i write because . . .

i write because
naked feels indulgent
like my bare skin on crisp white linens
in a luxury hotel room's bed
my body's fibers
reach out
to feel the bones of

i write because
i am exposed --
my lover sees
through me
and with his feathered ink stilus --
scripts his way
into my heart's depth

i write because
it keeps me honest
with myself.


Make a wish

a moment of silence
holds me captive
i wish
to feel 
my Dad's
his gift to me
this Christmas


Door Boys

waiting for "door boy" (yes, that's the company's actual name!) garage installers, 7-8.30am (did i mention al & i left parlin before 6.30am to beat any possible snow & traffic?)

mom's brand-new garage (six hours later)

turbo blend - finally (six & a half hours later)

. . . & that's how i spent my snow day.


10 + 1 (things to note before/after your Dad dies)

1.  Confirm date of death with Social Security & Pension funds, and make sure they have actually noted it in their records.  Most likely, you'll have to follow up more than once even if you have completed all of the forms. 

2.  Reassign all bills (after) / bank accounts (before) / home-car-health insurance policies (after) to the appropriate individual(s).

3.  Change the outgoing message on the answering machine.  (Of course, your natural tendency is to save it because it's probably the only recent recording of your Dad's voice.)

4.  Destroy & cancel all credit cards.

5.  Cancel all magazine subscriptions, and on the bill, write 'DECEASED.'

6.  Cancel all memberships, and on the dues, write 'DECEASED.'

7. Cancel Dad's cell phone.

8.  Do not use any return address labels with your Dad's name on it. 

9.  Mom likes to sign off on any written communication -- Lina & Amante (RIP)

10.  Keep copies of your Dad's death certificates.  Lots of official folks need proof.
11. Keep in touch with Dad's friends . . . makes you feel closer to him.

Though I've been unemployed for a few months now, unending matters around Dad's affairs constantly pop up.  Just when I think I've already made the calls and have completed the right paperwork, someone still doesn't have it right in their records. For some reason, he's still living in their records.  And I have to confirm and reconfirm that he passed away.  So much fun to constantly rehash my Dad's death in my mind.  And the hospital bills?  We're receiving explanations of benefits from procedures my Dad had in March!  Apparently, it takes nine months to process those.  I have to admit, I'm willing to deal with all of it, just to spare my Mom any more grief than she continues to experience. 

Mom is taking care of some business in the Philippines, including attending to Michael.  Sad news, another family member passed away from cancer -- Uncle Moring (Corrales), Dad's brother-in-law's brother.  Like family, I suppose, since they're all from the same hometown.  We'd last spent some time with him when we were all in CA in April.  He returned to the Philippines to die.  Not sure how many more death notices I can handle in 2008.  

Since Mom's in the Philippines, she had the opportunity to visit with Uncle Moring in the hospital.  She'd mentioned that he cried when he saw her, knowing that he would soon be meeting Dad.  I hope that Mom isn't too overwhelmed with Uncle's funeral services which she'll be attending.  Al's mentioned in the past . . . Dad must've known how it would agonize Mom & me to have to endure a wake/funeral ritual, which is why his directives upon his death were so specific and included cremation.

Thanks, Dad, for thinking of us.


BIG catch

in my moment of anxiety
he comforts me
like the calm before a BIG catch

I in !PANIC! mode --
am flushed 
he sits across from me
solid like his favorite ocean's jetty

he is my strength
he is my rock
he is my BIG catch


Opening new doors

Yesterday started with two missed calls on my cell phone. Not recognizing the 551 area code, I finally picked it up.

Mom's upstairs (pregnant) tenant parked in the driveway and accidentally left her car in neutral.  The car then went through the garage door. Fortunately, Mom's RAV4 in the garage wasn't damaged, but the garage door was.  $2,000 worth.  I located Mom's home insurance policy.  A lovely Manalapan resident, Ron the adjuster, came out promptly and walked me through the situation. The insurance company will cover the damage, including a brand new garage door and tracking system which will be reconnected to the automatic garage door opener.  And our upstairs tenants have graciously agreed to pay the deductible. What a day.  Al & I are realizing what a task it is to maintain three homes at once!

On a much better news front, a very dear friend of mine -- after 30+ hours of labor -- gave birth to her !third! son, 9 lbs, 6 oz.  No name just yet.  Her husband kept us posted minute-by-minute via twitter.com.  Seems to be the new thing!       

Congratulations, Erin & George.  To your third miracle.  Their oldest son, 8-year-old Theo, was so excited to go and see his new baby brother that he put his clothes on backwards!  And now 6-year-old Aram gets to be a big brother too. 


2nd and 100th

We celebrated Al's 2nd healthy heart anniversary and Dad's 100 days with an intimate dinner with our friends, Ray & May, last night.  I made Al's version of pizza (flax flat bread, tomatoes, olive oil, low fat cottage cheese) as appetizers, and our meal included Ray's colorful salad (spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges and almonds); steamed first, then grilled barbecue chicken; and lentils & brown rice topped with crispy onions.  For dessert, my homemade apple cobbler.  I've discovered honeycrisp apples are the secret.  

And to top the night off, three hours of karaoke!  Ray rocked out with his guitar-hero versions of his favorite songs, and Al tried all night to score over 50.  Poor guy, he's always just a half note below when he sings a tune.  May finally warmed up after witnessing Al's tone talent.  And me?  I realize I need to sing more . . . I'm so out of practice!  No doubt Dad would've been completely disappointed in my low scores.

Yesterday morning, I awoke to a dream about my Dad -- my first one since he's passed.  We were at someone's house celebrating. Lots of family and friends came over, including Tito Frank's family. (A longtime family friend, Tito Frank passed away Memorial Day weekend this year.)  I believe Tito Frank was enjoying himself too. Dad encouraged everyone to get on the rollercoaster.  My dream then shifted to an actual rollercoaster ride, and Dad was on it! Having fun, enjoying himself. Guess he's in a good place?  I don't have to read so intensely into my dream to know what Dad's trying to say.  I find myself feeling like I can finally start getting into the holiday Spirit & celebrating the advent of Winter Solstice. 

Knowing that it was Dad's 100-day death anniversary, I'd wanted so much to touch base with some of Dad's friends yesterday.  To Dad's good friends:  Please do keep in touch as it comforts me to know that you shared such wonderful friendship & brotherhood.  I know how much Dad treasured his good times with you -- mah jong, golf, poker . . . just hanging with his buddies.  Thank you for being in his life.


A family story

baby stories on TLC
adoption stories on Discovery Health
i witness them all
story of our own


Happy anniversary

Al's second year healthy heart anniversary is on December 7.  I realized that I was living my Mom's life the moment the doctors told us that Al, my then 38-year-old relatively healthy husband, would immediately have to undergo a quadruple bypass.  

This upcoming weekend is a big one.  100 days since Dad passed away.  Al's heart anniversary.  I realize that this year, the months of August and December are of tremendous significance.  August is the month Al & I met, and it's the month Dad died.  December is Al's heart's milestone, and it's also Dad's 100th day death anniversary.  So yin-yang.  

100 days.  I'm not sure why 100 is so special, other than some Buddhists believe the spirit is reborn then. And I'm not sure that Catholics place more significance on the 100th day over the 40th day.  In any case, this 100 days weighs heavy on my heart . . . in more than one way. 

So much so that around this time of year, I feel little jabs and pangs in my chest, which I always attribute to anxiety around Al's 'second life.'  I've been scheduling my annual physical around this time of year, and I insist that my doctor do an EKG.  Like last year, today's was normal.  Thank goodness.  My cholesterol levels have been exceptional.  And still, I ask my doctor if I need to see a cardiologist.  She thinks I'm cute.  But I'm actually paranoid . . . I'm bound to die of either heart disease or cancer.   Dad lived with both, and both ailments run on both sides of my family.  Acckkk!  

I remind myself, I need to meditate just a little longer each day.

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful & at ease.
May I be happy. 
Tat tuan asmi.  Shanti, shanti, shanti. 


Getting over it

I'm told . . . You never really get over any major loss such as the death of a loved one -- an (unborn) child, a parent.  You just try to move on.  You just hope that time helps you to move forward.   

I'd been having trouble trying to contact my Mom in the Philippines.   Apparently I had the wrong phone number, but now I have the right one. She seemed to be holding up okay.  Auntie Libing, Dad's sister, still doesn't know that Dad passed away.  She looks at my Mom, asking for my Dad.  And her family won't tell her that Dad died.  They have their reasons. 

I have been moving slow with each day.  And I've yet begun to move forward.  I know that time continues, and so must I.  But I've been taking my time.  To grieve.  I want to stop replaying the images of my Dad on his deathbed because I know that those were only a small part of his wonderful life.  His cancer was not the essence of who he was.  I pray that the year's turnover will bring peaceful and happy memories as well as new and meaningful career opportunities (for many).


Something different

I survived Thanksgiving without Dad.  

Al & I spent the earlier part of Thanksgiving Day with the Torres tribe.  I was so anxious about just getting through the holiday . . . what with Mom abroad and my Dad not physically with us.  I was a little numb when we entered my sister- and brother-in-law's home. We were a little late with our contributions of salmon carpaccio and my usual busy salad.  And I was a little overwhelmed during our Thanksgiving prayer before the lunch celebration.  I rushed off to the bathroom and pulled myself together.  I survived.  With the help of three glasses of sangria.

Al & I were happy to retreat to Seaview in Galloway, NJ for a few days.  It was fun to stay where actress Grace Kelly had her sweet 16 and engagement party.  We've now returned well rested. The smell of a wood-burning fireplace made for a nice change of scenery.  It was peaceful, relaxing and different from what we've done the past few years.  Usually we're having Thanksgiving lunch with the Torres clan then rushing off to Jersey City or Stamford for Thanksgiving dinner with my side of the family. Only this year, Dad's not around . . . so it really didn't make sense to have to rush off anywhere. We needed to do something different.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about my Dad.   

I am so grateful to have spoken to some of my parents' friends over the holiday weekend.  Tito Vic called, and his thoughtfulness warmed my heart so.  It was great to hear Tito Willy's voice.  He'll be traveling to Narvacan over the winter season and asked how long Mom would be in the Philippines.  I also spoke with Uncle Rey and Auntie Cora in Chicago -- my parents' best friends who matched them together.  I'd mentioned that Al & I were spending some time near Atlantic City, and Uncle Rey shared that he & Dad used to borrow their friends' car and head down to Atlantic City with their ladies (Auntie Cora & Mom), all before Atlantic City was the casino central it is today.  No boardwalk, just open air.  When Auntie Cora got on the phone, she cried.  She always tries so hard to hold back her tears, never successfully.  She, Uncle Rey and Dad have been close friends since high school. 

It's different . . . without Dad. 


Prayerful thanksgiving

Great Spirit, 
May Your grace provide our  families courage to live and act with integrity.
May Your strength nourish our physical, emotional 
and professional well-beings.
May Your light always lead us to open our hearts to love & peace. 
Thank You, Great Spirit, for your wonderful gifts of simple abundance.  
Shanti, shanti, shanti.


Her heart's journey

Mom left on a 10.30pm flight for the Philippines last night. The past week has been wrought with a combination of anxiety, forgiveness and thanksgiving. Mom's main purpose for her two-month retreat to the Philippines is to work through the mess of paperwork around Michael's U.S. citizenship.  It's a complicated situation.  So complicated I refuse to relive my last memory of the Philippines (2003).  The next time Al & I go to the Philippines, it will be to get our child.  And it will be a wonderful memory - for both of us. 

While I was at Mom's yesterday, I came upon one of Dad's chaplets and read, 'Prayer is thanksgiving.'  In my daily meditation, I've tried to mindfully focus on prayer.  I pray that once Mom has cleared up Michael's paperwork, she can relax and enjoy her retreat.  I pray that on this trip, Mom's heart experiences more ease and less guilt about Dad's dying.  I pray that time and memories continue to comfort our family as we continue to grieve with graceful thanksgiving. 

I've been anticipating Dad's 100th day death anniversary - Sunday, December 7. Some Buddhists believe that spirits are reborn then. 
I miss my Dad.


Bridge-Way Diner

The  Booth
your wooden leather lap
held me
numb as i thought,
my dad will be gone soon
every time i sit in your home
i think about,
i knew -
my dad would pass 

So now every time we have a diner craving and head to Bridge-Way, it's a bittersweet experience.  I remember having my birthday brunch there.  Dad was in the hospital.  A few trips later, I remember stopping in for breakfast somewhere between our back and forth between Parlin and Jersey City.  We went to Bridge-Way waiting for Dad to die. And we went there after he passed.  My body frozen in that booth. My emotions sit outside of myself, next to me in the booth.  In that diner some comfort, some familiarity and great sadness accompany my brokenhearted reality of Dad's death. 


Driving on and on

same winding road
curves along liberty state park
car's tires share the pavement's grooves
mark their path
on my face with tears --
same memories of dad
wash across my heart
wishes to stop grieving


Weekend sitting

This past weekend, we were blessed to sit with our nephew/godson, Jasper.  No easy task, taking care of a 7-month-old, but definitely fun.  It was such a treat to give his folks a break and actually enjoy hanging with him.  Currently Jasper's trademark move is flapping his hands & legs while he arches his back on the mat, looking like a fish out of water!  My arms still ache from rocking him for his naps.  I'm realizing, while Al & I will be older parents one day, we've had the chance to witness all kinds of parenting and experience varied schools of thought. Definitely to our advantage as we'll have an entire smorgasbord of techniques from which to select.  Weekend's affirmation? We're pretty sure that we still want kids.  Poop & all!  

We made the 11.30am service at St. Bernadette's on Sunday.  I seem to always get overwhelmed towards the end of the Mass.  It's usually the music. Or seeing all of the families, including the kids. Probably a combination.  It's always some song about Father in Heaven.  I know they're referring to God.   But I can't help thinking that my Dad's watching from there too.   

for Jasper
a fish out of water - swish!
mouthing perfect o's
jasper swims in air

Mom's departure
Mom leaves for her two-month retreat to the Philippines on Monday, November 24.  Her primary objective is to take care of Manong Michael's paperwork, though she will have to work out some financial matters with my Dad's side of the family.  I'm anxious, but am confident that Mom can handle anything that comes her way.  Hopefully she will take time for herself too, including a Cadelina cousin's family wedding in San Mateo.

Mom initiated a heart-to-heart talk with me, asking me to rid my heart of any negative energy I have towards my Dad's side of the family (in the Philippines) before Christmas.  A challenge for me, given all the drama around financial concerns and familial expectations.  I encouraged my Mom to do the same of my Dad's Knights of Columbus friends, whom she bumps into at church.  The woes that Life presents us . . .   

Praying for Mom's peaceful heart as she prepares for her journey, one that will be her memory's milestone. With Dad as her heart's companion. 



We were honored to have been invited to my parents' friends' -- Tita Rebecca & Tito Nanding's -- retirement party at The Liberty House (Jersey City).  Mom couldn't bring herself to attend.  But I was happy to see all of our old family friends, many of whom were at Dad's service and our wedding too.  They all expressed their concern and asked how Mom was doing.  And those who hadn't been able to make the service shared their loving wishes.  I suppose Mom & I are grieving differently.  While she needs to be alone and find her way back into Life on her own timeframe, I want to surround myself with all those who knew my Dad, and I want to share in their memories of him.  

I chatted a bit with all of them.  When I sat with the Domingos, Tita Maring grabbed my hand and said, I miss your dad.  He would be out there dancing right now.  I responded, I miss him too.  I needed to hear that.  It was good to hear that.  I'm glad we went.   
I was a little overwhelmed at the 10am church service.  During Communion, the children's choir sang Where My Father Is, or was it In My Father's House?  In any case, while the song was about God and heaven, I could only think about my Dad somewhere in Eternity. Yesterday afternoon while I meditated, I had passing visions of my Dad on my wedding day which brought me to tears, of course. During our father-daughter dance, I was ferklempt since he'd just had two stents put in the April before, and all I could think was, Wow, he's here . . . we're here. And Dad said,  Don't cry. As difficult as it was to accept -- when Dad made his decision to stop all treatment, a good friend shared with me, Your Dad got to see you get married.    

A mindful walk
We had a chance to catch up with one of my old bosses from GCWW who lives in Bayhead.  Joan treated us to a lovely lunch at Jack's Wharfside in Point Pleasant.  Seeing Joan outside of what used to be work is a welcome outing.  She's like a family aunt you don't mind visiting because she spoils you so much and is so excited to hear all about you and your life.  Later we headed shoreside to do some light fishing. Well, Al fished . . . and I went on a mindful walk along Spring Lake's boardwalk.  A mindful walk does much for the soul.    

Afterwards, we stopped by Freehold to visit with Wendy, Ed & the kids. I'm glad that they didn't mind us imposing on their Sunday night family time especially since they're so busy what with the kids' schedules. It was comforting to just sit & catch up with them. I am truly blessed to have lucked out with wonderful brothers- and sisters-in law.  

Makes me appreciate all that is behind 'ohana / pamilya.


What a wonderful world

How amazing is it for my hapa (mixed race) nieces & nephews as well as my close friends and their multiracial/multicultural families to witness such a heartwarming milestone in our life's and the United States' history.  A photo is worth so many words and yet, nothing needs to be spoken of such greatness.  

I've been obsessive, trying to read all I can about President-Elect Barack Obama and the influential women in his life.  Here are some glimpses into this inspiring man's life:

I didn't cry on Election Night.  I was just in awe.  But I've cried reading about his life, his story, and the stories of his mother and grandmother.  I never thought that I would see -- in my lifetime -- that this nation is ready for a hapa president.  I am so ecstatic to have been proven wrong!   

A fleeting thought -- As I came of age in my twenties, Dad would encourage me, Date a man of color. Date a Latino, date a Black man before you date a White man.  

Wonder what Dad would say today.  

I welcome the change and look forward to an awesome history in the making.  We could definitely use more of the aloha spirit.  

A ala mai laulea honua. 
Arise, a peaceful world.


Our Lady of Mercy - All Souls Day service

We attended the noon service at OLM today.  It was a special Mass for all those who have passed since last year's All Souls Day. Each person's name and date of death was written on a placard and highlighted with a votive candle. A total of 60 parishoners were honored.  At home, Mom even left a small plate of food out by Dad's urn.  So Buddhist of her, said Tyne. The service was overwhelming as I saw some of Dad & Mom's old barkada and mine too.  

We were blessed to spend some time this weekend with old family friends. We drove up to Stamford (CT) late yesterday afternoon to bid farewell to Missy & Roj, who will be moving from CT to OH.  A wonderful thank you to Tita Reggie & Tito Romy who invited us to their daughter's & son-in-law's despedida festivities!  And this afternoon, we enjoyed visiting with a good friend, Tyne, from CA. She attended Mass with us and then, we reminisced about living in downtown Jersey City -- eventually making it to a last call for dessert at Isabella's by 7th Street.

Always heartwarming to be with old friends.  Just like that downy soft favorite fleece throw that keeps me warm on a cold fall weekend morning.


Visiting with Dad

It's the eve before All Souls' Day.  I spent the late morning at the Keyport pier, wanting to just spend some quiet time there.  A little windy, the fall sun was so warm. The pier was completely unoccupied.  I sat on the end of the bench next to my Dad's blue canopy chair.  Despite pain, Dad was peaceful that July day -- telling us that we should definitely bring Auntie, Uncle and a couple of his close friends there in the future. Calm and simply enjoying the peace of the bay with our family.

I find myself weeping lots lately (and I'm done bleeding).  Some of my crying is because I miss my Dad so much, and I'm anticipating the holidays. I think I've also been crying because I'm anxious to start our own family.  Yesterday afternoon, I was so honored and excited to have met a friend's second daughter, Casey, who arrived from China this past summer. Just sixteen months old, she warms up pretty easily to folks, is so beautiful and just a delightful baby. I call her my little shumai (dumpling).  I am so happy for my friend, who now has two lovely daughters, Casey & Callie.  To the blessings of little girls . . . congratulations, Laura & Ronnie!   

Laura & I seem to be on similar paths.  I am a member of the same club no one really wants to be a member of -- having had my Dad pass away.  Also, Laura has been so wonderful in sharing her personal story of her own challenges in having a family too.  I know, I can't worry too much about the future.  It takes me away from enjoying the now. 

I appreciate all the blessings in my life and continue to pray peaceful intentions.  

I pray to the Sun 
Whose warm arms bring me comfort
When I weep in my father's memory

I pray to the Sun   
Whose Spirit sits quietly with me
When I long to be a mama 

I pray to the Sun
Whose grace envelops me
When I am with others

I pray to the Sun
Whose gift of thanksgiving
Overwhelms others with Life's simple abundance


Ask me

While I've been breaking through the past couple of days, I finally had a moment of clarity.  Perhaps I'm overwhelmed trying to do too much, trying to keep it together -- especially in front of my Mom.  

Everyone is concerned about my Mom -- and with good reason.  Her life partner of 40 years has died. Few family or friends call her regularly to check up on her, and she doesn't want to reach out to folks.  I know everyone leads their busy lives, they've got their own issues to work out.  Sometimes I feel, rarely does anyone ask me how I'M doing.  And really, I'm not doing that well all the time.  

It's hard, really hard.  So hard I wonder, Do I really have the heart and strength to come through this?  And in all of my effort to keep it together, I do sometimes lose it. I'm sad.  So sad I wouldn't mind hibernating in bed for the next month or so, maybe the entire winter.  I'm easily frustrated.  I have to learn a new patience with my Mom whose natural disposition is to communicate things to me as if there's always a fire to put out.  AND I have to keep it together.  Ironically enough, my therapist whom I haven't seen in more than a year called me recently (on one of my bad days) to touch base.  So much has happened since I last saw her.  It comforted me that someone (besides my cousin and husband) was concerned about me and my well-being.  

I must sound selfish.  I'm just trying to maintain my sanity.  It's not easy being strong all of the time. It's not easy -- not crying in front of my Mom.  It's not easy having to worry about having to contact an attorney to draw up important paperwork like power of attorney and medical directives for my Mom.  It's not easy dealing with the anxiety of my disabled brother's future care when Mom passes.  It's not easy negotiating the complications of family obligations (and it's so complicated!), mainly Dad's side of the family.  

I know that family and friends are praying for us, are keeping us in their thoughts, and I'm grateful for that awareness.  In prayerful discernment, I ask for the Spirit's guidance & grace to work through situations as they may be with an open heart.  

Ho'opuka E Ka La. 
[Hawaiian for Open the door to thoughts of light & love.]