Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What's Your Headline of Choice?

Last night was one of those rough, sleepless nights again.  This time it's not because of a sick or restless child (thank God!).  Neither was it due to 'intimacy', if you know what I mean.  Rather, it was courtesy of this crazy weather we've all been experiencing in North America (and possibly worldwide). Frankly, I can never figure out which season we're REALLY currently in.  Last time I checked, it was still winter and then all of a sudden, we get a high of almost 72 degrees F.  And then back to low 40's the next day.  This non-stop cooling and heating and back and forth makes the conditions extremely ripe for tornadoes.  Being in the South, I have now accepted this and just continue to thank God that Middle Tennessee hasn't been all that bad at least since we've moved.  (Did I just really type that I accepted something? resistance?.....Wow!  See!  There is always hope for change!)

Anyway, late last night and very early this morning, our weather alert radio kept issuing warnings.  The loud alarm was annoying but I wouldn't have it any other way.  I think I would be even more anxious and won't allow myself to doze off, not even for one minute, if I knew that I'd have to be completely alert to try to hear the sirens outside.  With modern houses being efficiently sealed, I've always found that to be a challenge, so having this noisy but alert radio in our room is an annoyance I welcome. 

I think it started before midnight.  At first it was a tornado watch.  I kind of ignored it because I had already heard from the 10 pm news that the storm would hit our area between 3 and 4 a.m.  I went back to sleep.  Or at least tried to.  Then at around 2 a.m. if I'm not mistaken, the alarm was set off again now announcing that the 'watch' has turned into a 'warning'.  My husband did't want to go to our safe room yet as he felt the storm was still quite far from our location.  I agreed and we turned on the television to get updates on the storm's movement.  By 3 a.m.  I was pretty sure the storm was getting closer and the sirens outside were heard once again so I carried my son and proceeded to our safe place.  We were there until 4 a.m. when the radar showed the storm finally leaving our city. After that, my boys were still able to fall back to sleep.  As expected, I pretty much just tossed and turned until 6:45 when it was time to finally get up.

Exciting times huh?  This is why in this country, people can really make small talk out of the weather.  You can pretty much break the ice by discussing how beautifully sunny it is outside, or how you suddenly had to bundle up for the day.  If you want to seem friendly to a stranger, just start your greeting with "Can you believe how _______ it is today?"  Feel free to supply that with whatever crazy thing the weather decided to do that day.

I had to learn all this, this skill of making a headline out of the weather.  It's like a greeting, isn't it?  Where I come from (the Philippines), other than the usual 'hi' or 'hello', another common greeting is "Kumain ka na?" ('ku-ma-in-ka-na?) (Translate:  Have you eaten?)  Non-Filipinos might find this strange and even quite intrusive but it really isn't meant to be that way.  Rather, I think it's a reflection of our love for food and our caring nature.  Because if you really haven't eaten, then you can expect to be genuinely invited to a meal or at least be offered something to eat, no matter how unimpressive or simple.  Don't get me wrong.  You won't find strangers asking you this question. Rather, this is reserved for people who know each other, even between mere acquaintances....maybe a co-worker, or someone you see fairly regularly but not necessarily have close relations with.  It really doesn't make sense to talk about the weather so much in the Philippines given that we only have 2 seasons:  wet and dry.  Temperatures are pretty constant and predictable, and no one's expected to spend so much time figuring out daily outfits because chances are, it's going to be the same, day in and day out.  (I must say though, I still can't forget that one day in the university, in the early 90s, when I saw a guy walking in the hallways wearing a trench coat and flip flops.  It was close to 90 degrees F, mind you.)

I find it interesting how people choose to fill dead air in conversations.  I'm sure the choice has to be something everyone can relate to and something that can't possibly get too personal or has very little potential for giving away personal details.  

Where you're from, what do you notice are the most common small talk topics or ice breakers?  Or if you had your way, what do you think would be an amazing alternative for filling dead air between acquaintances?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Confessions of a Desperate Overly-Paranoid Mom

I am aware that there are far too many confessions out there these days, and that most of you are probably sick of reading them.  Confessions of workaholics, shopaholics, alcoholics, sexaholics and other forms of addictions you can possibly conjure up in your imaginative heads.  But in the spirit of pursuing deeper authenticity (I did specify that as one of my goals for 2013), I feel that I owe it to myself and to you, my amazing Catharsis friends, to come clean and talk about something that has been consuming me for God knows how long.  

I am a super-duper-ultra-paranoid parent to the max, especially when it comes to my son's health.  I profess my deep loathing for this personal trait, and honestly think that I need help.  So if you are a Mom reading this, I’m begging you to read on and share your thoughts below.  More than anything, I would like to hear how you might be handling your world differently.  Or if you are like me, then you'd certainly be doing me a favor just to let me know I'm not alone in all this.  If you're not a parent, I would certainly still love to hear your perspective.  You might just be the one I need to rescue me out of this insanity.  I perpetually say that I would give anything to finally find my way to Zen land, but as with most things in life, this one's far easier said than done, unfortunately.

My BFF insists I've now become a germaphobe and though I reject the idea, I think she might be at least just a tad right.  (Is the voice of denial so obvious?)  We (as in mostly my son and I) still touch things when we go out somewhere, but we sanitize as soon as we get in the car.  I also insist that as soon as my son steps into the house after each school day, he head straight to the powder room to wash his hands with soap and water.  I remind him to cough inside his arm, avoid constantly touching his face or mouth when he's in school, never put anything in his mouth that has landed on the ground and other common sense things that experts remind us to do to avoid illnesses. Admittedly, I am scared being around crowds and people who I know are presenting with symptoms.  Actually, I'm not scared for me, but for my son but it doesn't make sense to leave myself unprotected when I'm constantly around him as well.  I hate it and feel imprisoned by it but when I think of the alternative, I always feel like I’m left with not much choice.

My 5-year old picks up on illnesses quite easily, you see.  Though I know I may be over-reacting (you think??), I can’t help but feel like almost every cold turns into a bad cough and then fever.  We’re lucky when it stops there.  But can you really blame me for being overprotective when this boy has had severe bronchiolitis and pneumonia in the past, which have led to a hospitalization and numerous visits to either the ER or the urgent care facility?  The slightest sniffle or clearing of his throat can send me on a mental and emotional tailspin and it’s not pretty.

As of January 2012, I have kept a journal of all of my son’s illnesses.  Complete with dates and times, I made it a point to record every symptom (mostly respiratory), medication taken, as well as abnormal body temperatures.  I figured it was necessary to collect real data so that I will not only remember his symptoms but also the way each disease progressed.  If I wanted to see patterns, then I certainly needed a record of everything, right?  At the end of the year, it also gave me a good picture of how often he really got sick, as opposed to just me saying, “Oh he gets sick a lot”.  I needed to realistically quantify and be as accurate as one can be.  A bit much?  Well, I have my Sociology training to blame.  Go figure!

All this data collection proved useful when I brought him to his pediatrician the last time he got sick last December.  I’m pretty sure there were a million thought bubbles going on in the doctor’s head when I pulled out a summary sheet of this ‘illness journal’ but I didn’t care.  I needed to show her that I had real data and needed her to tell me if all this was cause for concern.  Was there anything unusual?  Is there anything wrong with my son’s immune system?  That was my real fear.  I told her we are doing all that is recommended --- being clean, trying to eat well, sleep well, etc. --- and yet still quite frequently catching all these bugs.

The doctor assured me that my son is consistently growing (weight and height) and that if there was anything wrong with his immunity, that would be one area that will definitely be affected.  She also said it’s common to catch close to 10 bugs per season (when all along I thought it was 10 per year).  I know that this sounds a bit whiny to some of you considering you might have had to deal with numerous strep infections, ear infections, and other far more serious illnesses.  But I feel for my son how each parent feels for their child…pure love for one who is the world to them.  Everything is magnified, nothing is unimportant.

I read from somewhere before that being a parent feels like having your heart outside your body.  This is very true, isn’t it?  I have never felt this much vulnerability, this much love but at the same time fear.  I constantly think of the world and how life is changing, the viruses and bacteria becoming more virulent in each passing year, while our bodies are becoming more resistant to medications. 

On the upside, the sense of helplessness and overwhelming fear have brought me back to prayer.  God and I have been ‘weird’ since my 2010 miscarriage but slowly, I have found my way back to the sense of comfort that prayer brings.  If anything, I know that it forces me to go within and alter the stream of negative thoughts that drown me at times.  It gives me a sense that there is greater energy beyond me that I can access and rely on.  On sleepless and restless nights, the repetitive prayers never fail to lull me to sleep.  If only for that, I am grateful.  Any semblance of peace, no matter how momentary, is always welcome especially since I still haven’t gotten around to getting myself a personal valium drip.

So, yes, I need help.  How do you not lose your mind when your little one gets sick?  How do you cope?  How do you manage to exhale?  Is there something in the Motherhood 101 manual that I missed?  Is there a secret mantra that sane and zen parents know?  Or does my genetic coding simply not have the capability to recognize balance?  I am looking forward to reading your perspective on this, and thank you in advance!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Catfish Invades Football

The weather is crazy, the flu virus is out to get everyone, Pres. Obama just unveiled his comprehensive plan to combat gun violence in the U.S., and I'm here to talk about the biggest, most controversial news of the day.

Manti Te'o, a college football player (linebacker for the University of Notre Dame) was victimized by a catfish.  You can read more about it here.

Ok, I know, I should've placed quotation marks around that word, catfish.  Until this morning, I thought catfish just referred to a fish, one that I enjoy eating.  Apparently, now it has a new meaning, one that refers to people who scam others online, pretending to be people they are not, most often to pursue online relationships.  I suspect that the choice of this aquatic creature has to do with it being a bottom feeder, which I think is not really fair as it implies that those victimized are bottom dwellers.  

This particular news caught my attention because, admittedly, I'm no stranger to online relationships.  I love social media, I have 'friends' online I've never met in person (mostly blogger friends), and yes, I've had a serious romantic relationship that all started online.  I'm definitely not one who would tell you to refrain from online relationships, although I will tell you it demands a lot of balancing between trust and caution.

File:Mantiteo2010.jpgThere is still some controversy surrounding this news on Manti Te'o, some accusing him of being part of the whole scam.  I could be proven wrong eventually, but right now I believe that Manti is innocent.  What struck me most about this headline is how the 'victim' (Manti Te'o) admitted how real his  emotions are, the love he felt, the pain, and now the confusion as he tries to make sense of it all.  Someone noted that the real tragedy about this is that ultimately, it is Manti's capacity to trust that was destroyed.

Betrayal does this to you.  It isn't purely about having your pride or ego dented when you find out you've been lied to.  It's not as simple as hating yourself for being taken for a ride, taken for a fool.  It's more about questioning yourself and your capacity to assess situations and people.  It's about thinking of your life's narrative, and wondering which parts of it are authentic and you can thus continue to hold on to, and which parts were lies and mere illusions.  You begin to hate yourself or parts of yourself that you identify as those having been shaped by the presence of that other person in your life.  

In this entire process, the bottom line is that you will witness your self, your being, crumble right before your eyes, and it's never easy to know for sure where you can get the strength to rebuild, not only your self, but your entire sense of reality.

Since virtual relationships are still fairly new, and we continue to come up with more rules and precautionary measures as we navigate the online world, is it then fair to say that being betrayed by someone virtual is 'easier' than being betrayed by someone you know in the flesh?.....easier to understand, easier to forgive, easier to justify, easier to get over?

I don't believe so.  Maybe to an outsider looking in that would be the case.  But to the one suffering, bear in mind that everything IS real.  The absence of physicality does not make online relationships less real to people who engage in it with good intentions.  To borrow from the Sociologist / Symbolic  Interactionist W.I. Thomas, if a man believes a situation to be real, it is real in its consequences.

Try to bear that in mind the next time you judge someone as being naive for engaging in online relationships, or when you get tempted to say 'Get over it!' to someone who's been betrayed.  It truly isn't easy and truly far from being is the case with anything that is real.

Any thoughts on betrayal are welcome.  Have you ever counseled someone who's been betrayed, whether online or face-to-face?  Have you been betrayed?  How did you find your way towards healing?

*Photo credit:  By Shotgun Spratling/Neon Tommy [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 7, 2013

Catharsis Caught the German Love Bug

It feels like ages ago when I last published something here.  It’s been a crazy past two weeks, with a family medical emergency that necessitated a trip back to IL.  Christmas just flew by without even sitting down briefly to have coffee (tea or hot cocoa) with me.  *sigh*

Well, we are home now and trying to calm things down and slowly and sanely welcome 2013.  The past year was rough, with treasured friends and family going through serious illnesses, as well as news of relationships going through major challenges.  Should I even mention holding my breath a little (just a little) for that dreaded 12/21/12 date?  (Truth be told, a part of me actually wished for a worldwide ‘reboot’, but let’s save my pessimism for some other time, shall we?)…

On a more positive and jolly note, I’d like to share with you an award that was passed on to me.  Muriel, our French Yummy Mommy in London, and also  dear blogger friend  of mine, nominated me for the Liebster Award (an award for blogs with less than 300 followers).  (Thank you so much, Muriel!  It's an honor).  She herself had so many interesting things to share about her life so you should really check her out here.

The rules of this award are the following:
1. When nominated, share 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
2. Pass the award onto 11 other bloggers (while making sure you notify them of their nomination)
3. Write up 11 NEW questions directed towards YOUR nominees.
4. Of course, do not nominate the blog of the one who nominated your blog!
5. Paste the award picture onto your blog. (You can Google the image; there are plenty of them!)

So are you ready?  Here are my 11 random facts ----

1) I am a homebody, seriously.  I like being at home, being alone, enjoying my solitude.  Most people are actually surprised at how high my threshold is when it comes to this.

2) I’m probably one of the very few people on earth who don’t own a smart phone.  I really don’t think I need it right now.

3) I LOVE cilantro with a passion.

4) I’m a very poor sleeper, so when I’m finally really asleep, don’t ever make the mistake of disturbing me if you want to live.

5) When I’m feeling inexplicably down or stressed out, I often find myself turning to Pinterest.  I can always count on it to show me something that inspires, or something to criticize.  Either way, I’m entertained.

6) I’m highly possessive and territorial, especially where it concerns people who are most important to me.

7) I am extremely exhausted and have been for years.  My husband summed it up pretty well by saying that it seems I’m in a perpetual fight or flight state.  And I guess #4 is a huge factor too.

8) Christmas is my favorite holiday.  I spend the entire year waiting for it.

9) I’m still good friends with my ex (bf), even after 11 ½ years.

10) Breakfast doesn’t feel complete to me when it doesn’t include egg.

11) I’m a middle child.  Feel free to attach every single stereotype you know about that.  

Now here are Muriel's questions that I need to address:

    1. Why did you start blogging?
        I started writing ‘isolated’ entries since 2006 but by that I mean writing something like one essay a year.  It was just for fun, something I just felt I wanted to try out.  It was in 2009 when I began to be serious about blogging and it was really out of need more than anything else.  I was feeling depressed and someone had suggested that perhaps I needed to engage in something that would not only occupy me, but also fulfill me.  I turned to writing because I felt it was an expression of who I am.  At the time, I needed to re-establish and strengthen my sense of identity and blogging became my savior.  It still is in so many ways.

    2.   What is your favourite book and why?
          I would have to say it's Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams.  It takes me to so many different worlds where time is not as we know it.  And where the concept of time is involved, I think you can pretty much expect to be engaged in serious existential 'wonderingments'.  Check it out and see for yourself.

3. Where would you like to live?
  Anywhere where there's reliable internet connection, preferably wi-fi.  
4. What are your new year's resolutions for 2013?
     I don't believe in specific resolutions because they're bound to get broken.  However, I did make a pretty general one this year and it is has something to do with my writing.  I desire to be more 'authentic'.  Let's leave it at that.

5. What is writing for you?
     As I had mentioned above, it is my savior, my catharsis, a reflection of my sense of identity.

6. How do you find time to write your blog?
    It has been quite challenging and I assure you, it's not as easy as some would like to assume.  It takes time for me to come up with an interesting topic, develop it, and find the appropriate words to make it engaging enough.  What I know for sure is that I need to be by myself, in a quiet space when I'm writing.  Fortunately, my son is now going to school so in between chores and other 'real life' demands, I'm able to sit down and write before it's once again time to run to the bus stop in the afternoon.

7. What is your biggest regret?
     I'm not sure if this is the 'biggest', but one that comes to mind is that I regret not travelling when I could (to at least other Asian countries) when I was still single.

8. What are you most proud of?
     ...that I was once a teacher.  Having had the privilege of teaching at the University is something I'll always treasure because to me, touching and transforming minds, and lives, through education is priceless.

9. How do you stay motivated?
  Belonging to an amazing and caring blogging group (PBAU) has helped me tremendously.  Reading their pieces, as well as those written by some of my other favorites not part of said group, always seems to help.  I also introspect/meditate when possible.  Calming my mind and taking deep breaths are always helpful.  When all else fails, I just sit back and enjoy a Lindt Lindor Truffle.  

10. If you could be a character, who would you be? Why?
       There are actually two characters I've always associated with the most.  I'd be a cross between Ally McBeal and Carrie Bradshaw, minus all the boyfriends and sex, tiny physique, mini skirts and expensive outfits.  Both are constantly in their heads, overanalyzers and of course, hopeless romantics

11. What makes you happy?
       My son and everything about him.  Deep conversations and writing seem to do the trick too.

The Liebster Award requires that I pass this on to 11 bloggers but I don't think I can do that right now. Some of those I'd like to pass this onto have also just received it from others.  For the sake of paying this forward, I do, however, want to nominate 5 instead of 11.  And since I'm only nominating five, I think it's only fair that I also only require them to answer 5 questions from me, and have them reveal 5 random facts about themselves (unless of course they'd rather write 11).  I will leave that up to them.

Here are the five fabulous bloggers/ writers to whom I'm passing this award.  I respect and admire these writers for their creativity, humor, and wisdom.  They all inspire me in their own distinct ways and I do hope you can visit their blogs and enjoy their writing as well!

Marie of Scrollwork 
Rachel of Lala Musings
Marie of Rock The Kasbah

Here are my 5 questions for my nominees:

1.  What one piece of advice would you give to your 25-year old self if it were possible to do so now?

2.  What is your favorite ice cream flavor (if you have one)?

3.  What are your top 3 highlights from 2012?

4.  If you could publish a book (not a first for some of you) on ANY topic, what would it be about? 

5.  How has the definition of 'love' evolved for you through the years?

I really hope my nominees will find time to accept this award, participate and share their insights to the rest of us!  I hope I'm not giving any of you a hard time.

Happy New Year!!  And as I've written on my Facebook page, my true wish for 2013 is for all of us to have healthier, more spiritual and authentic lives.  I know that those are the three things I really want to work on starting this year, even if they're just baby steps.  Cheers!!