Monday, December 28, 2009

Growing Up Filipino II: Thoughts Inspired by Rebecca

Rebecca has some sweet thoughts about being published for the first time in an actual hold-it-in-your-hands book with a front cover and a back cover and some 250 pages in between: Growing Up Filipino II. Bec and I have something in common when it comes to Cecilia Brainard. Though I had been published in a handful of small journals before, Cecilia was the first editor to accept one of my stories for publication in a book. This meant so very much to me. I still remember when I received my contributor's copies for Contemporary Fiction by Filipinos in America, with its gorgeous cover art. It's so gorgeous I'm going to show it to you:

And it was Cecilia who invited me to do my first-ever reading with her and some other contributors at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, which is in a mansion and which had an extraordinarily large stage that terrified me. "How long should we read?" she whispered before we walked onstage. This increased my panic because if Cecilia wasn't sure, I CLEARLY wasn't sure. "Just read 5 minutes from the beginning of your story, and 5 minutes from the end," she advised. And that's what I did.

Since then, Cecilia has been so supportive of my writing. Not blindly supportive, mind you. She has no qualms telling me when she thinks I've missed the mark. I'm only one among dozens who have benefitted from her attentions (though I hope I'm the only one she has ever likened to a ripening mango! Please, oh, please, oh please...), and now Bec joins our happy number.

In her post, Bec mentions that's it's time to promote Growing Up Filipino II. To that end, PAWA and Arkipelago Books are hosting a book launch at the Bayanihan Community Center on Saturday, January 16th. Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Tony Robles, Marianne Villanueva, and I—me, your Nesting Ground Mistress!—will all be reading from our stories. Click on the photo to read the fine print:

Come join us! You know you want to.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stocking Stuffers & Funhouse Mirrors

What sort of mother forgets about stocking stuffers? THIS kind of mother. *points at self*

In fact, I forgot about a bunch of stuff, the net result of which is I will be running around tomorrow like a woman on fire. And that won't be easy to do, considering the fact that the traffic has tripled these past few days. I've spent an inordinate amount of time stuck in driver's limbo, dramatically running my hands through my hair and gnashing my teeth.

At this time I would like to communicate a cautionary retail tale, also known as (I just made this up) a "retale." I will probably never have cause to cross the threshold of a Sunglass Hut, but if I did it would never, ever be the one in my nearby mall. Do you want to know why? Because for years now, one of the store's full-length mirrors is positioned in such a way as to force passersby to catch a glimpse of themselves. In and of itself, that's not a bad thing. But if the mirror is cheap and warped in such a way as to make passersby look two feet shorter and two feet wider than they in fact ARE, the feeling engendered is not one of goodwill. You'd think by now I'd know to avert my eyes, but for some unknown, masochistic reason, I'm drawn to that mirror like every cliché moth to every cliché flame. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you ever become a shopkeeper, make sure your mirrors reflect the queen and/or king in all of us.

The End.

And also, happy holidays. Stay gold. Drink milk. Be nice.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Betting My Bottom Dollar

Friday, post-3:00 pm, could not be more welcome. Let us deduce why:

Monday: Tylenol PM hangover in effect for most of the day. Attempted to counteract with four aspirin and several boosts of caffeine, but to no avail. Prone to nodding off, answering questions that had not been asked, and asking questions that had no answers.

Tuesday: Worst fears realized when forced to break solemn vow to NEVER, EVER chaperone a field trip. After 45-minute bus ride, arrived at destination and was told, "You look green. Are you okay?" Muscled through the museum and the 45-minute bus ride back to campus. Ran to car, sped home, burst through door, ran down hallway, and—big surprise—threw up.

Wednesday: Do not remember anything about Wednesday except Pilates teacher saying, "What happened to your neck?" and then trying to help re-lengthen it.

Thursday: Volunteer, meeting, Staples, Target, stop by parental units' place, school pick-up, and a copious amount of time spent shepherding one daughter across the finish line of her 4th grade California mission report.

Friday: Locked out of house in rain. Ineffective at guiding 4th graders through art lesson inspired by Picasso's Weeping Woman. Found the irony hilarious. Wondered why the concept of facial profile is difficult to grasp. Hands stained with charcoal. Ponytail far too tight.

Tomorrow is another day! The sun'll come uuuuuuuuup...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Post Where I Start Off One Way and End Another

Why does everyone have their lights and trees up already? I do not understand. I'm still adjusting to daylight savings, for crickets' sake. I'm still getting into awesome boots mode. I'm still shocked to hear the furnace clicking on. I'm still wondering where back-to-school went. What's the rush?

Moving along...though my days of early motherhood are but a distant and fatigue-causing memory, I've been reading—for other purposes—a lot about that time in a woman's life. There's some odd stuff going on out there. I had no idea, for example, about the vitriole inspired in some quarters by the stroller brigade of Park Slope (as in mothers, New York, white, moneyed). This article in Salon, "Everybody Hates Mommy," was so disturbing to me, as were the several pages of reader comments. In the end, I don't think mothers (in general) have a sense of entitlement; I think they are tired and overwhelmed relative to their fortunate or not-so-fortunate circumstances. I think certain individuals have a sense of entitlement, and the fact that they may or may not be mothers has nothing to do with it. Everybody needs to play nice on the playground of life, people.

Speaking of playing nice—or in this case, not playing nice—someone stole my iPhone on Friday night. The texts and calls we made to the perpetrator were not enough to inspire the phone's return, so the wonderful spousal unit picked another one up for me yesterday. It's so sparkly and has all sorts of new gadgetry (voice memos, anyone?) and whatnot, but I sort of miss my vintage iPhone in all its clunky slowness. Plus, it creeps me out that someone probably looked through all the photos that were on it. Ewwwww. I repeat: play nice.

And in writing news: yesterday I received my contributor's copies of Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults, which you can purchase here.

Now, I know I started this post off complaining that everyone was making a mad rush for December when November isn't even over, but one must make allowances for holiday book shopping! This beauty would make an excellent gift, would it not?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Flipping The Bird

I have to flip my turkey now. It's not a simple task, you know, to flip a 17.29 lb. turkey on its side after it's been roasting for 45 minutes, but that's what I'm supposed to do. I've flipped it one wing-side up already, where it's been roasting for 20 minutes, and now I need to flip it the other wing-side up. After 20 minutes, I flip it one last time: breast up. I'm using wads of paper towel to keep from burning my delicate Nesting Ground Mistress skin.


Well, that was fun. It took me several minutes to wrangle a firm grip, and then just as my flip was almost executed, the V-rack collapsed. So then I placed the turkey rather awkwardly on top of the collapsed rack, pulled out a large pan, moved the turkey onto it, then proceeded to fix the V-rack. One of the supporting bars had become unhinged (much as I have in the last few hours), and I couldn't use my bare hands to fix it, so I made do with some tongs and brief touches with my fingers. Success! Then I finally flipped the bird (hahahahaha!!), shoved it back into the oven with a satisfied grunt, and shut the door. I have to admit, it's getting a lovely all-over tan. The final flip will be another adventure, I'm sure, but I'll spare you.

As for the rest of the early evening menu, I have relied heavily on the holiday cookie issue of Sunset Magazine. I have Gratin of cauliflower with gruyere, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with buttermilk and roasted garlic, Italian sausage and chard stuffing, and Green beans with a citrus vinaigrette. And I'm making some pumpkin soup, using a recipe from my sister-in-law that has served me well lo these past many years. And pies! But we got those from Heidi's Pies, so they don't count.

I am thankful for many things. But I am also sleepy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dishwasher, Story, Smelly Shoes

All I've been doing since last I blogged is emptying the dishwasher, filling it, emptying it, filling it, etc. etc. Or at least that's what it feels like I've been doing since last I blogged. But the thing about being one with my dishwasher is that performing an empty or fill task provides the optimal amount of time needed to mull something over: a problem, an idea, a solution. I often stop midway through the process to write something down, and I'm wondering now if that's why I put my desk in the kitchen in the first place. Which leads me to...

I'm working on a project with my friend W., but the scope of it doesn't really have a place here at Nesting Ground, so I will just say that it's taken up much of my allotted daily brain function. I muse on this project throughout the day. I fall asleep thinking about it, wake up thinking about it, and trip on my words when I'm talking about it because there is so much to say. I'm looney excited about said project, and I can't wait to see if we can pull it off.

Speaking of pulling something off, I'm pleased (and relieved) that my story "The Left-Behind Girl" was just accepted for publication in Philippine Speculative Fiction V, forthcoming in February 2010, and edited by Nikki Alfar and Vin Simbulan. Thank you so very much, Nikki and Vin. This turn of events makes me happy. Happy like...little kid happy. Bag full of candy happy. Jeans fitting perfectly happy. House nice-and-clean happy. Hot biscuit happy. All socks accounted for happy.

Now, though, I must balance the happy with the not-so-happy. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Vida's super-stinky shoes. They were purchased the week before school began, and they were the kind of adorable that makes me sigh. Now they are so smelly and disgusting, that just knowing they are visible if I care to peek out of the corner of my eye is making me queasy. I'm going to go and throw those shoes away now, and I have no doubt that I will spend the rest of the afternoon facing the wrath of my tiger-like 9-year-old daughter, but so be it. I cannot abide them.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Stuff I'm Doing

I am eager for soccer season to end, for I can take it no more. Much to my surprise and horror, I am far too attached to outcomes, when what I should really be concerned about is whether or not my girls are enjoying themselves. My idiot-ness is compounded by the fact that R & V's team has only lost one game this season, while I think L's team has only WON one. I need off the emotional rollercoaster, thanks. I need to get my own damn life.

I exaggerate, of course. I have my own damn life. For example, I am quite enjoying my tutoring work with Reading Partners. My little gap-toothed tu-tee to-ta-lly loves me. "We gonna do this every day, right?" he said. And I said, "Just twice a week." He then nodded sagely and said, "I love Reading Partners. It's so fun." At first I found this a little hard to believe, but then I recalled that we start every session lounging on beanbags while I read to him from whatever books he chooses. Once he chose a book about reptiles, and we just screamed the whole time. So maybe it is fun for him.

This year I once again have in my possession a group of five strong 4th grade writers, and this time I have them for a whole hour every week. I've decided to start every session with a 5-minute freewrite, and this one kid totally cracked me up because his freewrite sounded just like mine when I was his age (for some reason they all wanted to share their freewrites, and I'm not one to balk at such enthusiasm): "My hand hurts. Why do we have to do this? I wish it was over. When will it be over? Seriously, my hand is going to fall off..." etc. etc. I told them that if they ran out of things to write, to just keep writing, "I am, I am, I am" over and over again until something showed up. All four girls at some point wrote, "I am awesome." Isn't that hilarious?!

Also, I'm teaching art in two separate 4th grade classroom, and three combined 2nd grade classrooms. Um, a little bit of art overload, I'll admit. But there are plenty of other parents helping out this year, so while I am responsible for lecture, discussion, project demo, and prep, I don't have to do as much during the actual project time. So, yay for not having my face smudged with charcoal or whatever every Friday!

I'm fully back in the swing with Latino/Community Outreach work, as well. I hit a wall with our previous administration, the end result of which was me running full force into said wall, and then collapsing into an unattractive heap on the floor. However, the new power-that-is truly gets it (gee, could it be because he is a personne de couleur? Mais oui!), and we have tons of momentum going at the moment. I plan to wrangle all the good energy into bringing adult English and literacy classes directly onto our campus. It'll be a pretty sweet trick, what with everyone's budget disappearing, but you just watch. Watch me and my own damn life.

So, while all this is going on, I try to remember that I am a writer, and that a writer should, you know, write. I think the fact that I have two manuscripts out there at the same time (I don't even remember the last time that happened) shows that I'm doing okay with this. When they return to me, rejected, I will wear the rejections as a badge of honor. I'll attach them to a flagpole and salute them. I'll frame them for the mantle. Tattoo the text on my bicep. Quote them verbatim at every opportunity. I'll even use them as an ingredient in an energy drink which I will then consume in three gulps.

But for now, it's late and I'm sleepy. Sea of Poppies, here I come.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Good Reading

I was just speeding blissfully through the pages of Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies when I realized that if I didn't slow down, it would be over too soon. But then I remembered that it's only the first of the Ibis trilogy, and I worked back up to a regular reading pace. It's one of those novels that truly creates an entire world, one that's populated with the most unlikely but believable characters, and that takes you from elation to tears with nothing but a section break to let you catch your breath. A woman was just snatched from her dead, opium-addicted husband's funeral pyre, made love to by a rescuer (from a lower caste!) whom she promptly marries in a do-it-yourself ceremony and, in an attempt to escape her family (who will not rest! will not rest! will not rest until she and her true love are DEAD!), has boarded a boat headed to Calcutta (and indentured servitude) with her strapping new husband. And that's just one strand of the story! Smack in the middle of it all is the human and environmental wreckage created by colonialism. And coming soon: the Opium Wars. It's just killing me, this novel. It's only 10:58, but I'm headed to bed so I can read some more...

Friday, October 30, 2009


I'm officially exhausted by Halloween and all its attendant duties. Shame on the soccer powers-that-be who decided that it would be a good idea for the under 10 girls to play TWO games on the day-of! Risa and Vida play at 9:00 and 4:45, which will leave them exhausted by the time they don, respectively, their pirate and harlequin costumes. They will be a Miss Pissed Pirate and Miss Holy Hell Harlequin.

We have 1,000 pumpkins, but none of them are carved.

I am making pumpkin soup tomorrow, which is something of a solace.

Also, I think I will melt peanut butter cups into the caramel. Apple, meet your new dip.

I don't remember the last time I was so excited about daylight savings time. Oh blessed extra hour of sleep.

Lea wears glasses now, same as I did when I was her age. I found it vaguely traumatizing when it happened to me, but today the glasses are so cute. On her first day at school, her friends came running. "Wow, Lea, you got GLASSES! You look COOOOOOL!"

We ate at a Brazilian Meat Palace (not the official name, silly) last night, and I have yet to recover. 'Twas a festival of beefiness, a parade of protein. But they also had pork encrusted with parmesan cheese. And chicken wrapped in bacon. And endlessly filled little plates of crispy polenta. So sick. So wrong. So very right.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Messy Nest

I could, if it were my nature, spend the entire day picking up after my children: shoes under the table, cardboard bits from class project, library book on the mantle, party favors, backpacks, lip balms, change purses, socks, shin guards, ponytail holders, hats, colored pencils, gluestick, homework folder. But it is not my nature. I do, however, shuffle the most offending items (backpack under the dining room table, for example) to their proper place. Why do I do this? Because sometimes I can't bear to order them around for the 276th time in 24 hours. Some would scoff, I suppose. Yes, children should learn to pick up after themselves. But also, children should not only be spoken to in an unbroken string of do-this and do-that and don't-do-this and don't-do-that. Sometimes I just need to let them be.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Day that Came Out of Left Field

Yesterday was weird. First of all, I actually submitted a story, an occurrence which happens about as often as a solar eclipse. Here's my modus operandi: I get ready to submit, and then I read over the piece, and then—for a variety of reasons, some ridiculous and some not so ridiculous—I demur. I repeat this many times as the deadline looms ever and ever closer. And then nine times out of ten I decide I'm a horrible writer, and I don't send the piece. Today, though, I was in an inexplicable throw-caution-to-the-wind mood, a start-living-or-start-dying mood, a get-over-it-you-dork mood, a what's-the-worse-that-could-happen mood. Like that. So, almost without thinking, I sent a little story out into the mean, mean world.

Also yesterday, while meeting with a non-profit group to discuss (yet again) ways to engage our Spanish-speaking parents more fully with our school culture, I was offered a job. This gave me great pause. "Your kids are older now," said the job-offerer, a lovely woman whose personality can convince an entire room filled with less-than-inspired people that their greatness is yet to be revealed. She knows this about my kids because she also offered me a job four years ago. "You gotta move on, girl," she added, one eyebrow raised.

And there is something to what she says. Really, how much longer do I remain in the rabid school-volunteer phase of my life? Soon the kids will be off to scary Middle School, where parent services are not so in-demand, and then what will I do with myself? The obvious answer is: write, stupid. But the truth is that I write more when my schedule is constricted. Leave me free and easy, and I will loll about doing very little. Fill up my calendar, and I grow determined to squeeze in writing time. Frankly, a job would help—not hinder—my output (it would do little for the state of my house, but that's another subject altogether).

Later, I broached the subject of Mothers Who Work Somewhere Besides Home with my children. The two older ones thought it would be "cool" for me to work. "Mom," said Vida, "I want you to be excellent."

I almost asked, "What do you mean? Am I not now excellent?" But then I decided that was a can of worms best left unopened. I turned to my youngest, and she squeezed her face up as if someone had pinched her really hard, began to cry, and said, "No, mama, no..."

Then one of the twins berated her, and she ran off weeping to her room. The other twin then berated the berating twin, and went to comfort her crying sister.

I ate some potato chips.

It was all too much for me, really.

And then later in the evening, I attended a PTA meeting at which much of the Latino outreach work we've done so far this year bore fruit. Big, fat, delicious, low-hanging fruit. I went to sleep very happy.

Still, weird day.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I Want to Eat a Tootie in My Tootooooon

Today, in support of Jumpstart's "Read for the Record" campaign, a bunch of parents invaded the Preschool and Kindergarten classes to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to small groups of kids. In the opinion of your Nesting Ground Mistress, there are few activities more joyous. Plus, courtesy of one of our mom's generous employers, every kid received a brand new, shiny copy of the book.

I'm sure most of you know the story and are familiar with the stunning collages: there's a hungry caterpillar, and he eats a ton of fruit and snacks and gets, of course, a terrible stomachache. Then he eats through a big leaf and feels better. He builds himself a cocoon, goes to sleep for two weeks, and emerges a beautiful, gorge-a-mous butterfly.

While reading to my first group, I turned to the page with the large illustration of the cocoon, and this little girl started screaming and pointing. "A tootoooon! A tootooooon! It's...a... tootooooon!" And it was just so remarkably cute that I didn't even bother to correct her, and now there are five little kids skipping through their lives thinking a cocoon is a tootooooon. Somehow, I don't think it will ruin their lives.

Of course, I had to e-mail my little cousin (who is an educator), and she responded that there is a little girl in her Kindergarten that says "tootie" instead of "cookie."

So now all I want to do is eat a chocolate chip tootie in my tiny tootooooon. I'd invite you, but there's only room for one.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Post In Which I Reveal the Reason Why I'm Once Again Engaged In a Scorching Love Affair with Writing

It's hard to believe that I've never taken a class at Kearny Street Workshop, but there you go: I've never taken a class at Kearny Street Workshop. Until this weekend, that is. And it is SO good. Which leaves me to wonder, of course, if it's ALWAYS so good. I already know that the answer, though, is no. Because there are too many variables at play. First, the instructor must be wonderful (generous, brilliant, accessible, truly present), the space must be conducive to creativity (clean, pleasant, generally distraction-free, with natural light, and let's see, what else...white walls), and—this is the trickiest thing of all—the group must be a pitch-perfect mix of writers.

All three of those heady requirements have been met by the workshop I'm attending (today was day 1), and this despite the fact that the other half of the space at PariSoMa was taken over by something called the Arse Elektronika festival. "You might walk out of this room and see, I don't know, robots fucking or something," said our teacher. See why I so enjoy her? Her name, by the way, is Minal Hajratwala.

I won't continue, as one of our group agreements is "confidentiality." (Do you think this post breaches it? I hope not) I will just add, though, that it helps so very much that your Nesting Ground Mistress is an old lady now, as this workshop would have been wasted on the young version of me. And whaddayaknow: that confession works well with the theme of the workshop, which is—of course it is—"Lost & Found."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From Helpless to Helpful

Well, September '09 has ended in a disconcerting flurry of island disasters, and they are all heartbreaking. It's easy to fall into despair, what with all the videos, photographs, ostensible government indifference and/or ineptitude, and individual stories of devastation. But why loll about in the quicksand Pit of Despair when you are perfectly capable of doing something? Send money? Sure! Send a little more? Why not! And then, of course, you can fill up a box with your used clothing and shoes and blankets and whatnot, and bring it to one of these drop-off spots. It will then be delivered—in most cases FREE—to the victims of Typhoon Ondoy in the Philippines.

Here's a list of drop-off points especially for all you Filipino and Filipino-friendly Californians. I pulled this directly from Moongirl, whose extensive list includes several ways for those of us who are not Philippine-based to help. You can check here whole list out here, but this is the California section:

California (Burlingame): MANILA BOX USA is now accepting donations in kind & will provide FREE shipping to Manila. Items will be sent by Sea Cargo and will delivered to the Whitespace Relief Center/Mar Roxas Headquarters in Cubao. Please drop them off at their warehouse: 361 Beach Road Burlingame , CA 94010 or call (650)342-2858. Please pack them in boxes for easier handling. Business hours Mon-Fri 9am-6pm

California (Carson/Hermosa Beach): We are collecting donations to send to flood victims in Manila. Our goal is to fill up a 40ft container in one week with new or used clothing,shoes, blankets,medicines,canned food items, etc. Dropoff Location : 205 West Torrance Blvd, Carson, CA 90745. We will be setting up a booth on Oct 3, 2009 at the Substance event in Hermosa Beach CA.

California (Cerritos): Our house is temp drop off point while we find a bigger venue. We’ll facilitate immediate shipment to Manila. Thank you in advance for your help. Pls pass. Dino & Jan Home:16622 Amberwood Way Cerritos, CA 90703; (562)404-0625

California (Hayward): Fil-Am Invitational BasketballLeague(FIBL) will send out relief goods in the philippines for the victims of the floods cause by typhoon ondoy…. if you want to make a donation clothing,canned goods or money please bring it on sunday 10/04/09 @ el rancho gym 541 blanche st. hayward ca. from 2:00 – 6:00pm please visit our website for direction

California (Daly City): Please contact Ryan Leano (626)534-4971. Liwanag Cultural Center, Hillside Park Clubhouse, 222 Lausanne Ave., Daly City‎, CA‎ 94014.

California (LA): Relief goods accepted in LA! ANSWER ofc, 137 Virgil St, Rm 203, Los Angeles, CA

California (LA): TULONG SA PILIPINAS (STP): Accepting donations cash or check. Send to People’s CORE, 1610 Beverly Blvd. Suite No 2, Los Angeles, Ca 90026. Donations more than $50 is tax deductible. Material donations drop off ( donations; shoes, clothes, canned goods. medicines etc. ) at ANSWER LA office at 137 Virgil St. Room 203 , Los Angeles, CA 900042.

California (LA): Manila Forwarder will provide free balikbayan box shipment to Philippine National Red Cross, churches, and other government agencies directly responsible with relief operations. Please drop off the relief goods at: Manila Forwarder Headquarters, 4249 Eagle Rock Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90065, 1.800.210.1019323.478.1599

California (Oakland): Please contact Ryan Leano (626)534-4971. Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy & Leadership. Attn: Armael Malinis, AnakBayan-East Bay. 310 8th Street, Suite 215. Oakland, CA 94710

California (San Diego): Alas Cargo 3126 E Plaza Blvd National City, CA 91950 (619) 470-1023; Eastern Express 8965 Mira Mesa Blvd (858) 578-8567

California (San Francisco): Stanford’s Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) is also collecting donations to be sent to the Philippines to help victims of Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana). If you would like to make a donation, please contact AV David at or (650) 491-4561.

California (San Francisco): Click here.

California (San Francisco): Manila Forwarder will provide free balikbayan box shipment to Philippine National Red Cross, churches, and other government agencies directly responsible with relief operations. Please drop off the relief goods at: Manila Forwarder Northern California, 5750 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94112. Tel: 510-750-3036 / Tel: 209-3499576 / Tel: 415-239-9576

California (West Covina): Bamboo Bistro, 1559 E Amar Rd, West Covina, CA 91792. (626) 810-6131


I eagerly await tonight's episode of Glee because Glee makes me impossibly gleeful. A tonic for the times, as it were. If only it weren't on FOX...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Post In Which I Use A Bad Word. Twice.

You know which day I have enjoyed most in the past few days? Saturday. We had to wake up early for Lea's 8:00 soccer game, but never mind! The child scored three goals—three! her first ever!—an occurrence we probably could have predicted, considering she is a whole head taller than most of the other players. But never mind! Why must I place caveats everywhere?

The big girls' game wasn't until much later, leaving me plenty of time for the PAWA/Arkipelago Reading at the Bayanihan Community Center. The afternoon's stellar lineup included poets Oliver de la Paz, Mari L'Esperance, and Joseph O. Legaspi, and musician Theresa Calpotura. You can see video and pictures here at the PAWA blog. I've been waving to Oliver from cyberspace for years now, so it was especially nice to meet The Actual Him. And the same goes for Joseph, who is blindingly charming, and who read a poem about watermelon that made me happy. As usual, I was deprived of the chance to mingle, as I had to skedaddle back home to catch the second soccer game. But I was able to purchase copies of Oliver's Furious Lullaby, and Joseph's Imago, and so should you.

So, this was really weird: Risa and Vida's team went up 4 to 0 before the half, at which point their coach would no longer let anybody cross midfield. The girls would run, run, run, and then stop at the line as if there were some sort of invisible fence (just like in LOST!). We soon realized it was because he didn't want to run up the score and thus dishearten the opposing players. It was the right thing to do, but I don't think the other side was particularly happy when it became clear that R & V's team had basically stopped playing. Of course, this couldn't last for long, and both Risa and Vida and another girl ended up scoring, after which they were called to the sidelines and gently admonished by their coach. The other team never did score and, yes, some of their players were in tears at the end, but I don't know. The whole thing was a little icky.

The NOT icky thing was that my adored little cousin and her hubbbband came to cheer the girls on, and then we went to eat at Rave Burger. Yes to sweeeeeeet potato fries! Yes to garlic fries! Yes to my "Chicken on Grass" sandwich, which was just a chicken breast topped with sauteed spinach and garlic! Yes! Yes!

And then we all went home and watched the Mayweather/Marquez bout, and I STILL do not care for Mr. Floyd. Mr. Floyd is distinctly unpleasant, entitled, and rude. When he fights Manny Pacquiao, I will be curled up in a ball peeking at the screen through my fingers, and I will be screaming and carrying on and making all sorts of bargains with the powers-that-be ("I promise if Manny Pacquiao wins, I will never think badly of anyone's shoes ever again. I promise if Manny Pacquiao wins, I will never secretly smirk at women who have landscapes painted on their nails. I promise, I promise."). Mark me well, for I do not lie.

After Mayweather's win, we turned our attention to what is surely one of the worst Jason Statham movies ever, and CERTAINLY the worst Joan Allen film ever: Death Race. Just when I thought it couldn't get any more unintentionally hilarious, Jason would...I don't a bunch of shirtless pull-ups FOR NO REASON AT ALL. Or Joan would call Jason a "cocksucker," and I would think, "My God, Joan Allen, you once acted alongside Daniel Day Lewis, and now you're standing in front of Jason Statham and calling him a cocksucker."

And then I went to sleep.


MISCELLANEOUS 1: You want to know what I loved about Trader Joe's today? They played the Hawaii 5-0 theme song, and for some reason it filled me with a sense of purpose, and I sped all over the store, menu-planning as I went, and now I do not have to go to the store for the rest of the week. Maybe. And also, there was a lovely senior citizen lady working there, and really she was such a senior citizen that she moved very, very, very slowly while straightening out the bags of tortilla chips, but it was obviously her birthday because she was wearing a birthday crown (like with candles sticking up and everything), and it made me want to cry. And also, because of Joseph O. Legaspi, I bought a watermelon.


MISCELLANEOUS 2: Don't hate my new shoes because they're beautiful:

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Post In Which I Weigh In On Weighing In

A few days ago I was enjoying my weekly magazine flip-fest at a nearby bookstore, when I happened upon an article in a women's magazine (I think it was Allure), that displayed side-by-side, passport-style photos of female twins. Out of each pair, there was one twin who looked much younger than the other. Regardless of whether the twins were in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s, the older-looking one was inevitably lax about sunscreen, or was a smoker, or had been through a divorce or some other type of stressful situation. No real surprise, there. Ho hum. Yawn, scritch, daydream. BUT it turns out there was an additional factor at play. It was the big bang of the article, if you like, or its Ripley's believe-it-or-not moment. And here it is: in those twins who were UNDER the age of 40, it was inevitably the thinner one who appeared younger. But for those who were OVER the age of 40, it was always the heavier one who seemed kissed by the morning dew.

So I'm gonna go ahead and have a brownie now, thanks.

I kid! I prank! I am NOT going to have a brownie because I still experience some residual weight terror. You see, during my 6 weeks or so of mononucleosis misery, I lost 10.6 (look how ridiculously important it is to me to include that ".6"; that is how fraught with fraughtiness this subject remains) pounds. I know this because after the ordeal, it felt for all the world like I was walking out of my pants. Like I was in serious danger of leaving my pants behind me on the street. And so I hooked up the dusty iFit (we don't have a scale) to check my weight, and there it was in high definition: I'd lost 10.6 pounds. It was obviously all water and muscle, but did that realization keep me from feeling elated about the whole thing? No, it did not. All I knew is that I could wear ANYTHING in my closet. My friends joked that they, too, wanted to go on the "Mono Diet."

But then you know what happened? For the next 4 weeks—and I do not exaggerate here; not one bit—I was terrified to eat. Which is SUCH a bullshit thing. I love to eat. I love to cook. And I am an active person who dutifully records her hours of Intentional Movement (laugh if you like, but doesn't it sound more fun than "Exercise?") over at And here are some other reasons why it was SUCH a bullshit thing: I don't particularly care for butter or margarine or sour cream or whipped cream or any kind of cream, really, including ice cream. I have the Asian Flu, so therefore I do not drink alcohol of any kind. It's true that fried and/or crispy foods add a dimension of delight to my life, however I keep them to a manageable minimum. In short, I should NOT be terrified to eat.

I slowly got over it, and with the exception of an occasional day when the aforementioned residual terror rears up and screams at me, I am back to eating like a normal person. I haven't weighed myself again, but I would imagine that I've probably gained back five pounds or so. And that's fine. I was fine before, and I'm fine now, and I really don't ever want to think about this again because it is SUCH bullshit.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Post In Which I Somehow End Up Referencing Firefighters

Now that the school auction is over, I've turned my attention back to hearth and home just in time to prevent the five-foot-high pile of laundry from toppling over and injuring one of the children. It's been like this every year for the past six years and it's comforting, in a way, to know ahead of time that this portion of September will be spent rescuing my house from itself and re-calibrating the rhythm of daily family life.

Speaking of family life, it's come to my attention that I no longer have a baby. Lea may still pronounce her name "Waya," and people may still sometimes have difficulty deciphering her sentences ("park" is still "pahk," for example), but there is no denying her newly acquired second-grade swagger. She's been asking if maybe she should visit the speech therapist, and her instinct is probably right, but it makes me so sad.

As for the twinkers, they are obsessed with...cartwheels. Have I mentioned this before? That they turn at least a hundred cartwheels a day? WHY do they do this? It forces me to sound like The Crankiest And Most OCD Woman Alive: "Wash your hands. Go wash your hands. You need to wash your hands. You better wash your hands. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands."

Hey, guess what we bought at the auction? We bought firefighters. They come to your house in their firetruck, and they BBQ stuff for you, and then they chase you around with their, um, firefighter hose while you scream.

You are so very jealous right now.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A List Written While Watching Anderson Cooper

In the time since I last updated my blog, the following things have occurred:

1) Gray hair popped up all over my head. I have had no time to correct this grave mistake of Mother Nature, but I have managed to waste several minutes musing on the fact that post-40 personal upkeep is annoying, time-consuming, and expensive. *waves fists at the heavens*

2) Some joker in Congress called our President a liar. Not only is this bad form, it's...bad form. And there's nothing worse than bad form. Plus, it just really, really, really pissed me off.

3) I purchased an iron. We have not had an iron in this house for at least a year. I'm staring at it now; it's like sculpture. Home sculpture.

4) I read A Mouse and His Motorcycle to Lea.

5) I squealed with delight when Risa's teacher informed us that the class would be reading Island of the Blue Dolphins.

6) I successfully ignored several phone calls from my dentist's office because I don't want to go to my cleaning, and I don't want a new crown (unless it sits on my head, is jewel-encrusted, and indicates that people must kneel before me), and I don't want to be miserable.

7) I wrapped prosciutto around asparagus and grilled it on the stovetop.

8) I surprised myself by being mentally prepared for the inevitable meltdowns each of my children undergoes as they get used to being in school for seven hours a day. I breathed in, I breathed out, I breathed in, I breathed out.

9) I became distracted by that slightly nuts CNN war correspondent with the crooked nose.

10) I bought a hat.

I'm lying! I'm lying! I did not buy a hat.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

See Ya, Summer

We're in the middle of back-to-school week, and the going has been refreshingly smooth. Of course, with all the preparation we did, I wouldn't have expected less. There was, first of all, The Great Sprinkles Event:

During this event, we consumed pricey, calorie-laden cupcakes and stuck the famous Sprinkles polka dots on the tips of our noses. Like so:

Treat gorging was quickly followed by The Afternoon de Appliques:

This afternoon consisted of much quiet cursing on my part, as I did not have the best scissors for cutting felt. But never mind! We succeeded in elevating the average lunchbox into...the average lunchbox with felt glued to the front of it. Yay us!

There was also the Infamous Day of Sartorial School Shopping. I have no pictures of this day, as I was too fully engrossed in the task at hand. I took the girls one at a time (switching off with the SU, who was in charge of procuring soccer cleats and shin guards), and I ended up clocking in 6 hours. That's a lot of...retail.

And then there was The Great Hair Adventure:

Isn't that creepy? Seeing those three ponytails laying there like that? They are currently sitting in a bag on my dresser, but I will shortly (haha!) send them as a donation to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program. There are 26 inches of it, after all.

This frenzy of generally pleasant activity culminated in..ta-da!...The First Day of School:

And we're off...

Monday, August 24, 2009

At Least There Won't Be a Quiz

I'm 200 pages into From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present by the late Jacques Barzun (he was born in 1907, so I assume he is no longer with us, but who knows? Perhaps he is sitting in a recliner somewhere with a wool blanket over his legs writing a thousand more pages that I will feel compelled to purchase), but I may as well be two pages in because as soon as I finish a page I immediately forget everything I've just read. Or almost everything I've just read. I recall the odd details, the tiny things that are not of much consequence. The fact (and one that I've mentioned here before) that Montaigne's father kept a musician on the payroll so that his son might awake each morning to the gentle strains of a flute, for example. Or that the use of all caps was stopped during Medieval times which proves, I guess, that Medieval times weren't all that Medieval. Also, it wasn't easy to make chainmail armor, you know.

And that's basically all I have to show for 200 pages. I am so awesome.


There are other things I must read. My fellow writing group member has completely overhauled his novel, and I must read it. Soon.

I, too, have completely overhauled something, and I must read it. Also soon.

John Crowley's Aegypt Cycle has just been reissued by Overlook Press, and I must purchase all four volumes and read them. Sooner rather than later.

I periodically re-visit Entering the Stream, and that period has arrived, so I must read it. Which I am, right now.

To reassure myself that I am not inadvertently engineering the destruction of my beloved daughters, I have just purchased So Sexy, So Soon, so I must read it. Yesterday.

I should probably get going now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Wish & I Fish

I've come to think of summer as a sort of standing-in-line for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride being—of course—school. Here are some things I wish:

I wish I could, in good conscience, let my kids eat their school's hot lunch offerings, but since I cannot, I wish someone would invent a Rube Goldberg-inspired sandwich-making machine.

I wish the powers-that-be would stop hatch-hatch-hatcheting the education budget, but since they will not, me and my fellow parents will keep giving, raising, giving, raising, and giving money.

I wish I had not promised to make Aranzi Aronzo felt appliques for the girls' lunchboxes, but since I did, I will have to follow through. So far, I've completed a ram (a ram?!) for Lea's. It will be monkey for Ri and a fox for Vi.


There's been a little lull in my writing. I'm not a prolific writer in the first place, so I'm used to these fallow periods when I just collect stuff in my head—images, people, situations, etc.—without committing anything to paper/screen. It's been awhile, though, and still nothing is truly bubbling up, so I'm starting do to the antsy-pantsy dance (it's a dance that leaves much to be desired, complete with deeply pained facial expressions and much unattractive twisting and turning of the body). I was fishing around for a push when I saw Dan Chaon's guest post over at Well-Read Donkey. I love the way he has actual photographs of the places his characters live. Such a simple but smart thing to do, and so easy in this age of camera phones.

And then there's the Significant Objects Project, which is k-i-l-l-i-n-g me. The project bought various items from thrift stores and garage sales for a total of about $48 thus far. They then commissioned writers to create stories about the items, with the idea being that the stories will up the value of the items. To prove their hypothesis, they put the objects up for sale on eBay and included the story in the item description. And so far they've made more than $1,000. I love this.

Finally, my cousin Luj linked to yet another inspiring project called Mysterious Letters, in which two friends write one-of-a-kind handwritten letters—467 of them—to everyone who lives in a particular Irish village. Swoon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trip to Nowhere

Every year I reference an albino deer sighting, and every year < exaggerate > hordes and hordes < /exaggerate > of you cry out, "Nay, Nesting Ground Mistress, this cannot be so! Mistress, it cannot be so!" But at last I possess the visual proof to supra-contradict those who would doubt me:

* strikes the hands-on-hips-I-told-you-so pose *

In other (semi)remarkable news, our recent trip afforded the opportunity for me to share with my girls one of my favorite childhood movies: A Little Princess, Shirley Temple-style.

Can I just say? Today's child actors have nothing on Miss Shirley Temple. What a freaking pro. And I'm not just saying that because I burst into tears during several scenes. I'm saying that because I...burst into tears during several scenes. You can watch the entire thing on You Tube. I had no idea.

Where am I going with all this? Absolutely nowhere. And it is in keeping with my rambling nowhere-ness that I present to you an object that will no doubt consume you with a jealousy unlike any jealousy you've experienced before. Behold! Behold the necklace newly acquired by your Nesting Ground Mistress:




Now that I'm really looking at it, I'm not so sure. It was purchased in a fit of sorely needed retail therapy, and I believe my taxed mental state may have clouded my generally sound judgement. I'll let you know if I ever actually wear it. For now, um, just forget what I said about the whole jealousy thing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What Do I Google?

I'm trying to think of the name of a deceased artist whose last name begins with a "B." Or possibly an "M."


Am I a person who lives her convictions or, alternately, am I just a pain in the ass?


The spousal unit hid his watch in the house, and we haven't been able to find it for 2 years.


Season 3 of Mad Men begins on Sunday, but I take issue with that and would like it to start whenever I say it should start.


Is my blog going to die?


Does something bad happen to people who have never read The Little Prince? Because I've never read The Little Prince.


And that concludes tonight's list of questions and/or issues that have no answers and/or resolutions.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


...I would like to be in 4th grade again. But in Japan. And with this guy as my teacher.






Did you watch it? Wasn't that something?

We're headed up to the lake for frolicking with the SU's extremely frolick-y family. See you back here in a bit.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


What follows is a jumbled up mess of things that are—for me—like little droplets of joy rain:

There's nothing funnier than watching my kids dance when they don't know I'm watching. They make faces that can only be described as the kind of face they THINK they should make. I can't believe I'm going to put a photo of Ben Stiller on my blog, but it can't be helped. This is the face they make:


I like the way that peaches, plums, cherries and their brethren are referred to as "stone fruit." Here's a picture of a Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake (I love that!), and I want to make it immediately and eat the whole thing myself and not feel guilty:

Recipe here, but probably not for long.


Yesterday we spent more than an hour sitting in the Animation Studio at Zeum with Sunny and his daughter. Here's what we made:


I enjoy The Jamie Oliver. I enjoy that The Jamie is rather rumply and his teeth are crooked. I enjoy that The Jamie describes male friends as "lovely," though I think this is quite a common thing for English gentlemen to say. But most of all, I enjoy The Jamie's new magazine which is called, of course, Jamie Magazine.

It looks like a regular magazine in this picture, but it's not. First of all, it's printed on that super heavy, texture-y paper that makes everything slightly soft-focus. The photography and writing (not to mention the type and other design elements) are quirky English charming.


You know what's cute? My salt water sandals, that's what. Sure, they look like they're for six-year-olds (and they are!), but they also have them for grown-up Nesting Ground Mistress types, and I think they are wonderful. Wow, they look really ugly in this picture, but it's okay because it means no one else will buy them, and I will be the only one who has them neener neener neener:


Also what's nice is this boxed set of mini 2010 Moleskines. There's one per month, and after coveting them online I found them at the MOMA gift shop, and of course I had to have them, but it's a leeeeetle bit like torture because they can't be used until January:


That concludes this edition of Joy Rain, Summer 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blues of the Overnight Variety

I've been looking forward to today for a long time because it's the day/night of the optional sleepover at the girls' camp (known now and forever more as The Best Camp EVER). Would they do it? And if they did, what would WE do? After all, we haven't been in the house overnight without the kids since the day we brought the twins home from the hospital. A strange prospect.

By the end of the first day of camp on Monday, they had all made up their minds. "Oh, we're doin' it," they said. "For sure, for sure!" Still, I doubted. Lea has been known to weep and vomit and leave the world's most heartbreaking voicemail messages when the SU and I are out at the movies. Sometimes she will wake up in the middle of the night and lead me to her room saying only the following two sleep-slurred words: "Want Mama."

But this morning, all of them remained resolute. When we arrived at camp loaded down with sleeping bags and other assorted sleep paraphernalia, Risa and Vida hugged me fiercely and were off running. Lea stayed put. "Can you stay for awhile?" she asked. Frankly, I wanted to stay forever. "Can you watch us play chaos tag?"

"No, I can't," I said. It was terrible. I had to force a smile when all I wanted to do was cry. And I had to make it sincere because I could see the panic creeping into her eyes. Oh, oh, oh, it was so terrible. "Look, all the other parents are leaving now. It's time for you guys to have fun."

"Oh...kay." she said. She gave me a big hug and kiss, which I cut off early because I didn't want our good-bye to seem like a dramatic farewell. She turned towards one of the new friends she's made, and they started to discuss whether or not to join the chaos tag.

"See you tomorrow!" I said quickly. And then I ran. I ran past one of the program managers who, though only 20-years old, is a wise owl. He followed me.

"It's okay," he said. "She can sleep with Risa and Vida in Camp B, if she wants."

"Really?" I said. I put on my sunglasses because I did not want a 20-year-old, wise or no, to see me on the verge of tears.

"Yeah, it's totally fine. Do you want me to tell her?"

"Only if she starts to get upset."

"Okay, I'll do that," he said.

I wanted to throw my arms around him and declare my undying love and gratitude, but that seemed a little extreme. Instead, I drove home, fretting.

The good news is that I finally figured out what I'm going to do tonight: I'm going to see if I can make tomorrow come a little faster.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Camp Nesting Ground

I just looked briefly at my archives, and I cannot believe I've been blogging here for almost six years. And...that's all I have to say about that.

I am feeling good, lovely people. I am feeling good and healthy and happy and thankful for all that my body does for me when it is those things. I wanted to spend my frenetic energy on personal stuff, but that hardly seemed fair to my neglected children, so instead I packed last week full of activities that would make up for the four dismal weeks that preceded it. Last week was, in fact, Camp Nesting Ground. Let me reproduce for you our impressive schedule of events:

- private ceramics class kindly orchestrated by fabulous pal J.
- perusal and purchase of little things at DAISO Japan, where Lea claims they "play the worst music evah"
- harmless lunch at Elephant Bar
- long and hilarious visit with other pal J. and family. Tsismis for the adults, play for the kids
- home for library book reading session

- ladies lunch
- Cheeky Monkey Toys (browsing ONLY)
- Kepler's for many, many, many books
- Cold Stone Creamery
- home for reading

- Japantown for lunch
- Kinokuniya Bookstore
- Kinoykuniya Stationery Store
- home for reading and turning of cartwheels

- extraordinarily long afternoon at Ryder Park, at which water shoots up into the air intermittently and all the kids scream "WATER!" like they didn't know it was gonna happen.
- Dance class
- home for reading and demonstration of dance class combinations

- the Ferry Building!
- lunch with the SU at The Slanted Door, where the girls were mesmerized by the restrooms
- ice cream & sorbet with Sunny at Ciao Bella!
- book shopping at The Book Passage
- home for reading

- the SU took charge of camp on this day, bustling them off to the farmer's market and whatnot

- back to the Shoreline area, where I walked and they rode their scooters. Afterwards, much scuttling about over rocks to find clam shells.
- home, where they disappeared for two hours and then re-emerged having choreographed a performance to Sting's "Desert Rose" (I SWEAR TO GOD). Vida prefaced it thus: "We will not be taking questions until after the performance. Okay: once in the land of India, a princess watched as her two servants danced. She grew so bored that she decided to join them! Thank you for watching!" I have to say that while still utterly dismal, this was by far their best performance in this particular genre. They turned about 700 cartwheels.

Which brings us to today, Monday. A few hours ago, I slathered them in sunblock and dropped them off at an actual camp. It was so beautiful, I almost wanted to stay:

Key word: almost. Silly rabbits, you know your Nesting Ground Mistress is terrified of nature.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two Readings

First I attended a reading of little writers:

And some of them were so, so good. My favorite was a kid named Sam, who looked like a 4'8" version of Sean Penn. "Hey," he said to the audience. "I'm Sam, and this is my poem." But there was another one, too, who read a fractured fairytale that transported Little Red Riding Hood (here, Little Black Hood) into an urban neighborhood, where she headed to the corner store to fulfill her mother's shopping list. Yet another writer re-told Rapuzunel, but had the prince accidentally rip out all her hair on his way up the tower.

I have to mention that Risa read her story, "Trapped!" and that the exclamation mark cracks me up every time I see it. Vida read a color poem. Did you know that "lavender is the bruise that is left when you take out a splinter?" Well, it is.

And then I attended a reading of big writers: Randall Mann, Kristin Naca, Debbie Yee, and Mariano Zaro. Here's a picture I blatantly stole from Oscar Bermeo's flickr:

First of all, I appreciated the admission that some of these fine poets made about feeling like "lazy writers" or not always being intrinsically inspired to write. I think it was Debbie Yee who went on to say that being part of a community of writers is crucial to her writing.

Randall Mann and Kristin Naca read such honest work, and were hilarious between poems. I admired the concise language—crisp even in their self-described "torrid love affair" poems, where some loss of control would be, you know, understandable. On my drive home, I thought about what a contrast this is to my own unwieldy (fiction) writing. I'm newly inspired to find the one right word, instead of twenty almost-kinda-maybe words.

Debbie Yee's poems (for me) had a fairytale, spun-sugar quality (and you know how I love fairytales...), what with the tiny animals, the moon, and the aftermath of a failed princess marriage. Her reading style was restrained—even quiet—and I liked the way it forced me to listen more carefully. So charming.

And then there was Mariano Zaro, who read every poem in both Spanish (swoon) and English. Again, there was that gorgeous quality where not a word goes to waste. Or, more to the point, every word counts.

Another fun things about the PAWA Arkipelago Series reading is that I got to hang out with Pinoy Capital and BPF (Blog Pal Forevah!) author Sunny Vergara. If you require visual proof, click here. I also got to chat with Barbara Jane and Oscar, who I hadn't seen in four thousand years:

And finally, it was so nice to see Oscar Penaranda and Penelope Flores. The whole afternoon reminded me of how long it's been since I was able to attend a reading, and that I should do it again. Soon.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Netflix Pins Me Down

I was just taking a moment to put some DVDs in my Netflix queue, which is a process I find generally annoying because navigating the site is—for me—so, so, so anti-intuitive. As I bumbled along, I noticed they'd added yet another unhelpful navigation feature. This one suggested films based on my previous choices, and then broke the films down into hilariously-named categories. Ready? I am, according to Netflix, someone who enjoys...

..."Visually-Striking Gritty Independent Movies." To which I ask: Is there a category called "Badly Lit Independent Movies?"

..."Critically-Acclaimed Cerebral Comedies." To which I say: "Cerebral?" Let's not kid ourselves.

..."Inspiring Dramas." To which I proffer: That's weird. I usually like the un-inspiring ones.

..."Emotional Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead." To which I wonder: Do you really mean, "Good To Watch While in the Throes of PMS?"

..."Dark Movies Based on Contemporary Literature." To which I admit: Guilty.

Here's hoping iTunes doesn't start doing the same thing because my results, I'm sure, would be far, far more embarrassing. Like, "Incredibly Corny Ballads by the Most Incredibly Corny Singers Ever. Ever."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Indie Fan

My older girls have been attending the Bay Area Writing Project's Young Writer's Camp for the past three weeks. Lucky little ducks. They write every day from 9 'til 12, and then they jump in the car jabbering away about metaphors, collaborative writing, meter, description, story, etc. etc., and then they come home and turn cartwheels in the backyard. It's good to be nine years old. Tomorrow night our local indie bookstore is hosting an Author's Night, and all the campers have the opportunity to read from their work. The girls are FREAKING OUT in the way only tweens can freak out. They're both so overwrought and mentally exhausted. Hilarious.

Speaking of our local indie bookstore...Lea and I were there the other day, and she got a papercut while reading a Little Golden Book (it's the 65th anniversary, and there's a big marketing push, and omg they are hard to resist). She found a clerk and asked him for a band-aid. He said, "Sure. Hold on a minute."

He emerged from the stockroom with a tissue, and said, "We're all out. But press this against it. I'll be right back."

Then he went to Walgreen's AND BOUGHT A BOX OF BAND-AIDS.

Let me just say that I don't think your run-of-the-mill B & N or Borders employee would have done that. Nor would your run-of-the-mill B & N or Borders host an Author's Night for a crew of mini writers. your next book at an indie, why don't you.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wanted: Dirt

My little world is static at the moment. I wake up, do what I can do, take a nap, wake up, do what I can do. My kids are all sorts of peeved—Vida, in particular, thinks this is all a ruse—and I can't blame them, especially since I go for long stretches of the day feeling okay. Then I suddenly need to fall asleep, and they're all "Wha?!!!" I feel so guilty. Summer is supposed to be all about ice cream smears on your cheek, sunburn on your shoulders, super dirty feet, lazing around the park and whatnot. What is painfully clear to us all at the moment is that my kids are too clean.

I'm not a complete failure: I have summoned energy enough for a few trips to the library, a couple of lunches, camp carpooling, one afternoon of bowling (admittedly, I couldn't bowl), etc. But what we really need is to get...dirty. To that end, we are heading up to the gold country—courtesy of my delightful sister-in-law—for our traditional Fourth of July shenanigans. By the end of the weekend, I hope I will have fully shaken my mono-grossness.

Speaking of mono-grossness, did I tell you that I had to have a steroid shot in the general area of my gluteus maximus? So if you are wondering—and I'm sure you are—if there are any ways in which your Nesting Ground Mistress is like a professional athlete, there you go.

For the record, it didn't hurt at all.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


In the throes of my continuing and miserable illness—it's mono, did you know that?—the following things have occurred:

1) Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died on the same day. Somehow, this made perfect sense to me.
2) Iran turned into a different country.
3) My friends forced me to go to the doctor, made me chicken soup and drove my kids back and forth to their camps every day.
4) I cried for no reason (although maybe items 1, 2, and 3 had something to do with it).
5) I finished a book called The Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 1 Sea of Shadow, which as far as I can tell is some sort of novelized, YA anime. Thoroughly enjoyable in a mindless, I-have-a-raging-fever-and-a-goiter-on-my-neck kind of way. It's seven volumes in all; I think I'll bring the next one to the lake.

6) Alone in the house all day yesterday, I watched Sense and Sensibility, something I can't remember, and what I believe was almost the entire season of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. About the latter (which I have never seen before) I can only shake my head in bewilderment, for it was truly disturbing. Those shows should be referred to as "Alternate Reality" not "Reality." And yet I could not make myself change the channel or even get up to vomit. Later, after the family returned home and the kids were in bed, the spousal unit and I watched the ethereal Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You For So Long, and the bad memories of botox, "getting my boobies done," and purchasing $103,000 worth of furniture in cash were swept away.

7) I slept. I slept a lot, a lot, a lot. In fact, that's what I'm going to go do right now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bitter Betty Throws a Pity Party

The summer is off to a most ridiculous start. All my fine writing and reading plans have fallen by the wayside like crumbs from moldy bread. This proves, of course, that I was on track with my first pre-summer post, i.e. I should not have made any plans because plans are always waylaid.

In short, I have been sick for more than a week, and it's not just any sick. It's an illness that features, nay stars, the swelling of lymph nodes in my neck. This has become, through some fault of my own I'm sure, the Sad Summer of Giant Nodes. I will not go into too lengthy a description of my symptoms, but I will tell you that I cannot speak, swallow, turn my head, sleep, or yawn without the kind of discomfort that just really, really pisses me off. In more positive news, if you're in search of an effective weight loss program, you should consider purchasing some Giant Nodes.

With that helpful hint, I'll bring my pity party to a close. I promise to return soon with a post about unicorns, cotton candy, and the wondrous pan flute.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Blog Post in Which I Realize I Will Never Learn to Play the Flute

I just read that Montaigne's father had a servant play the flute every morning to gently wake his son. He raised a genius, so who am I to turn up my nose? This being the case, I suppose I should stop waking the twins by standing at the bottom of the stairs and screaming, "Get up! Get up! It's time to get up! Let's go, let's go!"

The beautiful thing is that for the next ten days or so I won't have to wake them up at all because today was the last day of school, and so summer is officially underway. They have camps and such on the horizon, but for now we are luxuriously left to our own devices. In preparation, we hit the library yesterday and checked out loads and loads of books. I swear I love the children's section best. I appear to be the first patron who has ever touched the brand new copy of Joan Aiken's The Serial Garden—The Complete Armitage Family Stories.

It now awaits me (what is it with me and proper English lady writers? You'll remember, of course, my literary love affairs with Jane Austen and Eleanor Farjoen). And I had to grab Roald Dahl's The Witches, as well, because of the first few pages:
In fairy tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks.

But this is not a fairy tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.

The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.

REAL WITCHES dress in ordinary clothes and look very much like ordinary women. They live in ordinary houses and they work in ORDINARY JOBS.

That is why they are so hard to catch...

Which child, she says to herself all day long, exactly which child shall I choose for my next squelching?

A REAL WITCH gets the same pleasure from squelching a child as you get from eating a plateful of strawberries and thick cream.

She reckons on doing away with one child a week. Anything less than that and she becomes grumpy.

Oh, that's so funny to me. Which—let's just face it—probably means that I'm never going to wake my kids up by gently playing the flute.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Revised Summer No-Plans, Plus Some Books, Plus Hello to the Market Manila-ers

I would be remiss if I failed to greet any and all of the lovely Market Manila folks who have been dropping by, especially bettyq, natie, and sanojmd! My first thought was to kick this post off with some pictures of my dad (aka SillyLolo), in full Silly Lolo mode, but since he fancies himself an International Man of Internet Mystery, I will refrain.

A few posts ago, I claimed that this would be a summer of catch-as-catch-can for your Nesting Ground Mistress. That in an effort to avoid frustration, I would not set personal writing goals, but rather go with the proverbial flow and see what writing time I might be able to eke out around my family responsibilities. What I failed to mention is that I AM SO FULL OF IT. Making such a claim was just me, as usual, trying to excuse myself in advance for ending the summer with nothing more than a suntan (and a half-hearted one, at that).

Immediately after I wrote that post, I...

...signed up for the Southeast Review "Writer's Regimen," which is an e-mail a day for 30 days type-thing. I'm on Day 6, and I've written every day so far. Have any of you done this? It's like getting a pleasant daily surprise in your inbox, and it's only $15! Anyways, you should do this. Good clean writer fun.

...e-mailed Bec to see if she'd be interested in exchanging some work with me. And she would. And we will. And so there's that.

...100% committed, with 5 writer-witnesses, to meeting a June 30th deadline on a thing we've been working on for so, so, so long.

In briefly related summer books news, I am eagerly awaiting Fables: Legends in Exile and Fables: Animal Farm. I have to admit that I bought them online because it's getting increasingly difficult to justify full-price book shopping when the in-store/online price difference is so drastic. For example, I saved $20 buying these two online:

I've mentioned before that I haven't wandered very far into the world of graphic novels, but these appeal to me. Here's the description:

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society-within an exclusive luxury apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side-called Fabletown. But when Snow White's party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Bigby, Fabletown's sheriff, and a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to determine if the culprit is Bluebeard, Rose's ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

The fact that Snow White has a party-girl sister was enough to hook me. Has anyone read the series? I would love to know what you think. I also picked up the novel (NOT online, so perhaps these purchases balanced out) Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe. It's a monster of a book, 816 pages and a total weight of what feels like 487 pounds:

A cursory web search revealed that it's already been made into an animated film, and there's also a graphic novel version.

Better go. There's much to read, and much to write.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Weekend before last, we piled into the car and headed to Lompoc for my Auntie and Uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. Classic Delfino hijinx ensued, of course, thanks to the uncanny number of dancers, singers, and musicians in the family. Still, my eyes were constantly drawn to the celebrants, and as I watched them sitting or dancing together, the following words ran through my head: holey betelnuts—FIFTY years! Fifty years is no small thing; it is no simple journey. And so I was properly in awe.

Here is my super-fantastic cousin, Luj, who is possibly the only musician alive capable of singing "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" without making me want to flee the country, screaming:

And here are my daughters, dancing with interesting abandon:

Last weekend we headed south again, this time to Santa Barbara for the wedding of our niece Sarah to her paramour, Chase. You've heard the term "storybook," yes? Beginning to end (the end being a "Sweet Dreams—Love, Sarah & Chase" cookie bar!), I have never witnessed more enchanting nuptials. My eyes were constantly drawn to the celebrants, and as I watched them sitting or dancing together, the following words ran through my head: holey awesome shoeshine—a lifetime commitment! A lifetime commitment is no small thing; it will be no simple journey. And so I was properly in awe.

Though I'm dying to post a picture of the beautiful couple, I hesitate to overstep. Instead, you'll have to make do with some familiar faces. May I present the junior bridesmaids and flowergirl:

As you know, the spousal unit and I hover somewhere between the two extremes of newlywed-ism and golden anniversary-ism. We have a history to savor, a today to get right, and a future to contemplate. I have to say: I like the view from here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Post In Which I Realize I Should Blog More

I should. Because I love my blog.

But maybe I shouldn't be blogging right now because what I should be doing right now is working on a little schpiel I have to give at tonight's PTA meeting. As you may remember, I am in an almost constant state of fretfulness over the plight of struggling readers. When I see a kid who can't read, I want to throttle someone. Seriously. It wrenches the heart all over the place. I believe that if you don't have anything else in the whole world, you should at least possess the skills required to lose yourself in Harriet the Spy, for god's sake.

Anyways, months ago a night of feverish Googling unearthed a wonderful, local non-profit called Reading Partners. They set up reading centers at schools, and then twice a week—for 45 minutes each time—they provide intensive, one-on-one reading instruction for struggling readers. Is this not brilliant?! So of course I e-mailed them and set up a meeting to persuade them to set up shop at our school. And guess what?

So tonight I am asking our parents to volunteer for the program. This invitation will be met, I am certain, with an echoing silence. But this shall not stop me. I will smile! I will engage! I will straddle the fine line between enthusiasm and heavy-handedness! I will persuade, wink, and perhaps perform an interpretive dance!

And then there will be more silence.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Summer No-Plans, Plus Some Books

There is a canyon-like divide between the things I would like to do and the things I am doing. But I have a good feeling about the summer. The secret for me, I think, is not to bother with personal goals or plans because they are inevitably waylaid. This isn't so much a complaint as a simple fact and a reminder not to plan, essentially, for frustration. No, lovely readers, this will be the Summer of Catch-As-Catch-Can for your Nesting Ground Mistress.

I've been meaning to mention both what I read while on vacation and which books I purchased (I should note that the book selection at PowerBooks thumped the selection at National Bookstore). I read...

...The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff. Based on a true story, this novel tells the story of a married couple—both are painters—whose male half is the first person to undergo a sex change operation. What this book manages to do, basically, is expand the idea of love: what it is, what it isn't, what it can be. Most of it takes place in early 1900s Denmark, and when we left Boracay, I ended up giving it to the Danish couple we'd met.

...Un Lun Dun by China Miévelle. I don't know why I picked this up, except that I wanted to bring along a variety of books. It's a young adult fantasy, alternate-London-universe type of thing (get it?—"Un-London"), complete with plucky heroine, fighting garbage cans, a guy with a pincushion as a head, flying buses, wicked giraffes, and all manner of wackiness. I almost gave it up a few times, but it turns out I had actually emotionally invested myself in the heroine.

...Mr. White's Confession: A Novel by Robert Clark. I think this is the first novel I've read that falls anywhere near the detective/mystery genre. Mr. White is a sad, lonely, misfit of a man who—perhaps too conveniently—has no memory. To compensate, he keeps detailed journals and scrapbooks that eventually serve to incorrectly finger him in the deaths of two taxi dancers. Oh, poor Mr. White.

My forays into Makati bookstores were unfortunately brief, and I was ever mindful of our already stuffed suitcases (we were comically over the luggage weight limit on the plane to and from Boracay). I had to rein it in. I picked up...

...Kite of Stars & Other Stories by Dean Alfar.
...The Jupiter Effect by Katrina Tuvera
...The Flip Reader subtitled Being a Greatest Hits Anthology from Flip: The Official Guide to World Domination and edited by Jessica Zafra.

I haven't read any of these yet, as I'm saving them like pieces of jewelry to be worn only on special occasions. I also bought many, many children's books including two anthologies of Palanca prize-winning stories: The Night Monkeys and The Golden Loom.