Month of Gratitude – Day 10

Today I’m incredibly grateful for technology.

In particular, I’m feeling very grateful for the fact that I have Internet access and social media networks to let me stay in close contact with friends and family who are far away.

It’s such a blessing to hear the voices of my sister in California and my dear friend in Nigeria… and that was just today!

Thanks to decent internet and devices, I get to see my mother’s face from all the way in Arkansas. I can have a quick chat with my friends and relatives in Hawaii, Indiana, Washington State, DC, New York and New Orleans. Heck, I recently got to do a virtual reunion via video chat with my grad school classmates who are now scattered all around the world.

Not long ago, close friendships with such a widely scattered circle would have been impossible. More recently, they would have been prohibitively expensive.

On a day when work is busy, and the news is stressful, technology helped me connect with some of the folks I love and I’m so grateful for it.

Month of Gratitude – Day 9

Today I’m extra grateful for my rambunctious three-year-old.

First day of preschool (at home)

Though he is brilliant and beautiful, I don’t think the world revolves around my little guy. He does brighten MY world every day.

Babies and toddlers don’t really have a sense of time. To them, life is all about the present moment. No amount of meditation or mindfulness can compare to my son’s request of “let’s play together!” to get me to drop everything else and just enjoy a moment.

I try to model good stress management, and I think it must be rubbing off because he occasionally requests to “go out on the deck and see.” This is our version of a grounding exercise using the five senses, but rather than counting, we just sit very close together on a special spot on the deck and talk quietly about the things we can see, hear, smell and feel. At this point I can’t tell if he asks because he needs to feel grounded or if knows *I* need it, but either way I am grateful.

And joy! Man this kid enjoys life. It’s infectious how much he enjoys singing and food and jumping and rolling anything even vaguely round all over the house. Basically unless it is sleeping, this child enjoys it.

What a blessing to live with a little joy factory!

Month of Gratitude – Day 6

Today is Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, so it seems like the right day to be grateful for my ancestors.

I was blessed to get to know my grandparents and even one great grandparent growing up. To hear even a little about their varied lives has gifted me with a sense of history and progress as I’ve set and achieved goals for my own life.

I was far from the only student of color who learned the whitewashed version of World War 2 in high school; but thanks to my grandmother’s efforts throughout my childhood to secure the veterans benefits that had been promised to her father and the other Filipinos who joined the US Military in that conflict, I also learned about systemic racism and one way that it played out for a generation of Asian and Pacific Islanders.

Great grandfather wasn’t the only one who had fled his birthplace to begin a new life. His daughter — my maternal grandmother — married a military man and eventually resettled in a new state, hundreds of miles from her family of origin.

My other grandmother had stories of waiting tables before she became a civil servant. She taught me to love cats and that you could survive trauma with grace.

The grandfathers are a colorful bunch. One became a hobby photographer, and I have many old photos as well as his name as a legacy. When, as a very old man, he developed Alzheimer’s, it was very healing to me to witness the way he managed to make peace with his adult children.

Another is a charming gent who dotes on his biological daughter with calls and letters. To me, his most precious gift was to relinquish his young wife to a romantic rival without a fuss, making room for my Papa to raise my mom and her siblings.

Papa was the best. He spoke better Spanish than any other white dude I’ve met. He took me to my toddler dance classes and later to all-ages concerts. He fed me my first donut and gave me my first driving lessons. He used to somehow not get wet when it was raining (he told me he ran between the raindrops! How?!) and of course, if anybody needed a Santa, Papa was always the guy.

I’m so grateful that I stand the shoulders of these and other courageous, resilient ancestors.

Month of Gratitude – Day 4

Today I’m grateful for two folks who have made it possible for me to get a bit of time to myself for the past three years: my delightful in-laws.

I’ve been blessed with a ton of support from relatives near and far, especially since 2017, but these two are special.

“Big Daddy,” as my son calls him, is the favorite of all the grandkids, including little man. From their early bonding over tickles, through to cooking goodies for him, to now letting my toddler do whatever he wants, this dude has absolutely stolen my son’s heart.

Three generations of Abel dudes

It’s beautiful and bittersweet to reflect on how I had a similar relationship with my grandfather of treasured memory. I love knowing that my kid has a man like this to look up to, and that he will grow up knowing that “Big Daddy” is always in his corner.

Mommy is another story. Naturally she loves and dotes on her grandson, but my mother in law always in MY corner. If we were in a fairy tale, she wouldn’t like me because I came from foreign to marry her favorite child. In real life, I met her first, and later, when my then-boyfriend first started telling his family about me, she already knew who I was.

A girls lunch

From the jump, Mommy went out of her way to make me feel welcome in the family. She’s a fabulous brunch date, fixes my favorite foods to eat, and always appreciates my baked goodies. Lately, she’s been encouraging me to bring by the little man for sleepovers because she knows a break is good for me. Y’all, she makes me feel loved! What a gift!!

Remembering Hurricane Maria for the Best Possible Reason part 2: Happy Birthday, Peanut!

You may remember that yesterday I left you on a non-cliffhanger of Hurricane Maria’s peaceful passage over the BVI. I wanted to end it there because today is TWO-day! My Peanut, the Wee Baby Abel, has survived two whole years.

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Hello world

Sept 20, 2017 started early, with the medical team letting me know not to eat anything and dealing with all the indignities of surgery. I’ll spare you the details, except to say that everyone was nice and I tried my best to be a good sport. I think I did well considering my head space was still pretty much that I had no idea what was going on.

And later I got to meet my son! He had all the hair, as I had. He just wanted to be held and snuggled, and I happily complied. Aunties and uncles who had been forced from their homes thanks to Irma nonetheless scrubbed up and came by to meet him.

Having a newborn gave me something to focus on, a luxury in those first few weeks after the storm when we had no power and no running water. Post-partum hormones make some moms spiral into depression or psychosis, but I became lazer-focused on my kid, which brought some downsides but also let the stress and uncertainty of post-Irma life fall away. He was adorable, but mysteriously finicky in the first few months. Even then, he liked to be in the center of things. He loved to be cradled by his dad in the crook of one arm while the breakfast routine happened, or to be strapped on and walked around and around and around.

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The first of many buddy naps

He was strong, able to lift his little head early and roll what felt like right away. He thought bicycle legs and anything his cousins did was the best ever. I could get him to chill by having one of the cousins sing to him or read him a book.

He fell in love with the cat, so we taught him “gentle,” guiding his little hand over and over until he could do it on his own. Gentle became one of his first words, along with “meow.”

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Going to day care was a new world. Another baby became his little bestie. They were born just a few days apart. She taught him how to clap and blow kisses. He was the earlier walker and would bring toys to her while she sat in her bouncer. I loved to see how he made friends at such a young age.

Before long he was standing, and then, at just 10 months, walking. Heaven help me, I sometimes feel like he hasn’t slowed since.

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Peanut getting ready to walk

These days, Peanut still likes to be strapped on when I’m walking around, but in general he is not one to be passively carried around. Nope, this is a hands-on creature who wants to stay doing whatever he sees others (especially me) doing. I have two brooms and two dish brushes, and even two “potties” in the restroom. Sure, he still thinks that the main reason we go to the toilet is just to sit on it, but I have gotten used to having company in there. He may be small, but he is genuinely helpful with little things like closing doors, throwing things away in the garbage, or putting dirty clothes in the hamper. It’s cute to see how much he enjoys his little chores.

Actually, I feel like he enjoys most things. There is a lot of joy in this little person, and most days he spreads it to me like some kind of giggly contagion.

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Playing in the park on his first birthday

He loves bubbles and stickers. He loves animals in general but especially chickens and cats. Probably the thing he has the most of is books, but he is shaping up to be a builder of some kind with the way he loves blocks. He’s also still the most curious little dude you can imagine. He doesn’t have the words to express it, but you can just see it in his face and body language. It’s much more than a mere desire to know what’s going on: He absolutely MUST. KNOW.

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My boy thinks iced unsweetened lemongrass tea is juice and an amazing treat!

What else? He loves music and I’m much more more likely to hear him sing than talk… unless he’s showing off his mad counting and number identification skills. While I’m driving, he will often sit in carseat and just count. He can get to 20 if he’s in a good mood. He loves his family, especially the uncles that don’t mind throwing him around. He already corrects me when I do something silly like call my mother in law “Mommy.” …
“Granny,” he’ll tell me, pointing at her and giving me his best “duh,” look.

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Playing with his favorite new toy

I’ve loved watching him grow and develop so much personality so far. I know there will be lots more growth and change to come, and I’m looking forward to see it all. Happy happy birthday, big boy.


Baby Traditions, part two


The Wee Baby Abel having a swinging good time.

Back when I was expecting, I shared some of the traditions that people told me about pregnancy and newborns. Now that I’ve had my baby and he is big enough to meet people all over the island, I am again hearing a lot more traditions, superstitions and, of course, advice. That’s right, it’s time for another round of baby traditions.

Ever hear the phrase “sleep like a baby?” My son’s sleep isn’t as peaceful as the phrase suggests, but according the old folks, when he and other babies do settle in and sleep, they always dream of angels. I like to imagine some of the family members who passed away before the baby was born are his personal angels.

My son has a head full of curls, so a lot of the traditional wisdom we hear is about hair. For example, did you know you’re not supposed to cut a baby’s hair before they can talk? (An alternate version says to wait until the first birthday.) If you do, according to one legend, they might never wind up speaking. Similarly, some folks say the early haircut will cause the baby to develop a stutter.

I’ve also heard that you shouldn’t comb a child’s hair while they sleep or they could wind up “slow.” I didn’t have the sense to ask at the time if this was a reference to physical speed or just a euphemism for a dull wit, but now that I have a crawler on my hands, I sure wish I had. I’d have no problem combing the baby’s hair while he naps if it meant he couldn’t scoot away from me so swiftly!

Lately my little guy seems bigger every time I see him, so I shouldn’t be surprised that people have so much to say about what makes babies grow faster. One woman told me that the more you bathe a baby, the faster they grow. I can’t deny that once my little one started moving around more and eating enough to need daily baths, he did start to pack on the pounds.

Speaking of weight, it’s not a good idea to call a baby heavy. “Only the dead are heavy,” the saying goes. I especially like that one because it reminds me as a parent that my son might be a bit of a physical burden – he’s now big enough to give me backache if I carry him for too long – his life is a blessing.

This column appeared in the April 26, 2018 edition of the Limin Times.

Read part one here.

Returning to Paradise


From #docklife to #decklife, the view from my new place.

The BVI had Irma-geddon, then I had a baby. Baby, hubby and I escaped (okay, evacuated) to California for a while, which was both delightful and difficult.

People have asked when I will be writing about all of that, but the truth is that it’s still hard to talk about and I’m not sure I’ll ever write about it… So I guess the answer to that question is: not yet.

Anyway, seven months on and things are feeling almost normal around here, including at work, where the Limin Times is back!


Here’s my latest Island Life column, which ran April 19th.

Island life means sharing your mornings with roosters, goats, cows and all kinds of other creatures, but recently I had my worst island wake up call ever. I was roused from my slumber by the feeling of something cold and wet on my shin. Without thinking – let’s be honest, I wasn’t even fully conscious yet – I grabbed the offending object and flung it away into what turned out to be the closet.

This was not a quiet process, so soon I was trying to explain to my groggy husband what the commotion was all about. As my mind cleared I gradually realized that it must have been a frog. I cannot articulate my disgust. A cold, damp frog had been in my bedroom, on my bed, on my leg, and then, shudder to think, I had held it briefly in my hand.

Hubby, hero that he is, wasted no time hopping out of bed and handing me the hand sanitizer. He advised me to take the baby and leave the room, heavy shoe in hand.

“Are you going to kill it?” I asked, realizing that there is indeed something more icky than a live frog hopping around the bedroom.

Beginning to be fully awake himself, hubby put down his shoe and, as if in answer, we heard a rustle in the closet. The frog appeared on the ledge of our son’s play pen and hubby lunged for it. The wily frog, evidently drawn to the sound of his friends outside the bedroom window, started climbing the curtain.

Watching the frog awkwardly make its way up the curtain was like watching a muppet flail its arms and legs. Suddenly, it wasn’t so icky. It was just Kermit. I watched as my resourceful husband coaxed Kermit into the play pen, covered it with a mosquito net, and carried the pen onto the front porch. Kermit was clearly no genius: after he hopped out of the pen he lingered on the porch until hubby made some noise before rejoining the other frogs that love to hang out croaking in the yard.

Even though I fervently hope Kermit never again finds his way inside, I do find myself wishing him well in a way. Now excuse me while I go scrub down everything he might have touched while he was there.

Why am I crying this time?

DSC_0555Last weekend, after what felt like ages of scheduling and planning, it was time to take some bump pics with one of my favorite photographers. Memories! A cute dress! Visiting with friends! It was all the good things I wanted to help commemorate what has so far been a charmed pregnancy.

So why was I bawling? Hormones had me feeling super unattractive and just not ready and I shed real, actual, ridiculous tears. Clearly the tears didn’t last and photos came out beautifully, but I have to admit it’s a little bit embarrassing how emotionally worked up I can get these days over what seems to be the littlest stuff.

What else have I cried over in the course of this pregnancy? Some of it is downright funny. Here’s a partial list.

  • The movie “A Monster Calls,” (even though I read the book last summer and knew exactly what was coming)
  • I ran out of club soda
  • The song “It’s Quiet Uptown” from the musical Hamilton
  • I had to park far away from my apartment on grocery shopping day because all the parking spots anywhere near my building were full
  • That viral video of a teen coming out to his southern mom at their kitchen table and the mom being super loving and supportive
  • The first birthday video some young parents I know made for their daughter
  • Not being able to get air in my low tire despite stopping at all three gas stations in town
  • My husband’s incredible kindness and patience

I’m pretty sure I’ll be back to my normal self in a few months time, but until then, you might just have to call me MJ.

crying jordan


Far from home?

I live here!

I live here!

I can honestly say after more than three years that it’s really amazing to be where I am. Thanks to a good job and some great friends, I love my adopted home. It’s paradise, truly.

But. You knew there was a but coming.

This week a few things happened that made me think that maybe I am too far from the part of my heart that is my family.

First my granddad went to the hospital. It’s very mysterious, which just makes bad news worse. Nothing I can do about that.

Then a brother-in-law went to the hospital with some persistent chest pains. We now know he had a heart attack. Thankfully, he’s post surgery and back at home being lovingly cared for by my sister and their baby girl. Again, other than sending prayers and Jedi hugs, nothing I can do about that.

Then a whole big section of California caught on fire. My people had to evacuate with their babies and even though they’ve since been allowed to go home again, nobody will unpack their cars because fire. Maddeningly, nothing I can do about this one either.

I want to be with my family as all these things are happening, but last minute travel is prohibitively expensive, and the reality is that I just can’t pick up and go like I could when I lived there.

To be clear, there isn’t a lot of really useful stuff I could do if I were there. In times of crisis, my family knows they can rely on me to brew the coffee, crack a distractingly inappropriate joke and amuse the babies long enough for mommy to take a shower, but only if I’m not, for example, out covering the fire.

And then of course, I have to remind myself that while I might be thinking about all these things as happening “there,” they’re actually happening in three different states. Very far away from each other. Even as I want to be “there” with my big family in the states, I know that some of them are wanting to be there for each other and can’t either, because they’re on opposite coasts.

Thankfully, they don’t have to read this to know that even though I am so far away, they’re in my heart, because they are my heart.