Sometimes I have an experience that is meaningful on so many levels it freaks me out a bit. Last weekend was one of those times. I’ve been on vacation this week and have had a lot of amazing experiences, but my thoughts return to last weekend quite often. Here is how it went down. . .
Acceptance to the #LLBlog
I had an opportunity to meet Ana Lydia Monaco of the Latina Fashion, Lifestyle and Beauty Bloggers, a group I recently joined. That in itself was phenomenal. All the women I have met so far through my blogging groups have been amazing. I enjoy meeting them in person as much as I enjoy getting to know them online.
Ana Lydia is also in a group that I belong to on Facebook called So Cal Lady Bloggers. She recently asked me to join the blogger collaborative that she has spearheaded, The Latina Lifestyle Fashion and Beauty Bloggers Ana Lydia also writes for her own blog in addition to running a full-time PR business, and recently she was awarded a seat on Count Me In‘s Business Accelerator Program This is one busy lady!
The Fashion Swap
I went to an event on Saturday called a LLBlog Fashion Swap. It was a way to help out the community by donating clothing to a local women’s shelter. Mari Salinas and Ilse Giselle organized the event and made it so much fun. What was unique about it was that it was a swap. I have been to hundreds of clothing drives and fundraisers over the years so I know what I am talking about, they are rarely fun! This was different.
I took a few items to donate for the swap; a dress, a few jackets and skirts, a few bags and some other accessories. When I arrived Ana Lydia gave me tickets in exchange for the items that I brought. I could use these tickets to “buy” items that others brought to donate. The tickets were also raffle tickets and I won some swanky spa lotions and soaps.
The Fashion Circle
All the ladies who attended and donated items hung around talking and enjoying coffee and crepes. Mari lead the group in a Fashion Circle. It was a discussion group about fashion! It was so my thing, it was scary! I felt so relaxed and happy with this cool group of women, at this quaint coffee-house, talking about clothes and food and blogging. We went around the circle introducing ourselves and sharing about our history and what brought us there. We asked and answered questions about fashion. We had so much in common and we were all very different – – it was inspiring.
Once all the donated items were displayed, boutique style, we went “shopping.” I picked out a dress, a jacket, a bracelet and a bag. I had more than enough tickets with which to “purchase” my items. I walked away with “new” (to me) stuff and had a blast. Here is one blogger’s tumblr post on the event, http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/latina-lifestyle-bloggers–collectives
Finding My People
When Candy Cervantes from Curves Ahead Makeup and Fancy Steps Boutique walked in the room, I had to look twice because I thought she was my cousin! She looks just like my gorgeous cousin, Nicky Anne. It could have been that as soon as I arrived in this general area of town, I began having flash backs to my youth when I would visit my grandparents and aunts and uncles who lived there. My parents grew up in East Los Angeles and met at Garfield High School. My grandparents lived in La Puente. My aunt and uncle and cousins lived in Monterey Park, Whittier, Rosemead, and the City of Industry. I visited those places when I was a kid and I would spend weekends with my Nana and Tata as soon as I could drive there on my own. I had not been back there in over fifteen years. Most everyone I know who lived there has moved away or passed on. I found it nice and refreshing to be in that place. It felt comfortable to me. Seeing my “cousin’s” smiling face had something to do with it!
Candy wrote a fantastic review of the day’s event, http://curvesahead14.blogspot.com/2012/06/latina-lifestyle-blogger-fashion-swap.html I look forward to seeing her again next week at her event, Fancy Steps Trunk Show at Checa Chic Boutique in Santa Monica.
Brunch at Vicky’s
One of the best parts of the day was discovering this great coffee-house, Coffee and Crepes by Vicky It was the perfect venue for this event. Vicky likes to help out the community and is involved in making the local area a great place to visit.
Victoria Chavez-Calderon (of Coffee and Crepes by Vicky) is on the City of Monterey Park’s Art & Culture Commission. She supports artists and local talent by providing a venue and meeting place in addition to her work as a commissioner. Coffee and Crepes by Vicky has an upstairs lounge area where she hosts an open mic night and karaoke. Original paintings by none other than Lalo Garcia, hang on the walls.
A few of the bloggers were concerned about the location of the venue for the fashion swap event. I couldn’t disagree more. It was the perfect location. It was close to the freeway, easy to find, on a main street with shopping and restaurants. It was exciting that they found this gem, a diamond in the rough perhaps in East L.A.! Not only were the crepes and coffee to die for, the hospitality and generosity of Vicky and her staff were over the top. I felt like family, and I can’t wait to return!
I am hoping to have the chance to return to East Los Angeles and take advantage of the open mic night at Coffee and Crepes by Vicky very soon. I have been looking for a family friendly location to practice my poetry reading and this place is everything I could hope for. If you are interested in meeting me, hearing my words, and learning a bit about my story – subscribe to receive my newsletter. I don’t want you to miss out on the opportunity to hang out with me and my friends at Vicky’s!
The Latina Nutcracker Lady
One of the new friends that I made last Saturday is Susana Hernandez. Susana has a business with her mom making and selling nutcrackers. Yes, the decorative kind that you find around the holidays. But these are not German soldiers like the traditional nutcrackers! Susana’s business is called Latin Inspired Designs and she sells these unique nutcrackers on her website. They are beautifully hand-crafted and hand-painted by her family. Her mother, Olivia, designs and sews all of the intricately detailed costumes for each figure.
“Latin Inspired Designs specializes in the only authentically designed Latin Nutcracker Collection™ made to honor and celebrate the traditions and beauty of Mexican culture and art forms.”
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Susana and feel like I found an instant friend. She and I connected through our love of inspiration. I strive to be inspired and to inspire others. She writes about the very same thing. I was inspired by meeting this woman who is living her dream.
Susana said, “I wanted something for my family. I thought, if others can do it, why couldn’t I?”
She worked so hard to start a business and make something of herself doing something that she is so very passionate about. She and her mom work together and use their natural talents and abilities. They are setting an example for the next generations in their family. Susana’s children and grandchildren will not only have the beautiful products of their matriarch’s designs but they are being given the gift of the rich history and culture of the Latin community and an opportunity to keep it alive.
A Vote of Confidence
After being inspired by Susana’s story and enjoying a bit of my own family’s history, I had the chance to sit down and talk with Carloyn West , co-creator of SoCal Lady Bloggers. Carolyn asked me what my goals and objectives are with my blogging. She had read my 100th blog post and knows where I’ve been the past six months. Now she wanted to know where I plan on going. She has been so nice as a coach and mentor (without even knowing it) as she shares her experience and wisdom as she leads the group. I trust her and value her opinion.
I told Carolyn about my plans to continue practice writing and blogging about anything and everything. I am using this vehicle to gain experience and find my groove while I become a better writer. My goal is to write and publish a novel and to complete and publish all of the books that I have started over the years. I told Carolyn about my plan to use pubslush.com and to engage the social media platform that I have been building to promote the pre-sale and ultimate publishing of my books online. Her vote of confidence and encouragement meant the world to me!
Carolyn is also aware of my desire to perform and read my poetry publicly. She has continually encouraged me to do it and promises that she will attend (if possible!) I know all of my family will support me, and now I know I have the support of my blogging friends. All I have left to do is set the date!
After the fashion swap was over and all of the clothes and donated items were packed up, the group of ladies went to a little boutique a few doors down from Coffee and Crepes by Vicky called Colibri Boutique .
This little shop is a favorite of Mari Salinas, who organized the day’s events. Mari has connected with the owner and is involved with her in the women’s circles and other healing events within the community. I had a brief discussion with Mari as we were packing up the donations. She is a bright young lady with an insight on life that I truly admire. Mari comes from Texas and is in the fashion business. She is big, bold and beautiful. She exudes a sense of confidence that I wish I possessed at her age.
While at the boutique, I noticed there were hummingbirds everywhere. I love hummingbirds and I shared my story with the owner of the shop and her mother of how two hummingbirds hovered overhead the day my sister was hospitalized last year. I was trying to decide if I should hurry to her side or continue with plans that I had for that day with my husband and kids. It was the 4th of July. When the hummingbirds flew by, circled and hovered in front of me, I felt the presence of my parents and their wish for me to be with my sister was confirmed in my heart. I went to her side and I am glad I did because my sister passed away that night.
The mother of the owner of Colibri Boutique told me that is why the shop is called colibri. Colibri is the word for hummingbird in Spanish. Her husband came to her as a hummingbird after he passed away. She said that experience is common. It still sends chills down my spine when I think of all the things that had to come together for me to be in that shop sharing that story with that woman at that moment.
Eating in East Los Angeles
After shopping, it felt as though no one really wanted to go home yet. Someone suggested getting a bite to eat. Then a few of the ladies decided to go to one of their favorite local restaurants. I found myself tagging along. After spending the day with my newfound Latina sisters, I had a craving for Mexican food! We went to La Parilla.
I ate some of the most decadent food that I have had for a long time. My mouth waters now as I think of the handmade guacamole, the queso con chorizo, the hand-made tortillas and the pollo con mole. I was so excited about it and loved it so much I texted my brother and my husband pictures of the food. I couldn’t help myself. Part of me was saying, “Hey look at me! Look what I am having.” And the other part was saying, “Neener neener neener, I am here and you are not!”
That last part was mainly in response to a retort that my dear brother gave me when I told him that I had been accepted into the Latina Blogger Collaborative. He said, “So, you are Latina now.”
I deserved that. For the past ten years or so, I have rejected my Hispanic background. It has been simply because I never felt like I fit in or knew much about it. It could have been because my own cousin’s wife called me “White Bred” and I had to look it up to see what it meant. (Urban Dictionary defines White Bred as anything which is stereo-typically white. Often referring to an individual brought up in a very white society, or a town that is predominantly white, and typically middle or upper-middle class. Similar to WASP.) She was correct. I grew up in a middle class, caucasion neighborhood. I am a product of my surroundings.
I also spent some time embracing my European background. I found out that I am part French-Irish on my Dad’s side of the family who are predominantly Mexican. My mother’s side is from Spain and settled in the South Western United States as well. Most of my family is either from California or New Mexico. I am fourth generation American on both sides.
The only times I have stepped foot in a foreign country is when I have visited the border towns of Tijuana and Juarez, Mexico and British Columbia, Canada. I have also been on a trip to Paris, France. My name, Melissa, is of Greek origin and although I was named after my uncle, Melecio Sedillo, I like to tell my nieces and nephews that I am Greek. So, I deserve it if a few members of my family roll their eyes when they find out that I am just now embracing my heritage at 44 years of age.