I was "voluntold" to teach Faith Formation for 5th grade students at my parish and today was our very first meeting. I told them (I have 17 5th graders) that I am a "cradle-Catholic" and had strict parents who took us to church, made sure we did all our Sacraments (Baptism, Communion and Confirmation). We even went to a Catholic school while in the Philippines.
Faith is not linear. I've had multiple "God moments" and felt His presence. I've had PLENTY of dry spells and question/bargaining years. And all of that is okay. I posed this question on the board:
what does "faith" mean to you?
I had them write it down and reflect on it for a few minutes. What does it mean? And if they didn't know...that's okay. If they were still wondering what it all means...that's okay too. And if they wrote down, "I am only here because my parents signed me up and I do not believe...that's okay too.
This is for them and not for me or for others to look at or judge.
No faith journey is the same. No one (myself included) has all the answers. Who am I to question their heart and where they are?
I told them a very short history of my faith, some of my downs and a God moment. I told them if I were to die today, I want to be known for trying. I tried to walk the walk. I tried to love up on everyone. I try to be kind and helpful. Some of my tries aren't good enough and I acknowledge that. Some of my tries are half-hearted and out of duty - those I will also acknowledge. But I tried and that's all that matters, to me. You can't say I didn't try at relationships, friendships, a new adventure or whatnot. I showed up and that is what faith means to me. Showing up, just as I am.
I told them that while this is their faith journey and theirs alone, I will try to be what they need me to be - friend, mentor, teacher.
And maybe that is a heart of naivete speaking. More than anything, whatever we all learn from this journey together is to show up when it counts.
This is probably a great time to introduce myself to anyone new here.
Hello! I'm Leila and today is my birthday. I am currently "trapped" in the fun at an indoor water park with my family. Of all things to be and do for your 40th, but that's always been me. Random and silly. I spent my 21st birthday (and part of my bachelorette party) at a Dave & Buster's.
My writing journey goes way back to when I was about my daughter's age (10). I found comfort in words and in pages of a book versus...anything else around me. I still write, as much and as often as I can. But LIFE, man. It is fast, brutal, and sometimes, I forget what season I am in and if I've packed correctly.
I have not written a novel in decades. This fact makes me sad. I have 2 different work in progress: a novel in verse about a Filipina whose family comes from what we in the States consider a succubus...but a mananagal is much more complex than that. The other one has been in my heart since the rise of AAPI hate in 2020. I keep adding more heartbreaking and maddening poems...but I don't know when I'll be finished. I want to bring my stories, my culture into the forefront. It is who I am and I refuse to be a side character even in my make-believe world and I will not apologize for that. You call it diversity read. I call it my life and my point of view.
I am an advocate for moms. Women. Babies. Maternal mental health. My motherhood story began when I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia 10 years ago. This was followed by anxiety, depression, PTSD....and right into another preeclampsia diagnosis about 4-ish years later. My 2 kiddos are my world. I advocate and write and do all the things for them. For other mamas and for other babies.
This season, I am going into teaching. I started this journey sometime in 2019 on a whim. But I remember when I was younger wanting to be a teacher and my parents and aunt (who happened to be a teacher) voted against it. Teachers, at the time, didn't leave the Philippines. Only nurses and doctors did. Writers were also not encouraged. But that is a story within my poetry collection.
Anyway, I am so happy you are here! And thank you for sticking around. Reflections from a birthday milestone:
20s was a glorious mess of happenstance, travels, love and opportunities.
30s was the best up and downs of the loveliness of motherhood. This has been my identity for a decade.
But 40s.....this decade, I am going to embrace all things me: the silly, the random, the opportunities, the boldness and unapologetically saying no when I am uncomfortable.
This is 40, y'all.
I have been watching my children take swim lessons for the past 2 weeks. In the beginning, my oldest plunged feet first and did her best to swim. She looked forward to her daily lessons and seemed to shine brighter afterwards. My little one is the skeptic, anxious one; he negotiated every jump, every move, every lesson. I wasn't able to hear from my vantage point but I could see him talking to his instructor, shake his head and nod when she moved just a little bit closer. This is me heading into the school year.
I will be (hopefully) teaching kindergarten and I am skeptical of my abilities and super anxious about what our daily routine will look like. But because littles watch what we do, I know my daughter has a lot of me in her. This is me plunging into a teaching career at (almost) 40. I know I will do my best and I know that I will look forward to my kiddos. I loved doing virtual teaching. Those kiddos, I will forever think of as my very first class....even if TEA (Texas Education Agency) won't recognize the year I spent with them (long story). I loved seeing their excited faces and listening to their stories. I loved that they looked forward to talking to me about their weekends/holidays. If I try to be my best self, just as I did last year, then I should expect the same outcome. And after all, these are kindergartners. 5/6 year olds who are just as scared leaving their moms and dads and guardians at home to spend the full day with a stranger. I know on the very first day of school, we will all be thinking, "will they (she) like me?"
And I already love them for that.
Yesterday was their last day of swim. We did a 2 week "power course" which was 20 minutes of one-on-one instruction daily. By the end of the 10 days, my daughter almost "graduated" from the beginner and moved to the high tier end of advanced swim and safety. There are 10 tiers and she will be promoted to the 7th tier.
I only had 1 goal for the little man: for him to get out of the pool safe and to be able to put his head under water. I remember when I took him to the beach when he was a year old and he cried the entire time the water lapped at his feet. He is not my beach bum, nor my water loving buddy. Essentially, his dad.
But by the end, I watched with so much pride in my heart when he jumped into the pool and turn around, hang tight to the edge and climb back out. I watched him put his head under water and happily swam with a bar for balance/buoyancy and watched his legs kicking behind him.
Growth, patience, and lots of support and encouragement from both me and his instructor and he was able to not only meet the expectations I set for him, but soared on his own.
And that's the lesson I am taking away for myself this fall.
There will be tears. There will be anxious starts. I will negotiate. I will set goals for myself. But I know with lots of growth, patience, support, and encouragement, my class and I will not only exceed what my goals are but we will be able to soar.
May I remember this thought this fall. And if you are going into the teaching profession or go into writing full time.....may you remember this as well.
We can do it, friends.
And if you are able to, please consider donating. My kinders and I thank you:
I'm participating in another round of poetry marathon. 24 poems in 24 hours. This year - what with the world on fire: looming recession, Roe v Wade being overturned, school shootings and formula shortages.....I am TIRED. And I all I have left are words. 24 activist poems. Here we go.
Today was my child's 4th grade ceremony. And I am a mess.
Thankful and guilty.
I am thankful for the years of innocence and safety in this little world of ours.
I am guilty that others are grieving and worlds have shattered.
I am grateful for all her teachers and their protection.
I am guilty as a mom to have to ask another person to take a bullet for my child.
I am grateful that her treatments have made us this far.
I am guilty for feeling grateful.
I am a mess of emotions and yet, I am grateful that I know how to pretend to be fine and happy.
I am guilty that I have to pretend when this is not ok.
I am grateful that I am here.
I am guilty that anger and rage is boiling in my heart and I am grateful I know how to catch all that rage.
Guilty and grateful.
Words are powerful.
Actions can move move mountains. I am grateful.
I am guilty.
I am here.
I am enraged.
I am done.
And, guilty that tomorrow.... it'll be another day for me, for her, for us... and another slaughter will happen and this cycle will start again. And one day, perhaps, my world too will be shattered and who will feel guilty and thankful then? Who will grieve for us?
Thankful, guilty and fearful.
Hugs and hugs and light and love from this emotional mama.
I was in San Antonio yesterday for my first ever production. I'm not quite allowed to share photos I took on the set. That'll come later. I did manage to grab this shot and as there are no people and I'm not going to share the context, I will leave it here.
I'm currently replaying everything I've said about my #motherhood #preeclampsia #ppd story. There were things I wished I said. Words I wish I could go back and edit for clarification (and hope they completely cut it out of my segment).
Regardless, I am still coming down from being surrounded by the most amazing people I probably will never see again.
10 years ago, I never expected that my beginnings (my daughter's beginning) would continue to be replayed and reshared and shaped me into advocacy work. I never thought I'd share how I felt about my son. But I needed to reconcile the guilt, the anxiety, the rage and the traumatic birth and I began to heal by sharing how I felt.
And in the beginning, I was sharing into this abyss, not knowing that on the other side of that, were people willing to listen and people needing to see survivors and even still, moms who caught bits and pieces of my heartache, asked questions and later shared how they advocated for themselves.
Because of me.
When all I did was speak up.
And I get that there is bravery there. But there a stories upon stories that need to be told and shared. I don't know how much of my bravery changes things but I do know I'll never stop being an advocate.
Something about milestone birthdays that almost always makes us look back at our entire existence and wonder......have I accomplished everything I wanted to do before insert milestone year here.
While in 20s, I was still figuring out what I wanted in life. From pre-nursing student to get me out of here however it takes. I moved around. Went to 3 different schools. Found religion. Found love.
I was 29 1/2 when I had my first baby. Almost 34, when I had my second. Motherhood, in all its ups and downs, strengths and weakness found me in my 30s.
This was quite literary a life changing, life giving, life persevering decade.
But as I approach my 40s, I still have this need to look and ask myself, "have I done everything I wanted to do up until this moment?"
I can check off author, writer, teacher. I can check off some travels, not all...never all. I am grateful for every single opportunity of friendships that have come and gone, of books and stories that I'm able to pass on to my littles. But there were things in life that I've always wanted to do....but came up with a dozen excuses not to do them.
And as I'm a little neurotic and have 6 months to count down to the big 4-0 and I thought. Would I have to wait another decade countdown to accomplish these tasks - simple as they may be?
Behold, another list of things I wanted to do, wanted to pick up but in my wayward distracted self, I've somehow forgotten this list. I did add some of my 22 for 2022 to this and I am aware that some of these are not "one and done." I want to continue and carry some (like wanting to be Lucy Liu, get a black belt and wield a kantana) into the next decade. I found my own inner strength as a postpartum depression and preeclampsia survivor in my mid-30s.
This decade - 40s - I want to be the badass warrior that I know I am.
40 things to do before 40
On this MLK jr day (& impending milestone birthday), I am reflecting on legacies.... what we leave behind & what we hope & dream for our children.
I hope to pass on kindness, leave a legacy of gratitude & goodness. But tangibly, I'd like to leave something more than the imprints in their hearts.
I am a writer & advocate.
I have essays & poems & stories of motherhood, of faith that they can find & wrap themselves in.
I also come from a mama who has taught me to cook w love. I'm no
foodie. I'm quite picky, actually. But certain smells & taste bring me back to my home country 🇵🇭. I remember the fish ball vendor right outside my school. I vaguely remember the fish market or the Santol trees that grew up and out in my neighbor's yard. I can barely remember the taste of spaghetti with hotdogs but every time I make spaghetti for my kiddos, I often wonder what faces they'll make should a hot dog make an appearance in their pasta. 😂😂
I remember certain things with clarity but as a 9 year old who left, my memories have lost focus 30 years later.
What I know today are my childhood in East Tx & my mom's eggrolls & pancit that I've been trying to replicate. I remember food from Filipino parties we held at someone's house & the whole community of Filipinos would gather.
A few years ago, I asked my mom to write down in her handwriting, recipes she's made for us over the years & some that she's "perfected," in most recent years.
I'm going to attempt to make each recipe from here & hope to impart a more lasting one for my kiddos... that food not only feeds us & can bring us comfort but the stories that came from the kitchen they were made in & the way some recipes get passed down... those I hope they'll make time to explore & remember. Whatcha cooking today?
And yes, I will share whatever I cook here. ❤️❤️
Confession time. I love the idea of New Year Resolutions. I write them every year....well, with the exception of this year. 2020 just made me want to survive 2021.
I follow this author, Gretchen Rubin, and she does a list of things in lieu of resolutions. Nothing to change about oneself as much as create a list of things big or small that you can accomplish in the year.
22 things for 2022
For a peek at Gretchen Rubin's list or how to use the "22 things for 2022," click here.
This morning, I spoke with a mama through the amazing Postpartum Support International (@postpartumsupportinternational) peer mentor program who needed encouragement and support.
Some days, truly, I am "over the talking," and the revisiting open wounds. And some days, I wonder what I am doing to myself and why.
And there are days where someone out there needed some encouragement and needed to hear how I got "out of it."
Honestly, friends. I'm not sure where I am most days. There isn't ever going to be a moment where I will wake up and be who I was in the "before." Before the #preeclampsia diagnosis, before the #nicu and #prematurebabies and #ppd
And that makes me both sad and thankful. Who would I be today without the above? Would I advocate so much?
Would I have written my stories?
I also got a chance to speak to Dianna Gunn of Spoonie Author Podcast. More revisiting. More advocating. But this time, she asked what advice I would give to someone who may have disabilities or a chronic illness who wanted to write.
I am a terrible advice giver. But I'd like to think I'm an excellent listener and observer. I love sitting in silence. When people share the heavy with me, I like to think of silences as this enormous pause of relief for the person who unburdened themselves and a chance for the receiver to process what was said.
Pauses are heavy and the silence that follows it can fill us with trepidation.
How will the receiver respond to our burdens?
What if we (the receiver) say the wrong thing?
Or the years, I've learned that most of the time, it isn't the response that we want. It is what we do while in the silence.
I hug in the silence.
I have cried and held someone's hands in the silence.
I have nodded and quivered and sighed in the silence.
So these advice giving this morning, I took a pause and a breath. I tell myself that if it were me on the other side, what would I like to hear?
I want honesty.
Motherhood is hard and it sucks.
Writing is hard and it sucks.
Yeah, we're all in some semblance of this world together but your hard (whatever that looks like and feels like) isn't how my hard looks and feels.
I told the mom this morning that this is just a season. There are probably more thunderstorms than sunshine. And yeah, winter is coming. It's hard. I don't enjoy winter. But at some point, there has to be a break....right? There is hope that this will all just be another hard season we had to get over. I can't promise when this season of hard will be over but I can promise that I can find you tools and resources to hunker down and shelter you from these storms. I can promise you that I have found myself in these trenches more often that enjoying the little bit of sunshine in whatever season I was in. I can promise that you will not be alone in these storms.
As far as for the creatives who wonder how to be a writer in the midst of pain and disabilities - that's the easiest part: write. Write a word. Focus on 2 words...now form a sentence. It does not have to be perfect. It does not have to make sense.
It does not even have to leave the pages of your journal.
Write what you know. And if all you now is pain, explore that. Maybe in the pages, you'll find how brave you really are.
Whatever season you are in, may you find yourself a listening ear......I will say that blank pages in a notebook are the best kind of receivers for the heavy and the hard.
I drink too much coffee, read too many books, and in between raising miracle babies, I find time to write.
Hi there! Here's a quick bio