Thankful – At What Cost?

It’s that time of the year again – Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. I, like many others, don’t really think twice about correlating Thanksgiving with the sales and deals that come the day after. It’s ironic how a holiday that is meant for people to be grateful and thankful for what and who they have is followed by the biggest sales of the year. People camping out in line for malls and stores hours before opening, being glued to the computer / phone watching the seconds count down so you can add that item to your cart before it sells out, browsing around the internet or store and realizing, “I don’t really need this… but it’s on sale!” I have conflicting feeling about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, who can relate?

Growing up, my parents weren’t really big on Black Friday shopping. They didn’t like the crowds, bad traffic, fighting for parking spots, and didn’t want us spending our money on things we really didn’t need. Black Friday is usually when people try to get their Christmas shopping done in 1 day so they get more bang for their buck. My parents didn’t think it was worth the hassle, and with how many people we have on both sides of the family, it would be an all day event that they were not down for. But some years, my sisters and I wanted to experience the Black Friday madness. And each time we would participate, my dad would say, “All for what? A Sale that’s just basically taking off the tax? It’s not worth it!” As he angrily maneuvered the car from people walking stupidly. And in the moment he would swear that if the next year we wanted to shop, he wouldn’t be driving. But we’d somehow convince him the next year anyways.

It’s funny because most of the time I went out on Black Friday, I never really bought anything. I remember there was one year, I want to say I was a freshman in high school, but I might have still been in middle school. Anyways, we participated in Black Friday shopping, and my sister and I were roaming around Nina’s. May I remind you, at this point in my life, my main income came from birthday and Christmas money. My birthday is in February, so let’s just say my broke ass didn’t have that much money to spend. And because of this, I had to choose wisely what I decided to buy. I’ve always held back from buying things because I feared I’d find something else and not have enough money. But by this time, we were nearing the end of our route. We have gone around the mall and I honestly didn’t find anything I really liked. I felt pressured to buy something for the sake of “I went out on Black Friday.” I felt so pressured, and was in desperate need of clothes that my dumbass bought something at full price. I remember that top being like…. $27.99. That was a lot of money for unemployed me.

I remember when we all met back in the car, I told my parents and sisters that I bought a top…. that was full price…. and they all unanimously looked at me like, “bruh.” I then got the lecture of how I don’t need to buy something if I don’t really like it, how I should save my money, and make better choices with spending, etc etc. At the time I thought it was annoying. But deep down, I knew I only bought something because I felt the need to do it. Like, my ass woke up hella early, my dad drove in this traffic, I was sweating in the mall with the crowds, I was not about to walk out of the mall empty handed. I wanted something to show for it. It’s crazy that knowing it’s the “day” to shop makes you feel pressured to spend your money.

I appreciate that my parents taught me the value of money because I feel like it humbled me as an adult. Growing up, I didn’t have the latest shoes, clothes, or gadgets. I went to Catholic school and had a uniform I wore everyday, with the same black shoes from Payless. I was 25 years old when I first purchased / owned my first pair of Jordan’s (Yes, just earlier this year). It’s not that my parents didn’t have it like that, but that they didn’t prioritize name brand items. Because once you buy a name brand item for 1 kid, you have to do it for all 3. Our parents would buy us shoes from Footlocker once a year, where we really got to pick which one we wanted. I would take that opportunity to finally get some Nike’s.

Obviously when you’re in 6th grade you wanna look cool and rock the trending shit. And if we wanted something that we didn’t need, we would have to save up our birthday, Christmas, and allowance money to get it. Our parents didn’t just buy us things just because we wanted it. We would have to save up our money, or earn it by getting good grades. I remember I would splurge if there was a school dance, or free dress day where I didn’t have to wear my uniform. I would literally try to buy name brand things, or stuff that was in style to look cool. Yes, full body cringe, I know. I remember getting a simple South Pole shirt that just said “SP” in gold, and dropping $30 (does that brand even exist anymore lol). But it really taught us the value of our money, because we had to save up for it and calculate if the purchase was worth it. It’s so much different when it’s your own money you’re spending – even if I didn’t earn the money and it was basically just gifted to me.

Because of this, I’ve learned to live without the name brand clothes, shoes, bags, etc. I learned to wait, and sometimes waiting meant that I realized I didn’t really want it anymore, or I just dropped the idea because I wasn’t willing to drop the money for it. I still wanted nice shit, but I knew my ass couldn’t afford it like that, so I made do with what I had. As I got / get older, I’m realizing the importance of living simple. It’s something I want to practice and be content with. Over the last year or 2, my priorities really shifted and I find myself trying to save up a lot more. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I regretted not saving my money and spending it on clothes / material things when I still didn’t “have it like that.” I have my days where I’m very content with my closet and wardrobe and think, “I really don’t need all this,” and then there are other times where I’m like, “It’s time for new clothes.” It’s like a constant struggle between wanting more and not wanting to give in to material things.

Like I said, I regretted not saving my money when I first started working. I was in my early 20’s, and suddenly I was worried about the future. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I was nowhere near buying a car. At this time reality hit, and I knew I couldn’t be spending my money the same way if I wanted a car, house, and other necessities in the near future. Changing jobs really helped me take that step forward in saving up money. And once I got a taste of not working for $10.50 Daly City minimum wage, I felt like I was making significant progress. For once, I had extra money to spend. Before that, I was literally on paycheck to paycheck and I didn’t even have to pay any bills. My bi-weekly check was just enough to eat out a couple of times with friends. Straight up.

But I didn’t want to lose myself in buying material things just because I could. I rarely buy clothes, and if I do, they have to be on sale. So I know a good deal when I see it. That’s part of the reason why I’m so conflicted with Black Friday and Cyber Monday – I want to live a simple life, but at the same time I’m human and want nice shit. And if I’m going to get nice shit, that shit better be on sale, because my cheap ass isn’t paying full price if I don’t have to. And in my mind I just teeter-totter between knowing I got a a good deal, but feeling so vain because I don’t “need” the items I’m buying. I know that I work hard for my money, and buying myself a little gift here and there (especially if it’s on sale) is not a big issue. I just don’t want it to be the only way I feel good about myself. But since COVID-19, so many people and friends of mine have opened businesses and side hustles. It’s exciting to see them flourish into business owners and seeing friends and acquaintences support each other. Especially with COVID-19 going on, I love seeing small businesses thriving, knowing that my purchase helps an actual person / family instead of a corporation that already has a lot of money. So, this Black Friday / Christmas, really think of your community and how you can shop at small businesses to support your friends, friends of friends, or just someone in your area.

And I’m not saying I don’t like buying myself things, because let’s be real, buying things impulsively can feel really good. It gets you on a high sometimes. Just this weekend I had seen that J.Cole’s Puma’s, RS Dreamers were back in stock in all colors. I love J.Cole, this blog is named after his song, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on them for a while. Suddenly I wanted them all. And I didn’t care at what price. I wanted to support my favorite rapper, and I didn’t know if they would sell quick. The struggle of making the decision to buy them all now while they’re in stock, or wait until Black Friday where they can possibly be on sale but could also possibly be sold out. I bought 2 out of the 5 pairs, and felt good about my purchase. All the while, I’m messaging my best friend, another J.Cole fanatic, about it. He’s all salty because he can’t fit a little boy’s shoe like myself, and has to wait and pay a lot more for a men’s size. He did his research and saw that the same shoes I just bought were $10 and $30 cheaper on another shoe website, and on top of that gave me his military discount. I was gonna say “fuck it, I already placed the order,” until we did the math and realized I could get a 3rd pair for about the same price I just paid for. I ended up getting 3 pairs of the 5 RS Dreamers, for way cheaper than my first initial purchase (which I’m returning). I got basically a 3rd pair for free and saved $10. I felt ecstatic. I was in such a high, and felt good about saving money for something that meant a lot to me and something I’ve been wanting to get. I didn’t feel guilty because I desperately wanted them all and got them at a steal price.

But something I’ve always been taught is to not spend money I don’t have. And that’s where Black Friday and Cyber Monday gets dangerous. Thankfully, I’m a scaredy-cat that is impulsive, but not that impulsive. I’ll never put something on my card that I know I can’t afford. But for some people, that is not the case. What adds to my dislike and negative feelings towards big sales on holidays is that people feel the need to spend money they don’t have. The need to get the latest shoes, clothes, and electronics, at the cost of what? Just to post on the ‘gram and make it look like you have it like that? No thanks. To some, I might sound like a hater. It’s none of my business – what people do with their money doesn’t concern me. And that’s true. But I think it’s worth noting that people go into serious debt by spending money they don’t have, just to play the part they want people to see, just to look stylish and boujee, and just to front like they got it like that… for what?

Your designer clothes and shoes don’t mean anything if your priorities are all fucked up to obtain them. And holidays like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, just want us to focus on what we don’t have and what we can buy. All the while it is pushing the lesson of being grateful, thankful, and content with what you have in life. These “holidays” make big corporations richer, and it makes us consumers broke. The need to buy and spend to prove love, companionship, and appreciation ain’t it. To spend money you don’t have to uphold a tradition and holiday makes no sense, and takes away the true meaning of being thankful. And this is part of the reason why so many people have a twisted fantasy of what “love” is. Love isn’t the amount of designer gifts recieved, it’s not about matching clothes, shoes, and what you can get from each other material wise.

Material things can’t buy happiness – we’ve heard that time and time again. The truth is, I want to live a simple life, detached from any worldly possessions, but I’m still human. And I find myself in these cycles where I don’t spend on things I don’t need, and then out of nowhere I will ball out on something or some things. And in the moment it feels good. Buying things for yourself feels good. But it never fails at the end I get buyers remorse. I think of how vain I’m being, especially when I splurge out of the blue. At times I found that I was just buying things to make myself feel better. It’s different when you’re buying yourself something for an accomplishment, or because you truly want it, but it’s another thing to buy stuff for that instant gratification, and shortly after feel nothing. I start thinking of how there are people in the world that don’t have enough food, don’t have a home, clean water, etc. And I think to myself, did I really need that though?

That’s part of the reason why I have conflicting feelings with Black Friday and holiday sales. It sheds light on the ugly parts of society – the part that only thinks of self, material goods, and appearance. And it also sheds light on those parts of me. I love me a good deal, and I’m the kind of person that does no shopping throughout the whole year and balls out on certain times of the year, like Black Friday, where I know I can get things mad cheap. I do think it’s unfortunate that holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are the times (and almost cues) to spend your money, and if you don’t it’s almost seen as weird and anti-holiday. Being thankful for what you have and who you have in your life shouldn’t come with a cost.

Love Your Choices

I snapped this photo when I was walking to the grocery store a few weeks back. Everytime I see artwork, a sign, a quote, or anything on the street that speaks to me, I take a picture of it. I always know that somehow, it’ll be used one day for one of my blog posts. This sign was no different, except this time it was very relevant to my current situation. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while, but never found the words for it.

A great theme for 2020 in my personal life has been change, growth, and being “confident in my choices.” I put that in quotes because sometimes I wasn’t even close to being confident in my choices, but I had to front like I was because the slightest inclination of doubt would turn into others, or even myself, talking me out of a decision. That was probably the hardest part about deciding to move – being so doubtful and scared, but not being able to talk to certain people about my doubts because I knew they’d just try to sway me in their favor. All out of love, of course, but not really taking into mind the opportunity to grow and learn.

Growing up, I was taught that whatever I do is a reflection of my parents. How I act and what my life choices are is because of how my parents raised me. And that always annoyed me. I didn’t understand the root of its importance. “Who cares,” was my response to everything. I’ve had the rebel mindset since a young age. When I was growing up, I didn’t care what people thought, I didn’t care if I was looked at as the “bad” kid, I didn’t care that I had the mouth of a sailor. That’s probably also because as a kid, there’s not much I could fuck up and make my parents / family look bad. I mean, I got good grades, made the honor roll, and I wasn’t doing anything illegal.

It wasn’t until I reached young adulthood that this took on a whole new meaning. Who I dated, what crowd I hung around with, whether I went to college or not, if I was married or not, what I posted online, all reflected back on my family and parents. This is something that I have talked extensively with close family members and friends – how the Filipino culture really values how others see them. To an extent, I get it – the need to look like everyone in your family has it together and is successful. I mean, who doesn’t want to be seen as successful and always making the right moves? But these fears of worrying about what others will think is really detrimental to young adults who are trying to get the gears turning for their own life.

“What will your _______ (insert the name of a prominent family member / or whole family as a whole) think?!”

“What will people think of you?!”

“How does that make us look?!”

These are phrases that so many Filipinos have heard from their elders.

This is something that I still struggle with. Because at the end of the day, I don’t care what other people say about how I live my life, but I do care that my parents care. And that’s where it gets conflicting. I find myself trying to do what I want to do in my life, but do it the “right way.” I find myself trying to find loopholes and justify my actions like, “well it’s okay if I move in with my boyfriend who I’ve been with for over 5 years because eventually we’ll get married, so it’s okay. And others should understand that.” But why do others have to understand that? They don’t need to understand anything. Especially choices that don’t concern them or put anyone in harm’s way.

“What will people think and say?” It’s so generalized. Who are these people I should be concerned about? And why should I care what they think about me? It’s ironic, because I was taught to not care what people think about me, in terms of classmates and peers. Oh, you’re embarrassed that you have on Payless shoes? Who cares, you shouldn’t care what people think about your material things. Oh, you’re insecure about going out in your pajamas? Who cares, nobody’s going to see you, and if they do, so what? Oh, you want to drop out of college and pursue music? What will your aunties think?! Of course, the last is a fake scenario, but you get the jist.

And even if it is not generalized and there’s a specific family member, or family friend that your elders are trippin’ about, why does it matter? I feel like there’s such a generational gap, where our elders feel the need to uphold an image of the family, or themselves. And I get it. But at the same time I think it’s so dumb and pointless. Especially if you have to tiptoe around certain people with your life choices – life choices that aren’t even bad, but that some people don’t agree with. All the while, people should just mind their business and not really care what others are choosing to do with their lives. If you don’t agree with a choice, just don’t make that choice for yourself and move along.

Choose your love. Love your choices.

This came to me at a time where I was very conflicted and needed that reminder. Sometimes in life it feels like you have to choose between pleasing those around you or choosing yourself. And is it worth keeping the peace while you are in conflict with yourself? Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are in control of your life. And people – whether that be family members, peers, friends – will talk regardless. So what is the point of changing the route of your life to please others? I’m glad that I have taken the road less traveled by, in terms of being traditional and abiding by standards. But sometimes it’s really hard.

I find this quote relevant to other parts in my life – like who I choose to be around, hangout with, and give access to the “real me.” And I shouldn’t be apologetic for distancing myself from people or situations that disturb my inner peace just to keep the outer peace and external noise at bay. This year has been the year in realizing that I don’t have to react to some situations anymore. I can just remove myself, keep a mental note, and keep it moving. It sounds very detached, but that’s life. Can’t stop the show for nobody, the show must go on. Especially being at the age I’m at now, I got more important things to worry about, like how I’m almost 26 and getting the boot on health insurance soon. I don’t have time for petty drama, hear say, gossip, or things that don’t concern me.

I choose me. Even if sometimes it’s hard to do. I try to front like choosing me is an easy decision, but it does stir some feelings inside of me sometimes. At the end of the day, I want to please my parents, their opinion of how I live my life matters to me, but they also understand that I have my own life and need to make decisions for myself. I don’t care about the extra noise of others who haven’t raised me. As long as my parents are content with my choices and trust me to make the right choices, that’s all that matters. Luckily, my parents know that at the end of the day, it’s my life and I have to live with the decisions I choose to make. So they’ll give their 2 cents, but will support me in what I choose. I think that’s a beautiful thing. To know that they still come from the generation that “cares” about what others may say, but still give their silent blessing for me to do as I please.

Choose your love. Love your choices.

So much easier to read than to live by. Choosing my peace is more important that upholding an image of myself for the sake of family or for family image. Being confident in my life choices and what direction I choose to take in this life is something I still need to work on. I need to love my choices and know that I chose it for a reason.

11/07/2020

A letter to my future kids about this historic day.

Kids,

This is on some How I Met Your Mother shit, which is totally like me, so don’t even act surprised. Anyways, I wanted to write and document this day before some time passes and I forget some details…

For reference, let me rewind it 4 years prior to this day. November 2016. I’ll never forget going to school the day after America learned that the next president would be Trump. Going into school was depressing. There was such a heaviness in the air on San Francisco State campus. Trump being president was the topic of discussion in every conversation, every class, and on the news. Everyone was disappointed and scared of what the next 4 years would be like.

My journalism teachers were especially devastated. Journalism is already a challenging profession, but to also have a president that claims certain news outlets as “fake news” would make the job that more challenging. My professors would always add how we are going into the industry at a very delicate time. There will be people that don’t believe us, will question our credibility, and will refuse to talk to us – following the lead of Trump. They were worried for their students’ futures and the country. What would the next 4 years be like?

I can’t believe its been 4 years under Trump. In these 4 years he has caused so much hurt and divide. When he was elected, it brought to light all the broken parts of America that still need fixing. Suddenly, racism wasn’t something to be ashamed of anymore, locking kids in cages wasn’t seen as inhumane, whether black lives mattered or not was now a debate, and following orders to stop the spread of a disease was taking away rights. Just 2020 alone is so bizarre. And some of us in America had enough. Especially with a pandemic to add to all the turmoil that Trump had caused, we demanded change.

Kids, I’m sure your textbooks will go over what kind of human Trump was. Your textbooks will probably have screenshots of some of his ridiculous tweets and statements, you’ll probably see videos of things he’s said and done, and you’ll probably wonder, “how the hell was this guy the president?!And I’ll be sitting there just as confused as you are. I’ll be there to tell you my experiences – being a college student studying Journalism and Women Gender Studies when all of this was going down. Unfortunately, I’ll have to share how decisions under his term hurt people I was close to and made a lot of people fear for their safety. How he acted and influenced others made me fear for my safety as a woman. I’ll even have to open up about the divide it had on the world and in people’s homes. What weird times.

I felt especially guilty because I didn’t vote in 2016. Yup, I admit it. To this day, I still feel so ashamed and embarrassed. It was a mix of knowing California was going to be blue anyways, thinking no way Trump would be elected, and honestly just not taking initiative or making time to register. Right after Trump was elected, I made sure to register and vote for everything that came after. When 2020 came around, I knew I had to redeem myself. If I wanted change, I had to be a part of it. If I wanted to complain and bitch, I had to make sure that I had a say in the decisions being made.

Seeing how America decided to vote in 2016 scared me. To add to that, the pandemic made people hesitant to vote in person. I voted through the mail, and did it weeks in advance to make sure it was recieved in time. Me and your Ninang Merl had a voting session where we sat at the livingroom couch going over props and candidates for Daly City. We debated over certain things, but it helped because it made us take into consideration the opposite side. It forced us to ask ourselves – who would this effect? What’s the pros and cons? For presidency obviously it was an easy Biden / Harris vote of course. Kids, did I mention this was the year that Kanye West was on the ballot? Remind your Papa Lando about this and you’ll hear an earful. Hahaha.

But, we filled out the ballots about 2-3 weeks in advance and we mailed it in that same day, right after visiting your Great Tatay Jacinto. That is also another story… By this time we were about 7 months into the pandemic life. We usually visited Tatay Jack’s place every other Sunday along with all your great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, and older cousins. We would gather and have dinner, putting on animal planet shows because that was Tatay’s favorite, or America’s funniest home videos. Tatay also didn’t have cable on his TV. But with the pandemic and Tatay being 96, we had to stop the gatherings. It was too risky. So, he spent his 97th birthday Sheltering in Place. It still makes me sad to think about. But your Papa Lando, Ninang Merl, and I would try to drive by every Sunday to drop off some bread for Tatay and Tita. And when I mean drop off, I literally mean drop off. We wore masks, stayed more than 6 feet away, tried not to touch anything, said hello to Tatay, and left. The whole encounter would take about 1 minute max.

That was around mid-October when we mailed in the ballots. But when November started to loom around the corner, I started to get nervous. I did my part, but would the rest of America do its part? I wasn’t the only one stressed. It’s all everyone and anyone could talk about. We had your Ninang Cam’s baby shower on Halloween. It was a good little distraction from the election. Your Ninang Justine, Ninang Lyn, Ninang Cam’s mom, and I planned it for your God brother, Jojo. We were so excited because Kuya Jojo was the first baby to be born in our group. Even though it was in the middle of a pandemic, we kept the event small and made sure people were taking proper protocols. But once the baby shower was over, all of our attention went back to the dreaded election.

The first couple days of November was nerve wrecking. Once it was November 3rd, my eyes were glued to my phone. At this time, your dad and I had moved in together, but we didn’t have cable, only Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime video etc. So I didn’t have access to the news. Now that I think about it, refreshing the results on my phone was probably better for my anxious ass, since your Ninang Merl was saying that hearing the news anchors’ 5 cents made her more stressed. Everybody was saying that it would take days – maybe even weeks to know who the winner was. Especially since voting was taking place during a pandemic. Some states said it would take a week or two to count up all the mail in ballots. Still, I refreshed and refreshed my phone on November 3rd.

I woke up November 4th and went straight to my phone, thinking that I would have a notification with the winner. Nope. Throughout the workday I would refresh my phone, making myself anxious looking at the percentages. I couldn’t help it. It was like watching a train wreck. I just couldn’t look away. And even if I could look away, I’d be getting updates from your Auntie Hong at work. She was on it. I loved working with your Auntie Hong. She’d give me updates while she was on break and I was on duty about the election. Little did she know I had the tab open on the laptop as I did my work, refreshing every 10 minutes or so.

Kids, when you’re in distress, turn to memes. I will say that the memes about waiting for Nevada and how fuckin slow they were counting their ballots was what kept the situation light. The memes made it funny, even though inside everyone was trippin out. By Thursday and Friday, I just assumed that we weren’t going to know the winner until atleast November 12th – the date Nevada gave us regarding their mail in ballots. I tuned it out of my mind, but still I refreshed my phone screen everytime it came to mind again.

On November 7, 2020, at around 8:12 AM, your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl came to pick up your dad and I from our San Francisco house. We were going to meet up my Auntie Salvie, your Uncle Michael, Uncle Ryan, Kuya Jacob & Brayden, and Ate Ava to go hiking. This is something we starter during quarantine. We couldn’t be at Tatay’s house, and we were all cautious about social distancing. But we missed the family hangouts. So we would hike every Saturday, wearing masks and catching up.

“Here.” Your Ninang Merl texted me.

Your dad and I got in the car, and we were on our way to the hiking meeting spot. Of course, all we could talk about was the election. Your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl kept talking politics, talking about which states we needed to win, how corrupt both parties are, etc. Through all this noise, your dad pulled out his phone. He said out loud that Biden won and showed me his phone. I looked at the top that read “The Associated Press has called this race.”

“Wait. The Associated Press called it. That means its official?!” I said in disbelief, searching it on my phone.

We all couldn’t believe it. But something in me was hesitant to believe. So I waited it out. We went on the hike, and your Uncle Ryan and Auntie Salvie started getting notifications through apps and websites. We had a new president. I was still hesitant to look at my phone. I didn’t want to be taken out of the present moment to be glued to my phone, so I saved my stalking and fact checking for after the hike. I couldn’t get it out of my head the excitement and relief I felt. This was really happening? I couldn’t believe it.

After the hike I went on social media and everyone was posting about it. We had a new president. We got Trump out of office, and by his tweets, he was not happy about it. I was in awe. I will say that I had little to no faith in America to vote Trump out. I really hoped we would, but was I confident? Hell nah. I really thought that these swing states were going to disappoint again. I’m so happy that they didn’t though.

I had so many things racing through my mind. Trump was out of office! But there was a lot of work to be done, voting him out was the first step to rebuilding. And then I thought… holy shit, our Vice President is a woman. Not only a woman, but a Black and Indian woman. The first woman to be vice president. I couldn’t believe that I was living this historic day in history. I got to see the first black man become president, and now, I got to see the first black and brown woman to be vice president.

This was big. Your Papa Lando was dropping us back to our San Francisco house because we still had a lot of laundry to do. But I knew people were going to start gathering on the streets. I knew there were celebrations about to explode. And I was right. People took it to the streets, from San Francisco, to New York, to even Canada. I wanted to go out and celebrate as well, but your Papa Lando was afraid for our safety. Which I was hesitant about too. Not only that, but your dad reminded me that we’re in the middle of a fuckin’ pandemic. So, your dad and I celebrated by ordering food and gorging ourselves. By 8 PM we decided to swing by the Haight. Your dad had something to pick up, and we decided to pick up some pizza while we were there. It was dark, cold, and getting a little late, but people were still driving by honking and cheering.

We ordered our extra large pizza and waited outside, that was the new thing to do in the COVID era. I remember looking into the pizza shop and seeing their TV on the news. They kept showing scenes and clips from different parts of America of people celebrating. Clips of Biden and Harris filled the screen. That was our new president and vice president. I thought of how historic this day was. How cool it was to finally have a woman as a vice president. Thinking it won’t be long until we have a woman as a president.

I was hopeful for the future. The last 4 years under Trump was like watching a Circus shit show. The end to his presidency was what America needed after a rough 2020. Kids, I hope by the time you read this that the world has changed for the better. I hope you’re in complete shock that a woman was elected for the first time in my lifetime, because there are so many women of color in office as you read this. I hope this post ages well, and I can tell you that Biden and Harris did a hell of a good job. I hope they do, and it’s up to me and other Americans to hold them accountable.

Kids, that’s what I was doing on Saturday, November 7, 2020, when history was made.

I Voted

I voted.

I know I’m making my 7th grade teacher, Dr.Piro (RIP), proud.

I did it early through the mail just to avoid the crowd.

I turned in my ballot in the mailbox 2 weeks early and felt a sense of relief,

But if you told me my vote got stolen, not counted, or thrown out, at this point I wouldn’t be in disbelief.

I’m anxious about the next couple of days to hear the verdict and the feeling just lingers,

I’ll be damned if I find out once again that our president will be Mr. Twitter fingers.

I voted because I want to be the change I want to see,

Even if that means that part of America doesn’t agree with me.

I voted.

But I wish my vote would actually count,

The electoral college system is so fucked up and fills me with so much doubt.

Why is it that my vote “isn’t that important,” given that California will always be “blue” ?

They say that every vote counts, but in fact, that’s not necessarily true.

We’re stuck in a system where 1 vote doesn’t actually mean 1 vote,

Through this system we put a man in office who throws it in our face to gloat.

This is some fucked up shit and I feel I have to share,

People ride so hard for this dude but in reality he doesn’t even care.

Sometimes I have wild ideas like moving to a swing state to make my vote count more – so it won’t swing red,

I’m baffled that people don’t see Trump for who he is – it just doesn’t seem to get through their head.

But I voted.

Because I am a colored woman with a voice,

I’ll be damned if I sit and do nothing while this Cheeto tries to take away our choice.

Our choices with our bodies, lovers, rights, and the whole nine.

We’re 4 years deep and it’s finally about damn time.

Get this man out, give him the boot,

Meanwhile civilians are still in the streets begging, “Don’t shoot.”

It’s crazy to think that I’m still having these political conversations with certain old people – and they still are shocked,

Shocked that they can’t change my mind to believe their weirdo racist patriotic shit, got tired of it so they just got blocked.

Blocked not because I can’t see the disagreeing side,

But because what you preach is some racist bullshit that I simply won’t let slide.

Keeping my peace of mind is more important than trying to get my point across,

To ignorant, small minded, brainwashed people, who glorify the guy on the cross.

But you don’t practice what you preach about love and human decency,

But politics and religion shouldn’t even be mixed – I say that frequently.

November 2 and 3, the days that I’ve kinda dreaded,

Scared because I don’t know what direction this nation is headed.

So I voted.

Even if some people will disagree,

I am hopeful, I want change, it will come, and it starts with you and me.

It may not come fast, but I’m hoping for eventually.

Past Lives

I’ve walked passed this quote a couple of times before finally snapping a photo. Everytime I walked passed it and read it in my head, my mind would wonder. What does this mean? What is this for? All I knew was that it made me think for interpretations, and it sounded deep. You know me, always trying to find meaning and the bigger picture in things. I told myself that I would take a picture of it when I finally came to a conclusion on what I thought it meant. After walking past it many times, and still not really knowing, I snapped a picture anyways.

I started thinking of the quote in its literal sense. “Past lives.” That has always been something I’ve wondered about. I grew up Catholic, raised to believe in a Heaven and a Hell. But I feel like I believe in a mix of different beliefs from different cultures and religions. The thought of having “past lives” has always been intriguing to me. And I believe it to an extent, but simultaneously believing in an afterlife. Which I don’t know how both could be achieved at the same time but I still believe in both. Not necessarily a “Heaven,” like I was taught to believe, but an afterlife in some shape or form.

I grew up on the Montel Williams show – don’t even ask why I was in 2nd grade watching that grown up shit when I should’ve been watching cartoons – I guess I’m an old soul. Anyways, a guest he would have once a week on his show was psychic, Sylvia Browne. She claimed to have psychic abilities that helped her talk to people that have passed, could tell the future, was super into astrology, and all this stuff that I’m totally into. You know, the stuff that’s highly debated, and it’s either a hard yes you believe in it, or no, that’s a load of garbage. I believed, and I was such a fan of her readings. There was one time where Sylvia read a person in the audience, and said in a past life, they were shot and killed in war. Sylvia told the audience member that their birthmark is where they got shot. I thought that was amazing – how a detail from a past life could be reborn into the next lifetime.

If past lives really exist, I find myself thinking of what my past lives were like. On some Avatar the Last Airbender shit, I think about what burdens and downfalls my past selves have been through, and how I’m trying to redeem myself in this lifetime. If pastlives are a thing, I wonder what I was like. What are the similarities? What are the differences? What were my stories? Watching Avatar the Last Airbender, and seeing Aang connect with his past lives made me want to learn more on the subject. I know it’s a cartoon, but Aang had to understand his past and their past struggles to understand how to go about things in this lifetime. It explained his grief, guilt, and motivation to save the world. I wonder what I’m trying to achieve in this lifetime.

Sometimes I believe that reincarnation is another way of finding peace, and until you reach that peace, you will keep being reborn into the next life. I don’t know, I have a lot of theories. And I am content and cool with knowing that I don’t know everything. The goal of being at peace and coming to terms with oneself is a theme that I don’t take lightly. People carry around so much emotional baggage, whether that be guilt, trauma, anger, pride, the list goes on. A huge part of me believes that whatever you don’t come to terms with or make peace with in this lifetime, you’ll repeat in the next life until you deal with those emotions and resolve whatever it is that is keeping you earthbound.

Another theory I have is that there is no Heaven or Hell. Those that have passed on are still “around,” and roam as they please. But those that did not make peace with their demons are earthbound and repeating either their death, or whatever it is that they can’t move on from, until they can let go and come to terms. I’ve watched a lot of ghost stories on TV, and it seems like the people that have passed on and are “haunting” an area or person and don’t mean harm, are just really lost souls who need help getting to the “other side.” It’s crazy to think of that scenario – that unfinished business in your lifetime can follow you and restrict you from an afterlife.

If I’m being totally honest, I don’t really know what I believe more than the other. If people can really find each other through multiple lifetimes, that’s a beautiful thing. You know when you just click with someone and feel like you’ve known them for a while but you just met? But who can really know. All I know is that if past lives really exist, I hope I’m lucky enough to find people I love and connect with in this lifetime in the next lifetime. All this pastlife talk was the first thing that came to mind when I was trying to find the meaning of this quote. But then I thought harder.

Past lives doesn’t always have to be dying. It can be the life you used to live, but now don’t. We go through different stages in life, and some characteristics remain the same, but other times we leave completely different people. Like people who have had addiction problems but now live a completely clean life, people who used to be players but suddenly settled down, people that thought negatively but switched their inner voice to only speak peace, etc. “Last night was the last night of my past life.” That speaks volumes.

It reminds me of the story I posted about my weight gain and body positivity journey. There was a breaking point in my journalism night class where I told myself, “Enough. I can’t live like this anymore. I can’t go my whole life hating the body I’m in.” That night was the last night of my past life. I left behind a part of my life that was dark, negative, and self-loathing. A lot of people feel this way during nasty break ups and toxic relationships. I’ve had my fair share of trash people enter my life. But the moment I said enough and closed that chapter, I knew that life wasn’t for me anymore.

I’ve been the listening ears to so many friends that let people from their past mess up the current life they have worked hard to build. I’ve also been there and done that – with friendships, relationships, sometimes even with family. I’ve learned that it’s okay to let some people stay in your past. And no, them hitting you up doesn’t mean it’s a sign haha. But for real, when you see patterns in people, situations, and attitudes – and you finally realize you don’t want to be a part of that – let it go gracefully and carry on. Letting stuff go and letting things stay in the past can be very emotional and sometimes even traumatic. But I feel like there’s so much inner peace that comes with deciding to move forward and let the past become the past.

Sometimes our past can haunt us. I know I felt that way for certain situations – where I felt like what I went through defined who I was as a person. I felt as if my past would drag me down, and the negative I’ve experienced was my story. But fuck that. My story is forever changing. Your past doesn’t define you. It helped shape you into who you are, but what you were doesn’t have to follow you into the new life you want to live. Sometimes I even refer to the past me as “me in another life” because sometimes it really does feel like a whole lifetime ago. You step back and you see how far you’ve grown. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but that’s when you need to take accountability and self-reflect on what parts of you needs healing.

Filipino American History Month

Daly City / San Francisco born and raised. Daly City, California, is known for the huge Filipino presence. People joke around that Daly City is basically “Little Manila.” I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area that is so culturally diverse, but also, had people that had the same background and traditions as myself. I know that a few hours out of the Bay Area in either direction is a totally different story. So I didn’t realize until my early 20’s how lucky I was to grow up here. I know there are a lot of people that have stories about being some of the only Asians at their high school and feeling the need to conform to those around them, which usually meant acting more white.

Of course, when I was younger, I was unaware of how fortunate I was to live in an area where some people have the same features as me, speak the same 2nd language as me, and have similar traditions as my family. At the time, all of this was my normal reality. I went to a Catholic school that highlighted a Filipino-Chinese Saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, every year. And everytime September rolled around, we would have San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass during school hours. I would feel such a sense of pride. Mr. Mills’ class always “hosted” that mass, and I remember since Kindergarten going to the mass every year.

One student would recite sentence by sentence Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English, and another student would translate that sentence in Tagalog. I can still remember the script: “Lorenzo Ruiz, our first martyr.” “Lorenzo Ruiz, una naming martir…” There was a specific song we sang at the mass that was entirely in Tagalog. I couldn’t understand the whole song, but I could understand majority of it. This was my “normal” growing up. Celebrating a Filipino Saint, for example, was “normal,” but now I look back and realize it’s because we had such a big Filipino community in the Bay Area. And I took so much pride in it. I was so proud.

When I was in 5th grade I was finally in Mr. Mills’ class. I was excited because I knew that I had the chance to play a role in the mass since he hosted it every year. When Mr. Mills started to ask for volunteers, my hand was one of the first to shoot up in the air. I wanted to be a part of San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass so bad. The mass highlighted Filipinos and our language, and I wanted to be involved. Luckily, Mr.Mills picked me to have a part in the mass. I was going to be reading the English translation of Ruiz’s story. I was so excited because it was something I had watched for years from the church pews, but now, I’d be the one presenting it.

I practiced every night with my lines. The mass was going to be in front of the whole school, definitely more than 600 people. We would practice in the church, and I would have the microphone. I was known for being a loud mouth, which is probably why I was picked to read and have the role. Mr. Mills would always tell us, “Project your voice. Enunciate!” I could probably use my regular voice and people in the church could hear me without a microphone, so I was solid. I remember the day of the mass, I started to get stage fright. I looked out into the crowd and saw all eyes on me, as Ivan and I stood infront of the whole school. We told Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English and in Tagalog, and after, I felt such a sense of pride that I got to be a part of something that highlighted my people.

Even though I grew up in a place where there were a lot of Filipinos, I still didn’t understand why nobody on TV looked like me. I would get excited watching shows that had an Asian person, and it was even more heart eyes if I knew they were Filipino as well. It was to the point where my sisters and I would say things like, “Look, an Asian!” “Do you think they’re Filipino?” “I bet maybe they’re half,” when we would see an Asian on TV. So even though I came from an area that was very Filipino/ Asian dense, I knew from a young age that Asians were  not being represented on the TV screens. From Manny Pacquiao, to Shay Mitchell, to Apl.de.ap, to Jokoy, to Jasmine Trias on American Idol, once we caught wind of them being Filipino, we rode hard for them. On Balitang America, the Filipino news station that broadcasted American news through the Filipino lens, they would feature any Filipino making a name for us in America. From the music industry, to entertainment, to education. 

I feel like Filipinos are very proud of other Filipinos who “make it.” Even if they have a small following, just claiming their Filipino heritage will have other Filipinos rep them. I even remember going on Shay Mitchell’s Ask back in the day and asking if she was really half Filipino. She actually responded and confirmed that she was in fact half Filipina. It made me so proud that an actress that I looked up to was representing us on the screen. I even recall reading interviews where Shay talked about growing up in an area that was mostly white, and being biracial had her feeling left out. Seeing people that look like me on the screen was important growing up. I was the kind of kid that literally set a “Filipino For Lyfe” themed MySpace background. Jokoy described seeing other Filipinos on TV as motivation to go for his dreams and make it as well. 

When I got to high school the history books just touched on Filipino American history oh so briefly. I used to skim through the history books in middle school and see where Filipinos or the Philippines was ever brought up. It wouldn’t be much. High school was a weird time. Going to a high school in Daly City meant that there were gonna be a lot of Filipinos. It wasn’t always the case, but sometimes there would be snarky comments (sometimes from people I was even cool with) complaining about how the whole school is mostly Filipino / Asian. Being Asian or Filipino in Daly City didn’t make you special. You were just like everybody else. Which I saw was a good thing when I was younger. But then I hit my teen years and wanted to be different, I didn’t want to be “like everyone else.”

I wasn’t ashamed to be Filipino, but I wasn’t repping it hard like I used to. Why would I have to rep it if everyone and their mama was Filipino in Daly City anyways? Don’t get me wrong – I still would be happy when I saw a Filipino coming up. But at the same time I wouldn’t plaster “Filipino For Lyfe” as a MySpace background anymore because I thought it was cringe. At this age I was on the prowl for a boyfriend (cringe lyfe), and when people would ask if I would ever get with a Filipino guy, I’d respond in a way that made it seem like “never in a thousand years.” Which I thought was okay, since I’m Filipino too. “What if I find out they’re my cousin or something?!” I would say. Which by the way, isn’t too far fetched, my family on both sides are pretty big.

I would say it wasn’t until I got to SFSU and joined the journalism program did I start to get that sense of pride back again. Suddenly, my whole perspective shifted. I took on the role of “journalist” and was bothered over the fact that a great portion of newsrooms are ran by white people. White men to be exact. The lack of diversity in journalism is what ticked me off. And I wanted to change that. I wanted to represent my people and capture stories of people in my community, and branch out further. Suddenly, that pride was back. But that pride was matched with determination. Determined to make change and actually make a difference. I wasn’t giving people a “voice,” because everyone has a voice. I wanted to be so open and chill that anyone felt like they could open up to me and tell their stories, and describe to me their raw emotions.

Suddenly, I had a mission. I wanted to get more in touch with my culture, the good and the bad. And since being on this journey, I have learned a lot, just by talking to people casually about their own experiences. I started to embrace my Filipino culture with open arms again, like how I did when I was a kid. I didn’t care if I was 1 out of 2 billion Filipinos in the Bay Area. I didn’t care about the “Little Manila” jokes anymore. I wanted to learn more about my people’s history, their stories, their struggles. And I wanted to write it. Not some random journalist who is just trying to bang out another story. I didn’t want someone else to be writing our stories.

Especially being out of school, I have made efforts to try to educate myself on my own. I remember writing a paper in community College about how my dad’s side of the family arrived to America. Just by talking to the members of my own family, I uncovered historic events. My great grandfather was a prisoner of War and survivor of the Bataan Death March. This information I would’ve never known if I didn’t have the school assignment, and if I never asked for the story. I started becoming obsessed with other people’s stories. My whole life I’ve been the talker. And now, I’m taking on the role of listener and teacher.

October is Filipino American history month. Every month, we teach the kids at my school about a new country. This month, I chose the Philippines. Over the years I have seen the Bay Area, but San Francisco is particular, changing. And changing fast. And it’s nice to teach my 1.5 – 2 1/2 year old students about my culture and traditions. One of my students got picked up and told her mom she painted a flag for activity. Her mom asked if she remembered what country’s flag she painted. My student responded with, “Well, it’s where teacher Marinelle’s mom and dad is from.”

I had the right idea when I was in 5th grade, “Filipino For Lyfe.”

Toy Sounds In The Night

As we get closer to Halloween, it’s only appropriate I share a spooky encounter that happened a few weeks ago…

I’ve always believed in the paranormal. Since a young age I’ve been interested in the after life and what happens to us when we die. I feel like it’s either you believe in ghosts or you don’t, and it’s hard to find people that are inbetween. It’s safe to say that I 100% believe in the paranormal. I enjoy watching TV shows of people telling their real life experiences. I get so engulfed in it, but at the same time I spook myself out. It’s one of those things where I think it’s so fascinating, but I just hope nothing creepy ever happens to me – unless it’s a departed loved one of course.

I believe that people can communicate or give signs even after they pass away. To me, things like dreams, little coincidences, butterflies, a song playing during a significant date, etc, could all be messages from the other side. I know there are people that agree with me, but at the same time I know there’s a huge chunk of people that think I’m out of my fucking mind. And I’m okay with knowing that there is a 50% chance that half of y’all think I’m a lunatic. To me, knowing a loved one is still having your back and is somewhat still with you is cool. But the ironic and funny thing is – I’m easily frightened.

I’ve always wondered what I would do if I lived in a “haunted house,” since I am a believer. Christian, on the other hand, is not. I always tell him about dreams I have, butterflies being my “Mama” and “Tatay Celso” (my grandparents that have passed), the volume on the TV going significantly higher or lower, etc. He’s 100% a skeptic, so he would look at me with a raised eyebrow trying not to be rude. But it would beso obviously written all over his face that he thinks I’m trippin’. We have had multiple talks on multiple occasions where I give him a million different scenarios.

“What if our future house was haunted, would you believe me?!”

“What if I experienced things but you didn’t, would you take my word or you would think I’m being paranoid?”

“You better not treat me like I’m crazy!”

He’s the type that needs proof for everything. To him, and many others, things can be explained away as a coincidence or have a reason for what is happening. Christian likes to make sense of the situation before jumping to paranormal conclusions. I, on the otherhand, will see two butterflies and claim dead grandparents right off the bat. I guess a part of me always wanted to open his eyes to believe that there is some things we just really can’t explain away. And maybe – just maybe – I could change his beliefs of life after death. However, I didn’t think I would prove my point in our new living situation…

When we first moved into the new space, we were excited and getting used to the new living situation. It was weird for me because I have lived in the same house my whole life. But now, I was in a new environment, living in an old Victorian San Francisco house. I was so used to seeing the house in the daytime, that it was so weird being in the house at night. In fact, seeing the house in the night time without all the lights being turned off gave me an eerie feeling. I had to learn all the new noises and creeks of the floor and walls. I had to learn to be comfortable and not get scared off of every little thing. It was just a lot of change mixed with all the scary shit I would watch on TV.

The first couple of days, me and Christian would hear noises that we couldn’t explain away. Surprisingly, I was the one saying things like “it’s probably just the ____” or saying it’s because the house is old. And to add to the surprise, Mr. Skeptic was the one getting freaked out. I was surprised to see that Christian was the one that was more spooked from all the noises. I was a little scared, but I knew that it’s an old San Francisco house, and we weren’t used to it yet. I was shocked to see that the man who was certain he wasn’t a believer was suddenly having a change of heart. And to be completely honest, I didn’t play my usual scaredy-cat role because I figured, “Fuck, we can’t both be scared!” A part of me was really scared when he would say things like, “did you hear that? What is that?” But I didn’t want to acknowledge it, fearing that it would suddenly manifest into something bigger. Ignore, ignore, ignore, was my mentality.

What was the absolute cherry on top was when I noticed something had fallen off of the wall. It was in the morning, and Christian had already left for work. I walked passed the living room to get to the kitchen, got my breakfast and walked passed the livingroom again. This time I noticed it. The little foldable roof topper that connected to the wall was on the floor. This wasn’t unusual. The topper gets heavy and sometimes rips the 3M hook right off the wall. But this time was different. The foldable roof was neatly flat on the floor, and the 3M hook was still on the wall. How could this be? I touched the 3M hook in disbelief. How? The hook was about 1.5 inches facing up, there was no way that thing could come off on its own without the 3M hook coming off as well. But yet, the hook was still completely stuck to the wall. I asked co-workers and Christian later, and everyone had no explanation. No more ignoring – I was thoroughly creeped out.

To be sure and for some peace of mind, I invited my best friends to come over to help me sage the place. It was getting to a point where Christian and I were a little nervous everytime we heard something we couldn’t explain. Justine bought me a “palo santo” stick and a crystal, and we used the oven to light it. Justine and I went through every part of the house, saging every room, closet, and crevice, speaking words of positivity and affirmations that only light and positivity was welcome. All the while a pregnant Cam chilled in the kitchen typing out her pregnancy reveal post for Instagram and Shonalyn stayed in the livingroom staying on a roommate call that lasted about 45 minutes.

I don’t care what anyone says, it worked. I felt so much lighter after we saged the house. The house itself felt so much lighter, quieter, as if the air had been lifted. After that day, we didn’t hear anything that had us on edge. It gave us peace of mind. Over the last couple of weeks we have been getting used to the new living situation and most importantly, living with each other. We have been together for almost 5.5 years, and we know each other pretty well. But living together is a whole new thing. We now have the opportunity to see how each other really live. And thankfully, we could do that peacefully without thinking our house was haunted.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday night, we were chillin in the room. I told Christian to light our candle because the house smelled like the dinner we just finished eating. Since we just moved in, we didn’t have any lighters or matches. So Christian used the school’s birthday candle that he lit with the oven to light our fragrant candle. Christian played Fall Guys with his brother on the PS4, and I was sitting hunchback hovering over my 20 pages of notes for Blog Post #60. Y’all remember how long that story was, so I was hard-core typing, trying so hard to write atleast 15 paragraphs by the time I fell asleep.

About 30 minutes into writing, I heard a toy going off in the next room. I got a little scared, since it was about 10:30 PM and the all the lights, except in our room, was off. I knew exactly what toy it was too. It was a toy structure that you could race 2 little toy cars down, and it made car engine / beeping sounds. I ignored it. I had 15 paragraphs to write, that’s equivalent to atleast 5 pages on Microsoft Word. I continued on with my writing. About 15 minutes later I heard the toy go off again. Just something about night time makes everything seem a thousand times scarier. Christian had 1 earphone on and was talking to his brother playing the game. Something in me didn’t want to acknowledge it, nervously thinking about what could happen if I say something and it keeps happening.

For anyone that isn’t familiar with “Fall Guys,” it’s a game that basically reminds me of Ninja Warrior but with 60 opponents. Your character is a little, short, chubby chode looking jellybean that you get to dress up in funny outfits. It starts off with you and 59 other people, and you have to complete an obstacle course. If you complete it in time, you qualify to move onto the next obstacle course. Slowly, people get cut off and you don’t stop playing until you lose or you win the crown, meaning you were the last one standing and won the whole thing. Christian has been obsessed with this game recently, and I know that it gets intense where he can’t immediately get up and do something if I ask. I bet other gamer girlfriends can relate *rolls eyes.*

Anyways, when the toy went off the 2nd time I was like oh hell nah. I was getting pretty sleepy, and usually when I set a paragraph goal for myself I always take breaks inbetween – which is honestly annoying as fuck of myself because I have to regain motivation to write again and stop messing around. So, I sprawled out on the bed and began to close my eyes and dose off a little bit. I heard the toy go off. I don’t remember which came first – if I told Christian about the toy going off before or after I laid down. But I heard the toy and got up immediately, wide awake no longer about to fall asleep.

By this time Christian was aware of the toy going off. At first he didn’t hear it, but then it started going off more frequently. “Oh yeah, I hear it now,” he had told me. He explained to his brother over the mic that one of the toys in the school was going off and he needed to turn it off after the game, but he couldn’t because he was still in the competition. In fact, he had the audacity to tell me to turn it off as he played. I refused. I was not about to confront whatever was making that thing go off on my own. We agreed to go together once the game ended.

But the toy was going off every minute. I don’t think Christian got how nerve wrecking it was for me since he had 1 earphone blasting the Fall Guys music and also hearing his brother. I got so anxious. “Do you not hear that?!” I frantically asked him. He told me he did hear it but they were still in the game. My heart was beating so fast. Then it seemed to be going off every 30 seconds! *engine turning on sound* *chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-beep beep!* I was terrified.

“Christian!” I felt like I was on the verge of having a panic attack. All the while Christian is having a conversation with his brother about them barely making it to the finish line. My heart was beating so fast and his frantic “omg we’re not gonna make it!” type of dialog added to the anxiety I was feeling.

“Yeah I hear it,” he said inbetween talking to his brother, “Yeah dude one of the toys is going crazy right now.”

By this time there was no pause inbetween. The toy was going off repeatedly non-stop. I felt like crying. I didn’t know what to do. I was fucking terrified and felt like I was gonna go into fight or flight mode. Was I going to run in that room and see what was going on? Or was I going to call an Uber back to my parents’ house and get the fuck out? Waiting for Christian to be done with the game seemed like a lifetime. I wanted it to stop. I needed that toy to stop. Hearing the sound going off non-stop had me mentally fucked. I was so scared.

“Oooo! Ohhh! Fuck yeah! Yesssss!” Christian is yelling outloud, qualifying for the next round as his Fall Guy makes it over the finish line.

The upbeat tempo was making me anxious as hell. Everything from the toy going off non-stop, to Christian yelling and winning on the game, to me sitting there being over stimulated with all the commotion. When I thought I couldn’t get any more creeped out, the toy started to freak out even more. It went from going off non-stop, to being so frantic that it wasn’t even completing the full audio anymore. It went from *engine sound, chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-beep-beep!* for what seemed like a lifetime to *engine sound, chuga-chuga-chuga-engine sound-engine sound-chuga-chuga-engine sound- engine sound, chuga-beep-beep!* As if someone impatiently had their finger on the button and was ringing it non-stop, so much so that the full audio wouldn’t play, and instead kept getting cut off.

It went like this for about a minute. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I really wanted to break out in tears. Meanwhile Christian is yelling in excitement because he just finished the whole game and won the crown. Finally! He could come with me to turn it off. Once Christian won the game, and he told his brother he was going to turn off the toy, the toy stopped going off. Just like that. We both got up and made our way into the dark hallway.

I knew exactly what toy it was, but Christian was heading the wrong direction. When he headed for the wrong direction, the toy went off again. Almost to signal, “hey, wrong way.” We looked at each other. I was more nervous while he was still on his adrenaline rush from winning 3 or 4 crowns just in that night. I turned on the light in the livingroom, but the room was completely silent. I knew what toy it was, but couldn’t get the words out of my mouth to tell Christian which one it was, as he lifted the cover on the toy shelves to try to find it.

“I don’t know which one it is,” he said.

As he looked through all the toys, I looked passed into the kitchen, which lights were still completely off. I peered my head at an angle, not knowing if I would see someone or something or… honestly I don’t even really know what I was expecting. But when I looked into the dark kitchen, I saw something glowing. The reflection in my air fryer showed something glowing blue. It all started to piece together. Blue glowing light? Reflection? That means it’s across? That means…. that means the stove is on? I stepped foot into the dark kitchen and quickly turned left to look at the oven. One of the oven burners were on. I gasped and turned it off.

“Christian! The oven was still on!”

“What?” He came into the kitchen. I angrily explained to him that he left the burner on when he lit the birthday candle to light our fragrant candle.

“I feel like whoever was making that toy go off was trying to tell us the burner was still on,” I said. At that exact moment after finishing the sentence, the toy went off again. *car engine, chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-beep-beep!*

We looked at each other and I immediately took the toy and turned it off. I wondered if it was Christian’s grandpa, who passed away just a few months prior, giving us a heads up that we were about to burn the whole fucking house down. What initally had me scared out of my mind, suddenly brought me comfort, thinking if it were my loved ones, or one of Christian’s having our back from the other side. I wondered what would’ve happened that night if that toy didn’t obnoxiously go off that night. It was close to midnight, so we probably would’ve just went straight to sleep after I hit my writing goal and Christian was done with video games, without even thinking twice to go back into the kitchen. I look back and realize that the toy started bugging out once I took a break and started dozing off on the bed.

I truly believed whoever was responsible for making that toy go off, was looking out for me and Christian. That was something not even Christian the Skeptic could explain away. It seemed too much of a coincidence to just be a random occurrence.

30 Years Married – The Pandemic Anniversary

For as long as I can remember, my family and I have always celebrated my parents’ anniversary in Reno. We would get so excited that we would pack days in advance. My sisters and I would wake up early on those Saturday mornings and prepare for the long drive with snacks. That’s how you know we were going on a trip – when my mom bought the family size bags of all our favorite snacks. That 4 hour drive used to seem like forever. Getting to the rest stop in the mountains was a sign that we had less than halfway to go. I can still see me and my sisters waiting on the side of the lobby as my parents checked in, fighting over who has to hold the Beauty and the Beast suitcase. I can still remember those late nights at Circus Circus, playing the games, winning stuffed animals, and watching the live shows. Then, before going back to the room, getting ice cream would be a must. Me and Merl would play with the stuffed toys we won, and we would stay up late watching TV. That’s how it’s always been, until we got older and turned to the pool instead of Circus Circus. But with the current pandemic, this time around we skipped our annual tradition and kept it local.

This weekend we celebrated my parents’ 30 year wedding anniversary. “But 36 years together!” My mom always adds in. 30 years married and 36 years together, since their wedding date and official date are 6 years and 1 day apart. We’ve always celebrated their anniversary together as a family. But this anniversary felt different. There’s something about every tenth wedding anniversary that gets to you, it’s one of those big milestones. 3 decades married made all 5 of us feel old in our own way. Especially since we weren’t celebrating the way we usually do was definitely a sign of the times. I got my parents, but especially my mom, these orchids because “if someone gives it to you, it will bring good luck.” Haha.We’ll forever remember that their 30th wedding anniversary was during a pandemic. But still, 3 decades is definitely something to celebrate, even if we’ve all been pretty good about distancing and avoiding crowded public places.

We decided to keep it local and celebrated at Pier 39, a place we used to go to when we were younger. If I’m remembering correctly, this is the first family outing we have been to since the shutdown happened in mid-March, aside from drive through birthday parties. I had my first outside dining experience since COVID-19, and it felt a little weird being out again. My dad made it a point to say that he would not eat inside a restaurant. Thankfully, it was a sunny day in San Francisco and outside dining was pleasant…. for the rest of the family, while I – of course – sizzled in the sun because my seat wasn’t in the shade. We had the table furthest from everyone else, with the view of the water and boats. I was blind and slowly baking in the sun majority of the time, but it was still nice. After Pier 39, we played tourists in San Francisco, passing Ghirardelli Square, going down Lombard Street, looking over the city at Coit Tower parking lot since it was still closed, and riding through Chinatown. And apparently my dad took us to where he and my mom had their first date.

My dad and uncle were best friends in high school, and that’s where my parents’ love story begins. Without Uncle Rey, my sisters and I probably wouldn’t be here! They were always at the same functions since my mom and uncle were brother and sister and ran in similar friend groups. I’ve heard about the late night hangouts, bowling, picnics, and all the places they used to go to to meet up with friends. It’s kind’ve crazy to think of my parents as teenagers / young adults. My little sister described it saying, “isn’t it crazy that mom and dad have always been a part of our lives but they had a whole other life before us?” Something that I’ve always thought of, but more so now as I enter into my adult life and think of my future.

Anyways, my mom always tells us how she knew my dad was a good guy because of this particular story. He asked to take her out and she said yes, but only if her home girls could come along too. He said yeah and treated them all out. To my mom, she saw it as him being a very generous guy because he was kind to her friends even though he originally only asked her to hangout. Long story short, they started dating. 6 years into dating, they decided to get married. It’s so crazy to think that my mom got married when she was 26. To put it into context, that would be like me getting married next year. Growing up, I’ve always put my mom’s timeline along with mine as certain age “markers” to eyeball when it would be appropriate for me to do the same – like get married, move out, have kids.

It’s crazy to think that they’ve been together for that long! 30 years married, 36 years together. Damn. Growing up, I thought nothing of it. But now as an adult, I’m more at awe when celebrating their anniversaries. Especially since I see now how a relationship is hard work. If you want something to work, you really have to work for it. My mom was 20 when they first got together, and that is a lot of changing, evolving, and growing together over the years. And it’s sweet to know that they’ve been there for each other through every stage of life. My parents’ marriage taught me that no relationship is perfect, there will definately be disagreements, but if you’re really committed to someone, you find a way to make it work. My parents are definition of ride or die for each other.

I like how after all these years, we still come together as a family for their anniversaries. When we were younger, our trips to Reno were the vacations we looked forward to. Our parent’s anniversary was like a holiday to us. We got to celebrate and get treated out. We got to play games, win prizes, and spend their money. As we got older though, I will admit that Reno and Cache Creek hotels lost it’s touch. We were starting to be in our late teens and early 20’s, and Circus Circus just didn’t have the same effect as it used to. I think this time around, with the pandemic and all of us being young adults – 29, 25, and 23 – we are seeing that these anniversaries are important and… dare I say… limited.

As I grow older it makes me melancholy knowing that not everything lasts forever. So I’m cherishing these moments more because I never know what life will be like 1 year from now, 5 years from now, 1 decade from now when we’re celebrating 40 years of marriage. Now it’s our time to give back to the selfless parents that chose to spend all of their anniversaries with their kids. Now we take them out and treat them out for their anniversary. Oh how the tables have turned, but I like it better that way. They made us happy taking us places and starting traditions since we were kids, so it’s only appropriate that we return the favor now that we are older.

My parents’ 30th wedding anniversary will definitely be one for the books. The pandemic anniversary. Haha. But I’m glad we got to spend it all together as a family. “ThAnK yOu, gUuUysSS!” My dad said in a dumb voice as we drove off leaving Pier 39….We all broke out laughing. That’s the Cabillo’s for ya – can’t show affection properly but be feelin’ all the feelz.

Krizhna & Zarnee’s Journey to Parenthood

Krizhna and Zarnee’s love story began in 2009 at Westmoor High. They started off as friends their first 2 years of high school, but that changed their junior year. They had multiple classes together and always seemed to be partnered up in English class. Krizhna explains how she always saw Zarnee as just a friend, until she realized that he was always there for her in her time of need, even if that meant venting about another guy. The best friends slowly but surely turned into lovers. This was the start of their journey. Zarnee made their relationship official on December 22, 2011 at the local Macy’s. His support and presence – what initally drew Krizhna to Zarnee – would be tested as they experienced parenthood together.

The couple was 4 years into their relationship when they decided to start their family in 2015. They were both barely 20 years old, and knew people would think they were insane to try to have a baby at that age, so they kept it hush hush. They didn’t have an exact reason as to why they wanted to start a family so bad, but knew it was something they both wanted. At the time, Zarnee and his family were not on talking terms, and at that point, he was out of their house for 2 years already. In a way, starting their own family would compensate for his broken family relationship.

During her break one day, Krizhna went to Target to purchase a pregnancy test. Her best friend and co-worker at the time, Kadigah, was actually the first person to know Krizhna was pregnant. She texted a photo of the positive pregnancy test to an ecstatic Zarnee who was doing laundry. Their joy was through the roof, and they were excited to finally have a family of their own.

“I think that was the first time in a while he was genuinely happy,” Krizhna reminisced.

When it came time to telling Krizhna’s family, she felt as though her mother’s intuition kicked in. Krizhna, her siblings, and her mom sat at the kitchen table in their grandma’s 1.5 bedroom inlaw. She explained that she had something to tell them, but her mom already knew before the words came out of her mouth. Her mom was disappointed but was still supportive. She had the “well, it already happened,” attitude and knew that being upset would not change the fact that she was pregnant. Her siblings were shocked, but followed their mom’s lead. They supported Krizhna’s decision to keep the baby and start a family.

At the time, her dad was still in the Philippines. Krizhna jokes that, “thank god,” her mom was the one that broke the news to him. He was astonished. His attitude was similar to her mom’s. He had told Krizhna, “Well, it’s there already. We just have to accept it.” However, her dad took matters into his own hands and messaged Zarnee on Facebook – asking if he had plans to marry his daughter. In the Filipino culture, being married before having a child is seen as an “essential” step. They felt the pressure of feeling like they “had to” get married, but decided that if they were going to get married, it would be on their terms, not because they feel forced into it. Having a baby on the way didn’t mean they had to rush into marriage to do it the “right way.”

The support from her parents and siblings made Krizhna feel more at ease. But she knew she had one more important person to tell on her side – her grandma. Krizhna, her mom, and siblings lived in her grandma’s home. She has always had high expectations for Krizhna, so when she told her she was pregnant, her grandma had no words. She said very little, sighed, and walked away. Her grandma expressed that she should’ve been focusing on going to college instead of starting a family. Her mom tried to talk to her grandma, telling her that there wasn’t much they could do, they have to just deal with it. Still, her grandma’s mind was made. She wanted Krizhna out of the house – she was so disappointed, she didn’t want to see her. So, she left, at about 2 months pregnant.

She moved in with Zarnee, who was living at a friend’s house. He got kicked out of his family home 2 years prior, and now, his pregnant girlfriend was in the same position. Surprisingly enough, Krizhna expected this reaction from her grandma. She knew that once she told her the news, she was most likely going to get kicked out. Zarnee and Krizhna stayed at their friend’s house a little over 2 months, but they quickly had to find their own place. They looked for different places that they could call home, but ended up getting scammed out of an apartment. Their only option was to live out of their car. They were homeless and living in their car for the remainder of her pregnancy. She was about 4-5 months pregnant.

She was never upset with her mom or siblings for not vouching for her to stay to her grandma. Krizhna’s mom was aware of their living situation, and tried her best to sneak them in when she could. Her grandma would work on the weekends and sleep over her patient’s house. On those days, Krizhna’s mom would sneak her and Zarnee into the house and let them sleep over. When it wasn’t the weekends and her grandma didn’t sleep over at her patient’s house, her mom would still find gaps for them to come to the house to shower or eat. From the beginning of their relationship, Krizhna’s family always liked Zarnee. Prior to the pregnancy, he would offer to drive her family places, and in return her mom would cook more food when she knew he would be coming over, knowing his rocky relationship with his own parents. So even though she got kicked out of the house when she told her grandma she was pregnant, her mom and siblings’ support was still apparent, and she was grateful.

Zarnee, on the other hand, was very conflicted about telling his family about the news. He was kicked out of his family home back in 2013. Their relationship was rocky and he didn’t even know if he should tell them that he was going to be a father. His parents also had high expectations for him, and when they realized that he didn’t want to take the college route, they were very upset. They didn’t agree with his life choices and resented him for not wanting to further his education. The route he decided to take was to work and eventually become a mechanic. Zarnee was confused as to why his family didn’t support his choices. He knew that telling his family that Krizhna was pregnant would be another can of worms, and honestly, he didn’t know if he wanted to open it up.

When Zarnee finally reached out to his parents with the news, they didn’t take it well. They voiced how disappointed they were that the two were going to be parents so young. After he broke the news to them and recieved that reaction, Zarnee and his parents both cut off communication. He didn’t reach out to them and they didn’t reach out to him. He tried his best to remain positive and not let his parents’ words get to him. When he and Krizhna got evicted from his friend’s house, they had nowhere to go. Living in the car with his pregnant girlfriend during cold Bay Area winter was getting the best of him. He knew he had to reach out to his family to ask for help.

He called and let them know that he and Krizhna got evicted from their previous living situation. Zarnee expected some sympathy, but instead, he was greeted on the phone with “I told you so’s.” His parents told him that he put himself in this situation by not listening them. It was “his fault” and he had to deal with it. Alone. Zarnee begged his family to take them in, especially since it was around the holidays during winter time. But his parent’s did not budge on their decision. They couldn’t stay at Krizhna’s grandma’s, they couldn’t stay at Zarnee’s friend’s, and now his parents refused to let them stay at their house as well. Zarnee couldn’t believe it. He felt so betrayed and hurt by his parents’ decision. With still nowhere to stay, they tried their best to remain positive.

“I couldn’t believe that my own parents were not concerned that me and my pregnant girlfriend were sleeping in the car,” Zarnee shared. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything right at that moment.”

On the days where Krizhna’s grandma was home and her mom couldn’t sneak her and Zarnee over, the couple would sleep in their car. When they would saved enough money, they would rent hotel rooms so they could sleep comfortably on a bed. Being homeless and expecting their first child put a lot of a stress on them. They really struggled to weather the storm – not only figuratively, but literally as well. The Bay Area winter was taking its toll on the already struggling couple with more rain and freezing nights.

Krizhna remembers January 18, 2016 to be a very rainy – at times even hailing – day. She and Zarnee were really happy to have a hotel room that night because it meant that she could rest and relax on an actual bed. That night, Krizhna started having intense stomach pains, which prompted Zarnee to call the nurse. This angered Krizhna since she was only 31 weeks pregnant. She knew that she had a handful of weeks left until she would deliver, and didn’t see the need to go to the hospital. But since he already called, they took the advice of the nurse and went to the hospital, straight to the Delivery Department.

When they got there, two nurses quickly admitted Krizhna in and wasted no time hooking her up to machines. She remembers being so confused because no one was really telling her what was wrong or what they were hooking her up to. To add to the confusion, she wasn’t asking many questions either. It was all happening so quickly. They waited at the hospital for a couple of hours because they were told that the high risk doctor wouldn’t be coming in until later. Krizhna dosed off, and a few hours later she was woken up by the doctor who informed her that she would have to be transferred to another hospital. Why? Because they didn’t have the proper equipment to deliver her 31 week old baby. They were in shock, a full term pregnancy is usually 37-40 weeks.

Krizhna was transferred to CPMC. And in her room was the isolette, the little plastic crib where they place new born babies. She asked her nurse if she was going to be giving birth anytime soon since the isolette was in the room. Her nurse confirmed that she indeed was going to be giving birth in a matter of days. Krizhna and Zarnee couldn’t believe it. And on January 22, 2016 – 3 days after being transferred to CPMC – they welcomed their first born, Reginald James.

Krizhna remembers how heartbroken she was. After giving birth to Reginald, she didn’t get to carry him. He went straight into the isolette and then to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Seeing Reginald in the NICU was tough. They remember he was so small and thin that they could see his bone structure. When he was born, he weighed 5 pounds, but he started to lose weight and got down to 2 pounds. The first two weeks of his life were the toughest. They didn’t know if Reginald would make it because he was losing so much weight.

“It was really tough,” Krizhna said. “We witnessed him become a needle bag, lose so much weight to where you could literally see his little tiny bones, to having a feeding tube because he didn’t know how to feed with a bottle.”

“The most challenging was seeing him in the incubator getting smaller and smaller,” Zarnee said recalling how he felt during Reginald’s stay in the NICU. “He had a feeding tube, IV, and a lot of monitors attached to him. There was one instance where he kept moving around too much that the IV wasn’t staying still. So the doctor told us that they had to give him a PICC line. They described it to us as a long thin needle that went from the tip of his finger through the arm to his heart. I remember being so worried…”

Reginald was in the NICU from January 22, 2016 to March 1, 2016. In that time, they got in contact with a social worker who was completely unaware that the couple was homeless and living out of their car. The social worker informed Zarnee and Krizhna that they could stay in one of the rooms in the hospital since that floor was vacant. This way, they could be closer to Reginald since his stay at the NICU would be prolonged, and Krizhna had to pump every 3 hours and supply him with food anyways. This way, they didn’t have to worry about the commute or not being by Reginald’s side. Without hesitation, they accepted the offer. Though the circumstances were unfortunate, they were just relieved that they had a bed to sleep on for the time being.

They stayed in the hospital room the whole time Reginald was in the NICU, about a month and a half. In that time, they really wondered what their next steps would be. Where were they going to live? They had a new born baby now, living in a car would not be ideal. Zarnee had just left his previous job, and Krizhna was on unpaid maternity leave. They felt like they were running out of options. It was when Krizhna’s mom asked her what their living situation was going to be once Reginald was discharged from NICU that made Krizhna realize she had no choice but to reach out to her grandma.

Krizhna knew that she had to put her pride and guilt to the side if she wanted a home for Reginald. She knew that enough time had passed, and that her grandma wasn’t that upset with her anymore. There were times before Reginald was born where her grandma visited her at the hospital, giving her food and checking in on her often. When Krizhna told Zarnee that she planned on asking her grandma if they could stay with her, he agreed. He knew that this was the best decision. And after a lengthy conversation with her grandma, she let Krizhna – and now Krizhna’s little family – know that they were welcome to stay at her house once Reginald was discharged. Krizhna’s grandma was not the only one with a change of heart. Zarnee’s parents brought Krizhna comfort food after she had delivered Reginald, and they were slowly on track to building a relationship again. Things were looking up.

With a roof over their heads, their son out of the NICU, and family bonds being rebuilt, Krizhna and Zarnee felt a weight lifted off their shoulders. They were so eager to start and have a family, and now here they were. Unfortunately, instead of feeling complete and happy, Krizhna felt the exact opposite. The day after Reginald was discharged from the NICU, she drowned herself in work. She remembers working 50+ hour weeks to avoid going home and spending time with her son. She didn’t know why she felt so distant and cold towards the baby she and Zarnee both planned for. So, she used work as a distraction.

Postpartum depression hit Krizhna hard. She felt immense guilt and directly responsible for Reginald being born premature. She blames herself for being under a lot of stress, especially because of being homeless, and taking on a new job at 6 months pregnant to make ends meet. Krizhna believes that it was her fault for why Reginald was not carried to term. He was born at 31 weeks and 5 days, Krizhna beats herself up over the fact that she had 9 more weeks to go. She remembers her last month of being pregnant, she was working double shifts almost everyday and doing a lot of physical work like carrying 30-50 pound boxes.

Krizhna remembers one night where she was so upset. She didn’t know exactly why she was irritated and upset, but all she knew was she wanted Zarnee out. Not fully understanding her emotions, she got so frustrated and took her emotions out on her little family. She told Zarnee to take Reginald and leave, stating that she wanted nothing to do with them. Instead of arguing back and being upset, Zarnee held her and let her cry it out. He was still the guy to be there for her and listen after all these years.

“That moment was when I knew I started a family with the right man,” Krizhna said.

It was confusing for Krizhna because she knew she loved Reginald, but a huge part of her felt like she didn’t want to be a part of his life because she caused him so much physical pain by not carrying him to term. She remembers that first month of his life over and over again in her head – how much he suffered, how scared they were, how helpless he was. And she really believed she was the main source and the one to blame for it all. She used work as a coping mechanism because if she worked more, she wouldn’t have to focus on the fact that she wasn’t bonding with her son, she wouldn’t have to see him, she wouldn’t be reminded of the guilt she felt. So Zarnee cared for Reginald for the first 5 months while she worked.

For the first 5 months of Reginald’s life, Krizhna felt no bond with him. It was really hard because she was still living under her grandma’s roof and being surrounded with family. She felt as though she had to put on a front for her family’s sake because depression is not something that is normalized in her family and her culture as well. There would be times where she would be crying about something that upset her or show that she was upset and her family would brush it off like it wasn’t a big deal. Having people treat her postpartum depression like it didn’t exist or was something not to be upset about really bothered her. She knew her family was supportive of her, but she didn’t feel comfortable to open up about her inner turmoil. Krizhna knew they just wouldn’t get it.

There were many times where Krizhna really felt like seeking professional help for her postpartum depression. But she was terrified. Her worst fear was that they would end up taking Reginald away from them because they’d probably deem her “unfit” to care for a child, and then send her off to a mental hospital. She didn’t feel a connection with him and wanted nothing to do with him, but at the same time she knew that if they were to take him away, she would lose it. Looking back, Krizhna knows that her feelings were in conflict with one another. But she wasn’t going to take that chance of Reginald possibly being taken away.

It wasn’t until Reginald was 5 months old that Krizhna started to bond with him. She remembers the event that changed it all. Reginald was about 5 months old and was really sick. He had a high fever and a boil on his bottom. Zarnee and Krizhna had to take him to the emergency room where they cut his skin open to remove the abscesses from the boil. Reginald was crying like she had never seen him cry before. She could tell that he was in pain by how hysterically he was crying and clenching onto her and Zarnee. Seeing him like that made Krizhna’s heart break.

“Seeing him in that position made me realize how much I love him and how I would do anything to take away his pain,” Krizhna said remembering that emergency room visit. “Ever since that day, I grew closer to Reginald and started appreciating the fact that even though he was born early, he is alive and healthy.”

A little after Reginald’s first birthday, the couple had startling news. She was pregnant again. Krizhna was on the pill briefly, but stopped because she was getting bad side effects. She was not ready for another baby. She called her best friend, Karina, and told her about the news. She cried and vented out her frustrations and worries. After the call, she showed Zarnee the positive pregnancy test. He was so shocked that he didn’t know what to say. Krizhna explained to him that she was not ready to have a second child so soon, and she didn’t know if she wanted to keep it. Zarnee supported her in whatever decision she chose, but they both slept on it. The next morning, she still didn’t make a decision.

It actually took a couple of days of going back and forth on the idea of keeping the baby or not. A few days after finding out she was pregnant, they finally came to a conclusion. They were going to follow through with the second pregnancy. What made them sway in that favor? The two of them thought about their first born and how much he means to them. They couldn’t picture what life would be like without him and they loved him so much. Reginald was the best thing that has ever happened to them, so they knew that even though they weren’t ready, they’ll get through it as long as they have each other.

They were both hesitant to tell their families about the news. Not because they thought they wouldn’t be supportive, but because of how her first pregnancy went and how recent it was. When Krizhna finally told her family about the second pregnancy they didn’t react the same way as her first. Her intuition was right. Instead, they voiced how concerned and worried they were about how the pregnancy would go, given that Reginald was born premature. Little did they know that this time around, it would be worse.

Krizhna and Zarnee describe the following events that took place:

 “I had my first prenatal appointment on February 10, 2017 where we had an abdominal ultrasound and saw a healthy heartbeat. Zarnee and I were so happy and relieved. Our doctor told us that my due date was October 5, 2017 and I was even more happy because our baby’s birthday would be close to mine and Reginald’s birthday is close to Zarnee’s and so we felt like it was all meant to be. We started talking to our doctor about what I would do differently this time around to prevent another preterm delivery and we even started guessing what the gender of our baby may be. We were hoping for a girl.

After our ultrasound, we came to accept and embrace our pregnancy, we were filled with joy. I couldn’t wait for my bump to grow and take lots of pictures, have a baby shower – since we didn’t get the chance to have it when we were pregnant with Reginald, for Reginald to be a big brother, to give birth – I was ecstatic.

On February 22 or 23 I believe, I was working one of my double shifts and I had cramps that felt very familiar and I knew something was wrong but I disregarded the pain hoping that if doing so, it would go away? I don’t know, I really don’t know why I had that mentality. I remember it was so painful that I was in the middle of what I was doing and I had to hold my stomach in a fetal position. The pain lasted about 5 minutes. I had a follow up appointment on the 27th and yet had another abdominal and transvaginal ultrasound, but this ultrasound was different from the first one… we no longer saw the healthy heartbeat of our baby… Our doctor didn’t know what or how to say that the baby may not have been alive anymore so he gave us the option of going for a second opinion to see what is going on. I knew right then and there we had lost our baby but Zarnee had hopes so we went ahead and got another ultrasound on March 1 and received the same devastating news. I was numb when she told me that there was no more heartbeat. I felt like I lost a part of me that day.

We went back to our doctor in which he told us that we would need to do a procedure called Dilation & curettage (D&C) to remove whatever part of my baby is in me. He told me that the procedure would take no longer than 30-40 minutes including the rest time. Crazy how fast it is to remove something so precious from me like that. He also gave us the option of bleeding out until clots come out but it would have to come out within a week otherwise I’ll get an infection. He let us know to think over it and call the office back to let them know what our decision was. I didn’t think about it. I told him that I made up my mind and proceeded with the D&C. I didn’t want to bleed out by myself and go through more trauma than what I was already going through. I don’t think I could’ve handled that. He scheduled the appointment for March 3 and he prescribed me 2-3 medications in which I believe one of them was to soften the cervix to make it easier to vacuum whatever is left. I was numb, I was broken.

March 3rd we went in to do a D&C. I was drugged from whatever pill I took but I still felt what was going on and I still knew what was going on but I put up a front in front of Zarnee to distract him from what I was going through because I knew that it broke him seeing me like that. My doctor had come in and I remember seeing this vacuum like machine that he brought in and my stomach dropped. I knew it was time. I knew it was time for me to let go of something that has not been there for a while. I knew it was time. He asked me if I was ready and I said yes but deep inside I wasn’t. I wanted so bad for a miracle to happen but I knew that I was hoping for something that is not going to happen. He did his thing with the vacuum and I remember holding onto Zarnee’s hand so tight because it was painful. I felt the suction of the vacuum and I don’t think the physical pain I felt compared to the emotional trauma I suffered.

Right after the procedure, my doctor said that I was no longer pregnant and everything was out. I died inside hearing that. I did not know what heartbreak felt like until I heard that I was no longer pregnant. I laid in the patient bed for 5 minutes and left. I cried hysterically in the car and we went home and I cried some more. I think I cried for about a week straight. Something in me that day died along with my baby.”

“After hearing our doctor say that there wasn’t a heartbeat anymore, I was very hopeful that there would still be one and that he was wrong. I kept telling myself and Krizhna that there was (a heartbeat). I tried to assure her and myself that from the time we left to the next appointment.

When we got the second opinion, my heart dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I felt like I got played. I felt crushed. It’s like, there was just a heartbeat and now you’re telling me there isn’t a heartbeat anymore? How could that be? I don’t understand. I didn’t want to understand. When Krizhna got the D&C, it made it so much more surreal that our baby is gone. Dead.

Seeing the doctor use the vacuum to suck out whatever was left of our baby was heartbreaking but what was even more heartbreaking was seeing Krizhna laying down there, sad because there was nothing she could do. Her body is practically being invaded by this tool and I was scared of what could happen to her. When the procedure was done, I didn’t want to leave her side or get her out of my sight because I felt that the least I could do was be there for her after what she had just gone through. That was probably one of the worst days I’ve ever had to this day.”

Krizhna was 4 weeks along when her pregnancy test read positive. When she miscarried, she was about 6-8 weeks pregnant. When Krizhna and Zarnee got out of the procedure, the first person she called was her mom. She cried hysterically on the phone saying, “I lost my baby, I lost my baby.” Her mom advised her to come home. Zarnee also called his parents in the car and when his parents answered, Zarnee lost it. He broke down crying, and they comforted their son saying that everything will be okay.

Krizhna knew that her mom didn’t know what to say or how to comfort her. It was the same with Zarnee’s parents. Nobody knew what to say to make them feel better, and honestly, nothing they could say would make them feel better anyways. By the time they came home, the household was aware of what just happened and they were welcomed with homemade soup from her grandma. Her mom and grandma cared for Reginald all day while she locked herself in her room. She knew that taking care of Reginald while she detached from the world in her room was her family’s way of comforting her. She couldn’t talk about her postpartum depression, and now she found herself in a position where she couldn’t talk about her miscarriage either.

After the miscarriage, Zarnee and Krizhna’s relationship was on the rocks. They were both hurting, but didn’t know how to communicate it or comfort one another. She felt like Zarnee wasn’t hurting from the loss of their child because he wasn’t reacting the same way as her. She acknowledges that Zarnee was trying so hard to understand what she was feeling, but she kept pushing him away. Every conversation seemed to have the same outcome. Whenever they talked, it would turn into an argument, and all of a sudden the miscarriage would be brought up, it would always be followed by silence and tears.

“I don’t know how we got through it,” Krizhna said. “I think it took us a while to be a team again.”

Zarnee handled the miscarriage by going back to work and taking care of Reginald. Having a 1 year old kept him busy, and it also kept him sane. Krizhna recalls only seeing Zarnee cry about the miscarriage once, and that was after the procedure. To her, it seemed like Zarnee didn’t care because he would only talk about it when she would breakdown. She sees now that maybe it was for the best that he reacted that way, because if they were both a “mess,” they couldn’t care for Reginald. Zarnee saw Reginald as his strength during this difficult time.

“Having him kept me sane,” Zarnee admitted. “He made me want to fight and get through it… Even though he doesn’t know it, he really saved me when I was going through it.”

After their miscarriage in 2017, Zarnee and Krizhna started trying again in 2018. And to their surprise, they were pregnant again in April. However, in a span of 3 days, they found out that she was pregnant and then she wasn’t. She knew she was pregnant so she went to the doctor. They did a blood test on her twice to confirm she was pregnant. Her HCG levels were dropping, which meant she was miscarrying. She was exhausted. However, the 2nd miscarriage didn’t effect her as bad because she didn’t get to hear the heart beat, and she wasn’t as far along. But, it did still hurt them. They were discouraged and didn’t want to even talk about trying again.

But a year later in June 2019, she found out she was pregnant again for the 4th time. When she found out she was pregnant, she took a pregnancy test everyday until her 8 week appointment. That was her way to make sure she was still pregnant, and it brought her and Zarnee peace of mind. They were so excited to be pregnant again, but didn’t want to show it. They were very hesitant with being excited, in fear that they would miscarry again. They just didn’t want to have false hope after everything they’ve been through.

Because of their past experiences with miscarrying, they only told a handful of people they were expecting the first 3 months of being pregnant. Krizhna’s mindset was : if I miscarry again atleast I only have to explain it to only a couple of people. But when she reached 16 weeks, she knew she was in the clear to let the secret out of the bag! Now they were beginning to get excited again after 2 years of back to back heart break.

This pregnancy was so different than when she was pregnant with Reginald. Krizhna was nauseous all day everyday, hated the smell of fried food, and was exhausted all the time. She had to take progesterone, a pill that makes sure the baby attaches, and take it vaginally. They would go to bi-weekly appointments to make sure that the baby was okay, given her history of pregnancy. This time around, every little pain she had, she would go to the ER. She was taking no chances. Zarnee was very over protective and made sure that Krizhna was taking it easy and eating all the right foods.

On January 10, 2020, Krizhna was at work when she started to have really bad contractions. She managed to finish her shift and went home. That night, her contractions were so bad that Zarnee took her to the hospital. They informed her that she was only 1 cm dialted, and sent her back home to rest. The next day, her contractions intensified. She really couldn’t take it anymore and her parents couldn’t stand to see her in pain. By 8 PM she was at the hospital and Zarnee met her there coming from work. She was 6 cm dialted, and they informed her that she would be giving birth in the next 24 hours. She was only 34 weeks pregnant and had another month to go.

On January 12, 2020, Mia Alea-Luna was born. This time around she got to hold Mia before they put her in the isolette and to the NICU. Krizhna remembers how much more smaller Mia was compared to Reginald, and this made them worry. Having their 2nd born in the NICU made them nervous. And this time, they didn’t have the housing that came with Reginald’s NICU stay. It was harder because once she was discharged, she would have to pick up Zarnee from work at night and they would visit Mia. Reginald wasn’t allowed in the NICU, so they had to wait until he was asleep to visit as well. Fortunately, Mia only stayed in the NICU for 2 weeks.

Krizhna still experienced postpartum depression after her 2nd child was born. But this time was different. With Reginald, she didn’t want to be around him or connect with him. But with Mia, she was very overprotective. She believes this shift happened because she felt so guilty about how she felt after Reginald was born, that she didn’t want to act like that towards Mia. And it wasn’t because she loved Mia more, but because she knew that Reginald was old enough to witness everything. She didn’t want him to see a disconnect between her and his new sister, in fear that it would traumatize him. And most importantly, she sought help. She sees her therapist once a month and is taking medication for her depression and anxiety.

Their parenthood journey has not been easy. They have faced a lot of heartbreak together. Krizhna and Zarnee try to celebrate the first miscarriage by just being together as a family for what would’ve been the baby’s due date. They don’t celebrate the 2nd miscarriage because they never knew what the due date was since she miscarried very early on. 2 years after her 1st miscarriage, Reginald would always tell Krizhna that he would see his brother. There would be times that he would be alone in the room saying “I’m playing with my brother,” and instead of being scared, it comforts Krizhna, knowing that their baby is still around them. They never got to find out what the gender was either.

“Take all the time you need to mourn your loss,” Krizhna advises other parents who have miscarried. “It is more common than you think it is. You are not alone.. even though it feels like it right now you’re not alone. The loss of a child you never got to meet and hold is something you’ll carry with you for a very long time and  although it’ll hurt being reminded of what happened, you are resilient. You will get back up again. As each day passes it’ll hurt less than the day before but the sadness when you’re reminded of it is going to be there so do whatever you need to do to heal – whether it be celebrating the anniversary of the miscarriage or the due date or talking to someone who shares the same experience. There’s always a rainbow at the end of the storm.”

And Zarnee and Krizhna definitely got their rainbow at the end of their storm. They are now raising their beautiful children together in Zarnee’s childhood home. Once Mia was born, they desperately looked for houses that they could call home. There just wasn’t enough room in Krizhna’s grandma’s 1.5 bedroom inlaw. Zarnee knew how important it was for Krizhna to have her family with her, so they searched for houses that fit everyone’s needs. They toured about 10 houses in a span of 1 month, but nothing felt like “the one.”

One day, after touring yet another home, Zarnee went to his parents’ house to pick something up. He updated them that they still didn’t find a house. It was then that his parents asked if they wanted to live in the old family house, and even extended the offer to Krizhna and her family to come along. Zarnee couldn’t believe what his parents were telling him. He gladly accepted the offer, and went home to tell Krizhna and her whole family. He was so happy that his kids would have enough room to run around and for each member of the family to have a room and bed to sleep on, rather than the floor. Zarnee loves the fact that his kids get to grow up in the same house he grew up in.

“To this day, I thank my parents every time I leave their house of the blessing they gave us,” Zarnee explained.

Zarnee and Krizhna have been through hell and back with each other. They never expected that their journey to parenthood would have so many twists and turns. They mended family relationship, they went through heartbreak, they witnessed their children in the NICU, they went from homeless to home owners, and never gave up on each other even in their darkest times. Their main focus now is to raise their children together and be there for them. They embrace every part of their journey to parenthood because it gave them their most precious gifts – Reginald and Mia.

What Will Make My 2020 Meaningful

“What do you need to do by the end of the year to make this year meaningful?” -Wordsmith Deck

When 2019 was ending, my goal for 2020 was to get a job in the writing/ journalism industry. I wanted to finally put my degree to use. That was one of my biggest fears – graduating and not using my degree. I know that’s not uncommon, a lot of people graduate with a certain degree and end up in completely different fields. And that is completely fine. But for me, I wanted to make sure that I gave it my all in the industry, and I know that meant starting from the bottom.

The running joke of journalists is that the money just ain’t there, even though the field takes a lot of dedication and passion. When I was still in school, it seemed like a lot of the professors and professionals that came in to talk about their experience as journalists had to put work above personal life to be successful. This was always something that worried me because I always knew I wanted a family, but I also wanted to be successful in writing. It seemed ironic that the girl who is so set on staying in the Bay Area got into a field that literally calls for travel and possibly living in different places in the world to be successful.

When 2020 started, I was motivated. I started getting my resume together and applying to journalism jobs. When COVID-19 hit, I used that time to apply to many entry level positions. I was applying and applying, but getting nothing but rejection email after rejection email. It was disheartening. It sucked because the positions I was applying for weren’t even what I was passionate about. It seemed like starting from the bottom to get experience just meant being a corporate sellout for a while until I have some experience under my belt. Not only was I getting rejected, but I was getting rejected from jobs I wasn’t even excited about. Finally, during the shutdown, I got my first follow up email that wasn’t denying me. In fact, they wanted to move forward with me and sent me some more information to reply back to where they would see if I was a fit.

It felt so good. My first non-reject email. May I remind you, I didn’t even get the job. But not getting denied after what seemed like 50 rejection emails was a fresh of breath air. This job could be a 1 hr drive with traffic from where I lived. But with public transportation, it was almost 1.5 hrs one way. It wasn’t even worth it. And it wasn’t even something that I was passionate about. I want to write with purpose and tell stories, but this job would’ve had me writing replies to people on social media under the company’s handles. There was nothing wrong with the job, but I felt like my passion was on the line for the price of getting my foot in the journalism door. And that wasn’t worth it to me. But, it still felt good to know that atleast a company was interested in me. Before this point, I was feeling super incompetent and pathetic. I had the degree, some experience, but nobody wanted me.

I felt a lot better knowing that I could’ve had a “journalism” entry level job if I wanted to. That email gave me hope and encouraged me to keep trying. By this time, COVID was all over the news. We’ve been shutdown for a couple of weeks. 2020 was not looking like how I planned it would be. If I thought it was hard to find a journalism job before COVID, how much more with everything shutdown? People were losing their jobs, businesses were closing down, unemployment was at an all time high – this didn’t seem like the right time to get a new job. The shutdown time kept getting extended. By this time, more than a quarter of the year had passed. My goal was for me to get a journalism writing job in 2020. I felt like my time was running out.

Then, my current job proposed an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. The new living situation would be at least a 2 year commitment to my current job. I felt like if I took the offer, I’d be taking the “easy way” out, and I’d be prolonging my writing career. I didn’t want to put my dreams on hold. But like I said in my previous post, I decided to pivot. Applying to all those entry level journalism jobs discouraged me because it seemed like they had nothing to do with what I wanted to do with my writing. I know everyone starts from the bottom and has to work their way up, but at the rate I was going, I felt like the journey was going to take a long time, and the experience I would be getting didn’t even seem relevant to my end goal.

I took the offer and decided to commit to atleast 2 more years at my current job. But in doing so, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let writing fall through the cracks. Since I graduated at the end of 2018, I used 2019 to just take a breather. I also felt like I was stalling, because I feared rejection and also didn’t know what steps to take to get to where I wanted to be. I didn’t see it at the time, but all those entry level irrelevant jobs made me realize that maybe the traditional path isn’t my path. And maybe it was supposed to be this way… Or shit, maybe I’m just telling myself all this to make me feel better. But all I know is, with how America is handling COVID-19, with no luck in landing an entry level position, feeling some type of way about how I’d feel unfulfilled at most of these entry level jobs even if I did get it, and then having the once in a lifetime opportunity living situation on the table, I knew it was all thrown at me for a reason.

I decided to pivot. I changed my whole plan when I took that offer. But I feel like it was a better plan than my original. I came up with a solution where I can still be the manager at the preschool 8-5 and feel fulfilled as a writer. Like I said, this situation opened my eyes and made me think – Maybe the traditional route isn’t for me. I decided that I’m going to use these next 2 years (or more) to spit out all the passion projects I haven’t pursued yet. If not now, then when? That’s the phrase that kept popping up in my head. It’s the same feeling I felt when I decided to post on this blog consistently over a year ago.

If I do all the passion projects that I have up my sleeve and they’re unsuccessful – 1. Atleast I know I did them and tried. 2. I did it all the while being a responsible adult and working a whole ass full-time job. 3. At least I’ll never have that “what if” in my head. 4. I’ll be proud of myself regardless if they’re successful or not because I know I did it for me as a personal goal and 5. I’m content with the fact that I followed my heart and took the unfamiliar path. And if I try all these things that I’m passionate about and nothing comes out of it, that’s okay too. Then I’ll just pivot again and consider the traditional route. But until then, my passion projects are my goal – and honestly, they always have been.

Just starting those passion projects will make my 2020 more meaningful. It sounds like a small step, but starting is always the hardest part. There is so much more I want to do in writing, this blog is just 1 passion project out of many. I really thought my 2020 was going to be a flop year. But it has really proven to be a year that has challenged me and forced me to grow. Because of the events that transpired this year, I had to re-evaluate a lot of my plans. And now I’m excited to follow through with those plans and finally get started on all the ideas I’ve had since college.

It’s one of those things where you have every detail thought out in your head, and the only thing you have to do is start. You already have the idea, how you’re going to execute it, you did your research, and now it’s just on you to get the ball rolling. I sat on the idea of me posting consistently on this blog for years before I actually went through with it. And now, here I am over a year later, and I don’t remember what it’s like to not post every Monday. I know I am capable, and I know the time to make moves is now.

Getting started by the end of the year on my other passion projects will set the tone for the next 2+ years. After such a rocky and stressful 2020, I’m happy I’m finally settling down and starting to make moves in the right direction again. I was so confused and stressed about what path I would take for almost half of the year. I’m excited to take those baby steps to start. And hopefully, I can stop and smell the roses with this journey because I feel like I always forget to do that. I’m always overthinking, stressed, or worrying about something. It’s nice to finally be in a spot in life where I can take a step back and realize life is pretty great right now.

At the start of 2020, I had completely different goals. Now, towards the end of 2020 (holy shit, I can’t believ it’s almost the end of 2020) I have a completely different vision of what I want to do. I feel so much more content with my decisions, when not too long ago I would’ve reacted the exact opposite and stress. I’ve said time and time again that I believe what’s meant for me will happen in due time. For once, I’m excited to start my passion projects, not scared. I’ve been talking about them for so long, it’s time I stop talking and start doing. I will really look back and see 2020 as the year I got the ball rolling. I’m content in knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.