Friday, July 25, 2014

What I've Learned From A Decade of Being Away From Home

The other night, I dreamt I was back in the Philippines, visiting.  I was walking in the same halls I used to walk when I taught in University.  There were the usual groups of students seated on the floor, by their professor's door, waiting for consultation hours to begin.  It was the same dimly-lit and almost claustrophobic faculty center which I used to call my office building.  It was far from being ideal, but it was home to me, and represented a job I loved and truly enjoyed.

The old University of the Philippines Diliman Faculty Center
Image by : Ramon FVelasquez

I knew I had to go to the Department of Sociology office and say hello to whoever was there.  In my dream, as it is in reality, I knew I had been gone for too long.  I was anxious, extremely apprehensive to grab the door knob and enter the room.  I can see through the glass window that there were four staff members huddled around the front desks. Towards the back, I can see our Department Chair (from ten years ago) quietly and busily working at her desk. There was no turning back now.  I had to go inside and hope for the best.

You might be wondering why the apprehension over what seems like a straightforward visit to a past work place.  You see, my leaving this workplace was a very abrupt and unplanned one that wreaked some havoc for my colleagues.  In 2004, I went to the U.S. just for vacation, but ended up opting to stay because I got engaged and eventually married. Saying that it was all unplanned, unexpected and all too sudden is an understatement.  I had a teaching load all set for the coming semester, but with me suddenly going AWOL, my classes naturally had to be redistributed to other teachers.  I'm sure none of whoever took over my load was thrilled, and probably cursed me under their breath. I accept that and will forever apologize for that.  The only consolation at the time was that, when I placed a long distance call to my boss, the Department Chair, she was fully supportive of my decision to choose heart over work. She expressed genuine happiness for me and made me feel that I shouldn't worry about anything at work.  And for that, I will always be grateful.  

So back to the dream.  I finally mustered the strength to actually enter the office.  The staff was surprised but I remember being glad that they still remembered me.  Well, at least the old timers.  There were new faces who I haven't met before and who, I can tell, didn't really care who I was either.  

Then I walked closer to my boss's desk.  She was looking down, busy dealing with a stack of papers.  I called her name and gave her the warmest smile an anxious person could produce.  She lifted her head and all I remember was feeling relieved.  She greeted me with a smile, stood from her chair and walked over to give me a hug.  I hugged her tight, as if to say 'Thank you', for all her support and simply for understanding the decisions I made ten years ago.  I saw another colleague / mentor and then came more hugs and some brief "hellos" and "how are you's".

Amidst all the conversations that went on in my dream, one thing stood out for me.  I remember that after telling my boss about how life has been since I moved to the U.S., she said, "Well, if you ever decide to come back, our doors are open here at the Department".  Of course I know this is all wishful thinking on my part, given that I have been out of touch with the academe all these years and that my previous ambition of pursuing a European doctoral degree has long been foregone that it's now beyond resuscitation.  In any case, I was truly moved by the offer and opted to lie to myself and accept it as more than just a polite ending to our conversation.

However, there was a voice inside me in and outside of the dream, that I can't drown out.  It was a realization that gripped me and demanded my complete submission this time.  

"I don't belong here anymore."

I may have called the Philippines home for three decades.  My people are there, the roots and the very core of my identity and consciousness.  But ten years ago, I stood at a fork in the road and chose one over the other.  Each path offered totally different options, different consequences, and in that one choice, a multitude of ripples were born.  When I reached out to open and walk through one door, I forced shut the other.  And the farther I went, and the more steps I took, the more firmly my feet became planted on the event horizon of this universe, pulling me deeper and deeper into this chosen life. Whether I'd like to admit it or not, I've gone past the point of no return.

This week, I celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary. It has been ten years since I chose to permanently live in the United States and give up a secure and familiar life in the Philippines. I suspect this milestone had a lot to do with spawning my dream.  In my dream, as well as in reality, I see that everything I left ten years ago has changed. The work position I vacated is now filled.  My contemporaries have all advanced in their careers. Even the students I once taught and groomed for certain future careers are now occupying positions of authority, possibly even surpassing where I was ten years ago.  It's not exactly the most comforting realization.  Feeling left behind, losing status and a sense of relevance, and getting overwhelmed by a sense of being out of place can be depressing.  

But my story can't be written simply this way, with my eyes focused on how the world I've left has drastically changed and seemingly left me behind.  The truth is, and maybe even more importantly, I know that even I have changed. It's impossible not to.  I know there are things I once desired that I no longer do; things I found acceptable that I now won't tolerate.  I am stronger where I was once weak; and more jaded toward things I had much zest for. A lot of the colors and patterns that defined me before may still be there.  But the shades and configurations might be different now.  After all, this is what the passing of time does to each of us.  We get transformed. And in this process, we need to find a way to mourn the Self we have shed, be at peace with who we've become, as well as forgive ourselves for believing that the world we've left behind has chosen to remain the same and has just been waiting for the gift of our return. Life flows with or without us.  It needs not our consent.

Amazingly, I have found comfort in this dream.  It has brought to the surface my guilt over abruptly leaving one country and life, as well as my sense of peace over choosing another, the one I live now.  

This is what a I chose and who I am now: a wife, mother, blogger, struggling writer, social media fanatic, a Filipino in the United States.  I may be a former academic but honestly don't think I can go back to desiring that life for myself anymore.  It's a life I have given up on when I chose to migrate to the U.S. I mostly belong here now, but this present life does not demand that I surrender my bond with my homeland.  It only asks that I let go of dreams that have withered, and even illusions that are impossible to attain and compete with, in order to make space for planting new dreams and welcoming new adventures wholeheartedly.  This is it.  This is my life now and all it asks is that I be TRULY present in it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

When Helping Doesn't Help

After reading this post by my French yummy mummy blogger friend, Muriel Jacques, I felt compelled to analyze what had happened to me yesterday at the Post Office.  At the time, I simply brushed it off and was able to convince myself to just let it go. However, I knew deep down it bothered me and reading Muriel's post sort of gave me permission to admit to myself that it was 'something' and not just 'nothing'.

I went to our local USPS office to send a small package for a friend in the East coast.  I had a small envelope with a card, and a few small make-up products to ship to her.  When I got to the tiny office, there was a line of maybe 5 people and I had to excuse myself for cutting through in order to get to the back wall where all my packaging options were.  There were regular envelopes, padded envelopes, boxes of different sizes, flat-rate, military and express.  

Image by:  tales of a wandering youkai

Now, if you knew me, you'd know that even before driving to the post office, I'd have already checked out my options online.  I had mentally chosen which packaging would suit me best and knew the differences between the services, except for the price.

However, when I got there, I didn't see everything I saw online and also found one that seemed like a better option. It was the express padded envelope. It was clear to me that I needed the quickest delivery time possible, although I wanted to make sure I had grabbed the correct size for what I needed to ship. Naturally, I stood there staring at the shelves, going back and forth as I tried to weigh my options and decide on the most practical one, cost-wise.  

It was then that this authoritative voice blurted out behind me, after seeing that I had an express envelope in my hand.  

"The express is if you want next day delivery".

I knew the voice was addressing me, so I turned around and found that the voice came from a bearded 50-something man, a fellow customer, not a USPS employee.  He looked at me in a way that made me feel he perceived me like some lost little girl.

I was a bit caught off guard, but knew that I had to say something back to 'defend' myself, to clarify to him that I knew what I was doing.  I tried really hard not to snap and say, "I figured that much when I saw 'express', you know."

Politely and with a smile (as always) I instead opted for, "Yeah, I know.  I'm just figuring out the sizes for my package.  Thanks!"

I felt quite conflicted after that.  The 'ego' part of me felt insulted, suspicious. Was he really just the type who loved offering unsolicited advice with the pure intention of helping others?  Or did he feel the need to speak up because I stood out in this small town of ours as one among the very, very few non-white people, and it was easy for him to assume that I wasn't familiar with the system?  I couldn't help but feel that there was something condescending about the way he said what he said.  Was it so hard for him to believe that I could be fully capable of asking the USPS staff myself if I had any questions at all?  Was it even harder for him to give me the benefit of the doubt that I knew exactly what I wanted, exactly what I was doing, and that I really was just in the process of choosing and shopping around for my options?  I wasn't in line slowing any one down.  I was minding my business.  Why did he feel compelled not to mind his?

We often complain that in our modern society, people are losing touch and have become extremely impersonal.  We often ask where the helping hands have gone and what ever happened to acknowledging each other instead of passing each other by like fog or smoke or some specter.  But at the same time, we (or is it just me?) don't like it when someone offers unsolicited help and feel quite offended or insulted.  

This balance is tough.  Like I said, I feel conflicted although prefer to give this man the benefit of the doubt, if only to keep myself from feeling pissed off.  I just really wish he had opted to wait and see if I really needed help and would ask for it myself.  I guess some people just can't help themselves.

Have you been in a similar situation where someone wrongly assumed that you needed assistance?  How did you feel?  How did you handle it?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Curse of the Blob

I was just innocently typing away on my computer yesterday when I made the mistake of looking down. Darn it! There it was.  A big blob sitting right below my breasts.

Yes, folks.  A muffin top.  MY muffin top.  

I loathe it.  But given the years that it's chosen to stay with me, I'd say that unfortunately, it seems to love me.  To be honest, I'm not one of those women who just gained weight after pregnancy or due to aging and the metabolism slowing down.  As far back as I can remember, I've always been, well,...on the chunky side.  Though I've been various sizes my entire adult life, my weight has always just comfortably hovered around 1(?)0 pounds, somewhere between Kim Kardashian's 130lb pre-pregnancy weight and 200lbs. Any more details than that and I'm gonna have to kill you.

But no matter the sizes I've been, this old trusty muffin top has always been around.  It has tortured me for decades, mocked every cute outfit I had worn or had hoped to wear, and put all the diets and exercise routines my body can perform, to shame!  What makes it worse (I think) is that I'm pretty flat chested.  So unlike those other 'chunky' women who are able to balance out their big tummies with their bigger boobies, hence still making them shapely and 'womanly', my blob of a muffin top is just there like Saint-Exupery's boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant.  

In other words, I'm (almost) resigned to the idea that I will die looking like the damn Michelin Man. 

Image by:  Laurie White

And this is another reason why I hate summer.  It's not just the heat, or the bugs, or the outdoorsy people judging my preference for the cooler and safer bug-bite-free indoors.  It's the fact that I can never seem to figure out what to wear and still look cute and appropriate for the climate.  Most things I see on the store racks are sleeveless shirts which I don't wear because, yes, you guessed it....I don't like my big arms too!  Or tops with teenee tiny pseudo 'token' sleeves which hardly cover anything.  And what's with all these cotton shirts that are meant to be cool and comfortable and yet shaped to cling to my unwanted wobbly bulges???  I would gladly wear shapewear underneath just to smoothen everything out, if it weren't 95 degrees outside!  Grrrr......

Alright, rant over.  Obviously I have a lot of body issues.  Some days are worse than others, although I have to admit that summer always brings out the worst in me.  Now I wonder how I kept my sanity and my joyful disposition when I was living in tropical and perpetually summer-like Philippines.  To think that almost everybody there is smaller than my size, given their typical Asian body frames!  And shopping there was doubly hard because the sizing just made me feel all the more miserable about my frame. *sigh*

I guess I should count my blessings and be grateful that in about two more months, my misery will be somehow mitigated by the cooler weather.  Fall and Winter outfits will allow me to layer, and for at least 3 or 4 months, I could grant semi-invisibility to my muffin top with the help of jackets, scarves and of course, some shapewear.  Hopefully, those months could also buy me some time to shrink this blob a bit more so that I won't be this miserable in summer 2015.  

Hope springs eternal.  So as my final message, I'd like to share with you this meme that my writer friend P. James shared this morning via Facebook:

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Courage To Be Free


As it is July 4th today, Independence Day for Americans, I'd like to give a brief list of wishes to all of you, regardless of nationality.

I wish you freedom....

from the belief that you do not deserve love and a spiritual partnership that bring out the best in you

from people that bring nothing but negativity and heaviness to your soul

from negative conditioning that shackles your mind, preventing you to shine at your utmost magnificence

from lies you believe that keep you from appreciating the beauty and remarkable efficiency of your body now, regardless of your shape and size

from fears that bind you to a Self and a Life less than what is truly meant for you---perhaps a job you are afraid to pursue or a job you are afraid to leave; 
a relationship you can't turn your back on for fear of being alone or being able to find something better; 
a dream you're turning your back on because you don't want to fail.

Be grateful for the freedoms you enjoy.
Use them wisely and never passively.

To be truly free is to not only have the capacity to make choices,
but to create those choices.  

Create your choices with Reason and Rationality,
and most of all, 

May we all strive for authentic freedom and live lives reflective of a freedom truly well-deserved.  

And may freedom never be wasted on us through unconscious and irrational choices.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety  deserve neither liberty nor safety. 
--- Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Introversion Doesn't Have To Mean Boring

I didn't like the dream I had last night.  Not one bit.  I felt so disturbed by it that I actually woke up frowning, trying to analyze it. (Not that I don't analyze everything in the first place anyway).  

I don't remember the details but what was clear was that I was told that I am a boring person.  At one point, I tried to argue and defend myself by insisting that none of that can't be true since none of my former students ever said that about me. (And please don't ask me for actual data but trust that I had good 'reviews' / decent results from students' evaluations).  I even remember saying, "That doesn't make sense! People have always remarked at how animated I get when I speak!"  In my dream, all my impassioned arguing didn't make any difference, and I lost.

A boring person.  That's how people thought of me and I never had a clue.  I couldn't decide which one hurt my ego more: the fact that I was seen as boring, or that my self-definition was too incongruent from others' perception.

Could this be true?  Could I really have been walking around thinking I was someone fun to talk to, when in reality I'm generally considered dry and socially inept?  What does it really mean to be boring anyway?

Image (without text) by:  Ryan McGuire

I admit that I don't have an exciting life.  I'm an introvert at heart, and therefore derive no real pleasure from going out, meeting new people or exploring new experiences.  All of the above simply cause me stress and leave me feeling drained, hence my preference for staying in or keeping the company of a small group of people I'm intimate with.  I don't mind brief chit-chats, can manage to be friendly, and as I mentioned above, even animated, but only for a very limited amount of time.  

Because of all these factors, the truth is, my life is pretty predictable, even dull by most standards.  To some, it might feel like a series of Groundhog Days, with one day feeling like a repeat of the previous ones.  And believe it or not, I'm not complaining.  I thrive in predictability.  Small talk makes me tense and I hate it, even though I can fake it 'till I make it if it were absolutely necessary.  Sure, it's great to meet new people every so often.  But it's not something I would actively seek or bravely initiate.  I think I've reached a stage in my life where I've simply become comfortable with the amount of true friends I already have and have given up all illusions of ever finding more.  If it happens, then that's great.  If not, no biggie. And sometimes I wonder too if that sense of resignation is influenced by the fact that I'm fairly new to this society; that I migrated here as an older adult and still feel a certain degree of alienation even after ten years.  Sometimes I still wonder if I would've been more social, more willing to open myself up, if I were still in the Philippines with all that's familiar to me.

I've always been on the shy, introverted side even as a child.  Was it my migration and sense of alienation that heightened this trait?  Or is it my aging, given that experts say aging heightens certain personality traits and more specifically the tendency towards introversion, especially among women?

It could be my age.  It could be my sense of alienation as a migrant.  It could be both.  But it really doesn't bother me at all that I have a very limited social circle.  And frankly, I refuse to believe that this necessarily makes one a boring person. More importantly, I'm pretty sure my significant others don't define me as boring and that's really all that matters.  I think once you've cultivated a deep and authentic relationship with someone, 'boring' loses significance. It's no longer so much about constantly injecting something new, but more about discovering what lies deeper beyond the surface layers

As a matter of fact, this coincides with my personal definition of 'boring'. To me, it's the inability or unwillingness to go deeper.  You can be the busiest and most socially active person.  But if you can't offer anything to me beyond your 'surface', then I'd still think you're boring.  What's important to me is not how socially active a person is, but how deep and multidimensional they are or can be.  It's the difference between reporting facts about what goes on in your life versus having the ability to glean insights from those events and dig deeper.  And I believe that as people get older, their chances of acquiring that skill, that depth, become greater.  I'd like to be optimistic that way!

In other words, the good news is that as we age, the excitement shifts to what's going on in the mind, rather than merely in the realm of the external and superficial.  How can that ever turn boring, right?!  

How do you define boring?  Do you think your definition has changed through the years?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Everything I Learned The Day I Finally Met A Tick

We were all just sitting around the family room, watching a scary show on t.v., when the real thriller happened.

My husband's side of the family was staying with us for a few days of vacation, which meant we were a full house. Four brothers, a sister, in-laws, the parents, nephews and nieces...We were like a bed and breakfast.  On that particular late afternoon, after everyone got tired from throwing, catching and kicking ball on our front lawn, we all settled in for some relaxed time in front of the television.  One of my brothers-in-law (BIL) was massaging the head of my 9-year old niece when he felt a small bump on her scalp.  At first he thought it was just another scab on her scalp that she might have scratched from long ago, but as he began to part her hair to take a closer look, he realized it was something else.

He exclaimed, "What is THIS??!!", squinting his eyes while simultaneously trying to get our attention.  I was seated quite close to the two of them so I slid even closer to take a look at my niece's head.  By this time, it has gotten clear to my BIL that what he was looking at and feeling with his fingers was a living creature.

I don't know what made me exclaim, considering I haven't seen one in real life before, but it just came out of my mouth.  

"It's a tick!!"

None of us knew for sure but it was the prime suspect.  And whatever it was, we all knew it had to be pulled out.  My sister-in-law (my niece's mom) immediately rushed to take a look, while my husband and I sent our son to the upstairs bathroom to grab the tweezers.  As soon as the tweezers came, we handed it to my SIL and I recall myself repeating, "Make sure you grab the whole thing; Don't break the head off".  (All this I remember from reading a bunch of tick-related articles, since I'm the resident paranoid that everyone always made fun of...until now!).

My SIL did her best to pull it straight up but to no avail.  This bug's grip on my niece's scalp was remarkably and frighteningly tight!  I'm not joking.  My husband then took over to try if he could do it.  He yanked it hard and we could see that a chunk of my niece's scalp came off with the bug as it lifted off of her head.  Whew!

Then we rushed to place it on top of a piece of paper towel, had the presence of mind to take pictures from a couple of phones (in case we ever needed to show it to a doctor for identification), before another BIL burned it with his lighter.  

This is the picture of the actual tick.
You can still see a piece of my niece's scalp attached to its mouth part / "front claws".

Almost immediately, another SIL searched online to try to identify this tick. After her research and mine, we felt comfortable enough to conclude that this may be the American Dog Tick, and not the Deer Tick which carries Lyme Disease.  (Another 'WHEW!", although, this kind can still cause the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, according to the CDC).  We looked for various pictures online to use for comparison and found this.

 Image by :  CDC
They look pretty much the same, don't they?

Another thing that gave everyone in the family some sense of comfort was the fact that the tick we found did not seem engorged (did not look like a grape), which meant it probably has not fed yet and therefore might not have yet released its toxins.  I also read that normally, a tick takes no less than 24 hours of being attached to its host and feeding before it releases the toxins. I found several sites giving detailed information on ticks, but I found thisthis and this to be particularly helpful for quick information.  

We don't know exactly where my niece might have gotten this tick.  We were out almost all morning.  She stood on the grassy area of a brunch place we went to.  She stood under trees at a donut place we visited.  Then she was playing on our lawn that early afternoon.  It could have originated anywhere. We simply don't know. Although I suspect it might have fallen on her head from somewhere.  This seems more logical than thinking that the tick crawled all the way from her feet and settled on her head without her feeling it, considering it was a fairly large one.  But who knows?

All I know is that I rushed to wash all our beddings less than an hour after our frightening discovery just to be on the safe side.  Oh and note that you'd want to use the hottest setting on both your washer and dryer.  It's not the detergent or water that kills these bugs efficiently.  It's the heat more than anything else.  Check out this article.  

I also know that I feel vindicated!  All this time, I have been made fun of every time I insist that everyone spray themselves with insect repellents.  I have felt dismissed, even by my own husband, when I say that we need to be careful stepping on grass because there might be fire ants and ticks and whatever.  Yes, I admit, I seem overly neurotic most times, shunning the outdoors.  But look what happens when I relax.  

Well, suffice it to say that at the end of that day, before his bedtime, my husband spent hours online researching the best tick prevention methods for the yard.

Moral of the story, and my son knows this truth by heart:  
"Bad things happen when you don't listen to Mommy".  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Are You Defensive About Being A SAHM?

Have you ever struggled with a particular role you play in life?  Have you ever resisted a specific label you hold for your self, or felt challenged by others regarding a choice you have always believed in and stood by?

As a stay-at-home-mother (SAHM), I know I have and sometimes still do.  It's a label and role that I often find myself defending and justifying to other people, especially to those who know that once, in what seems now as a lifetime ago, I worked outside the home and was focused on a career in the academe.
Well, today you can head on over to Janine Ripper:  Live-Love-Laugh as I explore these inner 'demons' and tell you what I know about my own journey towards a more authentic life being a SAHM.  

Janine is a transformational life coach and blogger based in Australia and a person dedicated to sharing her expertise and insights to help others live a happier, more positive and inspired life.  It is an honor to be featured on her site and I hope that with this essay, I am able to give a voice to other countless SAHMs like myself who question or are questioned about our choice to stay home to take care of our families and give up paid employment.  I invite you to join in this conversation and share your own experiences and insights!

Thanks everyone!  Here's another link to the essay:   A Mother's Struggle Towards Authenticity

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Day My Third World Self Put My First World Self In Its Place

I was washing a few dishes and enjoying the cold water gushing out from our faucet when from out of the blue, I was reminded of those years in the Philippines when we had a water crisis and some form of water rationing was done in most urban areas. I don't know why I had the thought, but I was suddenly reminded of those days when I would turn on the faucet and nothing would come out of it.  

So then I thought to myself, "Oh, I'm using too much water; better turn the faucet down and save some water!

Well, lo and behold.  With the thought still in my head and the internal conversation barely finished, I suddenly noticed the water pressure get weaker and weaker, until the 'flow' turned into 'drips'.  

And then...Nothing.  No more water.  WTF?!!

I thought I was imagining it.  Or worse, I thought my psychic powers had grown into X-Files proportions and that my thought was truly manifesting right before my eyes!  Did my thought process cause this??!! 

Image by:  Valerie Everett

Well, rationality kicked in and I thought there had to be a perfectly logical explanation for what was going on.  

My first thought?  "Hmm, let me go on Facebook!"  No, I didn't seek a distraction for this water problem.  I just figured that whatever was going on, my neighbors must already be on to it.  You see, our subdivision has a Facebook page and for better or for worse, there are a lot of overactive, 'omniscient' people on there, if you know what I mean. True enough, there were already close to ten people who posted that they, too, didn't have water in their homes, with the bonus explanation that the water main was hit by a construction that was going on nearby.

What I found so interesting about this whole experience was that it highlighted how 'dichotomized' my identity has truly become.  There was a part of me, that part that has become American --- spoiled by the conveniences offered by a First World country --- that really panicked and felt lost.  And then there's the genuinely Filipino side that has experienced this multiple times and has learned to cope with other Third World 'inconveniences' or 'inefficiencies'.  As Americans, we take for granted that when we turn our faucets on, water will come out at a decent pressure.  When I was living in the Philippines, we always had some form of back-up, whether that meant having a huge overhead water tank in our own backyard that can deliver water through our pipes in case the water company shuts things down; or just having pails filled with water inside the bathrooms.  It's also common for households to have huge water storage barrels or drums and it's not necessarily for apocalyptic scenarios (as what a First World resident would think), but just to be prepared for something that happens much too often, either because of drought or the usual infrastructure issues and inadequacies a Third World resident knows all too well, unfortunately.

To be honest, I was glad that I didn't have to bust out my 'Third World savvy' side because about an hour later, things went back to normal.  Water was flowing once again, and other than the murkiness and sediment-laden initial flow, there really wasn't much to whine about.  Just when I was beginning to think of ways to cope with this 'mini-crisis', figuring out how or where to get water and save what we have in case it lasted long, my husband reminded me that the scenario I was imagining would never happen.  This is the U.S.A after all, and spoiled people can't be inconvenienced, unless service providers want non-stop whining and lawsuits galore.  

However, as odd as this might sound, I was proud and comforted by the fact that I am a child of the Third World and that I know I have a bit more resilience, and possibly, more creative problem-solving skills than a typical First World citizen when it comes to dealing with such 'crises'.  I know I can endure more and that there are more serious things to be concerned about.  I hope I can instill this resilience, this 'Filipino-ness', in my son, who is obviously growing up with a First World sense of entitlement; getting so accustomed to a life filled with conveniences and trivial First World problems such as having weak / slow internet connection. Or feeling hot inside the house because the thermostat is set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oh puhleeeez!...Give me a break!  You think that's hot??!!

I think it's time to give him a long overdue lecture on how Mommy survived much of her youth without any internet or even a land line, and was also able to preserve her sanity through HOT days and / or nights during prolonged power outages.  I hope he realizes how fortunate he is and how much he should be truly grateful for.  This Third World-bred gal simply has no patience for First World whining.      

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Son Is Mutating!

We've been living here in the mid-South for close to three years now.  When we moved from Chicago to Nashville, my son was in Pre-K and now, he's going to be in second grade this coming school year.  Three years.  Three years was all it took for what I've long dreaded to finally happen.

I think my son has begun to pick up the Southern accent.  **(Insert Psycho violin screech)**

I've already detected a bit of it about a year and a half ago, but I dismissed it.  I thought it was just a few isolated words that can easily be corrected, undone.  I mean, can you imagine MY shock...Me...Moi --- a person who has English as her second language, and therefore was taught to pronounce and enunciate words properly and clearly --- when I heard my then Kindergartner utter 'sinins' when what he meant to say was  'sentence' ?!!

And then yesterday, I asked him to summarize a story I had him read.  It was "The Elves and the Shoemaker".  He said "The old couple was poor", but when he said "poor", it sounded more like "pore" / or "pour".  The same goes when he says the word "tour".  It comes out as "tore".  I had to have him say it repeatedly with a more pronounced "oo" sound, as in "zoo", or "too".....pooooor..... It took us about five times before he said it correctly. Wow.

It's not that I'm putting the Southerners down and being snooty here, although I realize that it's how it seems right now.  My 'rejection' of it stems from the fact that it's just not who we are.  My husband never lived in the south up until three years ago when we moved here.  I'm definitely not from here and I can assure you that the English I learned from the Philippines absolutely has no hint of being Southern.  In other words, I'm probably threatened (or perhaps even offended) by the obvious fact that my son is being highly influenced by his teachers and his peers, more so than by his own family, at least in terms of language.  More importantly, I feel threatened and sad that it's as if he's acquired yet another layer that covers up his Filipino-ness.  He's not just an American now.  He's also a Southerner.

Which brings me yet to another point.  I reject the stereotypes that might eventually be attached to my son for being (and sounding like) a Southerner. If I can help it, and God knows I will try and fight to the death, he'll never turn into any of the following, all of which are Southern stereotypes:

*(Please note that I'm not saying that this is true for ALL American Southerners)*

(1) a hick or a redneck
(2) a gun lover
(3) racist or any type of bigot
(4) one who wears western boots (Sorry, but I won't be caught dead wearing those either!)
(5) an ultra-conservative Republican
(6) anti-intellectual
(7) anti-equality / pro-slavery
(8) a Christian fundamentalist who refuses to believe what science has to say about evolution, and can't reconcile faith and science

Change is inevitable.  We all know that.  Whether I like it or not, my son will become someone other than just an aggregation of my husband and myself.  I know that his socialization experiences are ongoing and there will be many, many times when what he'll see and learn from others will conflict with what I want him to learn from our family.    

I suppose this is why 'Choose your battles wisely' is a very popular parenting advice.  Maybe I'll let him keep his Southern accent, as long as he doesn't reject learning Tagalog (Filipino).  Maybe I'll let him wear cowboy hats and boots, as long as he doesn't think guns are 'cool' or 'macho' or invokes some twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment and becomes a fan of the NRA.  Maybe I'll just let him be; let him mutate the way nature intended, with the hope and a million prayers that he will grow up to be a wise, compassionate and happy Filipino-American-Southern man.  At the very least, the reality is that at the end of the day, all of us parents really just want our kids to be kept alive, out of jail, and straitjacket free.  

What changes have you seen in your own children that made you wish they had a reset button?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Words of Wisdom That Don't Work Because I'm Too Neurotic

*Author's Note:  Proceed only if you're checking in with your sense of humor in tow*

Because I always make sure to watch only quality television, today's post was inspired by some lines I constantly hear from certain reality shows.  (Don't bother asking me which ones I'm referring to).  Admittedly, I did have to add some on my own, thus completing this list of words of wisdom that drive me insane when I hear them spoken.  Given my penchant for over-analysis, these 'wise words', meant to comfort and enlighten, actually end up being ineffective for me because I find them either incomplete, irresponsible or just plain stupid.

Without further ado, here is my list of supposedly 'wise' sayings that, if spoken to me, will certainly cause either some debate or hair-pulling...and I can't promise that it won't be yours.

Photo Credit: A Tale of A Halo

"You only live once (YOLO)" 
(variation: "Live like there's no tomorrow; dance as if nobody's watching, love like you've never been hurt")

Oh really?  Are you sure?  Are you absolutely certain that we really only live once?  If I happen to believe in reincarnation, where does this leave me?  

And don't you think 'living like there's no tomorrow' is possibly the principle that most of mankind, especially those in the first world, have been practicing, which is why environmental degradation is close to being irreversible at this point, leaving almost nothing for future generations on this Earth?  

The trouble is, it's more likely that there will be a tomorrow, whether tomorrow still has me in it or not.  And if I'm still in it, which, again, is more likely, then I don't want to have painful joints that are beyond repair, causing me immobility as a result of irresponsibly dancing like there was no tomorrow.

As for loving like I've never been hurt, well, I'd like to think that there's a reason why God made memory possible.  I think it's a terrible waste of gray matter if I just put past experiences and lessons aside instead of trying to remember and apply what I can in present and future relations, don't you agree?  If my heart has been mauled to pieces before, won't it be a sign of intelligence if I proceed with some caution next time and employ a somewhat different strategy?  The self-preservation instinct is there for a reason.  Let's use it wisely.

"If you can dream it, you can do it."

Really???  'Cos I once dreamed of being a medical doctor and then somehow it just did not work out.  I lost interest.  I guess it also didn't help that my Analytical Chemistry professor helped crush my dream by making no effort for her lectures to be understood so we can all have a passing grade, but instead took pride in having more than half of our class drop the course.  

I also often dream of flying and yet somehow I'm still not able to do it.  I wonder why.....

"Forgive and Forget"

There is no such thing.  Yes, forgive by all means!  But never forget.  Because if you choose to, then how will you also remember the lessons learnt?  I believe that forgiveness--releasing yourself from what binds you to the past and your expectations of it--is possible without completely forgetting what happened or was done to you.  If someone has wronged you deeply, you can release yourself from the negative emotions, and yet still keep notes as to what could possibly protect you from committing the same mistake again, either with the same person or with another.  It's simply common sense.

"Love is never having to say you're sorry"

I guess I missed the memo saying that Love also takes away other virtues such as humility, and accountability, among other things.  If paired with 'We always hurt the ones we love', which really makes sense because you can only really hurt those to whom you matter, then never saying sorry just makes you a flat-out jerk.  Stay away from me!

"There's nowhere else to go but up."

Hitting rock bottom doesn't automatically imply an eventual unidirectional movement, or improvement.  Some people are simply immune to any inertia that could make some difference in their life, or they think they're 'moving up' when in truth they're moving laterally / sideways.  This saying doesn't really offer me much comfort because it's simply not true that 'up' is the only space there is other than 'down'.

"If you love someone, let them go / set them free; for if they return they were always yours.  If they don't, then they never were"

Why, why, why and most importantly, WHY, would you let go of someone you love??!!!  I see no point in tempting either the object of your affection or fate by playing this stupid game!  In my book, when you love someone, you do everything in your power to be with them, assuming of course they love you too.

This saying would have been so much better if it went like this:  "If you love someone, don't ever let them go.  Unless of course they make it crystal clear that they don't love you back.  If that were the case, then don't even take them in if they decide to come back.  That's not a sign that they were always yours.  It's a sign that you could be playing second best to someone or something.  Either that or you're dealing with someone who doesn't know what he/ she wants.  That kind of ambivalent energy is something you wouldn't want to be around, especially where your heart and soul are at stake."  

Here's a much shorter version:  "If you love someone, just REALLY love and quit playing games.  

"What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger"

This has to be my favorite.  I'm sure Nietzsche had some profound reason for stating this but come on now. I can think of a hundred alternative consequences to that which does not end up killing me other than making me stronger. How about what doesn't kill me only makes me paralyzed?...or hopeless?....numb?....or maybe unmotivated?....Feel free to jump right in and supply your own conclusions.  Oh, and one more piece of advice.  I suggest you not try saying this crap to stroke survivors.  I'm just sayin'.....

"Time heals all wounds"

No.  It does not.  Period.

Can you think of anything else to add to this list of 'not-so-wise words'.