Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'Candace' The Menace

Summer break has started for my son and guess what song he sang on the very first morning of his summer break? --- The Phineas and Ferb theme song.

For those who are unfamiliar with this show, the first stanza has these lines:  

"There's a hundred and four days of summer vacation
And school comes along just to end it
So the annual problem for our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it...."

I wasn't too happy the first time I noticed that Noah was getting hooked on this show.  I thought that Phineas and Ferb seemed like kids who were up to no good and that my son would just end up learning nothing but mischief from these characters.  That was all before I started really paying attention to the show though.  No, I'm not here to endorse this show or anything like that.  I don't want anyone thinking I'm encouraging kids to build rocket ships and submarines in your backyard without your knowledge (although admittedly that would be pretty cool, don't you think?).   

What strikes me most about this show is not so much the crazy antics of these siblings but the fact that to me, the more central character is really Candace, the sister.  She's the one who is completely obsessed with getting Phineas and Ferb 'busted'.  She's completely fixated (actually, consumed would probably be the most fitting word here) on exposing her brothers to their mother.  The boys neither hurt people, nor do anything morally challenged.  If anything their only fault is their low threshold for boredom, hence their crazy ideas to quench their thirst for adventure.

Candace Flynn
But I can't help but feel sorry for Candace because while her brothers are ALWAYS having the time of their lives (building a restaurant, reaching outer space with their own rocket ship, inventing an invisibility tool, etc.), she's stuck in her obsession and ends up just following them around with the hope of exposing them to their parents. She doesn't realize that she's missing out on all the fun she could have herself because instead of living her own life and paying attention to what she has, she spends an insane amount of time figuring out how to get her brothers found out, even when they're not even intentionally hiding what they're doing!  The truth is, Phineas and Ferb couldn't care less about what Candace thinks, says, or does.  They're really just doing their own thing.

I hope my son realizes this valuable lesson from this show, in this life.  We all need this same reminder, don't we?  Sometimes we spend more time looking at what other people are doing, how others are living their lives, gauging how far they've gone and comparing them to us and where we are and what we do or what we have.  All this is energy misspent.  When we do that, we are making others the 'STARS' in our own lives, giving them the major role in our own personal life stories where we should be the lead.  A runner who keeps looking at his opponents to see where he is relative to them, instead of focusing his energies on his own performance alone, will never win the race.  It only slows him down.  It's all a waste of energy.

The same goes for people who spend a lot of energy trying to put other people down, criticizing others, finding fault in them or waiting for their missteps.  The best and only effective way to deal with these sad people is to ignore them. These 'Candace' creatures want to be noticed and heard, and more importantly need to get a life.  If you have a 'Candace' hovering in your life, just ignore them because it's not your job to find a life for them.  Paying attention to them is a way of rewarding them.  It's also a waste of your energies and would only deplete your happiness and suck the fun out of your journey.  Learn from Phineas and Ferb.  Keep focusing on your 'projects', enjoy your adventures and keep being awesome!

Have you had a 'Candace' in your life?  How did you manage the situation?  Or do you sometimes feel you have your own 'Candace tendencies'?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trying It On For Size

I've always heard that women have a love affair with shoes.  I'm pretty sure this isn't true for all women and the nerd in me has always wondered about the statistical validity of such an assertion. Maybe it's because I know I'm not one of those women.  Sure, I know good shoes when I see them and I have been known to sigh and say my 'ooohhhs' and 'aaahhhs' in the presence of fabulous looking pairs.  But I'm certainly not like one of those women on House Hunters who would only buy a house if it had a designated shoe closet.     I certainly don't have a huge collection like that, and more importantly, my 'collection' is not really display-worthy.  

I go on Pinterest and see shoes that make me say, 'Awwww', such as these....

and these....
and take a look at this bejewelled shoe!  WOW....
- 1

But really, who am I kidding?  I know I'd never wear them!  I'm much too practical to spend a lot of money on such shoes, and I'm also somewhat of a klutz that wearing heels that high would make it impossible for me to move.  And did I mention that I have flat, wide feet that don't look dainty and would not do justice to those girly-girl shoes?

Last week, I went to a shoe store to shop for a new pair; one that I could wear if I wanted to look feminine and a bit more dressy.  I walked from aisle to aisle (after first checking out the clearance rack, of course), looking for the pair that would address my needs.  Low heels, neutral, semi-dressy.  Low heels, neutral, semi-dressy.  I muttered the words repeatedly as I glanced at each pair around me so as not to forget and be distracted.  And yes, that has happened multiple times before.  I go to the store hoping to buy girly shoes only to leave with either just a pair of sandals that scream 'comfort'/'practical', or some irresistible masculine-looking shoes meant for hiking or something rugged.  

After a while, I knew I had to dare myself to just try out the high-heeled shoes that I knew I would never buy, just to satisfy my curiosity.  I did my best to invoke the Carrie Bradshaw in me just so I could bring myself to pull out a pair with lace and a lot of glitter and 3+ inches to boot.  Well, curiosity satisfied and self-knowledge reinforced!  They really didn't look good on my feet and I found it impossible to walk.  Seriously, it felt like a torture device and I will never understand how women can manage to walk in these things.

In the end, I purchased something that fits me in every way.  It was very reasonably priced, comfortable and wide enough for my feet, heels are not high, and girly enough but not daring at all.  The truth is, anywhere in life, we can always try things out and dare ourselves to a certain extent, to try new things, and seek out new experiences. That's all part of growth and learning.  However in the end, we always know deep down what best reflects us, what suits who we are, what we are comfortable with, and what we truly need.  We simply can't deny the truth that it's quite priceless to walk in the shoes that truly fit!

My pair  

Photo Credit:


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self-Assertion Is Different From Obnoxiousness

When my son comes home from school, our very first conversation after the hugging and kissing always involves a detailed response to 'How was your day'. Some days he's in the mood to really talk, while some days I'm not so lucky and I have to pry harder.  The other day his response started with "Well, I have something bad to say, Mommy". Naturally, I started to worry.  He proceeded to tell me that as he was playing with one of his friends, this friend of his got a little rough and ended up really punching him on the torso.  Sure they were playful punches but my son said it really hurt.  He didn't fight back.  Naturally a long lecture ensued from this, both from me, and then his Dad that evening. We sounded like a broken record but at least we felt confident when we sent him to school the following morning.  He got his reminders from both of us and we all agreed on how he needs to conduct himself.  His Dad said, "Never let anyone hurt you", while I let him walk away with "Stand up for yourself, for what's in your heart". (Background:  We've established that Noah knows deep down what is right, that if he truly listens to his heart, what's inside, he will know what needs to be done, which direction to take).  

I cannot begin to tell you how stressed and disappointed I was when, upon entering the house yesterday after school, Noah reported that he played the same game with the same 'friend' and he ended up getting punched on the cheek this time.  I lost it.  Completely.  This time the anger was worse because I knew I was certainly more angry and disappointed with my son than with the other boy.  Noah even tried to argue and said, "I kicked him back, but he was too fast".  Suffice to say that my poor son got bombarded with every response imaginable, from the "Of course he's too fast!  He's almost a year older than you!", to "Did you not hear anything from me and your Dad yesterday and this morning???!!!"  

Obviously, he missed the point.  So this time I made my point as simply as I could.  I told him not to even engage the other boy, to simply say NO to the game and insist on playing a different game.  I warned him repeatedly that most likely, the other boy won't like it and would insist on what he wants.  So I kept repeating to Noah to stand his ground, fight for what is right for him, and that there are other kids to play and be friends with.  If the boy ends up leaving him to play with someone else, let it be.  It's okay.  It's going to be fine.  

It's a tough balancing act.  I know that 'boys will be boys' but I also know that rough can be 'too rough' some times. I want him to be 'nice' but not 'too nice' to the point of growing up to be a doormat.  I don't want him to be a 'rebel' because there is value in conformity.  But I also want him to be a 'leader' and be independent-minded instead of just always automatically following what everybody else does or tells him to do. I want him to eventually understand (sooner, than later, hopefully!) that we all have boundaries to keep; that there is a difference between 'being mean', 'overly aggressive' or 'abrasive' and simply saying when something is 'not okay' and standing up for oneself, keeping your boundaries intact.  And finally, as a parent, I'm also trying to find my own balance because though I want to protect Noah, I also want to support him in his socialization process.  I don't want to intervene so quickly because I want him to learn to deal with these things and other conflicts on his own.  I know that releasing the reins reasonably is how we can teach accountability and responsibility.  He will be better equipped if he learns how to deal with friendships and conflicts this early.  He will be better equipped if he understands early how important standing up for oneself truly is.

I just find it amazing (and amusing) how life really prepares us for the next step.  Last week I was attacked here too. Boundaries were violated, on my own site, my own space, for the blog post I wrote about winning a blog competition. Two bloggers took the liberty of spewing their negativity here, leaving comments filled with unfair and false accusations.  They even went so far as to say that I'm not a 'blogger' just because I don't blog as often as they do, so how could I have possibly won a blogging competition.  In the entire process, they not only insulted me (or my online persona, as one of my friends pointed out, given that they really don't know me), but insulted everyone who supported me in that competition. That is a line I choose to draw.  I did not want to stoop to their level, but at the same time, I felt I had to address some of the unfair, illogical and hypocritical things they said.  However, I knew when it had to stop and when to stop engaging them.  I knew it would go nowhere because their intention was not to clarify anything with me, but to insult me and take away the joy of Catharsis' victory.  (What they didn't realize is that by showing me how much the victory meant to them, they were adding to the honor I felt for achieving something that was obviously so coveted).  

After a short while it was clear to me that I had to temporarily disable commenting on this site, as some of you might have noticed.  And now that commenting is back, I am clear about what types of comments to allow and which ones I will never tolerate.  I allow for disagreements and constructive criticism of ideas.  But once you start attacking people personally and simply comment to spread your negativity, I want you to know that you are not welcome in this site.  

This site is sacred to me and I want it to be a space for exploring my passion, my ideas, while hoping to be able to inspire, spread a sense of gratitude, and help others see the richness in the mundane in terms of insights we can glean from them. These are my intentions and I can only hope that I'm succeeding somehow, even if it's in some minute way.

P.S. A problem occurred with my site's commenting section but I have managed to fix this for most of my recent posts.  Thank you for your patience and please feel free to leave your comments below.  

Photo Credit: Gordon Browne (1858-1932) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What I Learned From A Mom Blog Competition

Approximately six weeks ago, I received an email from voiceBoks, an online community of parent bloggers, informing me that Catharsis had been nominated for the Top Mom Blog Award for 2013.  I was thrilled!  Who wouldn’t be?  After years of blogging and doing my best to take Catharsis to the next level (whatever that means and where ever that may be), I was finally gaining some recognition.  VoiceBoks is a huge community and to just be selected as a nominee is, to me, an absolute honor in itself. 

I patted myself on the back and allowed myself to float in a peaceful cloud of self-satisfaction for a few hours and then went to work.  And by ‘work’ I mean I started to make the announcement to all my social networks.  Voting had to start as soon as possible in order to have a real shot at winning.  I had to get as many people as I can to hit ‘Like’ on my blog page over at voiceBoks. 

Votes started pouring in quite easily at first.  I advertised to family, blogger friends, former co-workers, school friends (from elementary to graduate school) and shamelessly even to acquaintances.

Little did I know at the time that these things could turn a bit ‘ugly’.  Not overwhelmingly ugly, but ugly enough to cause me stress.  Before I proceed though, I just want to give you the happy ending and announce that WE won!!  We are No.1 on the Top Mom Blog list of 2013, so CONGRATULATIONS to us, Catharsis friends and supporters!

But this blog entry is not merely an announcement but to share with you my realizations with the whole experience of joining this contest.  Here they are:

  • I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I am grateful and feel blessed beyond words that I have such amazingly supportive, gracious and loyal friends.  I have been asked how I ended up with so many votes for this competition, and frankly I wasn’t expecting to win either.  At some point, I even thought of just giving up the campaign and wanted to leave it all up to fate.  But I had friends who kept pushing and encouraging me.  They were simply amazing throughout the competition.  Not only did they vote for me, they also did their own campaign among their contacts, working hard and making sure they got the word out and the votes in.  They never stopped believing in me and genuinely wanted to see Catharsis on the top spot, as if it was their own child, their baby!  I am simply overflowing with a sense of gratitude and continue to be humbled by my friends’ belief in me and their dedication.  They didn’t have to do it, but they did.  Through them, I truly witnessed authentic generosity in action; giving without expecting anything in return.  I am in great company.  That’s for sure!

  • Never underestimate Pinoy (Filipino) Power.  I had contacts from all over the world, with different nationalities, who were more than willing to support me in this competition.  But the strongest and steadiest support undoubtedly came from my Filipino friends and family.  In a way, this isn’t really surprising at all since I’ve witnessed how Filipinos can cheer and root for the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Lea Salonga, Charice Pempengco, or a talented Filipino contestant on the American Idol.  We’ve also been known for overthrowing a dictator through peaceful means so I know what this ‘power’ can be capable of.  I'm not saying I have the same celebrity status as those above.  I just didn’t expect I would be on the receiving end of it and it’s amazing and humbling at the same time.

  • Some people take competitions way too seriously and don’t know how to just have fun.  I guess you could say that I saved the ‘best’ for last, the most shocking revelation or realization for me after being part of this blog competition.  Maybe I was just na├»ve getting into this, but I really wasn’t expecting this.  ‘Expecting what?’, you might ask.  Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting to be monitored by another blogger nominee to see how many votes I’ve received and see who’s ahead.  And I most certainly didn’t expect to be accused by the same nominee of creating fake Facebook profiles just to end up with more votes.  It certainly wasn’t fun to be called a ‘cheater’ behind my back.  I felt offended and attacked and it didn't make sense to me because this person doesn't even know me.  I didn't see the point in confronting her and just hoped that my silence would turn out to be another investment in good karma.  Families, schools, mass media and other socialization institutions always    teach our children the message “The journey is more important than the  destination”.  Or, “Winning is not as fun and important as playing the  game”.  Sadly, even some adults who are parents themselves don’t seem  to understand such lessons, or worse, preach them but don’t live them.     This (misplaced) over-competitive nature was so off-putting and disorienting for me at some point.  As far as I knew, I was in a mom blog competition which meant I was in the company of other mothers, writers, who enjoy camaraderie and showing support to fellow parents and bloggers.  Aren’t we supposed to be cheering for each other, instead of putting the other down?  Though I was left with a slight bad taste in my mouth, I refuse for this experience to define other amazing bloggers who are indeed very pleasant, supportive and know the meaning of friendly competition.  More importantly, I want to make it clear that one’s bad attitude and behavior do not define voiceBoks as a community, which has always been nothing but supportive, fair and encouraging!

I am not letting the 'bad' overshadow the amount of gratitude I feel.  I've always worked hardfor my written work and I am just so happy that people are noticing.  Most importantly, this blog competition truly helped me reconnect with a lot of my high school mates who have been so selfless with their support and love.  Our bonding experience through this is simply priceless.  

To STC Batch '90, this victory is for all of us!!  Let your light shine, always!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

What Every Non-Native English Speaker Longs For

Recently I've been noticing that I've been having some 'speaking' issues.  To be more specific, it actually has to do with how I'm pronouncing some English words.  I normally don't have any difficulty and if you asked anyone who knows me, you'd be told that I was never one who had major issues with diction. However, in the past two weeks, I've really been having more 'slips' than usual and though it's hilarious when I make such mistakes at home, the thought of committing them while talking to others (translate: Americans) scares me.  I think it would just be too embarrassing. I'll give you two examples, although these were not the actual mistakes I've made.

Instead of saying 'potato chips', I would say 'potato chEEps'.  (long E sound, instead of short I).

Or perhaps while eagerly trying to tell an intriguing and riveting story to my husband about 'Christopher' (and no, that's just an example and not an actual person we know), I would have pronounced his name as 'ChristoPer' (no F sound, which is absolutely embarrassing especially among Filipinos who are doing their best to speak proper English).  

My theory for this anomaly that's been going on is simple.---

My tongue must be getting tired.

No matter how fluent I am in English, the fact is that this is still only my second language.  I still prefer to speak Tagalog (ta-ga-log, all short vowel sounds) if I could have my way.  It's still Tagalog that is effortless for me and most automatic for my tongue, and let's face it...my brain.

A question most asked to bilingual people who have learned to speak English (or some other foreign language) quite fluently is this:  In what language do you think?  In other words, people are curious if we are constantly translating in our heads before we can even utter anything coherent or sensible in English.  I always find it difficult to answer this question because most times, there is no more clear, or word-per-word translation going on.  I have been speaking both Tagalog and English since childhood and admittedly, it all just flows.  However there are days when I feel 'stuck', or a little 'lost' and 'rusty'.  I think these days signal the tiredness, the longing for my native language.  

I'm still fairly lucky that my spouse understands basic Filipino, but I know communication with him would still be much simpler if I just spoke English.  I mean, we already have a lot of misunderstandings as it is, with me speaking proper English.  God knows what level of havoc we'd manage to create if I decided to communicate in Tagalog!  As for my son, well that's just going to be impossible.  All he knows are some (and by some I mean no more than 10) basic Filipino words and I'm not proud of that at all.  I do want to teach him the Filipino language but let's save that project for another day, shall we?  All I can tell you is that right now, I feel that my tongue needs a break, a vacation from English.  I think it wants to have a decent conversation with someone in straight Tagalog.  I want to be able to tell a story, with all its gory details and my own thoughts and crazy input, in pure, highly emotive, Tagalog.  Is that too much to ask for??  (I guess it is when you live in Middle Tennessee).

And did I mention to you how liberating and absolutely natural it feels to be angry in your native language?!  That's also how I know I definitely need a break from English because I got angry recently and everything that automatically got spewed from my mouth was Tagalog. And when that happens, my son is not left with any doubt that Mommy is absolutely, 100% upset!  Once he hears Tagalog cuss words out of Mommy's mouth, uttered in a crystal clear tone where the syllables are broken up e-v-er--so--crisp-ly, that just means Trouble.  (For my Filipino readers, you know such cuss terms normally start with the letter 'P').  When I tried shifting back to English so that Noah could understand me, I ended up saying 'Go back to your sIt', instead of 'Go back to your sEAt'.  You can just imagine how ineffective that was.  *sigh....I should've just said 'chair', dang!*

It's exhausting, trust me.  Trying to pronounce, enunciate, and accentuate 'properly' all the time when it's not the natural tendency of the tongue you were born with, can wear you out and definitely has its limits.  Since it's already the weekend, maybe I'll spend the next two days speaking more Tagalog and drowning myself with Filipino movies and songs, just so I have my 'break' and reconnect with my Filipino tongue and consciousness.  In the meantime, I humbly (and shyly) present to you this audio file to acquaint yourself a bit more with my Filipino tongue speaking American English.  When you're done here, don't forget to count your blessings, especially those you take for granted as they have been so embedded in your daily lives.  If anything, just be grateful for speech.  

*An excerpt from the book You Know You're Filipino If...A Pinoy Primer was read in the audio file.