Controlling Emotions

It’s always been easy to not take complete ownership of how I react to situations. And you know what makes it easy? That I can relegate it to astrology. I’m a Cancer; actually, more of a hybrid of a Cancer and a Leo. My birthday is July 22 and it’s the last day of the Cancer calendar so, technically a Cancerian, but have many attributes and characteristics of a Leo.

My family has always called me moody and I blame it on the Moon. I say I’m like the tide; ebbing. I don’t ignore the fact that sometimes I’m out of line or that I could have handled things differently. I’m actually working on it and giving credit to one of my mentors guiding me and pointing me towards Stoicism. It’s so amazing, you guys. I really recommend reading into it. I didn’t have a perception of Stoicism before, but philosophy has always interested me and this has been a wonderful experience.

So what have I been doing? I’m still a huge work in progress, but I’ve learned to do better reflection of the self. I’m learning to accept this as they are, to accept that I don’t have control over the actions of others. And going through this process I’ve been working on challenging myself to take control over the things I do have influence on. And this applies to all aspects of my life – personal, professional, and recreational.

In my reflections I have come to understand that my reactions have an impact. That I am creating a perception of myself to other individuals. And with these perceptions I can either be casted off or be welcomed. Stoic philosophers are of the idea that we are not to banish emotion from life but to banish the negative ones. They are also of the belief that our ultimate goal is to reach tranquility and constantly work for it while acknowledging and recognizing the forces that work against attaining that goal. For me, I have to work on controlling these reactionary emotions and practice negative visualization to better prepare for situations in the future. Has this been working for me? Sometimes. There are times I’m in the middle of my negative emotion and reacting – sometimes and most of the time – unjustly, but I let pride get in the way and keep trudging forward fully knowing I’m headed in the wrong direction. Other times I react and stop myself. I take a deep breath and let it all play out, staying silent and truly think of my words, my body language, and my thoughts. At this point, I go back and reflect. I literally sit down and do a play by play to pin point where I lost it, where I stopped myself, and how I could make a similar experience different in the future.

In all, practicing Stoicism has been rewarding.

– M

Playing Video Games Even Though I Suck

I like playing video games. I also suck at them.

Growing up my sisters and I weren’t really allowed to play them even though we really wanted to. I say really because my mom would allow us to and would always make it known that it was okay, but that we just had to respect the decisions of Dad. My dad used to tell us that they weren’t for girls. *GAG* I’m not really sure how my sisters feel about that time in our lives other than how fun it was to play with our cousins and run back into the house when Dad got home from work. Now, in my late twenties I’m going all in.

When the Nintendo DSi game out I bought one because that’s when I was able to without any mental reservation or fear of my dad. I got a puzzle/trivia game and of course the must-haves. I also got a PS2 with the usual racing ones, basesball, boxing for some reason, DDR and the like. Then I got an iPhone. All those gaming apps? I was all about them. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, endless point based games, competitive multi-player, single player mastery (I just made that up, but I hope you get it), etc., I’m not saying that’s all I did or that I had them out while socializing, but when I had me-time… you’d find me playing. Before the mobile versions, or before I discovered they were in app form, I actually had the books and a pencil or pen. Sometimes before bed I take out my iPad and I’m playing a game or two.

Recently I got myself an Xbox One- much to my BF’s chagrin. To him the PS4 is superior and even though I kind of agree, I stuck to my purchase. So, what’s the game of choice? Destiny – The Taken King. It’s awesome! But, I suck. I suck so badly at these types of games and I don’t care. I also downloaded Tomb Raider because … Lara Croft that’s why.

Playing allows me to laugh at myself and also to sharpen my sense of observation and strategy. I’m constantly getting lost and unable to find my way back to starting points. I run into walls and get stuck in caves and die at unmentionable rates and frequency. Let it be known that I am not ashamed of my gaming repertoire.

My favorite thing about online playing is that it gives me the chance to be openly frustrated with myself and occasionally experience that feeling of achieving those small significant victories from the storyline. It’s also taught me patience and determination. I used to go in charging in at the enemies and trying to punch my way through (still do at times). Thanks to my online buddies and seeing how they play and approach the mission I’ve gotten a little better. There are moments in which I surprise myself when I stay alive longer than five minutes because it means I learned something valuable. It may seem trivial and maybe even obvious to some, but if you know me then you know that I have a hard time staying back when I know there is an objective to be completed.

I wonder sometimes how playing video games consistently or on a not-hiding-from-my-dad basis would have shaped me differently in any way. I mean I’m an adult with a full time job and a college education and video games have been helping me in many aspects of my personal and professional life… even though I suck so badly at them. Let another thing be known: I don’t consider myself a gamer, but I do like that I am a girl who loves them and a Latina at that.

7 Ways Video Games Will Help Your Kids in School

Cognitive Benefits of Playing Video Games

5 Life Skills That Video Games Can Help You Develop

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak – Book Review

One More Thing Cover.jpg

I had this book on my radar for quite some time. Enough time that I thought I had it on pre-sale. I didn’t. On my last Barnes and Noble haul I purchased it and I couldn’t have done anything more rightly at that moment.

I wish I had the book with me so that I would be able to be more precise but since I finished it at the BF’s house that’s where it stayed. I did just finish it a few hours ago, so I’m hoping my memory of it is still on point.

To start off I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter, or story (the book IS titled One More Thing Stories and More Stories). The story’s perspective was what reallyl got me. After reading it I experienced that, “Hu. Wow! I can’t believe I never saw it that way. It’s so simple and I never saw it differently.” Maybe I had already been given this vantage point but since I feel so enlightened about it I perhaps have not.

We’ve all heard the saying “Slow and steady wins the race” and I believe we all know where it hails from, right? B.J. Novak has changed that lifelong notion that the tortoise is the one to learn from the most. Most people I know that refer to this tale of life lesson have charged the hare with conceit and self-destruction, and have given so much credit to the tortoise. So much so that in this story the tortoise has now made a living on conferences and appearances speaking on how slow and steady gets the job done. The hare, poor hare, has lived long enough in this perceived failure and attempted to restart his life but to no avail. I’m turning this long story turned short story into a long story. I’ll speed it up. The hare requests a rematch. The tortoise declines. The hare trains and begins to convince others that a rematch would be the best thing to do. After much pressure from those around him, the tortoise agrees. The hare wins setting new records and is celebrated. The closing to that story went something like this: slow and steady wins the race. Until hard work and talent take its place.

I mean, you always hear of the person who sat around and waited and finally got the victory. You root for him because well, something WAS accomplished; technically. And you always hear of the undisciplined athlete who should have been at the top and he becomes a cliché because he didn’t. But he becomes the cliché because he didn’t attempt to persevere. That’s what the hare did, that’s what the story wants to convey- that there is a second chance out there after your fuck-up- if you want it badly enough. (At least that’s what I took from it.)

This book is filled with observational commentary of today’s society. There’s a story on how the calendar was invented, which is quite funny because the person who created it is going about his day and journal writing as anyone in today’s world would. The Elvis story is another favorite. Novak has challenged what I think of writers of my generation to be (I think I’m in the same generation, but he’s published so…). For the Elvis one he spins the narrative in such a way that Elvis himself had something to do with all of the Elvis’ in Las Vegas; that he, Elvis, is living and reliving the best Elvis he’s ever been and has always wanted to be.

There’s a story, a script actually, on the Roast of Nelson Mandela. Seriously? I love how there are no boundaries for Novak.

One story connects with another in an unexpected way, which gave me joy because since they were narrated in different styles I wouldn’t think there would be a connection to any previous one.

There are a few one page, simple, deep and insightful stories and there are funny, longer, light hearted ones.

This one story is about a man who purchased a sex robot and returned it because the robot fell in love with him. This guy became the butt of every late night comedians joke and a headline on news sites. The criticism in this one is how society has decided to focus on the fact that he returned a sex robot rather than the fact that a robot could fall in love. Continuing to push the boundary, he questions the motives behind the constant attack of the choices private individuals make by asking what if he had requested for the robot to fall in love with him but didn’t. Would the weight of judgement be the same?

My favorite are the ones about love.

I wouldn’t doubt that this book will end up being a classroom reading assignment. I hope it doesn’t (there’s a story about that, actually). There is so much to pick and reflect on that it can speak to generations now and in the future. I want to buy a bunch of copies and pass them out to young readers because I feel there is much to learn from this book. A lot of critical analysis has gone into every story. If I were to ever think of writing something such as Novak has, I would pass out. His work and writing skills seem to be effortless, but nonetheless impacting.

Book Review: A Piece of Cake A Memoir by Cupcake Brown

cake

Last night I went to sleep late. That’s actually not worth mentioning since I stay up late all the damned time anyway. But, this time it wasn’t because I was watching fail videos on Instagram, or trying to find a good DIY project for all the wine bottles I have at home. I stayed up late because I couldn’t put down Cupcake Brown’s memoir A Piece of Cake.

I picked  up this book only having read the back of it and I thought: why not? I kept putting it off and finally I read it.

Maybe universal powers are playing a role in the stories I come across because there is a theme at play. These stories are of people that have had fucked up lives. Not because they chose to, but because … I don’t know, they just do. But despite those obstacles they have come out alive and  stronger and able to touch lives. I would really like to get into what I’m saying, but this is a book review.

La’Vette is the name on the birth certificate (I’m sure it’s legally changed now) but Cupcake is the name of choice. According to Cupcake that’s the name her mother gave to the nurse after being asked what the baby will be named. It’s the sweetest story. But, when her biological father, whom she refers to as Sperm Donor heard of it he immediately changed it to La’Vette.

Cupcake, at the age of eleven found her mother dead in her bedroom. That’s the day it all changed. She recalls not one family member offering to watch over her or her brother, Larry. During that time she found out that her Daddy wasn’t her daddy; she had a biological father. With the intent of coming up on their trust fund money Sperm Donor reached out to take his children. After finding out that the money was under the guardianship of Cupcake’s uncle, Jr. and with age stipulations, Sperm Donor had a change of heart. As much as her Daddy and Jr. begged to take the children the court wasn’t able to release the children from the biological father. Jr. lived alone and her Daddy obviously had no blood relation.

Shortly after the car ride to Sperm Donor’s house, without even stepping inside he transferred them over to Diane, a foster parent. Enduring physical, verbal, sexual, and emotional abuse she decided to run away. During this escape she came across Candy, a prostitute who offered her weed and showed her how to get a quick money (turning a trick). From the age of eleven to twenty-seven she turned tricks, had “business partners/arrangements”, sold furniture and appliances to buy booze, weed, crack, pills. She partied, drugged, drank. She moved from house to house, faced eviction, joined a gang, got shot, banged, and made friends, lost friends. She lied, cheated, stole. She wronged and eventually did right. These experiences, however, led her to have very strong opinions on men, judges, “the system”, police, friends, and family. I don’t blame her. She didn’t have the chance to be a child and have a childhood. She was robbed and survived to tell of it all. She hit rock bottom.

After making the decision to make a change she went through a rehab program and the 12-step program of AA. That’s where she met her Sponsor, Venita (aka V). She relapsed with alcohol. She struggled and fought urges. She cut people out of her life and allowed new ones in. She started school, dedicatated herself to it and made it out on top as a lawyer.

Cupcake’s story is uplifting and impactful. It showed me the road that I’m glad I never had to travel, or even had to come across. It gave me appreciation for my childhood and my life. It gave me another insight into humanity: the good and the horrible.

I am so happy to have read her story. I cried throughout the book because it pained me to imagine that there might be (and most likely) a little girl out there being robbed of her childhood because the system mishandled a case, a little girl being taken advantage of because of her innocence and vulnerability, a child being told she’s worth nothing, a child being starved, beaten, forced into drugs and alcohol because they don’t know any better.

Books I Need to Pre-Order

In no particular order here is a list of books I’m looking forward to reading. They are due to come out this year and I hope all is on schedule with the authors and book publishers.

1. Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance An Investigation – Aziz is a favorite of mine. Ever since I saw his first special Initimate Moments for a Sensual Evening and his latest Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden he’s been a continious comic in my life. And his awesomeness that was Tom on Parks and Rec? He won me over. When he put out that he was having a Reddit AMA I immediately jumped to it. I participated in questions that I could and well, I hope it was worth it. I mean, of course it had to be… he has a release date (June 16th). I need to pre-order!

2. Greg Propps’ The Smartest Book In the World – The Proops! I’ve been listening to his podcast (The Smartest Man in the World) and proudly own a podcast T-shirt, just so people know a man such as he exists. He’s on my list of comics to see and I need to make it happen. His release date is May 5th and I would prefer a hard-cover or paperback so that when I do see him he can sign his smart signature on the jacket. He has a date in Portland, OR and I hope I have it by that date.

3.  Christopher Ryan’s sophomore book ____. I tried looking for the title of his upcoming book and release information, but I may have missed it? I know he’s not completed the book, so  he better stay on schedule for this year. Since I don’t have a link to the book information, here his website. I’ve read his first book, Sex at Dawn and it had such an impact on my life. It allowed me to accept myself in a way I never thought possible and it also gave me a different way of looking at the world. I’m an avid listener of “Tangentially Speaking”, his podcast and I recommend it to anyone and everyone that will listen to me. I need to get his Civilized to Death T-shirt ASAP!

These next two are not really pre-order status, but more on the why-haven’t-I-bought-them-already list.

1. Feminista Jones’ Push the Button – I began following Feminista Jones on twitter for over a year… maybe over two. She’s someone I have learned a lot from and truly an insipirational woman. This book has been heralded as a must read among circles of Feminism and people new or part of the BDSM Lifestyle. I don’t know much about the plot, only what Twitter has told me via conversations that appear on my TL. I’m not much to whine about spoilers, but this is one I have not searched but don’t mind the bits that come through.

2. Daniel Jose Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues – Again, I came across this author through Twitter. All. Hail. Twitter! He’s a writer, editor and composer and such a great person to have on my TL. I have learned so much through him as well. Never read this type of book (Urban Fantasy), but neither have a lot of the people talking about it; seems he has a legit fan-base to have picked this book up just because he wrote it. I’m here to support AOC (authors of color) <- is that a term? It’s a series that just began in January and well, I have to get to it- I might really enjoy it and want to continue it.

Hmmm.. the above got me thinking. I’ve only read two series’ in my life: The Hunger Games and (admitting with shame) Fifty Shades of Gray. Last year I read Olivia Cole’s Panther In The Hive and can’t wait for the second book! C’mon, girl! Dystopian Lit is here to stay, or has it been a thing for a while? I guess I never really thought about how much I liked the few books I’ve read in that genre, but it can stay.

What’s on your list?

Burro Genius by Victor Villasenor – Book Review

burrogenius

Before I was done with the first five pages of this memoir I knew that I wanted to blog about it. Usually when a book I’m reading gets me right in the feels I close it and place it over my chest. I take deep breaths and imagine myself in the author’s/character’s shoes. I’ve done this with some fiction novels, but usually its with memoirs- because the stories are first accounts and, to me, are deeper than deep. With Villasenor’s I cried. I also laughed, I got angry, I wanted to scream. As I finished the last page and read the last sentence I was happy. Happy that he found his peace, his place. I laid there with the book over my chest, eyes closed, and breathing at a steady deep pace to possibly feel his peace travel into me.

Villasenor suffered at the hands of his teachers and in particular with his English teachers. I know in my heart that I would never have treated any child the way he was treated. I was ashamed of the profession that I chose to pursue. His accounts of abuse pained me. For every thought he had of blowing up those teachers and other students or going over to personally shoot them face-to-face I thought about all the kids that are bullied day in and day out. The way he recalls being called stupid, slow, a liar, a thief, a chile belly, and a resident of pozole town made me sad and angry. It’s not hard to see why so many young students want to quit school, want to leave their culture, heritage, ancestry in the past when they are boxed into the narrative of the greater culture. The desire to not want to live because he’s Mexican is the saddest thing I’ve ever read.

Anyone who dismisses the troubled kid, the kid who “just doesn’t want to learn”, or even the silent kid needs to read this book. He grew up during the “English ONLY” era, the era where saying he was a Mexicano was cause enough for a beating. I have never been ashamed of my culture or for being a darker shade of brown. But Villasenor did. At a young age he recognized why the lighter skinned Mexican kids wanted to identify with their more Spanish roots, even French ones (true of not) and that’s also indicative of those kids knowing that being a Mexican was not a good thing during those time (and possibly still today).

Despite his experiences with those ignorant, supremacist white teachers, he encountered hope. Hope came in the name of Mr. Smith who opened the flood gates of how great writing can be. I’m so happy that this happened to him- otherwise I don’t know what would have happened to Villasenor filled with those vengeful thoughts of blowing up the teacher who called out sick those few days and had Mr. Smith as a substitute.

The horrid stories of his school career were the anger inducing parts of this book, but the most noteworthy and the greatest lessons he got were from his father, brother, mother, and his culture in general. I wouldn’t call him a very religious person, but I would say that he’s very spiritual. He got his Catholicism from his mother and indigenous spirituality from his father and grandmother. It was this intersectionality that has made Villasenor the person he is today. His father and grandmother lived through the Revolution and migrated to Texas and eventually settled in Southern California. Here they made a life for themselves and instilled the greatest values of life on their children. People of the land. People of the animal. People of the stars.

I’m writing here but there is just so much more to this person. I know I can’t do it justice. Just the way he was brought up, the belief he had that blood knows blood and that he is part of his grandmother-mamagrande, how his brother Joseph was there with him during his toughest times, how he connected with the animals. His upbringing taught him so much- the ranch life was such an impact in his way of thinking, his outlook on life. It all made sense to me and it has broadened my view on the universe and I’m happy that he was not a complacent individual because if he were his knowledge, his words, wouldn’t have entered me. He talks about raising boys like a woman for the first seven years of their life so that they learn patience, love, compassion… He compares the Mexican vaquero to the cowboy- that it’s better to amanzar a horse rather than to “brake” him- and then relates that to the way young boys are brought up in the different cultures. He speaks on stars being our ultimate guide to another world. How there were two bibles, two languages (one for man and for woman), that the garden of Eden was not a place but is a place and that we must continue to plant in it.

I’m not a religious person myself, but his conviction on the belief is impactful. His beliefs intersect between Catholicism and indigenous gods, so I know nothing is 100% true, but reading his story I’m swaying into the belief that there might be something greater out there which reminds me of a conversation I had not so long ago on this particular subject matter and how I just didn’t want to concede to such a possibility.

I wish more children were like him- questioning. And I wish less adults felt threatened by those questions. I’ve read that children are more in-tune with a spiritual world because they’re closer to the beginning of life or to death- depending how you look at it. I say death because maybe blood does know blood and we’re part of our deceased family members and thus their death is closer our birth. I’m happy that Villasenor never lost that connection despite the trials he faced as a Mexican child; when one is most vulnerable to the prejudices of evil.

Are We Too Sensitive?

Should we “get over it?”

I came across an article posted by Latina Magazine on Kat Von D’s controversial lipstick name (Celebutard). Apparently some were offended by its name. Parents with children with developmental issues took the greatest offense. As a result, well, you guessed it, Sephora stopped selling the lipstick! She was quoted as tweeting something like, “At the end of the day it’s just a fucken lipstick.” She wants people to get over it. Maybe the name is a tongue in cheek type thing for celebrities being so empty-headed. I don’t know. I haven’t done much research on her line of makeup at Sephora and the reason behind the names. However, I feel bad for saying this… I agree with her. It’s just a lipstick name. Get over it. Feel free to set me straight on this one, if you’d like.

I’m sure we’ve all been exposed to some news about the controversial mascot and name of the NFL team the Washington Redskins. The battle to get the team renamed or have the mascot changed is not new, however. Back in 1992 a group of protestors stood outside the stadium to bring awareness of its offensiveness. I read a little on the history of the Washington team. Apparently the name was changed from the Boston Braves by its owner to honor coach Loan Star Dietz in 1933 who supposedly had Sioux ancestry. How can someone choose a racial slur to honor someone else? I don’t get it.

Many argue that there are other teams with controversial mascots and names, but this particular one is a glorified nickname made famous through the 19th century practice to remove American Indians from western territories by scalping them. You see, American Indians were seen as savage, barbaric, and wild- sub-human by the European White. This name is truly insensitive to a group of people and I am behind them taking it away as a form of a team mascot and name. I don’t care that a franchise will be losing money. What if a team was started in Los Angeles and they named it The Los Angeles Wetbacks. FUCK NO! The argument for many is that a team mascot and name are supposed to cause intimidation, create unison and other. And for supporters of keeping the name, that’s what the logo of the American Indian stands for- barbaric, wild, and savage. Be afraid Vikings, the Washington team will destroy you! But wait, history shows that the barbaric didn’t win. They ended up in reservations. The American Indians are among the poorest, uneducated, and disadvantaged minorities in the United States.

In Southern California the Coachella Valley High School Arabs are going through something similar. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to the school that the depicted mascot is offensive and discriminatory. Here is a bit of history on them. Back in the 1920’s the Sonoma Desert, with similar whether to Middle Eastern areas, was keen on date farming (also like Middle Eastern agricultural customs). In honor of such similarities the school decided to make its mascot an Arab. Versions of the mascot changed over time and now it’s this:

bilde

(image from mydesert.com)

The concern will be discussed in a couple of weeks at a board meeting. What they are opposed to is the notion of a one-size-fits all depiction of a group of people. The hook nose, the scowl all typical stereotypes of Arabs. What if the school just changes the mascot, not the name? “Only, I don’t know what that would look like. I don’t know how you could make a face that would be acceptable to everyone in the world.”-Art Montoya, one of the directors of the school’s alumni association. This statement is pretty powerful. Essentially, someone somewhere will inevitably be offended by an image. Could it be that some people are desensitized to certain imagery? Perhaps. But to the defense of this mascot I feel that it’s basis/origin was not coming from a demonizing stand point.

I don’t think we’re being too sensitive on some topics. If we cannot relate, if we cannot see where the opposers are coming from- let’s stay in our corners. Maybe that’s being a bit hypocritical based on my opinion regarding the Coachella Arabs, but if a high school somewhere in the farmlands of Southern California decided to name themselves Braceros I would support it. The translation for that is someone who works using their hands. A bit of history on the term: in the early 1940s Roosevelt and Camacho the presidents of the United States and Mexico respectively worked out  a program to bring temporary manual labor into the States. It’s end was around the 1960’s. Yes, there are political wrong-doings involved, and profit and economic benefits for both countries, but the people represent a strong secure grouping of other. I don’t see any harm in that.

I guess another thing I’m hinting at is that we should look at historical content and go from there. Try to understand why someone has taken offense regardless of how long it’s been. Sometimes we should stay in our domain and our own know. Think about who is benefiting from offending a group of people. Who is on the other side and what are their thoughts on it? Are they saying to get over it? Who is controlling the machine? Is the machine working to pin us against each other?