Tag Archives: Legacy

Silent No Longer

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I just can’t anymore. It’s been a long, emotionally trying week here in America. I find myself at a loss for something. Not quite sure. Loss of innocence? Loss of trust? Loss of life and love and compassion for other human beings? 

All over social media – you are either on one side or the other, it’s us vs. them.  The comments that people write are horrible. And I’m exhausted. I’m sorry but it is not my job to educate you on what white privilege is. It’s not on me to have to explain why every life is precious- regardless of prior criminal record and socio-economic level. 

You feel empathy for me because you can’t imagine how hard it must be right now to be a mother of black sons in America? Well- don’t. Don’t feel sorry for me. Do me a favor. Educate yourself. Take a course on “witnessing whiteness” through your local YWCA. Read books – lots of them- I have a long list if you are interested. Learn the history of this country- not the one they taught you a long time ago back in high school from an outdated textbook but learn the history from black, Latino, Asian and Native American perspectives. You will be shocked of what you learn and it will give you a much richer perspective of the diversity of America.

Please- don’t post that it’s not a black man issue. That you are going to educate your children to respect authority (as if that was the issue), that it came down to personal choice (as if they had a choice). Don’t send me videos through messenger that explain why police killing these black men was justified (your side of things as you put it- I’m not against you or what you stand for but this is how I see things you said). We are better than all of this and it’s insulting. 

It’s on all of us. This issue will not go away. We need serious changes in this country when it comes to criminal justice and law enforcement systems. But it all starts with each individual acknowledging that there are serious problems here.

Really take a deep look at yourself and ask these questions-

What internal racisms and biases do I personally have? (We ALL have them- to admit otherwise is naive) 

How are those biases being passed on to my children? 

Finally- what can I personally do to confront those biases? This will involve doing lots of things outside of your comfort zone. Go meet people who are completely different than yourself- go to places that you normally don’t go to. Challenge yourself to learn something new about a different culture every day. 

This is our defining moment people. Years from now the history books will paint this time of 2016 in a certain light- similar perhaps to the year -1968? 

Where we go from here matters. The world, this country, our legacy, our children’s futures depend on it. 

90 Years Young

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She was born on June 22, 1926. Her father- Asuncion Espinoza came from a wealthy Mexican cattle ranching family. Her mother was named Librada. Her comfortable childhood was swept away from under her feet when her father decided to leave the family for another woman. He left them completely impoverished and desolate at a very troubled time in the world- the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution and the crisis of a depressed economy in both the U.S. and Mexico.

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Asuncion and Librada’s Wedding (early 1900’s)

Consuelo or “Abuelita Chelo” as we have all come to call her was the little girl who was abandoned along with her siblings and her mother Librada.  Abuelita Chelo is my grandmother and our family matriarch. She turned 90 years old this past week and on Sunday, we will celebrate her and her life. Abuelita never forgot how her life changed drastically from one day to the next when her father left the family and the extreme poverty that followed, living as a homeless family on the streets of Mexico, her and her siblings hustling to make money on the streets as shoe shiners and gum sellers- this childhood trauma followed her all the rest of her life and brought her tremendous sadness.

My grandmother is not the baking cookies type. Never was. Instead I remember her strength and fortitude. She taught me to work hard. Both her and Grandpa did. At age 11, my parents sent me on weekends to spend the night at their house so that I could help them sell at the swap meet. We’d wake up at 5:30 in the morning. The truck was on- rumbling low- coffee scents strong in the air and I’d be squeezed in between them in the front seat of the truck. It was still dark outside. We’d arrive at the swap meet, all of us like small ants in line formation in our trucks- all of us immigrants from other places (Mexico, China, Vietnam)- trying to scrape enough dollars and cents to feed our families.

My grandmother taught me how to talk to people- all kinds of people and she taught me how to sell just about anything to anybody. “You’ve got to call them in- like this Elizabeth, ask them what they need, how you might be able to help them, look for every angle- don’t give up. When you have some down time- organize things this way. Keep your eyes open for thieves- they act quick- look at hands and don’t get distracted.” She was also an unbelievably proud grandmother- to every friend that came by to say hello she would tell them- this is my granddaughter Elizabeth- daughter of Belia. She’d spoil me with doughnuts for breakfast, fresh cherries and plums and peaches during the summers and hamburgers for lunch. They were long days and she wanted to make sure I was well fed. I remember thinking that if you added up all the money she spent on me on food throughout the day- it would have been cheaper for her to hire someone else to help!

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As a small child, I would sit at this little wooden island in her kitchen and eat pomegranates. She’d cover my clothes with a huge apron and then I went to town- red juice spilling all over my hands and mouth- never enough- there were never enough pomegranate seeds. Reader’s Digest magazines and newspapers were always scattered around her house. There was always pan dulce in the pastry dish and coffee on the kitchen counter top. Somebody was always stopping by to visit. There was always another relative I had never met before who was the cousin of so and so and then they’d go on and on about how they remembered me when I was just a small baby.

I miss those days. They were the longest days in the world and the best. I just didn’t know it then.

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On Sunday- together with my parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews- all 150 of us- we will celebrate Abuelita Chelo and her 90 years, remember Abuelito Pedro. We will squeeze every single amount of life out of every minute of that day- we will eat, dance, sing, cry, remember and create new memories.

What a legacy she has created- one that is 90 years strong. Thank you Abuelita Chelo.

 

Not Ready

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March 2016-April 2016 172His voice is changing. At first we thought he had a cold or his allergies were acting up- that’s why his voice sounded gruffer and lower- different. But the days have passed and his voice keeps getting lower and lower. He’s grown five inches in the last year. There is a sprinkling of acne across his forehead. There’s no denying it- our days are numbered. We will turn around someday too soon and he will be a full-grown man leaving our house. And I am not ready.

I was not ready when I received the phone call from our pediatrician of 14 years about one week ago, as I was helping my friend Keisha who is expecting pick out her registry at “Babies R Us.” There I was- standing in the baby breastfeeding aisle of all aisles and the phone rang. “Hello?” Sandy, her assistant on the other line replied, “yes, well I am afraid I have some bad news.” My heart dropped- had something happened to Dr.? Sandy says “well, it’s just that she is retiring and closing her practice as of June 1st.” What? I was not prepared to hear those words come out of Sandy’s mouth. I knew that Dr. had briefly mentioned the possibility last year at one of their wellness appointments but I had put it out of my mind- not daring to go there.

Now, you might be wondering but they moved to St. Louis, Missouri- how can they still have their pediatrician in Los Angeles? And that, my friends is part of this sad truth- that I cannot let go. I have not been able to emotionally detach myself. The rational mind says but you must! My heart says NO! So, call me crazy but whenever I fill out a medical form for these kids- I list Dr. as their pediatrician- down to her Los Angeles office phone number.  A month ago in fact, I made their summer appointments for both Big Boy and Baby Girl and built our California vacation around those appointments. That’s how much I am holding on. Which is why when I got off the phone with Sandy, I burst into tears, in that baby breastfeeding aisle of “Babies R Us” while Keisha stared at me with a wild confused look in her eyes. Without words, bursting with all types of emotion,  I could no longer hold back and just let it flow.

I grieved for the loss of the only pediatrician that we had ever known, for my children who had been welcomed into this world by her, she who had guided me and talked me off the ledge so many times, through so many cloudy and murky nights and days. For 14 years, she, oh wise one- had seen us through baby jaundice with a newborn hospital stay, ear infections, hand, foot mouth disease, norovirus, a horrible hit to the head with a baseball bat, terrible falls from cribs, playground equipment, tops of stairs onto marble floors, busted lips, heads, arms, knees and on and on. She had documented the lives of my three children with her records and growth charts and percentages. She had reassured us that it was going to be alright.

Didn’t she realize that right now- thousands of miles away from everyone I know and love and with my oldest, on the edge of becoming a man- that I had needed her now- more than ever?

Saying goodbye to Tia Chica

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My Tia Chica passed away last Thursday, in Mexico City. I wrote about her before in Tia Chica’s Empanadas. My sister Veronica delivered the news via text message to all us sisters. We didn’t have a lot of information about her passing but we knew that if we wanted to get a chance to pay our respects to her and see her one last time, we’d have to act quickly. In Mexico City, they do not embalm the bodies and so they bury them within 24 hours. In Tia Chica’s case it ended up being cremation but needless to say that she passed on Thursday and her rosario– viewing was an all night-vigil Thursday night and Friday morning.

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My two sisters- Nydia and Veronica along with my parents flew into Mexico City Friday. They arrived in the morning and I in the afternoon. The funeral was Friday afternoon and she was cremated Friday evening. I arrived in time to say goodbye and kiss her- glass between us- one final time. My sisters and I – we had an opportunity to thank her for all that she gave to us. We had told her before and we told her again. Still, the finality of death is shocking and we are left with knowing that we’ll never have her empanadas or cooking to nourish us, nor her sarcastic remarks, her biting humor to laugh at- everything and so much more that made her our Tia Chica.

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I am still overcome with so many emotions and since I had not visited Mexico City in 20 years and never with my parents as an adult it was a trip that I cannot yet put to words. There are so many family stories that were told to me that I had never heard and so much I never realized. That is for another post.

Look for an upcoming picture travel diary of 48 hours in Mexico City. It was an unforgettable experience that I cannot wait to share. Thank you for allowing me to share my Tia Chica.

To Kill A Mockingbird

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“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Harper Lee died last week. Since then, I’ve been processing what her death means to me personally and the impact that her words have had in a society that continues to struggle with race and color. By coincidence, the night before she passed, Big Boy had been reading his assigned chapter for “To Kill A Mockingbird” and had thrown it down out of pure outrage and disgust. He was angry. He is an avid reader, this son of mine- during the summer he will read up to 5 books a week. He swallows words whole, coming up for air only to breathe and he reads all books- he has been exposed to great literature and I am so thankful for that. But this book- this book finally put him over the edge.

It was a pure teachable moment, the moment I have been waiting for since I gave birth to these children who come from such beautiful and pure cultures that also put them at risk for brutal racism, discrimination and stereotyping.

I have shied away from writing about these issues. Why? Because they are so deep and I carry my own emotional baggage from childhood. I am still on my journey and traveling through this subject of raising black children in America. Especially when I myself am not black. I am scared. I feel like I’m not doing enough. Or maybe not doing it the right way. Is there a right way?

But Big Boy’s outrage put it out there. You can’t sweep it under the rug. I told him, anger is good. Because I think it is good. If you look at every social justice movement in this country it started with that spark of anger from people saying “that is enough.” We must try to create change and do better.

We are tired. So tired of having to explain ourselves or not explain ourselves. Of having to defy stereotypes, of having others judge or make assumptions about what type of people we are, based on how we look, how much money we make or don’t make, what neighborhood we live in, the clothes we wear and the music we listen to. It’s me having to tell the boys that they shouldn’t wear hoodies, especially dark ones at night. It makes me angry too. And so scared.

Harper Lee’s words resonate with us and now that she is gone, I feel even more so. On the eve of her passing, my son got angry because he read her words. For 13 years, my husband and I been trying to teach our son what it’s like to be a black boy growing up in this world. But it was Harper Lee’s words that put that brutal truth in perspective. No more sugar-coating, no way about it.

Use that anger and turn it to good. As parents, I think that’s one of our biggest jobs and legacies- to educate the next generation and help them to confront that which makes us uncomfortable, have conversations with those who are different and have different opinions, tackle that which we find conventional and status quo but wrong and create change that will ultimately make the world a better place.

My friend Kristin told me yesterday that by the year 2030, all the people of color put together will be the majority in the United States. I told her- well by then I’ll be an old lady so it’s on our kids- they are the ones who will have to figure out how all the mixes of colors and peoples can best work and live together in harmony.

It’s an uphill battle, all the odds are against us but as Harper Lee told us in her own words- that’s the definition of courage- to begin anyways knowing that everything is stacked against you and to do it anyway.

Rest in peace Harper Lee and thank you.

Our Little Birdie

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Our Little Birdie

11130450_10206639464845222_2686084857469796144_oOur dearest Amelia-

Exactly one year ago today we said goodbye to you Birdie. But you are here- we know that you are. In our dreams. You are the sky. You are the birds that fly in the sky- ever so gently and cautiously flittering from branch to branch. You were of this earth for 2 short years and yet you left a significant impact on every single person that came across your path. Did you know you left behind a legacy of strength and grace and pure love?

10395199_949849028373376_2119984740707218695_nYou were the 9th person in the world diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder called Acyl-dehydrogenase 9 deficiency. No one could figure out what was wrong for so long. No doctor, no specialist, no surgeon, no one in the whole world. Your parents and family were puzzled. You had been born a perfectly healthy baby girl, yet within hours they realized something was not right.

Finally the diagnosis they had been waiting for came. It was the worst possible news that a parent could get- their worst nightmare- come to life.

1501539_10202158919047788_1876374137_oBut your parents, dear Amelia- well- you already know. They are two of the bravest, most courageous people I have ever known. It didn’t matter that the doctors couldn’t say exactly how long they could expect you to live. They didn’t focus on how much time you had left, never felt sorry for themselves, that they had been dealt a cruel hand. Instead, they praised and thanked God for you and focused on loving and inhaling you and living each precious moment that they were given with you.

1902801_10103306311801473_2013927511923141821_nThey loved you in a way that was beautiful to witness. Everyone did. For a brief moment in time you were always there. At the beach on a summer’s night- bundled up in your stroller- sitting on the sand next to us- around the bonfire. At birthday parties like the Frozen party- where you stole the limelight from the birthday girl. At every family gathering and holiday- always smiling- filled with an inner radiance and light.

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You never knew a life without shots, frequent hospital stays in and out of the emergency room, doctor’s visits, hooked up to your port- yet your soul seemed unencumbered. You emanated love and grace – not sorrow- not pain- not despair- not sadness. Instead, you knew love every single minute of your life- each one of us made sure of that and love you dearly we did- showering you with gifts, directing all of our attention to you, we’d pass you around from arm to arm and talk to you- “hello Mamas!” You learned to clap and wave and throw “besitos.” Read the rest of this entry

For Bunny

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FullSizeRenderHer nickname was Bunny. I met her as Burnetta Quaid. I was working at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Los Angeles and was tasked with increasing fundraising revenue by double digits with the signature Walk to Cure Diabetes program. Her email came at the perfect time- a fundraiser’s dream. We were climbing the walls- how were we going to increase revenue? Would we like to be Southern California Edison’s charity of choice for their employee giving program?

She worked out of the Hesperia office out in the middle of nowhere. My colleague and now dear friend Anna and I drove out to the local PF Chang’s to meet her for lunch. I was nervous- we couldn’t screw this up- this meant significant fundraising dollars for the organization. I was expecting someone different- more formal, with more ego and attitude. When you are in charge of employee giving programs for a large company and you have charities foaming at the mouth to get in, you get used to people asking you for everything and always saying no.

She was anything but. Dark, long hair. Rosy cheeks. Casual with jeans and a white knit shirt that read Southern California Edison. A beautiful smile and high energy. She had married an older man she met at Edison. He was retired. They lived in Apple Valley and enjoyed riding motorcycles. She was straight and to the point. “Listen, I need a charity who is going to be able to attend all 24 employee giving presentations over the next 4-5 months. They will be in places that are very remote and some will be at very inopportune times. You make a commitment to me and I will commit to you.” Our job would be to attend every single one of those presentations and convince their employees to give money to Juvenile Diabetes. Were we in, could we do it? Um- hell yeah.

For the next 5 months Anna and I breathed, ate, and lived Southern CA Edison, in addition to the other corporate walk teams we had to continue to work with. The pace was grueling and there was no guarantee of a huge pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That is the day to day life of a fundraiser. You have to believe that the money will come at the end of the day.

Spending so much time together, I came to know Burnetta and so many other employees at SCE. Every person who came into contact with her came away inspired by her- you could just tell.  She was kind, energetic and positive beyond words. She was a strong, well-respected leader within the company and by her employees. It was truly a joy to work with her. I had the privilege of working with her not only that first year, but a second year as well, we worked that well together and for her- she was relieved to have found a strong, committed charity that finally did what they said they were going to do. The money came- at first in trickles and I was sweating not gonna lie- how do you justify spending so much time and effort and only raising $5k? But then it got into double digits and I knew we were going to be okay. I think that first year we ended at $50-65K, if my memory does not fail me. Read the rest of this entry