New year, new me

It would be nice to say that 2023 began in a healthy, relaxing and peaceful way. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. My husband and I were affected by the nationwide airline flight cancellations, so we were “stuck” in the bay area for a week longer than we had planned. When we finally arrived home, it was New Year’s Eve and I ended up getting sick, so we had to cancel plans with our friends. Then just this past week, I experienced a hives episode where the welts were so itchy and enflamed that I had to take over the counter allergy medicine. Even with the medication, they didn’t subside till two days later. This is not how I imagined the new year would begin.

However….

There is good news to embrace! One of my main goals for this year was to start a completely different professional journey. While I enjoyed the last 15 years of my life teaching middle and high school students, I wanted to focus more on writing and teaching ESL for adults. I started applying for jobs earlier this month, and yesterday I accepted an ESL instructor role to teach online. While I am nervous about this new job, I know that this is a new chapter that will help me with my professional goals of teaching community college or post secondary education. As far as writing, I am back to posting blogs and I submitted an application to Kundiman. This will be my 3rd time applying, and I am expecting that it will be a no, but that doesn’t mean that I will give up. It’s no news that I’ve been having a hard time finding the joy in life. I spoke and wrote about this feeling of “emptiness” during the pandemic, which was the main reason why I started to blog regularly. The things I once found comfort in such as reading, writing, hiking, traveling, spending time with friends, didn’t have the same effect on me. But I haven’t given. It’s important to search for the joy- not search for the forlorn or sorrow.

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

What is a healthy marriage?

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.

A Different World

I grew up on Black television. I watched shows like the Cosby Show, A Different World, In Living Color, Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Living Single, and years later, when I reflect on that time in my life, two shows that inspired me were A Different World and Living Single. I imagined that when it was time for me to attend college, I would live in the dorms like Dennis while attending classes taught by obscure teachers and hanging out with friends at the Pit. Then when I graduated, I would live in New York, similar to Khadeja James who was the owner of Flavor magazine I imagined. I too, could be a writer and live with my friends in an opulent townhouse in Manhattan. 

The reality is my life was nothing close to the TV shows. I attended college in San Diego and lived off campus. I moved about 5 times and by the time I graduated, I lived four blocks from the beach and could walk to the strip of bars and restaurants with my two blond roommates from the OC. My professors didn’t seem worldly at the time, as English professors, their teaching styles were mostly lecture while students mostly listened, with the one exception. I had a teacher who had big curly brown hair and we read books by different authors on color, including Michele Serros who has been a formidable literary role model to me. I didn’t have much of a campus life- most of the people I spent time with were from Los Angeles or my home town ( they visited me often). And the entire time I was in San Diego, I was in a long distance relationship with a boy from my home town. I always wondered what would have happened if made other decisions like joining a sorority, breaking up with my boyfriend, spending more time exploring the campus rather than rushing home and talking to my boyfriend on the phone. Had I done this, would I have lived a life closer to what I had envisioned when I watched A Different Word. Maybe. But the greatest lesson I thought that would have the biggest impact on me would be moving to a city and not knowing anyone. Turns out, the greatest lesson was moving to a new city and loving someone 600 miles away. 

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV 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.

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 #22 // Giving Tuesday

About six years ago, I experienced my first giving Tuesday with YouTube Influencer and home chef Laura Vitale. I was selected from hundreds of applicants to join Laura on a virtual cooking event where we cooked and conversed together via google hangout. Obviously this was way before COVID, so a virtual event of this kind was very unique.

I bring this experience up because since then, I have donated to a cause, non- profit or organization/ person in need every season. Over the past few years I’ve donated to meals for children, ending sex traffic, local businesses, book launches, and more. This year I focused on PAWA- Philippine American Writers and Artists. I chose this non-profit this holiday season because they have offered me so much space and support as a budding writer.

To begin with, since the pandemic, I have attended at least a related PAWA virtual event once a month, if not more. I attend classes, panel discussions and have even participated in several readings as a special guest. PAWA is a community in which I belong in and a few years ago I didn’t think I could be in such regarded company. Since my involvement with PAWA I have met some amazing people and writers and have greatly benefited from their guidance and support. Many of them have encouraged me to take the next step with my stories, but I don’t think, even with their vote of confidence, that I am ready to share my writing with the world.

PAWA provides the necessary space for me to feel held, with no judgment, no pretense, no vex. The community is one that welcomes all writers and artists and encourages each person at their own pace and trajectory.

I know this is a season of giving, but this year is fiscally challenging for many. I know there are a lot of causes and organizations that need support, but if you can help PAWA in any way, I encourage you to do so. During this pandemic, if you have relied on books, art, movies, music or any form of creative expression made by a Filipino American, to provide escape, entertainment or enlightenment during this very dark time, then I encourage you to donate to PAWA. They support writers and artists to continue to do this work so that we can all benefit from these enriching experiences.

For more on PAWA.. click below…

http://pawainc.com/

Blogmas #20 // Christmas Aunt

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.

  1. Every year, my niece and I take matching pictures next to the Christmas tree. I’d like to continue that tradition.
  2. Bake traditional Filipino cookies (lengua de gato)
  3. Make a tree ornament that symbolizes the theme of the year.
  4. Make a parol.
  5. Donate clothes or food.
  6. Buy a holiday outfit or accessory.
  7. Go to the snow and do a snow activity (build a snowman, sled, snowboard)
  8. make cards
  9. write a poem
  10. 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?

Christmas at the Grand Canyon // Blogmas #17

Most people tend to visit the majestic Grand Canyon during the summer- where the vast views are unobstructive by snow and rain. Yet, my family decided to visit during winter. The drawback was that many trails and activities were closed and cancelled due to the weather; however, we were able to visit one of the most renowned wonders of the world in such an intimate and unique way. It was like we had the entire park to ourselves.

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 #8 // Unforgettable Christmas Gifts

Holiday retail in over $700 Billion industry. The average American “will spend nearly $1,050 on holiday gifts, goodies, and travel this year, the National Retail Federation estimates. This is up slightly from last year’s estimate of about $1,000.” Consumerism, especially during the holiday season, continues to rise, yet if I look back on the gifts I received in the past years, not to sound ungrateful, but most of them were given based on obligation, not meaning. A few years ago, my husband and I made the commitment to gift each other with experiences rather than products. So my advice, when it comes to gift giving, is to gift that special person with an experience they will remember forever. Here are some ideas:

  1. a picnic- if you need help arranging this contact Soiree by the Bay. They set up the entire picnic for you, just bring yourself and some food.
  • a class- why not encourage the creative in your life with a class to channel their creative impulse. My favorite places are sfworkshop and verolocal. They offer classes ranging from macrame, painting, cooking, soap, candle, wood working, etc. They even offer digital classes now!
  • cooking – while this falls under the category above, I decided to make this its own category because there’s so many options. Learn how to make sushi, homemade pasta, ramen, thai food, even from the comfort of your home, as many places are offering virtual classes. There are even cooking classes that will deliver the ingredients for you!
  • concert – more and more artists are offering virtual concerts. Justin Beiber is offering a NewYears Eve concert for $25 or free for Tmobile users. Celebs such as Monica and Brandy did a Versus stream on instagram and DJs are streaming on Twitch. Make it even more special by printing out homemade tickets, making concert food like popcorn and nachos and maybe even buy a shirt of the singer. It’ll feel like a real concert! Turn the lights off and flick those lighters!!!
  • virtual trip – pack a bag and go on a virtual trip. Make an itinerary of all the places. monuments you want to see and order cuisine from the place you’re visiting virtually. It you’re visiting Italy, order Italian food and wine. If you’re in Japan, order sushi, if you’re going to NYC, order pizza. Get all these things delivered at home!

Anyone of these experiences will surely be memorable. So before you buy that pair of socks, scarf or piece of jewelry, consider how excited your recipient will be when she/ he opens up your gift and considers the thoughtfulness and time you put to execute it. Remember success is in the details, and with a though-out experience, the details will surely resonate.

Which gift resonates with you?

Blogmas #7 // Best holiday scents

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:

  1. The “Holiday” candle by The Harlem Candle Company

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?