Hispanic Heritage Month and Latino Americans’ long-standing History of Military Service

Dr. Hector P. García: “a man who in the space of one week delivers twenty babies, twenty speeches, and twenty thousand votes.”

Today’s #HispanicHeritageMonth post to raise awareness of Latino Americans’ contributions and longstanding history of #military service honors a man whose name is my answer to “Who do you wish you could bring back to life so that you could enjoy conversation and dinner together?”

His name is Hector García…Dr. Hector García…the first Mexican American ever to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. An adviser to Presidents, a medical doctor, soldier/military officer and political activist for Latino veterans’ civil rights who activated thousands to the polls to participate in our American democratic processes…

Wondering where MY intense political activism comes from? I’ve studied this man’s life…His is a story so rich, you’ll need hours to even begin to appreciate him. So let me help  you start.

For me, I admire most that he hitchhiked 30 miles, each way, to college, to get his education. Share THAT with any American kid complaining about getting to school!

I admire how he suffered blatant discrimination during WWII (entering the military with M.D. after his name he should’ve immediately been commissioned as an officer but that’s NOT what happened because “García”)

Photo from From the UTMB Early Years page

He persevered, served, rose to the rank of Major in the Army and became a highly – decorated officer serving in Europe during WWII. After the war, after beginning his medical practice and witnessing the social injustice of Mexican-American veterans living in poverty, García created the American GI Forum, a  veterans’ rights organization (that exists to this day) so that these veterans too could receive the benefits to which they were entitled.

An immediate secondary goal of AGIF became to mobilize the Mexican-American community at large, because Dr. García understood that when one family member goes to war, the entire family is forced into service. AGIF quickly evolved into a powerful civil rights organization after the discriminatory Longoria Incident was resolved due to García’s leadership and activism. You’ll see the Longoria Incident in the short PBS video below.

I’m providing three resources for you below:

1. The video clip from the PBS Latino Americans miniseries (inspired by Ray Suarez ‘s book of same title)

2. UT Medical School’s site that honors Dr. Garcia’s extraordinary life and achievements, including the early years.

3. A great resource page from Humanities Texas where I found that fabulous quote at the top about Dr. García: “a man who in the space of one week delivers twenty babies, twenty speeches, and twenty thousand votes.”

The latter happily contains links to a documentary about Dr. García’s life, his foundation, where you can find his papers, a bibliography and so much more. It’s a treasure trove. I hope you use it to inspire young people as you celebrate #HispanicHeritageMonth this month, next year during HHM and every day of the year.

Posted in Hispanic Heritage, Military Community | Leave a comment

On the topic of Book Awards – a Strong Opinion from an Indie Publisher Who Has Won 11 in International Contests

I stumbled upon a most interesting blog tonight (Writer Beware) and found it fascinating…because of this tagline: “Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. ”

They also provide “advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.”

Truly fascinating. So naturally I became curious. I read this post from 2015 that caught my eye: “AWARDS PROFITEERS: HOW WRITERS CAN RECOGNIZE AND AVOID THEM

It contained specific info that authors and indie publishers frequently discuss: Should I or shouldn’t I enter my books into awards competitions? It’s a question I’ve answered numerous times in the affirmative.

Having won 11 international book awards in 6 years of publishing after having our literature reviewed by literary judges, I have a strong opinion on what I read there tonight.

I will say that there’s some great info in that article about organizations to avoid and why….definitely worth knowing and learning what the red flags are (especially first-time authors!)

But I saw a comment there about The International Latino Book Awards that necessitated a response.

Here’s what I wrote (that the moderator will now review and decide whether or not to include it)….just in case he/she doesn’t. LOL!

Since The International Latino Book Awards was mentioned here, I gotta pipe in. Yes, these awards have been held at the national ALA convention, because authors from 17 Spanish-speaking nations enter their literature and libraries are THIRSTING for excellent content from Latin American and U.S.-based Latinos.

My indie educational publishing company has won 5 ILBA awards for our BILINGUAL children’s books (the 1st ever in English and Spanish featuring women serving in the military and inspired by my military aviation career) – CaptainMama.com for the curious ones. Let me tell you what the entry fee resulted in just in the latest event in which the second book in our bilingual series, Captain Mama’s Surprise, won “Most Inspirational Bilingual Children’s Picture Book.”

The ILBA press release listing all the winners was picked up by many institutional buyers. NBC News covered the Awards event in Los Angeles and mentioned the title in this article.

Because that happened, a journalist at USA Today called me and then it was featured in an article in THAT paper (the nation’s largest) as seen here.

Results? We collected large publisher compensation deposits into our business account for several months due to this significant national exposure, plus many, many PAID speaking events at schools, libraries and dual-language teacher conferences have followed from people who say “I read about your books in USA Today (or NBC News)”.

Try getting THAT kind of media buzz WITHOUT entering an international literary content like this one!

This contest and organization is LEGIT and I’ve met Kirk Whisler who runs the ILBA and Eddie Olmos (yeah, THAT Hollywood icon Eddie Olmos) who sponsors it several times over the years.

Also, our nonfiction book Latinnovating won four ILBA awards at the 2012 ILBA awards held in Manhattan during Book Expo week. 

That resulted in DOZENS of PAID speaking engagements at universities and business schools…because of the huge attention that ILBA press releases attract nationwide AND outside the USA in Latin American countries!

In short, the ROI on the entry fee, early bird or regular, has been HUGE every single time. HUGE.

So thanks for this article and the warnings, but do NOT lump the ILBA into a negative category please. – Graciela Tiscareno-Sato, Bilingual Publisher, Gracefully Global Group LLC


May this resource I found tonight be helpful to you, especially when coupled with my strong opinion, based on experience, about the ILBA. 🙂  If you’re a Latino author and you’ve published QUALITY literature, professionally edited and designed, this opportunity to have your book judged and maybe receive an award is the one you MUST enter. You’ll be glad you did.

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Why I’m Excited for the May 14th Launch of the First-Ever Online “Civilian Boot Camp” for Transitioning Service Members

In the U.S. military, what matters is the teamwork and what can be accomplished together versus individually. We who served carry that lesson forward into civilian life once we take the uniform off for the last time.

There are many veteran entrepreneurs who have created business services, to partner with nonprofit groups, federal and state agencies, to lend our skills learned as civilians to reach back and pull up – we continue to serve – this time we serve our fellow military service members as they begin the next chapter of their lives as civilians. Why?

Because those of us who have crossed that chasm know how terrifying, dizzying and disorienting the transition can be. I often compare it to what it might feel like to arrive at a totally new planet…EVERYTHING and EVERYONE around you is different and many times, you feel alone, uncertain and discouraged. What you learned and helped you succeed on the first planet doesn’t help much on this one.  Planet Civilian.

So Lance T. Walker, a fellow Air Force veteran with a Special Ops background who created the We Hire Heroes Network, one of the leading veteran employment resources on the web, decided to innovate.

Here’s the result: a 10-day VIRTUAL Summit that brings together 20 career and personal development professionals in a volunteer effort to ease the transition to civilian life. Lance had attended many other summits, events where an organizer gathered experts from one industry or other. He thought, Why not apply this technology to bring together those who serve military veterans and those in transition, and their spouses?

He looked around and saw it hadn’t been done before so he created it.

The first-ever online summit -brilliantly branded Civilian Boot Camp  – kicks off May 14th and ends May 23rd when yours truly wraps up the Summit as the Closing Keynote. I am honored and humbled to join these 19 servant leaders.


See the entire speaker lineup, truly something for everyone – here at the event’s News Release.  Or enjoy this one-minute video that describes the Summit’s objectives perfectly.

READY TO REGISTER FOR FREE? Here’s the link.  Now….who can you share this blog post with who needs the knowledge? Needs a nudge? Needs a professional network filled with veterans ready to make new, valuable connections that will lead to next steps and career success?

Below is an image of the team;  the list of speakers, hyperlinked to LinkedIn profiles is below it.

Please think of at least one person and share this post with him or her. They will thank you!


Antwain Thomas, USN (Ret.), “Business and Financial Strategies for Veterans”

Deanna Cowling, Transition Mentor, “Exploring Your Federal Career Options”

Deborrah Ashley, Civilian Supporter, “How to Grow Affluence by Building Influence”

Dylan Raymond, United States Army (Ret.), “Moving Swiftly from Deployment to Employment”

Francina Harrison, US Navy Spouse, ” Strategies for Re-Engineering Your Career”

Jenny W Clark, Civilian Supporter, “Secrets for Contracting with the Federal Government”

Lance T. Walker, USAF Veteran, “Why Veterans and Their Families Need a Boot Camp Out”

Lida Citroën, USAF Academy Instructor, “Personal Branding and Reputation Management for Veterans”

Lila Holley, United States Army (Ret.), “Sharing Female Veteran Transition Stories”

Lisa Nichols, Civilian Supporter, “Creating Your Best Destiny: Unlock Your Abundance”

Melissa Peavey, Civilian Supporter, “Discovering Your Passion & Activating Your Life’s Purpose”

Melissa Washington, USN Veteran, “Connecting and Empowering Female Veterans”

Michael Kissinger, United States Army (Ret.), ” Real Income Strategies for Military Spouses”

Michelle Tillis Lederman, Civilian Supporter, “Principles of Likability Leadership”

Sam P Lark Jr , US Air Force Spouse, “Using Social Media to Create Career Security”

Tom Wolfe, USN (Ret.), “Successful Career Strategies for Military Veterans”

Trevor O. D. Noel, USAF (Ret.), ” Putting the Human Back in Human Capital Acquisition”

Vivian Manghram-Favors, MBA, USN (Ret.) “Crowdfunding for Veteran- Owned Businesses”

Posted in Business writing, Military Community | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tips for YOUR Winter Family Adventure at Lake Tahoe

Earlier this month, I submitted a detailed review to TripAdvisor for the resort where my family and I kicked off 2018 at South Lake Tahoe. While I was writing it, I was inspired to write even more to share with friends who might be interested in visiting South Lake Tahoe soon and who would appreciate some recommendations. I know I sure appreciate others’ insights.  See, my hubby and I have been to various locations around Lake Tahoe, but it was years ago after college while I was in training with the Air Force and we NEVER looked for family activities. We were always there only to ski. So, right before heading up there on the last day of 2017,  realizing we’d be first-time visitors as a family unit, I got fantastic tips from my friend Molly via Facebook about great family hikes and excursions. This post is how I will pay it forward. Enjoy!

Since lodging is what moms and dads fret with the most when planning a vacation of any length, I will recommend Americana Village Resort for families who like to walk as much as possible (it’s a super walkable location near Heavenly Village), for families who enjoy outdoor heated pools and hot tubbing in winter (plus sauna time!) and for families who at least one day of the week, love to truly relax in their room after a series of outdoor excursions.  Read the detailed review here if you want to know more. This post will be about the fun we had AWAY from the resort.

Quick note: the week we were there was depressingly snowless. The mountains, usually bright white all the way around the lake with their snow loads, this week they looked like someone had dusted only the highest peaks with powdered sugar using a sifter. It was bad. Because of the lack-of-snow conditions, we chose NOT to spend the money skiing. Luckily, there are a ton of adventures to be had besides skiing!

WALKING, BOULDER SCAMPERING, and BEACH WALK at Sand Harbor State Beach on the Nevada side.

This location was a fabulous tip from Molly. One of her daughters uses a wheelchair so finding accessible paths in nature is a priority for her family as it is for mine.

We headed to the east side, the Nevada side, and up the highway to the Sand Harbor State Beach exit about 30 minutes up. From there, it’s a lovely drive descending to lake level. $6 parking fee applies (yes, there was a ranger enforcing/ticketing) and you’re greeted with a lovely crescent-shaped beach with a mountain behind it.

We all poured out of the car to the beach to get photos (and to see Heavenly Mountain behind our resort from across the lake.)

The accessible path is a boardwalk that first overlooks a stellar little bay that’s something out of a dreamscape, winds around a point that overlooks a climbable boulder field at lake edge, continues around for GREAT views of the crescent-shaped beach and returns to that beach.

It’s a ten-minute walk that took us an hour and a half because we HAD to climb the boulders (blind child included.) On that walk, we took many, many photos – the natural beauty here is just ridiculously breathtaking. There was also the time we spent breaking in the new sonar fish-finding gadget my hubby got from Santa for Christmas at a particularly pretty spot where you could see the lake bottom clearly.

After that, we walked the beach and once it was empty of people, my 11 year-old son spent 30 minutes doing target practice with his archery set as I acted as safety spotter in case others came to the beach (nobody did. Weird.)

It was a most lovely excursion to explore this place state park. We continued up the road to Kings Beach, grabbed Subway sandwiches, then decided to return along the east side of the lake instead of completing the drive around. That would have to wait for another day when it wasn’t already getting dark. 44 minutes later, we were back in our warm room and getting ready for our shabu shabu meal fun that we enjoyed preparing in our room.

CRUISE ON THE SAFARI ROSE: This was my favorite tip from my friend. Funny – in all those trips to Tahoe Genro and I took while studying at Berkeley and after graduation when I was doing my Air Force Undergraduate Navigator Training an an air base in the Sacramento area, we had NEVER taken a cruise on the lake. Following Molly’s tip, we walked down to the office and booked our family on a sunset cruise on the yacht called Safari Rose. It sails out of Ski Run Marina a 15 minute walk from our resort. On cruise day, they sent a shuttle to pick up my family. I decided to walk to the marina instead.

Snuggling under blankets as we cruise Lake Tahoe.

The 80-foot yacht is just beautiful in all ways – “fancy” my kids called it. The couches were comfy. The table is surrounded by huge windows to take in the unparalleled views. The wines flow freely. There’s a substantial layout of food to enjoy as you enjoy the views and meet your fellow travelers. There are heavy wool blankets for those who want to sit on the bow in front of the captain’s window, snuggle and feel the breeze.

The highlight for us was cruising into Emerald Bay and laying eyes on Fannette Island, the only island in the lake, up close…very close…as in we got to TOUCH the island because the water is 100 feet deep at the edge of the rocks. Captain Clark went right up to the rocks, we stood at the bow, and touched the island. That was right after he cruised as close as possible to the lakeside storybook-like castle called Vikingholm.

My daughter snapped this photo of my hubby and I – what a memory! We saw people walking around the castle on the beach, heard there was a waterfall behind the castle and decided we would do that walk this week.

On the way out of the bay, the captain pointed out a bald eagle on a dead tree top and its huge nest a few feet away on a nearby tree. What a treat to get a rare sighting of our national bird!

If you make it to Tahoe, take the cruise on THIS yacht. It’s THE best according to everyone. Tip my friend shared: get the Entertainment app for your phone. There’s a coupon for a FREE ticket if you buy one. So for our family of five, we paid for 3 people – $180 total instead of $300. SWEET. The $1.99 you pay month for the Entertainment app just paid for itself in a BIG way.


SLEDDING  This is nuts. First week of January and snow level was never lower than 7000 feet and higher than 7000 feet they barely had any snow.  It was so bad that the front desk told us “Even Adventure Mountain is closed.”

As you head for South Lake Tahoe, you pass Adventure Mountain on Highway 50 at Echo Summit. The base elevation is 7,350 feet, the highest sledding resort on the south side – CLOSED due to no snow.

We followed a tip from my friend to head for the Tahoe City Transit Center on the west side and find a sledding hill behind it. When we got there, there was NO SNOW on the hill. Sad. It had melted since Christmas week. 50 degree temps will do that. Boo.

I’d read about a “winter sports park” in Tahoe City but that proved to be a little set up on a golf course to make money from vacationing families desperate to find snow. You’d NEVER catch locals hanging around there. The sledding “hill” is more like a slush mound where only 18 month-old toddlers could possibly have fun on a sled. They charged $18 for ice skating (TINY TEMPORARY RINK) and $12 more to sled down for 3 seconds on slush. No thanks.

So doing what I do, I sought local intel. I talked to the guy renting ice skates, I said, “Come on, there’s GOT to be a BIGGER sledding hill around here for teenagers.” He whispered to me: “Granlibakken. Go to Granlibakken.” I went to the car, looked it up, called and was told to drive 2 minutes south on Hwy 89 and yes they had made snow that was still there and people were sledding. The Granlibakken guy told me that sledding tickets were normally $17 a person during a holiday week but since there was barely enough snow, they were charging $10 to sled until 4:30 p.m.. Sweet. We grabbed some kimchee hot dogs at the “winter sports” cafe and 10 minutes were at Granlibakken putting on our snow gear.

At the front desk, I asked the lady, “Do you honor veterans with a discount here?” and she responded with “Absolutely! 50% discount for your whole family!” We enjoyed 2 hours of sledding for $5 each, and that included use of their circular sleds (NO toboggan-shaped sleds allowed.) What a deal!

The hill was not HUGE but that’s fine since we had to walk up it before the sledding part. It was tall enough to make for a FUN ride down in the snow/slush mixture. At the bottom, getting off the slide, we typically stepped into slush puddles. Since I was sending a blind sledder down the hill, it was awesome that they had two staff members there to keep people safe and not running into each other.

As I wrote on my Facebook post: it was brown on top, slushy on the bottom, but LOTS of “Woohoo!” on the way down. It was sooooo worth it and I would return there again. There’s a great snack bar/cafe with soups, nachos, cocoa etc that we missed because it closed at 4 p.m. and we sledded until 4:15. We did enjoy the little firepit on the deck and the view of the snowy hill with drinks from the little snack shack outside the main “lodge.” Granlikbakken is a fun place to spend a few hours sledding with the kiddos.

The silly-crowded rink at Heavenly Village

ICE SKATING: Our Girl Scout troop had enjoyed an afternoon of ice skating the week after Christmas so this activity was foremost on our minds. Molly had recommended the South Tahoe Ice Arena because it was much larger than the rink at Heavenly Village. We scoped out both ice rinks the night before skating. I was in shock to see how OVERCROWDED the Heavenly rink was – yes, it was Wednesday night, first week of January, but I couldn’t believe they let so many people onto the ice at once. People were barely moving it was so crowded! AND many MORE people were putting on skates to join them! With a blind child in my family and two other kids who skate once or twice a year, this was NOT the place for us. At $20 for adults/$18 for kids I decided it would not be worth the effort there. Yes, there was a holiday ambiance to the place, strings of lights overhead…but NO.  Not for us. We came to skate, not bump into people and people watch.

We headed to the MUCH larger Ice Arena one late afternoon before dinner – the NHL-sized arena where local hockey teams practice – for $15 each, skates and helmets included, less if you have your skates and less for little kids.  See the arena website here.  We appreciated the super helpful and patient staff.  When I asked if they honor veterans with a discount, he subtracted $15 and told me my admission would be free. NICE! (For my fellow veterans, always ask: “Do you honor veterans with a discount here?” The answer tends to be overwhelmingly positive.)

My 13 year-old skated with a friend from middle school whose family also happened to be up there that week. After almost 2 fun-filled hours of teaching and guiding my blind child and my 11 year-old son who hadn’t ice skated in 2 year, while enjoying the music tracks that ranged from the 1970s to 1990s, I was done. We exited the ice rink and enjoyed hot cocoa and soft pretzels in the snack bar. It was a lovely, physically-exerting evening activity after a day when we had vegetated in the room and at the pool. We returned to our suite and cooked up a fondue feast with our induction surface “stove table” as my daughter calls it. What’s great also is this ice arena is open year-around so if you come in the summer and enjoy a day at the beach, you can still ice skate in the evening!

At Emerald Bay overlook on our way to Vikingholm adventure.

HIKING: Vikingsholm castle at Emerald Bay – This is the castle we first saw while cruising onboard the Safari Rose. You’ll find the parking lot and trailhead on the right side after driving just a couple minutes north of the very popular stop at Emerald Bay and after Eagle Falls too. We parked and were immediately drawn to the boulder field overlooking the lake. That happens to us – see boulders, must climb…At the top, not only was the lake view gorgeous, but we could hear and see Eagle Falls cascading down the mountain, into the stream. Don’t miss this! DO climb the boulders and see/hear Eagle Falls.

You start your walk down at 6630 feet elevation and experience a 450-foot elevation change as you descend one mile on the paved road that the matriarch had constructed. From the website: “Access to Vikingsholm is via a STEEP one mile trail from the parking lot located off of Highway 89 or a less steep 1 1/2 mile trail that leaves from the Eagle Point Campground campfire center. Please make sure you are physically able to make the climb back up the hill.” That last part if important. You really feel the strain on the way up because altitude.

The walk down is just gorgeous, Emerald Bay always in sight, little streams at your side, the sound of running water keeping you company through the splendid mountain landscape. My son, of course, tasted the water flowing down because why not. (Did I mention he also sipped water from the circular indentations we discovered on that boulder farm next to the parking lot. That’s my kid! )

Arriving at the castle, closed in winter, we admired the architectural details and with my blind child, touched the coat of arms and other wonderful shapes. While my husband stayed at the dock to explore his fishing gadget, we continued behind the castle to the stream where Eagle Falls dumps its waters.

The paved, accessible path goes all the way to the stream. From there, it was a rocky walk up to the wooden bridge over the stream to the other side where climbing.2 miles later, you’d reach Lower Eagle Falls. We didn’t go that far – I was thinking it’s quite cold now, the sun is behind the mountain and we still need to walk back up that hill. So instead, we enjoyed being on the bridge, looking and listening to the power below us, screaming to be louder than the water, throwing “snowballs” which were actually ice scraping from rocks (water freezes on rocks at streams edge and stays frozen since it was about 28 degrees at this point) and took many photos of the awesome beauty surrounding us.

Behind the stream, jagged, mountain peaks…just perfect. We returned to the castle and the picnic table at lake edge for a quick snack and water break. Hubby joined us and I told him he should go up to the stream real quick (he did.)  Yes, it was cold at this point and the kids were so happy for the three layers I always insist they wear.

the steep walk up

Then we began our brisk walk up that 450-foot elevation change, doing intervals of walking fast for a bit, then walking slow for a bit. I was actually running up for 30 second intervals but my daughter who is blind balked at my suggestion that it was a pretend treadmill with incline (that she loves to do as exercise.)


So we took it slow, stopped at a really wide tree stump for a photo and made it back to the boulder farm just in time for sunset.

So up we went for the must-get photo of the pink sky over the deep blue water, Fannette Island and Emerald Bay below – this was the perfect excursion to our last day at South Lake Tahoe as we kicked off 2018.

We already know we’re going back to Vikingsholm castle in summertime to take the tour. We look forward to learning more about the rich history, unique architecture and Ms. Knight’s personal story. And yes, that natural beauty…I need to be there again, and this time, cross the bridge and hike to Lower Eagle Falls…

For those interested in ADA ACCESSIBILITY, I found this at the bottom of the castle website here: “Call California State Parks at 530-525-7232 or email Emerald.BayADA@calparks.onmicrosoft.com to inquiry about eligibility and availability.”

LASTLY a restaurant to AVOID: We thought we’d stop there because of the name: Sato Sushi in South Lake. Just…..NO. That’s all I’m going to say.

I hope you enjoyed these stories, tips and photos. Share with a family who will benefit from this post about our family excursions. Come back and tell me what YOU did that I might want to do next with my family!

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What I Did Before My Daughter’s First Birthday


This is a piece I contributed to the American Foundation for the Blind FamilyConnect® For parents of children with visual impairments. You can find it published HERE. Full text is below as well.

—–What I Did Before My Daughter’s First Birthday —-

After the severely premature birth of our first child and a five and a half month hospitalization in the NICU, we cocooned at home for two months. I simply wanted the world to stay away so I could just enjoy my baby. We accepted two early intervention professionals weekly into our home but that was it.

In time, my Blind Babies Foundation (BBF) counselor encouraged me to do a few things, like meet blind adults and ask questions. Other things I did because I was curious or because they felt right.

Here’s my short list of what I did before my baby’s first birthday, to feel that I was facing the reality of blindness by empowering myself with experiences:

  • I subscribed to “Don’t lose your child to the disability.” Very critical first step, very sage advice. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read that.
  • I met a mom for brunch. She had raised a blind daughter who was a college student at Stanford University, majoring in physics and religious studies. This was a very powerful ninety minutes in my life, with profound impact and hope.
  • At the mom’s suggestion, I got on Seedlings’ (print/Braille books) mailing list and ordered six books to read to my daughter. I did this even though I thought she was way too young for books. Touch and Feel and Scratch and Sniff books with braille dots to feel with tiny fingers were a huge hit early on. She clearly enjoyed the experience of cuddling and reading.
  • I attended the NFB state conference to confront the world of blindness head on.
  • I met parents of older kids who are blind and in my school district.
  • I began to seek assistive technology that would make the world accessible to her later.
  • I read a book that my BBF counselor brought to me: Small Victories: Conversations about Prematurity, Disability, Vision Loss and Success, by Mary Lou Dickerson.
  • I sought out blind adults for lunch meetings and asked, “What did your parents do really well as you were growing up?” and “What do you wish your parents had done differently?” I learned a wealth of information from asking these two questions.

Yes, it’s a lot for the first year, especially when you consider that I spent the first 5 1/2 months of that year in the NICU with my baby girl after her birth at 25 weeks, weighing one pound two ounces! But I needed to do these things right away, to get rid of the terrible feeling of helplessness.

I’ve always believed that “Knowledge is Power, Ignorance is Expensive.” For me, this is what helped me overcome the grief and get on with the business of raising my child and becoming her advocate.

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Celebrating Two-Way Immersion Program and Biliteracy in Turlock

On Thursday, after having served children at Naval Air Station Lemoore to celebrate Month of the Military Child, I drove up the gorgeous, uber-green Central Valley to the city of Turlock.

I passed Atwater, the town where Castle Air Force Base once trained military aircrews. That’s where I did my training as a young Air Force lieutenant to learn how to fly with a crew and operate a KC-135R refueling tanker. I smiled recalling those 5 months of training after graduating from Undergraduate Navigator Training in Sacramento and getting my silver wings. I recalled the excellent Castle Air Museum of fascinating military airplanes that’s located there now that we enjoyed with our kids last year. Good times!

This time however, I was on my way to serve as the featured speaker at the Noche de Inspiración at Dutcher Middle School in Turlock. How that invitation came to be is a classic social networking story: my BFF Sonya Sigler has a friend from high school named Janet Smith. Janet because curious about my background after I tagged Sonya on Facebook and started looking into the work I do. She then connected me with her daughter’s former teacher, suggesting me as a bilingual, bicultural speaker for her event. It was this dual-immersion teacher at Dutcher, Maria Alex Carrillo Prasad, who issued the invitation to me. Thanks Mark Zuckerberg! And thanks Alex for sending ALL the photos in this post.

As I arrived and began to unload boxes of books, it started to rain a bit (of course – it never fails!)  Janet, Alex and others quickly helped me unload and get everything set up inside for the evening event for about 150 parents, students, educators and administrators.

I immediately spotted half a dozen Latina students sitting in the front row -always a good sign -they’re not trying to hide in the back like too many kids this age. Behind them, sat some English-speaking students who have been learning in both English and Spanish since kindergarten.  I was pumped up looking at these excited  young faces. I was ready to tell my story of growing up as a child of Mexican immigrants and becoming an ambicultural American Latina and a multicultural, globally-savvy professional. I was ready to inspire and answer this question some people sometimes ask: WHY should we continue to study in two languages?

I answered this by sharing specific instances where in my professional life, I was offered extraordinary opportunities to work somewhere in the world because of my cultural competencies and my language skills. Among these was an operational leadership assignment with NATO in the spectacular medieval city of Vicenza in northern Italy, 30 minutes from Venice. I was selected while serving in the Air Force because my personnel records showed fluency with Spanish AND a conversational level with Italian.

Another memorable opportunity I shared was offered to me in my final year in the military. The requirements listed were both an aeronautical rating and fluency with the Spanish language. This one landed me at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador for four unforgettable months of work that required me to speak both languages daily and with very high-level military officers and people in the host nation government.  I emphasized to the audience that those who do not possess these language skills will never even know of the opportunities they missed simply because those experiences will not be offered to them. The winners in the 21st century will be those who can speak two or more languages and master cultural competency skills that will enable them to be globally mobile. They will of course also be able to work cross-culturally with people from anywhere on the planet, as they come to the USA.  Being monolingual is so 20th century and fast becoming a disadvantage. I cited this New American Economy report in which the demand for bilingual workers in the USA MORE THAN DOUBLED in the last five years: “In 2010, there were roughly 240,000 job postings aimed at bilingual workers; by 2015, that figure had ballooned to approximately 630,000.”

The local paper summarized the evening’s key messages and perfectly captured the essence of the heartfelt students’ presentations in two languages. Here’s the story in the Turlock Journal.

The school principal Mr. Lucas purchased a carton of my Latinnovating books to inspire students. Latinnovating showcases people with higher education credentials and successful entrepreneurship records – the latter towards which MANY bilingual, bicultural adults gravitate these days. The books were raffled off and I enjoyed sitting in the back of the room signing and personalizing each book to the students, parents and educators who won copies.

I LOVED that part – signing time was time for asking students questions about what they will takeaway from tonight’s presentation. They said they enjoyed:

  • how I encouraged them to rebel against narrow, traditional mindsets about how their lives are supposed to turn out because of to whom they were born
  • the story and pictures of my large, Mexican immigrant family because it mirrors their own families and that gives them so much hope
  • that I shared very specific information about WHO helped me navigate the college application and scholarship application processes. Like my parents, most of their parents cannot help them through this.
  • that I told them THEY have to own the process and ask the questions to seek the help and answers they need
  • the examples of special work assignments I was able to experience BECAUSE I spoke Spanish and English fluently. (I encouraged them to learn a third language later in life as I did while at Berkeley in college.)
  • the joy I shared that comes with accomplishments achieved FAR from home after daring to leave at age 18, celebrated with my family who has never missed a graduation ceremony – ever.
  • That I reminded their parents to think LONG-TERM and be willing to let them go far away to study at a university
  • That I reassured their parents that moving away to college does not mean abandoning their parents (something I find that many immigrant parents fear, as did my own parents)

I of course also asked about their aspirations and from their answers, it’s obvious these educators in Turlock are creating a culture of HIGH expectations for students. These one-to-one chats with students provide me much insight and hope.

Several parents asked me to take pictures with their children as they received Latinnovating books. Other parents with younger children purchased bilingual Captain Mama books and asked me to sign, personalize and take a picture with their kids. I loved it all!

These moments when I know I’ve touched many hearts by sharing the miracles that strung together make up my life, these moments that will get students and parents thinking about the long – term view of their own lives and what’s possible because they’ve chosen biliteracy and will choose higher education…these moments keep me happy and humble, because these moments are very, very special. I cherish these moments – my source of strength. This work and this feedback is how I can present six different times in one day at two school districts 125 miles apart. It’s how I can serve over 700 people in a day, in two languages – because I truly LOVE this work with all my heart and soul.

After the event, we took these group photos with some of the dual immersion teachers in attendance. Then, I was treated to a yummy dinner at the Dust Bowl Brewing Co. Downtown, enjoying the company of teachers and delightful conversation.

I was particularly struck by the personal success story of a young man named Gustavo, a former TUSD student who’s now an administrator at CSU-Stanislaus  located in Turlock. Young Latino educators are the diamonds in the rough – so few in numbers and so needed as educated role models for many boys and teens. In a day full of two-way inspiration, Gustavo’s story over dinner really grabbed my heart. I share with him the deep desire to inspire many more students like him to bet on higher education and win as bilingual professionals!

After hilarious and insightful conversation at Janet’s house with her two daughters (both fellow Girl Scout Cadettes like my daughters) who offered great tips for my girls’ Silver Award projects about to start, I crashed hard in my bed after midnight. I am so grateful for the hospitality and kindness offered to me by the friend of a friend and the wisdom of her assertive, confident teen daughters. I was truly inspired by their change-the-world attitude and examples of what they’ve already done!

What a blessing to serve the Turlock USD tonight. I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I look forward to much more sharing and listening and future opportunities to serve this school district that’s truly leading the way in creating Future Bilingual Professionals who will succeed brilliantly, however they choose to participate in our 21st century globalized economy.

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Air Force Veteran/Author Serves Children of U.S. Navy for Month of the Military Child

It’s April – Month of the Military Child – when we thank the children whose parents are serving in our volunteer armed forces. We recognize them for the sacrifices they are forced to make as children whose parents are frequently called to duty far, far from home, for extended periods of time. It’s a month to do special things FOR them and to honor them somehow. I’m blessed, as a military veteran and children’s book author, to be part of these very special celebrations in schools on military bases.

Children’s artwork for Month of the Military Child author visit NAS Lemoore

I was invited to Naval Air Station Lemoore Thursday to present two assemblies and three 4th grade classroom visits at RJ Neutra Elementary School, serving 520 children of Navy personnel. Greeting me in the multi-use room, decorating the walls, were eight colorful banners filled with children’s art inspired by my books. The many original patch designs created by the students (using template from my first book) will have me smiling for a LONG time. They celebrate a parent’s service; they express love and joy.

Patch designs at RJ Neutra Elementary at at NAS Lemoore, CA – inspired by patch template seen inside “Good Night Captain Mama” children’s book by veteran Graciela Tiscareno-Sato

Here’s a photo of a favorite patch at the school! Just look at the detailed artwork!!

Beautifully detailed patch at NAS Lemoore to welcome Captain Mama

The memories I will take away with me from this day filled with hugs from grateful children are MANY. Here are a few highlights:

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, a.k.a. Captain Mama, entertaining children at NAS Lemoore

During the assembly I shared photographs of my squad during our military survival training week in the Colville Forest of Washington State. I shared details of the kinds of things we survived on that week: black ants that taste like lemon drops found in rotted logs, earthworms, edible plants, a rabbit. I shared how we caught a deer with a large-game snare to enjoy our best  source of protein that week. I was quite surprised that these kids were so fascinated by these survival training stories!

During the afternoon classroom visits with three different groups of 4th graders, in addition to asking lots of questions about how to write and publish books, the process of writing and working with other people, and talking about aviation, aerial refueling and the training involved, I got many questions about the survival training and the eating of insects and such. It came up over and over again. It was hilarious – the questions were awesome:

  • Did you find any lizards out there?
  • You said it’s important to take off the heads of the ants before eating them so they don’t bite your esophagus on the way down. Did that happen to you?
  • You said that you should eat earthworms whole (and not chew them because you’ll get dirt in your teeth) but won’t they bite you on the way down like the ants?

I also got questions about how long does it take to write the book? Is it hard to write a book? Who drew all the pictures? I loved it all…all the wonder and curiosity in their eyes and voices!

While pulling my wagon filled with my flight suits and books through the hallways after lunch, I was stopped several times by inquisitive children. The same thing happened at the end of the school day as I walked to my car.

One little red-headed girl was so excited that she had just received an embroidered patch of my first book (the school staff purchased three Teacher Packs for students.) She said, “I just have to give you a hug to say thanks for coming to my school!”

Children’s artwork for Month of the Military Child author visit

Another girl simply wanted to tell me that she thought I was pretty, something that frankly I’ve NEVER been told at a school visit before. LOL! Several boys wanted to know more about how hard it was to fly and one asked if I had ever thrown up in an airplane. (I haven’t.)

Then there was the little boy who stopped me to tell me that his father has been deployed to Bahrain for over 5 months and he really misses him.

A fourth grader in one of the classrooms shared that he’s barely seen his father the last four years because “he comes home, is home for a few weeks and then deploys again.” I asked what his father did and he answered proudly, “My daddy flies F-18s.”

Such is the nature of serving children whose parents are in our active-duty military forces. All I could do for the children was offer hugs which they gladly took me up on. They’re all such loving kids there – a truly special school culture has been created by the devoted staff.

As I drove two hours north to Turlock for an evening event at a middle school (will be my next blog post), I reflected on this. To be asked questions about my military aviation service and survival training which I did in my previous life AND to be asked many questions about how to publish books, how to write books in two languages and how to become an author who wins awards….which is my current life ….all of it together – it is simply a HUGE blessing. I was filled with gratitude and am still floating as I think of it all.

What a wonderful way to celebrate April Month of the Military Child! There’s a lot more of April left. Please let me know if I can be of service at your school in person or via Skype or Google Hangouts. Please call (510) 542-9449 to inquire about getting me to a school near you – in person OR remotely. Read numerous testimonials from teachers HERE.

Are you on Facebook? If so, I’ve posted more photos of children’s artwork and the assembly HERE.

Thank you for supporting my work.  Visit www.CaptainMama.com to learn MUCH more about this award-winning bilingual, children’s picture book series we’re creating to take children’s into fascinating airplanes, nations and technical careers…while seeing the world as I was blessed to do while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

Creative adjective patch #CaptainMama

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Processing Those Honest Mother’s Day Messages from my Children

One of the best benefits of being a mommy is receiving handmade projects that convey love from your children. Really nothing beats that…because kids create directly from their hearts…It’s #NoFilters defined.

Mother’s Day is the day that, if you’re lucky, you get flooded with creative messages expressing love…and hints.  This year takes the cake!

My oldest child is blind and writes beautifully in Braille. This year’s list of things she loves to do with me was filled with variety: 20150510_122921

“I love you. I love playing trombone music with you. I like going on the Undertow (a crazy ride on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk) with you. I like making paper with you. You are an amazing mother.”

No need to analyze that one – just a simple expressing of the multitude of activities we love to do that bring her, and me, total joy.

20150510_123039My second child is the visual artist. She  poured her heart into the artist cover in collage format and kept the sentiment within short and sweet, expressing happiness that she’s my daughter (like she has a choice, right?)  As I reflect on her choice of words, they seem to be code for “I’m the middle kid who gets less time with you versus the baby boy and the older sister with a multitude of special needs. I cherish every minute.” Sigh…am I overthinking it? And yet, she concludes with anticipation, that many other adventures lie ahead…which is awesome. 20150510_123130








These next pages are from a little book my little boy in second grade made at school. My favorites:

– I love you more than Minecra20150511_194601ft! (Now THAT is saying something!!)

– You are the best mother because you cook good soup! (Yes, I’m good at cutting veggies and throwing cooked chicken bits in a pot. I’ll claim that much.)

– I will help you…with your bissnes! [business!] (He’s my youngest book order fulfillment assistant, which is how he earns his “commission.” No “allowances” in this house!)










Lastly, the ice cream cone!! This sweet, colorful piece was also crafted by my little man. It smacked me in 20150510_122845the heart, big time!

“Dear Mom, Being around you makes me feel sweet, except for when you’re angry.”  (OUCH.)

Sometimes the brutal honesty coming from our kids is just what we need to make those necessary improvements, yes?

I have pinned the cone next to my bed. It’s truly a gift, a daily reminder when I wake up to try harder to not let the extreme stress of my life get conveyed through anger that lands on my little beloved kids. I am admitting right here that it is THE most difficult task assignment I face daily…truly one that I have apparently failed at repeatedly, judging by this message from my son.

I’m truly blessed with these children and their abilities to express themselves in such very different ways. I love that they are teaching me to continuously be a better person. That’s what this Mother’s Day was really about this year.

How about you? Did you receive any hints, I mean messages of love, this year? Want to share your own highlights? Please do!





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The Role of Children’s Books in Our Insanely Active Summer

IMAGE Summer reading adventuresMy kids and I were uploading all the titles and author names of the books they’ve read this summer as part of the 2014 Latinas for Latino Lit Summer Reading Program. Luckily, the program required we only report eight books per child or I’d be doing this all night. Why? Because my kids, now entering grades 2, 5 and 7 this fall, are (thankfully!) self-motivated, voracious readers of many types of books. I have never had to remind them to read over the summer. They default to reading, that is, when we’re not outdoors doing something else. Or should I say, because we’re outdoors doing so much? You decide.

In June as the L4LL program kicked off, I was invited to participate in an NPR interview on parenting and “Diverse Summer Reading Picks For Kids,” I mentioned how my hubby and I intentionally expose our biracial kids to a diverse mix of nonfiction and fiction literature in the summertime when the world is our unscheduled oyster. I also mentioned that I let their interests lead the choices we make in what to check out from the library and what to load on the Kindles. Especially when traveling, we have both print and eBooks available for enjoyment depending on the activities of the day. I gave the example that I had asked each child what they wanted to study and read about this summer. Predictably, my son said, “I want to learn more about insects.”

When they’re reading what they love, they simply read more. Very importantly to prevent the typical regression that happens when kids turn their brains off for the summer. As I mentioned in the NPR interview, I remind my kids to journal regularly in the summer about the adventures we’re having. My oldest child who is blind reads Braille books and journals her sentences on a digital, refreshable BrailleNote; my two sighted kids write in small journals they shove in their backpacks while packing.

This summer the reading, the outdoor adventures, the learning, the experiences, the journaling all came together so naturally. They had to – we traveled over 3000 miles by car from California to Las Vegas, back to California then north for two days to Washington State. There, we spent the entire month of July fixing up a rental property. But that’s the beauty of having insatiable readers – all three read quietly for hours and hours in the car – it was the smoothest set of back-to-back roadtrips EVER. In the evenings after dinner, we’d let them relax and enjoy playing Minecraft until they got sleepy and we arrived at the hotel.

In Las Vegas, my daughter and I met Duncan Tonatiuh, author of Pancho Rmeeting Duncanabbit and the Coyote, after the International Latino Book Awards ceremony we attended. He signed the copy of his book we had brought from home for this occasion and she was thrilled. She also met Angela Cervantes, author ofMeeting Angela Cervantes Gaby Lost and Found that she’d read at school.


It was super special to have my daughter and parents with me as my bilingual children’s book won an award that night, AND even more so to be able to introduce her to other award-winning Latino authors. We bought the Pure Belpre winner this year, Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales to enjoy on the Kindle in the car on the way home. It’s a completely hilarious story with genius illustrations. I bought a print copy and gave it to my 83 year-old father who loves it too.

We drove home and did a quick unpack/repack marathon in a day. We then drove north through Oregon and Washington – 900 miles over two days after driving 560 miles home from Vegas. Ouch.

The night we arrived at the Washington house in the forest, it was 8:45 p.m. on the 4th of July and not quite dark. As we exited the car, we got buzzed by a very large brown and white beetle. “Whoa, that’s HUGE!” exclaimed my son. I said, “Yep, you’re going to LOVE it here. There’s some awesome insects and especially cool beetles!”

A few days later, my neighbor Sharon, who I’ve known since we first moved into this house when I was stationed at Fairchild AFB in the 1990s, mentioned that she was going to take her grandkids to the local rural library for storytime. She invited us to go and of course we accepted. The library was enrolling kids into their summer reading program and so all three of my kiddos signed up. My son immediately checked out two nonfiction books beetlesabout beetles and began to identify the different species they had already collected in the backyard. The initial conversation I had with him about what he wanted to deeply explore this summer, became a daily experience (catching numerous insects), was embellished with the beetle books and gave him a chance to show the neighbor kids the proper way to pin insects to cardboard for display and exploration. He expanded his science vocabulary, gained cool social points by teaching the neighbors and enjoyed every second. Guess what he wrote about several times during the summer? My role was limited to driving him to the library and listening to his discoveries and new beetle names. Love that.

The Lakeside Community Library summer reading program was based on hours spent Koko with bag 20140714_142953reading, so we immediately credited them for all the hours reading between home and Vegas and up to Spokane. My ten year-old got her prize, a nice logo’d book bag, for twenty hours of reading, the following week; the other two later in July. She remembered to write down at least half of all books read on the L4LL reading log sheet she remembered to pack.

In Washington State, the many trips to Home Depot for our many home improvement projects instead of becoming exercises in frustration for our family, became the time when my ten year-old plopped down in the outdoor furniture section or the garden section to read and re-read the manga version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. That one she discovered at the American Library Association national convention we attended in Vegas in June. What’s funnier than sneaking up on her laying on bags of compost and peat moss, reading and snapping a photo?

My blind child had a similar yet different experience. She read big Braille books from home that she packed in tote bags. She packed many issues of Spider magazine from her large collection, a magazine I enjoy along with her because I have a digital subscription to access on my laptop or smartphone. The highlights you see of her in the first graphic all came this way: My long-time friends Doug and Margie, both former Air Force officers, invited us to visit their horse farm. We spent a lovely afternoon with them and their goats, sheep, dogs, and horses. My oldest child adores horses and loved riding almost as much as touching them and feeling their hot breath on her neck.

When we finally came home to California, I took her to her school library, the California School for the Blind, and checked out one of my favorite books starring a blind character, Mandy Sue Day. It’s a book where a girl spends a day enjoying her horse in a very multisensory way – a beautiful story where you only learn at the end that she is blind. As we enjoyed the book together, she relived the fun days we had with our Air Force friends with horses. Doug and Margie, Jim and his Clydesdale horses and Jon and the three miniature horses recently rescued.  Her reading and adventure experiences came in a different order, but that’s okay.

The highlight of her end-of-summer reading came that August day in the CSB library when she found Stir It Up: Recipes and Techniques for Young Blind Cooks produced by the National Braille Press. That evening, she led the shopping, prepping, cutting and baking of our new favorite easy meal: Corn Dog Muffins. Last night, she and Dad made another recipe she read aloud and led: Sweet Potato Casserole. Yum!

I share these experiences so that other parents and children can hopefully appreciate the natural flow of life, books, adventures and daily experiences – they somehow tie in altogether if you let them. There’s no nagging and stress required to enjoy reading in the summer when you allow the children’s curiosity to lead the way. This is true whether you spend the summer at home like we usually do or if life requires a manic summer schedule as we had this year. You just have to ask them what they want to learn during this valuable time.

I had NO idea my son would learn so much about the wide variety of beetles that exist in the world (350,000 different species!). I had NO idea my second daughter would get deeply into Japanese-style manga (coincidentally my hubby is Japanese) and be reading books from back to front all summer. And I had no idea that my daughter who sees with her hands would discover a book that now has her telling us what she wants to help make for dinner as a result of finding this one book.

Yet, all these wonderful, fun, personal growth things happened because we listened to their interests, honored them and got out of their way. I can’t wait to see what they discover next summer!

Thank you L4LL for structuring a program that exposed my kids to more Latino authors and books this summer as part of their intellectual exploration amidst the family “working vacation” chaos. Keep it up. We’re big fans!L4LL kids with certif

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Reflecting on the Wisdom of My Mami’s Choices – a Momtrepreneur Moment of Gratitude

I was reading a post from telecom engineer Eva Smith earlier this week. In it she mentioned that her mother made cakes at home to make extra money for the family. Mi mami also made birthday, quinceañera and even wedding cakes (!!) so I was smiling and recalling.

Suddenly, a memory from 4th grade popped into my head. My mother was sitting at our kitchen table which was configured more like a factory station fishing pole guideduring the day while we were at school. She was wrapping fishing rods, which meant attaching the guides (the circles that hold fishing line for you non-fisherman –see photo right) by applying colorful thread to hold them and then lacquer to shine them up.

My sister and I, the two oldest children of four kids at the time, learned to use the pedal-operated thread-wrapping machine (essentially a giant sewing machine but the thread wraps around the rod instead of a needle into fabric) and helped my mom continue production as she made dinner. I didn’t know it then, but my mother was teaching me how to bring in revenue for the family while being home with her children.

military ribbonsFrom that production experience in my kitchen, I got the idea to apply the pretty colorful thread to my plain yellow #2 lead pencils. If you can’t quite imagine that, I’m realizing as I write this that those pencils I decorated looked a lot like the military ribbons on my Air Force uniform as seen here; odd, but true.  As soon as I took my jazzed-up pencils out of my school bag, immediately I heard, “Wow! Where did you get those cool pencils?” Yep, you guessed it. At the age of nine I replied with, “My mom has special equipment at home to do this.  I can wrap pencils for you for only $0.25 each. How many would you like me to decorate?”

As word spread of this unique pencil customization service throughout the school, I begin taking orders in my school notebook—number of pencils they provided, what color combinations they wanted, deposit collected, balance due, etc –all while applying my math skills. I also remember sitting down with my dad and creating a pricing table, offering volume discounts for wrapping pencils and special pricing for  decorating entire packages of pencils. We even added a service where we would provide the pencils instead of my classmates having to provide them to me. I remember one Sunday while watching a Denver Bronco game on TV that I decided to start wrapping pencils in orange and blue sometime during halftime; I sold all 24 of those babies on Monday!

During that year, I learned many important business principles before school, after school, during recess and at lunch time.

  • a new innovative idea is almost naturally exciting; if it truly stands out from everything else (as my special pencils did), you’ve successfully captured your prospective customer’s attention.
  • asking for the business is the first key skill to confidently master. Nothing would have happened had I not made that first offer to the first client.
  • when you’re offering something special to people, they naturally share that information with many others; they’re happy to tell others and feel proud that they found you first. I know I do that when I find a particularly unique product or service. I tell people!
  • on-time delivery matters; “underpromise and overdeliver” came early for me. I loved telling my friends that I would have their pencils done by the end of the week, then surprising them with a Wednesday or Thursday delivery. That made them so happy and my reputation benefited.
  • repeat business is a good thing. Kids go through pencils quickly (or lose them); I had lots of repeat business. I even got orders from teachers, who wanted to have cool pencils too.
  • cash transactions ROCK!…so easy.

I don’t recall for how many years my mom did that work but one day my mom was asked to return the fishing-rod-wrapping machine to a store 30 minutes away, something about the business owner changing to a different type of piece work for his in-home workers. The next project became counting and packing fishing hooks in bags, ten per bag then stapling the branded cardboard on top. It was easy work and by now all four of the kids could count and therefore help with this work. My mother ended up producing much more, making more money for our family and we all saw increases in our weekly allowances.

While it was sad that my pencil-wrapping business suddenly ended, the benefits of the business lessons gained endured AND I learned that I could create new businesses (and I did but that’s another post.) I enjoyed making my own money and coming up with my own ideas to create and sell. I liked that through my own thinking and creativity, I made things that made people happy. I learned very early in my life how to produce unique, differentiated value and how to simply communicate it.

My mom also taught me the most important lesson of all – that it was possible to bring in revenue while being home with her children. She never worked outside the home while we were young. She always found ways to make money while we were at school, while also teaching business skills to the children by involving us in appropriate ways.

At this point in my life, after nearly a decade of military service and a decade of corporate marketing and always working globally, I want exactly what my mother wanted: to contribute to the family revenue stream, to teach my children life-long business skills and to be there to pick them up after school and help with homework as needed. It’s a heck of a thing to admit to myself because for so many years, I have believed I was trying my best to diverge away from how Mami did things. Suddenly, the wisdom of her choices is obvious to me. It’s humbling and gratifying to connect these dots…a lovely benefit of the mid-forties experience!

Although I’m going about it very differently in starting my own company and creating unique and differentiated literature to put into a national and global distribution, I am realizing that I’ve always been prepared for this. And, like my mother, I love to involve my children in the family business. From inspiring a children’s book series to assisting in a piece of the order fulfillment process, all three of my kids are learning about creating value and serving customers at a young age. Instead of counting fishing hooks as I did, they count books that came out of Mommy’s brain (and imagine themselves as authors too.) Instead of packaging hooks in bags with a fishing equipment brand, they package books in boxes with OUR publishing brand. And instead of pencil design, they’re learning 21st century skills like blog, app and web design. And the all-important skills of communicating the unique value and asking for the business…if you’ve seen them with me at events, it’s obvious they’ve got that down pat.

tiscareno family circa 1982

Taken in Evans, CO

Thank you Mami, for the choices you made to do it differently, for having business aspirations (fishing poles, fishing hooks, Tupperware, Princess House, etc), to contribute substantially monetarily in partnership with Papi to bring in the revenue our family needed to live well, for putting your children first and involving them in your business endeavors. Looks like I’m imitating you after all and I know I am blessed for it, as are my children.


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