Toward an Alphabet Memoir

My friend Rachel mentioned Amy Krouse Rosenthal's new book Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life recently, taking on the form in her own blog.

I thought, cool idea! So I've started my own Alphabet Memoir and will begin drafting it here .


Two Stories

I came across two stories today that have stuck with me. The first I found through a Fairytale Meme:

The Enchanted Horse appears to be part of 101 Arabian Nights and is one I hadn't read yet (note to self - get a copy of 101 Arabian Nights). This posted version has a classic British feel, as if the writer spoke British English as a second language. The charming characterization of the nobility in the story reminds me of some of the translations of love stories from the Philippines.

I'm not sure how the Knight of Cups relates to the story and I've unfortunately lost the additional text from the meme that might explain the connection. The only thing I can figure out is that Cups is about Emotions and Knights are about the masculine, giving us the masculine side of emotion, which if I recall from the Voyager deck is termed The Surfer, ie. the ability to surf above difficult emotion and still keep moving. This is the opposite of the Queen of Cups who would deeply feel emotion to understand it.

The other story I came across on Margaret Cho's blog:

A Reminder of What We're Up Against - Our Tragic Loss is a more difficult story to navigate. I want to approach it with compassion, like the author ultimately comes to by the end of the piece, but it means surfing over hard emotions. It's difficult to witness the shortsightedness of my extended faith community in the face of Nathan's death, and the great lengths to which they have erased part of his identity in order to manage their own deep beliefs. It would be too easy to walk away, clucking about 'those kind of Christians' who cling to their homophobia.

The gap between the author and Nathan's parents is vast, and turning again to the idea of God being in the Gaps, I realize that both 'sides' were/are trying to make sense of an apparently senseless death with Love. Nathan's parents loved their son so much as to create an elaborate vision of his final moments, a deep narrative anchored in a complex set of beliefs which could not be shaken by the reality of Nathan's activism. I mourn their half-understanding of their son and blindness to the opportunity in his death to see him as something more. That they believed in the end that Nathan had gone to God is a testament to their love for him, misguided as their actions were.

My heart goes out to the author of the piece, though, as she struggled to find out the truth of Nathan's death, experiencing first hand the type of oppression he had endured. And I admire that she did not move to acting on her anger in a destructive way, instead choosing to continue to act in love, to be of hope that things can change, that understanding can happen between such disparate groups. That's faith in action.

I'm left then, with these two stories in my hands and I try to rest in the changes they are making in me, letting their strength and hope seep in. That's the best part of story for me. I am challenged to keep bringing it all together, weaving it all, into a compassionate activism I can call my own.


Much of the last few months, my focus has been shifting away from traditional literary writing into explorations into older spiritual practices - older, meaning ones I explored and practiced in my late twenties and early thirties. It has meant tapping into my Catholic heritage and seeing if things like energy work/healing and meditation can work into my Catholic spiritual practice.

It's a shift that's found me rearranging pieces of my experience into new spaces. I've been startled to realize that things like Reiki can be part of being Catholic - I've come across quite a few Sisters who are Reiki and Tai Chi Masters, feminist women deeply rooted in social change whom I would like to meet and talk with one day.

It's something, though, I've found awkward to speak of here - this was supposed to be my writing journal and I've written very little, either here or elsewhere. In fact, I'm not really sure what shape my writing is going to take in 2006. It seems to be shifting from literature or even pop/Sci Fi to something more like scripts for presentations. A sort of teaching without a set, academic space.

I feel as if I am in a hallway, some doors shut, some doors open, some locked, some not. At each door, I hesitate wondering if the door is shut, should I try and open it? If it's locked, should I try to unlock it? If the door is open, should I walk in and stay, or how will I know I shouldn't just peek in, say hello, then move on?

I envy the focus and determination others have in knowing what they do well and their single minded pursuit of opening door after door to reach...not so much a goal, but an excellence in their art. I admire Olympic skaters, Cirque de Soliel acrobats, actors and performers with long careers, knowing their dedication to their art has made the practicing, falls, and even failures are part of the joy, beauty and complexity that is their continuing art.

Although I'm sure there is a common thread to all my explorations and expressions, the weaving is vast, and perhaps on the thin side. It can be hard for me to keep up with myself - this aggressive searching is sometimes just those two things - aggressive and searching - with little peace in between.

So, some interesting spaces I've been exploring:

Wise Choices is a blog by a Reiki Master who is currently hosting a 21 day Reiki retreat I'm involved in.

My wonderful cousin gave me a Force FX Replica Luke Skywalker EPI VI lightsaber for Christmas which lead me to an interesting set of searches on the Jedi leading to this article on the Jedi Faith . The author of the article sounds interesting too: Jon Sweeney is an author and editor living in Vermont. His new book is The Lure of the Saints: A Protestent experience of Catholic tradition.

Eventually I hope that this will all bend back to incorporate the FilAm and GBLT social justice/heritage issues I feel are also important, but it's difficult given my location. I'm hopeful, though, that the WSU FilAm women's conference scheduled for March (that I also hope to speak at) will provide me the linkage I feel is missing.



The Adoration of the Magi

It was the arrival of the Kings
that caught us unawares;
we'd looked on the woman in the barn,
curiosity you could call it,
something to do on a cold winters night;
we'd wished her well -
that was the best we could do, she was in pain,
and the next thing we knew
she was lying on the straw
- the little there was of it -
and there was a baby in her arms.

It was as I say the Kings
that caught us unawares….
Women have babies every other day,
not that we are there -
lets call it a common occurrence though,
giving birth. But Kings
appearing in a stable with a
'Is this the place?' and kneeling,
each with his gift held out towards the child!

They didn't even notice us.
Their robes trailed on the floor,
rich, lined robes that money couldn't buy.
What must this child be
to bring Kings from distant lands
with costly incense and gold?
What could a tiny baby make of that?
And what were we to make of it
was it angels falling through the air,
entwined and falling as if from the rafters
to where the gaze of the Kings met the child's
- assuming the child could see?

What would the mother do with the gift?
What would become of the child?
And we'll never admit there are angels
or that between one man's eye and another's
is a holy place, a space where a king could be
at one with a naked child,
at one with an astonished soldier.

--- Christopher Pilling
(from the Oxford book of Christmas Poems. Oxford University Press)


I heard this poem for the first time last night at a concert of Winter Harp, an ensemble group of harpists accompanied by a storyteller, a percussionist, a flautist, and musician who played various medieval instruments such as a bass psaltry, a nyckelharpa, and an organistrum.

These were the words that struck me most:

And we'll never admit there are angels
or that between one man's eye and another's
is a holy place, a space where a king could be
at one with a naked child,
at one with an astonished soldier.

I often think about Gaps. They're the places, I think, where we fall short as a society, a people, a race, a religion, an economy. This is where the forgotten are born, shunned because of some perceived 'difference,' deemed unacceptable by a sometimes complex but most times chillingly simple set of rigid rules.

I try to fill gaps, mostly in communication between cultures. I'm a Cultural Translator of sorts, they tell me. I never want anyone to feel left behind for lack of a simple explanation or an adjustment of the rules to compensate for an original lack of compassion or vision. Finding and addressing these gaps is my passion and has lead me to understand my own sense of missing-ness and isolation both self and society imposed.

Over time, I think I have come to believe that Gaps are a bad thing - Oh sure it's good to have one's own space to exist in, move around, shuffle a bit, maybe dance. I've felt crowded before by motherhood, wifehood, editorhood, but that's a different sort of Gap, a Space, more like, that recognizes my own unique viewpoint. But I think, before last night, that Gaps in general were things to be filled in, smoothed over, changed, and perhaps even avoided altogether. Wars have come from Gaps. Prejudice is built on Gaps. Hatred, poverty, and oppression all come from Gaps we create for whatever, shortsignted reasons.

"a space where a king could be/at one with a naked child/at one with an astonished soldier."

It's a lot to claim that God is in the Gaps, connecting what is broken, creating community where one had not existed before, focusing our attention to a place unlooked for and granting Grace.

But yes, that's what I'm claiming, that's what I believe about that moment centuries ago. It's not so much that God /filled/ the Gap, but that He showed us there /is/ no Gap to begin with. That even with all the peaks and valleys of our existence, the vastness of the oceans that separate our thoughts and feelings from one another, like the air around us, He is between us and others, between us and Him, surrounding us, filling us, touching /us/.

That we are never, ever without Love.

"between one man's eye and another's/is a holy place..."

And if God is in the Gaps, then He is there to help us see those Gaps and to help us understand what the Gaps we create do to others, that we might recognize not just our uniqueness but also in gazing upon the Sacred, we are not so different. And the hope is, that in that space of "not so different" can come the promised Peace that comes of understanding and compassion. The Peace that comes of Love.


Snow Globe

Watch the little people for a while before you shake.

Snow Globe


Season Without Fruit

When winter's chill finally released the land and the warmth of spring returned. When pink blooms blushed on cherry trees and crocus burst white and purple from the deep earth. When green moss and greentipped treelimbs and new green grass shifted the eye from grey to celadon. Then. Then. Then they Disappeared. All of them, to a one. The lesbians and gays. The feminists and liberals. The freethinkers and philosophers. The tatooed and the pierced. The painters and the sculptors and the illustrators. The playwrights, the poets, the novelists. The designers, the architects, the stonemasons. The gardeners, cooks, homemakers. The massage therapists, accupuncturists, energy workers. The musicians, sound engineers, foleys and grips. The forgotten poor, the exploited immigrant, the white slave.

All of them, gone, in a moment of surprise and recognition. Gone. Disappeared.

And all that were left on the Earth were the straight men and subservient women who laid no claim to be anything else. There were far more than first thought, but still the straight men outnumbered the subservient women, and after all of them were married or taken as mistress or second wife or third wife, there were Bachelors left and Bachelor Clubs formed. And they rejoiced, for This Was How It Should Be.

It took many days before anyone noticed that the sun did not set and the night did not come and the moon did not rise, but still they rejoiced, these straight men and their subservient women who were nothing more, for this meant they could work and work and work for hours on end, never needing to rest because of a reading on a clock, and rid the earth of any trace of the Disappeared.

And it took many months before anyone noticed that the blooms on the trees never fell and the branches never greened to Summer, nor the grass grow tall and go to seed. And though they hesitated, wondering if there would be fresh apples to eat or cool berries to pick soon, they looked instead to the Costco Warehouses and the WalMarts and SaveOnFoods and they rejoiced for there was food to be had in cans and boxes and frozen packets.

And it may have been a year and a day or a day and two years after the Disappeared departed (it was hard to keep track of time where even Time did not seem to matter) when there were no more cans of peaches or bags of sugar or boxes of macaroni and cheese. The water tasted stale for no rains had fallen and the air stifled for no winds had disappated the pollution. And no matter how hard the men tried and how often women were plied, there were no children born.

The Season went on unceasing for Those Left Behind. Change had taken her people Home.


Slow Pace

It's been slow getting back into pace with my blog here. Just finished purusing all the wonderful writers' posts I missed while on hiatus. So many good, good things to read. I really feel blessed for having this way to connect with other writers and thinkers.

A few essay ideas are bubbling in the background waiting for a bit of screen time. Hard to say which one will bubble over first. Things have shifted a bit for me, on the inner realm and I'm uncertain where it will lead me next.

I'm sure it will be a grand adventure, though. It always is.


Call for Speakers

The Association of Pacific and Asian Women (APAW) at Washington State University (Pullman, WA) is looking for speakers for their CAPTIVATE Conference, March 25, 2006. The CAPTIVATE Conference is an annual student conference coordinated by APAW at the WSU Pullman campus. CAPTIVATE stands for Community, Activism, and Pride Today….to build Identity, Vision, and Achievements Tomorrow. Our goal is to celebrate these messages and to affirm our commitments to the EMPOWERMENT of AAPI women.

Tentatively, the conference will focus on Moving Inner Knowledge Into Action and looking at how an understanding of colonization and internalized racism can create a platform for personal action in the world. The conference itself is free – attendees will only need to cover lodging and travel. Presenters will be provided with transportation and lodging costs as well as a small stipend.

If you are interested in being considered as a presenter, please contact Debi Robinson-Smith (drosmith [at] wsu [dot] edu).



December 1st and the winners of NaNoWriMo are announced...

Congrats to Chie and Lorna for all their hard work!

As for me, no, I'm afraid I didn't make it past the finish line, but I learned alot about myself, my writing, and my life this last month. And that's a good thing too!

Now back to our regularly (mostly) scheduled blogging.

Thanks again for all the good wishes sent my way!



Gonna be gone the next month...

I've been inspired to participate in NaNoWriMo.

I heard about this last year, but too late to feel comfy doing it. This year...well, I'm going to just not focus on my worryworry and write.

See you in about 50,000 words.

Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion. -- Barry Lopez, from an interview in Poets and Writers Vol. 22, issue 2 (March/April 1994)


Upside Down

The upside(s) of the day include lunch with old friends (ghosts in the flesh. survivors of a great employment tragedy), poetry tonight with Rita Dove, and a bit of conversation time with ODLP.

The downside of the day is I feel like I was up most of last night...which I was, tending my children and nursing a cold. Feeling sleep deprived is but a pale description of the foggy-groggy I got goin' on.

I'm also feelin' narrative...but not in the usual sense. Nope, with the curvature into ghostly spaces, I'm reminded that I've been the subject of stories, actual written ones, and even one that was published as a comic book. In them, I've been an unfaithful lover, a widow still carrying a torch for her first love, a space pilot, a priestess. I've been rescued, shot and killed, guilt-ridden, and sacrifical lamb.

And if I stretch my memory a bit more, I realize that beyond this one writer, I've appeared in several other stories as enchantress, seductress, duchess, tailor, sailor, key character, minor character, and even occasionally villain with no hope of redemption.

Reading oneself in a story, though, has a doubling effect, blurring the perception of how I think the author relates to me and seeing how our relationship has affected/changed the author through the lens of story. Faults become enlarged and graces minimized for the sake of story pace. There's an uneasy sense of being controlled, of having to admit to mistakes, but having to watch the consequences unfold in grotesque, disproportionate ways without benefit of changing or apologizing. I imagine that it was cathartic for some authors to write me in certain ways, just as I imagine it was connective for others, another positive bond between us.

The risks are part and parcel of memoir writing - from the outset author and object know there will be story distortion, but to what effect is anybody's game. In fiction though, there seems to be an extra layer in that 'out' - it's just fiction, after all, why read more into than what's there on the page?

"Your so vain," Carly Simon once wrote/sang, "You probably think this song is about you." And she's right of course, all those stories I appeared in were more about what the author was working out in their own lives than it was about me.

We all take roles in life. A few of us are even conscious enough to recognize the default roles we carry and create new roles never seen before. Each day we're presented with new scenes, old patterns, and a cast of characters dizzyingly layered and colorful. It's easy to forget, perceive "we are the authors of our lives" as just cliche' but it's interesting sometimes to just glance at life with the eye of the storyteller, to see the intersection of stories-as-lives, find the metaphoric roles we play, then look back on ourselves as story object, rich in characterization and motivation.

We are an ever-evolving story, hero and villan both, and a wonderful mishmash of character parts that provide both depth and comic relief.


Living in Translation

Whilst I install my new computer system, I saw the ping on Eileen's blog about KKP (kili-kili power)!

It's the newest craze in our house, now. Fist raised in the air, eyes fierce and challenging...Which in my crazy mind looks an awful lot like something from the '60s...

It's one of those moments of translation for me, from Eileen's husband, to her sisters, to her blog, to my cousins, to our gesture, to history, to empowerment, to ASTIG, to Pinoy Pride all wrapped up with a whole lot of laughter, innocence, and the pure irony of multiplicity.

Living in translation has it's perks - getting to see/experience all these different spaces from that sort of Derrida/Semiotics-nothing-is-what-it-seems
-cause-all-signs-are-arbitrary/but-arbitrary doesn't mean 'without meaning,' symbolic point of view. One minute it's fists in the air, another it's Spirits on the Wires, yet another, color blind painters making masterpieces.

But it's juggling too, standing on one side, next to my folks trying to see/hear what they're seeing/hearing from 'those crazy Americans' who keep putting up hoops they claim aren't racist, but are 'just the way things are.' Then standing on the other side, next to Joe Americano trying to figure out what hoops are just pure bureacracy, which ones can be ignored, and which ones have to be addressed.

Or maybe I'm on this side of the generation gap hearing the complaints from myself and my cousins about our 'rents, swappin' stories of being embarassed at public events as yet again Dahil Sayo is sung slighly off key by a chorus of 20 or so swathed in barongs and butterfly sleeves. Or on the other side, sitting on the edge of an old metal chair to one side of the majongg table, while hands mix tiles, lips mutter quiet curses, and tongues click between sighs carrying the weight of a lost generation.

Stories, so many stories, connections lost, connections regained, connections made for differing reasons, all coming through and around, like standing on stage, 'cept the audience is calling out scene changes as fast as the cast can make curtain calls. And the director? I haven't seen him since the casting couch...

Translation - moving one thing from it's original space to another space. A kind of diaspora then, except, instead of people, it's culture, cultural markers, objects. And in translation they pass through an empty sort of space leaving bits, perhaps loose threads that seem peripheral, not totally necessary, yet when the thing emerges from translation, the thing is no longer whole, no longer as it was previously.

A traditional recipe for sinigang, say, starts with the memory of a pot on a blackened hearth at the center of a nipa hut. From the garden come the vegetables, from the river some fish, from an earthen jar a spice. The teaching comes from hand to hand, measurements taken in comparison to the breadth between knuckles, the number of long beans grasped in the hand, the amount of spice pinched between thumb and forefinger. The child's hands grow to adulthood and in the new place the feet have taken the hands, adjustments have to be made. No longer the same greens, the same roots, the same fish. But still the hunger remains - new foods can only sustain the body for so long before the heart yearns for comfort that comes, aromatic and steamy, from old spaces.

The new recipe is like the old, yet different, bending to the available crops, the expense of what was once common and is now rare, yeilding to the relentless changes presented in the new space. Food in translated, familiar, yet not the same.

My grandmother's recipes are that way, but I didn't discover it until Goldilocks and Lutung Bahay opened up in nearby towns - who knew papaya was in sinigang or coconut milk in adobo? And who put grated cheese on my bibinka? My lola's hearth was a White Westinghouse enamel affair complete with four burners and an oven. The windows steamed and the scent of garlic and onion permeated the pink and white paint on the walls. Balikbayan for me is a place in Seattle that no longer exists, a mile marker along the I-90 tunnel.

But still, living in translation isn't about being lost in translation, but about simply Being. Moving, changing, growing - acknowledging the past, stepping to the future - but always the question - are we carrying baggage that's weighing us down or sustaining us throught the journey?



Places aren't haunted. People are haunted.
- Melinda Gordon, Ghost Whisperer

Michelle wrote recently (Oct 22/23 postings) about the thinning of the veil that happens this time of year. Spirits walk among us, some on their way Home, others lost, yet others just hanging around waiting for something or staying to finish another thing. Most times we don't notice them much, 'cept those that have the Sight and can't turn away. It's a privacy thing, letting Spirits do what they need to do without interference from this world. Some have the good sense and manners to leave well enough alone, others prefer to meddle and say it's a Calling.

I find myself amidst ghosts of my past, most called up first in memory, then through email or on the phone. Past relationships drifted into gauziness, hooked on a finger, seen slantwise on the periphery, then brought forward for a touch, a glance, a smile. Most bring good memories, connections to a more rooted past, to communities formed and enjoyed. Others bring sadness for lost opportunities, pain brought by poor decision making and lack of faith.

What rituals shall we make to release these ghosts, still living, yet no longer central to our web? Do we welcome them back and invoke flesh and blood, building new ties, creating new memories? Or do we give offerings in the hope of forgiveness for past wrongs and wishes for healing?

Each ghost has his/her story, each memory a place in time, a space in the heart carved sometimes tenderly, sometimes with thorns. It's a time of honoring all those who have shared their lives with us, given us lessons sweet and bitter, illuminated our lives either in the presence or by their passing.

Like the last fruits of the harvest, I gather wisps and tendrils of rememberings, taking in what is still needful, giving the rest to the Hallows fire to be released back into the Cycle once more. Old Coyote sits near the fire, smoking his pipe with Old Juan Tamad, the first one telling stories about the Star Woman he once loved, the second one nodding, lips pouting slightly with memory of a woman with a silver comb in her hands. And somewhere the Coffee Gods grin with yellowed teeth and watch the moon rise high and wait for the owl to who-who Good Eve.

Kili Kili!

Eileen has written the funniest post EVAH! (See October 24th posting)

As we used to say when we were kids:

Kili Kili Power!




There's been some fab discussion out there, mostly among Barbara Jane, Ver, and Gladys, with even a bit thrown in by Bino, about Images of Beauty and femininity.

I'm pretty ambivalent about the topic - torn, in a sense. I'm not a make-up type chica, donning the stuff only if I think the occasion warrants, which usually means times when heels and the perfect dress are required. Thankfully this is rare in my life, as demonstrated by how I usually have to buy makeup new each time I use it - the stuff ages, getting funky after a year or so, and yeah, that's really how often I wear makeup.

My mother is never seen without at least lipstick - her regimine has become more simple as she has grown older and her skin has grown more prone to allergic reactions to makeup. But lipstick remains her passion.

Getting "all dolled up" for me is just that, a practice in making myself into something of a doll, which is kind of fun every once in a while, but nothing to look forward to, really. *chuckle* I guess that's why, along with my lack of curves and short hair, I'm often mistaken for a guy.

The Debut was not part of my coming of age...in fact, very little marked my turn to womanhood, other than a wry smile from my mother that seemed a mix of wistfulness for my childhood and a projection of her own uncertainty about what it meant to be a woman in US society.

The minks, the makeup, the parties, the dresses...to my mother these were all signs of silly women unable to hold concepts of Chemistry, Physics and Medicine in their smallish brains. But at least they had rich husbands who could afford such luxuries - to her it was more pitiable to be a housewife, a woman without career or much ambition, who seemed more interested in the cleanliness of her bathroom than the History of the Pyramids.

Femininity was about being smart, in my family, smarter than other women and definitely smarter than men. And being smart meant being good at science and having little to do with preening.

But lipstick...that little tube of emollients and dye...she called it her one vanity, scowled at me for not holding her same passion, offered me samples she'd gotten free from the cosmetics counter (with $50 or more purchase).

I often wonder if she really wanted more, to have both the makeup and the science, but that our family economics could not manage the burden. Was it easier to say she didn't want the stuff rather than admit that her makeup budget had gone to clothes and tuition for her children?

*chuckle* This essay has gone in a direction unintended...

But back to authenticity - there's this undercurrent, an idea that to be Woman and therefore Feminine, then certain rituals have to be observed. Women's magazines and advertising are based on this concept, drilling the observer's mind with images of thinness, flawless skin, pearl white teeth...to create these images, the rituals are created - makeup, teeth whiteners, exercise and diet programs. The images are self perpetuating - to be the image, perform the ritual. Perform the ritual, create the image.

To question the cycle, either directly through discourse, or indirectly through non participation, is to be outside, and to be outside is to cast suspicion - is the questioner actually Feminine, actually Woman?

There's also this idea that to be Feminine is to be not-Masculine - identification by negation. A woman who dresses down (no makeup or dress) or agressively (no florals or bright colors) is accused of being too masculine, of trying to be too manly, and somehow less...which then brings up this whole set of codes about Men and Masculinity...And a woman who is not Feminine, like a man who is not Masculine, are folk not to be trusted, viewed as ones outside-the-norm. Inauthentic.

This also curves into my recent explorations into Babaylan - given my proximity to babaylan practitioners, it has been difficult to figure out what babaylan spirituality is all about. I've been trying to get to the core, to find the legends, to find the objects, to find the rituals...these are not easy to discover, and there is always the question of Source Material. Just looking through the 'net about Bathala, I've come across questions of whether Kali as a martial art is 'authentic' ie. PreHispanic.

The discussions seem to parallel those I've found regarding Reiki/Seichim/SKHM, a layered hands on healing system that I've recently discovered I have strong links to...my teacher was something of a rogue and there's question of whether his methods are 'authentic.'

The easiest method to prove "authenticity" seems to be to trace lineage, which student was taught by which teacher who was taught by which teacher and so on. There is a similar track when looking into Babaylan, and this can be extended to practices of femininity. Who taught you what? And was she really "feminine?"

Is it possible to deconstruct the process of authentication, to decolonize The Debut, to defang Femininity Mavens, to defrock the Keepers of the Truth?

There's also the question of the Authentic Voice of the Artist. How does she find this voice? How does she find the strength to sing it? How does she withstand the comparisons and judgments that come from public performance?


Finding the Flow

The downside of not being able to keep up on my blog is that I get out of the flow of things and right now there's a really cool thread weaving around the blogs I read about images of beauty and femininity. Since I'm the last to the party, I figure y'all know already where to find such wisdom and treasure. I'll be adding to the mix, but I had to clear a few things off my own porch first...

Porch, you ask? I once wrote a story about a lola named Corazon who firmly believed that to keep luck at the door and keep away bad things, you have to keep your porch clean and well swept. Well, like an absent occupant, there are quite a few things that have built up on my porch since departing a few weeks ago...

There's the family-of-origin stuff which made for great anxiety - everyone is okay now, but if I don't see the inside of a hospital for a while I'll be a happy camper. Life is too fragile, too complex for me sometimes, and keeping up hope while trying to be clear headed about the pros and cons of treatments, the aftercare necessary after procedures, the encouragment of lifestyle changes that will likely go unheeded, while trying to keep my parents psychologically in one piece...

Open ended - these sentences are open ended because I crave a certain closure to the last few weeks, but every time I think there is closure, something else breaks open. And often this opening is good, like with my writing, but at the same time, all these open doors and windows create a certain sense of vulnerability, exposure, that's a bit stressful right now.

I'm feeling terribly old and responsible today, perhaps even burdened, but that might just be a tiredness from running on adrenaline for over a week.

At the same time of wanting closure, I crave space, openess, looseness to my day. Everything seems connected to everything else and it's hard to keep track of it all.

The Fall is deepening though, and that's a hopeful thing. I love Fall for its colors, its slowing to stillness, its coolness. But there are things to do, always things to do - Halloween costumes, All Saints Day costumes, fundraisers, scouting events, birthdays, shopping for birthdays...and this Fall I start teaching online too, which for the pocketbook is a good thing, but from a coordination standpoint a bit crazy. Okay, a lot crazy.

I do have things to look forward to, though, like a spa weekend with my cousin, and maybe, just maybe enough courage to really dig into my writing. Hard to say, but my class is helping break some stuff open about performance anxiety and the proper use of Will. My mentors are right there with me too, although the cast has shifted slightly, so I'm learning new patterns through those relationships.

I'm really enjoying the letter writing Ver started, and other things from the community have come to me, bringing good opportunities for expanding my spiritual praxis.

I need to buy myself a Slinky too....how else to meditate on life as both circular in the moment and yet linear over time?

*chuckle* okee...feeling like the porch is a bit cleaner...thanks for dropping by.


Been Busy Yes, But...

Serenity was all that I hoped for and more, or as more aptly put by Ex Nihilo

In Serenity, there can be no true belief without a love that covers the sins necessary to defend that belief.

...no one can stop the signal.

Ave Whedon!


Quick Update

One thing that can be said about my blog here is that I tend to talk very little about my family here. It's intentional, a way to create a 'just me' space where I can really focus on topics I don't normally get to discuss with my family because they're in different spaces in their lives.

That said, it's pretty safe to assume that if I'm not writing here, there hasn't been much time for 'just me' space, and that, in fact, my family is taking up quite a bit of time...lots of time.

It's okay, just part of a cycle that I know will come around again. For now, though, I'm taking care of family things, worrisome, yes, but mostly manageable.

So, yeah...I'm just babbling a bit, but when I'm not here it doesn't mean I'm at the store, I've just got a bit more on my family plate than usual.

With affection - keep on keepin' all!



Ernesto noted in his blog

'No one,' Pascal once said, 'dies so poor that he does not leave something behind.' Surely it is the same with memories too - although these do not always find an heir. The novelist takes charge of this bequest, and seldom without profound melancholy.

-Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller


It's been difficult of late to put into words the changes that have happened. Good changes, I'm fairly certain, but like many changes, ones that bear contemplation, which, despite what we are often lead to believe, actually takes quite a lot of energy.

But what Pascal says very much touches on the beginnings of my...motivation? Is that the word I'm looking for? The drive to write, to say something with words. An internal drive, an obsession. But an obsession without words themselves, only the compulsion to find and sew words together. I think perhaps, then, I want to create my legacy (oooo...what a big, important, ego word!), but something to be remembered by. Perhaps, then it is from being afraid to die unnoticed?

Anyway, to changes...connected with ODLP last week in classic style - classic for me, since I have this tendency to arrive places unannounced then demand/request notice. It's because I tend to seize opportunities when they present themselves, then bumble along, relying on the kindness of others. OLDP was terrifically kind with the sudden arrival of this woman he only briefly met five years ago, giving her a hug!

(Backstory - I had an afternoon appointment cancelled last minute, and rather than stay at work, I took myself to campus, drove around to find parking, parked at a meter with only 10 minutes left, walked around campus for 20 minutes trying to get change for the meter, realized ODLP's class was ending soon and didn't care about getting a ticket. And voila'!)

It was an incredibly insightful, encouraging meeting where OLDP gently pointed out that I may be an editor at a scientific non-profit, but that I wasn't really making a living; that my lament of finding very few FilAm memorists was my own call to write; that writing in fragments was the place to start writing - case in point The Book of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano (which I ordered and am now devouring, slowly, but earnestly, for it is like rich, dark chocolate - addictive but only edible in small bites). At the end of our conversation I blurted out something about needing community and a swift kick in the pants to keep writing, and he said he would be willing to give me assignments.

(It was in all a good meeting and when I returned to my car, there was no ticket, even though I was over an hour overdue. I took it as a good sign that I was where I needed to be.)

Then on Saturday I started a spiritual autobiography class with Philip Damon, a retired UH creative writing prof. I had heard about the class last Spring and was drawn to it, mostly because the notice of the class was given to me and because of Damon's ties to Hawaii. When I went to the class, though, I was blown away. On a sheet of paper at the front of the class was a grid which made parallels between the chakra system and the elements of narrative. I had never seen anything like it! Damon then went on to lecture about 2 hours on the ties between our spiritual journey and the narrative form. He tied so many loose ends for me, things I thought were disparate in my thinking/approach to spirituality and writing.

This week we work on description, and I find myself going back 9 years to that Fall when we entertained the idea of moving to Hawaii, of having our first child, of me being a full time writer. I want to write about my love of the Palouse and contrast it to how harsh I found Hawaii. How dreams somes work out well but not without great cost.

*shakes head* Tonality is that ability to hear one note and follow that note through the convolutions of a musical piece. I'm having trouble finding that one note within me today.


Sacred Secrets

I wasn't sure if I would write about my penpal, my lucky star plucked out of Ver's jolleebee cap. If you look hard enough you will find my penpal's identity, but I'd rather leave the illusion for myself that my penpal is a secret pal, a mix of fairy ink and seeded paper, traveling on the winds to my mailbox.

In the blogcircle I've found myself in, we have talked about the vulnerability of writing on paper, with ink and stamps and everything. How the page, unlike the screen and keyboard seems more permanent, more definite, more real, and how our words take on weight and meaning that is sometimes skimmed past in the speed of clicking keys.

What I didn't realize, though, is that in the reciprocation, the receiving of the letter, I feel as if I have been given a treasure, a secret, something sacred, because I know there is vulnerability, hope, joy, and trepidation with each stroke of that purple pen. And I want to hold that close to my heart and keep it safe from what I guess I perceive as a somewhat hostile place called the 'net.

Odd, really, since I write mostly online. Why should these words, this sheet of heavy paper become so fragile and precious as to stir protectiveness?

My penpal writes of reading me, of what my words mean to his/her life, of how we have share spaces online and how what she does and who s/he is related to connects somehow to me. A conjoinment, a deepening that was not there before his/her letter arrived.

It is a good thing, a treasured thing, a letter I will read again and again, turning it over in my hands like a talisman against the anxiety that has gripped me recently.

It is also a call to respond, something I am happy to do, but not at this moment.

Now is the moment of gratitude for a gift finely given.

Thank you, penpal, thank you.

Headlights in the Fog...

...illuminating the gloom...

"I only put in the stuff that had an impact on me," (Alan Alda) says (about his memoir) in an interview from his New York office.

He tells a story about "The Apple Tree," a mid-'60s Broadway play directed by Mike Nichols, which resulted in a Tony nomination for Alda. But what he recalls in the book is wondering where his career was going.

"The story I tell about standing under the silk shroud in 'The Apple Tree' and my career had come to nothing so far, and then realizing that I was looking at it wrong -- instead of thinking about what I ought to be doing, I should be thinking about what I'm doing," he says, "and make the most of what I have in front of me. ... And that was what was important about 'The Apple Tree' to me."

(Emphasis mine)

Places I'd Like To Be

In 2006 I’d like to attend:

The Voices Sumer Writing Workshops (Throughout June/July - California)

The FANHS biennial conference (last weekend in June – Hawaii)

The Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat (Mid-July -Virginia)

What an /awesome/ summer /that/ would be.

New Entries

...in my library blog


It's Da Bo(e)mb!

Congratulations to Paolo Javier for the forthcoming release of 60 lv bo(e)ms!

I first saw Paolo at AWP this year and found his work energetic and intriguing. I can't wait to get his book!


Gaps and Spaces

Ernesto recently wrote:

If you are going to have a blog, commit to it. Blogging, in my view, implies a responsibility. The blog makes me write. The blog, the new "papel máquina", opens up the previously-private process of writing."

Ernesto's rant was, well, ranty, but really well taken. I think he's talking about writing-as-praxis and the blogsphere as yet one more place to practice. Yet, like him, I find blogs that are sometimes just daily diaries of events and happenings, a way to connect to others, usually friends, too far away for a phone call (or perhaps too numerous?) Other times they are elaborate near-zines, daily columns critiquing the often maddening world we live in. Still yet, there are fan blogs and rant blogs. The focus is entirely author-based tinged with a sense of marketing, answering the questions -what do I want to say and how can I say it so others will read and perhaps even respond to it?

At least, that's what I think the gap is pointing to...gaps and spaces - these are the topics of my brainpan of late.

I'm a slow writer. I type really, really fast, but I write, really really slow. I once met a successful SF novelist who had the same affliction. Her whole day was about writing and she needed several pads of paper and numerous pencils around her house to be sure to jot down bits and pieces of story that would meander her way throughout the day. To sit down and write for hours like Stephen King and such was not so much antithetical to her as it was incomprehensible.

I find that I'm the same...I write throughout the day, even when I'm not actually typing or even jotting down words. Themes and stories run around in my head. Angles of essays, implications of social theories, applicability of assumptions/beliefs all just dance around, and I wait for them to congeal into something that might resemble a readable thing.

Gaps and spaces. Yeah, so gaps...gaps are the things we see or sense or experience that don't fit the 'norm,' the expected flow of things. Gaps can be small, like a misunderstanding between lovers about the proper way to put a roll of toilet paper on the spindle. Gaps can spur invention, like the problem of transporting thing A to point B, and we have a thing called a wheel which becomes a wagon which becomes a truck which becomes a plane. Gaps can be violent, like this social disease we call racism and it's cousin poverty.

When emotion is added, tough emotions like anger and fear, the gaps become huge and unmanageable, but they can also spur on the energy for change - couples learn to communicate better, new tools are manufactured, and underrepresented/invisible groups band together and become a voice to be reckoned with. Gaps, then, become spaces.

Space, as a word, is roomy, to me, and lacking the sense of loss 'gap' carries. Space for critique, space for understanding, space for equity, space for compassion. Space acknowledges that what can be viewed as a disconnection can be seen as an opportunity instead, a place for positive change, a place for healing.

Blogs are spaces that often point to/reveal gaps in our social/economic/spiritual/
intellectual/political/etc systems. And as such provide places to practice methods to address the gaps.

I don't know that I agree that bloggers have a responsiblity to regularly practice their craft in the blogsphere, but I suspect that bloggers do take their vocation, the ability to identify gaps and create space, seriously.

It just may take some of us longer than others to finally get that all down on the page.

Addendum: More discussion is also happening at Okir Thanks for hosting, Jean, and thanks to all who've responded.


New Post

My library blog has been updated.

Mission Accomplished

The beauty of having a mostly flexible schedule is that even if I had planned on only taking a half hour lunch to make up for being at the dentist yesterday, I can take a full hour anyway, and do a half hour lunch tomorrow.

Which means that I was able to write BJ as per Ver's letter writing thingy!

And clean out my purse (it now closes).

*happy sigh*

So letter writing...it's slow going - I type at 80+ wpm - and I found myself wanting to rush, to write faster, which meant my handwriting got more illegible as time went on. BJ and I had talked about the intimacy of writing before, how committing oneself to writing on the page, the physical weight of the pen, the resistance of the paper, the deliberate action of writing, arouses levels of vulnerability and risktaking perhaps unchanneled with a keyboard and screen.

It was, in a word, luxurious, and like luxury, something unfamiliar, having apparently hidden rules and conventions that made the experience new and a bit like being in the first day of school - what will she think? will she like it? is the stationery pretty enough? is my handwriting too small/too big? is my word choice too archaic, too difficult to access? is the text too revealing/not revealing enough? what are the boundaries? what impression am I making?

But like a spell, it was also a moment of binding, of coming together on the page with intent, a connection between two people who have never met. That's magic.

Thank you Ver!

Getting a Reading

You can get a pretty good reading of what my life is like if you take a look at my purse.

Under normal circumstances, my purse is a small black fanny bag containing a small wallet, a credit card holder, a calendar, checkbook, a small stack of 3x5 cards (for jotting notes), 2-3 pens, a packet of gum, and a few packets of lactaid. In a separate holster on the fanny pack belt is a cell phone. On good days, this is all I need.Everything is in its place, and all the closures are, well, closed

On more active days, this fanny pack may reside in a larger bookbag merrily covered in pink, green and blue hearts. The fanny pack may share the space with a cosmetics bag that doesn't carry any makeup, but instead holds an eyeglass repair kit, calculator, a packet of Alevert, more lactaid, a mirror and comb, and a pair of seabands. There's also a small moleskin of prayers/bible passages, but there is ample room for a lunch of, say, an apple, carrots, and a sandwich. Even full, the bag neatly zips closed.

Today, though, the fanny pack gapes open, spilling its contents plus miscellaneous receipts, lottery tickets and coupons, into the cavernous Heart Bag. Somewhere in the depths is my cel phone, likely near the bottle of nearly consumed Lactaid. Heaven help me if I'm to find say my checkbook. My journal is in there too, as is my nifty 50th Anniversary pen from work (a heft thing, but it writes beautifully).

From my vantage point, a safe distance from the nearly exploding mass that is the Heart Bag, I can see:

-said cosmetics bag trying to escape the chaos;
-one plastic bag from the dentist containing a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste, and two containers of floss (yeah, okay, I get it - I need to floss more);
-one bottle of antibiotics (for above mentioned dental appointment);
-one empty plastic grocery sack (which recently held leftover treats from last night's School Stakeholder's Meeting;
-one smaller empty plastic grocery sack, leftover from yesterday's lunch;
-one eyeglass case with cleaner;
-one overfull plastic sleeve containing: two sets of insurance reimbursement documents, one flyer for a new Hawaiiana memoir book, one flyer for a Spiritual Autobiography class, one bill for childcare plus required calendar, all paperwork from the meeting (see above), phone numbers of folks I've asked references from, HR paperwork for an online teaching position, a recent student loan bill, order forms for the latest fundraising activity, two parent surveys (one for school, one for scouts), a sticky with a desired book title scrawled on its face, and stationery all ready to be made into a letter to BJR.

I think there's more in the HB-o-doom...but I can't tell from here...there is no way the top will zip closed, but even so, I think there's more lurking in the depths...

In a nutshell - look at my purse and you'll know why I've been busy lately...


Many Beautiful Things

The wounds of Katrina may have stolen my energy in the past few days, but even as I have begun to wake up again, many wonderful things have taken place, things I want to bear witness to, celebrate, and be joyful about.

First came news of Bino A. Realuyo's new and first book of poetry The Gods We Worship Love Next Door winner of the 2005 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry . His book releases February 2006, a particularly auspicious date given Realuyo's passion for language, story, and poetry.

Then came news of Marsh Hawk Press book launch featuring Eileen Tabios' I Take Thee, English, for My Beloved, affectionately known as The Brick. I wish I could be in NYC for the launch in a few days, but I have possession of her book and that makes me very happy.

And if idle hands make the devil's work, then Eileen is truly an angel, for hot on the heels of her book launch, she announced the publication of Post Bling Bling an eBook free for the download, but also available in hardcopy. Choices...choices...

Dino Manrique, then, announced the launch of FilipinoWriter.com a space for Filipino writers of all stripes to come together, swap stories, provide mentorship, share triumphs and challenges, and in general create an even stronger community and increasing the visibility of Filipino writers.

And later Bino A. Realuyo's welcomed John Labella Fulbright Scholar from the Philippines now located at Princeton University. I'm especially excited by Labella's appearance since he is not only interested in poetics and aesthetics, but also in phenomenology and ritual - two of my current research interests!

I was very pleased to hear that Oscar Penaranda had been named Educator of the Year by PASE/East Bay Oakland Chapter FAEAC. I met Oscar last March when he gave a reading at an AWP event in Vancouver. I remember most his voice, his deep storytelling voice, and I was glad to hear that his tireless work to bring Philippine American history and culture into the consciousness of his students was being recognized.

The editors of the much anticipated book Pinay Power will be having a panel discussion theorizing the Filipina/American experience at UC Berkeley on Oct. 15. So many wonderful things happen in CA! This book is definitely on my Must Read list.

The most exciting news by far, though, was the announcement that Barbara Jane Reyes had won the prestigious James Laughlin Award for her new collection Poeta en San Francisco forthcoming from TinFish Press. Barb has been very generous with her time, providing me with mentorship and encouragement as I tried my hand at poetry last Spring. I'm incredibly happy that her work has been recognized and I know that this is only the beginning of a long, illustrious career.

The timing could not have been more perfect either, as two interviews with Barbara released at about the same time as the award announcement. Eileen's interview appears on e-x-c-h-a-n-g-e-v-a-l-u-e-s while Rochita Clonen Ruiz' interview appears on The Sword Review.

I am part of an incredibly vibrant community and I am so grateful!


Hurricane Katrina-- How Writers Can Help

*Originally distributed by Poets and Writer's magazine*

Dear Friends,

In addition to the important work being done by the American Red Cross and other relief agencies, there are a number of special efforts we thought writers might be particularly interested in:

* The Katrina Literary Collective has been created to collect and distribute books to victims of the hurricane. For more information, contact the Amber Communications Group at amberbk@aol.com.

* A Louisiana Disaster Relief Fund has been established to receive monetary donations to assist libraries in Southeastern Louisiana. For more info, visit the American Library Association.

* The American Booksellers Association has created a Bookseller Relief Fund to assist independent booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina.

* The Southern Arts Federation has set up an Emergency Relief Fund to assist arts organizations and artists in those Gulf Communities most devastated by Katrina.

* Also, don't forget to check out the efforts Eileen and Meritage Press to bring poetry back to the bayou.

Thank you for whatever help you're able to provide.


Pinoy Ako!

Nothing focuses intent better than action.

Do what you can. Support a relief organization that aligns with your passion: Instapundit.com


Riffin' on my earlier post Astig, another phrase that's caught my attention in these hiphop songs I'm listenin' to is Pinoy Ako.

I am Filipino.

Pinoy Ako.

For my parents and acquaintances, this is a sort of no brainer. My parents are both Filipino. They were born in the Philippines and immigrated in the late 50's. I'm not adopted. I look mostly Filipino (when I'm not looking say, Hawaiian or Native American).

If only cultural heritage were as easy as looking at ones genes and skin color!

But as people get to know me, they realize that my ties to my Filipino heritage are for the most part unconscious, or at least subconscious. I'm told I have a slight accent when I get tired. I tend to sway when I walk. I know a bit more than the average person about Filipino-US history. But as a US-born pinay, I often don't feel I identify well with being Filipino.

My folks came to the US to live the American dream. Dad didn't want to be a Bureau of Lands agent like my grandfather who didn't want to be a farmer like my great grandfather. My mother admired all things USA because my grandfather was a Philippine Scout in the US Army, and the American's saved her from the invading Japanese. Post-colonial discourse is not high on their agenda.

They've been really successful in living their American dream. They've got a house in the suburbs, a good retirement, strong ties to their parish. When they go back home, they are heroes, the ones who made it, the ones with wisdom from the West and money to help out. They made it out of the Philippines before Marcos' Martial Law and we didn't visit as a family until well into the Ramos Administration.

Growing up, keeping ties to the Filipino community wasn't a high priority for my mother who saw such groups as a bunch of gossipers and egoists trying to out do each other with their wealth. I think my dad would have liked to have had stronger ties with the local diasporic community, but since socializing wasn't one of my mother's strong points, his opportunities were rare. It was only after the death of my mother's parents and our visit in 1995 that my mother began to see the real value in making friendships with Filipinos in our area.

It was a weird thing growing up...a lot of mixed messages. My parents never taught me any of their dialects because they were told that do so would stunt my mastery the English language. At the same time, they spoke their secrets in Tagalog, often speaking about me as I stood there, having a conversation about me that I could not understand. My keenest memories of separation come from those moments.

Being US born is to be outside. Outside of the Filipino community. Outside of the white community of the US. For a long time I just existed as if being Filipino was a happenstance of genes, nothing more.

This is changing. Old wounds are healing. Connections are being made. An internal awakening is happening.

Finally, though, after 40 years, I can own Pinoy Ako and not deny any other part of myself.

And that's a really, really good thing.



Give what you can, to the relief organizations you believe in. Help heal Katrina's wounds.

Find a relief organization: Instapundit.com


I've been listening to some Pinoy hiphop my hubby found on SoundClick recently and I've been slowly reacquainting myself to Tagalog. At least, what little tagalog I absorbed as a child.

My new favorite word: astig

Astig ako!

The song I heard is A.S.T.I.G and the artist says he wrote it for a group called Awareness in Spiritual Things to Institute Godliness. I think it's a group associated with the Methodist's Bible Reader's Society, but I also sense diwa within its energy.

A few years back I got into LOTR TCG a trading card game based on the Lord of the Rings. Like many games designed to keep collectors and gamers happy (and buying product) for as long as possible, there have been many expansions on the original game and one expansion included a card called Fierce - it made any big, bad monster, bigger, badder and harder to get rid of. Fierce was a good thing. They even gave out temporary tattoos with the Fierce logo. I have several.

I want a tattoo now that says ASTIG.

Unpacking all the 'stuff' I have about being pinay and embracing my heritage has been a winding journey of discovery. How does one balance all the aspects of being a US born Filipino while recognizing the inherent difficulties of possessing the myths and mindsets of colonized and colonizer?

Part of the answer has come from reading Leny Strobel's Book of Her Own and allowing my mind to embrace the difficult task of decolonization. Part has been exploring and expressing my new found understanding of babaylan, a path that has no ending, no destination, but more an engrainment and engagement of what I have already experienced. Part has come from trying to understand John Paul II's take on phenomenology. Part has been my own approach to decolonizing Christianity, as well as learning about bonding and boundary making.

The changes this process has created have been difficult to manage and I've often thought I'd give it all up just to have a bit of peace. But the draw is too strong, the diwata, the Spirit, the Red Path, all encompassing that I cannot turn away for long.


:To be drawn by change
:To embrace heritage
:To move with intent
:To live diwa
:To be the created Self
:To bond with others
:To establish health boundaries

The mosaic is becoming strong with intent.


Healing Katrina's Wounds

The last few weeks have been difficult as I find myself bombarded by reminders that I live in a world where racism not only exists but is apparently making a roaring comeback. During this incredibly tragic time with the devestation of Katrina, we have this sort of crap going on.

I want to ask the same questions as Amardeep Singh . I want to be as articulate as Margaret Cho and as politically/socially aware/active as Lorna Dee Cervantes. But most of all, I just want people to get on with lending a hand.

I know it's all overwhelming. I'm so overwhelmed by the layers, the bright shiny healing ones as well as the seedy malevolent ones, this storm has revealed. I am often frozen just /feeling/ the small ripples that have made their way to my part of the US, across an entire continent. I cannot conceive of what is happening there at ground zero, LA, FL, Carribbean/Gulf.

But nothing focuses intent better than action.

Do what you can. Collect what you love like poetry books and help Eileen give poets in the region hope. If you live close enough, collect school supplies or donate shelter to homeless animals like CaroCrow suggests.

Give what you can, to the relief organizations you believe in.

Go direct: America's Second Harvest

Go shopping/selling: eBay Giving Works

Participate: Blog Relief Day

Find a relief organization: Instapundit.com

Catholic Relief Services and her sister organizations is a charity I support because it brings together my faith and my activism. They are groups with an extensive network of support and volunteer resources that can and do mobilize at a moment's notice. They do not check religious affiliation at the door - anyone and everyone can come to CRS/CCUSA for help, no questions, no prostelization. They have the experience to get done what needs to be done. It's all about getting people what they need when they need it most.

Their blurb: Catholic Charities' niche in disaster relief is to provide long-term recovery work. Based on past disasters, possible long-term services that Catholic Charities may provide include temporary and permanent housing, direct assistance beyond food and water to get people back into their homes, job placement counseling, and medical and prescription drug assistance. To help communities recover from the damage brought on by Hurricane Katrina, Catholic Charities USA is collecting financial donations that will fund agencies' emergency and long-term disaster recovery efforts.

If you decide to participate, you can log that you heard about it from me here , but mostly I'm adding this line in because that's what the Blog Relief folk need us to do. I'm also tagging Technorati.com's flood aid page and Hurricane Katrina page,

This is a chance to make your beliefs concrete, to make a difference because you have acted according to your beliefs.

And I just gotta believe that the people who still read my blog are people who believe that relieving suffering of others is their concern too.



The only way to get published is to persist. Oh yeah, and writing writing writing, writing as hard and as well and as much as you can. All you can do is write the best poems you can figure out how to write, and keep on sending them out -- the rest is out of your control. That, and not letting either acceptance or rejection go to your head. When you sit down and face the blank page, that page doesn't give a crap who's accepted or rejected you before. It's a fresh challenge every single time. And that's the beauty of it.
Anne Haines of Land Mammal via Ivy

And yesterday too, I randomly picked up Write Mind from my bookshelf, and randomly flipped open to entry 99, which said something like:

Wrong Mind: All I write is drivel!
Write Mind: I am blocking my own creativity. The next time I come to the page, I won't write about what just interests me. I will write a pool of my own blood on the page.

And I thought Oh! That's why I'm so afraid of my writing! *facepalm*

Bleeding on the page...vulnerability...lack of borders...victimization...hurt...

But like Christ, can I bleed to bring about healing and reconciliation?

Now /there's/ a challenge.


Pinoy HipHop

Last week on So You Think You Can Dance one of the competitors danced his survival dance (to gain audience votes and survive til the next round) to a hiphop song in Tagalog. I was totally blown away! I mean I'd heard of Pinoy hiphop, of course, but to hear it on national TV was really amazing and cool for me. This is what happens when a Pinay spends most of her life in the middle of white suburban upperclass America.

It took a bit to find it, but thanks to the community forums for the show, I found that it was Bebot by Black Eyed Peas. Too cool! Then the hubby got online and found a bunch of open access MP3s of Pinoy Hiphop. I'm so jazzed! I'm now the newest fan of apl.de.ap!

So peeps - turn me on to good Pinoy hiphop, kay? Who's your fav and who should I to listen to next?


Sea Stories

Best Quote from last weekend's camping trip with the kids and 'rents at Ocean Shores:

My friend says "They're so rich, they have to go out to be poor!" - my mother, encapsulating her true feelings about the whys and wherefores of the 'American' urge to 'camp.'

So on the one hand we have my mom who believes that she camped out enough during wartime and on the other, we have my dad who has been itching to go camping since I was a Brownie Scout. Put into the mix the Timeshare they had bought at the insistence of my Lolo some 20 years ago, and you've got the groundwork for what was the actual experience of the 'camping' trip. I keep saying 'camping' because we were actually all just sharing a 5 person trailer permanently parked at a seaside resort with running water, electricity and cable TV. So yeah, in a sense we /paid/ to be trailer trash for a weekend. *chuckle.*

That said, there was nothing more wonderful than to be by the sea again. It was the first time I had been oceanside since leaving Hawaii 7 years ago. Before moving to Hawaii, I loved to be by the sea, but was mostly comfortable near the Puget Sound, rather than the open sea. The power of the waves was just too overwhelming. In Hawaii, the power was worse and actually gave me a sense of vertigo. I thought perhaps I had lost my sea-sense.

But last weekend, I walked along the shore, played tag with the waves, and didn't feel a /bit/ of vertigo. I felt /at home/ finally. And to be there with my family, picking up half sand dollars and watching the kites lift into the sky was just incredible. Having Leny's Book of Her Own along with me helped me reset a few jangled nerves and ease some worries. New ones cropped up, of course, in their wake.

I've nearly lapsed into my old stress patterns except that now I have babaylan in my heart and the sea in my spirit, and all I have to do is remember my walk and everything just seems to be okay again.


A Book of Her Own III

The essay The Heart of Teaching found in Leny Strobel's A Book of Her Own echoes many of my experiences with teaching PostColonial Literature to college students.

I taught for only two quarters, a pinch hitter for a professor out on emergency medical leave. I taught one class each quarter, two nights a week, the first quarter using the books the original professor had chosen, the second quarter using texts I chose. Both quarters I taught to a group of about 60 students ranging from precocious Freshmen trying to get their general university requirements out of the way early, all the way to jaded seniors trying to get their last general university requirement out of the way before graduation. In essence, the only thing that brought us together was this external requirement, and given their druthers, I knew they would have rather spent their time/money on something other than PostColonial literature, especially once I started deconstucting their understanding of White Priviledge.

As in Leny's experience, the classes were mostly composed of white middle class students and a handful of folk of color. One quarter I had an Englishman who was incredibly bemused by the class - apparently this 'race issue' was an 'American' phenomenon and he had trouble figuring out what all the hullabaloo was all about. During the first class, I started deconstructing the assumptions about White Priviledge by listing the attributes most desired by US society - male, white, 30s, heterosexual, married w/kids, Christian, making a living in finance or science. This was a list the class generated which immediately made them uncomfortable - I could see the reaction in their eyes You mean I actually have to participate in class even before I've learned anything? . I was setting the standard - I wasn't going to provide all the answers to the complex questions the texts were going to give and they would have to work for their own understanding.

This first exercise immediately Othered the majority of the class. There was usually only one person in the entire group who fit the description of the 'perfect' American. Stage Set.

The rest of the class we wrestled with the concepts of Dominant Paradigm, Alternative Paradigm, Dominant Alternative Paradigm, and Dominant Reactive Paradigm in relation to such texts as A Right to Be Hostile, Palestine and Babaylan. Entering an Othering space where the Dominant Paradigm did not provide the 'correct' answers was world tilting to my students and few survived the class without having to struggle through survivor's guilt and a terrible sense of helplessness. By the end of the class we brought it down to brass tacks - how can we purchase certain products at bargain prices knowing that somewhere, someone was paid a pittance to harvest/sew/assemble the thing we desire/need? How can we survive in an economy built on an ever increasing split between rich and poor? How is it possible to support culturally and environmentally sustainable products that are equitible to workers but more expensive to purchase?

No easy answers, but I saw that as a good thing. They left my class, the ones really engaged in the material, more aware of the complexities of their world and less likely to simply follow White Priviledge because it was the easy thing to do.

Later in Leny's essay, she relates her experience as a member of a mostly suburban, White, liberal, upper middle-class church. She tells of a particular Sunday dedicated to overseas missions and the moment when she realized How could I keep smiling and looking grateful for these good-hearted but complicious projects that reinforced US domination under the guise of evangelical zeal?. She struggled with the good intentions of her church members whose actions and attitudes silenced the political dialogue created by the disjunction between Gospel and Action. She writes To erase such differences, especially in the context of a localized hegemony of Whiteness, was to render my life trivial. And no amount of belonging was enough to offset having my life trivialized. So I left that church, and am still searching for another..

This reminded me of a conversation I had with an Evangelical Christian friend of mine in which I related that my difficulty was not with Christ or even Christianity, but with Christians. To ignore the things done in the name of religion, especially the Catholic Church from the time of the Crusades, through the Counter Reformation, through the progroms, and finally colonization of the 'new world' was to essentially bleach my own skin and commit to gender reclassification. His return argument was unfortunately all too telling, saying that he too felt Othered by the Gospel since Christ was a Jew with olive skin, not a Franco American living in the deep south *ahem*. I have yet to properly respond to this line of thought, mostly because my ire is unbounded whenever I think about the conversation.

It's a difficult thing to be committed to the teachings of the Catholic Church, to have Faith and yet be aware of what has been done to my people, to the indigineous peoples of the world in the name of Christianity, for the sake of "civilizing" and "spreading the Word." But in this process I'm in now, this breaking apart and mosaicking something new, I am realizing that there is space, there is the possibility of decolonizing Christianity, of deconstructing the Master Narratives that have burdened Christian history and created the Whitewashing of Christian thought, because I can imagine that space as existing.

I believe there is space for honoring and celebrating diversity, of creating sustainable cultures of faith that are inclusive, but like my students, we have to be willing to see the possibilities and go forward with hope, using the tools/gifts we have been given, and perhaps to finally beat swords in to plowshares.

I think I'm beginning to understand the shape of my Intent.

A Book of Her Own II

The Gift of Dreams is a powerful chapter/prose poem in Leny Strobel's A Book of Her Own. In it, Leny relates images and narrative from dreams, ending each with focusing texts she titles Ponder this:.

I dream in color and for the most part, I dream surface dreams which seem part mystery science theater 3k, part purge-of-the-daily-stress, sprinkled liberally with twists and turns that would make the average dream interpreter crosseyed.

Occasionally though, I dream True. The specifics of True Dreaming are shrouded in mystery reserved for initiates only (*^.-*) however, the point is, that after reading The Gift of Dreams , I dreamt True and was even given the Gift of Interpretation the same night. I can only attribute this miracle to Leny's poetry.

The details?

I was in my old childhood church, before the Reconfiguration, when the altar was still at the back of the Church not the side, and definitely not relocated to its new space. I was in a hurry, because I new Fr. F was in the Vestry and that I needed to help him quickly. I found him in the room to left side of the altar, apparently frustrated. Sunlight streamed from a skylight above us. Around him were several others who I perceived were there to help him get ready for Mass. The problem was, though, that no one knew how to put on the elaborate vestments required. No amount of explanation from Fr. F seemed to help as the others didn't seem to speak the same language. I, though, understood him, although I too was unfamiliar with the vestments. We quickly layered on robe after robe, a few of them resembling flannel nightshirts that I had seen during the Real Day. After arranging the layers, the robes didn't quite settle correctly, so I knelt to tug at the hems. As soon as the robes were correct, Fr. F departed to start Mass. I don't remember if he thanked me, but I do remember feeling a sense of relief and accomplishment.

Once Mass starts, there's no going back to the main church except by using a hallway hidden behind the altar that connected the Vestry with the Bride's Room. I ducked down the passage and met a person who was very agitated. She said that there was a fire in the Bride's Room and she didn't know what to do. I quickly went down the passage telling her that I could try to put out the fire. In the Bride's Room I found a large table covered in candles all burning brightly and threatening to catch the table on fire. I quickly pulled the pin on a fire extinguisher and used the fluid to put out the candles. I realized that the fire had been deliberately set.

Ponder this: There is something only you can do, something sacred, something necessary. Something that must be layered to be complete, that will require both humility and the willingness to set things straight/correct before it goes into the world to do what it needs to do. But in moving from Light to Dark, beware of the possible destruction of what has been built, that there is a sabatour Within. You have the tools to end the destruction and allow the Work already set in motion to proceed unimpeded.

When A Yoga Master and the Pope Meet

One of the interesting things about reading several books at the same time is that themes tend to play against each other, creating a dialogue likely never imagined. When Pope John Paul II was simply known as Bishop Karol Wojtyla, he conducted a retreat, providing daily talks on the Christian path to young college students in attendence. In contrast, yoga master and writer Jeff Davis shares his insight into both discplines to create a mindful writing method in his book The Journey from the Center to the Page (which on glance at Amazon, has apparently been remaindered as a hardback, so the paperback is actually more expensive than the cloth cover version. Interesting.)

*shakes head to clear thoughts*

On the one hand, Davis shares his conviction that ritual is an integral part of a successful writer's life. Rituals define writing space, making the act of writing a sacred thing. In my heart, I believe what he is saying is true for me. I seem to write best when I define my writing space distinctly as opposed to haphazardly trying to write something down between this task and that. But lets face it, as a working mom facing the very real possiblity of adding another part-time job to her already busy schedule, the looseness required to honor ritual seems a remote possibility. However, the impression is clear especially in light of my recent exploration of Babaylan. Ritual moments are important and I'd argue, for myself, essential to both my well being as well as my writing. Rituals provide balance between the busy-ness of our day to day world with the stillness needed to tap into the passion that fuels art.

Enter JPII. If there is one thing we can say about the Catholic Church, it's all about ritual. Theodrama. Ritual and repetition ground the Mass, the Rosary, the Book of Hours. In his second talk Christianity, the Religion of Choice, JPII continues his idea of community and conversation between God and Creation from the first chapter on God Is Person. His view focuses on the Gospels as revelatory, and not so much in the sense of prophetic or historic, although he is adamant that the Gospels are these things also. But by saying that the Gospels are revelatory, he means that they are one side of a conversation that God is trying to carry on with Creation, that the entire life of Christ is about bringing about balance between God and Creation. (The choice part for JPII comes into whether or not we choose to believe this is what's happening.)

So from reading this pair (thank you Mark Geisler of WWU for showing me this method of close reading) for me I can say that Life gets out of balance because I'm juggling so many things at once. Being out of balance means I can't focus on writing very well. The key to achieving balance is to first recognize there's an imbalance then enter into a ritual that creates the space for balance. The beauty of it, though, is that this points to the possibility that writing is not outside my faith, but that actually the pattern of my faith might reveal how to go about being the writer I aspire to become.

(It's interesting to note here too, that I first learned the key concepts behind close readings - historical/cultural context, alignment of key passages to other parts of narrative, connection to experience and other texts - from the homilies I heard each Sunday and Holy Day. Thankfully, most of the priests I've encountered are really good at close readings and have strengthened my ability to enter into texts more fully.)

Unlearning Fear

In Dick Straub's book Christian Wisdom of the Jedi, the author speaks of the need to unlearn fear. I remember Yoda saying something like "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." Straub argues that by unlearning fear, which to my mind goes beyond simply releasing fear, the spiral to the Dark Side is effectively avoided.

Now this seems to be correct on the surface, and I'd even go so far as to say that it would be a good thing for me to unlearn my fear patterns, to decouple myself from fear narratives. But from what little I know of Gavin De Becker's book The Gift of Fear , I also know that a healthy respect for fear can be protective.

Basically as both a woman and a person of color, I've learned that to be afraid is to understand that all things are not equal in the society in which I live. The rules are not the same for me as they are for members of the dominant paradigm. My fears are founded on both experience with sexism and racism as well as being witness to the sufferings of Others. These aren't fears that can/should be dismissed, but rather examined very carefully, not only to validate them as grounded in reality, but to also protect against those strange moments that can blind side me. Those weird times when I'm followed around in a store by a clerk who I realize is making sure I don't steal anything. Those strange times when the leer of a man may change to an aggressive move to possess me physically, mentally or emotionally. Those cold moments when I realize that I am target, object, exotic, Other.

Fear can paralyze and lead to unbalance, but the Jedi I have seen both in the movies and in real life, are aware of the messages fear bring and use that knowledge to protect, enlighten, and heal. I think even Yoda would agree that this is a type of Listening to the Force.

*chuckle* although I have to admit, I'm not ready to face a laser dart ball with only a lightsaber and a helmet with the blast shield on. At least, not yet.



Make visible what without you, might perhaps never have been seen.

- Robert Bresson

People may fail many times, but they become failures only when they begin to blame someone else.

- Unknown

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

- Chinese Proverb


A Book of Her Own

I have been reading/enjoying/challenged by Leny Mendoza Strobel's memoir A Book of Her Own.

I actually started with her first book Coming Full Circle which tends to be more academic in style, but soon discovered that where Coming Full Circle asked the question How do Filipino American's experience decolonization? A Book of Her Own gives the answer to What happens after decolonization?

I have this bad habit of sometimes jumping to the end of stories to find out if the heroes make it in the end, and I imagine that same impulse drove me to dive more deeply into Leny's second book before finishing the first book. I hope she'll forgive me.

I'm working through this idea of pagbabalikloob that Leny describes as a turning of the soul towards Home, a movement similar to the space I am looking into now - that turning inwards, of gathering what is outside of myself to see what fits/illuminates/augments that which is Within, the center of seven paths. Home, she asserts, is that space beyond the master narratives of Master/Colonized, white/color, civilized/savage, male/female, all the dichotomies created by the interaction/clash between the Western world and the indigineous world of the Philippines. This goes beyond reappropriation, for Leny, beyond bridging the gap between what was lost and what was assumed out of survival, beyond even the excavation of lost stories and methods to bring back connection with the land and its people. She writes:

I am blessed. If I need anything, it's the gift of healing I want for the rest of us. I want the gift of strong story as medicine for our souls.

Here she first acknowledges herself as not only separate from the master narratives that have burdened her, but also as strong and sacred. Her view turns outward, seeing in her own healing, the potential for healing within others. And that healing comes from Story, strong story, that connects instead of differentiating. In this space, there is no Other, it is instead communal, gathering in spirit, and for me, drums the necessity that is our existence.

My favorite poem so far in the book is The White Man in My Bed. I read it the other night while the day cooled by seawind and my children slept dreaming of salt and pepper beaches and broken sand dollars. I read it again, out loud to my husband, my own White Man in My Bed, and he laughed at the title, then, like me, was drawn into the story, the assertion of the poem, which so aptly reflected our experience.

But we transcend politics
Race, class, gender
Even religion
Even language
So do not stare at us.
You won't find answers here

And I'm sure he remembered like I did, the red faced woman in Umatilla, WA we encountered nearly two decades ago, the woman who obviously took offense that a woman of color and a white man should share a meal together, snuggle close and exchange the flirtations of young love, treat each other as equals. I often wondered if she thought I was overstepping my social standing, if she would have been more comfortable if I was serving the meal instead of eating it with my boyfriend, if she thought I should be in a nearby field, stooped and bent over the mint harvest. Perhaps she was of a mind that it was one thing for this white boy to have a colored girl for a plaything, but to parade her in public was just too much for her mind to handle. She stared at us through lunch, her face beat red and her lips pursed white. She stared at us as she left the restaurant and she stared at us as she got into her car and drove away. It was likely a miracle that she didn't have a coronary on the spot.

God Is Person

Our soul is our absolute identity, created by God in God's image. God is the First Cause, who reaches out to us and in turning our awareness to God, we come into right relationship wiht the First Cause, God who is Person. It's noted that our theories/concepts of God are not God, but theories/concepts - metaphors which, though powerful, merely reflect (usually imperfectly), what Is.

-- paraphrased, Chapter 1 The Way to Christ.

I picked up this book mainly because I've been looking for a book to help me understand the foundation of thought for John Paul II's Theology of the Body, a body of work covering 129 encyclicals given between 1979 and 1984. Think of it - the previous pope spent /five years/ talking about the integration of body, soul, and spirit, and the basis of his line of thinking is simple - the body itself gives clues to the divine. Much of JPII's philosophy is based in phenomenology which was developed in response to the apparent failure of the Renaissance philosophy. It's heady stuff, and I can't say I understand it, hence the need to find some way into the conversation. I'm hopeful that The Way to Christ will give me the clues I need.

Because somewhere, I think, between/among/through/inside babaylan and JPII's ToB added to the Native American stories and my other previous experience, is the amalgam for my mosaic.

Advice to a Writer

Before you begin writing ask yourself the question:

What am I writing for?
- watch for the Ego, who says things like "to prove myself," "to gain recognition," for these are spaces of fear;
- center yourself, breathe deep in Mountain pose and ask again
- the answer to this question is your Intention for writing

Once you have your intention, clarify the immediate focus for your writing session. Intention and focus are two different/related things, but intention must come before focus.

-- paraphrased from Chapter 1 of The Journey from the Center to the Page

I bought this book because I've been having a terrible time finding a copy of Judith Barrington's Writing the Memoir. Borders claims it's out of print, but Amazon still seems to have copies. I may have to order it later on. Anyway, I picked Journey from the Center because of this idea of Intention that has been milling around in my brain, how it is a remedy against Emotional Reasoning a habit of mind I've identified as needing to be released as I examine/rewrite my master narratives.

The thought is that as I take apart these narratives, breaking them free from myself, allowing mySelf to be decloaked, those pieces can be used as pieces of a mosaic. The mosaic itself takes on a shape depending on my Intent, which has to do with healing/community/story, and the glue/cement that holds these pieces together is an amalgam of Faith.

Finding this book, then is a curvature back to the original space, bringing writing together with intent and making a new method of visioning storymaking.