Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Five Things You Should Never Say To A Filipino Migrant

Alright, so maybe I should’ve entitled this one as “Five Things You Should Never Say To ME As A Filipino Migrant ” but I would like to believe that I am doing justice to what others like me are thinking so bear with the title for now.

I know that most, if not all, of these are innocent comments borne out of the desire to make conversation and break the ice.  But it’s hard enough for a migrant to be the one sticking out, the one trying to adapt.  There's really no need to add uninformed and sometimes insensitive-comments-spiced-up-with-an-air-of-bigotry into the mix.  Hearing these comments just ABSOLUTELY brings out the worst in me.   

1. Comment:  Wow!  You speak English! (Variation:  It's amazing how you don't have a thick accent!)
My secret hostile thoughts:  Ummm…yeah, we’re pretty Westernized as a society and our colonial history includes a period of American occupation where our education system was heavily influenced among other things.  I also grew up watching Sesame Street as did majority of my peers.  I know you think you're complimenting me and maybe even trying to flatter me with your sharp observation but really you're also insulting my race by insinuating that you’ve always thought of us as backward and uneducated.  Besides, what is so wrong about not being able to speak English???

2. Comment:  It must be great growing up by the sea…oh those lovely beaches!
My secret hostile thoughts:  Right!....The thing is I grew up in the city, the urban jungle, and yes, like any metropolitan area, we have high-rises too.  I bet our malls are even bigger than the ones you’ve been to.  Please go online and Google the Philippines

3. Comment:  Philippines....Where is that???
My secret hostile thoughts:  Thanks.  Can you possibly make me feel any more insignificant right now?  But wait!  How can an idiot make me feel insignificant?  I'm zoning you out from this point on.

4. Comment: Oh yeah the Philippines!  Who doesn't know Imelda Marcos and her shoes, right?! (said with such beaming pride)
My secret hostile thoughts:  Out of the millions of other Filipinos, you equate us with a dictator known for plundered wealth and burying our country further in debt and poverty.  Seriously???  How about our national hero, polymath Jose Rizal?...or our modern day heroes like Lea Salonga, Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda.  I'm sure you've also heard of Manny Pacquiao?!

5. Comment:  Oh I'm sorry!  I thought you were Chinese!
My secret hostile thoughts:  Thank you for being so bright as to assume that Asian = Chinese.  Remind me again why I’m wasting my time with you??

I've heard of other annoying comments but I think these are the worst.  Feel free to add to the list.  Have you been in a situation where someone couldn’t quite ‘figure you out’, your race / ethnicity and then the person ended up spewing unbelievable crap?  Or maybe you were the one who couldn’t figure out the other person?  What did you do or say?  

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Fright Night Starring Mother Nature

Nobody’s a fan of Mother Nature’s wrath, especially when it strikes in the middle of the night.  For the second time in my life, we had a tornado scare last night / early morning today, at around 1:30 a.m.

By around 7 in the evening, we had heard that severe weather conditions were going to hit Middle Tennessee.  I kept checking various weather sites and every single one of them  was consistent in saying that severe thunderstorms were sure to come late at night and that conditions were ripe for tornadoes to develop. 

I’ve never experienced a tornado in my entire life.  We did not have those in the Philippines, though severe storms, with strong rainfall, wind and flooding are no strangers to me.  The very first time I got a real scare from a tornado was last year when we were still in Illinois and though I sort of panicked when I heard the siren, I took comfort in the fact that we had a basement.  It somehow helped me feel a bit secure…somehow.  This time around though, there is no basement to run to.  Houses here in middle TN generally don’t have real basements.  What most people call their basement is actually a walk-out type so it’s not really underground.  We were told that it’s too expensive to dig underground given that much of TN is made of limestone bedrock (and some even say granite), hence we are left with a ‘panic closet’. 

And yes, it’s not even a room but a closet located in the middle of our house, under the staircase.  Even before we bought this house, we looked at the floor plan and made up our minds that this room would be our ‘tornado hideout’.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), with my husband being such a ‘techie’, the said room also became our ‘server room’ (computer server), further making the space cramped.  We realized at 1:45 am earlier today that 2 adults and one child can barely fit in there, especially since we had a huge down comforter and a couple of pillows with us to cover ourselves with should the need arise.

Our 'safe room' with its daily occupants...
I was the first one to get up.  I just couldn’t sleep, feeling so paranoid and constantly checking various websites for weather updates.  At first it was just a tornado watch.  Then our county was included in a tornado warning but it said ‘northwestern part’ so I stayed calm and thought maybe it won’t hit the eastern part.  I continued to stay awake and kept praying and praying and praying.  Then just when I was beginning to convince myself that the worst is over since it seemed so calm and quiet outside, I heard the siren.  I lifted my head from the pillow to listen more intently, still in denial and thinking that it was just an ambulance I was hearing.  Then I stood and walked towards the window to listen some more and tapped my husband in the process to confirm.  “Hey, wake up….Isn’t that the tornado siren??”  AJ sat up, listened, and then finally said, “Yup, that’s it”.  Quickly I grabbed the comforter and said, “We better go downstairs NOW…Go grab Noah…”, and we all headed quickly to the first floor.  I turned on the emergency LED lamp inside the closet/room and threw the comforter on the floor.  AJ put Noah down while I sat in the corner, while he walked to the adjoining family room to turn on the television and watch the news updates on the storm.  After about 15 minutes, we saw on the screen that the storm had passed and we were no longer in the red zone.  I was finally able to breathe normally and felt my whole being relax. 

Amidst all the fear and anxiety, there was one question that kept popping in my head.  “What exactly are you so afraid of?...being hurt?...damage to property?...dying?....losing your loved ones?”  After all is said and done, I realized that the thing I fear most is the last one.  It is the ‘damage’ I could be left with that would surely leave me most damaged…perhaps even irreparable. 

On the practical side of things, I also realized that there needs to be a second safe room in case there were more people in the house.  I am now thinking of the pantry as my best bet.  Let’s just hope falling canned goods don’t end up hurting anyone in the process!  I guess I need to organize that space now!

How about you?  What is your emergency plan in your home?  Have you been in a similar situation and have you any tips you want to share?

Friday, January 13, 2012

My Perfect Man

I'm a teacher and I'm a firm believer in training and though sometimes my husband and I argue about Noah's readiness to learn certain things, for the most part, I win.  I will admit that in terms of parenting, I'm the tougher, stricter one...the enforcer.  And I like challenging Noah instead of just thinking that he's too young to learn or do certain things by himself. I'm sure that if you're a parent reading this, more than anyone else you would agree that early socialization is something you don't take lightly and that whoever said that if you wanted to start changing the world, that you need to start with mothers (or parents), could not have been more spot on!  

Well, great news!!  I am happy to report that I think I am on my way to creating a perfect man! It took years of training, 4 to be exact, but given the actual and potential benefits, I’d say I’m highly motivated to continue with this wise investment.

But everyone knows that parenting is not only about teaching but also about learning from the same children you are training.  This is also part of what's rewarding about parenting; that you find yourself learning and gaining fresh insights as you watch your children develop.  So here are a few entertaining, but no less valuable recent lessons from my 4-year old Noah.    

I'd like to call the attention of men, (if there are, in fact, males out there reading this blog) especially husbands. Listen up.  There are a few priceless lessons here to be learned from my preschooler as I illustrate why I think he’s my perfect man…

1.  He does not let anger get in the way of his love and its expression.

One morning as we were rushing (again) on our way to school, Noah decided at the last minute that he wanted to change jackets.  I made my utter disapproval known to him by ranting and giving him a long sermon.  But as my Mom always used to tell me, you’d never win arguing with a child so don’t waste your energy.  It was either a change in outerwear or skip school.  Suffice it to say that even after close to ten minutes, I was still fuming mad because obviously I did not get my way.  We were already in the car, driving to school, but I was still arguing with Noah, telling him how disappointed I was with his behavior and then I made it clear that I did not want to hear a word from him.  ‘Do NOT talk to me!’, I exclaimed firmly.

He was quiet for a while.  We both were.  Then after two minutes of complete silence and compliance, Noah spoke in a semi-angry and firm voice: “Mo---meeeh!.....I love you!!...Even if I’m angry, I still love you!”

Right then, he melted my heart and I wanted to say, “You had me at Mommy…you had me at Mommy”, a la Dorothy Boyd in Jerry McGuire.

Lesson:  Never let your anger get in the way of you saying I love you.  'I love you' is always powerful as long as you mean it.

2.  He believes that burning resentments are not meant to linger overnight.

Nothing could be worse than making Noah upset and bringing him to tears when it's close to bed time, unless of course you're not a fan of sleep.  This little man will refuse to go to bed when he knows Mommy is upset with him and will insist that he at least gets a hug.  With sad, begging eyes, he will say, "I want Mommy to hug me" and will keep following me around the house until I give in and hold him.  He knows that with just one hug, everything is better, he feels comforted and loved and I bet, unconsciously he also knows that my hugging him also drives some, if not all, of my anger away.  

Lesson:  Make it known that she makes such a difference.  Her hug, her voice, her touch, have so much power that you can't be without them and that you can't bear the thought of being without her love, even if it's just for a few hours overnight.

3.  He knows who the REAL master of the throne is.

If there is anything that proves that training makes a universe of difference, this is it. When Noah uses the toilet, he remembers to clean up, making sure that 'if he sprinkles when he tinkles', that he does wipe the seat. What's more, he always remembers to place the seat down once he's done. Pretty freakin' awesome, if you asked me! 

Lesson:  It's all self-explanatory, isn't it?

4.  He makes me feel like I'm the world to him.      

When he comes home after going out with his Dad, the first thing he shouts out is, 'Mommy, I'm home!' and then goes around the house to look for me.  Once he sees me, his eyes light up, he then rushes to me and gives me a tight hug as if we've been parted for a hundred years.  Sometimes the icing on the cake is when he adds an "I missed you, Mommy" to the hug.    

Lesson:  Small, everyday gestures count and they do add up.  Oprah Winfrey has always highlighted her realization that one thing she knows for sure is that everyone on this earth has the need to be seen, to matter.  Make those you love feel that you see them, REALLY see them, every chance you get.

5.  He is a gentleman.

This mostly happens on weekends when all three of us go out.  On those days, it is my husband who buckles Noah up and checks on the car seat, so I normally just head for the front passenger seat.  Noah would then insist that he opens the door for me like a perfect gentleman.  He only started doing this within the past six months, I think after hearing me ask his father one night why he no longer consistently does it for me.  I guess the boy was challenged enough by it and decided to respond.

Lesson:  Chivalry never gets old.  There is nothing on any contract that says that a man should only open car doors for the woman during the first few months of dating.  Actually if anything, the contract has a fine print stating it's a lifetime commitment and a wise investment that can guarantee exponential returns somewhere along the way.  It's a loving and sexy gesture, if you asked me!

6.  Last but certainly not the least...He speaks the 'TRUTH'.
One day, Noah found me browsing through pictures and then I muttered, "I'm so fat...Am I not so fat, Noah?"  He then responded with much conviction and (seeming) honesty, "You're not fat Mommy...not to me!"  I gave the boy a tight hug, rewarding him for his undeniable keenness...(and impeccable taste)!!

Lesson:  The lesson here is for the mothers.  Training is key!!  As for the men / fathers, go back to your contract.  This one's on the fine print too!

There you have it, clear illustrations of the perfect man in the making.  Let me report back to you in about 10 years to see just how much had already been undone.  After all, our husbands were once children too, weren't they? **deep sigh**


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking Back Doesn't Mean Getting Yourself A Stiff Neck

Regrets.  Why are people so afraid to admit they have regrets in their lives?  'Regrets' has always had a very bad rap, with people saying it's wasted time and effort.  'I don't have time for regrets; they're counterproductive', is what is commonly declared.

But really, is there anyone on this planet without a single regret??  More importantly, is regretting really all that bad? Some of you are probably thinking that this is odd timing on my part, given that this is a new year, clean slate, fresh start, leave the past behind.  But this is also precisely why I thought about 'regrets'.  I think you can't really go forward without intelligently looking back.  And I say intelligently because looking back without much consciousness is worthless.  

To regret is to feel negatively about something from the past; to feel sorry that something happened, to wish it never did.  I don't see anything wrong with that at all and if you tell me you are a person with no regrets, I would walk away from you and know that you are a liar.  (Well, either that or you are delusional.  Either way, keeping distance from you would be wise).  

Regretting does not mean you don't believe that even painful things happen for a reason and that there are blessings to be found behind failures.  For me, regretting is an acknowledgement of mistakes made, either by myself or others. It is my recognition of dreams or hopes unfulfilled, ideals unrealized.  Regrets, to me, are useful because they highlight for me certain tendencies I have, behavioral and psychological inclinations I possess that I can still CHOOSE to change.  Looking back at painful things and wishing they turned out differently is normal and acceptable, as long as you don't go through self-flagellation and turn your experience of pain to suffering.  Pain is just an experience.  Suffering speaks of your perception and how you CHOOSE to experience such pain.  

I regret making certain decisions.  I regret NOT making certain decisions.  In these cases, I recognize that there were times I decided in haste even if everything in my being told me to step back and take my time, while there were times it was my tendency to give my power to someone else, letting them decide my fate.  The decisions themselves cannot be undone, but how I live the consequences of those decisions is still completely up to me, and so are future countless decisions I am yet to make.  Recognizing my mistakes and paying attention to the echoes of my regrets help me choose wiser and more consciously. As such, my regrets become gifts instead of prison walls meant to torture.  

To see an ugly or disappointing past and wishing it were better, sweeter or lovelier is normal.  But you do have to recognize that the past cannot be undone nor brought back and that there is no other option than to move along and live in your present.  Everyone's allowed to look back and actually you should!  Feel good about it.  Feel bad about.  It does not matter.  What matters is you know that the present is the only space where you have power and that NOW is when you can try to make sure that tomorrow will not be filled with too many regrets.