mamihood

The Mami’Hood Goes Back to School

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Call this a state of temporary bliss. A gift.

I am sitting in a cafe in the middle of the day – ok it’s really a chain restaurant that offers free wifi- but don’t ruin the image.

I’m sitting in a cafe in the middle of the day with an iced coffee and my fingers tapping away. My four year old is not pestering me to play a Dora game on the computer or to play with her princess toys. My 14 year old isn’t asking for the computer so she can update her very serious role play where the future of genetically modified vampire clone warriors is at stake.

It’s back to school time.

I never wanted to be one of those mamis, the ones in the commercials who joyfully run through the aisles of the office supply store because they are getting rid of their kids for a few hours pero here I am.

On Thursday, La Mapu started high school (!!!). She had to commute via the subway for an hour and go through a metal detector (Oh thank you NYPD secured DOE public schools). But despite her worry and mine (none of us slept very much the night before), she made it and actually liked it. She scored a new friend (a young woman who has never been to school before). Getting la Mapu into high school was a nearly two year process that involved tests, open houses, interviews and essays. I’m pleased that the hard work we both had to put in was well worth it (so far) pero the fact that we had to go through such a process pisses me off.

The only thing that pissed me off more than the high school application process was the Pre-K application process. Really wanting Poroto to attend a full day public school program meant putting myself through two lotteries, none which yielded ideal results. In this second round of the NYC Public School Pre-K lottery- Poroto was on of 46 percent or so that got a spot. She didn’t get a spot in our neighborhood. Nor did she get a full day spot. On Thursday I stood in a crowd of people outside her assigned school for over an hour- in the rain, with poroto. El Chileno came with thinking it would be a quick process, but he left to go to work. Clearly this was mami’hood business.

Once I made it inside the school, I was given a number (17), a stack of papers to fill out and we waited…….for two more hours. We sat through one assembly listening to the new principal of the school tell first and second graders that they were in school because President Obama wanted them to get good jobs and make a lot of money. We then sat though a second assembly where the principal told students that in the halls they should be “still, silent, and straight”. Umm yeah this was when I was ready to walk out and say fuck pre-k. Poroto – who napped and was more patient and quiet than I have ever seen her- begged me to wait a few more minutes because she really wanted to go to school. So I waited and finally our number was called.

The actual registering was fast. I had all my papers in order. The only confusion I caused was by checking off that my daughter was Latina and not white. With half an hour to spare before her first class, Poroto was an official public school Pre-K student.

Asking her, she’ll tell her her first day was boring, because I had to sit with her for orientation, making the grand total of hours spent in a public elementary school yesterday 5 and a half.

Pero back to today – with me sitting in a chain restaurant cafe, finishing my iced coffee, almost not annoyed by the ambient noise around me (note to self – next time do not forget your headphones), finishing a personal blog post! I left Poroto at Pre-K land’s special door. She didn’t cry. In fact we both skipped away happily in opposite directions, excited about the changes in our lives.

(PS – please consider donating to Poroto’s panderia fund which I will be renaming Mala’s cafe writing fund).

(PPS- I need to find a place where I can have a glass of wine while Poroto is in Pre-K. That will make this even more fun)

Gas y Sillas

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These are the two things I have lived without for awhile.

The gas got cut off sometime in December, after Christmas when I was struggling to pay rent and electricity and internet. We needed a roof over our heads. I couldn’t imagine not having lights. And well internet. Um I really need internet. Bill paying usually is a juggling act like that. What bill can get put off so that other needs like food are taken care of. Gas seemed like the most expendable item. The gas in casa mala isn’t linked to the heat, so we stayed warm, we just couldn’t cook real meals, boil water etc.

We haven’t had chairs for longer. 6 months maybe? No se. When I first moved into casa mala with my ex over four years ago, my mother bought us a table with chairs that have all broken into pieces. We have all gotten used to sitting at the table in shifts to eat. Or maybe the kids sit at the table : one on a half broken stool from a local 99 cent store, and the other on a storage ottoman. I sit on my childhood bed which doubles as our sofa (we don’t have one of those either). This way is the closest we get to properly sharing a meal together. When guests come, we all shift so the guest gets to sit on the storage ottoman, the best seat in the house so far.

These were things I didn’t talk about. There was/is a certain shame in not being able to cook because I could afford the gas. And anyway I felt grateful that in the cold cold winter, without gas, we still had heat. I had no right to complain or feel bad. I could cook at my mother’s house and then bring the food home to heat up in my microwave.

The furniture..eh. I never really complained too much about it. No even inside. I think I only felt bad when guests would come over and there were no real seats for everyone.

So when my federal income tax refund came (really my poor person’s earned income credit), the first thing I did was get the gas turned back on and I ordered chairs. We all cheered as a family when the gas came back on. I could have kissed the guy from National Grid. Boiling water, cooking rice and beans. The chairs arrive today and I can’t explain my excitement over some inexpensive chairs. My kids are excited that we can all sit at the table together and even have an extra chair for company.

Shall I reserve that spot at la mesa for you?

What Do We Tell/Show the Children?

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Holy winter break batman. When the kids are off from school, I barely have any physical space to myself, let alone mental space to process things out via typed text. In the space I occupy with my daughters, this space between Egypt, Libya, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, Algeria and Yemen, I have woken up on many mornings wondering how, what do we tell/show our children about movement(s), justice, and responsibility?

In the space I occupy with my children somewhere between Egypt, Puerto Rico, Libya, Bahrain y Algeria, in the same country as Arizona, Mississippi and Wisconsin, they bear witness from afar. And when I speak of my children, I am not just speaking of my biological daughters but of the community who sit almost daily at my mother’s kitchen table. I read aloud from the news. Pull out maps and point to these places.

My children are movement children. You can ask my mom and sister, who still laugh at the fact that La Mapu’s first full sentence was “No Justice, No peace”. Poroto, has traded in her “si se puedes” for “Egypt, Egypt, Egypt”. La Mapu has taken a renewed interest in one of her patrias, Puerto Rico, one afternoon surprising me by asking aloud from my mother’s living room as she watched cartoons, “how do the liberation struggles in the Middle East translate to the student struggles in Puerto Rico?”

I nearly cried with pride.

While she fought with her sister on the floor of Julia de Burgos in El Barrio, I noted she argued because she wanted to pay attention. She was watching the videos I have been watching and reporting on for months, of Puerto Rican students getting beaten, tear gassed and sexually assaulted. She was paying attention, on her own terms.

I stopped forcing la Mapu to meetings, conferences and rallies as soon as she was old enough to stay a few hours by herself but she can’t escape that this is the world we live in, impacting loved ones, some whom she has met, some whom she knows through their blogs and twitter avatars. Last night, she cried over the dead in Libya and all I could do was hold her.

But what of the children who are left unaware as I was as a child. When I woke up at age 16 and suddenly realized I had been lied to about history and my role in it, I felt angry, betrayed and motivated. My life has never been the same.

I am participating in an event as a story teller in a local museum in a few weeks. The theme is art and activism. How do I talk with children who don’t witness and navigate these spaces on a daily basis or are like those Central Park horses with their eyes fixed on the tiny camino in front of them, blind to the rest of the world around them that they stand in the middle of?

I have never lied to my children about the struggles that exist in this world. Some of them they experience on their own, some of them through my work/life. But what of the children who are shielded? How to hold their hand slowly, open their eyes slowly so they are not afraid but awakened?

That is the question that has been waking me up for weeks.

I welcome answers/suggestions.

Trabajo

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This week I have broken down crying twice.
Once was because of the kind words sent to me from the other side of the United States.
The other time was because of feelings of guilt and uselessness.
Both tie into work and how work is compensated or not.

The message from the West Coast, a coast that always seems to catch my heart’s desires, reflected an appreciation for my sacrifices, struggles, public unpeeling of multiple layers and my lack of pragmatism.

The message from my mother at her kitchen table, the message from my landlord, and the gas company is that it’s just not good enough. It’s the same message I get whenever I reach out for public assistance. The message is that my writing, the time I take do to political blogging, plan workshops with other amazing people, curate tweets that go to congressional staffers to shift their perspective on issues, the time I take to pretend to be afraid of a four year old hiding underneath a blanket every morning, the time I take to sit with Indian Muslim children of immigrant students drawing lines from the history of this country they were born and to the country their parents left is not enough. It is not enough to keep the gas on so I can cook relatively healthy meals for the kids. It’s not good enough for la Mapu to have some choices when it comes to where she will go to high school in September and be happy. It is not good enough to not have favors / sacrifices thrown in my face. No those things are reserved for other people who seemingly work harder, more than me.

And yet today I am have a phone meeting about a conference I am presenting at and no I am not getting paid for. I tutor later will earn a small amount of money that still keeps me below the poverty line. I am thinking of the political website that earns anywhere from a dollar to 10 a day even though thousands read it. Poroto is wearing her birthday dress and I will skim through the news, for free, for immigration news that attempts to prove that how this U.S. is doing it now is not working for people, my people, your people.

Cada dia trabajo in multiple ways, in multiple roles pero parece, se siente que no es suficiente.

Thinking About Teen Abortion y The Privilege of Absent Papi’Hood

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I don’t have cable so I missed the MTV special on teens seeking abortions. I wanted to see it because 13 years ago I was a teen seeking an abortion. Well, kind of. I was 19, pregnant and in Chile, a country where abortion was and still is illegal. My housemates, other young mujer college students far from their home (although in their country), and I watched a special on TVN de Chile about underground abortion clinics filmed with uv cameras that made the young women look like ghosts. One of my housemates confessed to having used such a clinic herself. And I was weighing my own options.

The other person responsible for my pregnancy didn’t want me to stay in Chile (what I wanted at the time) and instead told me that I was better off returning to the U.S. where abortions was allegedly safe, accessible and legal. I stayed in Chile travelling for a while longer, convinced I wasn’t going to carry my obvious pregnancy to term. By the time I made it to U.S., I was too broke to afford an abortion and too far along anyway.

It’s not that I regret mami’hood or la Mapu. Most people know that I have centered a good portion of my identity around my role of mami and 13 years, another kid, and yes two abortions later, I love mami’hood, even in its moments of struggle.

Pero the papi? I think I am connecting my own personal history with abortion with fatherhood because recently la Mapu’s father has pressing hard to see her. He hasn’t seen her since she was 3 or 4 and is talking to my sister apparently even to get her to accompany la Mapu to travel to Oaxaca where he is chilling now, not paying rent and working at a hostel to feed himself and his girlfriend.

It’s not that I don’t want la Mapu to see her father or that I don’t want him to see her. I would never deny that, but there is a part of me that remembers him sending me on my way. Yes he was young, but for 13 years I have registered voters, sold furniture, temped, table danced, tutored and written my heart out for my hija and he’s been travelling the world, with his college degree picking fruit because his job in Chile bored him. So yeah, maybe I am a tiny bit resentful and irritated.

The language of choice doesn’t always translate across continents. Access isn’t always interpreted precisely. And parent’hood or not isn’t always an accompanied trip to Puerto Escondido.

Whoever Dropped the Plague on Casa Mala, I Hate You

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These are the days you miss being partnered, or at least living in community, with neighbors y familia you can lean on a little.

After Poroto being sick for a good week, I am now sick and lucky me my head cold that has every pore of my face aching happens at the same time as the December NYC blizzard.

Virtually no one was delivering in the hood yesterday and I wasn’t able to get out of Casa Mala to face the unplowed streets to find some soup and food for my 3 year old until 6 pm.

I can deal with the single mami’hood hustle. In fact most days, to paraphrase a twitterputeando partner, the choreographed dance as I go, is an exciting albeit at times frustrating adventure that I usually end on beat and with sexy ass grace.

But this…nah this being ill while taking care of a still ill child during a snowstorm, yeah this shit makes me almost wish for wedded bliss or at the very least vecinos who don’t stab each other so I can give them a few bucks to get me some food.

I had big plans for this week. There are big challenges/changes coming to VivirLatino, I need to do some year end roundups, and writing but even this post was painful to write.

I’m still trying to manifest a sick single mami sopa delivery service that , to paraphrase the words of Lex, doesn’t fuck me up more.

Pa’lante (sort of)

How Many Resets Am I Allowed

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Because it feels like I hit that button in my life over and over.

I bite off more than I can chew, projects that I want to do because they feed my soul and heart and really my soul and heart are greedy little creatures. I want to marry poetry and make love to community activism based in radical collaborative love. These are things I have tasted, shared with my hijitas pero then….

la maldita capitalist vida.
la maldita fucking bills.
la maldita fucking rent.
la maldita fucking life.

I just paid my rent that was due almost a whole month ago and now in a week rent is due again and I know I will be short and late again.
I mean I’m blessed, blessed because my landlord has been really generous and understanding pero I am ashamed. On those late days I teach my children to be extra quiet, make themselves invisible so we won’t be as obvious.

So much for radical fucking mami’hood

And then there are the days of watered down sopa and rationed cereal. Again, so blessed because we manage. We are all relatively physically healthy and have more food than so many others and thank fucking the ancestors for my mother and her willingness to help us fill our bellies. But again, ashamed. At 33 I should be fucking doing better at feeding my own fucking children.

On the days I walk the mile plus to my mother’s house, where I tutor, I front like I do it for the health of the familia. We are all getting our exercise but more than likely it’s just because I cannot afford to get us all on the subway and they are raising the fare. In the summer and fall it is not so bad but what about when the snow comes and the fare is raised again?

This week feels like a reprieve. I mean I am saving up to try and make rent next week. I am working. I just bought coffee filters. There is food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nada Fancy but our bellies will be filled and the rent is paid for this week. I hit reset again. Feeling a little ashamed at unfinished projects and playing furious games of catch up with my hand ready to hit reset again.

Performance Afterglow y High School Dragas

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Over the last month two things have been sucking my time in wonderful ways (in addition to the usual mami’hood/work biznuss).

I had four amazing opportunities/gifts in the form of different type of performances. I will recount each of them in different posts pero I have to give a shout out to Charlie Vazquez y his Hispanic Panic magic, El Museo del Barrio y Make/shift recLAmations. Each and every single one of these events was a reawakening and reminder of the power of poetry, performance and the community that can by built/grow from that space.

I am also in the middle of assisting my 13 year old, la MapucheRican, in the high school application process, which in NYC is a trip and a half that is stressing us the fuck out, exhausting us, eating up our weekends but also bringing us together. Some peeps have asked that I write about the process a little more in depth given how the media and other “sources of info” seem to be looking alot more at the education system now and given how many other parents will have to navigate the locura.

I also have video, audio and pictures to share….so let’s go.

Abrazos y besos

The Undesirability of Hijas

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My oldest hija just turned 13. For most of those years I was single. I dated but it wasn’t until she was 10 that I was in what I would call a “serious” relationship. When that relationship ended, I was mami’ing another hija, now 3. According to a study referenced in this article, the fact that I am a mami to hijas, doomed me from the get and dooms me well into the future, dooms me to single’hood that is.

Economists Gordon Dahl (at the University of Rochester) and Enrico Moretti (at UCLA) discovered the following facts in 2003: In the United States, the parents of a girl are nearly 5 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of a boy. The parents of three girls are close to 10 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of three boys.

Not only do parents of daughters divorce more, but divorced women with daughters are substantially less likely to remarry than divorced women with sons. Landsburg suggested that “daughters are a liability in the market for a husband. Not only do daughters lower the probability of remarriage; they also lower the probability that a second marriage, if it does occur, will succeed.”

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outlaw midwives vol. 2 call for submissions

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From Guerrilla Mama Medicine

call for submissions

outlaw midwives zine vol. 2

focusing on pregnancy, birth, and the baby year

for and by: mothers, friends and allies of mothers, doulas, midwives, birthworkers, childbirth educators, childbirth advocates,

intention: to create a zine for pregnancy, birth, and the first year of motherhood centering the lives of working class, marginalized mothers and birthworkers.

submit: photos, drawings, visual art
poems, essays, fiction and non-fiction
tips, suggestions, lists of resources

check out the outlaw midwives manifesta and website: http://outlawmidwife.wordpress.com/

outlaw midwives: creating revolutionary communities of love

some suggestions for topics on which you can submit…but these are just suggestions…

suggestions for those trying to conceive. and for not conceiving. stories of conception, abortions and miscarriage.

what are the social, economic, legal consequences and limitations for marginalized mothers to make choices about how, when and where they will give birth.

tips for the first, second, third trimester. relationship with doctors, clinic, midwives, family, friends, etc.

how do we resist the high infant and mortality rates?

what are the ways that community could support the childbearing year, mothers and families?

how have you navigated through the systems of welfare, protective child services, hospitals, etc?

reflect on the state of midwifery today. what do you see as the positives and negatives? how has legalization and licensing affected mothers and families access to care?

what would you want to tell a soon to be mother about pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood? or write a letter to your pre-mother or pre-pregnant self about what you should expect. what didnt you expect to happen/learn/experience in pregnancy, birth, the baby year? write a letter to you daughter and/or son about what you learned/want to pass on about pregnancy, birth, baby year.

what was your personal experience/story of birth? pregnancy, the baby year?
what did you learn/are you learning from the baby year?

what do you wish someone had told you about early motherhood and/or being a birth worker?
what do you wish you could have said to someone, but didnt?
what is your vision/ideal of how pregnancy, birth, baby year could be?

what family/traditional wisdom did you receive about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding? what practical tips do you have for working poor mothers?

breastfeeding vs. bottle. what are the social, biological and economic influences and consequences of the choice to breastfeed or bottle feed?

what to do with the placenta? placenta art, consumption, burials?

why did you become a birth worker? what has been the highlights of the experience? what have been the difficulties?

what does ‘outlaw midwife’ mean to you?

keep it simple

deadline halloween october 31st

send submissions to maiamedicine at gmail dot com