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Gentrification Guilt

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The tall trees lining each side of the street cast a cool shadow on everything as we drive down the busiest street in our clean suburban town. Each time we make this drive, my mom makes the same comment as she looks out the window.

“Me encanta los arboles.”

She loves the trees, the well-kept streets, and the paved walkways.

I can imagine these well-lit streets they now drive every day are a stark contrast to the streets my parents grew up in. My parents grew up in a small town in a small country. They’ve called Los Angeles home for the last thirty years, but a large part of their identity is still rooted in that small town miles away in El Salvador.

Over thirty years ago, my parents were new to this country and landed in neighborhoods full of faces and stories much like their own. Neighborhoods that were, and for the most part are, mostly Latino.

As my parents tell it, moving out of that neighborhood became a prime focus for them. Saving enough money to raise their family, my brother and me, somewhere else. Their version of the American dream was one day buying a home outside of these neighborhoods they first called home.

For the last fifteen years, they’ve lived in a quiet suburban town. The type of place where people walk their dog late at night and jog early in the morning with no fear of who’s around the corner.

The pride that washes over my parents face when they talk about their suburban home is palpable. Moving out of those neighborhoods was an accomplishment. These are the same neighborhoods that so many people are trying to keep Latino by fighting the looming effects of gentrification.

There’s a part of me that feels a tinge of shame when they talk about moving out like it was their greatest escape and highest accomplishment.

But my parents’ identity as Latinos doesn’t rely on their zip code. It’s something they wear regardless of what they say or what they wear.

The perception of my identity relies on the narrative that surrounds Latinos. The way we dress, the way we talk, the neighborhoods we call home.

Somehow calling the suburbs home stains your Latino cred. As if, we can only exist as the truest version of ourselves when surrounded by other brown faces.

It’s the neverending push and pull of being a hyphenate-American. Having to defend and wear our pride with intent to remind people here and there that we’re aware we’re American plus a little something more.

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Redefining Roles

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The first issue with being a writer is being comfortable with calling yourself a writer. Something about that declaration instantly makes me feel like a fraud as if there is a word count minimum that you have to hit in a day…a week…a month to be able to call yourself a writer.

I’ve worked almost a decade working as some sort of marketing writer/editor/content creator/marketer and yet it still makes me feel uncomfortable calling myself a writer.

Now that I’m taking on another title – Julian’s mom – I’m learning to define the different roles I play in my life. This includes writer. Like everything else, it’s an evolving title that changes every other day.

But I’m learning to embrace it and seek it out.

A few weeks ago, I pitched a story to Fierce by Mitu – and they accepted it, and they’ve published my story – all about my journey to becoming a stay-at-home mama.

The whole process has me feeling encouraged and (for the time being) more comfortable with calling myself a writer.

Read the thing I wrote here!

 

 

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6 Weeks In

The worst part of being a new parent beside the lack of sleep is that all those cliches you hear people say are true.

“It’ll be the hardest few weeks of your life but nothing will compare to the feeling of seeing your baby for the first time.”

Nothing will ever compare to seeing Julian’s face for the first time. After many, many, many hours of labor, it felt like a dream…completely surreal. Even though I was covered in sweat and blood, I never felt stronger and more capable. Bringing him into this world is my highest accomplishment.

In the last six weeks, I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been watching my son’s eyes light up as he slowly discovers new things every day. But I’ve also been the saddest, at 3 in the morning crying because my body isn’t cooperating and nothing seems to soothe him.

I’m slowly, barely, sort of starting to feel a little like myself. My body isn’t (as) sore and I’m adjusting to living life on very little sleep (coffee helps). But what they say is true, it’s all worth it.

Here’s to the next few weeks, and the next few months, and forever after that. Here’s to the most beautiful boy I know.

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Estas Historias

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My home and comfort have been built around painful recollections of guerilla warfare.

I’ve heard these stories all my life – missing people, blood on the kitchen floor, rushing past hung bodies as you walk to school.

These stories are told over breakfast and in between drinks. Cushioned with laughter, saddled with sadness, and said with forced smiles and cold stares. All said in the same accent, in the same language that reminds me of home.

Living miles away from these memories, they’re still the building blocks of the two people that make me everything I am. These stories of war and a tiny country torn by war are a part of me.

So as I sit here, four days away from when you’re supposed to make your arrival, I wonder what place they’ll have in your life.

Will you find comfort in these sad stories? Estas historias, will they make you feel at home?

Is there any need for these stories to live on? Maybe they belong in the past so you can build a new identity not built on the foundation of war.

As your mother, I just hope that these stories find a natural place in your upbringing. That each word lands smoothly and fits perfectly in your life.

That estas historias find you when you need them and when you need to feel strong, when you need to feel inspired and when you need to feel grateful.

I hope they serve you, and I hope they ground you. I hope you feel connected to this country you may never visit. I hope you feel connected to this generation that sacrificed everything for you to one day be here and not worry about a soldier standing outside your door.

Estas historias are difficult. They’re heartbreaking, and they’re heavy. They’re heavy with the lives that were lost, but they’re a part of my mother and father, and so they’re a part of your mother, and so I hope they’re a part of you.

 

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Pregnancy, so far

Pregnancy is a 40-week practice in trust, patience, and management of never-ending expectations.

There are the expectations of yourself and your body. Then there are the expectations that everyone else places on you. Expectations of what your body can do, expectations of what you’re capable of, and expectations to express all these feelings in a few short words when everyone asks how you’re doing.

There’s the trust you need to develop in your body. The trust that your body will work to create a healthy human being. The trust that each pain, each ache is all for a purpose. All while your body is working overtime inside, but you don’t have the physical proof of that yet so for now it’s just an unnerving trust that everything you’re feeling inside and out is “right”.

You hear so many stories of how nature, fate and our bodies don’t always work to create the outcome we want. So many women whose path to motherhood is dotted with tragedy. The first weeks of pregnancy were a scary balance of trying to find a middle ground between excitement and caution. What would make me lucky enough to have a different outcome?

It’s patience. Patience as the weeks go by that everything is OK. I’ve known I was pregnant as soon as you can know. So for those 8 weeks after I found out, all I could do was pray and hope and dream that you would keep growing and growing. It’s the most scared I’ve been and the most relieved I’ve been when I heard your heartbeat.

It was the best song I’ve ever heard, and I wish I could hear it all day every day as a constant reminder that you’re OK.

About 18 weeks in, and it’s starting to feel more real as my body starts to round. But emotions and trust and expectations are still a work in progress. I am happy, content, scared, excited, nervous and exhausted. About 20 times a day.

But I know that when I see your face, I’ll know that every doubt, every ache, every fear, every overthought thought, every worry and every emotion was worth it. It will all be worth it to see you soon, baby boy.

 

-Sandi

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