Monday, December 23, 2013

Recycled Holiday Place Mats

I take pride in, and truly enjoy being frugal.  I don't claim to be such all the time, but when I see a good opportunity, I do give it a shot.  

Take the holidays for instance.  I love, LOVE to decorate but I also know how expensive it can get. Through the years, we've bought a few items here and there, but I've been very fortunate to have received a lot of cute and timeless decorations from my mother-in-law.  

Putting up the decorations around the house were easy.  But when it came to dressing up our formal dining table to make it ready for company, I realized I didn't have holiday-themed table cloths!  Yikes!  

What I knew I had somewhere in my attic was a 'Christmasy' vinyl tablecloth from about two years ago. However, when I spread it out to inspect it, I found it was no longer worthy of any public appearances.  It had spots or streaks where the colors had worn off.  Basically those were the edges where it got folded or draped along the table sides.  

See for yourselves....

See that ugly white line to the right of the center pattern?

Here's a horizontal version....

I didn't want to give up and definitely felt there was something to be salvaged here.  So instead of opting for a full table cloth, I thought why not make place mats instead?!

So I spread out the entire tablecloth on to my floor, grabbed a pair of sharp scissors, a pen for marking, and an existing place mat which I used as a pattern.  I needed that to be precise with the size.

I was very lucky because I dealt with a checkered pattern.  This meant there were a lot of straight lines which made it easier for me to make the design pretty standard for each place mat.  But I'm sure the same concept is applicable to any design you might have with you.  I was also lucky that I had more than enough 'undamaged' areas to make six mats.  (I only needed six but let me assure you, I had a lot of left-over tablecloth in the attic for future trimming).

I was planning on busting out my hot glue gun and thick red ribbon so I could make the edges look more finished but I got lazy.  You can of course do that if you had more time and energy!  Hopefully by next December, I would have already finished that project!  But for now, I think they're good enough.  They don't look too bad, do they?  

And because they're vinyl, they're very easy to clean too!  No additional money spent and easy to clean...What more can I ask for, right?!?!  

I hope you are all enjoying the Holidays and other than my leaving you with the above money-saving idea as my gift, I also want to leave you with my Christmas greetings!

I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and may you truly celebrate Love!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Waiting For The Real Thing

This is my favorite time of the year, as is true for most people I suppose.  The week before Christmas (and just a few more days now, actually) is the best, and the buildup just feels amazing to me!  There's a rush and excitement about it that is unparalleled and it's this anticipation that I look forward to the entire year!

I wish I could say that everything is perfect at this point but it's not. Two days ago, the retail giant, Target, announced their security breach where 40 million card accounts may have been compromised.  As if consumers are not anxious and exhausted enough at this point after all the shopping going on, thieves have decided to be the ultimate Grinch and steal a piece of our peace of mind and sense of joy.

But we all know we have to fight this.  Yes it sucks.  Yes we have to practice more vigilance.  And yes it may cause a bit more sleepless nights.  But as cliche as it sounds, we have to force ourselves to focus on the fact that this season---Christmas, to those who celebrate it, like our family does --- should be about focusing on what truly fills us and makes our spirits joyful.  

Now that I'm a parent and have a child who now truly knows how to look forward to this holiday, I find that my excitement stems from my desire to make it as special for him as best I could.  It doesn't revolve so much anymore on my wondering about what gifts I will get but what I could give to my son to surprise him. 

It's about thinking of creative ways to make his sense of wonder last a bit longer.  

For instance this year, I heard that other than Santa sending him his annual video message, he will also be writing him a poem!  

It's focusing on keeping our simple family tradition of making him baked french toast for Christmas morning and the best hot cocoa I can concoct.

It's about doing my best to capture his expression, and hope it be etched in my memory forever, when he breaks a link from the Christmas Countdown Chain he made in school.  The way he looks up and counts the remaining links every night is priceless!

Hung just outside his bedroom door,
Noah breaks a link each night before I tuck him in.

It's having our treasured family movie hours watching our own bunch of Christmas classics:  The Polar Express, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and HBO's 'Twas the Night.  Frankly, December won't be the same for us if we didn't watch these films.  Maybe when he gets a little older, we can add Home Alone, Love Actually, While You Were Sleeping, and Bridget Jones' Diary.  For now, the last four films are just for Mommy when she wants to veg out.  

Oh and of course part of the fun is for my son to suffer through my fixation on Christmas music courtesy of Ray Conniff!  A cherished childhood memory is of my parents playing the vinyl album below during the holiday season, and for some odd reason that I still don't understand, I was extremely fascinated with the album cover.  Eventually though, a real favorite surfaced and it's the song 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas' in all its possible versions (Johnny Mathis, The Carpenters, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny Loggins, Kenny G., Judy Garland, the Pretenders, Dianna Krall). Yes, I'm addicted to this song and for me, this is THE ultimate Christmas song.  Noah is still not a convert since he thinks it's far too depressing.  Yes, undeniably this song is melancholic but that's what makes it so perfect for me!  Oh well....

No Christmas will ever be textbook perfect.  Maybe you don't have enough money.  Maybe you haven't perfected a dish you really wanted to serve at your family gathering.  You're not fit enough, skinny enough, pretty enough for a certain outfit.  Your house is not Pinterest worthy.  Maybe you didn't find the perfect gift you wanted to give your significant other.  Or maybe a store's security breach has caused you much financial distress.  These things are not 'nothing' but putting them in perspective should make us see that these are peripheral and shouldn't have any real power over our Christmas.  

Treasured people weaving treasured memories are all that matter.  It's the little acts of love and generosity, as well as feelings of joy brought on by how much joy we've given others, that should truly define our experience.  People don't remember outfits they wore, and sometimes not even store-bought gifts they received during past Christmases. What we remember are the people we spent them with, the stories shared, games played, dishes lovingly prepared, hands held, hugs and kisses, prayers, loving words and beaming smiles. These are the things that fill the heart to the brim.  These are the REAL things worth anticipating during this season, and always.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Yes, I'm Asian..But I'm A Scorpio Too

Two days ago, BlogHer published this article by Grace Hwang Lynch regarding the now viral (Twitter) movement #NotYourAsianSidekick.  In sum, this movement started by Suey Park, aims to start a conversation about the lack of representation of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women.  It aims to fight stereotypes given to Asians (Asian women in particular) and highlights the fact that Asian women are still often times marginalized when it comes to debates on gender equality and / or race.  White feminists sometimes don't give enough voice to Asian women's struggles, while debates on race are often times limited to the struggles of blacks in a white-dominated society. 

Reading about it reminded me of one term that annoys me to death as an immigrant.  I know it's a term not confined to Asians alone but it has everything to do with race and stereotypes.

To those who have never heard of this term before (and yes, I know there are some who haven't because I only also learned of this nine years ago), it stands for 'fresh off the boat'.  It refers to immigrants who have just entered another country (in my case the United States) and have not yet fully assimilated into that host country's culture.  

I find this term utterly derogatory.  Someone used this term on me nine years ago, and though I know this person didn't mean it maliciously, I still took offense.  To me, usage of this implies that you are viewing the other person as less than you in some way.  When people use this term to refer to someone, it's usually to make fun of the other person (the immigrant) because that person is not doing something 'right' based on social norms; perhaps not speaking 'right' because of a certain foreign accent; or 'knows less' simply because he / she has not been exposed enough to the new culture or is not yet accustomed to the 'new ways'.  Whatever it is, one can't deny that it's a term that differentiates in a negative way, in my view.  

And I. Dont. Like. It.  I almost bitch slapped that person who used that term on me before, but I was younger and nicer then.  I wanted soooo badly to say, "Excuse me, but first of all, I did not arrive on a boat.  Second, there is no need to think of me as completely naive about American culture because if you haven't noticed, we now live in the age of globalization.  Third...F*ck off."

It's never cool to make fun of anyone.  It's never cool to think of any one as less than you just because they are different, whether it's race, sex / sexual orientation, social class, religion, etc.  Most of all, I find it most uncool when people assume that it's acceptable to mistreat me, discriminate against me and spew stereotypes and other inane comments because I'm an Asian female who will most likely just keep quiet and not fight back.  I may not be abrasive, nor scandalous.  But I'm pretty sure I have pride and am smart AND educated to utter a witty comeback, or maybe plot a really creative revenge!   
I'm Asian after all, right?  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Looking Back on my 'Firsts'

It's been three weeks since I last blogged.  My life has been filled with tiny details, which are not in any way insignificant, although they've definitely drowned my brain.  It all started with my birthday.  Then we had to prepare for our trip to visit family in Chicago.  And before I knew it, Thanksgiving was here.  After coming back from the trip, marking the end of November, Cyber Monday (or more like cyber week, actually) crashed through my door, ate all my time and seemed to have dragged my wallet with it on its way out.

Amidst all this chaos, only two things managed to keep themselves firmly anchored in my head.  So forgive me if these two seem completely unrelated but I feel they're both highlights in their own respect making them worth sharing.

First, I had my very first surprise birthday celebration!  I really wasn't expecting it, considering that two weeks have passed since I had my birthday. For two months, the secret was hid from me and kudos to everyone in the family for orchestrating everything so well.  I knew there was going to be a family gathering because it was Thanksgiving dinner.  I didn't know that it was also to celebrate my 40th!  I later on found out that AJ thought of the whole thing back in September, and with the help of my two sisters-in-law and the rest of the gang, they were able to pull it all off.  What was most amazing was that it was AJ and Noah who chose my cake design online and I'm really surprised that Noah did not at all slip.  Should I be scared that my son seems very able at keeping secrets from me? Hmmmm......*think, think, think*.....

Here's a picture of me, mouth wide open, after I recovered from my disorientation and realized that when people screamed "SURPRISE!!", they actually meant "It's your birthday celebration, you idiot!"  Yes, I was a complete idiot for taking at least 5 seconds before figuring out the situation.

Second, our trip to Chicago was not only spent with family in the suburbs but also had to include at least a trip to the downtown area.  I love downtown Chicago.  I will always have a soft spot in my heart for it although I've always struggled to articulate exactly why.  The closest thing I can come up with is that I have such fond memories of it the way I would of an ex-lover.  Only in a very PG way.  I suppose it's because I feel like at one point in my life, I had a brief love affair with Chicago and it made such a huge impression on me.  

It was my first exposure to the US or the American life back in 2001 when I visited as a tourist. I was heartbroken, in limbo, and just badly needed some change...any change. And Chicago gave me all that.  With its freezing December air, the layers of clothing I had to wear, the way it allowed me to wear a coat for the first time in my life, how it allowed me to see parts of the city through the 'L'/'El', my solitary walks along the energy of State Street and Michigan Avenue, as well as the more quiet moments I spent on a bench by the lake near Loyola University...all that offered me the distraction I needed. At least for a while. 

Of course my personal woes did not leave me completely. Those things need way more time than just a holiday break. But I found that something about Chicago comforted me.  I guess you can think of it as an extremely short-lived, but exciting fling. It was new to me.  Everything was different.  It offered enough intrigue and beauty for me to analyze cerebrally, and it most definitely is a city with a lot of character, beautiful architecture, enough for my attention to be sustained.  Chicago also offered me the balance I needed in being able to experience a foreign city;  highly westernized thus giving me a good glimpse of what it means to be in a first world country, but at the same time, one that is not too 'cold' or unfriendly.  But more than anything else, I feel that my fling with Chicago in 2001 offered me hope.  With everything that I saw and experienced then, I truly felt a sense of possibility at a time when I felt lost and alone.  

Yes it sucked walking around this beautiful city by my lonesome, especially when it felt like everywhere I looked all I saw were couples holding hands. But at that time, this city still gave me more than a flicker of hope.  It made me feel like there was so much more to the world I can see, so many other possible paths I can choose from, and that's probably all I needed then.  My Chicago was there for me when my heart needed opening up.  It did not heal me completely. That was a task meant only for me.  But it sure did clarify things ABOUT ME that helped me choose where I wanted to be at that time, or what my heart yearns for the most.  It was a gift I will forever treasure.

So, yes.  I will always feel sentimental walking or driving around this downtown area.  When I'm in it, I feel like reconnecting once more with an old friend or lover.  When I walk its streets, I feel like it echoes back to me some of my private and treasured thoughts and dreams.  No, it's not home and I know I don't belong to it completely.  But I know it will always be there for me to remind me of of one of the most exciting years of my life, a year replete with 'firsts'.  

Treasured 'firsts' in 2001, and here I am, 40 in 2013 still experiencing new 'firsts'.  Life is good.  

Friday, November 15, 2013


This week, I turned 40.  Forty.  Cuarenta.  Kwarenta.  Apat na pu.

As is true for every decade of life completed, there is much expected of a 40th birthday.  And I can only guess that it becomes an even bigger deal the older one gets.  I don't remember people fussing much when I turned 20, other than that it also coincides, for most Filipinos at least, with graduating from college and of course trying to get employed.  

However, when I turned 30, I must admit the level of angst that I had to deal with skyrocketed! It almost felt like a death sentence to some degree, ESPECIALLY since I was still single at the time.  It was as if all of a sudden, a bunch of deadlines decided to present themselves to me without giving me proper warning or preparation.  And that is most unfair, don't you think?  All of a sudden, every single thing had a ticking sound to them.  Reproductive system. Love life.  Career.  It was simply insane.  Everything had to be done now, achieved NOW...or else.  Well, I never really understood the 'or else' part but I'm willing to bet there's really nothing to it.  Sadly, society has not learnt as of yet, how to be kind to women reaching their 30s.  I actually feel it was such a fun time but there were just too many party poopers either outside of me or in my head that just spoiled it for me.

Anyhow, life went on and now I'm here and so is 40.  Our paths have finally collided and I refuse to make it as dramatic as some would make it out to be.  And what do people say about turning 40?

Well, I've heard that 40 is the new 20.  Give me a break!  I was a mess in my 20s, with a sh*tload of insecurities that didn't make sense so remind me again why I'd want to go back to that?

Some have also said that life begins at 40.  That's kind of sad to believe isn't it?  Especially when most of my adventures happened in my late 20s to early 30s.

And then there's this viral image or meme that I feel so uncomfortable about because I don't think I can adopt it for myself....

Yes, I'm forty.  But I personally can't find the audacity to define myself as fierce, let alone fabulous.  The dictionary defines 'fierce' as 'violent in force; furiously eager or intense; menacingly wild; savage.'  I may be cerebrally and emotionally intense but other than that, I would never define myself as fierce, nor would you if you met me.  I'm generally not assertive, certainly not confrontational, introverted and too uptight to be 'wild or savage' when relating to others.

A number of people sent me birthday greetings where they used the word 'fabulous' on me, and though I sincerely appreciate that, I also wonder if I have any right to this word.  I'm flattered some people consider me fabulous but honestly, I know I'm not there yet.  'Fabulous' is defined as 'incredible; exceptionally good; almost impossible to believe; breathtaking; first-class'. Am I really just being too hard on myself for believing that I'm far from being fab, or is my self-assessment pretty accurate?  More importantly, which one should matter more?  My perception of myself, or others'?

Since I only scored one out of three in that 'fierce, fabulous and forty' trinity, I think I'm better off being honest to myself and the world.  In this spirit of honesty, I created this photo and offer it as an alternative...  

I may not look all glammed up and would never be runway-worthy, and my joints may be achy, eyes needing some help.  But I'm forty and I made it this far!  I celebrate my life the way it is right now and can only really feel grateful for experiencing so much love from so many remarkable souls around me!  No I don't have much money.  Am currently not working outside the home and some people might think I'm wasting my life or my brainpower by not pursuing a career.  But if there is one gift the 40s brings, it's probably an increased sense of self or self-assurance.  It might still be fragile but it's certainly stronger this time around.  

And perhaps that 'fierce and fabulous' claim is not meant to be a pronouncement of one's state at 40.  Perhaps it's a declaration of what we can become now that we've crossed another threshold.  

I am not sure.  At 40, I've also found the humility to admit I am not sure about a lot of things and that life is constantly in flux.  And that it's okay to live in uncertainty, failure, fear and weakness, or that my truth may not be acceptable to someone else.  All I know and am certainly sure of, is that the most important thing for me, the only thing I consider worth working hard for is Love.  Don't ask me about what career I was meant to do, or what job will fulfill me.  All I know for sure is that I was meant to give love, be 'in' love, feel love, write about it, breathe it, be intense about it.  That is what I know at 40, with farsightedness, achy joints, stretch marks, flabs and all.  

Thank you for being part of my (real AND virtual) life!  
I am happy to be 40!

Friday, November 8, 2013


I never cared much for this word.  It evokes either some degree of pain and sadness, or plain indifference.

As the past tense of 'leave', it could potentially become a sad word.  Very few of us enjoy being left. You missed your ride and got left behind.  A loved one dies and you're left behind.  Your spouse or lover left you for another.  Or maybe you got left at the altar.  Left.  Crappy, isn't it?

And Left is not Right.  And when you're not right, you're wrong.  Right?

And I'm right...right-handed, that is.  So for most of my life, I've never paid much attention, not given much importance to my Left.  Until in recent years, when my Left started making sure I noticed it and cared more for it.  If you've been following this blog, you know that it's not a secret that my left side is messed up.  Bad left knee, weak left shoulder, and signs of osteoarthritis on my left hand / fingers.  More specifically, it's my left pinky finger for about three or four years now, and frankly, it doesn't bother me all that much. Other than the occasional pain and weakness during cold mornings, and some difficulty reaching certain keys when I type, it's been manageable for me.  

However, recently, someone wanted more attention.  My left thumb.  It's actually not the thumb itself but the joint. If I'm not mistaken (and yes, I'm self diagnosing myself here), it's my carpometacarpal joint and again, it's most likely due to my osteoarthritis.  It feels tender, like I tore a ligament or something and it's definitely frustrating me at the moment.  It's a constant reminder that I'm aging, and possibly at a much accelerated rate than what I had expected.

I never appreciated the value of my thumb before all this happened.  It's gotten to a point where I am having a hard time extending it when I need to grab something, especially one that has some weight to it.  It's annoying to realize that holding just a full glass of water takes some effort now and could be painful at times. Even more so when I try to squeeze something like maybe a bottle of shower gel. Sure there are better days, and worse days, but still, I know that there is now a new normal set for me.  

Everyday and night, I'm reminded of all the days from the past decades when I took my thumb, and all my other strong, young and normal body parts for granted. Everyday now, I feel as if Left is staring back at me, pointing its fingers at me as it giggles mockingly.  I know now that the arrogance of my Right has been toned down.  Yes, it's still my dominant side but it now knows it simply can't go it alone.  

I know I'm far from defining myself as disabled, and that I'm still in a far better place than others out there who are dealing with real physical challenges.  But if anything, these physical changes have made me realize that part of aging is letting go of one's (false) sense of invincibility.  Youth tends to 'gift' us with a veneer of immortality, which of course is only possible because at the same time, youth comes with innocence and a myopic view of life and the world.  However as we age and we find that our bodies do break down after all whether we like it or not, we are confronted with the inevitable truth;  that we are mortals, we have weaknesses, and that no body part is too insignificant to be taken for granted, mocked, abused or ignored.  

Enjoy what you have.  Know that there is no such thing as an insignificant part of your anatomy.  Love it.  Care for it.  Celebrate it!  Right and Left, I see now that there is such symphonic beauty to your symmetry.  I hope I'm not yet too late.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Finding Dr. Right

Image courtesy of : Naypong/
For me, one of the toughest things about moving has been having to switch healthcare providers. It's been two years since we moved from suburban Chicago to suburban Nashville and yet I still haven't committed to a primary care physician and an OB-GYN.  My son has his doctor, and so does my husband.  I, on the other hand, have been putting it off for as long as I could, and just praying I would be healthy enough to stay doctor-free.

Why?  Well, my husband insists it's the perfectionist in me, looking for that perfect combination: doctor with excellent patient reviews and within reasonable driving distance.  I suppose you can add that I also need to like how the doctor looks.  'Not creepy' would be a good start, and unfortunately I've found some doctors online who had pictures that totally creeped me out. No amount of stellar ratings would entice me to choose them.  

I'm sure it doesn't help that deep down, I know I'm still having a hard time letting go of my previous doctors in IL who took excellent care of me.  As 'sad' or 'amusing' as this may sound, I miss and adore them.  And yes, they were all very 'easy on the eye'.  

I'm beginning to think that finding a doctor is like dating.

I need to like the way they look, first and foremost.  

And then once you get used to someone and the relationship ends, it's not always easy to move on and replace them, is it?

Ideally (though I've been known to not mind long-distance relationships at all), my doctors also need to be geographically accessible.  I would think twice about choosing a doctor who I would have to drive more than 30 minutes for, and then wait some more at the office before being finally seen. That kind of stress would make me even more sick.  Or impatient and annoyed which would still make me sicker in the end.  So, no thanks.

I also do some research about their background.  I try to see where they graduated from, what sort of expertise they have, medical certifications, as well as accolades.  Good on paper has always been important to me, and no I don't believe in that 'good on paper, bad in (medical) bed' saying.

Oh, and before you get any grandiose ideas about finding the most perfect doctor out there for you who gets all the items on your non-negotiables list checked off, remember that your pool of potential doctors are limited by who's in your health insurance network.  Not every doctor out there is available for you to 'date', sorry to say.

Seeing a new doctor for the first time always causes me anxiety, I suppose the way first (especially 'blind') dates go. Whether it's going to be a male or female doctor doesn't make much difference to me.  I know they will ask a lot of questions, and I would have to reveal a lot of things, and all that isn't always easy.  And who likes being touched or poked by someone you just met?  To make matters worse, I'm also not a fan of taking my clothes off right on the first 'date'! I'm just not that kind of girl!  Unfortunately, much of this is inevitable especially when it involves your gynecologist!

In dating or meeting someone new, there are rules pertaining to just how much you should divulge.  I'm guessing this is why I'm having such a hard time right now sorting through my medical records, the ones from my previous doctors. I know that these records need to be seen by my new doctors.  It would serve me well to let them know of my 'past'. However, how much information is too much information?....especially on your first 'date'?  I don't feel comfortable revealing everything too soon, especially when I'm not sure if this is someone I want to commit to in the long term, if indeed he/she could be 'the one'.  Is it enough to give them the general results of tests done in the past?  Or do I need to let them see my 100+ pages of lab results, doctors' notes and all the skeletons in my closet, this early in the relationship?  If it doesn't work out and I find myself needing to move on again, how do I get all that information back now that I've revealed all of it? Tricky isn't it?

At the end of the day, deep down I know I just need to stop over-analyzing this.  I know I need a doctor.  I really can't do without one and chances are, he/she won't be perfect.  It's all a leap of faith and you just hope and pray you find someone you can trust, someone who can take care of you, and who has your best interest at heart.  If they have all that, I'm sure it won't be difficult for them to grow on you, eventually.  And hopefully, you will live (and not die too early, under their care) happily ever after!

What do you look for in a doctor?  Are you also the 'picky' type?  Any horror 'dating' stories to share?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

He Rolls Away With My Heart In Tow...

Love and Anxiety are inseparable.

I know that now, and though it sounds kind of depressing, it’s probably one of my most enlightened pronouncements to date.

You meet someone who can potentially be ‘the one’ and you become anxious that it might be unrequited. 

You both fall in love, enter into a relationship and you feel anxious that your partner might not be as committed as you are. 

We go about our daily lives doing our best to suspend all sense of anxiety that something bad might suddenly happen to our friends and family.  It’s worse if they live far away from you.

I can belabor the point I’m making but I’m sure you get my drift. 

As a parent I know that no matter how I want to rid myself of anxiety when it comes to my son, I know it can never be possible.  Sure we all have varying degrees of anxiety, and by no means am I saying that good parenting requires it.  All I’m saying here is that love implies vulnerability.  As such it’s natural to feel some degree of fear or discomfort.  After all, it IS your heart (and soul) that’s on the line.  The key is simply to not be defeated by that fear and learn to focus, as best you can, on the far greater rewards of surrendering openly to love, with all its messy sidekicks.  This is a lesson I feel I’m perpetually working on and fortunately, Life doesn’t seem to tire of giving me exercises.

Just last weekend, one of my son’s classmates hosted a skating birthday party.  Noah doesn’t know how to skate but he was excited about it.  It was to be his second time at a skating rink.  At first, my husband and I insisted that he use a skate mate to help him balance a bit and maybe give him some confidence.  He tried it for a while.  After a couple of laps though, he decided to do without it.  I thought he was done and getting too tired but then he said, “No Mama.  Just skate with me and hold my hand.”  

I was proud that he wanted to persevere, that he wasn't overcome with the fear of falling or being embarrassed even.  But I was also afraid that he might hurt himself.  We started out holding each other’s hands.  I kept giving him reminders.  

Go slow”.  “Don’t lean back”.  “Bend your knees and try to find your balance”.  

After a while, he said, "Don't hold me anymore, but stay there".  

I complied.  

I let go of his hand slowly as I assured him, "Mommy's just here okay?  Just grab my hand when you feel you need to.  I'll be here."

At that point, I knew I was having a parenting lesson moment, a lesson on loving.  I'm not doing my son any favors by never letting him go.  I'm not doing him any favors by overprotecting him and keeping him from all falls and bruises and pains.  It's not even at all possible for me to do that.  The loving thing to do is to release him and let him experience things, while giving him whatever guidance I can offer and assure him that I will be close by when he needs me; that when he reaches out, my hand will be there.  We might fall together, or it might just be him who'll get hurt. (Sometimes, what we all need is to experience the fall in order to learn).  But still, I will be there to help him, or at least comfort him and say, "I'm still here, no matter what".

The truth is, it wasn’t only Noah who was conquering his fears.  I was probably more afraid than he was, as I let go of his hand and let him go without me.  Letting go is never really easy, for anybody.  But seeing him conquering his fear helped.  And maybe him seeing my willingness to let him go helped fuel his courage as well.  

In love and relationships, that’s really all we can do, isn’t it?  When we know we have each other’s hearts, all we can do is give those hearts as much care as we can while at the same time, treading forward, going on our respective paths, taking care not to fall and shatter ourselves and our loved ones to pieces.  There’s no such thing as a fall- and bruise-free life, especially when you love.  

And when you love, you are connected; even when you let go; even when your paths diverge.  One’s fall, or pain, is as much the other’s.  Connection, or vulnerability, dictates that.  But it truly helps to know that a hand will be there to support you, or cushion your fall, if possible.  It always helps to know, it always gives us courage when we are certain that there is someone there who trusts us with their heart and who holds our heart in turn. And if you still fall, it still helps to know that there’ll be someone there to say, “I’m still here, no matter what."  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

...And The World Makes Sense Again!

Yesterday morning, while watching the morning news to keep myself updated on the US debt ceiling crisis, I saw an interesting news ticker at the bottom of the screen.

"Study shows that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine".


At that point I realized that this bit of mind-blowing information rocks my existence to the core, even more so than the possibility of the US defaulting on its debt or when the scientific world decided that Pluto was not a planet. 


Yes, Oreos are just as addictive as cocaine.  At least now I have a solid excuse and explanation for why I can't stop dunking those suckers in milk and munching away.  Or how I can never say I'll only eat 3 and stop.  Now life makes sense once more.

I'm still waiting for other breakthroughs that would hopefully explain a few more realities.  Seeing the following headlines would definitely make some things in my life more comprehensible: 

1.  "Secret psychiatric hospital in Texas claims Sen. Ted Cruz as an escape patient"

2.  "Study on assholes/one-uppers/jerks finds anomalous brain cell          mutation as culprit"

3.  "Elliptical machines linked to increase in belly fat"

4.  "Chocolate and Peanut Butter consumption lowers greenhouse gas  emissions"  

5.  "Alien subliminal hypnosis uncovered behind Facebook and Pinterest mass addiction"

Who knows?  Maybe in a few more months we'll see at least some of these come true?  For now, let's be happy with the Oreo findings and give in to our genetic predisposition.  There's no point blaming ourselves.  Resistance is futile.

What sort of headline do you want to imagine that will help you make sense of YOUR world?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Your Signature Kiai

In martial arts, there's a practice called the 'Kiai' (kee-yaahhhhh).  My son's sensei is so good at it that when he does it, parents like myself who are just sitting on the side benches shudder and startle to death.  Every. Single. Time.

The Kiai is a yell that's done mostly before and during a technique.  As was explained in my son's karate class, you do it to intimidate or scare the opponent, as well as help add some force to your technique as it forces you to breathe out and punch or kick from the gut.  

It's a useful technique that really makes a difference.  But as tempting as it might be to do a Kiai in our daily lives, we all know we'd be put in straight jackets in no time if we did so.  However, I believe we do practice a saner version of the Kiai in our daily lives.  We just call it impression management.

My husband often wonders why I bother to put some make up on, fix my hair and 'get all dressed up' when we go out, especially on weekends.  Other than the fact that as a stay-at-home parent, those are really my only opportunities to feel and look 'different' (translate: not keep looking like I just swept the chimney ala cinderella in sweat pants and torn up shirt), trying to look 'nicer than usual' also helps me put some 'Kiai' in my social interactions.

Let's face it.  First impressions count.  No matter how much we deny and reject superficiality, we see first and foremost, and construct situations initially based on what we (think we) see.  The way we respond to strangers is largely shaped by how they appear to us, what qualities we attribute to them based on how they appear, speak and act.  This is why I find myself adjusting my 'Kiai' based on where I'm going, or what situations I anticipate finding myself in.  It makes sense for me to dress differently when I'm just casually running errands, versus those days when I know I'll be in the more affluent side of town (filled with snobs and old money...yes, they exist where I live).  I also make sure I look respectable and 'smart' when I know I'm meeting my son's teachers, without looking unapproachable and uptight. When I go to church (which is in the 'rich' side of town), I've also learned that dressing 'appropriately' doesn't only mean 'semi-casual' but more importantly 'tasteful with just a subtle hint of expensive'.  Think Brooks Brothers, J. Crew or Banana Republic with a hint of Eddie Bauer (not that all my clothes come from the above stores...I wish!).

We adjust the way we look and behave based on situations we find ourselves in, not to deceive, but to be received better, and therefore be more effective in our social interactions.  Practicing impression management (or your signature 'Kiai') helps us set the tone, define the situation to our advantage, as well as gives us greater self-confidence.  When you know you look good and you look the part, somehow it helps you deliver.  But just as in martial arts, a loud or forceful Kiai won't do much without proper technique and execution.  As one of my favorite university professors taught me, 'It's important to be cute.  But after five minutes, you need to be competent'.

What social situations do you find yourself practicing the most 'Kiai' in? Do you feel it's effective? 

When do you most employ impression management?  Has it become effortless for you at this point, or do you still give it much thought and energy?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Is He Worthy of Me?

When I began blogging, roughly around four years ago, my purpose was to explore ideas or feelings that may be occupying me and have some sort of release, hence the title 'Catharsis'.  Not in a million years did I expect that a reader would actually write to me and ask for advice.  (I must admit I have fantasized about it though and secretly wished it!)

Well, that day has come and I thank this dear and fabulous reader for giving me an interesting material to explore this week.  She wants to remain anonymous so I'll just refer to her as "Rarity", just because my son is currently watching 'My Little Pony'.
*Photo Credit: Master isolated images/*

Anyway, Rarity wants to know:  "How does a woman know that her man is for real?  How does she know (not feel) that the man she's in love with is being true to her and isn't just playing a game or sticking around until the next good thing comes along?"

Oooohhh, this is a tough one.  But I'll do my best so just bear with me because there are a lot of things here we need to break down...

The first point I want to make to Rarity is that with this question, what I actually hear you asking is this:  How do I know this man is worth my time, attention and investment in feelings? Can you give me signposts so I can easily identify which men won't be a waste of my time, which men are truly worthy of me?  How can I be sure that this man's intentions are true?

I definitely hope you are not asking what to look for in terms of spotting men who will not hurt you because that's a totally different field, I believe. Someone can be 'for real' and 'worth your time and feelings' and still end up hurting you, whether inadvertently or otherwise.  So for now, let's separate that issue, shall we?

Rarity, do you remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit?  In this story, the rabbit learned what 'being real' meant. Do you remember that it had only to do with love and being loved?  That things (or we) become 'real' once we are loved and that it's something that can't be ever undone.  I will apply the same here to try to answer your question.  I think that finding someone 'real' has to do with someone who possesses love and is capable of truly loving, and so most of my answers below will ultimately have to do with what loving means or how it is to give love.

Now, I want to be clear that I don't have a ton of experience when it comes to relationships with men.  What I'm going to share now is knowledge gained from personal experiences, others' experiences shared with me, as well as insights gained from books.  These are subjective and here it goes...

I think someone is 'for real' when ---

...he makes your happiness a priority; when he shows that your happiness is important to him even if, or especially if, it presents no clear gain for him.  I believe it's important to be with someone who really wants to make you happy, wants you to BE happy and he shows a clear willingness to make that possible for you.  (Note that this assumes that both of you know what can make you happy so you need to know your self, and allow him to really know you).

...he shows a clear, unwavering certainty that he wants to be with you; that it is YOU he wants to be with and that he's willing to move heaven and earth to make that achievable.

...he will never allow you to challenge your sense of self-respect; will never push you to sacrifice your personal boundaries in terms of values, and dearly-held beliefs / morals (e.g. spirituality, your moral compass, people who have always been important and supportive of you, etc).  Someone who truly loves you, and therefore is 'for real', will never demand that you sacrifice something that has always been integral to your healthy sense of self and well-being. Someone who really loves you will only endeavor to enhance your self-love and not the other way around. When you have some discomfort about a person who wrongly or unhealthily challenges you in this way, listen to your gut and walk away.

...he truly sees you for who you are (with all your flaws, insecurities, and demons) and still wants to be with you, not to change you but to journey with you.  

(and by the same token)---
...he trusts you enough to be able to expose the inner layers of his life to you (details about his family and meeting them; his past, whether good or bad; his intimate thoughts, dreams, disappointments, pains and joys).  In other words, once you feel that he is willing to engage in genuine intimacy with you (not just physical, but a real opening up and willingness for transparency and mental and emotional 'nakedness') can you see him as being 'real'. 

...he is consistent, reliable and self-assured.  You wouldn't want to be with someone who is hot and then suddenly cold, and then hot again; someone who is completely unpredictable and has no sense of constancy.  Such a person will not only drive you mad, but also exhibits a sense of uncertainty whether about you or himself.  Either way, you don't need to participate in that confusion.  Remember that it is not your job to convince him of anything. You want someone who is already sure, secure and mature, instead of someone who still wastes time playing games.

...he is able to put his ego aside for you, and, to borrow a line from '10 Things I Hate About You', would be willing to 'sacrifice himself in the altar of dignity'. I'm not asking that you expect him to humiliate himself and demand that he forsake his self-respect.  But someone who has true intentions and really wants to offer his love knows that his ego is not as important as being able to honor you, and express to the world just how much you mean to him.  To love is to be vulnerable and embracing that vulnerability is only possible when the ego is put aside.

I think those are some of the 'sign posts' I can give you, Rarity.  That said, I still want to emphasize that as much as you probably hate hearing this, it is true that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to love and relationships.  Two important things to remember at all times, though, is to know yourself/ your boundaries, and trust yourself / your intuition. Experiences are subjective and you don't want to be perpetually second guessing yourself. I'm afraid that the reason why you want 'sign posts' is because you have somehow lost the ability to simply trust yourself to just know, to simply feel and believe in the saying that 'when you know, you know'.  But there is wisdom in that saying although it does assume that you trust yourself enough.  You also need to trust that no matter how things end up, you will be fine, that you will survive; that no matter how painful things turn out, you will not be forever broken and that you can still feel whole and come out of it stronger and wiser.  As they say, Love is not for the fearful, but only for the brave.  It always is a risk, and one that is worth taking.

There's one last note I'd like to make.  If you noticed, I did not include the element of time on my list.  I was tempted to say that time is the only good predictor for someone's sincerity; that you should stay clear of whirlwind romances. But that would be hypocritical of me, wouldn't it?  I only had two romantic relationships, both extremely serious, and both developed very quickly.  Was I just lucky?  Maybe.  I don't know.  So you need to understand that though GENERALLY, time is a good predictor and that it is almost always wise to wait and take it slow, I also won't deny the possibility of exceptions.  

I hope I made sense to you, Rarity, as well as to anyone out there who might have found this useful.  Thanks again for the opportunity and if you guys think I did not entirely suck, please feel free to send in other interesting questions that you might want me to mull over!  Here's a link to my 'Contact Me' form if you want to send something over privately.  

If anyone else wants to add any other advice for Rarity, please feel free to comment below!  


Friday, September 27, 2013

Do You Like How You're Aging?

In less than two months I'll be turning 40.  I don't know what people out there are saying about 40 being the new 20 or 30 or some other younger age, and why they would say sh*t like that.  The truth is, or at least in MY universe, I think 40 could be the new 50.  Or even 60.  It could be that I'm just being hormonal right now, taking away my bright-ray-of-sunshine personality (Really?  Am I ever???).  But the harsh reality is that I'm aging and I absolutely can't deny it any more.

At 36, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the hands.  Only a couple of my fingers showed symptoms and I have been able to manage them so it's been no big deal.  Then about a year and a half ago, it was on my left knee.  That has been more tricky as I know that it will only get worse and that my mobility will definitely be affected.  I can no longer run long distances and when I overdo it on the treadmill, my knees definitely suffer.  I also now have a harder time kneeling, squatting and doing some incline walking. 

I thought it would all stop with my joint problems, but how wrong I was.

Recently I went to the drugstore to get some 'vanity items'.  (Yes, I'm too practical to go for brand name cosmetics unless absolutely necessary).  In the past, I'd come walking out of there with lipstick, blush, eye shadow, moisturizer or just your normal foundation.  Never in a million years did I expect that I would ever walk out of there with these items in my my age, at this time in my life....(and no, this is not a sponsored post or paid advertisement)....

But it is what it is.  When I look at my self in the mirror these days, I don't see the 'glow' anymore.  I'm grateful I still don't have acne or real, deep lines and wrinkles.  However, I also look tired and now see more spots.  I swear there are days when I fear I'm just going to look in the mirror and suddenly see a freakin' dalmatian staring back at me!  Sun spots, age spots, they're all the same. They're appearing in places that's hard to conceal and I'm left to resort to the powers of these elixirs.  

I also have dark under eye circles that make me look even more dull and aged!  I can't help but feel nostalgic for those days when I was still teaching and some of my female students would approach me after class just to ask what soap I use on my skin, or if I have a special beauty regimen.  Some of them said I looked 'radiant', whatever that means.  I remember that during that time, I didn't even wear 'serious' make-up just because it was too hot and I would itch and feel irritated.  Fast forward to today when I wouldn't dare step out of the house without making sure I try to even out my skin tone, even just a bit, just so I don't look like a zombie.

And don't get me wrong.  It's not just all about my skin and how I look that makes me feel really old these days.  For weeks now, I've noticed that my farsightedness is getting worse.  Last Sunday in church, I had to stretch my arm all the way in front of me just to see the words on the hymn book clearly. My arms were stretched so far that I almost touched the back of the person knelt on the kneeling bench in front of us.  How embarrassing is that?  I know I need to see a doctor and get some glasses.  I'm not in denial.  I'm simply procrastinating and extending my sense of youth.  Ha!

Aging is inevitable and I'm not trying to run away from it.  I know more aches and pains, spots and wrinkles and other struggles will come.  I accept that. It's just that now, more than ever, I'm realizing that there is greater pressure for me to find and cultivate that 'inner glow'.  Let's face it.  There are really old people who glow and shine in spite of all the wrinkles and spots and gray hair.  And no, it's not because of cosmetics and botox.  I'm talking about naturally glowing OLDER people whose inner beauty, joyous spirit and sense of peace shine through.  That's what I want. That's what can't be purchased at any cosmetic counter or gym or doctor's office.  That kind of timeless beauty is harder to cultivate, harder to possess and even harder to keep.  I just pray I still have enough time to work at it. Tick-tock, tick-tock, I better get to work!

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.”  ― Audrey Hepburn