Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Top Five Reasons I've Really Loved the Last Nine Years With Isael Barreto

Look at this picture. Oct 2000.

The setting: Glorious - the sleepy, white-washed town in thebackground is La Herradura, Spain.

A small Spanish village snuggly fit in a horseshoe beach on theMediterranean Sea.

The couple: Young, hopeful and excited about the future they've just decided to spend together.

9 years, 8 months, 13 days ago - we met in the electronics department of the Best Buy on Harlem at the North Riverside mall. 13 days later I moved to Spain to live out a dream I'd been saving for and planning towards for most of 1999 and 2000. 5 weeks later, Isael joined me on the adventure. We have not been apart since.

Today - we celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Darling! It's sort of funny to say that today since we really celebrate in August - the day we met. Honestly - we've just made a habit of celebrating period. Every day. Every occasion is an excuse to have fun and enjoy one another.

So today - I give you the Top Five Reasons I've Really Loved the Last Nine Years with Isael Barreto

5. The Food - for someone who grew up with four sisters and a doting mom - this guy can throw down in the kitchen! I remember the first time he made black bean quesadillas - I wanted to marry him again.

4. The Culture - marrying my Mexican love has been an adventure in culture and understanding. My life is richer for having him, his family and his culture in it.

3. The Temperment - We are night and day. He is chill and I am nuts. He is tender and emotional and has taught me that I can be as well. He has just as much adventure in him as me so we make a great travel team. We compliment each other wholly.

2. The Kids - Emma and Evan are wonderful. They are a great mix of the two of us inso many ways. Emma with Isael's body frame and quiet yet hilarious demeanor. Evan is 100% me energy yet all boy and all Daddy. The second great loves of my life.

1. The Laughter - Not a day goes by that we don't laugh together. At each other. At others. Even in some really hard, dark times - we found ways to laugh, every day. I am laughing as I write this thinking of some of our inside jokes from the early days in Spain "Mama, bebe tiene hambre" would send us on the floor or street anytime we said it.

Thanks Isael for these great years. I love you and know that many more adventures await us.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pepsi Refresh Everything Project - TAKE TWO!

Later this week - precisely Saturday May 1 - I will turn up the noise again on my Pepsi Refresh Everything Project - Relationships Matter Now.

In case you haven't been with me - here's the deal: I have an idea to revolutionize relationships on our planet. Pepsi is giving away money for good ideas. I got my idea into consideration in the first month February and I did decent in voting reaching the top 30. In March - I started the month super strong and remained in funding contention (only top ten ideas are funded in my category) from March 1 - until the fateful day March 19 when I fell to 11 and finished in 15 place.

We took April to regroup and here two updates that will make this campaign different:


I have partnered with a well known organization (can't say who but believe me it's big - it is an established non-profit organization in over 300 communities servicing more than 2 million members at 1,778 sites in the US alone) to send out weekly reminders to their network to garner votes for my project.


In addition to my daily social media efforts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, I will be the guest on two different blog radio programs with a combined reach of over 25,000 followers of these two personalities. First on Wed May 12 and then again on Wed May 19 - I'll tweet/FB on those times so you can listen or point you to the podcasts afterwards. I am looking for other opportunities to get the word out in the regular media. Toying around with two news personalities here in Chicago that I have connections to.. will update on that soon.

The rest is up to you - the good old fashioned -word-of-mouth spreading of the the project and link. I am so appreciative of the past efforts and am counting on your diligence to push me to get the funding in May.

Here is the link - long way www.refresheverything.com/relationshipsmatternow or the shortened link http://pep.si/ap8Zao when you tweet.

If you are not following me on twitter - please go and do it now - find me under DeniseWBarreto - that way you can hear updates and get reminders to vote frequently.

Finally - I am open to any ideas you may have to help get votes to get the funding. Leave me a note here or reach out on one of the other channels of communication.

Thanks for believing in me and my idea.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Relationships: Key to "Having It All."

Wife. Mother. Marketer. Public Servant.

In that order.

That is one aspect of my brand, if you will. For me, it clearly shows the world the priorities that I must manage day-in and day-out.

Imagine my surprise when watching the ABC News Nightline Face-Off from this week entitled "Why Can't a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?" and one of the audience members said this and I quote:

"You cannot be a great wife, a great mother AND have a powerful career all at the same time. You cannot. It is not possible. I believe that anybody that thinks that 'oh I can balance that all together' is not being realistic about what it takes to do two or even one of those things well and correctly"

Go see the whole series here - You can watch this woman in segment 10, entitled "Love Will Never Go Out of Style"


This took me by surprise for a number of reasons but most of all because of all the applause of the audience at the conclusion of the statement. Generally speaking, it seemed that everyone in that audience (and some of the panelists Sherri Shepherd and Jacque Reid) all agreed with this one single mom's assessment of the situation. As a collective society, we have lost hope. We don't believe that it is possible to be married, raise a family and have a successful career.

Perhaps, I am one of those delusional souls.

Or is it possible that I have found a way to make all of the above work in a healthy way for me, my family and my employer (s). For example... Let's take a closer look at my priorities in reverse order:

I enjoy a healthy political career as an elected official for the village I live in - speaking in Central Illinois at a Parks and Recreation conference just last Thursday. I had a fantastic meeting with a community member yesterday to look at how we can work together to motivate qualified women to get involved in municipal government.

Earlier last week - I got a stellar review (in 2 out of the five ratings criteria I received 5 out of a possible 5 in scoring) and promotion in my corporate job. Meanwhile in my SPARE TIME, I am building a movement to revolutionize relationships on this planet - if you are not aware - see more here

Both my children are well-behaved and adjusted (this can be documented through their schools if you don't believe me) with my oldest getting straight As in all subjects since she's been on the letter grading system this past fall. They are also music whizzes both playing piano and my 4 year old playing guitar as well. We hang out cuddling every chance we get and they both declare that I will be their "bestest friend forever." (here is where I am delusional but leave me alone - I'll take it as long as they dish it)

My husband and I will celebrate 9 years of marriage on Tuesday and we are enjoying and appreciating one another more and more each day. We continue to build traditions and fun into our lives as a couple but also as a family. We had a catastrophic (I use this word because many people break up for much less) event in our relationship in 2008 but were gracious to one another in the eye of the storm and did not damage the relationship further with drama - we buckled down, dug our heels in, LEANED INTO EACH OTHER and worked it out. We're still working it out. We are not perfect but we get stronger with each passing day.

I am not saying all of this to brag but I am puzzled that someone out there thinks that it is "not possible" or that I am not "being realistic" to think I can be the:

Wife. Mother. Marketer. Public Servant.

In that order. And do it well.

Ultimately - it all boils down to my favorite topic: Relationships.

Self-awareness is at the core plus a clear and healthy relationship with oneself.

Hang with me, everyone. I am not saying that my Relationship Revolution (I love the sound of this) is going to solve this. However, I am certain that we will restore hope in the dream of "Having it All".

We are starting the conversation. We will raise the questions and work on the answers.

We are going to find and raise the visibility on families that are "making it work."

We are going to help people with healing and repairing broken intimate relationships. When we succeed, we are going publicize and celebrate these victories and show people that as Steve Harvey said "Love is not going out of style." Nor are thriving healthy business and social relationships extinct.

We will find companies who are progressive in their relationships with their employees (Zappos - I'm callin' your name) and enable them to raise their level of service to those employees by further equipping them to build and maintain vibrant working and personal relationships.

We are going to equip everyday people with the basic tools to pro-actively care for all relationships in their lives - starting with their relationship with themselves.

We are going to show the world that with a little consistent work and effort -you, too, can have healthy relationships, which are at the core of "Having it All."

And doing it well.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Call Yo Friends!

Yesterday was a very cool day.

First, a career move that I've been working for a few months came through officially and was announced to the masses. Two big surprises started IMMEDIATELY after the announcement was sent via email.

One, was the sheer number and sincerity of the congratulations that started to pour into my inbox. I was floored at the number of people who took the time to wish me well. THEN, my hiring manager started to share all the congratulations SHE received for snagging me on her team. REALLY? was her quote and my equal reply.

I was floored. Humbled even.

Then, last night - I had a sort of a spontaneous (you know when you get to be married with kids and activities - it's spontaneous if it is a loosely baked plan like "hey let's SAY we can do something Friday - yeah I'll call you") date night with a girlfriend.

We laughed and chatted over sushi for more than 90 minutes and did not once call home or receive a call. We enjoyed each other and barely even looked at our watches or phones to check the time.

The conversation did turn to relationships (surprise) on several occasions and it prompted this post and simple plea.


Why? It's simple.

People cannot read your mind.

People don't know how you feel about them.

People often question themselves and wonder how they are doing with you.

People need the reassurance and validation from their friends and co-workers.

Never underestimate your impact on the people in your life.

Even the people in your life who you think have it most together.

Stop what you're doing and let someone know how much you appreciate them today.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

3 Life Lessons I Learned From Mexican Candy Sprinkles

From our August 2009 visit to Mexico to our recent Spring Break trip, I'd been daydreaming about the sprinkles that were put on my fresh hotcake with cajeta (caramel) on a hot night at a feria in Zacatepec.

We all eat sprinkles - more so in the United States than even in Mexico - but these sprinkles were special. They were so good and had me drooling for months and months -7 months to be exact.

This trip I was on a mission to bring some back and On the eve of our return - My beloved found them in a dulceria (candy store) and I was sooooo happy.

I put them on the shelf in my baking cabinet right next to all the other sprinkles we have - you can see them in the plastic bag in the photo here

Here are the lessons:

1. Things that look similar are often very different - the key is recognizing the differences and acting on what you see even if it's only instincts that tell you.

When I was offered the sprinkles that first time - I almost declined them - who needs the extra sugar? - I thought. But then I stopped and looked closer - while they looked the same as the sprinkles I use to amuse my kids on cupcakes and cookies throughout the year, these sprinkles were very different in shape and texture.
And then when I tasted them - pure sweet sensations. Ummhmmm. Way better than any sprinkle I'd ever tasted before. Sure glad I looked twice.

2. Simple and Authentic trumps everything else.

The sprinkles from Mexico are sencilla (Spanish word for simple). Pure sugar with only corn starch fillers to keep them shaped and of course colors.

There is no fancy packaging with descriptions I don't understand. You can't see it well but the sprinkles in the round shake containers that I bought here in the US have no less than 12 ingredients. Yikes.

No other ingredients are necessary for these sprinkles. Smell them and its just a sugar smell even through the plastic bag you see. Smell the ones from the US and I can't describe what it smells like - but it is only faintly like sugar.

3. When something captures your imagination and sparks your passion, find ways to experience it more. Find more time to give to that discovery.

These sprinkles had me at hello. The rest of the trip in August I was intrigued but did not pursue finding them to take home.

Big mistake.

I started longing for them. Seriously, thinking every time I made frosted cupcakes - "I bet those Mexican sprinkles would be awesome on these" or "Man, these butter cookies would be more fabulous with those Mexican sprinkles."
For seven long months, I thought of them.
Setting foot in Mexico last week - I was on a tear - where would I find my sprinkles? How much were they? How many would I bring back? When is the first time I will use them? (Actually this weekend - if you're friends on FB or follow me on Twitter you'll see which treat I make them in first)

If you look hard enough, there are life lessons in all places. Even in a sweet treat from a dulceria in Morelos, Mexico.