Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blog Posts of 2014 I'm Happy Never to See Again

I'm sad to see the holidays go, really I am. But since I promised myself to always do my best to see the glass being half-full, I'll adjust my lenses this time around.

Yes, I'll miss the empty space left behind by our Christmas tree. I will ache a little every time I see a colder looking mantle, or the bland wall abandoned by the colorful string LED lights we hung above our television. Most of all, I know that I'd feel a bit lost for a few days as I search for that palpable sense of anticipation and excitement in the air.

But just as I'd miss all that, there are things I'm happy to finally see go (I hope!); things on the blogosphere, in particular, that I can't take another ounce of. These are either holiday-related or just posts I've seen too much of that I'm beginning to think I'm in a perpetual state of dèjà vu. One more of these and I am very likely to snap and just end up randomly slapping people.

So without further ado, here are my top three types of blog posts that I'm excited to bid farewell to and hope to never see again :

Image by: Miguel Angel

1. Posts on the annoying Elf on the Shelf 

It was in 2013 when I first started reading posts on this little imp. The first I read was humorous and I found it so spot on. Then I read a second one, and a third, and I'm sure many more but I just lost interest by then and decided to move on. I guess I expected too much when I thought the rest of the world moved on with me because this year, I saw the same posts, or at least they read so eerily (and annoyingly) similar, though written by different authors. It's all about how it all starts out with the desire to have fun trying to create magic for the kids by coming up with the craziest, most creative antics imaginable. And then as expected, it all turns into a living hell as the bar keeps being raised and the expectations become unachievable. Add this pressure to the need to clean up all the crazy mess this stupid elf leaves, and it's a formula for the worst, most sickeningly whiny post a mom blogger could ever come up with. So yes, I am so over these elf posts and I pray to God I don't see any of these next December. Let's just move on, people!

2. "Scam" blog posts giving "tips" on how to blog better

I will ban you from my reading list for life if I find you guilty of this. These are the posts with the most enticing titles, luring you to click on them because the writer makes it seem like the article will be full of novel and brilliant ideas that will help you and me blog better, have insane traffic and whoa!...even earn a lot of money! And then you enter the site and read what the author has to say and it's nothing but crap, things that even someone who just started blogging yesterday already knows. You'll find advice such as "write good material", "keep learning", "be creative", or "choose a good title". And then you reach the end of the article and wonder where the rest of the promised valuable information is. At the end of it, you just feel duped for clicking through this sh*t and wish you could give the author the finger. 

3. Open letters to future daughters- /sons- in-law

Look, I'm a mom too, and one who's so in love with her own offspring and want only the best for him. But no matter how much I love my son, I really see no point in writing a letter this early to someone fictitious who may or may not come into my son's life, telling that person how awesome my child is and how I want him to be treated and loved. When I first came across such a blog post, initially I thought it was endearing. I mean, here are moms who are drowning in love for their babies. But then after a while I thought how a little neurotic (to say the least) it actually is. Your child's just a baby and doesn't even know where his/her genitalia are, and here you are contemplating on what you want to say to his/ her future partner in life?? Seriously?! If the objective of these letters is to make sure that your beloved child repels any sane and wise partner in life who knows what's good for them, then congratulations! You've just devised the best in-law repellent known to man! News flash: Relationships with mothers-in-law are complicated enough as it is. Why must you go over the top and announce to the world how awesome your kid is that really, no one will ever be good enough to deserve him/ her? Wise. Very wise move.....

Now that I've gotten that out of the way and out of my chest,
allow me to greet all of you
a BLESSED 2015!
May we all strive to read (AND write) better material!

How about you? Are there blog topics that you feel have been overly-covered this past year and really can't take any more of at this point? Please do share in the comments below!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Christmas Wish For You


Don't you just love that word? There's something about it that makes you really breathe out and let it all go.


Now that Santa's cookies are done and ready to be served, the presents are all wrapped, and cards all sent out...


The bird is ready, potatoes all mashed, baked and fancied up; the pies, pastries or cakes are smelling divine and the drinks are all chilled...


This is my wish for you this Christmas, that you can exhale, let go, be still.

Maybe you are spent from all the holiday preparations. Maybe that stupid elf on the shelf made you curse unnecessarily these past weeks...

Maybe you are caring for a sick loved one. Maybe you are worried sick about your, or a family member's health...

Maybe you are far from home, your heart missing those dear to you...

Exhale. Let go. Be still.

This is Christmas' gift to us. The anticipation is over and Christmas has finally arrived. Everyone takes a pause, simmers in the joy, and focuses on the love.

Exhale. Let go. Be still. Nothing has to be perfect, not the day, the gifts, the decorations, nor anyone around us. It's a day about Love and Love never demanded perfection. It only asks for open hearts and the courage needed to focus only on those things that truly matter to our souls.

Merry Christmas, Catharsis family and friends! 
May you find comfort and peace as you exhale, let go, be still, and give in to Love and the true meaning of this season.

Friday, December 19, 2014

We Gave Tamiflu A Shot, And Here's What Happened...

I knew it was only a matter of time. 

On Monday, Noah's teacher announced that there's something going around. 70 kids out sick at his school. 

The next day, my hairstylist informs me while snipping away at my hair, that at her daughter's school, less than 10 miles away from us, 98 students were out sick. Statistically speaking, I knew the odds were against us. I kept praying, "If we can just get through this week, just this week....please..."

And then Wednesday morning came and I got the dreaded call from the school nurse. 

"Mom, your son is here with me at the clinic and he's complaining of a headache and his temperature is 99.6. So....can you come pick him up?"

I could've been a smart ass and argued that 99.6 is technically not a fever. But I also knew that my son is not the type who fakes illnesses and who won't really agree to be sent to the clinic in the first place unless he really wasn't feeling well.

And so I rushed to pick him up and saw that my son really didn't look good at all. While walking towards the car, he said he felt extremely nauseous and that his head was throbbing really bad. By the time we got home, his temperature began to spike and I knew in my heart it was the dreaded FLU.

Yes, we all got vaccinated, we are fairly healthy, and doing our best to always wash or sanitize our hands and minimize the face-touching. Yes to all that so NO, I did not see this coming. 

On Thursday morning, I was able to book an appointment at the pediatrician's office and after two swabs (one for the flu and another for strep) and a longer than normal wait time, the doctor informed us that my son does have the flu. On the bright side though, she quickly added, my son came early enough (less than 48 hours after the initial onset of symptoms) for him to get the benefit of taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

I asked if what I heard was true, that Tamiflu can cause hallucinations. The doctor said yes, it does.

Then I asked if the drug can prevent further complications of the flu, such as pneumonia. The doctor said no, it does not.

I've heard of this drug for at least a couple of years now but never really bothered to do serious research on it. So with an optimistic heart and an in-denial mommy brain, I agreed to the prescription and focused on my desperation to shorten my son's illness and make the experience for him as bearable as I could, or as any drug could.

This sense of desperation was further made obvious by my willingness to pay the pharmacist $70+ in exchange for the last bottle they had! How lucky can I be?!

So I went home eager to administer the first dose to my suffering child. I fed him a little bit and then gave him the medicine. 

After 30 minutes, he threw up...a lot. After that, I encouraged him to rest and take a nap. In the next two hours that followed, he kept opening his eyes and with a troubled look on his face kept asking me, "Am I bigger to you? Am I taller? I feel so tall, Mama. I feel like I'm floating above, like I'm right by the ceiling"

At that point I really wondered if it was the drug. I knew it wasn't delirium from his fever because his temperature wasn't even that high. It only hovered around 102. But since I still wanted so badly to trust in Tamiflu and its 'mighty powers', I chose to remain in denial and chalked it up to Noah's predisposition to sleep talking or night terrors. 

Everything changed when one of my lovely neighbors messaged me on Facebook. They live across the street and her daughter also started with the flu last weekend. She sent me this blog post talking about cases of deaths in Japan after taking Tamiflu. It also mentions how Roche (the manufacturer of Tamiflu) has refused to release all the data from their clinical trials for the said drug.

After reading that one post, I decided to keep searching online and weigh all the information I could find. 

A lot of the information are anecdotal and I still wasn't all that convinced. However, I found these two sites that made me all the more comfortable with my decision NOT to continue with Tamiflu for my seven year-old. 

What has become clear to me is that this drug does not seem all that safe especially when administered to children, and that at this point, it appears that the risks still outweigh the benefit (which may just be a shortening of flu symptoms by one day). I would rather have my child go through that extra day if it means not giving him the severe nausea, diarrhea (which, by the way, he also had), hallucinations, and other possible psychotic episodes that have been reported. 

I'm not here to tell you what to do. I'm merely sharing our brief experience with this drug and the data I've found online. The point here is that medical / health decisions are personal and it is our responsibility to weigh the facts available to us instead of merely relying on advertisements, hearsay or make hasty decisions based on fear.

To end on a lighter, more holiday-appropriate note, I'm leaving you with this song I 'wrote'. Sing it to your heart's content to the tune of 'Here Comes Santa Claus'.  Enjoy!

Here Comes Tamiflu

Here comes Tamiflu,
Here comes Tamiflu,
Right down 'Fluenza lane
Oseltamivir and Phosphate
Pullin' on the reins
Voices talkin', Shadows chasin',
All is causing me fright
So lock your doors and say your prayers,
'Cause Tamiflu comes tonight.

Here comes Tamiflu,
Here comes Tamiflu,
Right down 'Fluenza lane
It's got promises you can't confirm
for boys and girls again.
Read those reviews and research papers,
Oh what a frightful sight.
So jump in bed and rest instead
Before Tamiflu comes tonight.

Here comes Tamiflu,
Here comes Tamiflu,
Right down 'Fluenza lane
It'll come around when the temperature drops
It's flu time once again.
Fun and Health will come to all
Just rest, hydrate and sit tight
Don't spend your money, you prob'ly don't need it
Don't need Tamiflu tonight.

Do you have any experience with this drug that you'd like to share? I would love to hear your stories!

Friday, December 12, 2014

In Defense of the Stage Mother

He stood on stage, happily singing and moving his arms in 'perfect' coordination with the words of the songs. He was obviously having fun, as I was, and I sat there several feet away from the stage, feeling proud and joyful. I stared at my second-grader the whole night. As far as my eyes were concerned, there was only one spotlight and it was all on him.

Remember those advertisements or movie scenes where the parent looks at their grown child but actually sees the younger or 'baby' version of that child instead? I had that experience last night. As I stared intently at my son, with a smile and obvious sense of wonder plastered on my face, I was actually toggling between seven- and three-year old Noah. I kept wondering how this 'baby' became so amazing and never fails to keep me in a perpetual state of awe. I clearly felt so star-struck, only it was far better than that, far more real because I knew I was in awe of someone I TRULY love as unconditionally as my humanity allows.

After each song he completed on stage, especially after singing his solo part, my husband and I noticed how Noah would glance at us, clearly trying to see how much approval we were expressing. I raised my arms to show him I was clapping hard and kept showing him a double thumbs-up. We knew it wasn't perfect. Noah knew that. But every child on that stage gave their very best and clearly did it with all the joy in their hearts and that made it so perfect and memorable. The entire gym was simply full of love last night.

How we appeared as a family last night makes it hard to believe that just two nights ago, hearts broke and tears were shed. Noah told me something that he remembered doing in school a couple of months ago, something that really disappointed me, and so I gave him a long lecture. If you knew me, you'd know that a long lecture means a LONG lecture and that I can belabor a point to death, with as many versions imaginable, and then do it all over again. (Thanks to 7 years of teaching college kids). That's how long it was. Too long for a seven year old brain, admittedly.

He said I made him feel stupid when I corrected him. I said it's not my intention and that it's my responsibility to correct him and guide him because I love him. I told him how disappointed I was and that what he did was unacceptable in my books. He promised not to do it again and to always do his best next time. We ended with our usual Maya Angelou line, "When you know better, you do better".

After all is said and done, the fact is that I was disappointed and so was my son. And we both know that mistakes will continue to happen and that we will continue to disappoint and hurt each other because that's just how it goes.

Love and Disappointment is a package deal.

If you want loveto love and be lovedyou must accept that you will be disappointed and will disappoint, because love can only be possible if you welcome vulnerability. It will hurt tremendously, and this is why it's important that when you love someone, you assure them that your love is stronger than your disappointment. This is why it's important that as parents, we show our children as much unconditional love as we can so that as they grow up and learn to love others, they will also know that disappointment does not end love. It's not the period to any of love's narratives.

My son is not, and will never be, perfect. Not even in my eyes. As for me, well, let me say that there are countless days in a year when I ask myself if God was sure He did the right thing in making me a parent. I often wonder how much therapy my son would eventually need because he ended up with me as his mother.

But in spite of these feelings of inadequacy, all our mistakes and hurts, I am certain my son knows that for me, he is and will always be front and center; that I will always hold a spotlight for him, ready to flood his life with as much love and illumination as he needs. In this sense, I know now that every mother who does her best to love unconditionally plays the role of the best stage mother there is. We all want the same thing and that is for our children to shine in life as they play the role of the best version of themselves. It won't be perfect, but hopefully it will play out with immeasurable joy.

Friday, December 5, 2014

5 (Non-Lame) Reasons Why I Can't Workout at the Gym

Now that Thanksgiving is done, my ambivalence over this week has arrived, settled in, blew up its airbed and completely made itself feel at home.

Though I love how this week marks the beginning of Christmas preparations, this is also the week when all the remorse and self-loathing from allowing myself to overeat last week during Thanksgiving set in.

"I have to work out", is the constant voice in my head these days. And thank God I have a treadmill in my home, because frankly, you can't drag me to the gym. Not even if you dangled chocolate truffle-stuffed peanut butter cake pops coated in dark chocolate every step of the way.

It's not simply because of my introversion and my avoidance of as much human interaction as possible that strengthen my resistance to working out in the gym. And I wish I could tell you that it's because I think gym memberships are too expensive and that I simply don't want to pay for something I know I won't be able to wholeheartedly commit to. 

Those aren't my real reasons. 

These are...

Original Image by: Health Gauge

1. I'm too self-conscious and too lazy. Bad combination if you're talking about going out of the house. I'm too lazy to fix myself just to mess myself up within 30 mins of making all the effort to look presentable. I don't have a kind of haircut that permits me to just wear a headband or a pony tail to remedy a bed head. This means I'd have to shampoo and blow dry just to feel good about stepping out in public. My face also gets too puffy in the mornings and since I'm a bad sleeper, I also have to deal with dark circles around my eyes. Just the thought of making the effort to look presentable, only to sweat already exhausts me. It just doesn't make sense to me when I know I can just hop on my treadmill at home and feel free to look like crap. 

2. Exercise turns me into the Big Bad Wolf.  No, it's not that I morph into a villain. However, serious physical exertion does seem to transform me into some sort of blower. I huff, and puff, and I do it LOUD. After a couple of minutes of jogging, I end up exhaling really hard that anyone brave enough to stand within two feet of my face would surely feel my breath. Oh, and I think it's worth mentioning that when I get really focused and push myself to the edge of exhaustion, I sometimes unconsciously stick out my tongue to the side of my mouth. No, it's not sexy. Trust me. It looks odd and I'm sure, off-putting. These types of behavior are simply not for public consumption. Let me just stay at home and allow me to preserve some dignity.

3. Other hidden talents tend to come out. I hate exercising, so I really need to motivate myself for about 30-40 minutes and make sure I keep moving on my treadmill. To do so, I rely heavily on music. Having my iPod with me is imperative so I can listen to my workout playlist and feel feisty. As a result, I always end up singing along with The Style Council, The Script, and most especially Taylor Swift, while I also end up making these ugly, emotive facial expressions to go with the songs. From shouting "you're the best thing that ever happuh-hund" "we, are never, ever, ever....getting back together...", it's really like a mini-concert and I don't think any gym patron or other workout enthusiasts would be a fan of my performances. 

4. I have 'control' issues. Now, I really don't know how else to say this, or if I can even really sugar-coat this. And I wish I could say that if I told you, then I'm gonna have to kill you. But then who would read my blog? So, I guess I just have to spit this out and tell it like it is. Somehow, all the movement on the treadmill sometimes makes me either want to piss or take a dump. And while we're at it, I'll throw in 'passing gas' for good measure. It doesn't happen 100% of the time, but it happens often enough to convince me that working out outside of my home is not such a good idea for me. What if I feel the urge and have to run to the restroom, but have only used up 10 minutes of my treadmill time? I would have to lose my spot to someone else and it would just be such a hassle, not to mention extremely embarrassing if green gas followed me around! That would just be a waste of gym membership since I can guarantee that I'd never be able to show my face there ever again. Ever!

5. I'm a germaphobe. I think this is self-explanatory.

Beyond these five reasons however, there's really only one that perfectly justifies my choice to just workout at home.

My son made me a 'GO MA MA' banner and asked that I hang it in front of my treadmill in order to motivate me. He also placed a 'Way To Go' sign with his cut-out arrows right in front of me so that I won't give up and tire so easily. Isn't that just pure sweetness? I'm pretty sure no fancy gym anywhere in the world can offer me such heartwarming perks!

What about you? Do you have other non-lame reasons for staying out of the gym?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Turkey's Dread

Last week, my second grader had to work on his 'Turkey In Disguise' project. Admittedly, my being foreign-born and -bred made me clueless as to the rationale of a turkey wanting to be something else. It's during those times when Google becomes an indispensable best friend. 

In the end, my son decided he wanted his turkey to be Batman in order to avoid being hunted and eaten. And since I'm a normal mom with other concerns and don't exactly swoon over each and every school project my son completes, I didn't bother taking a picture of his Batman turkey. Instead, I have Mr. Boxer Champ below as a sample picture just to give some of you an idea as to what this 'tradition' is all about. 

A Turkey in Disguise

In any case, I got inspired by this school project to create a haiku, something brief so as not to interfere too much in the chaos that I'm sure we'll all experience at some point during the festivities this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 
And remember--Be kind to your turkey and try to do it justice.  

The Turkey's Dread

In disguise this week,
I'm hoping to spare myself
from mushy stuffing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Too Much is Never Enough in Food Network Land

Original Image by: Beverley Goodwin

I'm not a big fan of Thanksgiving. Sure I appreciate its meaning, its historical significance, and that for most, it marks the beginning of a long holiday season filled with both family time and overindulgence. It's the American way after all. 

However, I just don't have the same level of emotional attachment to it as I do towards Christmas, or even the New Year. Though I've learned to embrace it and join in the celebration, I still generally feel as if this holiday is alien to me, perhaps mainly because I didn't grow up having this holiday to celebrate in the Philippines. Maybe it's also because I'm not a big fan of turkey and haven't met stuffing that I understood, let alone impressed me. Who knows?

So in an effort to get in the mood and have better understanding of all the fuss that surrounds this holiday, where do I turn to? --- The Food Network.  Because let's face it. The holidays just won't be the same without acquainting ourselves with all the possible calories and diabetes-inducing treats we can consume. 

Though I enjoy watching a number of the network's shows and even record a few of them (mainly because they relax me), I've come to notice something extremely annoying, and something that I feel transforms the experience from a G rating to PG. And no, it doesn't have anything to do with the amount of cleavage I see, nor the unsexy guest chef / restaurateur who consistently describes all the food he stuffs his mouth with as 'sexy' and thinks it's so eloquent. Let's not even go there. 

What I'm talking about here is the "Too, too".

Since when has it become grammatically acceptable to say that? I don't know if these cooking 'stars' are just trying to be cute, but I hope they know it doesn't really make sense when they say it.

"Now, I like to put a little bit of hot sauce, but not too too much."

"Stir in the chocolate chips into the dough, but not too too much. You don't wanna overdo it."

"Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the top...just a little, not too too much."

It. Drives. Me. Insane!!!!

God forbid my second-grader starts thinking it's acceptable to speak this way, and so now I make it a point to pay closer attention and make sure he doesn't start picking up on this nonsense.

What exactly should that mean? Why isn't 'too much' enough anymore? Is it in addition to in addition to? Is it to an even higher degree than the higher degree? Seriously, what the hell is it supposed to mean? Should it just be a little too much and not more than that? More than what?

I have no idea who started this but I'm afraid it's becoming a stupid trend. I've counted at least three cooking celebrities who speak this way, from the kitchen, to the beach house, and up to the middle of nowhere. They spit it out so naturally and with no awkwardness whatsoever. It hurts my ears and makes me squirm, much like when I hear people drop the 'ng' sound at the end of their words and replace them with just the 'n' sound (e.g. 'overpowereen'; 'freakeen'; 'lovin'; 'chatteen').

Am I just getting too old? 
Is it just me or have you noticed such things too and found yourself shaking your head too too much? *Dammit!*

Friday, November 14, 2014

When We Became Three: A Family Adventure

*All opinions expressed in this post are my own. I was provided with an e-copy of the book for the purpose of this review, and was not financially compensated. This post also includes an affiliate link (Amazon Services LLC Associates Program) which means a commission may be credited to this site when a purchase is made through that link.


As far as my mother is concerned, I'm one of the best story tellers she has ever met. Among her children, she says I'm the most animated and I suppose, most curious as well. Okay, maybe 'nosy' would be her exact word but you get the picture.

I didn't grow up in an outdoorsy or adventurous family. My idea of adventure really revolved around searching for hidden treasures around our house -- (Translate: sneaking into my parents' room to very carefully and systematically go through my mom's closet and eventually be able to open THE trunk). It's an antique army metal trunk which she inherited from my grandfather. I remember feeling the rush as soon as I open her closet door and see the olive green metal box in front of me.

One of the things I loved pulling out of that trunk was my mom's scrapbook. My mom was never the craftsy type. She was a busy working mother and couldn't be bothered with cutting and gluing to make things look nice. But she was organized and was able to do her best to document our major milestones. Leafing through her scrapbook, I remember seeing cut hair from our first haircut; our umbilical cord; or first tooth pulled out. I loved looking at bits of my life that I don't remember and have always admired my mom for being able to do all the documentation for three kids.

I have only one child and can hardly keep up with it. I have pictures and papers around my desk from five or so years ago, noting down something funny that my son said, or something remarkable he did, and I keep promising myself I will create a nice, fancy scrapbook that will put every Pinterest mom to shame....Yeah right!

In addition to my curiosity about my childhood, I'm sure my mom would agree if I said that I was the most curious about how she and my dad started out, as a couple and then as parents. I guess very early on I couldn't deny the hopeless romantic in me. The trouble is, every time I asked my parents for information, I was left feeling even thirstier for details than when I first asked. 

And this is why I was so thrilled to be acquainted with this book 'When We Became Three' by Jill Caryl Weiner.


It's a family journal, and not just your typical 'baby book'. It's something I can get for myself to fill out for my now seven year-old child, as well as a thoughtful gift for either expecting or new parents.

There are so many things that impressed me about this cutting edge memory book, but I'd like to highlight my Top Three Reasons:

1.  It's highly insightful. This book will not only require you to write down the same old facts that the usual baby book offers. Instead it's like having your personal novelist write the outline of your story for you and your partner to fill out the details to make it your own; details such as why you love being your child's parents, or what you wish you had done differently with regard to childbirth. There's a section on 'The Painful Truth' where parents can write about certain baby stages that scare them or were difficult for them to experience, as well as how they dealt with it. That truly resonated with me and kudos to Jill for having the wisdom to include such an important section.

2. It's refreshingly creative, truly one of a kind. This memory book captures the 'real' without being predictable or cookie cutter. Seriously, where else can you find a memory book that includes "Yoda" as a choice you can tick to complete the sentence, "Baby looks like...." But it's brilliant, isn't it? Or what about the page about Mom with an item that says, "Height in heels or flats", and "Hair color at the time"? It's simply adorable!

3. (And this is my top reason for falling in love with this book!)-- It includes BOTH parents, unlike other memory or baby books in the market that are solely baby-centric. This book feeds the romantic in me, in that it includes the love story of the parents, as well as sections that focus on the individuality of the parents before they even became 'Mom & Dad'. Emphasis was placed, not just on parenthood or couplehood, but also on the individual traits and experiences of each parent. Also unlike most memory books, this one also puts a spotlight on Dad. I really think that's an important element in a memory book, at least for families with a traditional role set-up (i.e. those with a 'mom' and 'dad').

Stories are meant to make you feel something. In reading this memory book, even with the details left blank, I found a truly endearing narrative, and I asked myself how it made me feel. 

Sure, I felt nostalgic. That's a given with any memory book. 

But beyond that, I felt grateful. Grateful for the good, the bad, the new normal reached as you become a parent, which Weiner successfully highlighted in this book. And as far as I'm concerned, anything that can pave the way for more gratitude in my life is a welcome experience. I assume this to be true for all jaded parents out there. 

Hopefully, when I finish filling out my copy of this book, my son won't have to dig through a trunk or chest that I've hidden somewhere in the house. I can just give it to him and he will be on his way to a lovely adventure, with all the details he would ever need to discover who he is, who mom and dad were (or are), and most of all, how we became three.

*With the holidays coming, I can't think of a better, more meaningful gift for parents, new AND old. You can get your copy of When We Became Three by clicking on the image below.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lessons From My Two Imperfect Weddings

This week I celebrated my wedding anniversary. My 'other' wedding anniversary for the year, is what I call it.

You see, I married the same person twice; one was a civil ceremony, while the other, a church (Catholic) ceremony.

And neither one was perfect.

My civil wedding happened three months after I entered the United States. We had to do it very quickly to take advantage of my Mom being here on vacation at the time. More importantly, we didn't have the luxury of delaying for obvious immigration requirements. I entered a tourist, and ended up being engaged and, eventually, married to a U.S. citizen. (You can read more about this story here).

Lacking in preparation, as well as funds, it meant compromising on a lot of things and forgoing certain traditional elements in a wedding.

I had to go to Nordstrom to buy my (first) wedding dress and it was a champagne colored three-piece gown. It was gorgeous and I've gotten so much mileage out of that dress. But it wasn't white and certainly didn't make me look or feel like a princess.

On my wedding day, I opted to do my own hair and make-up. I didn't see the need to fuss over it considering I was only headed to the courthouse, a quick in and out, and that there was no party afterward. Lunch was served for intimate family and friends at our favorite Chinese dim sum restaurant in Chicago. There was no dancing-the-night-away affair, nor a DJ to play the Chicken Dance, the Cha Cha Slide or Y.M.C.A.

The most imperfect detail of that day was the fact that my groom had a severe gout attack. He was in so much pain that he couldn't help but limp and wince with every step, and it certainly took the element of romance out of the entire morning. At some point it made me wonder if it was a case of cold feet. But no. It was uric acid toe.

Short of a year and a half after that, we finally had our church wedding. We decided to do this for our faith, and to share our union with more friends and family. Objectively speaking, however, I felt it was sort of anti-climactic and was really just a formality. There was not much excitement to it since I had already been married to this man for a year and four months. 

We had a guest list of close to 300, but still didn't include majority of my family and friends from the Philippines. Instead, probably close to half of our list was filled with names I didn't know, people who didn't know me either.

For this second wedding ceremony, I did go to a bridal store to get my traditional white dress. But the whole experience was so anti-'Say Yes To The Dress'. I went in by myself (no female relatives and close girl friends for a cheering squad), showed the associate a picture of the dress I had already picked online, fitted it and paid for it. There was no ambivalence, and definitely no drama and the 'oh-my-God-this-is-it-I-feel-like-a-princess-bride-goddess' moment. Though I loved my dress and thought it was beautiful, my thought bubble was more like, 'Shit-can-I-really-wear-this-all-night-long-and-do-I-really-have-to'?

And did I mention how I hated our photographer who eventually screwed us by twisting part of the contract and wanted to overcharge? I was also bloated on that day as it was the time of the month and I don't think he was skillful enough to feature my better angles. 

For a perfectionist (now a recovering one), all these glitches felt like shards of glass I was forced to swallow. I had to compromise on a lot of details which made the reality quite far from the vision I've held on to for years prior to finding the man I would marry.

But maybe that was the Universe being kind to me. Instead of feeling like the stars were conspiring against me, I believe the imperfections in my weddings were trying to teach me two things: (1) that perspective can be my best friend; (2) that weddings, like marriages, are never perfect and that the success of the journey ahead depends heavily on the partners' willingness to compromise. 

So what that there was no dancing and partying for my first wedding? I never really enjoyed dancing anyway and to be honest, hearing the Cha Cha Slide and Chicken Dance only makes me want to shoot myself in the head.

So what that our first 'reception' was at a dim sum place? We love Chinese food! 

So what that neither one of my dresses made me tear up, nor made me look like a princess? In truth, I wish I could've just gotten married wearing jeans and riding boots. And it really doesn't matter that my dresses didn't make me cry because both the officiating judge and the priest did that for my husband and me. I remember the judge saying how comfortable my husband and I both seemed, compared to other nervous, seemingly uncertain couples. And I still remember my husband tearing up, his voice shaking when he was saying his vows to me in church. I would take those tears any day over simply tearing up at the bridal stores.

So what that I didn't like certain small details? Beside me was a man who did all he can to marry me, TWICE, and who was clearly committed to loving me and building a family with me. It doesn't make sense to be upset over the little wedding wrinkles and thorns. After all, as the years go by and our relationship continues to grow, what we truly celebrate is not the wedding but our Marriage. 

It's not because we said "I Do" twice that makes us strong. It's that, after ten years, we still continue to constantly choose to be each other's witnesses to how our souls are being perfected through our imperfect union.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Of Fruit Flies and a "Writer's" Self-Doubt

Yessssssssssssssss!! YESSSSSSS! I screamed and hoped none of the neighbors heard me in my ecstatic state.

In as much as I'd like to keep you thinking that there is shock value to this post, let me stop you right here and sanitize whatever's going through your mind.

Sanitize...An interesting choice of words considering that what I'm talking about here is this fruit fly on my palm, squashed and definitely beyond dead. I just had to take a photo first before washing my hands. Why wouldn't I? I feel like I need to remember this moment, bask in this triumph, when huge mammal triumphed over pesky insect.

Now don't feel so sorry for the little guy. Please know that it has tormented me for a couple of weeks now. Numerous times I chased it around and thought I had killed it, only for it to taunt me even more as it flies away from the surface where I thought I had already smashed it. It has driven me ABSOLUTELY. INSANE!

So you can understand why I wasn't able to contain myself when I finally had proof that I had killed it. I watched it fly above me. I studied its pattern. And then very, very carefully and with as much precision as I had in me, I positioned my palms and then WHACK! It was as if I had simultaneously carried out my mission and high-five'd myself. Two birds with one stone!

How could I let such a small creature get to me? How could something so seemingly inconspicuous bother me so much? 

The obvious answer of course is that, though small, I felt as if it was constantly there to bother me. I would see and sense it just when I'm trying to be still or enjoy something like a nice meal or a riveting show on television. I felt like it was perpetually hovering around me, mocking me, knowing that I'd never catch it.

I can't help but think that metaphorically, this fruit fly behaved much like certain thoughts I can't rid myself of, no matter how hard and how often I try to smash them; a voice that hovers to mock and undermine my efforts...

The voice that says I am fake and that I am not a writer and will never truly become one. I'm part of blogging groups where a lot of the other writers are published in print, or have been compensated for their writing. This hasn't really happened to me unless you count that time when I was 17 when a women's magazine in the Philippines published a love essay I submitted and actually sent me a check for it. Or those academic articles / researches that got published and for which I was naturally compensated. Do those count? I'm not so sure.

The voice that constantly whispers that there is nothing I can write about that hasn't already been said. Why make the effort? Why even try? The voice further says, "What makes you think your voice is any better than anyone who has already spoken, and that people would be interested to listen to your insipid point of view?"

The voice that further adds, "Are there even people listening, reading you, because you truly captured their attention and not just because they're your friends and feel sorry for you, or feel obligated? Heck, not even your own family reads you!" And then this is followed by an evil laugh, with a sigh of resignation.

These thoughts torment me. I can only wish they were as easy to squash, FOR GOOD, as the fruit fly. Sure, every now and then I'm able to silence the voice and give myself a well-deserved high-five. But only for it to come back a few days later and incapacitate me all over again.

If there are other writers out there reading this --- yes, humor me and allow me to pretend that such a thing can truly happen -- I'd like to know if you hear similar voices too. Better yet, maybe you can give me some advice as to how to catch this insidious pest and smash it for good. Maybe then I can really let out a resounding 'YESSSSSS!' and not care at all if my neighbors hear me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Marry Someone You Can Dance With

My parents-in-law recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and all their six children decided to throw them a big party to mark this major milestone. Five decades of marriage. 

Though admittedly, I've never been a fan of big, lavish parties, I do concede that being married to the same person for 50 years is indeed worth celebrating. It makes it even more of a big deal when you consider that my father-in-law is a stroke survivor and was severely ill, hospitalized, and almost did not make it back in 2012. Since then, his mobility and ability to care for himself have been affected, and to say that it has changed his life, as well as my mother-in-law's, is an understatement. 

In spite of all these challenges though, both of them clearly looked forward to renewing their vows in Church, and were more than game to put on their dancing shoes for the party that followed that evening. 

Original / Unedited Photo taken by my brother-in-law, James Manuel

It was a beautiful, fun party well attended by family and close friends. Good food, good music, heartfelt speeches by two of their sons and their grandchildren.

But to me, the highlight of the evening was when my father-in-law, or Big Dad as we fondly call him, requested that the DJ play the boogie. And this was after he and my mother-in-law (Big Mom) already danced to their song, Frank Sinatra's "The Nearness of You".

Big Dad could hardly move, walks with a cane, and sometimes has a really hard time breathing. And yet when he danced with Big Mom, you could see both faces beaming with joy and love. Most of all, it amazed me how, in spite of Big Dad's physical challenges, he still knew exactly where to place his hands to hold his wife, catch her turns and help her spin. It was undeniable that these two had a rhythm that each knows by heart.

It struck me that perhaps that's what happens when you love someone for a really long time and spend most of your life together. You get to know that person deeply, intimately, to a point where life turns into a graceful choreography that only the two of you can wonderfully execute. This knowledge of each other, this undeniable familiarity doesn't simply lead to a routine, but more importantly, to a rhythm

Routine implies a certain rigidity, predictability. You know exactly what's going to happen next and it's all about having an established pattern.

Rhythm on the other hand, implies some variation and necessitates an awareness of the other, an interdependence, and being sensitive to how the other is. Each person's steps may be imperfect and may vary from time to time, but the other still catches up, and both constantly choose to flow together. 

Marriages (or relationships) are never perfect. Missteps are bound to happen and a lot of the times, it's exhausting. But when you've found a partner who, for some miraculous reason, also hears the same music and beat as you do, it really makes it harder to just leave the dance floor and quit. 

Life spins us in so many different directions all the time. We trip, fall, bruise and bleed. And though we are strong enough to pull ourselves up, you can't deny that having that familiar hand to hold you, swing and sway with you, and help you keep your balance, makes a universe of difference. It's that one person that makes the spinning more bearable, the dance less tiring. When you know that the other person's hand is home, and that it's the only hand you want catching you when you fall, you know it's real and that you're dancing for keeps. Love like that is ALWAYS worth celebrating and you don't even need to wait before you reach your 50th anniversary.
Original / Unedited Photo taken by: Nel Bunag