The Importance of Family Stories

family stories

I recently received an email from a distant cousin, Margie Coronado, who reminded me of the importance of being inquisitive about family history and taking the time to listen to our elders. When they pass, we mourn their loss and only later realize their precious memories are gone forever, and with them, our opportunity to understand our heritage and pass it on to future generations.

Don’t wait to learn your own family stories. Ask your parents and/or grandparents soon, and record what they say with a recording device or in writing. Their stories are a treasure of incalculable value. Capture and pass them on. Evangelina Takes Flight, is a retelling of my own family stories with a lot of creative license thrown in. My mother, father, Tío David, cousin Chema and others provided the family history, and what an honor it was. I only wish I’d asked my grandmothers to tell me about their experiences firsthand, but I lost that chance a long time ago.

Thank you to cousin Margie for the following:

I stayed up quite late reading “Evangelina Takes Flight” … I had to know what was going to happen to Evangelina and her family. What a heartwarming story!

I loved all the characters and wondered throughout the story how many of my ancestors faced similar obstacles and challenges. I wondered if they also fled the revolution in Mexico and wound up settling in Guerrero, Zapata, Laredo, Hebbronville ….  I wish I had been old enough and knowledgeable enough to have asked my grandparents about their journey, and that of their ancestors, to the U.S.

Now there is no one to ask.  Everyone is gone and there is no one to ask except my mom and my aunt but, unfortunately, they are both in the last stages of dementia. However, I feel so blessed to have gotten a glimpse of my ancestral history through the book. Since I started reading about our ancestors, I am filled with such pride and wonder for all they endured and accomplished.  




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Author Interactions

Happy New Year! I recently added information about author presentations to this site – the audiences I might speak to, the topics I can present, my fee, book ordering logistics, etc. Click on “Author Interactions” on the menu bar above to learn more.

I would be honored to speak to your book club, parent group, students (middle school, high school, college), library patrons, civic organizations, etc. Please contact me at to make arrangements. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Time Management Based on Personal Vision

Priority image

What are your life priorities? How do you achieve them and get off the “hamster wheel?” The one where you run and run to the point of exhaustion but get nowhere in particular?

I give you today’s post as food for thought.

I am no “techie,” but I do check the stats on this blog from time to time (WordPress makes it easy). When I do, the things that jump out at me are:

  • The # of views
  • Where the views are coming from (all over the world!)
  • Which blog posts get the most views

Regarding that last point…I try to post things that are about my novel, Evangelina Takes Flight or are related to themes in the novel. You know, a focus.

Ironically, one of the blog posts that gets the most views is titled The Wisdom of the Cheshire Cat, and it only indirectly links to my book in that one of the “key takeaways” in Evangelina aligns to it. Meaning, it’s a message I wanted to convey when I wrote the book, but it’s not IN the book.

A little background on the Cheshire Cat post – I have been facilitating The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop by Stephen Covey for over 20 years (I am only certified to do this at work). Given that it’s about personal effectiveness, I actually try to live the principles in each habit as best I can, albeit imperfectly. I make a better facilitator that way, too.

Students have given me overwhelmingly positive feedback over the years about the power of the workshop, the Habits and transformative change they can and do bring.

The Wisdom of the Cheshire Cat was my attempt at summarizing what I teach in Habit 2, Begin with the End in Mind. If you haven’t read the post, I recommend you do. The concepts in Habit 2 can provide you with direction and purpose. For a more complete understanding of the concepts, buy Stephen Covey’s book (e-book, audiobook or whatever). This is, of course, after you buy MY book. ; > )

This leads me to today’s post. At some point in the history of this blog, I said I would share key learning from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with you, and then, I stopped after Habit 2.

I pick up today with Habit 3: Put First Things First

Habit 2, Begin with the End in Mind says, that to be truly effective, you must first know where you want to go, who your key relationships are with and what your most important life priorities and values are. Then, commit to them. When I teach the class, I ask students how they want to be remembered by the people that matter most to them – their spouse, kids, partner, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, church community, etc. What legacy do they want to leave?

Habit 3 is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. It’s where you make your personal vision come true. How do you get the best shot at your life turning out the way you’ve always dreamed?

Imagine it. Believe it. (Habit 2) Commit to it. Schedule it. Do it. (Habit 3)

This may sound all woo-woo, but Habit 3 is actually kind of simple, in concept. (Not easy to stick with, in reality, I admit. Bad habits die hard.)

Once you know what your most important goals/life priorities are and which relationships are most important to you, build your schedule around those things. Schedule the important/high value things first – the things that get you the biggest gain and move you closer to your goals. What usually happens is, we get caught up in the day to day scramble of life, and we do what’s immediately in front of us and neglect the things we should be doing to help us attain our highest aspirations such as (examples only): spend quality time with my family, exercise, nurture a shaky relationship with a client, finish my college degree, improve a skillset that will help my career, take my car in for maintenance so it doesn’t break down later, put money away for my retirement, do “the little things” for my spouse that I used to do when we were still dating.

If you don’t SCHEDULE IN  the most important/highest-value things first, the day to day scramble will win out every time. Actually schedule them in. Write them down on a pad of paper, on the calendar next to your fridge, in your mobile phone app.

Habit 3 asks you to be do things proactively and preventively and less reactively. Habit 2 is your blueprint. Habit 3 is building the house, one line at a time, purposefully, with deep focus and discipline, always being aware of the prize at the end – goal attainment (the completed degree, the strong family bonds, the nice retirement nest egg, the book you always wanted to write!).

You’re less likely to rebuild the damaged relationship with your teenager after the fact. Why not keep it strong all along? You’re not likely to build enough of a retirement nest egg if you start at age 55. Plan for it and do it earlier. The temptation of the “shiny object” or “pressing issue” will always be there, but focus on the bigger, more important, longer term win. How do you want to be remembered? What will be your legacy?

I am not perfect at this, but I try. It takes a lot of practice, and I have gotten better over time, but I still mess up. But, I do see the payout in beautiful bits and pieces every day. Mostly in the relationships I hold most dear; the relationships for which there are no “do-overs,” the relationships I will reflect on and define my ultimate success by when all is said and done.

Imagine it. Believe it. Commit to it. Schedule it. Do it.

If you want to read my summary of Habit 1, Be Proactive, click HERE. I titled it, “Conscious Endeavour,” and the concepts are sprinkled throughout Evangelina Takes Flight.


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The Story of Thanksgiving is the Story of a Migrant Caravan

As Americans celebrate this day of Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful for all that I have and acutely aware of those who have so little. With that in mind, the opinion article below resonated with me.

By Jay Perini (

Thanksgiving Migrant Caravan

The editorial cartoonist shows us the great scene that precedes Thanksgiving as it unfolds. The Mayflower anchors in a cove near Plymouth Rock, and there’s a small boat full of Pilgrims approaching the shore. Two Native Americans stand on the shore, and one of them says to the other: “Oh great! The *@#&* caravan is here!”
Funny, right? OK. But it’s worth taking this seriously for a moment, as we gather around family tables for the yearly harvest festival that we call Thanksgiving.
To begin: Consider a classic text of our literature, the memoir “Of Plymouth Plantation,” written by William Bradford, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Bradford recalls how he and his fellow Pilgrims — refugees who had undertaken a perilous journey to flee religious and political oppression in Europe — arrived on the Mayflower ship in 1620.
Let’s call this a kind of “migrant caravan.”
Many of them survived that difficult first year on American soil — though plenty didn’t. They did this with considerable help from the Pokanoket tribe of Native Americans, which was led by a sympathetic chief called Massasoit.
The Pokanoket provided crucial survival skills as well as desperately needed supplies to the white settlers, and helped them get on their feet. Together Massasoit and Bradford forged a truce that lasted for half a century — until all hell broke loose with King Philip’s War. (But that is not a story for Thanksgiving.)
Bradford makes it clear that these white refugees from abroad were treated well by their hosts.
One of the other Pilgrims, Edward Winslow, wrote in detail about what must have been the first Thanksgiving on American soil in “Mourt’s Relation,” a memoir where he recalls a three-day harvest festival in 1621. There was a great store of wild turkeys consumed, and this is perhaps the basis for the tradition of eating turkeys at this meal.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that should, above any other holiday, remind us vividly of our history — including the part that is personal: how we — each of us — wound up as Americans.
So many of us were refugees from oppression — I count my family in this group. The native population welcomed us, and it’s now in our DNA as a nation-state that we are that one place in the world where all people fleeing injustice and poverty and violence will, to the degree we can manage this, be given a warm welcome.
We’ve all benefited immeasurably from immigrants who have struggled to come to our shores. These are hard-working and well-intentioned people willing to give everything they have to honor a nation founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.”
We are part of a grand experiment in world history. It would be a crying shame — to say the least — if, for whatever reason, we turned off our beacon to the world, refusing to welcome those in distress with open arms.
The foolish idea that our borders have been overrun by those seeking asylum because of “loopholes” in American immigration law is hokum of the first order: the worst sort of “fake news,” and one that does considerable damage to our national sense of self.
Very recently we’ve seen an uptick in refugees from the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America, which includes Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. There are reasons for this increase that we should try to address. Most of those who fled Europe for North America in 1620 were, indeed, looking for better economic circumstances for their families — in addition to religious freedom. And in fact, extreme poverty, as well as a fear of physical intimidation, abuse or worse, is what motivates many in the caravan — and most asylum-seekers from Central America.
But in general, immigration over our southern border has been declining. Indeed, there have been more Mexicans leaving the United States than trying to come here in recent years.
As we gather around our Thanksgiving table this year, let’s give thanks for our ancestors, who were brave enough to cast off from their home shores — willing to risk everything to make a fresh start on a faraway and unknown continent. And let’s give thanks for the Native American tribes who welcomed them, who did not turn away our American caravan.
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An Open Letter to the Middleton School District

Build Love Not Walls

(Readers of this blog, please note that while my name was not on the original letter, I added it below, in solidarity.)

by Karen Jensen, TLT

Last week we learned that educators from the Middleton Heights Elementary School had celebrated Halloween by dressing up as the border wall and in racist stereotypes.  Images were shared far and wide on social media. If you aren’t familiar with the incident, you can find some information about it here:

Over the weekend, I was approached by one of my favorite authors, Jenny Torres Sanchez, and asked if TLT could post the following open letter to the Middleton School District in hopes that members of the Latinx authors in the Kidlit community could make an attempt to counter the hate that was on display last week in this school district. We at Teen Librarian Toolbox are happy to post this open letter and hope that you will all read and share it widely. The best way to counter hate and bias is by speaking love, and these authors are offering to do just that. I sincerely hope that the Middleton Heights School District will take these authors up on their generous offer in an effort to undo the damage that these teachers have done to children who are developing their view of self and others and their place in our world.

Superintendent of Schools

Middleton School District

5 South Viking Avenue

Middleton, ID 83644


November 5, 2018

Dear Superintendent,

We are a group of award-winning Latinx children’s and young adult authors. We are writing to you to express our love and concern for the children of Middleton Heights Elementary School. While we are disheartened and dismayed by the decision of staff to wear offensive and racist Halloween costumes, we are also writing to extend a generous offer, an offer of compassion that we hope you will see it in your heart to accept.

Children, their welfare, their education, and the shaping of the world, is our business. Many of us are or were educators in addition to being authors for children and young adults. To hear that the children at Middleton Heights Elementary School were subjected to this offensive behavior by the very people they trust and look to for education and guidance was beyond disappointing. And we feel such a drastic offence requires drastic measures to remedy.

While your teachers should know better, their actions show they do not. While we question their intentions at wearing such, in your words, “clearly insensitive and inappropriate” costumes, we are willing to accept your conclusion that they had no “malicious intent.” However, their poor decisions also clearly embraced close-minded and hateful thinking. And worse, modeled it for young impressionable minds.

All of your students deserve better than this. We are sure this was painful and confusing for many of them, and especially for Latinx students. Not only are they subjected to this kind of thinking outside of their school, but now within their school too, a place where they should feel secure and loved. Not excluded.

We take you at your word that you would like to learn from this and change. In that spirit, we would like to help you.

We are extending an offer to visit your school. We would like to talk to your students and staff about the richness of our culture. To show a positive and realistic representation of the very people this costume depicts as one-dimensional beings and implies should be kept out. To show that there is no danger in opening our hearts and minds to ALL people and displaying empathy and love to all mankind.

To this end, we propose a school visit where we will:

  1. Give a presentation to a general assembly where we will give motivational speeches to inspire students to accept, love, and respect each other as we build community in our country.
  2. Read excerpts from our books—books which we created to help children understand and treat others with love and compassion.
  3. Speak to and support your faculty and staff in a meet and greet apart from the general assembly.
  4. Bring and donate books by Latinx authors to enhance your classroom and school libraries.

We implore you to take us up on our offer. We are eager to visit your school and hope you will welcome us.

Most sincerely,

Jenny Torres Sanchez

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Angela Cervantes

Reyna Grande

Erika L. Sanchez

David Bowles

Diana Lopez

Carmen Tafolla

Jennifer Cervantes

Isabel Quintero

Lulu Delacre

Yamile Mendez

Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Xelena Gonzalez

Lilliam Rivera

Lidia Gil

Pablo Cartaya

Celia Perez

Diana J Noble



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They Persisted, and I Am Here

From The New York Times, October 29, 2018

WASHINGTON — More than 5,000 active-duty military troops will deploy to the southern border by the end of this week, Defense Department officials said on Monday, an escalation of a midterm election show of force against a caravan of Central American migrants that President Trump has characterized as an “invasion of our country.”

The massing of American troops … in the final week before the midterms, comes with a dark warning — without evidence — that “Middle Eastern” people are part of a dangerous mob of migrants threatening to surge into communities here.

I am the proud descendant of immigrants from Spain,  Mexico, Lebanon, England and elsewhere. I am grateful for their bravery, vision and hard fought accomplishments in the midst of uncertainty, hate and oppression.

They persisted, and I am here. What is your family’s immigrant story?

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Kirby Larson (Newberry Award Winner!) and “Friend Friday”

Kirby Larson is the acclaimed author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky, a young adult historical novel she wrote inspired by her great-grandmother, Hattie Inez Brooks Wright, who homesteaded by herself in eastern Montana as a young woman. And, that’s just the start – she’s written numerous award-winning books, and I got to meet her at a gathering of authors at one of our local libraries, sponsored by the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Western Washington chapter.

After a brief conversation, Kirby asked if she could feature me on her blog, and of course, I said, “yes!” One unanticipated benefit of publishing my book has been meeting so many good-hearted, talented authors along the way. It’s opened up a new world for me.

See Kirby’s post with me in the “Friend Friday” spotlight. Read more about Kirby here.

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