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.

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 #21 // Christmas Star

There are times during this pandemic that seem hopeless and despairing. Yet, there are moments, especially today when we experience the polar opposite. Today, my husband and I hiked our usual trail — Lime Ridge Trail Head in Concord, California. The hike takes us roughly 2 hours to complete, depending on how slow or fast we approach the incline. Today, we sped our pace because we anticipated when the sun would set.We wanted to be able to have enough light to traverse back to our car. Yet we needed it to be dark enough to see the Christmas Star.

The Christmas Star, or more appropriately the conjunction, took place tonight about an hour after the sun set. The conjunction is when Jupiter and Saturn appear closely aligned in the sky that it’ll look like a double planet. To me, they looked like they were kissing. The last time this happened took place in the Middle Ages. The next time this will happen will be 2080 and then again on 2400.

It’s amazing how when we’re in need of a good omen, especially when we are all experiencing a pandemic, all we have to do is look up at the sky and witness a celestial miracle. Years and decades from now, I can say that in my lifetime, I survived a pandemic but also watched as Jupiter and Saturn could been seen on the cold winter solstice night, seemingly with the naked eye. What a time to be alive!

A class with Tony Robles – “The People’s Poet”

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

BIG announcement!!!

I’m excited to share that I will be a guest reader next Tuesday, October 27 at 5:00 PM PST for PAWA/ The Digital SALA event: Filipinx Emerging Writers.

I’m thankful for the opportunity provided by Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA) and The Digital Sala.

I’ll be reading along side very talented writers and friends, who I’m honored to share space with.

Here’s the link to the PAWA/The Digital Sala event on Tues 10/27 at 5 pm PDT. https://www.facebook.com/events/974395152970574

If you can please share widely, I’d appreciate it. The event is free and the Zoom link will go up on the day of the event.

Six Weeks in Distance Learning

It’s been a very tough week for me. We’re finishing up our 6th week of distance learning, and just when I feel like I’ve got a handle on things, some thing else will come and a whole set of other challenges will ensue.

I find my work very meaningful and purposeful, and when I look back years from now and I’m asked how I helped with remote learning, I’ll be able to say that I may not have had all the solutions and answers, but I was there, helping teachers and students navigate their way through the most uncertain and challenging times of education.

I don’t know how long remote teaching will continue, nor do I know if I’ll be in education next year, but the skills I’m acquiring today will prepare me for other unexpected situations. Like the many teachers and students who I’m supporting, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and who knows if we’ll be prepared, but I know for certain that our resilience will prevail.

20 Things About Me

I was inspired from Mr. A’s blog about his “100 Things About Me.”  I couldn’t think of 100, but here’s 20…

  1. My favorite pizza is jalapeno, faux pepperoni (because I’m plant based) with extra pineapples.
  2. I grew up speaking Tagalog but forgot how to speak it growing up in the United States.
  3. I am a huge Janet Jackson fan (see #4).
  4. I have been to nine Janet Jackson concerts (see #3).
  5. I used to have my right nipple pierced. 
  6. Besides water, I like to drink unsweetened ice tea.
  7. I used to be able to recite the alphabet backwards.
  8. I can drive a stick shift.
  9. I always sleep on the right side of my body.
  10. I’m obsessed with teeth (read this blog).
  11. My favorite colors are black, white and purple.
  12. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in 2008 but have been in remission since 2017.
  13. I am a middle child.
  14. One day I would love to own my own bookstore and sell stationary and local art. 
  15. I like nails that are shaped like almonds.
  16. My favorite scents are Ellington and Langston from the Harlem Candle Company.
  17. I hold a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing
  18. I’m a Napa Valley Writer Conference and Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fellow.
  19. The oddest job I had was when I was a house mom for a gentleman’s club in SF
  20.  I have a youtube video with over 6,000 views. 

 What are 20 things about you? 

 

Your top 3 in an emergency?

For the past few days, my hometown Fairfield, CA has been burning, literally. The LNU Lightning Complex Fire was caused by the thunder and lightning storm that occurred over the weekend. Many structures and homes were burned; I even heard a National Park in Santa Cruz was severely damaged. My parents’ neighborhood was evacuated and schools were closed for the rest of the week. My in-laws, although their neighborhood was not evacuated, but for safety precautions, stayed with me and my hubby for the last two nights. As I was helping my mother-in-law unload her car, I noticed the personal items and essentials she packed in a hurry. In one bag, she had her heirloom jewelry, another bag held a small statue of Mother Mary and another bag held medication and food. It dawned on me, if I were put in a similar situation, what would I bring? Here are my top three:

  1. My computer or journal because I need to write. Since I’ve revived this blog, I’ve had the urge to write more than I have ever felt compelled to. It doesn’t matter to me if people read, like or respond to my post. I like the idea that I can read my thoughts at any particular time in my life. It’s been great to share this public journal with y’all! 
  2. A book because besides writing, I enjoy reading. It’s my escape. Especially when I’m feeling a mood, and I need to be lifted by words, there’s nothing like sinking into a good book and circumventing reality. 
  3. Running shoes because no matter where I’m at, I need to physically escape. Sometimes we take for granted what a brisk walk or jog can do for the mind, body and soul. This is  something I’ve learned while sheltering in place. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and writing and reading won’t suffice, I’ll put on my shoes and hop on the treadmill or head outside. Getting the body to move, even for a little bit restores and revives the dormant energy in our bodies. 

I imagine that I’d pack more in my emergency bag. But if I had to choose three items, these would be my priority. Unlike my mother in law who packed crucial things like food and Mother Mary, my bag probably wouldn’t be as practical. I don’t know how long I’d last in an emergency situation with shoes, my blog and hella books in my backpack, but at least I’ll have all the things I love around me. 

What about you? What are your three essentials?

 

I Failed in Being a Couch Potato

For the entire day, I had one goal: watch movies. It was an intentional decision, and one that I’m proud to say I didn’t fully commit to. It’s now 8:00 pm, and I’m going into my third movie, which isn’t a lot for one day.

I wanted to take the day off because I’m going back to work soon, so I’m not sure if I’ll have another day where I can afford hours wasted away. Sure there’s a lot I could be doing like jogging, sewing my apron, reading my book, listening to a podcast, but I wanted a day to dedicate towards watching the movies I have been meaning to watch. 

After dinner, I hadn’t planned on it, but I got on the treadmill and speed walked for 15 minutes, then I got on the computer and I decided to write a blog. As much as I wanted to solely focus on watching movies today, my intuition was telling me I at least had to walk a few minutes and write a few lines. After the jog, I needed fresh air, so I relaxed for a few minutes on our porch. As I sat out and enjoyed the setting sun, I caught a rare sight: a hummingbird flew in front of the property tree. I recognized the bird by its long beak and wings. Had I not made the decision to jog, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get a glimpse of this beautiful bird. Although I didn’t get to watch as many movies I would have liked,  I at least saw mother nature, even for a moment, in real life.

 

flying hummingbird

Photo by Cristina Andrea Alvarez Cruz on Pexels.com

My obsession with teeth

For some it’s the eyes. For others it’s the ass. For me –it’s teeth. This is the first thing I notice when I meet someone. I consider the following: are the teeth strong and round or sharp and jagged? Is it obvious that this person is a smoker, flosser, caffeine drinker? Do they whiten their teeth, wear braces, have a retainer? Are the gums strong? Do they have a full set of teeth? Do they have baby teeth, molars, veneers or any silver fillings? How often might this person floss, gargle, or brush their teeth? I know these questions risk the chance of me sounding pretentious and the reader being dismayed by my judgmental cavalierness. But full disclosure: I care very little about what the teeth actually look like. I care more about if the person takes the time to properly care for their teeth.
My obsession with teeth started at a young age and my visits to the dentist.
As a child and adult, I visited the dentist regularly. I went to the dentist every 6 months for my routine cleaning and check up. As a child, after the cleaning, I looked forward to receiving a sticker. As an adult, I look forward to the confirmation that I have no cavities. In my own simple way, getting encouraging news from the dentist is one of the rare places where I can look forward to getting good news about my health. My teeth — my oral hygiene — has always been something that I’m proud of. It’s the one thing about my condition about my body I can control. The other parts of my health I have less control.
For example, when I visit the optometrist, I’m told my vision gets worse every year. It doesn’t matter if I wear my daily contacts or glasses; at every yearly check up, I’ m given a stronger prescription to correct my vision. At my doctor visits, according to the BMI chart, I’m considered obese. I’ve gained weight, despite my running, practicing yoga, and eating a more plant based diet. At one point, I was even considered pre-diabetic. Then there’s the ringing in my ears, the popping in my left knee and the bloating around my waste line. As I’ve gotten older, my body is rapidly responding to my aging, and the disappointing part of this acceptance is that for the most part, most of these ailments are out in my control. Which is why, at the very least, I celebrate my teeth. I take pride in my routine: using a soft bristle brush, opening my mouth halfway to reach the back of my molars, brushing, twice a day, for at least two minutes, flossing with a thick dental floss, and applying a dime size amount of Sensodyne toothpaste. Occasionally, if I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll use at home teeth whitening kit. But I’m protective over my enamel, so this is a rare experience for me.

Now that the world is responding to COVID and viral transfers are still widely unknown, I’m unsure when I’ll see my dentist. I’m about four months over due from my routine check up, and my doctor has no plans of opening up his office anytime soon. I’m thankful that my dentist is putting the public’s health as a priority. And I know that seeing the dentist is not a pressing matter considered the deep unrest the world is experiencing at this moment. My desire to have a cleaning pales in comparison to those whose are fighting their lives.

Not visiting the dentist is just one of the things I have to adjust to in new COVID terrain. And in hindsight, I should care less about how people care for their teeth. In these current times, with people wearing mask and practicing physical distancing, teeth should be the least of people’s health concern. But like I said, my teeth is my signifying measure that I have done something right in terms of my health. There’s a large chance that I may not get the opportunity for my dentist to affirm this. But I can be comforted in knowing that the small decisions I make everyday to preserve my long standing healthy teeth are taken seriously by me, even in vain.

Here are some of my favorite teeth pictures from the last 8 months…

My writing process during sheltering in place

Tonight I attended a virtual reading with Lysley Tenorio which was moderated by Mia Alvar. I am a huge fan of the both of them as they both write stories with a Filipino American lens. At the end of the reading they allowed the audience to type in questions in the chat.

In blue, my question is below:

 


His response wasn’t something I expected. He basically said that despite having won literary awards, given fellowships and having a secure job, this didn’t allow him to write as much as he wanted. He confessed that he didn’t write for years.  His stories and characters, for the most part, lived in his heart and head and he thought about them all the time, yet he still didn’t write, especially after his mom died. He mentioned that sometimes life gets in the way, not necessarily forcing you to stop writing but because sometimes writing involves a process, not a practice.

His honesty spoke to me. I assumed an accomplished writer like him, with two books under his belt, wrote all the time. I imagined the stereotypical  image of a writer hard at work at an oak desk with a soft lamp and a sturdy underwood typewriter with classical music playing in the back ground. I envisioned Tenorio typing away, taking occasional breaks only to stretch or crack his neck or take sips from his cup of whiskey. The words naturally flowed from his brain to his fingertips as he punched each typewriter key with vigor and fervor. Instead, the truth is probably similar to the process I currently have.

I, too, go for days, weeks, months, even (at one point) one year without writing. Yet when I do, often times, like now- it’s usually away from a desk or without a typewriter or alcohol. Instead, I’m at the kitchen counter, sitting on a swivel chair with my feet up, glaring at my Macbook Air with cookie crumbs nestled between the  greasy keys of my keyboard while I take sips out of 7.5 fl oz can of diet 7 Up. There’s no soft music or light; just the fluorescent light over me and the silence behind me. One aspect of this situation that resonates a smudge of the truth of the glamorous version I envisioned is that at least I’m writing– maybe not in the most ideal environment or practice, but at least, I suspect like Tenorio, the words are easily flowing from my mind and onto the virtual page. 

 

screenshot_20200720-184047-1

Here is sceenshot of me with my two favorite authors: Lysley Tenorio and Mia Alvar.