“Your Determination Inspires Me” and Other Killer Statements

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of feedback from fellow advocates and activists in the disability community regarding what is now termed as “inspiration porn.” I figure it’s long been the giant, pink elephant in the room, so it’s high time I addressed it as well, at the risk of sounding redundant. Whenever an issue like this becomes too prevalent, I feel the need to add my voice to the shouting crowd.

Most of you know by now (I’d be very disappointed if you didn’t!) that I despise the term “disabled.” I believe it to be an ugly term that is unfortunately used to liken human beings to damaged, defective machinery.

Take a moment to read that again. The term “disabled” equates people whom it describes to damaged, defective machinery. 

Think about each time you board a plane and are subjected to all the safety instructions. What is one of the key regulations they always tell you?

“Please refrain from tampering or disabling the smoke detectors.” 

I rest my case.

So, what exactly does this all have to do with the so-termed “inspiration porn” frenzy? Everything. You see, inspiration porn is the use of photos of people with disabilities coupled with phrases like “never give up” or “no excuses.” 

What the hell does not giving up have to do with living with a disability? You have no idea how many times I’ve given up or wanted to give up something, for reasons not having absolutely anything to do with my having spina bifida. 

So, please, before you think of this as just another bitter diatribe filled with cynicism, allow me to break down for you why I have such a huge problem with inspiration porn: 

 

  • It assumes that everything people with disabilities do is supposed to be “inspiring.”

Do you know what it’s like to live up to that kind of pressure? I mean, that mentality is dangerous to the mental health of those of us with disabilities, because it implies that if, on any given day, we choose to give up– drop that class, end that relationship, gain those 10 pounds while on summer vacation– we failed. That’s right. Your paltry attempts at gleaming inspiration from us make it all the more challenging for us to live our lives– as normally as possible.

The harsh reality is that we all, at one point or another, give up. But, that’s okay. No, I’m not being defeatist here. I’m simply pointing out that we all fall and pick ourselves up, and that’s normal. So, why hold a select group of us to a very unrealistic standard of accomplishment when you simply can’t seem to get your own act together? Focus on yourself, and stop comparing yourself to others. Wasn’t that your mama’s advice to you in the first place? 

 

A meme I created a few months ago to portray the absurdity of the mainstream media-- and the general public-- in assuming our lives are "worse" than the lives of others. Feel free to share or re-pin!

A meme I created a few months ago to portray the absurdity of the mainstream media– and the general public– in assuming our lives are “worse” than the lives of others. Feel free to share or re-pin!

  • It also sets the bar very low for people with disabilities. 

 

Yeah, you read that right. Unless we’re playing wheelchair limbo, there’s no need to lower your standards for people with disabilities. That’s insulting.

When I was preparing to graduate with my Associate’s Degree, I was so thrilled after participating in the graduation ceremony rehearsal. After all, I was taking the next step in my academic career. I’ll never forget the douse of cold water I received, from a college administrator no less, when she congratulated me– because I was able to walk across the stage. Of course, I’m sure she didn’t realize that I’ve been able to walk since I was two. I don’t think about it anymore. 

My offense to her condescending remark was two-fold: First, it implies that there is “something wrong” with not being able to walk. So, I took offense on behalf of all of my friends who aren’t able to walk. Does it make their lives any less fulfilling? I think not.

Second, and most important to me, I was celebrating what was, to me, a great accomplishment– I was halfway done with my undergraduate education, and all she could focus on was the fact that I walked across the stage. Well, thanks, lady! If I had known the bar was set so low for me, I wouldn’t have bothered with two and a half painstaking years of hard work and sixty-plus credits. I needn’t have tried so hard if all it would have taken to  consider myself a “success” was take five or six steps across a stage. ;)

Think carefully about the remarks you make, or hear others make, to people with disabilities. “I’m so proud of you for going to college.” “You got a job? That’s incredible! I didn’t know people like you could work.” “I can’t believe you danced the entire night.” “Wow, you downed that mojito in record time, even with spina bifida!”

Yep, I sure did. And I enjoyed every last sip. Make one more comment like that, and you’ll force me to have another. It’s on you. 

 

  • It overlooks the fact that you can be inspired by people without disabilities. 

Sure, you think it’s wonderful that I can push my wheelchair all by myself, but did you ever stop and admire the single woman who is struggling to raise three kids while working full-time? Maybe even while in poor health?

Oh, that’s right. Her “issues” aren’t as obvious as mine. It’s completely disingenuous to assume that my accomplishments are somehow more kick-ass than the achievements of someone else, just because my so-perceived “obstacles” may be a little more noticeable. In fact, I’ll come right out and say it– it’s downright hypocritical. Granted, I realize I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of adult issues, even during the first ten years of my life. But that’s not my entire life, and I’m sure that if you instead focused your attention on the accomplishments of real heroes– the young woman who has been working at her family’s non-profit since she was a teenager; the young man who just made a documentary about homelessness; the young woman who took on her school board so her child with autism could enjoy quality education– you’d realize that your emotional energy is far better spent on genuine admiration rather than condescension.

 

  • It ignores the fact that it’s okay to not get a gold star each time we accomplish a simple task, like making our beds or getting an assignment in on time. 

That being said, like anyone else, we’re human. We love being congratulated for the same milestones that others like to have recognized, too: graduations, birthdays, weddings, having a baby, getting a job or promotion, or receiving an award. We just don’t want– or need to have The Disability Angle thrown in our faces every single time.

I’m genuinely happy whenever I do something that inspires someone for a legitimate reason. I love inspiring people to live up to their potential. I just don’t wish for people to think that somehow, my potential is less than theirs. That would be a costly mistake. ;)

And if any of you ever have any questions or concerns about what is usually considered “acceptable” by a person with a disability, I’d be happy to chat about it. You know where to find me– I’ll be sipping my mojito like a champ.

 

♥ Laurita

Can Beauty Sense Trump Genetics? ALLERGYFACE™

This post is part of a sponsored campaign on behalf of Latina Bloggers Connect and the makers of ZYRTEC®.

 
People say you can’t escape your heredity, your genetic fate.

 

Years ago, my parents told me the story of a conversation they had while they were still dating. Both Mami and Papi were prone to severe allergies, and their relationship was already heading towards marriage.

 

“You know,” said Papi, “When we have a child, he or she is going to be extremely allergic.”

 

“That’s true,” Mami said, in response to his observation. “Pobrecito.”

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been plagued by my genes– both a product and a victim of a genetic predisposition to allergies. Both my parents are prone to both seasonal– and year-round– allergies, as is my grandmother. Indeed, noses “run” in our family!

When I was about five years old, I was tested to find out just how prone I might be to developing allergies. While I don’t know all the specifics, I remember my parents telling me that a score of 100 was considered “normal,” and anything above 100 wasn’t. 
 
I scored above 800. Holy moly. Indeed, my heredity had totally betrayed me.

While there is little I can do to prevent being allergic to certain things– like shellfish, or the pollen of many different trees– there’s a lot I can do to prevent allergies interfering with my life. Almost every day, especially during the spring allergy season, I take an antihistamine like Zyrtec to help alleviate some of the symptoms like sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

But when it comes to disguising those annoying symptoms, I hardly know what to do. This is why I’m so excited to participate in Zyrtec’s ALLERGYFACE™ campaign, which has taught me a few tricks of the make-up trade to help conceal when allergies are getting the best of me.

 

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A few musts for me on an allergy-prone day are: using eyedrops, avoiding any strong perfumes, and avoiding the use of eyeliner, as it tends to bother me when my eyes get itchy.

 

Fortunately, Zyrtec has partnered with beauty and fashion expert Carmen Ordoñez of Viva Fashion blog to bring us all some great tips for disguising that dreaded ALLERGYFACE™. This will be a three-part series on YouTube.com/Zyrtec featuring the best tips for disguising your allergy symptoms.

 

Watch the video below as she takes us through some ideas to hide puffy face, watery eyes, and a red nose.

Stay tuned for the release of parts two and three of Carmen’s video series, to be distributed in the summer and fall, respectively. 

A big thanks to Zyrtec and Carmen Ordoñez (@VivaFashion) for giving us the tools and know-how to put our best face forward– even when we’re not feeling our best! Take that, ALLERGYFACE™!

 

At least that’s one victory for me in the battle against my genes! ;)

 

What’s your story about how allergies have affected your life? Do you have any tips for combating ALLERGYFACE™? Don’t forget to Tweet using the #ALLERGYFACE and #ZYRTEC hashtags on Twitter, and “like” ZYRTEC on Facebook to join the conversation.

 

–Laurita :)

 

Hispanicize 2013 Part 2: My Top 12 #ToyotaLatino

Whenever I return from a conference, I suffer from Chronic Recap Deficit Syndrome (CRDS). Yep. That’s in addition to spina bifida! 

What is CRDS? It is usually characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:

 

(1) Panic or anxiety when logging into my blog dashboard

(2) Feelings of inadequacy when reading other bloggers’ recap posts

(3) Frustration (maybe even cursing) while uploading photos

(4) General unease or distress at not being able to summarize events adequately

 

I’ll admit– here and now– that I live with CRDS. And while there is certainly no cure, I’ve come up with a way to make my life (and yours as the reader) easier: make a list. So, without further ado, here’s my list of the Top 12 Hispanicize 2013 Moments (in no particular order of preference)! 

 

1. The Sherwin-Williams #SWpintura Downtown Miami Design District Tour 

 

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At the Grand Opening of a new Sherwin-Williams store in Miami! #SWpintura 

Yes, I know I recapped this already, but I can’t help but mention again how awesome this tour of Miami was. We got to see the part of Miami most people don’t think of when they think of this beautifully diverse, energetic city. So at the risk of sounding repetitive– it rocked. 

 

2. Dinner with #ToyotaLatino representatives, bloggers, and communicators in the automotive industry 
Javier Moreno has been a great friend since 2011. I was absolutely thrilled when he put his faith in me and asked me to be the official correspondent at Hispanicize for Toyota Latino!

To me, it was just an incredible honor to be invited to be a correspondent, so I hardly imagined what Toyota had waiting for me– a multi-course dinner at  OLA Miami, one of the trendiest spots in Miami Beach! The restaurant is located inside Sanctuary Hotel, and in it, you can enjoy the Latin American flavors created by renowned Chef Horacio Rivadero. 

 

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Oh là là! 

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Clockwise from top left: Marlin tacos made a very tasty appetizer; Toyota pulled out all the stops by presenting us each with a goody bag; we also get to each take home a coaster; the Chocolate Cigar, very popular at OLA, was the perfect ending to a delicious, sophisticated meal; dinner kicked off with an assortment of tantalizing and upscale Latin appetizers.

 

DSC06143Goodies!! Ah, yes, please note: the scarf I’m wearing is part of my “welcome gift” from Toyota Latino! #Spoiled ;)

 

 

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My very dear friend, Javier Moreno, Assistant Manager of Corporate Communications at Toyota Motor North America, Inc. He’s the one who made this experience possible for me! Thank you sooo much! I owe you a few. ;)

 

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I’m so happy I got to connect with Heather López, a.k.a. The Social Commerce Mom of Bloggin Mamas and Happy and Healthy Mom on a more personal level! She rocks!

 

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The very first Latina blogger I ever met– and to this day, one of my absolute favorites! Jeannette Kaplun  is a beloved friend and “big sister.” 

 

 

Besides, the amazing food, drinks, and atmosphere at OLA, my favorite aspect of the evening was being able to engage in candid, casual, unscripted conversation with people I normally would not dine with!

I was completely taken by surprise when I found out I’d be sitting next to Jorge Bernal, Entertainment Anchor on “Al Rojo Vivo” on Telemundo, and host of “Tu Mañana LIVE!” on Sirius XM. I’ve been wanting to meet him for quite some time– and here he was, inches away from me! ;)  

 

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 Sharing a special moment with Jorge Bernal of Telemundo’s “Al Rojo Vivo” during the Toyota dinner. Thanks, Toyota! 

Over dinner, we were able to learn about some Toyota’s social initiatives. Toyota is currently focusing on growing programs in the following areas: education, environment, and safety. (To learn more about all of these programs, please visit the Toyota In Action blog.)

The bloggers and communicators were able to express our own ideas and opinions on a variety of topics, and basically outline what matters to us. The stories we shared ran the entire gamut of hilarious, moving, compelling, and informative.

There was definitely an underlying current at the dinner table– a desire to effect social change. I will always be grateful to my friends at Toyota for making this all possible!

 

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(From left to right: Javier Moreno, Álvaro Castillo, Heather López (seated), me (seated), Javier Mota, Jorge Bernal (seated), Jeannette Kaplun, and Janice Lusky-Greenspan. Photo courtesy of Jeannette Kaplun of Hispana Global

 

There are more photos to come on Espresso con Leche, plus an interview with Javier Mota of “Autos 0-60″ on Sirius XM Radio Channel 146! Thank you so much, Javier, for interviewing Javier Moreno and myself! 

3. Attending a private screening of “Filly Brown” and chatting with the cast during an exclusive Q&A session, followed by an after-party at The Stage! 

 

Yep. This actually happened. 

 

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And yep. He really is that awesome.  What a classy, fun guy! 

 

 

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Earlier in the day, I had a *totally chance encounter* with Lou Diamond Phillips in the lobby! We weren’t even at the screening yet! Of course, I never miss an opportunity to talk to celebs about The Cause. 

 

 

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The stars of “Filly Brown” and the Director/Writer/Producer, Youssef Delara, held a Q&A session immediately following the film screening. 

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With Gina Rodríguez, star of “Filly Brown,” during the after-party at The Stage. She is super sweet– and crazy talented! 

 

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Lou Diamond Phillips tore it up with “Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”                   Oh, yes, he did!

4.  The Adelante Movement 

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One of my absolute favorite moments was meeting longtime online friend Dan Pérez– blogger, filmmaker, philanthropist, and “all-around nice guy.” Words can’t express what finally meeting him meant to me! Love you, hermano! 

 

 

I know many people will think the Adelante Movement is just for women, but I know at least several guys who were “man enough” to stick around for this spectacular experience! One of them is my very good longtime friend Dan Pérez, who I got to meet (finally!) for the first time during Hispanicize. That moment was priceless to me! Getting to share it with our mutual hermano, Juan Alanis of Juan of Words, made it all the more special.

 

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Familia. I love these boys so much! 

 

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Clockwise from top right: With NHLI founder Maria Elena Toraño; with Rita Moreno of “West Side Story” fame; with Charo, the “Cuchi Cuchi” girl; Nely Galán interviews Charo onstage; with Nely Galán.

5. Hanging out with and interviewing Los Tweens! 

What can I say about Los Tweens? Founders Cristy Clavijo-Kish and Katherine Doble are doing such a fabulous job of raising kids who are at once socially conscious and aware of their own potential. They are now “paying it forward” with their work for Los Tweens, where they share advice, tips, and stories with other multicultural parents of children ages 7-12.

Of course, being raised by blogger parents, the youngsters want to get in on the fun, too! That’s why Cristy and Katherine have created My.LosTweens.com, a safe place where tweens can interact and share their own experiences, traditions, interests, etc.

Here’s a really cool video that I did with Maddy, Sophia, and Olivia!

Thanks so much, Los Tweens! I hope to someday host your Girl Scouts troop in Orlando. :)

 

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Maddy, Olivia, Sophia, and Cristy (the twins’ mom) from Los Tweens(Where’s Katherine?

 

6. Connecting with Sonia Velasquez.

Oftentimes, I’ll attend a conference, anticipating to run into a friend, and we’ll always miss each other, or only see each other once, in passing.

I met Sonia Velasquez on Monday, when my family arrived in Miami, and she was the guest of honor during the Sherwin-Williams #SWpintura event. I feel blessed to say I saw her every day until I left on Sunday! We were able to have real, honest conversations, soul-to-soul. There are a lot of people I’ve known for several years. Few people actually talk to me on  a soul level like Sonia did– within hours of us knowing each other.

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Sonia Velasquez and me. This woman has a heart of gold.                                                    So Blessed to now call her a friend! 

 

Her advocacy work for AIDS and domestic violence causes, in addition to her job as host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Latin America, make her one of the people I was most looking forward to meeting! And…it was just icing on the cake that she joined my “Blogs with a Cause” panel.” :)

I want to be just like Sonia when I grow up! ;)

 

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Sonia and me by the pool, catching some rays of sunshine– just minutes before I caught a few too many! 

7. Emilio Estefan. 

I remember maybe about four or five years ago, being in Miami on vacation with Papi and Mami, taking one of those cliché boat tours where they point out all the mansions of the city’s hottest celebs.

We saw Emilio and Gloria Estefan’s house. I bet the extent of my thoughts was, “Must be nice.” ;)

 

And then, years later, this happened…

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Emilio and me. Gloria was right– eventually the rhythm IS going to get you! 

 

OMG. I’m in the Target #SeHablaMúsica Lounge and Emilio Estefan is hugging me. As Mami takes our picture, he says, “You’re small, just like Gloria.” 

OMG. Emilio just drew a comparison between his wife and me. He’s comparing me to Gloria, the  Gloria! 

What a friendly, classy, awesome gentleman. I will never forget this moment!

8. The McDonald’s “Me Encanta” Yacht Party! 


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What happens on the boat, stays on the boat– and on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Foursquare, on Tumblr– and if you hit the photo booths, they give you a copy to take home! ;)

The McDonald’s #MeEncanta Yacht Party for Bloggers and Journalists, celebrating the Chicken McWrap, was, hands-down, the most fun one can have on the water!

We were treated to drinks, hors d’oeuvres, the best party music, and a floating dance floor (you know, ’cause it’s a boat)   for several hours!

9. Carlos Ponce

Let me say that again. Carlos. Ponce. Man, it felt good saying that! ;)

Right before Carlos took the stage to accept his Latinovator award and be interviewed onstage, my friends Vanessa Smith and Janice Lusky Greenspan intercepted him and I got to meet him!

 

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I just handed Carlos Ponce my business card. Carlos has my card. Heck– he has my number. Call me, maybe? ;)

 

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Okay, so I gave him my elevator pitch about The Cause. This was really when I was supposed to sing a few bars of one of his songs and persuade him to let me be a back-up singer for him! 

10. The “Blogs with a Cause” panel. 

There’s nothing I can say about the panel I moderated without practically bursting into tears. Um, not practically. Actually. Because organizing this session, coordinating with the girls, and actually connecting with them in person was one of the most spiritually enriching experiences of my life! I can honestly say I went to Miami barely knowing these women, and I left with four new best friends.

Denisse, Debbie, Teresa and Sonia– I owe you an overwhelming debt of gratitude for your commitment and your enthusiasm in joining the panel. When Manny asked me to “put together a panel” for Hispanicize, I thought it would be easier to master underwater basket-weaving rather than find a group of at least three people who not only were passionate about a cause, but were fluent in distributing their message across social platforms. Together, Manny and I found four. 

 

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(From left to right): Debbie Bookstaber, Denisse Montalván, Teresa Correa,                    and Sonia Velasquez

 

As they each elaborated on their respective causes and initiatives, and as I asked them questions, I couldn’t help but be in humble awe at the magic that was unfolding. Here were four women from different corners of the U.S. with very different projects, coming together for a common purpose: to educate the public about very urgent, pressing issues in our diverse society.

We also got some wonderful questions from the audience. They went straight to the point– they each wanted to know how they, in turn, could effect change in the world using social media. We discussed how some of them are balancing their “day jobs” with their labor of love, and how we can make money while advocating for a worthy cause, too.

I think the best compliment we received after our panel was from people who friended us on Facebook immediately following our session! We were very grateful to meet people who wanted to connect with us right away.

 

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What we need is a name for this group! Unfortunately, The A-Team,  the Powerpuff Girls and Charlie’s Angels are all taken. 

 

Those who attended the session enjoyed the wisdom of these four dynamos for about an hour. But the bond that was formed among the five of us will last a lifetime.

 I love you ladies. ♥

11. Meeting Janice. 

You know when you have one of those moments of clarity when you just met someone, and realize that you were meant to meet all along? I had one of those moments during Hispanicize, and it wasn’t when I met Carlos, Emilio, Edward, or any of those other celebrities.

It was when I met Janice Lusky Greenspan of PRecise Communications. To call her friendly, sisterly, or even motherly at times (because I definitely needed that!), all seems inadequate. Although I’ve attended plenty of conferences in the past, in different capacities, I had never been treated quite like the rock star I felt like during Hispanicize. 

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Janice and me. I feel so blessed to know her! 

Janice looked out for me on behalf of Toyota Latino, and was such a fabulous facilitator of opportunities. Whenever or wherever there was someone to meet, or an event or session I absolutely needed to attend, there was Janice, making sure I didn’t miss out. I feel incredibly humbled and honored to have connected with you on such a personal level. The mofongo is on me when you come visit me! ;)

12. Honorary Mention: The Sunburn 

By now, most of my friends have seen on Facebook The Epic Sunburn that literally handicapped me from doing anything other than surfing the Internet in my pajamas for about four days after returning from Miami!

Vanessa Smith and I don’t always use the best judgment when we hang out together, and we spent a long time in direct sunlight on the pool deck after the conference was over.

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Great times with one of my besties! It was totally worth it, hermana. ;)

 

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Ouch. Consider this an unofficial PSA for protecting your skin against the sun!

Mercifully, as soon as I posted a photo of my badly-burned back and shoulders (although the arms and legs were burned, too), I immediately received comments from friends, with tips and homemade remedies I could use. Literally, all of these products lived in our kitchen!

Mami had just a little too much fun mixing a potato salad on my shoulders!

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The Human Salad Bar. On my shoulders: orange blossom honey, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, redskin potato peels. Yum. 

More to come on Espresso con Leche!

 

Laurita ;)

Hispanicize 2013: When Sleep is Overrated #ToyotaLatino (Part 1)

On Sunday, I returned from one of the most awesome conferences– no, experiences–  I’ve ever had. I’d been at Hispanicize 2013 all week!

When I was first asked to moderate a panel at Hispanicize, my first thought was “Thanks for the invite, but how will I get there?

What I discovered, however, as I’ve said before on this blog, is that the journey is often just as important as the destination. 

What happened next is kind of a blur, but I know it involved contacting my good friend Javier Moreno of Toyota Latino, and asking him if sponsoring me would be possible, in exchange for promoting their brand in every which way.

After a few back-and-forth calls and E-mails, Javier made a proposal I’ll never forget– he asked me to be the official correspondent for Toyota Latino at Hispanicize! :)

So, all I had to do was prepare for a week of learning, Tweeting, Facebooking, interviewing and photographing some of the biggest stars in the Latino community. Oh yeah– I also had to overpack. I can never travel light! 

 

 With Donna and David of Central Florida Toyota. They were kind enough to drop off the 2013 Toyota Sienna LE we used this past week. My family enjoyed great conversation with them! 

 

The Sienna had great trunk space for all our luggage, plus my wheelchair! 

 

 My very good friend Alberto Saldamando, of El Mundo Tech, rode with us to Miami. What a fun road trip! 

 

 Papi is an awesome driver. Very focused. Don’t try to small-talk him when he’s scanning the roads for the exit. ;)
 

I’m so perfectly content riding in the backseat. Plenty of room to relax, open up my laptop and monitor my social media outlets. No time for napping! Too excited. :)

 

View of the console from the backseat. Very nice! Thanks for including a GPS, too, although the family that gets lost together, stays together. :)  
As comfortable as I was in the Sienna during our four-hour drive (only one stop, thank God!), I was eager to arrive in Miami for my first event. Sherwin-Williams invited several bloggers and journalists to go on a tour of the Downtown Miami Art District

The #SWpintura tour not only offered our group a night out on the town of food, drinks, and seeing Downtown Miami– we got to see a side of Miami that I, personally had never seen before. 

The Miami Design District is the kind of area that, as they say, “blink and you’ll miss it.” At first glance, the graffiti-covered walls and industrial buildings seem to belie the pure genius that is contained in its parameters. But, a closer look reveals gorgeous, elaborate murals painted by upstanding artists, many of whom are Latino.

The Tour also allowed me to meet Sonia Velasquez and Teresa Correa for the first time.

Sonia Velasquez is the host of Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Latin America, a model, and has produced and been host of many other TV programs. She is also a staunch activist for HIV/AIDS and domestic violence-related causes. In short– she is a force for good and a true agent of positive change. 

 

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Photo Courtesy of SoniaVelasquez.com
 

When I met Sonia, I honestly didn’t expect her to be so disarming and down-to-earth.  I was standing (okay, sitting in my wheelchair) near her with my Mami as she chatted with my good friend Pili Montilla (*AHEM* another star with a huge heart!). I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, but suddenly, Sonia glances toward me and yells…

 

LAURITA!!!”

 

I. Kid. You. Not.

 

Here I was, freaking out because on Saturday, a woman who I thought did not know me from Eve was going to speak on my “Blogs with a Cause” panel, and I thought, “no way we will have a chance to really connect by then.”

Here she was, totally blurting out my name and running over to hug and kiss me like we’ve known each other for ages. EPIC. 

 

With Sonia Velasquez of Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Latin America. This woman has captured my heart with her love for serving others!

With Sonia Velasquez of Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Latin America. This woman has captured my heart with her love for serving others!

 

 Sonia, me, and the fabulous Pili Montilla. Don’t mess with us! ;)

 

Soon, we left for the tour on a charter bus. I really didn’t expect to learn so much about the history– the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty– of Miami on this tour. But our tour guide, artist and radio personality Susana Baker, provided us with a vast wealth of information that most of us– even born and bred Miamians– didn’t know about!

The Downtown Miami Design District is very “blink-and-you-miss-it,” and you will miss out on some stunning, cutting-edge sights if you don’t have your camera ready during the ride.

 

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I actually met Teresa during the tour, on our first art gallery stop. Meeting one of my panelists for Saturday was priceless. She and I had only recently connected on social media, but it felt like meeting a family member for the first time.

 

With Teresa Correa, Founder of La Femme Latina and Head of Ambassadors Program for Red Shoe Movement 

 

During this amazing, very-thorough tour of the art galleries, we got to see works of art created by Latino masterminds that were fun, poignant, and political. We saw social commentaries embodied in a pile of clothes or created in clay. We saw photographs that epitomized the history of the Cuban people of Miami.

 

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“Follow the Leader” by artist Guerra de la Paz. 

After visiting several awesome art galleries with mind-blowing installations, The Sherwin-Williams group treated us to dinner at the chic, bohemian Mexican Restaurant, “Mercadito.”

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 One of the coolest people I met this past week– Joe Ramírez, President of Attenta Group,  who represented Sherwin-Williams. 

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I must give a *lot* of credit to Lillian Ayala of Vanguard Comm, who took great care of all the guests. She actually called me up when I was still in Orlando and we had a great conversation!

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This should be a work of art itself! My beautiful family– and forever my “plus-ones.” ;)  

 


I will be posting plenty of photos on my Holdin’ Out for a Hero and Espresso con Leche pages. I’ll also be posting more details on here, and on Espresso con Leche. Stay tuned! 

I’m Catching a Ride to #Hispz13 with #ToyotaLatino!

 

Yes, it’s true. Once again, I’m heading to the Hispanicize conference in Miami! Only this time, *I’m shifting gears* and “catching a ride” with my friends over at Toyota.

Although this will be my very first time partnering with Toyota for anything, I daresay we’re both entering uncharted territory here. As their first blogger sponsoree, I’ll be setting a precedent for future bloguer@s interested in partnering with this amazing automotive brand.

 

 

My assignment: to be the official correspondent for Toyota during Hispanicize! Oh em gee!  

I’m unbelievably excited about this opportunity, and my mission is to meet and interact with as many people as I can during the week, to find out what they’re up to, and also to share with attendees my experience traveling to the event in a Toyota vehicle (which will be announced later!).

Of course, the second part of my mission is to absorb as much Miami culture as I can, because I love that city. I wish I could live much closer to a town with such a flair for all things Latino. So, I will be doing my part to share with you as much as I can of the sights, smells, sounds, and flavors of Miami! To get the full experience, please be sure to stop by my other blog, Espresso con Leche, where I’ll be elaborating on my culinary, musical, and all-things-cultural perspective of Miami!

Also, during the conference, I’ll be Tweeting from two Twitter accounts: @Laurita86 and @EspressoYLeche, and I’ll be using the hashtags #Hispz13 and #ToyotaLatino. And…don’t forget to follow my friends over at @ToyotaLatino on Twitter, and to “like” them on Facebook

I want to give a very special shout-out and gracias to Janice Lusky Greenspan of PRecise Communications, and to my dear, longtime amigo, Javier Moreno, for making this all possible. 

I also owe an overwhelming amount of gratitude to Hispanicize founder and CEO Manny Ruiz, who invited me to moderate a session called: “Blogs with a Cause: Meet the Bloggers Devoted to Social Good” panel on Saturday!

I’ll have the honor of introducing some amazing movers and shakers in the social media sphere:

I simply cannot say enough about these women to actually do justice to their labors of love. You’ll just have to wait until Saturday. ;)

Above all, I need to thank Godseriously. You have Blessed me so richly and abundantly, more than I could ever possibly deserve or imagine!

To all of my friends looking forward to learning more about entertainment, technology, social media, and marketing– ¡nos vemos in Miami!

 

;)  Laurita

Your Journey: Who is Riding Shotgun?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive some compensation.

 

They say the journey is as important as, if not more important than, the destination. It sounds cliché, but you know what? I believe it.

As the new year kicks into full swing, I can’t help but reflect on how much has changed– and how much my life has changed– since springs past.

Spring is supposed to be a time of “renewal” and “change.” In reality, every season of every year can bring changes, good or bad.

Although I no longer have a designated spring break per sé, this past spring break was quite the memorable one, having been named one of La Prensa’s Mujeres Destacadas (Outstanding Women) in the Central Florida community earlier this month. I will be eternally grateful to those who have supported me, encouraged me, and advised me throughout the years. But I also need to take a moment to reflect on how I’ve managed to help myself, because personal growth has been such an important factor in the equation of my life.

Overwhelmed with joy at receiving the “Young Leader” award during La Prensa’s Mujeres Destacadas ceremony, alongside some pretty amazing women. The most amazing of all, Mami, is to my left. :)

 

If someone had told me five years ago that I was going to become a blogger, I would have laughed in their face. Hard. I didn’t think I knew how to “do the social media thing.” What I really wanted to be was a traditional journalist– in either  print or television broadcast media.

I remember in 2008, attending a ceremony for a journalism scholarship I received from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. I couldn’t believe I had been selected for such an honor. It was completely unexpected. That trip to New York City in March proved to be one of the most memorable spring breaks of my life, as I shared that moment with my family.

Fast-forward to five years later. I have a lot more confidence than I used to at that time, and I realize now that people are often really seeing me, and not my spina bifida. To me, that is just amazing, after a lifetime of fighting to be seen and heard for my own merits, and not my physical traits.

 

Carrying a lovely floral arrangement during the NAHJ Scholarship Gala in 2008, in New York City.

 

That Saturday evening in March, when I stood up in shock to receive the Mujeres Destacadas award, I marveled at how it had all come to pass. As I looked around the room, I saw many faces I recognized, starting with my mother’s. My family has been with me through all the vacations, the road trips, the plane rides, and yes, many a spring break, whether here or elsewhere.

I realize now that it really doesn’t matter where you’re going, or what you’re actually doing on the journey. We each have our own personal journey, and what matters is who chooses to ride shotgun with you. ;)

 

 

**Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Britax (follow on Twitter) and I will be compensated. I am a member of the Britax Latina Advisory Board. All ideas and opinions are my own.

 

 

Help Keep a Hero Moving Forward

A few days ago, a longtime friend of mine, Julie Harley, reached out to me and told me about a contest she entered for her daughter, Ruby. Ruby has spina bifida. Ruby also has been diagnosed with autism.

As a mom, Julie spends a lot of time, energy, and love making sure Ruby and her sister have the best quality of life possible. I remember several years ago, the first time she contacted me through Twitter. She seemed like most of the fabulous moms I know– worried, anxious about the future, often frustrated with the lack of resources or knowledge in the community.

A precious moment between Julie and her daughter, Ruby.

 

Julie is not like most moms, though. She might be like most moms in the spina bifida community– strong-willed, determined, compassionate, and activist-minded. She also isn’t afraid to share even her family’s most vulnerable moments, in the hopes that their story will help others.

One of the greatest challenges Ruby went through recently was when she had to be on a strong antibiotic for an infection. As a result, the prolonged use of the antibiotic resulted in her contracting C-Diff, a dangerous infection that is very difficult to get rid of.

In addition to her daughter’s own challenges, Julie has struggled through back surgery and multiple knee surgeries, making it hard for her to lift 75-pound Ruby into their current van.

Now, she needs the support of her community– our community. She has entered to win a custom wheelchair-accessible vehicle so that she can continue giving beautiful little Ruby an amazing life!

Normally, I know I don’t write posts like these. But, I have come to care so strongly about the Harley family, as they are a true example of people who are always smiling, no matter what they’re going through. I have nothing but admiration for all of them!

And while Ruby is indeed the focus of this contest– the little heroine– there is no doubt in my mind that she inherits her courage and resilience from her incredible mom.

Please, take a moment to visit this link, and vote for Ruby. It won’t take up more than 30 seconds of your time, but it will be life-changing for Ruby and her family.

 

Love,

Laurita ♥

Britax B-READY Brightens the Fabric of Child Safety

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive some compensation.

 

The first month of a new year generally ushers in the promise of great, significant changes. There’s an idealistic, staunch resolve to make the upcoming year better than the previous one.

The second month of a new year usually serves to prove the first month is a moot point, as a typical slacking-off ensues and the peak of enthusiasm and motivation of January eventually plummets and plateaus.

Not so for Britax, however. The child safety company has spent the start of 2013 hard at work on improving their products and making them better and more efficient.

 

A Britax B-READY stroller in Mossy Green, one of 3 new colors. 
 

To that end, Britax is also committed to making their products more fun, which is why they unveiled some new colors that their B-READY strollers are sporting this month. In addition to the colors that are already available, customers will also have three new shades of fabric to choose from:

  • Mossy Green (pictured above)
  • Slate Gray
  • Bright Copper

 

“Our fashion selection strategy involves more than just changing or mixing primary colors,” explains Michelle Davis, director of fashion design at BRITAX. “At BRITAX, we draw inspiration from fashion research, listen carefully to our customers, and then bring colors that appeal to a parent’s sense of style. Together, these three new colors complement our evolving, fashion-forward stroller line.”

But the “chic” strollers feature more than just a keen fashion sense. The B-READYs boast three key safety measures:

  • Foam-filled rubber tires
  • Four-point suspension
  • Can hold up to 55 pounds

These features will ensure that, whether it’s a 6-month-old or a mobile toddler that’s riding in their own set of wheels, baby will be cruising comfortably– and safely.

Perhaps safety is the one thing all parents can agree on, that never goes out of style.

 

–Laurita :)

 

**Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Britax (follow on Twitter) and I will be compensated. I am a member of the Britax Latina Advisory Board. All ideas and opinions are my own.


10 Things About Me That Might Shock You

Okay, I really, really didn’t want to have to do this. Don’t get me wrong– I think some people’s naiveté is so gosh darn cute!

But lately, I’ve seen an onslaught of “disability is so-frickin’-inspiring” stories that have made me roll my eyes and, sometimes, want to log out of my computer for a while. :(

So, whether you’re ready for it or not, here’s the truth– the brutal truth. Granted, some of it may upset you, but I’m okay with that.

 

1. I don’t cry myself to sleep at night, lamenting that I have spina bifida. 

I hate to break it to you, but most nights, I crash into bed and sleep, non-stop, for eight hours or so, after either blogging till the wee hours of the morning, or watching a funny video or doing something else that helps me unwind. So do many of my non-spina bifida peers.

 

2.  I drink. 

Yep. I don’t mean the “stumbling-out-of-Walgreens-at-3-a.m.-after-buying-a-cart-full-of-junk-food-and-tuna-fish” drinking, but yes, I drink socially. I always drink with trusted friends, or family members around. I never put myself in situations where the person I’m riding with has been drinking. That’s just not cool.

 

3. I don’t just automatically become BFFs with everyone who has spina bifida, like me. 

It just doesn’t work that way. I love connecting with others with spina bifida, of course, and many people do befriend me after visiting my blog. But I don’t necessarily “click” with everyone who has spina bifida, and that’s fine. It would be like saying, “all Latinos have to get along,” or “all African-Americans have to get along.” Are you kidding me? What century is this?

 

4. I have many friends who don’t have what is perceived as a “disability,” and we have a great time together. 

I’ve been blessed to meet people at so many different events and conferences. Most of them have very different characteristics, and you can’t lump them into one category. I love that! When I meet people for the first time who only know me through blogging/social media circles, I am often struck by how insignificant my “disability” is to them. It’s because they met me online first, without seeing the wheelchair or other things that people might otherwise see first. They value me for my qualities, and I value them for theirs. We have intellectual conversations. We have inside jokes. We have a true bond.

 

Coffee = Bliss. :)

 

5. While romantic love would be nice, I don’t necessarily seek out people “just like me” as potential partners. 

Yep, it’s true. Believe it! I don’t aspire to a “matchy-matchy” relationship where my partner has spina bifida just like me. I look at intellect, personality, common interests and future goals as criteria for potential partners, and not their physical abilities/disabilities. I expect the same from a potential partner, too. I don’t want to be disqualified because of a perceived “disability.” It’s always a mystery why certain couples are attracted to each other. I don’t think I’m supposed to question why “some opposites attract” and others don’t. Please, don’t question me, either.

 

6. I can open doors, tie my own shoes, go to the bathroom on my own, fix myself a sandwich, etc. etc. 

While my cooking abilities are still questionable (LOL!), I do a lot of things for myself, on my own. And I’m still learning. Aren’t we all?

 

7. I can probably out-spell and out-edit you, or anyone you know. 

Writing is my thing. Spelling and grammar are also “my things,” I suppose. Name the time and place. Chuck Norris and I will be waiting.

 

8. I use a wheelchair part-time, when needed. And hardly ever inside the house. But I can dance like nobody’s business. 

I’m not talking Gangnam Style here, but I like to think I can salsa dance circles around most people. :D

 

9. I suck at giving directions. No seriously, I can’t find my way out of a paper bag. 

During road trips where my father asks me to read a map, I usually toss the map away and reach for Google Maps on my iPhone. Siri is becoming my best friend, a.k.a. navigational device.

 

10. I don’t just think about the spina bifida cause 24-7. There are so many wonderful causes that deserve my attention. 

I love social good, and I have a feeling that I live for social good. Whether it’s through a blog post, a Tweet, a Facebook update, or a donation, I enjoy supporting many different causes. I feel strongly about supporting LGBT rights, charities that give to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and organizations that help children and adults with different chronic conditions. I think social media provides us with some of the best tools ever to support and spread the word about great causes. It’s awesome, because social media makes it easy for us, so we don’t have to choose just one cause to throw all our support to.

 

 **Bonus Tip/Fact: If you ever need a favor from me, try bribing me with coffee.

Nine times out of 10, it works. And the other 10 percent of the time is unaccounted for. I just made it up. ;)

 

 

We Never Walk Alone

The past few weeks and months have been a time for me to reflect and once again reevaluate the state of the spina bifida cause.

During my Christmas vacation, I was honored and humbled to find out I had been chosen as one of Voxxi’s Top 6 Latina Health Bloggers of 2012! I am still very excited to be sharing this honor with a few of my bloguera friends.

Shortly after the holidays, I was paid a visit by some very special friends. I had never met Elizabeth Keicher and her daughter, Emily, who I blogged about not too long ago. During their stay in Orlando to participate in the Disney Marathon, Elizabeth and Emily visited me, along with Emily’s grandma Bernadette. It was an experience that I think, can only be conveyed through pictures. Even those won’t do it justice.

 

In the three-plus years, I’ve been blogging, I’ve never had the opportunity to be visited by one of the readers of my blog from out-of-state. Over the years, I’ve also kept up with Emily’s amazing progress, as she now walks using a walker– and can outrun most of us!

As soon as Emily ran up the sidewalk to greet me and my parents, I felt a wonderful, powerful connection to her, like we were already family. :)

 

 

Oh wow…I’m so happy here. *Bliss.*

While posing with the now-famous magazine cover and the model herself, I was rewarded…

Sweetest. Kiss. Ever. 

 

My favorite. We’re playing in my room. Em’s expression is priceless!

 

Impromptu tea party. Kinda messy for invisible tea. ;)

 

Another favorite…Mami and Emily. ♥

 

With some fabulous ladies! Bernadette (Emily’s grandma), Emily, and Liz, Emily’s mom.

 

I feel so blessed that my family was able to meet Emily’s! Hopefully someday, we’ll be able to repay the visit to them in New York.

With the new year, came big reflections on what I want to do with Holdin’ Out in the near future. The topic of clinical depression came up during a conversation with a friend recently, and we both agreed that depression, whether in young people with spina bifida, or in any person, is worthy of attention.

The public deserves to know that people with spina bifida have a much greater incidence of this than most of the population. How I choose to educate the public about this still remains to be seen. But one thing in the past few months that has encouraged me is this simple truth: whether with spina bifida or without, or another challenging circumstance, we never, ever walk alone. We always have someone we can turn to and talk to.

For me, the motivation and encouragement I receive from others in the blogosphere has been just as uplifting as the love and acceptance I receive from the spina bifida community.

To this end, I’m happy to report I’m consciously making an effort to get out from behind my laptop more, to reconnect with people who care about me, and to nurture my social life offline. I really need this, because, while I feel blessed to connect with many of you, it’s often not enough to just chat on Facebook or Twitter.

Thinking about my much-earlier post, “It Gets Better for Us, Too,” I realize now that it’s not enough to want to get better. You can’t will it to happen. You have to make it happen. 

You have to surround yourself with a community, a village. But you can.

And…it does.