Thank you, Covid

As the holidays approach, I find myself even more reflective than I've ever been these past nine months struggling to live optimistically in the midst of covid. Moments of ridiculous laughter followed by a welcome release of tears while facetiming with my cousin in California . . . just because . . . as we continue to persevere and build resilience. Thank you, Covid, for giving us a reason to love harder. May this season of hibernation root you deeply as we round the corner to a new year of resetting, restoring and retooling. Ongoing fierce love & wellness . . . 

i see my reflection in their eyes
my daughter's
my partner's 
and i am devotedly imperfect
like the cheeseburger rice with broccoli
topped with kimchi
i cheffed up for wednesday night's dinner
in the midst of a pandemic
we drag perfectly imperfect
everyday a poem to breathe


Wild remedy

my rake scrapes along the sidewalk
my ears crumple in the unpleasantness
cemented in my own madness
thirsty for a dose of Spirit medicine
we forage the leaves
forage the leaves in pleasant contemplation

may the world be filled with loving kindness
may the world be well
may the world be peaceful and at ease
may the world be happy

my body hankers wildly for simple silence
forage the leaves
forage the leaves


Stolen moment

while all lovers of pumpkin
their long awaited spiced zest
i brew my first fall cuppa 
steamed apple cinnamon smacks my lips
despite that my first love
is homemade french-pressed dark roast
i stand wholehearted 
on the edge of the afternoon Light
we are intimately involved at the moment 
her golden embrace 
reminiscent of the Pohick natives
who revered this same Sun and season
i surrender and fall into myself 
and seal my wishful practice


Good mourning

Friday night, my phone blows up with text messages along with social media. RBG dead. Text after text, we're f&^%$#! Already living day after day with that doomed feeling while struggling to be hopeful, another wave of dread sets in. 

Before bedtime, N. finds RBG in her Rebel Girls book volume and grabs a pen to mark her death date since it's not indicated on the page. September 18, 2020. 

I try to sleep.

Saturday morning, we've planned for a trek on an unfamiliar trail. My eight-year-old reminds me, I thought you were going to wear your RBG tshirt. 

That's right! I change from my "I Am Strong" to RBG and "Never underestimate the power of a girl with a book." 

During the drive, our family chats about Dump 2020, and I well up wondering how much my girl will remember of this year. Covid, family deaths, distance learning, Dump, RBG. What else? The year's not over yet. We arrive and immerse ourselves in a woodsbath that also winds along a farm with horses, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, a bunny and a cat. I'm in search of the small waterfall that I read about online. Barely anyone on the trail, we run into a South Asian elder and ask where the waterfall might be. He shares that he knows of no waterfall, but a quaint clearing up ahead at the end of the stream. 

No waterfall?! Disappointment sets in. Again. 

No one else is around. We take off our masks and soak in the sound of the stream, the tree oil, and the crisp morning air.

Deep breaths. It's okay. I'm grateful we're healthy and together on a Saturday morning. 

Good mourning.

Before I co-teach an afternoon mindfulness session, N. and I watch the RBG documentary. I'm intent on making sure N. knows who RBG is. N. asks, Why are you crying, Mom? 

Because RBG was an amazingly smart and strong warrior woman who exuded social justice and had such an impact in our world. Because she is someone you can look up to, N. 


30th Day August

This day, every year, I comb through photo albums in search of photos of us, you and me as a young child. Sadly, there aren’t too many, the few blurred pictures that

St. Joseph's Church
create what delicate memories I have. I recounted to N. what this morning was like twelve years ago. Today is the day that your Lolo died, and we especially remember him today. Like the movie Coco. She asks, Can we place his picture on the altar?

It was the one time we decided to sleep at our home in need of a short respite as we were on death watch for the past almost three weeks. Early morning, Mom called, Come now. A. and I raced down the turnpike in silence. I’d been doing this drive back and forth between my parents’ and ours for a while now.

Nunda Ave.
The time to say goodbye had arrived. 

Deeply grateful that you chose to die on your own terms. Having stopped all treatment, dying at home and prepared to brave infinite life beyond the stars. 

A toast to you, Dad.



Every year, we recount to N. the story of her birth (five weeks early) -- unexpected, frightening, and joyful all at once. Our August back-to-back birthdays are a month-long celebration in our home. A new beginning as we thankfully circle the Sun once again, a time for renewal. This year, a 2020 re-set. It has to be, what with seven deaths in our circles, four of them due to covid. While trying hard not to count, I'm working to also engage in a daily kindness challenge, finding ways to spread the wellness. 

Birthday bouquets of flowers gifted to me -- seaside escape, sunflower burst, and summer sweet -- still make my heart sing this week as I am in awe of the connections I have with these special individuals (including my partner!) in my life. They are generous, kind and warmhearted. Not to mention all the loveys who shared their greetings with drop-bys and in real time too. Thank you, Mr. Yuan, for Zoom. 

One of the best memories made during birthday month? Swinging in the sprinkler!

Tomorrow, I'll be attending my second celebration of life service via Zoom. This time, the last of my Dad's siblings, Constante B. Cabalda, finally reunited with his sisters (Esperanza, Josefina, Oliva), brothers (Benjamin, Vivencio, Amante), and parents (Emerenciano and Concepcion) beyond the stars.

we are born into the Light
in the promise of bringing rapture to others
and perhaps we die following the Light
leaving hope behind
like a mason jar full of written wishes so tender
we carry them protected in our hearts
and penned in the stars


For Papa Joon

L Ross Gallery

in the garden
i am not alone
where summer's rain 
bounces on blades of grass
i listen to the voice
of the goldfinch that 
glints on a distant branch

i hear Presence
Who dances with me
in the drizzle 
and Spirit's movement
inspires me so 

the rain turns
into quiet tears 
then joyful howls of the Sun
and the Light beams 
from my heart and i know
i am not alone


Daughters of Rutgers

junior year at Rutgers 
our first apartment off campus
inherited from floormates a year older 
our first time
we did it together
 . . . 
our attempt at a homecooked meal
falafel with fava beans
soaked first then mashed 
no food processor in 1992
the aroma of onions, parseley, red pepper, 
salt and cumin
filled our two-bedroom flat
 . . .
almost like Sally's lebanese restaurant 
in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
my roommate spoke of 
her family's legendary feasting tradition
. . . 
crisp fattoush salad
ingredients from the local co-op 
where she rented a plot of land for veggies
lettuce, cucumber, red onion, grape tomates, 
radishes, mint, lemon
so fresh we could taste the dirt and 
the rainwash from the produce
and pita chips from the middle eastern bakery 
on george street
. . . 
breaking bread together in our first apartment
relishing our strength and independence
and sister love on the banks of the ol' Raritan
. . .
'tis then the daughters of Rutgers meeting
brush mould'ring dust from mem'ry's screens
and deep in faith renew our greeting,
for love we bear to Queens'


All the feels

The past two weeks have been all about reconnecting with my past lives as an educator and artivist. It's been surreal to engage in discussions where I haven't played an active role in 14 years. As much as those ideals have continued to govern how I parent and choose to be involved in my current communities, I haven't been in those spaces in a very long time. Difficult conversations about race relations, solidarity, how Filipinx and Black lives intersect . . . we are still having the same chats we were having in the mid-1990s.

I am grateful that my closest friends -- artists, nonprofit leaders, parents, professors, and public servants -- keep me posted on their work. I have missed being around brown, sassy and smart folk! They keep me woke to the compassionate work that continues within ourselves and the social justice that continues through day-to-day actions in our communities. 

To my reawakening, those ideals that I put long hours into are still a part of me. From one zoom gathering to another, I've been processing all the feels, reuniting with fellow activists in those spaces where identity informs art informs action informs reflection. Where dialogue happens, there's a chance for individual and community transformation, and a conscientization practice. Hello again, Paulo Freire. It's been a while since we were introduced. 

With deepest gratitude to NYC cultural organization arkipelago and organizers and panelists of 1SANG BAGSAK AS VERB. (Isang Baksak gesture literally means “one fall” in Tagalog but is figuratively understood as “things can't get done if people don't communicate and work together”.) 



Miss the honeysuckle

I can't smell the spring honeysuckle. I usually delight in the aroma on our back deck or on my hikes. Have I lost my sense of smell? Or have we been hunkered down too long, and the sweet scent just passed me by? With the world on pause, shouldn't it be bloomimg ramapant like the deep lavender fullly bulbous American wisteria vine along our fence? 

At this time of #physicaldistancingstillsocial, I miss the honeysuckle, the tight affectionate squeezes of far away family and embraces of good friends, especially when we've had to mourn loved ones. Grateful to be home, safe and healthy with my daughter and partner, of course. 

Miss the honeysuckle. 

The first hint of it in the spring comes as a familiar treat like the season's first order of clam strips at our favorite Keyport fishery that we take to eat on the bay's pier or the first custard cone of the summer along the Jersey Shore's boardwalk. Miss the honeysuckle like that back in the day school's almost over! feeling when on the first warm evening, Mr. Softee truck sounds his musicbox (my nine-year-old self used to imagine a monkey hidden in the freezer truck cranking out the tune), and I gather any change I can find to afford a vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles. Now in northern Virginia, I look forward to the woodsy honeysuckle as much as my almost eight-year-old looks forward to her first dip in June's outdoor pool. 

Lots of misses this year as we figure out this summer's joys amidst the pandemic. I see more day road tripping than usual. More sprinkler running, backyard swinging, hoseshoe throwing and cornhole too. 

Though lots of misses for sure the rest of the year, so important for me to be mindful of how much more there is too. Even with distance learning/crisis schooling, more time to explore what's not typically part of the curriculum like the other American histories. Certainly more family time than we've spent than when on vacation. More time for blackjack 21, movie days and nights, grilling and firepit weekends - s'mores included, and putting up the tent which has been previously reserved for snow days. 

In the meantime, I'll bathe in the woods and soak up the treeoil and some vitamin D as much as I can. 

So here's to more . . . until we make it to the other side.


For Imelda

i sit half past twelve in the afternoon
and search for inspiration
amidst poems of death and grief
i've had my morning coffee
i've lit a candle
that reminds me to breathe
with its blue ashen hue scented 'breathe'
i root in prayer
gazing outside my window
the usual cascading shades of sky
are smoky and stone shadows today
as our loved ones at a 277-mile distance
lay you to rest
my heavy heart clumsily sheds tears
and i look for the rainbow in the drizzle


Wishful wisteria

We planted wildflower seeds today. Grateful I can gaze outside our kitchen window, see and feel this . . .

let us interconnect
like the lilac wisteria 
enmeshed in compassion
blissful and tender 
our consciousness 
of each other heightens 
in Spring's breath


Covid deep

The other day I fussed out because I didn't have the zoom number and code for NB's ballet class. After messaging her ballet school and texting a fellow mom, I realized it's spring break, spring f#$%#*! break. Oh, right. Classes resume after Easter. 

Since then, I've finally been processing the number of folks in our family/friends circles who've been hit by covid, including two elderly deaths (each died completely alone in the hospital); three friends not hospitalized; one friend's senior father also recently hospitalized; cousin husband and wife in their young 50s recently hospitalized, he came home this afternoon and she is on oxygen, her doctor not ready to put her on a vent; and a Jersey City high school mate's 50-year-old brother, who died today.

Once I learned my high shcool mate's news, not the kind I delight in learning on facebook, I busy myself with prepping dinner, homemade whole wheat spinach-kale pizza. Late afternoon, I feel sick to my stomach. In the background, N. trekking up and down the stairs, enjoying  a messenger video-chat playdate with her pals, whom she has not seen since school closed on March 13th. I let her date linger longer than usual. 

Definitely need a glass of wine tonight with dinner. Just a glass. I wonder if I'm sharing too much (texting too much), all the folks I know who have been hit by covid. I'm hoping they're praying too. Maybe there are folks who don't want to know, don't want to hear about dearest friends and family whom we're terrified for, concerned for their survivors. Maybe others just cope differently and want to keep isolated in hope and positivity. As I spend my waking hours keeping it together with creative enthusiasm for my seven-and-a-half-year-old, who doesn't hesitate to ask about the corona virus, and we respond as appropriately and lovingly as possible without alarming her, always sure to mention all the helpers working to keep others healthy and find a cure, I seek space and permission to process my deeply laden anxiety, fear and sadness. I'm stunned. Almost every day, we call our senior parents and remind them, Don't go out. Please stay home. Doubtful there will be a vaccine by the fall, my partner and I briefly mention the possibility of having to homeschool then. How could we risk sending N. to school? I'm not ready for this discussion. Nope, can't deal with that real possibility yet. 

After dinner, definitely need a shower. I miss my four-mile hikes/woodsbaths. Yes, we have a trail that runs behind our home. But in beautiful sun, lots of foot and bike traffic along with people who seem to not understand the importance of physical distance. Can't deal with that frustration. A friend suggested that I take a walking stick and hold it parallel to the ground to remind folks what physical distance is! So the treadmill it is in addition to our neighborhood strolls during off-peak hours, and whatever yogi Adriene has to offer in terms of finding what feels good. Tonight it was finding my center. 

And cake in a mug as often as possible can be centering too. 

Grateful to be at home with my loves. Here's to the Earth healing and resetting. Wishing you loving wellness. May you feel safe and grounded with those dearest to your heart. 


Sunlight rinse

let us hope
that every person
fills with softness and grace
like a sunlight rinse in a woods bath
ridding our bodies of anxiety, fear and sickness
let us be living angels 
who walk a deeply loved and healed earth


Holding space

Am still getting the alerts on my phone to make sure we're at the bus stop in the morning. To make sure that I'm at the bus stop at pickup in the afternoon. Am afraid to delete them for fear that we may never return to the normal schedule before covid-19. 

And now we find ourselves in this new normal attempting to do a combination of homeschooling and unschooling as we keep up with our reading, writing and math and find time to explore interests that our formal classroom doesn't have time to teach us -- experiments, languages, oral family histories, field trips to other countries, and cartwheels outside! 

N. has said more than once, 2020 is a very unlucky year. I thought it was supposed to be a great year! Sadly yes, so far it seems very unlucky. So here we are working to appreciate our family time, no longer limited to just the weekends. It's now 24-7 as A. announces in the morning, Okay going to work now (upstairs on his laptop) . . . and in the afternoon, Back from my (3-second) commute. How long will this bad luck last? Our public school system has currently marked a return date of April 10th, while colleagues in higher education have cancelled university graduations. 

And then there's so much to read!

Stop. Reading. 

Maybe the widespread corona virus is the Universe's payback for all human wrongdoing including climate change, misguided politics, and modern entitled selfishness.  

Every day, with much effort I find time to center. My four-mile hikes are now short neighrborhood walks with N., making sure to be mindful of #physicaldistancingstillsocial as we wave to our neighbor and her kids from across the bluff. Or strolls behind our home to the creek. N. has a favorite spot she refers to as 'the beach.' My other grounding resource is #yogawithadriene, who recently uploaded Yoga for Uncertain Times

How do we hold space for the world that's on pause for who knows how long? Name five things we see. Four things we feel. Three things we hear. Two things we smell. Name one thing good about ourselves. 

Repeat as needed. 

As families united around the world are forced to pause, may we together hold space with much gratitude. 

With deepest apprecation for all the medical professionals who work tirelessly to provide compassionate care amidst intense chaos. From the daughter of a retired nurse. 

Hopeful that this too shall pass. We will return to our friends and families. We will embrace again. We will return to laughing together. Every second will be evermore treasured. 


February frost

february frost 
it's a color that i fancy
clouds set perfectly in the distance
as they glide gracefully ever so slowly backwards 
against the winter's nippy blue beyond
the blustery wind whips behind my back
and geese honk wildly as they descend on the lake
everyday i seek my hiking mate
the royal heron who ever so slowly 
wades along the water's edge
nowhere to be found today --
she must have tucked herself away 
from the february frost 


Year of the rat: Kindest year ever

Image result for lunar new year of the rat
artwork by B. Giordano
Lunar new year of the rat (1972, my year!) has kicked off super busy. From the Manibos' 50th anniversary celebration to A.'s black belt in Okinawan Shidokan to shaking all that is fierce women of color in the 40-50-year-old range (7yo NB voluntarily shielded her eyes in some superbowl halftime show moments) to NB's upcoming First Penance this weekend. And in the midst of festivity, my heart sinks as I drive by a local cemetery and daytime funeral procession. While I don't know who they mourn, I honor a stranger's life and quietly weep while others publicly mourn the deaths of a basketball legend and his daughter as if they were members of their extended families. 
As much as possible, I try to shut out the world of political insanity and chaos. Instead, I choose to focus on my worlds of immediate family, school community, and tribe of like-minded mommas. For now, my purpose is to be accessible to my second grader as well as serve my local community. Working at home is no easy feat as I frequently think about how to make my way back into the world of work outside of home and balancing family, public service, and self-care. 

At the heart of it all is kindness. When we have lost faith in democracy, when we feel the unsteady future and watch in slow motion as the ice cracks in the lake and we hold our breath, the world can be frighteningly chilling. And we hope, there is saving grace. That moment when someone/someones happen 'round the bend, see you and extend a lifeline. That is the gravity of faith and kindness in the Universe. 

Kindness makes sense when it's all that's left amidst loss, fear, and anger. Before we decide to pick up and exit (yes, we fantasize about living abroad), there's kindness to be done right here, right now in our local communities. For fear of hopelessness in a sea of hateful discord, may we band together, find what feels hopeful, and choose kindness. 


Little Christmas [aka Women's Christmas]

My loves are back to school and back to work today. Having awoke to Little Christmas this morning in celebration of the three Wise Women who likely were the ones supporting Mary at the her son's birth, I took a moment to thank the Universe for a blissful holiday. And yes, after the holidays, women deservedly require their own day of ballyhoo after all the magic they've chosen to orchestrate!

My much welcome 4mi-hike around Lake Royal, every mindful breath is sacred. At one point, I even feel an unexpected blowy touch on the back of my windbreaker. I imagine perhaps it's my Dad with a quick hello. With every just-a-taste dose of red wine during our Christmas in Connecticut, I miss him so. Just when the January breeze picks up through the trees, the ripples in the lake shimmer with such sparkle as seagulls gracefully take flight. And I take it all in (heartful sigh). 

May 2020 bring you Wise Women gifts of everyday peace, treasure and wellness.