After the glow

We've just returned from our Very Jersey Holiday. Too much fun with family, and N. now has a fever. 

I surprised myself. As we said our goodbyes to my brother-in-law and his family, whose hospitality for two nights we are are so thankful for, I became ferklempt! Unexpected. But my sister-in-law and I had been up past midnight (the day after Christmas hullabaloo) chatting intimately by the glow of the Christmas tree. During the week, I'd witnessed how much N. enjoyed spending time with her ates (older female cousins) who dote on her so patiently and lovingly. 

No, N., we don't live in Jersey anymore. In between traveling from Virginia to South Jersey (to spend time with my in-laws) to North Jersey (to spend Christmas eve with my mom and Christmas Day with the extended Torres/Lopez tribe) and back to South Jersey (as well as spending a night in Philadelphia en route back to Virginia for a holly jolly Rutgers reunion with close college friends), we couldn't resist stopping by the home we'd just sold and closed on at the beginning of the month. As we drove by, both A. and I shared, we surely had nine years worth of memories in that home (including marriage, near death, death, birth, numerous health scares in between, and the anticipation/ disappointment of growing our family through adoption), but we really haven't missed Jersey much since we've moved to NoVA. Sure, we miss our families and friends. But that's what makes visits more memorable. 

Truth is, I will always be a Jersey girl proud to have been born and raised in Jersey City, Admittedly, folks are surprisingly nicer in NoVA. The intended pace of life is slower and much more manageable. Our surroundings are prettier. And we'd been looking to get out of Jersey for quite some time. Opportunity and timing are key. We are blessed that the stars lined up the way they did. Happy light indeed. 

As we wrap up 2015 and head into 2016, my new year's wish:
may we celebrate love,
may we give power to the New Year,
may we breathe in peace,
may light fill our heart space 
and support us in the New Year,
may we breathe out tenderness,
 & may we trust in the Present.


Prayers for peace

I am so thankful to have attended the National Kids Yoga Conference last weekend. It was an opportunity to recharge and be in the presence of some inspiring folks who sing and breathe their way into more mindful being. In light of what is going on the world, it's most moving when people choose love instead of fear

If more people greeted each other with authentic intention, perhaps our world would be less of a vast mystery and instead a more magnificent magnum of respect and tenderness. 

During my yoga retreat, teacher Kira Willey led us in song,
may we breathe in light, breathe out love
may we breathe in hope, breathe out joy
may we breathe in peace, breathe out kindness

May we pray . . . for Paris, Syria, Beirut, Baghdad, Ferguson, Mizzou, Claremont, Ithaca, Yale, Spring Valley, Kenya, Palestine, Ayotzinapa . . . & so many others in our world that is smaller than we make it out to be . . . (it's a small world after all, isn't it?)

wishes for hearts to grow as wide as the sky
wishes for hands to hold others' 
in courage and in dignity
with reverent light as brilliant as breaking dawn


Wanted: Self compassion

Back and forth with our attorney to sell our Jersey home, constantly in touch with our realtor to make the necessary repairs to meet Certificate of Occupancy and buyer's needs along with settling into our new (temporary) home, trying to get organized and make sure N. eats well enough to have a satisfactory poo (which is my greatest daily stress!) makes it challenging to stay sane -- some days more than others. 

I have ongoing to-do lists for the Jersey home, for our NoVA home, alongside N.'s food /poo journal (sad faces for when she doesn't poo & happy dancing faces for when she does!), notebooks of penned information across our kitchen counters that sit next to file folders with inspection reports and requests for transfers of medical records. I'm also scheduling doctors' (specialists included) appointments for all three of us to make sure we're on top of our health and wellness needs. 

It's not pretty. 

While I try to have my moments of peaceful meditation, I can't seem to get enough calm or sleep. 

Did we really gain an hour this past weekend? 

Reminder to self: Self care isn't selfish. Taking care of me means that the people in my life, especially the loves of my life, will receive the best of me, not what's left of me. 

So when I went on my run/walk yesterday on the W&OD trail, I forced myself to pause several times, look up and breathe. I repeated, I am grateful for this Life. I am grateful for my partner. I am grateful for my daughter. For every concern, there is a solution. 

I am thankful for every opportunity to take care of myself. 

My prayer for self-compassion . . . 
May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be happy.  

My wish for you . . . 
May you find moments to be kind to yourself. May you give yourself the compassion you need. 


We think we're gonna like it here

Life never happens the way we expect. Am pretty sure others never thought we would ever leave Jersey. In a matter of a month, four weeks of chaotic planning and packing, prepping our home to sell, we have officially moved to Northern Virginia, otherwise known as NoVA. The universe has a way of working things out. 

We arrived just two days ago. Never saw our now rental home-for-the-year in person. It was our Choice D. Found it online after an unsuccessful few days of house hunting in the DC area. And here we are. 

I sit in our dining room, multiple boxes open and strewn randomly, the smell of cardboard that has been on and off a moving truck, and take it in. Are we really here? Are we really doing this? Have we made the right decision? 

Throughout the moving process, I have made sure to be with gratitude and breathe moment by moment. I am thankful for my partner whose intellect, discipline, professional expertise and integrity have worked in his favor to bring him to an opportunity that came when he wasn't looking. I am thankful for our families who have been supportive of our move and our desire to create a better quality of life especially for our daughter, the best quality of life experiences to which we can expose her. Amidst the maddening stress of moving out of state, considered one of the top major life changes, I have frequently put things in perspective by reminding myself that we're not Syrian refugees in survival mode. We're merely moving from Point A to Point B, and we have been blessed with the resources to do so. 

This morning, we took a break from unpacking to explore Clemyjontri Park, "where every child can play." It was N.'s much deserved adventure in all of the transition. The expansive playground spans acres, where children of all abilities are welcome. It is by far *the best* playground we have ever been to. Even more impressive was that it was completely free! Watching N. roam carefree and in sheer delight, I began to sing to myself (from 'Annie's' 1982 soundtrack), "I think I'm gonna like it here . . . " I know we're going to like it here. 

We have received the warmest welcomes from an old college friend and his husband who treated us to a weekend brunch, distant family member who continues to be a communal resource, as well as our niece who happens to be attending a local university as an out-of-stater and is an incredible older cousin and pal to N. A. is upstairs preparing for his first day in his new esteemed position, an amazing career juncture that has brought us to making a wonderfully unwonted life in Fairfax County.

We're off to great places. Today is our day. We're off and away!



to dwell in possibility
to trust in the Universe
to fancy kismet
like a first-time rebounder -- 
move beyond fear,
jump! into Life


Heart to heart

N. had her bi-annual cardiologist appointment. She is an absolute train wreck when it comes to doctors' visits, especially since her traumatic hospital spell this past spring. Who can blame her almost three years young self? And maybe she feeds off my nervous energy just a bit before every pediatric specialist appointment despite that I try with every fiber of my being to be calm and uplifting. 

Energy is everything. I am grateful for the medical staff, most especially the nurse and cardiologist who, despite N.'s deafening and crocodile teary screams, remained unruffled. Oh, their most patient and compassionate hearts! This past week, A. spent time practicing at home with N. -- what an EKG would be like -- with raffia ribbon and stickers delicately placed on N.'s body. During pretend EKG, N. was perfectly cool, of course, and said that she didn't have to cry. 

Completely different reaction upon examination. Her energy at the cardiologist's office was literally a far ear-piercing cry from her energy at home. 

Thankfully they were able to gather some kind of reading from N.'s EKG, and it's all good. 


Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with an old friend from Los Angeles, someone I've known for over twenty years . . . and we respect and enjoy each other without any judgement. I'm thankful to share that fond affection with N., who met my friend., J.,  for the first time. I so enjoyed that she warmed up quickly to J. and his mom, A. Serendipitous how the universe works. He, too, is currently working in higher ed but has long been on his own personal journey of meditation and has been training to become a meditation facilitator. Similarly, I have had my time in higher ed and am now training to become a certified children's yoga instructor and have long explored guided meditation. As we lunched, it was somewhat of a homecoming to someone familiar. It was an additional treat to meet A., whose soothing centeredness J. obviously inherited. I experienced a heartful fellowship with J. and A., that can sometimes be awkward when you haven't seen someone in a while or are meeting for the first time.

We were thrilled to discuss the possibility of working together in the future as J. makes his return to the East Coast. 

Energy is everything. When individual lights are aglow, it requires no effort for one heart to touch another heart. 

What a blessing to remain connected -- heart to heart. 

It's summertime when we take pause and reconnect with our oldest and dearest friends and family or maybe new friends too . . . May you be open to healthy heart-centered connections. 


Timeless summer memories

The beginning of summer has a way of stirring up my heart and memories that make me grateful for this gift called Life. As soon as June 21 happened, my mind clamored in flashbacks of summer solstices. 

I have amazing memories of summers spent borrowing library books and reading whatever I wanted to read; camping in Virginia; spending a couple of weeks in Connecticut with my cousins; gallivanting around Jersey City and Bayonne with friends before we were off to college; working entire summers in college, not going home and passing on family vacations because I wanted to assert my independence; taking $50 cab rides home from spending late nights in the city because I was in my twenties, working and living on my own; waiting for my Dad to die; and introducing my daughter to the vast, wild and mysterious ocean's edge. 

I grew up an only child, so the library was my sanctuary. I didn't need any company other than a few good books to read and get me through the week. I loved that I had my very own sky blue library card, the back of which required my signature. I could spend entire afternoons completely immersed in an environment that was unlike my day-to-day in Jersey City. I am thankful to my mom who never minded that I wanted to frequent the library and borrow a pile of books every week. 

Our family camping trips at Cherrystone Campground in Cape Charles, Virginia were fun filled. We brought everything you could possibly fit in a caravan and included the comforts of home. My cousins and I could participate in any of the campground activities, and we roamed around as we liked on hiking/bike trails, to the paddle boats, or to the on-site arcade. Our parents delighted in the local crabbing and fishing and even had the nerve to go around asking other campers for their fish heads, a Filipino delicacy, to make a tasty traditional soup. 

My summer weeks in Connecticut were somewhat of a worry-less break for my parents and for me, a much needed getaway from my parents (whose complete focus was always on me) and the city. We'd camp out in the backyard and sing around bonfires. We had our share of roasted-on-a-stick hot dogs and marshmallows too. And the fireflies! We'd tried to catch a few in a jar, so we could watch them light up. (Sadly, I don't see many fireflies anymore.) 

Having spent 13 years in the same school with the same girls, the summer before college meant hanging onto those friendships amidst the fear, anxiety and excitement of moving on with our lives. After the high school graduation celebrations, there were the finally- turning-18 surprise parties, hanging out til 2am turned into sleepovers, and ensuring that our ties remained strong via weekly baking/chatting sessions of cupcakes, rice krispie treats and wine coolers. 

Once I was in college, I passed on shore summer vacations with my family because I wanted to stay in my college town of New Brunswick and prove that I could work full-time and live on my own, and I was hell bent on making sure I didn't have to go back to my parents' house. As I reflect on that choice I made as a young adult, I never realized then that I'd literally have the rest of my life to work. 

When I was in the throes of my career as a twenty-something in New York City, I made the most of working hard and playing hard. Advising students by day, schmoozing with University colleagues by night, it was then I upped my alcohol tolerance. Not to mention the late night event organizing and blowing off steam at karaoke bars into the wee hours of the morning. It was nothing to blow $50 (including tip) on a 20-minute cab ride from lower Manhattan through the Holland Tunnel back home to downtown Jersey City. I knew I'd be home before my colleagues who lived in Brooklyn or Queens. Once college graduation festivities ended, we didn't have summers off, but we could make the most of working in the city following the end of the spring semester. 

The summer season can also be bittersweet as it was when I waited for my Dad to die from cancer. While I'd made the decision to spend as much time as possible with him, waiting for my father to die with dignity and on his own terms at home made for a most undesirable and hallowed memory. With the support of my workplace at the time, the Universe granted me the time to sit with my Dad and listen to his wisdom. His most important words still guide me, "Live a simple life." When anyone or any situation tests my patience, I remember his insight. 

Four summers after my Dad died (including six years of trying on and off and in the middle of an adoption process), the Universe gifted us with our miracle. And after a tumultuous adoption journey, we have learned to accept that the failed adoption was not meant to be at that time, but our birth daughter was, and that's how the Universe works. Almost three years young, our little lady brings us anxiety, tests our patience, leaves us exhausted by day's end, and ignites our hearts so. I fancy the summertime memory of our babymoon at a lovely B&B down the shore. The third trimester was not an easy one as I was on bed rest due to a number of complications associated with 'advanced maternal age.' Born a preemie at 35 weeks, N.'s birthday falls the day before mine. (Hurray for summer birthdays!) With her dad being an avid fisherman and her mama a delighter in most that is sun, sand, and water, it's no surprise that N. is a water baby. As soon as we brought her home, we introduced her to the bay that soothes us in our day-to-day trials. It's our love of the shoreline that inspired us to name her - Nayla Bay. 

While it can be a cruel, cruel summer leaving us to feel like we're on our own, we can also take comfort in summertime and the livin' [can be] easy . . . May you enjoy summer's bliss, burst into summersong, and wish upon a firefly.


I run to June

i smell your sweet honeysuckle breath
and i inhale deeply
on my museful escape
along the pond's budding fringe
o to loll in your spray!


Sunday school

There's something about spending time in Nature that indubitably feeds the soul. N. & I try to get our outdoor hikes in at least a couple of times a week. Something like nature school on the weekdays or Sunday school on the weekends, perhaps? Being in/with Nature fosters a sense of inner peace, a lesson N. continues to learn. 

Being in nature teaches us . . . Change is constant and unavoidable. We see how the trees, grass and plants adapt to survive through winters and renew themselves with spring's sunshine. Snags, simple or complicated, help us find a new path. Sometimes we observe how a tree's roots circle around large stones in a path. These roots are strong and gracefully find their way to continue along the wooded trail. Nature doesn't need approval, it is sacred. Flowers aren't told how to act like flowers. We don't need others' approval so long as our choices are healthy for us. We are happiest when we take the time to know ourselves, grow, and accept ourselves. We are blessings.  

May you quietly happen upon the itsiest bitsiest spider in its web or a pastel yellow polka dotted butterfly in flight, may Spirit embrace you. To Sunday's Divine Nature that beams full of goodness. 


Meditation for slowing down

walk along the water's edge
and smell the surf's salt
not summer yet
the spring's clammy sand
and oyster clouds above
ocean's deep betwixt
a most classic seascape 
sits in front of me
i rest in Presence

Thank you, Spirit, for a most welcome respite where Presence calls us to the edge of something vast, wild, & mysterious.


Our little warrior pinay

Trauma. Or as we told N., we're on an adventure! Our four-day "adventure" began with a morning trip to the pediatrician's office after two failed enemas the night before. (Need I mention that we had to go to four pharmacies before we found the right child enemas?) By noon on Wednesday of Easter Week, we found ourselves in the ER at RWJ in New Brunswick, where she was born a premie and stayed in the NICU. Five hours and an x-ray later, we learned that N. had an immense mass of waste in the bottom of her colon at the base of her rectum which explained her abdominal pain and inability to poo. We would be staying at the hospital indefinitely. 

Apparently kids with severe constipation as old as 15 years old can require a week in the hospital to flush out their system. RWJ Children's Hospital sees one to two cases every month. 

Three gallons of GoLytely liquid infused into her body within 60 hours. The equivalent of three adult colonoscopies. Her GI tract has been reset, and we now have an intimate relationship with Dr. K., her pediatric GI specialist. Dr. K. requires that N. be on a med to help stimulate her to move her bowels regularly. Throughout our stay, Dr. K. could not believe how strong a withholder N. had become. She would say multiple times, "She's tough!" Tougher than adults who have to drink only one gallon of GoLytely for a routine colonoscopy. 

I carry tremendous guilt over this horrific experience. (My mom, A. & I constantly changed N.'s diaper every 5-10 minutes through the 60 hours. N. suffered by being forced to let go of her poo juice. I switched into new clothes frequently as I held N. as much as possible.) Sure, kids are resilient. And yes, I am emotional. I retrace moments in my head -- several visits to her PCP and dermatologist, my conversations with her pediatrician, the sleepless and uncomfortable nights at home when I was unable to soothe N. She had been in agony for months, and it was masked in a recurring nasty and painful diaper rash. No wonder potty learning has been a challenge. No wonder she had become such a withholder of her bowels. She couldn't poo with a colossal solid ball of waste literally stuck inside of her. 

But hanging on to my guilt, that negative energy, does no good for N., for me, for our family. Cry, breathe and release

So forever grateful to the doctors at RWJ. From the GI specialist to the pediatric surgeon to the residents to the nurse practitioners to the volunteers on the pediatric floor. 

We have our little warrior pinay back. And she's fierce, more vibrant than ever. 

With heartful gratitude to Spirit. 


New lessons everyday

her minikin hands
always around me
reach out 
and lead me through
iridescent virgin light


Jersey City Strong

My parents met in Jersey City in the 1960s. They married at St. John's on Kennedy Boulevard. Both my brother and I were born at Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital. My mom, along with hundreds of other Filipina nurses recruited from the Philippines, worked at Margaret Hague, Jersey City Medical Center, and Pollack Hospital.

A couple of days ago, with a heavy heart I attended the wake of a childhood family friend, who is gone too soon, too young. Our parents knew each other back in the day as young dating couples, as married couples. They nurtured their children together in a familial Filipino American community. Through the years, I've even learned how some of us in that community are remotely related through connections that go as far back as our great grandparents. 

I don't keep in touch much with too many childhood friends other than through facebook. And when we meet up at these sad occasions, while much has changed, we still have that inherent closeness. I feel it in our greetings, our conversations, and our goodbyes. These are the same kids with whom I ran around and played punchball in the parking lot of Roosevelt Bowling Lanes during Saturday's Filipino Family Bowling League. We may forever see each other as the six- to twelve-year-olds who met up weekly and partied together at each other's homes when house parties were the norm. 

I am immensely grateful for my parents and the history they've established in Jersey City, as well as the deep rooted connections that I have with those who share in those days of old. 

We are undeniably part of an extraordinary tribe and will always remain . . . Jersey City strong. 

Dedicated to a new star up above. May you rest in blessed peace & stay forever young, Art. Swing on!


Finding passion once again

Almost a month into the new year, almost two and half years since I left the rat race in the city, I find myself digging deep for breaths of fire. My amazing partner of a little more than 11 years encourages me to take the time to explore and rediscover my passion. He reassures me that yes, I'm a mama and a spouse. But I'm also more than that if I want to be. 

After a lengthy discussion, he reminds me about who I was before N.'s mama. Not that I have to be that same person. He thanks me for giving him the space to explore his passions of fishing and writing.  He asks, Who do you want to be?  What do you want to try? Now's the time to search and learn. 

Breaths of fire.

My immediate reaction? That person whom you first met is long gone. Other than parenthood, I haven't had passion for some time. Sure, I've cared considerably about diversity, educational access, and family welfare. These concerns have been my life's work since my coming of age. But what's my passion now? 

I don't know. 

I've always known that I want to return to work once N. is in preschool.  (We're not there yet, and I'm still enjoying these early years). Like most parents, I desire flexibility in my next calling.  I can apply for online teaching gigs if it's finances pinchingly urging me to get back out there and find a job. 

That's not what he meant. And that's exactly what he doesn't want me to do. 

Breaths of fire. 

My partner's kick in my arse certainly lights a fire under me and gives me the permission (that I didn't need) to do some much needed introspection. 

A crackling fire can be meditative on one's journey to passion. 

I've always known my commitment to youth and wellness. It's how my career in higher education started -- focusing on students and their personal development and providing opportunities for them to grow emotionally and intellectually.

My passion leads me back to . . . youth and mindfulness. Supporting young people in the life skill of continuously being present. Kids are experts at living in the moment. Sadly once school happens, that know-how dissipates with pressures of achievement.  Yet, mindfulness is such an important skill to maintain through all stages of life.

Breaths of excitement inspire me to fervently research certifications in children's yoga instruction and mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). I've looked into several studios, schools and have connected with a couple of resources in the industry. 

I haven't felt this exhilarated in quite a while -- in fact so energized that I actually committed myself to a training with Child Light Yoga this summer as well as an introductory class in MBSR as soon as this March. 

Thanks to my most amazing life partner . . . finding my rhythm once again.  

May we all be fearless and inspired to nurture ourselves in this journey called Life.   


New Year's Breath

a delicate layer of winter's ice
holds the pond
like this exact moment 
in time
minted in my heart