Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Latinas are natural born givers

Latinas don’t forget to add your name to the list this holiday season!

Latinas are natural born givers. They give of their time, their talent and their treasure. They give to their children, their spouses and significant others, to their parents, to their extended families, to their work and to many great causes.  

It would be difficult to highlight just one Latina Still Standing who gives back because I know so many who give immeasurably. I have grown up watching Latinas give of themselves, they have been great role models in many respects. My grandmothers, my mother and so many others have given selflessly. And while I do believe that it is truly better to give, than to receive, there is one person in a Latina’s life that oftentimes is left out of the giving equation. That is the Latina herself.

I know during this time of the year many of us will go above and beyond to give to others. We want to give the best to our children, our families, our friends and to many great causes that are near and dear to our hearts. This holiday season, while we are wrapped up in giving so much to so many, let's not forget to give a gift to ourselves. 

I know the “self” is not always top of mind, especially during the season of giving. But I would like to propose that as Latinas, we learn to include ourselves as a recipient of our giving. Here are a few questions to ponder: How will you give to yourself? What will you give to your most important asset -- YOU? How will you honor and be kind to yourself? How will you invest in your emotional well-being, your health, your body, your spirit and your soul? Have you added any gifts to this year’s list to help YOU de-stress this holiday season? If you have done this, kudos to you!

There are so many simple ways you can be kind to yourself. So many simple gifts that can benefit your mind, body and spirit. Rest is one of them. Many of us try to do too much, for so many, especially during the busy fall and winter season. Some of us have to attend events, prepare Thanksgiving meals, host holiday parties, shop for our families, volunteer our time and do all of this while holding down at least one full-time job.

If we take a little time out for ourselves we will reap the benefits of feeling more energized. It doesn’t have to be a complicated task. Perhaps it’s allowing the first 1-2 hours in the day to be uninterrupted time for you to gather your thoughts, meditate, hike or go for a walk.  Perhaps it’s adding a much needed foot massage or spa day to your weekly calendar? Or just simply picking a block of time to do absolutely nothing.

If we do not give back to ourselves it could be detrimental. If we invest in comforting and nurturing ourselves a little more, we will avoid “burnout.” Merriam Webster defines burnout as: exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.

Please consider taking time to nurture your own body and your soul. Give yourself the gift of rest and relaxation once in a while. This will help you to be better able to give back and it will benefit you and all of those you love.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Latina Still Standing – Faith – Family – Friends

Earlier this year, I set out with a goal to inspire and empower Latinas to never give up, no matter how hard life gets, I set out to create the Latina Still Standing blog and column.

When I began writing my Latina Still Standing blog in March of this year and the Latina Still Standing columns in June, I knew that I had a strong conviction to share more about what makes us Latinas so resilient.

I wanted to share my own stories and those of other Latinas about how they, too, have overcome so many obstacles. Along this journey, I have had the opportunity to hear from countless Latinas who say they can really relate to the Latina Still Standing motto of “Faith, Family and Friends.”  Those are the three key ingredients that I credit with helping me overcome obstacles.
Through numerous emails and Facebook interactions and at a recent Empowering Women’s Expo, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with hundreds of Latina women who are still standing. Each one shared a little bit about their trials and tribulations and how they can relate to the spirit of Latina Still Standing brand.

Some of the women shared how they are proudly still standing after walking away from  abusive relationships. Others told how, as single moms , they are still standing because of their strong faith, family support and good friends. I listened to stories about loss and how the blog and columns inspire them to keep standing.  One Latina said she had lost her husband, a doctor, in a plane crash, while flying to Mexico to donate his medical services and how she wrote the words, "I am a Latina Still Standing," at the top of her notes to help her get through the eulogy. I even heard from younger Latinas who consider themselves to be “Latinas Still Standing” because they survived being cyber-bullied and being bullied in middle and high school.
I'm very excited about the mission of Latina Still Standing and it brings me great joy to celebrate and inspire women, especially Latinas. I have seen their excitement and felt their enthusiasm, most recently when I began distributing the "Latina Still Stnading" T-shirts. It gives me great pride to know htat other Latinas believe in encouraging and supporting one another. It brings me great happiness to know they are proud to be a part of Latinas Still Standing and produ to wear the Latina Still Standing brand.

Thank you to those who support this cause and a special "thank you" to those Latinas who are Still Standing. You continue to inspire me and together we can inspire each other!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Never under estimate a Latina Mother and her intuition – trusting her instincts saved her daughter’s life

I know most mothers in general are usually very protective of their children – but there is something about a Latina mother and protecting her “ninos y ninas.” There is also something to be said about a mother’s intuition.

That is what Jennie Flores did when her little girl Kailah, who was just 7 years old at the time, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), one of the most aggressive forms of leukemia.

It started with very vague symptoms, she said, like Kailah losing weight, but Jennie just thought, maybe it’s because she is starting to stretch out and she’s getting taller. Then she noticed her daughter was sleeping a little more than usual, but again she dismissed it, since these were non-threatening symptoms.

She also started noticing bruises on Kailah’s body about one month before Kailah’s diagnosis. Jennie says when she would ask her about them and she always had an answer for each bruise, like she had fallen.

Then the bruises began appearing more frequently and Kailah started having stomach aches. That’s when her mother’s intuition started to kick in and tell her something wasn’t right. Leukemia actually came to Jennie’s mind, because a year earlier she had read the book and seen the movie “My Sister’s Keeper” about a little girl who had the illness.

She remembered all of the symptoms the girl had in the book, which seemed to match Kailah’s. Once again, she dismissed her gut feelings, thinking she was just being overprotective.  She said she hoped and prayed it wasn’t leukemia.

Then one day she saw a bigger bruise on Kailah’s back, near her spine. That is when she called her husband at work and said, “Come home now, I think something is really wrong with Kailah.”

Her husband immediately rushed home and asked Kailah how she was feeling. She replied she felt fine and nothing was wrong. He tried to calm his wife down and reassure her, telling her Kailah was fine. At this point, Jennie was extremely upset and in tears.

“I think Kailah could have leukemia,” she blurted out.  She went on to explain about seeing the movie and reading the book “My Sister’s Keeper”. Like any father would, he became highly upset and said affirmatively, “NO! My daughter doesn’t have leukemia.”

They agreed she would take their daughter to the doctor, but when she pulled up to her regular primary doctor’s office, something in every fiber of her being told her to take Kailah to the ER. Thankfully her mother’s intuition won that battle.

On July 15, 2010, she drove away from the regular primary care doctor’s office and she went straight to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital emergency room. Within a half-hour her blood test came back irregular.

Two hours later they sat Jennie and her husband down and told them their daughter Kailah had leukemia. She was diagnosed on a Friday, but her preliminary bone marrow aspiration test results didn’t come back until Sunday.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, they were told Kailah did not have the more treatable childhood leukemia but the more aggressive form, Acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The doctors told the family the type of leukemia she had only 10 percent of people who get it are children, and it’s more common in adults.

After five rounds of intense chemotherapy for nine months, Kailah suffered several side-effects, including losing all of her hair, but she took it in stride and to help her feel better, some of her cousins cut their hair short and donated it to locks of love. And her father also shaved his head completely bald.

Jennie says she considers herself extremely blessed to be born to a great strong Hispanic family and to a father who had to overcame a lot of obstacles in his life and it was his role model of strength that really helped her get through this difficult time. She was also overwhelmed and grateful for the tremendous outpouring of generosity from all of her family and friends during this tough battle. They gave her strength.

Jennie fought against not listening to her gut and she fought for her daughter’s life. And with the help of her faith, family and friends, her daughter is alive, and 100 percent cancer-free!

Kailah has been in remission for 18 months – since March 2011. Now Jennie and her daughter spend a lot of their time volunteering, educating and advocating for this cause.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A strong Latina mother who is still standing

They say a parent’s worst nightmare is losing a child. This Latina had to endure that nightmare times two.

In 1994-95, Amelia “Molly” Sordia Buchanan had to bury not one, but two of her children – and yet she is still standing. 

Her strength is immeasurable. It’s something that is difficult to describe in words. I will attempt to share a glimpse of her story here. Even though it’s been more than 15 years since she lost her two sons, it’s still excruciatingly painful for her to discuss, as you can imagine. She has allowed me to share her story, in hopes that it will inspire other parents who may have had to endure the pain of losing a child.

Her oldest son, Rudy Jr., was born in 1972, would have celebrated his 40th birthday this month. Her second son Christopher was born in 1976, and would have turned 36 years old this past July. 

Chris was just 18 years old and a senior at South Mountain High School when he was shot and killed in a drive by shooting in South Phoenix in October 1994. He had dreams of enlisting in the United States Army. 
Just three months after laying Chris’ body to rest, on Super Bowl Sunday, January 29, 1995, his brother Rudy Jr. was shot and killed. Still completely devastated by the loss of his baby brother, Rudy Jr. left that night to his girlfriend’s house and that was the last time anyone in the family saw him alive. 

Then reality set in for Molly – her two sons, her baby boys -- had been murdered and were never coming home again. How could this be? She felt pure devastation, sadness, grief, anger and unbearable pain. Yet, she is still standing. 

Molly credits her strong faith for giving her hope that one day she will be reunited with her sons in eternity. Her network of family and friends also helped her tremendously. But I believe her two daughters, her grandchildren and her husband have played the biggest part in providing Molly with the will to continue to live after such a horrific tragedy. 

A few years before Molly’s sons were unexpectedly taken from her, she found out she was expecting a child, at the age of 40. This came as a surprise to her. In January 1990, she gave birth to Briana. Who knew five years later she would lose her two sons?

Thankfully, this young child brought new life into the home. Like any other 5-year-old, she wanted to dress up for Halloween, have birthday parties and a Christmas tree with presents underneath. This little one along with her over-achieving beautiful sister Jennifer, who was just a teenager at the time, kept Molly moving forward one-day-at-a-time. Her two daughters gave her the will to keep living -- even when she felt like giving up. 

Years later she was blessed with two grandchildren; Christopher and Siena -- they too have added tremendous joy to her life -- along with her husband of 43 years, Rudy Buchanan, Sr., who has stood by her side every step of the way. 

Anyone who knows Molly can see that it’s her strong faith, her immediate family members, and her closest friends that have sustained her and have held her up!
She truly is: A Latina Still Standing.

(Full disclosure: Molly is related to me by marriage.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cancer picked the wrong Diva

A Latina Still Standing survivor who beat the odds!

For six months, while going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she woke up every day, rallied up the strength to go to work as the “Mid-Day Diva” disc jockey on Mega 104.3 local radio station. What some of her loyal listeners didn’t know was that she was undergoing cancer treatments, while she continued to keep them singing and dancing all day to the old-school tunes of the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson and Carlos Santana.

One day a week, Angie Gomez would undergo a five-hour chemotherapy session and then every day for a month she had to attend radiation sessions. She did all of this while still being on the air and performing 4 to 5 nights per week with a local band.

This is what Angie Gomez’ life was like after being diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma three days before Christmas in December of 2009. All of a sudden she was under attack and found herself in the middle of her greatest battle of her life. She had to fight against one of the deadliest of diseases -- cancer.

As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, her and her boyfriend of four years ended their relationship, in the midst of her first round of chemotherapy treatments. She was tired. She was hurt. She was scared. But at least she had her mother to lean on, her rock, she said. Her strong Latina mother helped her through and went to every chemotherapy and radiation session with Angie. She said her mom had always taught her to be a fighter and a strong woman. She said she had to believe that God would never give her more than she could handle and she held on to the fact that with her mother’s strength and God on her side, they would help her get through it.

I saw this Latina Still Standing fight this monster with grace and dignity and with a strong resolve.

The following year, Angie lost her grandmother, who she had close bond with and most recently her mother, her rock, her strength passed away unexpectedly this past March.

Angie beat cancer. She didn’t let it beat her down and she has now been in remission for two years. She also has survived several losses and hardships, yet she continues to be a Latina who is still standing and still moving forward. Angie believes that attitude is everything. After fighting this battle, she has a different outlook on life and she says she appreciates life even more now. She continues to pursue her life-long dream of entertaining and inspiring people in the Latino communities in both the Valley of the Sun and in her hometown of Superior, Arizona.

She’s also now working on writing and recording her own music and also on a personal line of jewelry, both to be released in the near future. If you ever feel like giving up and you would like some inspiration, you can catch her live on the air on Mega 104.3 FM radio, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and see her perform live at various venues in the Valley each week with the local Latino and R&B band Power Drive. Or you can catch her on one of her facebook page at Angie Gomez Mega 104.3 or on twitter at @AngieGomez1043.

In her quest to further inspire and motivate other women, Angie will be holding her first annual Free Women’s Expo conference on Sept. 8th at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino. The conference will include several motivational speakers, Zumba demonstrations, several vendors and a fashion show. She’s hoping to continue to motivate and empower other women to keep standing!

Submit your stories to latinastillstanding@yahoo.com
Latina Still Standing Blog: http://latinastillstanding.blogspot.com/
Facebook: Latina Still Standing

Diana Bejarano’s professional background includes more than 15 years of marketing and communication experience. She was named “Forty under 40” by both the Phoenix Business Journal (2005) and the Arizona Hispanic chamber of Commerce (2007) and she is a Hispanic Leadership Institute graduate (2007). She is an Arizona native and a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Judy Robles – A Latina Still Standing

Judy Robles is an example that blessings can sometimes come in disguise, from being a teen mom at the age of 16 to being a motivational speaker and a single mother of five. Her story will encourage and inspire you, as it does me. It’s a message about overcoming life’s most difficult challenges.  Through my own journey and listening to Judy’s story, I have learned that it’s not the difficult situations that determine our character but rather it’s what we do with life’s difficult situations that define us.

Judy Robles was just 16 years old, when she gave birth to her first child. Her life took an unexpected turn, when the child’s father decided to leave -- Judy was faced with a tough situation – having to raise a child on her own, as a teenager.

On July 20, 1988, Judy gave birth to her son. She wasn’t prepared to learn the news about her precious newborn baby boy. Shortly after giving birth to her son, Judy’s parents walked into her hospital room crying and said: tu hijo no tiene una pierna, they told her that her son was born without one of his legs. Imagine being 16 years old, with a newborn missing a limb and feeling the impact of abandonment and motherhood.

That day Judy made a choice. She chose not to allow any of her circumstances to cause her to break. She determined to not give her child up for adoption to her parents, who had offered to raise him as her brother. She said “he is my child and I will love him and I will raise him.” And she did just that. She faced the obstacles head on and successfully raised her son to be an independent and strong individual. Last month her baby boy was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame and given the Medal of Courage Award. Anthony is an outstanding athlete who holds an impressive wrestling record. His last year at Arizona State University, he went undefeated with 36 wins and won the NCAA Wrestling Championship at 125lbs. He was also given the prestigious Jimmy V award for Perseverance and named Best Male Athlete with a Disability at the 2011 ESPY Awards.

As Anthony accepted his award at the ESPYs, he gave credit to his mother for having encouraged him to not give up his dream of wrestling, because when he offered to quit school to get a job and help her and his sibling his mom wouldn’t let him quit. She encouraged her son to keep living his dream. And through her support and encouragement, Anthony now has an even more inspirational story to share with the world.

Judy recently faced more difficult obstacles. She lost her husband to a divorce, she lost her home and she lost her health for a while – but she didn’t quit.  Even though life hasn’t gotten any easier for this single mother of five, she continues to move forward and she gives credit to her strong faith, friends, and family for helping her to remain steadfast.

Judy’s story is about a dedicated single mother who didn’t allow life’s trials and tribulations to knock her down and keep her down. It’s a story about faith. It’s a story about courage. And like many other Latina single mothers, she continues to work hard to support each of her children in pursuing their dreams.

Her determination and strength makes her a true Latina Still Standing.

Submit your stories to latinastillstanding@yahoo.com
Blog: http://latinastillstanding.blogspot.com/


Diana Bejarano’s professional background includes more than 15 years of marketing and communication experience. She was named “Forty under 40” by both the Phoenix Business Journal (2005) and the Arizona Hispanic chamber of Commerce (2007) and she is a Hispanic Leadership Institute graduate (2007). She is an Arizona native and a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Latina Still Standing
Despite betrayals, divorce, hardships and numerous tragedies and losses – I can say without a doubt that I am truly a blessed woman. Thanks to my faith, my family and my friends – I am a Latina Still Standing.

What is a Latina Still Standing?

In my own definition a Latina Still Standing is someone who is resilient. She is a woman who stands strong despite having faced traumatic life-changing events. She is an overcomer and exudes beauty through her strength. She is beautiful from the inside out and she is a Latina who refuses to quit.

Resilience is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience. It means facing life’s difficulties with courage and patience – refusing to give up. It is the quality of character that allows a person or group of people to rebound from misfortune, hardships and traumas.

I am resilient. I am a Latina Still Standing.

A Latina Still Standing is not perfect. Like many others, she has regrets, she has made mistakes and has hit bumps in the road along the way, but even though she has fallen, she refuses to quit and she chooses to get back up.

A Latina Still Standing wants the best for herself, her family and her community. She is committed to helping other Latinas stand tall and relies on her faith, family and friends to help her get through tough times.

A Latina Still Standing respects herself and others. She smiles in the face of adversity, handles challenges with grace and courage. She knows that strength and courage run through her veins and is encouraged by the other Latinas that have gone before her.

I want to share my story and the stories of other strong Latinas that I have met along my journey. I want to open up the dialogue and share our experiences about how we each have managed to rebound from tremendous adversities and hardships. I want to share how we didn’t let these moments define us. How we overcame and are still overcoming. How we keep standing.

There is a common thread in the stories of the Latinas that I have met and interviewed. Their stories of their faith, families and friendships play an integral role in helping them to stay strong, not to give up and to keep standing.

Latinas have generations of strength and courage in their DNA, they also have a strong support network that consists of madres, tias, hermanas, comadres, and amigas to help them get through any challenge that may arise.

Our faith plays a tremendous role in our resilience.

I know that without my faith in God, I would not have been able to survive any one of these traumatic events that I have endured. I have experienced tremendous loss in my 40+ years on this earth. Losing my two cousins, who were murdered within a few months of each other, surviving my fathers’ suicide, enduring horrible betrayals, a divorce and many other tragedies.

Regardless of it all, I know that I am Still Standing because of my faith, my family and my good friends. Of the three, my faith has been the key ingredient that has allowed me to overcome each experience that has tried to knock me down.

Yet…I am Still Standing.

I look forward to hearing your Latina Still Standing stories and how you have overcome and are still standing.

Submit your stories to latinastillstanding@yahoo.com

Blog: http://latinastillstanding.blogspot.com/