Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend Report Featuring Poetry And a Roasted Suckling Pig, Although Not Poetry About a Roasted Suckling Pig

It was a filled-to-the-brim-overflowing-onto-the-tablecloth weekend here at Nesting Ground HQ: grandparents, softball games, dance classes, birthday parties, school functions, poetry readings and all other manner of fun stuff. To ensure that you remain awake and alert at all times (my fondest wish for every post) whilst reading, I will highlight but two of these myriad events.

Let us begin, shall we, with International Day at R & V's school. This is the day each year when families set up tables representing their countries of origin, the highlight of each table being, of course, food. Do you have pictures, Ver? Silly, reader. Of course I have pictures. Here, for example, are the fine folks who banded together to represent England:

Guatemala in the house!:

Peru, in terms of sheer numbers and traditional dress, did themselves frenetically proud. They even brought in their folk dancers:

All of that looks terrific, V.! But tell us, didn't you prepare a table representing the Philippines? Yes, you nuts! I lit my Filipino beacon and another Pinay mom promptly answered my call. Together, we did this:

We were feeling pretty good about this table. And why not? There's The Noli! Pansit Bihon! Pan de Sal! Mamon Tostado! And then...and then...and then...

...the Tongans sauntered in.



freaking roasted suckling pig.

And all I have to say about that is: Wait 'til next year, my Tongan friends. Wait 'til next year.

The next day, I showered off my shame and headed over to North Beach to enjoy an afternoon of poetry at the Achiote Press reading, which featured Ms. BJ, Oscar, and Bec. What a pleasure it was—unicorns and sunshine, I tell you!—to meet Rebecca in person and to hear her read. It was also the first time I'd heard Oscar do his thing, and make no mistake, it's his thing. Very at home up there, sending his words out into the space, all relaxed in his pinstripes. And what of his lovely poeta? She was, of course, her usual stellar self. Here's Oscar and Bec:

And here's BJ who is not—I repeat not—reading Spam porn in this picture:

And this is Jennifer whose last name I don't know, Craig Perez, BJ (holding Achiote Seeds/Spring 2007), Oscar (holding his new chapbook, Anywhere Avenue), me (holding BJ's "Ave Maria" letterpress broadside), Bec, and Todd Melicker (holding his chapbook, The Immaculate Autopsy):

The Tongan Incident notwithstanding, it was a most excellent weekend.

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Guys, I'm Writing."

I'm nearly done writing a story, and I've found that this is always the time that requires a lot of staring at nothing. This, unfortunately, makes it seem like I'm available to make snacks or search for a missing sock or help build a marble run or pour someone a glass of orange juice, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

But I'm not.

This has caused some friction with my children, and by friction I mean that I go and do whatever they've requested, but I do it in a totally pissy way which is, of course, unfair to them since for all they know I'm just sittin' around doing nothing. But guess what I discovered a few days ago? I discovered that if I say, "Guys, I'm writing," they say, "Oh! Why didn't you just say so?" and then they go get their own damn orange juice.

Yes, I'm a little slow on the uptake.

Speaking of kids and writing, there's been some interesting stuff popping up on the subject. Dan Barden's article, "Writer as Parent: No More Aching To Be An Artist," for example, is featured in the current Poets & Writers. There are some responses to it over at MetaxuCafé.

And then there's the new book Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues, the spine of which I hope to crack at some point this weekend. There are plenty of blogs, too, of course, but maybe I'll link to them at another time because, um, I need to go stare at nothing right now.

Have a good weekend! I'm doing my darnedest to make it to this reading on Sunday to enjoy some poetry from Bec, Barbara Jane, and Oscar.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Easy There, Mama

Whilst indulging my magazine addiction at our nearby Barnes & Noble, my delicate ears were assaulted by the megaphone voice of a woman saying, "Hello? Does anyone work at the customer service desk at this store?" Nobody answered, of course. The woman sighed with practiced exaggeration. She tapped her foot. She waited two more minutes and then stomped around to the other side of the desk and was just about to avail herself of the computer, when a young man approached and apologized for being late in coming. "I was getting ready to jump up on this desk and start dancing! I want a copy of The Tortilla Curtain," she said. "Right now."

To which I say, "Easy there, Mama."

There is a line—sometimes it is fine, sometimes it is not—between asserting yourself and being obnoxious. This woman, in my Nesting Ground Mistress opinion, crossed that line. I had no problem at all imagining the path she had taken to this no man's land of impropriety. She had read, I'm afraid, far too many articles in far too many cheesy women's magazines. Articles with titles like, "Are You a Doormat? Take This Quiz!" or "Yes, You CAN." And I could tell from her chunky earrings and sassy/spiky haircut that she had taken to heart the directions in various "Frame Your Face" editorials. And her swagger, combined with the way she had threatened to "start dancing," was undoubtedly a direct result of an "If You've Got It, Flaunt It!" cover story.

Despite the fact that I had completely invented this history of her reading habits, it didn't make it any less of a sign from the Universe. I slowly backed away from the magazines and slithered into the cookbook section, where the potential for changes to one's person is entirely different.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Note From Evelina Galang

House Resolution 121, if passed, will ask Japan to take full responsibility for the systematic raping and enslavement of over 200,000 women and girls during WWII. In the Philippines, historians estimate that over 1000 Filipina girls young as eight years old to women in their forties were abducted and held captive in garrisons — churches, town halls, schools and private homes captured by Japanese soldiers and turned into comfort stations. Those girls are now lolas in their eighties.

For a moment, imagine war and your family. Imagine this. Is it acceptable?

To date, House Res. 121 has 80 co-sponsors in Congress. We need at least 100 to get House Res 121 to pass.

We need to let Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi know that the Filipino American community of Northern California, their constituents, believe in House Resolution 121. Please write them. Determine who is your representative and then cut and paste the email message below, sign it and send it to them.

If you live in the following zip code areas — 94002, 94005, 94010, 94011, 94013, 94014, 94015, 94016, 94017, 94019, 94030, 94037, 94038, 94044, 94061, 94062, 94063, 94065, 94066, 94070, 94080, 94083, 94114, 94116, 94117, 94122, 94125, 94127, 94128, 94131, 94132, 94134, 94143, 94401, 94402, 94403, 94404, 94497 -- your congressman is Lantos. Please follow the link and cut and paste the message below.


Dear Representative Lantos,

I am a Filipino American citizen who lives in your district. It is time for the Japanese government to take responsibility for the systematic rape and enslavement of 200,000 women during WWII. Historians believe that 1000 of those women were Filipina and of that number 173 women have come forward. These women are old and dying and waiting for their formal apology. Please give them peace. Please support House Resolution 121. Be a co-sponsor and make your constituents of District 12 proud.


(your name here)

All others in the Bay Area can email Nancy Pelosi directly at

You can use the form letter below or write your own note:

Dear House Speaker Pelosi,

I am a Filipino American citizen who lives in your district. It is time for the Japanese government to take responsibility for the systematic rape and enslavement of 200,000 women during WWII. Historians believe that 1000 of those women were Filipina and of that number 173 women have come forward. These women are old and dying and waiting for their formal apology. Please give them peace. Please support House Resolution 121. Be a co-sponsor and make your constituents of District 8 proud.


(your name here)

This is an important time for our work as Filipino American citizens. Our elders who have suffered during WWII are looking for our help, our support and our respect. Just as we must band together to support the Filipino American WWII Veterans, it is time for us to step up and speak out for our lolas, our mothers and our aunties who have suffered the plight of the comfort woman.

Thank you in advanced for your support. If you want to know more about the story of the Filipina Comfort Woman and all WWII Comfort Women go to Laban for the Lolas. To sign the petition to support House Res. 121 click here.

Maraming Salamat,

M. Evelina Galang,

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Tonight I'm joining some other parents in support of our teachers as they make their case for a pay raise in front of the School Board. We are welcome to speak, but I'm so angry about the whole situation that the extent of my eloquence is likely to be, "You know...this is shameful."

And something tells me that won't help much.

It would take a near-catastrophe to persuade me to consider sending my kids to private school. I'm just one of those people who believes strongly in the idea—or is it a dream? I'm thinking maybe it's a dream—of public education. I know I've said this before, but I will repeat myself because it's my blog: I cannot envision what benefits my children could glean from sitting in a classroom full of kids who are exactly like them in terms of culture and economics. How does that prepare them for the actual world? I mean no offense to private school proponents (kids have different needs, and I respect the decisions that parents make to meet those needs); I'm just saying I don't get it. At least not for my family.

This salary business does not qualify as a near-catastrophe for me (though it could for the teachers, of course); I'll continue to throw my weight behind my neighborhood public elementary school. But someone ought to know that I do not appreciate this fucking about with my idealism. It's making me so testy.

Not testy enough, however, to say what I wanted to say to a woman who stopped me yesterday morning as I was leaving the school. She was in her car, and her entire face wore a frazzled and needlessly dramatic expression. She was all pleading eyes and oh-please-help-me-ness:

She [pointing to Lea]: Does she go here?
Me: She'll start Kindergarten in the Fall. I have two daughters here already, though.
She: I just don't know what to do! I'm on the waiting list at two private schools, so I need to enroll somewhere, but I just don't know about this school. Everyone says the kids don't speak English.
Me [wondering how any reasonably intelligent person could believe this is even possible]: That's a huge misconception. We have several parents who don't speak English, but I have never met a student who doesn't speak English.
She [doubtful]: So you're happy here?
Me: Um, I'm ecstatic here.
She: Because I'm such an involved parent, you know.
Me [wondering how—if she is involved as she claims—she knows nothing about the school in her neighborhood]: Oh, well that's great.

And on it went, her blithely lobbing insults wrapped in the sugar coating of concerned parenthood, and me biting my lip and trying to answer in a way that did not sabotage the public relations we have worked to build for the last four years. The thing is...if you strip away all the civility, what she was really asking was whether or not her precious offspring would catch cooties from all the brown kids, and what I was really saying was you are a small, small person.

See? Testy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In Search of Happy

Guess what Julia Moskin is writing about in this excerpt from a recent New York Times article:

In my opinion, the charge of pointless excess also applies to marshmallows, peanut butter, chipotle powder, orange marmalade, cream cheese and most other frills and furbelows. If you feel compelled to tinker, consider upgrading your ingredients instead. I have had spectacular results with cultured butter, Callebaut chocolate and loamy muscovado sugar from the island of Mauritius. Walnuts are fine. Pecans are pushing it.

The "furbelows"-ness of it! The "loamy muscovado sugar"-ishness of it! The "Pecans are pushing it"-ness of it! Happiness.

Also happiness: my friend Poppy Momstocking (if you think that's difficult to type without laughing, you would be correct, sir) gifted me with this kooky retro cookie book:

And this totally sexy one (a recipe for Spiced Pink Soup?! Very sexy):

The contrast is almost as charming as Poppy Momstocking herself.

Okay, let's see...more happiness...though the following pronouncement puts me at great risk for immediate jinxing (is that a word?), I will say that I've been quite productive in the writing department. For me, of course, that translates into having covered the front and back of a paper napkin in barely legible ballpoint, but whatever.

And in final happy news, I find myself inadvertently in the midst of a Daniel Day-Lewis filmfest. Last week it was Last of the Mohicans (as I've said before—embarrassingly, probably more than once—here on Nesting Ground, "Stay alive! No matter what occurs, I will find you!"), and tonight it's The Age of Innocence.

So I really must go.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Growing Up Filipino Redux

Cecilia Brainard is gearing up to edit a new volume of Growing Up Filipino, so poise your fingers above your keyboard and prepare to explore (um, fictionally speaking) the gnashing teeth, red-rimmed eyes, and dramatic pronouncements that accompany a Filipino-style coming of age.

It was big fun to be included in the first book, as the launch featured many bookstore and library readings and, it follows, many opportunities to meet fellow writers. I'm sure it'll be the same for the second go-round. Here is the official call:


This is a call for submissions of short stories for an anthology tentatively titled, Growing Up Filipino II – Stories for Young Adults. The book will be edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and will be published by both Anvil and PALH. Contributors will receive copies of the book as compensation for the use of their work.

The manuscript should be approximately 8-10 pages long, typed, double-spaced (approximately 1,800-2,300 words). This should be emailed to You may also send it by air mail to:

Cecilia Brainard
c/o PALH
PO Box 5099
Santa Monica, CA 90409

This book project is a follow-up of an earlier short story collection entitled Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults (published by PALH 2002, and Anvil). The following review from School Library Journal describes the 2002 collection:

Grade 9 Up -These 29 short stories offer a highly textured portrait of Filipino youth and an excellent sampling of creative writing. Thematically arranged, most of the pieces have been written since the turn of the 21st century. Each story is introduced by a thumbnail sketch of the author and a paragraph or two about some element of Filipino culture or history that is relevant to the story. Authors include those born and continuing to live in the Philippines, emigres, and American-born Filipinos. Tough but relevant topics addressed include a gay youth's affection for his supportive mother, the role of religious didacticism in the formation of a childhood perception, consumer culture as it is experienced by modern teens in Manila, and coping with bullies of all ages and stations in life. … The high caliber and broad but wholly accessible range of this collection, however, makes this title a solid purchase for multiple reasons.

The 29 stories in the 2002 edition of Growing Up Filipino were written before 9/11 (September 11, 2001). The editor would now like to collect a second volume that continues to address the young adult audience. The stories in the collection will still be about the Filipino experience in the Philippines or any part of the world. But in this second volume, the editor is seeing
contemporary stories, or post 9/11 stories. The editor is seeking the best stories about growing up Filipino. The editor is not looking for stories written by young adults, but about Filipino young adults. The editor envisions the stories dealing with relationships, family, falling in love perhaps, and other issues that the young adults deal with. Character-driven stories are
encouraged. Those interested in submitting are encouraged to read the first volume of Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults, to get an idea of the kind of stories the editor is looking for.

Deadline for submission is August 1, 2007. Early submissions are welcome. Please send your bio (approx. 150 words) in people-friendly narrative form.


ABOUT THE EDITOR: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the author/editor of over a dozen books. She maintains a website and a blog.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Only in Mexico

Re-entry is a bitch, really. Because only in Mexico can Lea truly rock her Sinatra fedora:

Only in Mexico can I feel 100% comfortable wearing these slightly ridiculous gold hoops (super Shuboy brother, though, can get away with his hat just about anywhere):

Only in the golden light of Mexico can my daughters sport sequined bathing suit cover-ups and battle each other only once (miracle!) in seven days :

And only in Mexico can my adorable godchild play with her toes on a made-for-real-lounging couch like the one in the crazy fantastic villa we shared with her parents, her sister, my brother, and Mr. Mike:

Okay, well maybe the toe thing could happen in other places.

But still.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

*Wipes Sweat From Brow*

I spent seven hours at the San Francisco passport agency today (five of them with Vida and Lea in tow), but every miserable moment was worth it because when I finally left, I was clutching their passports in my grubby hands. Better yet, when I arrived at home, my passport was sitting on the front step in its FedEx envelope. And so we leave tomorrow, as planned.

Five people + five passports = one long-awaited family vacation

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Birthday Song From Luj + Comfort Woman Resolution Update

My little cousin, Luj, wrote a song for my birthday. He is one of the only people capable of simultaneously making me want to strangle him and give him a big old hug. When you press play, you will understand why.

(For my non-Filipino readers: when Luj refers to me as "Ate Ver," he's assigning me the rightful and respectful title of older sister/cousin)

(And, um, for any readers at all: Fairlawn Ct. is the street where I grew up. My paternal grandparents lived on the same street, so it was quite the family gathering ground)

(And also, Luj will probably be very mad at me for sharing this song, but that's what Mr. "She's-Forty-And-I'm-Not" gets)


The Comfort Women House Resolution Petition now has 1,199 signatures. If you haven't signed yet, please do! And if you can do more, please take a look at the letter Evelina Galang has written to her Congressperson—here—and write one of your own. As Evelina puts it, "activate your pen!"

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It's My Party, And I'll Wear Gold If I Want To

I will also have a taco truck...

And my fabulous cousuncles spinning vinyl...

And It's-It ice cream cookie sandwiches (procured by my loyal brother, proffered by my excellent husband, and immediately grabbed by me)...

And lots of my favorite people (I missed those of you who couldn't make it! Thank you for the beeeyootiful card, Ms. Cornshake-a-La!)...

Ladies of the Park:

With Right-Hand Gal:

Shiny Happy Cousins:

Ms.BJ Sipping Scotch & Making Oscar Happy

With Super Shuboy Brother:

Surrounded by all this, how could I possibly fret about turning...oh, freakin' freaky hell, I'm just gonna say it...forty?


Love ya like the spousal unit loves talking into headphones and makin' me teary (you kinda had to be there):