12 December 2013

Ana Castillo and Focus, Courage, Assertiveness

Waking up to the good news that I will be working with Ana Castillo in January!!!  I'm just thrilled, and I keep thinking maybe we'll fall in love!

Really, her book So Far from God changed my life in undergrad at Biola.  And in grad school, I've read and written about much more of her writing: Goddess of the Americas, Massacre of the Dreamers, and The Mixquiahuala Letters to mention a few.

Altogether, this morning, I'm feeling inspired! This is great news in the midst of this "finals week"!  And, as I dive back into editing Chapter 4 today, I'm ready.

The soundtrack for such a day involves some India Arie, no??

"I choose to be the best I that I can be,
I choose to be authentic in everything I do....
And everyday I have the opportunity to choose."

09 December 2013

The Texts and Finals Week

Motivated by a fellow scholar's blog about the books they were using for their dissertation, I thought I'd take photographs of mine and put them up here (again).

It's fun to procrastinate and take pictures and post them on social network sites.  Perhaps it's an addiction, but I like think it's a creative outlet as well.  Heck, another colleague of mine makes youtube videos of her singing mash up songs!
And, just for another fun photo-opportunity. Here's my Thesis from my MA in English Literature.  I had to pull this out of the bookcase.  When I think how I wrote this 80 page document, I remember being so organized and assertive about it.  
Indeed, I literally cannot remember a time in my life when I procrastinated as much as I have these last few weeks.   I've been working on feeling productive just carrying around a hard copy of my dissertation, but it doesn't get the work done as much as I hoped!

HOWEVER, this is my last week of writing before I submit a full revised draft of my research to my second and external readers.  It's finals week for me, friends!  And, I am dreaming about my dissertation, analyzing it as I try to sleep (hugs, insomnia!), and processing my argument everywhere I go!  Your prayers would be appreciated. 

26 November 2013

"There's Just So Much to Learn": Appropriation and Honoring My Ancestors

This morning I wake and ready myself to dive into my Methodologies chapter.  I write how I take a "Mestiza approach -- with feminist and Indigenous lenses (with Earth-based, Creativity-centered, Multi/Trans-celebrating, and Spiritually-engaged attributes) -- applied to ethnoautobiographical and literary critical methodologies."  Kind of a mouthful I guess.  My writing mentor asked me, after we read a poem of mine, about the complicated sentence structures I use in my academic work in contrast to the simplicity of my poetry.

I need to think about that.

I also rise up this morning and begin to think a little bit more about my journey in navigating life as Mestiza in conjunction with these concerns about appropriation.  I read an article this morning entitled "What's the Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation?"  and I am a bit caught to the quick.  I'm in love with these popular sweaters these days, and I wonder about this trend to wear Indigenous looking patterns.  I marvel at how I feel compelled to have one, and I don't even watch TV!

Still, I've been pretending I am Pocahontas for a long time. You know, as I was reading Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women and I read a woman's story about being black and white, and yet feeling like the Tahitian women she saw on the television were really her people.  I think that's how I felt about Disney's Pocahontas and how I felt about Mariah Carey as a teen too.  I grew up watching a lot of television, and feeling Out of Place in my LA suburban hometown.  I didn't feel that a Xicana or Filipina sense of self was available to me, and so I looked around and found role models where I could.

Now, as an adult embracing my multi: ethnicitites, cultures, and homelands, I struggle knowing how to honor my Indigenous ancestors while recognizing my Euroamerican privileges.  I've said it before, and I feel it a lot.

I love my lola and abuelo, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from the cultural exchanges I have been invited to be a part of as a granddaughter, but I hear concerns (internal and external) about always giving respect.  My mentor uses the phrase babaylan-inspired, and after a conversation with a Mestiza mujer about her own concerns of Anzaldua's use of the word nepantla, I say nepantera -inspired as well.

And, yet, I know there is more.  There really is just so much to learn, and (sigh) I trust I am on the right path because it is in my story, family's story, family's bloodline, family's family family....

21 November 2013

(Re)engaging with My Beloved Dissertation

My morning set up in Highland Park: note my prezi presentation on the computer, my dissertation art project on my left leg, my working introduction on my right, the ankle on my ankle, the candle lit, and the cozy-ness of it all. 
This week is the week I am saying, "Yes, precious dissertation, I do love you, and I am going to (re)engage!  It's been a few weeks of other writing, and it's been good; however, I am back with renewed commitment: tuned into KCRW, prezi presentation re-worked and ready to share, etc etc etc... and I HAVE A PLAN!!!

In Big Sur
And, my plan is not just for this week, but for the next 3 and a half months until I defend in February.  In part, this plan involves less social networking and more bear like hibernating in the cave of writing and editing.  This works well with the coming winter, and I believe it will also help to be in Los Angeles and living with family and old friends.  It's time to devote energy to the here and now!  (This has its benefits, and actually as I was writing, one of them manifested: a friend brought me a bagel and lox!).
Of course, I've now just given this blog a half hour of my morning.  And, I couldn't help diving into some creative filtering with another old foto. 

14 November 2013

Here I am: At the Gloria Anzaldúa Society's Conference (held every 18 months!)

And, it feels important.  First, I just feel honored to be among such amazing mujeres, one of them my wonderful second reader for my dissertation. 

The fact that tomorrow, around 10am, I will be sharing my own research and voice, leaves me a bit intimated but also in deep gratitude.  

Tonight at the opening reception, I read Anzaldúa's words, "writing is a sensuous act," and I felt inspired.  Why, yes! Thank you, Gloria, for reminding me that writing is or can be an embodied practice observing and bringing about transformation.  I certainly understand that as well as what you spoke about when you said, "We want to feel the wounds...and put ourselves back together in a powerful composition [so that] wounds become bridges."  

In fact, these last couple weeks -- as I have been writing for the dissertation, for proposals, and for paper presentations -- have brought about a good deal of wounds, bridges, and transformation.  With the solar eclipse and new moon, FIRE and fierceness followed me, and I initiated new conversations and relationships in my life.  It felt powerful to be able to manifest my desires.  

Then, the following weekend, at the Alchemy Conference, I tripped coming down a staircase and fell backward onto my ankle, spraining it badly.  Needless to say, the weekend became one of vulnerability and of receiving profound love and medicine from the women-healers at the conference.  My sacral chakra wounding also seemed very strong, and perhaps it was also that I was ovulating, but I cried a lot that weekend.  As a friend and colleague asked me today, I'm wondering, "what's at the top and bottom of the stairs? and why would I (coming down the staircase) almost fall forward in the middle, push back, and fall backward instead"?

Finally, after stopping home in LA to rest a bit and see my Oliver dog, I journeyed to San Antonio where I am staying with my kindred spirit from our childlike highschool and college days.  And, at the conference here (El Mundo Zurdo), I will be presenting a condensed form of my dissertation and using the time as a chance to practice my dissertation defense.  

However, at the same time, I'm considering taking an additional semester for school for a variety of reasons -- a change in relationships, waiting for some money to come through, taking time to publish in the safety of school, taking a break while I can/before I start a job --  and I spoke with my dissertation chair today too.  She called me actually, which is kind of amazing, and I listened.  I hope to talk with my second reader tomorrow about it all too.

Now, one more read through, then bed, and then la mañana.

06 November 2013

Dia de los muerto/as as a Filipina!: More Dissertation Praxis

Indigenous Dance Moves
with my dissertation external committee member, Dr. Leny Strobel
These last few weeks have been a calm before the storm.  Just now, it is a busy busy week with more than a couple deadlines on the horizon.  I am calling this next week or so...."midterms"....in the hopes that I will take these tasks up with the gusto that I had while as an undergrad.  The Autumn darkness, I pray, will aid me in my entrance into this comfy and empowering cave of empowered writing, smart editing, and delightful concentration.  Yep, that sounds like a good vision, no?   

Before I do enter the cave, I wanted to pause and reflect in much gratitude about the past couple weeks.  I have had, once again, lovely opportunities to put my dissertation into practice.  For Dia de Los Muerto/as, I participated in an event in Santa Rosa in which the Xicana community invited the Filipina community to participate in the altars and in offering a dance.  

In honor of my lola and my abuela, I wore a ceremonial outfit that brought together pieces from New Mexican traditions as well as the tribes of the Philippines. 

Beautiful Filipina Community! 
All I can say, is WOW!  What a new thing for me to be a part of this Xicana/o world and yet come as a babaylan-inspired Mestiza Filipina!  I loved it, and I love thinking more and more about my mixed heritage, about being a Mexipina, and about being a spider with a foot in many worlds. 

20 October 2013

Finishing Up a Full Draft Whilst in Alaska

Mid October, and it was time to turn in a full draft. And, I did it!! Approximately 300 pages!

First, I printed a complete draft after convening with my accountability partner/ tutor and edited that hard copy.  Then, I combined all my chapters into one softy copy document with my notes in a separate document.  Then, I made a list of the things I HAD TO DO in order to turn it in -- including cleaning it up/citation work --  made those changes from the hard copy edit, and...  Ta da!

Of course, my conclusion needs work, and I need to wait to see how my Chair responds, but it is in!!! And, on time!

And, all of this, I have done whilst visiting my partner in (often) sunny Alaska.  Good to feel like I am living while I am writing. 

09 October 2013

A couple weeks of dissertation in action

Last weekend was the Second International Babaylan Conference. After working with the marketing and organizing these last several months, and I am grateful to have enjoyed the fruit of the conference/retreat.  I came away with a ceremonial headband from the northern tribes of the Philippines as well as with a connection to a tribal dancing group being formed this next month.  YES! This is what I have been wanting. 

Moreover, I also was able to continue to work through issues I bring up in my dissertation while at the retreat: the desire to belong, alienation as a deep wound, and a language that includes the multiethnic. I’m still learning how to be proud of my Mestiza ethnicity and culture, and I was grateful for those Mestizas/os at the retreat who created safe space for me to process some of the grief. 

Thankfully, I was able to move into more of a leadership role with the next Babaylan event.  I coordinated the Filipina-American Ritual/Opening Ceremony at the Asian Art Museum.  It was much easier for me to feel like I belonged with a set role in the day’s activities.  And, it all turned out so well.   Our altar was covered with a diverse array of handwoven fabrics from the tribes in the Philippines.  Then, fruit of the Philippines (pineapples, bananas, etc) covered the fabric. Just gorgeous!!

And, the ritual itself, with gangsa, dancers, and babaylan-inspired procession leaders, was so transformative.  We chanted and prayed and carried baybayin banners with the words “creativity” and “renew” translated.   Altogether, there was about 30 of us including a Mestiza friend from school!  And, my dear friends from Kularts, CIIS and Bay Area, and the Farm came out!

Overall, I feel such a great sense of accomplishment and connection.  Grateful, also, to have a bit more space to write with these events done and done well.

Last, I want to note the power of vulnerability in my writing.  As I’ve been editing my writing, I’ve been editing a friend’s writing.  We've been sharing our work, and I've been so impressed by my friend's work in particular. She writes: 

“I am fortunate to have received an education that was both interdisciplinary and academically rigorous, where the classroom was the location where self-empowerment and agency were the byproduct of a shared commitment to excellence through learning.”  

With her “assets and strengths” as her “toolkit,” she writes that she carries “a sensitivity to cultural diversity, an inherent intellectual inquisitiveness combined with a critical lens” and also a “transformative pedagogical praxis.”

I am so inspired by this sister’s way of writing, and as I shared my work with her, she was inspired as well.  Now, that’s community.  

24 September 2013

"Solidarity Within"

Gave a 52 page chapter 5 to my dissertation chair on Friday, and it felt wonderful. I enjoyed in this chapter being able to bring in my literary analytic tools.  I found myself flowing and accessing a remembered creativity and assertiveness too.

Now, four days later, I’m worried again that what I’ve written needs serious revisions.  No, really, in my sleep, I don’t worry it needs revisions, I fear it’s unacceptable. 

I was telling someone last week I believe that I haven’t felt this much anxiety and fear about my writing since I was in 6th grade.  I was sharing my old story of how, before 6th grade, I wanted to belong so much, but I had no idea how to make it happen.  After 6th grade, I learned some specific ways to “fit in” by losing weight, memorizing and regurgitating, and writing to the teacher. 

Well, I’ve come full circle, right? Finally, in my PhD, I’m embracing that little girl and saying you don’t have to “fit in”; you can study in a way that feeds your body, mind, and heart.  And, my dissertation is a platform for my voice speaking to this topic of internal solidarity.  

Now, on to revise the intro and draft a conclusion this week. 

12 September 2013

Community Support

In my Centering Prayer group this week, the contemplative question was whether we had found God/dess or Consciousness in other cultures than the one(s) we grew up within.  I shared in my reflection that I actually think it's a miracle that the mystery of God/dess could be found within such a controlled box of my childhood church.  And, I am grateful for the cracks that let that light (and dark) in.

 I also shared how I was, indeed, continuing to find this mystery in cultures that were actually my own but lost through generations of racism and sexism.  That is, I am finding God/dess in remembering the spirituality of my (mostly female) ancestors.  And, here's the good news, my ethnic cultural heritages are amazing, and mysteries are unfolding!

This past weekend, in particular, was a lovely journey into my Filipina ethnic cultural and spiritual mysteries. I joined other women from the Center for Babaylan Studies at the FilAm Arts Festival in San Pedro. I loved being able to connect with these sisters and aunties (and brothers) that I know from my travels in San Francisco and the Philippines.  I enjoyed the kulintang music, the massage station, the Babaylan Pavilion, and the dancing most of all.

10 September 2013

Encouraging Feedback

This past week, I finally had a long talk with my committee chair, and she gave me such positive feedback about Chapter 4. IT FELT SO GOOD! I was reminded, in that moment, just how much feedback means to me.  

This reminder also came again when I received an email about my poetry being accepted to read at an event in San Francisco at the end of October.  And, it came again when I saw some of my writing on an advertisement for a friend's book coming out later this year. 

Altogether, I have some renewed energy in connecting with my classmates who are also working on their dissertations.  Time to work on check-in groups again.  Thankfully, this week also begins tutoring sessions again with the Writing Center at my school. This is a great way to stay accountable to my dissertation birthing too. 

My chair also encouraged me to take a bit more time on Chapter 5 and that there really was no rush to finish it up this past weekend.  Thus encouraged, I took some time to do something adventurous.  I thought long about going diving off of the Channel Islands (Anacapa), but decided it would be too much of a challenge just now.  Better, I thought, to be gentle with myself.  So, I went swimming (nude!) with my old friends in the Matilja Ojai dam.  

05 September 2013

Due this week: Chapter 5

This week is the week I turn in Chapter 5 to my dissertation chair. I've got a draft. I recently added some new research, and in the next few days, I will revise and work on flow and integration. It's been a laborious journey of already integrating what I've been reading into my life and into my language; thus, my hope is that these continuing revisions will be smooth.

A few wonderful things happened this last week. First, I've received two scholarships! Free money feels so good!  Second, I received my official letter that I've advanced to candidacy!!  Hung that up on my wall.

I also had some refreshing conversations with friends who are also in the final year or so of their PhD. I felt so normal after these talks.

And, third, my birthday was yesterday! I was able to take some time and enjoy life relatively free from the dissertation work at the Getty and a hike on the Getty View Trail.

22 August 2013


In the past three days, I've read (skimmed for character development, imagery, and diction) and taken notes on the work by Castillo, Hagedorn, Bobis, and Starhawk.  And, I have found so much in way of connections! I'm in awe really.  I could not have controlled or orchestrated this kind of synergy.

One of the connections (that I forgot was there all along of course!), was the Pinoy presence in So Far from God.  When La Loca is dying, Dr. Tolentino comes to heal her with psychic surgery.  He is from the foot of the sacred mountain, Mt. Banahaw in Luzon, which is known as the home of babaylan-like healers.  And, he learned his healing skills from his mother!  And, this is what he does, he uses his right hand to connect with the "spirit" and with his left, he reaches "through her flesh" and pulls out blood clogs, fibroids, and even a tumor from her ovaries.  All that's left when he finishes is a red mark on her belly.

 I have read of this psychic surgeries before, particularly when I read Virgil Apostol's Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippines Ancestral Traditions.  And, when I was in the Philippines, I experienced, not psychic surgery, but healing from the hands of Manghihilots.  I'm a believer for sure.
Yesterday, I began my writing of a Xicana-Filipina-Spanish Mestiza Ritual.   I found myself looking up images from (Pre-King Philip) Indigenous Filipina and Xicana spirituality. 

The Mebuyan I found above is the creation of my friend Ros in Camiguin (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cagayan-de-oro/lifestyle/2013/08/03/images-women-mebuyan-feminist-underworld-296015).  Mebuyan is a new role model for me.  Earth and creativity goddess from Bagobo mythology, her image is perpetually pregnant with many breasts.  She is the nurturer of all babies, all people. 

I also came across images of Coatlicue, Nahuatl for "the one with the skirts of serpents."  She is the mother of all things connected with fire and creation, death and rebirth, and the bearer of the moon.
La Virgen de Guadalupe, they say is the integration of many Indigenous Xicana goddesses, including Coatlicue. 

I've run out of time! Off to make mix up some Oaxacan mole I got yesterday from a woman whose family also came from San Luis Potosi (where my great-grandmother Charlie lived with the nuns I think!).

19 August 2013

A Woman (Re) reading

Been diving into the literature I've chosen for my dissertation:

Ana Castillo’s So Far From God, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters and Merlinda Bobis’ Flight in Song, and Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing.

Been taking extensive notes and enjoying these precious, sacred texts that speak to my heart's desires for communities, role models, visions, and languages that remind me that I belong without having to "fit in."

Castillo's So Far I read while at Biola and again a few years ago and again this year in the Philippines and again now. It just kills (and rebirths me!). This time around, I was particularly drawn to doña Felicia as she prays for Caridad when she disappears into the hills.  She prays to St. Anthony and uses divining sticks, but she won't pray to Santo Nino.  Castillo writes about it:

“Now, El Santo Niño de Adotcha is another matter – and he more than likely had probably guided Caridad to a refuge. But many year before doña Felicia and El Santo Niño had had a falling out, so she no longer entrusted her prayers to child Jesus who once saved Christians from Muslims in conquered Spain and in North American saved conquering Catholics from pagan Indians. (This was part of doña Felicia’s problem with the little saint in Spanish regal dress, trying to accept that he saved souls or abandoned them depending on their nationalistic faith).”

Two recent retreats -- one for the CIIS Women's Spirituality students and the other for the Babaylan Conference organizers -- have also reminded me that I belong. With these amazing folks, I feel loved for who I am: Mestiza feminist/womanist who believes in a relational way of being/knowing, who is learning how to let go and transform again and again, and who is embracing her fears and her creativity.  

And, it's pretty wonderful to begin to be more active in projects outside of school.  Met with a few other pinoy/ays at the Asian Art Museum this past week to walk through our "Opening Ceremony" for the Filipino/a-American Celebration October 6.   Also, saw some of my writing out in the media, advertising for the Babaylan Conference (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/82949/babaylan-confab-in-california-to-explore-myths-beliefs-folkways).

Overall, I feel like I'm learning how to articulate/say that I am done keeping a White/ Masculinist framework as the norm in my communities.  I'm done with fitting in or being otherized as not enough White, male, hetero, Christian, intelligent, wealthy.  I am done with White/non-White, male/non- male, hetero/non- heterosexual, and more. Those binaries and that labeling suffocates me. 

I am multi
as the world is
as my body is and
as my experiences are.

Oh, and I have been thinking of buying a house/sail boat. I think it's where I am being called to live.  I lived in one over the weekend, and I just loved it all: the small space and the sun and the water.

11 August 2013

Creative Energy and Eroticism and Spirituality

Holy moly, Tedtalks are everywhere I go. One friend recommends Amanda Palmer's talk on how she gave her music away and then asked her fans to support her.  Another friend recommends a talk on tying your shoe laces the "correct way."  All of them were just so fascinating and helpful. 

However, it's this one here on the "creative genius" that I've liked most of all.  Gilbert - of Eat, Pray, Love - asserts that historically, we didn't say one was a creative genius, but that, rather, one had a creative genius.  This genius was/is a daemon (I instantly thought of the His Dark Materials series that I LOVED and recommend!), a spirit figure that was in a relationship with the individual who would listen and cultivate that connection.  I really really really like Gilbert's argument, and this historical way of relating to our creativity.   Although I have some issues with how "transcendent" this makes creative energy appear, I can also see the "immanent" possibilities.   Creative genius without and within, yes?  There's something very comforting about this, and in her video, she talks (prays?) to this spirit, saying things like "I showed up; where are you?" 

The immanent possibilities of creative energy, I believe, is that something Audre Lorde speaks directly to in her "Uses of the Erotic."  This is another live talk, before Ted, and I listen to it often.  What I love about Lorde's work is her encouragement for women, for me, to embrace my creative power, my erotic energy, to build that strong relationship with my creative genius really, and to lay down at Her/her feet gifts of my time and passion. 

I can't believe that at 33 years of age I am just now diving into Lorde.  Synergistically, AnaLouise Keating, of Teaching Transformation, also explores Lorde's powerful voice (which speaks from "I am" to "we are" to "we can").  I was surprised to find my studies come so full circle as I read Keating's Women Reading Women Writing and within it, a discussion on "Uses of the Erotic" and more.  Keating describes how "Lorde redefines the erotic without denying its sensual embodiedness, and so simultaneously subverts and transforms this oppressive image."  Yes! Thank you, Lorde!

10 August 2013


I can't believe it's been over 10 days since I last wrote in my blog.  I've been busy, let me tell you. Busy, of course, with writing, editing, writing, and editing.  But, also I've been busy with working through, naming, speaking, sharing, learning about, and loving my shame.  It's big.  And, there's something about this dissertation that creates all these opportunities to process my shame.

Brene Brown is my new mentor. I've got her books on tape even.

Oh, and I'm almost done with a full draft of Chapter 4 (at 68 pages).

29 July 2013

Reading for Chapter 5

It was time to move on to Chapter 5, which focuses on literary criticism.  Thankfully, I'm used to lit crit, so I hope this chapter moves smoothly so that I can return with gusto to revising Chapter 4. 

My role model for this chapter is AnaLouise Keating again.  This weekend I began to really dive into her Women Reading Women Writing: Self-Invention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldua, and Audre Lorde.  It's an amazing book as you can imagine, and it's right up my alley.

Keating writes of Allen, Anzaldua, and Lorde:

Rather than deny the contradictions they experience as they negotiate among numerous groups, they explore them in writing.  By thus translating their lives into words, they reinvent themselves and enact new forms of identity, nondual modes of subjectivity that blur the boundaries between apparently distinct peoples.  …maintain that language does simply reflect reality but instead reshapes it. Yet they take this belief in language’s performative powers even further by associating it with precolonial nonwestern oral traditions.  In so doing, they simultaneously spiritualize and politicize their words. – AnaLouise Keating, Women Reading Women Writing

I keep writing in the margins, "YES! Me too! This is what I desire to do!" 
I do believe indeed that language reshapes reality.  And, speaking of language as prayer as incantations as spells, yesterday I wrote some words for a friend publishing a book on pre-Filipino text Baybayin (http://www.sulatngkaluluwa.com/).  Here's a snippet of what I wrote about the word he'll translate for me:

Golondrina Ibon
Cristina Rose
Los Angeles, California, USA
La Golondrina Ibon, the river swallow bird, is my guide.  She speaks to me about my ancestors, and she teaches me to be more “como pajaritas,” like birds, flying and enjoying all that life has to offer.  She is a hard-worker too and builds her nests along the rivers, rivers that cross borders and cover the Earth.  Putting her efforts into nepantla and babaylan endeavors, she is a Mestiza creatrix.  Her erotic and empowered energy transform everything she touches.  

23 July 2013

Obstacles as Opportunities: Life is What Happens to You When You're Busy Making Other Plans

Golodrina Creative Meditations
Last night I was speaking with my friend who sees letters and numbers in color.  "Cristina Rose Smith" comes out altogether as a mix of true red, tomato red (ochre I call it), and watermelon red.  There's some brown in there with the "n" in Cristina; however, when I add "Golondrina" (the Spanish word for river swallow and also the name of the town my Gram is from in New Mexico), my name takes on much more brown because "G" is also a brown color, a dark Earthy brown.  

And, I like that because I've been thinking about my Earth colored skin, and I've been seeking a more grounded sense of self.  In fact, I feel more grounded just thinking my name is a dark Earth brown and my body is a copper Earth brown.  Of course, I also appreciate all the reds in my name too.

So, reds and browns.  What does this have to do with my dissertation? I think a good deal because a lot is coming up for me, which is not a new story in my blog world or my personal world.  I mean, let's be honest, I talk about this all the time.

And, lately, I've been wondering how part of my issues, which are pretty intense these last few weeks, are related to my hesitancy to give up -- even if it's an illusion! -- my sense of White privilege.  I wrote a friend, ""I think there's safety for me to take sides with my Whiteness, and I can understand how my ancestors before me chose to identify as Hispanos/as instead of indio or Mexican or Filipino."

Although I've been identified as a "woman of color," what happens when I self-identify myself, and I still struggle with what that would be called.  I'm aware more and more that multi-ethnic or Mestiza have been, as AnaLouise Keating writes of multicultural, "co-opted and used to support existing conditions."  She says this so well when she puts forward:

"Rather than examine racism and other power issues, commodified multiculturalisms ...ignore systematic issues by offering facile celebrations of diversity that encourage individuals simply to 'tolerate' difference."

I'm sad to confess I think this is where I'm lingering, in commodified or "melting pot" multiculturalism.  Yet, I desire to break through this lens and box, and I'm learning so much from Keating and other scholars. 

And, I know that the intensity and challenges I'm encountering in my writing journey are obstacles and opportunities and the real real real substance of life. (So, too, I want to say, are the funerals and family time I've had these last few days.)  

Let me not forget this, I pray.

Ancestor Altar with Maps and Images

20 July 2013

Chapter 4 Taking and Being a Bit Longer

Well, it's bound to happen, right?  My dissertation's fourth chapter is taking over my life.  It's taking longer than my designated time, and it looks like it will be the whole dissertation the way I'm writing right now.  I'm trying to bring in too much; that is, I'm trying to bring in my whole educational experience at CIIS, all the women's spirituality papers I've ever written.  And, I'm struggling with a perfectionist tendency that shows up for me under stress as well as particularly with my academic writing.

So, I need to de-stress. I need to "reduce the emphasis" (maybe on this chapter?), AND I NEED TO RELAX.

I tried to relax yesterday, and I feel like I failed miserably.  I ended up leaving cerebral stress for emotional distress.  Quite honestly, I think it was all quite circumstantial. Certain circumstances combusted yesterday, and I just wasn't prepared.  Coming from a stressed place, I responded rigidly, which has caused all this residual strain on my body and spirit.

Thankfully, the news about my paper being accepted to present at the Gloria Anzaldua Conference this year encourages me that I am on the right track, even if it is a labyrinthine one.

17 July 2013

A Fresh Start: New Computer

Yesterday I finally made the decision to buy a new computer and one with a much larger screen.  My old HP mini, the first computer I ever owned, was a good traveling companion because it was so compact (10 inches I think).  However, I'm more aware than ever that NOW is the time to take care of my body,* and I'm hoping the larger screen will be kinder to my eyes.* So, now, I have this new Dell (on sale at Costco!), and it is nearly a 16 inch screen. I mean, it's nice, but it's going to take a moment to get used to it.  I do think the width of the screen creates a nice reaction in my body; I mean, I feel my chest expanding instead of contracting to meet the space the computer takes up. Ergo, it feels good!

I'm also back "home" in Los Angeles with my dog Oliver, and that feels good too.  And then, tomorrow, my partner arrives back from Alaska, and the sun is shining and it's time for a trip to the dog beach!!  YET! First things first, today is back to the routine of setting up a creative space to write this here dissertation: journal, stretch, meditate, blog, water-color golondrinas, and then, presto, here I go.

I believe in myself. I believe I have something to say.  I believe in my voice. I believe in my many voices.  I believe in my creativity.

my creativity nook

*with shoes that are kind to my feet too!
*I've trained my eyes since I was a kid (so fond of reading) to focus on the near.  They plateaued in their degeneration during my 20s, that is, plateaued up until last year.  I found out when I had my eye exam on my layover in Korea that I'm no longer -5 but now a -6.  Sigh.  I love you eyes!

09 July 2013


Got me some tutoring today.  I sure appreciate these weekly check ins.  A little bit more formal than friend accountability and very productive, Ebede is a great tutor!

Oh, and here's the book that is rocking my world these days:

And now, I have to go. My meter is out. Short blog today, but it's been a productive morning. 

08 July 2013

Empowering Myself

Recently a friend told me about a bunch of Ted Talks I just had to see.  This one above has really stuck with me.  I've been standing like Wonder Woman these days to be more active in helping my body heal my mind and spirit.  In fact, actually, as I look back at different women's circles I've been a part of, open, expansive stances and dances are a vital part of our time together.  I love just thinking that I stumbled into circles where we are healing our whole selves through empowered embodiment.

Of course, my favorite Ted Talk is Brown's bit on vulnerability.

The other message I keep receiving these days is about writing  a little everyday.

Write 50 words . That’s a paragraph.
Write 400 words . That’s a page.
Write 300 pages. That’s a manuscript.

Now, it's funny because I say to myself, "Wait now, I don't have a computer yet! How am I supposed to write everyday!"  How crazy is it that I think "real writing" must involve a computer?  So, to heal that part of me that is so dependent on technology, I've been pulling out large pieces of paper to scribble notes and jot down ideas and organize and outline in new ways.  I've even made the beginning of an interactive presentation on prezi.com.

And, today, I'd like to report, I spent mostly at the computer ...writing. I have a goodly outline and intro to my fourth chapter. Yay for me.

05 July 2013

Importance of a Day Off

Feeling those old feelings of pressure and guilt when I'm not working all the time on my dissertation.  Yesterday, the July 4th holiday, I was able to take a day off.

Taking a day a week and perhaps a weekend a month to rest is something I know is invaluable.  And, I'm reminded of a mentor who told me that in a day there are three parts, and we must make sure to take one part for ourselves to relax in any way we see fit. 

I am aware of that fact that in a productive and task-oriented society, resting is a subversive act of resistance as I've heard some say.  In my life, I assume that resting encourages the dynamic process of being as present as possible moment to moment with space for self-reflection.  Such a life rarely manifests every single moment, but we are lucky if we have a handful of present moments in our day, week, month, or year.  Rest is the means, I believe, to cultivate our creative fire.  They, rest and fire, are in a trans-formative relationship.  (I'm reading the writing of Lyn Hejinian, and this paragraph is, in part, an attempt to emulate her style).

In my process of celebrating rest and fire, and in the midst of summertime, a friend and I read Mary Oliver's "Peonies":

     Do you love this world?
      Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
       Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
   and softly,
      and exclaiming of their dearness,
       fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
    their eagerness
      to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
        nothing, forever?

02 July 2013

Researching Biracial/Multiracial/Multicultural/Transcultural Women

Big Sur
 Over the last week, I've continued to have computer and wifi issues.  To add to these challenges, I've also had car, and, most recently, phone issues. It's been frustrating to say the least, but, thankfully, I have friends who remind me that these are opportunities and not merely obstacles for learning new ways of communicating!  May I continue to remember. May I continue to remember.

Thankfully, what I'm finding is that I've got some good books on my shelf that have been waiting for me.  These books I've read include Biracial Women in Therapy, Miscegenation Blues, Transcultural Education, and Women of Color ("The Labyrinth of Identity" for mixed-race women).

Another book I read explored Nuevomexicanas identifying as/wearing the mask of Spanish or Hispana to be more respected, but then forgetting their indigenous roots altogether after a generation.

And, then there was the book about the trinity of La Virgen, La Malinche, and La Llorona.

Altogether, after these reads, I was grieving for what has been lost. Also, I was encouraged to remember and to share my voice(s! yes, there are many). 

And,this last weekend, I also had the gift of a weekend away in Big Sur with fellow artists.  It was a nurturing time for my creativity, and I am grateful.

26 June 2013

Sigh...a Challenging Week

This week I feel so swamped and overwhelmed. Perhaps I'm on the cusp of something new? Hopefully.

I'm frustrated, too, with: unreliability when it comes to my computer and internet access. Rich people woes, I know.  But, perhaps, there's also an underlying frustration with something much bigger: wanting all my loved ones closer in proximity and wanting to know where I belong.

Certainly, my dissertation asks me to go into that space of wanting and longing for a home where I fit in, where I am normal, where I am loved for all my diversity and multiplicity.  So, I'm willingly diving into some of the deepest pains of my life.  Luckily, I have therapy, yoga, my daily practices, and, of course, friends in the Bay Area.

I've also had four friends visit from So Cal, which has been satisfying.  Somehow I feel more whole when old friends from around California (CSU Long Beach, Quail Springs Cuyama, the Abundant Table Ventura County, and Whittier) visit me.

Altogether, I think perhaps I just need a bit more space for myself.  That's what we've been talking about in therapy.  Claiming our bodies, our spirits, our "this is mine" in all safety and creativity.

20 June 2013

Setbacks and Little Encouragements

Well, the other day, my laptop keyboard totally quit on me.  At first, I thought maybe it just needed some time or a break, but after a couple days, it still wouldn't work.  Four days later and I have an estimate on the repair.  $338.  Thankfully, it's still insured!! And, it really might be time for a new computer with a larger screen. Maybe? My HP mini has lasted me 3 years now, and it's been good for traveling but perhaps not the best choice for my eyes (which have worsened in the last few years).

In the meantime, I've been having to either come into school to use their computers (which are bigger) or bust out the wireless keyboard I bought (a bit cumbersome but it works).  And, with the obstacles to using my computer, I've had the opportunities to invest in other dissertation bits I've put off:
1. researching/reading (Ecofeminist and anti-ecofeminist too),
2. visual mapping (with my writing group too!), and
3. preparing my graduation announcements (groupon deal! I quoted Maya Angelou!).

Oh and also at my new home, I haven't been able to connect to the wifi -- thus my delay in blogging really ;) -- but I trust that will happen soon.

Speaking of my new home, this morning I had a gorgeous set of flowers delivered to my door!!! I'm so tickled by this wonderful show of affection. My partner, who is in Alaska working, told me yesterday that a surprise was coming, but I still wasn't sure what the surprise might be! 

13 June 2013

Dissertation Writing Partner

Certainly one of the other benefits of the dissertation process is the community of sisters (and brothers) who are also in their PhD process.

Luckily, CIIS, my school, has a June writing group set up that meets weekly.  Another bit of good luck is that I have a few PhD sisters in SF and the East Bay who are in agreement to meet weekly to review our writing and our overall progress.

Finally, I also have a Mestiza sister (also part Pinay!) who is about my same age and has been in my same program about the same amount of time who is this summer working on her dissertation as well.  We met up yesterday, and mostly what we focused on was our hearts.

Both of us have security/survival issues coming up in our lives.  Whether it's money or family or living situation, we were able to share vulnerably about the obstacles and opportunities these daily concerns bring to our writing.

Moreover, we are both employing intuitive/organic inquiry in our dissertation itself, so there's a lot for us to connect on on various levels.  I felt inspired to bring more imagery and embodiment to my dissertation process.  Her main image is a quilt, and mine is the labyrinth.  We embody these symbols and are dissertation can as well.

I'm thinking embodied labyrinth water colors with muscle-like pathways to cosmological main ideas. Today I buy the water-color paper and a new brush. Excited!!!! And, grateful for you, my writing partner.

10 June 2013

A Writing Retreat

Today I am starting up my writing retreat week.

[Oh, and I start my painting classes today!

This weekend has been full of good good things: investing in community, giving energy to being mentored, and feeling connected.

(Time with friends in a communal living "Hen House" and other old friends in the Christian family as well as the new Filipina-indigenous focused family. Time with my body too).]

So, now is the transition moment: the nepantla, the liminal, the space on the cusp of, the wide road of a border.  And, today, I will walk through this transition and be transformed.

On the agenda this week: visual mapping and re-reading for multi and contextual voices as well as organization.

08 June 2013

Dissertation Mentors

One of the best parts of this journey?  My mentors on the dissertation committee.  

I have three, and all three are amazing, wise, and extremely helpful.  I realized a month or so ago just how amazing it is to have these three women mentor me this next year.  What a gift! 

In the past two days, I've met with two of them.  They fed me, listened to me, and shared their feedback and advice.  And, their advice is invaluable to me as it deals with the organization and preparation and space creation for writing such a long essay.   Also, they can address the subtle nuances of speaking to multiculturalism from a relational way of being, something I desire to learn so much.  They encourage me to speak to employ a transparent subjectivity and to continue to recognize my particular heritage and experiences while bringing it all back to that social-political-cultural level of engagement as well.  Oh, and, they introduce me to other wise women. And, last, they recommend texts for me to read that have inspired them.  These meetings are pretty much the best book club and spiritual direction I can imagine. 

07 June 2013

Speaking about my research

I’m used to editing and omitting what I talk about when I talk about my PhD.  Women’s spirituality – exploring women and religion, ecofeminism, and sacred arts/healing – isn’t necessarily what I was raised to value.  Of course, my family is thrilled I’m working on my PhD, education being the passage of ascension, and in many ways, they don’t care what I am studying.  At least, that’s how it seems.

But there’s a new thing that I’m speaking to in my research now: racism.  And, you know, I just don’t know how to edit or omit very well in regards to this topic.   Moreover, with women-centered communities that I have felt free to share with before in regards to my program, mostly women who do not identify as women of color, I now find myself a bit speechless. I am hesitant to tell them that I want to talk about all women’s spirituality of my ancestors, making sure to include the dark and indigenous.  I somehow feel like I am calling them racist.  I feel unsafe, probably on the first level within myself, and then I think I’m all alone in this awkward inability to share. And, I realize, I am, actually, racist.  I carry that in me, and judging myself for that culpability, I can’t help but judge those around me

05 June 2013

And, I'm Back on Dissertation Road

What I failed to write in the last blog or to even take into consideration was that I was going on a little getaway.  Orr Hot Springs, near Ukiah, has been on my list of places to visit for a retreat.  Many friends here in the Bay Area have recommended it to me, and when my partner wanted to go away somewhere for a few days, Orr was perfect.  I forgot that they have no cell or internet reception, but I'm sure glad they don't.  Really, did I expect to keep up with techno/work/school life while out there?

Overall, the last three days have been so restful. We spent the time at Orr lounging from our yurt to the hot springs private baths to the communal baths to the pool to the saunas to the gardens and to the redwoods.  Grateful grateful grateful.  

I did, in fact, do some research reading -- on decolonizing and liberating methodologies -- and still the time away from my computer and phone helped me get some "bigger perspective" on my dissertation and its role in my life.  I want to remember to love my body and spirit through the process. If I am slowly killing myself in the process of writing, what have I accomplished?

Over the time away, I pondered these thoughts (from a healing session with the previously mentioned mentor):

"Words of wisdom will....sound eternal, applicable through many situations, many ages, many times. Words can heal or steal.  Now is the time to contemplate just what the words you hold in your mind are doing for you and to others.  What meaning are you giving your life as you define your experience to yourself?  How are you valuing what you do?  You are not the words themselves."

My partner and I discussed these thoughts, questions, and we pondered the significance of valuing times in our lives only in hindsight.  We talked about how we want to be grateful for our times together here and now and not just tomorrow.  We talked about the revaluing, if necessary, so that we can honor our livelihoods as alternative as they may seem to others.

Well, on to yoga and meditation now.  I've just dropped my partner off at the airport.  We won't see each other for 2 months. Yep, that's another story too.