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.


On the way to the store today, my sister and I had a conversation about romance. I shared with her that the best advice I received about romance was from a marriage retreat Mel and I attended before we got married. It was a requirement for our Catholic wedding, and at the time I placed little value in the experience but now, years later, I realize that much of the advice and wisdom imparted on me then applies to the core of my relationship now.

At the retreat, a couple who had been married for over 30 years stood on stage and literally held hands through out the entire presentation. My first impression was to give an eye roll because I questioned if the overt display of public attention was necessary, an act or genuine. The husband seemed to be leading the presentation, and awkwardly used his other hand to gesticulate his points; meanwhile the wife’s voice quivered at times, both her hands clutched his. But at the end, I understood why they were in complete embrace.

The husband brought up romance and asked if anyone knew what that meant. No one, in a roomed filled with at least 50 couples, raised their hand, or at least that’s how I remembered it. He explained that romance is not what we envisioned it to mean. It’s not always about roses, spontaneity, or stolen kisses. Instead he said that romance is telling your partner exactly what you need. It’s easier said than done, he stated. One has to be completely honest, vulnerable and have a depth and breadth of oneself to fully articulate their needs to their partner. One practical advice the wife gave was to write a list together and revisit it from time to time. She shared that when she was a new mother, she expressed that her needs were a little different than they at the beginning of their marriage, where she wanted date nights, dancing, and vacations. But when she was a new mother, she remembered that nothing was more romantic than her husband allowing her to sleep, getting the groceries and making dinner, or folding her clothes while she nursed the baby. He on the other hand wanted to watch a movie together on Friday nights, go camping and fishing, or wake up to a pot of hot coffee.

On paper and especially in society, these small acts of intimacy aren’t necessarily considered “romantic” but it’s what was meaningful at the time, and while getting coffee or folding clothes doesn’t seem like tall orders to ask, for a new couple with a child, they seemed like the most impossible things to regularly commit to. But they both understood that this is what their partner wanted and weighed a lot of meaning, and sometimes begrudgingly, but always lovingly they were there for each other.

I guessed that maybe, on the wife’s list, at the time what she needed was for her husband to hold her hand whenever she felt nervous; it was obvious that this was difficult for him to do-emotionally and physically support his wife while he gave a presentation to a room filled with complete strangers. But he did it. And when I think about the vulnerability it required the both of them to display and muster during this important moment, I couldn’t think of a more grand and romantic gesture each partner could do for one other.

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Pexels.com

List to 50

This past Monday, September 14, 2020 was my 6 year wedding engagement party. While this date is not as momentous as a wedding anniversary, when I saw my timeline and pictures of my engagement party, I was pulled back to that time in my life–2014, when I was newly engaged, a budding writer, and imagined my life – five years later a little differently. I remember, during our party, I was sitting on a chair with my then fiance, now hubby by my side and taking in the scene in front of me- family and friends clamoring for the photographer to take their picture on the stage. I recalled embracing this moment because in a few years I predicted that I’d have a novel, house and kids in my life.

Well, that was six years ago and nothing I had imagined came to fruition. My hubby and I still rent; God hasn’t blessed us with kids yet; and the draft of my novel is still in the drive of my computer. Yes, I can sulk and criticize myself for not obtaining my “life goals,” but guess what? I have achieved more that I can imagine.

In Julia Cameron’s book, The Right to Wright, she offers a writing exercise where she asks the writer to write down 50 things you are proud of- small or large. She explains:

“We do not see our size. We do not view ourselves with accuracy. We are far larger, far more marvelous, far more deeply and consistently creative than we recognize or know. We do not credit ourselves with what it is we can- and often do- accomplish. We are blind to our gifts; we are deaf to our voice. We do not see or hear our magnitude. Why is this? 

When people cannot see the larger picture of what it is we are trying to do, they will pick out some detail and pick at that. We have, many of us, had the experience of being all dressed up, ready to go somewhere and feeling pretty marvelous, when someone –a parent, a friend, even the babysitter — picks a small piece of lint off our outfit. Lint picking is focusing on the small imperfection rather than seeing the greater glory of the whole.

We must be small enough, humble enough, to always be a beginner, an observer. We must be open to experience, new experiences, new sources of knowledge and insight while still staying grounded in the fact that what we already know and have done is also estimable and also important. In other words, how do we stay vulnerable enough to and tough enough to survive. 

Valuing our experience is not narcissism. It it not endless self- involvement. It is rather the act of paying active witness to ourselves and the world. Such witness is an act of dignity, an act that recognizes that life is essentially a sacred transaction of which we know only the shadow, not the shape. As we attune ourselves more and more closely to the value of passing moments, we learn that we are something of moment ourselves.”    

Julia Cameron, in her eloquent prose, reminds me that we have to celebrate the accomplishments, however trite and minuscule. Small or not, they carry a significance. So while I may not be where I had envisioned, another writer has gently reminded me I’m where I need to be, and that is worthy of celebrating.

Below is my list towards 50 things I’m proud of. What would you include in your list?

  1. Selected as a fellow for the Squaw Valley Community of Writers
  2. Writing 10 short stories
  3. Jogging 3 miles (although I am currently taking a break)
  4. Making vegetarian pancit for the first time
  5. Google hangout with my parents in the Philippines once a week for the last 6 months
  6. Offering a virtual writing class with 40 attendants
  7. 1000 piece puzzle
  8. Meditating for 5 minutes a day
  9. Webinar for Wonders ELD and EL resources
  10. Making a gluten free coconut cake  
  11. Running a half marathon with my sis and friends
  12. Moving during COVID
  13. Keeping some indoor plants alive
  14. Learning how to apologize and really meaning it
  15. Getting better with keeping in touch
  16. Supporting local artists by buying their paintings
  17. Eating mostly plant based since January 2020
  18. Paying off credit card bills
  19. Achieving and maintaining a credit score of 800
  20. Traveling to South Africa and Iceland
  21. Resurrecting this blog
  22. Singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider to my niece
  23. Parallel parking uphill in SF
  24. Getting accepted in an MFA program and graduating
  25. My job for SSFUSD
  26. Opportunities to read my work for literary events such as PAWA and Napa Valley Writers Conference
  27. Publishing my work in various publications
  28. Accepting my body in any shape and size
  29. Perfecting my skin and teeth regimen (because you know I have an obsession with teeth)
  30. Owning 300 books but reading more than 300

Here are some pictures from our “Books and Beats” theme engagement part. I’m “books” and hubby is “beats”, obviously because I’m a writer and he’s a DJ.

More pictures here

A lesson from a stranger

It’s been a busy few days, since I officially moved on Saturday, so I haven’t had time to post on my blog. Today, I made a concerted effort to get back to writing because of a gentle reminder from my new neighbor, Julietta. Julietta is a Filipina in her early 60s, twice divorced, with two married sons living in Las Vegas. She has five grandchildren– the oldest is seventeen and the youngest is five. I share these details with you because I feel like Julietta will be a person in my life that I will write about regularly. When Julietta knocked on my door, unannounced at 9:30 PM today, her hair was in a bun and secured with a bedazzled clip; she wore a bell sleeved top with starched white wide pants. Her fingernails were painted a metallic color, and she wore sandals that had a big gold bow. When she laughed, she slapped her knee and fanned the air. From afar, she looked like one of my students. But up-close, with no make up, while she didn’t look her age, her face was alert, like she had experienced many lives and knew many secrets. Within five minutes of pleasantries and introductions, she offered to bring a bottle of wine with grapes and cheese. I said sure, assuming she was referring to another night, but I was mistaken. She meant tonight– as in right now. My first thought was my 8:30 meeting tomorrow morning, in which I will be presenting to the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, so obviously I needed to be well prepared. The idea of polishing off a bottle of wine with someone who I barely knew and old enough to be my mother but dressed like a younger version of me, seemed like the most irresponsible thing to do. But when Julietta smiled and said she just got off work and did a little shimmy with her shoulders, there was something about her candor I couldn’t resist. I said Ok and went to the kitchen and rinsed off the wine glasses that had been collecting dust.

The visit with Julietta ended up being very interesting. I found out that she is a care taker, and her entire day revolves around people dying. For a person to be around death for over 20 years, I imagined she’d be more cynical and depressed. But actually, she is the complete opposite: she lives simply and appreciates every meal; she doesn’t go a day without thanking God for the roof over her head and she talks to her plants everyday and listens to motivational podcasts in the morning.

In our conversation she shared that you have to smell the flowers while you still can. And if you’re able to give flowers to someone– even better. As the saying goes- life is short. Julietta knows this, especially since her patients include a professor from UC Berkeley who wrote a published book about Organic Chemistry and her other patient is the former District Attorney of San Bruno, and both of them can’t even tell you their name or what day it is. They both have dementia. She referred to them as “The walking dead”. I asked her, knowing what you know, and seeing what you’ve seen, what’s a piece of advice you can give me. Without hesitation she said: “Do what you love. And if you love it, make sure it knows it.”

Julietta’s advice isn’t new. We’ve all heard a version of it, but for some reason her words resonated with me. Maybe it was because she didn’t seem like the typical 60 year old Filipina, and she knew a thing or two about death since she saw it almost everyday for the last two decades. Maybe it was because I had 3 glasses of wine and I was impressionable to anything I heard, or maybe it was because I genuinely cared about the wisdom Julietta was imparting on me. What ever the case, here I am on my blog, in which I’ve neglected because of moving. It took a complete stranger to remind me to go back to the thing I love and make sure it knows. I don’t know how to express to my blog how much I appreciate it, and I’m even more uncertain how to audit how it might even know that it is loved. But what I can do, as Julietta showed me today, is to make an effort, whether it’s praying and giving grace for every meal or offering a bottle of wine to a new neighbor or logging into an account and writing about a stranger. We all have our own unique ways of showing love for the things that matter. According to Julietta, as long as we live with this purpose, you’ll live a very fulfilled life. Her fingernails may be painted silver and gold and she may do a little dance when the opportunity arrises to drink on a random Monday night, but never the less, she’s absolutely wise beyond her years. It’s written all over her youthful face.

Photo by Secret Garden on Pexels.com

Let’s hug it out!

I can’t remember the last time I hugged someone besides my husband, and even then the hugs he and I exchange are more obligatory than they are passionate. Don’t get me wrong; I adore and love my husband, but when I was looking through old pictures of me in my early 20s, I noticed a stark difference. In almost every picture, I was hugging someone. Some were one arm over the shoulder hugs, but many of them were full embraces. I can’t remember a time, even before COVID-19, where I displayed such a genuine full body hug.

I don’t know if hugging is inappropriate for any situation over a certain age or if I was just living in a different time where one had to be conscientious of personal space, but it was clear during the early 2000s, hugging was the norm. I don’t know what happened as I entered my 30s and now 40s. Almost every picture I have of me, I’m off to the side, my hands on my hips,  or waving a hello or peace sign. I rarely see any pictures of me hugging someone, not even a dog! 

Now with the era of COVID, hugging is deemed unsafe. When I recently saw my mother in law, my first instinct was to hug her, give her a kiss on the cheek, but I knew better. I haven’t been tested recently , and she is susceptible to getting sick, so I had to refrain to what, at the time, felt natural. It was the first instance, in a long time,  I instinctively wanted to hug someone, and then I realized how much I genuinely missed it. For years, I had the opportunity, now with today’s climate, I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance again. 

Sure, the world will eventually return to a new norm, and I’m optimistic that how we greet each other in the future will mean more than what we previously knew it to be. When that day comes, I’ll be ready. My arms will reach over shoulders, backs and arms,  and I’ll take my time to hold and embrace the moment. I don’t know why I refrained so much in the past, but it’s clear to me now how the single act of embracing someone with both feet planted firmly on the ground, bodies supporting each other, wrapping all your love in such a safe public display of emotion shouldn’t be taken for granted. I now know better. Hugs and all! 


I miss these hugs!



National Couple’s Day

Today, August 18, 2020, is National Couple’s Day. According to Nationaltoday.com, National Couple day is a day when “you celebrate the one you adore.” Besides that quick blurb, there wasn’t an explanation about the difference between Valentine’s Day and National Couple Day. The website basically gave advice on how to celebrate. The suggestions were:

  • Light candles, turn down the lights and slow dancing
  • Cook dinner together
  • Plan a special date night

Besides posting a collage of pictures of us on Instagram, my hubby and I didn’t do much celebrating. Instead I helped him with a job interview by pretending to be a person on the panel, he folded and hung my clothes to make sure I was ready for the work week, I prepared lunch for us and we both ate in silence. Then he left in the afternoon to go to his parents’ house for a couple days to help around the house. I made dinner and ate alone.
It was just another normal day, nothing out of the ordinary. Even the weather went back to being foggy and cold.
When my husband finished the interview, he was visibly upset. It hadn’t ended how he had planned it, and he confessed that although he had prepared for the last 10 days, he didn’t feel confident. They asked him very difficult questions, and he wasn’t able to articulate an eloquent response. He felt defeated. I watched him throw himself face down on our ottoman. He covered the sides of his face with his arms. He kicked his feet as if he were struggling to swim.
The best I could do is tell him that I was proud of him and remind him that I love him. I also said that he didn’t need a job to tell me he loved me too.
Although we didn’t do anything special for National Couple’s Day, in our own way, we “celebrated the ones we adore.”

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My post on Instagram

Romantic Comedies

The last ten years, I made a commitment to read mostly writers of color in literary fiction. I reveled in works by Lahiri, Morrison, Alvar, Coates, Ward, Murakami, Adiche, Cisneros and chose titles from lists such as the Pen Awards and The New York Times. As a Filipinx writer, there was something profound about reading work that carried representation of issues and struggles that pertained to my life. These novels are usually deep reads, addressing issues such as race, family, culture, assimilation and diaspora. As of late, I’ve taken a break, not only from reading but the types of books I’ve been reading. 

I have found a new genre:  contemporary romance. If you’re wondering what this is, think My Best Friend’s Wedding, Crazy Rich Asians, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.  Yes it’s true, and I’m into it. I have no shame or qualms about this new discovery. My fascination with romantic comedy novels started a few months ago when I made a promise to my husband that I would balance my book selection by adding 1 or 2 “lighthearted” books with my serious books. As we started sheltering in place, I needed to escape and my serious books thrust me in worlds that weren’t too far from the real world I was living. After each book I read, I felt no respite or inspiration. Not to say that the books weren’t well written. They are. I think I was mentally drained and needed to laugh. 

In contemporary romantic comedy novels, I’ve found glee in reading through humorous plot lines and young, often naive, characters who are hopelessly in love in clubs, hotels and bars in New York and Los Angeles. I’m in delight with the idea of kissing strangers in the dark or drinking martinis after work while laughing through unconventional follies and complicated jovial circumstances. It’s a breath of fresh air for me. And I thank my husband for introducing me to this genre. 

Thanks to his suggestion, I’ve enjoyed reading again. I know I will eventually make my way back to literary fiction. For now, I’m laughing and finding fulfillment in these new pages where love is the only able force to surmount obstacles.