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Latina

Growing up a bicultural first-generation Mexican American Latina, my viewpoint may be a little different than others. I think my unique perspective and exposure to the Latino culture and Southern American culture growing up let me look at the world with an open heart and open mind.

I grew up in a very culturally rich city, Chicago where it was normal to see people of all different races, religions and countries of origin. It was nothing exceptional to hear many different languages spoken at any given time. Even in my own home, Spanish and English were both spoken.  I thought this was completely normal and I wish it was.

When we traveled abroad, our parents demanded that we treated the people and country of others with reverence and respect. We were taught to immerse ourselves in the culture. When in Rome, live as the Romans was sort of my dad’s travel mantra. I’m so grateful he did this for us. I want to do the same for my girls.

I want them to embrace their Latina and their American cultures and I want them to respect the people and cultures of other people. We do this through exposure, travel and teaching patience and tolerance and immersion.

I think our cultures, our religions, our circumstances and experiences give us all our own very unique perspective of life and here I share mine.

Aretha Franklin, Do Right Woman, Pancreatic Cancer, Grandma, Family relationships, Latina, Aretha Franklin Dead

The Queen of Soul has left this world. Aretha Franklin, the original Do Right Woman, has died from pancreatic cancer earlier this morning at 9:50 a.m.

Aretha Franklin, whose voice was sweeter than honey, was one of the most admired singers of all time. She died this morning at the age of 76 after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. She died loved and surrounded by family and friends in Detroit. The Queen of Soul, a woman’s voice who has been around for my entire life, is no longer on this earth and it’s hitting me in a way that I never expected.

Yes, I loved Aretha Franklin ‘s voice and I respected the fire in the belly of that fierce Feminist woman who commanded everyone’s attention and respect. She was a woman who fought for the betterment of other women. She believed in empowering her sisters. She was a big, beautiful force of nature in this world. She was goodness and light and it saddens me that she is gone.

But, I’m sitting here sobbing and I couldn’t figure out why a stranger’s death would have such a profound effect on me. Then I realized, my grandmother died from pancreatic cancer a few years ago on July 8, 2011. She was just a couple years older than Lady Aretha. I’m not crying for the reasons you might think.

READ ALSO: The END of the World as We Know It

I’ve never written about this before because my relationship with my paternal grandmother has always been very private and personal for me. It was strained when it existed. It was the sum product of the relationship she had with my father and the way she treated most of the people that she was supposed to love. I had the misfortune of being old enough to witness and understand too much.

I found out that my grandmother had pancreatic and stomach cancer by an out of the blue phone call one night from my aunt as I was putting my babies to bed. Begging and then demanding that I get on the phone and tell my grandmother that I loved her, that I let her know things were fine between us, and I do it all in Spanish. It was a call for forgiveness after a lifetime of not caring about the consequences of her actions.

I did as I was told. I told the frail voice on the other end, “Te amo, Abuelita.” But I didn’t feel it and if all she wanted was the words to be said, I had done my part but if she had wanted more, she was left wanting. I cried when I hung up because I never wanted her to be in such physical pain, no matter our differences. I cried because I knew this would crush my dad.

This was the first time I had heard from her since my baby shower in 2005 that she had unexpectedly shown up at. She hadn’t been invited because we had no contact. Previous to that, I saw her at my bridal shower that she crashed in 1999. Before that, I think it was when she lived with us in the mid 80’s. I was not a priority to her. Or maybe she didn’t know how to come back from the painful way she had behaved when I was a child. I think maybe she wanted to have a relationship in her old age but had no idea how to reach out in any meaningful way. I had already long given up hope for one.

I was a new mom with little girls. I had long moved on from caring whether or not she cared about me. I only met her a handful of times before she moved in with us when she left my grandfather behind in Mexico to come to live in the United States with her children. My father adored her no matter what she did. In his eyes, even when he knew she did wrong, he chose to look passed it.

READ ALSO: Sometimes the Most Important Things to be Said Don’t Require Words

She fought with my dad over everything. She never liked my mom and was unkind to her. She got mad at my dad if he couldn’t give her all of his attention immediately. She gave no consideration that he was a husband and father of 6 children. To her, he was her son first and foremost and anything he did, she took as a purposeful and personal affront to her. There was no way to win. He lost because he chose his family over her every beck and call.

One day when my 4-year-old brother ran to his grandmother screaming, “Grandma, Grandma” she stopped him cold and pushed him away saying, “I am not your grandma.” My little brother, the sweetest kid I’ve ever known, walked away deflated and crying. I witnessed the deflation and, at that moment, I saw the petty, coldness reveal itself. I was 11-years-old.

I realize you can’t judge someone on one terrible moment in time but that was just one of many moments like this. I don’t want to speak ill of my dead grandmother out of respect for my father. He loved and still loves her very much. He has seen all of her faults and she has done unspeakable hurts to him as a child but he has forgiven her and so have I. I have no room in my heart for hatred. I am thankful that she brought my father into this world and, for that, I will always be grateful and love her.

But when she was dying, she wanted to make an amends with everyone she had wronged. She wanted forgiveness at the very moment I was learning what it was like to be a mother. You see, by the time she called me, I had figured out that my children were the most important thing in the world to me and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Nothing. I definitely would not have taken my 9 children and pushed them to be at odds with one another to prove their love for me.

I can’t explain the whole story of her lifetime, it’s so long. But from the beginning, she had a hard life. She was orphaned, raped by someone she knew, thrown out and living on the streets and a mother by the age of 13. The world made her hard from the very beginning but even when she met my grandfather and they got married and he took on the responsibility of her child and they went on to have 8 more children together, she had been hungry for too long. She had become feral and she never softened.  She stayed hungry and autonomous.

She pushed everyone who could ever love her away. Maybe she believed herself unlovable. If that is the case, I feel sorry for her. Her children loved her blindly and unconditionally and she never could reciprocate entirely. She was too guarded.

The thing is the weeks leading up to her death, everyone came from near and far to visit her, let her make amends, give their forgiveness and be there to support her in her final days. They congregated around her hospital bed in my aunt’s living room praying the rosary and crying, supporting one another; being there for one another like only family can. I’m sure the love was palpable but I wouldn’t go. I know that sounds cold and harsh.

I wasn’t trying to withhold anything but I couldn’t go there and pretend that I belonged. We never had a relationship. I told my father that if he needed me there for support, I would go for him. But, my going had nothing to do with her. I didn’t need to say goodbye because we had never really said hello. We never really got to know each other and that’s how she had wanted it my entire childhood. She had lived withholding love for so long that she had to think about it to remember to hug us so mostly she didn’t. My dad told me that he understood and it was fine if I didn’t go. So I didn’t.

She died. I never even cried. I remember the date she died because remember that little 4-year-old brother of mine who she told she was not his grandma? She died on his 32nd birthday. Neither of us cried. Neither of us went to say goodbye.

Over the years since, I have seen a few pictures of her smiling. She looked happy in her way. I only saw her smile once in my life, that was at my baby shower. I think she was excited, in her way, that her first granddaughter was going to have a daughter. I’ll always love her for loving the idea of my daughter and loving my father, even if she didn’t love me. Or maybe she did, in her way.

Aretha Franklin, Do Right Woman, Pancreatic Cancer, Grandma, Family relationships, Latina, Aretha Franklin Dead

Today, when I read about Aretha Franklin dying of pancreatic cancer, the painful, terrible disease that killed my last living grandparent, I cried for my grandma. It took me 7 years but today, it hurt remembering that she was gone. It hurt remembering that she is no longer here on this earth for her children. It pains me knowing that my father hurts every day missing his mother. It hurt knowing that there are no more chances for redemption for her.

Today the true forgiveness washed over me and I let the pain go. I wrote about it. “Te Amo, Abuelita.” Today, these words have weight. She never did get to meet my girls. But then again, she never asked to and maybe that was her gift to me. No words to hurt, no deeds to be undone just the fond, edited memories recounted by my father with love to his granddaughters.

As I sit here listening to Do Right Woman on a loop, I hope you rest in Peace Aretha Franklin and you too, abuela.

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Latinas in business, Fashion, jewelry, Touchstone Crystal, Swarovski, Head of Latina Development, Graciela Balmori

As a woman who loves fashion, one of my favorite things is jewelry. While clothes allow me to express my personality, beautiful accessories have always had a special place in my heart because no matter what my weight or circumstances, accessories always fit and make me feel beautiful.  Ladies, I know you get this.

I was introduced to Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski a few years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite everyday jewelry brands. I love versatile, high-quality pieces that I can wear on different occasions depending on my mood. I really appreciate that the pieces look beautiful and wear time and time again without losing their luster yet are affordable.

Fashion, jewelry, Touchstone Crystal, Swarovski, Head of Latina Development, Graciela Balmori

Disclosure: I was provided Touchstone Crystal products by Swarovski Crystal for review purposes but all opinions and love of the Touchstone Brand are my own.

READ ALSO: Every Woman Deserves Sparkle in Her Life

Some exciting things are happening over at Touchstone Crystal. Touchstone just named Graciela Balmori Head of Latina Development as part of an effort to more personally cater to it’s Latina customers. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Balmori and getting the scoop on what her plans are for developing that initiative.

Fashion, jewelry, Touchstone Crystal, Swarovski, Head of Latina Development, Graciela Balmori

Q: As a Latina woman myself, I know we like our fashion and accessories, how will Touchstone market to Latinas differently than the general market? What steps will be taken to personalize the advertisement experience for the Latina market? Women of color models?

Answer:

Touchstone Crystal is part of the 120-year legendary, trusted Swarovski family of brands (www.touchstonecrystal.com).  Over the past seven years, TC has experienced fantastic success and growth so it’s very exciting for me to join the company right now.   In fact, we are the fastest growing division in Swarovski—over the last two years our sales have more than doubled! Swarovski has a rich heritage of craftsmanship, design and crystal innovation and the brand is a regular on the red carpet.  Swarovski also collaborates with the world’s most famous fashion houses and brands.

Through my role as Head of Latina Market Development at TCS I’m introducing the brand for the very first time to many Latinas and I know they will feel embraced by our thriving community of empowered women and our supportive team.  At Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski we have two offerings:   1) Our exclusively designed jewelry product line and 2) Our unique, rewarding (and proven) home-based business opportunity.

When I explored my new career opportunities with Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski, I instantly learned that TCS is built upon the same driving forces valued in the Latino sector:  1.  On-trend product   2.  Growth potential and 3. Entrepreneurial spirit.  The more I learned about how in line TCS is with Latinas, the more I felt like it was love at first sight! Our Integrated Marketing Strategy (an intentional decision not to run a separate Latina Division) has us all working in unison to support the success of every woman.

Debi, I’m glad you asked about advertising because TCS has already been featuring multicultural models in our catalogs and brand imagery.   After I joined the team, we discussed incorporating more family imagery: a daughter placing a Touchstone Crystal necklace on her mother for the first time or a young man buying jewelry for his grandmother, girlfriend, mom — or all three! We want our ads to resonate passionately with consumers because they portray the values of our Latina market while also strongly reflecting mainstream trends, too.

Q: How will you appeal to the Latino narrative?

Answer:

Latino business entrepreneurs tend to see their business as an extension of themselves. As you know Debi, as Latina women we care deeply about our families and our communities. I have met thousands of Latino entrepreneurs and read lots of research and what I have found is that there are common reasons for why Latinos start their own businesses such as the desire to provide a better future for their family, to purchase a home, to offer a better education to their children and to elevate their entire family’s financial status.

I feel very strongly about the Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski business opportunity because I know first-hand the impact it is having for real people – real women I have met or connected with online. We are already incorporating the personal success stories of Latina Consultants through our marketing materials and on social media. The real life narratives of our Latina Consultants are filled with success on so many levels for many reasons:  quality, price, ease of business, plus support and community.  Not to mention Latina women love our sparkle and style!

Fashion, jewelry, Touchstone Crystal, Swarovski, Head of Latina Development, Graciela Balmori

Here is a recent success story from one of our Latina Consultants:

“The best thing about this business is helping to empower women to have the confidence to pursue their dreams – big or small, whatever they may be– through my Touchstone Crystal business. I’ve rediscovered the leadership skills that I put aside while raising my family, plus my passion for helping other women and the confidence needed to run my own business.  My biggest joy is watching my two sisters, Laura and Imelda, grow in this business.  They both joined TCS a month after I did and I’ve seen wonderful changes in their incomes and their happiness! For us as sisters it’s been so much fun doing this business together. We talk on the phone every day, help each other set up events, and share business ideas.  Of course the ,icing on the cake is we get paid for sharing jewelry that we love! Touchstone Crystal truly supports us – and they are committed to our growth and success. I’m proud to share it with Latina women.”
– Martha, Touchstone Crystal Business Leader

 

Q: Will there be a new line or different pieces made to reflect the Latino spirit and the colorful culture?

Fashion, jewelry, Touchstone Crystal, Swarovski, Head of Latina Development, Graciela BalmoriAnswer:

Our jewelry designs are inspired by Swarovski’s trend experts.  They explore the globe for style trends regularly. Swarovski creates new crystal colors and innovations each season and Touchstone Crystal is lucky enough to have access to this world-class expertise.  We are always listening to product feedback from our customers and consultants and we continually launch new pieces year-round…so the answer is stay tuned!

Q: How will you cater to the Latino market? What will you do to make Touchstone the go-to product for Latinos?

 Answer: 

Our goal is to make TCS the go-to opportunity for Latina women looking to start a business because we offer a fantastic income opportunity, wonderful flexibility with a great line of quality jewelry, and a business strategy supporting expansion into the Latina market.  We are welcoming Latina women all over the US to the TCS team every day.  As they say, actions speak louder than words and TCS is committed and passionate about this!   Your readers can find out more on our website.  https://touchstonecrystal.com/regional/our-opportunity-rewards

You and I both know that with a purchasing power of about 2.13 Trillion, according to The Latino Donor Collaborative, if Latinos were categorized as a stand-alone country they would be the ranked as the 7th largest country in the world by GDP, making us even bigger than other countries like India and Brazil!  Wow, right?  And Touchstone Crystal wants to give pathways to success to our community.

The beauty of starting as a Touchstone Crystal Consultant is the simple business model, a minimal financial commitment of just $139, and the heritage and credibility come with being a Swarovski company.

Swarovski is also investing in new technology to make our entire business completely mobile in every respect. We know this is extremely important to our demographic – according to Nielsen, “nearly 3 out 4 Latinos own smartphones (72%), close to 10% higher than the average in the U.S.”

Owning your own time, having the freedom and flexibility to work around the things that matter the most to you like: family events, school activities, meal times, charities, vacation time, all while having a lucrative business is priceless.  This is why I joined TCS and why I know my Latina sisters will, too!

Fashion, jewelry, Touchstone Crystal, Swarovski, Head of Latina Development, Graciela Balmori

Q: What is your goal for Touchstone and the Latino market?

Answer: 

At Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski we believe all women deserve to shine every single day. Our goal is to share our beautiful, affordable jewelry and offer our proven business opportunity to the entire Latina Community in the US.  We feel confident that by making Latinas feel valued and supported we will help more women accomplish their personal and professional goals.

Currently, we’re expanding in all regions and offering new Consultants training and mentorship opportunities.

Since I was raised by a mother with a home-based business career, nothing makes me happier than to pay it forward via my new role at Touchstone Crystal and to help other women achieve their dreams with our unparalleled opportunity.  My mother came to this country from Mexico as a newlywed, pregnant with her first child, with nothing but a small suitcase in hand. She was offered the opportunity to own her own direct-sales business and it changed the course of our lives – affording college educations for all of her children, several homes, nice cars, and a very comfortable lifestyle.   As a result of my Mom’s perseverance, she taught me to dream big, too.

I feel so grateful that Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski is allowing me to offer women the same kind of opportunity so that I can help other women and their families– just like my Mother did.

As the daughter of an immigrant myself, I can relate to a lot of Ms. Balmori’s story. And as a mother who works from home, I know how important it is to have the option to be there for your children and help provide financially, as well. I was raised that where there was a will, there is always a way. Aside from just being a company that provides beautiful pieces for women, Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski is the way for many women to pursue their will regardless of race, religion or circumstances. Touchstone Crystal is giving all women an equal opportunity.

Fashion, jewelry, Touchstone Crystal, Swarovski, Head of Latina Development, Graciela Balmori

Thank you Graciela for sharing your story with us and I’m looking forward to seeing all the great things to come at Touchstone Crystal by Swarovski.

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Milk Life, Milk, leche, breakfast, family

Disclosure: This moment of nostalgia sponsored by Milk Life Lo Que Nos Hace Fuertes. All memories and opinions of my grandfather/ abuelito are my own.

Growing up in a Latino family, you learn 2 things very early on; 1) family is everything and 2) food and drink are the ways you show love to your family. I love milk. My girls do too. It’s nutritious and delicious and something I feel good about serving them. We go through at least 3 gallons a week at my house. It’s sad to think that many kids don’t even get the recommended servings of milk especially since milk is such an integral part of a balanced nutritious meal plan to help children grow up strong. The taste of milk reminds me of home but my love of milk originates back to my childhood and fond memories of my abuelito (grandpa) Manuel in Mexico.

My abuelito, known fondly in his village as Don Manuel, was a humble, quiet man with a wisdom and kindness that exuded from his smile and his eyes. He was a hard worker all of his life. He ran our family ranch until he was in his 80’s when he was thrown from a wild stallion and broke his hip. That was my abuelito.

READ ALSO: My Father the Immigrant

He was someone you looked up to because he always did the right thing, even if the right thing was reading and taking time out of your busy day to respond to your young granddaughter’s letters. Even if those letters were her practicing her terrible Spanglish on you by hand writing you the most heinously, grammatically incorrect letters ever. He had patience and always made time to write me back, even when free-time was non-existent in his day.

I remember spending our summers in Etucuaro, the small village in Mexico that my father is from. My abuelito would be up and off to work the ranch and milk the cows before any of us were even awake. He’d be home with a jug full of fresh milk and eating his breakfast by the time I’d stumble into the kitchen and see him hunched over exhausted quietly eating his leche con pan.

Milk Life, Milk, leche, breakfast, family

What is leche con pan, you ask? It’s exactly what it sounds like bread with milk. It was a foreign concept to me. I was raised in Chicago, not on a farm. I was a kid, he was a very old man, even the first time I met him. Our worlds were very different. He had actually lived in Chicago and spoke English in the 1920’s. Our frames of reference were 60 years apart, but I knew if he liked it, it must have been good.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” -Cesar Chavez

As a kid, I was all about milk and I loved pan dulce but what he was eating looked like bread rolls and milk. I wasn’t exactly begging him for a bite of his breakfast. Every morning, that I ever saw him, he would eat the same thing. No cereal. No oatmeal. No eggs and sausage. No breakfast burritos. Just kidding, I never saw a breakfast burrito ever in Mexico, unless you count chorizo and eggs on tortillas but no one calls them breakfast burritos. My point is that I thought maybe it was some kind of “old person” thing. I was a kid.

He’d offer me a bite and every day, I’d politely decline; walking away thinking he was really cheating himself and I knew better. Then one day, almost as a dare to myself, I said yes. His eyes lit up and he smiled at me approvingly. He took his spoon and lovingly scooped me out a bite of his breakfast.

READ ALSO: A Girl and her Grandpa

I opened my little kid mouth and happily accepted. I was expecting to be underwhelmed or maybe even want to spit it out. I mean, it was just bread and milk. But it wasn’t. It was a delicately, sweet warm roll (torn up into pieces) covered in sweet, thick fresh milk and it tasted like a hug from my abuelito. If the warmth of his eyes when he smiled at me had a flavor, it would have been leche con pan and ever since milk has been my most favorite thing to drink.

“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” -Alan D. Wolfelt

Sadly, my abuelito passed away when I was in college but all I need to do is close my eyes and I’m a little girl again; right back at his kitchen table in Mexico and he’s smiling at me with those gentle, kind eyes of his (the same ones my father has). Sharing his breakfast with me. He’s tanned from years of working the ranch in the hot sun. He’s smaller than he once was and he’s tired from decades of early mornings of milking cows to care for his family. But his heart is full of love for his little granddaughter who writes him those silly letters and he gives her the last bite if she wants it. This is love, this is family and, for me, this is milk.

Milk Life, Milk, leche, breakfast, family

I don’t make leche con pan for my girls because that was ours, his and mine. Honestly, I’ve never tried to replicate it but my girls are known to enjoy their own version of leche con pan with their own Grandpa Manny (my dad). I’ve loved watching them sit at the kitchen table where I grew up, drinking homemade champurrado (Mexican hot chocolate) and eating pan dulce with my own dad. Yes, sometimes, they even dunk their pan dulce in their champurrado. Seeing them there with my father always reminds me of those mornings in Mexico with my abuelito.

 


For more content and recipes with milk visit https://fuertesconleche.com/nutricion/dales-mas-leche and follow Siempre Leche on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

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immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

Zero tolerance for humanity, this is the America our President wants us to live in. A world where we dehumanize entire races and refer to them as criminals and “vermin”. Spreading the gospel through fearmongering that these “vermin” will infest our country.

A world where we rip children from their parent’s arms and put them into “camps” where child migrant detention workers are told to stop frightened siblings from hugging, denying them even the simplest comfort through the trauma of being stolen as they watch their parents being arrested for trying to seek a better life. If nothing else has made the connection for you between Germany in the 40’s, the “camps” should make it crystal clear where this all is headed.

immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

This could be me. This could be many of you. And don’t kid yourself, if it’s being done to immigrants at the border, it can be done to anyone. Just because you had the good luck of being born inside this country does not make you better, more deserving or immune from the wrath of zero tolerance. Because let’s be honest, the only thing that makes you any different than “them” is dumb luck. You are not better in any way than any other human being. A human is a human is a human. Tomorrow, zero tolerance could be pointed in your direction.

READ ALSO:  No Sanctuary for Children

What I find to be the most sickening thing about all of this (and the list is long) is that our current leader has asked himself, “What is the quickest way to get people to give up on their dreams? What is the quickest way to stop a strong-willed asylum seeker in their tracks?” Threaten to take their children away. This is America today.

Some people value being “right” over being moral. They value getting their way, over giving in to help others. They would rather die proving us wrong than relent to make things fair. Kindness, respect and human dignity are provisional and not extended to all people. To them, not all humans are created equally.

No one is safe; not even children. In fact, they are the targets. Anyone with a brain knows that the fastest way to stop anyone from doing anything, including fighting for their own life until the bitter end, is to threaten their child’s life. We lose the ability to live for ourselves the moment we become parents because we serve a higher purpose.

immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

As parents, we would lay down and die for our children without hesitation. It’s not even something we rationalize or think about. It is instinct. I’m not even sure we can control it. If our child is in danger, we throw ourselves in harm’s way without a moment’s regret. It’s compulsory and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

READ ALSO: We the People

But as every parent knows, that kind of all-consuming, unconditional, miracle, life-affirming love has a price. The price is that we will do anything for them and would rather sacrifice everything, including any chance of happiness and safety and peace, to make sure that they are safe and have a better chance at life.

This is why so many immigrants come to our country from Central and South America (and around the world) seeking asylum; seeking shelter; seeking safety; seeking a better life for themselves and for their children. These are third world countries where the most valuable thing you have is family and we are taught from a very young age that family is everything. To deny them even that basic right is a cruelty beyond measure.

They do not come to steal your jobs. They do not come to rape you. They do not come to pillage your towns and destroy your lives. They do not come to flood your streets with drugs and murder your children. Most people seeking entry into the United States come for one thing and one thing only, a better life. It has absolutely nothing to do with you, least of all to harm you.

When I became a mom, my entire life changed. I was no longer who I was. I was a mom. My life was no longer my own and it never will be again because I relinquished that life for a bigger more intentional one. My purpose is to care for, love and raise good human beings. I am the keeper of the future, as are all mothers and fathers.

The people who want to build the wall know this but they don’t care when it applies to immigrants because they have dehumanized this group down so much that they no longer see them as human beings, and they never see them as equals. This is how they deny culpability. This is how they sleep at night. This is how and why they rip sobbing children from the arms of their desperate parents.

READ ALSO: If we Do Not Recognize, We Cannot Heal

The children being ripped from their parents’ arms are not collateral damage of immigrants coming to this country. No, the children are being used as pawns by our administration. Give us our wall, stay on your side and your children will be back in your arms. Until then, we will take them. Displace them. Make them disappear. You will never see them again. Our government is holding their children hostage. Our President is terrorizing families seeking shelter and asylum.

immigrants, border immigrants, immigrant children, zero tolerance, immigration

Imagine coming to a country, someplace you have always believed is better than where you come from; less dangerous, less volatile, less crooked and you find yourself being so cruelly refused.  Not only are we sending you back. We are sending you back with empty arms. We will eliminate the very reason you came seeking a better life. Go back to your dismal life with your empty arms and let this be a lesson to you, we don’t want you here and your children mean less to us than garbage.

The only way any of this changes is through Congressional legislation. Even though, please keep in mind, there is currently no law requiring that families be separated at the border that is a mandate of our President. This is your America.

It is up to you and me and every single person in the United States who respects and values human rights to experience a little discomfort, step up and speak out on behalf of the sobbing, frightened, motherless children in the camps. If we don’t help them, who will? You can stop this madness. Start small.

Contact your Congressional leaders, raise your voices to let them know this is not ok and we have zero tolerance for separating parents from their children.

Contact your congressional leaders. Find them here.

Here is what you can say:

“Hi, my name is _____ and I reside in ______. I’m urging Senator/Representative ______ to denounce Trump’s family separation policy and use all of Congress’ authority to stop it. I urge you to support of Senator Feinstein’s bill, the Keep Families Together Act, S. 3036, and insist that immediate attention be given to the atrocities occurring at our border.”

Sign the petition.

I signed a petition to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and The United States House of Representatives and The United States Senate, which says:

“Stop tearing children away from their parents. Families belong together.”

If you believe families belong together, please sign this petition? Click here 

Make your voices heard. This is our America.

 

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avocado, aguacates frescos, avocados, heart healthy fruit, american heart association

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Aguacates Frescos – Saborea Uno Hoy® but all opinions and love for the avocado are my own.

Have you ever eaten something and thought to yourself, this is amazing? This is how I have always felt about the avocado. I grew up with them in my kitchen constantly ripening, like most of you grew up with bananas. In a Mexican household, it is a staple.

I know the avocado fruit has gone mainstream lately with the rise in popularity of avocado toast and I get it.

I had never had avocado toast until the last couple of years. I’ve eaten it in guacamole, on tacos, out of the skin, in salads, with my eggs and on the side of just about everything but never on toast. Once I did, I questioned how I had gotten this far in life without putting my favorite fruit on sugar-free toast.  Who needs jam?

READ ALSO: Easy Recipe for Chicken Tacos with Avocado Cream Sauce

Did you know that while heart disease is the #1 killer for all Americans, Hispanics are typically at higher risk (according to the National Institutes of Health) because they are more likely to have risk factors such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking and diabetes.

But just because we are predisposed to some of these risk factors that doesn’t mean we are destined to that fate. It means that we need to consult our doctors and be more diligent and aware of what we put into our bodies. Our dietary choices (what we choose to serve our family for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day) can help manage blood pressure and blood cholesterol and prevent type 2 diabetes. And if we reduce these risk factors, we help reduce the chances of developing heart disease for ourselves and our family.

Many Americans struggle with being overweight. It’s just the super-sized portion society we live in. But as we are all learning, sometimes less is more. When it comes to tackling obesity; good sources of dietary fiber like fresh avocados add bulk to the diet and can help you feel fuller faster, which can increase satiety (satisfaction) and help manage weight, reducing the need to eat bigger portions to feel full.

When it comes to tackling high blood pressure: sodium can increase blood pressure and so it is recommended that we limit intake. Lucky for us, avocados are sodium free and can be paired with just about any other nutritious food.

READ ALSO: Best Tech to Help You Get Healthy in the New Year

Like many of you, I believed for a very long time that all fat was bad. I was guilty of eating all the fat-free food but I was misinformed. Let go of outdated thinking that all fat is bad for you. The truth is there are two types of fats: saturated and unsaturated. The saturated “bad” fats should be avoided because eating saturated foods can cause cardiovascular disease whereas unsaturated “good” fats can have heart-healthy benefits. Avocados contribute naturally good fats to our diet, are a great substitute for foods high in bad fats and do not raise cholesterol levels.

avocado, aguacates frescos, avocados, heart healthy fruit, american heart association

Visit the Saborea Uno Hoy website for more information about the heart health benefits of fresh avocados. Avocados are such a versatile fruit. There is surely a recipe for everyone. Plus, I recommend checking out R.D. and Saborea Uno Hoy spokesperson Sylvia Meléndez Klinger’s 4 tips that will help keep your heart healthy, click here to read more!

One of my favorite recipes from the Saborea Uno Hoy site is Heart-Healthy Frozen Avocado Banana Paletas. My girls love ice cream and this frozen avocado banana paleta is not only creamy and delicious, it’s very kid-friendly.  Adults love them too. I know I do. They’re so tasty and you can feel good about feeding them to your family.

avocado, aguacates frescos, avocados, heart healthy fruit, american heart association

What’s your favorite way to enjoy aguacates frescos / fresh avocado in your home?

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How Disney Pixar Coco got Mexican Culture Right, Coco, Disney Pixar, Mexico, Why Coco is culturally relevant, What Coco is really about, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the dead

Yesterday, we finally saw Disney Pixar’s Coco and, as a Mexican, it exceeded my expectations in every way. Disney got this movie 100% right from the culture, to the people even down to the small details in the geography. Being Mexican isn’t just where your people are descended from it is a way of life, a way of thinking and believing. It is all about our culture and our culture revolves around one primary belief…family is everything.

Without too many spoilers; Coco is the story of a little boy and aspiring musician, Miguel, who in pursuit of his own dream to be a musician goes against what his family wants for him. Through his disobedience on Dia de los Muertos, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead. In order to return, all he needs to the Land of the Living is a blessing from a family member, a magical marigold petal and a promise he’s not sure he can make.

Through an expected spiritual journey of his own, Miguel comes to realize that while pursuing your dreams and being passionate and unrelenting in that pursuit is something that our people believe very deeply in, family always comes first. Sometimes you have to lose that safety net, one most of us have never been without, to realize what is truly important in this life and beyond.

Director, Lee Unkrich, went above and beyond by sending members of the crew to Mexico for research in order to gain an authentic sense of the country’s music and culture and it shows. I also love that he used an all Latino voice cast including, to name a few, Renee Victor, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos, Anthony Gonzalez and Ana Ofelia Murguía. It made it feel authentic and not contrived like so many other movies have done. The Spanish language is not merely adding an “o” to every English word and the culture is certainly more than adding heat to everything. I especially loved that in the Land of the Dead some of Mexico’s great icons were included like Frida Kahlo, Cantiflas, Pedro Infante, Jorge Nigrete and Pancho Villa to name just a few.

If you’ve ever wanted to get a real inside feel for what it’s like to be Mexican, to live the culture and to understand what propels us forward, what drives us to live our truth on every level, Coco will lay it all out for you.

I love that it also shows how important music is to our people. It is not just to dance to, though we love a good party, but to pass down the stories of our people, portray the love of our culture and share our deep feelings about life, love and death. The grito, that portrays pure happiness and excitement, was a big part of my childhood coming from a family of musicians and farmers. Farming was the family trade but playing music and singing was the family’s joy, something we’ve always done together.

When I was watching the movie, I was quite emotional because the landscape was the perfect portrayal of my Mexico. The cobblestone streets, the courtyard in the center of the family homes, the iron gate opening to the family’s courtyard, the graveyard, the “chancla”, the musicians in the plaza and the way the people all take care of one another; everyone is family, this is exactly what it was like for me as a child visiting my grandfather and grandmother in my dad’s small village of Etúcuaro, Mexico.

Coco, Disney Pixar, Mexico, Why Coco is culturally relevant, What Coco is really about, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the dead

I think there has always been a common misconception to the outside world that our Day of the Dead is an extension of modern-day Halloween, in which the main focus is dressing up but it is nothing like that. Our Day of the Dead is a beautiful day of reverence; a day to pay homage, honor and remember our loved ones who have passed on. For us, they may be gone but they will never be forgotten. It’s a day to feel close to them and share memories of their lives. It’s a day to celebrate not that they are gone but the lives they lived. I think Coco did an amazing job of portraying that.

The film, Coco, itself is a visually stunning Disney film with a beautiful message; the most important message. I think every child and parent of every culture, nationality and race should watch this movie because when you have nothing else, you always have your family because family is everything. They are who will always catch you when you fall, love you when you are unlovable, forgive you when you do the unforgivable, pick you up when you’ve fallen down and never forget you. We live on through their memories forever so be the best you while you’re here because that’s how you will be remembered for eternity.

Coco is a movie that I can and do plan on handing down to my children and my children’s children. My only regret is that I didn’t get to watch it with my dad and he will be returning to Mexico this week. As a Mexican and a musician himself, I know he will fall in love with Coco and its soundtrack as much as I have. The music is haunting and beautiful and pulls at your heartstrings while making your chest swell with emotion. I was transported back to my childhood and left blurry eyed remembering all those who have crossed over the Marigold bridge.

Coco, Disney Pixar, Mexico, Why Coco is culturally relevant, What Coco is really about, Dia de los Muertos, Day of the dead

I haven’t been to Mexico in years since my grandfather died. My dad has asked me repeatedly to bring my girls to visit him, to show them the land where he was born; the country that is drenched in passion, soul, and an unending belief that through hard work and big dreams anything is possible but the pain of the loss of those I remember so fondly, no longer being there to greet me with a smile and a hug has been too much to bear.

The thought of not greeting the day with the sight of my grandfather’s back as he quietly eats his breakfast of pan con leche or hearing my tio Narci’s Grito or “Orale” when he’s proud of something we did, even if it was just our first steps has been hard for me but now, I want to go to be among the place where they once lived, where their memories are soaked into the furniture and the walls. Where they are known and remembered.

Coco stirred up all the pride I feel for my culture, its people and brought it all to the top. I’m putting it out to the universe to take my daughters to see the land that made us who we are today and visit the graves of our loved ones who came before us and made those dreams possible.

Last night, Coco took home the Golden Globe for Best Animated Motion Picture. Unkrich thanked his cast and crew during his acceptance speech and made a point of highlighting the vital importance of the culture that inspired the film and it was beautiful.

Coco would not exist without the incredible people of Mexico and their tradition of Día de los Muertos.”

I fell in love with the story of Coco, maybe it was because I’m Mexican, maybe because my dad plays the guitar and has been singing songs to me since I was born, maybe because I saw myself and my family in every scene of this movie. All I know is that I love it.

If you’ve seen it, I would love to discuss the film and its themes with you. What did you like or not like about it? What moved you? What did you not understand? Do you have any questions about the cultural side of it that I can explain better?

What did Coco mean to you?

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At&T,dreams, Walt Disney World, HIspanic Research, New Year's Resolutions

At&T,dreams, Walt Disney World, HIspanic Research, New Year's ResolutionsI told you all about my word of the year but it’s more than just words and visions, it’s hopes, dreams and goals all pursued with purpose and intent. I want attainable goals to better my life. After all, isn’t that all any of us really want?

What are those goals? I want to be my best self; physically and mentally. I want to be present in my life. I want to be available to my children and husband and I want to do my best to grow my career. I would rather spend every moment pursuing my passions and enjoying my life than being safe.

This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with AT&T and #WeAllGrow Latina Network.

One of my biggest goals is to take my passion (writing) and my business (this blog) to the next level. I want to grow beyond my self-imposed boundaries. I’ve spent years being afraid of the next level and I’m done with that. I’m more afraid of not trying than I am at failing because if you try, you can’t actually fail because you succeed just be going for it.

One of the primary ways that I will be pursuing this goal is through the use of technology. In fact, without it, my dream would not even exist. My dream lives on the Internet and plays out via my laptop, camera, phone, routers, Wi-Fi hotspots, desktop and so many other pieces of technology that keep me connected and provide me with a venue to pursue my dream.

My website has provided me not only the vehicle to connect with other moms and women around the world, it’s given me a place to share my words, my thoughts and my experiences. It’s allowed me to raise money for charities and bring light to important issues that need our attention. The internet has given me a place to amplify my voice and to actually do something to change the world, instead of just talking about it amongst a small group of friends.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. ~ Steve Jobs

Last year, a small group of us raised over $100,000 for charity in a couple months just by using social networks. I’ve traveled the world. Met celebrities and politicians. Seen Broadway shows, concerts and musicals. Been given backstage access to some of the coolest events. Worked with some of the greatest brands around the world all while being able to stay-at-home and raise my daughters. Technology has changed my life and allowed me to touch other people’s lives. It’s as close to having it all, as I ever could have imagined.

In April 2017, AT&T conducted a Hispanic research study to explore the role of technology in U.S. Latinos’ pursuit of their goals and aspirations across various aspects of their lives. Of those Latinos researched, 77% say technology plays a big role in keeping socially and culturally connected. 67% say technology enables them to stay connected to their Hispanic identity. 58% feel more empowered through technology. 68% believe technology is key to the empowerment of the Latino community in the U.S. I agree.

At&T, HIspanic Research, New Year's Resolutions

Technology is the great equalizer. It makes all of our voices carry equally. There is no accent or preconceived notions or prejudices parlayed via our online voices. Technology has leveled the playing field and there is no dream too small or too large that I can’t pursue and achieve. Knowledge of technology is power.

What is your resolution for the greater good? How has technology made your dreams come true?

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alone, loss, life perspective

It’s been a week of life perspective and reevaluation; loss does that to you. My Aunt Erma died a week ago today. I haven’t been able to escape the name this week, it’s all over the news and every time I hear it, it’s like a cruel reminder that she’s gone. Like some cosmic joke, as if the universe thinks we’d forget.

Losing someone is never easy. Even if you prepared for it and expected it, the abrupt force of letting go hits you like a mac truck. We weren’t prepared or expecting it, to be clear. It knocks the wind out of you and leaves you feeling like a shell of a person with nothing to fill you up but more pain. In all honesty, the moments of emptiness are preferable to feeling anything at all, especially in those first hours.

We’d lost touch over the years as a by product of growing up and moving away; starting our own families. But she was still my aunt and even when we hadn’t spoken in years, she showed up when it mattered, my bridal shower, wedding and baby shower. She’s been there since my first birthday.

Even when years passed that I hadn’t seen her face, I’d cling to the memories of my childhood. I was the lone niece in a sea of nephews. I was the little girl in the family and we shared special moments, my aunt Erma and I. She was my aunt I loved her, no amount of time can change that.

I was a child, even as an adult, in our relationship. I would always be her first niece. She never intruded or forced her way in, but she was always there and now she’s not. I guess we take for granted that people won’t always be there. There won’t always be time for reconciliation and homecomings. Sometimes people die and things go unsaid. We have to live with that.

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what my uncle, cousins, and her grandchildren are going through. She was a true matriarch and loved her boys beyond anything else and it was reciprocated fully. She is gone and they remain, broken shells of who they were the day before. Fragile and empty, with pain filling up every nook and cranny of space of where she once resided.

My heart breaks for them. I know the look of loss. I’ve tasted it myself. I wanted to crawl into my own body and curl up and die. The world went on around me and it was unfathomable how people could continue to carry on with their lives when the unthinkable had just happened. But that is the way it goes. Loss is personal and profound and no two people feel it the same way.

I watched helplessly this past week as my family had to let go too soon. I saw the blank stares and confusion on the faces of those who loved her as the realization that she is no longer here, swept over them. I saw the wind almost knock them to their knees with that realization.

I learned another valuable lesson this week, funerals and mourning are for the living. When I was a child, funerals scared me to death. I hated them. The loss of a loved one, seeing those I love in such excruciating pain, seeing my relative dead in a casket but now, I know, it’s part of the letting go process. Without it, we would have no closure. Without it, the pain would be insurmountable.

We need this ceremony to let those left behind be comforted, coddled and loved to get through it. It’s hard. It can almost break you and you never fully recover from such a huge loss but you learn to survive it.

I watched my uncle and cousins ( grown men) brought to their knees from this loss. Our entire family rallied around them to lift them up with love and support because that is what family does. You put aside any petty qualms or past hurts and you just be there. Moments of normalcy began to seep through and in the next, the weight of the loss would be bearing down on all of us so heavily that we felt as if we all might be crushed by it.

It was a horrible situation but it served a purpose to remind us all just how important family is to all of us. There’s been check ins and phone calls and texts between all of us because if my aunt Erma’s death has taught us anything, it taught us that life is brief and we have to make the time to love those around us; to show them, not just think it.

You’ve heard the saying to one person you are the world? Well, while our lives may not feel as if they amount to much in the grand scheme of things…to one person, they could amount to everything. I think we take that for granted.

A life well lived and a life well loved is all any of us can hope for. The brokenness that remains behind is a testament to how we loved while we were alive.

That’s the way I survive loss, by remembering that it was a privilege to be able to love these people; to see them smile, hear them laugh, see the twinkle in their eyes when they were happy, hold their hand when they were sad. Life is fleeting and loss lingers so love so full on that it borders on crazy because there is no such thing as showing someone you love them too much.

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Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer

Disclosure: This is a sponsored collaboration with Target but all opinions and the love of soccer are my own.

Chiquitibum a la bim bom ba, chiquitiboom a la bim bom ba, a la bio, a la bao, a la bim bom ba, favorite team name, favorite team name Rah rah rah!!!

This is the siren song of my childhood. Add to that a vuvuzela and you have my countless World Cup experiences. In case you haven’t guessed it, I come from a soccer (futbol if you want to be technically correct) family.

Chicago, family, homegating, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer

I was raised on soccer. My dad and uncles played soccer in Mexico and then, here in the United States, all of my brothers and sisters played soccer, all of my cousins and now all of the nieces and nephews.

Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer, homegating

Even my two ballerinas are known to trade in their pointe shoes for an occasional pair of cleats. Soccer has been coursing through our veins for decades.

Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer, homegating

We’re not alone. Did you know that more than nine million kids played in youth soccer leagues in 2016, making it one of the top youth-participation sports in the country?

Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer, homegating

Soccer matches (here and abroad) were what we watched most weekends. If we weren’t playing soccer, we were watching it at the fields or on television. We love everything about it; the game, the intensity, the skill, the strategy and the stories behind each player. We were invested. Our first hero was Edson Arantes do Nascimento better known as Pele. It’s not just opinion but fact, he was the greatest player of all time.

Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer, homegating

In fact, most Cruz kids who played soccer have played under the numbers 10 or 12. My family has used those numbers from preschool all the way through their days of recruitment to play for the university.

We even have one cousin who played for the MLS before heading overseas to play in Europe. This is not to brag that my family is a bunch of die-hard soccer fans. It’s just a fact.

 

Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer, homegating

The literal motto for our family is play with passion. In fact, do everything in life with passion. Do what you love until your legs are so rubbery below you that you fall to your knees in elated exhaustion. This is something that soccer has taught us and this is how we live our lives. Going for it.all day. Every day.

 

Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer, homegating

You can imagine how excited I was when I learned that one of my favorite brands, Target, is sponsoring this year’s MLS All Star Game in my hometown, Chicago next Wednesday.

Chicago, family, soccer, MLS, All Star Game, Major League Soccer, Target, Youth Soccer, homegating

The All Star game is a celebration of the growing momentum and popularity of soccer in the U.S and Target is proud to be a part of that not only by supporting the MLS but by also. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend but I will be hosting a “homegating” party with my family as we watch the MLS All Star Game on August 2nd.

Are you excited? Will you be watching the Target sponsored MLS All Star Game? What is the one thing that bonds your family through thick and thin throughout time?

 

 

 

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Cirque du Soleil, Luzia, Chicago, Mexico, Waking Dream

Have you heard of Cirque du Soleil’s latest touring show, LUZIA? If you are a long time reader of The TRUTH, you are fully aware that we are huge fans of the Cirque du Soleil. We’ve been to several live performances and if we haven’t seen it under the Big Top, chances are pretty high that we’ve seen the DVD. Last summer we took the girls to see, Kurios, in Boston.

The Big Guy and I fell in love with the Cirque du Soleil n our honeymoon, when we saw our first performance, La Nouba, at Disney Springs, which by the way is retiring so if you get the chance to see it this year before it leaves, I’d highly recommend it. We were enthralled by the feats of impossibility the performers could complete and captivated by the sounds and colors of the new world we were immersed into and that was it. Love at first sight.

You can imagine the excitement that filled my heart when I heard about the Cirque du Soleil’s latest touring production, LUZIA, especially since it is based on the culture and land of my father’s people, Mexico. I feel very connected to this show and cannot wait to see it.

Cirque du Soleil, Luzia, Chicago, Mexico, Waking Dream

Cirque du Soleil is excited to bring back its magic to Chicago this July with its latest soul-touching production, LUZIA.

From July 21 – August 20, 2017, audiences will be invited to a redesigned white-and-gold Big Top next to United Center to escape to an imaginary Mexico – a beautifully intricate world suspended somewhere between dreams and reality. If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil under the Big Top, you need to. It has that very otherworldly feeling of the circuses back in the 1940’s.

LUZIA is Cirque du Soleil’s 38th original production since 1984, and its 17th show presented under the Big Top. The company has brought wonder and delight to more than 160 million spectators in more than 400 cities on six continents.

Cirque du Soleil, Luzia, Chicago, Mexico, Waking Dream

But what is LUZIA, you ask?

LUZIA takes you to an imaginary Mexico, like in a waking dream, where light (“luz” in Spanish) quenches the spirit and rain (“lluvia”) soothes the soul.

Freely inspired by Mexico, LUZIA is a poetic and acrobatic ode to the rich, vibrant culture of a country whose wealth stems from an extraordinary mix of influences and creative collisions – a land that inspires awe with its breathtaking landscapes and architectural wonders, buoyed by the indomitable spirit of its people.

The tableaux of LUZIA weave an intricate, contemporary mosaic that awakens your senses and transports you to a place suspended between dreams and reality. Featuring a cast of 44 performers from diverse artistic backgrounds, LUZIA surprises with acrobatic performances breaking down the barriers, such as integrating water into contemporary circus disciplines.

For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/luzia.

This 4th of July, get 4 LUZIA tickets for the price of 3! Buy 3 and get your 4th ticket free. Offer good June 26th– July 4th 11:59 p.m. Offer on PL1,2,3 for the first 2 weeks of shows.

This show that is guaranteed to be more explosive than the fireworks.

LUZIA opens July 21st in Chicago under the big top at the United Center-lot K.  Get ready to be transported to a surreal world of wonders!

@cirquedusoleil, #LUZIA, #cirquedusoleil, Cirque du Soleil, Luzia, Chicago, Mexico, Waking Dream

Also, thanks to the generosity of Cirque du Soleil, I am giving away one pair of tickets to LUZIA in Chicago to one lucky reader. Just enter below.

I’ll also report back after I see Cirque du Soleil LUZIA on the July 21st and tell you all about it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided 2 passes to give away to one lucky reader but all opinions and love for all things Cirque du Soleil and LUZIA are my own.

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