Monday, December 19, 2011

Oh, Hello.

Are you good at maintaining your car? Rotating your tires, making sure your windshield wiper fluid thing is filled up, and whatnot? I am horrible at this. However, I can only go so long—let's say 6 weeks—before the fire-engine red "CHECK ENGINE OIL LEVEL" light wears me down. Which is how I ended up at Jiffy Lube today with a $450 bill. But that's not the point! The point is that in the Jiffy Lube waiting room they have hot coffee, hot tea, a selection of magazines, and a blaring television.

The television was tuned to The Maury Povich Show (I assume, anyway, that that's what it was called), which I have never before had the pleasure of watching. I have been missing a lot. Today, Maury's distinguished guests agreed to take various tests—lie detector tests, paternity tests, etc.—to prove to the love of their lives that they have been true. There was much weeping and yelling and doubling over in emotional pain. There were uncomfortable and unnecessarily lengthy make-up/make-out sessions. There were several I-told-you-so moments, I-told-you moments, and I-told-you moments. It was riveting.

Next, came Family Feud! I haven't watched this since I was a child! Much has changed. The host is no longer Richard Dawson, aka the Creepy Kissing Bandit, but is instead the personable comedian Steve Harvey. The feuding families were, on one hand, members of a zany roller derby team and, on the other, a cheerful African-American family. The roller derby team was really, really...not very smart. The African-American family was hilarious. When asked the puzzling question, "How do you know when a man's pants are too tight?" one of the females on the team paused dramatically before revealing her answer. And then: "His balls is showing, Mr. Harvey. His balls is showing." And the survey revealed that that was the #1 answer.

As I said, much has changed.

Entertaining as all that was, I'd had my fill. I grabbed a copy of Men's Journal (why do I carry books in my purse when I have no hope of being able to read them, but never when I have 90 minutes available? I do not think ahead! I do not!) and read articles about 1) Daniel Craig and 2) the three NHL enforcers who have recently committed suicide (lesson: it's not good to be an NHL enforcer) and 3) the crazy, cranky, fabulously silver-haired Anthony Bourdain.

I have had several interesting situations occur in my life since I last blogged here, so I'm not entirely sure why this is the one that bubbled up from the depths, but there you have it. Also, I've been wanting to show these disgusting mushrooms to someone. Much to my horror, they popped up in my backyard and grew to almost ten inches before collapsing on themselves and disappearing. Some people have nightmares about knife-wielding masked men; I have nightmares about these mushrooms:

*shiver* Now that I've shared them with you, I don't feel so...alone. Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Final Days of November Post

Today Lea was singing along to Adele's Chasing Pavements, her voice as rich as her 9-year-old body could muster. Full of emotion, she crooned, "Should I give up/or should I just keep chasing cavemen..."

Oh, the hilarity.

Also today: my husband pulled up to our house in a cab, jumped out, opened the front door, and kissed me hello. Then he tilted his head to the side. "You look beautiful," he said. And then he ran back outside, jumped into the cab, and was gone again.

Oh, the hilarity. But also: why did he tilt his head like that?

I saw two movies over the weekend, both adapted from graphic novels. We attempted a go at The Descendants, but it was sold out, and so we ended up at...Immortals. It was filled with eye candy in the enviable shapes of Henry Cavill (yay The Tudors!) and the glorious Frieda Pinto; gasp-worthy violence (oh, the poor faux virgin oracles!); a campy Mickey Rourke; and sets that looked like they were straight out of a Hellenic-themed Vegas spa. In other words: so excellent.

On Sunday I took the girls to Hugo, a book much beloved by all three of them. So dreamy, this movie, what with the steam and the snow and the enormous clocks. And the automaton! Anyways, go see it. Make it a holiday gift to yourself.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Let's Just Start Typing

Let's see what happens.

Maybe I'll write about how I hate my printer because regardless of the fact that all ink is fully loaded, it will only print in blue.

Maybe I'll write about how I rue the day we gave the twins their phones because now all they ever do is text and download free apps. I've attempted all sorts of remedies including taking the phones for large blocks of time, normal conversation, heated conversation, yelling, and freaking out. Nothing really works. I'm hoping the novelty will wear off soon.

Lea's "noisemaker," i.e. the little machine that has played white noise in her room all night long since she was born, has up and died. The ensuing drama was not unexpected. "Oh, Mama! Oh noooooo..."

I recently found the blog Letters of Note, which contains all sorts of letters from all sorts of people. The one below is from Roald Dahl, written to a girl who was inspired by The BFG to send him one of her dreams in a bottle. Isn't this so beautiful?:

And that will have to do for now because I'm off find a new noisemaker for Lea.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Report from FilBook Fest 2011

Let us begin at the beginning: last Thursday evening at Eastwind Books of Berkeley for a FilBook Fest pre-event, "The Places We Call Home." Because birthday girl Rashaan has such a nice recap at her blog, I'll just add some of my personal highlights:

A few weeks back, Dean Alfar was kind enough to send me several copies of Philippine Speculative Fiction 5 (I'm sending a care package of books in return!), which includes my story, "The Left-Behind Girl." I never thought I'd have the opportunity to read that piece to an audience, so I'm truly grateful to Dean for the books, and to Bea & Harvey for giving us the time and space to share our work at Eastwind.

I was super excited to read with everyone, but especially with Oscar Bermeo and Sunny Vergara because it's the first time I've ever read with them. Here we all are, post-reading, quite happy to be together.

Afterwards, some of us headed over to Burger Meister to eat greasy things and solve all the problems of the world. Of course, much of the conversation revolved around the upcoming weekend's FilBook Fest, which we were all participating in in one way or another.

For my part, I had worked with Cecilia Brainard to put together readings for both days of the festival (I emceed one day, and read on the other; same for Cecilia). They were dubbed, "Hot Off the Press," and a total of 20 writers were featured, each reading and/or presenting for no more than 8 minutes. If you think wrangling 20 authors is easy, well then, Sir, you would be mistaken. Nevertheless, the effort went off nearly hitch-less, and we had a good-size audience both days. Here I am with two readers from the first day, Pacific Rims author Rafe Bartholomew (have you not read Pacific Rims yet? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? I'm serious: FIX WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU) whose pleasant expression here belies the discomfort he no doubt felt by my insisting every ten minutes that HE IS MY NEW BEST FRIEND. Also pictured is my pal Sunny Vergara, aka The Wily Filipino, who read from his sure-to-knock-everyone-on-their-ass novel-in-progress:

By the way, here is Sunny's excellent review of Pacific Rims.

I spent much of my time in Cecilia's Philippine American Literary House booth, where bookselling was brisk. The crowd wasn't as enormous as it should have been, but those in attendance were eager to chat and buy, so you'll hear no complaints here. Want to see what it looked like from my seat? I bet you do:

The first day of the festival ended with Barbara Jane Reyes and R. Zamora Linmark's reading and, as per their standard operating procedure, they killed it. How can it be that the "Tourist Tips" from Leche get funnier every time I hear them? And I thrill to the first lines of Barbara Jane's "Aswang" (from her book Diwata) no matter how many times I hear them: I am the dark-hued bitch; see how wide my maw, my bloodmoon eyes / And by daylight, see the tangles and knots of my riverine hair. Here they are after their reading. Here, too, are everyone's shoes (you know I love shoe photos):

Afterwards, we set off for Tasty Bear to drink sangria (or, you know, Diet Coke) and eat tapas. There is no proper way to capture in words the hilarity that ensued; it requires a sort of loopy silent film-type treatment, complete with slipping on banana peels, close-ups of women mouthing, "Oh, MY!" and a seance scene where auras and past lives take center stage. Here is a picture of some of my fellow diners—Barbara Jane Reyes, Zack Linmark, Oscar Bermeo, Sunny Vergara, and Kiko Benitez:

For me, day 2 of the festival began with the Hot Off the Press reading, where I was happy to present Angelica's Daughters. I was in the good company of several other women, including (l to r) Cecilia Brainard (Vigan & Other Stories), Sam Sotto (Before Ever After) Tilay Angbetic (Love & Other Firsts), Dr. Lilia Rahman (For the Sake of Louise), and Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto (Traje de Boda). Angela Narciso Torres (Associate Editor, RHINO: The Poetry Forum) is in the back row with me, your Nesting Ground Mistress. Not pictured is the lovely Karen Llagas, who read so beautifully from her book of poetry, Archipelago Dust:

And now I'm suddenly remembering the woman who said to me, "You're married to an American, correct?"

"Yes," I said.

"So what's that like?"

"Um...what part?"


And I'm also remembering the delightful young volunteer, an MFA student somewhere in Southern California, who helped me procure my swag bag. "What's your name?" she said.

"Veronica Montes."

"Angelica's Daughters!" she said. "I'm reading it right now!" Later, she said I reminded her of Evelina, and I don't know if she meant celebrated writer Evelina Galang or not, but I'm going to pretend she did.

Finally, here is one of my favorite photos, snapped by Cecilia Brainard. I love talking to everyone, really, but maybe especially to the younger ones. Here I am with some college students who are holding, kindly note, a copy of Growing Up Filipino II:

Wow. That was long.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And Also..Hot Off the Press @ FilBook Fest!

WHAT: Hot Off the Press: 10 Readers @ 8 Minutes Each
WHERE: Koret Auditorium / Lower Level SF Main Library / 100 Larkin St.
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 - 1:30

Saturday's Lineup
(in order of appearance)
  • Moderator: Veronica Montes
  • Tony Robles - Lakas and the Manilatown Fish, Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel (will be reading poetry)
  • Almia de los Santos - Journey to the Beginning - A True Story
  • Peter Jamero - Vanishing Filipino Americans: The Bridge Generation
  • Cecilia Brainard - Vigan & Other Stories
  • Rafe Bartholomew - Pacific Rims
  • Sunny Vergara - Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City (will be reading fiction)
  • Gloria Ramos - The Whippoorwill, Mirabella's White Boots, Mango Memories
  • Romy Honorio - Open Visa: A Novel
  • Bob Flor - Daniel's Mood - Mestizos, The FAYTS (Filipino American Young Turks)
  • Geraldine Solon - Love Letters, Chocolicious

Sunday's Lineup:
(in order of appearance)
  • Moderator: Cecilia Brainard
  • Angela Narciso Torres - contributor, Hanggang sa Muli: Homecoming Stories for the Filipino Soul
  • Sarita See - The Decolonized Eye: Filipino American Art and Performance
  • Karen Llagas - Archipelago Dust
  • Veronica Montes - co-author, Angelica's Daughters: A Dugtungan Novel
  • Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto - Traje de Boda
  • Lilia Rahman - For the Sake of Louise
  • Tilay Angbetic - Love & Other Firsts
  • Emmie Velarde - Show Biz, Seriously--Entertainment as Life, Life as Entertainment
  • Myles Garcia - Secrets of the Olympic Ceremonies
  • Samantha Sotto - Before Ever After
Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Eastwind Books, September 29th, 7:00

You know what's coming up? Events are coming up! You should totally come because I haven't seen you in FOREVER (whoever you are)! Plus, I love this line-up; it's going to be a beautiful evening.

The Places We Call Home

September 29th, 7:00 pm
Eastwind Books of Berkeley
2066 University Ave.

A literary event in celebration of the upcoming
Filipino American International Book Festival

Oscar Bermeo was born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpset, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of eight books, including the internationally-acclaimed novel When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and Vigan and Other Stories.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary's College of California's Creative Writing Program, where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow and awarded the Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz Scholarship for Excellence in Fiction.

Veronica Montes is the co-author of Angelica's Daughters, as well as a short story writer whose work has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Growing Up Filipino I & II, and Philippine Speculative Fiction 5.

Barbara Jane Reyes is a recipient of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets and the author of Diwata, which was recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award.

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. was born and raised in the Philippines. He is the author of Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in the Early 20th-Century Philippines and Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City.


The next event is the Filipino American International Book Festival itself, coming up on October 1 & 2. I'll be hanging out in Cecilia Brainard's PALH booth, as well as facilitating an event on day 2. But more on that later! I'm in the middle of much personal upheaval, as Risa and Vida are currently finishing up their first week of middle school which, I'm relieved to report, is not even remotely close to The Place of Terror and Pain and Rejection and Sadness that I was fretting about earlier in the year. Nevertheless, you can expect an angst-ridden post on this latest milestone. Until then, I remain...

Your True and Occasional Blogger

Thursday, August 18, 2011


A newsletter came through my e-mail inbox the other day, and because the newsletter was pleasing to my eye, I read it (though I cannot remember what it was called or who sent it). It contained a single article which took as its premise the fact that expressing ourselves via Facebook status updates or 140-character Tweets has a benumbing effect on our attempts at longer, more circumspect writing.

I remember reading recently about a songwriter who became addicted (his word) to Twitter and the lure of what amounts to a sound bite. He had legions of followers, all awaiting his pithy, clever little tweets and thus fueling his desire to send out even more zingers. The only problem was that thinking and writing in microbits began to affect his work to such an extent that he could no longer write songs. I can't recall how it all ended, but I believe he went cold-turkey on the tweeting. Good for him, I say.

Some counter this argument by pointing out that it is, indeed, mundane facts (what we ate for lunch is the classic example) that help us forge connections with each other. To this I want to say, "Really?"

Anyways, The Actual Truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere between. I will admit, though, that when I was recently working on a short story, the feeling I had was one of extreme luxury. It felt like I'd been sleeping on a tiny cot for two weeks, and then suddenly someone delivered me unto a king-size featherbed. Except the feathers were letters and I was rolling all over them and laughing. I don't know if the story works, but it felt good to write it. Better, even, than offering up a droll tweet or an amusing status update.

I do have a thing for the Facebook "Like" button, though.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Camp Makes Me Sad

My older girls are about to start their second consecutive week of sleepaway camp at a working organic farm. Just typing that makes me laugh; the list of things they can do that I've never done and will likely never do, grows more lengthy by the day. I'm talking about:

• mudding a pig
• milking a cow
• grabbing chickens
• archery
• feeding goats
• real gardening

And while I'm at it:

• base stealing
• base sliding
• homerun hitting
• bunting
• pitching
• scoring the winning goal
• presenting in front of the School Board
• making & launching a rocket
• performing in a talent show
• being Student Body President
• being Student Body Environmental Leader

These things are, admittedly, not extraordinary. They are the stuff of a privileged childhood, but they blow my mind because at their age I was far too shy/too self-conscious/too willing to sit on the sidelines. Simply put, my kids are way cooler than I am.

My original point, though, is that they've been away exactly seven days, but it feels exactly like one year. I miss them; it's distracting. Parents have access to one-way email communication, of which I take extreme advantage, furiously typing stream-of-consciousness messages at one o'clock in the morning (in my defense, stream-of-consciousness is really the only way to go when the communication is one-way).

My younger daughter attended the one-week version of this camp, and when I picked her up on Friday, she was busy exchanging phone numbers with her new friends. I experienced a mild feeling of, "Oh, shit," because I'm sure that Ri & Vi will be performing the tween/teen version (the kids in their camp are ages 11 - 15) of this ritual, which is likely to include email addresses and cell phone numbers. But...they have neither. Why? Because our plan all along has been to give them these things at the end of summer, just before they start middle school. Having to inform their new friends of the deprivation that they must endure at the hands of their despotic mother will no doubt cause them embarrassment, so yay: I've managed to embarrass them without being present.

I'm sure this will continue for many years.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Keeping Myself Company

The other day, at 11:00 in the morning, I went and saw a movie all by myself. It's possibly the first time I've done any type of solo spur-of-the-moment activity in years, and it produced a giddiness not at all commensurate with the actual deed. I'm going to the movies by myself I said to no one. Oh my GOD, I'm going to the movies by myself!!

Seriously. What a dork.

Anyways, my movie of choice was Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. I procured a small popcorn and a diet soda. I put my feet up on the chair in front of me. I stole furtive glances at the other people in the audience and made up stories of how each of them had orchestrated their lives to be present in the theatre. Then the lights went way, way down and I slunk (is that a word?) way, way down into my chair.

I was easily charmed by the time travel element in the film, while being simultaneously annoyed that Rachel McAdams' character was of one dimension: the bitch dimension. I was fascinated not only by the ethereal beauty of Marion Cotillard, but by the singular nose of Owen Wilson. I thought casting Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein was an inspired choice. I thought the whole thing was so clever and fun, even though I will forever be squeebed (is that a word?) out by Woody Allen.

Afterwards, I admit to a twinge of regret at not having someone to eat and chat with post-movie. But I went ahead and took myself to lunch, and for entertainment I eavesdropped on a couple of men, advanced in age, discussing a business idea that I did not understand and that I nevertheless felt sure would never materialize. One of the men was a conversation hog, I noted. His companion's plate was clean, while his remained full.

Maybe I will see a photograph of these two men one day, accompanied by an article that describes them as "famed venture capitalists," or "Silicon Valley kingmakers." And I will remember that they were the two men I saw that one summer when I went to see a movie all by myself.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Getting To Yes

My default answer is, "No." It doesn't matter, really, what the question might be.

"Mom, can we ride our bikes around the block?"


"Mom, it's super hot. Can we get a frozen yogurt?"


"Mom, my Van's have a hole. Can I get a new pair?"


"Mom, I'm done with my homework. Can I go online for awhile?"


"Mom, can I wear your t-shirt? You know, that one with the thing?"


No, no, no, no, no.

I don't even know why I do it. I'm not adverse to bike riding, frozen yogurt, Van's, or any of the other one thousand things I say "no" to on a daily basis.

I didn't start feeling bad about it, though, until after the twins' 5th grade graduation on Wednesday. Between them they garnered something like 10 medals for academics and community service, 12 certificates for various things, and 2 academic scholarships. Vida led the pledge, and Risa gave a speech. And then the next day, Vida gave a presentation on her school's 5th grade rocketry program in front of the school board and a full boardroom. Basically, in their 6 years at their little elementary school, they could not reasonably have accomplished more than they accomplished.

I am so proud of them.

Suddenly all of my no-ing, all of my absolutely not-ing, all of my you can't be serious-ing, made no sense. So I'm happy to report that on Thursday, I became The Mother Who Says Yes. It was yes to two hours at the Redwood City Library, yes to new shoes for everyone, yes to eclairs and cream puffs and fish 'n' chips, yes, yes, yes to all of it.

I'm sure it won't last long. They're headed to middle school, after all...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In the Mornings

This morning I returned home from dropping the girls off at school. On the dining room table, I found the following:

• 1 furry pink bunny slipper, existence inexplicable
• 1 copy, Pippi Longstocking, illustrations by Lauren Child
• 7 elastic headbands, black
• 6 ponytail elastics, black
• 1 ponytail elastic, fuschia, origin unknown
• 1 sillyband, rainbow colors, shape indeterminate

In front of the hallway closet, I found the following:

• 1 metal hanger, twisted
• 2 flip flops, silver
• 1 ballet flat, silver

On the bathroom counter, I found the following:

• 2 hairbrushes
• 1 lipgloss, Kiel's, hint of pink, top missing
• 1 lipgloss, Burt's Bee's, pale pink, top missing
• 2 drops Cetaphil face cleanser, spilled
• 1 pair earrings, cupcake-shaped
• 1 pair earrings, peace sign-shaped
• 1 pair earrings, flower-shaped
• 1 necklace, initial "V"

There are days when I return home to this and I am super annoyed. I harumph my way around the house returning things to their proper place and mumbling to myself in exasperation. But today I felt all sentimental and tender about these objects. They are the odd and ends of girlhood, the talismans of mothering, the good stuff.

Monday, May 09, 2011

At the LA Times Festival of Books

A few weekends ago, I had one of those experiences that re-energizes the writer in me. Books—the kind you can touch—are supposed to be on life support, but you'd never know it from the crowds at the LA Times Festival of Books. "It's like Disneyland for books!" said Zack Linmark, author of the new and fantastic novel Leche (this is a link to an interview about how Leche came to be. Cheeeek it out!).

I mean, look at this college student who purchased something like six books at the Philippine Expressions booth! I have no doubt she picked up many more at other spots:

Here's a shot of the booth itself. There was a strong and steady (and therefore heartening) stream of customers, many declaring their Filipino or partially Filipino heritage. People were looking for books to comfort their ailing grandfathers; books for their mothers (Cecilia's classic When the Rainbow Goddess Wept was snapped up by a man whose mother lived in the Philippines during WWII); books to shore up a curriculum or a dissertation; books for kids; and, of course, books for personal enjoyment. Cecilia, Zack, and I sat side-by-side chatting with browsers, making suggestions, and signing books.

Here are Zack and Cecilia Brainard. I basked all weekend in the glow of their literary starpower, I tell you.

Around lunchtime, Zack and I snuck off for a quick lunch, first hightailing it over to—where else?—the food area. Unfortunately, it was packed and lines of people were snaking haphazardly all over the place. Bringing all our resources to bear, and working up quite the sweat now, we headed off-campus where our eyes alighted on a bright yellow Denny's sign. "Hmmmm," Zack deliberated. "They're racist." True enough. Our search ended at last when a Burger King came into view. "YES!" we screamed.

And guess what? No lines! Except for in the ladies room. So you know what I did for the first time ever in my whole entire life? I used the men's room. It was disgusting; I will never do it again.

Finally, Whoppers and fries in hand, we sat down to wolf down our joyfully unhealthy lunches. And it was so effing fantastic because I got to hear all about the long and winding road Zack took towards the publication of Leche. And we talked about our mutual love of Daly City, and about life in Hawaii and Manila. On our way back to campus, he impressed me with his uncanny ability to recall exact lines from the classic 80s movie offerings St. Elmo's Fire and Pretty in Pink ("You break my heart," he rasped, just like Demi Moore. "But then break everyone's heart."). We objectified Andrew McCarthy, after which Zack performed a spot-on impression of Andrew's character being thrown up against a school locker. He screwed his face up sideways and went all cockeyed, and I pretty much died laughing right there on the USC Campus ("Ally Sheedy is an alum," he pointed out in yet another dazzling display of pop culture knowledge). As we got closer to our end destination, we passed a booth whose awning announced "Self-Realization Books." "I'm going to write a self-realization book," proclaimed Zack. "It's going to be called I am I. Get it?" Hahahahahaha!

I would totally buy that book. And of course I bought a copy of Leche. I suggest you do the same, immediately. I started reading it on the plane home, and I felt sorry for the woman sitting next to me because I was laughing so uncontrollably that I think I scared her: she kept a tight grip on her pretty Prada bag and didn't dare fall asleep.

Our day at the LA Times Festival of Books was preceded by a very fun Authors Night, also hosted by Linda Nietes and Philippine Expressions Bookshop. You can read all about it (and see more pix!) here at the Re: Angelica's Daughters blog.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making Awesomeness

I miss being here. I miss my blog. I sometimes justify my absence (to myself, I mean) by noting how the pace of life seems to have quickened and I have no time to sit in this meditative state (because that's the state I'm in when I'm typing into this little box on my screen) for whatever it is—fifteen minutes, thirty minutes—writing mostly about nothing at all. But then I think: how could the pace of life be any more quick than it was when I had three children under the age of three? All of which is to say that I have no reason whatsoever to not be sitting here for a few moments. So I'm sitting here. For a few moments. And what I'd like to say is this:

  • This weekend Cecilia Brainard and I will be representing Angelica's Daughters (and Cecilia will also represent her new collection Vigan and Other Stories, which I'm looking forward to snatching up) at the LA Times Festival of Books and Philippine Expressions Bookshop's Author Night. All the details here on the Re: Angelica's Daughter's blog! If you're in the area, come to the Festival; it's so fun. You know what else is fun? The Festival logo:

  • Don't laugh at me. You mustn't laugh. I'm taking a dance class. And, well, you know what? Go ahead and laugh; I don't care. Because it's super fun. And extraordinarily sweaty. And about 40 kagillion times better than engaging with a piece of machinery whilst being forced to stare at a bank of televisions that are probably all telecasting Donald Trump's face, and more specifically his mouth, out of which spews ridiculous allegations about the President. I would much rather be dancing while Jennifer Lopez exhorts me to "go hard and get on the floor." And then she gets very clever and says, "If you're a criminal kill it on the floor," and so I kinda do pretend I'm a criminal. I draw the line, however, on her directive to "pick your body up and drop it on the floor." I'm too old for that shit. And for some reason, all of this is reminding me of the time Gura Michelle photoshopped my face onto Shakira's body.
  • I'm back to writing grant proposals for school because guess what? The need for outreach doesn't disappear, and the need to bring our Spanish-speaking families into the fold of our school culture doesn't disappear, and the need for their kids to receive the help they need to succeed at school doesn't disappear. Unfortunately, what has disappeared is the money that anyone can spare us to do the work. So, grants. I just wrote a big one, and we'll hear in July.
  • I, your Nesting Ground Mistress, am working on a biiiiiig project. Something out of my comfort zone (seems to be a theme with me these days. see: dancing), something that could succeed brilliantly or...not, something I've been working on for 18 months. Let's just say I feel the need to make. So I'm making this thing. And I'll tell you all about it in soon. Meanwhile, I will share my mantra for all this:

That's pretty good advice for just about anything, actually.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kids Books & French Gangster Films

Last night I read Lea the story "The Giant and the Mite" from The Little Bookroom. The other two characters besides the giant and the mite are the Angel in the Sky and the Angel Below the Earth. These two angels aren't pitted against each other in the same-as-it-ever-was good vs. evil trope. Instead, they work together to keep everything that exists between them, i.e. the earth and all its goings-on, on an even keel. It was the first time I'veever run across that idea, and I think it's a keeper.

In other reading-to-the-kids-news, we finished The Horse and His Boy and, as I said I would, I poked around to see if they had picked up on the racism. And the answer I'm all baffled and shit.

Anyways, now we're reading The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers. It is an enormous, 700-page, insane novel. I'm in a constant state of hysterics while I read, and the girls are always saying, "Calm down, Mom."

Bluebear's first life takes place shortly after he's born and, for reasons unknown, floating naked and alone in a walnut shell. He is rescued from the maelstrom by Minipirates. Bluebear explains:
"Minipirates, as their name implies, were pretty small...The little creatures sailed the seas in tiny ships, ever on the lookout for something small enough to capture. This happened very seldom—never, in fact. Truth to tell, the Minipirates had never managed to capture a single prize, not even a rowing boat, in the whole history of navigation. Sometimes, usually in desperation, they attacked bigger ships...but their efforts passed unnoticed as a rule. The tiny buccaneers hurled their grappling hooks at the big vessels and were towed along until they gave up."
Minipirates: I want one. I need one.

In addition to lots of reading with the girls (I think I'm cramming in as much as possible because I'm afraid that very soon my 11-year-olds will want nothing to do with me and my novels about blue bears and their various lives), I've been mildly obsessed with the stories of French criminals as told via French films. I started with Mesrine: Killer Instinct, which stars the ubiquitous Vincent Cassel in a kinda campy turn as the real-life nutball gangster and France's "Public Enemy #1," Jacques Mesrine:

I don't know if it truly lives up to its billing as "The French Scarface," but I'll watch Part 2 anyways.

And a few weeks ago we watched A Prophet, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Just watch it, learn enough about the Corsican mafia to make you believe that you could totally take them on, and then join my club that I just made up. It's called The I Will Watch Any Film That Stars Tahar Rahim Club:

In unrelated news: allergy season. Boo.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Post Where I Mostly State the Obvious

This is no news to anyone at all, but...catastrophes are occurring at an increasingly alarming rate, as if the earth is a giant gameboard and someone has lost his temper and flipped the whole thing over. I almost always start to blog about these various disasters, but then the posts go unpublished because this has just never seemed like the right place to write about such things. On the contrary, this is the space where I proffer up too much information about my children, my many embarrassments, the minutiae of my days, my attempts to write stories.

So I won't say much, but I will note that a few days before the earthquake in Japan, Bino posted on Facebook that he'd had a dream about the end of days. And this thing—these tremors and waves and nuclear explosions—seems like just that: the end of days. After the fact, someone else reminded his friends to live, for God's sake because all of this is so very, very over. And today while I was washing dishes, I wondered what people say to each other in those moments before certain death, while the water rises or the ground falls away. And I wondered about the pain of dying from radiation poisoning, and if anyone is allowed to touch you, and if they aren't, how sad that is.

I've made a conscious decision not to talk to my kids about the breadth of the devastation or to show them a bunch of images; I don't know if that's right or wrong. There were some families at their school who are affected, and one of my twinkers is particularly close to a boy whose cousin was lost for a number of days (he has since been found), so they are very much aware. But I think it feels to them more like a scary movie than like something that has actually happened/is happening.

Tangent alert! Tangent alert!

I'm reading The Chronicles of Narnia to the girls, and right now we're finishing up The Horse and His Boy. When I read this series of books as a child, I didn't—despite a Catholic upbringing—pick up on the Christian references at all (so I wasn't the snappiest snap in the snap container; SO WHAT?!), and since I'm not pointing them out as we read, and since we're raising our children as moral-less, soul-less heathens, there's no reason to think they'll pick up on them either. What I am concerned about is the overt racism in The Horse and His Boy and if they've taken note of it. I'm waiting 'til we get to the end to poke around in their tween brains.

And that's the end of that.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

So...I went to a middle school orientation last week. I should have been thinking about my twins: how they would adjust come next year, what they would love, what would give them pause. But of course I didn't manage to do what I was supposed to do, for I am too self-absorbed! It must always be about me! Me! ME! And that is how I fell down the memory well and directly into my own junior high school experience.

Which was horrible.

So awkward.

Bad hair, owl glasses, Chinese slippers. Tough girls who smoked and swore and had hickeys and who scared the crap outta me.

Algebra. Absolutely did not get algebra.

And there was some guy who had the locker above mine, and he'd always reach down and grab at my non-existent boobs. This was so traumatizing that I cannot remember his face or name.

Kids at this age are the worst kids EVER. My science teacher's husband committed suicide by jumping in front of a train, and on her first day back at work one of us said, "How do you feel about trains now?"

Girls would get in fights, and the object would be to inflict embarrassment by ripping each other's shirts off. And did any of us try to stop these fights? No, we'd stand there in a circle, screaming, screaming.

I was called "schoolgirl" and "virgie."

I do not recall a school library; I do not recall a school principal, school office, or any place or person of comfort other than my childhood friend, Paul, who walked to school with me every day.

I was pulled out of a class once a week—I can't remember which—to attend something called "High Potential." Every week at the appointed time, I would raise my hand. "Yes?" the teacher (male) would say.

"I have to go now."

"Oh? Where do you have to go?"

"To my HP class."

"What does 'HP' stand for?" he'd say, even though I did this every week, and even though he already knew.

"Um, high potential."

"You think you have higher potential than the other kids in this class?"

"No," I'd say, my face turning red. "I don't know."

"Well, someone apparently thinks that you do." And I would just stare at him, stupid in my owl glasses and bad short hair and red face. "Well, what are you waiting for? GO!"

And that, my friends, is some of what I can recall of junior high school. The idea of my own children having to be dropped into such scenarios makes my head hurt. But I have to say that the school I visited did not at all appear to be the same sort of lawless jungle that mine was. But we'll see, right?

We'll see.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writing, Neatness, and Idol Robbery

You know that writing tip about keeping a notebook by your bed and trying to write stuff in it before you're fully awake? I wanted to report that this advice is a load of hollyhocks (what are hollyhocks?), a load of rotting durian, a load of fast food shrimp poppers (what?), a load of dirty kleenex,'s not! This totally works, particularly for someone like me whose plots (such as they are) are hard won. So, yes. As soon as you feel yourself starting to wake up, grope for your notebook and get to it. You should clip your pen on the notebook the night before, silly, so you don't double your groping efforts. If you have to fumble around too much, you're liable to become too alert, and then all is lost for that morning. Also the night before, make sure there's a page open already. Also, don't put on your glasses. Do all this and you will be magic.

You know what else would be magic? One of these slightly creepy hanging lounges. They are distributed via Dedon, and they are cleverly named "nestrests." I want one. I have no place to hang it, and even if I did, I would be too scared to climb out on a branch and somehow scuttle myself into the little opening, but I want one nevertheless. Hmmmm...I see that now that they don't necessarily have to be hung somewhere. You could just, you know, set it down in a corner and climb in. It would cut off my peripheral vision, which is a good thing because my peripheral vision is always revealing Grapenuts on the kitchen floor, pencil shavings near the dining room carpet, a bit of spilled juice on the counter. Such distractions are...distracting. This brings to mind something else. Was your house ever a mess growing up? Because I can honestly say that I do not recall my growing-up house to ever, ever be in the state of hopeless disarray usually displayed in my grown-up house. How did my mother manage that? Or maybe it was sometimes messy, but my overall memory is of calm and order. Or maybe what you end up remembering about your growing-up house is not whether it was messy or neat, but whether or not you were liked and loved and cared for.

I'll end with some random thoughts:

I think my daughters are secretly crushing on Justin Bieber, but they are afraid to admit it because they think I'll be disappointed. This is what my harsh judgements have done: they have turned them into closet Bieber-ites.

I think dental hygienists inflict violence on gums.

I think writer Vince Gotera's daughter, the incandescent Amelia Blue Gotera, was completely robbed! Robbed! ROBBED of a spot on this year's American Idol (she made it through the first day of Hollywood, as far as I could tell—no small feat, that). I have watched this video like 50 times. I love it. Love her, her voice, and this song:

It's raining hard here. We're off to the movies...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

E-diction Free. For Now.

During a disorienting flurry of putting on jackets, throwing out trays of garbage, and gently elbowing our way through an obscenely crowded In 'N' Out Burger, I lost my 16-month-old iPhone.

Of course I raced back to the restaurant, and of course no one had turned in my phone (Why? Why? Why are people like that? Dude, I would never steal your phone; why would you steal mine?). I returned home dejected, disabled my number, kicked myself for not having Mobile Me so that I could track down the whereabouts of my device, and then promptly settled into that gross, violated feeling that comes from knowing that far too much of your life is likely being perused by a thief.

Next came the intricate dance between Apple, Evil Phone Company, and Bewildered Customer (that's me). The essence was this: if I waited until July, I could save myself $200 on the new 4G. Now, I have been known to suffer bouts of severe fiscal irresponsibility, but in this case I made a Very Good Decision and opted to wait until July. I was forced to unearth my 2G which is at this point, let's face it, basically a relic of ancient Alexandria. Evil Phone Company smugly informed me that I'd have to find an equally old version of iTunes if I was going to use my 2G. To this I said, "Ha! Ha! Haaaaaaaa! I've got you, Evil Phone Company!" Because guess what? My old laptop still has a super old version of iTunes on it! See? See? Sometimes you shouldn't automatically upgrade your shiz!

Once all that was settled, I began to experience withdrawal symptoms because—and this is the least of it—this phone is s-l-o-w. Worse, all I can do is text, check e-mail, and have unsatisfying interactions with the Internets. No New York Times app, no app, no Evernote app, no Wurdle, Facebook, or Twitter apps, no nothing. I had only the faintest idea of how desperately wedded I'd become to the downtime entertainment afforded to me by my phone. My dear, dear phone.

I moped for a few days, but then a feeling of sublime liberation settled into my bones. No longer did I cradle my phone as if it were my fourth child. No longer did I reach for it absentmindedly while standing in line somewhere. No longer did I feel compelled to sneak a peek at Facebook and Twitter just because I could. And, perhaps best of all, no longer were my kids constantly fighting me and each other to get their small, sticky fingers on it. In short, I was free. I am free. Until July 1st.

*I couldn't find credit for the photo above anywhere. If it's yours, I'm sorry.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Mom's Cookbook

Have you noticed that people rarely feel neutral about their mom's cooking? Your mom is/was either the best cook ever OR she was sweetly and hilariously awful. I'm sure it comes as little surprise to anyone out there that I place my own mom squarely in the first category; I've written as much before. Her pesky and evil multiple sclerosis prevents her from cooking now, but of course I still go to her for advice and whatnot. PLUS I filched her copy of Recipes of the Philippines, compiled and edited by Enriqueta David-Perez and published in 1970 (the 16th printing).

How groovy is this cover? Take note of the bakelite faux wood handles on the carving set! The creepy twisty candle! Those random dried flowers! And let's not forget the pineapple wedges stuck to the ham via a toothpicked, pimento-stuffed olive. But don't be fooled by the cover, for many jewels are hidden in these pages, including my mom's handwritten notes, yellowed recipes clipped from newspapers, and what I think is a recipe for cucinta written on the back of a page from her 1974 check register (on October 19th of that year, if you must know, she spent $2.00 on books).

The book proper is equally entertaining. There are little charcoal folk drawings—people in traditional dress, a pair of tsinelas, cooking vessels, and of course a rider atop a caribou; color photographs; black and white photographs; and some fun text. In the intro, David-Perez warns that the book is not a complete collection of Philippine dishes, but one with general appeal "that give a good glimpse of the Filipino heart."

Here are a few more quotes that amuse or baffle me:

"After adding vinegar to a cooking dish, do not stir until mixture has boiled." - But what happens if you mix it before it boils? Tell me! Tell me!

"A Filipino thinks nothing of starving himself or getting into debt to be a perfect host." - This gave me pause, but then I realized: she's right.

"Bread and butter has taken the pace of the kakanin in many modern homes. But in many a heart lingers the nostalgia for something at one with the long ago." - Um, I would like to be at one with the long ago. The long ago of my 30th birthday, let's say.

Here's to nostalgia. *raises glass of Crystal Light*

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Birds, Bees, and Wisdom From the Count of Connotation

The twins have turned eleven years old. Over the past year, I've been wondering how to broach the subject of what I believe schools refer to as "family life." Certainly, the various topics within the larger context have popped up during the course of everyday conversation, and so going into this, their eleventh year, they did have some general knowledge. While holiday shopping, I found what seemed to be an excellent book that covered just about everything. It's titled, It's So Amazing: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families.

I wrapped it up with some of other books and put it under the tree. It was unwrapped along with their other gifts, but just as I imagined would happen, it went mostly unnoticed during end-of-the-year mania and back-to-school preparation. But yesterday, during a quiet moment, I saw Vida pick it up and begin reading. I headed back to Nesting Ground Central, still within earshot of the complete silence. Ten minutes in, Risa entered the same room and said, "What're you doing?" And Vida said, "This book is...kind of...odd." More silence, in which I could tell they were reading together. I gave them another ten minutes and nonchalantly walked into the room.

"Mom!" said Vida. She looked up from the book, concern all over her face. "What the HECK?!"

And I said, "Look, you guys are eleven years old now, and I got you this book because I thought it might help with any questions or concerns you might have AND because I felt you were mature enough to deal with it in a...mature way because you're so...mature. If you have any questions, just let me know."

"I didn't know the man sticks..." Vida began.

Risa immediately put her hands over her ears (this, too, I knew would happen) and said, "Can't. Can't do it. Can't do it."

"Okay, okay, Risa, GEEEZ," Vida said. "Mom, can I speak to you in your room?"

So, yesterday, I spent much of the late afternoon fielding questions such as these from Vida:

What is the difference between sex and making love?

How do gay couples have children?

Is there any way BESIDES sex to make a baby?

I guess you really have to be in love with someone, then, to make a baby with them?

What's masturbation? I don't get it.

THAT'S masturbation? Oh. You can't hurt yourself, can you?

Etc. etc. I'm sure I will be barraged with still more questions, but I'm feeling pretty good about all this. And I highly recommend the book (it's for ages 7 and up, and there is another for ages 4 and up, plus another for when puberty arrives). The whole thing was neither as difficult, nor as easy, as I thought it would be. At the very least, I feel even more prepared to discuss the subject(s) with Risa whenever she decides to uncover her ears.


It doesn't seem right (or maybe it does?) to blithely blog without mentioning the political assassinations—both attempted and successful—that took place in Arizona, that current hotbed of unrest, this past weekend. Over-the-top, unimaginative (hi, can you think of any metaphors that don't revolve around violence?), hateful rhetoric may not have had anything to do with the shootings. And yet the shootings have directed the spotlight towards the senseless jabbering. The right blames the left for directing said spotlight, but I don't think the left had to do very much: it's simple to make the connection.

Is there crazy talk on both sides? Of course there is. But the left does not have leaders who use inflammatory language in the style of the former Governor of Alaska, Rush Limbaugh (some will say he doesn't lead the movement, but I would argue that oh yes he does), and their ilk. This columnist at Politics Daily correctly points out that only the right has "institutionalized their side's craziness."

I was reading The Phantom Tollbooth last night with Lea, and I think that the Count of Connotation (loyal servant to the King of Dictionopolis) should have the last say: "'You see,' cautioned the count, "you must pick your words very carefully and be sure to say just what you intend to say.'"