Tag: Personal Development

Why Checking Solely White is No Longer Right for Me

In 2012, I visited the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. There I learned that race is a social construct. There are no significant scientific distinctions between people of differing pigmentations. To be more precise, human DNA varies no more than .01% between people of different “races” or skin tone. (For more information, check out this archived NYT story and this National Geographic book review.)


For a long time, race was something I took for granted. Like every other American, I have filled out forms that included questions about my race, ethnicity, gender, and religious affiliation. And, based on my understanding of race and ethnicity, I have filled always my forms out as follows:

  • Race- White
  • Ethnicity- Hispanic/Latino- Yes

In 2017, my husband purchased for me an ancestry kit. Through that process, I learned that I was 44.7% European descent and 41.5% Native American descent. Yet, throughout my entire life, I had only identified myself as racially White. I always understood that my Mexican-ness was an ethnicity, not a race. I now believe that by identifying only one aspect of my lineage, I missed out on an important part of my family’s history.


Why does it matter?


I have pondered this question since I learned about my ancestral history. I have begun to put more thought into it as I contemplate how to answer the census questionnaire that will be hitting my mailbox this year. What is the longterm impact in my life on thinking of myself as a White Hispanic? I am not sure.


But, I do think that it has some impact.


You see, I now believe that it is important to see myself as all the above- Mexican-born, Native American and white, US citizen. In the past year, I found an article on PBS about the shifting nature of the definition of whiteness. And, I came to recognize that many of the same people who now disparage the incoming immigrants, were, at one time, seen in those same terms by “Real Americans.” However, once they got scooped up into the definition of whiteness, they forgot what it meant to be immigrant. They became the haters that their ancestors once faced.

I don’t want to be that way. And, I want to help others not to be that way. By reminding myself of the ties I have to other people that inhabit the land around me, I can encourage others to consider how they see themselves. I think it is worth it to try to relate to everyone. I think that when we see more of ourselves in others, we are able to see the humanity in everyone.

In the time that I have been contemplating this, I have slowly begun to include Native American as part of my self identify on various questionnaires. I have tried to be careful that I do it in a way that is not misleading or distracting from those individuals who have been raised in largely native or indigenous communities. And, I have decided that I will be checking both Native and White in the 2020 census along with Latina and Mexican.

Are there boxes you should not check?

The same ancestry test told me that I have 3% Subsaharan African and 1% Western Asian and North African descent and that 1% of my European descent derived from an Ashkenazi Jewish ancestor. I am excited to learn a little more about these connections. Nonetheless, I do not plan on including black or African American as a box that I check.

I think that in order to identify with a race or ethnic identity one must have had experiences or awareness of that identity in youth.

I grew up speaking Spanish, brought up by Mexican parents in a community that included large numbers of Central Americans. My parents tethered me to that world.

At the same time, I grew up in a primarily white school. All of my friends were of European descent. I went to college in Topeka, Kansas and was in a sorority. I tethered myself to Anglo America.

When I think of those two things- the world I came from and the world I created for myself, I do not believe that my lived experiences enable me to check the box for Black or African American. In other words, I have not lived the experiences of a black person.

Do you have a story of contemplating your ancestral identity? Share it with me.

Beware the Boys

The dogs growled at one another. “Behave.” I yell. Why won’t they let me concentrate on this free writing. I try to focus on the thoughts running through my mind. Will I create a next best seller? Will I create a POS? Will I create?

I return to the sounds of the dogs, this time it is the quiet sounds of eating. My pack of three enjoying their meal. I do not ever recall wanting a pet when I was young. My personality was much too cold to want something so warm. And wet.

The little one jumps on my lamp and licks my chin. He is the youngest of the bunch; a blondie bear of a terrier. I can understand why parents let the youngest run them ragged. After a certain point, they just want to get something done. I squint and focus on my writing while he crawls onto my shoulder. I return my attention back to the task at hand. But it is not easy to do. One by one, the boys ask, no, demand my attention. How did I get here?

My willingness to get a family pet came after my husband and I were unable to conceive. I did not enjoy the hormones that the doctors prescribed to get pregnant. My husband did not enjoy me while I was on the hormones.

A few months after our decision to end the process, my stepson voiced a desire for a dog. Growing up, my family never had pets. My mother and father had five children on their hands. I imagine that was enough herding and wrangling for them. I had attempted pet ownership in years prior. I shirked the responsibilities of my two prior pets onto my more human friends when things got hard. Those two pets spent less than three months total time with me. I was under 30 years old during that time.

About six months after my stepson had begun to ask for a dog, we found our first furry friend in February 2012. Chewbacca was a two month old brown mutt who my husband immediately loved. He made me fill out the paperwork at the adopt-a-dog event because he refused to put “Chewie” back down. Someone else may want him. By February 2013, Shaggy and Baxter had joined our household.

Learning to like pet ownership was not made easy by my three chewing, pooping, peeing, loving lads. By the time we get home from work at 6:00 p.m., they demand attention. Daily, they need to go out, walked, fed, and occasionally, also washed and groomed. In short, they are work. If I pick up my computer or a book to read before I have given them enough attention, they will let me know it.

And, you guessed it, my husband and stepson do not contribute as much as I do to the care and upkeep of our furry friends. But here’s the thing, I am okay with that.

By becoming my pets’ primary caretaker, I have learned about myself.

Our family pets have given me more than I give them. Examine a photo representation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I posit that I help meet their basic needs- food, water, warmth, rest, security, and safety.

I posit that they help meet my psychological needs. They provide me friendship and companionship. Every morning before 6:00 a.m., I get up to start writing. Within fifteen minutes, they leave the warmth of our bedroom to snuggle next to me on the couch while I write. When I find myself laid up due to illness, they will remain at my side while I recover. They are devoted. They force me to take good actions. Because I know that their behaviors will be more relaxed, I try to take them out for a walk in the evenings. And, by walking them in the evenings, I am taking an action that benefits me. The walk in the evening benefits me as I have sat all day in an office. I feel a sense of accomplishment for getting exercise and doing something for my dogs.

They are even helping me to become a fully self-realized human being. They have helped me work towards my full potential by inspiring my creativity in this essay. Yes, they fuel my inspiration often. Chewie’s first year with us, I wrote kids’ stories featuring him as the protagonist. Perhaps someday I will even revisit those ideas. For now, they help give me the love and support I need to become a better person every day.

Contemplating the future, I do not know if I will get more pets once my boys die. I do not think that I would want to own three dogs all at once again. It is work. But, I now understand why pets are so important to people. They give you love and a sense of responsibility. They make things fun and me more patient. In sum, pets can help balance you out. If you are considering a pet, get it. Your world will open up in ways that you could not have imagined.

Tell me the story of your first pet and how it helped you grow.

Monthly Motivational Mantra

Work towards progress, not PERFECTION.

In my younger years, I was not as wise. I wore the badge of “perfectionist” proudly. As time passed, I realized the absurdity of my self-assessment. I learned, through a much wiser friend, that perfectionism is a form of procrastination. Why? For perfectionist to get things perfect three things have to line up PERFECTLY: Time, Inspiration, Capacity. Impossible!

Now, I think about the ways in which I can move projects along to the next phase. I accomplish a large number of projects, goals and responsibilities when I move towards progress.

I don’t have to be perfect or inspired to get moving. I just need to progress forward.

Monthly Motivational Mantra

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February Watchword- Fearless

I am not superhuman. But, I am a Latina, which is nearly the same thing. When I begin to feel fear, I acknowledge it. “Yeah fear. I see you. I hear you pounding the inside of my chest trying to break me apart.” I close my eyes, take a deep breath. I get myself ready. I look fear straight in the eye and say, “But, I’m still doing it anyway. Now, step aside!”

*This photo is of my first rock-climbing trip in Colorado. I took the photo so that I could examine the hook and cables sixty feet above me. I would be putting my entire weight… and faith on them.

Book Review of “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter”

A young woman dealing with loss, love and learning.

Fall 2018, I learned about a young adult author that completely excited me. Erika Sanchez, a professor of Poetry at Princeton University. She is the author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Her debut novel was released by Knopf Books in October 2017. Now, I cannot say why I had not heard about it sooner. But, I am so thankful that I did. I connected with the story.  

The moment I heard the title, I knew that I had to read this book. The title proved just as intriguing for others in my social circle. After I finished reading it, I took to social media to laud its praises. I posted on Facebook,

If you have not already picked up your copy of this book. Do it! It is devastatingly beautiful. #iamnotyourperfectmexicandaughter

I read the first comment following my post:

Yes, you are my perfect Mexican daughter!! 

I laughed. My mom had posted a response. I could hear her saying those words, the Y’s in yes and you sounding more like J’s.

But, being a “Perfect Mexican Daughter” did not make me feel any less connected to this book. In fact, I felt connected to it deeply because I do not see myself as the perfect Mexican daughter. Like Julia Reyes, the book’s protagonist, I have felt hopelessness and despair. I have desired to rebel against my culture and circumstances. As a grown woman, I was able to enjoy the book and detach more than I would have years earlier.

The story is beautiful and raw. It is a literary masterpiece. It is a coming of age/maturation story of a young woman living in Chicago with her undocumented parents. Julia is a flawed, high schooler. She is suffering from depression, possibly PTSD and poverty. She is dealing with the questions left by her sister’s death. I could not to stop reading it. 

The book starts as the Reyes family learns that Olga, the older daughter, is dead. It is an excellent story that will grip you. And, if you come from a Latina background, it will feel familiar in a way other books may have never felt familiar.

The book ends beautifully. You grow to love a teenager who, like other teenagers, can be very unloveable. And, it will remind you to love the rebellious teenager you were. Since reading it, I have recommended it to everyone. And I hope that I have inspired you to read it as well.

I chose to include this book as part of the January theme for my blog because this book helped me re-evaluate and reset myself. It reminded me how much I long to have literature that features characters who look like me. Most importantly, it made me re-evaluate my dream of becoming an author and reset my goals in accomplishing the task. It is this book that helped launch me back into the trajectory of starting this blog.

Con Cariño, Amada.

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