Organic Melinda

healthy living with a Latin twist


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Day 19 – Mujeres Poderosas – Isabel Porras

To My Mini Educator,

As I write about the women that inspire me, I have noticed that many of these women are involved in higher education and community work.

Today, you get to learn about one of the coolest chicks I have ever met, Isabel Porras.

Isabel is currently completing her PhD at UC, Davis in Cultural Studies.  She was awarded the AAUW American Fellowship to complete her dissertation.   She is teaching Women’s Studies (feminist theory and sexuality history/theory).

One of the creative geniuses of the blog, http://academictyra.tumblr.com/, Isabel is a woman destined for academic and career success.

I met Isabel at an MMUF conference in Oberlin College a few years ago.  Our personalities synced together really quickly when we discussed the difficulties of being a Latina woman, an academic, and someone who also wanted to have a husband and children in the future.

It is often perceived that a woman should or could not have both an academic career and a family.  It is also very difficult for Latina women to find comfortable spaces within the academy.

Isabel left a huge impression on me when she debated with the conference staff about having gender-assigned bathrooms, which could discriminate against intersexed individuals.

There she was, with her head covered in curly locks, demanding social inclusion for all people.

Isabel is the kind of woman I want you to admire because of her holistic approach to advocacy and her determination to succeed as a scholar without compromising her beliefs.

Isabel

Starting Academic Tyra is just one of the subversive ways that Isabel contends with various aspects of academia.  She also likes to sample rap songs and make them academic and quite hilarious.

Isabel has also been a mentor, thinking tank, resource and role model for me.

When you think of Isabel and women like her, remember that you can accomplish your goals and dreams while poking fun of those who try to limit your possibilities.

Wishing you a joyous future,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 17 – Mujeres Poderosas – Kristina Hernandez

To My Darling Dove,

Spirituality is a part of us that many have come to neglect in pursuit of other things like education, money, or fun.  However, having a connection with the Most High, the Universal Everything, and the Center of All Beings is absolutely necessary to internal balance.

During my last year of college, I took shahada and studied Islam for quite some time.  That journey led me to another Mujer Poderosa, Kristina Hernandez.

I am not even sure how Kristina and I met, but we began to hang out a lot my first year of studying Islam.

Kristina doing dawah

As  a Puerto Rican Muslimah like me, it was great to be with someone who understood the difficulties of separating culture and the desire for religious practice.

We both struggled with aspects of our faith and sought to be studious in our efforts to follow the suratal mustaqeem.

Alas, I strayed as I confronted my own difficulties with religiosity, and Kristina was one of the few Muslim friends who stuck by me even as I continued to my spiritual journey.

While I could not find my own sense of peace being a devout Muslim, I was overjoyed to learn that Kristina continued her path by becoming a Muslim Chaplain at Manhattanville College.

She is, also, happily married to a man who loves her for the sake of Allah as she studies to become a dietitian.

And, like many of the women that I admire, Kristina hopes to get her PhD in Public Health in the future to do work on HIV infection in the Muslim community.

Kristina is the type of woman that you should admire because of her resilience and her ability to find her own way to worship our Creator.

She has also never been judgmental of me, and she is a testament that you can be religiously devout and be a balanced, loving, and kind human being.  You know, she is what a person of faith ought to be.

I want you to remember that spirituality and faith are important foundations of who you are and find your own path towards the Most High.

La Illaha il Allah.

Every day,

Mami Loves You

 

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 10 – Mujeres Poderosas – Mia Roman

To my Singing, Dancing, Painting Baby,

I was thinking about my childhood the other day, and trying to remember all of the women who influenced me when I was a little girl.  I was shocked to discover that no Latina women came to mind that were not directly related to me.  I only began to have Latina role models in my teenage years when I saw my history reflected in other women.

Having that realization makes it all the more important for me to ensure that you have Latina role models to look up to, and, luckily, it is Tuesday, which means you get to learn about another Mujer Poderosa, Mia Roman.

I met Mia in 2007 when I was hosting a poetry show fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in honor of Women’s History Month.

Mia was the first person to graciously donate her time and artwork to raise money for the cause.  Through our connection and commitment to the empowerment of the Latino community, Mia and I have remained colleagues.

As a painter, writer and mixed media artist, Mia explores women’s issues,  empowerment, liberation, spirituality,  nature, and Latino culture.  She also creates beautiful jewelry and other artistic pieces.

Mia painting

Mia painting

Mia’s art is strikingly beautiful, but it is her energy and constant striving towards positivity that make her an admirable woman.

While struggling with cancer, Mia turned to creative expression in order to find strength and continued faith in the world around her.  She dedicates herself to the cause of happiness.  She radiates balance and inner-peace.

Mia’s influence on me has been more as an observer throughout the past five years than as an active participant in her daily life.  It is has actually been a few years since I have seen her, but the fact that she still has such an influence on me beyond physical space is evidence to her character.

She is dedicated to informing the world on the plight of the Puerto Rican people in a way that paints us, literally, as actors in our own destiny.

Her artwork also reminds me to seek calm within myself.

Mia has been a supportive throughout my poetic career and in the work that I do with Organic Melinda.  She is committed to her community as a mother, teacher, activist, and feminist.    She is the type of woman that you should emulate and look up to, because she teaches us that we can be warriors while being gentle spirits.

Mia embodies how art saves us and why we need it in order to live a worthwhile existence.

I cannot wait until you are old enough to participate in one of her classes.

Always and forever,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 9 – You Get What You Give Out

To My Dearest Little Love,

Yesterday, I wrote to you about keeping hope alive, and, today, I tell you why it’s so important to do that.

Last night, I went to sleep with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

My anxious mind threatened to get the better half of me, but I took control of my thoughts.

I laid in bed with you on my chest and held you tight.  Breath in.  Breath out.  Breath in. Breath out.

The humming of our breaths lulled me to sleep, and when I woke up at 5:30 a.m., I checked my email and discovered that, as we slept, generous people had donated $300.00 to the gofundme campaign that I started last month for our security deposit.

About 6 years ago, I studied Islam very closely, and learned so much about the way of the universe through that spiritual exploration.

Islam teaches that you should always pray to the Creator for all that you need in your life – be it, shoes, clothes, water, shelter.

But, it is not enough to just pray. Rather, one must be working towards accomplishing what they require in actions as well.

This week, I have been doing just that.

Yesterday evening, I searched for jobs, and while the employment situation is bleak around here, it was part of building my intention.

On Saturday, I gave a presentation at a local church on healthy eating and gave out samples of green smoothies in hopes that people would be guided towards Organic Melinda and purchase a book or consultation.

But, even if they don’t purchase and benefit from the free information that I offer, at least we are one step closer towards food integrity.

Today, I woke up before the birds and the sun in order to read some anthropological articles and work on my statement of purpose to apply to doctorate programs.

I am building, slowly, the foundation which will benefit us in the long-term.

I know that while times are hard, right now, they wont always be.

Mami works hard, every day, to ensure that in the future, we shall be the ones helping those in need.

The Universe provides all that you need.

But, remember, you will only get what you give out.

Grateful for Life and Humanity,

Mami Loves You

p.s.

If anyone reading this wants to help, please donate towards our security deposit via gofundme: http://www.gofundme.com/3ysdtk

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 8 – Keeping Hope Alive

To My Darling Child,

Forgive me for the overwhelming feeling of sadness that hangs over me, today.

In 8 days, we will be without a home of our own.

Your dad will most likely return back to his mother’s home, and I will go to mine.

I fear for you a life where your parents are not under the same roof.  I fear that such distance will cause us to never reunite.

I fear a life of instability and economic hardship, but I am not giving up on our family.

Mami is trying as hard as she can, right now, to find a job, to sell copies of my book, to market, and share knowledge with the world.

I am praying, my little dove, that my good intentions will remove the stain of poverty from our lives.

Please, be patient with me when I find it hard to smile, and be ever more patient when Mami has to spend hours away from you in order to ensure that our basic needs of shelter, food, and clothes are met.

I know that this is just a bump on the road.

My PhD applications go out, soon, and, today, I work on my statement of purpose. I will do all I can to help others throughout the world overcome food insecurity.

Perhaps, this life will not be full of material riches for us, but I will, one day, provide you with a stable home, a garden where we grow our own food, and a life of love and constant support.

No matter our circumstances, I will always do my best to take care of you.

I will do all I must to provide for you.

Your smile, hugs and kisses are keeping hope alive.

Thank you for existing in my life.

Through the ups and the downs,

Mami Loves You

p.s.

If anyone reading this wants to help, please donate towards our security deposit via gofundme: http://www.gofundme.com/3ysdtk

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 7 – Capoeira Love

To My Sleeping Beauty,

It has been a long day, today, and one when I am super grateful for all that capoeira has brought into my life.

Capoeira gave me you, of course.

This morning, Mami did a presentation in Newark to inform the local community about Organic Melinda.

I had a total duh moment when I realized that most of the community in Ironbound Newark speaks only Spanish and Portuguese and all of my flyers were in English.

Note to self: Translate LIVE to Spanish.

I served green smoothies to anyone who would take them and explained my mission: to make healthy, non-gmo food available to everyone.

When that was done, I went home to take care of you. We washed clothes together and then headed to a roda with Grupo Senzala.

It was a great roda, and I got to play a lot. I thank you for your musical spirit and your patience to let mami have a fun day of capoeira.

We also went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.

As I watched people interact with you, I was so happy for you.

You get to live your whole life always knowing the strum of the berimbau, forever recognizing the beat of the atabaque and pandeiro. You will have access to axe all of the days of your life.

I hope that the capoeira community will be part of your long-term family for many years to come.

I wish for you the peace and joy that I feel with every cha-cha-ding-dong-dong.

Axe meu bebe,
Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 6 – Inner Peace

Dear Big Girl formerly known as Bite-sized Baby,

Your presence in my life challenges me, daily, to be a better woman – a more in tune with myself woman – the type of woman that I want you to look up to and aspire to be.

This journey into motherhood has been a tsunami of challenges – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially.

My pregnancy with you was a total vomitfest. It forced me to really think about every item that I would put into my body. It made me constantly consider how to ensure the best health for you.

When I birthed you, it dawned on me that I would always be responsible for your well-being, and what a task that is.

My entire mental state had to shift from being a driven, all-about-me career woman to a glowing post-partum baby-focused human being.

There were moments and continue to be moments when my faith has dwindled.

I battled post-partum depression after your birth – unable to understand the shift in my life or how to transition.

And, of course, the fact that Daddy and I both lost our jobs shortly following your birth has caused enormous strain on us, because we want to provide for you so much more than what was made available to us.

I was raised in the stronghold of poverty, watching my mother cry over bills – overwhelmed by debt, and how often, I wonder, did she sleep without eating a meal.

I remember feeling like a financial burden. At times, I wondered if my own death would be the solution to her problems. If I were not around, would she have less debt? But, then she’d have to be pay for a funeral, so, perhaps, not.

After living a life of such financial strain, I believed, firmly believed, that getting a college degree would be the end of poverty.

But, it was not.

Still, we struggle, and as we lose the roof over our heads because we just cannot make rent anymore, somehow, your presence in my life has brought me a sense of peace and purpose.

Of course, you were always meant to be my daughter.

Many, many years ago, while I was in prayer, I had a vision of my daughter, and you have her eyes. You have the fire and energy that I had long imagined my daughter would, one day, possess.

You were a prayer answered when I was undergoing the stress of leaving my doctorate program because I could not marry a dissertation project.

I recall, vividly, myself in the shower with my hands cupping the water, “Dear Creator, make my purpose known to me. I beg you.

Less than 2 months later, I was pregnant with you, and I was sure that my prayer had been answered. I knew that your presence in my life would be the catalyst for change.

And, though, at times, I long for the independence I once had before becoming a mother, I realize that it has only been the case because I had lost faith in myself and the natural order of who I am.

Yesterday, after a long conversation with a friend, it dawned on me that my lack of inner peace, lately, was because I did not trust that you would be okay in a new environment without my presence.

I began to pray on it, as my friend had suggested.

I spoke to you.

Baby girl, mami wants to do capoeira, so I am going to leave you in daycare, okay? I will be back in just an hour, so, please, be a happy girl for me.

I try to be ever so mindful of the words I use when I talk to you. I don’t want to speak anxiety into you.

With the prayer said to you, I brought you to the gym daycare, for the first time, while I did capoeira, and you did not even shed a tear. When my class was done, I stood outside and watched you. There you sat, quietly observing the world around you. I was so proud of both of us.

I want you to always know that it is important to take care of yourself, to stake claim on the time that you require to be in balance with your inner truth.

Even in the throes of financial instability, while facing homelessness – inner peace and calm can be achieved.

It’s all about how you choose to see the world.

Remember to always affirm your existence.

The Creator’s infinite wisdom birthed you, and I became a vessel for your life.

Have faith that, through all of our days, you will teach me just as much, if not more, than I will teach you.

I know that together, with deep and unconditional love, we will always make it through.

Always know that I wanted to birth you.

Of all of the gifts I have received, you have been the greatest blessing, because you push me to be more than I ever imagined I could be.

With deepest gratitude,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 5 – Mujeres Poderosas – Jessica Flores-Davis

Dear Baby Warrior Spirit,

Today, you get to learn about another incredible Mujer Poderosa, Jessica Flores-Davis.

Jessica Flores-Davis

Jessica Flores-Davis

I met Jessica when I was just 15 years old and a sophomore. At the time, she was my Social Studies teacher at Science High School (Newark, NJ).

It’s pretty amusing to travel back to that time, in my head, and remember the obnoxious teenager I must have been.

My first memory of Jessica (or as I called her, then, Ms. Flores) is of her standing in the front of the classroom wearing green khakis and a black quarter-sleeve shirt.  Her bare forearm revealed a tattoo with a fire symbol on it.  Her hair was long and tied back at her neck. Her face adorned with black thick-framed eyeglasses.

We opened up our books, and she began to teach United States History from a completely different place than I had ever been exposed to before.  Ms. Flores along with Mr. Christian O’neal (RIP) absolutely laid the foreground for the scholar that I am, today, and for my love of the social sciences and research in general.

So, back to the class – It had been my experience prior to attending Science High that history was just BORING. I thought it was a giant snooze fest. Why? Because it had nothing to do with me or my experiences.  All I had ever read about were a bunch of dead Europeans and how they “conquered” (read: colonized) the world.

Almost all of the history lessons I ever received, including in most high schools and colleges, is about the supposed greatness of the U.S. and Europe.  I learned nothing about Latin America, Puerto Rico or the Caribbean. I learned even less about the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe.

The only time I learned about non-Euro-American peoples, as a student, was when they became the “enemy” of the “Allied” Forces.

But, Ms. Flores’ class was different.  She began our very first class, not in Europe, but in Native America.

This was a radical shift from everything I had been exposed to, and for the second time in my life, I wanted to learn history. (The first time was during Mr. O’neal’s World History class my freshman year of high school.)

I absorbed her lessons and began to do my own research.

She went beyond the standard, “In 1898, Puerto Rico became a commonwealth of the United States,” and actually explained how that had occurred.

Even more profoundly, it was because of Ms. Flores that I learned about the Young Lords Party – a revolutionary Puerto Rican organization – that would become the focus of my undergraduate research.

Ms. Flores’ lessons helped to include people of color into the fabric of American history.

She, unlike many of her current and prior colleagues, has dedicated her life to ensuring that students of color in her classes learn their histories.

Beyond the classroom, she was a constant mentor and helped me decide on what to pursue as a college student.  She was often there for me during my high school years to support my intellectual journey and mediate my personal difficulties.

She continued to be a mentor while I was in college, and, even now, she remains a friend and colleague.

Ms. Flores epitomizes the essence of a great teacher, and I remember her most for her spirit.

J-Flo, as I later came to call her, always looked like she was ready to go to war – intellectually and literally, and that is what makes her una Mujer Poderosa.

 

Dedicated to Your Future Always,

Mami Loves You

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About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 1 – While You Sleep

Dear Beautiful Child of Mine,

As you sleep, the sun blazes on the horizon of a new day.   The summer warmth gives way to the piercing chill of autumn’s winds. Another season to witness your life – when the trees will sing and leaves turn orange and brown flowers.

Today, we remember our ancestors – the brave souls who sacrificed so much for someone to conceive of such a thing as Latino Heritage Month (or Hispanic Heritage Month, whichever moniker you will come to prefer).

As I write, I wonder if there will even be such a need for a month designated to what is perceived to be a minority group.  For when you are my age, I pray that the world would have long since forgotten or, at least, abandoned these ridiculous notions that we are ALL anything other than human beings.

You are 10 days shy of 18 months old.  Every day, you blossom.  As you grow and learn, I feel mixed emotions – joy, frustration, excitement, fear, and complete awe.

Yesterday, you climbed on top of Daddy’s computer chair on your own as I was in another room.  There you are, already establishing your independence and your desire to explore what you have yet to experience.

It seems like so many moons ago when my life was not enveloped in the quiet breath of your rising chest or the curly tendrils of your, yet growing, hair.

I learn so much from every moment that I spend with you – understanding the deeper meaning of words like love, patience, and loyalty.

I look forward to the lives we will share together – to backpacking journeys from Chile to Mexico – walking, biking, and riding through the streets of Brasil, Argentina, Colombia, Belize, and Nicaragua.

One day, soon, I will take you to the land that birthed our ancestors – Boriken (Puerto Rico) – home of the Enchanted Gods.

There, we will visit the beaches of Loiza – adorned in white skirts – dancing, clapping, and singing to bomba and plena beats of freedom.

You will swim in the beaches of Aguadilla, climb the mountains of El Yunque, touch the bioluminescent bays of Vieques, and I will teach you of great fighters – Albizu Campos, Lebron, y muchos mas.

We will light candles for our Taino ancestors and the children of Ponce, sing psalms for our African ancestors and the people of Vieques, and learn to forgive our Spanish ancestors for the hurt and pain that they brought to Latino America.

Through forgiving the colonial past, my dear, we will be able to move forward and be defined, not by the horrors of what once was, but by what we can become.

I cannot yet imagine what will be of Boriken when you are my age – independence, statehood, or still a commonwealth?

Will you be like your mother was, in my youth, ready to fight for all of the oppressed peoples in the world?

Or, will the world be a safe place for you than it is now?

I pray so much for the later.

I want to envision a world for you where conscious thinking has become the norm, where people help each other just because – a world with trade and barter and kindness.

I want for you a world where all actions, thoughts, and processes are determined, first and foremost, by deep feelings of love.

Signed always,

Mami loves You

—-

About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You.  In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, click here: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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About New Series – Mami Loves You

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You.  In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, click here: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.