We are all familiar with the adage: you never know what someone is experiencing, so it’s important to be kind. This cautionary piece of advice couldn’t be more true for me today. There are special people in my life experiencing severe trauma and pain. Many of these people are pillars in their community, functioning at a high level and excelling in ways that most people could never achieve. Yet, behind the success, there seems to a masked version of their real life, only visible to a certain number of people.
Maybe because I’m a teacher or because I have been told that I have an open spirit, but lately folks in my life have come to me, revealing their secrets and struggles, and while they are not looking for a solution, in some ways I feel responsible to help them. I’m not a therapist or have any kind of technical training, so my help can be very limited. I think the best thing I can offer, besides being a comforting ear, is the remind people to be kind to others. We really don’t know what people are experiencing. We can only imagine. So, if you find yourself at the airport, grocery store, park or any where surrounded by others, the simple thing you can do is smile and be kind. Believe me, these small acts of kindness go a very long way.
My COVID experience started on September 2, 2021, when I made a comment to my co-worker that I might not come to work tomorrow because my throat felt a little sore. It was very minor- just a scratchy sensation. I had been testing students one-on-one the last two weeks, so I assumed it was the overuse of my voice, or my body adjusting to going back to work, wearing my mask for long hours. The next day, more symptoms developed: congestion, body aches, tiredness, which felt normal because I associated them with my recurring sinus infection. On Sunday I spoke to the Kaiser advice nurse, on Monday I spoke to the doctor who expedited a COVID test. On Tuesday morning I took my test, and that night I received my results. It was positive. By then, when I lost my sense of smell and taste, I already had an inclining that I had COVID. The test confirmed it. Turns out, I probably had COVID sometime at the end of August, then symptoms developed 3-5 days later, and I didn’t test ‘till three days after that. It’s easy to see how the virus spreads so quickly.
You hear how unpredictable COVID is, how it affects people differently, how there is no definite way to predict how your body will respond. I know many people who survived COVID, but I also knew a few people who didn’t. I wondered where I would fall on the spectrum. I wondered if my asthma, my weight, my thyroid would affect my experience. When I developed a form of pink eye on the 5th day, I cautioned if my symptoms would unexpectedly turn severe like other cases I read about.
I don’t know how I contracted COVID. There’s a myriad of sources- my husband went to the dentist, I work at two schools where the students are not old enough to get the vaccine, my brother-in law visited one day. I wear a mask, I’m vaccinated and I’m as safe as I can be in public settings. But with COVID, especially with Delta we know it spreads faster and it’s more infectious than the outset of the pandemic. I believe my breakthrough COVID case was bound to happen; it was just a matter of time. It is also worrisome that at my schools, it seems as if there is a positive COVID case everyday; students are in the hallways sitting next to a garbage can, vomiting. The outdoor isolation tent seems to have students daily, waiting for a parent to pick him/her up. When I see students playing, hear them laughing, or witness them smiling with their eyes, it’s easy to forget that we’re in a pandemic, and it seems like kids at school is the right decision, but when COVID cases rise and as I see adults and students get sick and the after effects of COVID unknown, I’ve decided that school is probably not the safest place for people to be, especially those unvaccinated. I’m lucky that when I return to my job, my interaction with people will be limited, and I’m taking it one day at a time.
The support from friends and family, the daily calls, check ins or even the delivery of organic Gatorade from a dear friend were sources of comfort for me. I was also surprised with the care I received from Kaiser. They sent me a care package complete with high grade cleaning solution, sanitizer, alcohol wipes, body wash, shampoo, condition, face masks, gloves, eating utensils, plates, cups, even a thermometer. Although I had most of the items at home, it was reassuring to know that in all aspects of my life, including my health care, everything was easy so I could just focus on my health and healing. Even when I was contacted by Contra Costa County they offered to do the trace contact on my behalf and asked if I needed help financially and with food preparation. I wondered about all the people who were affected at the onset of the pandemic, when a lot was unknown, when the system and after care weren’t as robust, how lonely and frustrating and expensive it might have been, especially the immediate hours after testing positive. It’s an odd time. Many thoughts run through your head and the imagination runs wild. The care I received from my circle, including the County and Kaiser made things feel less helpless, less overwhelmed, less like I was a statistic. This was the care I received for my case; I only hope others receive the same care, especially those with more severe cases.
There’s a mental condition called Survivor’s Guilt , where a person who survived a life threatening situation, while others did not feels guilty for surviving. Many people have experienced this in traumas we’re familiar with such as 9/11, Pulse nightclub, a car accident, Cancer, and most recently COVID. While my COVID case was relatively mild compared to others, I do wonder about those who weren’t so lucky, particularly family members who died because of COVID. Some didn’t live long enough for the vaccine to become available to them, so by chance and by time, I was fortunate to have a chance simply because of a timeline. It could also be because I haven’t eaten meat in over a year, or that I received both vaccines of the Moderna, it could also be because my family prayed for me and my mother in law added our names to a congregation of nuns who prayed for us. Who knows why I was lucky and relatively unscathed. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge those who had a different experience, those who needed a pacemaker after COVID, those whose sense of taste never returned after COVID, those who will have life long lung issues after COVID.
And it wasn’t just me who tested positive. My husband, my brother-in-law and two other people , including a friend’s children, tested positive. It was clear that our 6 degrees of separation had been compromised. Could I have been the COVID culprit? Probably. Most likely. The conditions at my school make it the obvious answer. And I carry a lot of guilt for that possibility. It is wild when I think about it. How a simple action turned into something possibly life threatening. We found humor in the situation though. We jokingly thought about having a quarantine routine or eating an entire onion or durian. And I affectionately referred to us as the COVID Crew. My mother in law, in jest, said something to the effect of: “I can’t believe all my children have COVID all at the same time”. But it all turned serious when my niece all of a sudden had a fever of 103 and then my sister developed flu-like symptoms, the possibility of spreading the virus to them became even more severe. My niece is only three. She’s lived most in her life in the pandemic, and it didn’t seem fair that she was a bystander of poor actions. They ended up testing negative; which was a huge relief, but the guilt ensued. I was sorry and sad. I’m grateful that my family has been kind, understanding and has found humor in a grave situation. I love them very much.
As of today, day 10 of my quarantine, the only symptoms I feel are fatigue, loss of smell and taste and a slight congestion. My days are strange. I haven’t been outside since September 2, and I have urges to take long naps throughout the day. I miss my hikes; I miss my family; I miss my tastebuds. I don’t find pleasure in the things I’ve taken for granted like eating, drinking, or smelling my favorite perfume, a home cooked meal or the wonderful outdoors. I think about the possible long term effects I might endure like COVID brain fog or a persistent disorienting metallic taste in my mouth. I think about the last flavorful thing I ate: a nori roll wrap with sunflower seed pate, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, avocado. I think about the email I got from work urging me to take advantage of mental health services they are offering for free.
I go back to work tomorrow (Tuesday, September 14), and it will be 13 days since I set foot on campus. I’m looking forward to putting this behind me, but I do worry that COVID might make its way back, like others I read about who had COVID twice, like the CDC study in Kentucky. The most I can do is take the same precautions I took before: sanitize, wear a mask, physical distance, wash my hands, get tested regularly. But even with all of that in place, the chances are still there, albeit significantly less, but still there. What I’ve learned from this situation is that being infected with COVID means different things for everyone. Cases vary in degrees and people respond differently- socially, emotionally, mentally, physically. I think about the positives: the support of family and friends. The surprising outreach from work, Contra Costa County and Kaiser Permanente. It seems once you test positive,all hands and feet are on deck and on the ground and an army of people are there to help with the process. I’m thankful for the vaccine; I am assuming it prevented my symptoms from escalating and me being admitted to the hospital. I’m grateful to all of you who have also chosen to get vaccinated as well; it may have saved your life and others. If you are still considering not getting the vaccine, which is now approved by the FDA, I hope my experience encourages you to reconsider or at the very least to have a conversation with those around you, especially those who you love. Being positive affects your entire community. Even if you live alone, if you step foot outside your door, you’re impacting life all around you and there’s a strong possibility that your actions might impact the health of another person. I honor each person’s individual choice and what is best for you and your family. But after experiencing this and contending with all the possible outcomes that could have been, it would be irresponsible of me to not share this story, my story. A possible life may depend on it. And that’s a chance I’m not willing to take. Stay safe and thank you for reading.
I read or possibly heard somewhere that every marriage can define their own rules. Since no one was given a handbook or given the wisdom and secrets to a healthy marriage, it’s safe to assume that no one has the perfect or flawless situation. I believe the pandemic, sheltering at home, living on top of each other has exasperated this idea even more. Some say that having time apart is natural and is a healthy way to maintain, rekindle, ignite the spark. Others argue that time away is dangerous- that sooner or later you’ll get accustomed to the distance and will remain distant. I don’t know which argument is true, but my hubby and I are currently trying it.
In the past, we had time apart for legitimate reasons- work, family, emergency. It was never by preference. We always preferred, wanted, to come home, nightly to each other. If hubby had to travel for work, I requested that he take the flight right after work, not the next morning. If I had to visit family, I would make sure to come home, never extending my stay more than I needed to. We always had a purpose for being apart, and we knew that the time away from one another was harder on the person staying home, so we never tried to make it worse.
Over the weekend, the word “space” was brought up and we decided to take action and plan for space this week. The arrangement I proposed was that I would stay home this week and hubby can stay at his parents’ house for a few days. Next week will be my turn. I will stay at my parents’ house while hubby stays home.
What will I do at home alone for a few days?
Nothing grandiose. I do like the idea of stillness and quietness. Having the TV on less. Reading more.
I don’t know how long this arrangement will last. Who knows if we will even enjoy it. But I think it’s worth exploring, even if it seems strange to other people. I’m not excited or sad about the temporary situation. I’m curious and hopeful that every couple can decide, together, what is best for them.
March tends to be a busy month for me, and this year was no different, regardless of the state still mostly in shelter in place.
Some things to highlight:
March 12- I celebrated my 5 year wedding anniversary
March 13- we had a outside lunch for my father in law’s birthday
March 21- we went to Muir Woods to celebrate my sister’s birthday
March 27- we went to Golden Gate Park to celebrate my brother in law’s birthday
March 29- started spring break, my 13th spring break as an educator
March 24- got my second COVID vaccine shot
March 7- ended my 4th class for my TESOL certificate (only 4 more classes to go)
March 15- submitted my applications for a professional and writing opportunities
March 6, 7, 14, 21, 29, 30 – Went hiking at different places
March 4-6: went to Sacramento to help my brother with his new home
Last March, in 2020, there so much uncertainty about what life would look like in the next few months, let alone an entire year later. But here we are, in 2021, living indoors and outdoors, savoring life in the smallest and greatest ways.
Lent is a time in the Catholic calendar that brings us closer to God. During this time, we spend time in praying, fasting and almsgiving- all ways in which strengthens our relationship with God. Every Lent season, I usually participate is some sort of “sacrifice”; it has varied from eating no meat, staying off social media, giving up soda or adding something positive in my life like meditating, cooking, being a better friend. While I was successful in maintaining the goal for the 40 days, soon after Lent was over, I went back to my old habits- indulging and distancing myself from God, unintentionally.
This year I thought, at length, what I wanted to focus on Lent this year. On Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I still hadn’t decided on anything meaningful. My hubby asked me at 5:30 PM what I had decided. The day being almost over, he encouraged me to join his goal, since he already landed on the idea of giving up dairy. I really didn’t want to participate in anything food related because I’m already cleaning up my diet as a vegetarian/ vegan, and now I’m seeing a health specialist and dietician for by hypothyroid. Limiting my food just didn’t seem like the task that was going to bring me closer to God. Unsure of what to do, I turned on the computer and attended virtual mass. It wasn’t until I watched the priest sprinkle ashes on the tops of the people’s heads that it occurred how much I missed attended mass. When I lived about 5 minutes away from St. Callistus, I went every Sunday for almost two years. During this part of my life, I had so many blessings– I was writing, planning my wedding, going to graduate school, training for a half marathon, and I remember crediting God for all the fruitfulness coming my way. After the wedding, school and way after the marathon, I moved and haven’t been to church consistently the way I did almost seven years ago. When the pandemic happened and when churches began offering virtual mass, I attended for a few months and my husband and I prayed together every morning and night, yet over time, that too didn’t last.
This Lent, I plan to attend mass every week, and I’m hoping that this commitment continues well after Lent season. God has continued to shower and bless me with so much, and I know He doesn’t ask for much back. All God wants is some time together.
My husband and I usually don’t participate in celebrating Valentine’s Day the traditional way. But we do like to keep up with our traditions, namely because it gives us something to look forward to the beginning of the year. Over the years, January has been a difficult month because a lot of people we love have passed away this time of the year. In February, we like to reflect on life and appreciate our blessings. On Valentine’s Day we honor our traditional love languages: we gift each other with food and things that we think will make us stronger- individually and together. This year I asked my hubby to join me on a hike, even though I know this is not the kind of activity he prefers. He often complains and makes excuses like his ankles hurt or that his fingers hurt. But this weekend, he joined me on a hike and what was more thoughtful was that he didn’t hesitate. He understands that my love language isn’t material things but offering support. In turn, I gifted my husband a pair of ipods. I know this is isn’t the most romantic gift, but I know my hubby is looking for motivation to jump rope consistently, and I know music helps him achieve this, so it was worth the investment.
After the hike, we drove to Oakland and picked up a combo meal from Vegan Mob.
I know this isn’t’ the typical way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or maybe it is. What ever the case, happy Valentine’s Day, no matter if you celebrate it or how you celebrate it. Continue to do the things that are meaningful for you, every day.
My alarm went off at 7:30 AM, and with only 4 hours of sleep, it’s safe to say that I swiped to the snooze feature more than once. By the time I realized it was “really” time to get up, I only had 15 minutes before my 9:00 AM meeting. It was a quick shower. Thank goodness I practice intermittent fasting, so I’m already accustomed to not eating breakfast.
I share this with you because everything I had intended on doing to start the day never happened. I planned to meditate, clean an area of the house, pray and journal and exercise. As lofty and ambitious as all this sounds, there was a time in my life when I actually accomplished all of this, even when I had to commute to work.
I thought I’d be more successful before the start of the work day; I imagined a relaxed, productive version of myself walking into my home office with a cup of warm tea, opening the blinds to let in the sun, burning sage and setting in a positive intension and clicking into the zoom link for my first meeting. Today’s realistic version included a groggy me stumbling to the shower, then pouring myself a glass of cold water, opening the blinds to see the rain and grey sky and clicking on my zoom link a minute past the meeting. I greeted everyone with wet hair and bags under my eyes! This was not the appearance or energy I wanted to bring for the start of the school year.
Yet, when I reflect on what happened after work, I’m surprised how pleasant the day ended. I was able to jog two miles, beating my previous time, my good friend Krystal stopped by to visit me outside, I drank a gallon of water throughout the day, made time to read, post a blog, and now I’m getting ready to “draw/paint” on my ipad.
Although I hadn’t checked off all the tasks I meant to accomplish this morning, I was able to achieve other under takings that afforded a calm and peaceful night. So, maybe I’m not a morning person, maybe it was the rain, maybe it was manic Monday, what ever the reason, I’m content with letting go of expectations and instead embracing the surprising wins and sense of accomplishments anytime of the day.
When I think and reflect about this past year, there are many moments that resonate with me. A ritual I have for New Year’s Eve is to list the months of the year and write down a special moment or experience that happened in that month.
Out of all things I wrote, I wanted to share an experience that occurred in April. Obviously this was a month into shelter in place and it seemed like the entire world was grieving, mourning or processing what the pandemic was ultimately changing us, mentally, physically and emotionally. As always, I turn to writing when I need to process extreme emotions, so I joined a virtual poetry class offered by Rachelle Cruz. The class had about 30 attendees from all over the world. The first prompt was to write down what we needed; what was it that we wanted fulfilled in our lives. Later, rachelle gave each of us a response from an individual and we had to offer them, in writing, what they needed . My recipient was named Krysten and she wanted the following:
The sun, connection and friends
We had 5 minutes to respond.
I wrote the following:
The fickle weather in the mid west reminds me of the unrelenting fog and haze here in South San Francisco. At times, I’m immersed in the golden sun, yet most of the time, the days are cool, cold with a steady breeze.
I encourage you to close your eyes and recall a warm memory, one that illicts a summer day, a glowing heat a toasty hug.
If you cannot think of one, know that when the weather in California creates flush trees and flowers, I will think of you and take a walk, bask in the memory of you and I virtually together gently burning our pens on the mighty page.
Hi everyone! I hope you are all having a peaceful and joyful holiday.
I cannot fathom the idea that I posted for 25 consecutive days. For a newbie like me, this accomplishment is quite the feet. Granted, some posts held more time and attention than others, but I still attempted and posted.
Congrats to everyone who participated in blogmas. And to all those who took the time to read, like and respond to my posts, thank you. I appreciate you.
The other day, I received a notification from WordPress that I received 1,000 likes and 150 followers. I don’t share this blog actively, so the idea of getting responses and support from people I’ve never met, warms and lights my heart, especially during this dark time.
About a month ago, when the Lifetime Channel kicked off their holiday movie schedule, I watched a movie called The Christmas Aunt starring Keigha Night Pullam (Ruby Huxtable from The Cosby Show). In the movie, Pullam plays a career driven woman but is suddenly called to fly to her mother’s house to help take care of her niece and nephew for a couple weeks. In the movie, what I found endearing, is that Pullam organizes a Christmas list for her niece and nephew to get them in the holiday spirit. Everyday when they wake up they open a card from their aunt who gives them their “Christmas Activity” for the day. It could be anything from building a gingerbread house, donating toys, hanging Christmas lights, baking cookies, going ice skating, and the list goes on and on.
I thought about what I would do with my niece. Although she’s only two years old, I imagine when she’s old enough, I’d like to implement my own version of The Christmas Aunt Holiday Activity List. Here are some things, I’d like to include.
Every year, my niece and I take matching pictures next to the Christmas tree. I’d like to continue that tradition.
Bake traditional Filipino cookies (lengua de gato)
Make a tree ornament that symbolizes the theme of the year.
Make a parol.
Donate clothes or food.
Buy a holiday outfit or accessory.
Go to the snow and do a snow activity (build a snowman, sled, snowboard)
write a poem
read passages from our favorite books from that year
What about you? What holiday activities would you like to do with your niece and nephew?
Being a woman has its advantages. There’s so many ways for women to use accessories to reflect their personality. A bag, a jacket, a scarf, a piece of jewelry even the type of shoe laces one chooses to don, can stay so much about the individual. Is she sporty, romantic, studious, a gamer? One can just look at an article of clothing and have a glimpse into her inner being. But what they say is also true: we always want what we can’t have. This is true for me. Nails. Long nails.
I have always envied women or men who can grow long nails. Nails that are tough, hard, smooth, shiny, pink and ivory. I can never seem to get my nails to grow this way. I’ve even tried taking vitamins and rubbing oil on them to make them grow longer and stronger. To me long, healthy nails doesn’t equate feminity, they express a creative outlet.
I remember when I was younger, I looked in the Guinness Book of World Records and was enamored by the woman who held the record for the longest fingernails. They were so long that they no longer grew straight; they curved like the track of a roller coaster. My classmates thought it was hideous and unpractical. How does she eat, hold her fork of wipe her butt? None of that concerned me. I thought, wow, what a creative way to express your style.
During the holidays, I geek out to elaborate decorated nails. I don’t care if they’re long or short nails; I’m in glee with looking at the specificity and details that go into such a special form of creativity. I’m even more pleased when I see nails painted in a festive theme. This year one of my goals was to get my nails painted professionally with a holiday theme. But since the nail salons are closed, I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity. Maybe, if I’m brave enough, I can attempt to do it on my own.
During this time of the year, the scents such as cinnamon, pine and pumpkin are pretty standard. Every where you go, a department store, a restaurant or even your house will provide familiar aromas reminiscent of the fall or seasonal vibes. Here is a list of my favorite scents for the holiday season:
Not only does candle offer a 80+ hour burn, but the story behind the scent is a tribute to Billy Holiday singing in clubs in Harlem in the 1930s. According to the website: “The Holiday candle is inspired by Billie’s favorite perfume, Emeraude, an aromatic green blend of fresh Winter spruce, pine needles, mint-infused eucalyptus, fir balsam and spicy cedarwood developing into a feminine heart of ethereal blue hyacinth. Strong and full-bodied, yet fragile and dreamy… just like Lady Day. Sets a beautiful mood for holiday time and all year round.” Yes, the candle is on the higher end of the price point, but you’ll feel good about supporting a Black Owned Business while lighting a candle that is not your ordinary and average holiday scent.
2) Almond Eggnog from Trader Joes
I’m lactose intolerant so nothing makes me feel more special than seeing beverage companies catering to me! I love Trader Joe’s for this very reason. They offer a plethora of non-diary drinks, but my favorite seasonal drink is the Almond Eggnog. According to a reviewer, the beverage is “tasty with a warm, comforting sweetness that does gently beckon to the winter months. It also has a very lightly creamy mouth feel.” I enjoy the lightness of this drink as it’s not overtly sweet and velvety like traditional milk. The finish is smooth and if you want it sweeter, you can add vanilla, sugar or cream. The drink is very versatile and definitely beckons season vibes. The smell has the traditional notes of cinnamon, nutmeg with a hint of pumpkin…all the comforting scents of the season.
3) Friendship Cake
Nothing boasts the Christmas season stronger than a sweet indulgence baking in the oven. The entire kitchen and house is suddenly engulfed by the aromas of caramelized apples, pecans and bread. Growing up in traditional household, our house usually smelled like a Filipino bakery during the holidays. I grew up eating puto, babinka, leche flan and turon. However one special cake that my mom made during the holiday season in Friendship cake. Anytime that I smell this sweet aroma, I’m harkened back to my nostalgic memories of my childhood. I will make a longer post about Friendship cake because it actually takes 50 days to make the cake! But you can enjoy some pictures for now…
Activating all my senses during the Christmas season definitely sparks the joy and the Christmas spirit. I love smelling pine, holding a warm plate of dessert and sipping a holiday beverage. But nothing warms my body and spirt more than taking in the comforting scents of the season. How about you? What do you like to smell this time of the year?
December birthdays are sometimes over shadowed, especially if the birthday is close to Christmas. My mom’s birthday in December 7th, weeks before Christmas, but over the years we have kept the tradition of going to the snow for her birthday to make her day feel more special. This year because of COVID, we weren’t able to take our annual trip, but we still made the most of the occasion. Hopefully these are tips that can help you with your December birthday.
Make food or order food that is special for the celebrant
My mom loves fried chicken, so we ordered a bucket of chicken wings, legs and thighs from a local restaurant. You don’t need to have an expensive dinner to show your appreciation for someone. Knowing what they like, whether it’s a particular dessert, drink or appetizer from a restaurant, and having it as a part of the meal can make any person feel special, even it’s something as simple as a chicken wing. My mom loved it!
2. Meaningful gift
Also, a meaningful gift, often not very expensive, can go a long way. For my mom, my sister had the idea of creating a cook book filled with my mom’s recipes. We printed out a cover of what the cookbook would look like and arranged for us to cook with my mom every month to add a recipe to the cookbook. If your celebrant loves to garden maybe give them planting seeds or a framed picture of them in their garden. Or if the birthday person loves music, why not give them virtual music lessons or a dance lessons. If the person loves to read, make them a bookmark or make them a no-sew fleece blanket to wrap themselves up with when they’re reading.
It may be difficult to get together for the holidays during a pandemic, so a zoom party might be your only option. Keeping traditions going, even virtually, maintains some normalcy and semblance during this time. I’d encourage you to try to incorporate your traditions in the virtual celebration. If you normally eat a cake, try having a cake delivered. If you open gifts, try mailing them or dropping them off. We normally have a cake, so I went out to a special bakery to get a very decadent cake for our dessert. Also, this could also be a time to create new traditions. One that I would like to try is for everyone can share one great memory with the birthday person this year.
This evening I visited a mall for the first time in over a year. My purpose for the visit was to return some gifts I bought online- my preferred method of shopping these days, but I needed to make the returns in person due to sizing. The trip to the mall was actually very somber. On my way there, a former student notified me that she is moving to Las Vegas this weekend with her partner. She’s nearing 30 and moving to LV will allow her and her partner live comfortably. Right now she’s living with her mom and doesn’t want to further depend on her. Although I haven’t seen the student in over 8 years, her news of moving saddened me. We have kept in touch over the years and I even stopped by her prom and high school graduation. We celebrated her 18h birthday together and I visited her when she used to work at a club. One time she called me in desperate need of a ride, so picked her up in Vallejo to take her back to Pittsburg. Recently she invited me to her certification graduation, but I had to decline due to COVID. And I can’t forget about the time, years ago, we went to San Francisco and ate at the Cheesecake Factory. Then we went to Coach where I bought her a small purse as a graduation gift. She also visited me when I lived in Pittsburg then in Hercules. As I said, I haven’t seen her in over 8 years, but there was something comforting knowing she lived in Pittsburg- about 20 miles from where I currently live. Not knowing how to take the news, I told her that I would do a drive -by visit for her going away party on Saturday. I plan to stop by and visit from the safety of my car. I also offered to give her some of my stored furniture – like my dining table, chairs, bar stools and bar cart. It pains me to know that she is moving, but rather than dwell on it, at least I can help her.
While I was in line in the mall, I over heard the person in front of me say that this was his first visit to the mall in over a year. He said that it felt strange, wearing jeans as opposed to sweats, seeing people in person rather than on a screen and that he didn’t realize that baseball hats were two dollars more expensive. The sales person blamed it on COVID. “Business has been slow,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and bit his lower lip. “I understand” was the other man’s response as he adjusted his face mask. I stood there, feeling more forlorn as I thought about the news of my former student moving, possibly because of COVID and now these strangers in front of me were confessing how COVID had altered their lives- one afraid to be in public, the other afraid of losing his business.
It’s December 3rd. Usually a visit to the mall seems more joyous; you hear Christmas music, take pictures with Santa, have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate as you peruse sales for gift giving. But none of that occurred today. In fact, I think I may have experienced something better. The trip to the mall was a gentle reminder that people are making brave choices all around us- moving during a pandemic , stepping foot in public for the first time , making hard but necessary business decisions, or even me -accepting that a very special person in my life is moving away. It may not feel like the typical Christmas but there are certainly moments of joy and celebration if we look and listen hard enough.
If you’re like me, then this time of the year, nothing sparks the holiday spirit than getting cozy on the couch, sipping on hot chocolate, wearing thick wool socks, putting my hair in a bun and watching a cheesy holiday movie. To me, this is the epitome of relaxation! Watching romance with holiday glee is a recipe for pulling my heart strings. Although the holiday season just started, I was fortunate to get a head start on watching new holiday movies. Below are my top for now:
On the Hallmark Channel
Jingle Bell Bride – I enjoyed this movie because of the leading characters- both people of color. The main character is a work driven Latina New Yorker who unexpectedly finds herself in a small town where the people and relationships inadvertently spark her to reexamine the most important aspects of her life.
2. Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater
When it comes to movies, especially Holiday movies, it’s often difficult to balance romance and comedy; often times, most holiday movies tend to be more romantic than they are funny. What I loved about “Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater” is that it offers the balance of both- love and comedy! Just the title alone is a little obscure and enticing!
3. The Christmas Aunt
Who doesn’t remember Rudy? I always wondered what happened to Keisha Knight Pullam. I assumed she continued to act, but I pondered if being time casted hindered her from furthering her career. She shined in this movie! Very memorable!!!
4. Feliz NaviDAD
Of course I am not the one to change the channel when Mario Lopez plays a doting single father and a high school principal who also delivers packages on the weekends to make extra money for the holidays. I’m an educator, so I appreciate any movie that offers a small semblance of my life. I may not be a parent, but I know what it’s like to be work with high school kids and be in the need of a second income. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy staring at Lopez’s dimples?!?
5. Merry Liddle Christmas Wedding
I’m watching this tonight, but I already know it’s going to be a home run. Two words: Kelly Roland! If the 1/3 of Destiny’s Child is involved, then chances are it’ll be a success.
I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I did. And let me know any movies you recommend!
Some of you might recall the post I wrote about my neighbor, Julieta. Today, we planned to have an outdoor dinner at a local restaurant. My husband and I met Julietta outside of our door and she wore black furry boots with a Kangol bucket hat and her fingernails were painted a blush pink. Julietta could be old enough to be my mother.
During dinner I learned a lot about her: she believes, at a certain age, eat all the sugar and sweets you want, especially if you’re old. Her exact words were: “if you’ve lived this long, might as well indulge. Just take a shot if you’re diabetic.” She was not joking. She truly meant what she said. I also learned that she taught her children to never accept food from strangers, even from family. If they were served food, they would have to get permission from her first- usually indicated by a slow and stern nod. Julieta also shared that it was a culture shock when she and her sons immigrated to Los Angeles from the Philippine in 1990. Her sons cried almost everyday, homesick and longed to be reunited with their grandparents and cousins. They were 11 -years old at the time and just started public school for the first time. They couldn’t believe how the girls dressed-tank tops with spaghetti straps, skirts and shorts high above the knees. “They couldn’t handle it” Julieta said. Then she licked the salt from the rim of her strawberry margarita.
This is the first time my husband and I broke bread with Julieta. In addition to the time she came over unannounced with a bottle of wine in September, this is the second time we spent a substantial amount of time together. It’s too early to determine what kind of friendship we’ll have- a fleeting or lasting one. I can say that I’m enjoying the company, especially learning about the life of a remarkable woman who lets me believe that eating the second helping of dessert is good for the soul, that accepting food from strangers isn’t dangerous but mildly rude and that no matter what age you are you should can dress in faux fur and don pink fingernails, while sipping on expensive tequila. Her stories may be wild, but like her adage about age- if you’ve lived this long, might as well indulge- fur, tequila and all.
I was facilitating a training on zoom today, and when the last teacher we were waiting on joined the call, although we could only see her face virtually, it was very clear that she was under distress. The other teacher asked her if she was ok and without hesitation, she immediately began crying. I didn’t know the teacher very well, unlike the other two teachers, so I just listened as they carefully broached her. It was then that the teacher revealed that she just found out that both of her parents tested positive for COVID. What was worse about the situation was that the father had contracted it at work, where eight people also became effected.
The teacher went into details that included why the father was still working, that they lived in a small town in a different state and before the positive results, months ago, had already decided that they weren’t traveling to the Bay Area for the holidays– it was too risky.
Some time during the conversation it dawned on me how each of us on the call had been affected by COVID. While we weren’t tested positive, our lives, though vastly different were suffering in some ways.
As you know, for me, COVID and the pandemic, affected me two months into sheltering in place. My husband was furloughed and eventually let go and because we were down to one income, we made the decision to move to the east bay. If I have to return to work, my previous 2 mile commute will now change to a 45 mile commute. On a good day, I’ll be lucky if the travel to and from work will be under two hours. There is the other possibility of me getting a different job, something closer to home. While this may be an exciting opportunity, it really saddens me because working in South San Francisco has been my dream job.
Then there’s teacher #2 who has to manage working and providing child care for her two boys. She and her husband both have very demanding jobs and between the two of them, they have to schedule meetings, find quiet spaces in the house, arrange time to share the working computer all while feeding, disciplining, watching, and playing with their sons. She confessed to me at the end of the school year in distance learning that she felt she was failing. She shared tears on that call too. I managed to tell her that we know she’s doing the best she can do. Still, there was something in her voice that let me know that she felt like she needed to more, even though I reassured her that we are all adjusting, and that what she was doing at work and at home was more than what anyone could expect during this very complicated time.
The other teacher brought up how not seeing her students has greatly affected her. She also confessed that for some people, sheltering in place in isolation is too much for a single person. Going months without talking to another individual, in person, including her students made her feel more alone.
There we were, on the zoom call, through our computer screens, four women, talking about the different ways COVID had affected our lives. In that moment, I had never felt more connected with a group of people I barely even knew.
When I reflect on this year, I can’t help but ponder how much COVID has greatly impacted my life. Like many households, my husband and I are down to one income- mine. He was furloughed and eventually let go in June- three months into the entire country going into shelter in place. We could have stayed in our condo in South San Francisco, but we knew that the smart decision that would finance our goals of owning a house would be to move to a more affordable place. Hence why we moved to Concord California- a suburban city in the east bay.
This decision didn’t come easy.
One favorable aspect about living in South San Francisco was that I was 3/4 of a mile from my job. It took me less than five minutes from me leaving my front door to arriving at my office door. I never imagined living and working in the same city, but I had finally achieved a goal I never thought could be a reality. I left home with ease, not having to worry about being late or eating my breakfast on the go. Sometimes, I even had time to exercise and meditate before work. I could also come home and unwind and not arrive in a grumpy mood because of traffic or be pooped out because of a long commute.
I also worked on being part of the community. I joined a facebook group of the residents of South San Francisco, I registered my husband and I for a Catholic church, I made an attempt to introduce and exchange pleasantries with my neighbors. We even volunteered for a Filipino Organization- PBRC. Over the summer, I coordinated a visit to the historical society just to learn more about the city’s past and unique history. I definitely made more of an effort to be a more involved resident.
Lastly, I miss being around my people. South San Francisco is a city with a high population of Filipinos and with Daly City as a neighboring city, Filipinos are abundant. Everywhere I went, I heard words and phrases of Tagalog– a lost language I don’t often hear daily since living with my parents. Filipino restaurants are plentiful. I had a go to restaurant for pancit, lumpia, cassava cake, and even had a favorite plant based Filipino restaurant. I’d go to Serramonte Mall and I’d see so many people who reminded me of my own family- buying chicharone and lottery tickets at the stand up store or manongs huddled and congregated at the center of the mall wearing Navy and Air force hats that often reminded me of my grandfather.
“Living in South San Francisco was a very special time in my life. I saw so much representation in my culture, identify and goals in life”
So when we made the decision to leave, it painstakingly difficult that I didn’t allow myself to really sit with the pain and decision because I know I would have probably changed my mind.
Yes, I miss South City, but when I consider my life in Concord now, I have no regrets. I know I’ll find joy and purpose in this new place. Like with all new chapters in life, it’s only the beginning.
Today, I had another great opportunity to take a virtual writing class with Tony Robles,”The People’s Poet”, the author of the poetry and short story collections, Cool Don’t Live Here No More–A letter to San Francisco and Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike. He is the current writer in residence at the Carl Sandburg Historic Home in Flat Rock North Carolina.” More information taken from his website states that “his works have been widely published in anthologies and journals including, Where are you From?, Endangered Species, Your Golden Sun Still Shines, Born and Raised in Frisco and Growing up Filipino Volume II. He was shortlist nominated for Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2018 and a recipient of the San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Literary Artist Grant in 2018. He is a housing justice advocate and the nephew of the late Filipino-American poet and historian Al Robles.
This is my second class with Tony, and I have to say his classes are life changing. He holds space and provides craft talk while providing ample time to write, share and receive encouragement and feedback. It was a two hour class but because it was so engaging, it felt like 30 minutes.
I’m not a poet; I’m more of a prose writer but, here is one piece I wrote today during class:
Christmas smelled like sizzling garlic and roasted pig
A white ceramic place greeted me – filled with bright greens leaves
cold orange wedges
noodles shaped like the letter S
soft and sinewy, salted with soy and ginger.
Your feet worked in this kitchen
Your belly rested above the plaid waist apron
You pushed the meaty flesh of your skin against the counter,
Pushing the rolling pin covered in white speckled dust like new fallen snow