Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Messages Telepathically Transmitted to Various Folks at Lunch and in the Library

To the two women at Copenhagen Bakery who spent half an hour dissecting every minute of last week's Grey's Anatomy in voices loud enough to wake the dead: on a scale of 1 to 10, the extent to which you suck is 175.

To the married seniors sitting together in the library sharing a stack of magazines—everything from Vogue to Smart Computing—and then falling asleep holding hands: you are marvelous.

To the limping, no-longer-young man devouring the Postal Exam Study Guide: you are breaking my heart and best of luck.

To the tall, thin, sixtyish fellow in the cashmere v-neck and wild-wale cords listening to his iPod and grinning and nodding while perusing really fat books about various musicians: I know this seems like a crime-free environment, but I urge you to stop—I repeat stop—leaving your iPod and $300 earphones on the chair every time you get up to look for more books.

To the college-age female with three bottles of water and two Starbucks cups on her desk: you are wasting so much time unclipping your hair, playing with it, and then twisting it back up and re-clipping it, that you will never pass the exam which you are attempting to pass. yes, I am wasting time, too, but we're talking about you right now, young lady, not me.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Minimalists Unite!

Because I am a spaz, I am ever on the lookout for situations often referred to in parenting books as "teachable moments." When Lea recently presented me with the gift of a drawing, the central character of which was flanked—as always—by two hearts ("This is you and me," she explains every time, "but as hearts..."), I set about manipulating her into adding more details to it.

I've noticed, you see, that educators are forever demanding "more details," and though I don't completely understand the logic surrounding the insistence that more details are always better, I instigated this conversation anyways. Because I am, as stated in sentence #1 and continually throughout this post, a spaz:

Spaz Mom using Spaz Voice: Oooh, tell me about this picture!
Normal Child: Well, this is a bear. This is his nose, and down here is his neck. It's for you.
Spaz Mom in Manipulation Mode: I like it. So...where does the bear live?
Normal Child: In a cave with lots of flowers on the side.
Spaz Mom Staying on Task: Oh! Where are the flowers?
Normal Child: Um, Mama, he's not in his cave right now.
Spaz Mom, Still Trying Her Spaz Best:: No? So where is he?
Normal Child: He's on a piece of paper.
Spaz Mom, Defeated: I'm gonna keep it right here on my desk.

With you (whoever you are) as my witness, I vow to never again subject my children to such foolishness. Until, that is, the next time I subject my children to such foolishness. Here, by the way, is the drawing accompanied by its creator:

Or Maybe It Is About The Ten Widows?

Due to a lack of suitable blog material, I'll just share some writing from this week.

    When the girl was waist-high to her mother, her mother disappeared. She was last seen standing on the edge of a cliff that jutted out over the churning sea to the west, there, where the world ends. “We saw her,” said The Ten Widows. “And then we did not see her.” But what were you doing there? the men asked. The Ten Widows turned towards the women of the village, who answered Every day they stand on the cliff and look over the edge. And the men said Why? But The Ten Widows walked away then, and the women who were not widows felt no obligation to answer.

    I know a story about The Ten Widows; this is not it. Instead, this is a story about the left-behind girl and how a cage grew round her heart. But that happens in the middle of the story, and now I am all turned around. Let me begin again.

    When the girl was waist-high to her mother, her mother disappeared. She was last seen standing on the edge of a cliff that jutted out over the churning sea to the west, there, where the world ends.

    No great imagination was required to understand that the mother was dead. In the few moments before waking each morning, the girl could see what had happened. She saw her mother dive with an easy grace, her hair undulating like seaweed. She saw the surface of the water shatter and then a sudden and terrible burst of light. At times this light was a mouth, swallowing her mother whole. But more often this light was the girl’s handmaid, throwing open the curtains and screeching, “Good morning, Miss! Good morning!”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Seat Taken or I'll Whine If I Want To

I have a favorite desk in the library. It's on the second floor, in front of the new nonfiction titles, facing the window. But when I arrived today, it was already taken by a man with formidable posture and a pencil tucked behind his ear. I sighed and selected the next desk over. I think this would have been okay, except that I sat with my back to the window, and just as I was about to switch to the other side (they are facing desks, designed for two to sit), another man plunked down all his stuff and smiled. I half-heartedly returned his gesture and resigned myself to my fate. I then proceeded to slog through the most non-productive one hundred twenty writing minutes ever. I was unmoored, skittish. I felt like someone was reading over my shoulder and making gagging noises. I hit the delete key constantly.

But I stayed put.

And I waited. I waited for it, whatever "it" was, to pass. I kept thinking in five minutes, in five more minutes. And then, of course, five minutes would pass and nothing would change. This happened over and over and over again. At some point I should have cut my losses because these two hours—two truly uninterrupted hours in which I have no other available obligation—ugh. Forget it. As if I'm dealing with some rare and insurmountable hardship. As if 'hardship' is even a word I can legitimately use in describing my life. As if any of this is remotely interesting. As if this is anything other than me. Complaining again. When there's nothing to complain about.

*rolls eyes, heads off to bed*

Sunday, January 21, 2007

How A Visit to the Mall of Your Youth May or May Not Result in Blogger's Block

I think my blog and I must have had a terrible fight. I can think of no other plausible reason why every time I intend to post, I end up smirking at my computer screen and doing something else instead. It's like an electric fence has been raised around my formerly quite comfy nest, and when I approach....kazaaaamawacawaca electrocution! This might also account for my recent string of bad hair days, but that's another (uninteresting) post altogether.

This mysterious blogger's block began last week, actually, after a trip with the kids and my parents to the new Daiso store located a stone's throw from Serramonte Mall. Think of Daiso as the lovechild of...let's say...Target and Ichiban Kan. And the lovechild is super cute. The lovechild is wearing a sundress embroidered with scratch 'n' sniff strawberries and has the most lovely black braids and an alluring smile. But beware the lovechild! Because even though everything the lovechild sells is only $1, you will leave the lovechild having spent enough for a fairly decent dinner for two.

But enough about the Daiso lovechild. The problem wasn't really the lovechild. The problem came afterwards when my parents insisted that we eat inside Serramonte Mall. I begged them to reconsider, but they—particularly my insane father—are relentless when it comes to this type of thing. The more I begged the more he tormented me. How did he torment me, you ask? The same way he has tormented me my entire life: by performing a crazy little quick-foot shuffling dance, sticking out his tongue, and placing his thumb on his nose with the rest of his fingers splayed and wriggling. He is insufferable, my father. The dance was meant to convey that I was acting like the very worst kind of snoot. You're too good for Serramonte Mall? he asked without asking. You are Serramonte Mall.

Okay, maybe that is too dramatic, and maybe this only makes sense to those of us who came of age in Daly City (hi Kuya!), in the early 80s, but walking into that mall after a 20-year absence was like being thrown into a wayback machine. We took my grandparents there all the time for lunch at the Roast House, where a side of beef used to spin slowly in the window and Lolo used to empty ten sugar packets into his iced tea. I used to buy Green River from the vending machine at Longs, pirogi at the deli counter of QFI, a cherry Icee and popcorn at Montgomery Wards, and a "half-n-half dipped" at Carousel. I was a stuck-up little shit who refused to enter, shop, exit, or sit anywhere near the Mervyn's end of the mall.

When I was a little older, I'd take the bus all the way from Westlake and spend the afternoon sitting on one of the concrete benches around the central fountain with my friends. Security guards yelled at us for loitering and, when met with our sulky stares, demanded to know our last names so that they could then mock the ones that sounded "funny" to them (for the record, those were "Nabong," Abellera," and "Dizon"). We were often escorted out the doors and all the way to the bus stops. I was always indignant and a little mouthy, but we weren't—as a group—blameless. Much to my eternal fascination and horror, my friends shoplifted everything from cheap earrings to shoes. It's only now that I realize how little those kids had.

The mall is completely different now, of course, but none of the changes registered in my temporarily-stuck-in-1980 mind. Later that night, I tried to write about all this and got as far as a plagiarized title: Stranger In a Strange Land or You Can't Go Home Again.

*awkward pause*

In closing, and for no reason other than I love it, I present Al Pacino's mugshot via Mugshots.com:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Why Must I...

...be hopelessly attracted to corny mid-80s dance movies? I am stuck here—literally stuck as in my ass will not depart the couch— at 11 bloody 33 at night watching Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines engage in some sort of crazy ballet-tap dance-off. Gregory is wearing legwarmers; it's quite fantastic.

What am I talking about? I am talking about White Nights, of course, the cinematic masterpiece in which Phil Collins' unapologetically saccharine "Separate Lives" plays while Baryshnikov deconstructs a rug and skillfully braids it to be used in a gallant escape from his posh Leningrad apartment in which he is being held captive by mean Russians who are mad at him for defecting to the United States eight years ago! See?! Fantastic.

It's also a battle of the pre-botox pretties, what with Gregory's sleepy eyes, Baryshnikov's rakish hair, Isabella Rossellini's...

[pause! they're doing their martial-arts inspired pas de deux (is it a pas de deux if it's two men? Never mind! I have no time for details. I'm watching!) right now. omg.]

...lips—lips more pillowy than Angelina's, in case there's an official scorecard somewhere in Hollywood—and Helen Mirren's regal nose and beautifully arched foot (what? I can't notice something like that?).

I must go now. Because M.B. is now attempting his escape. And he's bringing Gregory and Isabella (they are married, of course, and deeply in love) with him! And out of nowhere he's pulled a leather newsboy cap and Gregory has done the same, but with a skullcap. I guess because they're escaping and that's what one sports on one's noggin when one is escaping...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Roman Holiday

Rome. Oh, Rome. I've been indulging in repeats of the first season, and it's so completely gross and disturbing and amazing, I cannot tear my eyes away. That was before I saw it in high definition, mind you. Now blood and body parts come flying straight at me off of forty-six inches of flat-screen perfection. And what of Cleopatra? Cleopatra, with her buzzcut and crazy sing-song voice, is insane.

Is it wrong? Is it wrong that I cannot wait for Sunday when the second and final season begins? Then, dear ones, let me be wrong.

Oscar, are you there? Rome will erase every memory you have of what's-his-name (he of the hair extensions and excessively bronzed and oiled legs) yelling, "Is there no one else?"

If I were in Caesar's Rome, I would declare slowly and with undisguised yet quiet rage (perhaps while grabbing your gold-edged tunic):


Alas, I am in the blogosphere and must put it this way:

I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What Works

I'm the first to admit I have a questionable work ethic when it comes to writing fiction. I can writing anything else—marketing stuff, grant applications, letters, newsletters, etc. etc.—blindfolded, with my arms pretzel-twisted behind my head and mosquitoes buzzing in my ears. But fiction, which of course brings me the most personal happiness and satisfaction, has always been another animal. The moment I attempt to focus myself as in, okay, let's just finish up this scene, I freeze up. Because what does that really mean? As everyone knows, you can endlessly tinker with a word, a sentence, or a paragraph while believing you are actually working. You can decide that you meant for the scene to go another way entirely and then begin again. You can spend an afternoon in Google heaven because you've decided that in order to correctly set the scene you need to know everything about the manufacturing of pita bread in humid climates or something. What I'm saying is that writing a scene can conceivably go on forever. Or you can decide the scene doesn't belong after all and delete it, which technically fulfills the goal to "finish up this scene." Call me slow on the uptake, but I have only recently realized that the vague, barely-there, open-to-manipulation-and-interpretation-and-other-various-methods-of-skullduggery directives I give myself result in...pretty much nothing.

Okay, so that doesn't work for me. But I'll tell you what does. And I do so with a hung head and flushed cheeks because it's really sort of basic and therefore slighly embarrassing. What works on an almost daily basis is this: Write 200 words in 20 minutes. Editing of previous stuff doesn't count, but it is allowed (because I often can't help myself). It's a super-low wordcount, so it's more than achievable and thus does not make me feel like a total loser. At the end of the week, I have at least 1,400 words that move the narrative forward (or sometimes sideways, but that's okay). And this, my friends, is 1398 words more a week than I typically squeaked out using my previous sorry process. When I get to the end of whatever this is that I'm writing, I will allow myself the luxury of going back to fiddle all I please. But for now, I just need to get it down in a way that allows me to nurture my children and my marriage and other important relationships, keep my house, fulfill my volunteer obligations, and squelch drama before it begins.

In the immortal words of one Willy Wonka, ...so much time, so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Requisite Photos

Of course I have to post some Yarn, Paper, Scissors party pix. Here are my birthday girls:

The room hard at work. I completely underestimated the boys, by the way, and am apologizing for the record. They were so into it:

Too young to embroider, but plenty old enough to eat countless butterfly sugar cookies:

Here are the stitches that everyone learned on their practice muslin:

Exalted guest M.W. in her fantastic hat:

Sometimes their sense of purpose freaks me out a little. Vida (second picture) was so intent that her complexion paled:

And here are R & V's final products, which they finished right before their bedtime. They only used one of the stitches they learned, but I was kinda surprised at even that:

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bamboo Ridge

Ooooh, contributor's copies still in their shrinkwrap:

I'm pleased/proud to be published alongside the following lovelies:

Amalia B. Bueno
Stuart Ching
Clinton John Frakes
J. Freen
Marie Park Fujii
Barbara Hamby
Jody Helfand
Michael Honda
Ann Inoshita
Juliet S. Kono
Joseph O. Legaspi
R. Zamora Linmark
Michael Little
Wing Tek Lum
Michael McPherson
Alexei Melnick
Lori Lei Hokyo Misaka

Gene J. Parola
ChristyAnne Passion
Elmer Omar Pizo
Normie Salvador
Steve Shrader
Michelle Cruz Skinner
Joseph Stanton
Lara Stapleton
Eileen R. Tabios
Delaina Thomas
Ken Tokuno
Joe Tsujimoto
Daniel Tsukayama
Romolo Valencia
John Wythe White
Lisa Yoshihara

I don't think my name will see traditional print more than a couple of times in 2007, so this is very nice to hold in my hands. A meaty section of the issue is devoted to a celebration of the Filipino Centennial, by the way, and you can pick up a copy right here.

Thank you to Bamboo Ridge, particularly Michelle Cruz Skinner and Theo Gonzalves.


Okay, it's time for me to throw myself into full-on 7th birthday party mode. All the goody stuff has been goodified and the cake has been ordered, but there are cookies to bake and fruit to fruitinize, a plan b and/or c to devise in case the boys just can't deal with the embroidery situation (there is a marked difference in the ability to focus between genders at this age—at least in my corner of the world), etc. etc.


I love my kids, but I'm ready for this Winter Break to be O. Ver. Why? Because while life with them is sometimes like this:
It is more often like this:

Oh, sure, the difference make look subtle to you (although not, I bet, to Weez or Bec or Sunny!), but look a little more closely and you can see—or even, if you throw in a little extra effort, feel—the crazy.

It's all in the eyes.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2/365 As Seen From the Vantage Point of 3/365

There are only so many directions I can process. And while I appreciate—in a mildly frightened way—the manic intensity with which my new Pilates trainer person approaches my body mechanics, I have to admit to being overwhelmed. In one hour I was urged to think...

...of each part of my body as having wheels
...of myself as wearing a corset
...of a rod running straight through my glutes (um, ouch)
...of sending my breath to my ribs
...of scooping
...of a sail filled with wind
...of a ball laying on my stomach and myself rolling over it
...of the inner sections of my knees as magnets

It was kinda cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs inducing. But perhaps this was more a function of the fact that Lea was up all night with a fever, complete with nightmares in which I was very sick and the spousal unit was a skeleton. She was so warm I threw the blankets off the two of us. She attached herself to me monkey-style, and it felt like some sort of bizarre hot-child spa treatment. This might have been great for my back, but I got very little sleep because of her random little screams and because her continually frightened state resulted in her strangling me every ten minutes. Fun! And so it was that I moved through most of yesterday with puffs of fog floating all lazy-like around my brain.


In other Nesting Ground news...I'm more curious and excited about my writing than I have been in a long time. Short-ish pieces that I've written and filed away seem suddenly to belong together, like a family. Part of me is wondering why I didn't see it before, but the other part is thinking gift horse. mouth. don't look. As in any family, there are a slew of characters. Normally, this would stymie my efforts because I'd get all tangled up trying to decide on a pov before moving forward. This time, though, I'm writing in any voice that pleases me at the moment. It's possible that the narrative only makes sense to me at this point, but I think it's actually working so far. We'll see. Or we won't see. Either way, I've decided failed experiments count.

If I had a theme song, I'd insert it here. And it would be all sweeping and all climb-every-mountain-ish and you would laugh at me, and I'd deserve it.

Meanwhile, I'm reading Lorrie Moore and Gina Berriault again because, well, you can't really do that too often.

Monday, January 01, 2007


At 12:30 this morning I poured myself a big glass of water and started writing. I only went at it for about 30 minutes before dragging myself to the real nesting ground, but I think it was enough to make sure things got off to, you know, a positive start. I supposed I should have munched on organic kale, given myself a manicure, deep-conditioned my hair, and cleaned the grout between the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush, too, but a person can only take so much change.

In all seriousness, I have set modest writing and reading goals for myself, plus the regular get-healthy nonsense, most of which will fall by the wayside in a few months time. In an amusing attempt to stick to my drink-more-water goal, I forced myself to finish another big glass of water today before I would allow myself a Diet Pepsi on ice. I exaggerate not when I tell you that it took me three hours—three hours!—to drink the water. By then I had a wicked headache brought on, no doubt, by my lack of caffeine. Such a sad sack, am I.

As for Day 2, it holds much promise: haircut (dare me to cut it all off and I just might; I'm in such a mood) and color, Pilates, the aforementioned writing/reading, and the inevitable prep work for Risa and Vida's 7th birthday party. I made these silly invites:

As you can imagine, I repeat the words "totally crafty" like 400 times on the inside. Despite the fact that my heart was semi-set on a bowling party (what I imagined as kitschy and retro fun was, in reality, dingy and kinda dirty), the whole shindig will go down in the groovy party room at Yarn, Paper, Scissors (thank you Marcy!), where the invitees (including four lucky young gents) will embroider their own fleece scarves, enjoy a double-big slice of ice cream cake, and saunter off with a bunch of goodies ever-so-carefully selected by moi (can I be a moi? Or is it only Eileen who can be a moi?). Let us take a moment here to recall last year's extraordinarly pink goody bags.

That's it for today, my New Year darlings. Making some changes to the blog; bear with the weird color changes and whatnot...