Hello!

Hello, is anyone out there? I didn’t realize that the last time I wrote on my blog was almost 1.5 years ago. I apologize for my long absence; I did not intend to take this long of a break. I blame COVID (twice), a new job and a move. SO much has happened in the time that I have been away. And while I’d like to fill you all in, I think it’s best to just give you the 10 most recent highlights:

  1. We moved to Las Vegas
  2. I started a new job!
  3. I started a new hobby- macrame
  4. I read for Litquake- SF’s biggest literary festival
  5. My niece turned 4
  6. I wrote 25,000 words for nanowrimo
  7. I was gifted a Kindle (but I still buy actual books)
  8. I went on a cruise to the bahamas
  9. I attended my 25 year high school reunion
  10. I have perfected my recipe for vegan Shanghai lumpia!

Dear readers, please tell me what you have been up to? What important events or goals are you proud of?

I hope to hear from you.

Mabuhay,

Sheila

I’m COVID positive

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.

Care package from Kaiser
Pink eye photo
One of the fun the things I looked forward to was the phonecalls with my niece and using the filters
The last flavorful meal I had on Friday September 3

Girls Trip to Las Vegas

Well, we did it. A group of 40 year old gals, who have been friends for over two decades, made a voyage to Sin City (Las Vegas) for four days during the pandemic.We know this was a risky trip; the Delta variant has spread across the country and has become rampant in metropolitan places like Las Vegas. In fact, a week before the trip, we talked reconsidered going– analyzing the pros and cons of going on vacation during this time. In the end, we decided to move forward with our original plans, partly due to a financial investment we probably would never see again but also because it had been well over 1.5 years since we has seen each other, or even travelled together, and there was something about making a maiden voyage to the dessert that seemed alluring to our mental health. Days later we all packed our bags, boarded our separate flights and finally met at the time share. One after the other, with each arrival, we hugged, taking inventory of each other’s body, hair, face, realizing how much time had passed among us.

The trip was not your average one. We didn’t go to any clubs or pool parties. We didn’t attend any after hours or buffets. We tried to steer away from the usual party scene and stuck to our loose itinerary of lazy mornings, quick trips to get coffee, excursions in the water, and girl talk in the living room accompanied with Tito’s Vodka, fresh fruit and vegan oatmeal raisin cookies. With the exception of the kayaking trip, everything we did could have been easily been done at the comfort of our homes. We really didn’t need to be in Vegas to do any of the simple activities we participated it. But it was the idea of being together that you couldn’t put a price on.

I don’t know when we’ll be together again. Who knows if it’ll be next week, next month, next year? Maybe we’ll meet again in Las Vegas or maybe we’ll head to the ocean. What ever the destination, I’ll be thankful for the company. Even if it’s sitting in the living room of a fancy hotel and doing absolutely nothing but talking.

One armed stranger

Today was my second day of bootcamp work out. I thought of every excuse not to go: I already walked for 30 minutes this morning; it’s so difficult to breath and work out indoors wearing a mask, technically I wasn’t wasting any money because I have a week-long free membership, which expires on Sunday. Yet with my sister’s probing, I went. Besides, the class is only 50 minutes, and it’s so close to my house; can walk there in under 5 minutes.

As soon as the workout began, I already wanted to give up. My breath was labored; my heart rate was at in the optimal zone and my legs felt like jello. Then I noticed this very striking woman. I don’t know if it was her svelte physique, her matching workout outfit or her sleek and shiny hair wrapped in a tight pony tail. I noticed her form, her pace and her effort. All of it was very admirable. And then she turned around, and she didn’t have a left arm. She seemed to be my age or maybe a few years younger. I thought about what could have happened. Then I realized that this woman had a very valid reason not to be here. But here she was making it work. I thought if I, a fully abled person, with just a minor disability of asthma, could work out unequivocally with no excuses then I have no reason to complain. Watching a one armed person do box jumps, and modifying works out such as swinging kettle bells and throwing weight balls are reasons for me to stop finding excuses and starting finding inspiration.

Photo by Julia Larson on Pexels.com

March 2021

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 2021

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.

Valentine’s Weekend

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.

Things are looking up

It’s so interesting that I noticed that when I hike, I’m usually looking down or eye level. I’m hardly ever looking up.

Today, I tried a different perspective. Rather than looking at the dirt below me or the hills around me, I looked way up- way up in the sky. I don’t know why I never did this before. Maybe the blue sky and billowing clouds seemed unreachable and distant, unlike the solid trail under me and the curvy peak ahead of me. But looking above, past my horizon and beyond the limit of my eye sight provided such a calming and welcoming feeling. I felt small and mighty all in the same breath.

Hello bloggers

After about a month or so on being on hiatus, I’m slowly crawling back to my safe space– this blog. After blogmas and the holidays, my professional schedule ramped up with trainings and conferences in which I was main facilitator. Hosting these events for teachers has been the highlight of my career; I am gaining teachers’ trust and helping them navigate through curriculum and instruction during one of the most tumultuous times in education. It’s been rewarding for me to hear teachers say that I’ve helped them in some way. It’s something I have missed. I used to hear students thank me, and every since I’ve taken District positions, it’s been difficult to get accolades from teachers; they are usually the most critical crowd, especially since I’m not a teacher from this district who has built a vetted reputation. I am new, and like most people in this situation, it takes time to build trust. I’m slowly making my way.

What else has been new for me? Hiking.

I go on long hikes anywhere from 4- 8 miles, 2-4 hours. I’m so enamored with this activity that I even bought hiking boots and hiking poles.

The reasons I’ve enjoyed hiking are the security and challenge it provides me. With each step, as the teeth of my rubber soles of my hiking boots, crunch and snap pebbles and acorns, and as my labored and steady breath inhales and exhales through the peaks of the green mountains and dirt trail, I know that this ascend is only for a moment before the ground is leveled and smooth. If I want, I can stop. I can collect my breath, stretch my legs and enjoy the expansive view before continuing the climb. If I really want, I can even turn around and head back down.

It’s fitting that I’ve found hiking as an escape. My mantras for hiking can be easily applied to my challenges at work. Yes, work has been difficult. Yes, it is unfamiliar terrain. Yes, it requires composure and measurable inner strength. At any moment, I can stop, pause, breath and even turn around (start all over). Despite some of the hikes being difficult, I have yet to stop and turn around. I’m always curious to see what’s over the next hill, what’s over the next peak. As demanding the hikes are and the amount of dedication that’s been required, I haven’t given up. And just like my job, I know this obstacle is only momentary. I focus on the determination and grit I’m developing, feeling assured knowing that it’ll prepare me for what is ahead.

Productive nights in the new year

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.

Photo by Sanaan Mazhar on Pexels.com

Happy New Year

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.

Blogmas #25 // Merry Christmas

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.

Merry Christmas WordPress family.

Blogmas #23 // DIY Holiday nails

A few days ago I posted about my deep longing for long, healthy, decorative nails. I fantasize about painting long esquisite beautiful nails that reflect my personality. On Instagram, I scroll through pictures and admire the meticulous designs, colors, lines, shapes and details that go into nail art. Because I tend to have short nails, there’s less surface space for creativity. I had hoped that this Christmas, I could grow my nails long enough that I could get a manicure and perhaps some nail art. However, I live in California, and all the salons in my county are temporarily closed.

One thing I discovered while I scoured the internet is an alternative- Dashing Diva. This company makes artificial nails that you can easily apply to your reals nails. Now I know this is not a new concept, but I held a disdain for fake nails for many years due to their unnatural look. However, once I received my package and applied my nails today, I must admit that the easy application and believability made me reconsider.

Also fun…there’s so many styles to choose from! I ordered five packets, and it was so hard to choose. I decided on red because Christmas Eve is tomorrow and I wanted to be festive.

Although I didn’t get to grow my nails long this year or visit a nail salon to get nail art. But I was able to stay home, save some money and in less than 15 minutes, have a new set of gorgeous nails.

Blogmas #9 // Holiday Nails

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.

Here are some of my inspirations…

Blogmas #6 // How to celebrate a birthday in December during a pandemic

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.

  1. 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.

3. Tradition

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.

Christmas at the mall// Blogmas #3

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.

Four teachers affected by COVID

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.

COVID Corona Virus

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.

Resilience on the slide

The parks just opened in our city, and despite it being still sunny at 6:30 PM, the area of the park we were at was empty with the exception of 2-3 kids at different times. The slide wasn’t very steep– about 6 feet and and everyone, including my husband, sister and her boyfriend took turns going down the slide with my niece, Aiza. But I didn’t. The slide has always been my least favorite past time in the park; I prefer the swings, but at the part we were at, it didn’t have adult swings available. Besides (TMI), I’m on my dot, so the idea of sliding down a flimsy piece of plastic did not seem comforting or fun. Instead I lived vicariously through my niece.

What was interesting is that she went down the slide about 20 times in the same way- butt down and feet first. When another girl about 2-3 years older than her came close, they immediately began playing together. The girl had on a mask and she was very friendly, even when my niece wasn’t talking very much. The new friend showed Aiza how to play the pretend steering wheel; she showed her how to stick her head out the window in the pretend store and then she showed her various ways to play on the slide. First she went down the slide on her stomach, feet first then Aiza followed. Then the girl went down the slide, stomach down, head first with her arms stretched out. What surprised me was that Aiza wasn’t even scared and didn’t ask how to do this. She just watched and followed along. Then a few minutes later, the new friend made a daring move and climbed up the the slide, all by herself. Because she’s a little older, she was able to do it without struggling. We – me, my sister – watched but we didn’t expect Aiza to follow. Yet, Aiza did. But when she reached the middle of the slide, there was no way for her to get to the top. If she bent down, she wouldn’t be able to hold the sides of the slide and there was possibly of her falling backwards. My sister and I were at a safe distance and could have easily come to her aid, but something unexpected happened. Without talking, the two friends she just made instinctively got on their stomachs and stretched their arms out to give Aiza a hand. They cheered her on and said “reach for my hand” and Aiza, not able to speak in complete sentences yet, understood exactly what to do. She grabbed their hand and the two strangers pulled her up! For a group of girls who met each other for the first time and had limited talking and interacting, this was the first real reminder for me that despite what’s happening during this pandemic, I’m reminded how resilient and strong young girls are when they are together.

Good news!

Part of my job requires me to administer Statewide tests to students and notify parents of the outcome. Today, I had the pleasure of notifying parents that their child met all the requirements for RFEP- which basically means that the student “routinely demonstrates fluent English proficiency in order to access grade-level content instruction delivered in English with minimal linguistic support.” Many students who speak another language rarely achieve this accomplishment, so it was particularly heart-warming to bear good news, especially in a time when many parents and children have been affected by distance learning. I know some cases where students are hanging up in the middle of zoom class because they’re confused by the lecture or assignment or families having spotty internet because they are living out of a friend’s garage, or many families relying on the school’s free lunch so that at least the children are fed daily. Many of these inequalities have occurred long before COVID, but surely the pandemic has exacerbated the disproportion of resources for many of our vulnerable families.  So, although my conversion with families today didn’t necessarily provide an extra form of income, an extra meal or even a house, the news did bring temporary relief– that despite all the economical, social and academic challenges, their child is excelling and being recognized by their mastery level. I hope hearing this triumphant recognition was a much needed respite that so many families are in desperate need of hearing.