Won't you be my neighbor?

My house is situated on a pie-shaped lot. A pie that has gotten a couple of pieces eaten. That means I have four neighbors. Two on either side and two behind me. What really chaps my butt about living in suburbia is you live so close to your neighbors you can probably hear them fart. Hate it. I grew up in Moo-Mesa (Mira Loma to all the OG homies) on an acre lot. We could yell, scream, laugh, bbq, play loud music, park all our old cars and fart to our heart's content. So to move in our home with all these neighbors in close proximity was kind of...wierd. My family is one the few families that is actually home during the day.

Which means my children think they are free to act like wild indians if they want...no one's around to hear them anyway.

But, there is one issue that I've had to deal with over the years and that's my children's deviant behavior and the people that live closest to us.They will line up the patio chairs against the fence so they can look into the neighbor's yard. My sons have thrown leftover pieces of terracotta tile over the fence into the neighbor's pool. They have thrown countless toys, dog bones, and balls over too. . Usually the neighbor will just toss the stuff over, or they will call and complain about stuff in their pool. The boys get a stern talking to, maybe even a spanking and a warning to stay away from the neighbors yards.

Tonight I got a call from a neighbor whose dog just had puppies. She said, "I told one of your sons that I wanted to talk to you, didn't he tell you? I'm waiting outside." Oh great. When the neighbors want to talk, it usually isn't a good thing. Apparently one of my sons was throwing pieces of tile at her puppies and she was worried they were going to get hurt. Mind you, my neighbors dogs are alone outside all day long and their curly hair (they are Maltese poodles) are so dirty and knotted they have little dreads over their eyes and around their face. Many times we've had to rescue them because they have climbed under our fence and have gone out to the street. But now that they have valuable puppies to sell, she's worried about their safety. Uh-hmmm. I gave my boys the death ray stare even though I immediately knew who the guilty party was. Solomon. If something is broken, lost, hidden, eaten, thrown on the roof, peed on, trashed or cut up, Solomon did it. I ask who did this just because it is common procedure. But I can always count on him to have a repentive heart as well, so I can't stay mad for long. But what got me was when the neighbor's asked him, "Is your mommy home?" He said, "No, nobody's home!" Later, when the neighbor caught him again, she asked him to go inside and call his mommy, he said sure. Then he proceeded to go inside to play with absolutely no intention of informing me that someone was outside waiting to speak to me. It's the deliberate deceit that bothers me more than him throwing things at the dogs. I highly doubt he was being mean and trying to hurt one of them. He was just being his typical self, getting into everything. I made him apologize to the neighbors...I'm thinking I might work out a deal with them so he can come over this weekend and pickup the hundreds of tootsie roll poops all over their yard from the puppies. Just to teach him there are consequences for his actions.

Part of being a good neighbor is having to deal with each other's pets. I deal with their dreadlocked dogs getting into my yard, they deal with mine digging holes and barking her head off. Another is respecting other people's property. But on a much larger scale is having to deal with each other. We all have our little ideosyncrasies that we have to deal with. Just one of those happens to be that I have alot of kids (that is just one, believe me there are many more). Of the four neighbors I have, only one family has any kids...and they never come outside. Kids will be kids. They are going to get into stuff sometimes...or in my case, all the time. I struggle with the fact that I want to be a good example of a large family and I want to be an ambassador for my faith. And the toughest time I have is with those who live closest to me (family and neighbors) because they see....well, the real me.


Must be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and potty-train a 2 yo..

What am I? Superwoman?

Let me just clarify this before I do anything. I despise potty-training. Really I do. It sucks. Hard. One would think that a woman who has had to do go through this phase five times would know all the tricks of the trade, would have a system down, would walk the kid over to the pot, point to it and say, "That is where you will now empty your bowels, child."

Nope. Ain't gonna happen.

I'm lazy. Yep, thats right. I'm not one of those Potty-Nazi's who train their kid at a year, that spend hundreds of dollars on pull-ups, whose child can barely walk but they are expected to take off their clothes, climb up on the seat and wipe their own butt.

Over the years, experience has taught me kids will go on the toilet when they are darn good and ready. No amount of rewards, chastising, cherrios thrown in the toilet, stickers, candy, songs, dancing--NOTHING will make them want to go before they want to.

Before I was a mama myself, I dated a man that already had a child. He was already three years old and still in diapers (the child, not the man!). Hmmmm, I thought to myself with much superiority, shouldn't he be potty-trained already? His mom must be ignorant and lazy! Looking back, he was a very tough nut to crack and he continued to go in a diaper until he was four and a half.

By that time, his dad and I were married and I would take care of him while Michael was at work. One day he went out to play and a few minutes came back in with a boo-boo face. "What's wrong with you?" I asked him. "I did caca in my pants." He said matter-of-factly. I called Michael right up and told him I was resigning as mama because I didn't realize the job description entailed handling fecal material. Now I know better.

I just get myself worked up when it is time to potty-train. Its messy. Its annoying. I get on my kid's nerves because I am constantly asking them, do you need to go potty now? Now? Do you need to go? And they look at me like, please just shut up mama. My daughter just turned 2 and a half. She is a very bright child, extremely articulate and opinionated. And my first girl. I thought, yessss she is going to be a piece of cake to train.

She has now peed in the house more than my dog. And that was just today.

She was playing in her room earlier and she peed on her blankie. Then she got mad at me for taking it away from her to wash it. She took the little potty bowl from her training seat and together with her big brother, they were drinking water from it. Then she decided to take her baked potato into the living room and she peed on the floor. Thank God for hard wood floors. Now, some of you are thinking, why not just put her in a pull-up so she doesn't make a mess of the house? That plan doesn't seem to work for me. They have to be in plain underwear and dribble all over themselves in order to get it in their thick skulls that peeing wherever they feel like feels nasty.

Yeh, its good times when they take a dump. I can't even calculate how many pairs of underwear I have thrown away over the years. Sorry, but its not worth the $3.99 to scrub a live chunk of crap off them. So its off to the trash for them. And what did I get for my holier-than-thou attitude towards my late-training stepson? My second son was just like that, refusing to use the pot and screaming his head off. He would going outside to play, then come back in with a disgustingly stinky diaper in his hand, telling me, "Um, mama. I did caca. Can you change me now?" Geez!! Oh, and does it offend you that my kids say caca? I can't help it. I'm never going to win that battle.

I had an aunt who taught my cousins to say B.M--bowel movement. As in, mama, I need to do a B.M! Personally, I don't think caca is all that bad unless you are in the market and your kid yells from across the jam-packed aisle, "MOM! I HAVE TO DO CACA!!" Nice.

How did this whole relieving yourself in your pants tradition start? There had to be a different way of doing this in ancient times, when parents couldn't run to Target and buy diapers. Did you know there are parents in this world who have potty-trained their children from birth? Ever wonder how those butt-naked tribesmen in the jungle keep their babies dry and squirt-free? I ready an article about the mothers in the jungles of Central America. Since they carry their babies on their bodies all day, they are aware of their children's potty habits. Babies go a predictable time after they eat and wake up and go to sleep. They can recognize the signals their baby sends when they need to go. They get fussy, fidgety, they squirm about. They are telling their mom's they need to do the do. Mom's also teach their babies a sound and they associate it with releasing their bowels. Then the mom props them over their feet, they make the sound and the babies take care of business. So some missionary women noticed this and decided to learn. Debi and Michael Pearl from No Greater Joy used this method with their last two children and were successful and taught lots of parents how to do it. Amazing. Basically, you have a potty-trained three month old.

Right about now, that sounds like bliss.


Mama's rule!

I am continually awed by God's power in my life. He transformed a rowdy, obnoxious, feminist, all-black wearing, "free thinking", bong-ripping heathen into a mother.

My plan for my life was to live in my studio (it was always one of those cool lofts you see in movies) so I could paint and draw, listen to music, travel when I felt like it, be inspired by my other artist friends, enjoy the herb and not have any rules dictated upon my daily living.

I wanted to live a life that was totally different from those around me. A husband and children never really intruded upon my thoughts because I thought I would never find a man I would love enough to marry and....children? They had to make their way through my uterus and nether regions and that was just unfathomable.

Then I let God take hold of my life. I offered it up to Him because I had made a mess of it. I had no other option but to stop living the way I was and totally and completely submit my will to His. Thats when I really started to live.

See, all my life I had been taught I could be anything I wanted to be, I could achieve whatever I desired as long as I worked hard and got an education. But I had to incline my ear to God's heartbeat in order for me to fully understand what He wanted me to be, how He wanted me to exercise my talents and gifts.

Being a mother has changed my heart in so many ways there are no words to express it. You are literally living out Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you many prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Being a mother has taught me hard work. I used to think studying for mid-terms and making my bed and washing my car was stressful.

Being a mother has taught me sacrifice. I don't get many quiet moments to myself, I never get my nails done, and if you notice, I wear $2.50 flip flops from Old Navy and my kids get brand new Vans and Converse.

Being a mother has taught me patience. Ever had to buckle up four kids in their carseats in 100 degree heat? Or answer six questions from inquisitive minds at one time with a baby crying on your hip while trying to pay a bill over the phone?

Being a mother has taught me real creativity. Did you know you can pretty much cook any delicacy under the sun as long as you have ground turkey and chicken breasts in your fridge? Oh, and beans. There is a reason we are called Beaners.

Being a mother has taught me humor. What else is there to do but laugh when you find an encrusted booger on the arm of your sofa. Or when one of your kids tells you they read a story about a man and a whale called Moldy Dick in Sunday school.

What about when your son greets the neighbor with a, "Good day, my lady!" and then whips out his penis and pees on her tree? Or when your other son decides to shave a two-inch patch smack dab above his forehead with Daddy's razor?

Being a mother has taught me humility. I've placed my fertility, my health, the birth of my children and my marriage on the throne of God. I've yielded my desires to Him. I've entrusted Him with so many aspects of my life because I know it pleases Him.

Of course, I haven't done all this willingly...oh no, no, no! Ask my husband. The whole time I've been pulled along, kicking and screaming...but alas, I am a work in progress.

I have faith that God isn't done with me yet. Most importantly, being a mother has taught me love. I have just a small understanding of how much God loves us, so much so that He sent His only Son to come down from Heaven, take on the form of a man so He could pay the penalty for our sins and die a horrible, painful death on the cross. That is true love.

So how do I gauge my success in this life considering the plans I had for myself? Its a daily struggle to live in a culture that worships self, strength, financial success and outward beauty. It dawned on me one day...I am living a life that is radically different from many. And that's what I wanted from the very beginning.


One year ago today...

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The most beautiful little angel with jet black hair was born into the warm water and was scooped up by her mama under the light of a full moon. The minute I saw her beautiful, chubby little face I fell instantly in love. I can clearly remember how exhilarated I felt after she was just born...so relieved that the pain was over and that she was healthy and perfect...so happy to finally see what she looked like. I had all my loved ones around me for support. I remember Noah waking up, walking over to where I was sitting holding the baby...he looked her over, said, "She's pretty cute" then he kissed her cheek and went back to bed. I sent somebody to look for my Dad only to find him standing by the door bawling like a baby. Xiomara's (pronounced shio-mada) birth was one of the most difficult things I ever had to go through, both mentally and physically. The two midwives present decided to leave the room and counsel with one another and I decided I had had enough of this labor stuff. I wanted her out...so I was gonna push her out regardless of who was there to help me. And then she was born. August 9, 2005 at 2:33am...she was gorgeous and chubby at 9lbs. 8 oz. The only child out of the six to be born with black hair like her mama. The minute she came into this world, she was worth everything it took for her to be born. She has been nothing but joy in our lives. She is sweet, patient, soft, happy, full of gummy smiles and she loves to eat (something else she has in common with her mama). She is the reigning queen of our home...she is adored by all her brothers...her big sister loves to share her blankie and always knows where her paci is. The minute she hears my voice she squeals like a little piggy and she wants to be near me. She loves to be in her Daddy's arms and when he flirts with her, tells her he should have married her instead because she is so pretty, she gets all giddy and buries her face in his chest. I often wonder why her labor and birth were as traumatic as they were, considering her gentle and quiet nature. Xiomara means ready for battle...I can't help but wonder what awesome plans God has in store for this little girl. I lift up my precious daughter for God's service. Happy 1st Birthday, Xiomara!


Being real with my potty-mouth

I confess.

I wrestled with the title of my last blog.

Should I use the word shit? Or should I soften it a bit and say sh!t? Maybe I should just censor myself and Rage's song title and use s#$&!

So I did, for the day. Michael noticed it and laughed, calling me a chicken. Then I thought about it. Are you all truly offended by reading the word shit? For the record, I don't use profanity. Well..thats not entirely true. I don't use gratuitous profanity. Thats more truthful. If something smells, I've been known to say it smells like shit up in here. Or when referring to a stupid act a person does, I might say they are acting like an ass. Sometimes...very rarely...when I've had enough of baby-mama drama I've been known to say tell that bitch to stop calling here. Thats about it for me. I don't mess with the F-Bomb (unless something drops on my foot--oops my bad). But then I thought, whats the difference between thinking the words and actually using them? That is one of those habits that has been the hardest to fully let go. I don't like the thought of stumbling a brother. Oh, she is really involved in her church and prays before she eats and she says the word shit? So how does one who has been redeemed go about this life without being a potty-mouth? Day by day and fully immersed in God's grace.


Lights out...guerilla radio...turn that sh!t up!

I was reading brotha Marquise's blog about his musical tastes and I decided I would bite his idea because it was....well, a good idea. Brace yourself, this will get long.

Music and concerts have always been a constant in my life. Hmmm, where do I begin? My dad is a big music lover, so my early choices in music stem directly from what he used to play around the house. He had a room in the house that was his art studio with his drafting table and all his albums stacked against the speakers. I can remember him sitting there with his long hair, smoking a fatty and playing Santana, WAR, Tower of Power, Doobie Brothers, Crosby Stills & Nash, Marvin Gaye, Neil Young, Earth Wind & Fire, Queen, The Ohio Players, The Commodores and Bob Marley to name a few.

Don't you know that it's true that for me and for you the world is a ghetto.

When Mom and Dad divorced and I was about eight years old, we lived with my uncle (he was about 20 years old at the time) and he was a dj. I listened to alot of 80's funk music like Rick James, George Clinton, HeatWave, Gap Band, the Mary Jane Girls, Teena Marie.

She's a bad mama-jamma, just as fine as she could be.

Believe it or not, I have been a life-long Prince fan. As a matter of fact, I think I received the majority of my sex education from Prince's music. LOL When I think back, what kind of parent lets their daughter listen to Lady Cab Driver and Head?

Back when I was in junior high, my uncle would practice his DJ skills every night while I was in my room drawing or doing homework. The result of that was I was listening to music that most of my schoolmates had never even heard before. It was at this time I got introduced to hip-hop. Sugarhill Gang, Afrika Bambaattaa and the Soul Sonic Force, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, and Whodini became the foundation for my love of hip- hop. My little brother and I would memorize the songs and rap onto this little hand-recorder. Everyone else was into Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Ozzy...but there I was singing...have you ever went over a friends house to eat and the food just aint no good? I mean the macaroni's soggy the peas are mushed and the chicken tastes like wood.

When high school came around and I was a dorky freshman with big hair, the cool thing to be into was disco, high energy and latin freestyle. You know, big Aqua-net hair and shirts with tails on them, trench coats and mini-trucks. I used to listen to Debbie Deb, Trinere, Tapps, Magazine 60, and Diamond Girl was the song a boy dedicated to me.

The rest of my high school days were spent listening to The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cult, Siouxsie and the Banshees...if it was alternative then I was hooked on it. I saw The Cure in concert when I was seventeen and I was totally in love with Robert Smith. Nevermind that he was fat and wore red lipstick.

I would say I'm sorry if I thought that it would change your mind but I know that this time I've said too much been too unkind.

See, I was a paradox of sorts. At the same time I was rocking out to Girlfriend in a Coma, I was seriously digging Eazy E. and N.W.A. Yeh, imagine a car load of white girls and one beaner bumping Gangsta Gangsta as we drove to Bakers for a bean and cheese burrito after softball practice. Whatever was explicit, I would just listen with headphones and my mama was none the wiser.

I became a devoted concert-goer in college. My first memorable concert was in '91 when I saw the Beastie Boys at the Palladium in Hollywood. My best homie and I thought we were so badass because we were in the front row. Of course, the band hadn't even come out yet. When they did all hell broke loose. It was the first time I really feared for my life and thought I would either be suffocated, trampled to death or that my reproductive organs were going to be crushed beyond recognition. After making our way to safety, we ended up sitting on the floor against the back wall of the Palladium, congratulating each other saying, how cool was that.

Classic rock was always something I listened to, even more so while in college...Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Cream, The Steve Miller Band, and The Eagles became my soundtrack in between bong rips and painting with my artist friends. The Lollapalooza festivals gave me the opportunity to see my favorite bands like Tool, Primus, Jane's Addiction, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails and Cypress Hill in one venue.

Cypress Hill was gold when the only latin hiphop out there was Mellow Man Ace and Kid Frost. I listened to Cypress Hill on my headphones day and night. Time for some action, just a fraction of friction I got the clearance to run the interference into your satellite, shinin' a battle light, swing out the gat, and I know that will gat ya right. Here's an example, just a little sample. How I could just kill a man.

One band I really liked but kinda scared me a little was Tool. Reverend Maynard and his goats...and if there is one thing creepy to me its the sound of goats. But I was all for the Tool/Rage Against the Machine collabo on Know Your Enemy. I also loved Sublime, Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg.

I ain't gonna lie... I used to bump The Chronic all the time. Your bark was loud, but your bite wasn't vicious and them rhymes you were kickin were quite bootylicious you get with Doggy Dogg oh is he crazy? with ya mama and your daddy hollin' baby.

I have saved the best for last. Probably the best band I have ever heard, whose music sounds just as good and relevant as when it first came out over fifteen years ago...Rage Against the Machine. I went to see House of Pain and Cypress Hill in Santa Monica one night and they were the band that opened up for them. They just blew me away. I grabbed a cassette they were throwing to the audience and I've been a die-hard fan ever since. That was in 1993--fourteen years ago! That music brings back so many memories...of rocking out in a crowd of guys and me and my homie being the only chicks present and we knew all the lyrics!...getting really excited whenever Tom Morrello would play about two seconds of a riff and we'd know immediately what song they were going to play...of getting my head kicked by a combat boot and seeing orange and purple stars for a minute, then proceeding to slug the guy who kicked me in the chest...of seeing them perform in a little Mexican restaurant in downtown L.A. and the zealot fans ripped down these gigantic bullhorns off the wall...buying innumerable scalper tickets...seeing Zach jump around the stage with his dreads flying all over the place...going to a show at the Palladium while my boyfriend was slanging his Aztec Drums Mexica Humms t-shirts outside.

This time the bullet cold rocked ya a yellow ribbon instead of a swastika nothin' proper about ya propaganda fools follow rules when the set commands ya said it was blue when ya blood was read that's how ya got a bullet blasted through ya head blasted through ya head blasted through ya head.

What I loved about Rage was they were so different from all the other bands out there. They didn't waste their platform on temporal themes. Zach knew his hip-hop, too. To me, they were the best of both worlds...rap and rock.

When I made the decision to become a servant of God, I had a hard time reconciling my faith and the type of music I was listening to. I thought the easiest thing for me to do was go cold turkey. So I just listened to praise and worship. It was tough, believe me. I felt like my music had defined who I was...and I enjoyed it so much, why was God making me throw it all away? Literally, my husband tossed my entire cd collection in the trash. That one hurt. I don't know if he had to be so radical as to do a clean sweep. I know now that God didn't dictate that I should throw everything away, but that move was a symbolic one. It made Michael and I start fresh in our lives together. I listened to The Winans, Bebe and Cece, Virtue, MaryMary, Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Yolanda Adams and Cross Movement, to name a few. It was a simple, precious time in my life. These days I still listen to praise and worship around the house like Moi.

I will worship You with humility fall on my face bow to my knees I will praise Your name for Your good deeds to me because of Your love I have eternity Yeh that's right Yeh that's true And I will worship You You are my precious King and I will praise You with true humility.

I'll listen to my old music when I am feeling nostalgic, which is usually when they have flashback weekend on KROQ. Rage just isn't the type of music conducive to a peaceful atmosphere and seven kids. But this is me and this is the type of music I like.


Will it ever end?

Yesterday. Yeh, thank God it is over.

My morning started off with a bang. My daughter squirted poo all over herself and her crib. So I had to bathe her, dress her, then clean her crib and begin the process of washing everything. Then when I went to my boys' room to supervise their chores and make sure they weren't beating each other and all that good stuff, I come to find out my 5 yo peed his bed, then changed and went to sleep in his brother's bed and peed in that bed too. So add four sheets (two flat, two fitted to be exact), two mattress pads, four pillows, two comforters and pee-pee pjs to wash. All before breakfast. Don't forget Maya's twenty stank diapers I had to change, who is supposed to be potty-training.

I have never had to deal with so much fecal material in my life! Holey smokes.

I never knew motherhood was so...gross. OH. And add four boys running around like wild monkeys, a daughter whining for juice NOW, my baby crying for me to pick her up and my youngest boy screeching for a toy. Then Noah breaks my coffee pot in his pursuit of the toaster. Broken glass everywhere. And I will have one grouchy mother-in-law when she finds out we don't have a coffee maker. What's up with old folks and their coffee? Anyway, I was about ready to gouge out my own eyeballs by noon.

What? You want to eat graham crackers and dry cherrios for lunch? Be my guest. You want to bounce on the trampoline in your boxers while being sprayed with the hose by your brother? Knock yourself out.

Then I had to run to the social security office. Then the church office to pick up some papers. There are days when I am totally defeated and exhausted. Today was that day. Was it a coincidence that today was the day of 777 women, and the day I volunteered to give "My Story"? I think not. I had to come to the meeting a half hour late because my dear husband was not home in time to switch shifts. So I work myself in a tizzy because of that.

It was also the first day we broke up into groups. So I had to walk in, sit down and lead the group, and pretend like I knew what the heck I was talking about. I just wanted a minute to breathe. I tried to get out of doing my story, but I figured I should just get it over with (plus Erin is kinda bossy heehee). I was totally scatterbrained, which isn't like me at all. I forgot to say major events in my life such as, when I started serving God (duh), when I got married, when I started going to Sandals...but for whatever reason I did admit to other stuff that I am totally embarrassed for (sorry mom, but yes I racked all my art supplies and I was a total fag hag!).

Hopefully all the ladies were able to understand what I was trying to say, which was that the life I live now is totally beyond the life I had planned for myself and that I have embraced God's call through it all and now I am blessed. After the meeting a few of us ladies went to grab something to eat. It was good times. Sometimes I wonder if I let *too much* of my hair down...but you know, I'm just being real with myself, others and God. I've always struggled with being too out there. But what can I say? What you see is what you get with me.

And that, my friends, can be both good and bad!


Racism, beaners, middle-aged ladies and other good stuff

I don't really consider myself a very racially aware person. For instance, I don't automatically enter a room and seek out people that look like me and stay away from those that don't. I don't attune my ears to any conversations that are about discrimination or stereotypes. I don't automatically assume people with lighter skin color than me feel superior. I don't go and on about *the man* or the *white devil* or the *oppressor*. I know alot of people that way.
I went to school at Cal State L.A. for goodness sake!

More M.E.C.H.A members and Brown Berets, and Dia de los Muertos festivals than you can shake a stick at. Which was cool. My college years were, for me, a time of cultural awakening and awareness.

I am in that funny group of Mexican-Americans that don't have family in Mexico because my family has been *here* for generations. Way back when the Treaty of Hidalgo was signed in 1848, and Mexico owned half of the United States. So when people ask me where in Mexico is my family from, they expect to hear Michoacan or Sonora or someplace like that. They look at me funny when I say New Mexico and Arizona.

I did not grow up in a home where the language was predominantly Spanish. My Nana always spoke English, unless she was talking about something she didn't want us kids to understand, the same with my parents. Sure, we ate Mexican food everyday, my grandfather listened to music in Spanish, we had lots of dirty cars that didn't run in our driveway, my mom sold burritos to make extra money and I had someone in my family named Chuchie. When people ask me what culture I most identify with, I would have to say Chicano because we are a unique blend of American and Mexican and it is most definitely a southern California thing. I am proud of that.

So I was amused to say the least at this teacher's meeting/brunch that I had to attend last Saturday, since I am scheduled to teach an art class this fall. I have never met any of these ladies so I was a bit nervous. The coordinator assured me there were other ladies who didn't know anyone either and we would all be getting to know one another. There were eight other teachers/mothers and they were nothing like me. Meaning they were all white, older, they all had short mom hair, little to no makeup, they were all wearing capris with blouses tucked into their pants. The minute I walked in the door, the coordinator sang out, "Hiiiii Denise!" and I'm thinking, how in the world did she know it was me if she had never met me or seen me before? And I did remember her saying there were other people she was meeting for the first time. But then I thought, ahhhhhh I am the only beaner here.

What made me prick up my ears a bit and consider this whole race issue was when the leader asked us to get into groups and find out three things we had in common with each other. We all started sharing where we were born. When I said, Los Angeles, a woman in the group immediately started singing, Born in East L.A...I was, born in East L.A! And then she started laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world. I just looked at her and went on to the next question. Why would she think I was born in East L.A? I don't know, maybe because of my brown skin and my Latino-sounding last name. And why would she think it was funny to sing that stupid Cheech Marin song?


And for the record, I wasn't born in East L.A. although my family is from there and thats where I spent the first three years of my life. That place is good times. When the groups all got together to share about one another, a woman in my group introduced me and shared where I was born. Then, amazingly, some other random white lady started singing Born in East L.A, I was, born in East L.A! And as the other women started giggling, I was sitting there thinking, what in the world is going on here? That wasn't even funny! I got over it and continued with the meeting, getting to know a little bit about the women and the descriptions of the courses they intended to teach. The first Born in East L.A. lady was going to teach a western history class and incorporate fun facts about how the people lived during that time. She went on to describe this play she put on with her students about slavery.

Oh, we had the best time! We had a little mural on the wall with cotton balls taped to it so the slaves had to pick it while they sang songs. And the snobby slave owners were kicking their feet up, drinking some lemonade. It was sooo fun! The kids had a blast doing that play. We invited other students to watch it and they loved it! It was so neat! We had so much fun!!

And I'm sitting there thinking to myself, what exactly was fun about that? You are teaching your students about slavery here! There was nothing amusing about human beings ripped from their homeland, enslaved, sold and separated from their families, beaten, killed, raped, then having their babies taken from them and sold, demeaned. I had a hard time trying to figure out what fun aspects she could draw from that time in history so much that her students *had a blast* participating. I must have looked stupid sitting there with my mouth hanging open.

Then my mind was wandering, did she have any black students in her class? Did they play the role of slave or slaveowner? I was dumbfounded. But I couldn't truly take offense to what this woman said because of the way she said it. There seemed to be no malice whatsoever. She was clueless. So how could I possibly fault her?

Let me clarify, these experiences have been totally surreal for me and I don't feel any animosity whatsoever toward certain groups of people. But, let me just keep it real....you can best believe I won't have any of my children take that woman's class come September!

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