I Married an Undocumented Immigrant: Executive Action

Last night, the president announced that he was taking executive action to shield some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation for the next 3 years. He did not offer a path to citizenship for any segment of the population, but predictably, cries of amnesty rang out across the internet. But a midst the cries of “Unconstitutional!” and “Sue!” and “This will further divide the political parties!” and even, “He didn’t do enough!” we must remember the cries of the young man able to see his parents for the first time in decades; the cries of the mother who can take a breath of relief that for a while, at least, she can move freely without the fear of separation from her baby; and yes, the cries of the father who still does not qualify because while his children grew up here, they were not born here. And if you are brave enough, imagine your own cries if you were desperate to give your children a better life, but it could happen only at the risk that you might be taken away from them. The cries are real, because this action affects real, living breathing people living real lives. I’m posting this again to remind us of that reality.


I Married an Undocumented Immigrant

By ecoggs  |  Posted July 9, 2014  |  United States

CNN PRODUCER NOTE     ecoggs was inspired to share her story with CNN after reading another iReporter’s personal essay about being undocumented.

When she was nine months pregnant, her husband was arrested and jailed in August 2011 for not paying a ticket for driving without a license, she said. As she panicked and drove to bail him out, she realized this is probably something a lot of mixed-status immigrant families go through.

“What happened to us has given me a small taste of the fear that undocumented families live with every day.”

Read My Story


15 Tips for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! But that can come with holiday stress, so make sure you check out the following gifs, I mean tips, to make your holidays happy:


1.) Spend lots of quality time with your loved ones. It’s supposed to look like this:



2.) But it won’t. Despite what Hallmark tells you, nobody’s holidays are perfect, so make sure you set healthy boundaries regarding spending time with loved ones.

hurt feelings


3.) Start thinking about your holiday shopping early, by making a list of all the people you plan to buy gifts for, and how much you’d like to spend.

make it rain


4.) Then, make yourself a gift budget based on money you can actually afford to spend.

pick it up


5.) If you think you can’t stick to your budget because of gift expectations, consider giving thoughtful, hand-made gifts. Your loved ones will so appreciate the meaning and time you spent coming up with them.

cooper coupons


6.) Since you don’t actually have much money or time, consider buying things online that merely look expensive.

nobody talks about it


7.) Maintain an attitude of thankfulness and optimism.

i just like to smile


8.) But still expect a few bumps in the road.



9.) Savor the excitement that your kids have about Christmas morning.

santa's coming


10.) But to avoid trust issues down the road, consider letting your kids know that Santa isn’t real.



11.) To combat the holiday blues, be sure to take care of yourself through diet and exercise.

diet and exercise


12.) Don’t skip out on your self-help/support groups just because of holiday business. Maintaining your support system during stressful or emotional times is one of the keys to good mental health.

calming circle


13.) ‘Tis the season to get a DUI. So make sure you drink responsibly. Keep hydrated, and decide how many you will have in advance. Most importantly, make sure you eat first. Fruitcake before eggnog, people, FRUITCAKE BEFORE EGGNOG.

penny eggnog


14.) And if you’re someone like me, try to remember that wine dissolves your filter, and you may want to avoid drinking altogether due to the risk of oversharing.



15.) Finally, be sure to follow food safety procedures during all festivities, and while eating leftovers. You don’t want to experience fever-induced delirium brought on by salmonella.

kramer turkey

7 More Parenting Fails Accomplishments

If you didn’t see my last embarrassing post, I’ve started cataloging some of my parenting missteps. And since parenting is hard and I’m an optimist, I like to frame them as accomplishments.

Rafi sin pants
This is how we problem solve when Rafi wants his picture taken, but doesn’t want to wear pants or underwear

1.) When I came home from work the other day, Rafi greeted me with the news, “I pooped!” I responded with enthusiastic affirmation, of course. Then he said, “You poop, and Daddy poops and Lili poops!” After further affirmation, he went on to tell me, “And Grandmom poops and Poppop poops and Great-Grandmom poops and Great-Grandpop poops and Uncle John poops too!” So, Great-Grandpop has been gone for almost a year and therefore most likely does not poop. But aside from that, I’m raising a boy who knows his facts, and that’s an accomplishment.

2.)  I spontaneously broke out into singing an extremely spirited rendition of “Mmmbop” by Hanson in the car (I’m not ashamed that I still love that song) on the off chance that it would make my daughter stop crying. Mmhmm, it worked.


3.) Then I tried the same thing with someone else’s baby at a wedding, and it worked again.

how people look
How people look at you when you sing their baby Mmmbop
its working
And then realize it’s working


4.)  I heard about a study that says that talking to yourself in the third person can be helpful for motivation. But Emily doesn’t like referring to herself as Emily, because we all know that’s weird. So I started referring to myself as “Girlfriend” when I’m trying to wake up in the morning. Because that’s not weird at all.

This is how it goes:  Denial: “It’s OK, Girlfriend, if you keep your eyes closed he’ll stop poking your face and telling you he wants breakfast.”  Anger: “Girlfriend, get yourself outta this bed right now. What kind of mother let’s her kid ask for breakfast for 20 minutes? The kind that stays up way too late blogging. Moron.”  Bargaining: “Girlfriend, I know you’re tired, but if you just roll outta this bed, I’ll make you a nice cup of really strong coffee.”  Sadness: “Girlfriend, I know you want to enjoy every minute you can with your kids, except for this minute because it’s 4:30AM. It’s OK to cry.” Acceptance: “OK, Girlfriend.  Stop whining. Here we go.”

You may have noticed that me and Girlfriend, we walked through the five stages of grief during that conversation with one another.  That is because every morning, we grieve being able to sleep as much as we want to, because we’re sure it will never happen again for the rest of our lives. But we eventually get up, and that’s an accomplishment.

5.) This is sometimes what I eat for my bedtime snack. ⇒snack
Yes, those are Jalapeños with cream cheese and bacon. And no, that is not formula or breast milk.  I’m gross, but I’m not that gross. And feeding myself a delicious snack coupled with a bottle container of  leftover nutritious milk is an accomplishment.

gonna climb
Who, me? Nuthin.

6.) I sometimes allow my children to jump on our bed, and I try to always be on the side closest to Lili, to make sure that if she goes over, I can throw myself onto the hardwood floor to create a human cushion (in the unlikely scenario that I’m not fast or coordinated enough to catch her).  The lasso from our wedding hangs on the wall above our bed, and what with its cloth flowers and shiny gold thread, any baby would do their best to eat it. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the bed was not quite up against the wall – in fact there was about six inches of space between bed and wall.  You know where I’m going with this.


One minute she’s on her tip toes reaching for the lasso, and the next minute she’s completely disappeared into the baby canyon. But (thank you, Jesus), she went down feet first and was just kind of wedged there, looking like, “Umm, how did I get down here, and what’s with the panic face?” Obviously, the first thing I said after ascertaining that she was alive and well was, “Rafi, don’t tell Daddy.” Approximately one second later we hear the door open and what does Rafi do? He races down the hall shouting, “Lili fell off the bed with a bash and a crash and a bang of her head!!!” Where’s the accomplishment in that? I am raising a very honest child.  Then again, Mexican people have a saying that goes something like: “Only drunks and children tell the truth,” so it could have something to do with that (the child part, we don’t feed our kids liquor), but in any case, he’s an excellent story teller. Also, my girl is fearless.

7.) Today Rafi said something that really melted my heart: “Daddy, I like you, but I like Mommy better.”



Now that’s an accomplishment.

The Right-To-Die Effect

Brittany Maynard

I didn’t want to write about Brittany Maynard, because it’s hard to disagree with someone who is dying of cancer and not look (and feel) like a big jerk. But here I sit, trying to write about something else, and I just keep coming back to her story.

You’ve probably heard of Brittany. She is the young lady who has a severe brain tumor, was given a prognosis of six months to live, and chose to move to Oregon where she could legally decide to take her own life via prescribed medication, rather than waiting for the cancer to kill her. The day she originally chose when she would most likely end her life is this Saturday, but her latest video suggested that she may wait longer.

My heart aches for Brittany, and I have wept for her.  Granted, I have also wept at country music videos, so the weeping may not be saying a lot, but my point is that I understand and feel that it is an incredibly tragic situation. Although I disagree with her stance on policy regarding assisted suicide, I have absolutely no desire or right to condemn her personal decision, as I have not walked in her shoes or been inside her mind or her heart. Plus I’m not the Judge.

Plus there’s always that teeny weeny little bittiest possibility that I might be wrong.


surprised face


Yup. But as someone who has worked for the last five years in suicide prevention, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very concerned about the messages on this topic that we, as a culture, are circulating. Messages like:

Some lives are more valuable than others.

I often facilitate a training called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, during which we ask participants to examine their own values and attitudes relating to suicide. We ask them to mark on a chart where their feelings lie on a spectrum from Agree to Disagree for a number of statements. One of the statements is “People have a right to suicide.”

When discussing this particular item, someone always brings up the case of a person who is terminally ill and suffering, and says that unlike the general population, such a person has a right to end his or her life.  And the trainer Emily acknowledges the statement by nodding her head and saying, “Other thoughts?” while turning to the rest of the group with her objective robot face.

But the inner Emily really wants to say, “But isn’t everyone who is thinking about suicide experiencing great pain and suffering? Isn’t everyone who is considering ending their life moving towards their inevitable demise anyway, as we all are? Isn’t saying that people who are dying faster or sooner have more of a right to kill themselves, sort of implying that their lives are not as much worth living as those who are young and healthy, in other words that they are not as valuable?” I am convinced that this message is both very prevalent and very concerning. Here’s another:

Ending your life early only affects you.

This is a radically individualistic point of view, but then, America is a radically individualistic country. Sure, it’s your life, but none of us live in a vacuum. Every action that we make influences others around us, at the very minimum by sending an implicit message. What message are we sending about the value of life for the aged and/or sick when we give them special permission to die?

There is value in comfort, but no value in suffering.

Suffering can bring us closer to God and to one another. It can give us a stronger understanding and voice to help others. It can refine our character. It can cause us to seek, and to find meaning in life. But sometimes we can’t see the value. When we are in pain, our bodies are crumbling and our life is running out, I’m sure it can seem pretty meaningless. But just because it looks meaningless to us, does that mean that it must, indeed, be meaningless? We see our small part of the world, but we are not omniscient. And as we lean more and more towards the idea that suffering is meaningless and without value, suicide becomes a more and more logical option, even for the physically healthy. Why bother with it?

It is brave to die on your own terms, but undignified to spend the end of your life living.

I understand that having a forecast of just six months to live can surely cause a person to want to gain some bit of control over their situation. But can we not make a difference in the world in just six months? Can we not do something meaningful, touch someone’s life, give our loved ones the sweetness of our presence, in one day? Can we not glorify God in even one moment? Isn’t it brave and dignified to try?

Protecting liberty is more important than protecting life.

I don’t actually believe that sanctioning the right-to-die protects liberty (See Reason #23). But I do value protecting life more than protecting liberty in most cases. I do so for several reasons. One is that if someone is dead, they aren’t free to make any choices, and if we are giving liberty to one set of humans at the expense of another set of humans, we are not supporting liberty or life, and we are definitely not supporting justice. I also value human life because I’m religious.



surprised face

I know – you’ve likely picked that up by now. But what I mean is that I do actually think that life is ordained by God, and as such is precious, and worth protecting, even if that means not sanctioning by law something that over 100 Americans do every day anyway, without the direct assistance of a physician. So that brings me to the next message that I hear frequently:

Religious perspectives have no place in policy decisions.

Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that our system is meant to have a clear wall of separation between church and state. So let’s say that arguments need to be secular in order to be valid for policy making.

Let’s look at one example of an argument that is widely considered secular, which is that if we allow assisted death in our profit-driven healthcare system, then people, particularly the elderly or those with disabilities, will be targeted for assisted suicide, which is much cheaper than treatment. Here’s an example of such an argument. But how do we determine that it would be wrong to pressure vulnerable people to choose assisted suicide over treatment? We determine it would be wrong because we value the lives and choices of people above the cost of healthcare. It is a moral decision based on a belief system that values life, even though the argument itself doesn’t refer directly to a deity, church or text.

Similarly, the very name of the agency advocating for assisted death (Compassion & Choices), evokes moral values that are also, believe it or not, Christian. They may also be part of other ethical codes of course, but my point is that they are based on our philosophical beliefs, not scientific study, not theory about what makes society function. Values. Right and wrong.

We can take out direct references to religion from our arguments, but that doesn’t change the foundation of the arguments, which are firmly rooted in our belief systems. So as hard as we try to relegate religion to the private sphere, we cannot remove our values from our policy arguments, and to say that an argument isn’t valid because it is based in a particular worldview is to say that no argument is valid.

And at this point I’m probably in way over my head, so let’s move on to the final message that concerns me:

Being unwavering in regards to religious values means that we are not compassionate.

Most of us hate to see people in pain, and so I completely understand why a lot of people support the right-to-die. And while suffering has meaning, we should still strive to alleviate it. That is often part of the meaning – we find in our suffering the kindness of strangers, the tenderness of loved ones, the goodness that exists when we are in our darkest moments. We try to meet each other’s needs, and show one another the love of God that way. And when suffering cannot be alleviated, we weep with those who weep.

But I don’t think that being compassionate means we have to sanction suicide. I think that it means loving people enough to consider their lives precious regardless of illness, age, life expectancy, class, creed or culture.


7 Embarrassing Accomplishments of an Overwhelmed Parent

Like most parents, I think my kids are pretty much the most awesome people in the world.  My husband is cool too, although it’s less cute when he babbles, drools or gets food all over himself. Anyway, I’m truly thankful for my family, home, job, church and friends.

But every now and then, I get overwhelmed. And by every now and then, I mean every day.  And by every day, I mean several times a day. So basically, I’m constantly overwhelmed, which leads me to constantly do things that cause me to think to myself, “that’s just embarrassing.” But since parenting is hard, I’ve decided that what I should really be saying is, “that’s an accomplishment.”

So naturally I thought it was about time to start recording some of these accomplishments for posterity, because future generations may want to know how to be awesomely embarrassing like me. I will probably continue to add to this list, but for now, here is one for every day of the week:

1.) I taught my son to pick his nose. I actually gave him candy as a reward for picking his nose.  In my defense: When I try to clean his nose, he behaves like a wild animal whose last meal is stored up in his nostrils. I’m talking about screaming, crying, kicking, pushing and sometimes growling.  And frankly, someone needed to create some vacancies in that crowded space. I mean you can’t just leave them hanging there, so teaching him to do it himself is an accomplishment.

 2.) When he did manage to extract something, he looked at it with mild interest, then proceeded to wipe it on the closest thing within reach, which happened to be the back of his dad’s neck. Now, the next thing that happened is that we both started laughing, and if you are at all familiar with young children, you know that when you laugh at something they do, they continue to do it over and over for a very long time (like up to and including middle school.) So yeah, laughing was a serious mistake. But it was also an ingenious way to make sure he keeps picking his nose, so that’s an accomplishment. Right? Oh. No? Hmm.

 3.)  I have alwaysRafi sleeps with donut wanted to be one of those people who can just fall asleep anywhere, like in the middle of the floor with a doughnut in my hand. Yes. That black thing beside Lamby’s head is a doughnut. I have never been able to be one of those people, but I think producing one is the next best thing. So that’s an accomplishment.

4.) My husband discovered my color-coded excel spreadsheet titled, “Weekly Life Schedule” on our laptop. As though the fact that I am dorky enough to have such a spreadsheet is not enough of an embarrassing accomplishment on its own, he pointed out that it only included two (yes, two) cells labeled “shower.”

5.) I continued to geek-out about my schedule and bought a new (and awesome) type of calendar (watch the video with me and wonder why this has never been patented before). I have high hopes that with the utilization of this calendar, I will streamline my life in such a way that I will manage to schedule more than two showers a week. In fact, I am hoping that the new and improved organized and better smelling me will not even need to include basic hygiene on her calendar at all. That is going to be a BIG accomplishment.

6.) During one of my two weekly showers, I had an 11 month old audience. My daughter stood against the side of the bathtub, fascinated by my pasty white body for at least 15 minutes. When she did crawl away, all I could think about was her consuming the crumpled corpse of a large spider I had killed the night before and left in my trash can on the floor (oops), or whether or not she could reach any of my jewelry, and gleefully throw it behind one of the baseboard heat covers. But neither of those things happened (as far as I know) and she returned in one piece to gaze rapturously at me while I dried off. So I think that’s an accomplishment. But I guess we’ll never really know…

7.) Sometimes when my son is coloring with markers, and there’s no paper within easy reach, I let him use the baby’s face. KIDDING. Who do you people think I am? But yeah, there’s really just no way to look at this one as an accomplishment. That’s just embarrassing.

baby with marker



I Married an Undocumented Immigrant – Update


Many of you read my story on CNN iReport about how I Married an Undocumented Immigrant, and have expressed a lot of support and concern.  So I wanted to update you…

At the end of August our lawyer contacted us saying that a limited number of visas had become available and needed to be disbursed by September 10, and that Rafael needed to get his biometrics (which basically means fingerprints) updated in order to receive the decision from the judge (and then a green card, if the decision was in our favor.)  The attorney made us an appointment at a biometrics field office in Philadelphia for September 4th.

Rafael and my dad went to the 9AM appointment and spent the entire day there because the biometrics unit of Homeland Security insisted that they could not do Rafael’s fingerprints because he did not have a pending court date with Immigration court.  Immigration court contacted Biometrics to explain that he had already had his court date, but Biometrics wouldn’t budge.

So Immigration court was like, “the judge said to take this guy’s fingerprints.”  And then Biometrics was like, “No! You’re not the boss of me.”  So Immigration court was like, “You’re a pain in the butt.”  And Biometrics was like, “Well at least my head doesn’t look like a butt.  STILL NOT GONNA DO IT!” So Immigration court was like, “Fine, I’ll play by your rules, because MOM SAID TO DISBURSE THESE VISAS BY 9/10!” So Immigration court created a made-up court date notification for Rafael and sent it to Biometrics so that they would take his fingerprints, which they finally did. (I know – our immigration system is cray cray.)

So, on September 15th we received a letter from our lawyer stating that the judge had released her decision to cancel Rafael’s order for deportation.  So if you skipped all the boring preceding paragraphs about how it’s hard to maneuver through the immigration system, here is the news.  On September 15th, the judge gave us her decision to allow Rafael to legally stay in the United States.

We told a few of our close friends that night and the next day.  And I must admit that I thought to myself, “Why don’t I feel more excited?”  All my friends were rejoicing, because they love us, and that was wonderful.  I just had expected to be overjoyed, and maybe cry a little. But when I read the letter, it didn’t feel momentous, just kind of surreal. It felt sort of like going into labor (minus the excruciating pain and all) – at first you think it’s practice contractions and then it slowly dawns on you, this is really happening!

I called Rafa at work and we just kind of sat on the phone and didn’t know what to say.  It kind of sounded like this:  “So that means you get to stay, and we just need to get your passport stamped…. <chirp chirp>… and then we’ll get the green card in the mail…  <chirp chirp>….Uh… Duh… <little bit of drool>…. Ok?  <chirp chirp>”

Then I went to go feed the kids and clean the kitchen.

So, I guess our life will remain normal, which is really awesome news. It feels kind of like being in a really noisy room with a lot of flashing lights for a long time (like a night club, minus the fun), and then stepping into a silent, softly lit room.  Peaceful, but I don’t know quite what to do with myself.  Don’t get me wrong, we are immensely blessed and absolutely grateful.  I think it’s just going to take a little while to get used to the quiet.

When we packed up the kids and went to the local field office to get the passport stamped on 9/24, I started to get all excited.  We talked on the way down about seeing his family (him for the first time in over a decade and me for the first time, ever).  It’s about an hour drive, which meant a day off work, and then when we got there they told us that they couldn’t do anything for us, and that we needed to go to the field office in Philadelphia (where we might have to deal with our favorite biometrics guy again). We were pretty disappointed that day.

But really, it was just a little bump along what has been a pretty bumpy road, and we were able to go to the Philadelphia office on 9/26 and Rafael got his passport stamped. And wouldn’t you know it, it was the same guy who wouldn’t take his fingerprints. So while Rafael had previously kind of wanted to punch him, this time he told him he wanted to kiss him.  So that was awkward.  Anyway, here we are, legal residents of the United States. Can you believe it??!!

So I just want to say thanks to everybody for all the words of encouragement, prayers, support and friendship, and for sharing my story, which I think helps people understand immigration issues a little bit better.

my man with a baby on his head
Rafael with a baby on his head

And thank you to the local police officer who saw some Mexican guys swimming at the beach early one morning in 2011 in their boxers (I know, I know, who goes swimming in their boxers?  Guys who drove down to the beach after working at a hot, stinky restaurant for most of the night and didn’t stop to get their bathing suits, that’s who) and decided to run their names and arrest the one who had an unpaid traffic ticket on his record.

So thank you, Officer, for deciding not to let my husband put on a shirt or shoes and taking him before a judge in his underwear. Because humiliation is funny, especially when it involves such a dangerous criminal.  (Note: I am not one of those people who dislikes police officers; I know of many officers who are kind, professional, and helpful. You, sir, are just not one of them.) But really, we couldn’t have done it without you, so I guess we got the last laugh, if you want to look at it that way.

And thank you to the federal agent who told me to go pay bail and drive two hours to get my husband but forgot to tell me that, oh yeah, immigration put a hold on him and is transferring him to federal prison, so you won’t actually be able to pick him up after all. But thank you for telling me the real story when I burst into tears and told you I was about to have a baby.

And thank you to the several Corrections “professionals” who advised me not to pay bail because, “he’ll just run.”  Because you know my husband and his situation so much better than I do.

I guess I’m still a little bit angry.

Yup, every now and then I realize that I have rage in my heart, and I try to let it go.  But, then I remember that it’s not really about the police officer, or the federal agent, or the people who make ignorant comments about things that are very personal to me, it’s just the injustice of the world, and there are much bigger injustices happening every day. So I guess it’s about recognizing it, and doing what you can to correct it, starting with ourselves.

But to go back to the not-sarcastic thank you’s:  Mom and Dad – I love you.  Thanks for all of your unconditional love and support.  And I just want to close with the words that every parent hopes to hear from their daughter: I hope now you can get your bail money back.


for now

Thanks again for reading.