Expect wonderful

It's New Year's Eve. My little one has been asleep since 7.45pm, and I'm pretty sure we won't make it to midnight. We banged a pan or two and played the drum because around noon, East Coast time stateside, it was New Year's somewhere else in the world (like the Philippines!) . . . & this way, our little lady got to pound in 2015. 

As I sip my indulgent dark chocolate sensation spiced with a nip of creme liqueur, I heartfully prepare myself to welcome the new year. Another year without my Dad. Another year with my loves -- my life partner, our daughter. Another year with my Mom. Another year with other most cherished family members and friends. Another year to be grateful for all that is Life. 

Another year to expect only wonderful.

May the New Year bring miracles of love. May your native wisdom keep your heart open as you unlock other hearts. Wishing you true love in 2015. 


The Thank You Tree

I've always enjoyed Thanksgiving so much more than Christmas. Celebrating thanksgiving was never lost in shopping and gifting though nowadays, most retail companies seem to extort any holiday to glorify sales, discounts and in general, unnecessary material goods. Growing up, thanksgiving was a pure holiday -- free of physicism and full of grace. 

Thanksgivings past were also devoid of screen time. In the midst of our so very plugged in lives, I arduously work to limit my toddler's time with technology -- tv, nook, Mama & Dad's iphones, desktop, even her Leapfrog laptop. She is of the generation that knows how to swipe way before their first birthday. 

Thanksgivings past were about our family sitting at the table for more than three-hour feasts, actually sharing what we were grateful for, and engaging each other in authentic conversations with frequent ribbing for fun, of course. 

I want my daughter to appreciate Thanksgiving in all of its pureness. She knows that Thank You Day is in two days. We made sure to pick up a couple of branches at the park for our Thank You tree, and we spent the afternoon making leaves and attaching ribbon to them which bear, "I am thankful for . . . " On the eve of Thanksgiving, Mama, Dad & N. will make time to write what they're thankful on the leaves, and we'll hang them on our Thank You tree. 

Just trying to keep the holiday . . . pure . . . and simple. 

thankful for my life 
that is tenderly full of my daughter & partner
thankful for family & friends
who generously share their time & treasures
thankful for these sacred moments to write, 
to pray . . . 
they are my breaths of fire that hearten me

In the age of the modern rush, my thanksgiving wish for family & friends --
May you still find the time to be still, may your hearts be full, and may you always bask in Life's blessings.  


On dia de los muertos (11.01)

From my father's last breath on his death bed to waiting for my daughter to be born, conceived even, I reflect on sacred breath. Both were journeys of waiting and love. Hoping my father on palliative care and hospice at home would die quickly and peacefully from cancer and years (and finances) spent wishing for a child. Both involved raw emotions and frightening realities about living, dying and believing.  Both were exercises in faith that the universe is always on our side so long as we trust in Life's magic. 

Sacred breath
at the hallowed moment he died
as he took his last breath
an amazing celebration was held in the heavens

at the wondrous moment she was born
as she took her first breath
an amazing celebration was held in the heavens

sacred breath 
cherished and pure
incredibly divine


Following her lead

How quickly the seasons turn. One moment, she's in her crib. The next, she's in her toddler bed (or floor futon or Mama & Dad's bed). Or going from no fluoride toothpaste to with fluoride, including learning how to not swallow toothpaste, as well as spit and rinse. And now, her carseat is front-facing, so she can finally stretch her legs out without her knees bent and pressed up against the sides of her seat or up to her chest. Most recently, N. surprised us by *finally* giving up the bottle. Some folks might cringe at the thought of their kid still on the bottle past one year old. I tried various cups for a while, then gave up as it was too much pressure.  Strangely enough, she would be okay with drinking milk in the afternoon from her cup, but not in the morning and definitely not in the evening. I was concerned when she turned one, then one-and-a-half, then two . . . because she wasn't completely off the bottle yet. Suddenly, it's been one cup of milk after another for the past couple of days. We dare not do the happy dance and point it out to her for fear of jinxing the situation. But it's taught me an important lesson -- things happen when they're supposed to. Books, doctors, grandparents, other parents can be your guides, but our child is our best one. All we have to do is follow her lead. 

My mom and auntie insist that I, along with my cousins, were all potty trained by two. For N., we've had the potty out, and I have stickers in a jar. We read the books and watch the videos. Not happening just yet. In fact, N. is so aware of her bodily functions, it disgusts her to have to poo. She's not constipated. She just dislikes the feeling of having to excrete. So we're all for the no pressure potty learning. No timers, no forced sitting.  If she wants to sit on the potty, she can. If she doesn't, that's okay too. When she's ready, she'll let us know. All we have to do is follow her lead. 

Timing certainly is everything. Whether it's the right job, the right relationship, or the right circumstance. We want for ourselves to explore, discover, learn and develop our own understanding as we happen upon opportunities. Our kids deserve the same respect -- to explore, discover, learn and develop their own understanding as we work to create opportunities for them. 

All we have to do is follow their lead. 


Do you remember . . .

Last month was full of memories -- making them, reminiscing, and recording them. A milestone birthday for our daughter, N. (2), surprised our Mother Goose-rhyme-lovin' gal with a getaway to Storybook Land -- basically a toddler-friendly sculpture park where nursery rhymes come alive, followed by a casual celebration at a local sprayground, complete with bagels, cream cheese, lox, fruit, & birthday cake . . . lola, grandma, grandpa, ninang, ninong, ates, & kuya too!

The end of August marked six years since my Dad died from cancer. Sometimes seems just like yesterday. Otherwise, seems like a while ago. I just heartfully regret that he didn't have a chance to meet N. I recall my childhood in the home where I grew up on Nunda Avenue, remember what it was like to be around my Dad in that house. Weekend barbecues after his tennis games, coming home after work to water the vegetables in the backyard garden lined with a stone path, taking out an entire wall to create a larger livingroom area. That contented sadness manages to overwhelm me at Sunday service during the meditation segment. Church music lulls me deep into my emotional bed that I tend to keep guarded, not on purpose, only because life gets busy. As I keep N. from getting too fussy in the three-foot pew space, my eyes well up, and my tears remain bottled . . . and I hope for a cheesy Hallmark movie in the evening, so that I can finally release. 

The best release happens to be when it comes out of the blue. The uncontrollable laughter turns into unstoppable tears which turn into bellyaching laughter and more tears. My unexpected release happened upon me during my cousin Kat's visit. Kat graciously accepted our invitation to keep N. and me company while A. was abroad in Amsterdam for work. With her own family and school age kids in Georgia, it'd been a while since Kat and I had some time to just kick back and be. But every night, once N. was in dreamland, I actually had the pleasure of enjoying a meal by candlelight, with wine & dessert, followed by a movie! Kat's stay made for some much needed girly time, which included sharing her artful skill of the selfie.

What's wonderful about memories is, we can keep them forever. 

To a blessed rest of the Summer (it ain't over yet)!


First day in August

Is it really August 1st already? Not sure where the month of July went, except that the last two weeks were taken up by what the pediatrician calls "summer stuff" which consists of a virus somewhere between a cold, but not quite the flu and includes fevers, sore throats and runny noses that get passed along to all members of our household. My legs actually hurt from not having been able to go running what with the "summer stuff" that has taken over recently. Thankfully we are on the mend . . . 

We find it hard to believe that our little lady turns !2! in a week. It really does go that fast.

First day in August marks a month of bittersweetness. Birthdays combined with first date and death anniversaries.  Though bittersweet, it's mostly the celebrations and reliving heartwarming memories that overwhelm. 

Given the most recent Jersey City tragedies such as the cop killing (RIP Detective Melvin Santiago) and three children orphaned during a family camping trip by a murderous tornado (RIP Parents Lolibeth Ortega & Lord Balatbat), I've spent some time remembering my Jersey City roots, the house where I grew up (Nunda & Duncan avenues, casually checking out real estate costs online in my old neighborhood), and the neighbors and family friends we'd made through the years. I remember summer exchanges with my 'country' cousins in Connecticut. I would spend a couple of weeks in Stamford, and they would vacation for a couple of weeks in JC. I remember our dead end block and cooling off with the fire hydrant turned on . . . jump roping with the neighbor kids, Alexa & Tamika, until sunset . . . sharing homemade popsicles on the front stoop . . . 

And I am grateful. For a summer month that reminds me to honor and hold onto dear Life. 


Summer solstice

perched on her piece of absolute beach domain
she showers in earthly grains 
speckled on her honeyed brown skin
she is the warrior princess of her sandcastle


Purple haze blessings

I am missing out on a huge family event this weekend -- my cousin, who's like a brother's wedding. It was so difficult to make the decision to not attend his festivities. But we are the parents of an almost two-year-old, so that shifts our priorities a bit (not to mention the financial blow we had to take from an unexpected and forced termination of our adoption process). I highly doubt N. or we would've survived the 8 to 15-hour trek, including stops because there were no direct flights and on top of that, the costly travel expenses. 

Wishing so much we could have celebrated with them in person, I have spent the last few days scanning facebook and their wedding app to remotely participate in their once-in-a-lifetime party. While we can't be in Puerto Vallarta at the moment, I am so heartwarmingly delighted to see that M. & B. have had the time of their life. I am so proud to witness their courageous and whopping love in a world where it's not always easy to learn how to love ourselves or others, let alone feel loved. 

Dedicated to my dearest ading Mitch & Ben:
May you continue to love deeply,
May passion and patience be your guides 
in this adventure called Life,
May your purple hearts always bedazzle
like paper lanterns aglow amidst twilight's orchid haze.

Lovelovelove to you both.


Dance with spring

spring has moved in
along with the swing, slide and merry-go-round
go . . . go . . . go . . . to the park where
the breeze along the lake calls us in
for afternoon merienda
the ice cream truck is our very own music box
as she twirls around . . . and around . . . and around
she dances with spring


To the edge of wavelets

We're on vacation for the first time since N. was born. She's 19 months old. So far, so good. Having had to pass on a family, international destination wedding in a couple of months that included non-direct air travel and two stopovers -- one of which was an overnight, we'll see how this week away from home, a couple of states away, fares.

Slow paced, not doing anything major. Just the indoor pool and a few local day trips. It's what I love most about the New England shoreline. Nice and easy right along the Water's Edge

Have my eclectic (enough for me) Pandora shuffle on -- a mix of Dar Williams, The Carpenters, Jake Shimabukuro, Annie Lennox and Aloha Ka Manini. As I look out past our cottage balcony, freezing rain continues to fall, ice storm leavings along the ground where the resident geese cast their droppings. The water of the Long Island Sound totes a muddy gray that complements the oyster clouds. Winter just refuses to let go.

Still, it's a most welcome getaway. Just the three of us. Our humble family. Every day, I remain in awe that the Universe gifted N. to us. I know that A. agrees with me -- it can be hard to remember what life was like before N. -- staying at B&Bs along the Jersey and Connecticut shores (so thankful we treated ourselves to those!), going to the movies, dining out. Yet not too difficult to recall in the midst of toddlerdom! Now it's all about visiting Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, reading favorite books over and over (and over) again, and figuring out meal variations of applesauce, bananas, blueberries, butternut squash, chicken, eggs, english & sugarfree muffins, fish, mango, peas, pasta, sweet potatoes, turkey, and yogurt.

While we're on vacation, I indulge in my share of seafood as well as ice cream and wine in front of a modest sea of flames crackling in the fireplace. Despite the required polartec gear, we trek downhill beyond the bare stone wall to the edge of the wavelets. N. delights in the brisk coastland air and does her celebratory happy dance.  

Taking it nice and easy. Certainly a most cherished spring break. 


The thaw

o spring 
where are you?
the pond begins to thaw
a frosted cake sheet of ice
we wait 
alongside the geese and ducks
in rowdy symphony
they whine their way to sunshiny days
o spring 
where are you?


love mad love ever

love mad love ever now
hearts lock like winter snow doves
in fresh fallen blissful white


Light a candle

Maybe you frequent TED talks? I happened upon one by Brother David Steindl-Rast, who inspired gratefulness.org. While his message might be a common one especially in today's world of Oprah and paths to inner peace, I found the act of lighting a candle online -- a new way of creating a sacred space. And why not since we can purchase items, watch a movie, or buy a goat, contribute to a village and do good -- all online.

As N. expands her vocabulary, every so often she'll say Lolo (meaning grandfather). But my dad isn't alive. There's my father-in-law, who's Grandpa and my uncle, who's Apong. On the days Lolo is frequently popping out of her mouth, A. says she must be playing with her guardian angel.
Sure, we'll light a candle in church on memorable occasions -- my Dad's birthday, death anniversary, or Father's Day. We light candles at home -- to take a breath (or get rid of an unpleasant odor). So many times, like when N. does her rendition of the "Gilmore Girls" theme song and dance, I'll remember my Dad and how much I would have loved for him to meet her. It's then that I am overcome with gratefulness for the good and bellyaching laughter-filled memories that I do have of him . . . like when we would get together for holiday pulutan (finger food), which meant a coffee table full of sashimi, wine and crispy pata. That is exactly how I want to remember him -- having a good time and shooting the bull.

So here's my online dedication to my dad. To the good ones. There's something about the act of lighting a candle -- for real or online -- that allows us to have a moment to ourselves and to celebrate our loved ones. 

Wishing you a sacred and grateful moment to light a candle.


A peaceful new year

Every night before bed, N. and I have been praying . . . May the world be filled with loving kindness, may the world be peaceful and at ease, may the world be well, may the world be happy . . . & so too our family and friends. 

During the morning hours, I'll attempt to meditate with whatever meditation master is currently on the Veria channel. N. will give a little squeeze, take a deep breath, and let it go (just like Daniel Tiger teaches her). Seconds later, she'll plop herself in my cross-legged lap and continue some seconds more with deep breaths. Meditation over. For now. 

Despite the winter freeze, there's something warm about bringing a bucket of cold in and adding droplets of food coloring to make snow art as my almost 17-month-old delights in touching the multi-colored shaved ice.  

Sorry, honey, we're not in Hawaii. But let's continue to learn together. 

Our hearts aglow, we make our new year's intention:
May we be inspired, may our hearts sing in appreciation of every breath, may we be tolerant, joyful & loving . . . & so too our family and friends.