2018 Hopeful New Year

This afternoon, I was thankful to savor a sacred pause in the company of a wise friend with whom I hadn't visited in a while. We welcomed our pre-New Year's hike, and the crisp air was restorative. Wishing you & your loves a Hopeful New Year. 

another Very Jersey Holiday has come and gone
like the Miracle of Christmas.
i return to the ice-covered lake
freshly frozen and still --
i feel *Trust*
even when 2017 has brought monstrous social damage
and gut wrenching heartache
whilst in the thick of what burbles beneath 
the depths of the benumbed wintry sheet
i find *Courage*
to break through to a more *Hopeful* New Year



Every morning, I try to hike my version of 'wild.' Perhaps wild enough to know that we need time to be tame. 

While I imagine that I can be Cheryl Strayed or Reese Withersoon in the book or movie versions not yet having hiked alone the entire almost five miles around the entire lake, appreciating my morning can sometimes be a struggle. Sometimes it goes smoothly because I tried with every effort to be patient. Other times, I wish I hadn't become so frustrated and yelled so much at N. for fear of not walking out quickly enough and missing the schoolbus.

Some mornings are certainly wilder than others. Once N. is off to school, it's time to go on a not-so-epic hike. A not-so-into-the-wild one. 

A time to be gentle with myself. 

Even with the bunyan-esque trees swaying in the wind that whips just a bit on chilling days, this manageble time -- even in the wilderness of Burke Lake -- is delicious. 

I am completely alone. The trail is big enough that other hikers, runners or walkers are spaced out enough that we don't bother each other. It's quiet time to clear my mind or just spend time with those whom I miss terribly -- my Dad, my dearest friend -- especially with the holidays approaching. 

On the coldest days, the shallowest parts of the lake have the thinnest sheet of ice as geese and ducks glide along the edge.

And I imagine that I am just as fancy-free to go about my day.

Wishing you some delicious time to yourself before the holidays swoop us into the wild. 


Life changing breaths

o sweet silence 
that speaks when there are no words
i try . . . to breathe in 
-- acceptance
i breathe out -- 
i try . . . to embrace transition and impermanence
o sweet silence
that allows the best to come through me 
at any moment

This past weekend, I was grateful to have attended my monthly all-day meditation sangha. It has been tremendously comforting as I continue to mourn the loss of my dear friend and celebrate in memories too. [Also thankful that my enthusiastic N. is inspired to meditate for an entire two minutes, which can certainly be challenging for a 5yo!]


Meet me where the sky touches the lake

I've been putting off writing about my best friend's sudden death. Not wanting it to be true. 

Ethel died. She's gone. 

Now that I see it in writing, it's much too raw, too real. 

We met at such a pivotal time of burgeoning adolescence in our lives. Our deep connection carried us into young adulthood. Even with different careers and adult friends, we have always managed to get together and stay caught up. 

Ethel and I saw each other through our crushes, dating trials and relationships, and she has been an amazing long distance tita, always thoughtful in sending the coolest presents to my daughter since she was born. 

Funny enough Ethel is 20 years older than Devyn, her daughter, my goddaughter. I am 40 years older than my daughter, Nayla; and (Ate) Devyn is 20 years older than Nayla. The magic of our intimate wisdom circle is exquisite. 

This past week and a half, so many memories engulfed me in my quiet moments, especially during my walk/runs along the lake . . . 

* Ethel and I first met at the Academy of St. Aloysius Higher Efficiency (HEP) prorgram. It's amazing how the universe works. Out of all the participating 12-year-olds, the universe brought us together as friends. 

* We spent a summer posting flyers on cars in the parking lot of Hudson Mall to promote (her dad's) Tito Nards' Bayonne-based business. 

* We auditioned for plays together at St. Peter's Prep. 

* After spending a weekend visit with me in college at Rutgers (New Brunswick), she called to tell me that she was pregnant. At first, I thought she was once again testing my gullibility. (Admittedly, she shared, apparently being sick, on the pill and taking antibiotics were not a good mix.)

* In our twenties, our celebratory birthday and casual meetup dinners steered us toward Cafe Espanol in The Village, where we feasted on seafood paella and drank the evening away with a pitcher of sangria and found ourselves sitting on the bathroom floor laughing hysterically because we were oh so drunk (with love for each other too!) and still had to make our way home back on the PATH. 

I am so grateful that Ethel, Dev, Nayla and I have shared in a couple of soirees together. I will forever celebrate Ethel's creative light, her impeccable style whether it's fashion, music, or interior design. She has never stopped following her ever enhancing desires and dreams. Most recently, she was studying reiki energy healing. 

Her (and Justin's) most remarkable blessing shines so radiantly. It is an honor to know Devyn, who inspires me with her courage and passion for all that she does around the arts, social justice, and for her friend and family circles. 

I will miss you terribly, my dearest Ethel. No more fanciful notes in the mail, no more facetime calls. As I mourn and learn to embrace impermanence, I drink to your extraordinary and brilliant (as Ethel's brother Rey put it) light. My heart is aglow with wonderful memories of you. 

Let there be no doubt, my memory is long and wide, sister of mine. 

So twisted it is that you should die in the autumn when fall bursts with its last beauty, and nature saves up for the grand finale. With every walk in the dying leaves, I will remember your brilliance.

Meet me where the sky touches the lake, my dearest friend. 


In the name of Autumn

last night's thunderstorm resounded in worship
and this morning's muddy gravel crunch leads me to 
a moment of truth
as the glimmer of the lake ripples
rain mittles from the pearly stoned sky
i stand in prayer
flashes of amber & ruby fire
a lone duck glides along the lake
i am alone too
as the fall breeze whispers and shushes
in waves
i tune in to the bob of the pier
a gust upon my back
the swell in the trees
my heart swells too
with praise


Family ties

Sometimes meeting family for the first time is like a blind date, full of excited and anxious energy. The idea of meeting them for the first time, thinking 'will we get along, will we like each other?'

And when it works out, it's a familial bond and memories in the making. Am grateful to have met another family member from Saudi, who spent a couple of nights visiting with us.

that first hello
cautious so as not to offend
we barrel through the family ties that bond
learning about each other's pasts, each other's lives

when it's time to leave
we are thankful for our shared time together
a rare meeting forever in our hearts

no matter where we breathe around the globe
the draw of family
pulls us towards home


Enthusiast here

Last weekend, I participated in my monthly all-day mindfulness workshop at the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax. Since then (and since I'm currently not working outside of the home), I've been toying with the idea of how to briefly describe myself. You know how on facebook, the "About" section pops up with a round of questions: What makes you happy? What's your life motto? Where would you like to visit? What are your hobbies? And I came up with this -- An enthusiast of simply delicious moments

I'm making that my personal tag.

In the struggle to establish a new balance between tending to family needs, keeping home, volunteering in the community and at N.'s school, figuring out next steps, and taking care of myself, I also strive to practice awareness and compassion in all aspects of life, to take stock of as many simply delicious moments as possible such as ... 

* our trek to the bus stop with my morning coffee in hand as N. asks for a couple of firm hugs & kisses before she boards.

* my daily morning walk/run/woods bath after N. boards the schoolbus, during which I'm constantly on the lookout for our resident neighbors -- mama deer and fawn, listening to the creeks' trickle, trying not to be startled by the enormous squirrels rustling through the early fallen leaves. 

* my at home Yoga with Adriene, who gently and playfully encourages me to find what feels good with every practice. Adriene welcomes all levels of students (including my not so flexhible self), is down-to-earth, passionate and compassionate when it comes to mindfulness. 

* working in the midst of quiet, whether it's the dishes, laundry, scheduling doctors' appointments, calling/writing my local legislators, participating in local school board/PTA meetings or journaling. 

* preparing dinner, including my daily search on allrecipes.com dependent on ingredients available. 

* welcoming my loves home from school and work as I'm sensitive not to bombard them with questions about how their day went given their need to decompress.

Simply delicious moments, these are. A mindful enthusiast, I try to be. 


August whirlwind

Five. Forty-five. Nine. An august whirlwind of significant years and events, including lunch lines, laugh lines, and star lines. It's amazing how quickly the summer continues to pass like the two-minute solar eclipse. Magical and wondrous, but only for a moment. 

We've spent these early years prepping N. to be brave, kind and curious. And in a second, off goes my heart on the bus -- all on her own -- to kindergarten. August truth. She is more than ready to explore the world of *five* and all that is possible this year. This past summer, after family visited from Saudi Arabia, N. was most interested in culture and why some girls and women wear hijabs, even dressing her babies in their own head scarves. Just yesterday, she befriended a neighbor on the bus who wears sparkly and colorful headwraps, kindersized. 

August truth. I will always be forty years older than my daughter. Since last year, I have been applying wrinkle/laugh line moisturizer to my face. Made especially for those 45+. Yes, I am a laugh line expert, and I embrace the honor. Thankful my partner embraces my 45-years-young expertise too. 

August truth. Nine years since my Dad died. On N.'s glorious first day of kindergarten, a couple of days before Dad's death anniversary, a beautiful black-blue-orange-white spotted butterfly (limenitis arthemis) hovered for some minutes on our front lawn, wings fluttering ever so peacefully. Tearfully, I read it as a hello from Dad, a butterfly angel watching over N., over us. What a delightful welcome to the new school year. 
August truth. Our blessings are abundant. We couldn't be more excited and grateful for Life's inspired goodness. 

May your august whirlwind be filled with flashes of magic and thanksgiving.


Mindful coffee

I decided to unwind at our local Gathering Grounds cafe while N. was in Space/Music Quest camp for the half day. Early and quiet enough with the bustle of Braddock Road in the background, the outdoor University Mall sits across from George Mason University. Not exactly rustic, but also not New York City. Unexpectedly I plopped myself down in meditation. With my coffee. 

Three deep breaths. Listen to the sounds around me. Take a sip, taste the boldness. Sit and breathe. Move my tongue. What's the after taste like? Still robust? 

Three deep breaths. Feel where I'm sitting. Comfortable chair, firm ground? What else is happening around me? Feel a breeze? Feel the sunshine? Hear the birds chirping? Notice the tiny flowers on the sapling tree?

Take another sip. As I swallow, really taste the coffee. Smile ever so slightly. Be thankful for who grew, who picked the coffee beans, who brewed the coffee. 

Three deep breaths. In gratitude for my cup of coffee. 

I set an intention for the day . . . May I be more aware of my gift of taste and for those who prepare delectable treats from farm to table. 


All I see is magic

fountains pour with sunjoy
adventure leaps
gleeful titterings spring
from younglings' fruity flumes
welcomed summertime delight


Sweet land

The thing about gratitude is that it also reminds us about what we might take for granted.

We've been so blessed to spend a week with family visiting from Saudi Arabia. I haven't seen them since my last trip to the Philippines in 2003, so it was a much welcome reunion. 

Full of music, laughter and the occasional work-it-out moments between two strong young miss personalities just a year apart (one going on 6yo and the other on 5yo), our humble home held wafting smells of homemade meals made together. From Mom's signature palabok (noodle dish topped with shrimp gravy, shrimp, smoked fish flakes, pork cracklings, and eggs) to Alex's kaldareta (beef stew) to Criselda's chapchae (Korean glass noodles) and my macNcheese with mushrooms, not to mention merienda treats such as turon (wrapped banana and jackfruit) and royal bibingka (glutinous rice cake), our visit was complete. Staying up past midnight to share in the Cadelina crazy about our families, dreams and just being in each other's presence . . . what a summertime gift!

As a married woman living in the United States, I certainly take for granted my freedom to run errands, have my daughter in tow, take her to various activities on my own, without my husband. But for my cousin, Criselda, her day-to-day reality consists of waking at 4am to prep her three kids (ages 6yo t0 17yo) for school, breakfast for her family of five and packing lunches fo rthem. Her husband, Oliver, whose workday last from 7am-3pm, is on drop-off and fetch duty for the kids from Philippine International School, while Criselda for safety and cultural reasons busily takes care of the home. Criselda and the kids cannot go out in public without Oliver. Saudi weekends are Fridays and Saturdays when they gather with their church families to worship and share in each other's lives. Then it's back to the grind on Sunday once again. And to think Saudi life is a major improvement in terms of economic opportunity than to have remained in the Philippines for a family headed by an engineer and radiology technician.

Still, Criselda and Oliver manage to nurture a family that loves music (impressively self-taught guitar, drums and piano), that loves food (especially burgers freshly grilled), that loves Spirit, and that loves connecting heart-to-heart (as Criselda and Oliver affectionately call each other "Heart").

So grateful to have the opportunity to get to know Elize, Gio, and Matt as well as reconnect with Criselda and Oliver. No matter how exahusted we might have been from the day's adventure, our conversations were full of abiding encouragement, love and kinship. Family can run deep, and the best times are when we gather round.


Mindbusy memories

We've been honored to know a few college graduates this season, which made for a busy May. N. had the delightful opportunity to attend her cousin's university graduation ceremony in DC! And we beamed when N. completed her last day of preschool. 

My Dad would've been 78 years old this month. With every special moment whether it's N.'s moving up last day event at preschool, a good day at swim class, or her first day of camp, I so very much wish he were here to know her. Sometimes I wish I could just make a phone call and get his opinion on a small home improvement project. 

It's been nine years since he died. I lit a candle in church yesterday to honor my Dad's memory. 

Memories flood me. Dad trying to teach (unathletic) me how to play tennis. Dad attending my parent/teacher conferences in high school. How he supported my community fundraisers and projects when I worked with Filipino American youth and would make his friends tag along too. How he came with me on my first home hunt (because I clearly wasn't getting married then and had been renting for nine years). Along with my mom, their first meetup with A. for breakfast at Little Quiapo in Jersey City, and my mom regretfully said that she should have cooked a traditional meal at home. 

The thing about good memories is that when our loved ones are dead and gone, we have images in our mind that conjure up meaningful experiences. The feelings reemerge as if we were present at those very specific moments full of love and affection. I am nostalgic. But the nostalgia groove can only last so long as reality nips. 

I go on a run. I reconnect with myself and my emotions. I am thankful to have spent my Dad's dying days with him. I am thankful that we were able to know each other as father and daughter in my adulthood before cancer took over, that I was able to appreciate him not only as my Dad, but as a person too. 

My mind may be busy as I continue to live without my Dad physically present, and I realize that gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart, not in the mind.


Self care = earth care

Am blessed to have participated in a six-hour mindfulness practice today on Earth Day. What a way to celebrate and practice alongisde 19 other individuals and under the tutelage of Thu Nguyen who has shared in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh for over 30 years. On a path toward MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) certification, I've been searching for a place where I can get comfortable and am thankful to have visited at the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax today. 

Housed in a simple, circular and sacred space with large windows looking out into the woods, the center is a most welcome respite. The only colorful decorations were those of 1000 paper cranes and two tapestries. As a wife and mama to a rising kindergartener, it's a challenge to be "on" -- on the ball, on my game -- every single day. So, today was one long aaahhhhhhh . . .  

This morning began with a guided meditatation. To heed this older man's gentle and compasisonate voice as I found my calm breath was soothing. Even more amazing was to witness this teacher's light, his serene face and ever-so-slight smile, as he led us in a movement meditation. What an experience to be in his presence. And our walking meditation as we listened to the the rain fall peacefully in the woods reminded me how each step of each foot on the Earth can be intentional. 

Admittedly, the closing songs caught me a bit off guard. It wasn't chanting, more like folk songs (I am a cloud, I am a flower, I am the sunshine . . . ). The guitarist enouraged us to let go of our inhibitions as if we were two-year-olds. I remained open and reminded myself that singing is wonderful practice for breathing and being in the moment (after all, that's why I did it all four years of college). 

Not a hardcore lunch meditation, our shared meal involved some eating in silence. We each brought a vegetarian dish to contribute to the pot luck. While I'm familiar with chewing much longer and eating more slowly, to do this in complete silence and in the presence of a community is mind-body blowing. What a powerful reminder of how we rush through our meals and indulge way too much. Imagine, samples from 20 varied tasty dishes. What a feast! At the sound of the bell, we would pause wherever we were in our meal, only smiling to acknowledge each other's company. After eating in silence for most of our meal, we could then chat. 

That I am with this Earth for such a short time sometimes weighs heavy on my thoughts. I continue to work to understand how our deeper connections with people are related to healing the Earth, that our personal consciousness is part of the Earth's consciousness, and our human energy is always tapping into the Earth's energy. We are partners with Earth. We must remember as much as possible to act with grace and social justice. 

My everyday mindfulness is an ongoing journey that involves engaging others, caring for ourselves and minding the earth. 

May the sun bring you energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your anxieties, may the breeze blow new strength into your being, & may you walk tenderly on the Earth & know its beauty. 



everyday is a gift of magic
may we be still enough to unwrap 
the miracle of everyday

Inspired by a JC mate who is deeply adored by families and communities all over the world. A mother of 11 children, devoted wife of a retired Air Force Colonel, and faithful believer in Spirit, she is most magical herself. The stars call her up above much too soon. Love, peace & light to Auline (Ello) & Team Platt.


Glad to give

It's a burn some bay leaves cleansing kinda day . . . 

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in church and listened to the priest tell the story of a couple who made the choice to live simply and generously, and their story resonated with me. What is tremendously heartful is living modestly so that we can give to the common good and make donations to our favorite causes. Now more than ever. 

Whether it's the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, or any cause that our family members and friends are dancing, jump roping, running, or walking for, we're glad to be able to give in honor of, in memory of someone. 

On the eve of International Women's Day/Day Without A Woman (March 8), I acknowledge that one of my my best female role models with her compassion and generosity is my mom, who is always glad to give. She and my dad always chose to live modestly and remain in Jersey City. It's a fine balance to live modestly and comfortably and have the ability to give openhandedly. To this day, she will intimately confess how she has provided funds to put a nephew, niece or few through medical, nursing or seminary studies, of which sometimes she has also been taken advantage of by relatives. Nevertheless, she persists in her giving. 

My mom is an amazing Lola. Sure, every grandma has a right to spoil her grandchildren. And when you're currently the only grandchild, oh what fun to receive packages in the mail for no reason at all. Brown paper packages in Lola's handwriting and sufficiently taped up. Delightful surprises of treats from our favorite Bayonne bakery Judicke's, new clothes and a new toy or two most appreciated by N., whose wardrobe is complete until age 8 so far. 

No doubt that Lola is always glad to give. I am thankful to try to follow her example. 

Courage, my friends. What a blessing it is to give cheerfully, accept gratefully, and hope that we are contributing to a better world. 


Good girls revolt

So thankful to have marched in DC alongside almost half a million individuals who care about their families, each other's families. A dear friend and I perched ourselves on a rusted metal scaffolding for most of the time. High enough to see all of the mall covered in a sea of pink and creative signage -- standing room only. Except for the one creepy man with beady eyes hidden behind a ski mask and wearing a black backpack which was against the rules, whom I tried not to freak out about and wanted to alert a marshal amongst marchers unable to progress because the entire route was completely filled, I took it all in . . . 

ocean swells of fandango, 
passion fruit, primrose, raspberry,
punch, rouge, & shocking blossom
womyn, men, woke children, youngfolk, & sages
blessed to don the pussycrown 
handmade by a seattle sister
to share this herstory
with a fellow villager 
we channel past suffragists
with future sisters, brothers, & citizen warriors
in resistance
in revolution
in love
electrifying mass movement
around the world
kinetically charged
action required
high voltage


My word!

My word, it's a new year! And I'm inspired to pick my word. 

Balance. Yes, my word for 2017.

As the new year kicks off, change is a-comin'. New administration. Ugh.

My four-year-old starts Pre-K in two days. Ugh. I know that she and I are both ready for this next step. She enthusiastically says she is going to college. I emphasize, the path to college starts with Pre-K. 

Actually, we have been a bit out of sync for the past month, my little lady and I. It's because we are growing. Outgrowing each other a bit, perhaps? As much as I am grateful for being able to be hands on everyday for the past four years, the time has come for each of us to explore other opportunities individually. It's been absolutely unnerving how N. has become even more defiant and more vocal. I reassure myself, she's expressing her inner warrior. But then the screaming and grunting becomes too long of a fit and feels unmanageable, and I want to explode. I have to contain myself. Ugh. This parenting gig is exhausting, frustrating, and HARD. No one admits that enough.  

I need to return to myself. How will I cultivate Balance in this new year? Instead of random runs and quickie yoga spurts, I will be determined to make time for myself. The afternoon of New Year's Eve, I luxuriated in the treat of a scheduled deep tissue massage. It's been much too long a time since I've had one. As the technician worked to ease the usual tension in my neck, shoulder, and upper back areas, I reveled in the soothing pain of the intense pressure points. At the end of my 90-minute muscle therapy, she recommended more frequent enhanced deep muscle heat therapy. I could feel the much welcome difference in my body after a mint and rosemary infused session that also relieved my aching sinuses. 

Now that the three of us have finally recovered from sickness that lasted from before the holidays, through Christmas, and thereafter, I feel even more urgency to welcome Balance in the new year of the rooster. Ready to take action, ready to take chances, and ready to respond with wit and practicality. 

May we all be in Spirit to choose a meaningful word for 2017, so much so that our hearts carol in appreciation of every breath, and we are more cheery, loving, and patient.