ve responded by easing up a bit and bringing up the potty every few days.

Another struggle we are having relates to sleep. Diego is not fond of getting into bed these days. He doesn’t want to go to sleep and his refusal has him rejecting books as well. They are so tied into our bedtime routine that his disdain has not spared them. It’s annoying to deal with because bedtime is now a longer process that has me or my husband sitting in his room until he falls asleep. If we leave he gets out of bed. We’ve tried a lot of different things and so far nothing has worked. He has also been waking up during the night, something that he did not do just a few months ago. Whatever this phase is about I am ready for it to end. I’m coping by continuing to be consistent with our routine and I walk him back to bed and tuck him in when he wakes up at 2am and do so again and again on nights with multiple wakings.

I can’t lie and say that I don’t feel myself becoming angry at times. It is NOT easy to keep your cool while sleep deprived and the urge to raise my voice or even (gasp) smack him has cropped up. It ashamed me to admit it and that’s ok, I am human. There is no shame in being weak and finding ourselves in these situations where our patience is tested to its limits. I am not a fan of pretending that parenting is all rainbows and unicorns. No child is perfect and people can pretend that they birthed little angels but those angels have horns sometimes, haha. I’m not a perfect parent.

Diego is a very sweet boy and I have to admit that I have very few reasons to complain but he’s a two year old who is still not in control of his emotions etc, so of course he’s going to have bad days! It’s part of growing up. I’m growing up right along with him.

During the past couple of months I have not been posting here consistently and this is another source of feelings of failure. I don’t really know why. I decided to write this blog for me and I still write it for myself but I do enjoy sharing. I especially treasure the messages I get from people who read and reach out to me. BookFridays got away from me. I am about 8 books behind and this stresses me out. I got out of the habit of writing a post right after I finished a book and now I feel like it all got away from me. I plan on getting back on track but there are times when I berate myself for falling off my schedule.

I am a failure is this toxic, destructive mantra that we all need to fight against. I would say we need to get rid of it but I think it’s ok to be low, and feel down. It’s ok to give into those feelings every now and then. That’s human. I also think we need to be kind to ourselves and be forgiving. It’s so much easier to talk others up but when it comes to ourselves we reserve the harshest judgment. We kick ourselves when we are down and we tell ourselves the very worst lies about our worth. Even at our lowest we all have things to look back on and be proud of and feel stronger. Most of all, we are worthy of love, friendship, happiness and success always.

I am a failure is a lie.

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Delicious sautéed kale over brown rice

My parents own a farm back in Puerto Rico and recently my mom came for a visit and brought some of their kale with her. Their farming practices are free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and they don’t grow any GMOs. I was excited to cook with some of their produce. I don’t particularly love kale, I have it in smoothies and soups but I don’t eat it raw. Sautéing it with a little olive oil and lots of garlic makes for a tasty meal.

Here’s how I prepared it:

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The stems are rather tough so I cut them out.

The stems are rather tough so I cut them out.

Farm fresh means dirt so it's important to rinse thoroughly. I like to wash them in a bowl and let the sediment settle on the bottom before taking the leaves out.

Farm fresh means dirt so it’s important to rinse thoroughly. I like to wash them in a bowl and let the sediment settle on the bottom before taking the leaves out.

In a cold pan I added about two tablespoons of olive oil and sliced garlic. Let the garlic and oil come up to a sizzle before adding the kale. Sautee until wilted and add a splash of chicken vegetable stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a cold pan I added about two tablespoons of olive oil and sliced garlic. Let the garlic and oil come up to a sizzle before adding the kale. Sautee until wilted and add a splash of chicken vegetable stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over brown rice (or any rice/grain of your choosing).

Serve over brown rice (or any rice/grain of your choosing).

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