representation matters

When the Disney/Pixar movie Coco won Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards, co-director Lee Unkrich wrapped up his part of the acceptance speech with the following statement:

“With Coco, we tried to take a step forward toward a world where all children can grow up seeing characters in movies that look and talk and live like they do. Marginalized people deserve to feel like they belong. Representation matters.”

I’ve always believed that representation matters. I cheered when Rey picked up the lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I love Jane the Virgin and its focus on Latinx themes. But my enthusiasm has always been a feeling of collective support and inclusion. I didn’t know it could really be a truly personal feeling until I saw Coco. That was the first time that I saw myself in art, and not something like me. I saw ME.

I’ve had to learn to code switch my whole life, before I knew there was a term for it, and even thought I’m not fluent in Spanish. My code is cultural. I’m relatively fair-skinned: half white and half Latina. At home, I learned to count to 100 in Spanish before I went into kindergarten. My nana, my maternal grandmother, was everyone’s boss. All of my cousins, the grandkids, were “mija” and “mijo” to every adult. Every Christmas movie that showed people eating turkey, not tamales, confused me until I was about ten years old. In fact, I convinced myself one year that Kevin McCallister had traveled back in time to Thanksgiving when he watches a family eat a turkey dinner in Home Alone. That was the only way I could make sense of what they were doing. I mean, that movie stretches the bounds of physical reality anyway (hi, an iron in the face is a serious injury) so time travel didn’t seem like that much of a stretch. And I have always loved mariachi music. My tata (what my family calls my grandfather) played guitar in a mariachi band. He used to make mixed tapes for my mom, my sister, and me. But when my friends at school would ask my what my favorite song was, I would never answer “Cielito Lindo” or “Zacundito Loco.” After learning that Kevin McCallister did not, in fact, time travel, I realized that some of the things my family did and liked were not the same as my friends’ families.

(Side note: if anyone can find me a mariachi version of “Zacundito Loco,” YOU WILL BE MY NEW BEST FRIEND. I can only find cumbia version now and it’s just not the same.)

My code has also been pop cultural, too, with a huge emphasis on Disney. My family wore out Disney soundtracks in the tape deck of our pick-up truck. We went to Disneyland at least once a year for over a decade. Half of my tattoos are Disney-themed. Obscure quotes from Disney movies are regular catchphrases for us to this day, like Flounder in The Little Mermaid saying “this is this and that is that,” and Pinocchio when he says “ok, Lampie.”

I’ve roped my husband into the Disney life, too. We broke the news that that I was pregnant with pictures of me making sad puppy faces and standing in front of Disneyland rides, pointing at safety disclaimers that said “expectant mothers should not ride.” You can mock me, but I have loved being in the audience for Disney over the years.

It may surprise you to learn that I only watched Coco about a month ago. It was the day before my birthday. My mom, my sister, and I made plans to watch it at my house. We had tried to get to the theater to see it together but between work, my new baby, and various caregiving schedules, it didn’t work out. We braced ourselves for an emotional experience: 1.) hello, it’s Pixar and 2.) one of the central ideas of the story is “remember me” and we’re all still trying to figure out how to function without my nana, who passed away a year and a half ago. So I was ready for the waterworks to hit at some point at the 60-70 minute mark of the movie. I didn’t expect them to start with the introductory logo. I was facing away from the TV holding my son, figuring I had another minute before the movie started, when I heard a peal of violins and a bouncing guitar. I looked over and saw the screen panning over the Disney castle paired with “When You Wish Upon a Star,” arranged as a mariachi song. And I lost it.

My codes had come together: two things that have meant so much to me for my entire life were existing in the same place and time, in an inescapable place and time. You can’t ignore the opening logo. It’s iconic. It’s in front of every movie. It’s the seal of Disney approval. And now it sounded like it was for me. The guitars, the violins, and the trumpets were playing a song everyone knows in a style that is an indelible part of my identity. I didn’t feel like just one more body in the vast Disney audience at that moment. In those thirty seconds, I felt like this thing, this Disney thing I have loved for so long finally said back to me “we see you, too.” It was a beautiful opening for a movie that was full of animated characters that looked and sounded like my family. Yes, Mr. Unkrich, representation does matter. It especially matters for children but it can still have wonderful and unexpected meaning for adults, too.

processing the process

Remember what I said about writing? About scratching the itch? As it turns out, actual scratching, and not thinking about scratching, makes the itch spread. Like really bad. I’m talking poison ivy, chicken pox, bedbugs, and other gross, graphic medical-related analogies.

I finally finished two concepts that I’ve been mulling over for years. The first was the poem I shared a few weeks back. The second was a short story I’m (persistently) shopping around (in abject terror). I thought finishing those would feel like a relief. It turns out, when I finish one concept, I suddenly think of five more. Which, you know, cool, I’m creative and have lots of ideas, I guess. But I’m having trouble focusing on just one or two. I want to jump back and forth among all of them and really, I kind of have to because I’m afraid I’ll forget my ideas. I find myself wishing I had more time to spend on them because I can only write when I have spare time. And I have a kid, so, “spare time” usually means “when normal adults sleep.” Because I also want to spend all the time with my kid. He is amazing. And I don’t get enough time with him because of the thing I do for 40 hours a week that gives me money. And THAT is another story to be told at another time.

I’m trying to figure out how to be organized about this. I know HOW to be organized, obviously, but it’s always been for other people’s projects and other people’s deadlines. I need to learn how to be organized and prioritize for myself for once. I’ll let you know if I figure it out. And I need to stop thinking about this because I’m actually getting physically itchy.

imposter syndrome redux

I just submitted a short story for publication

I feel like I’m going to throw up.

There is NO WAY they’re going to pick it. I’m not being modest or overly self-deprecating. I don’t write in the style that they’ve been printing lately. It’s not edgy enough or weird enough. It’s fine. I like my story. And this is just practice for submitting. I’ve never done it before. They have a regular submission window each week so I don’t have to wait several months. Once they reject it, I’ve got a couple of other options lined up.

I really hope they don’t laugh at me.

I seriously feel like I’ve made a colossal mistake.

Can someone bring me a damn cupcake?

I’m not good at romance

Roses are red,
wait, not all roses are red.
Some are pink and yellow.
I’ve even seen orange ones.
Let’s try again.

Some roses are red,
violets are blue,
Ok, are they blue or purple?
Sometimes things I see as blue,
other people see as purple.

Some roses are red,
violets are sort of bluish-purple,
sugar is sweet,
but no one eats straight sugar.
Also, too much can be bad for you.
Have you seen that Katie Couric documentary?

Some roses are red,
violets are plausibly blue,
sugar is best enjoyed in moderation,
and so are you?
I mean, you can be kind of annoying.
Like right now.
Stop that and pay attention.

Some roses are red,
violets are violet,
pay attention to your sugar intake,
and I love you.
Every day.
Not all day every day.
But yeah,
Every day.

 

scene: a practitioner and her apprentice

Writer’s Note: Get used to seeing this kind of thing. I desperately want to see if I can write speculative fiction and so I’ll try out a few concepts here. Today’s Daily Prompt was just too good to pass up.

There were two sets of hands resting on the wooden table. One pair was folded, right over left. Delicate nets of blue and green veins, more prominent than they once were, pulsed gently under the skin. The other pair forced the palms flat on the table’s surface, trying to convey control but a twitching finger betrayed some dread. The girl belonging to those hands kept her gaze just above them, hardly daring to look up.

“I’m not sorry I did it,” she said. Her voice was quiet but firm.

“You put yourself at risk. You put your family at risk. But I can’t say I would have done much differently at your age, particularly with a boy like that at stake.” The girl’s fingers curled in on themselves. The woman allowed a corner of her mouth to smile slightly. “There is to be a wedding, then?”

The girl looked up. “Yes. Before the end of the season. But we can all move into the palace right away. There is a lot of talk about preparations and how much time it will take, but I know you and I can make quick work of all that.”

The woman tightened her grip on her own left hand. “My dear one, my daughters and I cannot go with you.”

The girl waved them away. “Oh, of course you can. He knows what we can do. Well, what you and I can do. I don’t think my sisters will ever learn now, do you? I don’t think so and neither does he. You see, I told him everything. He knows everything and he doesn’t care. He-”

“That may be true. But it’s one thing for a young prince in love to blindly trust the object of his affections. It’s quite another for a king to accept that kind of power. Does he know?”

“He knows there was magic involved that night, but-”

“Does he know it was you?”

The girl’s hands fell to her sides. “No.”

“He must never know.”

“It was a dress and some shoes. It was a party trick. What concern could he have?”

“That what started as a party trick would turn into a coup.”

“A coup? He would fear me? Us? That’s madness! We would never do something like that. I don’t want that kind of power. I never have.”

The woman leaned forward slightly. “Oh, no? You have never considered what you could achieve with your gifts?”

The girl sat up straight. “No. Never.”

They sat in silence a moment, the girl’s words hanging in the air. The woman fixed her eyes on the girl. “He will be hard to convince. It would be best not to give him the opportunity to wonder.”

“So what would you have me do? Lie?”

“Yes.”

“And say what? A witch enchanted me? Or a fairy broke the veil just to bring me new clothes?”

“Say whatever you think he will believe so long as he does not suspect you. Better to let him think you were a victim or innocent bystander than a woman who can wield magic.”

The girl pushed back from the table. “You always told me magic was a gift. That I should be proud. Now you tell me I must hide it?”

“From those that would fear you or cause you harm, yes.”

The girl crossed her arms. “So this is the end? I’m never to use magic again? You would leave me with no teacher? No guidance?”

The woman sat silently for a time then stood. “For our safety – yours, mine, and my daughters’ – you must leave me behind. I hope you continue to practice in some small way. But you must be discreet.” She walked over to the girl and took her hands. “I feel as though I have doomed you to a life of compromise. If you stay here, I can teach you. Your talents could improve some but your heart would be miserable. You would never know more than this small patch of land. If you leave, and you know that you must, your heart will sing but you must hide a part of yourself. This world does not understand magic. They may see the beauty in it as long as it remains a novelty. Once it ceases to be amusing, they will fear you and then they will want to destroy you.”

The girl looked at the floor. “I can’t bear this alone. There is still so much to learn. I need you.” She looked up. “Think of what good what might do together.”

The woman tilted her head. “Ah, and you say you never wanted power? Be honest with yourself, dear one. Of course you want greatness. I only wish this world would allow it.” She squeezed the girl’s hands. “My days of teaching are at an end. It’s time to focus on my young daughters and build up their strengths. Yes, their strengths. They are different than ours but they have strengths nonetheless. And I will care for your father’s estate and all who work here. That’s enough goodness for me to do, I should think.” She kissed the girl’s fingers. “Goodbye, my dear one.”

“Goodbye, Stepmother.”

 

via Daily Prompt: Conjure

Conjure

 

phoenix sky

Phoenix is at its best in the morning. Take a moment before the day begins, before the anxieties kick in, before your to-do list begs the first check mark. Take your eyes and ears off your phone and look up. The city is tented by a brilliant, stretching sheet of color and light. Let your gaze scan slowly from east to west. Start with the pinks standing guard from the peaks of the Superstition Mountains. Watch how they waft into orange and yellow tufts, gently pulling the sun higher and higher. If you’re lucky, you might see a streak of purple bordering the massive scope of blue. That blue, that prevailing blue, which dominates the rest of the expanse westward over the city, over the highways, to the Colorado River, to the Imperial Sand Dunes, to the Pacific Ocean. Relax your focus and your vision will start buzzing from the sheer intensity of uninterrupted iridescence.

The desert sky is studded on all sides by mountains at its edges. Splinters from skyscrapers are few and far between. It’s just so OPEN. How many other cities get to have this? How many allow for the Earth to have her space? High above our personal responsibilities, our collective frenzy, hangs the boundless ceiling of our planet which gives shelter to every living thing. It’s a real, ever constant connection to the rest of this world which we know is there but may never see. Quiet but commanding, it tells you that while you are small and your day might seem daunting, you are not alone. And to remind yourself of that, at least here in Phoenix, all you have to do is look up.

Damn. This is why I live here.

 

via Daily Prompt: Profuse

Profuse

sometimes I write poems

The Lake

The lake appeared and he would not see it,
though water was there where none had been before.
It spouted from the pavement and the dirt,
rising with a quiet, steady threat.
The neighbors built dams to keep their walkways dry.
My father criticized their new decor
and made a point to keep our doorway clear.

The lake appeared and closed in on the house.
The surface of the water began to swirl,
drowning plants that never wanted to swim.
The neighbors traded in their cars for boats.
They waved at him but he just turned away.
All at once our home became an island.
My father swore it was only a mirage.

The lake appeared and burst through the front door.
It ruined things that once seemed matter:
photos, books, computers, and coffee pots.
I tried to save his favorite pair of shoes.
He would need them if we ever found dry land.
My father threw them back and said with rage
that this wasn’t any of my concern.

The lake appeared and surged through every room.
The water seemed to make the whole place shrink,
stealing the spaces that made it feel like home.
My mother said my sister and I should find
our futures away from this shipwrecked house.
We promised them we would come back to help.
My father asked why then yelled to stay away.

The lake appeared and he cannot see it.
He refused his eyes so long they’ve given up.
The lake consumed our house some years ago,
and now it wants to pull him to its depths.
My mother treads the tides to keep him floating.
My sister and I swim in whenever we can.
His days and nights are marked by rolling waves.
Today my father whispered, “I feel wet.”

#nofilter

You know that sensation when you drink cold coffee thinking it’s hot coffee? Your tongue retracts into your throat and you sputter and almost die a little bit. You know? Oh, no? That doesn’t sound familiar? Seriously? Oh, you’re just perfect, are you? You never mix up hot and cold coffee. You never forget which beverage you’re drinking. Good for you! You’re winning at life! I’ll get you a trophy! I bet you’ve never mistaken a carafe of old coffee at work for fresh coffee and poured some into a mug and pumped some hazelnut creamer into it and then took a drink and yelled because it’s cold, stale, and tastes like burnt carpet lint and then your co-workers come check on you because they think something’s wrong. BET YOU NEVER DID THAT!

I have exceedingly little patience these days. Chalk it up to being a new mother and the lack of sleep and the ill-fitting clothes and the no time to do anything ever. My nerves are frayed. Everything annoys me. All it takes is one little push to set me over the edge. And then I want to rampage. Like, give me Kylo Ren’s lightsaber and I will throw you one epic Dark Side temper tantrum.

But I don’t have a lightsaber. I have a keyboard. So get ready for me to drop a wicked list of things that I hate right now. Oh yeah, a LIST. Ooh, you’re shaking in your boots. Careful now, don’t drip any of that hot coffee on your precious, precious boots.

  • Leftover coffee
  • Weak coffee
  • Too much creamer
  • Not enough creamer
  • Powdered creamer
  • Powdered donuts
  • Not having any donuts
  • Not having any cinnamon rolls
  • Not having any pancakes
  • Not having any sugar
  • Being cold
  • Typing with cold hands
  • Being tired
  • Not having enough energy to type more

via Daily Prompt: Candid