Wednesday, November 8, 2017

WATCH: Are Latino Men Naturally Machista - The Kat Call

Earlier this year I watched 13th with my husband. It's a remarkable documentary that clearly shows how the 13th amendment abolished slavery but how institutional racism continued and is still pervasive in our country today. It opened my eyes because I never realized how specific decisions have contributed to what black people experience in the United States today. 

Then I discovered this video after following Mitú on Facebook. They have a segment called The Kat Call where a woman named Kat calls people out on what they're thinking or how they're acting. This particular video was called "Are Latino men naturally machista?" and it really made me think about the stereotype that has been created around Latino men. 

I've been thinking more and more about stereotypes, where they come from, and why they continue. Personally, this is why I share my story, to add my perspective to the narrative, and to give others a book to read that hopefully open their eyes a bit. When I read, I get to walk around in someone else's shoes and to me, it's the best way to understand others better. 

Watch and think about any biases you might have or you might have had at one point. What contributes or contributed to your thoughts? How do your biases change or how have your biases changed over time? Does this video add to your thoughts on how Latino men are portrayed in the media? Can you recognize any other stereotypes or biases that this makes you more aware of? How might your own writing break down biases or stereotypes? 

We each have a unique story to tell and in my opinion, the more voices we add to the mix, the better.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Playlist Power

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

This weekend I'm celebrating how helpful a playlist can be! I started collecting songs related to an idea I had for a novel early in 2015. I finally wrote the first draft of that novel this summer, over two years later. I still find songs I want to add to playlists I create and I find myself listening to the songs as I'm writing. 

The playlist for the novel I'm currently revising - or rewriting to be honest - really helped me think through what changes I'd like to make as I rewrite. It also helped me remember what I initially thought this book was going to be about. It's mostly still what I thought it would be but I'm learning about first drafts and about all the next drafts as I think about what I thought I was going to write, versus what I did write, and what I plan to make the writing into now. Sometimes things just go where they go...but now that I've written something, I can go back and makes changes to it. 

It's kind of like working towards the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. Every lick gets you closer until you finally get to that chewy goodness in the middle. Every draft gets me closer to what the story is meant to be. 
This week I'm celebrating how helpful my playlist was as I'm starting on this new revision. I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year but I have a few friends who are! If you're reading, keep going! And if you aren't doing NaNo, I still wish you happy writing!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Truth In Writing

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

Somehow in the last week or two, I discovered the Chicago Humanities Festival and that two authors I admire, Erika Sánchez and Jason Reynolds, would be speaking on the same day. I convinced a teacher friend to go with me and we had an amazing time. Both of these writers are remarkable and it was an honor to hear from them.

They are more than writers, they are activists. Their words make a difference. 

I took lots of notes but a few stand out to me. Erika said, "You have permission to write what you want to write." I love that! Sometimes I need permission to write my stories. Even when I know I have to write my's still important to know that it's not just okay, it's important. She also talked about stories people think or believe about other people and how we can prove the narrative wrong. 

Jason Reynolds brought me to tears. I heard him speak on a panel at NCTE last year in Atlanta. His words resonated with me and were just as impactful this afternoon. He commented that, "Real recognizes real." And he explained that he rights reality for young adults because they need it. Too many young people don't see themselves in books and stories or have adults who care and see them. He said, "We don't talk about anger in a real way in this country." How right is that? Too many people would rather pretend anger - or any other emotion - doesn't exist. They'd rather sweep it under the rug or pretend it's not happening instead of just talking about it. But kids need people who will be real with them and talk about the good and the bad of life. I'm so glad we have his books and that they can help adults and kids have conversations. 

Finally, Jason talked about writing. He gave some advice to a young woman who stood up and asked about writing. He said, "You know what makes writing special? The difficulty. Easy or hard, all that matters is are you gonna do it or not?" Yes! Writing is hard...but as much as I complain about it, I love it and I'm doing it. 

What are you writing? What are you celebrating? I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Our First MDA Walk

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

This weekend I'm celebrating because we participate in our first Muscular Dystrophy Association event! My husband was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy in 2011 and even though his grandmother also has it, it was a shock to him and to us. 

He thought his life was going to significantly change and he wondered what it meant for him but he's lucky to still have a lot of use of his muscles. A few months ago he announced that he wanted to participate in the MDA race this weekend, he told his story, and he started collecting donations. We are lucky to have an amazing support system and he raised over $2000. Not just that, look at all of our friends and family who came out to support and walk with us today! It felt really great. 
This shows the power of telling a story. For a long time, Chad didn't want to tell his story. He didn't want people to know he was dealing with this disease or to think of him differently because of it. But by telling his story, he felt more empowered, he inspired others, and he raised awareness. And in participating in the event today, he connected with others who have Muscular Dystrophy. I'm so proud of him and happy to be on this journey with him!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Family, Friends, and Books

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

So much to celebrate this weekend but I'm going to focus on three that stand out! 

1. The biggest celebration is that my parents and my aunt are home! They were on a once-in-a-lifetime, month-long trip to Europe. It was fun to follow along on their adventures but we missed them and are so glad to have them home. 

2. My seven-year-old is in a mother-son book club! We had our first meeting this weekend where all the boys talked about Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was so cute and they seemed to love it. One of the discussion questions asked who they would take with them on a trip like Charlie takes Grandpa Joe. He stuck his thumb at me and said, "This one." And then he explained it was because I'm really nice. Aw!

3. On the writing side of things, I pulled the book The Productive Writer off of my shelf and remembered how much I loved it when I read it a few years ago. I definitely need to share it in one of my READ posts so I'll be doing that here soon. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Story Exploratory LIVE and Younique

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

Today I'm celebrating a new adventure. I like new adventures. A lot. There's something in me that likes doing new things. This could be as simple as trying a new drink at Starbucks to as wild as indoor skydiving.

This new adventure is a two-for-one. It all started over the summer when I watched a video on Facebook and another video popped up. This new random video was a woman talking to the camera while she put her makeup on. I was mesmerized. She was funky and cool and I watched the entire thing. It wasn't until the end that I realized she was a Younique presenter and that she was selling makeup. Then later in the summer my friend Erin started posting about Younique and I joined her group. She talks about books and her life and makeup as self care. And she was having fun going live in her Facebook group.

Here's where my fun comes in. I realized I could buy the Younique kit and get all the amazing products. And I could start my own Facebook group where I could share videos with my friends and host parties. So I did it.

The adventurous thing is I don't know much about makeup and I've never been live on Facebook before. So it'll definitely be an adventure! But I think it'll be super fun and I'm always up for something new.
The cool thing is I get to hang out with amazing friends in what I hope will be a warm, fuzzy place of positivity. Do you want to join Story Exploratory LIVE? Send me an email jen [at] teachmentortexts [dot] com or request to join the group and we'll work it out!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating 826CHI Diversity in Literacy Panel

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

I'm celebrating something super exciting this week! Yesterday I was invited to be part of a literacy panel with 826CHI. Maria, the Director of Programs at 826CHI, invited me to be part of it and I was thrilled and honored to be in such great company. 
Here's Maria introducing our awesome panel. The space at 826CHI was transformed into a fancy setup with rows of seats and special lighting. So cool. 

And here are the wonderful people I was so excited to learn from: Dr. Horace Hall, Maria Rivera, and Dr. Sakeena Everett. They were fantastic and had such great insight to share. It was so evident that they are passionate about the work they are doing and that was the best part.  
Besides the honor of being on the panel with fantastic people...Chad and the kids came with! They got to shop the Secret Agent Supply Co and explore the writing and tutoring space behind the storefront. I wish I had a video of their gasp when Tyler who works in the store opened the secret door! It was awesome. But then they saw the space behind the wall and they were amazed all over again. They stood on the stage, tried to hula hoop, and found lots of fun games to play with. It made me so incredibly happy that they got to see how awesome 826CHI is and that they go to see their mom doing something so special. 

Someday I hope they look back on all the things we do and have great memories that inspire them to do good in their own lives.

If you aren't familiar with 826CHI or their other branches, be sure to check them out! They are my favorite organization and doing much needed work!