Access

IMG_20171229_181620791.jpg

After 20 years of mamihood, I should be less surprised by the hoops various systems make you jump through in order to be “engaged”, “involved” or whatever other term these systems use to judge “parental involvement”.

But I’m still shocked, even as I go through the hoops with all the privileges that I have: language, citizenship, a certain level of education, a certain level of experience.

The latest adventure involves the Los Angeles Public School system and the hoops needed to jump through in order for me to chaperone my child on an overnight field trip.

Part of me gets it. We all want to ensure the safety of our children. But to be this level of “volunteer” within the LAUSD system means submitting oneself to physical examinations (to make sure I don’t have tuberculosis), submitting oneself to fingerprinting (to check my criminal record) and filling out a form that asks for my social security number and country of citizenship.

I don’t have much doubt I will “pass”, be determined to be healthy and moral enough. But those who can’t even read the application? Those for whom submitting to fingerprinting is too much like the biometric checks when they came to the US, were in various types of jails? Those who don’t have social security numbers? Those who see the question about citizenship and wonder what if this is used for something other than for just me wanting to be with my kid at an overnight trip?

Better to not “participate” at all but then risk becoming considered not engaged, not interested, not participatory enough.

Every Monday there is an assembly at my kid’s school. The routine is always the same. Pledge of Allegiance, some patriotic song, announcements, awards, and the school song. When I attend I’m the only parent (that I can see) who doesn’t do the pledge or sing the patriotic song.

But I submitted my fingerprints

Un Año Que Viene, Otro Que Se Va

It’s that time of year, time to wrap presents, make coquito, and look back at the year that is just about to come to a close and what a year it has been. I’ve traveled more for work more than ever. I committed more time to blogging and writing and relationships ended and started and not in that order. A ver los cambios y plans….

blogging

First off, you will note that I am not even at my mamitamala.com blog because I can’t!!! It’s been a little frustrating pero hopefully in the new year I will have my own domain and server and get back on the mamita mala blogging track. One of my resolutions this year was to blog everyday here  pero I was battling techinical difficulties, work, mamihood, and struggling with how much to reveal/not reveal in this space, including being unusually quiet about things I would normally scream about or the equivalent of screaming on a blog anyway. Me thinks that this new year I will have my own domain, server space and a new design pero also a new lease on returning to my roots as la Mamita Mala, meaning unapologetically honest and naked porque that’s what this space was created for. Not for you who choose to read but for me who needs to write and kind of likes being an exhibitionist.

So I will be working to make this more a regular space, especially now as I enter in single mami’hood again. I want this space to be about negotiating my mami’hood identity with my puta identity with my poeta identity and yeah maybe make some progress on this damn book. At one point during this year

Relationships

Ay so much to say here with so many concerns about privacy and others’ feelings. So mcuh of my blogging this past year was censored. No one requested that it be that way, it was something I chose to do to protect people’s feelings and at one point my own physical safety. In this past year I went from cohabitating, to being physically abused, to having what would be called “an affair” I suppose, to separating and becoming a single mami again. And it’s even more complicated than it sounds.

Pero in all of that I strengthened my own identity. I was able to bond with other radical woc in Detriot, I survived and then some  thanks to the circle of sanity in Denver during the DNC. I recognized how tenuous and superficial some relationships with other artists are especially when they question your Latino cred. I realized how little I have in common with the so called white attachment parenting anti-racist community. I realized how little I want to be a feminist when I am so much more than what that label could ever hold.

My own relationship with myself has come full circle. I disappoint and amaze myself. I fall in and out of love with myself and alot of it has to do with if I am true to myself or not and I spent so much of this year not being true to myself. When I did start to open up to what I really wanted, needed and deserved, the shift in feeling was amazing. That’s not to say that i am not working on a million parts of myself pero I almost killed Mamita Mala this past year, not the blog pero that whole side of my identity because I thought it would be easier than dealing with the backlash. Pero then I realized that I, Mamita Mala was too important to kill off, that I have so uch more to do with so many people. So as I tie up a few loose ends in my life, like making sure I have a roof over my kids’ heads, in 2009 Mamita Mala will rise again.

Writing and Reading

This past year my writing has taken me all around the country, speaking to college students and organizations, speaking at political events and recording powerful poetry. I was inspired to write in Spanish and then translate to English for the first time ever pero no I still haven’t written my damn book pero in the new year it will be because it has to be. I already have readings lined up for January and am working on Feburary and I am planning on maybe speanding the summer out of the city to write away with less distractions.

May the new year bring happiness, light, clarity and justice and love (and some good sex would be nice too).

FA 3020

Yes, I can be added as another single Rican mother to the food stamp rolls, for a month and a half at least.

::sigh::

I went, for the first time ever to the food stamp office yesterday. I entered holding my breath and my nerves. When I got to the first floor, the line was short and I naively thought “Hey, this doesn’t seem too bad”. Little did I know that that first floor was just to get a number to go upstairs, which was a special kind of hell and humiliation.

FA 3020, scribbled on a green paper because the systems were down. I went up to the second floor and was ushered past three lines and one packed waiting room to a another packed waiting room, painted prison/public school green, with school like chairs with desks attached. The room was filled with other parents with children, and single men and woman, mostly people of color. Some filled out papers, others listened to music or were reading the paper. There were young people, old people, and everyone in between, all waiting for their number to be callled. I had to wait three hours for my number to be called. In those three hours I was engaged in the joyous task of entertaining a restless almost two year old, who wanted to run through all the waiting rooms. The security guards were nice, pero why were there so many security guards. Four on this one floor I was on.  Did they expect us to revolt after waiting for hours? It would have been a good option, but we all knew better. Our ability to feed our children and ourselves was dependent on these people. So we sat. Trying to hush our children. One young guy behind me started kicking it to me. I was like, “really? At the food stamp office?” Pero I found myself talking to him anyway. It was a distraction from the numbing atmosphere that prepared no one for the moment when their number was called.

When my number was finally called, I was led to the back, which opened up into a maze of cubicles with case workers. At this point poroto was beside herself with exhaustion and was restless and cranky. The Russian woman wo was my caseworker took my application and my documents.

“You make less money then your rent. That’s a problem. Why don’t you apply for cash benefits?”
“because I work and don’t want to be put in a job training program” I told her honestly. And I also didn’t want to deal with another office. Not now anyway.
“Well this means we will have to give you a deferral until you can prove you can pay your rent.”
“If I can’t pay my rent, according to my paperwork, isn’t that proof enough I need food stamps? “. I didn’t ask her this outloud. i just tried to comfort my now screaming toddler.

“You need to take your client out of here,” Another case worker yelled over her cubicle wall. Apparently Poroto’s cries were disturbing her.
“I’ll just have you do a telephone interview so you can get out of here” my caseworker told me before going to make copies of what I brought her: pay stubs, bank statements, utility bills, birth certificates, and Social Security Cards.
As soon as the casewoker left, Poroto reached on the desk and grabbed a pen.
“Oh no mami, you can’t let your baby start going through papers on the desk”, another caseworker with knee high electric blue suede boots chided.
“What she needs is a good smack,”
“I don’t believe in hitting my children,” I answered quickly and strongly.
“Well she can’t act like that in here, ” the blue booted case worker told me before walking away loudly telling all the other cubicles how my child was out of control.
That was when I wanted to cry.

Here I was a work at home mami, a woman who has worked all her damn life, a woman who was told her whole life by her own single mother that she did it all without a penny of government assistance, a woman who by my own account is pretty damn smart and talented, and a good damn mother and I felt like the smallest, ugliest stastistic stereotype, everything I was never supossed to be.

I fought the tears and gratefully accepted the blowpop offered to poroto by a male caseworker. My caseworker arrived, handed me a stack of papers and told my that my telephone interview would be tommorrow morning. I was then sent downstairs, again, this time to get fingerprinted.

The last time I had been fingerprinted was in the basement of One Police Plaza after getting arrested in a protest. There was no ink pad here though. Everything was done by electronic scanning. As I pressed my fingers into the scanner, I felt a little pedacito of me move through the wires and in between the unique black and white pattern that was my fingerprint on the screen.

Then I was done.
For now.
I left the building into the cold Long Island City industrial street and walked a little bit. Poroto fell asleep and I wept.

Shift

I thought I felt a shift coming on. 

I thought that when he said that he wouldn’t do anything to harm the girls and me, that went beyond the promises to never lay his hands on me again. Safety is measured in more than not being afraid of being hurt. It comes from a sense of security, a sense of knowing that the basics will be there. That you will not starve or be cold. 

Pero I should have known better. I should have remembered the promises made before, and broken, not just by him pero by a long line of men starting with daddy. A long line of men for whom it is too easy not to worry and slip back into their lives. 

And I wasn’t going to be one of those women. I wasn’t going to be one of those women dragging her ex to court for child support and garnishing paychecks. I don’t want the government in my business or the business of anyone else close to me. 

Pero the shift wasn’t in my favor. I have about another month left here under the current lease. Hopefully the landlord will let me and just me sign a new one for another year or even stay on a month to month until the summer when I can move to a more affordable city porque, NYC, you aren’t kind to a single artista/writer mami and her two kids. If the landlord won’t let me sign a new lease then I am officially fucked, scrambling to find an apartment that I can afford. 

He’s leaving this week and part of me is relieved, as I know he is too, pero the logistics are making my head spin, as is the thought of being pretty damn close to homelessness. Child support, public assistance, apartments, moving, budgets, needing more work, child care, all of these things and the shift. 

Remember when I thought this would all end nicely? 

Ja ja. 

Yeah. I’m not feeling so damned nice anymore.

Slipping into Solteria?

Expectations set me up for heartbreak every time

and it’s not the fault of the other

it’s my fault

my poetic temperment and wanting to hold out hope for the best in people

thinking egotistically that I bring that out in people.

Pero no.

It never seems to work that way.

During one of our “talks” over vino on how we were going to move forward he surprised me,

surprised me by saying his ideal was for him to stay in what seems to be the cheapest apartment in Queens

and for the chicas and I to move out.

My reaction?

First to get physically sick and vomit.

The next morning I was angry.

I have now moved into scared and depressed.

And alot of this these seems to hinge on my status of soltera/single.

He asked me during that same “talk” if I was single,

meaning if I was dating/seeing/fucking anyone else

cuz if I was, he seemed to be saying, I would be out on my ass sooner.

Funny thing is I couldn’t really answer if I was single.

I mean I’m here living with my daughter’s father but we are broken up

and there are a whole mess of other factors that I dare not write here

that demand the question of my status be answered.

And I know some are reading this smiling a little

saying it’s my karma for the way I’ve chosen to live my life

pero the poeta in me still holds on to a little hope

still has some expectations

that it will all be ok.

My Life is Not a Template

No women.

There is a reason why my story is not in books for me to sign,

why I have to carve out my own space through electric wires

and trasform actions into electrictrifies palabras,

why I spit on the ground and into teclado taps,

why I push my way in

and pull myself out.

No women.

There is reason

a porque

you don’t know who I am

and it is not because I am invisible

it is because you can’t be bothered

unless I am paired up with someone, something

that looks like your own privilege.

No women.

My life is not a template.

It cannot be copied and pasted,

followed like a guidebook

applied to children not yet in your wombs or delvered to your doorstep.

There is a reason you have nothing to add to the conversation

ask no questions

just watch and spy and shke your head and move on

como si nada.

Si women.

There is a reason.

Why I exist

and it isn’t for your benefit.