Our Contributors: Meet Jennifer Saleem

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© Hybrid Rasta Mama (Jennifer Saleem)

 

What are three personality traits that best describe you and how do they impact your personal identity?

I cannot pick just three as I am VERY Puerto Rican and Italian. I am fiery, stubborn as all get out, passionate (OH SO PASSIONATE), committed, determined, hard working, and resilient. I can take everything and anything thrown my way. Like my Puerto Rican side of the family, I am very superstitious and also a bit on the “cup half empty” side of the fence. My Italian side is very optimistic and upbeat. I did not inherit that.

I embrace the person I was born as. I do not apologize for who I am and how I act. If you do not like me, then do not be friends with me. Although I bend over backgrounds to help others and am generous to a fault, I also am not a people pleaser. I do things my way and the way I have found works best. I can adapt when necessary but you will never find me kissing arse! I am who I am and I am ok with that.What are your fondest childhood memories related to your cultural heritage?

Simply put – family meals at holidays. They were LOUD, busy, joyous, full of laughter, full of spirited debates, stories, memories, wine (even for us little ones), and love. I enjoyed hearing about the “old country” and gently discovering all of my great grandmother’s hidden gems and treasures locked away in her closet. The collection of relics from Italy were fascinating.

What was your family like when you were growing up?

Instead of rewriting this, you can read about how I was raised in THIS POST.

How did you meet your spouse?

In February 2002, I was fortunate enough to travel to San Diego with the company I worked for (we had won a profitability contest) at the exact same time that there was a HUGE Bob Marley Day music festival. Now, I had been to my fair share of reggae concerts and festivals but I had never gone alone. There was no way that I was missing this since the travel and lodging we already covered as part of this work trip. So, I bought the concert ticket and stayed an extra day to attend the festivities.

Long story short, before the first performer took the stage I was wandering around checking out all of the vendors. I struck a conversation with a handsome young man who I thought was Jamaican. (Turns out he was not). But no matter, he was a really nice guy and eventually asked me where I lived. I was a little bummed telling him that I was from Sacramento, a ten hour drive or 2 hour plane ride away. He chuckled and said that he was also from “Sac” and had flown down to San Diego to help his mom with the show. I got goosebumps. I mean, how cool is that? So we exchanged phone numbers under the auspices of me helping him find some temporary work (I worked for an employment agency) while the company he was with was slow.

We met for lunch the week after the concert (which was AWESOME by the way. The concert, not lunch). Lunch was great and all and this hot young guy was pretty cool but I never heard from him again. Oh well. No biggie.

Fast forward to February 2003. It was literally the day before the Bob Marley Festival in San Diego. I was at a new company and we had that day off because it was a holiday. On a whim (and not at all thinking of that hot guy) I bought a concert ticket, bought a plane ticket, rented a car, and headed down south. I have no idea what possessed me to do this other than my great love of reggae. There was a Bob Marley Day festival closer to home the following weekend but something told me to go to San Diego. So I did.

There were all kinds of technical issues at the venue and they had us all waiting outside for hours. The doors to the venue opened and the first performer was already on stage. (Never mind the delays…these guys were sticking to a schedule!) I had to pee soooooo bad but wanted to get down to the stage area so I literally ran into the main lobby area, turned to find the closet latrine and literally ran smack into that hot guy I had met last year. He was so happy to see me. I said a quick hello, told him I was find him later and off I went.

After the 8 hour show was over, I headed to the vendor area and found that hot guy helping his mom pack up. We chatted for a bit and then since I had 6 hours to kill before my 6am flight, I helped pack up too. Turns out that this dude lost my number after our lunch date. Yeah, whatever. Likely story. I gave him my number again but didn’t get my hopes up. He gave me his number too but promised to call.

A week passed and I had not heard a word from this guy. Something was nagging at me though so I decided that I was going to call him the next day. I was heading to a reggae show in town that night and figured I would call and rub it in the next day. I never got that chance. Hot guy had yet again lost my number but somehow remembered me saying that I was going to a reggae show in Sacramento that weekend. I never told him what show or where it was but he found me. (Side note – the show I was at was four of Bob Marley’s sons. Wicked cool I tell you). Anyhoo, I felt a tap on my shoulder in the middle of the concert and hot guy was standing there smiling at me. I was floored. He looked sooooooooooooooo good. Oh. My. Gawd. Seriously. He looked HOT. And he went through a lot of trouble to track me down. He even said he “lost me once and was not about to let that happen again.”

Fast forward to 2006 and hot guy and I were married in an intimate ceremony in Jamaica.

If you’re in a mixed relationship, what is your mix?  What is your family’s heritage, culture, language, faith, etc.?  What is the key to successfully combining traditions and values in your home?

I am Puerto Rican and Italian. I was raised Catholic as both sides of my family were VERY Catholic. My father grew up multilingual (English, Italian and Spanish).  My paternal grandmother was not allowed to celebrate her Puerto Rican heritage so my father grew up in an Italian heavy culture. This is this culture I was entrenched in as well. My mother’s side of the family did not celebrate their heritage in any special way.
My husband is Sri Lankin on his mother’s side and African American and Native American on his father’s side. His father embraced the Muslim religion as a young adult and my husband grew up in a Muslim household. His mother (Buddhist by culture) essentially abandoned her Sri Lankin culture at the insistence of her husband. My husband’s father did not embrace his Native American side. He was Muslim, through and through. His family celebrated all Muslim holidays and cultural related events.

Since religion was forced on both my husband and I and since there was so much pressure from both of our families to adopt one religion or the other, we both sort of stepped away from our religious upbringings. We are a spiritual household but not a religious household. When our daughter is older, we will expose her to ALL of the religions that are a part of her history and heritage. Interestingly enough, our daughter is naturally drawn to Buddha.

My husband lets me take the lead on bringing our cultural backgrounds together. I feel strongly that our daughter is exposed to her Italian heritage, her Puerto Rican heritage, her Sri Lankin heritage, her Native American heritage and her African American heritage. I incorporate music, food, dance, artwork (displayed in our home), crafts, and oral traditions from our diverse background regularly. Unlike my husband and I were, I want our daughter to be entrenched in ALL of the cultural traditions in her background.

What made you decide to become a writer/blogger?

As a mother who whole heartedly believes in a natural parenting approach, I have a strong desire to inspire other mothers and fathers to explore gentle parenting choices. Even if parents already employ a natural parenting technique (or two, or three, or twenty), I feel that it is important to provide a resource which they can turn to inspire new ideas about parenting approaches based on my experience as well as research. I get very enthusiastic, passionate, motivated, and inspired by natural, gentle, peaceful parenting techniques and approaches. This is ultimately why I decided to start blogging.

I am also extremely dedicated to living a real foods lifestyle and making healthy, green choices for our family. Although I am still in the midst of this journey, I feel it is important to share my experiences with my readers as I work through the transitions to becoming a fully green home and living a 100% real foods lifestyle.

I think that this blog might one day be a really interesting read for my daughter. Although I keep a daily personal journal for her, my posts will help my daughter really see who I was as a mother!

If you have children, how many and how old are they?  Do you write about them on your blog?  If so, what are your favorite posts about your children?

I have one daughter, currently age 2 ½. She is a mini me in personality and a beautiful blend of her father and I physically. I adore her.  I write about her on my blog under the moniker “Tiny.” I tend to write more general posts but do include her specifically from time to time.

My favorite posts mentioning my Tiny are:
Conversations With a Toddler
Conversations With a Toddler Part 2
I Have A Confession – Mothering Is Heavy
Why I Still Love To Breastfeed – Tiny’s Perspective
My Parenting Inspirations

What advice would you give to other mixed couples/families?

Simply put – stay true to who you are individually and what that individuality brings to the couple. Do not let the stares, the comments, the criticisms and the negativity you may encounter effect you or your relationship. The world is no longer about same race couples. Those individuals who still take issue with the blending of cultures need to get over it and they are not worth any negative emotions from you. Educate when possible but again, do not let it interfere in your personal time and never let it bring you down as a couple! Walk tall and model strong living.

Who or what was your biggest inspiration in life?  What motivates you?

I am inspired by so much! I find inspiration from the big and the small in live. I can be inspired by a rock or a snail and I can be inspired by lyrics in a song or words in a book. I am constantly inspired and motivated by my daughter. She is now my number one motivation in life. I want to model what I consider to be healthy, productive, moral living for her. I want to show her through my actions that anything in life is possible and that you CAN create your own destiny. I want to show her that obstacles are just that – an obstacle and that they can be overcome with determination. I want her to experience the joy and passion that I have for life. I want her to see the beauty in the world. Exposing my daughter to LIFE is what motivates me. Helping others along the way is critical as well.

My parents inspire me in my relationship with my husband. They had and have such a beautiful relationship, based on so much love and respect for each other. I can count the arguments they have had in my lifetime on one hand because they genuinely communicate THAT WELL! It blows my mind.

If you had a bucket list, what would be your top 5 things to do/see?  Why?

Easy! I want to take my daughter to all of the countries that are a part of her blood! I have been fortunate to visit Italy twice but I have not been able to experience Puerto Rica, Africa, Sri Lanka, or any of the Great Nations here in the United States where my husband’s Native America ancestors lived. I feel that it is critical for my daughter to be able to “see” where she is from and experience the culture first hand. I also want to make sure that my daughter has the opportunity to travel to Jamaica and visit some of the most beautiful scenery that I have ever seen.

Keep up with Jennifer via her top social networks:
Jennifer’s Blog – Hybrid Rasta Mama
Facebook fan page
Twitter profile
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