Saturday, December 20, 2014

Breathe. Believe. Begin.

I've been 40 years old for 12 whole days now. I'm feeling pretty fierce and fearless, especially after my last swim lesson. As some of you know, I began taking swim lessons about a month ago, to try to conquer my fear of deep water and become a better swimmer. I've swum in deep water before, but mostly with life vests or other safety floats to aid me. Yes, I can swim to save my life, but calm breathing and smooth strokes would surely get me farther than hyperventilation and doggy paddles.

On Wednesday night, I had my final swim lesson for the season. My crawl stroke form and side breathing have vastly improved since my first lesson. I can swim with my face completely in the water for three full exhales before I have to take a breath. More importantly, I swam a decent crawl stroke across the deepest part of the pool without the safety float. TWICE. And I totally didn't die! Victory in our time!

So what’s my next fear to conquer? Well, back in September, my friend Karinn asked me what kind of writing I really want to do. The last couple of freelance gigs involved video game writing, but it’s been a long while, and honestly, that’s not my passion. I was too shy back then to admit to her what my passion is, but last Monday, I finally said it aloud.

I want to write poetry. I want to have a book of poetry published. I want to hold it in my hands and turn the pages to read my words and hear my voice. I want to tell my story through my poetry, like Merle Collins or Jessica Hagedorn.

There, I said it. Poetry is my heart, my home. Some of my poems have even been published before, in college publications and small literary journals. I’m not a prolific poet, but I have more than enough to fill a manuscript. I have one such manuscript, in fact, full of notes from one of my writing professors, somewhere in my office.

Sweet! I already have a manuscript! Just get that sucker edited and published, right? Er, um, ah… First of all, a lot has happened in the 20 years since I put that manuscript together. It may not be the story I want to tell anymore.

Second of all, I AM SCARED. What am I so afraid of? It’s just words on a page, right? Yes, but no. It’s my heart, my home, my story. I am scared of sounding pretentious and precious and inauthentic. I am scared of hearing “No” from publishers, although that is the absolute worst that could happen, right? Right.

It was also the absolute worst that could happen when I was in college, but I wasn’t ready back then to accept “No”. I shelved the manuscript because I wasn’t okay with rejection. I’m still not that okay with it, but now I have lived enough life to know that if a rejected manuscript is the worst thing that could happen to me, then I have a really kickass life.

Where do I begin? Well, I guess I should dust off that manuscript and revisit that story. My 20-year-old self may still have something to say to me. Then I need to do my research on publishing and publishers and such. If anyone reading this blog has any insight on how all this works, please share. I need all the help I can get. Then I need to get over myself, woman up, and start writing and editing. So much to do.

When I first started this whole crazy business of conquering my fears one by one, I wanted a catchy, easy-to-remember mantra to help spur me on. And, naturally, I found my inspiration in a kids’ show. In an episode of Super Why, called Molly’s Dance Show, Princess Pea panics before her dance recital and bolts offstage when the curtains open. It is only after the Super Readers read Molly’s story that Princess Pea musters up enough courage to dance.

How? By saying to herself, “Breathe. Believe. Begin.” I need to believe. That’s going to be the toughest part. Believe in my story. Believe in my voice. Believe in myself.

My panic in the deep water was epic and dramatic (Try not to look so surprised, y’all.), even when I was wearing the safety float. But I said that mantra to myself every time I swam practice laps. I said it to myself when my swim instructor told me I had to swim across the deepest part of the pool without the safety float. I even said it to myself before I went onstage with my sisters for the hula competition.

And I’m going to say it to myself now, as I prepare to face what may be my biggest fear yet. I want to write poetry. I want to have a book of poetry published.

Breathe. Believe. Begin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


"And on this day we hope for / What we still can't see / It's up to us to be the change / And even though we all can still do more / There's so much to be thankful for"

Dusty was away in Edmonton for Thanksgiving Day, so we celebrated the Sunday before, with his dad. It was a really good visit. Dad was mellow and happy, watching Notre Dame basketball on TV with Dusty and enjoying the girls' shenanigans. He has been living in a nearby memory care senior home since August and he's had ups and downs. We just take each day as it comes and hope for the best. 

We all certainly enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast. Every year since moving back to the U.S., we have ordered a complete Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods, and it is always delicious. I think it's even tastier because I didn't have to spend an entire day cooking; just a couple of hours to heat everything up and bake a pecan pie. Mmm... pecan pie.

Cheers to our Thanksgiving feast!
On Thanksgiving, the girls and I had a Bed Day. We set up a cozy sleepover spot in the living room and lounged in our pajamas all day. We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade (KISS was at the parade, y'all. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley lip-synching badly made me--and them--so sad.), a bunch of new episodes of Dora and Friends (decent show, actually), my favorite cooking show, Chopped, and a couple of great movies: Free Birds (enjoyable and surprisingly funny) and The Pirate Fairy (I loved this movie before, but ever since Hiddles started ruining my life, I love it even more). We ate turkey empanadas, read books to each other, did a little drawing and origami, played a few card and board games, napped. It was the best day ever.

I am thankful that I get to be their mama.
In other news, I will turn 40 on Monday. Forty. The New Twenty. 

On my 20th birthday, I wrote this in my journal: "I am just so happy right now. I'm doing well in school, my work is getting published and appreciated, I'm a great vice president (of the Filipino Cultural Association at University of Maryland), I'm comfortable with my circle of friends, and I have a fantastic boyfriend. What more could I want?" Rock on, 20-year-old Me!

On my 40th birthday, I will probably write something very similar in my journal, but now I have even more reasons to be happy and so much to be thankful for. My life kicks serious ass.

Birthdays are always huge for me, and right around this time every year, I always get contemplative about where I've been, where I am, where I hope to be. For my 39th Trip Around the Sun, I set forth my intentions to become a better version of myself, to give of myself to the Universe, and I think I've accomplished some of those goals. I'm going to spend the next week thinking about my intentions for my 40th.

One of the unwritten goals I had set for myself this year is to face some of my biggest fears on the way to Fearless Forty. Rocking the hula competition with my beloved sisters this summer was huge for me, and I decided to face my fear of deep water and become a better swimmer. On the night of my first swim lesson in nearly 25 years, I wrote: "I consider myself to have fairly big ovarios, but I confess: being in the deepest part of the pool really scared me. *breathe* Time to woman up for Wednesday's class. Onward and upward!"

I will be 40 years old next week. I am thankful that I still get to change and learn and grow. 

Thankful by Josh Groban