Far From The Parenting Crowd

“I feel like she will be with us, in my heart, soon. I feel it. We will keep praying for that.”

My mothers voice is soft over the phone- it is one of my favorite things about her, this softness that comes through the middle of difficult situations, a dandelion through pavement. It is even more pronounced since I realized she was human; my mom, the person. It took me a good portion of my teens to see through the veil placed on my mother- perfect, unreachable and somehow disappointing.

She wasn’t other mothers; she didn’t always smile, she wasn’t always married, she didn’t always have endless supplies of energy, she worked a night job, she sat on sidewalks to avoid looking hungrily at food when there was only enough to feed my brother and myself, she lost her wallet (with cash in it!) more than once.

I have thought a lot on this because as part of a religious (and undocumented) community my mother was looked down for and divided because of these things, and I wonder how much of this has resulted in the things that have scarred her.

I look like my mother; our faces so similar that her friends will often times call me by her name first. Like our round faces, and wide smile, I see society slicing me with precision. I am not even a mother and the expectations are already so high.

A child went into a cage with a gorilla and people are out with the pitchforks, and I am scared for that mom and for that kid and I look at the legacy my mother has left me and see the places where said pitchforks have dragged against her soul, placed that have gone through me. This mother and child went through the traumattizing event at the zoo and now, the virtual flogging coming from the Internet.

I want to think that maybe in the depths of this there is goodness, but so far, here is the list I have compiled:

1. People are terrified.

Honestly, even though I am a country away and ignoring social media (for the most part), seeing the video of that small child being dragged by the gorilla is terrifying and a reminder that as a species (humans) we are pretty helpless.  It is terrifying in the way that death, and nature are not our underlings and will not barter with us, it reminds us that we are small and that it really all could end, like a meteor crashing against the Atlantic. I imagine that it was a personal armageddon for that mother and her response is always up for consumption as a way to distance ourselves from our own dark nights of the soul, because if it can happen to her, and we somehow make it a formula, then we can avoid that fate.

The thing with personal armaggedon’s is that they respond to no one. We are at their mercy. This woman was in a public place when it happened. It’s painful to see the violence occurring to sever her from a community that needs her not only as a reminder of their own frailty but as a way to retain its own humanity.

2. The majority of people really are not in this for Harambe.

According to the World Wildlife Federation, the biggest threats to gorillas are destruction of habitat, hunting, war, disease. Now I don’t know where you are with this but my contribution involvement in those things is exactly the same as it was pre-Harambe’s death. Harambe is dead, and that is tragic, but it means next to nothing if I am not doing anything to alleviate the causes that contribute to the death of others who have not been given a special name because they do not reside in a zoo.

3. Mothers are unprotected, black motherhood might be the least protected motherhood in the whole damn world.

Now, this, this makes me angry. I have read a few articles that state that Harambe is one of a few so he must be protected and too bad, so sad if that child died because humans are stupid and it’s their fault if they fall in to a gorilla cage. It’s always an upsetting reminder that blackness in whatever field of life must be Jesus levels of good, because otherwise its extermination can be excused away. Just ask Syria Fulton or Lezly McSpadden- an animal will always receive more justification and apologies than your own child’s humanity or your ability to be human. It’s like the wage gap, ethereally mutated: black mothers and brown mothers will have the violence that comes from moving while burdened by societal expectations of motherhood and their children will be asked as a sacrifice to satiate the beast. If you think this, please ask Jesus for forgiveness because I have none to give you.

4. This is yet another way to temporarily make ourselves feel better, at least if you view the mother at fault.

Because if you can tell yourself “I am bad, but not that bad” in some way, shape and form, you are contributing to the pitchforks. You are inflicting violence on those who are so desperately needed, not just to provide the basis of society (shout out to mothers!) but essentially on yourself, because when we shrink the margin of error from those who have so little, we are taking it from everyone. I am not a mother, but I have a mother, and the legacy of scars I have gained from her punishment still haunt me.

And that is the thing. It’s not a solitary incident, this division. If she has daughters, make mistake, you are contributing to their wounds, because undoubtedly, a lot of women see themselves reflected in the panic of that mother’s voice on the phone and the subsequent flogging that has followed. They’ve dealt with it, in ways big or small, at one point or another because a society based on patriarchal values cannot allow women the liberty to choose, learn and be protected. We ask women to provide people to form our society and leave them unprotected at every turn- we are still debating whether women are allowed to feed their children in public (i.e. breastfeeding) because women who can lactate have been denied the opportunity to exist without being sexualized from here to high heaven.

I want to think we can become a society that doesn’t just give lip service to those who are contributing to humanity by actually providing them, but one that allows mother to peacefully be humans, whether they breast feed, or loose the baby weight, or don’t always speak in soft voices to their children- even if their children somehow end in a gorilla cage.

Still, I look at my mother and her scars, and see so many of them mirror mine, and I am terrified of someday having the eyes of a daughter who will look and see how she has acquired them. It makes me wonder- how far back do they go in my family? How long until they stop? And who else is walking wounded?

Beyatitudes Day 3: Get In Formation, pt 1

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To be honest, this whole experiment in writing something every day came from experiencing (because watching doesn’t quite cut it, does it?) “Formation” a few weeks back.

That video has so much to pick apart and look at and sit with- it is the Thanksgiving of music videos. I mean, I already was pantless (#TeamNoPants) and was watching football, so, all the elements were there.

As previously stated, I feel like I owe a lot of my development as a woman to black women- feminism, that led to intersectional feminism (a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, a black woman, in 1989) that led to womanism and mujerismo.

Gloria Anzaldua, Sylvia Rivera, Sor Juana Inez, Jovita Idar, Dolores Huerta, Cherrie Moraga and so many other Latino women have been essential in conjunction to Bell Hooks, Marsha P. Johnson, Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Correta Scott King, and Kimberle Crenshaw and so many other black women.

One of my favorite lines of the entire song: “okay ladies, now lets get in formation”. There is so much to pick apart, but let me say that today, on thinking of this, my thought was that there have been ladies who have had a sisterhood between them, sewed with the thread of those who worked before them. Being in formation is about binding ourselves to each other, and an invitation to do so- a reminder that Womanism and Mujerismo and Feminismo and Intersectionality or not things you do alone, that oppression is not something you have to face on your own and that you too, can be part of a formation.

Beyatitudes Day 2: Twirl All Them Haters

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“So, would you shake Donald Trump’s hand if he tried to greet you?”

It was an honest question from my brother, while we talked about what it actually meant when my grandmother said that having manners doesn’t mean being a coward. I have made the argument that not everyone deserves my energy, not even my handshake. Aaron is softer in this regard. Yes, there are people that do not get our handshake, he says. But for him those are very few and very far between.

I have thought a lot about a softness I aspire too, this place of constant serenity and love. I am not that person, but there are days where I crave it. Maybe it is a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side equation. Maybe I think that that softness will lead to a seamless bond between me and the rest of humankind.

But maybe softness isn’t about never ruffling feathers or being unanimously loved. I am sure The Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa or Liz (my angelic, kind and loving roommate, and I am not exaggerating). Maybe it is about being at a place where you can love people but they don’t have to love you back and you are okay with that.

Lets look at this through the lens of Beyonce- here is a real life Cinderella, rags to riches, self made black woman, at the top of the game. She can release a song, unlisted (because she makes art for herself and for others, h/t Gertrude Stein) and everyone knows all the lyrics by the night. I find myself chanting “Because I slay, I slay, I slay” whenever I am scared.

Still, even when she manages to somehow be top queen and fairy godmother to her fellow WoC sisters, there are still people who would make videos and write article tearing her down. She is not here for them.

So, in my grandmother’s words- you aren’t made of money to be loved by everyone. Being soft does not mean that everyone loves you. Being loving does not mean everyone’s kind to you. You do not have to shake Donald Trump’s hand.

Just twirl on them haters.

Beyatitudes Day One: Mujerismo Is Like Pokemon

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Yeeeesss, Beysus!

I could speak English perfectly, but I was still not fitting in.

That’s the thing with language- you can speak it and the words can sound right, but if you don’t have the cultural know how, you will stick out like a sore thumb.

My case wasn’t helped by my second hand clothing or the long braid that brushed against my waist. I was a 6th grader and I felt very alone.

I don’t particularly know how it happened but two of the black girls in my classroom invited me over to step with them and became my friends. If any of y’all have ever had the pleasure of seeing me do anything with my body, let me say this: coordination is not a strength. I am hella awkward. I trip and stumble on nothing regularly and have tripped going down stairs. It is a gift.

Black women would later make different avenues of expression available to me- things like intersectional feminism, and now Beyonce.

One of the things that has made me so attached to Ms. Knowles is that I have grown with her- not just in age but in philosophy. I remember bopping my head to “No, No, No” (the remix, that part 1 was just not my jam) and I would be hard pressed to think that Beyonce considered herself a feminist. I sure as hell didn’t think of myself in that way.

Fast forward a couple of decades- she has sung about “Independent Women” and talked about Feeling herself and has boldly declared herself a Feminist and backed that up without apologies. Beyonces back up musicians are all women. Beyonce seeks out other women. Beyonce will talk about being drunk in love and about her sexuality and she does not give two craps about your opinions.

Has she misstepped? Nasty girl comes to mind, goodness, that song is a slut shaming, body policing, hot mess.

I am hard pressed to think that today’s Beyonce would sing it- not the one who would tell us about how to earn a Red Lobster meal from her.

Beyonce’s feminism- like Pokemon- has evolved. I too slut shamed other women. And then I become a feminist. And Then I became an intersectional feminist. And finally a womanist/mujerista- a philosophy that embraces the brown  and black experiences of women and that casts its net wider, and wider to reach the disenfranchised.

My am excited to see where I will be ten or twenty years down the road- and where Beyonce’s gonna take me.

The Beyatitudes: Ab Initio

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Can I get an amen?

Originally I was going to title thing “Everything I Need To Know, I Learned from Beyonce” which isn’t completely a stretch but it is a very long title and hard to fit in the blog title space, so I figured an intro post would be good.

It is Lent (starting yesterday) and this year I decided to give up electronics after 10:30 p.m. in a quest to have some quiet time to reflect on the divine. As everyone also knows, Beysus decided to bless us peons with new music in the way of Formation (praise, hallelujah!) and so as these two important events converge I have decided to write small entries on my reflections on how Yonce has managed to 1) Improve my life, 2) Improved my mujerismo and 3) has intertwined with my religious observance.

A few things worth noting:

1) While I am a woman, I am not a black woman. I understand that a lot of Beyonce’s message is for the empowerment of black American women, and while I get to enjoy and even partake in some of Beyonce’s message of girl power, I also understand that I need to take a d*mn seat when she is speaking specifically to black women.

2) As a non- black woman I will also stay in my lane when it comes to adopting any message of black empowerment, since I have a whole world who has not politicized my hair.

3) If God is in everything and everything reflect him, the obvs the fact that something so monumental is occurring is going to be viewed through

4) This is a (mostly) light hearted take on some serious ish. I am depressed. I owe a lot of my current joy to Beyonce. Come at me.

And with that, comes tomorrows Beyatitude; Mujerismo is like Pokemon.

You Too Can Be Furiously Happy

“I vowed to never take personal responsibility for other people’s spoons/attitudes/stupidity, because frankly, I have enough to worry about with my own shit”

I read that line in the middle of a hideous week and it felt scriptural.

I decided to start the challenge reading “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, an author with mental illness. I am a fan of Ms. Lawson (If you have not read anything by her, start here, you are welcome) but I was a bit hesitant to dig in since this book deals in essays of depression and mental illness.

Full disclosure: I have depression and PTSD. It is a weird thing to admit to at times, considering I am generally a very bubbly and social creature, but it is part of my daily life along with their symptoms- crying, anxiety attacks due to triggers (which include prison, and several things related to immigration), days where I couldn’t get up, nightmares and a bevy of other things.

You’d never suspect it by looking at me, but at the height of my depression (before I was diagnosed) I struggled to do basic things like feed myself or shower. My mother came to find me in a mess of a house with barely any semblance of order. It was scary but with her help- and the help of my friends and family- I started to crawl out of the hole.

I am slowly taking steps to reclaim myself. I’ve redecorated my room. My kitchen sink is regularly free of dirty dishes, and my clothes are all clean.

Ms. Lawson touches on things like these in various essays- there is a sense of repetitiveness and various themes that feel almost like the chorus of the book: depression lies (it does), there are so many others who are going through the same thing, you are not alone, your mind is playing tricks on you, your dark days are not forever. For those who may not experience any of the signs of depression it may sound like a bunch of messages you’d find scrawled across a poster of a kitten hanging on (those are THE BEST) which is basically my endorsement of the book. Everyone needs the literary equivalent of kitten motivational posters, especially if they include swearing.

The good parts of the book: Jenny Lawson is hilarious so, there is lots of comedic swearing, a dermatological equivalent of the whos of Whoville, an overjoyed taxidermied raccoon or two- lots of taxidermied animals actually- cats, various stories on side effects from medication, anxiety stories, spousal disagreements over things proper compliments, reminders that you are not alone, reminders that mental illness lies, reminders that we still need you around.

The not so good parts: It might seem repetitive in its message at parts- there were points where I went back because I wondered if I was re-reading a chapter. Please keep in mind that this is an essay collection by a humor writer with a mental illness who is open and honest about said illness and writes for other people with mental illnesses. Constant reminders of not being alone, and of the lies that mental illness will try to get you to believe are part of our very survival.

Things you need to know before proceeding: There is a lukewarm trigger warning at the beginning of her essay titled “The Fear” in regards to self-harm, so if this is is an issue for you, feel free to skip over that essay. I don’t struggle with self harm and it was still a difficult and heartbreaking read.

Furiously happy as a principle focuses on reclaiming your mental illness- Ms. Lawson posits that the depths of despair have made her path to happiness unconventional; sometimes through running through a cemetery in a red dress, buying a new taxidermied animal, wearing a realistic looking fake nipple, among other things.

I saw myself reflected in that and thought back to times when my fight for joy has looked unconventional- swimming naked with my two best friends, eating barefoot on cushions with another, random unexpected trips to small nowhere towns.

I too have been furiously happy- and you can be too.

A Quest For Normalcy in 24 Books

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Like my heart, my list has been through a lot lately.

The way I measure the quality of my writing is whether I enjoy reading it after some time has passed. Sometimes it’s a few weeks, sometimes a few years, but in the words of Gertrude Stein “I write for others, and I write for myself”.

I go back and read old stuff and in reading that stuff I noticed that I always mention how much I love books and how I never write about them and how shocking that is (also, apparently I have shoddy memory; good thing I write), so I decided that this year, I would blog about chomping through Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2016 (I always read that with an exclamation mark. It feels approp)!!!

I feel that might be an easier way to chronicle my year than, say, seeing how long I can avoid the outside world so that I don’t have to wear pants or yes, I have been crying this entire week while eating guacamole, why do you ask?

I am wading through a lot of sadness, but it is a really odd type of sadness. One where I feel as though I am existing outside of myself, that my life is not real. When my grandmother died, I remember trying to hold on to crumbs- a single strand of hair in an old comb or a much loved scarf with her scent that I kept inside a ziplock bag and tried to never open bc “the scent would escape”(I know that is some scientific b*llshit, but in my defense I was exhausted, overly emotional and not very rational). The day after she died, I crawled into her bed and buried myself in her blankets so that maybe I could absorb her somehow.

I don’t have any of that with Zion. I have less than crumbs. I didn’t see him for the majority of his life, I don’t have strands of hair, or a scent or a sound, just second hand pictures and stories and I find myself really struggling with my sadness. It’s a process for sure, another boulder in the bucket of garbage courtesy of ICE and the U.S. Government. I am pretty sure half of my U-Haul’s worth of issues can be traced back to that incident, and I don’t really know how to put myself together.

So, maybe I can fake it until I make it through stories.

I decided to make it a bit more specific, by avoiding things written by white dudes, because they already get enough of the pie and I have already read so much of them. I really want some pie now.

So, I will be keeping track on this here space, which will (hopefully) mean I update more- even if it is a blog entry that talks about crying on a bathroom floor, cereal bowl right next to me.

It’s Quiet Uptown

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When I was fighting for my right to remain in the U.S., I was introduced to Reveau, three months old and warm and I was at once lost and found. I suddenly believed in love at first sight, and I held it in my arms for a few hours as my sister-in-law, my best friend and I walked around BYU campus.

Zion happened a couple of years after that date. We were told he came with CHARGE syndrome, we were told he would be frail. I still remember my brother’s face, concerned as he said we could go in to see him-I was a ball of nervousness, scrubbing and picking under my nails with the implements provided, walking into a room that held a tiny body inside of an incubator. My hands reached inside and I found myself so profoundly lost in my love again. I wasn’t aware I could love that much.

It’s been the same story 2 more times; and even though I haven’t had the opportunity of counting little fingers or smelling baby heads like I did with Reveau and Zion, I love those four little faces. My heart at some point grew feet and arms, and eyes and had specific names all visible only when I closed my eyes- Reveau, Zion, Tristan, Liara.

I have based a large portion of my life’s purpose to be around them. They have become my anchor. For years I have operated on the knowledge that my Reveau, Zion, Tristan and Liara where going to be in a room, and that all now mysterious would be bright at last because I would get to be their aunt in the flesh, not some entity that spoke to them through computer screens, or that was delayed by the time it takes for sound waves to travel from one end of the phone to the other.

Zion has died, and I feel robbed of that.

I feel so robbed. And it is not an anger towards God, but an anger towards those people who would deem it reasonable that I be faraway for another 4 years.

I have moved, as a blur these past few days, not understanding how my body did not just wither and die because there seemed no other way to continue on. I have been a symphony of tears, with movements of crying, I have eaten out of obligation and I have sat with the reality that my farewell to that piece of my heart called Zion will not be there to touch, to kiss, to hold if and when I am finally allowed back in the States. I have spent the majority of his life away from him. I have to live with that.

I have to sit with the reality that once again, my humanity is measured and qualified by people who would deny it. I cannot board a plane to be with my brother as he mourns, I am simply to stay in my corner of the world.

I have never in my life felt so utterly alone and dispossessed.

It is a strange kind of loneliness, to witness a viewing through Skype, to see casket being lowered through yet another pixelated screen.

I don’t know what this means.
I don’t understand how caskets that small can exist.
I don’t know how the world keeps turning or people keep living when that child is gone.

I have had so many people reach out in kindness, knitting themselves into a safety net- people who have collectively scooped up the broken pieces that once made me a person.

I am slowly moving forward.
Thank you for helping.

6 years down…

nancy!

Nancy is my “Twinner”- we were both forced back to Mexico on September, 2009. She was sent back on September 1st, 4 days before I was to set foot on Mexican soil.

It’s funny (in a sad kind of way) to think that we weren’t even that far from each other- she was in Tijuana and I arrived in Hermosillo. Our sentences (because it does feel like some horrid punishment) will be up September 2019, and it’s sort of incredible to think that I have made it this long with an amputation as severe and heart breaking as being denied my family and a part of my home.

For all of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting Nancy in person, let me say that Nancy is one of the most passionate, articulate, kind, and fearless people that I know. She has made this burden so much more lighter and shown me that I was not alone. She is a go-getter, precise, ambitious. I admire so much of who she is and strives to be and I hope to be as sure of my footing someday.

In the mean time, I appreciate that I have a sister in all of this, someone who just gets this whole thing, and who looks at a calendar, and talks of anniversaries with a mixed set of emotions. For all the tears I’ve cried to Nancy, and all that she has helped me overcome, I am so grateful.

Happy anniversary dear.

#TogetherWithoutBorders

Are borders commanded by God?

        Are borders commanded by God?

It’s been a few weeks of soul searching and conversation between myself and God. During a 4 hours drive from Cancun to Merida, I took advantage of the nighttime darkness and the starry stretches of rain forest road and poured my heart out. I really, really needed a rest. I needed to feel like I too could have a space where I could join to things that are irrevocably intertwined (my spirituality and my activism). I conversed in silence for a few hours and figured that even if the prayer led to nothing, I had at least unburdened myself some.

I don’t get God’s timing, and I am not at all sure why some things take decades to be answered and some less than the time it takes to deliver pizza. This time, it was the latter- I sat with a message from someone whom I’d interacted with minimally to see a proposal to do something that built with both things on hand, and I cried. The name of it? #TogetherWithoutBorders.

#TogetherWithoutBorders is an effort to bring mercy, love and compassion to the forefront of the immigration conversation. Right now, it is a bunch of Mormons because, well, Mormons know a lot of other Mormons (especially in Utah, go figure). But how inspiring is it to see those of other faiths joining in!

As for my part, I feel gratitude and an immense sense of hope at the sight of so many faces, lovingly reaching out to those Christ protected.

The scriptures themselves are full of immigrants- from the children of Israel, to the Good Samaritan, to Lehi guiding his family out of Jerusalem, our religious traditions have a rich heritage of people who faithfully followed God where he would lead them, even if that included strange lands (Lehi), people who hated their existence (Samaritans) and wandering in the literal desert (The Children of Israel), coming to join those of their faith, or running from government persecution (pioneers).

Even Mary, had to go to a foreign land to save her small child from the unrighteous government that was massacring those like him.

I have been buoyed by the love and support of so many who have boldly drawn circles that claim me as their sister, as a worthy and full person regardless of where I was born.

And maybe, for me, that is where the biggest miracle lies- that there are those who would love me and those like me, who would see us worthy of love, and of a happiness and freedom to be ourselves. One of the most dangerous and violent things is the suffering in silence done by so many in the migrant community, scared to come out and unburden themselves by speaking out of fear of speaking to the wrong person and suffer immeasurable damage.

So, please, join me and so many others who have stated their truth, offered their hearts and friendship, and take a selfie with a message about family and keeping families together; share it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any platform of your choosing (MySpace still exists, right?) with #TogetherWithoutBorders, and you can like them on Facebook by clicking here.

So much change can be made from our individual corners- drawing circles, to keep us in.