mamihood

la Mapu horseback riding in Puerto Aysen

Daughter of the Earth : Mapupüñeñ

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My first born has returned from a visit to the country she left when she was a growing secret inside of me. When I left her at the airport On Christmas Eve, I worried like most mothers would. It was her first international trip. She couldn’t be bothered to learn Spanish including key phrases I made her write over and over in her journal like “I’m in trouble please call my father,” much less Chilean colloquialisms. She didn’t read Chilean travel books or Chilean history. My partner made her read an essay about returning to Chile by an exile who left during the Pinochet dictatorship and my heart sank, I felt like a failure when the question she left with after reading was “Who is Pinochet?”. I felt less worried about the logistics when she messaged me via Facebook from the plane, impressed with the little details of international travel many take for granted, like real airplane meals, separated into neat little sections and wrapped in plastic, free headphones, a pillow, blanket, and an eye mask. My partner scoffed a little when I shared this detail with him. Like he saw her as not worldly enough. “Jibara” my mom and sister would say. I thought it was sweet. It made me remember my first international flight and my own fascination with these same little details. When I woke up at 4 a.m. Pacific Standard Time and saw that her plane landed and that she made it through immigration quickly. I confessed to someone I work with that I worried about her being let into the country. I worried that since she is only 17 they would question why she was traveling by herself. I worried they wouldn’t believe that she was there to see her father whom she hadn’t seen since she was a toddler. I was worried they wouldn’t believe she was meeting an entire side of her family she has only known through occasional internet photos and carefully dictated anecdotes.

Then I worried about her feelings. What is it like to spend every day with a man who is your father but who hasn’t been present throughout your life? What is it like to travel through a country that is part of your DNA but you have had no connection to except in Violetta Parra songs sung to you as lullabies? What is like to travel into the campo where your arrival will be greeted by the killing of a sheep in your honor and where you have to navigate your head, heart and tongue around Spanish, English, and Mapundungun? Soon the pictures came. Snapshots of her sitting in a dimly lit room in Chanquin around a table. She is sitting there with her grandfather, her great uncle and two great aunts. They are all the same shade of reddish brown, the color of earth, Mapu. Mapuche, people of the earth. They are drinking tea and there is dried meat on the table. In other pictures her father helps her with her life vest for a rapid rafting trip down a river in the Patagonia. Her grandfather looks on. There are more touristy shots, her on the beach in Viña del Mar, riding the funicular in Valparaiso, the Santiago Metro Map, her walking in a forest in Puerto Aysen. Aysen is her middle name and she is there, on that earth, Mapu.

As the weeks went on I was irritated by messages from her father who noticed things I have lived with for the last 17 years, like how she needs to be reminded to shower. Welcome to parenthood I thought wondering what I was expected to do from thousands of miles away.
“Take a shower” I texted. I could feel her roll her eyes at me and at her father.
When my partner, his son, Poroto and I picked her up at the airport yesterday she was tired but seemed happy. Would you go back? I asked. She said she wasn’t sure. I’m sure it was/is alot to process. I asked questions gently. How was your grandmother with you? What were your cousins like? Did you learn any Mapundungun? All she could remember was the word for crazy. I wonder if that is because it’s how she felt, a little crazed by it all. I know I would. But she was happy to share. She emptied wool bags gifted to her by her great aunts. They were filled with tiny paper tickets from the micros in Viña and Valparaiso, seashells from Chanquin, and a brochure from la Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s home in Valpo, and jewelry her grandparents gave her. Earlier this evening she shared more pictures of her rafting, horseback riding, kayaking, flying over the 11th region of Chile in a tiny plane, and more mundanely, petting her father’s cat, Orejas. In all the pictures she is clearly happy, smiling, laughing. That is how I want her always.

Lessons from an Undergrad Women’s Health Class : I’m guilty

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One of the general education requirements involves me taking a health class. So, this semester I have been taking a women’s health class.

Twice a week at 9 am I file into a usually stuffy room with my classmates, primarily young Latinas.

At first I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the instructor was a woman of color. That sigh was very short lived.

While much of the class so far has focused on emotional, mental health and self improvement, I often find myself wonder in my women’s health class if I’m in class or a 1950’s sex ed class strongly emphasizing the gender binary and Christian morals.

According to my teacher, a woman of color, men and women act in very prescribed ways and relationships between the genders (she sees only two) are good if each understands how the mind of each innately function.

Some examples of things she has said:

Women are good multi-taskers.

Women naturally nag and this hurts the self-esteem of men.

Men are simple.

Women are complicated.

Women are so hormonal

women are so insecure

Women need women friends because you can never be sure that a male friend doesn’t want to sleep with you.

While my teacher hasn’t outright expressed her religion, it’s obvious where her values are. She has shown “motivational” videos that teach the value of positive thinking even in tough circumstances. While none of the videos mention God or Jesus, the organizations that put out the videos are all Christian like the Foundation for a Better Life.

Some other messages I have heard in class:

Sex before marriage is a mistake.

Sexual pleasure has no part of self-worth

I don’t know how many young single moms there are in my class. I know I was a young single mom and even though I have been at the mami’hood things for a while, her messages to young moms struck me.

In one class the teacher said that being a young unmarried mom is a mistake but those that fell or fall into that category shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much.

“It’s spilled milk,” (no pun intended on her part – I think)

In the last class I attended ( I skipped a class to watch my little one receive a medal for getting on the honor roll ) she said

“Do things right, do not give your body if you are not married and if you are guilty – we’re not here to judge you.”

So children of unwed moms are accidents to be “cleaned up”.

I and many others “did things wrong” and are “doing things wrong” by having sex outside of marriage.

But my guilty ass shouldn’t feel judged.
Great messages for young women no?

Retail Makes Me Cry

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A few weeks ago, for my NYRIcan in LA column, I wrote about how my retail gig in a major department store necessitated an additional shift in my identity and how unhappy that makes me. What I didn’t share was just how unhappy it really makes me. Last week I spent nearly an entire morning sobbing before heading into downtown for another shift. This morning, I cried again while having a conversation with my pareja about my limited options as a college dropout and my frustration at seeing others get jobs I feel qualified for.

My pareja blames my lack of focus since I moved to Los Angeles and he’s right in some sense. The truth is that I feel like now I juggling more than I did when I was single back in NYC. There’s more housework including laundry and cooking. More house responsibilities like repairs which means more house costs to pay exterminators, electricians, gardeners, contractors. I work anywhere from 22-35 hours a week in retail earning a dollar an hour more than California minimum wage. I write a column twice a month and contribute five to six posts a month to a political blog. I tutor 2-5 hours a week. I pay for the bulk of the groceries, the house gas bill, and student loan debt from a college I dropped out of. I care for my two kids the best I can, trying to keep up with their homework assignments and sending the youngest to an after school program so I can work later shifts. There are many nights I come home and the younger one is already asleep. Yes, I am very distracted and the truth is I’m also very depressed.

I don’t expect a ton of sympathy. As my pareja points about often, most people hate their jobs. And I’m very privileged. I live in a house. I have access to food. I am relatively healthy. But yes I would like some sympathy or at the very least some understanding and support. The truth is that I feel like I am doing less writing than ever. My loyalties are stretched thin with work and family relationships taking priority. But I remember when blogging was right up there. When I considered it work even if I wasn’t getting paid. I remember when with less I felt like I did more, including volunteer work. Now I feel like I have more but am getting less.

I see projects like Fem Future and lifestyle bloggers getting non-profit gigs while I get passed over for a local writing gigs and non-profit work that would leave me feeling more human than retail work does. And it makes me feel horrible. Like no matter how much work I have done online, for magazines, websites etc, it’s still not good enough because I don’t have a college degree.

The other day a customer I was ringing up told me, “I know times are tough but you shouldn’t be here,”. I wanted to kiss him and slap him at the same time. He was right. I shouldn’t be there but not because I’m any better than any of my co-workers and certainly not better than my mother who raised my sister and I while working retail, only just retiring less than a year ago. I’m no better than some of my dear friends who work retail. I just don’t want to be there.

Retail kills my energy and brain cells. I will admit to not wanting to write about an eight hour shift on my feet. In fact I don’t want to do anything after working. I especially don’t want to talk to people after making small talk, making change, and taking payments with a forced smile. I can see why my mother and so many others zone out in front of the tv after work. Anything to escape until the next shift begins.

But there I am and there I will be until something “better” comes along that hopefully will make me happier or at the very least cry a little less.

Not Gifted Nor Talented but sure as Hell Brilliant

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Last week I took the ChileRicans to Los Angeles for Easter Break and to meet their soon to be house and hood in City Terrace. Meanwhile in New York City, life went on. At least to the extent that the New York City Department of Education sent out the results from Gifted and Talented Testing.

Now, I didn’t take this test too seriously. Poroto, had just turned five when the exam was given in January and had been in a two and a half hour a day Pre-K public school class for less than four months. We did one practice test so that she wouldn’t be surprised and that was it. I didn’t stress about the first of many test she would be subjected to in her academic career. In fact, I felt kind of fucked up about my decision to sign her up for the test. Was I one of those mothers? You know the kind who worry about if their pre-schooler will get into an ivy league college.

I’m not really one of those mothers but the sad truth is that the current education system requires our children to participate in high stakes testing in order to advance so I saw no harm in introducing her to the idea of testing in as stress free a way as possible. Which wasn’t that possible.

Do they want me to read? I don’t know how to read.
Do they want me to write? I’m just learning to write my name.

These were the questions 5 year old Poroto wanted to know. When I assured her that she didn’t have to read or write, just answer some questions, look at pictures, and puzzles, she was OK. It helped that her closest friends were also taking the test. One of these friends was being prepared quite extremely. After drop off when her mother and I would walk a little together, she would ask what preparations I was engaging in with Poroto for the test. When I told her we weren’t really, she seemed shocked and then began to list all the books her and her husband were using and how they had spent $500 or so on test prep materials. Wow. Even if I took the test as a serious determining factor in the future of my kid, I certainly did not have $500 to spend on test prep materials. Hell I don’t even have $500 in the bank.

Test day itself was uneventful. Poroto wasn’t nervous when a stranger to her teacher took her in a classroom in an unfamiliar school. I think the parents who sat in the auditorium were more nervous. I typed away on my laptop watching the minutes and the doorway. By the time she came back, her father had joined me in vigil and he took her for their usual weekend visit and business carried on.

Was the test hard?
Do you think she did well?
Did they tell you the results?

The $500 test prep parents asked me the Monday following the test. I didn’t have much to tell them since I hadn’t seen the test, hadn’t pressed Poroto for details or asked if any of the questions confused her. I wanted the experience to be a Saturday morning activity. As for the results. Well those wouldn’t come in the mail for months and I was not going to be waiting by the mailbox for them either.

Last week I received an email informing me that Poroto had not qualified for placement in the gifted and talented program. I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell her father. They wouldn’t know what it meant or didn’t mean anyway. In fact, aside from a tweet I made yesterday, I haven’t told anyone till now. I sure as hell didn’t tell the $500 test prep mother who told me how her daughter had been offered placement and now her dilemma was if she should send her 5 year old to attend kindergarten in a top yet controversial school in Manhattan, an hour’s commute away, or stay at a closer school with a good reputation. I reassured her that with support and love her child would turn out fine regardless of where she went.

You have a point

I have a point.

This afternoon, as I made last minute suggestions to nervous 3rd, 5th, and 8th graders on the eve of their state-wide high stakes English Language Arts exam, my five year old was making a model of the life cycle of the butterfly out of this sticky slime she received in one of her Easter baskets. She proudly explained the egg, the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly in all it’s slimy glory displayed on a wood table that would certainly be stained.

My point exactly.

Mami’hood Lessons : Delayed Gratification

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An important lesson for kids as they move out of toddlerhood and into preschool age is delayed gratification. You can’t always get what you want when you want it. This has been a hard lesson for the five year old in the Mala household. My constant single mami work from home presence has come to mean that most of the time Poroto gets what she wants when she wants it. It also mean that I am a horrible disciplinarian and boundary maker. If I’m writing and poroto wants to play, I’ll usually hit save or put down the pen and play. If I’m tutoring and she wants a snack or a drink, I will continue my lesson on solubility while preparing a bowl of cereal or sticking a straw into a juice box. Hell even my 14 year old has come to think that I am always available. When he comes home from school and I am tutoring she will announce how her day went, ask for a snack and to use the computer. I usually pee, shower and shit with the bathroom door open so I can field questions from my kids. I don’t have a separate office space I can lock myself into when I am on deadline. I’ve really failed at setting and sticking to boundaries and teaching my kids that they are not the center of the universe.

Amazingly, my children’s expectations of getting what they want, when they want it at home, hasn’t transferred itself into their classrooms. I will admit that I wasn’t so worried about it when my now 14 year old started school. She has a fairly chill personality and a go with the flow attitude. My now five year old is a different story. Before she started Pre-K, I imagined getting an endless stream of teacher’s notes and phone calls. I envisioned dreading parent teacher conferences and getting called into the principal’s office. I underestimated my energetic five year old’s ability to distinguish between someone who wasn’t playing like a teacher and someone who wouldn’t follow through, like me. My five year old is thriving in Pre-K. She follows directions, plays well with others, and moves from one activity to the next with ease. Once she comes home however, it’s a completely different story. So maybe her bubbly personality isn’t the problem but my inability to hold firm is.

Growing up there were a ton of boundaries set up for me. Most of them relating to expectations around grades and privileges. As long as I did well in school and stayed out of trouble, I could hang out and do other things. It helped that I liked school and studying. Yes, I was a nerd and was rewarded for that. But there were also boundaries that didn’t make sense. Like how my sister was allowed to throw violent tantrums that disrupted my sleep and ability to do homework to the point that I had to move out. There were guilt trips for writing instead of accompanying my mother on walks. I witnessed boundaries being set out up in front of me to respect but I was never allowed to create my own or taught how to do that. So no has been the hardest word for me to utilize. I take on too much. Swallow too much. Allow my time, space, work to be disrespected and I’m teaching it to my kids. Not a good pattern.

I especially allowed many boundaries to be ignored in most of my past romantic relationships. Wanna call me drunk at 3 am? Sure I’ll wake up and spend hours on the phone with you even though I am a single mami to two kids and have to wake up early to take them to school. Want me to do some work for you for free and without me getting any credit or acknowledgement? OK because I want to show how much I love you and respect the work that you are doing. This goes double if you are a radical man/woman of color. I will then seethe silently and quietly mourn the death of my own creative work.

I am trying to change that pattern in my current romantic relationship. When my partner and I are in different time zones, which is most of the time, it’s easier to demand respect for my boundaries. I can slip into my routines of writing and mamihood. I go to bed early and wake up early. Sometimes this means conversations are hurried and light. We are both busy people with commitments and we respect that. Sometimes there are moments of jealousy or neediness on both sides but we work through them. And I will admit that I still ere on the side of sacrifice meaning interruption in the name of a good relationship, which is not a good habit. When we are in the same time zone it gets tricky. I usually feel so bad about all the time we are apart that when I am out of town visiting him or he is in town visiting me, I drop everything. I don’t write everyday. I try and tutor less even though that is my main source of income. I feel like I have to entertain my partner constantly and be accessible all the time. Instant gratification.

But what happens when you have an adult who wants instant gratification and a five year old who wants it too? I felt like I was smack in the middle of this question during my partner’s last visit here. It was a slice of semi-reality. My older daughter was away with my mom and sister but I was full time parenting my 5 year old. My partner, who is a great father to his own teen son and amazing with my 14 year old, has some work to do with my five year old. I feel like he’s not used to an energetic five year old and he’s not used to dating a single mami. Hell people I have dated have no idea how to handle the single mami thing, especially regarding how much time and energy it takes to solo parent. I also know that it is really hard for me to accept help and experiencing him set boundaries with my five year old drove me to tears at times. OK many times. To me a lot of the boundary making felt harsh and made me feel like a shitty mother. I mean you’ll have to excuse me, the current election cycle has made the fitness of single mothers into a national issue (again) so I’m admittedly sensitive about that. Plus I’m not sure that any of us : my partner, my five year old, and me, have really figured out how our new family configuration will look like and how that getting to a good place for all of us will be a learning process that will take each of us out of our comfort zones. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson in delayed gratification.

Here’s to working towards loving endings.

Single Mami’hood and Sexuality Under (Wed)lock & Key

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Yesterday two states, Michigan and Arizona, held their Republican presidential primaries and my womb apparently is on the campaign trail. At the last GOP debate in Arizona, all of the candidates took a lot of time to blame single mothers, especially brown single mothers, for many problems in the United States. The mainstream media, including a front page New York Times article, has fallen in line attacking single mothers of color and our kids for the poor state of the economy, crime, failing schools and the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran. Ok maybe not what’s happening in Iran but the arguments are just as ridiculous.

This revived attack on brown single mami’hood is just another front of a war of anti-Latino sentiment. It’s root is that same that led to anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 in Arizona and HB 56 in Alabama. It doesn’t take a big leap to move from targetting anchor babies to calling my being a single mother of two a “social catastrophe”. It’s not hard to say that poor brown people with uteruses shouldn’t choose the type of families they want to create when in some states it has already been determined what books shouldn’t be put in the hands of our youth.

As Bianca Laureano points out one of her recent RH Reality Check columns, the cultural and sexual habits and values of Latin@s are still read through old, racist narratives like Oscar Lewis’s La Vida and  Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s The Negro Family. Rich Lowry, who was given a whole page to trash brown single motherhood in the same issue of TIME that highlights the power the power of the Latino vote, cites the Moynahan report as just the beginning of how a problem of “the underclass” (people of color) has climbed outside the realm of race. In other words, brown loose morals are catching. According to the editor of the National Review (full disclosure : I went to high school with the online editor of the NR), us poor, people of color just aren’t following the example of the upper classes who cling to marriage as a class rite of passage. Marriage, according to Lowry, is a way to climb the social ladder, if only we poor single moms would get on that ladder and find ourselves a good man. Lowry goes so far as to suggest a public service campaign in favor of marriage mobility with First Lady Michelle Obama as its spokeswoman.

There are quite a number of problems with the arguments presented by Lowry and by all who point to single mamis as the downfall of modern society. The whole family model relies on the invented notion of a whole, nuclear family that only really exists in the realm of 1950’s sitoms. I took enough sociology and history classes to know that The good ole days were never that good. The family model we are expected to aspire to leaves out extended families and families of choice including LGBTQ families. The assumption is that because I don’t have a ring on my finger that my kids are not inside a warm, loving home with multiple people caring for them. It assumes that the only legitimate relationship comes with a certificate. It assumes that it is better to be in marriage that contains violence than it is to be single it also assumes that women of color don’t have a right to control their sexuality.

It’s not that women of color have more sex than white women, it’s that the state has always intervened to control when and under what circumstances we will have sex and what the outcomes will be. Slavery, sexual violence via colonialism, forced sterilizations, rape, forced abortions, forced child birth, childbirth in chains, non-consensual medical prosedures and experiments have all been used as ways to control our allegedely uncontrolable sexuality. Women like me, unmarried women who haven’t achieved a certain academic or economic status, women who aren’t white – well we are just expected to keep our knees locked unless told or forced to do otherwise. Enjoyable sexual experiences are not for us.

We, women of color are blamed for having children out of wedlock and then having those children have more children. Forget the fact that according to a recent report by The Guttmacher Institute
the teen pregnancy rate dropped by 37% among Hispanics. The fact that the rates of teen pregnancy among black and Hispanic teens remain 2–3 times as high as that of non-Hispanic white teens isn’t blamed on a failing healthcare system or a failing education system (have you seen what passes for sex ed?). It’s blamed on our hot blooded culture. A large body of research has shown that the long-term decline in teen pregnancy, birth and abortion rates was driven primarily by improved use of contraception among teens. But instead lawmakers like Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) want to pass laws that limit access especially to poor people of color.

I am sure that many would love to use my picture, my life, my story as a poster for what not to do. A Nuyorican twice single mami, without a college degree, struggling financially. It’s easy to give a white man like the editor of the National Review a page in a major magazine about my poor values than to ask someone like me how I am making it. It’s easier to have a major magazine run a feature on how important my vote is as a Latin@ than to confront the reasons why my vote is more important than my right to decide when and what goes in or comes out of my body. It’s easier but that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean that while people are trying to lock my knees together, I should lock my lips.

Checking in

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I have not been doing as well as I would like when it comes to my personal goals in this new year. So far I am finding myself coming up against the same frustrations of not enough quiet time in this very crowded two bedroom apartment. My very soon to be five year old is as energetic as ever and that wonderful, curious energy is demanding. My teen has her own demands, as does my mother, especially as we balance cooking, cleaning, and caring for each other’s feelings as we deal with some tough issues in the family. My dear baby sister, whom I love, has her own demands and she doesn’t even live here.
I haven’t been writing like I should, like I promised myself I would.

I have taken some time to assess some these frustrations and how many of them are of my own making. I am not good at saying no. I am not good at drawing lines around my needs. Watching my mother in her role of information carrier regarding the state of my very sick aunt, I can easily see where I learned this behavior. We give until we are so emotionally exhausted that we shut down and shut out.

For me alot of this comes from feeling like I don’t deserve to take space/time for myself. I placed myself in this role of young single mother twice so I should deal. What the role of a big sister/older daughter is and should do is followed as if in a script, not according to my vision of how these positions should play out in a way that feels good. I even see it in my relationship with my partner. A few weeks ago it actually pained me to tell him I couldn’t do something because I was writing. I actually apologized and even as I did it it felt excessive and unnecessary.

Awareness is only one part of this. Changing patterns and rebuilding relationships around a different way of playing your roles in life is a completely different matter. I am working on it.

Reading and Writing

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My four year old is learning to read and write. A few months in Pre-K has made her interested in identifying the letters of her name, her sister’s name, my name. My journals and and notepads and filled with scribbles that look more and more like letters and words. Sometimes in between the letters are stick figures which together, in preschool hieroglyphics, tell a story.

I visited Poroto’s classroom yesterday and was impressed with ho quickly a group of 14 4 year olds adapted to new routines including sharing lunch at a communal table, borrowing books from the library, helping new classmates find their cubbies. There were of course things I didn’t like – like the counting of children by their assumed gender- it’s amazing and scary how quickly children are taught to identify themselves into two neat categories.

In this period of transition I feel like I’m learning how to read and write again as well. I am struggling with finding space and time to write. Despite the fact that my mother’s apartment is bigger than what Casa Mala was, the actual space to be creative- the quiet needed- has been hard to come by. I blame the additional distraction that cable tv offers everyone, myself included. I do have a dedicated desk space, something I didn’t have at Casa Mala. It’s been helpful as new opportunities to write for major publications open up. I’m still trying to organize myself. Many of my books are still in bins and will likely stay there until this transition shifts into another one.

There isn’t anyone to show me the new routines though. No one to hold my hand and no one to celebrate the letters of my name and what they create and will create. I have been creating alot lately – controversy, poems, performances. I’ve reclaimed writer as I try and claim space.

But I’m still learning to read and write and translate the signs the universe is whispering to my soul.

Sin Llaves

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Handing over those three metal keys, separated for the first time in five years, from a family of keys that included the keys to my mother’s apartment where I work and the key to my pareja’s house on the other side of the country, felt like a defeat. It felt like an acknowledgement of my failure as an independent adult woman. It was ad admission of my inability to keep a roof over my daughters’ heads. I walked down a street, that wasn’t particularly a beautiful street, it was crowded with garbage and people, and tears filled my eyes. I had walked down that street so many times in my life. When I was in High School, I walked down that street in the opposite direction, to the house where I lived with my father, his wife, and her daughter. Back then the Italian immigrants had (grudgingly) made room for the Dominican immigrants. Five years ago, I was 7 months pregnant, and I moved into my tiny one bedroom, with my then partner and my daughter. That street was no filled with Italians, Dominicans, and Mexican families. I knew every shop keeper and would wave and saludar a medio mundo everyday.

Three years ago, when we broke up, I was determined to keep my little apartment, with it’s leaky ceiling, loud neighbors, and occasional mice. Two days ago, I felt like I had surrendered.

My landlord and I parted ways with a chorus of apologies. They never did fix the leaks. I never seemed to be able to pay my rent on time and I bounced alot of checks.
“You’re a nice lady”, the husband of the husband and wife team told me.
And I left thinking they were a nice couple and in many ways they were. They never threatened to evict my little family, even as the rent came later and later and then in pieces.

On my ride on the 7 train to my mother’s, where I have temporarily moved my family into, I fell into deep sobbing surrounded by two big shopping bags of the last items that slept in Casa Mala : A vejigante mask, a box of chocolate cake mix, a Piri Thomas cd, among other things.

I don’t have keys to a home that is truly my own. In many ways I never did. I didn’t own the space that once was casa mala. Why do we even feel like we need to have/own space as opposed to share space? What is it about this place/country/society that makes it feel dirty to return to living with an extended version of family? Independence is praised and interdependence is looked upon as deficiency. Clearly I internalized some of these messages myself, even as I opened up casa mala to numerous friends.

There’s an overused saying about one door closing and another one opening. A donde los llaves que me quedan me llevan.

When Two Hours Isn’t Enough

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The kids just had their first full week in school. Poroto’s Pre-K is now a full two hours and 10 minutes and I didn’t write one damn post on this personal blog.

What the fuck? What happened to my euphoria, my joy, my looking at this extra time as a blessing and a gift?

Well I got a cold for one and having a cold while mami’ing, and tutoring and trying to maintain a long distance relationship means my ass was more tired than usual and no one wants to sit next to the sick girl in the cafe.

But I also will admit I got lazy, picky, and resentful. I would pass by the cafe and find it too crowded, too noisy (I lost my headphones and can’t afford to buy another pair right now), and I was feeling sick of drinking coffee and buying coffee. I wanted to write in a bar but there are no bars in the hood that are open when Poroto is in Pre-K and the ones that are don’t have wifi. So I would go to my mother’s house, drink rum and cokes and open my laptop but there at my mother’s (where I also tutor) I would get distracted. I would gather all my tutoring materials. Vacuum. Take out the garbage. Chat with the neighbor who thinks I should move back home. Watch bad reality tv because my mom has cable.

The resentfulness came when I was trying to work. I would look at my calendar and my emails and realize that I still had to reject all the invites to cover events as media because I didn’t have enough time in the middle of the day to drop Poroto off at school, go into Manhattan, cover the event, and then to come back to pick her up. So many of the Fashion Week events were happening on school nights and as a single mami (yes I have a pareja pero it’s complicated) I’m responsible for dinner, checking homework, ironing clothes for the next day, waking the kids up, making breakfast etc.

When I was going through both rounds of the NYC pre-K application process, I engaged in fantasies of Poroto being a full day Pre-K program and I would have my days back. I dreamed of getting a part time job so I wouldn’t be so broke. Pero no one is going to hire me for an hour and a half a day.

So I’m still broke, still without enough time. I know a part of me just needs to get over this. Figure out some sort of routine that works and that allows me to write/be productive in the hour and a half I really have to work and hope that the rest of it will fall into place.