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.
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:
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.
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 had my 20th High School reunion a week ago. I must admit, I wasn't excited to go and had to be prompted multiple times by my husband to just show up. It wasn't that I had a terrible experience, far from it, and perhaps I don't even truly understand my own hesitation. I obviously am not the same girl who walked down those halls. I barely remember any of it. The parts I do remember were confined within the auditorium and backstage. I loved theater. It wasn't necessarily the lights and applause, those were just bonuses. I loved theater simply for the idea that I got to be someone else for the length of rehearsals and the show. I got to be loud. I got to be quiet. A princess. A snob. A myriad of different people over the course of 4 years.
I got to explore. And that was my key takeaway.
I had this amazing avenue where I could be angry or sad, or extremely funny or bold.
And I miss that.
I miss having that escape and exploration. Mind you, I do have my moments and usually they're expressed in my writings. I get to explore different characters and find their foundation........and while I don't get the satisfaction of an applause, I do find closure in writing 'the end.'
Theater was my second home. And I am grateful for having those moments (good and bad). I do remember my 18 year old self wanting to explore and write. I wonder what she would think about me?
I'm still writing. Still musing and observing. I don't have this overwhelming need for validation or applause. I still find those quiet moments outside to reflect. I hope she's proud of this life we've lived.
I sure am.
Dear past self,
I would be remiss if I didn't list out your accomplishments over the course of 20 years:
On days like this, I miss the country. It rained last night, cooling everything around us. The wind and trees whisper that summer just might be over soon. I walked as far as I could to get away from the roar of cars and trucks but I've never walked this trail by myself, and when I finally found the curve in the trail where the cicadas drowned out the city, I stopped. And took this picture. ❤️❤️
I'm at this weird phase of transition. Or maybe I'm just feeling stuck. Much like my walk here: do I keep walking into unfamiliar territory? Or turn around because the noise can tune out my thoughts and it's familiar and I've already walked it after all.
My children are at school. I'm feeling all sorts of emotions that come with that, covid being the highest and most consuming priority.
But somewhere around the worries, I find myself wondering what now? What do I do from here? Where do I go? Do I keep studying for this test for this career (teaching) I'm not even sure about. Do I keep sending 2 completed chapbooks hoping the Universe finds a home for them? Do I keep going through the motions until something leads me where I need to go?
I feel lost. Stuck.
As a mental health advocate, I'd be remiss not to mention my thoughts out loud, in case someone needs to hear this.
Who am I when no one is around to mother?
This walk didn't answer any of that for me. I thought as I stood in front of the sunflowers, I'd have some sort of epiphany.
The best I could come up with is that society has a warped and all consuming view of what stay at home moms are supposed to be. I left pieces of myself in my children - we create, we laugh, make memories, pray, cry - I speak joy and hope into them. And when they left to seek out peers, I wonder what pieces of them (and me) they've left behind. Who am I when they're not around?
There is a story brewing here. More tangible thoughts (probably) will be written into poems. And perhaps, that's always been the answer: I've never stopped being a writer.
On my next walk, I think I'll bring a notebook and go a little further.
Just some Friday thoughts for you. ❤️❤️❤️
Who do you become when no one's watching?
The story of ours began like most; I heard your heartbeat and joy propelled me from dreamlike stupor to scheduling baby shower and maternity photography sessions, deciding on nursery decor and what names would match you.
When I received my preeclampsia diagnosis, my heart sank and everything on my carefully crafted to-do list dissipated, along with the idea that this story of ours would be easy.
Motherhood welcomed us at 31 weeks.
It also welcomed strength, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. There would be no crying at our reality or our missed bonding time as you were wheeled away into a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) over an hour away. Instead, I had to summon whatever will and adrenaline coursing through my body and demanded it heal so I can be closer to my heart. Tears would come later. And as I sadly learned, tears would come in waves that crippled and made me wonder where that strength went all those days and weeks I spent by your isolate in the NICU.
The story of ours paralyzed me.
I don’t know for sure how I lived to see you celebrate your first birthday, when every image I’d see, you were surrounded by tubes and wires and your heart monitor constantly beeping.
Somehow I did learn to move freely. I learned to save my tears in the shower. I learned to whisper prayers of gratitude every night as I watched you sleep.
As I started to accept the idea that there would only be the three of us - you, me and your dad - I learned I was again expecting.
This did not bring me joy. I met this news with anger and I tried for a long time to be happy. You were a beautiful four year old. I survived our first year and I was becoming less afraid of your future.
When I heard the heartbeat, I didn’t want to know the sex. I couldn’t give this heart a name.
I didn’t want to write to-do lists and there was no dream like stupor, either. I was a mom on a mission and my mission was to live so I could go home to you and our life.
A history of preeclampsia could mean I was a ticking time bomb again.
A history of premature birth meant I would be revisiting my nightmare in an enclosed NICU space.
A history of traumatic birth meant the possibility of not surviving.
And history usually repeated itself.
I packed my bags at 30 weeks and waited anxiously for 31 weeks.
It came and went. I wept and almost believed we were going to make it to ‘full term,’ at 38 weeks.
When I woke up with a headache and felt nauseous at 34 weeks, I knew it was time. My vision blurred and my blood pressure was elevated. My heart had already shattered when I was told I’d be welcoming another bundle in a few hours.
I thought I welcomed him in my arms. I thought I kissed his head as he was wheeled to the NICU. I thought I was doing okay until I wasn’t.
Until I didn’t hear him crying even when he was next to me.
Until suddenly, the idea of leaving you and him seemed like a rational action.
Motherhood has defined me in ways I never knew I'd be defined by.
While I knew motherhood gives you a different identity and purpose. Mine came with a two time Preeclampsia survivor, a parent to premature babies, and NICU graduates. I also had to include on postpartum depression survivor - an identity that I didn’t know I’d endure and survive.
And while the story of ours is still writing itself, I am hopeful that you and your brother can overcome any obstacles in life. After all, the strength I had to push through my storms were reflected in your eyes. You gave me courage. I choose to live bravely because of you. My purpose isn’t to understand why the story of ours began the way it did but how our story could give a voice and comfort to another.
My purpose in advocating for maternal mental health came because of the way our story began.
For more of my preeclampsia and postpartum depression story, please see here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073MVG4R4/
LONGEST MONTH EVER! But then again, after the holidays, the highs of starting "fresh" and then the mediocre start..... it feels like this month has just been dragging. Anyway, going to adjust my needs/wants and make an effort into a more realistic goal for me.
1.) Write and Submit a poem to a lit mag/anthology. I did submit a poem that was rejected once to a second chance press....who then rejected the same poem. SIGH. Such is the life of a poet whos work is very much subjective and objectified. I am forever grateful for each "rejection" however, as each one simultaenously deflated my heart but gave me just enough hope to try again another day. I also submitted a 'PMDD themed' chapbook to 2 different chapbook press. Still waiting on word.
2.) Write 1 chapter/1 hour of current work in progress (WIP) a day. Eh, I began this year having written 1 chapter...... I'm in Chapter 4. BUT I finished my outline of my WIP, a Filipino romcom..... and I wholly believe that progress is progress, no matter how small.
3.) January Whole30 starts on 1/04. I would like to say I had every intention of starting strong, but that would be a lie. Because my husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes, I've been cooking (and subsequently) eating more keto styled recipes. I do indulge in carbs because CARBS = LIFE. Soooo not going to start on Whole30 anytime soon.
4.) Do 20 workouts for the month (combination of walking, boot camp, camp gladiator). 16/20...not too bad but gah, didn't realize how CLOSE I was to completing this!
5.) Spend a day outside with kids at least once a week (nature walk, park, school outdoors). Goal met! We've played with our friends who are in our pod every Sunday... this started in November and its' done wonders for all of our morale. Hiking to 3 different state parks has been an incredible experience. I'm thinking of adding yet another site on this recent bucket list addition of ours.
~ February Goals ~
"Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."
For February, I will:
1.) Write and Submit a poem to a lit mag/anthology (repeating every month).
2.) Read and Review 4 romance reads by women of color (WOC), featuring protags that are WOC.
3.) WIP: Get to the 'middle of the story,' ie Chapter 10.
4.) Do 20 workouts for the month (combination of walking, boot camp, camp gladiator). I mean, come on, I was *this close!
5.) Learn 1 new thing/activity/hobby with my family.
Resolution (noun): a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Okay, so it's a lot harder to make a vision board using this technique. I'll probably spend some time trying to make a vision board at a later time.
So, breaking this down, my 2021 Resolutions are
1.) Learn something new and I choose cross-stitching. I see so many cute and lovely designs on Etsy and on friend's pages....it makes me want to try it. I usually try to find one new thing to learn or try every year and this will be it for me.
2.) I came across an old "bucket list" of mine. I can't tell you when I wrote it, as sadly, I didn't date it. However, yoga teacher was an interesting one. I signed up for a course called "Kidding Around Yoga" (KAY) online certification. I'm not quite sure how this will pan out in the future but it's a step. I have kids. I'm currently homeschooling. So why not incorporate what I am learning to my kiddos and maybe when the pandemic slowly lessens its toll on us, I can share and teach yoga to other kiddos.
3.) Write more poetry. Write more of my story. Write more romance. Just Write. (I'll break this goal down later).
4.) As a family, we have 2 goals for ourselves. They are to spend more time outdoors. We are challenging ourselves to 1000 hours outside AND to visit as many state parks as we can for the year! We began our first hike yesterday and already crossed one state park off!
5.) I need to be more intentional on sharing my culture with my kids. At some point in their lifetime, I'd love to visit and show them the Philippines! I want them to learn my language, know their roots and family history.
6.) I would love to be more involved in the organizations I believe in. Mom Congress, 2020Mom, Momma's Voices. But, for the most part, it's the continuation of doing the work of advocacy for moms, babies and maternal mental health. This past year, the Champions for Change summit was held virtually and while I could still feel the fire and passion from the virtual meet ups, I missed the tangible part of seeing advocacy in action. I hope this fall, I'll get to actual embrace the women I met and are inspired by!
7.) Well it wouldn't be a "complete" resolution list without my mentioning healthy eating and or workouts. HOWEVER, I have been making an effort in changing our lifestyles. My husband was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in November. We started doing a bit of keto - more lazy on my part and we've resolved to workout out more. Luckily, virtual workouts are a thing and I've signed up for Camp Gladiator before! My old boot camp crew is starting on January Whole30 and I'll be joining her to "jump start" my sugar addiction habit.
~ January Goals ~
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ―Aristotle.
The thing I know about myself is that I need to break down these resolutions....otherwise, it's truly overwhelming and either I don't know where to start or I do all of them at once and give up.
For January, I will:
1.) Write and Submit a poem to a lit mag/anthology.
2.) Write 1 chapter/1 hour of current work in progress (WIP) a day.
3.) January Whole30 starts on 1/04.
4.) Do 20 workouts for the month (combination of walking, boot camp, camp gladiator).
5.) Spend a day outside with kids at least once a week (nature walk, park, school outdoors).
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