Archive for February, 2008

February 25, 2008

phone calls from my mama.

by la rebelde

When I saw that it was my mama on the caller ID the other day, I panicked a little. She doesn’t usually call me. I always call her. It’s been this way since I finished college, as if I had officially become an adult and no longer needed to hear from my mother. We’ve talked about it—several times—and the situation remains the same. I call her.

So when I answered the call I was worried that something had happened. But she just needed someone to talk to. My mama lives in a small college town in the middle of the Appalachians. She’s a fairly reserved person and I often worry that she doesn’t have a community over there. But she makes herself busy—busier than anyone I know—with a 40+ hour a week job where her expertise is underappreciated, teaching an adjunct course practically for free, running a support program for patients in her specialty, doing research and writing a dissertation.

See, several years before I was born, my mama was a grad student. Committed to clinical work in underserved communities, she wanted her research to reflect communities that confronted nutrition-related diseases like diabetes. When her advisor left for another school and dropped her, despite the fact that she had already written the majority of her dissertation, she was left with a new advisor who didn’t consider her research topic a worthy one. She left the program and my parents moved to Burque. She taught adjunct classes for a while. I was born, then Manito, and she stopped working to spend time raising us. Then my other Manito was born.

It wasn’t until I was in high school that she went back to work. A few years later she began taking graduate courses because they were free for university employees—one class per semester. And she decided to go back for a PhD. I, of course, think this is amazing.

Now, she’s finished up her research and is writing, writing, writing. And as we were speaking on the phone the other day, I realized that there are so many things I take for granted about my professionalization—or maybe more accurately, my assimilation into academic culture—and the fact that I don’t have children or a job (I’ve been funded through teaching and fellowships). My mama has always worked full-time while in the program. She’s never been a TA so she has never really spent time in her department. And because of that, she didn’t know about little things that are common knowledge for my grad school colegas (such as how grad students can use departmental letterhead for professional purposes, for example). She doesn’t have a support system like I do (even if mine is scattered across the country) because she doesn’t feel she has anything in common with the folks in her cohort. She is in her late 50s, while most of them were under 25 when they began the program and have already graduated because they don’t have full-time jobs outside of the grad school thing. In many ways, this degree will serve a different purpose for her than it will for me. She already has a career and is well-known in the field of nutrition. Her PhD will be in another field and she thinks of it as supplementary to her expertise—the clinical work she already does. My hope is that it will land her a job she enjoys in a location that will make her happy.

In recent years, my role has been to support my mama in her grad school- and work-related issues by listening and talking through issues she’s had with her committee. But my support is limited because we live so far apart and work in different disciplines. When she asks me to take a look at her data sets, I have little idea of what I’m looking at. I’m fortunate that she understands what I’m working on, that she knows the basic ins and outs of the process. But I sometimes wonder how often she doesn’t ask me for support when she needs it…and how often she’s asked and I haven’t been able to help.

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February 20, 2008

archive meme.

by la rebelde

JustMe tagged me with this fabulous archive meme. And reading hers, I got to see a bunch of the posts I never read before because she wrote them before I learned of her great bloga! It kind of reminds me of how sit-coms used to do those “best-of” episodes. When I was a kid they used to drive me crazy because I thought they were so boring. The best thing about this meme, though, is that the process of putting it together takes you down memory lane. And at least for me, it reminds me of where I’ve been, where I am and where I want to go. So, a best-of of your own bloga? It’s like daaaang, that’s hot!

Archive Meme Instructions: Go back through your archives and post the links to your five favorite blog posts that you’ve written. … but there is a catch:

Link 1 must be about family.
Link 2 must be about friends.
Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are… what you’re all about.
Link 4 must be about something you love.
Link 5 can be anything you choose.

Post your five links and then tag five other people. At least TWO of the people you tag must be *newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better….and don’t forget to read the archive posts and leave comments!

1. Familia: Mi sobrino teaches me something new every day I spend with him. And this one about my mama got tons of hits for some reason.

2. Amig@s: They help you keep it real.

3. Yo: Childhood dreams change and then we must define our lives in new, more complex and perhaps stronger, ways.

4. Things I love: Silly people and the little things.

5. My pick:
My quirky profa and the shame meme.

Okay, so I haven’t been straight up taggin folks in a while, but since I like this meme and because the instructions are so specific, I tag:
The artist, kt.
Cindylu.
Not Quite Grown Up.
MinCat.
Mari.
Xolo.

February 16, 2008

super powers lost.

by la rebelde

During the second semester of my current grad program, I discovered I had a super power. I could write 2-3 page response papers for seminar in one hour flat before sending them off to the entire cohort. There was magic in my fingertips, as they typed, typed, typed the ideas swirling in my brain. I would write entire seminar papers in a day or two, no stress. And somehow I managed to get high marks. And I would do that often because I was, and still am, a bit of a procrastinator.

This super power lasted me through the rest of my course work. I was a grad student writing super mujer! But there was a price.

My super power came to me out of necessity. My ex and I had just broken up after 7+ years. To make a long story short, it was sudden and he handled the situation very badly—and, in part, I let him. I was a complete wreck that semester, barely holding it together in class. Lucky for me, I was already a seasoned grad student. Having completed a master’s already, I knew how to break down a historical text and how to write in the genre. Response paper, historiographies, 30-page research papers—it was all butter.

This was the moment when I realized–for reals this time–that my academic self was not separate from my other selves. I held onto my super power to convince myself that I was good at something, that I’d made the right choice by starting this program instead of moving to n.y.c. to live out his dream. And I was good at this history thing. Still am.

There were things I learned in the process—about writing, about grappling with methodologies, about forming broad research questions that challenged structures of empire, colonializism, racism, sexism in historical narratives—questions I was politically and personally invested in. I was/am fortunate to have great colleagues who ask similar questions. And these skills prepared me well for my comprehensive exams.

Now, over a year and a half after my exams, I am starting to write my first chapter. A draft of it is due to my dissertation group in…3 days. I only have 8 so far. And I’m not panicking yet. But writing a dissertation—that will hopefully become a book—is a daunting task. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the practice of writing. And let’s face it, this ain’t no response paper! My girl Quiche and I discussed things like, finding a narrative arc and choosing 3 themes to work though in each chapter and focusing on something that seems contradictory in the sources. It’s all good and helpful. But the writing has slowed down for me a whole lot! I seem to have lost my super power. And now I have to find what’s left—the skills, the questions, the bodies of knowledges, the narrative voices. It’s all coming back, just very very slowly.

February 15, 2008

fearless.

by la rebelde

This is disturbingly accurate. Except for the planning-a-romantic-evening thing. I’m a leo. So, friends, that means I like to have the romantic evening planned out for me. Just kidding, I’ve done some planning here and there, but that was in a different lifetime. Who knows how the now-me would be. And fearless? Well, if only that were entirely true. But if it makes me hot, hey, I shouldn’t complain, que no?

I’m taking a break from writing for a few hours tonight to have dinner and drinks with my amiga in Lincoln Heights at a brewery neither of us has been to before. Beer and amigas–it doesn’t get better than that y’all!

My next post will be a real one.


Your Candy Heart Says “Hug Me”


A total sweetheart, you always have a lot of love to give out.

Your heart is open to where ever love takes you!

Your ideal Valentine’s Day date: a surprise romantic evening that you’ve planned out

Your flirting style: lots of listening and talking

What turns you off: fighting and conflict

Why you’re hot: you’re fearless about falling in love

February 11, 2008

2:11a.m.

by la rebelde

I saw this fun one over at phd me’s spot. I am clearly too brain-fried from working on my pinche dissertation to compose any extra pieces of writing right now, but uh…Whoa!

“Your time of day has a split personality — sometimes it’s sweat-streaked and loud, and you’re on the dance floor, getting your third wind, and shouting lyrics like you’ll never run out of energy. You are the time of night that carves itself into your memory forever, because you’ll never forget how much you love these people and this moment and this song. It’s not always about unforgettable parties, though. Sometimes your late night (err… early morning) burst of energy happens when you’re home alone. Those are the times when you say, “I flat out refuse to go to sleep until I finish reading this book, or typing this page, or reorganizing my entire closet.” In either case, you are the time of night when it feels sort of forbidden to be awake, but you love accomplishing something special long after everyone else went to bed. And hey — you can always catch up on sleep tomorrow, right?”

Who knew that I am the time when being awake feels forbidden?? But it’s partly true…I do like to get down on the dancefloor and sing at the top of my lungs every now and again. Maybe not at 2:11am though–I had to give that up when I turned circa 28. Seriously–2:11am is for winding down after the song and dance. Watcha!

February 8, 2008

page one two three meme.

by la rebelde

I’ve seen this meme several times on my regular blog stops, but most recently I saw it over at chicanaskies, who got me thinking about whether this meme is supposed to reveal something about current states of being… You know, because I’m the kind of person who reads horoscopes online everyday even if I don’t take it that seriously. Seriously. Anyway, it’s a fun meme and I tag all y’all who haven’t done it yet!

So here’s how it works:

Pick up the closest book of 123 pages or more (no cheating!)
Find page 123
Find the first five sentences
Post the next three sentences

I just organized a stack of books and articles next to my desk that are relevant for this dissertation chapter I’m working on. This book was on the top of the stack just by chance. It’s Douglas Monroy’s Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles from the Great Migration to the Great Depression. (On an unrelated note, I don’t actually have “just-for-fun reading” in my office area–that genre is located in the bedroom…I’m thinking this needs to change.)

Here are the sentences:

María Flóres related, “I come in the morning, punch my card, work for an hour, punch the card again. I wait for two hours, get another bundle, punch card, finish bundle, punch card again. Then I wait some more the whole day that way.”*

For many reasons, I’ve been thinking about my mom lately. Like María Flóres, who worked at a garment factory in LA during the Depression, my mom worked in a sweatshop in Chinatown, NY when she was a child. After school, she would go to the factory to help my grandmother with the sewing. She once described to me the feeling of the heat, the sound of the machines and the way the lint would stick to her skin. “That’s why they called it a sweatshop,” she’d said. So maybe this meme is the universe reminding me to remember those women who came before me, whose hard work makes it possible for me to sit at this desk and write my dissertation next to huge piles of books. Guess I need to get back to writing my chapter…

* Douglas Monroy, Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles from the Great Migration to the Great Depression (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

February 6, 2008

morningtime musings.

by la rebelde

After getting only a couple hours of sleep (due to the dissertation ideas that were dancing up a storm in my brain after my head hit the pillow), I woke up super early, earlier than I needed to, and way earlier than I have in a long time. I couldn’t even lie in bed and listen to n.p.r., which is my usual morning ritual. So I got ready and headed over to Lovebirds–my favorite morning coffee/bakery spot because the viejitos seem to know almost everyone who walks through the door and they say hello really loudly in their viejito voices that ring like wisdom. I figured I could have some coffee and get some of these partying ideas on paper before heading to my Spanish conversation class downtown.

Then, because I wasn’t in rush-mode, my Spanish was practically rollin’ off my tongue during my conversation class. In the afternoon, I headed to the Spiffy-ton to look at old stuff again. There I ran into one of my diss group colegas. It was nice to see a friendly (brown) face and chat for a few minutes. And then, during the weekly social break, I met a brown historian elder, who was very friendly and human. I suddenly felt a little less alone in the process.

The funny thing is, I may not be a morning person, but I definitely do my best thinking (and writing) from sunrise until about 10am. The verdict? A good cafecito and the smell of fresh baked goods among viejitos while dumping my brain in turquoise ink onto fun graph paper is a great way to start the day. And who knows, maybe it shaped the rest of my day in a good way. Now, if only I can make this a regular ritual!

February 4, 2008

patching together a life.

by la rebelde

I was sitting in front of my computer, as I had been for the last 10+ hours, when my good amiga popped up on my instant messenger. We caught up about life things, making the thousands of miles in between us seem like nothing, if even for a moment. As we chatted I was reminded of something she’d said a few days earlier in an email.

“It’s tough patching together a life sometimes, huh?” she’d written.
Yes! I remember thinking. But I hadn’t responded that day—I was too distracted. Not by my work, mind you. I was more distracted by myself.

I had been doing work off and on, in spurts coinciding with deadlines. When I really get going (or when I’m feeling sorry for myself for not getting going), I sometimes don’t leave my apartment unless there’s a specific reason, like my Spanish class or the rare lunch with a friend. These are not the most ideal working conditions for me. I’m really not diggin the academic isolation thing. I’m used to being around lots of people, people I love and trust, who like to share ideas and food and drink and laughter, who don’t take life so seriously they forget to have fun.

Call it a case of the post-holiday loneliness blues, I guess. I really miss my familia and my amig@s–all of them are scattered across the globe right now and only a couple live close enough to drive to. It was one of those weeks where I couldn’t help but think, Dang, what the heck was I thinking when I decided to move to LA?? I’ve been living here for almost a year and a half—A YEAR AND A HALF—and it’s still hard to find community and make this place home. But the thing is, I know exactly what I was thinking when I moved here. I was thinking I could write a dissertation, that I could be a part of the communities that I write about, that I could develop a real sense of the tierra on which they lived and the futures they’d helped to shape, that I could forge new friendships and maybe find a nice brown man to be my guy. I knew I wouldn’t get any of that if I’d stayed in small-midwestern-college-town. Well, I might get the dissertation done there, but it wouldn’t be the same.

And it’s not that I regret having moved here. I stand by what I said before about there not being any other place I’d rather be right now. But that doesn’t necessarily make happiness.

Lately, I’ve been told over and over—by academics and non-academics alike—that things will be better once I’m done with this degree. But that’s not convincing. Sure it will be better to be attached to a college/university (where you live) because then at least you see other human beings on a regular basis. And sure, once you have a job (if you get a job) you’ll finally have a livable income and hopefully some more stability. But I absolutely hate the idea that I’m waiting for my life to begin…after I birth this pinche dissertation. Shouldn’t it begin now? or yesterday even? Why should I be defined by my dissertation?

Well, all of this is just a bunch of rambling complaining because in the scheme of things, I’m a fortunate and privileged person. I have food to eat, an apartment to live in and people who care about me. But if my amiga is right, a life must to be patched together, not thought of in separate parts. This is one of the things I’ll be thinking about as the lunar new year passes this year. The others, I might write about later.

February 4, 2008

patching together a life.

by la rebelde

I was sitting in front of my computer, as I had been for the last 10+ hours, when my good amiga popped up on my instant messenger. We caught up about life things, making the thousands of miles in between us seem like nothing, if even for a moment. As we chatted I was reminded of something she’d said a few days earlier in an email.

“It’s tough patching together a life sometimes, huh?” she’d written.
Yes! I remember thinking. But I hadn’t responded that day—I was too distracted. Not by my work, mind you. I was more distracted by myself.

I had been doing work off and on, in spurts coinciding with deadlines. When I really get going (or when I’m feeling sorry for myself for not getting going), I sometimes don’t leave my apartment unless there’s a specific reason, like my Spanish class or the rare lunch with a friend. These are not the most ideal working conditions for me. I’m really not diggin the academic isolation thing. I’m used to being around lots of people, people I love and trust, who like to share ideas and food and drink and laughter, who don’t take life so seriously they forget to have fun.

Call it a case of the post-holiday loneliness blues, I guess. I really miss my familia and my amig@s–all of them are scattered across the globe right now and only a couple live close enough to drive to. It was one of those weeks where I couldn’t help but think, Dang, what the heck was I thinking when I decided to move to LA?? I’ve been living here for almost a year and a half—A YEAR AND A HALF—and it’s still hard to find community and make this place home. But the thing is, I know exactly what I was thinking when I moved here. I was thinking I could write a dissertation, that I could be a part of the communities that I write about, that I could develop a real sense of the tierra on which they lived and the futures they’d helped to shape, that I could forge new friendships and maybe find a nice brown man to be my guy. I knew I wouldn’t get any of that if I’d stayed in small-midwestern-college-town. Well, I might get the dissertation done there, but it wouldn’t be the same.

And it’s not that I regret having moved here. I stand by what I said before about there not being any other place I’d rather be right now. But that doesn’t necessarily make happiness.

Lately, I’ve been told over and over—by academics and non-academics alike—that things will be better once I’m done with this degree. But that’s not convincing. Sure it will be better to be attached to a college/university (where you live) because then at least you see other human beings on a regular basis. And sure, once you have a job (if you get a job) you’ll finally have a livable income and hopefully some more stability. But I absolutely hate the idea that I’m waiting for my life to begin…after I birth this pinche dissertation. Shouldn’t it begin now? or yesterday even? Why should I be defined by my dissertation?

Well, all of this is just a bunch of rambling complaining because in the scheme of things, I’m a fortunate and privileged person. I have food to eat, an apartment to live in and people who care about me. But if my amiga is right, a life must to be patched together, not thought of in separate parts. This is one of the things I’ll be thinking about as the lunar new year passes this year. The others, I might write about later.