I saw my class list yesterday and immediately did the thing that every teacher does. I found some lower grade level teachers and asked about my list of names. How were they last year? Reading level? Were they friendly/bullies/insert a label here.
And perhaps because I met some of these "labels" last night at our "meet the teacher," I am apologizing to the Universe in the form of this post.
I met a label who was surrounded by his hard shell and a mama who was worried about his low reading level.
I met another label who didn't say one word to me, her dad filling out my form and her big sister doing most of the talking - telling dad about her sister's birthdate, asking questions about where the supplies should go, and then worrying about whether her little sister has enough supplies with her. I wanted to hug that girl; that family.
Labels we assign to things to categorize and organize.
I know we are more than our labels. And if my daughter's 5th grade teacher were to assign my daughter a label for her 6th grade teacher, it would be 'chatty,' 'sweet,' 'needs redirection.' Labels that I would be saddened to hear as a mom about her child.
And what about me? I would have been the one that the teacher wouldn't have remembered. The quietest kid who was neither brilliant nor smart enough to stand out.
And as a teacher - what did these students hear about me last year? Were they excited when they saw my name on the welcome email? Or did they cry about having to get me?
We are more than our labels and yet we cannot help but categorize ourselves, peers and people into what we believe to be true. To make them fit into a box.
I am going into next year with an open mind and heart. Yes, labels do help us categorize. No, we shouldn't put our students' in these preconceived boxes and never let them out to explore what more than can be; who they could become if they weren't given the negative labels. They are just kids after all.
So I apologize, dear Universe and will try to do better. And if there was to be a category that I was going to be forever stuck in - it would be the 'pushy teacher,' - the one who never gave up and pushed for higher expectations and expecting that her students would go above that and more. I would want to be the teacher that last year's students' set out to find. I saw several students go down my hallway and see their disappointed faces when their teacher from last year wasn't there, and new teacher faces peered at them in curiosity.
And truly, my heart burst when I saw 2 of mine from last year find me in a completely different wing of the school to tell me who they have this year and the friends who will be in their class. They gave me hugs and we wished each other a great year.
One would have been labeled 'high achiever,' gentle giant and would make his teacher smile and boast about him all year long.
The other one, my sweet little, would have been labeled 'at risk,' in many different ways. But every day, she worked hard, and I was so proud of every little milestone that we carved out together that she met. And I would love to have her again in my class next year to see how much she grew. That's the one to watch out for. The ones who grow stubbornly at their own pace. The ones who are not only try-ers but do-ers in all the best ways because they didn't have a teacher that assigned them one label all year long.
If you are a new teacher and you get your class list and a lower grade sees a name, please note that and then put it away. Yes, it can be helpful but there could have been different personalities involved in that classroom that you know nothing about. And we don't usually remember the days when it was ordinary, and everyone did what they were supposed to do. We usually flag and keep the memories of that one day the student did this or that. Remember that there are 180+- days of school. I don't remember all of it. I probably can tell you and describe about 5 days that I was frustrated/upset/insert negative emotion here. And if anything as stressed and crazy those 5 days were nothing compared to the stories I heard about from the class next door. We all have bad days, and I had the best class last year who gave me enough grace and love that I was able to pour so much to them. Will your year look like mine last year? Probably. Probably not.
Will my year look like last year's? I hope so. I hope in my bad days that I know are coming I remember that sweet little who showed me the different ways she handled stress and how we were able to calm down together.
I hope I remember that high achiever who became confident and read books to his friends and classmates.
I hope I remember last night's 'meet the teacher,' and the way I was sought out and hugged.
However you got into teaching and wherever you are in your teaching journey, I think we can all agree that that is probably the best feeling as both a parent and a teacher. Your child's teacher meant so much to your kiddo that they ran down the hall to greet them. In your stressed out moments that will come, that's the one to label. The imprints and impact we are leaving behind.
Wishing all you educators and parents a great school year.
I am aware that the days and memories I get to have with my children is not something that women here in the US and those around the world get a chance to have with a preeclampsia diagnosis. This is my own story and I am forever grateful for my medical team and my family. I fully embrace all my preeclampsia survivors and the families that they left behind. You will always be in my thoughts and the reason I keep sharing.
With news of preeclampsia being in the forefront lately (links below)- and for which I am so grateful and ecstatic over - the word in and of itself takes me back to a place I use to not want to acknowledge. Preeclampsia was my nightmare world. It was this fear that gnawed at me every time I looked at my daughter. During my second pregnancy, I felt like a ticking time bomb and knew that I would eventually (and I did) implode.
It has been 7 years since I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia. 7 years since I prayfully, frustratingly bargained my soul and body for a chance to have a healthy preeclampsia-free pregnancy. 7 years since I went on numbingly into the emergency room knowing the end goal: another preeclampsia diagnosis, another premature baby, another NICU stay. This was a fate I was destined to have. Mine and my children's canon event.
I was fearful of preeclampsia that the anxiety of it almost crushed me. Even though I was diagnosed at 26 weeks in my first pregnancy, I celebrated each week that we passed. It wasn't until my second pregnancy, that I knew the bomb was ticking and set to go off.
And boy, the implosion was nowhere near what I imagined it to be. The intensity and magnitude of it, I will save that story for another day.
Suffice it to say that for a long time, I wrestled with my childbirth experiences. I was burdened with guilt about giving my children this legacy. And it took a while to talk about it. It still hurts. Even if I don't remember all the big things, the specifics......my body remembers, and I can feel myself curling inward, tensing and ready for that inevitable weight that'll come and crush me.
I am amazed at how far my premmies have come.
I am humbled at my journey to here.
I am grateful that I had help and support to pick up the pieces of debris left behind.
I know I'm not 100 % whole. There is and will be the before and after version of myself and the bridge to the past isn't as simple as looking backwards or through a looking glass. There are parts of myself that will never be put back. And that's okay.
And our story isn't pretty or perfect.
But it's our story - mine and my children.
I will be forever grateful for anyone who listens to my story. The story of us.
Olympic athlete Tori Bowie died of complications from childbirth : NPR
Blood test can identify risk for preeclampsia, the leading cause of maternal death | PBS NewsHour
To hear my story and a chance to listen to several others, please go to Hear her Texas/DSHS Texas: Hear Her Texas | Texas DSHS
I said I wasn't going to do a 'resolutions,' and I do mean that. However, I could not resist doing a list....because I like lists and my brain cannot function without making a list of things to write in my lovely new 2023 planner. I don't know about you but seeing the section for 2023 goals be blank just makes me so sad and anxious.
1.) Read 23 books. Currently listening to audiobook, Weightless: Making Space for my Resilient Body and Soul by Evette Dionne --> which tells you the kind of state of mind I'm at right now.
2.) Submit to 23 places (journals, press, chapbooks, etc).
3.) visit 23 NEW to us places with family (campgrounds, museums, parks, etc).
4.) Take a photography class.
5.) Reconnect with old friends.
6.) Weekly Filipino recipes (Filipino Fridays).
7.) Run 23 miles (not all at once - over the course of the year)
8.) Take a cooking class.
9.) Go on monthly dates with Hubs.
10.) Take a self defense class.
11.) Go on 6 dates with E (ODD months).
12.) Go on 6 dates with R (EVEN months).
13.) Road trip with the sisters.
14.) Sew together a bag.
15.) Donate Plasma before next birthday.
16.) Schedule a wellness women checkup (it's been years, sadly) and a
17.) mammogram before next birthday.
18.) Shop the closet and donate the ones you aren't wearing - have hangers on backwards and correct the ones you've worn. Reassess after end of each season (Winter: March, Spring: May, Summer: September, Fall: November).
19.) Dance class!
20.) Campout with extended family.
21.) Take a vacation with friends.
22.) Spend time in silence/meditate/pray daily and
23.) practice daily gratitude.
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
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