Cold and wet in New York today

It wasn’t pouring but it was raining enough to merit taking out the umbrella while walking to the bus stop.  I didn’t get to the end of my daily rosary before the bus arrived so I made good time.  On the bus, I decided to relax and I pulled out Dan Brown’s ANGELS AND DEMONS which, I hope, I will finish by tomorrow.  I still believe THE DA VINCI CODE was a better novel, but this wasn’t a disappointment.  I have been thoroughly enjoying the read.

Meanwhile, I’m counting the hours until I leave for home.  Father and son are “bonding” again because Alan’s heel is giving him trouble.  He is working from home today.  I’m feeling a little bit under the weather, and I know my throat is already sore as it is.  I just hope it does not lead to an asthma attack.

Long weekend ahead!  That one, I’m really looking forward to.

It's that time of the semester again..

… and the grades are out.  Should I tell Alan he is not alone?  A colleague of mine broke out into tears when her son’s grades were faxed to the office this morning, and she realized that her son would not march in the schoolyear’s graduation.  All I could do was give her a hug and tell her to take it all in and let it go.

Such heartache in parenthood.  I look at my son and I wonder if 14 years from now, he will be talking to us like his half brother is talking back to his father.  Whenever they have one of their exchanges, I dutifully take Angel away and entertain him because I don’t want him to hear nor see their arguments.

What is it about this generation which seems to be in the two extremes when it comes to ambition?  While others are seemingly overly driven, others don’t seem to possess the motivation to aim for even just a stable life as a responsible adult.  While it has been half my lifetime since I was in that age, I don’t remember myself not seeing where I wanted to be as an adult.  Even when Math and Chemistry and Trigonometry were knocking me out senseless, I knew I had to go through college to go to Law School.  I knew I wanted to work in Makati, and I wanted a nice-paying job.  In my young adult life, I knew I had the edge coming from the schools I went to and I used those badges to my full advantage.

After going through college, taking up law at the Ateneo School of Law and passing the Philippine Bar Exam without a formal review in 1995, I ventured out into the corporate instead of legal field, pulling on my strengths in communication and the arts.  As I achieved my personal goals, my ambitions because more earthy and brought me down to the ultimate goal in my life which was to find someone to spend my life with, and to establish a family by having a child I could help to be happy and complete.

At Age 39, I have managed to accomplish that goal — not without struggling through school, and not without the challenges of uprooting myself from my career and life back in Manila.  But going back to my teen years, it was painful and difficult, but I was never rebellious.  There was always a sense of acceptance of my parents’ having the last word.  I was a good and obedient child. I was bright but I had my challenges in the sciences.  I felt like it was me against the world, but I knew that if I wanted to, I could do more — and I strove to do more.

Not even a reversal of fortunes which forced me to work while tackling law school discouraged me from going after my dreams.  I knew what I had to do to make them come true.  I had to enter a good university and I landed in UP.  In law school, UP said no but the Jesuits saw the unpolished gem in me and took me in — and I didn’t fail them because I became one of their passing statistics when I took the Bar exams.  I took it all a step at a time, and even as I struggled through maturing into adulthood, I recognized the sacrifices that had to be made, and I gave it my best shot.

So I wonder if it is resignation that is hindering these underachieving youth.  Or are we too blind to see that perhaps, they are not as intellectually gifted as our generation?  Have we failed as their role models or as their parents and friends to establish the need to aim for something, and not just live from day to day? 

Alan and I wonder if the 15 year old thinks his father will live forever and will always be there to catch him when he falls.  At the same time, we know he refuses to have his father help him out — thinking he can do without us.  Where is the logic in this generation’s nonchallance?  The young are always daring and bold — we were there at one point in our lives.  But I remember a generation that had the fire to work to make things happen.

Can you buy ambition?  Unfortunately not.  Even if you could, you couldn’t give it.  It must be imbibed in one’s heart and soul — otherwise, it will ring empty and will never burn strong enough to become reality.  If I could give it, I would.  But sadly, it is something one has or doesn’t have.. and if one cannot find it, no one else can give it to those who are walking blind.

Blogging is actually a desperate attempt to keep my brain cells alive

A friend who pops in and out of nowhere for the past 7 years or so just wrote me an e-mail and told me about how he has been reading my blog.  I gave him (and some other friends) the URL to this online journal when I started out, but I wasn’t aware that any of them were actually reading it — well, until today.

So I wrote him back and gave the usual account of what’s been happening of late and wrote that line above — it lit up a lightbulb in my head, so I hurried to this site to post. 

Because it is.  For me, at least.  It’s a way to “exercise” my writing skills (thinking I have some) and at the same time just talk out loud.  (That’s why one of my categories is “Just Me Thinking Online” instead of “Out Loud”.) 

I just turned 39, and I know that my eggs are not the only ones diminishing as the years go by.  My brain cells, too, are wilting away.  While that part of nature is beyond my control, it’s how fast or how much of them actually disappear into limbo that I am trying to get a grip on.  (I’m not going without a fight!)  Reminds me of THE NOTEBOOK which I wrote a post on here a while back.  The woman in the story started to lose her memory and eventually forgot the man she loved and the family she was raising.  It was a beautiful love story, something Alan and I tease each other about — but which I hope I will not have to live in my lifetime.  I’d like to go lucid, but all I can do is try — nothing I do will guarantee me that.

So I write and I write and I write.  Maybe next year, I’ll find myself reading the things I had written down here.  Then I’ll see how I felt at this point in time and hopefully I will learn.  And my brain cells would’ve had some work out keeping them healthy and fit for another 39 years. 

Reading Dan Brown's

I got this book as a gift from my 15-year-old stepson last month when I turned 39.  I didn’t really start reading it until a few days ago, not because I was busy digging into some other tome, but basically because I’ve just been too busy.

I look at the bookshelf in our living room, half of which is “assigned” or designated as space for my mini-book collection, and I see at least half a dozen books which I have yet to read — so I guess I am not buying any books in the next couple of months, because I have yet to exhaust my mini-library.

When I left Manila for New York in 2000, I ended up giving away many of the books I had started to purchase.  There is a sense of fulfillment in seeing the books I’ve read lined up on a shelf, no matter how small a space they occupy.  Since I have started working, I have tried to do as much reading done.  Of late, I have even required Alan to give me a book or two for special occasions — starting with last Christmas’  MY LIFE by Bill Clinton and LEAP OF FAITH by Queen Noor.  I started reading JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL but got sidetracked, so it is still in my book shelf with a bookmark not even a tenth of the way through.

Reading is one of my passions and I have missed it, so I thought I’d start by reading this Dan Brown “prequel” to the Langdon series.  I thoroughly enjoyed THE DA VINCI CODE, but after my first 100 pages of the paperback, I’m keeping my expectations low.  So far so good..

The Colors on my Face

I love make up — I don’t take pains to hide that vain side of me.  At the same time, it’s my way of pampering myself and refusing the passing of the years getting the better of my looks.  (I have always believed that age was really how old or how young you felt.  And even if you are already considered old, it all depends on how gracefully you are aging.)

I’m the type of person who feels naked without at least lipstick on, and for whom a made up face is part of dressing up.  So everyday, I paint my face depending on my mood and the colors I’m wearing, and on weekends, I dab at least some lip color and maybe some eyeliner if I’m so inclined.  I always have some pressed powder in my purse because I cannot stand an oily face.

There’s a make up discount store on 39th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison in Manhattan called COSMETICS MARKET which sells deeply discounted make up from closeouts and gift bag packages.  It’s no 99 cents store, but here you can buy a Lancome face powder compact retailing for over $20 at the department stores for just $10.  Estee Lauder and Clinique lipsticks which are usually at $13-$16 each are at $5-$6.50.  The stocks are limited and forever changing, so I try to go there whenever I can.  Be ready to linger if you decide to visit because you’ll be tempted to try all the testers of the colors/shades that you fancy.  (Although there are no free single use applicators like those they provide at Sephora, there are tissues aplenty to clean up with before going to the next shade.)

I used to bother with a concealer until I found that the liquid foundation I’m using actually works well in evening out my skin tone.  Depending on the season, I use liquid or kohl eyeliner, and mascarra is something I can wear only in the hot months when the winter winds don’t make me teary eyed.

I keep to the ivory tones and am currently using Neutrogena’s ________ which, believe it or not, I found in a dollar store here in Bayside.  I was lucky in getting a suitable shade, and it is supposed to be an SPF30 product.  (Can’t beat that kind of sun protection!)  I have several pallettes of eye shadow quads and trios, ranging from Aziza to Estee Lauder.  My lipstick colors run the gamut of vampy reds to pale pink and a recent gem of a find given the popularity of nude make up again.  I picked up a tube of Maybelline’s MOISTURE WHIP lipstick in Hint of Honey which is a pale tan and works beautifully by itself, or works as a good screen to “tame” or lighten any color underneath it, be it a dark pink or a dark brown.

To finish the make up off, I top it with Lancome’s MATTE AMANDE III which I treated myself to when it was Lancome’s turn at gift time at Macy’s a few weeks back.  ($35!)  I’m pretty happy with the way the light bounces off the powder without making my face look like it was plastered with make up. 

Why all the preoccupation with make up?  I just like taking care of myself.  I think that to be able to take care of others well, one must be able to take care of one’s self.  Amen.

Cali – my Kalamansi Plant

Two years ago I got a calamansi plant as a present from my friend Jackie.  (Calamansi or Calamondin is a small citrus fruit Filipinos love to drink as lemonade, and is often used as a seasoning or dipping sauce for various dishes.)  I received it with a lot of fruit and just about 2 feet tall.  Jackie herself received her own plant, but out of sheer forgetfulness, left it out during its first winter with her.  Of course her plant was reduced to a dry twig the next summer.

I have tried very hard to sustain my plant, Cali, through the past 2 years.  (Almost 3 years now!)  I am tempted to let Cali enjoy the evening air and the morning dew, but I am afraid the 3 pieces of calamansi hanging by its branches might fall off and might get lost in the outdoors.  I will probably harvest it soon and freeze the juice in a container in the freezer for future use and allow Cali a chance to bask in the warmer spring days we’ve been having.

It has not been easy keeping Cali alive.  Back when I got him, Alan and I took a trip to Manila and I left Cali in my office (then) requesting a friend to help water it for me. While Mom was here, Cali received a lot of tender loving care from her and I think that’s the reason he sprouted fruit.  There were a lot initially but they fell off.. I’m happy with my 3.  I will need to get him some fresh soil, though.  Maybe in the coming weekend..

The Parenthood Challenge

Alan is a very good dad to his two sons.  My mother actually says he is too kind a father to the detriment of the 15 year old.  Sometimes I can’t help but agree with my Mom because I can see that much of Alan’s travails now as a parent of a rebellious teen is directly a result of his and my in-laws’ overindulgence of the first grandson on their side of the family.

Of course there are other contributing factors like the fact that the child is only 50% theirs and half his genes come from another totally different set of values and traits — plus the fact that he was raised in an environment with different rules and outlooks.  But all that is true for every human being.  We are the product of two distinctly different individuals, and the combination of genes does not always result in a better product.  And to repeat what I said, you have external factors that come into play in molding the personality of any human being.

There are no hard and fast rules on parenting, and I’d like to believe that even between siblings raised by the same set of parents throughout their youth, each child turns out differently depending on their individuality.

These days I have managed to step back and just watch the father and the 15-year-old in their daily interaction.  With an additional flunking grade to the 3 previously failed, an arrogance typical of the young who think they can do no wrong and hormones raging in his 15-year-old brain, father and son have been at each other for the past couple of days.

The exchange is aggravated by the fact that the 15-year-old has been raised with no regard for the moral ascendancy a father holds over his son.  It is rather difficult to make a 15-year-old receptive to motivation when his brain is running in all directions and he has no fear in his heart for anything.  It seems that he is oblivious to the fact that high school is something he has to get over and done with if he is to take the bigger step to adulthood.  We used to peg his life’s ambition on getting to college.  With what has been happening to him of late, we have become more realistic and have decided to just set is at graduating from high school.  That, in itself, has proven to be quite a struggle for him.

As I keep saying, being a step parent does not give me parenting prerogatives.  I can only learn from their mistakes in raising this boy as I raise Angelo. 

Someone I looked up to as a Tita in a previous job kept telling me “You can only give that which you have.”  And how true this is in terms of ingraining the right values in our children.  Be it in regard to being Filipino, being respectful, nurturing an ambition in one’s heart and mind, empowering a child to believe in himself — all these are things we can only teach our children if we ourselves possess it.

I have not lost hope for the 15 year old, but at the rate he is going, I am just afraid he will realize that he ought to listen to his father much too late in his life.  That would mean losing precious time, something we can no longer have once spent.

Talk about a hectic day!

Walking from the subway to the office this morning, I told myself I would write a post in 5 minutes and then get to work.  I never got my five minutes, so I’m entering my post here at 11 past 1PM.

I was surprised to find a comment to a post I did months ago, but which must’ve showed up on a random listing by topic, under the search string “stepmother”.  That is one of the things that amazes me about weblogs and the way they are mined for random data.  There have been times when I googled my blog title and found my posts pasted as links in other sites.

Sometimes things just all fall into my plate in one fell swoop and like yesterday, I have yet to do any of the things I had hoped to do — there are just too many other things that need my attention.  I just try to handle them as best as I can.

Listening to DWRR-FM here in New York

I’m a subscriber of ABS-CBN Now which allows me to download certain shows for a subscription fee.  (That’s some free advertising for you!)  I knew that the streaming radio function was available from the very start, but I never really tried it out until yesterday.  It was kind of weird but yesterday’s disco music at 4AM Manila time was actually rejuvenating here in the big apple, 4PM or 12 hours behind.  VST & Company’s AWITIN MO, ISASAYAW KO always gives me a pick me up.

I almost worked at DWRR back when all they played were romantic songs and all their DJs were females.  I had just left DZRJ as a newscaster and part time deejay, and I welcomed the shift from rock and roll radio to romantic radio, but the graveyard shift being offered was not an option considering that I was still in law school then.

I actually started working over at DZRJ by accident.  I was a sophomore at the Ateneo School of Law which was still located at HV De La Costa Street, and RJFM’s station was over at Makati Avenue — literally walking distance unless you only had 10 minutes to get from work to your first class of the day.  I auditioned and got picked and ended up working there for just a little over a year.  (Would you believe I don’t even remember now how long I was actually there?)  It meant waking up real early to start doing the early morning news, and my shift ended early afternoon giving me the chance to make it to my classes.

It was as simple as rewriting the news from the day’s newspapers and condensing them for radio delivery.  I remember the first few weeks I was on the job, all the radios in the house would be tuned in to the station when I did my newscast, but as time wore on, nobody even cared anymore.  It was also because of this job that I ended up doing the female voice of Louningning in Denmark’s rap novelty hit “Si Louningning”.  (I heard this had been re-issued when Denmark starting reviving his career recently, but I would suppose they had to have it voiced by someone else because I saw that the new album of Denmark was released under a different recording company.

We were only allowed to pinchhit for the regular deejays on weekends, but I would always end with either JOHN JACKSON’S “You and I” or DAVID SOUL’S One hit wonder, “Don’t Give Up on Us, Baby“. 

Those were the days.. sometimes I remember them with fondness because then I remember how it was to struggle through my first job while trying to juggle my time and efforts trying to get on with law school. 

It didn’t pay much but it helped me to make ends meet.  I started working at a time when we were beginning to experience financial difficulties in the business, and it was both easy and convenient. 

I would have gone on to DWRR had not Mom reminded me that I have to remind myself that I am trying to finish law school — not get into the broadcasting field with a solid footing.  So I let the idea go, and instead transferred to a researcher position for a councilman in Manila.  But that’s another blog post.

Where is the day going?

It’s almost 1PM and the boss is out today.  (SHe’s out on a business trip but will be back tomorrow.)  I had mentally thought of all the things I could get accomplished today in her absence, but with the tasks she had asked me to take care of after she called this morning, I have managed to accomplish nothing outside of the new tasks she had assigned.  So no, I haven’t taken cared of the files to be deleted, the items that need to be filed, the documents I’m supposed to type, or the things I must put away. *Sigh*

The day seems to be slipping by so fast!  I don’t mind that when I think about going home.  I do mind that when I think about getting things done here at work.  I guess I just have to double time then..