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 #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!

1,000 words or less

Today I had the great privilege to attend a virtual writing session with the great Veronica Montes, author of Benedicta Takes Wing and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction. Ms. Monsters opened the class with a quick introduction and then an overview on flash fiction. I always find flash fiction to be difficult; I love words- the more, the merrier. So it’s always a challenge when I have to write with a word count restriction. In this case, flash fiction is usually 1,000 words or less and it must be a full story, meaning a beginning, middle and end– and with an arc.

Our first prompt was to write one sentence that tells a character, setting and conflict. We had 10 minutes to write. Here is one sentence I wrote:

In the bathroom, Joyce saw a thin strand of blond hair tangled in her husband’s hair brush, even though everyone in the family had dark hair. 

Our second prompt was to take a character from any of our sentences and write more about the character. This time we had to take three consecutive letters or numbers and write no more than three sentences that explains why each letter or number is significant to the character.

This was our example:

This is what I wrote:

1 is the number of abortions Joyce had. Even though it was 20 years ago, she could still remember the crushed velvet curtains hanging in the waiting room and the surgeon saying “sweet dreams” before the anesthesia kicked in.  

2 is the number of times she made the dean’s list in college. To celebrate, she got her right nipple pierced. To this day, she still can’t drive with a seat belt over her chest without getting aroused. 

3 is the number of times she performed CPR on someone. Once on a student in the middle of her class. The second one to a man who collapsed at the gas station. The third one was her father, who she never was able to resuscitate. 

I definitely need more practice with writing flash fiction, but I’m thankful for the experience today with Ms. Montes and I look forward to improving in the craft. 

Special thanks for PAWA for hosting!

My ancestors

Today I attended the Pinayista Summit — “a weekend gathering of pinays in the hustle filled with speakers, panels, lightning talks, interactive workshops, music, sporadic dancing, and meaningful connections.” I wanted to join this summit because I’ve had a trying and challenging 8 weeks at work I needed space to be held by a community and creatives. I desperately needed this experience.

There were many moments in the summit that were valuable and memorable, but one in particular was during the Healing Racial Trauma In Our Bodies & Bloodlines workshop with Chanel Durley from 33 and Rising. Here’s more about the workshop:

“For many of us, the last few months has been triggering on a deep emotional level. As we commit to learning and doing the inner work of being Anti-racist, many are feeling paralyzed by the emotions and realizations that are coming to the surface. The fact of the matter is, we can’t talk about Race without bringing up Trauma – The Trauma of old memories, past lived experiences and the Generational Trauma that has been passed down to us from our Ancestors. But if these traumas can be passed down, so can our healing. In this workshop, we will dive deeper into Healing Racial Trauma in our bodies with a focus on Identity. We will explore the effects of White body supremacy mindset, and how we are all complicit in adopting this mindset in society. We’ll end with a short active Breathwork meditation. When we heal ourselves, we heal the generations that have come before us, and the generations that will come after us. This workshop will arm you with innate tools and knowledge to integrate healing in your body as you continue on in this Revolution.”

As you can see, it was a very deep and transformative session, one that literally left me shaking and breathing deeply, in healthy and healing ways. At the onset, I called my ancestors Lolo Imo and Lola Connie to help me prepare for the moment. I didn’t necessary grow up with Lolo Imo and Lola Connie. but I have pivotal memories that included them during my primal years. Lola Connie lived with us when she was diagnosed and battling Cancer. Father Imo died in his sleep one morning in the summer. I was the second person to find him. The first was his wife, my grandmother, Lola Tad, who shook me awake and asked me to “wake up, Grandpa.” When I saw him lying on the bed, mouth slightly agape, I instinctively knew something was wrong. Minutes later, when the ambulance arrived, they couldn’t resuscitate him and pronounced him dead. M grandmother, with her limited English, didn’t understand. It was one of the hardest, most difficult, most traumatic memories in my life. Till this day, my husband is still not allowed to sleep before me, an agreement I set early on in our relationship since my lolo’s death has ultimately triggered the way I view sleep and rest.

I bring this up because one of the statements that Chanel brought up was:

“You are your ancestors’ wildest dream”

I don’t know if Chanel is the original person to have said this quote, but I heard it the first time from her, so I’m giving her full credit.

When I think about the purpose of my life and the achievements, large or small, I’ve achieved in my life, I wonder if that is what my ancestors, specifically my Lola and Lola had in mind as they fought cancer, as they slumbered and took their last breath. Am what I’m doing now worthy of their life struggles? Did everything they did in life to guarantee the success of their children, which led to the trajectory of my life, honor them by the way I lived my life? It’s a question I’ve asked myself before Chanel’s workshop but given the quote and wisdom Chanel shared, I examined the answer a little differently.

According to Chanel, she said that we must release this burden from ourselves.We must replace that burden with acknowledgement and full sincerity, meaning we have to let go of their survival and acknowledge that your ancestors did this for you to be here today! In those words, I reckoned with this guilt and shame that I carried in my body, specifically in my lower belly where trauma and stress live. I realized that my lolo and lola didn’t put any expectation on me to carry out a certain fulfillment. Besides, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to honor the sacrifices they made in life, for the sake of my and my family’s well- being. I can be successful and be a millionaire yet that still doesn’t seem like the most apt and significant ways to honor my ancestors and their struggles. This also doesn’t necessarily mean that I shouldn’t apply myself either. When I look at my life, sure there are many aspects that I can work on — like owning a house, having a child, saving more money. But overall I’m thriving. I feel it in my body and in my heart. I have a safe space to call home. I have a loving and supportive husband. I read and write, and at times I have the privilege of sharing my work in places I never dreamed to be a part of. I have a few things published in the literary world and hold a graduate degree in Creative Writing. I mention these things not to gloat, but rather to recognize that for a person who’s entire family spoke a different language and attended school at a certain grade, it is quite glorious to be able to say that in my small ways I carry my ancestors through words and wisdom. These might not equate to monetary success, but I am remarkably valiant and hopeful that my ancestors are proud of me.

My lolo Imo

Bloggers vs. Writers

On Sunday, August  30, I had the great privilege of taking a writing class with the People’s Poet Tony Robles. For those who don’t know, Tony Robles is a poet from San Francisco who is now the Carl Sandburg Home Writer in Residence & Resistance. On Sunday, he offered a virtual class titled “Writing out of Quarantine.”

I consider it a privilege to write and study with literary role models whose work I have admired and looked up to. In my short time as a budding writer, I have been fortunate to be in the company of writers such a Tony Robles, ZZ Packer, Kristen Valdez Quade, Patricia Powell, and so many brilliant, creative minds, that it is humbling to ponder on the luck and fortune that has shaped my writing trajectory. 

On Sunday, I was expecting Tony’s class to be an opportunity in which I honed my poetry skills, since poetry isn’t my strongest genre. I know that writing poetry inherently improves literary craft techniques such as imagery, rhyme, metaphor, simile, etc. My prose writing could benefit from this experience. Instead of learning lessons about poetry, I actually learned a more valuable lesson about writing. 

In the beginning of class, Tony asked us how the quarantine affected us. There were about a dozen people on the call and for the most part we all expressed the same feelings- we couldn’t write. We felt it took more time to accomplish tasks. There was an overall sentiment of despair. Many expressed grief- from the loss of a life to the loss of motivation of the things they once loved to do like paint, write, hug. It was sobering but empowering to relate to complete strangers.

When it was my turn to share, I expressed that I had felt the same sentiments and that I have had lingering feelings about the direction of my writing. Lately I have been investing more time and dedication to my blog, that I have neglected my other writing projects, specifically the short stories I have been writing for the last four years. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing. In fact, on my blog, I’m writing 4-5 times a week, about 30 minutes to an one hour, sometimes more depending on the topic. While I’m not actively writing my short stories, I’m still actively writing- on my blog. Does this make me less of a writer? I know blog writing is not the same as literary writing, but it’s still writing. I still put in the time to craft sentences, phrases, and I’m particular about certain words and details. I apply the same craft elements as I would in literary fiction such as developing imagery, tone, theme and sometimes character and setting. And while I’m not publishing a book, I hit a little button 3-5 times a week that says “publish.” I share my work with others and sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll get encouraging phrases like a “like” or a comment. With all that is going on in the world, on my blog I try to write about the positive aspects in my life, and this is done intentionally because I need an escape from the pain and sorrow I’m feeling every day. This blog is saving me. 

I know one day I will return to my short stories. I haven’t abandoned them completely, but for now my blog is what I need. It’s a place that I can simply write and be proud to be in the company of bloggers, readers and writers. While some might argue and suggest that blogging is not writing, I will respectfully disagree and say writing is writing. Like breathing is breathing. Like walking is walking. Sure we all do it a little differently, but at the end of the day, we all exhale and inhale, take step by step, put words together, one by one, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. Am I a blogger? Am I a writer? Maybe I’m lucky — I’m both.  

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?

 

We broke up

Today, I wrote one of the most difficult emails to write: I had to tell my writing group I was leaving our group.

For some, this may not seem like a daunting task. But for me, breaking up with a writing group is akin to breaking up with a very serious partner. I was with my writing group for almost a year: we weathered difficult seasons, rain or shine we met once a month at the SF Public Library, we wrote through tears and tough conversations; we wrote during the onset of sheltering in place, a global pandemic and social unrest. In a short time, we went through a lot. 

Just recently, my writing has taken a different direction. I’m not sure how to even describe it, and when i’m ready, i will share it on this blog. I just know that as I continue to write my way through new terrain, I’m at peace knowing that no one will read this raw, imperfect, unedited material but me. There’s so much freedom in that. Not to suggest that my writing group wasn’t a positive experience. It was! I learned so much from my partners and they pushed me to be a better writer. They offered their support with a gentle, kind hand, even when I knew they could be much harsher. Instead, they encouraged me through good, but even more important, through “bad” writing. But as I find my new voice in my new writing, I know I want to experience this undisturbed and really immerse myself in the process. I’m scared, but I think it will be good for me because I have never written “alone”. There was always a writing group I could count on to offer feedback. 

In time, I hope I will be ready to share and accept feedback. I hope it’ll be with the same group. I didn’t express this in my email because I have to accept the possibility that they might not be willing to work with me again. I hope that is not the case. But I understand if it is. 

I will miss reading my group’s stories and chatting about our life updates.  I’m saddened that it is my fault that we won’t be able to continue as a trio and have years, decades of meeting together once a month as I had originally envisioned. But I know this decision, although very difficult, is the best for me at this time.

My new work needs my full attention, and I am committed in providing that, however difficult and different.

 

This seems a little over the top, but based on my mood, i thought i’d accompany today’s post with some of my favorite break up songs:

Boys to Men “End of the Road”

 

Boys to Men “How do I Say Goodbye To Yesterday?”

 

Amy Winehouse “Back to Black”