You got this.

A year ago someone texted me the following quote:
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” -Maya Angelou
I remember reading this quote with so much hope and prayer.
I remember the amount of energy it took to break down and put myself back together again.
I remember embracing the process and those who held me in love near and far.
I read this quote with gratitude and confidence
because I am living proof of the truth behind it all,
not for other people,
but for myself
time and time again.
I read this quote with hope and prayer to every woman who ever felt less than.
I encourage you
to reflect on your strength,
to remember how you are so worth loving,
and to celebrate your soul’s brave heights.
I encourage you to be your own living proof.
You got this.

Beach Boulevard


We often reminisce on the numerous possibilities of the crossed paths we may never know of –
treadmills at the gym,
coffee shops,
grocery stores,
or breakfasts at Denny’s.
We talk about our similar worlds with nostalgia in our souls
and confused thoughts of how we were strangers in the first place.
We get lost in wanting more time,
but never wasting our wishes on turning it back,
which adds beauty to the present.
So let’s choose to keep each other,
a reoccurring choice that goes unquestioned
with our hearts aligned with affirmation and faith
because you can’t make up this kind of love we have.
Let’s drive down Beach Boulevard toward the pier where it all started
where I asked to stay a little bit longer
and you stood by me and said of course.
Let’s break the clocks
and throw the hands
that tick with expectations that will never measure up
to the reality that doesn’t fit all.
It’s okay.
It’s more than okay.
The paths we reminisced about are not lost,
it was a journey of preparation for us to find ourselves first
and then each other
to practice the only thing that matters most –


Beach Boulevard


A week ago they gave us two-inch binders filled with schedules, content, and assignments. We were placed in a small group with instructions to
work together,
share best practices,
and learn about the profession.
That’s how our week started.
Uncertainty of what’s to come or how to even get started.
We sat silently on the patio eating dinner with the sunset, humidity, and the San Diego view. I think my sweat revealed more of my awkward energy than anything else. The first words I said to my small group was, “I promise I’ll be more social after I eat. I’m just so hungry y’all.”
No joke.
No shame.
Just my appetite and constant regret of portion control, especially when there was so much food left over.
That’s how our week started. However, our week ended with more than what I expected it to be. Getting our presentations done was only the bare minimum.
We not only worked together, we laughed together.
We shared best practices like every professional development opportunity, but we also shared encouragement for our futures.
We learned about the profession and learned even more about each other’s stories.

I get to make a difference in the world and do good work with these beautiful souls by my side. That holds more value than any price tag. This is why I do what I do.

To my small group,
you will forever be the ferocious, fighting orcas in my heart.
(Cue whale wave) – Mendoza

College Board Summer Admissions Institute 2017


Mama's Shades
Mama Liza gave us nicknames that perfectly made no sense, but we kept them anyway. She named her grandchildren: Lee-Lee, Baby, Ri-Ri, La-Li, Baby (again), Bu-boy, Lee-Lit, Baby (once more), and Tu-Tu. There were times when these nicknames were used interchangeably between my cousins and I, but we went along with it. No questions asked.

I remember one typical day at grandma’s house Angie, Gail, Laurie Lei, Erika and I were watching tv in the living room and then we heard Mama Liza shouting, “Lee-Lee, Baby, Ri-Ri, Lee-Lit, Baby, La-Li,” then whatever else her voice trailed off to toward the end of that sentence. We were so confused to who she was calling so, of course, we said, “Erika (the youngest one) Mama’s calling you,” and then we continued to watch tv as Erika humbly tended to whatever Mama Liza needed.
Perks of being the older ones in the group.

Our nicknames still carried on with us just like our love and memories of her.
I still miss her more than my heart can handle, especially today.
It’s been five years since God called her home and within those years
I learned how to be less selfish in wishing she was here calling my name
and more grateful that she is no longer in pain.
Missing her doesn’t get any easier over the years, but it hurts less.
So today I will celebrate Mama Liza with two things she loved: coffee and word search puzzles.


Peace by Piece


I fell in love with Seattle three years ago and since then I’ve gone back a handful of times to enjoy Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks Coffee, mac and cheese at Beechers, the infamous gum wall, Taste of Seattle, Georgetown, and the cold sweater weather. But all of that is secondary when it comes to Riley and Aly, also known as, the crazies. Being with them 24/7 is like immersing yourself in laughter, board games, toys, Hello Panda, and stuffed animals. It’s like sleeping with the San Diego Zoo in their bed alone having three bears, Dora the Explorer, rabbits, Pluto, Lamb Chop, two snakes, a human-size bear that Riley got for Christmas, and a mermaid named Nicki Minaj (just to name a few). After, what feels like, a year long bedtime routine Riley and Aly take turns with a prayer. They never fail to make my heart cry every time they prayed for Mama Liza. 

I got to spend the holidays in Seattle, which was extra special because my aunties and uncle from Hawaii were also in town. Although eating a delicious dinner was always a treat, my favorite part was the storytelling that went on and on while every one took a breather before going in for seconds. Talking about Mama Liza never gets old. Like the time I learned what “gaga” meant in Tagalog (a Filipino dialect). You see, Mama loved to sing whether it was a song she knew or a song she made up. So I called her Mama Gaga in reference to Lady Gaga. Not only did Mama Liza hear what I said, she stopped singing and walked away shaking her head no saying, “No good that one. Gaga is no good.” Being the only one in my family that knows little to no ilocano (another Filipino dialect) I was confused by Mama’s reaction. I was even more confused when I found my uncle laughing in tears to what just happened. Apparently, “Gaga” means stupid. 

Lesson learned. 

Although we bring up that memory over and over again, it felt different laughing about it this time around. I sat at the table looking my sister, aunties, and uncle and saw that over time, little by little, we learned to overcome the trauma that tattooed our hearts three years ago. I was once told that with grief, the pain never goes away, you just learn to live with it. I never believed it until I realized that we’ve been learning to live with it whether we wanted to or not. 

I believe time heals everything and what you do with that time matters. For me, it was taking it day by day, hour by hour, sometimes even minute by minute. Having faith, finding moments to laugh, giving myself space and grace to cry, and having people to hold me up when I couldn’t do that myself were all pieces that contributed to the peace that I have in my mind, heart, and soul. Missing Mama Liza doesn’t get easier, but it hurts less. 

It’s her birthday today. She would’ve been 83-years-young. So join me by either singing a random song (a song you know or made up), eating a cheeseburger (Mama claimed that it gave you good eyesight), putting on red lipstick (her every day look), or laughing so hard your whole body shakes (which she did almost all the time) in celebration of Mama Liza’s life. 

Peace by Piece