lessons in love

I came home to visit my family for the holiday weekend and attended my first indoor, extended family party in a long while. I saw family who I haven’t seen in a number of months, others two years, some in ten, and some in twenty. I’d held a newborn nephew who I hadn’t yet met. I cried with an older cousin whose husband just recently passed from COVID in August.

My younger cousin had digitized my aunt’s home videos and uploaded them to YouTube. They were playing in the background, and by the time I’d sat down to watch, they were on a recording from March 1991. You could hear my aunt asking what the red light meant. “It means you’re recording!” my uncle responded in Tagalog.

1991 was the year my grandma, mom, and I came to visit the US, which ended up being a permanent migration for my mom and myself. My mom was just a year younger than I am now when she made the choice to stay. I had just turned five. The home footage caught so many things I’d either forgotten or had no way to make sense of at the time—my grandma’s testing of the waters, my mom trying to put her best foot forward, and me—clueless and still unable to speak more English than what I could mimic from my mom’s Whitney Houston cassette (I was obsessed with “Greatest Love of All” and credit all of my early English learning, pre-migration, to the late and very great Whitney).

I didn’t know if my mom knew we would be staying here at the time of that home video. I suspect now that she did, or at least was considering it heavily. I wonder if I could’ve made such a brave decision at her age, essentially my age now—to leave behind my entire life and take my child to this foreign place and start brand new.

My relationship with my mom changed after we stayed. Once carefree, an emotion and lifestyle of privilege, my mom took on a different demeanor—one of struggle, disappointment, exhaustion. And I changed alongside her.

I think about this video and laugh. I’m wearing my Mickey Mouse cap for most of the video, speaking in Tagalog and playing some game that involved sweeping the back patio and tumbling like a roly-poly. However, my favorite parts are much more obscure. In the video taken at night of my now-aunts and uncles having conversation on the sofa, you could see my mom sitting on the floor, leaning against the sofa with me sitting on her lap. We’re playing some kind of game, and it doesn’t matter what, but it ends with me giggling with a huge smile on my face and wrapping my arms around her with the biggest hug I could give.

This post is dedicated to Ne, Romy, Dan, Ong, and Fely.

purple stuff magic

Juggling two jobs as I onboard for one and close out another, I needed to make space (aha! See my previous post for context) for self-care during a fifteen-hour work day. I got in 35 minutes of Pilates, made myself a nice omelet to go with the tortillas I’d saved from the Salvi bodega around the corner, took some impromptu dance breaks, and cooked up some purple stuff magic.

There’s always something so magical about the color purple in nature. From florals, to gems, to foods—purple is ethereal, mystical, soothing, divine. My particular choice of purple stuff magic today was making ube halaya, a Filipino candied yam that’s often used as a spread, condiment, or with baked goods. It can be mixed with other things to add that distinctly purple, ube flavor. Personally, I love to eat it right off a spoon.

While ube has become more mainstream in US cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, it was hardly in anyone’s vocabulary a couple of years ago. Often mistaken for taro or sweet potato, it is most decidedly its own category. For reference, here is a comparison of an ube (left) and a Japanese sweet potato:

Who knew that the purple one was not ube?

In all my 35 years of life as a dedicated ube fan, I realized at Seafood City that I had no idea what an ube looked like in its raw, unpeeled form. I only found out when I came home and realized that what I had taken home was, in fact, a Japanese sweet potato. Disappointed but determined, I made my way back to the store and made sure I asked the manong attending to the fruits which rooty things were definitively ube.

I drove home, feeling triumphant and proceeded to boil three ube. Peeling the pale skin with a spoon, revealing its unmistakably rich, violet hue, triggered the rods and cones of my retinas to dance with delight. See below:

Tell me that color isn’t magical!

Since I boiled way too much ube, I froze a considerate amount and have since made ube ice cream and ube halaya. Today, I tweaked my ube halaya recipe, using the last of what was frozen. Here’s some I snacked on this evening, with macapuno sprinkled on top:

Purple stuff magic.

Does color move you? Does food?

Do you need a bigger pot?

These days, I feel like I’m constantly talking or thinking about space. Holding space. Making space. Physical space. Figurative space. Mental space. Emotional space.

About four months ago, I hung one of my pothos plants on a ladder by the window:

Taken July 27th.

Because I’m a klutz, I inevitably walked into it and knocked the whole thing down. I lost a precious vine in the process, some of which I plopped into a jar of water to propagate. After sweeping away the spills of my accident, I re-erected the ladder, secured the pothos onto the rung, tidied up the soil, and wiped down the leaves.

A couple months after hanging, I noticed that the soil was no longer holding onto water. The leaves continued to remain sad and wilty even after a hearty watering, and I suspected that the roots needed to be shaken loose and have more room to grow.

I finally repotted and re-hung Sylvia (that’s what we’ll call her now) last week. Here she is immediately after repotting, still getting used to her bigger pot:

Taken a week ago.

I let her get used to her new space—let her stretch out and expand. Here she is today:

Sylvia today.

I’ve found gardening to be a haven for my thoughts and emotions, a reflection of ways in which I, myself, am trying to grow. It’s so easy to stick with the same because what’s familiar often feels comfortable. But is that familiarity constricting your roots? Do you need more room to grow? Do I?

office space

I’m in the middle of transitioning to my new role at another agency. For the first time in over a year-and-a-half, I attended an in-person staff meeting.

I didn’t realize how emotional I would feel finally working in proximity to colleagues (people!) again. An introvert at heart, I found comfort in living in an unusually solo state. Additionally, living in a dedicated isolation allowed me to finally center much-needed self-care and work through past traumas that I’ve been wanting and needing to address. Not that any of this has been easy, and the “comfort” of isolation can be its own coping mechanism.

My home office corner with my work-from-home colleague catching the warmth of the sun at the window.

A curse or a blessing? It doesn’t matter. I’ll ride this wave and see where it takes me.