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Friday, October 27, 2017

Blue Squeaky Shoes

A friend of ours gave our son Jhun a pair of squeaky shoes as a hand-me-down. For awhile, they just sat in the box because they were still too big. They are a formal looking pair - blue and leathery and they fasten by a Velcro. They look like something Prince George would wear. A few weeks ago, I thought I would take them out of the box and put them on the shelf thinking they would fit him soon. This morning, his daddy told him to grab his red boots because they were going to feed the animals. Unable to find the red boots in the house, he grabbed the blue squeaky shoes, instead and put them on. Of course, he couldn’t do it well so I helped him out. That was when I realized they are actually squeaky and immediately thought they were kinda corny – and annoying especially because Jhun would intentionally make squeaky sounds with them. We went to the YMCA later that day and not wanting to annoy the childcare staff as well, I switched his shoes with another pair – a more normal one. We came home and we had a campfire with some friends and Jhun started running around in the dark. It was hard to see him and I was afraid to lose him. Then I thought of the annoying blue squeaky shoes. When we went back inside the house to grab a bite, I made him wear those. We went back to the campfire where Jhun would sometimes run around. However, I didn’t need to keep my eyes glued to him anymore. He only needed to keep producing squeaky annoying sounds with his shoes and I pretty much knew where he was. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My First Letter to My Son

Dear Jhun,

I am writing you now because one day, things are going to change and it will seem like yesterday when you and I spent one of the craziest stages of our lives, as a new mom and a new baby. As I write, you are spending time with your dad. Yes, there is life outside mommy and I have to keep reminding myself that. Sometimes, I have to rationally tell myself that you are safe with him every time I have to back off so you can have your ‘men time’. He is ecstatic about having you in his life too. It also takes effort for me to trust friends who offer to hold you. Call me crazy but at times, images enter my mind, of them dropping you on the floor or letting you roll off the hill in your stroller, but I am still sane, so the images go away and I realize I’m not the only one who cares for you.

You are 7 weeks today. You survived probably the most crucial moments of your infant life – getting out of a tiny hole, leaving the comforts of your life in the womb and staying at the hospital a little bit longer because of jaundice and oh, don’t forget our struggle with your latch. I wouldn’t know which one was the most traumatic for you. Life is hard as a new mom but I’ll never know how hard it is for a newborn. I was heartbroken when you started refusing to breastfeed after experiencing the bottle. But I feel proud of you when I look at you now, happy as a clam with my milk and getting chubbier each day.

I haven’t had a decent sleep since you came and I don’t own my time anymore. I have become a 24/7 on-call caregiver and your rapid changes compel me to be flexible, to overlook chaos and forget stability – all these despite the lack of sleep and lack of experience. Yet, as my prize, I get to experience your smile, your funny attempts to express yourself through your coos and enjoy the scent of milk on your skin. I don’t know when I’ll have my next free time, but you are fed, clean, safe, sound and thriving – and I already feel more successful than Oprah. I pray multiple times each day for various seemingly petty reasons – that you would keep napping while I rush to have lunch or take a shower or that the snoring sound in your chest is not pneumonia. My prayers are not always for the small things, though, for I pray that you will live up to your name, Jhun David - be as loving and faithful like your grandfather Jun was and become a man after God’s own heart like King David in the Bible.

Your dad and perhaps, everyone else in the world think I have become a little crazy since I had you – worrying all the time and sometimes feeling responsible for every bug bite, every cold and every constipation that you go through as a baby. I got to tell you - my heart breaks a little every time you cry, every time you are trying hard to sleep but can’t because of stomach cramps or whenever I see a rash on your face. It is crazy but I think that’s what we call ‘love’. I haven’t experienced this kind before so it can be a little overwhelming. I am convinced that if I am not careful, this love could be dangerous to you at some point – if I express it in a way that would not give you room to grow and be the kind of man God has planned for you to be. Again, call me crazy but I am already picturing myself scolding you for refusing to make your bed, or for not doing your chores, or talking you out of an unhealthy relationship with a girl one day. If someday, you might break a woman’s heart, remember that mine was the first you broke. Yet, I want you to remember that I will always be there for you, no matter what.  

I am praying for you Jhun because even though I feel like I am your Wonder Woman, I know I cannot always shield you from the ugly sides of life. I pray that you will be a Superman to many people, by God’s grace and according to His will and purpose for your life. If one day, you might doubt your worth as a person, remember these days when God did not only express His love for you by compelling me and your dad to take care of you despite all the challenges, but projected His very being through your existence. You are worth my back pains, this drool on my shoulder, my aching breasts, these stretchmarks and these tired eyes. I got to go now, to check whether you didn’t roll over the bed and suffocated yourself.

Your crazy mom,


America's Food


A fitness guru once told me, “Eat like a king for breakfast, a queen for lunch and a princess for dinner.” I of course would later find that this rule is followed – in reverse, in America. Many Americans would just eat cereal or granola bar for breakfast. Some people would even skip it or just have coffee. Some people (especially the construction workers) will never drop whatever they are doing to have lunch while others will eat while working. It is pretty common for people to have lunch at different times and it’s not a big deal if someone’s having lunch in front of others who are still working. Most people would just eat leftovers or something that did not require a lot of prep work - a carrot stick, potato chips, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While going to McDonald’s is considered by many Filipinos as a special meal time wherein you have to dress nicely to sit down and eat, in America, it is pretty common to see men in torn shorts and dirty shirts falling in line to get a sandwich. Nobody cares. People won’t judge you by your dirty clothes.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, most people would have lunch at around 12 noon and spend 1 hour of “lunch break”. Whatever one is doing – whether he or she is in the middle of a construction project, of manually handwashing clothes or of a meeting, people drop whatever they are doing to eat. At noon, flocks of people will come out of their offices, schools, construction sites to head to restaurants, cafeterias and the like to have a sit-down hot meal. A typical one would be some rice with meat and veggies. In some small cafeterias, the soup is usually served free but that is because most of the time, it is really just seasoned hot water or the liquid part of a huge pot of soup. People rarely eat alone and most people look at their 1 hour break as a very short vacation. After eating, some people take a nap, listen to songs or watch TV.

Many Americans eat their largest meal at dinner. I discovered that they rely so much on baking to cook. I think it’s because it’s faster and it allows for multi-tasking unlike stove-top cooking. When I arrived here, we didn’t have a kitchen yet and that shocked a lot of people. It was almost unthinkable to them that we could make do with a mere single burner stove that we got as a wedding gift in the Philippines. I remember sharing this interesting fact about myself with a friend and her eyes grew large. Her reaction confirmed that gut feeling in me that many Americans are not used to roughing it, except maybe those who go camping often. But even their camping stuff is fancy! We went camping with other families one summer and they had a fancy kitchen set up – complete with stove, tables and other kitchen utensils. But camping was what it felt like while my husband and I were still working on our house at the same time living in it. The day after I arrived, the first thing I did was throw away many expired food products in the cabinet. That was my first encounter of the basic necessities to the typical American kitchen: catsup, mayonnaise, cheese, whip cream, milk, eggs, paper towel and Ziploc bags. My husband, despite being a “red neck” as he was or is, had a lot of Ziploc bags!

(An excerpt from my book)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

In One Year

img source: http://justbetweenus.org/downloads/754/download/Experiencing-Gods-Grace.jpg?cb=4d76c12a049dcf63c04a93b39248c3db&w=640

Moving to a country half way around the world. First year living with my husband. Death of my father. Birth of my first child – all of these happened to me within the course of one year. A year ago today, I arrived in the US to begin a new life with my husband, Jody. One of the major changes I had to deal with was the weather. A lot of people here said that last winter was one of the worst – and yes it was kind of bad especially in terms of animal care, but I guess the fact that it was all new and somewhat exciting to me, and that I had no prior experience to compare it to, did not make it feel like the worst thing in the world. I will say the fall season was more challenging because my body was still getting used to the cold weather and my first trimester of pregnancy had just wreaked havoc to my hormones. Because of that, I wept many times for various reasons and sometimes, for no reason at all.

The spring finally brought hope at last to everyone including me – yet, on its onset, when the last ice had finally melted and our tulips were finally starting to pop out of the ground, my father died. I had often contemplated on how I would feel once that day came and now, I know how it feels. Yet for now, let me encapsulate in fewer words what I could in a novel – I cried my hardest the night I knew I was going to lose him. It’s a cliché to say he was a good father and it may be silly but sometimes, I wish he wasn’t, so there are no good or special memories to remember him by– yet that is not the case. My husband held me close during my sleepless nights – nights I was confronted with doubts, fear and confusion. There were times though, when it was hard to trust in God and easier to wallow in sadness and anger, thinking he was cruel enough to put so much on my plate. My family and friends had been telling me not to cry too much because of the baby – yet honestly this baby has heard all my wails and sobs.

Everyone says “the first year of marriage is always the hardest” and Jody and I agree to that. We’ve been through a lot, I will say. Again, I will capture in fewer words what could be said in a novel: marriage is inherently difficult (Gary Thomas) but I believe that there are certain characters and experiences that only a marriage could possibly develop and give – and that’s what makes it worth fighting for. I will speak for myself but mine has brought out the best and the worst in me. A few weeks ago, Jody and I had to change our routines and began playing one of the hardest roles in life: parenthood. Honestly, it’s like learning to ride a bicycle. We know a few theories but we simply have to do it, to be able to do it.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve had great times too, but I have only one thing to say, now that I have survived one cycle of shifting seasons, have stayed sane when Jody broke the news of my father’s death, that we could still laugh after a long, tiring day at work and could forgive and let go of each other’s faults and are now trying our best to help each other raise a good family: God is good. No, it has not been easy and I will not say I have everything figured out and have always been strong. God was and always will be. If there was someone who has heard and seen the most wretched side of me, it was God. I am glad He did not kill me during those times I expressed blame, anger and doubts at Him. He just won’t give up on me, that’s why I find myself just surrendering to Him at the end of the day. In my surrender, I find peace and pure joy. I also find God in my relationships, in circumstances that encourage me to take heart.  I guess that is just life – it is a mix of joys and sorrows, that there is a time and season for everything and yes, it could all happen within the course of one year but one person once said, “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.” His plans are always good. Always good. All glory and honor to Him.

First World Problems

img source: http://www.ggportland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Yard-Sale-Sign.jpg

I have been living in the US for about three years now and one of the facets of American culture that I have been interested in is the nature of its problems – maybe because, they are different from the country where I came from.

The first problem is getting rid of so much stuff. It is not uncommon to accumulate a bunch of stuff through the years that at some point, people wish to declutter. It’s a meticulous job to figure out how to do it because Americans are guided by different ideologies: things like saving the environment, being generous to friends and helping charitable institutions or some just want to keep their house prettier.  You will find people here who would literally beg you to take their stuff so they don’t have to worry about renting a dumpster or doing a yard sale (because yard sale is hard work). Most of the time, they are just happy that their stuff are still being put to good use and are not wasted. It is not uncommon to see free stuff on the curb – old couches, kids toys, TVs.. you name it! I will not lie but many of the things we own have been given to us. We like to think of it as God’s way of providing our needs and even our wants.

The second problem I have noticed is arguing over who will get the bill at the restaurant. I like this problem because I believe it comes from a desire to be generous and to bless others. Often, you would have to secretly connive with the waitress so she will run your credit card instead of your friend’s then your friend would later give you the evil eye for doing so. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, specifically in the Philippines, it’s not uncommon to tease a friend into paying for your meal.

Death is Real

img source: http://www.apa.org/Images/death-title-image_tcm7-187855.jpg

Despedida parties. Farewell parties. Graduation rites. Send-off gatherings. They all serve to formally mark an end. Thank God, most of my goodbyes have been made by one or two of those. They make departure seem appropriate – and wash away some guilt related to it should there be any – provide opportunities for last words to be said and impressions to be made; otherwise, one just holds one’s piece forever. That’s the kind of goodbye that haunts. For some goodbyes like death are permanent. And it’s harder for one who believes that the dead can no longer hear and I noticed that those who believe otherwise, take for granted the chances of saying kind words to someone while he is still living and find convenience and ease in postponing it until he is dead. Death alone is depressing – and more so if one is unceremoniously confronted with it as if death is a mere occasion, an item in a to-do list or a chore. But maybe it is and it’s just me.

But if I had one wish to make, I’d wish to have the power to postpone – even for a few days or months till I am ready for – the death of a loved one. Tell him how much I appreciated the motorcycle rides to school, the pancit niwang, ginisang talong, the candies and all the sweet nothings that makes me say wow I matter in this world and I am worth one’s time. I remember my uncle who died years ago and I had to fly home for his funeral. He didn’t get to hear my thank-yous and my sorries.   

I do not despise death by itself – but the issues that come with it. I envy the dead, at times for they are spare of those. But it is the living – it is me that is left to reflect, to be confronted by the reality of loss once again. Surprised by its occurrence as if I am special enough to be spared by its ugliness. My uncle just died. Death is indeed real.

In America

img source: http://www.hardlyserious.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/grunge_bless_america___precut_png_stock_by_somadjinn-d727784.png

So I found this old blog entry that I wrote about a year ago about my discoveries of the United States of America. I have lived here for three years now and though I have gotten the hang of most things like self-service coffee dispensers and gasoline stations, I am still discovering a lot more from time to time. This is my attempt of describing what it’s like to live here but before I begin, I have some disclaimer. First of all, when I describe certain things, I am usually contextualizing it to Rhode Island, the smallest state where I currently live with my husband and two year old son. I am aware of the pre-conceived notion that stay-at-home moms don’t have a life outside of the home but honestly, I do. I do other things besides deal with dishes, laundry, meals and a lot of poop – my son’s, the dog’s, the chickens’ and what have you. I do volunteer work. I meet regularly with friends or those I want to be friends with. I attend conferences and seminars in line with my interests. I sometimes do crafts. I read. I listen. And this is where most of my discoveries come from. Realize also that I come from the Philippines, a tropical, developing country from the other side of the world. If we drill a hole in Rhode Island, the other end would probably pop out in one of the islands in the Philippines. As has been mentioned, these are only my observations – not meant to criticize or imply negative things or target a specific group.

I will start by describing the American attitude towards work. I didn’t realize how hardworking most Americans are until I came here. Many of them would work even through a winter storm. You would think life should be difficult with all the annoying snow that falls on the roads but no. Somehow, they have figured out a way to manage the different problems that come with winter so that life can go on and it is business as usual. Speaking of winter – oh, there is so much to say about it. But let me just say that so far, it is not that bad. People just get ready for it months before it arrives. Some people like my husband and I begin to chop some wood and stack them at certain places around the house once fall comes. In relation to that, we clean our chimneys. He climbs our roof (which I find dangerous, by the way) with this huge brush and scrubs the soot off the pipe. Some people have other sources of heat like electric heaters, a furnace – and believe it or not, some fire places have fake wood in them and instead of gathering wood and a few kindlings, they just push a button.

Time is very important in America. Most people will call when they are running 5 minutes late to an appointment. Every minute seems to count which is why we multitask a lot and we have to think of creative ways to be efficient in terms of time – mainly because there’s a lot to be done. I guess this is okay because doing the laundry is not a whole day affair. People have driers. They have dish washers, lawn mowers, weed wackers, snow blowers and most fabric are machine washable. America is a country of tools. There is even a paint can opener! And if you go to shop for one, there is like a million choices and if you still can’t find what you want, you can always buy it online. The postal service is very systematic and reliable. Even important documents like passports, green cards, social security card are delivered through regular postal service and are left in mailboxes. When I arrived here, the postal service was one of the things that amazed me a lot. If you are a normal citizen, you get mail 98 % of the time. People mail just about anything. And yes, many people here still send greeting cards.

I could be wrong but I think 98 % of the population here are crazy about dogs. There are dogs everywhere – in people’s cars, in their bedrooms, in stores and I could only think of two people right now who are not very fond of them and I feel like many of those who don’t like dogs are afraid to admit it and would just come up with certain excuses like “I’m allergic” or “I have no time to care for one”. Like winter, there is a lot to be said about dogs. I am going to try my best, though. They sleep with their dogs. They talk about their dogs all the time. They eat, bathe, go swimming with their dogs. Name it, at least one person has probably done it. Some people even prefer them to having babies.

(to be continued)