The Contemplative Corollary

As I sit here alone in Yerba Buena Gardens, I realize that these moments are rare. My children have opted not to accompany me as we drove to San Francisco for R’s class. I warned them, the middle in particular, that we wouldn’t have a repeat of last weekend. We wouldn’t wander around our favorite stores, we wouldn’t dine at our favorite ramen place, and we certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the touristy parts of the city.

We would simply sit. Read. Write. People watch.

To which the middle said, NO THANK YOU.

Not that I blame her. Last night’s Target rum turned into a quick side trip to PetCo, the middle’s new favorite store. As the new and proud owner of a pair of guinea pigs, A’s frequent visits to the store allows her to be an informed “mom”. There was also a side trip to L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, a much needed comfort food for me after an emotional week.

Buddy, our fierce protector and loyal companion especially while R was stationed in Virginia, was diagnosed with end stage cancer and died all within two hours. I was his human and he was my dog.

I failed my kids and did not bring back our dog after that trip to the vet that turned into a side trip to the ER of a vet in Sacramento.

We are all still broken. It looks like we’re better but really, we’re just getting used to being broken.

Since having children, there haven’t been a plethora of moments where I have sat in silence and alone.

And as a mother, I knew that. I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of time to myself.

I had a lot of time to myself as a newlywed. Too much time. R was deployed longer than he was home. Still, I am not afraid of being alone.

Now that the kids are 17, 14, and 11, I still don’t have a lot of time alone and that’s okay. Moments with them I am now realizing are finite and will begin to taper off as the boy begins college next year and now high school and middle school for the girls. I savor them even if they sometimes drive me nuts. In all honesty, if my biggest complaint about them is how they flaunt improper grammar knowing it hurts my teacher ears, then we’re alright.

It feels like the universe has delivered my life to me right here and right now. Listening to older Asian women walking by with their metal canes and speaking their native language that I don’t understand yet sounds like a melody with their hushed voices. The church bells have been playing Vivaldi and other songs for the past ten minutes. The sun is awakening the park slowly, taking its time for the Saint Patrick’s Day parade that begins in an hour. Sometimes I’ll hear the piercing sounds of bagpipes rehearsing in the background but they are no match for the persistent bells. As the shadows retreat, more people appear in the park. Dogs are walking their humans. Rolling luggage are being walked by their tourists. The bells play Auld Lang Syne plays and all is well.

Crushing Writer Fears

I didn’t always want to be a teacher. Like every other youth in my family I thought I’d go pre-med or go to dentistry school like my cousin who is also a USF alum. After turning eighteen and partying it up in the city, my grades suffered. But not all of my grades.

My savior in the form of Professor Marty (erm, I can’t remember his last name right now) took a chance on me and spoke to the Dean on my behalf. He explained that I was, in short, a good kid and deserved a second chance because I was getting an A in his class. The Dean agreed on the condition that I changed my major from science to ANYTHING ELSE.

It was a big blow to my ego that I was no longer a science major; after all, I (started to) kick butt in difficult science courses. I mean, who takes another science as an elective for the hell of it?

I do. It was marine biology and my teacher, Mr. Guardino, was awesome even if he turned in the letter of recommendation to USF late. I still got in. I still graduated. I still got a master’s from there.

But I was grateful for the chance to prove to myself that I could finish. It was by chance that a friend of mine suggested I teach a summer program for kids at the elementary school near campus.

What? Kids? Gross.

Ah, famous last words. 

I enjoyed picking these kids’ brains while making it seem like they were the ones guiding the direction of the class. Teaching and working with children just came easily to me. 

Writing also came easily to me when I was younger. I loved reading everything from magazines to Sweet Valley High so I thought the only thing better than consuming these literary works of art was creating them.

Like most parents, my father did not think I should become a writer because I wouldn’t be able to get a job after college. You know how on The Cosby Show, Theo got busted for bad grades and gave a touching monologue about how he wasn’t going to college to get a job but rather an education and his father totally called bullshit on him? Yep, same concept with my dad. 

I started writing again when I became a stay at home mom. I wrote A LOT. Like, a lot a lot.

I was hired to be a columnist for a now defunct children’s magazine. I reviewed CDs and DVDs, including Tenatious D before anyone had ever heard of Jack Black and won best article of true year for that site. I attended writing conferences, met the illustrators Diane and Leo Dillon, had a bagel with Jane Yolen, and introduced my son to the author and illustrator of Hugo Cabret! One of the authors even told me twice to get in touch with her agent after I pitched a YA story I was working on. I published a poem through Cricket Media, and even had the chance to interview Travis from Blink 182 and Steve from Blue’s Clues!

But I got scared. Everything moved so fast. 

Too fast.

There isn’t a moment that I don’t regret not taking my shot. (Yes, that’s a Hamilton reference.)

So now, I feel like it’s time. Little signs to go for it are everywhere in the form of encouragement from friends and my husband. Reminders of what I could have been doing RIGHT NOW. I’m finding all of my personal rejection forms, my old manuscripts, everything. 

If I really didn’t want to do this, I would have gotten rid of it years ago.

But I didn’t.

In one notebook and a file folder, I found two separate collections of poems, three outlines for YA/MG novels, four picture book manuscripts, and two unfinished YA manuscripts! I found three poems to revise and polished them with fresh yet wiser eyes. 

Here we go…

The Christmas Conjecture

I forget that he is disabled.

My husband hides it so well that I make a lot of decisions based on me forgetting that he is unable to handle crowds and control his anxiety that I accepted free tickets to a big football game this week. 

He said he’d be able to handle it and I didn’t want to push it. He’s had a few weeks off from school and we had to reschedule the kids’ dental appointments for that day anyway. 

Last week we went out to eat and I don’t remember where we ate, only that halfway through our meal, he was making a face. Turned out that he felt there were too many people in the restaurant and he didn’t know what to do. I told him he could go for a walk, switch seats, or we could leave but he said he’d be okay. I believed him. 

We didn’t go anywhere for Christmas as his family are a long drive away and many of my relatives flew to the Philippines for the holiday. I started my month long break with a bang visiting family in L.A. and going to Disneyland but the passing of my aunt has made for a somber December. For so many reasons, Christmas has just felt so different this year, surreal and numb and overwhelming all at once. I thought I was sure everything will go back to normal but as it turns out, this is the new normal. We are so very grateful for our family and friends and pray that 2017 will be even better.

Happy holidays!

The Funk Formula

I’m not shy about sharing my discontent of youths with other youths. When I was a high school sub, I joked around with tattooed kids about how back in my day we had to WORK to pay for body modifications. (Mind you, I knew the kids pretty well.) We had to earn every dollar working a thankless job at the front desk of our dormitories and not use the cash our grandmas gave us for our birthday. 

(I am aware now of how old I sound, thanks.)

With my own children, I tell them how songs today don’t come close to the classics. At this point I would put in one of my Dr. Dre CDs. 

There is a constant trend to throw back to the oldies, or at least what the current generation deems “old”. I appreciated hearing Blackstreet in the movie Pitch Perfect just as I appreciated hearing them live. 

In person.

Like right in front of me.


Yeah, he’s holding my hand.

Five friends and I went to the V101 Holiday Jam at the new Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento. We had a blast!

My friend T and I even got to meet JJ Fad! It was quick but still a fun story to tell. 

Zapp was there…

Ginuine was there; he came out during Zapp’s performance as an audience member.


En Vogue was there. They sounded and looked as if they never aged. Yes, I’m a little jealous.


More Blackstreet. Juvenile was also there but I didn’t care much for his lyrics so a couple of friends and I weren’t as excited to be there. I don’t like being called a bitch or ho in case you are an aspiring songwriter. Pretty sure most women feel the same way.

Bone Thugs & Harmony were there and they sounded great! My friend T and I saw them two decades ago in San Jose and they haven’t changed one bit.

Nor have some of their audience members who were partaking in herbal refreshments hence the reason I don’t have close shots of the group. Even now, just thinking about it makes my stomach hurt.


Oh, before the concert we met this fella…


Happy holidays!

The Maternal Memories

When I was about five years old, I told my parents my tooth was loose. Mind you, they were very old school, traditional Filipino immigrants so this wasn’t a celebration by any means. No magical being was going to show up in the middle of the night and put a quarter under my pillow because what does a five year old need with money? And free money at that?

Oh no, this child of immigrants was taken next door to her aunt, a medical profession, a nurse.

A nurse is NOT a dentist.

My auntie Delen (short for Magdalena) carried me and sat me up on her tile kitchen counter. “Where is it?” she asked.

I opened my mouth, pointed, and just as I was about to say, “It’s right here–”

SON OF A BITCH!

She pulled out that fucker before I even knew what was happening. I don’t remember much after that except for lots of blood and tears but I lived. I learned valuable lessons in trust that day:

  • Can’t trust my parents, separately or together
  • Can’t trust my aunties
  • Especially can’t trust that auntie
  • Can’t trust my family in general

While I eventually got over these issues, I remember that I was taught that every sister of my father and every sister of my mother (who sadly I have not met my mother’s sisters to this day; one passed away when I was younger and the other still lives in the Philippines) was like another mother and I needed to treat them as such. Same as their brothers on both sides. In our Filipino community back in the day and I’m sure it is in many Filipino communities today, this extended to their family friends. Pretty sure my teachers thought I was lying about ANOTHER uncle passing way. (Sure, you’re going to his funeral. Again.) But that’s how it was and that’s how I teach my kids now.

It was with great sadness that we celebrated the life my auntie Delene last week. Family members set aside their differences (hopefully permanently but what do I know) to pray and be with each other at this time. She was married to my dad’s brother so I saw many of her relatives from around the country, all of whom saw me grow up and met my husband and children for the first time. It’s funny that even now I think about all of my aunt’s family. I never thought of them as her family, just as family.

There were Filipino (specifically Ilocano) rituals and Catholic rituals that we followed. And although my husband converted to Catholicism a few years back, he still prayed the rosary, an activity that is strangely strictly female. He didn’t have to be blessed by my auntie Leonore (auntie Delene’s sister), he did anyway.


My brother did too. He’s a dork. I can say that though; I’m the sister.


There was a lot of food. Family members took turns cooking. Actually that’s wrong. They ALL cooked to relieve the burden of preparing food on my cousins but that’s what they do. That’s family.

I don’t have recipes and I didn’t have room in my stomach to try everything but I can assure you from past experience that this food was amazing.


Rest In Peace, Auntie, and no, you still can’t look in my mouth. 

The Gray Growth

Like my father before me, I went gray in my thirties. It wasn’t noticeable until recently when I took the plunge to cover the gray and in doing so, I committed myself to maintenance schedule. 

In another time another beauty requirement to my routine would not have been a problem. I had the time, money, and most of all, the vanity to lead the way in quest for outer beauty. 

Decades later while I still struggle to find a new and more evolved fashion identity I am not driven as I once was. The occasional mani-pedi and the monthly box of Target hair dye was and is enough. 

But is it?

I get a lot of compliments on my hair color. The color ranges from a dark auburn to a light brown depending on what hair color I buy in a box. The color stays for a few weeks until it starts to fade… in a good way. This dark burgundy is fading which means I have a cool Deadpool red amongst my black and gray roots.

Gray.

I looked up different shades of black and gray and found that some women are wearing a black gray ombré. Others have even mixed in silver.

Then a light bulb went off in my head. Could I pull it off? Do I dare? Even if I don’t like it, I could go to Target and get another box, right?

There is a yearning for me to return to what’s natural even if it’s been so long that I’m not quite sure what natural is anymore. Maybe this change will help transition my hair for what’s to come. Now if only I can bring myself to pay more than ten bucks for this change, I’ll be set. 

Gah, even now I look at this picture and I cringe. Oh well. It’s not like you’re seeing this in person and even if you did I’d trust you not to stare. Thanks, kind reader of inconsistent blog. Aren’t you an optimist?

The Middle Age Mandate: Part 1

Now that I have had a chance to live in my fourth decade it’s becoming quite clear why many people my age go through a mid-life crisis.

While I never had a “perfect body” (whatever that definition may be), it was fine. It was mine. Despite the decade of sleep deprivation and gallons of alcohol consumed in my 20s, I recovered. I recovered after having three babies, even to the point of completing three half marathons.

But my 40s?

That’s a completely different and foreign decade altogether. Mother Nature pushed and pulled, tugged and stretched everything attached to me. Clothes don’t fit the way they used to even though I’m the same weight. 

My hair has a mind of its own after a lifetime of being the blackest black and stubbornly straight for a lifetime. 

I wouldn’t mind having sweat circles if my armpits didn’t decide to have an odor and perspiration purge overnight. 

I always thought it was weird that women on TV always put lotion on their hands right before bed. I still view it as weird and now I have to engage in a similar ritual. My heels are always cracked, painfully so. My elbows and hands are in a constant state of ash. 

It was bad enough I had painful and ugly cystic acne when I was in junior high but now I have to go through it again? That is, if I can see them around the smallest lines around my mouth. Thank goodness for anti-aging creams and sunblock without which my skin would be in a worse state. 

I used to see my father scratching at his scalp constantly. Decades later I have to manage psoriasis that is mostly irritating and rarely painful with a scary looking tube of steroids! It’s almost worst that it’s on my scalp because it makes my dry scalp that much worse. 

I cannot wait for this decade to pass. 

The Arcade Ambiguity

Most of the time my husband and I are a good match. He listens to my incessant talking and I listen to his thoughts on history and the Bible. I like the orange Starburst candies and hate the pink ones. He is the opposite so we trade.

Most of the time we are a good match.

Most of the time.

Now, hear this, I’m not here to air my dirty laundry. I’m not.

I just noticed that lately we’ve been letting stuff slide. Things that make him angry, things that make me stew, things that we have been avoiding just so we can sweep issues under the rug.

But we can’t do that.

Because in the end it only makes things worse.

It’s easier to ignore comments, pretend you don’t feel the way you do. It’s way easier than actually confronting the person. 

No one likes confrontation. No one wants it. 

But we need it.

I’d rather we talk about stuff and not let it sit. I’d rather have the difficult conversation now before we forget why we’re arguing, before we forget why we love each other.

I’m not going to go into specifics but the only way I could verbalize what was happening between us was to picture that old arcade game Dig Dug. It’s a game where you are digging your way to destroy monsters before they destroy you but the funny thing about that game is that no matter how weak your tunnels are, the tunnel never collapses. 

Marriage is NOT like Dig Dug. We have to fight the same monsters, not each other. Despite all the digging we do, it will come crashing down if we are not careful. I’ve never said I was perfect and if you think about it, my husband and I have not been married under the same roof for very long. It’s still new to the both of us. It’s up to us to make sure we don’t make monsters of each other. 

The Waiting Room Rumination

I rounded the parking lot for the second time in a row. I didn’t mind the long walk to the back of the hospital where the ER entrance was located but I knew my husband R wouldn’t let me get the car for him after he was released. He would insist on walking to the car. 

We are currently in hour 4 of waiting to be seen. I repeat, we are currently in hour 4.

R has experienced a lot of trauma from the accident as well as all of the surgeries proceeding so when he started to experience pain that didn’t go away this morning, he was mildly concerned. 

I went to work that afternoon and was waiting for the girls to get out of band when he texted me:

I am going to the ER after I pick up the boy.

I called him and immediately we had the conversation that is constantly on loop:

  • Maybe I should go to the ER.
  • No, I don’t need to go.
  • If I go, you don’t need to come. I can drive myself.
  • Wait, the pain is the same.
  • Maybe I’ll just wait until tomorrow. 

So fast forward lots of phone calls to friends and my mom to cover kid duty including errands, dinner, and bedtime.

We are still here.

  
I must be getting better at this. As soon as R checked himself in, I made a beeline for the Starbucks in the hospital. In an effort to save money and calories, I have avoided going out for coffee in a couple of weeks. Tonight, I savored every drop of my soy tuxedo. 

An hour later, R said he was hungry. I knew my mission: To find the Mexican restaurant we visited last time before they closed and before it got too dark for me to be out all alone.

Turned out, he didn’t want to eat yet. I mean, really, no one wants to eat in an ER! 

So here we are. His burrito patiently awaits his return in the car. My nachos, however, are long gone. 

And finally, after four long hours, R’s name has been called. I made the mistake of asking if I should go with him.

Of course, I should!

But he scurried off before I could realize my mistake.

Don’t worry. I’ll make my way back there. After all, I’m really good at this.

The Moment of Pride Theory

  

I went to see my doctor today. Since going off my pills in the fall, I had gained thirty pounds and my blood pressure had gone up twenty points in the past year. 

“Why did you go off your pills?” he asked. 

I told him that I didn’t know and that I felt like I had to be off of them. I wanted to see a therapist to help me figure out if I  needed to go back on my pills. 

I guess I knew in my heart is probably need to be on them of the rest of my life but I thought I would have a sense of pride when I stopped taking them, knowing I didn’t need them anymore.

I didn’t. 

There was no shining moment of pride. Only months of despair since I’ve taken my last half dose. Months that were thrown down a deep dark well. 

All I knew is that I wanted to be alone all the time, even contemplated a separation from my husband. It was like my head was the Pixar movie, Inside Out, only…

Only Joy was dead. Anger ruled. Disgust and Sadness sometimes came to play but Anger didn’t like that. It was just easier to let Anger run the show.

But now here I am in the doctor’s office, feeling only Sadness. 

Last year when I saw him he said that sometimes people need help with chemical balances in their head like someone who needed to wear glasses. That person with less-than-perfect vision couldn’t just decide one day they weren’t going to wear their glasses. 

This year he gave the same analogy and I told him that the analogy made sense to me last year.

“Then why did you stop?”

I didn’t know. I think I felt like I wasn’t a regular person if I was taking them, less-than-perfect only I do wear glasses. You can talk about depression and anxiety on the Internet and in theory but I can’t talk to anyone about this in person. No one gets it. Sometimes I feel like I have to prove that yes, my depression is very real but why should I? Hence, my need for a referral to see a therapist. 

My doctor gave me a list of resources and told me not to fret. Outsiders might scoff at his last bit of advice but those in my shoes understand.

We understand too well. Overthinking our way into and through every situation. The sooner I accept this, the sooner maybe my mind will be at peace.