Tag Archives: single parent

Swipe the card

28 May

Sparkly sandals, boxes piling up at my side
Platforms
Stiletto black patent leather
kitten heels
Swipe the card

Men’s wear
Dad’s birthday
Lovely polos
Swipe the card

Walking back
Shiny red sign of SALE
Toss it aside
Keep
Swipe the card

Red gel manicure
pedicure to match
smooth legs
Humming of the massage chair
Swipe the card

Whole Foods
Bright and fun
Kale
Wild Caught Salmon
Swipe the card

Sports gear for the girls
sneakers
for basketball
sandals
for summer

A dress maybe?
Or two
And shorts
or a jumper
All three
Swipe the card

Theatre camp
piano lessons
dance
lunch money
Dinner out
a movie
Rent

in LA
on the freeway
pulling in to fill the tank
Swipe the card

Gotta keep moving
and working
to swipe the card

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

14 May

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

The rise and fall of my emotion is punctuated with bouts of extreme joy and maddening sadness on this day.

Your excitement, hardly contained, explodes into a dazzling smile that reaches your eyes – like shining angels that guide my way.

“Cookies! We made you cookies and a cake! It’s a surprise but it’s a cake.”

It’s a reminder of everything good in my life. Seeing the two of you grow up is piercingly beautiful, hauntingly sweet. I see your smiling faces start to grow sharp with the angles of pre-pubescent youth and I gasp.

Where has the time gone?

I held you to my chest and your body would rise with each breath.

Rise and Fall

Now I hold you close as you cuddle up to me but I can’t breathe with the weight of your growing bodies on my chest.

Where has the time gone?

Am I doing right by you? The happiness of holding you close makes me break down inside and weep openly within the confines of my conscious as it weighs heavily on me that I only give you myself. Will you be fine?

Rise and Fall

We get home and you take my hand, running up the stairs to show me your beautifully hand crafted decorations on the sugar cookies you have baked with your tia. Colors of happiness – light hues of green, pink and baby blue.

“A cake, we made you a cake!”

A strong palette of dark chocolate with accents of light pink mini hearts: a reflection of your own spirits. And I know that you are not just fine, you are wonderfully enveloped in my blanket of love.

Rise and Fall

Day by day. Smile by smile.

Rise we will.

The SuperFlyingMonkeys at the San Francisco Golden Gate Slides

22 Mar

Release

22 Mar

Sadness pools at my feet
rolling slowly off my chest
leaving an icy cold behind

An avalanche of emotion
a substance removed
hollowed inside

Swallowing in silence
revisiting the sorry taste
of loneliness

A deep sigh
for pressure relieved
shoulders rolled back

Deep breathes
of heaviness
blow it out

Slowly
back to the calm
I am released

Mother may I?: When will women stop asking for permission?

21 Mar

It’s 2013 and women have not made up their mind as to what it means to be a feminist; whether we want to be celebrated for our achievements professionally, for the social good, as a mother, or as all three – whether we should be working outside the home and whether we should be telling other women how to live their lives according to our individual epiphanies for the holy grail: defining our version of a perfect work/life balance while being excellent mothers. We haven’t stopped wanting validation on how to live our lives within our desired parameters, in many ways we have not stopped asking, “Mother May I?” when shaping our role as women.

It seems we always have a need to espouse our personal beliefs and best methods for parenting unto unsuspecting innocent bystanders and expect them to join the madness of bullying and peer pressure until the world realizes that our mothering skills and choices are superior over anyone elses, as seen in recent stories.

I have no qualms about sharing what works for you personally; stories of self-discovery and joy are always welcome but blanket statements on who should be doing the majority of child rearing and house chores based on the belief that one gender is “innately” better at parenting makes me want to hurl, literally, on their kitchen floor.

I won’t make any attacks on either Kelly Makino, a non-profit employee turned SAHM, or even journalist Lisa Miller; the media tends to spin these gold nuggets of controversy into a frenetic storm so that you can’t help but go into the story already with an arsenal of prejudices. Ms. Makino is in her every right to CHOOSE the lifestyle that best complements her objectives as a mother, good for her and her family for coming to a compromise for the benefit of their vision of family bliss.

But to brand this personal choice made by two women as a trend of an emerging feminist domestic goddess while Dad goes off to work and gets a break from Mommy and the Kids is insulting. Not only because it lacks substantial research (Lisa Miller couldn’t find a third mom to prove her case?), scientific backing of statements made that women tend to have stronger “motherly” instincts than their male counterparts, baseless statements that women tend to be more efficient in the domestic realm (didn’t Lisa mention Ms. Makino’s dirty dishes in the sink?), and also irresponsible in ignoring an actual growing trend: the single parent and same-sex parents. The Boston Globe states that 1 in 4 children in the US is raised by a single parent. The numbers for same-sex parents are harder to identify as given the political and social climate in many cities, this is not a statement nor figure that is highly publicized.

I have friends who are same-sex couples and make wonderful parents, sharing both the responsibility and the joy of child-rearing without thinking about dividing the tasks based on gender identity roles. One parent might have more responsibility due to a higher flexibility at work while the other focuses on higher earning but no one stops to think about who was born with better pre-disposed patience and parenting sentiments.

In terms of the single parent, be it mother or father, how can you dictate that you are being selfish for pursuing a career and relying on supplemental childcare to carry your household forward if you are the sole bearer of that responsibility? I am a big fan of Sandberg’s “Lean In” initiative and I subscribe to the thinking that women’s rights is far from over, we are nowhere near an egalitarian society. I firmly believe that women should always have a personal choice to seek the lifestyle that brings them the most peace of mind and fulfillment and to have the right to define what their role will be in life without fear of judgement from others, especially from other women.

I get snide remarks, sideways glances, “well-intentioned” advice to scale back on my multiple commitments. As a single parent the onus is on me, and only me, to advance my family financially, emotionally, and to create a thriving environment for my two girls so they can grow to be happy (in whichever way they choose to achieve that satisfaction from life).

I have a full-time career that is demanding but also highly satisfying to my professional goals, my social network, my ability to push myself, and let’s face it, to my ego as well. I am highly involved in a non-profit, in a growing parent group that I founded almost five years ago, I am committed to my writing, to furthering my education, to being a good daughter and sibling, and to my social life. My children do not even make the list because items on lists are essentially line items, all of the above, can come and go and change over time; but not my commitment, love and care of my children. They are as part of me and essential and naturally occurring as breathing. They give me life, motivation, kindness, happiness, the ability to admire humanity – they simply are part of me.

I live my life the way it makes me happiest. I try not to judge others for what they choose but I do hope we can all agree on this: embrace who you are and your version of happiness and celebrate the ability to choose how to be a woman in modern society and what kind of mother you want to be including whether you want to be a mother at all.

LA Morning Commute with the SuperFlyingMonkeys

19 Mar

Shining Eyes, Burning Bright

11 Mar

I look around the room
Seeing smiles

I feel warm laughter
bathing me in
glorious luxury

Moments of spontaneous humor
Bursting fits of disengaged silly laughter

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in unexpected love

Walking in a dance of contorting limbs
body moving back and forth
trying
to cap the exulted happiness that bubbles up from deep within
Head back – melodious music – flowing out to the sky

Falling back onto my bare shoulders
tickling me
with sprinkles of kindness

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in reciprocated love

Holding hands
walking in unison
down a pillow-y pathway
of carefree embrace

Daylight outside
slowly receding
to a muted evening
giving way to the inner guide
of jubilant light

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in honored love

Everyone else melts away
Except
their kind smiles
follow us everywhere

Giddily joining us
in our quest for frozen yogurt
Eagerly following us
with dancing eyes
as we sing out an inside joke

In step
we fall
souls to match
walking down LA streets

Night greets us
In a sweet sleep
I lay my head

Waking to see you still here
by my side
Caressing my hair

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in unmeasured love

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that

28 Feb

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

Beauty
Skin Deep
Every day older
Wiser
life and hardship

Outward
Face up
Bold, strong, and fierce
Strides to success

But so
Tired
Swinging to and fro
Only gradually
moving forward
emotion
self satisfaction

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

A hurricane
of movement
Tearing inside
pushing out
wailing
breaking
Agonizingly slow

Torrent
of shame
self-doubt

Precariously close to
Tipping over
Roaring winds all about
Pushing
Edging
Closer and Closer

Scream

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

So strong
So Beautiful
Pulled Together

And inside
it crumbles

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

Uniforms, Poverty, and Inspiration

29 Jan

In the 8th grade, I was about 13 or 14, I was elected student body president. My teacher, Ms. Kane, was very passionate and talented at instilling patriotic ideals and an appreciation for the little we possessed as well as reminded us of the world that lay at our doorstep.

Her mother was a Holocaust survivor; a slowly fading tattoo of her serial number that was her only identity during the war, still marked her for what she had lived through. When they came to America, they were dirt poor, completely displaced from their home, their bearings still rattled by one of the most grotesque series of events in human history.

Someone was being immature in class and teasing another student about what they were wearing. Ms. Kane became another person. Always on task, she became impassioned and emotional as she described how she only had one black skirt and a white long sleeved collar shirt that she wore to school every day. This was her uniform. But problem was she was the only one wearing it at school. It was her only outfit. As she described how she would be so very careful not to soil her outfit for the next day and how she would fanatically wash it every third day, I fought to check my tears. A few students looked to me to see whether they should laugh and teaser her too and I scowled at them, trying my best to look hard (as hard as I could now look as a student body council prez) and communicate it was best to just stay mum.

Ms. Kane’s story hit a chord with me then, it made this Jewish woman much more relatable to me, a Mexican-American teenager whose only exposure to white people were through a handful of teachers. It also reminded me how important it was that we had uniforms.

You remember how you used to detest wearing school uniforms? Those awful, often scratchy, completely unflattering plaid or horrid solid jumpers and skirts (that I am sure manufacturers dye just to embarrass legions of youth every year), you remember right? Or as my fellow Latinos and/or George Lopez fans would say, “You member right? You member!”

I remember them too. The deep evergreen jumper that I owned when I was in elementary school where some genius decided to send home flyers advising parents that they would be implementing a uniform policy and the colors parents should purchase for their children. All the while in small print it mentioned that this would be a voluntary measure and no one would be forced to purchase or wear these uniforms.

The first day of school I arrived in my jumper, one of two that I owned, and found myself the only one in said jumper in my class. It was quickly pointed out to me by other students in the school yard that I was the only kid that they could see that was wearing the uniform. Well apparently they had not caught sight of my sister.

Every day I walked to school knowing I would be ridiculed, that I would be bullied by the older kids, taunted for being poor and only having the one outfit. I became highly skilled at using words to make those bullies feel stupid but I still walked away feeling wounded, feeling small, feeling inadequate.

I am a PTA member at my daughters’ school, I became the Fundraiser Chair this year, and one of my highest priorities was enacting a school uniform policy. There were complains about the lack of self-expression, about forcing parents to purchase these uniforms, as well as supporting arguments that it would be good for the sixth grade students to have their wardrobe choices checked with the new guidelines. The usual supporting arguments of it lowering the gang and/or explicit music affiliation were mentioned and it became a back and forth stalemate.

I got up and said, “I’m a single parent. I would have no problem making the initial investment of purchasing uniforms for my children since the benefits of not worrying about them being up to the latest fashions, reducing the time of getting ready in the morning, and quite frankly it is much more affordable than buying them several different outfits throughout the year.” Another parent piped up and brilliantly mentioned that we could fundraise for those unable to purchase the uniforms and we could hold an exchange of uniforms amongst parents as children outgrew their uniforms. We pushed and went through the motions and months later my kids are happily wearing uniforms.

It’s not just about leveling the field in the shallow self-expression through clothing amongst children, it’s about leveling the field of the haves and have not’s and instilling a sense of inclusion at a young age for our next generations.

I went to Washington D.C. with Ms. Kane that year and we wore our uniforms all week. We groaned, hollered, and dragged our feet but when we got there we frequently received compliments from elderly white women (again pardon my then limited interaction outside my East LA school neighborhood) about how polished and classy we looked compared to the scantily dressed youth of nowadays. We spend many lunches having a conversation with strangers about where we were from, where they were from, it was almost as if we forgot if we were white or not, we were just human.

So remember, even as awful as these uniforms may seem, they make everyone seem human and approachable, at least a little bit more so, at least as approachable as LA people can be…

-Susana Benavidez
Native Angeleno (so don’t rag on me for talking smack about LA ;) )

Moving Forward

20 Jan

How do you balance your own dreams and ambitions with those of the collective good? The collective good being: your family, your people, and for those so inclined, society as a whole. How do you balance any dreams with the reality of a failed attempt? How do you move forward when life seems stalled or worse yet muted?

When I was a kid I thought anything was possible. I was living in low standards (in quality of life, expectations, and interaction) that I drew up my own world of existence. When I try to recall memories, many of them are of me just sitting, lying, standing – alone, lost in thought. A loud buzzing is in my ears as I lose track of time and wake from my fantasy to find that hours and sometimes only seconds have passed.

The hours spent dreaming were my escape from my life. My time spent reading and writing were a respite from admitting where/when I was living.

And in these dreams with limitless skies I saw myself as an attorney, as a businesswoman, as an inventor – with an empire that would spread its wings in Boyle Heights and provide a higher quality of life to its residents: to teenage moms, to boys on the cusp of being lost to drugs/gangs/apathy, to immigrant parents providing for a better life. I dreamt of a world where I wrote my way to the top, sharing my stories, and then my profits to this community. Buying a beautiful house for my parents and siblings; making enough money so my parents could stop their backbreaking work; financing the education of my siblings so they could escape the soul crunching cycle of poverty; realizing these goals would make me happy I thought.

Yet along the way my heart wasn’t strong enough, my mind became weaker, and I dreamt longer and longer. My escape became a necessity and I would lose track of time, lose track of my goals and ambitions, until I just lived. I breathed, I ate, I woke and I slept. I loved with an immature sense of what this meant or what it would bring.

And those goals became silly notions meant for another. My self-questioning became louder, a feverish pitch of self-doubt that drowned out any positive thoughts and immobilized my inner sense of worth.

A failed marriage, an unaccomplished degree, and single motherhood at 23.

It seemed the only dream I had “accomplished” which I couldn’t even take credit for was growing into an attractive woman. As a child, I had wished daily to be beautiful, graceful, to possess the ease of human interaction – the ability to connect and feel with others, but this desire was misguided as I did not know the difference between healthy and unhealthy connections in relationships.

I was in a downward spiral that was quickly finding its way to the bottom. I had no sense of where I could go from there, of what life meant anymore if not my definition of a perfect loveable family.

But with pain, failure, and darkness comes revelation. You cannot hide from yourself when all that is left is you.

So I took the shreds of my motivation and began a painstakingly slow mending process. I recognized my faults, which were many, and realized that no matter how sympathetic a past I had, it did not constitute an excuse for where I had landed.

And 5 years later you find me here, full of life.

I didn’t give up on life. I placed one foot in front of the other and though I had many missteps, I keep walking forward. And I feel a sense of pride in my life; I have two young daughters that grow lovelier every day, I have a career that I enjoy and brings me a sense of fulfillment, and I am ready to go back to my restarting those childhood dreams – even if that only means coloring the life of my loved ones with my happiness.

We can spend days philosophizing about what true happiness means and what we need to possess it. We can spend an equal amount of time debating whether the singular task of making ourselves happy contributes to the improved happiness of the collective; I believe that it does. By being a happy mother, daughter, sister, friend, and partner I am bringing that positivity into the lives of those connected to me. By sharing my stories, I hope you feel the hope that has carried me through daily and how this hope has changed as I have gotten older. I once thought happiness would come when I married and had children, a family to love me and receive my love.

But I learned that you can’t smother the darkness, you can’t swallow the bitter memories, you can’t hide from the gray that is nestled inside you and lures you into endless sleep; you have to face it in order to bring a sense of peace and happiness into your own being.

Imagine that you are in your dark hole, surrounded by darkness that eats at your perceived happiness away, that chips at your will to live, that hammers you down when you try to move forward, that suffocates you when you try to take a breath of hopeful air. You are left slumped on the ground choking on the hurt, the pain is so strong it keeps you pinned to the floor and no matter how hard you try to ignore it; the ringing in your ears makes it impossible for you to function at a higher level than mere existence. It becomes a sub existence and time passes by, passing you by.

But there is a ladder amongst this darkness. Barely visible at first but you feel it with your hands as you wander around unrelenting in your desire to escape. Each rung on that ladder brings you a different memory – a painful shameful moment in your life; and in order to move past a rung you have to come to terms with it and the implications it has caused in your life.

If you were abused, you need to know that you did nothing to invite this undeserved attack onto yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. You do not have something in you that can elicit this behavior in others toward you. You may have been repeatedly abused, by many, but you need to realize that it is not your fault. You were a victim but over time and with a lot of work you can heal and stop living like one.

Whatever hard reality was or is your life you have two choices, same as anyone else; climb the ladder or cower in the false safety of your known darkness. Don’t beat yourself up for decisions and choices you made, even if you ended up hurting others. You have to learn to forgive yourself and push forward. If you don’t, your “reality” (your self-inflicted continuation of that twisted world) will always remain your captor.

I’m not credentialed to tell you how to get better, I can only share what I have gone through and have done to get to a better place. One thing I can tell you, when you climb high enough up that ladder, you will savor the ease with which you keep climbing and you will begin to shed your old tattered self and embrace the new stronger, happier, and more productive self.

I am not at the top of the ladder; I don’t know what I will find when I get there. But I do know that I am relishing the journey upward and that I am improving this world a little with my own sunshine brightening this beautiful new day.

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Zack Hunter | Phenomenological Fiction

Zack Hunter is the pseudonym of a Californian poet, author, artist, musician, and researcher. He lives on a farm and spends his free time reading and writing about whatever it is he is passionate about at the time.

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