How To Disconnect and Make It Worth It

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As I settled onto a large rock on the Hollywood Hills feeling the fresh California air breezing through my hair, I finally felt relief. After a week of late nights editing video, minimal sleep, missing a flight, and struggling through a 48-hour migraine, I needed a vacation. But with the mobile devices so readily at my side, it felt like I’d never escape the rush. However, I’ve found ways to disconnect from the continuous movement that exists on my social media timelines and instead focus on rejuvenating during my time off. Now that summer’s here and you’ll be taking some vacaciones, here’s three tips on how to disconnect and make it worth your while.

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Tie up loose ends before taking off. Before you dig up your bikinis for that tropical island that awaits you, let people know you won’t be available. There’s nothing more irritating than work emails that appear to be urgent but could actually wait. Tell your boss you’ll be gone with limited connectivity and provide a method of contact in the event of absolute necessity. Also, set up an OOO message on your email and voicemail. Provide details on how long you plan on being away so that no one expects an immediate response. This will make you feel at ease knowing that all correspondence will be waiting for you once you return and reconnect, and no one is refreshing their inbox expecting your response.

Silence your smartphone and tablets. Once I’ve arrived, hopefully on-time, to my flight, my phone gets put on silent. No vibrate, no ringtones, just silence. This might seem silly, but it’s a simple move that’ll make all the difference. The beep and vibrate of your phone is a constant reminder of emails, messages, and notifications that require your attention, but if your phone is silenced you will find yourself forgetting all about those things and abandoning the glossy screen for the gleaming rays of sun in your eyes.

Own a digital camera and take it with you everywhere. Our iPhones and Galaxies have great cameras, but they also have pages of apps tempting us into a black hole of distractions. Taking photos during your vacation is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the scenery and appreciate all the little things that make your time away from home memorable. One of my professors in college once told me, if she hope we’d learned anything from her, it was to be present in the moment. You don’t have to Instagram the photo of the amazing view from your hotel right this second, that moment is special to you, and when you get back home and reconnect, it’ll be waiting to download off your digital camera. No rush needed.

Not only are you disconnecting for the sake of your sanity, but also to be present in all of the moments you’re experiencing in new places. Everything lives forever on the internet, so if you missed a trending topic you can definitely look it all up later on. Take the time for yourself. You don’t want to have to respond when your coworkers ask you what you did on your trip–ehh, tweet?

 

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This Is How She Makes It

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Latina finds ways to overcome the challenges of breaking into the entertainment industry.

Not many people are able to say they had the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of their biggest influence. For Judianny Compres, a thirty-something actress in New York City, today is that day. Her face would be most familiar to mainstream audiences for her role opposite Eddie Murphy in Tower Heist. On this day though, she beams with excitement as she chats about the full circle moment that awaits her, an audition for director Ivo van Hove, whose production of the play A Streetcar Named Desire inspired her during the early stages of her acting career. 

Most people are overcome with nerves at such a moment, but Compres is as cool as the unsweetened iced tea she’s sipping. “Opportunity meets preparedness,” she said, noting that there’s nothing she can do except lay it all on that stage. 

The Dominican actress earned her undergraduate degree in theater at the CUNY Baccalaureate program—an honors program where students may pick courses in their major from any of the CUNY schools—before studying at Stella Adler and then HB Studio, all of which has helped her hone a confidence that prepared her for this audition. Compres is trying for any of three female lead roles in the Ingmar Bergman play Scenes From a Marriage being put on by the New York Theater Workshop, which combines the experience of performing with nurturing artists’ individual work. “My hope is that not everybody has to be white, especially with this director who’s a visionary,”said the Latina with cinnamon brown skin and honey colored hair. “I’m hoping that he will have the vision to incorporate a more 2014 New York, more diverse.” 

The talk of more diversity extends beyond New York and into Tinseltown with the question on everyone’s mind: is this the year of Latinos in entertainment? With controversial television shows like Devious Maids—providing five Latina lead roles— premiering their second season and the success of Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, the number of roles opening up for Latinas has been growing. Some argue it isn’t enough and that the roles offered do not capture Latinos in all their complexities. According to a study by USC released in October 2013, Hispanics are up there in numbers as movie goers, at 26%, and yet only 4.2% of the speaking roles are of their own.

So what is the root of this disparity? And how can the issue become less talk and more action?

Compres believes the cycle starts early on with the lack of encouragement the Latino youth receives to pursue careers in the arts. A career as a lawyer or doctor would garner more pats on the back from her family than her acting credits, she notes. Her mother has warned her about a lifelong career in acting saying, “You’re thinking of pajaritos preñaos (pipe dreams).”. By supporting children from an early age and encouraging them to get involved in the arts, the future of diverse inclusion in film and television stands a chance. And as millennials align themselves in power positions within the media and entertainment world, they will help cultivate a greater respect for the arts in their Latino communities, she predicts. “The generational component is key.”.

As a film history professor at University of Texas at Austin, Charles Ramirez-Berg agrees that part of the solution is generational. “It’s just kind of human nature for first generation Latinos who go to college to seek out a life-long profession, like being a doctor or lawyer,” he says and “it’s the next generation that has the opportunity to explore.”That is the generation that will increase Latino inclusion in film, Ramirez-Berg believes, and “in our history, in the history of Latinos, that generation is now.” 

Latinos also need to become content producers, Compres argues. “To have writers and producers developing content that’s inclusive,” will drive the future of Latino representation on the big screen.

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Compres also abides by this standard as she maneuvers her own career goals. She’s currently working on a screenplay called In The Cargo that tells the story of a Dominican immigrant and her treacherous journey to the states in search of a better life. She believes that universal themes can transcend race, mentioning movies like Maria Full of Grace, a Spanish-language movie whose story arc of a pregnant woman trafficking drugs into the United States captured audience’s attention, regardless of language. In the movie A Better Life cited by Ramirez-Berg, the story at surface seems to be about a Mexican immigrant, but the tale of a father and son stirs up universal emotions. “There’s this curious thing that the more specific you make it, the more universal it becomes,”said Ramirez-Berg.

Compres also thinks the classics can be colorblind. “These great stories, like Ibsen and Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, transcend race and ethnicity, “she says, “but oftentimes the vision of the creator, of the director is not there, they only see white.”She’s not opposed to chasing roles she knows lend themselves to inclusivity. “A lot of times they’re not looking for Latinas but I know the story is not white specific so I go and show them I can do the job,” said Compres crediting this go-getter attitude for helping her land a few gigs. 

The same could be said of the Spy Kids series written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. Ramirez-Berg points out that the movie series are centered around the Cortes family although “there’s nothing in that story that says they have to be Latino.” He believes part of the success that surrounds Robert Rodriguez is his focus on creating genre movies that happen to have Latinos or be Spanish-language. 

Still, there have been plenty of times when Compres reads through casting call lists seeking Caucasian, Caucasian, Caucasian. Plenty of times when they’ve told her  “you need more of an accent.” Plenty of times when they’ve told her “you need to be more Latina.” But what makes a Latina more Latina? Perhaps it’s the sexy coke bottle image that’s been drilled into audiences.

The study by USC also reveals the alarmingly prevalent sexualization of Hispanic women. According to the study, “Hispanic females are more likely to be depicted in sexy attire and partially naked than Black or White females.”The sexualized Latina portrayed in films translates into complications for Latinas seeking respect and growth in the entertainment industry. Take for instance the money-well that Sofia Vergara has filled to the brim with her curvaceous dumb Latina act in the Emmy Award winning sitcom Modern Family. There’s also Jennifer Lopez, whose round romp made having a big booty a trait to appreciate.

The pressure of sexualized Latinas dates back over a century according to Ramirez-Berg, who details the harlot character in Westerners, with their floral skirts and exposed shoulders, as intentionally created to be the “very alluring but they’re dangerous” figure.

Xiomara Medina, a film editor and aspiring singer, has felt the strain of the sexualized Latina image displayed in the media. For many people in the industry, networking events are useful to landing gigs, but Medina says she has found it difficult to get the respect she works hard for because of her physical appearance. The curvy Puerto Rican with long blonde highlighted hair  has learned that the extra effort of dressing more conservatively than usual is necessary if she wants the focus to be on her work and not her cleavage. “As a woman, a lot of men want to date you. That’s a big challenge. How do you tell somebody that you need an opportunity from that you don’t want to date them?” said Medina. “Stick with the people who are taking you seriously and giving you the opportunities.” 

While Medina has felt the pressure of Latina sexualization in her professional encounters, Compres has felt the same when walking into auditions. Seeing model-looking women chasing the same roles she’s there for. Oh I’m never going to get the job. But sometimes she does. 

Medina also encourages Latinas to create their own content. She implements this in her own life by using her video editing skills to direct and produce the music videos for her songs. Her bilingual skills proved to be an advantage when she got one of her first major film editing jobs on the film about salsa singer Hector Lavoe, The King. She was able to edit the film with an understanding of Hector Lavoe as an artist while also comprehending the content in both English and Spanish.

Both Compres and Medina strongly urge the public to back up Latino projects. That means when a movie as telling as Cesar Chavez is released, there shouldn’t be an empty seat in the theater during opening weekend. If the audience does not show up for a Latino project, the funding for the next one will be that much harder to gather. 

Compres’s mentor Zachary Sklar knows how tough the film industry is when it comes to seeking out financial support for a project. Sklar, an Academy Award nominee for his screenwriting work on JFK, has mentored her through the writing process of three screenplays, one of which—Happy New Year!— was made into a film that was screened at Cannes. 

He knows she has her work cut out for her on her most recent screenplay In The Cargo, when he admits, “I don’t think it’s the traditional commercial vehicle that people in the film industry are looking for, so that’s why it’s rough.” So her plans to bring her screenplay to film festivals and network will be key. “She’s also good at talking to people and making connections and getting out there, and that’s half the battle,” said Sklar. “In this case she has the goods, the work is really excellent.” 

The effort to increase the presence of Latina women in Hollywood is as the saying goes, it takes a village, or un pueblo. The actresses must be prepared to show their best performances to nail the roles that aren’t necessarily for Latinas, and develop their careers in order to fill those behind the scenes positions as well. Taking on all the roles guarantees that there will be more voices in the industry vying for Latinas and telling those stories from the community that need to be heard. Sklar has witnessed Compres’s dedication to giving voice to such stories, “She felt a moral responsibility to tell the story of people who really can’t speak for themselves, they don’t have a voice in the mainstream media, and Judianny has that voice and she’s willing to do the research and talk to these people, which she did.” 

While she waits on callbacks for her audition, she’s still buzzing around working and networking. “It’s a very exciting time to be a Latino in the industry,” said Compres, “but it’s not enough, there has to be more.”And she’s dead set on contributing to that. “I just don’t know how to quit.”

Photo Source: Judianny Compres

Mani Madness

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With Memorial Day weekend around the corner kicking off summer, it’s time to get your manis and pedis on point. You don’t want to be caught at any cookout in the coming weeks with chipped nails or even worst, rough feet. Thanks to Instagram and Etsy, DIY mani-pedis are totally doable and even cheaper than getting them done. Check out some of my favorite nail art stickers, trends, and tutorial videos. And keep scrolling for mi abuelita’s tip that’ll keep your feet sandal ready!

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Photo Credit: NailSpin on Etsy

 

Frida Kahlo at my fingertips? Yes, please! If you need a little inspiration from an accomplished Latina, you can have Kahlo’s iconic portrait at hand with these stickers available on Etsy from NailSpin for $6.00:

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: MiniatureMakerSupply on Etsy

 

Dot it up. You’ve seen this tool is most tutorial videos, and you can own a set of your own ball stylus to master all sized dotting for your miniature masterpieces available on Etsy from MiniatureMakerSupply for $7.50:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: NailStencils on Etsy

Show your chevron. I love all things chevron and I don’t see this nail trend ending any time soon. It’s a great way to color block on your nails. Here’s some stencils to nail those classy clean edges, available on Etsy from NailStencils for $5.11:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: DecalGirlUSA on Etsy

 

Storyboard nail beds? I love when nail art travels from one fingernail to the next and you can see the entire story or portrait shown across all five fingers. My best childhood memory was picking dandelions in my grandparents yard and trying my hardest to bare them in one blow, so I absolutely felt a kid again when I came across these decals, available on Etsy from DecalGirlUSA for $3.85:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: Nails4Beauty on Etsy

 

Texture Texters. I’m a sucker for nails that are full of texture, after all I want to have something fascinating to look at while my thumbs are hard at work sending summer tweets. Caviar and Velvet are two of my favorite, check them out available on Etsy from Beauty4Nails for $12.00:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: DecalGirlUSA on Etsy

 

 

Flaunt your feathers. Sometimes all you want is to add a delicate touch of color, cue in peacock feathers, duh! Go on and shake ya tail feather all summer with these adorning your pearly white nails, available on Etsy from DecalGirlUSA for $3.85:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You gon learn today! Here’s some of my favorite nail art tutorial videos from Instagram and the artists behind them so you can follow and keep on learning.

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Mi Abuelita’s Tip: When I was little I was practically allergic to lotion–not really, I just hated it: the texture, slimy feeling–and my grandmother never gave up trying to convince me to lather full-body before bed. Once I got to college, I realized my Buelz was right and my love affair with lotion began. The one tip that sticks with me the most though is Buelz’s tip for keeping your feet soft, so when it’s sandal time 24/7 you’re feet will look flawless and those #SOTD Instagram photos will make everyone have a shoegasm. Before bed, soak your feet in lotion, preferably a foot lotion. Then take a pair of your fluffy house socks and put them on with your feet all lathered up. Do this at least twice a week!

Couch Correspondent: 2014 Billboard Music Awards

I woke up this morning slightly regretting not watching Devious Maids last night in order to watch the Billboard Music Awards. What can I say, they hooked me from the get with the triple Latino threat: Pitbull, JLo, and Claudia Leitte. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil–BOOM. How was I not going to watch?

The rest of the awards show though was mediocre, aside from Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea performing ‘Problem’ and whether you liked it or not you woke your ass up when you saw Michael Jackson dancing on the stage. Here’s the moments that gave us something to laugh–or cringe–at throughout last night’s BBMAs:

Kardashian/Jenners do not belong behind a mic

I was delighted to see a younger sibling take the stage for once, and even more Kendall Jenner because she’s always seemed to be the shyer of the bunch and also the softest. She looked gorgeous–man I wish I could rock an open-back outfit like that–and her speech started off great. You can tell the nerves overpowered her as the words started pouring out of her mouth at a faster rate and then the fail. She started to say One Direction, wrong boy band. All she had to do was read off a teleprompter. I don’t buy the whole “I left my contacts at home” excuse. If you know you’re presenting, do you not make sure you can see? I’m a big Khloe fan but let’s be honest, she was hard on the eyes and ears during her stint on X Factor. We should let them stick to reality TV.

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Over the Jokes
Solange and Sterling felt the burn of jokes on the show and I wasn’t really laughing, at all. Mark Cuban doesn’t really do it for me and when he’s trying to be funny, the delivery of the jokes doesn’t make it. Not enough has been stirring in the pot of entertainment gossip so we’re clinging to the only two events. I’m tired of hearing Sterling’s name, can we stop giving him attention? He’s a waste of syllables.

I got one less problem because of this
We all love the song ‘Problem’, don’t lie, it was number one on iTunes for a reason, because y’all were buying it! I’m such an Arianator. I love black and white so clearly I was all into her dress and boots. Sure her dance moves are awkward to watch but not because they’re completely bad, more because she’s so young looking that it almost feels inappropriate. It never feels right to watch a Nickelodeon/Disney star bust out with risqué hip shaking. In due time we’ll get over it, her moves will be polished, and her look will mature. Her voice is the shit though so don’t lose steam with her!

The Moonwalking Dead
Ugh. Ehh. Yay. Meh. That’s how I felt about Michael Jackson’s revival on the stage. I love the King of Pop and true no one could ever be him, but does that mean we have to have him past his time alive? It was a little bit creepy to see him full of fake life. I enjoyed the performance because I love his music and I’ll never not want to see his moonwalking skills. Still, let’s let him rest peacefully. Plus MJ was a total perfectionist so I just sat there cringing at the thought of how unhappy it would have made him if any move had gone wrong.
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Photo Credit: Getty / Kevin Winter/Billboard Awards 20

Shakira Self-PDA
This is the second time I’ve seen Shakira perform ‘Empire’ which allows her to show off her rocker background. Rocker Shakira is a badass, can ya tell? She’s all feeling up on herself, wind in the hair, dress flapping all over the place. She’s what we all think we look like when we’re trying to be sexy, except we actually look pathetic and Shakira just looks….well….lust-worthy.

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In Defense of the In Between

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Why can’t I just be single, but into someone, without everyone pushing me around about my ‘nonexistent’ ability to be in a relationship?

The past few weeks I’ve read a number of articles that range from the top 10 reasons to be single in your twenties to why it’s amazing to marry young. A few days ago I finally received a link to the hidden gem of dating articles, the needle in a haystack I’ve been searching for, a Thought Catalog piece “Sometimes It Makes More Sense To Be Single” that my best friend sent me with the subject line of the email reading: this. The piece opens with the writer expressing the shocking response her aunt gave when hearing her autobot response to the dreaded, no men in your life? Instead of the expected accolades on why you’re so deserving of a good man, her aunt told her, “It would kill you, It would kill you to be tied down like that. Some people aren’t meant for that life. Like butterflies, you have to let them fly. You have to fly.” This quote got me. It literally managed to scramble into a sentence the overwhelming worry I get when I think about having a boyfriend. So much so that I’ve spent the past three days telling my mom “I’m a butterfly mom, I can’t be held down, I must fly.” She’s so over it and definitely wishes I’d never gotten my beady eyes on this article.

What people fail to realize is that even though it would kill me to be tied down, that doesn’t mean I want to be lonely. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-relationship. It doesn’t have to be black or white, I rest easy somewhere in the gray. Let me explain.

The same day my bff sent me that link, I went to see my year-long fling. He’s more than a friend, but less than a boyfriend. For the past year this arrangement has worked for us. We could spend up to a month without communication and it doesn’t bother me. He has a busy work schedule and I’m trying to pull through an intense three semester Masters program at NYU. But any time I need someone by my side, or he need me, we are there for each other. There is never the pressure of everyday expectations and it’s perfect. We sometimes joke around about marriage, moving to California together, how we’ll raise our kids. It’s fun. For those moments when we’re present, we allow ourselves to feel all it could feel to be in a relationship, the fantasy of what we know cannot be our reality, at least not now, and then we’d part ways flying our separate directions like the little butterflies we are. There’s real feelings, but there’s also real selfishness.

In that gray area, I’m able to have a relationship without having a relationship. I’m able to tell someone what’s on my mind. I’m able to be my weird self. I can burp. I can literally shove mounds of food in my mouth. I can talk Spanglish. I can take the weeks alone when I need to focus on school and work. I can tie my hair up in a bun. I can say feed me! I can cry. I can laugh. I can stroll in with no make-up on. I could probably even get away with farting in front of him, though I’d never do such a thing. Just because I’m single doesn’t mean I don’t have someone in my life that allows me to be myself, the way everyone in a relationship claims to feel in such a distinct manner. In fact, I think there’s an even greater comfort without the pressure of a relationship. This works for me.

Why is it that if I’m 23 (almost 24 yikes) and single, I have to be labeled bitter or even worse, thirsty? Or if I’m choosing to be single, why do I have to be a commitment phoebe? Something MUST be wrong with me. I must be broken. Useless as a potential girlfriend. There’s barely anyone who supports the fact that I’m single because I choose to be while still able to appreciate a special bond with someone. We have a relationship of our own we’ve created. It may be unconventional to you, but it works just fine for me. Sure, I could totally marry that man, but I don’t want to find out until I’ve flown where I need to fly.

4 Ways Not To F*** Up Mother’s Day

Cinco de Mayo is easy to celebrate, the marketing gods have made it so. You buy a couple Coronas, dab that margarita glass in salt, and gulp away. It’s literally mindless. But there’s another holiday that creeped up on us, like way too fast. Mother’s Day.

Last year in my house Mother’s Day was a disaster. We all had fault minus the matriarch. My mami was pissed that her Mother’s Day felt so thoughtless, arguments broke out, and we ended up doing nada but fighting. Her biggest argument was that she didn’t even have a card waiting on her to wake up. My bad.

I’m honestly so not mushy when it comes to ‘special’ gifts. I start brainstorming gift ideas for Christmas in late October because it takes me just that long to figure out the right gift. Everyone drops hints about what they’d like to be gifted to them but those fly right over my head. Unless you physically show me something and say I WANT IT, I’m clueless.

I’m working on this problem.

So this year my sister brought to my attention, “What are we doing for Mother’s Day, remember last year? We gotta get it right.”

Shit.

The past few weeks amidst the end of an internship, reporting and writing for my final feature of this NYU grad course, and trying to squeeze in a mediocre amount of time to hit the gym for a boost of those things called endorphins, I’ve also been flexing my brain to think up some good ways to make my mami feel ‘special’ this year.

Here’s what I got (in case you’re bad at this too):

A CARD. This year I will not forget a greeting card. It’s the simplest part of a gift, but the one I forget to every time. As a matter of fact, I’m scouting for one of those obnoxiously large cards just to make the point that I’m trying here.

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THE MEAL. Breakfast in bed would have been my saving grace last year. Except that my mother is the first one up, and I’m a morning person but she still has me beat. But I’m a graduate student with a ton of debt, so taking the family out to a restaurant isn’t within my means. Want to make it all emotional and sappy like mom’s want? Make her the first meal she taught you how to cook. It might be the simplest meal but when you tell her the thought behind it, she’ll be weak in the knees with adoration for ya. Plus anytime she doesn’t have to cook, it feels like a holiday to her!

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An INSTAGRAM COLLAGE. Let’s be real, it’s not a celebration until there’s a collage on Instagram to prove it. If your mom is on social media like mine is, she’ll appreciate the public shout out. My mami calls likes ‘hits’ and she loves knowing how anything with her in it does in terms of said ‘hits’ when it goes up.

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THE GIFT. Never get a mom stuff for the house on Mother’s Day. It’s like saying, “Hey I really like how good the house smells so here’s some more of your favorite candles!” Fail. Moms appreciate an experience that differs from their everyday lives. If your mom is a stay at home, get her out of the house! If your mom is an out-of-home workaholic, find her some relaxing activities. My mom and I love anything entertainment. So I’m thinking some tickets to see our favorite Dancing With The Stars brother/sister duo might do the trick. Told you I’m trying to pick up on the hints!

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If you can get it together, like I hope I’m able to this year, you’re going to give mami a million reasons why she’s grateful to have put up with you all these years!