Hump Day Open Thread

What’s up?

Yesterday was one of those moments, in which I felt my life come full circle. Almost 11 years ago, I left a reporting job in San Francisco to be home with my newborn son…and to be on the lookout for a job that I could do from home.

I freelanced for a while, then started a blog, and did contract work for non-profit organizations. It all led to my current full-time position at MomsRising — which I do from home. Every day, I log in at about 7:30 a.m., drop off the kids at school at 8 a.m., put in about six hours of work, including meetings over the phone and ginormous piles of e-mail, pick up the kids at 3 p.m., give them a snack, make dinner, and put in the last two hours in the evening.

I have my routine down pat, and it’s something that I shared with a packed room at the Office Optional Conference in San Francisco. While I was there to sing the praises of working from home, I also offered these lessons learned:

It is important to carve out at least two hours a day for uninterrupted work. When you don’t have face time, you tend to make up for it in e-mail. A lot of e-mail. When I first started at MomsRising, I felt the need to respond promptly to every single piece of e-mail that hit my inbox. I quickly learned that it is okay to let people wait a day so that I could actually finish the project that I had promised.

Balance is still important in virtual work. See example No. 1. Also, when there is no division between work and home space, it is very easy to go over 40 hours a week. Yes, I was the asshole that sent an e-mail on Easter Sunday. Oy!

I am lucky in that our organization is 100 percent virtual. But apparently there could be tension in a company between at-home workers or contractors and those who must commute every day. The at-home workers may feel left out or not taken as seriously for not going into the office very day.

Overall, I wouldn’t change my set-up at all. Yes, I am always in my pajamas, always on my computer and snack too much working out of my kitchen. But the time and money I have saved not having a commute — and most importantly, the flexibility to be with my children — I can’t imagine a better set-up.

What is your work set-up? For those of you who work from home, I am curious how you divide home and work life — and keep yourself honest about it!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Friday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I almost opened up with ¡Hola chicas! as I have just gotten back from the first ever South by Southwest Latino Tech Pre-Conference. I was a panelist along with staff members from Sierra Club, Voto Latino and Latino Rebels. And guess who was sitting in the front row while I was giving my speech? Actress Rosario Dawson! She helped start Voto Latino, thus her presence. But it was unnerving when I first spotted her from the stage.

Luckily, she was down-to-earth, let me know that she started following MomsRising on Twitter and humbled me with a photo.

As for takeaways, I was wildly inspired. First of all, my friend Kety Esquivel managed to put together the pre-conference after facing a life-threatening condition and having to deliver a premature baby. And the people that came to the conference were social entrepreneurs and activists I have long admired: Ben Jealous, former President of the NAACP; journalist Maria Hinojosa; Refugio Matos, a campaign organizer with; social entrepreneur and founder of Latino Start-Up Alliance, Deldelp Medina; and many members from the Bay Area Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM) were also there. And just to show you how my life has come full-circle, the Latino entrepreneur who brought out Markos and I to California — yes, we worked at a Latino start-up in 1999 — was there, too. He was embarrassed how the company had crashed and burned, but I thanked him for bringing us out. And as I pondered, listening to the stories of other entrepreneurs, we only succeed after we’ve learned from our failures.

It looks like Kety plans to bring the conference back next year, and I look forward to it! My 24 hours in Austin was topped off by an impromptu MotherTalkers meet-up with our Lisa in Austin and KristieVal — it doesn’t get better than this:

And now I am off to southern California with DH sans kids. We are meeting up with Erika and Tyler for a century — 100-mile bike ride — in Solvang. It’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ll let you know if I complete it. :)

I hope you all have a great weekend! What’s in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

In case you missed it, MomsRising Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner was on CNN Friday morning brilliantly rebutting AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s assertion that the multi-billion dollar company needed to cut retirement benefits over two employees’ “distressed babies” and “Obamacare”.

Armstrong has since apologized for his comments and reversed his decision to cut employees’ retirement benefits. But, of course, this story is not over as it has highlighted a larger problem in our corporate culture.

The spouse of one of the two employees whose babies were blamed for the company’s healthcare costs, spoke out in a chilling piece for Slate. She walked us through the trauma that was the birth of her now one-year-old daughter and highlighted the obvious scapegoating of the sick and those who need healthcare by a company that reported record earnings on Friday.

Let’s set aside the fact that Armstrong—who took home $12 million in pay in 2012—felt the need to announce a cut in employee benefits on the very day that he touted the best quarterly earnings in years. For me and my husband—who have been genuinely grateful for AOL’s benefits, which are actually quite generous—the hardest thing to bear has been the whiff of judgment in Armstrong’s statement, as if we selfishly gobbled up an obscenely large slice of the collective health care pie.

Exactly. If employees can’t access the health insurance that they pay for…then what’s it for? Why pay premiums? Jeez…

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Hump Day Open Thread

What’s up?

I am waist-deep in campaign reports, and I am on my second latte today. Happy Hump Day indeed!

But I did spot one interesting blog post for fodder. Many thanks to my friend “rolling” for flagging this piece by an involved Black father who took on his haters at Dads & Families. In light of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, this is a must read!

And before I end, I have a question: have any of you signed up for healthcare coverage at I am collecting stories for a big blog roundup MomsRising plans to publish at the end of this month. If interested, please let me know at Elisa at MomsRising dot org, and I will send you the invitation. Thanks!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I just got back from a work trip to New York that was incredibly inspiring. MomsRising held a conference on childhood obesity and nutrition that was attended by health policy experts, child advocates, bloggers and just concerned parents. Both the speakers and audience members came from diverse backgrounds and had incredible stories to share:

• First, we were greeted by the First Lady in a pre-recorded video!

• Migdalia Rivera, who publishes the Latina on a Mission blog and has a consulting firm called Stiletto Media, shared a personal story on how she helped reverse her teenaged son’s high blood pressure. She now cooks much healthier and said it has been over five years since she has fried anything in her home. “I bake or steam,” she said.

• Tanya Fields, executive director of the BLK Projek, which focuses on racial and socioeconomic disparities in food access, talked about her inspiration for starting the non-profit: as a single mom in the Bronx, she’s had to feed her children on WIC and food stamps. The good news is it is possible to eat healthy on a “food stamp budget,” she said.

Fields, by the way, brought with her two adorable children, who at first played games on my iPhone, then found our Sue in Queens who had an iPad. :)

• We viewed the incredible documentary, Soul Food Junkies. (Seriously, this film is worth renting!) We then heard from the filmmaker Byron Hurt. His personal story, in the film, is powerful.

The event was incredible, and personally, I always love visiting New York. It was the first place that embraced my dad and grandmother when they immigrated to the United States. In terms of Latino culture, it’s my roots. I had a great time watching Soul Food Junkies with a table of almost all Puerto Rican bloggers — a few I had known online and met for the first time in person!

Also, for the first time, I met our Sue in Queens and Diana aka “LadydeeLG”. We had so much fun catching up. I look forward to meeting up again!

I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work, thus my sleep is off again. I found this article in helpful on the foods that help you fall asleep — and keep you up. It’s no wonder I’ve been craving salmon! Sadly, I need to lay off the coffee and spicy foods.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Rewarding Businesses for Doing the Right Thing

The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is a mind-boggling $2.13 an hour. This rate has not changed in more than 20 years.

As I mentioned yesterday, MomsRising is running a series of blog posts drawing attention to this as well as promoting the legislative bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, WAGES. The bill would raise the federal minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 an hour to $5.50 an hour within two years of the bill’s enactment.

We received stories from waitresses and former wait staff — and business owners in favor of the legislation. One of those stories was by Nicolas Sanchez, the owner of my family’s favorite Salvadoran restaurant here in Berkeley, California, Platano. In his post, which was written in Spanish, Nicolas let the public know that properly compensating workers is good for business because he doesn’t have to spend resources to retrain new workers.

We had a similar post by the owner of a Mexican restaurant in New York.

It made me think: what if we used the power of the Internet to acknowledge businesses for doing the right thing? Maybe it could be a way to highlight the businesses that treat their employees well and those who should be “on notice” for exploitation. Inspired at the thought, I published this review of Platano on Yelp yesterday:

Where is the “love!” button on this?

My husband is of Salvadoran descent and we travel back and forth between here in Berkeley and El Salvador to visit my mother-in-law. Hands down, Platano it is our favorite Salvadoran restaurant in the U.S.

The food is delicious. We are fans of the typical: pupusas de queso con loroco, the plantains — with sour cream and refried beans — yuca, avocado salad and rice and beans (“casamiento”). I have also eaten their meats, including the carne asada and tamales de sal. Yum!

We cater all of our children’s birthday parties with pupusas and tamales from Platano and have received nothing but compliments from our guests. I also take business associates there and my husband and I will go on dates to the restaurant, which is quite nice. This restaurant is very family-friendly. If you choose to take kids, there is a kids’ menu and table with toys and books for them to play with!

We are regulars and have gotten to know the staff well. We have received nothing but warm service and gratitude for patronizing the restaurant. You can also eat there knowing that the owner, Nicolas Sanchez, treats his employees well. Most recently, the non-profit I work for,, approached him about writing a blog in favor of raising the federal minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 an hour to $5.50 an hour and he graciously agreed! Here it is: http://www.momsrising….

The bottom line is you can feel relaxed with your loved ones, eat great food and know that the people running and working at the restaurant are kind and very conscientious.

Go ahead and use this thread to send love to the individuals and institutions that have inspired you lately.


Hump Day Open Thread

What’s up?

Happy belated Valentine’s Day all! DH and I haven’t done anything for it since college. We consider it Hallmark-ish and think it is a nightmare to make dinner reservations or go anywhere. Now that we have children we are less inclined to go out.

But I am re-considering our stance. Both our kids were really into it, making us cards and setting the table with candles so that we could eat as a family. It was very sweet and I felt guilty as I am completely overwhelmed with work and haven’t spent as much time as I’d like with them.

Remember the big translation project I did for PolicyLink over the summer? My friend Xochitl and I line-by-line edited it last week and throughout the weekend so that it could go to publication. The paper, more like a book, is 110 pages long! We still have five to 10 pages to go and still have to edit the executive summary, which is another 40 pages. Oy.

I also have a few projects at MomsRising, which reminds me, can you send some love our way? We published a blog-a-thon in favor of raising the federal minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 an hour to $5.50 an hour — two years after the law takes effect. The $2.13 an hour has not changed in over 20 years!

Because 18% of Latinos are tipped workers living below the federal poverty line, I wrote about the proposed bill in Spanish here, and solicited other blogs in Spanish. If you could browse through the blogs, make comments, recommend one or two on Facebook and/or tweet out that would be fabuloso! ¡Gracias!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, I want to wish our Cynmill — and Laura! — a very happy birthday. Here’s to a fabulous day for a fabulous trio!

In case you missed it, Newt Gingrich won the Republican primary in South Carolina this past Saturday. Here are detailed results courtesy of AP.

Brain, Child magazine ran a bittersweet story on the complicated history and nature of sibling relationships.

This blog post at BlogHer, in which a new mom claims that “parenting isn’t hard” and that yelling at your children in public is tantamount to abuse, perhaps not surprisingly, garnered a lot of reaction in the thread.

A couple in the UK that refused to reveal the gender of their baby for five years, just announced to the world that they have a boy, according to Yahoo Shine.

Parents magazine published a comprehensive story on the lack of paid maternity leave in this country. MomsRising executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner was quoted in the second half of the story.

Actress Jessica Alba launched an organic diapering service called Honest.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Just a friendly reminder that MomsRising will be live-tweeting from the White House tomorrow — and you all are invited! To join us, follow the #MomsatWH hashtag on Twitter at 9 a.m. PT/ 12 p.m. ET. You can also ask questions via Facebook @momsrising. Thanks all!

Singing children’s praises to bolster their self-esteem is losing ground to more rigorous curriculums, in which praise is fine-tuned, according to a story in the Washington Post.

Parents published an article, “Six Secrets of Kids Who Rarely Get Sick,” which is timely considering I am desperately trying to avoid illness before my half marathon at the end of the month. So far a fever and cold have hit DH and DD. DS has a cold, and I am feeling rundown but have not had any other symptoms. Ugh!

In related news, Parents ran an article on natural remedies for everything from sore throats to head lice.

From the Boston Globe: A mom challenged Rick Santorum for his comment that no one in the United States dies from a lack of healthcare coverage. Good for her.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


How Money Degrades Our Environment

I originally wrote this piece for the Broad Side. Definitely check it out! -Elisa

Protecting the Clean Air Act as well as the Environmental Protection Agency should be our No. 1 priority as parents. We can disagree on religion, politics and how we run our households, but as individuals we have no control over pollution, which is why our government needs to protect us from it.

But what happens when polluters and chemical companies contribute millions of dollars to the coffers of our leaders? That, amigos míos, is the No. 1 barrier for the EPA and all who support its agenda.

For some years, I have been an environmental activist, not only advocating for clean air and water, but fighting against the use of toxic chemicals in children’s products. A little over two years ago, I testified in Sacramento, California, in favor of a bill that would have ridded toxic flame retardants from four baby products that pose no fire hazards: strollers, high chairs, nursing pillows and changing pads. Unfortunately, this would be one of five bills to fail in the state legislature.

Now I know what I and fellow parents were up against. I just read in a California newspaper, the East Bay Express, that the chemical industry has spent at least $23.5 million over the last five years in lobbying efforts against these bills. In addition, at least $593,000 in campaign money was donated over three election cycles to 85 legislators, including 44 Democrats and 41 Republicans.

Here is more insightful information in the newspaper, which pointed out that flame retardants are toxic and building up in our bodies, including our breast milk and our children’s bodies:

A five-month investigation by Environmental Health News revealed an infusion of chemical industry cash into California that has global implications. During the five years of lobbying, the flame retardants have been building up in people’s bodies, including breast milk, around the world.

Designed to slow the spread of flames, brominated and chlorinated chemicals are added to upholstered household furniture and babies’ products sold throughout North America because California enforces a unique flammability standard. The chemical industry has been fighting to retain that state standard and ward off California proposals to ban the chemicals or mandate alternatives.

As I saw firsthand in Sacramento, the chemical industry claims that flame retardants save lives. As part of their lobbying efforts, they shamelessly brought out burn victims and small children who had lost family members in fires. The point lost on everyone in the room is that these deaths and injuries occurred with flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture and children’s products!

Another reason that the chemical industry’s claims are misleading at best is this peer-reviewed study released this past June showing that that California’s furniture flammability standard, also known as Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117), does not provide measurable fire safety benefits. TB117 practically mandates the use of toxic flame retardants in the foam of all of our furniture and even baby products like nursing pillows and changing pads.

However, one thing’s for sure: animal studies have linked flame retardants to cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders. The flame retardants easily leach onto dust, pet hair, and the crumbling foam of old products — surely, I am not the only mom who used second-hand baby products! — making them easy to ingest by children.

A silver lining in all of this sludge of dirty air and dirty money is that the public is paying attention. I want to thank the East Bay Express for its expose on the amount of money the chemical industry has spent to pump up its dirty goods. But I also want to acknowledge the growing and influential movement that are the moms here at MotherTalkers, MomsRising, Moms Clean Air Force and The Broad Side. We are a group of moms who are not to be messed with!