Family snapshot

We fall asleep with his hand on my belly, daddy reaching out to his unborn child. We are curled up together, breathe in the same rhythm as I hum contentedly and the winds blow through the slightly open window. We are heartbeat and warmth and peace.

Belated Valentine

I am in love with a stranger. I have never seen this person. I don’t know much about my new love except family history. I am his (or her)mother. I love the new life within me.

I am approximately 3 months pregnant. My baby is developing well though his presence has challenged me physically and emotionally as progesterone and estrogen course through my body. I have a baby bump(so my mom is convinced I’m having a boy) but I haven’t gained too much weight. My morning sickness has been terrible though it’s made me appreciate fresh air, popsicles, and Blues’ patient affection. Now that my parents know, my journey should go much more smoothly. Meanwhile, my baby and I grow closer despite the months and body parts between us.

For the first time in my life, I feel truly whole. It’s funny how I did all this work to recover my mental and physical health, to heal my relationship with my mother, to get myself together, not knowing my greatest love was about to emerge. Everything has been preparing me for this miracle. And nothing can compare in terms of joy, contentment, and wonder.

The night I found out, I had taken part in an evening Mass downtown. It was the Feast of the Holy Family and I prayed to God to do his will. I didn’t know what to expect though a part of me knew. I was filled with so much awe when I saw that test result. The conversations began the next morning.

I tell the baby my thoughts and feelings. I sing early Beatles songs. I include the baby in my daily prayers. I wonder and wait. I love.

A Surprise Love TKO: DVD review

I had serious misgivings about seeing Knocked up. After all, a certain former friend claimed it was the story of his messy life and like any dumb broad taken in by a man with baggage, I was dutifully jealous. Never mind that it was created by the producers of the charming The 40-year-old Virgin and that it even got Oscar buzz for its writing. No, I was going to dig in my heels and fear that movie as if it were the original Exorcist.

A lot has changed since June of 07. So much that I was excited about this movie which my bro recently encouraged me to see. I am thrilled to say it has become one of my new favorites.

Knocked up may feature the boys will be boys crassness of the Apatow productions but underneath the frat boy exterior, it is a love story. Don’t let the one night stand aspect fool you; the leads are good people whose “lucky accident” brings them together. Alison(played by the luminous Katherine Heigl) is a hardworking broadcaster. She rents an in-law from high strung big sis Debbie and big kid brother in law(a scene stealing Paul Rudd). She crosses paths with dope smoking, chubby slob Ben(the adorable Seth Rogen)at a club as she celebrates her promotion. Neither of them are players or barflies. She is genuinely nice; he can’t believe his luck. After their drunken night, Alison is put off by Ben’s low brow sense of humor and apparent lack of stability. But after morning sickness and two dozen pregnancy tests, Alison gives Ben another chance. What follows is a tender, honest, hilarious journey these two strangers take to form a family. Maybe it’s my hormones but I cried as much as I laughed. This is the story of a relationship in all its flaws and splendor and it beats a fluffy chick flick any day.
Besides, the movie has become one of the stories of my life. But I digress…

Now on DVD


A little after 1 in the morning last night, I found out something amazing.

Today I feel mystified, just as much as the first time I felt overwhelmed by the smell of roses.

God answers prayers.

Platinum Morning

I just slept in an additional two hours after my first night in since mid-October. Last night, I wanted to check out live Brazilian music in Berkeley or have some drinks with the girls. Instead I was chillin with a glass of cab and vintage Degrassi. I haven’t run since the Vegas Half-Marathon but my limp went away. The Christmas gifts have been bought and await the tree. I have an orchestra seat to today’s matinee of Madama Butterfly.

Life is as it should be. I have my health, a job/career that I treasure, loyal friends, a wonderfully supportive boyfriend, strong family relationships, deep faith, a cute little house of my own, and lots of wintry blue sky.

I am happy. Wish fulfilled. I don’t want to be anyone else. I am exactly who and where I want to be.

The choice to love

“Love taught me.” from “The Boss” by Diana Ross

I have decided I am going to love the world again. I will give my energy and attention to every other person alive around me. I will smile and speak kindly. I will give of myself freely and fearlessly. I will expect nothing in return but the gift of loving. In loving the world, I will be loving myself more than I ever have.

On Thursday the 26th, I made my way across the Bay to the City. I got off one train station beyond the 38 Muni stop, Civic Center, so I decided an uphill walk in the gray fog would be good for me. Clad in my youth-large Cal hoodie, my oldest pair of jeans(now held up by a belt because I am six pounds lighter than I was last month), and my relatively new self-designed Chuck Taylors(kid size 3, blue and gold for football season, very comfy), I know I looked like one of my students. I trudged up Van Ness past luxury car dealerships and chain coffee shops, iPod playing, towards the Chinese consulate. I would be joining a San Francisco contingent of national protests against China’s ties with Sudan.
At first, there were four of us: Marvin*, an older gentleman in blue Save Darfur cap and assorted dark green Save Darfur gear; Claude, a friendly African man, and Bobby, a khaki-clad, babyfaced Asian guy. We were joined by Dara, a schoolteacher in dark green Save Darfur shirt and matching bracelets. Within minutes, we were joined by twenty others and quickly distributed posters and leaflets. We stood at the four corners of the Laguna/Geary intersection. NBC 11, KCBS radio station, and two local Asisan media outlets interviewed Claude and Bobby and filmed our silent protest. At last count, there were 32 of us and we had received 6 honks from passerby. The protest ended with a short address by Claude and the crowd for YouTube. We gathered at the locked door of the consulate to chant: Please China, bring the Olympic dream to Darfur. We applauded before dispersing but not before Dara and I exchanged information with plans to organize more events.
I headed downhill to Civic Center. I decided to lunch at Gyro King, a hole in the wall Mediterranean restaurant that makes up for its shabby decor with good prices and delicious food. The youthful exec type on the stool next to me buried his face in his hands. I watched as he pulled out the latest Harry Potter. In a move that is unlike me, I struck up a conversation with him about the book. On the way out, I wished him happy reading. He responded by wishing me a good day.
A few doors down, a homeless woman offered me a Street Sheet. She was tall, willowy, attractive, despite her ragged clothes. She asked, “Are you from South America? Peru?” I smiled as I replied that I was and we struck up a conversation. She told me about missing Trinidad and how her legal status had made it difficult for her to survive. She said she knew I was Peruvian from my features. After several minutes, I bought the paper and continued downhill.
On the way into the train station, I had to move aside for a troop of daycamp children. The homeless sitting at my feet said they were on a school trip. I crouched down beside her and she started to tell me about her broken relationship and the dog she missed. We talked for a while and shook hands, wishing one another luck.

There are many who say to love is difficult. It is second nature to me. It is a blessing.

Harry Potter gets darker: Movie review

“What if after everything that has happened to me, I have become bad?” Harry Potter

Harry Potter is a pop culture icon and name brand franchise, the latter which I usually avoid/disdain, along with the likes of Bratz dolls, Disney stores, Coca-Cola products, and Paris Hilton. But when you’re a high school English teacher, as I was for nine years, you realize that freshmen(and all high school kids for that matter) don’t always like to read independently. Imagine my curiosity when student after student submitted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a book chat(a brief interview with a reader, much more fun than an ordinary written or oral book report.) I finally gave in and became a fan of the boy wizard, both of the books and the movies. I recently bought the long-awaited final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows(already nearing page 400 after only 24 hours!)and today my mother and I saw the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

For those of us who remember our adolescence as a time of angst and pain, we will relate to the very different Harry(played by Daniel Radcliffe.) Now embittered by the death of a classmate and still very troubled by the chain of tragic events in his life, Harry is a moody, somber teenager. Harry has grown up and his future doesn’t look bright. The film seems to echo the change with dark, gloomy sets and more dramatic acting from the leads. Harry’s archnemesis, Lord Voldemort(a hideous Ralph Fiennes), gets much more screen time as their final showdown(supposedly taking place in Book 7) approaches. Though the special effects are impressive, the light moments are scarce. This is a bittersweet movie.

My favorite scenes were actually the sad ones. In one scene, Harry wonders about the connection he shares with Lord Voldemort. He complains to his godfather, Sirius Black(played by Gary Oldman), that he feels “angry all the time” and wonders about the darker qualities of his personality/soul. Tears started running down my face. Who hasn’t wondered if they were more evil than good? Who hasn’t been scared when we have made wrong choices? But this existential angst was countered by the core tenet of the Harry Potter phenomenon: Power is great but love is greater. Harry Potter became the Boy Who Lived because his parents loved him. Harry Potter remains a good person because he loves his friends. As he faces Lord Voldemort, Harry declares “you will never know love or friendship.” Ultimately, this is what keeps saving Harry’s life. And many of our own.

I don’t recommend this fifth installment to Harry Potter newbies. It’s much too depressing if you are not invested in the storyline and characters. Nevertheless, I found it moving and faithful to the books.

The key, a quarter, and a weekend in heaven(and other places)

What is the key? Soldier found a key in the second of my rental cars Saturday. But that’s not the key I mean. No, what is the key to me? Sometimes I lose sight of myself, even when I’m experiencing joy, excitement, and gratitude. I get lost in the fog of my own self-doubt. But this problem is temporary. I am willing to strive to find the key. After 5 days in Nashville, I feel the effort is worthwhile.

My summer vacation started out rough, to make a huge understatement. On the first day away from work, I learned that my mentor and partner in crime at work has taken a job in another school district. While I was excited at the prospect of learning to come into my own at work on Tuesday evening, I panicked on Wednesday afternoon when she gave me the official confirmation. I spent the rest of the day, pacing rooms, second-guessing my skills, constantly close to tears. I couldn’t wait to get to Nashville.

Imagine my dismay Thursday evening when I couldn’t locate Soldier. Due to miscommunication, he did not know I would be arriving then and I did not know he had changed his work schedule. His phone was off. More panic. I got lost on Nashville freeways in the worst thunderstorm I have ever seen. Cars and trucks were pulling over to the shoulder to be safe in the torrential downpour. My heart pounding, I kept inching my rental car forward, even as I struggled to see. Eventually, I made it to my hotel to a rough night of tears and worry. Silly me, so quick to believe the worst.

Friday morning, I wandered the Country Music Hall of Fame, my stomach in knots. The brightest spot was seeing Johnny Cash’s guitar. More tears. More panic. I called the airline and booked the next flight out. As I rushed out of my hotel room, I fell and twisted my ankle. I turned in my room key, my rental car, and cried in the airport to my best friend. Then Soldier called. Within an hour, I was checking into the beautiful and memorable Renaissance Hotel, site of my first visit to Nashville. By midnight, despite Soldier’s “cloud of negativity”,which included a flat tire on his bike, we were together and all was better in the universe.

Saturday featured several firsts: German food, leaving a movie before the opening credits, my first major panic attack(this one involved numbness in each of my extremities, my torso, and face), a midnight walk in a park, singing along with a favorite Cure song at Cabana, and other new experiences. Saturday became Sunday. Arrived in heaven.

What is heaven like? Heaven is getting out of bed around 2 in the afternoon. It is lunch with not-so-great food, but sharing lots of laughter. It is a silvery Art Deco building where worldbeat lounge music plays. Soldier leads me by the hand past intriguing and beautiful art. We speak French to one another. Heaven is several good night kisses given, hidden behind the open drunk door of a rental car, a playful smack on the bottom. It is an unexpected text message Monday morning. Heaven is Soldier caressing my right hand because after all, the car is an automatic. In the shade of a tree and in the front seat of a car, Soldier and I shared truths and kisses I won’t soon forget. The harvest moon he offered me as comfort on the phone Monday night.

And what of the other places I visited this past week? There were times when I felt I was in limbo waiting, in purgatory repenting, in hell suffering but I know these places were of my mind’s making. I don’t remember them all, thank goodness, and I can only hope that I can be forgiven.

On Sunday, I thought I lost the quarter. Now the quarter is not the key but it is important to me.The quarter is a talisman Soldier made for me in April. It is an ordinary quarter “engraved” with his initials. I found it Sunday night after I thought I had lost it. It is back on my nightstand, next to a wooden yellow bird Soldier bought me on Sunday. A villanelle I wrote for Soldier includes the line, “I wish I could wake to find you near.” My talisman and memento will have to do for now. Along with that invisible little bird that lives in my heart, my good old friend, hope.

Flashback 6: A special Canticle of Zechariah

I am praying the Liturgy of the Hours as I do every morning. My wet hair smells of citrus. I am draped by a size large cotton robe as I pad barefoot across the large room.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
For He has come to His people and set them free.

My companion is asleep, his light snores now quiet. He does not stir, a brown figure asleep in a nest of white cotton bedding.
He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
Born of the house of His servant David.

I go to the window and slowly pull aside the curtain. I look out onto the blue sky and the quiet avenue.
Through His holy prophets He promised of old
That He would save us from our enemies,
From the hands of all who hate us.

The sky is exactly how I love it: expansive, pure, full of possibility. I smile.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
And to remember His holy Covenant.

The sun shines over the rooftops of churches and is reflected by the fountain in the hotel plaza.
This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
To set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship Him without fear,
Holy and righteous in His sight
All the days of our life.

As I softly whisper the prayer from memory, I feel happy tears in the corners of my eyes, hear a slight catch in my voice. I look back over my shoulder at my sleeping companion.
You, My child shall be called
The prophet of the Most High,
For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins.

Every tear, every sob, every threat, every awful thought has been worth the pain. For the tranquil promise of this moment, all is worthwhile.
In the tender compassion of our Lord
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
And the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

My prayers were and are heard.

All about love: double weekend recap

I’m blessed. Regardless of how my emotional ups and downs, I have been quite fortunate(and astute) in surrounding myself with good people. My family and friends are amazingly loyal and these last two weekends have reminded me of the gift of their presence.

I do have my loner streak, even when it’s beautiful summer in my beloved East Bay. If I’ve had a rough week at work(and I usually do), it’s not uncommon to find me curled me up on my black leather couch, chilling with a bag of microwave popcorn with some Tapatio sauce and a marathon of Degrassi episodes(or a movie.) But I can always count on my loved ones to get me out of my cozy little house.
Some highlights from the past two weekends:
*Last Friday, I was supposed to stay home to nurse a sore throat. Instead, I was treated to carne asada(I’ll make exceptions to my no red meat rule on special occasions), enchiladas, and strawberry-filled cake for Christina’s(my bff from high school) daughter’s elementary school graduation. I can’t believe she’s going to middle school!
*Saturday, after I slept off the first of my recent migraines, I cooked up an international meal for my visiting relatives from Peru. I made tzaziki aka yogurt and cucumber salad(Greece, Pollo Borracho(Chile), brown rice, with Japanese Mochi for dessert. Everyone was pleased with the meal and my wonderful uncle Armando made a sweet gratitude speech. Awwwww!
*Sunday morning, I saved Amigo’s ass for the 27th time(don’t you love Sagittariuses? I always seem to find them) by attending an all-day Fulbright meeting in the City.The food was amazing. The program is so impressive I may apply for an Administrator exchange. Amigo has dutifully promised to make it up to me. I’m expecting a sari, some bangle bracelets, and at least one Bollywood musical DVD. Everyone keeps joking that he may as well pull an Indiana Jones and rob a tomb for me. But knowing Amigo, I would have to fly to India to get him out of the mess.
*Dad made his famous BBQ for the whole family since my Tio Armando and Auntie are headed back to Peru this week. Food, glorious food!
*Last night, I meant to continue my hours of ironing(see what happens when my pet peeves get out of control) when my girl Arlene returned my voicemail. We got out of our chill-out gear and headed to the local multiplex to catch Ocean’s Thirteen. Nothing says girls’ night like a Cherry Icee and seeing all those mens in Armani. And yes, I meant mens because they(George, Andy, Brad) are too much to be mere men.
*Quality time with my baby bro: Who else would claim that my baby niece is laughing at my eye(which is healing, thank you very much!)? Who else would know exactly what a text message of “Have No Fear” means? Two days in a row of BBQ, banter, and nostalgia for a cartoon we watched as kids. Love him!

Someone once said that you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. Given a choice, I’d choose both.