E-mails on a Saturday Evening

I have been writing e-mails tonight.  My bestfriend Jonathan’s working visa and his family’s was approved last Friday and I was responding to the good news that greet me in my inbox this morning.  Jonathan is also a lawyer like me and was one of the inspirations for my own legal pursuits, but our friendship goes beyond law school to those fun days in College in UP Manila.  I was also e-mailing Fe, another lawyer, trying to comfort her 10,000 miles away. 

It’s a little difficult giving them each a hug when there are oceans separating us, but I let my words do it.  When I cannot be there, my words take me to them.

I tried working on scrapbook layouts but the inspiration nor the patience wasn’t there.  So I turned to the e-mails I have been meaning to write, and maybe in a while I will open one of the three novels I’m reading so its pages can take me to dreamland.  Maybe I might find the energy to write one of those cards or letters I have been planning to send out.

11PM.  It’s still early.  My Saturday nights are part of “me” time — spent quietly doing things just for myself — after I’ve tucked the boys in.



Separating the Personal from the Professional

While everyone is happy to have a lawyer in the family, it’s not always the easiest task to deal with a client who is part of the family.  Everyone seems to have a legal questoin that needs answering or a quandary that needs solving.  I have had a respite from this in the last few years although I have had friends inquiring about immigration procedures, etc.  Having had to go through some of the INS proceedings myself, I speak from personal experience and have always summed up my advice with the admonition to try to do things on their own for as long as they are not required representation.  Legal costs can be a heavy burden and are totally unnecessary in some instances, particularly where one is merely switching from one legal status or another.  But that’s another blogpost and I’m not predisposed to dispense free legal advice here.  So back to what I was writing about..

When I married Alan, I didn’t know that there were a lot of legal issues involving inheritances on both sides.  In the last six years, I have gotten a better picture of what happened, what cases are currently in which courts, and I have only given advice when asked.  I find that being a stranger marrying into the family, it was prudent to stand back and just wait for the advice to be sought.  I didn’t want any good intentions to be misconstrued as vested interest in something which, if it benefits me at all, will do so only tangentially.

I had tried to refer one case to a friend in Manila who, for one reason or the other, failed to deliver on the promised assessment, and I can’t blame my in-laws for then withdrawing from any further consultation so to speak.  Alan and I would have occasion to speak with my mother-in-law and I would speak out when she asked my opinion, but it became a thorn in what was already a brewing gap between Alan and my then sister-in-law.  (I say “then” because she has effectively disowned the family — Alan and my mother-in-law, and has stated in very clear terms she never treated me as part of the family.)

Even when I saw a reconciliation between siblings who had not spoken for over 20 years, and I met cousins, aunts and nephews and nieces on my mother-in-law’s side I had never met until recently, I stood back.  Alan would consult me actively — but I spoke to him only, avoiding giving any unsolicited advice to my mother-in-law and her sister who is here in New York, too.

I had my opinion about how things should be done, but unless I was asked, I did not venture giving my two cents’ worth.  Again, I do not want to be overly interested in a matter which I am a third party to.  An uncle involved in the matter is a lawyer, too.  The other day, I was talking to him on the phone on a matter regarding the settlement of some arrears of the estate.  He was trying to relay to me his frustration about how the response time was so slow and he had not heard anything from the two siblings here in New York.  I explained to him that much as I would want to aggressively pursue the matter with my mother-in-law, I can only give suggestions but I cannot take control.  I told him he knows I’m a third party here, and I take my mother-in-law’s lead.

It would be different of course if my mother-in-law was a stranger who was just a client.  Then I can put my foot down and give my advice without fear of being judged to be interested in the proceeds.  I spoke with my mother-in-law’s sister and struck some sensitivities which now has put me in an awkward position.  My mother-in-law wanted me to explain the situation to her although I would have preferred not to have had to do that.  The long and short of it is, the messenger got shot in the process.

So how do you separate the personal from the professional when you’re dispensing professional advice to a family member?  It’s a thin line that you have to tread cautiously — much as I would want to just stand back, I cannot avoid answering the query.  And in the same light, much as I would want to give good advice, I have to spell it out even if it’s not what they want to hear.  One of the hazards of the profession, I guess.


THE CONFESSION by James Edward McGreevey

I started writing this post on the bus at 8:27 when I managed to catch the Express Bus as the driver closed the door.  Not a minute left to spare!  If I didn’t run the 2 blocks from 34th to 36th, I’d have had to wait another half hour for the next one. 

My feet are killing me.  I changed into 3-inch heels before leaving the office because the one I wore to work was staying with the cobbler for the weekend.  I figured I didn’t have far to walk anyway between the subway and 22nd and 6th where the book signing was, and as with previous book signing events I attended, I thought there would be lots of time to sit idly waiting for James McGreevey to make his appearance.  Unfortunately, it turned out I was wrong.

It really wasn’t a long walk — but it was a long wait on a long line that snaked around the corner outside the bookstore.  There were just too many people so they decided they wouldn’t have an audience sitting down to listen to McGreevey speak but instead just go to the book signing. 

I arrived at just past 6PM and I finally shook McGreevey’s hand after almost an hour and a half standing on my 3-inch heels.  (I used to wear this everyday and walk all over Glorietta wearing them!) The line started and ended outside and we were ushered in as his arrival neared.  Eight out of every 10 people on the line were obviously gay which was understandable.  This was, after all, the dashing young governor who stepped down after announcing to the public “I am a gay American.”

McGreevey signing my copy as we chatted

I had two reasons for going out of my way to attend this event.  (I already bought food for the Lolas being that I wouldn’t make it home in time to cook dinner for them, and I planned ahead to order for Alan’s late dinner since his plane was landing at around 10PM.)  Personally, I am interested in his story and I admire him for having the guts to admit to his public who and what he is.  Secondly, I wanted to get Nikky a copy of the book because I wanted him to get some insight into his future.  I told Jim McGreevey, “I hope my borther finds inspiration in your story.”

McGreevey was chatting everyone up and was generous enough to allow for personalization.  Authors would often just autograph but not personalize the dedication, so it made it all the more worth the effort to wait and inch my way through the line.  He asked me where I was from and upon hearing I was from the Philippines, started to scribble “Mabuhay” on the book for Nikky although I had to help him out with the spelling.  He closed the book and asked me how old my brother was and I told him he was 21, and had come out 6 years ago.  He quickly opened the book again  and added a notation on the upper portion of the title page.. saying “Be Strong!  Pray!”.

I shook his hand and told him I hope he and his partner Mark, who was waiting patiently at the sidelines, stay together long.  He said proudly, til death do us part.  They were very sweet and affectionate, and in fact when he entered the bookstore followed by him with the press in the front row, he did not pose alone but instead posed with Mark, holding each other, for the public to see.  I was still outside at that point in the event and people outside were gushing at how sweet they were.

I read a good portion of the first chapter of the book on the way home and already, I know that it will be an interesting read.  It is well written, not a simple narrative (unlike the much-awaited but very staid and monotonous book written by a former first lady I didn’t even get to finish).  You can see the emotion pouring out of him as he introduces his roots — from his grandparents who brought their Irish families to the United States, to his parents whom he obviously reveres.  Early in the book he starts talking about how it was so difficult to be true to himself, but I’d rather let him tell you hear it from him. 

If anything at all, he should be congratulated for finally admitting the truth and living with it.  They came with grave consequences as he himself admitted.  He lost his wife and he lost his career.  But I think he came out a better person after everything.  I could see the glow in his eyes — he was genuinely happy.  Not just the romantic-type of happy, but I could sense a certain peace gleaming through his smile. 

Taken from outside the store when MacGreevey arrived and posed with his partner, Mark, for the press

Six degrees

I just finished watching the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy, and am now watching JJ Abrams’ new series, Six Degrees.  The show seems promising and has piqued my interest if only because it’s a project of JJ Abrams.  It runs on the premise that you affect anyone you touch in some way, and that all of us are separated by six degrees of separation.

My little boy is deep in slumber.  I hate it that the insect bites from the beach last Sunday are still itchy and inflamed.  So I’ve been putting 1% hydrocortisone on them to help the little boy with the itch.  At least now he can actually tell me “itch”.  Our interaction tonight was just around 2 hours.  I arrived and prepared dinner — embotido and ginataang langka  from he Filipino store in Woodside, he sat with me and the Lolas and had his rice, I gave him a bath, and we lay here in the bed as he watched the last stretch of Thomas the Tank Engine and I started watching my TV. 

He’s taken to holding my hand and kissing it.  He pulls me down and kisses me on the lips with such affection.  And he would look at me and tell me ”Mama, nodyoo” which is the equivalent of his “Mama, I love you.”  That is all I need to hear and everything is fine again. 

Moving on with the Reading

My co-worker, H, asked me earlier if I’ve been having “alzheimer” moments lately.  I said no and here I am after one.  I decided to step away from my desk for lunch and I instinctively picked up my book, “BLINK”, from the table and walked away.  I found a spot outside and sat down to read and then I suddenly realized I finished the book on the subway ride to work earlier.  So my brain cells are fading away.  That’s my “alzheimer” moment for the day.

I will begin reading Sue Monk Kidd’s THE MERMAID CHAIR later — the tome-size MY LIFE by Bill Clinton is waiting athome — it’s just too big for me to lug around and I hate wearing my books out.  If  you look at my bookshelf, not even the paperbacks have worn spines.  I open them at a 45 degree angle when I read them so that they don’t get damaged.  

Speaking of books, James “Jim” McGreevey, former governor of New Jersey is having a book signing at the 22nd street Barnes and Noble at 7PM on Friday, September 22.  McGreevey stepped down some 2 years ago after coming out of the closet — presumably pre-empting someone else’s scheme to out him.  I saw him on the news last night walking with his new partner by his side — and he is doing the talk shows circuit and the book is reportedly a candid account of (in his words) “his own mistakes,” and based on an excerpt reading on Oprah, speaks of his own realization about his sexuality.  I am neither a fan or a critic, but I always admire people who are able to admit to who and what they are, despite the backlash and consequences.  McGreevey had made the revelation that he was gay with his wife by his side, and while she is still referred to as “his wife,” it was obviously the end of “them”.  When asked, she had no comment on the book and simply stated her main concern was to protect their daughter at this time.

I am seriously thinking of attending because my last book signing, if I am not mistaken, was Caroline Kennedy’s “A PATRIOT’S HANDBOOK”.   (Or was it Tom Clancy’s TEETH OF THE TIGER?)  They are interesting events where the authors get to address their audience, and while personalization is frowned upon, they do sign the book and you are guaranteed a first edition print.  If I get to go, I’m having him sign 2 books — one for me, and one for my brother, Nikky.

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A Little Boy's Wish

It’s a slow day.. or at least my body is slow to react to the things I want to do.  No, I’m  not sick again.  It must just be the hormones.  So I thought I’d write early and put this away and get work done.  

I received an e-mail from Toni requesting for assistance in contacting the WWF wrestler, Batista, or his promoter to help his 3 year old cancer-stricken fan, Pyro, meet his idol.  (Read Toni’s post here).  Unfortunately, I don’t have special connections in that department but I told Toni that one of the entertainment columnists of Philippine Star had written about Batista not too long ago, although I cannot remember which one of them it was.  That is worth looking up, I think, because they can at least make a referral to the proper party to approach as far as his forthcoming appearance in Manila is concerned.

It makes me sad and scared to see children afflicted with such diseases so early.  The fact that technology is now more advanced and we are making great strides in treating most diseases is not a comfort.  I watch Angel and I always pray he stay healthy.   And I wish Pyro well… I hope he gets to get his wish and meet his idol.  It may not be a cure for the lung cancer they have been desperately trying to conquer, but it sure will make a difference in his young life for sure.

Kudos to Toni and all who have taken the time and effort to try to make Pyro’s wish come true.

A matter of the heart.. literally

I had to go to the neighborhood post office this morning to pick up a package that Mom failed to get at the door because the postman didn’t bother to wait for her to come to the door.  I was in line before the 9AM opening, and the postal workers took their sweet time, opening a few minutes past 9AM.  By the time I was almost up at the window, I started feeling a different kind of chestpain that just wouldn’t go away.  I instinctively picked up my cellphone to check the time because I figured I wanted to check how long the “incident” was in case I had to see my cardiologist.  It was 9:11 when the pain started.  I was on the bus before 9:30 but the pain was still there, and I decided to call the doctor’s office when I realized I wasn’t feeling any relief at all, and it was moving to my head.

I was able to call  my cardiologist’s clinic by almost 9:40 and they requested I come in.  I hopped out of the bus at the next stop and called for a taxi to pick me up at the corner, and then the pain just went away.  I sat at the waiting shed contemplating on whether or not I should call the doctor’s office and tell them I wasn’t going anymore, cancel the taxi, or go anyway.  I decided to just cancel the taxi and I got on the next bus that hit the stop.  I was actually feeling better but the half hour episode was not lost on me

In 2001, I started experiencing chest pains which was the reason I became a patient of this cardiologist.  He ran a gamut of tests from wearing a halter (monitor) for 24 hours to doing a 2D echo and a stress test that cost my insurance company $1000 for him to read the results.  Go figure — I thought they would find something, but he said I was healthy.  (So pray tell me why we went through all those examinations only to be told there’s nothing wrong with me.)  I soon forgot about it and the episodes never came back.  Until today.  So I might renew my friendship with my cardiologist because I think I need to get myself checked.  At my age (a ripe 40!), I need to be wary of all these possible diseases that lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce on me if I don’t watch out.  (I can already hear Alan breathing down my neck telling me to go see the doctor pronto!)

All I have to do is picture Angel playing with me and I know I have to see the doctor.  I intend to stay healthy for another 40 years because I want to see my grandchildren all grown.  Time to make a phonecall.

Blogging (longhand) on the Bus

It’s one of those days when I would’ve preferred to take the express bus from Manhattan to where I live, but it’s UN Week and Alan warned me that traffic in the city is horrendous — I was better off going local.  I thought it would be a good time to get some fish from the supermarket in Flushing where the seafood is freshest, but my body isn’t up to it today.  (Time of the month, you see.)

This Monday has been a challenge.  I opened my e-mail early this morning to find a call for help from Manila.  An S.O.S. never comes unless I am the last resort.  I wanted to help but I had to figure out how to do it.  So at 5:45, just before leaving the office, I scribbled my calculations down, wrote a proposal and I sent off my own S.O.S.

Earlier in the day, I had some crazy fantasies about slapping someone silly in the office a la Eula Valdez, or throwing a glass of cold cooler water ala Cherie Gil as Lavina on my next cube neighbor’s face for irritating me no end with her stupid requests and queries.  She went home unharmed so you can see I managed to restrain myself.

But it’s been an emotionally taxing day.  I’m thinking perhaps it’s the fact that it’s because my hormones are running out of whack, or because this new crisis has cropped up amidst the chaos I’m already in.

Perhaps it’s because I know the new issue will affect my Mom — and I find it doubly depressing knowing she’s worrying herself sick.  If I had the power to make things right for her, I would.  To this day, this woman is giving me her love 200%.  Why else is she taking care of my son and helping me with what to her, is too heavy a housework load.  I am, after all, one of her babies.  If it weren’t for my son, she wouldn’t be 10,000 miles away from the rest of her brood, leaving her livelihood behind.

I was standing in line waiting for this bus to arrive earlier when I found myself reflecting on how no matter how life has dealt us so many blows one after another, we have always found guidance and strength in prayer.  So there I was talking to Him in my head.  Nothing formulaic — just a quiet conversation in my mind.  And although the problems keep coming, it has somehow become easier.  Despair no longer visits my heart.

I still find myself closing my eyes in surrender from time to time, but I don’t walk with my head down low even when I feel weakest.  There is always a solution, I tell myself.  I have always been blessed with the foresight to find the proverbial “window” when “the door closes.”

I’m the eldest of the brood and although there are times when I wish my brother would step up to the plate and be the head of the family, I’ve been the “Ate” (Elder sister) all my life.  Picking up the cudgels for the family is still second nature to me even if I’m now 10,000 miles away.  I can imagine my siblings trying to find a solution on their own, and how, out of dire necessity, they decided to call out for help.  In one form or other, help is on the way.  “I know He hears..”.. Amen.

Feedback on being Pinoy

Darryl responded to my response in a blogpost in relation to his recent visit here with:

Dinna, I’m flattered that one of your blog topics has been initiated by my comment to you. My trip to the Philippines was wonderful and my daughter was able to connect with her heritage. I am so proud of her since she was proud to be Pinay even before this trip. That is the great thing about extended family that is such a big part of our culture.She spent a lot of time being babysat by my Mom so her Pinay roots are firmly grounded. I’m sure Angel will be respectful because of his grandmother and mother’s influence. She even proudly tells her friends at school that her favorite food is sinigang and shares her lumpia shanghai with them. Her friends are from all races caucasian, indian, afghani, iranian. I can tell that because of her Pinay pride they all think that being from the Philippines is cool. She proudly proclaims that Apl from Black Eyed Peas and Nicole from Pussycat Dolls are part Filipinos. I wish I could take credit for this but growing up as a teenager I wanted to fit in therefore being different was not cool. So even though it looks really bleak right now, there is a chance your stepson will find the right path. Hopefully as my daughter gets older peer pressure won’t affect her. By the way, my wife is going to Paris next month for her annual shopping vacation. One thing I asked her to bring home are the macaroons from Laduree. This request is also due to your blog’s influence. I did try the macaroons at Bizu in Manila and actually it was pretty good, so I can’t wait to taste the best from Paris. Thanks for the blog and take care.

To which I replied: Darryl, thank you again. You have been mentioned in other posts in your absence, specially during that time I felt my blog was under siege from some undesirable elements spreading negativity all over the blogsphere.  But that’s a closed issue now.

I still find your earlier comment on growing up a teenager here in the US insightful even if it hasn’t really helped make the situation with the stepson any better.  But there is always the so-called light at the end of the tunnel — he will soon be eighteen.  (Counting the year and so many months with bated breath..)

Let me know how you found the Laduree goodies.  You really should sit down in their Salon de Te over at Champs Elysees.  They have around 5 branches around Paris, I believe, but this one is one of their “grander” branches.

If for some reason or other you find yourself in the big apple, please, please make sure you let me know way ahead and pencil me in!