The Precious Air We Breathe

I’m into the second week of a winter asthma attack.  It has been a while since I truly got sick here in New York, and actually quite a while since I had a real asthma attack.  By all counts, my asthma is more of an allergy compared to others.  I don’t take any maintaining medicine and only resort to my inhaler when the attack overtakes me.

I have had asthma since I was a baby.  My sister and my brother had it from birth as well, that is why we grew up sleeping in airconditioned rooms even if we were not really that well off in the beginning.  Our parents made sure our extra curricular activities were relatively sedate so as not to risk our health, and perhaps more out of caution than choice, none of us grew up to be smokers.

There were old wives tales that said I would outgrow it once I gave birth.  I gave birth last May and here I am coughing deeply to clear my throat or expel what congestion has built up inside me.  I wonder if it’s because I only had 15 minutes of pushing and Angel poked his little head out my wazoo and said hello to the world.  So I guess it was an old wive’s tale after all ..

Meanwhile, I keep my inhaler handy.. I’m into the second week of what is usually a two-week stretch of an attack.  With luck, I will be breathing easy this time around next week.  Now if only winter will be winter and stop getting warm in between the cold spells, I won’t have to worry about another asthma attack until the spring when the pollen and the mold and all those other interesting things start inhabiting our precious air again.

The air we breathe is something that a lot of us take forgranted, given that we do it as automatically as blinking our eyes.  Yet for one who has had to sleep propped up on two or sometimes even three pillows at night, breathing can be a struggle in the midst of an asthma attack.  So I don’t take breathing lightly — when given the chance to breathe clean fresh morning air (not in the city, of course), I inhale deeply and savor it to the very last bit… Aaaggghhh… precious air, indeed.

A Partnership in Motherhood

It has been 8 months now since my Mom and I launched this partnership in raising Angel.  Even before he was born, Mom had started reading the literature I’ve been reading and she immersed herself in all these new “rules” in taking care of a baby.  She had ample help when my siblings and I were born, and since all of us came to this world via caesarian section, she had no first hand knowledge about birthpains.

After Angel came out, she was amazed at the new treasure trove of knowledge that came her way — through all the magazines I was poring through, the books the doctors gave me and the pieces of advice that came from the doctor.  Now that Angel is 8 months old, Mom actually educates me about the things she reads about, and I now print out the baby newsletters to share with her so we can apply these things or consider applying these things to Angel.

It is very heartening to find myself now partnering with my Mom to be a mother to Angel.  Her support and wisdom have been a continued source of inspiration.  Although she regrets not having spent as much time with me and my siblings when we were babies as she has with Angel, she is now pouring her heart out into being Angel’s guiding light in his early days.  I will always envy the attention she has showered upon her first grandson (although he is her second grandchild), but it is an envy that is wrapped in the warmth of the thought that my son is getting the best of care in the arms of the one who gave life to me.


The Stories a Postcard Tells

I have been collecting postcards off and on since 1985.  Collecting was actually an offshoot of my having joined the International Youth Service, back in the days when snail mail was the common mode of getting to know people from other countries.  I signed up for quite a few penpals and ended up exchanging postcards as a way of showing each other our respective countries.  I became enamored by the idea of travel, and since I was stuck in Manila still neck deep in college, these postcards became my window to other worlds.

Through the years, I have refined my collecting interests into lighthouses, maps, New York City (where I am), and since I am no longer there, The Philippines.  I used to buy Philippine postcards only to trade away, and now that I am now permanently in New York, I have started collecting local views once again.

When I got here, I developed an interest for vintage New York and vintage Philippine postcards.  This is the higher end of my collection, and additions have been acquired through purchase and not your regular postcard trading.

I have seen the stories that a postcard tells — whether through the picture printed on its face, or perhaps the scribbling of a generation ago when a card was posted in the early 1900s.  I see a lot of old Philippine postcards posted by Americans who had perhaps just passed through the country or had spent a considerable amount of time there as the Americans took over from the Spaniards in the first quarter of the century, or after the Liberation of Manila in 1945.  I didn’t even know these postcards existed and every time I come across them (mostly on eBay), I wish I could snatch up each one and add them to my collection.

I feel myself being transported through time when I see how the New York skyline looked in the first half ot the twentieth century, and then I see how progress has carried the big apple forward.  And again, although I cannot possibly hope to visit every nook and cranny of the United States or the world at large, I get a glimpse of the different ways of life of people all over the world.

I have started trying to put my collection together into a cohesive website, even forsaking my usual layout for a template provided by my webhost.  It is rather tedious yet the thought of having my collection for other collectors to appreciate and for other people to view in general inspires me to keep scanning and keep creating this album online.  I wish to share the stories my postcards tell with others, not necessarily just postcard collectors, but to those who espouse a sense of wanderlust in their hearts but who do not have the means to give in to it.

If a picture could speak a thousand words, postcards will do the same and more — they will take you to places you can only imagine, just like the picture below of my kababayan’s roasting a pig in the days of old.



My Bundle of Joy Turns 8 Months Old

It’s the 9th of January and Angel is officially 8 months old.  Sometimes I still turn to him and reference whatever day it is by how things were going with my pregnancy last year.  I still look at him in awe as I remind myself this baby came from me and was just a little fetus I carried around for the longest time not even a year ago.

Now he can pull himself to a standing position, he flips over and crawls with such energy, and he can raise an eyebrow (what we call making kindat) and do “beautiful eyes” by purposely closing his eyes.  We think he has yet to connect it to “beauitful eyes” but he indulges us spontaneously anyway because he sees everyone so thrilled whenever he does it.

He now blabs more and sometimes appears to be going on his own monologue.  When spoken to, he answers as if he knows we can understand what he is saying.  On the suggestion of a friend, I have started recording snippets of his babbling, prefacing it with short notes from me.  When he hears himself on playback, he starts talking animatedly as if answering his own quips.

His hair is still sparse but it is continuing to grow.  He eats a whole serving of Stage 2 baby food as well as 4 ounces of dry cereal combined with 3 ounces of water or milk.  8 teeth out, I’m watching out for more to break through his gums.

He has learned to ask for Mama, showing clear preference for me whenever I’m around.  Mom normally doesn’t have a hard time with him but when I am around, he prefers to be lulled to sleep by me, and when he feels a need to nurse, he would prefer mother’s milk to formula.  My little man is growing his own person, I know.  And all of us are watching in wonder as he is slowly unfolding.

In the Midst of Tragedy

The December 26 tsunami which swept through a huge portion of Asia has left us with another reminder about how we, as mortals, can go anytime fate decides we should.  It wasn’t even a question of being young or old, of being weak or strong, or of being male or female, or being rich or poor.  All were equal and placed at the mercy of the forces of nature which plucked so many lives from the shores of not one but several countries.

Don’t we all feel lucky?  And yet, we are reminded of similar huge scale tragedies like 9/11 which left us feeling vulnerable and victimized.  But that incident was not force majeure but rather the handiwork of a few sick men.

As always, technology has enabled us to document this monumental tragedy in ways and means which can always transport us to the time and place when lives were snuffed out in the swirling waters.  The tragedy looms large over humanity.  During moments like this, I am reminded of how insignificant man can be when nature takes over, and our only recourse is to pray.

It’s one of those instances when we must come to terms with our limitations and embrace the fact that there must be a higher power ruling over us all.


Siopao, Anyone?

I’m having 5-day old siopao for lunch today.  Leftover from the New Year’s Eve Noche Buena feast I prepared which required the customary round-shaped food items on the table — purportedly to attract luck.  I bought 6 siopaos and with all the goodies lined up on the table, it wasn’t surprising that nobody touched the siopao.

Mom would have a fit if I even thought of throwing it away, so I’ve been eating it for lunch and I had another one today.  (Tip on heating up siopao in the microwave: wrap it in a wet paper towel.  Heating it without any moisture will cause the bread to harden.  The water in the paper towel will give it its usual soft texture.) 

So sitting here in front of my computer I couldn’t help but remember how it was to enjoy siopao from Chocfull O’Nuts in Greenhills or Shangri-La Mall.  Yummy!  Memories of how good those siopaos are happen to be one of the memories Alan and I share, although we never got to eat there together until he came home to ask for my hand in marraige in 2000.  When we went home as Mr. & Mrs. Gonzalez in 2002, it was a must on our “to-do list”, and something we definitely didn’t miss out.

Next time we go home, we’ll be at it again.  Siopao at Chocfull O’Nuts?  Anytime!

A Crazy First Day at Work

Today, January 3, is officially our first day back to work after the New Year weekend.  It’s been a crazy day, and at 3:43 PM, I’m problematic about the fact that I haven’t yet pumped for Angelo’s breakfast tomorrow, not to mention that I have a ton of stuff to do for the boss (whose own world is spinning like crazy right now).  So I’m trying to squeeze a measly 20 minutes into my afternoon to make sure I come home with at least a 4 ounce bottle.  (It would be nice to produce 6 ounces.. Angel is eating and drinking more and more..)

Lunch was leftover siopao from the New Year’s Eve Noche Buena.  Round things, as Filipino custom dictates, must be present on the dinner table to ensure luck and the steady stream of money (which, in the olden days, were mostly denominated in coins rather than in paper currency.)  Mom was even in her traditional polka dotted blouse.  It isn’t exactly easily available here in the US.  So I stuck with a pink and white long sleeve shirt — and no time to put make up anymore with all the cooking mom and I had to do before the guests arrived.

And after everything had been set, it turned out the guests didn’t arrive til after almost 2 hours after the expected time of 7:30.  (Talk about Filipino time..)  But we had fun — and it was a heartwarming New Year’s Eve gathering.

So from New Year’s Eve til today, the pace only slowed down during the weekend just like any other weekend when we were able to do our usual malling and our family luncheons.  I have been trying to get my things in order back home, and I have had some measure of success..  Little by little, as we enter the year of the rooster, I’m moving on.