Category: Writing

nour·ish: (nûrsh, nr-)

I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.

~Mary Oliver

Hhhmm, I see a pattern here.  I really need to stop overanalyzing these posts before I even write them.  Ah, there you go. First goal for 2014. Don’t think, just write.

Because …

I have been thinking about this post for weeks. I’m not kidding. Weeks.  The different parts have been swirling in my head for some time now but I guess there were too many books to read, feelings to deal with, a mind to put to rest, people to see, gifts to buy, stories to hear, and an emotional corner to reach and turn before I could sit down and write.  I also think it has something to do with wanting to do things differently at the tail end of this year.  Because 2012’s last two ber months were a blur.  By the end of 2012, I could no longer remember where I ended and began and I felt like I didn’t have the time and/or had lost all inclination to reflect, to take stock of the year that went, to think about where I was, what I was grateful for, who I was quickly falling in love with. You know, things normal people do.  I mean I was really happy for so many reasons but I had also reached the dip of the expat cycle. The honeymoon stage was over and I didn’t know it.   When January 1, 2013  hit, I was unhinged, disorientated and wordless. I remember writing to my close friends in Singapore that first day of last year looking for a way to feel the ground underneath my feet.

I swore I would never do that to myself again.

I also remember, spending  the last hours of December 31, 2012 in the middle of Romanceville, polishing a piece I had been working on with my Grade 7 kids, desperately scribbling, typing, revising and editing this poem.   Anything to avoid the profound loneliness I felt just a few weeks into my new relationship.  As usual, my spirit was filled with impatience, restlessness and contradictions.  I thought I was in love. But I had doubts.  I thought I met someone worth the time and energy but some things didn’t add up.  I told myself over and over, I could make what we had right/work/last if I tried hard enough and ended with the thought, What?  Not here again? Damn it, Pau!  I thought I recognized him &  didn’t know until later that I had recognized someone else.  I swore I would never move or fall that fast again.  Even if my heart  healed a long time ago.  Even if he made me really happy for awhile.

Anyway, as much as I have been thinking, I have also been writing bits and pieces of this post for days. In different coffeehouses, park benches, airports and living rooms.  Wrote drafts and parts in a new Moleskine notebook I bought to serve as my writing journal for the coming year.  I really wanted to pay attention. Choose the right words.  And not share them until they were ready. Until my heart was ready.  Until I had my word for 2014.  Until I knew exactly what I thought of the year that came and went. I didn’t want to feel lost again when the new year arrived.   I watched the days of winter break pass me by as I read and rested, hung out with my family, and observed and took pictures instead of blogged.  Four books, pages and pages of redundant notes and drawings in my new notebook,  a sleepless week, decisions and a brain crammed with emotional stuff later, what I intended to be my last post of 2013, has turned into my first one for 2014.    I thought I was too late and then way too early, now I know this post arrived just in time. Here goes …

Before I officially welcome 2014, let me say a proper farewell to a year that wiggled its way into my heart.  Thank you, 2013 (and Haikudeck).  Here’s to you and the 13* things that have made you some kind of wonderful

(* implicitly includes God and my immediate family, of course #justsayin).  

Grateful heart

Grateful heart

13 things in 2013

13 things in 2013

It is about the bike

It is about the bike

I started biking to and from work for many reasons.  One was to make sure I was moving more and incorporating some kind of workout into my day without needing to carve extra time or creating more obstacles to not be more active. Another was I needed to change my morning routine. It reminded me too much of a time when I was really happy and because I didn’t have that routine anymore, it made me sad to carry on status quo.  So a girlfriend and I bought ourselves hybrids, practiced and figured out our routes to and from school, lugged a set of clothes, toiletries and groceries the Monday we were ready and started a new habit that we are still committed to today.  Biking has forced me to sleep earlier, travel lighter, eat and feel better, find more quiet time and leave school earlier.  It’s one decision we made in 2013 that has made a huge difference in my health, well-being and peace of mind.

Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel

Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel

I love music but I am not like a crazy fan of anyone or any genre really. So many of my closest friends, including my brother, are like music aficionados, complete with blog post series on bands, concert tickets,  old CDs or albums and different playlists they searched for and listened to over and over again.  It defines milestones for them, says something about who they are and what they are going/been through and I love that and admire them for it.  But I don’t think I have that gene.  It’s like a relationship I only understand when I think of my love for books or photography or poetry. Or when I think of films and possible songs that will make up a soundtrack filling the air as the establishing shot begins.  Anyway, for many reasons, finding Spotify this year has been life giving. Playing music  all the time has changed my spaces.  My classroom, my home, my commutes and plane rides have all been  different.  I hardly listen to the old tunes in my iTunes library anymore (which I ripped from my brother, pretty much)  and am slowly developing my own muscle for music.  I love having access to different types of sounds and discovering what I actually like, what defines me and the best part, sharing playlists with favorite people.  I am still no music expert on any single band but I do love walking around with my headphones on curating different soundtracks for different scenes that actually happen to sh*t that’s just playing in my head.

Cities are not people but they have personalities - Neil Gaiman

Cities are not people but they have personalities – Neil Gaiman

It’s been a rich year for traveling, 2013  So I am grateful for that too.  I went home to Manila four times.  Went to Thailand  thrice, then Perth, Sibu and Cambodia for different student trips.  I also got to visit Kuala Lumpur and HongKong to be with close friends and  New York twice to spend time with my sister.  What I rediscovered this year is my love cities.  Everything about them makes me  swoon.  From the diversity, the lights, the culture, the pace and its pulse – I miss the ocean and the mountains but this year was a year for city love.

I heart Cities

I heart Cities



This little boy healed my heart

This little boy healed my heart

This actually deserves its own blog entry but in a nutshell, one of ultimate highlights of 2013 for me was anticipating the arrival of my sister’s first son, Caleb.  It was a treat to have been able to spend time with her during her third trimester in my favorite city on the planet, New York and  to be able to go  back and MEET and spend time with Caleb AND turn 40 in New York City was like the best birthday gift ever…because of this I will never forget you, 2013.

Life begins at 40

Life begins at 40

Which brings me here. This also deserves its own blog entry but right now this is what I have to say about leaving my thirties behind.

Yup.  This is what it looks like.  Me at 40.  Right here. Right now.  And guess what, it’s pretty darn awesome.  I know a little more…more of what really matters anyway.  I also understand that I still don’t really know much and yup, that’s totally okay. I am independent, fulfilled, free and hopeful. I love what I do everyday and am surrounded by amazing people. I live in a beautiful country not too far from my family and can rush to my sister in NYC if she ever needed me.  I do wonder what’s next but most days, I take it all in,  humbled by the open doors and enjoying the freedom that’s in front of me.   At 40, I’ve never felt more grown up but  I’ve also never felt so young and ready for anything. Does that make sense?  There’s so much out there to still learn and embrace and love;  and letting go?  That  becomes easier because I have also become wiser.

Unprecedented Learning, unforgettable people, powerful stories

Unprecedented Learning, unforgettable people, powerful stories


You can read my post on it here.  One word – EPIC.

Thank you for being beautiful, Haikudeck

Thank you for being beautiful, Haikudeck

My love affair with images and words continues.  Music, art, photography, books and writing our own verses and entries- they always, always save the day.  Again, let me  use Mary Oliver’s words – because this is what photography and words help me do.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

You are what you wear

You are what you wear

I wish Singapore had autumn

I wish Singapore had autumn

Don’t laugh. I know. I should have put something more profound um, but I didn’t and I won’t apologize for it today. Because I love that fashion is like art too in many ways.  I know it’s a problematic industry and looks like it shouldn’t be celebrated any more than it needs to be but it feels good sometimes to put something together and let it say something about design and style.

You know who you are

You know who you are

Anyway, I think 2013 would have been treacherous without the love and company of my girlfriends, both old and new.  They have become my family away from my family.

Seriously, you know who you are.

From saving me from myself to catching me when I fall to trusting me with your own secrets, joys and pain, I love you all. Thank you for always being there.

Seriously, I am grateful for this too.

Seriously, I am grateful for this too.

Heartbreak is only hard while it’s happening, I guess.  In the end, because you survive it and come out stronger, it’s all good.  You learn from the crappy bits, remember the good stuff, feel grateful and forgive (and hopefully feel forgiven) and just want what’s healthiest for you and your old partner.  All the rest, you get to just throw away because it doesn’t serve you.  That’s what I did, anyway.

Best part is, I don’t regret, not even  for a minute, putting myself out there with my hopeful heart on my tattooed sleeve. I don’t regret loving fiercely and trusting completely. Can I protect my heart better, sure. But I also know that  I have learned to leave  when I know it  no longer feels right for me.  I didn’t settle or  hang around like I was 23 or 28 or 35.  I left like a wiseR 39 year old and didn’t waste any more time than I needed to.

Note to Self

Note to Self

I heart my tribe/s. You know who you are.  Thank you.

I heart my tribe/s. You know who you are. Thank you.

Ah, I guess, I already have three other posts on the back burner because this too deserves its own entry.  Ideologically and literally, embracing the sadness is really so much better when you have a tribe to do it with.  Sadness comes in different ways, at different times and to carve time today to talk about it and say, ‘I love and accept you whether I get it or not’, has been priceless. Who says you can’t make new real friends as you grow older? It’s just not true.  So to my old Twitter/now new IRL friends who I love, respect and admire to pieces, thank you for making 2013 special.  You know who you are.

I didn't deserve it but you gave it to me. Thank you.

I didn’t deserve it but you gave it to me. Thank you.

Did I say three extra blog posts?  I actually meant four. I wish I could say more about this but I think I will be composing this particular post for awhile. Let’s just say that in the end, 2013’s finish line has been  all  about this. Receiving and accepting it actually more than my extending it.  I take none of it for granted.  I am still humbled by it today.  Thank you.

Hope keeps us alive

Hope keeps us alive

Lastly, my second year at UWCSEA-East is coming to a close and my gosh all the learning can’t measure up against  a trip around the world and back. Twice!  Everyday, I continue to learn something new, consolidating ideas and collaborating with some of the most inspiring, open minded educators on the planet.   I am happy to say that I have signed on for two more years and feel like there is no place I’d rather be except where I am right now in my career.  My heart is full of love for my place of work, this UWCSEA and Singapore family and I am grateful everyday for all the open doors.

And for all the second chances, 2013…thank you.

Welcome 2014

Welcome 2014

Here’s  a little something from Google Zeitgeist, 2013 to end this farewell…

And to the new year, a poem, ‘To the New  Year’ by WS Merwin.  Nice to meet you, 2014. I love you already.

Welcome, 2014!

Welcome, 2014!

To the New Year

With what stillness at last

you appear in the valley

your first sunlight reaching down

to touch the tips of a few

high leaves that do not stir

as though they had not noticed

and did not know you at all

then the voice of a dove calls

from far away in itself

to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you

here and now whether or not

anyone hears it this is

where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

untouched and still possible

Anyway, my word for 2013 was love but now that I think  (and have written) about it, should have been rediscovery which would have been a nice segue from my 2012 word  for that year … which was discovery.   Not that it wasn’t at all about love because it always is, right?

My word for this year is NOURISHwhich includes rest, save, balance,  read, write and paying attention to what needs replenishment and love.  I want to sustain what’s already positive and life-giving while allowing other parts of this amazing life to grow.  I also want to be more giving and be more generous to others so my relationships and people around me are nourished too.  Because I’m convinced that nourishing others will most definitely nourish my soul.

I have been working on a  a set of goals/plans  and projects that I have outlined in my Moleskine journal and  when it’s ready, I will share it.   Just needs to percolate a little bit more.  But this recent article on HuffPost Books is the basic framework for most of my plans this 2014 with a special mention of my friend’s New York Times article, Chris H, which inspired me to no end.  I hope to someday write with the same heart and conviction but with my voice.  Thank you, Chris.

One thing  I did start the year with is a Facebook/Instagram fast. People who know me well will know exactly why (and think it’s silly because they completely understand and accept my documenter gene).  If not, my #embracethesadness tribe and I will surely have a lengthy conversation about it.   I love Instagram but I need some time away from it to discern what’s next with that space. It might change after this fast or it might stay the same but I want to take a step back and reflect on what it has become and what it can be more of.  As for fasting from Facebook – it’s just detox from an addiction that needs to be curbed.  I am a social media cliche, I know.  A  post on how it’s going or how it went coming soon.  In the meantime, I hope to breathe life into this space and this one too.

So, what’s your word for the year?  How do you plan to live 2014 by it? and what was the first thing you did today to mark a new beginning? Drop me a line below to let me know.

And with that, thanks so much for passing by and reaching  the end of my massive post.  I really appreciate it.  Happy New Year!  🙂

grateful slice:  Yearly roundups, reflections and new beginnings


Right. It’s been awhile, I know. :p  Boo on so many levels.

But I’ve been busy.  Busy with my heart. Busy getting back on track. Busy forgiving. Busy paying attention. Busy planning, moving, settling in, teaching, learning, loving and learning some more.  Busy letting go.  Busy accepting.  Busy making up for lost time.  Busy resting. Busy recalibrating.  Bust traveling. Oh and busy with images.  

Yup.  Been busy living.  

There’s more to it too, of course.

The silence.  

Part choice, part involuntary mutism – there’s always more to it than just the silence of someone’s soul.  Um, because it’s never really quiet in there. The total opposite actually.  And until some of the wires untangle, and not until breathing resumes to normal,  attempting to write about whatever sometimes, especially when nothing is pouring out, becomes counter productive.  

Sure, I have been documenting what I’ve been grateful for these past months. Sharing snaps and slices with people I love in my other online spaces. Traveling has made that easy. There’s something about visiting old friends in a new place (Jower in KL) and visiting old places with fresh eyes (Manila and New York City) that allow for this combustion of inspiration. Everything I see right now, I want to shoot and share. So, yeah,  I thank G everyday for photography and communities who appreciate photography. 

But writing, boy do I miss you.  There’s nothing like you and the way you enable/force us to articulate what we are thinking, feeling, learning one word after the other. I have missed you, old friend. I have been cheating on you with my new love, photography and I’m really sorry for neglecting you.  Please forgive me because here I am. Mid year. Mid July. Mid summer break.  In my favorite city on the planet, doing many of my favorite things with a lot of great people sometimes;  alone most days.  Am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy right now and I’d like to honor where I am standing right now with this momentum post and an old poem.

A brief background and an extended explanation:

I wrote this poem for and with my students (and co teacher) last school year.  I write a version each year I teach poetry actually, so there are many versions swimming around on different pieces of scratch paper, several inboxes, maybe three to four Moleskine notebooks and Pages documents.  I’ve read older versions aloud to my class before but I’ve never blogged any of the pieces.  This is the first one I’ve shared beyond the classroom.  The original post written for my kids lives here.   There’s also this writing and photography course I am taking this summer with 89 other women all over the world, who are strangers right now but hopefully won’t be for long, and I wanted to share this post with them.  We are on our second week with already two sets of photo and writing exercises.  This where I’m from poem (inspired by George Ella Lyon’s version) reminded me of the first writing exercise we had to do – stepping stones to unravel where we have been, which may also reveal where we are headed.   Here goes…

Where I’m From


by Ms. Pau

I am from an old house on 21 Lilac St.

from rooms with stories, secrets

and slippers in my father’s hands

occasionally hitting the exposed

surfaces of my little body.

I am from extending stolen tearful

 glances at my mother who

didn’t know what to do.

Making that first note to self:

never cry where your young

angry father

could sense you.

I am from the stone balcony that looked out

at the dusty street

and our big black steel gate

where I watched my

Yaya Shirley leave unexpectedly

after she was almost stabbed

by our other evil helper.

The road ahead

I am from abandonment that I

got to know too intimately at a very young age,

from the expectation to be

strong, silent and sure, which

meant I was being a good girl because

I understood why,

because I didn’t cry.

I am from thinking that moving houses

was never supposed

to be traumatic.

Haunting images of my parents,

partners and friends

leaving me again and again and again

from Sunday tears erupting from my core

for no good reason except the thought

of another goodbye

even years later

as a grown woman

an older me

I am from a bigger backyard, a bigger house

 a bigger gated subdivision that left

an even bigger gaping hole in my heart.

I am from this place where I learned to say the words

“I love you” second and not first;

“I am sorry” first and never second.

I am from Alabang Golf and Country Club,

holding hands, bad poetry read to young crushes

who thought they had found their true love

Big words and alliterative phrases

clumsily strewn together for loved ones I vowed

I would never forget

never wanted to forget

to forget me


I am from betrayal, deep sadness

and harsh secrets learned too early;

from an awkwardness in my own skin

I clung to, not knowing how else to be

from fighting for a self that he, she, and

everyone I knew thought was perfect

except my-self

I am from everything they said I couldn’t be

I am from one day realizing I had wrapped

myself voluntarily in a cocoon, so difficult

to escape and wiggle out of

feeling like I deserved to hide there, and

to prove me right I had to

break my heart

over and over and over

But I am also from the paper thin wing that

made the first finest tear

the path to redemption and forgiveness

began with

the other wing setting me free…

butterfy bound

I am from books that adorn my walls

fortified from anyone who thought I was

illiterate and not critical enough

Yes, from a thousand books

I can’t live without today

A thousand friends who have

kept me company, have helped

me escape, who constantly remind me

all to well about my own humanity.

my books live here

I am from a hundred films, movies

and pirated DVDs; characters like

Tyler Durden, Mr. Keating, and

Lara Croft, I wish

I were instead of me sometimes.

Their happy endings, misadventures

and worlds combined

leave me envious and confined

As I gaze vacantly at the laundry

spinning round and round

I am from the quest for kindness

gratitude and turning the corner

 but still not having a clue

from women’s rights and claiming feminist

and not believing in God for awhile

because according to my Masters Degree

 that made me look weak

I am from all of it boiling down to that angry little girl

who wasn’t allowed to speak

or make an appearance

All she wanted was to be heard and be herself

I call her Olivia

Aaahhh. Don’t eat me.

 I am from writing and writing and writing

during nights desperate for answers

and from days like this, where I am writing

and writing still

I am from many complicated,

complex and convoluted corners

that don’t remember everything

like I thought I did


I am from wondering what it all means to

all of it making sense


I am from seeing the world behind a lens

and through my pen and lined journals

from finding solace

in the sound of the pounding of keys

I am from these eternal lines and shared images

from these two always, always saving the day


I am from malignant tumors

that peppered my neck and upper chest

from cancer that came out of nowhere

but taught me the most important lessons

in life

from being in remission

and from being spared

for a reason


I am from my body image, the final frontier

 that is the total contradiction of who I am now

fissures from an old script

of a self worth defined by a society screaming

I need to be stick thin to be beautiful

tiny cracks in my psyche that need

to be filled

healed and sealed

Self acceptance

I am from metamorphosis that only happened

when I stopped trying

from being transformed by

gratitude and a love that overflows

from the ultimate well spring of life

I am from my Creator

who reminds me that I am

wretched and yet

still the best thing that’s ever

happened to Him.

I am from a God who says

I made you for a reason and has

a son who helped me understand

the words, ‘I forgive you.”


I am from the earth and the sea and my

sun kissed skin

from beneath the shallow surface

of the ocean, watching dugongs

swim away as I listen to my heavy breathing

and celebrating a heart that’s so full

it could burst at any moment




I am from my Kuya I was born to adore and

 a mother and a younger sister I learned to love

and a father, now older, less angry, my biggest ally

These pieces make me who I am

the best bits that make the most sense

most of the time

the very basic

definition of where I belong begins

with Mon and Maqui, Eddie and Rae

Family Gold

Baby sister

I am from my classroom

the conversations that wow me on

a daily basis

to collaboration, asking important questions

and reclaiming the power of storytellers

and storytelling

I am from always challenging myself as a teacher

and learner and from saying

I can still do so much more

Special beginnings

My classroom today

I am from spaces that we create to build a new life

three hours away from where I was born

From missing the sound of the clipping carabiner

to finding peace on the mat

I am from the inked narratives on my skin

that remind me that the pain, it always ends.

I am from love lost, love found

love that I have recently discovered

who recognized me back

as his long lost friend,

match, partner and soulmate

a challenging handful he can’t quit

We are from the shark always being included

in this disastrous adventure 

we have begun


Here goes…

Here we go

The big move

I am from my mistakes and

my redemption and transformation

that has already begun.

I am from where I am headed,

where goodbyes become easier

and where everyday there are

warm hellos.

I am from today, still alive

more than okay

the best I’ve ever felt

in 39 years

I wouldn’t recognize ennui

if it sat in front of me to have tea

I am from

looking out my balcony

writing these verses for the most important

people in my life right now

finally coming home to a huge party

where everyone is invited


Again, thanks for passing by.  Appreciate it.

grateful slice: summer break, time, poetry and honouring where we are from

Blog2Learn: Mano a Mano

No better way to meet a person than to meet their mind first. – Clay Burell

It’s really interesting to watch a conversation grow. Especially when you take part in it midway; not at the very beginning or the tail end but right smack in the middle of the complicated, swirly marinade of people’s differing perspectives, questions, assertions, speculation, preconceived notions, hopes and dreams. It has been on the table for a while, the discourse on student blogging. From its value, relevance, usefulness and purpose, the idea of using blogging to learn has received varying responses, both encouraging and dismissive. Out there, die hard believers and skeptics alike roam the same pedagogical hallways, crossing paths as they agree to disagree.

Last Sept 11, UWCSEA had the opportunity to create a space for more people to engage in this exciting conversation mano a mano. With a panel of three made up of UWCSEA East’s Jabiz Raisdana, the renowned Clay Burell from Singapore American School and one of his History students, Hayden, a group of teachers, administrators, students and parents sat together in the Kishore Mahbubani Library at the UWCSEA East Campus and continued the conversation I feel lucky enough to have been part of.

Four generations of white rabbits: Jeff, Clay, Hayden and Jabiz

The hour and a half long discussion was peppered with personal stories, insights, testimonies, admiration for the great work people are doing to push blogging to learn forward and profound responses to thought provoking, and challenging questions from the audience and #blog2learn tweets. Questions about privacy, purpose, value, authenticity, audience, safety, how and where to begin, assessment and systems were some of the few plaguing people’s minds.


In the end, here’s what most of us took away:

1. People’s blogging journeys usually begin with the pursuit of a “white rabbit.”  It’s a kind of indirect mentoring that takes place organically.  A younger Jabiz followed Clay for years before Jabiz learned to trust his own online voice.  Clay acknowledged Jeff Utecht, who was also in the room that day, as his white rabbit. Many people there looked toward Jabiz and thought or tweeted that he was theirs.  Well, you get the picture.  A lot of people I follow now followed someone else through the rabbit hole and have felt the same admiration, vulnerability, motivation and inspiration. And yes, the ripples are multiplying.  It’s an exciting leap of faith that has lead to amazing things happening.

2. Blogging is writing. And that means differently to different people. To Clay, it’s about rigor and preparing his students for university and the future. For Jabiz, it’s about giving his 15 year old self and other young people the space to feel safe to share what means a lot to them. Either way, it has been about a cultivation of voice, a discovering of self, and expression of ideas and creativity to an audience that’s out there. Victoria, a Gr 8 student from UWCSEA-East couldn’t have said it better in her student blog, “Recently I went to conference called “Blog to Learn”, where experienced bloggers would talk to people about how blogging could make education that much better. The conference was immensely interesting, and I felt that I gained a lot of knowledge about blogging. The most important message that I’ve gotten out of it was that to become a better blogger, you actually have to blog. This means, that you shouldn’t keep stalling or getting paranoid that somebody is a tremendously better blogger than you. Instead, you should be working to your upmost potential and possibly use that as motivation.”

3. Finally, the most amazing thing about blogging is the community building it enables. It doesn’t matter if it’s a class of 22 Grade 7 students reading a post on Sharks, a Middle School teacher in Singapore interested in the students’ blogs of a Robotics class in Bangkok, or a young blogger getting 27 comments from all over after posting this, the idea that people can authentically share, get immediate feedback, build relationships and cultivate conviction will keep that authentic conversation going. Discussions in the classroom will never be the same again. I believe when students find a way to carve a home in the online sphere, they expand and break down the four walls of any classroom.

What about you?  What questions are you asking about blogging to learn?  Where are you finding your answers?  Please, feel free to join the conversation.

To blog or not to blog, that is the question

More Student voices:

Blogging is like a giant piece of paper. Imagine. The paper goes on for as far as you can see in all directions, just a plain white sheet of paper. There is only tiny mark on it, right where you are standing. Your name.
In your hand, you realize that you’re holding a paint palette containing paints of every colour of the rainbow, thick and thin brushes, pens and crayons.Then you realize that this paper is yours. All yours. You can draw, paint, write, scribble, colour, decorate and splatter on your paper. You can rip it, stamp on it, stick it, flip it, tear it, poke it, cut it, and scrunch it up. You can get others to judge your paper, support you as you draw, and give you ideas. And the best part is that the paper will never ever run out.

When you look back after years of work on your paper, you realize how you drew what you loved, what you hated, what you wanted, what you felt, what you needed, what you had, where you were, what you were, when you were. You have made one beautiful piece of art that is unique and will always be unique. You have made yourself into art. Hazel, Gr 8

I really enjoy the blogging part of english as I find it my best and most fun way for me to expresses how I feel and what’s going on in my life. I think that all English classes should set up blogs because its just a site. A site that turns in to something immensely amazing and beautiful. But the most important thing about thing about blogs is that it come in an empty space I think. It’s like a sand box. You can build, houses, castle, dungeons, pyramids. You build from your background knowledge, you build from your experiences and you build about yourself that’s why I love blogging. It’s your sand box, let the building begin and so will I! – Kaymin, Gr 7
I love blogging now. I am not even sure if it is related to english. But I am loving it. It is like a journal, where you can share your thoughts, experiences, and ideas. It is a whole new world for me. I think that blogging is going to have a good future for me because later in my life, my teachers, my employers, my kids, will see this. – Dhruv, Gr 7
When I first found out that we were setting up blogs I cringed, I have had really bad experiences with blogging in the past but I realized that if you do it properly blogging isn’t all that bad. I have realized that you can share so many ideas whilst blogging. I have really found that it has helped with my writing, but really we have only scraped the surface of writing and the full extents of blogging. – George, Gr 8
With the introduction of blogs you’re allowed to go to the max and well show off your skills in English but still with some guidelines. With the ability to look at one another’s work you can inspire and share ideas of which could eventually finish the puzzle your work can be. From a good paragraph opener to a good finishing of a story or poem or any sort of English related work we do. As well as the ability of others to look at your work and you to look at others. I am not now just creating work of what seems useless to me besides gaining me a grade level at the end of the year and entertaining my teacher, instead I am creating something of which people around the world can view, family can view, teachers can view and class mates can view. – Blair, Gr 8


Keeping Things Whole

By Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.
Mark Strand, “Keeping Things Whole” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand.  Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a division of Random House, Inc.  Source: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)

Psssst.  So, how have you been? Alls well, I hope.

Erm, I’ve been busy, I guess. Moving. Here are some snaps of what I’ve been up to.

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Anyway, it’s a peaceful Saturday afternoon out here in muggy Singapore and life is pretty good.  My new spaces are happy places and work is extremely fulfilling and inspiring.  I have new friends who feel like old friends. And old friends I am seeing in a fresh light.  I am at peace. My heart is intact and I have my students on my mind.

I know I have managed to neglect this space for awhile now and that’s fine. It happens. These seasons of silence. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been living a life of gratitude.  It also doesn’t mean I haven’t been traversing the grid.   If you’d like to see where I have been spending most of my time online, you can check it out here (Meta).  It’s currently where I hang out these days.  Especially since, a huge part of my classroom involves all of my students blogging themselves.  Make sure you click on some of their sites in my classes’ bundles.  A lot of great ideas are coming out of these young minds. I am extremely thrilled to be part of their writing journeys as they build communities, develop their voices, and hone their convictions.

Like I said, it’s been a great first few months away from home.  I miss certain things about it but that’s a blog post for later.  For now, I need to decide what to do with this old home of mine.  I am thinking of revamping it, perhaps getting my own domain or something like that. I haven’t decided.  It has served me well but just like my geographical move, I am seriously thinking of an online uprooting as well.  Will you follow me to my new space if I move?

I hope you do.

grateful slice:  old and new spaces

Wait for it …

Day 1 of my summer writing workshop:  What kind of writer are you?

It’s true.

I am a collector and I hardly throw anything away.  Not things, vintage clothing, pieces of paper with scribbles on them, memories, letters, pictures, feelings, associations and connections.  I am a big believer of documentation, of writing everything down and  have been accused of compulsive capturing.  This sentimental side, the one that also houses the pack-rat gene, has been there ever since I could speak and then became more pronounced when I learned to write.  At some point, this compulsion to take everything down and remember every single detail of what I see and experience, I attributed to being a writer.  I figured I needed to remember it all, so I could always fill in spaces and gaps in whatever story, character, poem or essay I  come up with. I thought all these things will eventually make it to my future ‘book’ somehow (on what, I still don’t know)  so remembering meant material.  There was comfort in knowing I could retrieve something, anything, from wherever I stored ‘stuff’  because it was torture to forget.

But today, I am thinking that  it’s okay, sometimes, to put the camera down. To let go of the pen or the sticky keyboard and turn the computer off.  It’s okay, sometimes, to document experiences and epiphanies in the little cracks of our consciousness instead of hurriedly and clumsily on the page.  It’s  also okay at times to wait for inspiration, for the best moment, for the mind blowing muse, the worthy snap,  before spilling our guts onto a place where people will see them.  There IS beauty in silence and power in observation and withholding.  I honor that today.

It’s all good  anyway because the silence is temporary and from whatever writing and documentation hiatus, the compulsive capturer always emerges  with a new way of seeing; one that’s not so attached, harassed or desperate.

These past few weeks have been a blur.  I tried, many times, to sit down and write but felt overwhelmed instead. So many things were happening all at the same time.  I never knew where to begin.   I didn’t know how to back track. How to recall and record.

So,I let it go.  Because  I realized not writing something down does not always mean I will forget.

Anyway, amidst the blur of loving gestures, emotional goodbyes, surprise parties and special meals with loved ones, packing and sorting through stuff I never threw away, I found myself agreeing to facilitate a summer writing workshop after a good friend and parent requested I do. People thought I was crazy to agree with everything I still needed to fix and arrange prior to moving.  But I didn’t care. It felt like a gift, actually.  A nice chance to be surrounded by Beacon kids.  I thought it would be a wonderful way to ween and manage the separation anxiety.

pack rat

True enough, this is where I find refuge these days.  Twelve brave souls decided it was worth their time to spend eight two hour sessions with me and if they only knew what a treat it has been. To share and teach something I am passionate about. Without rubrics or TSCs or report card narratives. With nothing but the intention to get them started on their own writing journey. One I hope they will keep alive and nurture even after the eight sessions are over.

young writers at work

We are right smack in the middle of the workshop and so far, things are going well. Kids are excited. They are writing and writing and reading each others’ work. They are attempting interesting writing activities and have been blogging!  I couldn’t be happier.

writing workshop snack


In light of encouraging the twelve to start their own blogs and write and share as often as they can, here is a poem I have been meaning to post for months but never had the guts to.  I wrote it awhile back and showed it to one person (Joey Tandem aka Mr. Lapid) who helped me refine part of my controlling metaphor and one transition.  I felt pleased once we “fixed” it but quietly placed the piece on my desktop thinking there would be a better time to share it.

I guess, now is that time.

Tell me what you think.

die, douche bag (Photo taken by Chris Ramos @ the Morrissey concert)


by Ms. P

It crawled inside her head

and lodged itself



in the deepest cavities

of her cerebral cortex.

She thought she was,

at this juncture,

 impervious to the leech;

didn’t think it would

bother her

ever again.


there it sat

curled up


vicious and


sucking the might

of her confidence

slowly eating away

at her lobes,

without her knowledge.

Nothing prepared her

for the pain

when it dug

its jagged teeth

on the soft tissue

surrounding her decisions

her opinions,

the grey matter of

her insights and


It drank the life out of

everything she believed was

real and important.

Worn out and weary

she wondered why

she could not hold her

heart in her hand,

the usual indicator

that she was in a safe place;

where there were no hidden agendas

or predators  lurking

 in her subconscious.

Until of course,

that very

same thought

alerted the little demon

hiding in her brain

that she finally,










It uncurled and


the little bastard

slithered out

of her ear

moved on to her shoulder

on to her forearm

passed the tiny tiara

and sun tattoo

on her wrist

only to find its

way on her palm

where she


until she could

close her fist

to squash

the little fiend

that tried to eat

a part of who she was


die, douche bag!

Guts squirted

from the gaps

of her tight fist

She watched

the color return to her cheeks

as she unclenched

her pale yellow


And you? What’s your  recent source of inspiration?

grateful slice:  my summer writing workshop and my 12 young writers

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through (and some Mary Oliver)

I miss writing.  So I promise to do it soon.  And more frequently.  Photography, it seems, has seized all of my attention the past few months and I can’t seem to unlock my gaze at the world; this life I constantly crave to document one snap at a time because it’s the fastest way to express my love and gratitude.  Love for a life peppered with extraordinary moments. Gratitude for each and every breath and step I take.   I am extremely blessed and photography has allowed me to say thank you often and quickly.

But I know I can do both. Write and shoot and continue to tell my truth bit by bit.   So, that’s the plan.  🙂

In the meantime, here are some recent snaps of my looking/passing/peering/gazing through something.  Tell me what you see…thanks for passing by.

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by Mary Oliver


Understand, I am always trying to figure out 
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –

and so, last week,
when I found on the beach 
the ear bone
 of a pilot whale that may have died

hundreds of years ago, I thought 
maybe I was close 
to discovering something –
for the ear bone


is the portion that lasts longest 
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
 like a squat spoon
 with a pink scoop where

once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters 
in the house of hearing,
it was only

two inches long –
and thought: the soul
 might be like this –
so hard, so necessary


yet almost nothing.
 Beside me
 the gray sea
 was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over 
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything 
through its dark-knit glare;

yet don’t we all know, the golden sand 
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it


lest we would sift it down 
into fractions, and facts –
certainties –
and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know 
our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.

(from Why I Wake Early, 2004)

 Photos taken by my Nikon D90 or my iPhone4.  Snaps taken in Tagaytay and Batangas.

grateful slice:  appreciating the obvious and seeing what’s  beyond

How I Learned to Love 2011

What’s not to love about 2011?

Well, a lot apparently. From all the natural calamities, world tragedies, economic upheaval, sudden inexplicable deaths, and everyone’s personal ups and downs, sometimes I wonder how people still get up in the morning.  In the end, clenched fist in the air, it was easy to bid such a challenging year goodbye.  Having said that though, even with all of 2011’s warts and boils, it was still a year of unforgettable extremes and profound lessons.  Some of the best years of our lives are built with pillars of deep suffering and joy beyond all understanding.  And this is what this year has been about for me. Extremes. Maximum everything. No holds barred emotional roller coaster ride with the sharp turns, gut wrenching dips, ear piercing shrieks and white knuckles. Admittedly, there are some things I wish didn’t happen this year – people getting hurt unnecessarily, for example – but I believe that everything happens for a reason. So with that, I celebrate it  ALL today (narrowed down to 10 life-giving things). The good, the bad and the ugly. I figure once everything is put into perspective, it all turns to good.  So, thank you, 2011, for these 10 things and what I took away from them.  No matter how bizarre you were, it started and ended with a grateful heart.  Here goes…

I was able to travel quite a bit this year, so I am stoked about that: Here are some links to entries connected to my 2011 adventures.  SagadaIndia (Tamil Nadu)India (Mumbai and Ahmedabad)Boracay (with tFTs), Adelaide, Hong Kong (with family) and most recently, Singapore.


So happy I was freshly pressed twice last year! 🙂

Finally, with that, goodbye, 2011. I am grateful for you but I bid you farewell as you clumsily ride off into the sunset.  Now hello there, 2012. So glad you could make it. Stay awhile and be nice.

How about you? How much did you love 2011?

grateful slice:  learning from a complicated year

Sarah Kay Does It Again

I stumbled upon Sarah Kay, her poetry and her TED talk about the same time last year and have since shared her work with whomever I can.  She leaves the hungry young poets in my Grade 7 class speechless, and me, well, she has me inspired to always write about only what is true, with a small letter t, to me.   Here’s her newest TED talk.  Nice way to end an awesome weekend.

grateful slice: Sarah Kay and her poetry

The stronger pull

It’s true.

I come from a family of writers (no matter what our day jobs are).  My dad  is a finance guy who can write. My brother is really more of a photographer and writer than a banker.   And  apples, well, they do not fall far from their trees.  Check out the Junior Inquirer article of Sabine, my brother’s firstborn.

She really is the best version of all of us put together.

Sabine meets the idols and gets to write about it

It’s also never too late or early to pick up photography.  Look at me and  yes, our young photographer, Sabine.

Sabine and the decisive moment

The photographer is also a willing subject

Love at first toy

The apple and the tree

Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull

of what you really love.


grateful slice: Sabine, image, text and the Junior Inquirer

R&R IRL: how to watch an entire week melt away

Tick Tock

Sometimes lifting one foot in front of the other feels like you have grand pianos in your shoes.  There is a desire to get some sun and put an end to the cabin fever but you think of the weight of the grand pianos and stay put.  There are days you want to get up and do a downward facing dog but stay glued to the couch instead, the skin behind your legs slowly merging with the ecru upholstery. You know it takes six weeks for muscles to atrophy, and hello, you tell yourself, it’s only been a day.   Later, you try to justify the many times you’ve watched this or that episode of ANTM because you know the blonde/brunette/redhead/pixie/tall/thin/wide/lesbian/girl-next-door/girl-with-dead-eyes will get eliminated but your shame slowly eats away at your brain and gnaws at your reasoning so you just smize to yourself instead. You then change positions and wait for another rerun of another show you already saw.  You do this with a lot of gumption until 2:30 am.

Repeat for two more days.

On the third day…you attempt a To Do List.

Sometimes writing a list or a mindnode of things to do during a “free” week feels like writing a final will and testament.  You know you need to do it, but postpone it for some other time.  You manage to convince yourself at that moment that just the thought of it is too ominous and depressing; which then makes you think of the grand pianos and the little buggers gnawing at your pituitary gland.  Where did these little creatures come from, you wonder.  Weren’t you fully functional a week ago?

The seconds, minutes, hours, days disappear, like sand between your fingers and you see your mindnode of things to accomplish swallow you whole.  Then POP…you become the purple branch of different things to do to avoid the different things you need to do; your breath connected only to the periwinkle circle in the middle of the web.  You cling for dear life and have temporary amnesia.

Sometimes writing a blog post feels like jagged finger nails screeching against an old school blackboard.  Your fingers bleed profusely and still, nothing.  Not a single word worth a damn comes out. You say to yourself, meh.  What can you do? So you let it go.

When you realize you have a day and a half of vacation left, you snap out of your amnesia and let the panic rise to your throat.  You gasp and gag and realize the familiar drowning feeling is back. Soon,   you know that adrenaline will seep through your veins and make you move again.  At that moment, relief sets in but at the same time, you feel overwhelming remorse as you stare at the corpse, which used to be an entire week free from any immediate obligations, beneath your feet.   You can’t help but notice that your feet are back to their normal size and that’s when you take one baby step at a time towards your To Do list.

It dawns on you that your neglected To Do list has now turned into a To Do or Die list.  And your mindnode’s colorful branches are wrapped snugly around your neck waiting for the perfect moment to squeeze.

And squeeze tight.

Well, well, well look do we have here:   A pile of papers so tall you slept on it and failed to feel the pea;  a generation’s early work to be sifted through, edited and compiled (litmag 2010-2011);  and the inspiring and mind-numbing preparation involved in doing the work you are so grateful for and love to do. Everyday.

At the corner of your eye, you also notice that the yearbook is done and ready for printing, you have a new blog set up for a different audience and for a different purpose, you have managed to properly document your most recent workshop and already have all the documents you need to apply for another visa to India for your next workshop.  You also allow yourself to acknowledge that you have beautiful pictures of your favorite people in the world and that because you weren’t working, you spent quality time with family.  Nothing can ever really compare to that.

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The remorse decompresses a little.

Sometimes the season calls for rest, silence and hibernation.    You heed it with great respect and gratitude.  You honor it, otherwise your ankles swell up.  You embrace it because, more often than not, it saves you.  At some point though, and at the right time, you also need to recognize it is over, even before it is over.  Or else, the panic will consume you until you can’t do anything but wail the workaholic’s cry as you try to convince everyone you love and who love you back that you are alright.

And so it begins, always, with  a blog entry; and one day left.

grateful slice:  rude awakenings and panic attacks that jolt you back to the reality of the daily grind.