Mexican Domestic Goddess

A Few Thoughts on Poverty and Generosity

Jacqui Skemp2 Comments

This is in response to a beautiful post by Kristin Levine, which you can read here


When we were newlyweds, our car broke down and was no longer drivable. We had next to no money, and for almost two months we got around thanks to the generosity of friends and family. Fortunately, I was able to bus to school, but my husband had a forty-five minute commute and public transportation would have taken him two hours. Our good friends loaned us their car on the weekend so we could get to mass and do grocery shopping. A girlfriend of mine who worked at the same school as my husband would drive out of her way to pick him up and give him a ride. The parents of my husband’s childhood friend not only loaned us their personal vehicle, but they also rented a car and asked us to drive it for a while and let them know what we thought about it because they were considering buying one. Everyone should get a chance to drive a Fiat 500, because no car in the history of cars is cuter. Eventually a friend of mine sold me a rather junky jeep for practically nothing because he was leaving the country, and that thing lasted about a year longer than I expected it to.

Ah, the infamous Jeep. The driver side door only opened from the outside, and sometimes the window would freeze shut. It burned through a quarter tank of gas a day, and if memory serves me right, it cost almost $75 to fill up. But there was no car payment, so we called it a wash. I was very pregnant in the middle of winter the year the door decided it would not longer stay closed, as in the latch no longer did the latching it was supposed to do. The sun was exceptionally bright that afternoon, and it caused a rare midwinter thaw, so that the ice that was resting on top of the jeep started to melt. After I had managed to secure the door with twine so I could drive back to work, the melted snow started to seep into the car right where the windshield met the roof. It was raining inside our junky jeep, and tears were running down my cheeks and onto my pregnant belly. If you’re not laughing at that image, you should be. It’s absolutely absurd.

Instead of spending that spring break on a babymoon (just kidding, I can’t even imagine Ian agreeing to that) we spent hours on craigslist looking for a car. It was dinged up on the side, and the back door had to be manually locked and unlocked, but it worked, and it was efficient, and 6 years later it’s still serving us well. We are now a two vehicle family, completely due to the generosity of our parents, our family, and our friends who expressed no hesitation in their willingness to give to us in some form when we were in need.

When I read this article this afternoon, I was really convicted. Many, many people have been overly generous to us in times of need, both financial and emotional. I can’t say I have been as quick to give of my best, but I want to change that. We are not in a place to donate large sums of money, or time, but we are working hard to get to a position where we can bless others with any abundance we have. In the meantime, I know I can be generous with my time, love, patience, and choosing to assume the best of others.

The biggest problem with poverty is the shame that comes with it. So, when you give the best you have to someone in need, it translates into something much deeper to the receiver.

It means that they are worthy.

-Kristine Levine

On Being Kind of Brown

Jacqui Skemp11 Comments

“That’s racist” we would say. My friends would jokingly call each other out. But that’s what racism was to us. A joke. Because when you go to a school where more than ninety percent of the people there share the same cultural background, you live in a safe bubble, and generally assume that people don’t think less of you for how much melanin is in your skin or what story your DNA tells. I really thought, it can’t be real. Maybe in some backwoods place people still hate, but not in the places I live.

Almost four years ago I met my son, whose skin is the color of cafe con leche, but a little more cafe than leche. He has my father’s green eyes, a gift from his father before him. Unlike his brother, when I was out and about with him, no one asked me if I was his nanny. And when I took my two boys out, I was frequently asked if they were brothers, and when I said yes, I know tongues were held. I knew what the next question was, but I let it sit with people, allowing some shame to seep in. It’s not your business if they both come from the same paternal line. But yes, we did have two children with different skin tones. If you’ve ever met a Mexican family, you wouldn’t be surprised. Our nicknames acknowledge our awareness. We call her morena or preita, and we call him güero. Terms of endearment. You can do a google search.

I used to find it funny that when I took my blond, blue eyed doll of a baby out people assumed I was his nanny. I mean, I’m not very dark, but I do get asked “so… what are you.” But when my second son was born, and since then, I have had numerous encounters that I chalked up to “old people can be crazy” but then I started to wonder if that was really all that there was to it. Sure my boys are loud, but so are my friend’s kids. I’m a little louder, but I know plenty of white women who make me feel like a whispering mouse. When I really started to take a closer look at all these encounters I saw two common threads running through… they were white, and I am not.

I really, really, really don’t like to cry racism. I really don’t. Because I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of someone not respecting me (or my son, or anyone) simply because of some preconceived notion about people who share my genetic background. And yet I do wonder if there’s something there that I’ve chosen to ignore. I wonder why it is so easy for some people to give me a dirty  look, or let me know how they think I should control my kid, or why they think they have the right to wag their finger and insult me. Don’t we bleed the same red?

I have lived in dual worlds from the beginning. Born American with Mexican heritage. Not brown enough for some, or pale enough for others. Too much of a gringa for those in the home country, and yet not quite fully immersed in American culture. I know that this is the reality that will be passed down to my children, though I suspect the inner tug of war might not be as present in their lives.

Maybe my encounters have zero racism, and people are just… awful sometimes. But maybe my suspicions carry some validity. I am not looking for sympathy. I suppose I just want to add to the conversation that racism doesn’t always look the way we expect it to. But damn it, it hurts anyway.

Things I'm Enjoying

Jacqui SkempComment
We started the new year with a frigid walk in southern Minnesota, which was ten degrees warmer than it was in the Twin Cities, where there was a high of 6 degrees.

We started the new year with a frigid walk in southern Minnesota, which was ten degrees warmer than it was in the Twin Cities, where there was a high of 6 degrees.

Inspired by Tsh at The Art of Simple, I’m going to dust off this blog and get back into more regular and frequent writing for my own sake and maintain it as a creative outlet.

When I first started this most recent blog, it was after years and years of reading other blogs, and wanting to document our growing family. It soon started to feel like a rat race to get sponsorships and numbers, and not that anything is wrong with that, but I’ve realized that’s not me and what I want for my particular space on the internet. So a couple of years ago (after hosting a blogging conference no less) I took a big step back from writing here, and decided to focus the little creative energy I had into my work for Blessed Is She.

My baby is almost 2, and this is the longest I’ve gone post-baby without a new one on the way, and while sleep is still rare it’s getting better. We also haven’t moved in two years, and with no move in sight, I’m letting myself settle deeper into our home and making it a beautiful place of refuge. I would love to share more about that process here. There won’t be any big before and after’s because the budget wont allow for it. But slow progress is progess and I’m finding that our financial limitations allow me to really think about what I want our space to look like without jumping the gun and then hating the choice.

So let’s start off the year with a few good things that I’m enjoying right now:

  • I’ve been playing a lot of Ray LaMontagne lately, and he just does not disappoint. Ever. He can do no wrong, musically anyway. One of my guilty pleasures is The Voice, and last year this gal did an amazing cover of Jolene and it is well worth the listen.

  • Over Christmas break Ian and I watched Derry Girls on Netflix, and goodness it’s good. Hilarious, smart, and sweet. I need to watch with subtitles because my ears are not good with non-American english, so kuddos to you if you don’t need them. There is only one season and six short episodes, but they are gold. Line after line of gold. I’m ready to rewatch it.

  • I’m finally reading “Four Seasons in Rome” by Anthony Doerr who also wrote “All the Light We Cannot See”. I read the “All the Light” a couple of years ago and it changed something in me. While this is a memoir and not a novel, his writing is still magical. I spent a semester in Rome, and think of it often, but his writing took me right back there. I remember the cold of the stone under the soles of my shoes, and the way Rome smelled in the early mornings. I need to finish it because I really want Ian to read it, not necessarily for the bits on Rome, but the sleep deprivation part. He’s been there. Still is, poor guy.

  • In early December I got to chat with Tsh from The Art of Simple on her podcast. I shared the link elsewhere and joked about dropping some long Minnesotan O’s, and (shocker) none of my Minnesotan friends could hear it. My family in California has been teasing me about it for years.

That’s all I’ve got for now! Hoping to share more with you here soon.