Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do You Smell That?

I was watching the morning news earlier and heard that some areas of Chicago have low-level infestation of the stink bug.  I suppose this is a seasonal thing and few sightings have been reported so far.  I've personally never seen a stink bug in my life and only found out today that it's named such because this bug gives off a foul odor when disturbed, frightened or squashed.

Bug, Stink Bug, Rough Stink Bug, Insect, Insectoid

Foul odor when disturbed, frightened or squashed...somehow that keeps echoing in my head which led me to think that this is probably one of the most honest species on earth!  We're pretty much the same as human beings, aren't we?...giving off some foulness when we get frightened, disturbed and especially when we feel squashed.  For the most part though, we control or conceal it.  Most of us rarely unleash this 'foulness' at the exact time we feel offended.  When we feel overcome with fear, feel threatened in some way, whether it's our physical safety, mental health, or emotional well-being, things do get ugly.  No one else could have said it better than Master Yoda: 

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

We all have our own ways of being stink bugs.  Some are more vocal than others and speak their minds.  Some tend to retreat and keep it all in but then simmer in negativity and just withdraw from relationships.  Some are vengeful and make sure they let their offender feel the same, if not even more, pain than what they've experienced.  Some punish themselves and get stuck in 'victim mode', believing that they deserve the pain and injustice done to them.  The fact remains that, how ever and where ever we unleash the ugliness, the 'stink', it is there and is part of our self-preservation instinct.  The irony though is that no matter how we think about this, the truth is that in the end, we actually hurt ourselves even more when we make attempts at retaliation.  Again, as Yoda said, it all leads to suffering, both the other's as well as ours.

No one enjoys getting scared or squashed.  Personally, I think my natural tendency is to simmer in the pain or negativity, while I simultaneously think of some unexpected form of vengeance, most likely in the form of mental or emotional torture.  Super stinky, isn't it?...and I'm not proud of it.  The question now is, how do YOU manifest the stink bug in you?  Care to share?...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What I Know About Love...

Candle, Advent, Celebration, Christmas, December, Heart

...that sometimes it is as much about restrain as it is about doing, or actively giving.

Yes we often hear that love is a verb, that it needs constant expression to be sustained.  But what if the most loving thing to do is to not do anything, to not be there, to just let go and walk away?  In my age I've learnt that to withhold, control and contain is sometimes just as loving, if not more, than the natural tendency to give and give in.  It can even be the greatest pain, anguish like no other, and that it calls for greater strength, a deeper kind of love.  To see what lies far ahead and choose what is best for the 'loved', the 'other', even when it means death to the 'lover', the self, is a kind of love most of us don't see or want to acknowledge.  It is uncomfortable to look at and even unacceptable to some minds.  Some argue that it defies logic and when it does not make sense to them, it must be wrong.  

But it is there and has as much right to be defined as real love as 'active' and 'present' love.  In its seeming absence, its 'non-presence', it lingers, lives on and is honored by the fruits borne out of its very absence.  If indeed the loved one thrives, finds happiness and grows, then this act of letting go and choosing restrain has done its work.  A part of the lover dies so that the loved may find life and that in turn, breathes life back to the lover, the giver.  It is a cycle too beautiful to not be seen as 'Love'.  

As I've always said, love changes people.  It touches the giver and the receiver and its transformative power transcends the tangible, distance, time and rationality.  It can cause both unfathomable pain and joy, but in the end, what is endured is treasured.  Even in times when love takes a form too incomprehensible to some, trust that it will always make sense when understood with the heart.      

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Fairytale Rewritten

For the past few nights, Noah has been requesting that I read the story of 'Hansel and Gretel' to him before bedtime.  At first, my reluctance to comply with my son's request stemmed from my paranoia that the story might be too scary for him.  After all, getting pushed into a hot oven (or boiling pot in some versions) is quite a violent and scary image, don't you agree?  
But after getting re-acquainted with this famous story, I realized that there was something else far more disturbing than just an old lady ('witch') being burnt alive.  I'm actually offended by the fact that all the blame is directed towards the 'evil stepmother' who came up with the plan to leave the children in the forest because the family was running out of food and other resources.  What about the father though?  At least from my perspective, it was obvious that he was complicit in the whole scheme to get rid of his children.  He most certainly did not strongly object to the idea, nor was it even implied in the story (at least in the version we have) that he went to great lengths to search for the children.  At the end of the story, when Hansel and Gretel finally found their way home, it says that the father was just so happy that he will not be alone again (since the stepmother had died, and by no means was there any explanation of her death...go figure!).

Sure, Hansel and Gretel are just kids and they really don't know any better.  They must be...what?...6, 8 or 10 years old?  I'm betting it won't be too long before they find out that they have a spineless wood-cutter for a father, who never bothered to defend them, reason for them, and was just too happy to have them back so they could serve him, the morally inept patriarch, now that he has no wife by his side.  If I were the father though, I'd be very afraid of these children considering the trauma they had just gone through.  They've pushed an old woman into a hot oven before.  What makes you think they won't be capable of pushing an old man this time around?  I don't know about you, but I think H & G need some therapy...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Echoes From the Land of Sheroes

Happy International Women's Day!  This day celebrates women's social, political and economic achievements through the decades (and actually through the past century since this year's celebration commemorates the 100th anniversary).  We've gone a long way indeed but the reality is that the struggle continues.  I feel the struggle every single day more so I suppose because I see myself as a domestic worker (DW).  

I wanted to double-check the definition of that term, DW, just to make sure I fall within the category and for those who are equally curious, here it is:

Domestic work covers many different activities, situations and relationships, and so is not easy to categorise.
It includes many tasks such as cleaning, laundry and ironing; shopping, cooking and fetching water; caring for the sick, elderly and children; looking after pets; sweeping and garden-tidying.  
          Source:  http://www.domesticworkerrights.org/?q=node/13

Now that we're all clear about that, I will confirm that I am one.  The trouble with this is that I still constantly feel that I am perpetually struggling to be recognized as a 'WORKER'. There is a global movement fighting for domestic workers' rights and I am totally supportive of their efforts.  However I still feel that within my own circle, in my own narrative, my biography, I have yet to achieve progress where it involves recognition of what I do and who I am.

There are times when I still hear remarks making me feel as if what I do has less value than paid employment.  And make no mistake...Such remarks come from both males and females...(and yes, you know who you are).  I am still made to feel as if I am merely an auxiliary to my husband, instead of an equal, simply because I do not earn outside the home and will probably never earn as much as he does.  To a certain extent, most women who have more financial power than their husbands still probably have a similar struggle mainly because of the gender difference. And if that were the case, imagine how I must feel, how women like me constantly struggle to be recognized and yes, dare I say it, revered!

I often wonder why some people think that domestic work is easy or easier than work outside the home. Sometimes I wonder too if the term SAHM (stay-at-home-mother) should be changed to WAHM (work-at-home-mother) in order to be more accurate and representative of reality.  Presently WAHM is only assigned to mothers who run a business from home and therefore the term 'work' here still refers to paid work.  But domestic work IS WORK!...and it is HARD WORK!  Maybe when people hear SAHM they envision this mother who literally just stays at home, does nothing but vegetate on the couch, sip tea and take naps through out the day.  Maybe people think it's having all the time in the world to devote to 'me' time and it's a life of pleasure and extreme entitlement.  

Well snap out of that ignorance and listen well.  My days start early and they don't start any later than my husband's.  When he wakes up, I'm up and to be honest, most times, I get even less sleep than he does.  Paid workers get days off.  I don't.  Paid workers come home at the end of their work day (which, I'd like to point out again, ENDS), raise their feet up or whatever, and relax, while people like me continue to attend to our family's needs and perpetually do our best to keep the house sane.  When paid workers become ill, they get a sick day and their work load can either wait or someone takes over.  In my case, well, all I can tell myself is, "Tough luck...suck it up!"  When paid workers get sick of their jobs and come to realize that they can no longer tolerate their boss, they can resign and find another job.  Me?....Well...tough luck.  Suck it up!...again.  

I can go on and on trying to drive home the point that what I do as a WAHM (yes, I am owning the label now) is not as easy as what others perceive, and more importantly, is just as valuable as outside (paid) employment.  But I'm sure that other than me mainly preaching to the choir right now, I don't want to give you the impression that this is about complaining, lamenting my sorrowful state.  It's not.  And I don't want you to think I'm sorrowful either.  This is a choice I made and I don't want it any other way.  For one, I cannot imagine having another person raise my child right now, and while I can still make this choice, can afford to choose this choice, then I embrace it.  

This is just about me hoping that someday soon, the ignorant and insensitive remarks would end; that women like myself will no longer feel the pressure to be perfect and highly efficient homemakers 100% of the time because we're made to feel as if this role is the only thing that justifies our existence; that we will feel just as entitled to breaks, laziness, and me-time, as the rest of you who work outside the home, without feeling guilty or inadequate; that wives like myself will not feel like a burden to our husbands who work outside the home and will not be made to feel as such just because we do not contribute financially.  And by the way, husbands who think this way should be reminded that whatever professional success they continue to achieve is partly because they have their supportive wives who take care of them and everything else they can't make time for in their lives.  It's a symbiosis.  The 'earner' depends on the homemaker and vice versa.  And indeed, as cliche as this sounds, we are merely different, yet equally important.       

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

With This Key I Thee Wed

New Home, House, Construction, Architecture, Home, New

For the past couple of months, our family has been actively searching for a new house.  As I've mentioned before, my husband has a new job and though relocation is not required at this time (at least not yet), it is somewhat preferred, by us and the company.

As I've gotten immersed in this entire process, I've come to realize that buying a house is really not that different from getting married or getting into a (serious) relationship.  Here's why----

1.  You have to spend a LOT of time looking before you find THE ONE.  And when you find it, you'll know.  It will fit and it won't take much convincing to make you realize it.  You will feel right about it and be very comfortable about taking a leap of faith.  It is a commitment after all.     

2.  The process always has to start with yourself and not with what's out there.  You have to know (and I mean really know) your finances, your limits, be clear about your budget, be informed about what you're pre-approved for if you're taking out a mortgage.  You cannot be engaged in the search if you don't even know what you're capable of, what you can afford.  You have to make sure you don't set yourself up for great disappointment by looking at houses that are totally out of your league.  In the event that your financial capacity only affords you houses that are quite unacceptable to you and totally does not match either your taste or your basic requirements, then there's only one thing to do.  Wait and save up some more.  Work on your finances and get better at it.  Otherwise, you just have to be realistic, accept that the pool of choices will always be limited for most of us, and accept what's TRULY available out there for YOU.
3.  If you're not in love with it, don't marry it....errr, i mean, don't buy it.  Remember, you'll have to live with it and in it for the rest of your life.  Okay maybe not the rest of your life but a significant number of years.

4.  Once you've made your decision and it's all locked in place, you have to stop looking.  There will always be something better out there.  The grass is always greener on the other side.  Be at peace with your choice.  You can't have buyer's remorse...it is a house after all, and not a pair of shoes.

5.  No house will ever be perfect.  What's important is you go into the search process with a list of non-negotiables and stick with them.  That being said, it's also very important that you are willing to compromise.  Be clear about what things you can and cannot change,  and what you need and value most.  

6.  Your non-negotiables better be the REALLY important stuff and not just a bunch of aesthetics.  You can always change certain things such as counter tops, flooring, paint color, cabinetry, etc.  However, you cannot change (very easily, or not at all) such things as square footage, location/neighborhood, structural soundness, and layout / flow of the house and monthly costs for mortgage payments, utilities and general home maintenance.  

7.  The house needs to fit YOU, and not the other way around.  You can't purchase a home just because you're attracted to some bells and whistles (stainless steel appliances, nice hardwood floors, etc) when the bones of the house and its other basic characteristics don't really fit you.  It will not be wise to commit to something feeling that you need to adjust to it, adapt to it in significant ways, rather than have the house fit YOUR needs, YOUR existing patterns.  Yes some compromise may be required, as I mentioned above, but not to the extent that you are losing yourself, sacrificing yours and your family's patterns and fundamental preferences.  You can't let the beautiful spa-like bathroom, or the ultra chic and modern chef's kitchen make you forget that the house does not have the minimum square-footage you absolutely need or that this one only has 1.5 bathrooms for your family of 6 or that this will take you 2 hours to get to your work place.

8.  Timing is everything.  You may be ready, but the house you're envisioning is not available in the market.  Or the house may be there, but your finances and other circumstances may not allow you to purchase just yet.  You need that 'magical' synchronicity, the confluence of all those forces, to make something happen.  If this ideal situation does not happen and you just want to go ahead and take the plunge, then some major compromise may be inevitable, to the point of 'settling'.  If you're cool with that, then that's fine but remember...you have to live with your choices.

9.  Unless it's a new construction, each existing house has a past and I'm a believer in trying to know as much as you possibly can about that past.  Everyone has baggage and the only question is if it's something you can live with.  Is it possible to find out who the sellers are (demographics, etc); why they're selling; has the house experienced flooding before; what is the age of the house and has it ever been remodelled. It's all about making a decision that's as informed as possible, which leads me to #10.

10.  There are always risks.  The question is, is this one worth it?...worth all the risks you're aware of?  You will have cold feet, you will question, evaluate and re-evaluate, take pause and do everything to delay as much as you can. However, ultimately buying a home is much like any serious commitment you make in your life.  You can't possibly know everything, can't foresee everything, can't plan for everything.  All you can do is bite the bullet, and be as prepared for contingencies as you can, while you can.