Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hey! Thanks.

Thank you parents,
For being humans that I actually, you know, like. Like, I would want to be friends with you if we worked together.

Thank you man-partner,
For making me laugh, being painfully smart, planning amazing surprises, honoring my love for weird tourist attractions, and generally making me a better human. 

Thank you cat, 
For allowing me to dress you in costumes, hold you like a baby, and wake you from naps specifically to inquire if you're my buddy.

Thank you Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,
For writing the best fiction I've read in years. Your books are a gift to the world.

Thank you sister,
For bringing two awesome little girls into my life and letting me buy them ice cream and cardigans and send them one million post cards.

Thank you clients,
For allowing me to live my childhood dream of getting paid to write, for challenging me, for involving me in your amazing projects. 

Thank you Summer and Fall,
For being surprisingly temperate and allowing for an unusual amount of boot and legging wearing.

Thank you nutritional yeast,
For making my weekly popcorn dinner about a million times better. 

Thank you Old Navy,
For continuing to manufacture jeans that somehow cost $23 and allow me to do deep knee bends.

Thank you landlord,
For inexplicably renting me a corner, two-bedroom apartment for the price of a 'studio plus' and for humoring my pink walk-in closet.

Thank you friends,

Thank you Airbnb,
For making travel a million times cozier, cheaper, and filled with more connections.

Thank you Minnesota,
For your thousands of lakes, your colorful leaves and warbling loons, your snowshoes and sweet natured people.

Thank you gps,
For existing. Sure, you misdirect me half the time and your enable my inability to read maps but I truly could not imagine my life without you. 

Thank you curling wand,
For making me cuter than I ever knew was possible. Like, really.

Thank you dear readers,
For making Yes and Yes part of your day, sharing your comments and lives with me, and regularly restoring my faith in humanity.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

photo by David Parker // vv

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mornings In: England

This is one of many Mornings In ________ posts in which local ladies tell us about their morning beauty and breakfast routines. And then we all wonder if our mornings would be better if we, too, ate rice congee for breakfast.

Name: Catherine
Hometown: York, England
Age: 24
Occupation: Account Handler for Wholesale Tour Operator

My alarm is set for:
6:55! I normally hit snooze 'til at least 7:15, but either way it's far too early for me!

Most mornings I eat:
On a weekday it's normally just a bowl of cereal with milk, but it's on the weekends that we like to get a bit more creative. I have a very sweet tooth and love making chocolate filled pancakes or French toast rolls-ups smothered in strawberry jams.

Of course, there's no escaping the traditional Full English breakfast either; the sausages, bacon, eggs, baked beans and toast are essential, but everyone knows it's better with mushrooms, tomatoes and hash browns thrown on there too. There's no better cure for a hangover than a Full English breakfast!

My beauty routine consists of:

I love the skincare products the have in The Body Shop; I personally can't get enough of the Tea Tree range and use the cleanser, toner and moisturizer everyday. When it comes to make-up I seem to be using everything Maybelline at the moment and particularly love their Dream Matte Mousse Foundation.

Most of the beauty products in the UK are international brands, but it might surprise some people to know that quite a few of the companies originated in the UK, including The Body Shop, Boots, Lush, Rimmel and Soap & Glory.

Then, I head to work by:
Bus. It's just a five minute walk to the bus stop and a fifteen minute journey into town, then the bus drops me off right outside the office door! It's a simple journey most of the time; the only problem is when the bus doesn't show up!

I know we have heaps of British readers - what's your morning breakfast + beauty routine? 

P.S. My three item makeup bag (yes, really) and A clear skin 'cocktail' 

Monday, November 24, 2014

True Story: I'm A Professional Ballerina

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Rebecca and her work as a professional dancer.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a Corps de Ballet dancer with the Miami City Ballet. I was born in California and moved to Miami when I was 18 to dance in MCB's school and joined the company in 2007. Next year will be my eighth season with Miami City Ballet. I am also the purveyor of a dance blog, Tendus Under a Palm Tree.

What lead you to start dancing?
My mom and I were walking past a ballet studio when I was about three. I saw all the girls come out of class in their ballet clothes, and I said, “Mom, I want to do that.” So she enrolled me and there was no looking back. I trained at Contra Costa Ballet in Walnut Creek in Northern California. I went to San Francisco Ballet School for two summer programs, which was a wonderful experience for me. For my senior year of high school, I attended to the Rock School in Philadelphia.

Ballet is an extremely rigorous and physically demanding form of dance. Why did you choose to pursue ballet instead of another type of dance? 
When I first started dancing I took tap, jazz, and modern classes. Nothing really seemed to speak to me like ballet. I loved the regimen of starting at the barre, working on technique, then moving to larger movements when stepping out into the center of the room. There is a very specific discipline that comes with classical ballet; a timeless technique that allows you to express yourself within the boundaries of a language understood around the world. Since ballet is a good foundation for any other dance form, I knew my studies would not be in vain no matter what I decided to do in the future.

In your mind what characteristics make for a successful ballet dancer? 
There are some who will disagree with this statement, but to me it's not so much about a dancers physical appearance, as the artistry that they bring to their dancing. From the audience, my eye is rarely drawn to the dancer with the "perfect ballet body" but to the dancer who is generously sharing their talents with the audience, and seemingly enjoying every single moment of their performance. That to me is what sets great dancers apart. 

Ballet is very demanding, not only from the physical standpoint but also the psychological one. As I mentioned earlier, ballet requires dancers to be very disciplined. Ballet dancers need to be very self-motivated, because in the end, our job is never secure, so a consistent work ethic is very important. There is also a very serious psychological element to performing: managing stress, nerves, and anxiety. This is a topic I am planning on discussing on my blog in the near future.

Tell us about the logistics of finding full time work in ballet. Is the best bet to find corps work?
Generally dancers try to secure their first professional job or apprenticeship directly after high school, and for some, even before. 

A young dancer can find their first contract in a few different ways: by attending a school associated with a company, by attending large auditions where cuts are made in rounds, or by sending resumes to companies asking to travel to their location for an audition. Once a dancer has a contract, it's only for one year. As a result dancers are constantly working to receive a new contract for the following season. If, in fact, another contract is not issued for the following year or a dancer would like to move to a different company, then the audition process starts all over again. Every January-March, Miami City Ballet welcomes many dancers who join us for class looking for a contract with the company.

What's your biggest, brightest professional goal? 
Other than advancing my ballet career, my professional goal at this point is to continue to grow my blog. I think the Internet offers a unique venue to discuss different elements of the ballet. People are fascinated by our art form and I think ballet blogs are a way to get people involved, get them interested, get them to attend a performance, and give them a deeper understanding of what they are seeing. There’s so much more involved behind the scenes than what a new audience member may think. Being able to educate curious audience members is just wonderful. It’s developed into something that could be a second career for me. 

Through promoting my blog, I have become increasingly interested in promoting businesses through social media. It is remarkable how useful these platforms are when used effectively. I have begun dabbling in social media management for a number of businesses through my burgeoning business, Rebecca King Social Media Management. This is another possible career path that I hope to pursue in the future.

Tell us about your average day at work.
On rehearsal days, we begin with class at 10 am, which is our everyday conditioning routine. After an hour and a half class we rehearse for 6 hours. Our ballet mistress puts together a schedule for each day in the studios where she makes sure that each ballet gets the amount of time it needs before we take it to the stage. When we are in the theater, our days are quite different. As always, we begin with an hour and a half class, followed by a short break before a three hour dress rehearsal where we go through the entire performance with lights and costumes. Then we have a dinner break before our show in the evening. 

How do you feel when you are onstage?
Being onstage is the reason why I dance: it is an irreplaceable feeling. Being out there under the lights, staring into the darkness of the audience is the most freeing experience. The stage is the place where you get to showcase your hard work and give everything you have to the audience. Feeling their energy after each ballet is amazing. Most memorably: when we were closing our tour in Paris, the sold-out audience gave us a standing ovation for 15 minutes. It is a moment that will stay with all of us forever. 

What do you do to stay healthy and keep your toes/legs/joints working the way you would like?
For me I have found that my body reacts very positively when I eat well. I prefer not to constantly count my calories, but rather I make sure that everything I eat will fuel my body. It's important for me to make sure that I have protein for my muscles and carbs for energy. I find that focusing on my foods nutritional makeup, helps me each much healthier.

What is the age limit for professional dancers? 
There is not a firm limit; it really depends on how a dancer's body holds up. Some dancers make it into their forties, but I would say on average dancers retire in their 30s.

What's one thing that you have learned from ballet that any of us could apply to daily life?
The most important gift ballet has given me over the years, is my work ethic. When it is time to make a career transition, professional dancers go on to be lawyers, nurses, entrepreneurs, etc. It is very obvious to me that dancers are successful in these endeavors because of the determination and love for hard work that ballet instills in them. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important for young children to take ballet at least for the experience: not necessarily because they want to be ballerinas when they grow up, but because they want to learn how to work like a ballerina.

Thanks so much for sharing, Rebecca! Have any of you danced seriously? I was in danceline in high school and danced in a Citrus Bowl halftime show!

P.S. True Story: I'm a professional athlete 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Web Time Wasters!

Did you know that 'Hang Onto Your Ego' is actually a Beach Boys song? Not a Pixies song? I had no idea!

Are you guys battening down the hatches in preparation for Thanksgiving? My guy and I are roadtripping around my favorite travel destination (Wisconsin) and working our way through this book.

Before we dive in, three of my older posts that might help you navigate Thanksgiving/the holiday season in general:
How to survive holiday travel
6 awkward holiday dinner situations and how to deal with them
The best ever outfit in which to consume Thanksgiving dinner.

More links for you!

An sad/interesting post about the reality of being a plus-sized woman marrying a thin man.
I wasn’t surprised that this woman took so many wilful leaps past “couple” and landed on “roommates” in her split-second sussing-out of our relationship – it happens literally all the time. But it was a disheartening reminder of an assumption that has circumscribed my life: couples ought to “match”. My partner and I do not. He is thin and I am fat. He is conventionally desirable and I am a “before” picture in an ad for weight-loss tapeworm eggs. It is considered highly unlikely – borderline inconceivable – that he would choose to be with me in a culture where men are urged to perpetually “upgrade” to the “hottest” woman within reach, not only for their own supposed gratification but also to impress and compete with other men.

Things to eat/bake/cram in my mouth hole: roasted red beet hummus, pecan pies baked inside apples, creamy roasted red pepper soup.

Some wisdom about jealousy and how you can harness it.

Yup, this looks gooood: Upgrade Unlocked: The Unconventional Guide to Luxury Travel on a Budget

Can you believe this family redecorated their entire home in four weeks? And it's gorgeous.

Related: you could make a studio or home office out of that garage you're not using!

I took this book on my recent vacation and read it in two days! And it was written by a fellow Minnesotan!

Same price as a bouquet, doesn't wilt in a week.

Dreamy. A jellyfish tank installed in an abandoned building.

I'm totally guilty of writing listicles with lots of actionable items but I loved this post:
Twelve Habits of Happy, Healthy People Who Don’t Give a Shit About Your Inner Peace

When I went to Alaska to see the Iditarod, I referenced 'To Build a Fire' in conversation about, oh, a million times. Thus, I loved this post about the stages of reading 'To Build A Fire' by an unduly hopeful person.
“The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold. It knew that it was no time for travelling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment. In reality, it was not merely colder than fifty below zero; it was colder than sixty below, than seventy below. It was seventy-five below zero.”

I still, at this point, believed with all of my heart that the man was going to build a fire successfully. The title of the story is “To Build A Fire”! Why would you call it that if nobody built a fire in it?

I belong to the cult of Connie Britton. Do you? (Once a friend said that I had hair like her and I was pretty sure I didn't need to accomplish anything else with my life.)

A boon for your cheese plate! Tiny cheeses!

I love the idea behind Gently-used, name brand and vintage clothing that costs $15 a pop and $3 from each purchase is donated to disaster relief!

A lovely, helpful, five-part series on dealing with competition.

Hope you guys have a lovely week!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A better website + Your new favorite clutch + The science of happiness

Sure, sure you could use your Saturday morning to clean out the fridge or sort your mail. Oooooor you could peruse these links from some of this month's sponsors.

I vote the latter.

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!

Favorite stuff:
Let's be friends!
facebook // twitter // youtube // instagram

Want to introduce your stuff to 11,000+ daily readers? To the tune of $80? I'd love to have you! You can read more about my traffic and rates here or drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

11 Tricks To Looking + Feeling Fairly Awesome Even Though It's Freezing

winter style tips

When I wrote this post, I imagined publishing it in January, in the depths of Minnesota's -20 degree winter.

And then it snowed and froze and today the high is 19 degrees (with windchill? 3 degrees.)

So while I realize that other parts of the country might still be lolling around in the mid-forties (luuuuucky!) winter is coming for all of us and forewarned is forearmed. With that in mind, here are my* hand-to-heart suggestions for navigating sub-zero weather while still looking pretty damn cute.

1. Fleece-lined leggings
These are nearly as life-changing for us cold-climate ladies as the invention of heated car seats. These leggings have 467 4.5 star reviews AND A WIDE WAISTBAND which means none of that segmented-worm-body syndrome we all struggle with.

For a long time, I've been trying to pretend that my silk long underwear were leggings. While they're amazing and warm-keeping, they can also get a bit baggy around the knees. Not these leggings!

2. Merino wool everything
Is Merino wool expensive? Yes. Is it an investment in the quality of your winter life? Also yes. Gap carries Merino sweaters that are $50 and you can pretty frequently find 100% wool sweaters at thrift stores.

3. Wear serious socks inside your cute boots
Want to wear those cute, pointy-toed black leather boots? You can stay warm if you wear a pair of not-particularly-cute wool socks inside your cute boots. And if wool makes you itchy? Layer thin 'business' socks between your feet and the wool.

4. Use shoe inserts
Now, I'm a missionary for Dr. Scholls inserts because I'm a vain weirdo who's concerned about varicose veins. But you know what else they're good for? Adding some much needed distance between your feet and the cold, icy ground. If you don't need the arch support, you can just get fleece inserts. (But don't use the gel inserts because that ish will freeze.) 

5. Keep separate shoes/boots at work
If you have to walk any distance on your way to work (home to bus, home to office) chances are that your Warm Footwear and your Office Appropriate Footwear are not one and the same. Make things easier on yourself by keeping 2-3 pairs of shoes at work and changing into them when you get there. No one will be the wiser!

Also, this year I'm getting Yaktrax ice cleats. I am so tired of slipping and sliding on icy sidewalks a-holes can't be bothered to shovel.

6. Buying real, actual winter clothes. Like, investment pieces. That aren't from Target.
When I first moved back to Minnesota, I made the mistake of buying a pair of cheap, cute, slouchy cloth (!!!) boots and thinking that I could wear them to walk to the grocery store and dig my car out of snowbanks.

Spoiler alert: they dissolved in about a month and I nearly lost a toe to frostbite. Be ye not so stupid as me. Those Norwegians are onto something when they say "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes" and I'm sorry to say most of those 'bad weather clothes' are from Target, Old Navy, and H & M.

Now is the time to be a grown up and buy an actual wool coat (again, you can totally thrift these) and real winter boots. (I liiiiive in these.)  Buy a winter coat with a zip-in liner that's long enough to cover your butt. If you're hair-obsessed (like me) get a jacket with a hood; it'll keep you warm, protect your neck + carefully styled-to-look-slightly-messy hair. 

7. Use serious moisturizer + conditioner
Yup, it's time to switch it up. I use this moisturizer exclusively in the winter and this leave-in conditioner

8. Run a humidifier with essential oils
Yes, I've banged on about humidifiers, like, 18 times. Because they work. They make your home feel warmer, they're good for your skin and hair, and they can actually prevent you from getting sick. If you want to feel fancy, add a few drops of essential oil - lavender to feel calm, peppermint to boost your energy. 

9. Use coconut oil or petroleum jelly on your nose, cheeks, knuckles 
Just about any body part that has contact with the great outdoors will get chapped and dry, I'm afraid. But if you oil up before you head out, you can keep things smooth and supple.

10. Put translucent powder on your lashes
SO THEY WON'T FREEZE TOGETHER. What? Yes. We choose to live in a place where frozen eyelashes are a viable concern. 

11. Wash your hair waaaaay less
Winter is that excuse you (aka: I) have been seeking to only wash our hair once or twice a week. I go for ye olde 'wash my bangs in the sink' trick and use a lot of dry shampoo. Also: 15 hairstyles for dirty hair.

Do you live in a cold climate? Share your best tips or products with us in the comments!

P.S. If you live in the southern hemisphere here are 12 ways to look + feel fantastic even when it's face-meltingly hot

P.P.S. Not related to style, but if you live in a seriously cold place, get AAA, snow tires, keep an extra bottle of washer fluid, jumper cables, a blanket, snacks, kitty litter (for traction if you go in the ditch,) extra boots in your trunk and make sure you've got fresh wiper blades. Minnesota! It's fun to live here!

* and my Facebook friends' and Twitter buddies'!

photo by adam nicholson // cc

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How To (Nicely) Set Boundaries With Your Clients + My ‘Collaboration Guidelines’

Let's play a little game of 'Have you ever.'

Have you ever:
Had invoices go unpaid?
Received 25 one-line emails from the same client in one day?
Been woken up by a phone call from a client? On a weekend?

If you're self employed, you've probably experienced all of these. I know I have - until I wrote up my 'collaboration guidelines' and started sharing them with every client.

If you'd like to read all about 'em (and you're totally welcome to copy/paste/use them yourself) pop over to my small business blog.

Mini Travel Guide: French-speaking Canada

This is one of many Mini Travel Guides, in which locals and expats share their favorite things with us so we can travel to their country and have as much fun as humanly possible.

Hi! I’m Kayla. I have lived in various places in eastern Canada, and have French Canadian extended family, but I fell in love with la belle province of Québec during my years as a graduate student in Montréal. I’m excited to share some tips on traveling in this region (with a slight bias towards the city of Montréal). It offers truly one of the most unique and enjoyable cultural experiences in North America!

Must Go
Montréal’s “Plateau-Mont Royal” neighbourhood
I’ve seen it cited as one of the hippest neighbourhoods in North America, and I’m not surprised! It’s an exceptionally vibrant area of the dynamic and diverse city of Montréal. Le Plateau features hip bars/restaurants/shops, a rich arts and music scene, a particular architecture involving charming wrought-iron staircases and old-stone masonry, and les ruelles verts (alleyways-turned-urban green space).

Old Québec, Québec City
If you can ignore the tourist traps in this area, Québec City hosts a beautiful, historic riverside “Old Town”, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Learn about the history of French culture in Canada and appreciate the rich cultural and language heritage that Québec has been able to preserve. To make the most of the beautiful waterfront location of the Old Town, top it off with a stroll along the mighty St. Lawrence River.

Coastal Québec and New Brunswick
I highly recommend spending some time outside of the urban areas, and coastal Québec and the neighbouring French-speaking area of the province of New Brunsiwck is a spectacular place to do that. Whale-watching off the small Québec town of Tadoussac, exploring the rugged coast of the Gaspésie, and indulging in fresh seafood in the charming coastal communities along New Brunswick’s north shore will satisfy your nature-loving side.

Must Do
Café culture
Unlike some other parts of North America, eating and drinking is truly appreciated as a social activity here, and exploring independent cafés is a great way to enjoy the unique joie de vivre.

Farmer’s markets
A culture of buying and eating locally produced/grown/caught food is alive and well. I strongly recommend checking out the Jean-Talon Market in Montréal’s Little Italy during peak summer - it’s North America’s largest outdoor market! 

There are nearly continuous festivals year-round, from Québec City’s famous Winter Carnival, to Acadian Festivals in New Brunsiwck, to Pop Montréal (indie music heaven) and Montréal’s Jazz Festival (the largest in the world). There is always a spectacle to see and something to celebrate.

Must Eat
Montréal Bagels
In my humble opinion, Montréal bagels rival - or surpass - the bagels of New York City. Buy hand-rolled bagels fresh out of the wood-fired ovens at either of the two most famous bagel shops (St. Viateur or Fairmount) located in Mile End, an historically working-class Jewish neighbourhood turned hipster mecca.

Fries + gravy-like sauce + cheese curds. Need I say more? This bowl of gooey goodness is popular across Canada, but was invented (and perfected) here. Many restaurants and poutine shops offer unique twists on the classic, too. For example, foie gras poutine is a thing. Seriously.

Maple Everything
Maple products are reasonably priced because the region is such a large producer of the sweet stuff. Pick up maple syrup (or maple sugar…or maple butter… or…) at a farmer’s market to get the best price. If you visit during early spring, usually around March, you can visit a cabane à sucre (“sugar shack”) to see how the syrup is made. A popular maple treat is the tire d’érable or maple taffy, which is maple syrup poured on snow to harden it and then rolled up on a stick to be eaten like a lollipop.

Cultural Tips
Many urban québécois, most New Brunswickers, and virtually anyone working in tourism/hospitality are bilingual in English and French (and quite possibly other languages!). However, it is a francophone region, so you may occasionally have a “lost in translation” moment. But hey - take the opportunity to practice or learn the beautiful language! It will be appreciated. While brushing up on my own French, I was told that it’s not the quality that matters: “C’est juste l’effort!”

Travel on the Cheap
Have a picnic in a park
Eating (and drinking) outside is very popular during the hot summer months. Save some money on restaurant meals by hitting up a grocery store and heading to a nearby green space.

Like anywhere else, hostels are a cheap way to stay, but I really recommend renting a room or apartment through Air BnB to feel a bit more like a local rather than a tourist!

Use public transit or walk
In the urban areas, walking will allow you to experience more sights and sounds, plus there are lots of buses and Montréal has a fantastic metro (a.k.a. subway) system. 

Thanks so much for sharing, Kayla!  I'm sure heaps of you readers are from this area of Canada - what else do we need to know about?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

New Thing: Eat Bibimbap

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try (it's part of how I live my life on purpose). Some of these things are exciting/adventurous/expensive, many of them are super normal, I-can't-believe-I've-never-done-this things. You can read about past shenanigans here.

I would encourage you to click play on the above video so you can hear what hot stone bowl bibimbap sounds like!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that new, interesting food is best consumed deep in the suburbs in a location that is as hidden as possible.
Like a cafe.
In a grocery store.
In Columbia Heights.

Really and truly, I think there's a direct correlation between how delicious something is and how hole-in-the-wall-y the location is (re: my favorite restaurant).

So when I went a'googling for 'Twin Cities bibimbap' there was a part of me that thrilled to discover the undisputed best bibimbap living in a grocery store, in a decidedly un-hip suburb.

If you (like me) are new to bibimbap, Wikipedia tells us that it is "a signature Korean dish that literally means "mixed rice." Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with sauteed and seasoned vegetables, chili pepper paste, soy sauce, and salty soybean paste. A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The hot dish is stirred together thoroughly just before eating." 

Because I have a 'go big or go home' mentality when it comes to trying new food, I wanted to try dolsot bibimbap, or hot stone bowl bibimbap. It's the usual bibimbap ingredients, served (as the name would suggest) in an insanely hot stone bowl. The bowl is so hot, you can literally hear the rice and vegetables crackling as the waitress hands you your tray.

As you wait for things to calm/cool down a bit, the rice at the bottom of your bowl is forming The World's Most Delicious Chewy, Golden Crust. You can drizzle your bowl with all sorts of amazing sauces and dip into the million tiny bowls of condiments you receive.

It's delicious. It's vegetarian and vegan-friendly (they make each bowl individually so it's easy to ask for yours without meat or eggs) and it's not even vaguely healthy. Really, it's the perfect winter comfort food and not just because you could cuddle that hot bowl on a long, cold November evening.

This cafe/grocery store is actually down the street from my beloved vintage movie theater! Wouldn't bibimbap and a cheap movie make for the perfect winter date night?

What interesting foods are on your must-try list? Let me know of any other interesting, vegetarian-friendly dishes I should try!

P.P.S. Thanks to my friends Emily and Jess for bibimbapping with me!

Monday, November 17, 2014

True Story: I'm Undocumented + Applying For The Deferred Action Program

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Bruno and his family's life as undocumented immigrants in America. 

Tell us a bit about yourself! 
Hello, my name is Bruno Esteban Leguiza. I was born in Argentina in a city called called Rosario in 1985. I am the first born of two of the most loving, Christian parents that a son could ever have. I am a 29-year-old fine artist who specializes in portraiture and exploring the subconscious using surrealism. At this moment in time I work as an all around artist doing murals, face painting, selling prints, and all other sorts of commissioned work. I like to play a little guitar for fun as well.

Where is your family from originally? And why aren't they there now? 
My father is a charismatic man of Portuguese descent and my mother's a beautiful, quirky, loving, Italian lady. My father was raised in Buenos Aires (the capital) and when he was 22 he moved to Rosario where he met my mother. In the early 1980's, Argentina was free from military control and developed a Democracy. Unfortunately, the country suffered from terrible economic problems so in 1988 my father finally decided that enough was enough. His first choice of immigration was Australia but our visas were denied. The United States was second on the list.

Do you remember anything about your immigration to America? How did you and your parents get into the country without the correct documents?
I don't really remember anything about the actual flight because I was three years old and asleep, but I do remember having a strange feeling of unfamiliarity when we landed. The air just seemed different. My mother and I were granted visas to enter as visitors for a 3 to 6 month stay, which sounds funny to me 26 years later. My father was denied entry but this would not derail his dream. He took a flight from Argentina to Mexico and from Mexico snuck into the states. Can you imagine flying to a country just to sneak into another one? He must have been so overwhelmed by all the unknown that surrounded him!

You and your parents have been living in America without documentation for 25+ years. How did they (and you) find work? How did they deal with the various aspects of American life without those documents? 
My father started off small, working in an ice cream parlor in Long Beach and eventually worked his way back up in dentistry. My mother was a stay at home mom for a while but later enrolled in a community college and became a lab technician for a hospital. Back when they did all of this, employment rules were a lot different. 

It's a little harder for me to find work because now they do more background checks. But it's not all that bad, whenever I make a serious effort I find work. Every undocumented immigrant in this country finds work - whether it's picking fruit in the fields or managing an extremely successful company. Yes, sometimes it can be very difficult, but if you push hard enough you'll find a way. 

As for my parents, they're able to renew their driver's license whenever they need to because they were able to get one when they first arrived. So they just take their old one to the DMV every time it expires. 

As far as going to the hospital and enrolling in school, I use a fake name at hospitals and school never really questioned, unless it's college.

Do the people in your life know that your family in undocumented? 
I would say that the majority of the people in our lives know that we are undocumented. we have no problem telling the close friends but it's definitely not something that we tell a person when first meeting them. Trust must always be established before doing so. They eventually always find out when they ask me, "Hey, have you ever been to Mexico?" or "Who are you voting for?"

You've applied to be part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. What does that mean? How will this affect you if you get accepted?
The Deferred Action is a law that was passed in June of 2012 which permits undocumented immigrants to attain a social security number and a work permit. You have to be under the age of 31 and you have to have been in the States since before you were 16. You need to have a high school diploma, school transcripts, and any other information that proves you've been here since before you were 16, such as previous addresses, bills, etc. You cannot have any felonies or more than 3 misdemeanors on your record (traffic tickets don't count). You have to provide them with $465 dollars and passport photos in order for them to make the proper identifications. 

I qualify perfectly for this and a whole lot more. If I am to be accepted (which I'm pretty sure I am) I will be able to attain a legal driver's license, bank account, and not have to worry about background checks. This would change everything!!! I can immediately enroll in college and get a degree. Even though not having it shouldn't and doesn't discourage me, it would still be an incredible improvement to my life. 

Do you think of yourself as an American or Argentinian? 
I would say that I feel like an Argentinian more than an American. For the most part I sound like an American but somehow my Argentinian blood always has a way of making itself present. Sometimes I say American things but in an Argentinian format or tone. When I think or dream I'll start off in English but then I go straight into Spanish without even realizing it.

Can you tell us about the difference between calling someone "illegal" and "Undocumented"? Why should we use one term over the other? 
There is no real difference. Undocumented simply sounds a little less offensive or it sounds politically correct. I don't really mind being called "illegal" because that's exactly what I am but others might take offense to it so just to be on the safe side, I would suggest saying "undocumented". 

How do you respond to people who say that undocumented workers are "a drain on the system", etc? 
I don't really have a problem with it anymore because I know that God brought me here for a reason. I know that my status will one day change so for me to be worried about people saying that would actually be a drain on me. All I can do is hold my head up and just keep going. I used to let being undocumented affect me to a point where I was setting up imaginary boundaries in my life's path, but no more. It took a long time for me to realize this, a lot of pain and frustration but I'm finally learning to let go of that and start taking matters into my own hands.

If we know someone who's undocumented, what can we do to help? 
Simply give them a big, loving smile and make them feel comfortable with discussing it. Communication is education, and education can save lives.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Bruno!  Do you guys have any questions for him?

Edited to add: Bruno got accepted to the Deferred Action Program!

Two other perspectives: True Story: I Immigrated To America and True Story: I Immigrated To America - And Then Moved Back To My Home Country