Between sighs

We finally got a reprieve from the heat today. I actually noticed a cooler breeze last night which was a refreshing change from the otherwise oppressive heat of the previous weeks. It was even chilly this morning. Nature has its way of balancing things as always.

My rain boots proved to be unnecessary but I hate walking home in the rain with the extra aggravation of literally walking with cold feet.

My mood seems to be in synch with the gloomy weather these days. I don’t know if it’s my late father’s birthday coming upon us or his death anniversary around the corner, or the finality of saying goodbye to Donna again who leaves our side of the world tonight to go back down under. July is not an upbeat month. So I try harder to make it upbeat — I think of my favorite niece, Julia’s birthday… And summer which, despite its punishing heat, is my favorite season because it’s the closest New York will ever come to mimicking the hot days back in Manila. I think of July as being past midway through the year which means December cannot be far behind.

They said that if you think happy thoughts and try to make a list of blessings in your life, you will actually be able to fight the sadness.

And there’s just avoiding wallowing in the negative. I thought about writing about Papa but thinking of his birthday and passing in one linear thought is just too much for my heart to bear. Even just glossing it over now is hard. The grieving never really stops or ends. We just learn to cope better.


Sunday schedule

I am going to try to get some “sorting” done amongst my craft supplies and my postcards, hopefully, so I am vowing to write here for no longer than an hour this morning.  (Tick, tock, tick, tock..)  I would like nothing more than to laze away in bed with the laptop, but I have a ton of things I only get done on the weekends, because week days get too packed with the distraction of work.

The headache is better… it is HOT again in New York, though, so I am seeking refuge in the bedroom where the cool air from the night’s airconditioning makes the morning more bearable.  I’ve been hit by allergies, though, so I am sniffing away again.  (Allergy meds to the rescue!)

I spoke with my Mom last night.  We don’t do that often enough, I realize. I think I’ll try to do it more often.  She’s telling me I should stop sending her black shoes — how about beige or brown.. =)  Now you know where my fettish for shoes came from. HA!

My Art Journal Every Day backgrounds were sitting in a folder under the laptop so I was reminded about moving forward on that.  Last week, I had one entry I posted to my facebook account but wasn’t able to post here because I had difficulty getting into the site from work (during my break!) because they are now using quota time for personal sites.  =(  Not happy.  It prevented me from going bloghopping myself, except for sites like mine which have their own domains tacked on.  (i.e., and  So I missed out on my daily dose of Julie Fei-Fan Balzer until the evening when I accessed from home.  I do have a technical remedy but it will mean not doing it from my desktop which shouldn’t be too much of a hassle if I can find the time to move away from my little corner of a desk at work.

But back to my unposted Art Journal Every Day entry — it’s also a little harder this time around because it’s speaks to a very emotional topic for me which is my Auntie Lydia, an older sister of my Dad —  a lady who stood by as a second mother to me in my formative years, more like a governess of sorts although I wouldn’t call her that.  (My mom was mostly attending to our business, so Auntie Lydia was there making sure the little things were duly taken cared of.)  She made sure we spoke English at home, had our homework done, that we were all in bed at a reasonable hour, and that we were always well-mannered, be it on the table, when meeting people or when speaking.  She used to  be a nun who had to leave her vocation due to one cancer after another hitting her — and she managed to survive to past 60.  She’s been gone more than 20 years now, but she is always a part of me.  I should really leave the post about her when I finally put up the entry.

(Momentarily distracted by the next post on

July and August are turning out to be very emotionally ridden for me because of Dad’s birthday and death anniversary, Auntie Lydia’s birthday, and at the end of the month comes my older brother’s birthday and death anniversary.  Isn’t it strange that birth and death can bring such opposite forms of celebration or commemoration but which nonetheless strike such a cord in our hearts?  Yet at the same time, it reminds me that they are forever with me.

I have a friend on Facebook to whom I had sent a message of condolence and prayer as she celebrated her niece’s first year death anniversary.  I did not get a response — but I had expected that.  Grief is so uncanny in being forever present.  It doesn’t have a deadline or an “expiration date”.  They say you never really get over it.  It’s just “there”.  You just learn to live with it in a better way — even if the pain doesn’t dissipate or get any lighter.   Like most things that bring pain to me, I try instead to dwell on the positive — the happy memories.  I told her I was praying for her and her niece’s family.  I left it at that.  I don’t expect conversations about grief to be a real exchange.  It gets painful, even for me.  I just had to send my well-wishes, show a little kindness.

But even for those who are still living and who poke their head into that room where we sit quietly with our memories and who evoke only pain, sometimes the “happy” is not enough to keep the pain away.  Perhaps it’s an emotional defensive reaction that too much pain eventually transforms into anger, then we go numb.  When that comes over me, I close my eyes and I shut a door in my heart.  Then I remind myself to move on to the next room.

In the beginning, thoughts about my Dad used to do that to me.  The pain and the anger were too much that I didn’t even know how I got so close to tears and I’d have to take a deep breath to stop myself from giving in.  But eventually, it subsided.  Now I just miss Papa.  Two years after he passed on, I know that dealing with the anger and the hurt is an exercise in futility except when you hope to weed it out and bid it farewell.  It brings me nothing but bad memories, so I stick instead to his laughter, and the earlier years when there was more joy.  When we were father and daughter.

We deal with grief in different ways.  I blog… I do my art.. I dream about those days when Papa made me feel like I was THAT special to him.  I hear myself telling my half-sister that we have to make allowances for Papa’s shortcomings.  He loves us but he just didn’t know how to love us the right way.  I hear my voice and I take those words to heart.  And I realize that I had the good fortune to see Papa’s better side — that during those years when I resented him for being with my half-sister and her mom, he had actually been a better father to me.

I miss him dearly, despite all his shortcomings.. despite the pain.  I sometimes wish that he was still here.  I wish I could talk to him, but the upside of him being on the other side is that now, I can talk to him wherever and whenever.  (No need for a phonecard.)  Like right now.

Happy birthday, Dad

My father passed away two years ago, a week after his birthday, which is today.  I miss him dearly, and I often think of him.  Many people who knew him used to tell me when I was younger that I was just like him.

I was the closest to him and yet our relationship was strained.  As I used to say to my half-sister who nursed a lot of hurt in her heart for my Dad and her Mom’s shortcomings as far as she was concerned, Dad loved her — it’s just that he didn’t know how to show it the way we would have wanted him to show it.

I was the favorite — when everyone else refused to speak with him, they made me face him and negotiate with him.  When he was dying, they called me from his deathbed and I told him between sobs that I was not mad at him, that I loved him.  His death was expected but it hurt me deeply when I got the news.

There is so much that I want to say to him now and I know he would listen silently, furrow his brows, and if I unloaded my burden to him, I know he would just keep silent and listen.  He would understand.

I would normally have wished that I was there to take care of him, but his final days were full of strife and pain.  I guess in a selfish way, it was good that we were oceans apart.  Less angry words were said although there were angry words exchanged.

I’m just glad he’s at peace now.  I know that wherever he is, he isn’t having difficulty breathing — he isn’t in pain.  Knowing that makes it easier to accept that he is gone.  And whatever sins he had committed, he has been forgiven.

I miss hearing his voice — and hearing his laughter.  I have many snapshots of him in my mind I keep going back to.  And even in my grief, he makes me smile when I remember his antics and his jokes and the happy times.  I dwell on the happy rather than the sad.  There is enough sadness knowing he is no longer here with me.  At least when I stick with the happy memories, my heart smiles, and it helps me deal with the grief better.

Happy birthday, Dadang.  I know you know we all love you deeply… and we always will.  I know now that my fears as a child that I would end up in heaven and you would be in the other place are unfounded.  I know you will be there to meet me when my turn comes to go into the light.

Art Journal Every Day: I miss you, Papa…

Art Journal Every Day: I miss you, Papa

“Those we love don’t go away,

they walk beside us everyday.

Unseen, unheard but always near,

Still loved, still missed and very dear.”

If you want to see more of my Art Journal, please click here, or you can always choose my Art Journal Every Day page from the list on the top left of the blog page.

I invite you to view the Flickr Group dedicated to this endeavor by clicking here, and be inspired to create your own art journal.  (Artistic talent optional.)

Here and there

Work in Progress: Long Shot of the Chrysler Building ZentangledI am still struggling to come up with a Father’s Day post in large part because I wanted to write about my Dad.  Maybe in a day or two.  Although I have said that I now think about Papa with a smile, the sadness remains.  It’s almost two years now since he left us, but some things never really go away — time just helps us to cope with them better.

Meanwhile, I took the picture on the left last Friday and it has progressed rather well since then, so I’m doing finishing touches and filling in some gaps.  I’ve also attached the bottom and the middle portions and will be ready to “stitch” the pieces together once I figure out how I’m going to “fill in” the remaining “blank spaces.”

My next project was a toss up between the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Place (Paris vs. Brussels?) — but I am still looking for my CD of pictures of Belgium, and I found the ones from my first trip to Paris, so Paris wins.  Besides, doing the Grand Place is no less ambitious than doing a portion of the Manhattan skyline given the guild housees that line one of its sides…  We’ll see.  I really would like to stick to zentangling images based on my own photos that is why it’s important I find the actual pictures I snapped of the subject matter.

As always, I’ve had a lot of time to de-stress and think while doing the repetitive patterns.  This is what I like most about zentangling — it actually helps me to focus without pushing myself too hard.  Effortless almost.  These days, everything seems to take twice the effort so it helps when I can do something more fluidly with ease.  Life is difficult as it is… why make it harder? I’ve had to do some “patching up” but nothing too drastic a do-over.  And that’s another thing I love about zentangling — that it is such a “forgiving” art that allows me to redo something I might’ve messed up or changed my mind about.  Once done, this would’ve taken me four weeks to complete.  (Unless I get stalled in a major way in the next day or two.)

I haven’t really done much else with other things — haven’t been reading and I have been crafting at a snail’s pace.  I just realized today I haven’t been “here” in a week, although I’ve been writing elsewhere.  (For an audience of one: me.)  I haven’t managed to write any of the snail mail I’ve been meaning to write, and while I have been fixing my paper stock at home and generally trying to get organized in all sorts of ways, I haven’t made any cards of late.  I did find what was meant to be a background piece for an “Art Journal Everyday” entry, so I pasted it onto my book, trimmed the paper to size and will try and get going tonight on the art journaling.

Let’s see how that goes.

Life isn't about how to survive the storm…

… but how to dance in the rain.

I walked around this lunch time precisely to find some nice cards in the local Papyrus across Bryant Park on 42nd street.  I picked up this very simple card by Niquead which had such a profound message I actually did a double take.

How very apt at a time I am trying to survive the storm, and forgetting about dancing in the rain.

The thought actually made me smile, and there aren’t that many thoughts that make me smile these days.  Have you ever had those moments when you look up at the sky and all you see is grey, and no matter how you try to shake it, you feel a sense of gloom around you?  I walked across Bryant Park today for a change of scenery instead of staring at the pavement as I walked to the card store, and it felt like everything was just staid and gray.  The bare branches of the trees lining the inner perimeter of the park seemed to be tired and weak and folded in surrender.

There were small puddles of water that framed reflections of the trees above and the buildings around.  All in black and white.  The chairs and tables were empty probably because rain was threatening in the horizon.  It wasn’t quite the park that burst into life during the lunchbreak.

I walked slowly and deliberately, trying to carry my heart across the wallk.  I could hear it beating loudly in my head — the usual songs I listened to were silent.  I couldn’t bear to listen to them today.   Too many things associated with each one.  So I listened to the hustle and bustle of the vehicles criss crossing through 42nd street instead.

I got an answer to an e-mail which left much to be desired about being nice.  While on its face it seemed cordial enough, the words were veiled with a sarcasm that seemed to show the writer had bared her fangs.  I was just genuinely worried about a friend but parts of the response I got sort of threw me back.  Then again, I guess I asked for it when I sent my message first.  What was it that our moms used to say to “make nice”?

And would it hurt so much to answer the phone?  You never know if the person calling is ready to jump in front of a speeding bus or jump out the top floor of some skyscraper.  You’ll never know if hearing that voice of the one calling on the other line might actually be just what you need to take your pains and cares away —  the voice of reason you need to hear to help you through your struggle.  Each unanswered call was like a hammer down the heart, but each attempt was a ray of hope.  And you cannot help but cling to hope in the midst of the doom and gloom of the grey skies.

You cling to promises made.  You hang on to what you feel.  Closing your eyes in prayer, you whisper “Please..”.  Somewhere, it will be heard.  Maybe not now, but hopefully soon.

Why can’t we learn how to dance in the rain?

It might actually make our lives more tolerable  — our sins from the past easier to live with.  If we learn to let go and move forward with a sense of renewed purpose, those we had wronged or taken happiness away from might actually look down upon us from the heavens and say it’s alright to find our own bliss wherever that may be.  The rain might actually remind us that it has washed away the past so we can move along and get on with our lives.   And maybe we won’t make the mistake of fearing that we would commit the same wrongs with the new people in our lives again.  Then we can dance in the rain.

I have my own dreams about the rain — dreams that would make me smile when I think of them.  I like the pitter-patter of the water on the window pane as I watch from the inside, all warm and cozy with a blanket on my lap.  I like watching rain pound the leaves as it falls to quench the summer thirst of flora and fauna back home in Manila.

But to dance in the rain would be divine.  It would be liberating.  It would be just the little girl in me performing for an audience of none.

And even if I don’t feel like dancing these days, I dream of days when I would think of dancing in the rain again.  Maybe when my heart can smile again, instead of fighting off the loud thumping pulling at it from all directions.  I need to find that sense of calm so that I can bring the same to those whose hearts I hold in mine like my little one.

We often focus on the storm we are struggling to survive but survival is part of human nature.  It’s the lightness of feet that finds us — that dancing feeling once the storm has settled — that point where after we pick up the pieces again we look at what we have and say a genuine thank you  that we have something left and we make something out of it all.  That’s the “dancing in the rain” bit that sets us apart when the sun shines anew.

The sun has set over Manhattan and I’m getting ready to go home.  There’s a congestion in my chest — allergies maybe.  The thumping in my head is still there.  I feel defeated by my ailments today, but I am trying to cling to thoughts of dancing in the rain again.  I whisper my plaintive cries to the heavens and hope it lands up in the mountains where the Gods are — and may they pay heed.  I close my eyes and whisper again “Please…”

Up at 3AM

There are times when no matter how late I turn in, sleep seems to be elusive, catching me only for a minute and then I’m up again.  It’s one of those nights.  So I’m wondering if I should have bugged Fe again yesterday (she’s somewhere in the South for over a week now) like I did the other evening.  We laughed and we cried together as we remembered our Dads.  The tears felt good and helped to clear the air passages literally and figuratively.  I just wanted to give the tear ducts a rest tonight, though.  I knew it would come down to that again if I dialed her number.  (I might yet give in later, since it’s just mid-afternoon there right now.)

I’ve been walking around with a pain radiating from my chest to my back for two days now.  (Another nagging indicator I do need to exercise.  Unheeded.)  Yesterday, I wandered down to 39th street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue in search of knitting needles — and while I found them and got some nice pink yarn to work with, my friend Lisa lectured me when I realized I had gotten the wrong length of circular knitting needles.  (Part of the learning process.  How was I supposed to know that the length of the tube connecting the two needles mattered if I was going to try and knit a cap?)  So now I have a size 9 and size 15 circular knitting needle 29″ in length that’s going to join my knitting needle collection.

The yarns I saw were nothing like those found in real knitting stores but it helps to know the suppliers are just blocks away from work.  I trudged back to the office feeling this knot in my chest telling me I wasn’t hungry.  Or so I thought.  An hour later (after hanging the coat and getting warm and cozy again up in my little corner in Midtown Manhattan), my stomach started grumbling.  At 10 minutes before the cafeteria closed, I was going to need extreme luck to find anything close to edible, so again — and I NEVER do this on a regular day — I put on the fuschia pink puff jacket and walked to Kwik Meals, my favorite street vendor of chicken on pita, around 4 blocks uptown.  It was cold but hunger carried me out the building a second time.

Lunch was done by 3pm.

I stared at my monitor (which I had been doing most of the morning), checked e-mails I was expecting which, by the way, didn’t come — then I stared at the monitor again.

Grief has  a funny way of taking hold of us.  Fe has been telling me that the emotional upheaval happening to a mutual friend of ours is probably deeply rooted in his personal grief over the loss of his daughter.  Trust Fe to make the connection.  I know I didn’t.  I just sank into the pillows in bed, remembered Dad and the tears just came again.  Sometimes grief has a way of making us feel alone in our sorrow.  Other times, it makes us displace the sorrow, Fe said.  I don’t know which is which.

I like talking to Fe when I feel I am at my lowest because she shares the same pain I feel, having lost our fathers months apart.  And even if she didn’t and I did, no one knows me better than she does.

I was cursing through my tears and laughing through it — much like Sisa probably was doing as she cried out for Crispin and Basilio, Fe and I kidded each other.  The laughter helped stop the tears eventually.  But the knot in my chest remains.

So I walked with that knot in my chest through most of today.  I slept with it earlier than usual and woke up with it just minutes back.  I wish I could just let it go.  Or since it doesn’t want to let me go, I wish I could just ignore it.  But like I told Fe, I was surprised to find out I could actually live with it.  Now I know how a hunchback feels.  It’s just that my hump is invisible and it’s there in the cavity of my chest, crowding my heart.  Maybe that’s why I hear my heart beaingt a little stronger and faster today — or maybe I’m just too fat. LOL

I tried to leave the office earlier but ended up going the usual time anyway, waiting for my driver to pick up the materials for the boss.  It was a blessing that the boss was out yesterday when the knot was just ever present, or else I wouldn’t have had the luxury of just slumping down onto one of the cozy sofa chairs in his office, staring at the Chrysler Building standing majestically in front of me.  I sat at my desk for period of time just staring at the wall behind me, or the piles of paper I need to attack and sort to file.  They can wait until tomorrow.  (Oh, that’s today.)

I hear Fe telling me to just leave it be.  People need time and space.  I guess, that’s right for me, too.  We all need our time to grieve.  Some people deal with it better than others.  I don’t know if I fall under the category of “better” or “others”, though.  I just know I woke up just before 3am and from the looks of it, I’m not hitting the sack again anytime soon.

Not good.  But at least that might mean I will be able to start my day real early and get to the office way before the 9am video conference interview the boss is doing with someone in Europe.  And hopefully, the craziness of the day will help me go through it, lump in my chest or not.  I might yet be able to will it away.

That thought gave me pause.  (A lot of thoughts give me pause these days.)

“Will it away.”  I have always thought of “willing people away” and just trying to “shoo” them off my mind and consciousness — and now I wonder how many have tried to will me away..  Might be quite a list.  It’s just something we never think about.  It’s like “unfriending” someone, or “blocking” someone from our contact list.  It CAN be done.  And painful as it may be to think someone would will you away, perhaps that’s how it is.  I have come to discover through the years that there are people who seem to be scared by me — although that is still something I can’t quite get a grip on.  What is heartening is that some friends see me as a “just another little girl at heart.”  Well, this little girl is crying like a baby and wandering aimlessly… and is wide awake and rambling away at 4am.. I’m trying to decide if I’ll brew some coffee for a change, make some hot chocolate or just go with the usual double shot of espresso.

I didn’t get any chocolates yesterday but I bet those heart shaped chocolate boxes are now on sale.  Hmmmmm… (Siblings in Manila getting excited over that.. )

Another day in paradise…

Welcoming the new year and still writing Christmas cards

Typical procrastinating me — or maybe it’s because a trip to Manila got in the way, my Christmas card is finally done but remains unsent.  (Well, save for two that made it to the post office in Manila — or are about to make it to the post office in Manila.)  I’m counting on our good old USPS to get the mail to the Philippines in record time — the post holiday backlog notwithstanding.

Better late than never, many say.  Indeed.

Here’s a true labor of love zentangled by yours truly, embellished by paper bought from good old National Bookstore.  =)  My cards are addressed, just have to write the dedication in.  I finally decided not to use any pre-printed message but to instead go blank.  There are different messages and much too long a thought to compress into a few lines, so I thought I’d just go freehand.

It’s the first day of 2012 and I’m so glad New York is resplendent with sunshine.  A perfect way to begin the year — no rain, no snow.. just sunshine.

2011 was sort of an “in transition,” “in between,” year for me.  It saw me grieving and coping with Dad’s death in July 2010, transitioning from one boss to another but keeping my job yet again, and a thousand other things that got me from here to there.  It seemed to be a neverending journey that in many respects is still ongoing.  At the very least, I’m well on my way.

Grief seems to have settled in quite nicely in my world — and although I have come to accept Dad’s passing, the pain remains.  The problems which we thought would be solved are not quite solved yet.  There are many questions that  remain unanswered.  But although the pain hasn’t lessened, it has gotten easier to cope with.  It has become a friend.

I did manage to visit Dad’s tomb at the North Cemetery during the trip home.  The trip was strangely personal and specific to him even if my dear Aunt Lydia’s remains lay in the same crypt.  That was for Dad and only Dad.  I continue to pray that he find eternal rest — that hopefully, our prayers have lifted him back to the arms of God.  Over the weekend, I’ve been listening to Anima Christi on YouTube, and the line where they sing “And when the call of death arrives, bid me come to thee so I may praise thee with they saints forever..” brings me back to Dad.  I pray he is finally at peace in Heaven, wherever that may be for him.

I am hopeful for 2012.  2011 was a step up and a step forward.  It can only move to good from better.

One thing I have realized is that some things take time, and some answers are not as apparent as others.  Realizations can take years.  Feelings from decades ago that have been long forgotten can be stirred anew.  Grudges that one thought had been swept under the rug suddenly come alive again.  Storylines left hanging suddenly find a continuation and direction after one had forgotten all about it.  People who had come into our lives and had quietly slipped away return back on tiptoe and move us anew.

Here’s to a better and more prosperous year ahead for all of us.

Zentangling in Color

Thanks (yet again) to inspiration from Julie Fei-Fan Balzer‘s blog where she featured Carolyn Brady as a guest writer to write about Zentangling in Color, I found myself doing this Art Journal Every Day entry yesterday when I was itching to find an outlet for what was such a struggle of a blog post.

It has been a year since Dad passed, and finding myself at this juncture was really hard on me emotionally.  It’s as if I am grieving all over again, although in truth I should be taking off the veil of mourning, or as we refer to it in the vernacular, “babang luksa”.

I tried writing a post to no avail.  Then I thought of creating an art journal entry, but my art journal was home, having grown to a bulky notebook despite its handful of entries.

So I tried to be resourceful, picking up 4×6 blank index cards where I scribbled “tears” using watercolor pencils (which, luckily, were in one of my personal drawers), smudging them with a wet paintbrush (which I had brought for another reason), and then zentangling over them after they dried.

Ta-dah!  Of course I ended up cutting the teardrops and pasting them onto my layout, zentangling around the pieces in black ink and then simply scribbling the quotation I found which was just so apt.

It was, in a way, my tribute to Dad.  Remembering him and continuing to pray for him wherever he may be.