Paint My Face Happy

Monday, Monday.. The day is not exactly a light one, but it’s not another one of those you’d term a day straight from hell, and I am trying to make it through without stumbling all over myself. I guess my brain wasn’t exactly in gear this morning when I discovered I left the house with only one glove and without my winter cap. Fortunately, the parka has a hood, and the pockets are big enough to keep my hands warm despite the two bags I was carrying. I am actually tempted to hop on the N train and go to Bloomingdale’s one stop away on Lex & 59th. Then again, I’m happy here in my warm and toasty world without having to bother with the hassle of climbing up the subway platform a storey above me, even if the thought of winter accessories being 1/2 off is a tempting proposition.

I took the extra time to cuddle and carry Angel this morning after he woke up me a little after 6AM, so I managed to scoot out of the house with only my foundation, blush and eyeliner painted on. Thank God for survival kits like my eyeshadow and lipstick selection in my bag. I have this thing for make up being consumed and I somehow get a kick out of seeing the bottom of the pallette as I rub my make up brush to pick up some color. Or when I see my lipstick getting short and stubby signalling the need to get more.

Most of my make up kit now has the cover loose and broken, which makes it necessary for me to do some quick fixes like perhaps using duct tape to make sure the covers stick to the correct pallette. Despite the wide array of new make up available, I have enough eye shadow and rouge choices to make it through the next season. Even if I consume a stick or two of lipstick, I’m still well stocked in the browns and pinks and reds.. I will live.

Make up has been my candy. My second christmas here in 2001, I actually asked Alan to give me an Estee Lauder make up set which was a purchase with purchase offer. So we had to find someone to give the mini-perfume selection to so I could get my make up. I have just started to use most of that make up in the past couple of months, because I just liked to look at it and know I had it for the first year or two. I just raked in quite a take on a gimmick I completed a few days ago, and when I think of what I can get myself as a little perk — you guessed it, I thought of make up. It has been a while since I purchased any new make up — mostly as an austerity measure. After all, I was well stocked. But for a little pick me up, I couldn’t think of anything better.

Call it vanity if you will — my face is my canvass.. painting it each day helps me put my better (if not my best) foot forward.   It can change my mood from drab to perky — and on days when I wish I didn’t have to get out of the house, looking good helps me to brave it all and count the hours til I get the chance to go home at the end of the day.

Wishing for a longer weekend

It’s a few minutes past 6PM and here I am mulling the ending of another weekend.  I actually wish I had another day — or better yet, a neverending weekend.  Angel was a revelation once again.  Every day, Alan and I discover more of the little guy in the baby.  His nuances, his quirks, his charm, his moods. 

We went to the mall to accompany his half brother and Lola Celia go shopping in preparation for the next school term.  With a full car, we had to leave th baby basket in the house, and we opted to roll him around the mall in the stroller itself sans the baby basket.  He kept bawling out and Alan and I alternated in carrying him.  I told Alan I think he wasn’t ready to move about facing the crowd.  For all his infant life, he had gotten used to seeing us right in front of him with the rear facing basket atop the stroller.  He was always assured we were there and he didn’t have to contend with the throng of people coming his way as we moved about the mall.

I guess it was a lesson in keeping within our little guy’s world.  Though we his parents are the wiser and more adept ones in terms of protecting him as he goes out into the world, we forgot that our preparedness didn’t mean he was prepared for it all.  The simple act of moving about without having us in his line of sight was enough to drive him to tears.  The only act that reassured him all would be well was to actually hold him close.

I’m counting the hours to his bedtime.  I wish we had tomorrow to play.  Instead I go back to the dog-eat-dog corporate world.  Tomorrow as I step into our building, I have to pray that the boss is in a better mood after having (hopefully) rested during the weekend just passed.  I hope the day will pass fast enough so I can go home to Angel again.

I’m suddenly reminded I have to pump for breastmilk.  Anything for my Angel…

A Special Bond

Angel is now all of 8 months and a half, and everyday, we see a unique person emerging.  Perhaps because he is now more aware of his surroundings and the permanence of the people he sees everyday, he has developed an even stronger attachment to me which has its pros and cons.  He would always light up the minute I entered the room, and would eagerly await my emerging from the staircase up to our co-op unit. Even before I could take off my coat and put my bag down, he would eagerly call attention to himself and start edging towards me.  Sometimes he would need appeasing when I have to cook dinner and postpone attending to him until later — and then just playing with him or picking him up would usually comfort him and quiet him down.

Fortunately, he fusses but doesn’t throw a tantrum.  He would usually start crying but not bawling.  I am lucky that he does most things in moderation.  I am just so thrilled when I see him with his puppy dog eyes begging to be picked up — but sometimes I have to turn around and tell him to wait and just play because Mommy is busy cooking dinner or making coffee, or that mom needs to go to the bathroom.

Alan now warns me that taking the weekend off in Paris as a valentine treat by end-February might be more of a challenge compared to when we took off for California sometime early December.  Mom says he’s okay when I’m not around and they manage pretty well in their little world there amongst the quilts and toys in our living room.  It’s when he sees me that he starts to pull all these antics to get my attention so we can play or when he is sleepy, so he can nurse and lull himself to sleep.

It’s Thursday and as we would tell him (as if he knew what it means), one more “sleep” and it’s the weekend and we can play all day if he wants.

He likes the purple cover of the vaseline tub and loves to gnaw at his playpen’s edge when we leave him there.  He prefers his Elmo ball over his other toys although he was once terrified that it moved so vigorously on its own.. he likes apple juice but won’t take pear juice.. and no matter how upset he is, he will stop momentarily to take in the “Journey to Ernie” jingle, or watch Elmo through the day’s installment of “Elmo’s World”.

Mom says that even before I emerge from the stairwell, if she tells him I’m home already, he will look towards the direction of the stairwell, waiting to see me.  The best wake up call remains to be seeing him hovering above me, waiting for me to open my eyes, and when I do, he breaks out in the sweetest of smiles… so I don’t begrudge him for wanting to be carried around the kitchen as I puttered around trying to prepare coffee for the next day.  He gave me the look though when I brushed my teeth while holding him with the other arm. 

It’s not even noon and I can’t wait to get home to him later already.  I know that when I give him a kiss hello, he will light up and take all my cares and worries away.  Guaranteed..


Thinking Chocolate: Dreaming of Serg's

I make no bones about the fact that I am a chocoholic. Even in the midst of having gestational diabetes while pregnant, I managed to get my chocolate fix with sugar free chocolates to sate my appetite. These days, I’m desperately trying to cut down to lose weight in time for spring and the sleeveless tops of summer. My newly discovered heaven: Caramel filled Ghirardelli. My favorite sin: eating strawberries dipped in caramel. While it is a test of wills to actually avoid picking up a candy bar from the vending machine just a few steps away from my cubicle, I have managed to stash a dollar for each successful attempt at overcoming a craving. (Beneficiaries are Nikky and Audrey — and so far, they have around $10 between the two of them.)

Sitting here typing away and working through the frenzy of the afternoon, I debated about whether or not I would fish for the seventy cents I would need for the vending machine to pick up a candy bar or if I would stay put. Then a sinful thought crossed my mind — what I would give for a bar of Serg’s Milk Chocolate. Serg’s is the chocolate bar from the sari-sari store next door which I grew up with. How could I have forgotten about it when I went home in 2002? Next time I go home, or better yet, when my siblings come to visit me soon, I will ask for a box of Serg’s. No Goya or Chocnut for me.. I’m happy with the small Serg’ bars I used to love to break up into the predefined sections. They would melt in your mouth with all their milky goodness.  They even had a crispy variety — but it’s always been milk chocolate for me.

I remember the allure of the sari-sari store next door which had an uncanny smell emanating from its stocks.  I loved to look at the huge jars filled with various goodies, and those snacks that hung from wires suspended from the ceiling.  And there would be the Serg bars.. can’t wait to sample this again.. hopefully soon.

Jolted Awake

Angelo usually wakes me up before 6AM and I change him or offer to nurse him, depending on how successful I am in dragging myself out of bed at that hour.  This morning, Alan and I were awakened by a thud and I knew even on the brink of being fully awakened that it was Angel falling to the carpet.

I was panicked out of my wits.  He started to cry after realizing what had happened and I picked him up and tried to wake him up to make sure he doesn’t doze off with a head injury.  The whole day has been fine but I can never forget how I was beside myself trying to wake him up.

I promised him I wouldn’t let that happen again.  I held this precious life in my hand and was suddenly beseiged by all these thoughts of injury and loss.  Not my baby.  I wanted to bop myself in the head for allowing something like that to happen, then in the next minute, I had to remind myself these things do happen.

Now he’s sleeping and we’ve promised to put him between us in bed.  No way will I let him sleep by my side on the outer side ever again.

Midnight in the Midst of a Snowstorm

There’s a snowstorm raging outside the quiet and warmth of our co-op.  Angel is sleeping on his multi-quilt play area, and Alan is snoring away on the other couch.  I’ve been trying to work on my postcard website offline, but there are just too many things to work on I don’t feel like I’m going anywhere.  I guess the fact that I have grown my collection in the past couple of years doesn’t help any, but I am confident in time I will get it done.

I’ve been wanting to go online all day, but taking care of my little guy is a full time job at home.  I still get a respite once in a while from mom, but the little guy knows when I’m around and will not settle for anything less than Mama.  He even refuses the bottle now when it’s my turn to feed him and prefers to be nursed directly.   I’m truly heartened by his obvious preference, but I’m beginning to have qualms about how weaning him will go.  But that’s still some ways off.. for now, I enjoy the special bond between him and me.. even if it meant being awakened from a light nap by his bite on my leg.  I know he still has no concept of how painful that can be, because after all, he’s doing the biting.

I look at him looking at me all wide-eyed and I see the gargantuan task of educating him and trying to make him a good person when he grows up.  I can only keep my fingers crossed and pray.  Meanwhile, I sing to him as much as I can.  I could to him in Tagalog from “isa” (one) through “sampu” (ten).  He now knows to let me guide his right hand as I make the sign of the cross for him when we say our evening prayers.  He delights in the words, melody and accompanying choreography of “Sampung mga Daliri” (10 Fingers).

He now knows how to kiss by putting his open mouth next to our cheeks, blink his eyes distinctively when asked to show his beautiful eyes, and he slaps his hand on his Dad’s when asked to “give a high five”.  He is slowly discovering consonants and keeps talking to us in his primitive way, and we are constantly delighted by his antics.

Angel never ceases to amaze us with each passing day.. and I wish I could slow down time to savor every bit of his innocence and purity, while at the same time wanting to fast track time so I can see him grown up and talking, telling me “Mama, I love you..” over and over again.

In a Dog-Eat-Dog World, I feel Blessed

Work has basically been one chaotic day after another.  My cadence is dictated by the frenetic pace of the boss who has a penchant for multi tasking, given her immense responsibilities and the wide scope of her territory in this Fortune 30-something I’m working for.  (I refuse to give out free advertisement!)

After trying out a PR Agency and a Non-profit (endorsed by celebrity Mary Tyler Moore)as my first jobs here in New York, I landed, in all places, with a financial services company not unlike the last two multinationals I was with back in the Philippines.  After going with a small and then a not-so-small business entity, I am at home once again with the giants of the industry.

It was a decision to join this financial giant or join a glamorous publishing group as assistant to the glam publisher — it was not exactly apples and oranges but neither was the choice really that difficult to make.  In the end it came down to money. 

A few months shy of two years after I chose this employer, here I am rehashing my resume and thinking of jumping ship.  The boss jumped the gun on me, though, and told me in a few weeks’ time, she will help me find alternative employment.  I am not supposed to divulge this but this I am hiding behind a pseudonym here as Pinay NewYorker, I guess I can tell the web that she told me she’s changing lines while remaining within the company.

I felt relieved and I felt lost.  Relieved because she gave me the out I was praying for.  I can actually start looking for other opportunities in the company without fearing a backlash from her.  It wasn’t really that much of an issue because she has had 5 assistants in the last 5 years, and I’ve been with her for almost two — do the math.  Then again, I didn’t know how she would react to news of my seeking a position in another department behind her back.  I felt lost because while she was “letting me go”, there was a caveat that I could not look for a new job until the announcement was formally made, and while it is a big company — there were no guarantees. (Gulp)

I’ve actually been rewriting and reformatting my resume since the beginning of December when it became more than apparent that the honeymoon was over and that there were actually days when she couldn’t stand working with me.  Needless to say, the feeling was mutual — and I was playing it by ear wondering if I ought to jump the gun and jump ship, or should I wait for the ax to fall and then go my way.  Not only was our relationship strained, but the boss’s hours were taking a toll on my newfound passion outside the office — Motherhood and my little guy, Angel.

Yet in the midst of it all, I feel blessed.  I have a good paying job — and despite all the hassle and the crap I get, I know it’s part of the package.  And I look at this new development as a way for me to perhaps move on.  I am sending out my resume to two recruiters only — and if an opportunity comes up internally, I would prefer to stay if they can let me keep better hours.  If not, I am counting on my luck out there.  There’s always something out there for those who try to find it.



Creativity at Work

The past few days have been a whirl. Alan found me a side gig which practically ate up all of my free time over the weekend, save for a trip to the mall and a movie date to catch Elektra. I felt the fatigue creep in yesterday after I met my deadline, but despite all the rigors of putting a powerpoint presentation together, I felt happy after accomplishing something I had done well.

It’s been a while since my creative skills have been put into play on a professional level. My workdays revolve around maintaining my boss’s calendar, printing and answering her e-mails, trying (desperately) to keep up with the traffic of files and coordinating a very busy office — leaving very little room for creativity — yet the money keeps me happy. I welcomed the challenge of putting together a presentation that would leave the intended audience spellbound — and from what I heard, we got the desired result when the one-man audience proclaimed he got more than he expected. With a reputation for being difficult to please, I was relieved we got the “wow” effect we wanted to get from this man.

It’s a big sigh of relief for me, too. I look forward to being paid for the work I put into that presentation — and I know there is so much more I can do now that we are not pressured by a deadline of less than a week. I used to whip up presentations complete with all the bells and whistles for anything from the CEO’s annual report to the Board of Directors or to his agency force, down to a simple teaser for a sales promotion we were unveiling. My powerpoint scores with the agencies I sought help to get employment from were always in the high 90s, and were topped only by my scores in Microsoft Word.

Maybe I should make a business of this — after all, I earned a good amount of money for this one job. More than the money, though, I welcomed the spurt of creativity which has long been passive in my professional life.

In Pursuit of Joy

I do not read newspapers on a daily or regular basis, but my favorite commuter reading is my weekly TIME or Newsweek which I read from cover to cover in one day.  (Yes, I have enought time considering the crawl of a pace that the Q88 takes to the R train, and the way I have to go through at least 8 stations to hit Queens Plaza North… then on the way home, the ride on the QM1A Express Bus gives me ample time to finish the magazine.)  Perhaps I am just more atuned to opinionated reporting rather than the unbiased and straightforward narration of what’s happening in the world on a day to day basis. 

This week (January 17, 2005 edition), TIME came up with a Special MIND & BODY ISSUE.  Emblazoned on the front was “The Science of Happiness”.  Between reports on the tsunami which hit Asia after Christmas, the recruitment shortage in the US, and mystery apes (gorilla chimps?) were interspersed writings on “SCIENCE PURSUES HAPPINESS”. 

While I make it a habit to tell friends through e-mail or through the countless letters I write about articles or books I am reading or have read which make an impact on me somehow, I found myself copying some articles to share with friends.  (Now, don’t go hitting me on copywrite infringement because I have not actually sent them out.)

On Page A8-A9 was an insert on “EIGHT STEPS TOWARD A MORE SATISFYING LIFE” which contained some practical suggestions from University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.  You’ll have to get your own copy of the magazine to get the full list, but I’m sharing with you the first two of the eight outlined.

“1. Count your blessings.  One way to do this is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down three to five things for which you are currently thankful — from the mundane (your peonies are in bloom) to the magnificent (a child’s first steps).  Do this once a week, say on Sunday night.  Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.

2. Practice acts of kindness. These should be both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbor).  Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects — it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindess — all happiness boosters.” (quoted verbatim)

Corny as this suggestion may sound to some, I actually think it’s a brilliant yet simple way to sift through the challenges of life and actually dwell on the positive.  Yes, I have actually started scribbling down my blessings, and I try to consciously do acts of kindness such as meaning it when I wish the security guard on duty at the end of the day a great weekend ahead, or when I make it a point to address my waiter or server by name after he introduces himself to us. 

It might actually work.



A Test of Wills

I don’t know if it was the onset of his teens years, high school, or something he ate or is taking which has transformed the 14 year old into an individualistic and hard headed child into an incorrigible and rebellious young man. This time last year, we were having our issues in dealing with his newfound desire for more independence, but we didn’t have to play mind games and go through the mire of lies that we are now faced at every turn. More significantly, he gave it the effort to maintain a clean front to others outside the immediate family, specially in the eyes of my in-laws who adored the 14 year old to death. In the last quarter of 2004, he has managed to turn all this around and show them how difficult he can be when he sets his mind to it. Forget that his aunt had given him an i-pod last Christmas, or that his grandmother would buy him anything his heart desired — because they all came down hard on him for failing all his subjects in his freshman year two periods in a row, they now joined his immediate elders (Dad, Mom, and step parents) who have been declared persona non grata.

Is it because he is looking forward to transferring from his current high school to our zone that he has all but given up hope of passing even just Health Ed? He continues to cut class and not submit homework. He must have heard a dozen iterations of the theme of how he is throwing away his own future, doing what he does. Any way you put it, he has wasted a whole grading period and will in all likelihood be throwing away a full year. At his current age, granting that he does not repeat any other grade level, he stands to graduate from high school just before age 20. We have spelled this out to him in plain English, and have made examples of the stock clerks in all the retail outlets. The Aunt who is in the field of Human Resources has even told him even if she wanted to, she wouldn’t be able to hire him if he weren’t a high school graduate. To all this he just gave us his usual hand under the chin stance.

The other night, he threw both households into a panic when he did not come home at 9. Mom and Dad burned the lines and tried to get his friends. When no call from the police or any hospital came at 10PM, his Dad knew he was just in someone’s house and staked out the living room. At 12:40MN, the 14 year old started creeping up the stairs and Dad was there waiting for him. Both his Mom and Dad tried to talk some sense into him. The 14 year old was not even remorseful. He was at a friend’s house, playing video games — saying he simply wanted to have fun. The following night, 9PM came and went again with nary a sign of the kid. So Mom and Dad started calling each other, not knowing what else to do. Perhaps in her frustration, the Mom suggested to the Dad that perhaps he should beat him up to drive some sense into his head. With 911 out there, this was totally out of the question. And at this point, the Dad had given up on even raising his voice, believing that calmly talking to the 14 year old would make him get his message across faster.

At around 10:20PM, the 14 year old arrived. When asked what had happened, he plainly replied that he was at his friend’s house again. He just wanted to have fun. We told him that in this house, he cannot come home at just any unholy hour he wishes. He has not even abided by our 6:30PM curfew since he got to the house, but to blatantly go against the rules and come at all these ungodly hours was just too much. I calmly told him that the next time he does this, we will lock the doors and not let him in. He said “Fine.”

I lost my cool. I didn’t want to get involved and wanted my husband to resolve this his way. But the kid’s nonchallance and the arrogance just blew me away. I don’t know if that had done damage or had gotten our point across. As a non-parent, I feel sometimes that he listens better to what I have to say than to what his Dad says simply because with me, it comes from a “stranger”. Even my mom noticed that when I talk to him, he responds, unlike when it’s his Dad talking, he gives his Dad the silent treatment.

I once saw a therapist who told me I must always think in terms of the capacity of his brain. Think like a 14 year old? I remember when I was 14 myself — I had my own rebellious streak, but I knew when to pull back, when to stop pushing the envelope, and when to simply admit I was wrong. For some reason, nobody bothered to teach the kid the virtue of accepting one’s fault, be it partial or full. He cries for independence yet shirks away from showing any signs of responsibility.

I just pray my own son doesn’t do the same number on me 14 years from now. I’d like to think he will be raised differently. But that’s thinking way too far off in the future. For now, I pray everyday that the 14 year old realizes his folly and does something about it before time completely overtakes him. It seems as though everyone but him is trying so hard to help him cope. In the end, if he doesn’t want to help himself, all our efforts will be for naught. For now it all boils down to a test of wills — neither side is giving in, and the one who is losing is him.