Fried Green Bananas: Immigration Debate 2.0

Painting by Liliflor Ramirez

The immigration debate has taken a new turn and this has little to do with the proposals set forth by the President this week or the proposals being worked on in Congress. The changes have more to do with symbolic changes by the President and the GOP. 

Here's my column published by the good folks at ABC News/Univision. 

Just breathe

We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. ~ Alexander Lowen

Everything goes back to our breath--the flow, the depth and quantity (and quality) of air we bring to our lungs is a gift we give ourselves and will help us stay healthy, focused and feeling beautiful and blissful. In indigenous cultures, the breath is the rockstar.

Mindful breathing is a recipe for healthy. Pausing to take a few deep breaths throughout the day can help you to let go of feelings of sadness, anger, worry and overall stress. Having a bad day? Stop and breathe. Feeling sad? Stop and breathe. Stress getting the better of you? Stop and breathe. A good deep breath will fortify you in mind, in body and in spirt. 

We are so very busy that we forget to breath and spend the day running from A to Z taking short and shallow breaths. Some experts are pointing to this -- a poorly oxygenated brain --  as the root of many diseases.

RIP Dolores Prida: An advice columnist like no other

Poet, playwright, journalist and columnist Dolores Prida died Sunday at the age of 69. She was a friend and colleague.

I'm so proud to have hired her to write the advice column, Dolores Dice, when I was editor of Latina magazine, which she wrote to her death. It was one of the best decisions I made. We wanted to create a space for Latinas to seek healing of their pain and christened the column with the Spanish word for pain, dolor, a place to heal many pains, espacio para dolores. It was our Hispanic woman's answer to Dear Abby.

A link to a CNN piece I wrote remembering her.

The New York born Cuban writer's eloquence, whimsy, fierce, and empowering voice and advice will be missed. If you take a look at the original illustration by Jordi Labanda, the hands, the attitude, the mouth, the pony tail--it's all Ms Prida, except of course, that she hardly wore moƱos, but she totally got that that is a fashion go to for Latinas.

Yesterday, I spent the day going through old columns. I was reminded of Ms Prida's brilliance and generous heart. Here is a gem titled You are strong, from the March 1999 issue of Latina. She writes:

Why play is good for the brain

Play is serious business.  If you don't get enough of it, your brain shrinks. This weekend, take time to play, Check out Stuart Brown's insightful Ted talk,  and learn why research shows that play is a lot more than fun.

What Makes a Hispanic Anyway?

"The connective tissue that binds Latinos and Latinas in the US is a shared culture and a clear identification with that culture. This heritage cannot be imposed, it has to be embraced."

Tony Mendez, the inspiration behind the Ben Affleck directed award-winning film, “Argo” may have a Spanish surname but please don’t get it twisted: he is not Hispanic. 

He told a reporter himself. 

I don’t think of myself as a Hispanic. I think of myself as a person who grew up in the desert. If I had been in a different family circumstance, I might have felt that way. But, mostly, my family was at odds with each other in a playful way, they weren’t talking about heritage in that regard. ~ Tony Mendez to Jack Rico

The nuance of being Latino was brought home by the ex Cia operative's story about the Iran hostage that just took top honors at the Golden Globes. He touches on something deep and unpacking such a loaded statement would make for a great doctoral dissertation.

The Bronx on her mind...

Forget Madame Justice, just call her, "Sonia from the Bronx," says Justice Sotomayor to 60 Minutes. What is it about the Bronx that those who were born or raised there forever want to be associated with the borough? (Well all except Kerry Washington, also from Soundview, who keeps that tight to the chest.) But for the Justice, the third woman and first Hispanic on the high court, being a Bronx girl is a source of pride, strength, and honor. Sotomayor's new memoir, My Beloved World, is like a love letter to the place.

In this 60 minutes segment, the most intimate TV interview yet, she opens up about affirmative action, being raised in the projects, and rising to the top of her field. Honest, intelligent, tough & funny Bronx girl, what is not love. Here is the full link or watch part of the interview here.

Mickalene's Magnificence

Din, Une Belle Negresse 
I will not bury the lead: sprint to see Mickalene Thomas' exhibit, Origin of the Universe," now showing at the Brooklyn Museum. From wherever on the planet you may be reading this, the Bronx or Bombay, Lower East Side or Los Angeles--the visit will be worth your time and money. Thomas' art is that extraordinary. You got a week, the show ends Sunday, January 20th.

I just "discovered" this Brooklyn-based artist yesterday when the museum held a round table discussion exploring the black female body in art. I cannot gush enough about the magnificence and fabulosity of Ms. Thomas' work. Her art made me feel things deeply in a way that only great art moves the soul: as a woman I felt understood, celebrated, empowered. As a black woman, above all, I felt majestic.

Imagine walking to a gallery and the first thing you see before you is a bejeweled vagina, complete with liquid gold representing it's juices. Classy. Dignified. Daring. Fierce and unapologetic, Thomas' Origin of the Universe is a self-portrait and re-imagination of the French impressionist painter, Gustav Courbet's, L'Origine du Monde. Thomas flips the 19th century original master's work the way a 21st century hip hop artist remixes an oldie but goodie and creates magic. She does it over and over again, each piece more bold, brave and beautiful as the next.

How to witness everyday miracles

If you want to witness the tiny miracles that are around you, be still. Being quietly aware of where you are at this very moment affords you the opportunity to see and experience wonder. Whether it's a garbage shaped as a heart on the street or dew on a plant, or the playful spirit of a child and many other sweet surprises, miracles are all around you, always, in all ways. Allow them into your life. Slow down and with eyes + heart wide open, let the universe show you. 

We walk so quickly through the world that one morning turns to a decade and then we say, "where did it all go?" Try, as much as you can, to s-l-o-w it down a bit and live e-a-c-h moment. 

How to witness everyday small miracles:

Inspired by those I interview...

One of the most moving stories I worked on in 2012 is now on newsstands. I wrote about the young women who live in the Bronx housing projects where Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor grew up in.  These young women are fighting against all odds to find their own version of success. Proud to have written the piece in a magazine that I adore so much. Hope you get to pick up the issue and be touched by these young women as much as I was.  

My Ten Favorite Spirituality Books of 2012

Developing the capacity to see the whole of life as beautiful and to see people as essentially loving beings, is like participating in a spiritual environmental movement. We have no power of measuring the power of a single thought, yet we know that attitudes and beliefs have universal consequences. ~ Caroline Myss, "Sacred Contracts: Awakening the Divine Within"
I don't read books like most normal people. I am a slow reader and I adore lingering with a book for a while rather than rushing to the next one. I also don't necessarily read the "latest" book to come out.  So most of the books on this list were probably not published in 2012, some are even a decade or more older, but, they are not dated. These books run the gamut on subjects, from a meditation on meditation, to a meditation on fashion, from healing the womb to the power of fasting. And, even if the publisher or author does not consider it a spirituality book, I do, for I found deep spiritual meaning in each of them. These were the books that brought me much joy and wisdom in 2012.

Inching toward vegetarianism: The 15 Essentials to a Vegetarian Kitchen

And the craziest thing is that folks who know me are still in shock: I was that girl at the dinner table that loathed vegetables. I made faces when others ordered them too! But here I am, a full fledged granola-kale-hemp seed card carrying vegetarian. Ten months and counting. And I've never lived more gloriously. I feel healthier and more radiant than ever before. And an added and unintended benefit, I've lost weight. Wanting to be healthier meant paying attention to how I fueled my body and that's the real reason for my shift.  However amazing though, I can't say the transition was easy--the only vegetable I ate prior to the shift was the potato, and more likely, it was fried. 

But since stepping into this veggie universe, I've discovered an abundance of options. This vegetarian culinary world rocks! I am still excitedly discovering the cornucopia of vegetables and in the process making new and delectable vegan and vegetarian dishes that have become the rock stars of our table.

My journey into vegetarianism--no fish, no animal meat, only good 'ol veggies--has been filled with wonderful and admittedly not so wonderful. Sometimes, I've no idea what the hell I am doing and poor kids, they have had to eat what I eat. The learning curve-- nutritious foods for a woman of a certain age, and two growing boys--has been exciting and everyday I pick up a new tip. No vegetarian is the same, just like no meat eating person (yes you carnivore reading this) is the same so I journey this one solo.

Becoming a vegetarian is an extremely individual journey, which makes it for fun and at times, admittedly lonely, especially if you are the only one of your friends (or family) who is a vegetarian.

But here's the thing: If you're inching your way toward eating more veggies, you not only have to make space in your head, heart, stomach and shopping cart for more vegetables, but it will require a kitchen make-over. Here are the 15 Essentials to your new vegetarian kitchen: 

"We are already perfect Buddhas, we just don't realize it, and so we act like unenlightened children." ~Caroline Myss

Happy New Year

Seize the opportunity the new year offers to try out new ways of living and loving if the old ways aren't working for you.

Wishing you all a meaningful 2013