Monday, July 30, 2007

Circle of Life*

"And it moves us all / Through despair and hope / Through faith and love / Till we find our place / On the path unwinding"

After nearly a month of well-chonicled angst over this housing debacle, our journey ends right back where we started. And here I am, posting my very first blog retraction. Is there even such a thing? Well, there is now!

"Tonight, I will finally, fer reals, seriously this time, start to pack." Or, as the kids say, "NOT!"

Dusty and I saw a rental house this afternoon that we really liked, so we called our landlady to let her know we had found a place. It turns out that her son decided to live elsewhere, so she gave us a sweet deal to keep renting this house. Sometime next week, we will sign a new lease, good for at least a year, if not more. We don't have to pack or move or do anything besides enjoy what is left of our summer. Yay?

The question mark there is because--one final housing/dating analogy and then I'm giving this dead horse its last rites, I promise--I had already broken up with the Brady Bunch House. I'm really happy we got back together and all, but we're in that awkward moment right after we've made up and made out and we're not quite sure what just happened. Dusty had already packed up Halloween stuff yesterday and I was planning on packing up my office tonight. I had even photographed all the rooms, like I always do when I am saying goodbye to a house.

We're definitely relieved that we get to stay. We do love this house and we are saved the hassle and expense of moving. I just feel like we basically ran around in a circle all month long. It was a tense, angsty, sometimes yelly circle around banks and real estate brokers and landlords. At least now we can stop running. Whew! Unclench and unwind. A bit of rest and then on to bigger, better, wilder, wetter things! My ass feels a little better already.

During the full moon last night, Jamielita led Circle, invoking the Hindu mother goddess Bhuvaneshwari to help us find sanctuaries, safe places for our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. Mother must have been listening closely; She decided to cut at least one of us a break. Namaste for letting me find my way back to this place, our place. Blessed be.



*It was either this or "What a Long, Strange Trip It Has Been". Thanks a lot, Karincita, for putting Lion King at top of mind. "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba / Sithi uhm ingonyama..."

I'm Free

"I say love me, hold me, love me, hold me / 'Cause I'm free to do what I want / any old time "

After a thorough search, both of our Souls and the interwebs, Dusty and I made the final decision this past weekend to rent, not buy, a house. Even though our new mortgage broker was able to secure a pretty decent down payment rate (5.75%), we decided that there are too many unknowns with buying a house in Edmonton at this point. That canyon is too deep, so we're not jumping.

To those of you who have asked whether our decision to rent may have something to do with moving somewhere else--let's say, hypothetically, to our fair city's Texan counterpart-- to work on Hello Kitty vs. My Little Pony: Mano a Mano, I say: No. Stop asking.

Our decision was based on the following:

1) To afford a decent house in Edmonton, we would have to move money from our US accounts up to Canada. Now is not a good time for that, as the current exchange rate is US$1.00 to CAD$1.07. The US dollar, she is weak. Did the president make heinous and unpopular decisions affecting global policy and international relations? Again? Today?

2) If we end up staying in Edmonton for only a couple more years, we would not earn enough equity in the house to make it worth the purchase. We would incur the costs of buying a house this year, then possibly incur the costs of selling that house next year. I just used the word "incur" twice in that sentence. Not a good sign.

3) Buying a house in haste is as advisable as starting a land war in Asia. Most reasonable people with their wits about them take months, not weeks, to decide on a house they really want. They do not settle on a house because it is acceptable for the asking price. I would like to think we are reasonable people, with most of our wits about us. Dusty left his socks on the stove just the one time. Now he leaves his socks in the fridge, like every other reasonable man does. He is so smart. S-M-R-T...

This afternoon, we started looking at rental houses. Even though the rent on some of these places is more than double what we have been paying, it will still end up being cheaper than owning a house for just two years. Stunning, but true. Tonight, I will finally, fer reals, seriously this time, start to pack. It's nice to be free. Free like a butterfly, free like a bee.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Poetry Sunday: Morning in Nafplio

Four years ago, Dusty and I went on a glorious three-month tour of Europe. We weren't backpacking in the strictest sense of the word, but we did live out of backpacks and travel by Eurail. We were good little budget travelers, buying breakfast and lunch fixins from groceries and markets and staying in local no-name hotels.

One of the most memorable hotels was the Acropol in Nafplio, Greece. We wound up there upon the suggestion of two guys in a car who stopped right in front of us on the street corner to direct us to the hotel. Random, but effective. We asked to see the room they were hawking for 35 Euro and it was a bit shabby, plus there were two singles instead of one double bed.

We talked amongst ourselves and decided it wasn't the room for us. Once we were out the door, however, Acropol's manager conveniently "remembered" an available double room with a balcony just above the hotel sign, overlooking the street. Mm-hm. A bit more "good cop, bad cop" and we got the room for 25 Euro per night for seven nights. Awww yeahhh. We bad.

I wrote this on February 1, 2003, while having breakfast on the balcony of our room at the Hotel Acropol.

Morning in Nafplio

Kalimera! greets the shopkeeper.
The day’s news hangs like laundry
outside the store window.

Above the shop, a red-robed lady coughs
through her first cigarette of the day.
Coffee punches the back of her throat,
wrestles with the smoke on the way down to her lungs.
She adjusts her hair curlers.

Two balconies over, Yiayia shakes out the back door rug.
Yesterday’s dirt and cat hair fall
like confetti onto the street below.
A small parade of gold and blue musicians
turns the corner, maybe among them her grandson.

Today is Nafplio’s birthday.
The bells are calling everyone to church.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'm Like a Bird

"I'll only fly away / I don't know where my soul is / I don't know where my home is"

I have commitment issues. My longest Pre-Dusty relationship lasted 18 continuous months. Generally, around the one-year mark, I would start getting the feeling that I needed to fly free. I wouldn't even allow a guy to call me his girlfriend until we had been dating at least four months. One guy introduced me around at a company party as his girlfriend only one month after we had started dating. On the way home, one of my nine mouths opened up and sang a song of doom called OH HELLZ NO. He didn't call me his girlfriend again until we had been dating for six months. The issue ceased to exist six months after that.

My commitment issues stem from being chronically--but randomly--risk-averse. I go to Las Vegas to see the shows. If I gamble, it is only because I am (a) reasonably drunk or (b) with a bunch of friends who want to shoot craps or (c) both of the above. And yet, I was willing to commit to a Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (aka Jyhad) logo tattoo on my lower back. By some accident of fate, my appointment was postponed for 24 hours and Dusty designed a far more gorgeous tattoo, while still keeping the elements I liked about the logo. In retrospect, thank Goddess. I'm geeky, but I'm not "obscure niche card game logo tattoo" geeky.

Buying a house is a huge commitment. So I am perhaps understandably angst-ridden about our continuing housing saga. Dusty and I dated for four years before we got married! Now we're trying to (1) secure financing (2) find a house we like (3) pack and (4) move within the next two months? And all while Dusty is still on crunch time and I'm trying to get the damned permanent residency application together? This is all moving way too fast. It's getting too serious. And I have a name already, so don't call me your girlfriend!

(TANGENT: Really, Canada? You need to know every single address I've had since I was 18 years old? You say I can just describe the building if I don't remember the address. Why? Are you gonna do a drive-by? Will you not allow me to permanently reside here if I had lived in a yurt for a couple of months in 1996? C'monnn... )

One of the many reasons why I am married to this particular husband is that he gets me. Whenever we have a big decision to make, he patiently listens to me blather on about all my fears and then calmly brings logic into the discussion. (Stupid logic! Always making sense and shit.) He was the first guy to make me feel safe enough to take the risks we have taken together. "What if the canyon is deeper than we think it is?" I always ask. "Don't worry. I'll hold your hand as we jump," he always promises. "Everything will be all right."

I know everything will be all right. I do. This is just the part right before we jump, when my butt puckers up because oh sweet Moses there are risks! And questions! What if the house we decide to buy needs a whole bunch of improvements? Will we earn enough equity in the house to make it worth the money and effort we'll put into it? What if we tie up all our money in the house and we have some Great Big Unforeseen Emergency? What if the canyon is deeper than we think it is?

I think I was born to be an editor. I would take a whole lot more risks if I knew I could go back and correct for passive voice. Life needs a Ctrl-Z option.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Push

"You're the one true thing I know I can believe / Your love is just the antidote when nothing else can cure me"

For the past two weeks or so, I have been having the worst tailbone pain. (Yes, I said tailbone. If you are squeamish about body parts, stop reading this post right now. Seriously. I'm going to say tailbone again. Don't say I didn't warn you. I will also say ass. Just so you know. You're in my house now, and I say ass. A lot.)

So last week, I went to see my acupuncturist, and I told him about the literal pain in my ass. For the first 15 minutes of the hour, we talked about the possible causes of the tailbone pain and he offered a plausible, albeit slightly New Age-y, theory that made a lot of sense to me. Basically, the muscles in that general region are tensed up from past injury and the current stress in my life is aggravating the tension. I guess I really need to unwind and unclench. Easier said than done.

He tried treating the pain with a needling pattern that was actually nowhere near my tailbone, but the energy was way too intense and he had to take the needles out halfway through treatment. Still, he was really concerned that I was in such pain, so he showed me a realignment exercise that relieved it almost immediately. The relief only lasted a couple of hours or so, but it was there. He also suggested that my regular Pilates exercises should help with gently stretching the muscles that are tensed up around that region. My acupuncturist rules!

Just for a second opinion, I went to see my medical doctor yesterday. I waited for 15 minutes and then talked to her for exactly seven minutes. She hurriedly asked me a few questions, then used both her thumbs to push hard on my tailbone. She asked me, "Does this hurt?" You just poked me in the ass, lady! Of course it freakin' hurts! I told you I'm here because my ass hurts! I want to yell "DUH!" directly in your ear and ask, "Did that hurt?"

Her "treatment" amounted to giving me this spiel: "I don't know what causes this kind of pain. It could be any number of things. Maybe you sprained a muscle behind your tailbone. I don't know. There's no treatment for it. Take some Advil. It should go away soon. Come back and see me if it doesn't improve or if it gets worse." Why? So you can tell me some more how you have no idea what is going on and proceed to do jack-all to help ease my pain? Whatevs, yo. I bet you'll just poke me in the ass again. At least buy me a mojito first. Damn.

To be fair, I've had great experiences with doctors of osteopathy (DOs) who did more than just poke me and shrug their shoulders. They actually took the time to find out what is going on in my life that could be causing the ailment, talking out the symptoms with me and figuring out the best treatment. So I'm not saying I'm completely done with Western medicine; I'm just saying that MDs need to take a more wholistic approach to health, much like DOs and Eastern medicine practitioners do.

Just because the pain is in my tailbone doesn't necessarily mean the issue is with my tailbone. It is, after all, connected to my pelvic bone, which is connected to my hip bone. The hip bone's connected to the thigh bone. The thigh bone's connected to the--Everybody sing it with me now!--Them bones, them bones...

I leave you with this brief history of medicine by the renowned historian Anonymous:

2000 BC - "Here, eat this root."
1000 AD - "That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer."
1850 AD - "That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion."
1940 AD - "That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill."
1985 AD - "That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic."
2000 AD - "That antibiotic doesn't work. Here, eat this root."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Thank You for the Music

"Without a song or a dance, what are we? / So I say thank you for the music / for giving it to me"

Dear Karincita,

Happy birthday, my darling love! In celebration of the day you first graced the world with your presence, I proudly present:

TOP TEN REASONS WHY I ADORE YOU

10. Your iTunes list ranges from Aerosmith to Gilbert and Sullivan to Diana Krall. You're a gigantomongous music geek, genre be damned! And when I told you I was going to wear my cowboy hat with the skulls to the BioWare picnic, you replied, ""You're a cowboy. On a steel horse you ride. You're wanted, dead or alive." OH SNAP! Bon Jovi reference 4TW, y'all!

09. You always know exactly what I'm talking 'bout. I don't know if it's because you and I have led parallel lives or what, but I never have to mince words or beat around the bush when I'm talking to you. Huh-huh. I just said bush. Huh-huh. Mince. Huh-huh. VernixVernixVernix...

08. Your outrageous belly laugh is the sweetest music there is. Right up there with your angelic singing voice. I was so outclassed when we were singing along at Mamma Mia! on Saturday. When Rock Band for the 360 comes out, I will gladly cede Lead Singer status to you. Now if I could just get the hang of that guitar... ahh, eff it. I'll be the cage dancer.

07. You and I have had actual conversations like, "It's just deplorable how the California educational system is penalizing kids who don't speak English as a first language. Oh! Hey, did you check out gofugyourself today?" "Yes, I did, girl. And Lauryn Hill looks like a cracked-out Oprah Winfrey clown impersonator."

06. You are always so generous with your time and resources. You rescued me after The Great Tire Blowout of 2005. You barely knew me at the time, but you drove out, helped me change the tire ("Gravity is your friend!"), and made sure I safely got home driving on the donut. That was when I first fell in love with you, my heroine.

05. Your bosom of friendship and sisterhood is so soft and cushiony. Whenever the Universal Rochambeau Deity makes with the kicking against Team Everman, you are always there with a proverbial icepack for the ovarios, a hug and dark chocolate to soothe dramatically hurt feelings, and a promise to help me kick back.

04. Your gorgeous dimply smile instantly lights up any room. Fer reals, girl, you must've harnessed the sun to power that thang. Daaayaaamn.

03. You do not suffer my bullshit. While you are always unfailingly supportive, you do not hesitate to ask when appropriate, "Have you lost your mind?" Then you assist with the search and rescue of said mind.

02. You are an amazing mother. I'm not just talking about the Amazon Home Birth Supermodel who birthed a child without a midwife; I'm also talking about the mama bear who has raised such a smart, funny, loving, well-mannered Monchichi. Yes, there are times when he's not so well-mannered, but ok, hi: he is currently suffering from a rabid case of the two-and-a-halfs. It will pass.

01. You are my Moon Sister. You, Jamielita, and I have created a spiritual practice that has stretched, nourished, and enriched my Soul. Blessed be. I'm so happy you are so hippie. You make this prairie tundra feel like the coziest place to call home.

In short, I want to bake you into a pie and take you home to my mother. You are that adorable. So, seriously, will you marry me? Dusty and Tricky won't mind, honest. Plus, we're already living in Canada; you know how these liberals are with their socialized medicine and their gay marriages. We could totally pull it off here. Just think about it, 'kay?

Feliz compleaños, mi amorcita. Thank you for the music you bring into my life.

8hugs8!
Cookie

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Poetry Sunday: Going to Visit a Recluse and Not Finding Him In

I wrote this in the spring of 1997 for my Chinese poetry in translation class at UMCP. Our assignment was to write a poem in the style of Tu Fu, considered one of the most brilliant poets of the Middle Kingdom. He was a wee bit broody and liked to write in non-rhyming couplets.

Going to Visit a Recluse and Not Finding Him In
(A Humble Tribute to Tu Fu)


Surprised to find your door ajar, I enter cautiously.
Alarmed to see your home empty, I explore anxiously.
Survey a private room that welcomes no one;
focus on an open letter that banishes only one.
You lived a hundred years in solitude, never forgiving.
I traveled a thousand li in anguish, always regretting.
Green mountains embrace a lonely, bitter man.
Blue ocean swallows a desperate, grieving friend.



Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wide Open Spaces

"She needs wide open spaces / Room to make her big mistakes / She needs new faces / She knows the high stakes"

I finally got around to watching Spellbound, which was recommended by Betsy a few years ago. The film follows eight kids, all about 13 or 14 years old, in the weeks leading up to the 1999 National Spelling Bee. Although many of the kids' stories were compelling and touching, I found myself instantly drawn to Ashley White from Washington, DC.

Ashley lived with her mom and little sister in a cramped apartment, and she took the Metro to and from school. She described herself as a "prayer warrior", constantly asking God to reward her hard work. While some of the other contestants had foreign language tutors and computer programs to help them memorize words, Ashley studied every day after school using Scrabble pieces and an old-fashioned blackboard.

When Ashley stepped up to the microphone for the first time during the Bee, I cheered aloud for her. It was hard to watch her stumbling and struggling to spell her first word. She looked really nervous, obviously trying to collect herself. After she spelled the word correctly, she quickly walked back to her seat and burst into tears. It was clear that the stakes were higher for her. Winning the bee would mean a college scholarship, a career, a life beyond what she knows. I don't even know Ashley and my heart broke a little bit for her. I can only imagine what her mother must have been feeling.

One of the things that struck me most about Spellbound is that it was as much the parents' story as it was the kids'. Neil Kadakia's parents made preparing for the Bee a military exercise. His mother actually said, "When you fight in a war, everyone has the same goal." Angela White was not so militant, but she did ad hoc PR for Ashley, phoning everyone she knew to watch the Bee on ESPN and urging the local papers to report on her daughter's achievements instead of that week's neighborhood gunshot body count. Both Angela and Mrs. Kadakia did everything they could to encourage and support their kids, and had faith that everything would turn out fine in the end.

My mother is a woman of incredible faith, a devout Catholic like almost all Pinay mothers I know. Much like Ashley, Mom is a prayer warrior, asking God to grant her and her family various things like good health, a productive job interview, safety, peace. She tells me that she includes me in her daily rosary prayers, even though she knows I don't believe in "her" God anymore. I never fully appreciated the power of Mom's faith and how much it is an extension of her love until I met La Moreneta.

I visited a friend in Barcelona, Spain, this past April, and we took a day trip out to Montserrat, the “serrated mountain” believed to have been carved out of the Catalonian landscape by angels. The Benedictine monastery atop the mountain houses a sanctuary for La Moreneta, the Black Madonna of Montserrat. She is a small icon, thousands of years old, representing the seat of wisdom with the Christ Child on Her lap. After lunch, my friend and I went our separate ways and I lined up with the devotees to see and touch La Moreneta. As a recovering Catholic, I have seen more than my fair share of santos, and I expected La Moreneta to be just another statue.

But when I stepped up to the viewing platform and looked into La Moreneta's serene face, I was thunderstruck. Her eyes were so calm for someone who had brought a child into the world only to have that child grow up to suffer greatly and die for someone else's cause. Yet what could She really do? Her part in His destiny had already been written. Her child, Her heart, was walking around outside of Her body.

It is difficult to explain or understand what happened next, but somewhere inside me, I felt a roof cave in. I could barely breathe as I touched the orb La Moreneta was holding in Her outstretched hand. There must have been thousands of words flooding into my head at that moment; I only understood three: "Thank you, mothers." I was so overcome with emotion, I had to quickly exit the line. I sat on a pew in the prayer chapel and wept for at least ten minutes.

I wept for the emotional distance between me and my mother, all the times I pushed her away when I probably needed her most. I wept for the physical distance between me and my mother, and between her and her mother. I wept in appreciation of my mother's constant faith and love, even when I get myself into situations no mother would ever want her child to be in, or make choices for myself that turn out to be huge mistakes. I wept in profound gratitude that the Universal Mother had helped me understand that if I want to be a mother, I have to allow my heart to walk around outside of my body. I never really understood that until I looked into La Moreneta's eyes. Thank you, mothers.

A day after viewing Spellbound, I read this article, a "Where are they now?" about Ashley White. My heart broke again for Ashley when she expressed disappointment in herself for repeating the cycle of single teen motherhood in her family. "I was always a go-getter," she said. I am sure Angela White always had faith that Ashley would remember that go-getter attitude and make a life beyond what she knows. Ashley is now attending Howard University, thanks in part to a few people who felt a connection to her through the film and helped sponsor her college education. I am no prayer warrior, but I send good Universal Mother vibes out to Ashley as she walks around these wide open spaces.


"Wide Open Spaces" by Dixie Chicks

Friday, July 20, 2007

Forever Young

"Some are like water, some are like the heat / Some are the melody and some are the beat / Sooner or later, they all will be gone / Why don't they stay young?"

Last night, a bunch of us work buddies went out to see the Mad Caddies at the Starlite Room. I had an absolute blast, but I am paying for it today. As is KPAX, whose bright idea it was to go out on a school night. Need. More. Coffee.

The Mad Caddies were preceded by a Canadian-Scottish "Celtic punk" band called the Real McKenzies. Neither of these bands plays the kind of music that I would listen to of my own volition (read: They are too loud and I am too old.), but the show was a lot of fun. The Real McKenzies had a frenetic energy and a bagpiper. How awesome is it that a punk band has a bagpiper?! And also? Ok, hi: SCOTSMEN. IN KILTS. Naturally, the lead singer flashed the bits under his kilt at the audience. Twig and berries go hardcore! Also naturally, I fell a little bit in love with their drunken bagpiper. Tall + wiry = delicious. (Dusty, Ewan - Do not worry. I am over him now.)

KPAX and Sean convinced me to go out on the floor for a couple of songs during the skatastic Mad Caddies set. We found a spot to the side of the stage, so as to minimize the bodily harm upon our persons. Even before the band started playing, and Sean and I were just goofing around with some dance moves, a few boys in the center were already practicing the best ways to hurl their bodies against each other.

As soon as the Caddies came out, the girls joined the crush of humanity, shoving the boys out of their way and rushing toward the stage. For a few seconds, I ping-ponged between bodies as I tried to get my bearings. Sean moved to shield me on my left, and KPAX had my back. KPAX's friend Michie was to my right, bracing herself for the fun. Form up, Spartans! Let's dance!

I centered my gravity, planted my feet as firmly as I could on the sticky, sloped floor, and started elbowing with the best of them. I think I even shoved the crush of humanity back a couple of times -- you know, the way a mouse shoves an elephant. To my surprise, I was laughing and enjoying the madness of this ritual flailing of bodies. I get claustrophobic in elevators, for goddess' sakes! It has been at least a decade since I was that close to a mosh pit. It was violent, visceral, and vaguely erotic. Also VERY, VERY SWEATY.

A few songs in, a kid wearing a Metallica t-shirt planted himself in front of me. His sweat-soaked, stringy black hair barely concealed a killer scowl. He wasn't much taller than I am, and not much thicker, either. Yet he shoved the most violent of the moshers, some of them twice his size, right back into their pit of anger and sweat.

Metallica T-Shirt Kid - You rule! Whoever you are, thank you for helping to keep our side of the "dance" floor safe for the shorties. If I ever go to another ska/punk show at the Starlite, I'm going to stand right behind you.

I know there's an allure to eternal youth, but forever is a long time to be that young. I don't miss that hungry, angry, always-looking-for-a-fuck-or-fight age. It's a fun place to visit, but I sure wouldn't want to live there.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Where You Lead

"I always wanted a real home / with flowers on the window sill / But if you want to live in New York City / Hunny, you know I will"

Last Thursday, Dusty and I met with a wanking--oops!--banking institution that told us we would have to plunk down a 35% down payment on a house to qualify for a mortgage. With Edmonton housing prices, that's about $125K. Why? Even though we are an old married couple with decent, stable jobs and zero debt, our credit rating in Canada reflects neither our decent stability nor our stable decency.

"But you guys have an awesome credit rating in America!" some of you exclaim incredulously. Yes, but do we live in America right now? No? Well, there you go. We met with another bank on Friday and we're waiting to see what kind of mortgage deal they can get us. It has to be better than 35% down. It can't be any worse. Can it? (Did I just taunt the Universal Rochambeau Deity? Crap!)

Dusty and I have had more than one Serious Grownup Discussion about this housing debacle ever since we got the "eviction" notice. We were preparing to make the decision on what to do now that we're in the middle of the Canada Years, but we never expected that our hand would be forced like this. We may just end up renting a house again.

We know we need a house, not an apartment or townhouse or condo. We are too old and cranky to share walls. We need a basement so Dusty can have his underground cave, and so we can keep cool during the one week every year when Edmonton gets sweltering hot. We need some semblance of a yard so I can plant tiger lilies, phlox, and rudbeckia, and maybe rhubarb if I'm ambitious. We need permanent Canadian residency so we could get a break on the mortgage. We need to fill out those forms for Canadian permanent residency. We need to have filled them out last year.

You know what I really need? Reducto's shrink gun. I would set it to make myself teeny-tiny so I can camp out in a hollow of Dusty's neck. His neck is soft, cozy, warm... mmm... it smells yummy, too. As long as I can fall asleep every night nestled up in that hollow, I'm all set for shelter.

"But what about Dusty? Where would he live?" some of you demand worriedly. Anywhere he wants, really. Details, details... Just get me a shrink gun.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Poetry Sunday: Silence is Violence

I wrote this poem specifically for "A Taste for Justice", an evening of poetry readings held in St. Albert to raise money for Amnesty International in June 2005. A version of it was published Fall 2005 in Rags, the Southern Alberta Journal of Creative Writing.

The title came from Amnesty International's 2005 campaign to stop violence against women. This link is for their current campaign.

We must speak out whenever possible. However small one voice may sound, it may be the one voice that makes all the difference to someone who is living in fear and listening for hope.

Silence is Violence
There is no other sound
but fist hurtling toward jaw
foot crashing onto stomach
elbow jamming into ribs
bone connecting with flesh

She does not cry out.
Her children might hear.
We do not speak out.
It is none of our business.

There is no other sound
but fingers tearing clothes
knees opening thighs
hard penetrating soft
body breaking spirit

She cannot cry out.
Village elders demand this.
We do not speak out.
We are half a world away.

There is no other sound
but the howling of her baby
the wailing of her mother
the weeping of her sister
the silence of the world

She never cried out.
Her last memory: bitter almonds…
We do not speak out.
Keep digging. Keep burying.






Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wonder Woman

"Make a hawk a dove / Stop a war with love / Make a liar tell the truth"

I'm playing a Wonder Woman knockoff in Tricky's Mutants and Masterminds game, which starts tomorrow. It is going to be epic:

[Click image for full comic]

Friday, July 13, 2007

We Are Gonna Be Friends

"We don't notice any time pass / We don't notice anything / We sit side by side in every class"

My big brother and I have always been buddies. I rode bikes and climbed trees with him and his friends until the day he decided he couldn't be seen with me anymore. I had become (gasp) A GIRL, so I obviously couldn't keep up. And also? I had cooties. We're great friends again now, but for a while there, the cooties were a big issue.

In college, I hung out with a trio of boys who were like my brothers. Well... okay, two of them were like my brothers and the other one was like the distant cousin I made out with a few times. (Hi Lunkheds! I miss you!) They dragged me to the comic book store more often than was necessary, but they also loyally attended my dance/theatre performances, so we're even. I remember fondly the endless summer nights we spent on my parents' front porch, drinking and shooting the shit.

One of the perks of working at BioWare is having guy friends again. My girlfriends are gorgeous lovelies and I adore them, but sometimes a grrrl needs to hang with her boys. The energy is just different with boys. Simpler.

Except for a 900 lb. pink elephant in the room that most women and men who are friends refuse to address. The elephant's name is spelled S - E - X. Sometimes that elephant just sucks the air right out of the room and jacks up the dynamics. I am the lone female on our 20-person design team, so I'm particularly mindful not to instigate the jacking up. Sometimes it can't be helped.

On a day like this, for example, it is imperative that I wear a sundress to work or I would melt. And not "Oh my Goddess, Ewan!" melt, but "Ding dong! The Witch is dead!" melt. I walked over to the water cooler for a drink and had this exchange with a co-worker:

Dude: That's nice.

Me: Hmm?

Dude: That. I like that. Your. Summer. Dress. There.

Me: Thanks?

Prairie Wife Cookie was flattered that an old married biddy like me could still fluster a young geek, but Fierce Pinay Cookie was all, "It's gettin' kinda hectic. And also? Eew." I came back to my desk to debrief with my boy P-Tricky, because I can always count on him to be honest with me about that darned elephant.

A while back, Tricky had almost fumbled in the very same way Water Cooler Dude had, trying to walk the fine line between compliment and harassment. At the time, Tricky said, only half-jokingly, "It's like, you're a person 'cause we're buds, but you're also a woman. And that confuses me." So when I told him about WCD, he couldn't resist a knowing "Hee!"

Me: I had hoped that by 'that', he meant my dress and not my rack, but you know...

Tricky: Boys: Less complicated than you suspect.

Today, Tricky officially goes back to his home project after spending nearly nine months (You could've had another baby!) on Mass Effect. Yesterday, his boss from the other project came down here to tell him that his desk would be moved upstairs shortly, and gave him a few tasks to work on in the meantime. Tricky put on his headphones and started hammering away, because he's a team player like that. It made me a wee bit sad that he was leaving our team.

Mr. Kettle, during your sojourn here, there were a few times when you so enraged me, I almost had to kill you. But fer reals? I miss you already. Remember: Ms. Pot is only an IM away.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Scotsman

"See yon sleeping Scotsman so strong and handsome built / I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt"

Dear Ewan McGregor,

Have I told you lately that I love you? No? Well, it's only because you don't know me and I don't know you. Details, details...

Anyway, I've been watching Long Way 'Round this evening and I'm falling more and more in love with you. Whenever you say "the rohd o bohnes" or "derrr(t)y* buggerrr" or "Ah miss me wee gerrls" , my insides just melt into a wee puddle. Seriously, every time you open your mouth, I just think, "This is the best show on television." It's you! Talking! IN A SCOTTISH ACCENT! It's perfect Folding Laundry TV because I can throw clean panties at you. You're welcome.

My obsession with you and your countrymen is becoming scandalous, really. Yesterday, I fell a little bit in love with that saucy bitch Alan Cumming when a friend of Scottish descent sent me this ad for Cumming the Fragrance. "Smohkey. Earrrthy. Sexeh." Awesome! Then this afternoon, I was listening to a health report from Australian radio about that evil baddie fructose --a freakin' health report!-- and within two sentences, I was able to determine that the doctor speaking was a Scotsman. That health report may end up changing my life. I should cut frrruhctohse from my diet? Sure, Doc. Anything you say. Just say it again.

Not to worry, though. You are my one true Scotsman love. It's funny, Ewan--May I call you Ewan? Or perhaps Smoochums McBeautiful? Because fer reals, I could cover you in about a billion kisses. You are that adorable.--I don't even remember when I first fell in love with you. I think the first movie I ever saw you in was Emma, but my favorite movie of yours so far might be Moulin Rouge. It's you! Singing! IN A (faint) SCOTTISH ACCENT! Bonus points for singing parts from The Sound of Music, my second favorite movie of all time.

You definitely earned some mad geek love as Obi-Wan. I'm sure your Uncle Denis a.k.a. Wedge is proud you sold out to The Man for Episodes 1-3. It was stunning, really, how you channeled Sir Alec Guinness. You've lost your indie cred, though, so go ahead and cry yourself to sleep on your giant pile of Star Wars money.

I know Trainspotting was your breakout role, but I've never seen it. I've heard that you swing your twig and berries in that one, as you are wont to do. Not that there's anything wrong with that. You like showcasing your bonny star onscreen? Hey, that's your journey. But now that I'm so smitten with you, my husband has told me I better not see that particular movie. Sure, it has you flashing your bits, but apparently it also has you diving into a filthy toilet for a heroin needle. Ick.

So I am indeed happily married, just like you. Dusty is a charming geek whom I've covered in about a trillion kisses. He is that adorable. And he has agreed that if you should come 'round one day to sweep me off my feet, I am free to run away with you. Likewise, if Jennifer Connelly ever came for him, the marriage contract would be suspended until such time as she allows him to return to our hippie love commune.

Fair deal, right? No? Well, it's only because you don't know me and I don't know you. And also because making a deal with your spouse about which movie stars you're each allowed to adulterize with is maybe a wee bit wrong. Details, details...

Anyway, I enjoyed Long Way 'Round. I love you. And if I ever chance upon you sleeping beside the street after a bender, and you're wearing only the Clan McGregor tartan, I would totally give you a blue ribbon. Totally.

XOXOX,
Cookie

*Apparently, if you are a Scotsman, the "t" in "dirty" is sometimes silent. How delicious.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I Hate Myself for Loving You

"Can't break free from the things that you do / I wanna walk but I run back to you"

Last night, I went to Block 1912 Cafe with some buddies from work. I enjoyed a generous scoop of tiramisu ice cream. (They call it gelato, but they are lying.) It was yummalicious, so creamy and sweet and cool on the tongue. It wasn't so yummalicious this morning, though. Not for my tummy, and not for my poor hunny's olfactory senses.

Note to self: You are Asian Pacific American. Our people historically cannot handle dairy products. If you must torture yourself, do it with cheese. At least that you can enjoy with a glass of merlot.

Note to officemates, just in case: I am so sorry.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Bathala

"Kaunlaran at kabutihan daw / ang kanilang sadya" - "They claim their intentions are for progress and the greater good"

(Bathala is by Joey Ayala, a Pinoy musician who is also a fairly well-known and outspoken environmental activist. The song is a prayer to the Creator from one who would be a guardian of the earth, a plea for Bathala to grant the strength to do what is right for the planet. )

Do you know what happened this past weekend? Live Earth, the Concerts for a Climate in Crisis. I only knew because my friend sent me a link to the local TV broadcast schedule. My response -- meh -- was apparently shared by the rest of the world.

Live Earth was intended to raise awareness about climate change, put pressure on politicians to "take action", and encourage people to be more environmentally responsible. Because nothing says "I am environmentally responsible!" like attending a concert at a huge venue with thousands of fellow garbage generators.

After the Police concert here last month, I remember looking down at the stadium floor and counting 8 beer cups, 7 water bottles, and 3 soda bottles littering our row. That's 1.5 pieces of garbage for each person, accumulated in just three hours, not counting little bits like gum wrappers and straws. Multiply that by 30,000 people and you've got a whole load of detritus. That's just one concert. Live Earth had 10 venues. Someone had to clean all that up, and it shonuf wasn't Sting a.k.a. Yogi Who Saves Rain Forests.

Bathala speaks of people who are plundering the earth, the seas, and the sky, all in the name of progress and expansion and "the greater good". Not that I'm clear-cutting acres of Philippine forests or destroying hundreds of miles of coral, but I don't always do what is "right" for the earth. I dare not say I'm environmentally responsible just yet, but I do consider myself environmentally conscious. I recycle, reuse, and reduce whenever I can.

I've been buying locally-grown produce from the farmers' market, too, but it's a lot harder to find what I want in the winter, and as we know all too well, winter here lasts about 88 years. Dusty and I also consume a lot more meat and dairy products than our favorite hippie vegetarian family, but we're omnivores living in Alberta, and it's hard to resist Alberta beef. Mmm.... steak.... yummalicious, ecologically evil steak with unrecycled horseradish and morally ambiguous garlicky mushrooms on the side.

My biggest sin? I've driven my car a lot more this year than I did last year, when I rode my bike or walked to work. I'm a little embarrassed to admit how sedentary I became during crunch time last winter. After sitting on my ass for 12 hours a day, six days a week, all I wanted to do was drive home and sit on my ass some more. Funny how that happens...

According to the Ecological Footprint Quiz, I would need 8.7 Earths to sustain my current lifestyle. That's just one geeky hippie with a rental house and an old Honda Civic. What about Madonna, one of the performers at Live Earth? She's got nine houses and a private jet! Her footprint must be the size of Uranus. Maybe even 19 Uranii.

Did the organizers really think that Live Earth would accomplish anything besides give about a billion people something fun to do over the weekend? The people who have a real say in global policy certainly weren't at outdoor stadiums or in front of their TVs, groovin' for the cause. If they had been:

Harper: "Al Gore is pissed off about this environment thing, eh? First he had that Oscar-winning documentary; now he's got that hoser Geldof helping out with concerts and that."

Brown: "Right. Well, Sir Bob does have all those connections in the music biz. Say, lads, all this rocking out has got me thinking. If Crowded House, UB40, and Joss Stone all say we need to do something about global warming, oughtn't we get on that?"

Bush: "Listen, Stevester, Gordo--Can I call you Gordo? How about Champ?--I need y'all to hush up now. The Pussycat Dolls are fixin' to take the stage and Don't Cha is my jam! Pass the nachos."

I think Chris Rock said it best: "I pray that this event ends global warming the same way that Live Aid ended world hunger."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Poetry Sunday: Ophelia in Hiroshima

The very first poem I wrote was called "Memory", about the ghost of a little girl standing outside my window, calling me to come out and play. I rhymed "red as blood" with "rosy flood"; I don't do rhyme much anymore.

The little ghost-child was supposedly Memory, reminding me: "In my soul is a child just waiting to play". I was 12 years old. It's funny and a little bit sad that I felt the need to remind myself at that age that I was still a child, that I could still go out and play.

Poetry is sometimes the hardest thing for me to write, but it's my favorite genre to work in. On Sundays, I'll post poems that I've written since "Memory". A few have been published; most have not.

A version of the one below was first published in The Eclipse, a University of Maryland student paper, in 1997. It was then featured on "A Taste for Justice", an evening of poetry readings held in St. Albert to raise money for Amnesty International in June 2005. It appeared in print again in Fall 2005 in Rags, the Southern Alberta Journal of Creative Writing. I wrote it after reading Kenzaburo Oe's The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath.

Ophelia in Hiroshima

They found her body floating in the pond.

They say she had gone mad.
Little Boy shattered her world
like the landlady’s vermillion water jar.

Her eyes, wide as the atomic sky,
were the color of a crazy iris.



Saturday, July 7, 2007

Soul Sister

"Her face was young but her eyes were old"

Sara Maureen McDevitt was not only a straight-A student at St. Matthew's Elementary School, but also the captain of her neighborhood soccer team. She played the flute beautifully and sometimes sang in the church choir. She was also an altar server, a crossing guard, and a much-sought-after babysitter.

This is the first time I have talked about her in 20 years.

Sara and I became best friends in the sixth grade, when labels like "best friend" held tremendous meaning. We would trade pin-ups from magazines like Tiger Beat and 16 in conversations like, "I’ll give you this Michael J. Fox for that Johnny Depp." We created our own book club, where we read a new book every week and then told each other what we liked about it. She gave me my first journal, a pink and purple paperback book decorated with teddy bears. The cover said My Diary. I wrote my first story in that journal.

Sara died when we were 12 years old.

It was July 1987, a few days before our friend Lindsay’s 12th birthday. Sara and I talked on the phone that morning about what gift to get her. We decided on a cute new blouse because Lindsay loved cute clothes. I wasn't allowed to take the bus by myself yet, but Sara was. So we decided she would go up to Towson to buy the blouse and I’d pay her back later.

That afternoon, as she got off the bus and started crossing the street to get to the shopping center, Sara was hit by a truck going 65 miles per hour in a 40-mile-per-hour zone. The force of impact threw her body 90 feet from where she was standing. Sara was killed instantly. The driver was never caught.

At Sara's wake, a bunch of us who were her friends huddled together in a corner of the funeral parlor. We whispered about whether Lindsay and Ed would get back together. We talked about this new thing called a compact disc that is supposed to be way cooler than cassette tapes. We were 12. We didn't even notice that it was a closed-casket viewing.

The funeral was held two days later. It was raining pretty hard and the funeral parlor handed out black umbrellas at the gravesite. Everyone shed tears but me. Even the girls who could only gossip at Sara’s wake cried inconsolably at her funeral. I laid flowers at her grave but I did not, could not cry. Only two weeks had passed since we were on the boardwalk at Ocean City, making goofy faces for the InstaFoto. If I had cried, it would've meant she is really dead.

The summer ended and I started seventh grade. Lindsay and Ed did get back together, but only until she started liking Michael. Adam and Peter were the first ones to get CD players. I got my first bra. I also got a new best friend named Kelly who wasn’t into Tiger Beat or 16 and wanted to spend more time at the mall than at the library. Life was happening without Sara.

Today, Sara sticks her tongue out at me from a fading InstaFoto. I can almost smell her coconut sunscreen. I imagine that if she had lived, I would have eventually convinced her to stop straightening her wildly gorgeous afro. She would have been the one to teach me how to apply mascara and pluck my eyebrows. Later, she would have pushed me to read my poetry at Louie’s Café on Open Mic Night. We would still go out for coffee whenever I am in town visiting my family. She might have become a superstar on the women’s soccer circuit or first chair flute on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

But Sara is dead. She and I will never fight over a boy in the eighth grade, like Lindsay and I did. She will never go to a different high school than me and lose touch, like Kelly did. She will always be 12 years old and remain perfect in her possibility.

Sara will always be my first real muse. But she will never know that she was the first person to tell me, "You should write more. You're pretty good at it." She will never know how much that still means to me.

Sometimes we have the most to say about the people we never talk about.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Sun Always Shines On TV

"I fear the crazed and lonely looks / the mirror's sending me these days."

I watch entirely too much bad television. I call it "Folding Laundry TV", but let's be honest: the time spent actually folding laundry is disproportionate to the time spent idly watching the shows so designated for the activity.

It all began innocently during the summer of 2003. Dusty and I had just gotten married and we were living in a one-bedroom craphole in Sunnyvale. The only furniture we had in the living area were our computer setups, cozy couch, entertainment center, and gigantomongous 61" TV. We had gotten one a' dem newfangled TiVo whatsits so we wouldn't have to surf 1000 channels for one good show to watch. The magic TiVo sprite neatly lined up our favorite shows so we can watch them at our convenience, virtually commercial-free!

One laundry day, however, I found that the TiVo lineup comprised shows designated for Binky and Booboo Snuggle Time. If I watch any of the shows without Dusty, then Snuggle Time might be compromised. And who wants that? Nobody.

So I started (gasp) channel-surfing and landed on TLC's What Not to Wear, with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. I wasn't paying very close attention at first; it was only meant to be white noise. Then Clinton said, "Honey, you are so cute. Must you wear your grandmother's tablecloth when you meet your girls for drinks?" OH SNAP! Stacy then showed the cutiegirl a more fitting outfit and said, "The ensemble doesn't have to match; it has to go." So the sun always shines on TV, but the shoes don't always have to match the bag? Thank Goddess!

Within ten minutes, I had fallen a little bit in love with those saucy bitches. Sure, a few of their comments were mean, but they never seemed mean-spirited. They seemed like they were genuinely trying to help a sista out. Sometimes love has to be tough. Sometimes pleated pants have to be thrown out.

Actually, pleated pants should always be thrown out. They draw unnecessary attention to the belly area, sometimes even creating the illusion of a belly where there is none. Look, even the Legion of Doom--who suffered Solomon Grundy's shenanigans for years--rejected Phantom Paunch. Do not invite him into your pants!

Okay, I'm starting to feel better about my penchant for watching trash TV. Sure, it scares away my hunny, but TLC does stand for The Learning Channel. And who else would warn me against that fat bastard Phantom Paunch? Nobody.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Put Your Records On

"Girl, put your records on / Tell me your favorite song."

My 10-year-old niece, Munchkinface, received an iPod for her last birthday. Since she doesn't have a credit card, she asks my sister to download songs for her. Before we left on a recent road trip, she asked for Fergalicious, the supposed clean version. My niece is one of the lights of my life, but I might have refused to download that song for her. I guess a mother's love really is unconditional, because my sister plunked down 99 cents for that excrement.

Munchkinface, you are a superstar. We read the entire Chronicles of Narnia together the winter before last and had our own little long distance book club. You are a brilliant budding flute player and you sing on a couple of choirs. So fer reals, kid: Fergie Ferg?! Maybe your brain just needed a break from working so hard; I don't know. But it's all right, girl. Tita liked Samantha Fox when she was about your age. (Shhh, don't tell anyone.) Your taste in music can only go up from here.

Meanwhile, my latest iPod downloads are Corinne Bailey Rae and Ozomatli. Corinne's Put Your Records On reminds me of road trips down to the beach with my girlfriends, driving with the top down, wearing our bikinis, blowing kisses to the boys in the next car over. And Ozomatli just rocks it out. I can't wait to see them live at the Edmonton Folkfest next month.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Day One

"Be still my lionheart! / A revolution ready to pounce / All passioneers / Up and out of the house!"

Dusty and I have received a three-month notice for "termination of tenancy". Our landlady's son and his new wife are taking over residency, so we have to be out of our house by noon on September 30. Edmonton's rental market is craziness right now and we know people at work who are scrambling to find places to live. A couple of weeks ago, we flirted with the idea of buying a home, especially when our friend put his nice house up for sale. It's quite tempting, but we want to be able to bike or walk to work and the big blue house is simply too far away.

We also have to decide whether we will be here long enough to justify buying a house. We are on Year Three of our current Five Year Plan, which we had dubbed the Canada Years. The question of whether or not the Canada Years will continue merits a deeper conversation. We probably should've bought a house when we first got here, but what if that first winter in this arctic tundra had crushed me? What if I didn't get my great job at the same company where Dusty is kicking ass? What if we never met all our adorable, lovely friends? Buying a house in haste is as advisable as starting a land war in Asia. Or going against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

When we got the notice yesterday, I was rage personified. I stomped around this house that I felt was being taken away from us, this house that we had loved as our own for three years. All the new vocabulary I've learned from watching Deadwood finally came in handy. I am quite sure I left my definitive aural prints behind. Tell me, Brady Bunch House, will your new caretakers paint your walls with expletives as colorful?

I wouldn't have been so mad if it hadn't been for the lousy timing. We already have a fairly hectic summer, both personally and professionally, and the notice just felt like one last swift kick in the ovarios from whichever Universal Deity is in charge of rochambeaus. Seriously, can we please stop with the kicking? It's not nice.

And then, this morning, music soothed the savage breast. I walked to work under gorgeous Alberta blue skies, listening to Sarah Slean. She wrote her latest album, Day One, after her house burned down. Hola, Perspective! My house did not burn down. My house was not swallowed up in a flood, earthquake, or other natural disaster. My health can be considered in most circles to be excellent. My family is healthy and relatively sane. My hunny and I have each other. Together we have weathered far, far worse things than moving house.

Maybe we'll find a rental home that suits us better than the Brady Bunch House. I never did like its broken glass stucco siding. Maybe we'll decide to buy a home and extend the Canada Years. I am a huge fan of socialized medicine. Besides, I already have a new home, right here on the interwebs.

Aloha! It is Day One.