So I spent the last first two weeks of September traipsing around down under, and stopping in Manila on the way to and from.  Manila is 12 hours ahead, and Sydney, 14.  While I managed to spend the night in Manila, breaking the already long trip back to New York into a longer two-segment 30-something-hour sojourn, recovering from jet lag continues to be a challenge.

Kiama Blowhole, Australia

I have been used to the long haul flights to the other side of the world, having done approximately 10 trips home back to Manila in the 16 years I’ve been away.  I’ve even managed to get the seat choice down pat, opting for the two-seater rows at the back of the airplane. Perfect for when the boy and I are traveling together, or even when it’s just me as was the case this time.  I know to use one of those neck pillows which I had resisted for the longest time, to pack the right set of toiletries in what case and where, and not to fight sleep when I start getting hit by the urge to catch some shut eye.

My first night back was not a problem except that despite the lack of sleep, I didn’t go to bed until 2am.  I woke up at around 6am, put my suitcases away, then slept again by 7am.  I was awakened at noon when my little guy walked into my room to hug me, and that was that for sleep.  I went about my day as if it was another ordinary weekend where I slept in, and plopped down to bed a few minutes after midnight.  Sleep found me and I was knocked out until 6am.  Perfect start of the week!

I wasn’t quite as lucky last night, waking up twice — and eventually deciding to stop fighting it by getting out of bed by 4am.  Yes, I’ve been up since.  And surprisingly, I’m going about my day as regularly as I do, except that I have a slight (and very slight, at that) buzz in my head.

I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore.  This happens to me each time.  And while I struggle with jetlag when I am at my destination, it is worse when I get back to my home turf and try to get back into the swing of things.

I have finally embraced the fact that fighting it won’t do me any good.  Caffeinating goes both ways — helping to keep me up when I need to be up, but also keeping me up when I need to sleep.  So I try not to overdo it.  There is the temptation to go overboard with the coffee, but I have discovered that being on my feet — even just taking a short walk around the floor or the building — helps to bring my energy levels up when I sense a yawn coming.

When my brain refuses to rest and keeps me up, I now choose to take advantage of the extra energy and do something productive.  This morning, I went through one headpin tray and sorted the beads out and the headpins that had wandered into other bins.  (I know this is Greek to most people.. imagine sorting multi-colored and vari-sized paper clips.)

During those moments when keeping my eyes open is too much of a struggle, a short powernap can rejuvenate me, whether it’s 5 or 10 or 20 minutes.  Even if I am unable to sleep, for as long as I am able to close my eyes and sit quietly in a room, my body seems to get the message that it has rested and allows me to keep going after.

We humans are creatures of habit.  Breaking our usual patterns of sleep and activity wreaks havoc on our system, but we can certainly guide our bodies to settle back down to what it had been used to.  It’s like a cold, you just have to ride it out and do what works best for you.


So much for being here

I’m griping again.  I hate neglecting this space, and yet work, motherhood and life in general always get in the way.  What can I say?  I try.

Not even having the app on my phone has helped regularize the posting, but I try to sneak in some writing whenever I can.  It is always top of mind, but translating thoughts into action don’t always happen automatically.

There is just so much that goes into blogging beyond writing that it isn’t always that easy.  You think, you write.  You try to come up with an appropriate graphic where applicable.  You edit, you write some more, then you hope you finish your post.  Then there is that sense of accomplishment when you finally see what you wrote as a live post on your corner of the web.

One of my dream jobs is to just write and write without having to worry about other things.  (Like the laundry, what to cook for dinner, and if my little guy is doing his homework.)  But writing is a luxury I have been fortunate to occasionally retire to in the midst of my everyday toil.  The good news is, I’ve started writing poetry again (yay!), and that in itself is a feat.  After more than a decade of a creative drought, the words are coming again, even if in small doses.

I have been rather busy beyond whipping up pancake breakfasts and have been up and about.  Adjustments at work, travel down under (!) complete with a layover on the way and back in Manila, and projects to be started and completed make for quite the list of future posts, but there is never enough time to write.

So I will try and restart this whole “write more regularly” bit by hitting “send” now. 




Weekend breakfast = “ME” time

Weekend breakfast: cheese pancakes
I’m writing this as I’m enjoying that stack of cheese pancakes I whipped up for brunch this Sunday.  I save the big breakfasts for the weekends when I have the time to actually cook one, and because I like to eat lightly during the week when I’m watching what I’m eating.  Breakfast then would be my regular iced coffee and a quarter cup of high fiber oat bran, mixed in with a third cup of warm skim milk and a dash of sweetener.  I let it sit for a few minutes to thicken and I end up with almost a half cup of my version of an oat meal breakfast.  Or I would occasionally pick up a bread pudding muffin from my favorite stop on my way up to work these days: Eli Zabar’s over at Grand Central Market.

Weekends, though, are different.  I wake up when I want to (unless my thirteen year old wakes up before me and requests for a special breakfast which is rare!  — waking up earlier and asking for a special breakfast, that is!). I would know what I was having the Friday before when I would make a “bread run” through my favorite bakeries in the city — say when I feel like whipping up some French toast (give me some real challah bread!) .. this time, I only picked up some tomatoes (craving my tomato scrambled eggs), and I knew I would have pancakes for Sunday.

Weekend breakfast: tomato scrambled eggs and iced coffee

And there are the weekends when I’m on my own, and I get to structure the whole weekend around me.  (Laundry time included.)

I love the complete pancake mixes.  (I don’t know what I would do without dear Aunt Jemima!) While I don’t mind having them as is, slathered in syrup and heavy cream, I make a fancier version by adding something along the way.  I grew up on Maya hotcake mixes, and I remember happily making pancakes for merienda (afternoon snack) for the entire family.  Of course back then, I used a carajay (our Filipino version of a wok) and had to mix the egg and water in and cook the pancakes using a touch of oil or butter.  Fast forward to now in New York where I’m a mom and after I actually discovered I could cook!  We have Aunt Jemima and our old reliable non stick pans for those gorgeous pancakes..

My favorite version is a decadent caramel pancake where I sandwiched sliced bits of caramel squares in between, or put a good layer on top and microwave to melt..  I had tried mixing in the caramel as slivers in the batter, but the caramel would melt and stick to my turner. Messy.  When you are simply adding the caramel, there is no adjustment to the recipe.  I follow the 1cup mix: 3/4cup water as prescribed by Aunt Jemima.  

It gets a little trickier when you are adding dry ingredients like shredded cheese or mashed bananas, because the consistency of the batter changes.  How much you add of your extra flavoring ingredient depends largely on how much you want to have that flavor present in your pancakes.  I go by the simple rule of thumb that if I’m adding something to flavor up my pancakes, I don’t want a hint of it, I want it present and adding oomph.

For cheese, I usually end up putting in a quarter cup to each cup of mix, and then I up the water to a full cup.  I use shredded cheese that comes in those packets and when I’m out of that, I would usually do two tablespoons of the grated Parmesan which is stronger in flavor.  Just a heads up that the cheese can add pungency to the pancakes, so sensitive noses beware!  Personally, I prefer cheese pancakes with corn syrup, and I do them with a generous bath of heavy cream.

Weekend. Real fast: cheese pancakes
Another nice addition to pancakes is bananas which will give you a banana bread-like flavor.  I mash up half a ripe banana to each cup of mix and again, up the water from 3/4 cup to 1 cup.  You want your pancakes to flow and settle on the pan and not be chunky and all clumpy.  Mashing the bananas will give you clumps, but you also need those to incorporate into the pancake mix seamlessly.  I try not to mash my bananas to too smooth a consistency because I like biting into my bananas as I eat my pancakes.  If you want only the flavor without the banana bits, then mash away to a smooth paste and watch it disappear into your batter.
Weekend breakfast: Banana pancakes
Finally, how about some red velvet pancakes?  There was a time I had left over red velvet cake which I needed to disappear quick before it started showing in my middle portion. Again, rule of thumb to add around a quarter cup of crumbled cake bits to every cup of mix, but with this one, no adjustment necessary for the water.  The cake comes moist and literally extends the batter without adding more dry ingredients that would stretch the liquid portion of the recipe. At least that’s how it worked for me.

There are so many ways to make breakfast for one a special treat to celebrate you.  We often get caught up making special meals for others that we forget we deserve the special treatment, too.  On weekends when all is quiet and I only have me to worry about, I give it the extra effort to create a special treat and take care of me.

Unofficial but officially proud

I think it was through Facebook that I first bumped into this, as related to a controversy involving the Department of Tourism in Manila and McCann-Erickson. But that has been written about to death and I don’t see any added value to weighing in, so instead I’m focusing on the good thing that came out of this brouhaha.  That controversy sparked this video which is touted as the unofficial tourism video of the Philippines.

I have watched it many times over and will keep watching it because it moves me in so many ways as a Filipino.  I will always call the Philippines my home.  Like I wrote on my FB wall:

I’ve watched this over and over again and I am always moved with pride. This is us.. this is what and who we are. When you feel disillusioned by things around you, this will remind you what we are about as a people.

If you’re a Filipino, you will understand what I mean.  If you are just someone who strayed into this space or heard about this video, let me introduce you to the land of my birth.  Hardly any words, hardly any people except for tiny specks in the bigger scenery, but all Filipino in torrents.

I cannot ever hope to capture all the emotion and thoughts it stirs up in me in writing.  But I can sum it up in one word: Wow.

So true.  More often than not, it’s harder not to fall in love with its land and its people.

It’s More Fun in the Philippines from Creatives of Manila on Vimeo.

To be a working law student

I promised a post on this even if I responded via e-mail, going back now to what is the most popular topic (young) people who find themselves in this corner of the web actually read up on.  (Just a reminder that there is an entire section devoted to the posts on the subject of law school and being in law school or trying to get to the right law school and everything else legal eagle related here.)

While I’ve edited out details that might be too revealing, I want to thank the young lady who wrote me with this query:

Let me start by saying that this is my first time to write an e-mail to a blogger. I have never done this before, but I need advise on how it is to become a working student in Ateneo Law School (ALS).   I started working last year and I have seen the importance of gaining work experience, training hours, and money, which is why it is hard for me to give up my current job. Currently, my mindset is to try to have the best of both worlds (I know this will be super difficult) by being a working student. I guess I am writing this e-mail just to ask for advise on how to successfully be a working student in ALS. Or is it even possible to be a working student enrolled in ALS?

There are many students currently walking the halls of the Ateneo School of Law who are working or have been working.  Not all of us go through our academic pursuits in a straight fashion.  Some postpone law school for much later, either due to financial or personal considerations — or simply to take a break and start earning money.  We all go and pursue our dreams at our own pace, in our own time.

I was a working student for most of my time in law school, and it was forced upon me by circumstance, and was not by choice.

Like I told my 11th reader (running joke that I have 10 and now 11 readers here!), I started working because of a literal reversal of fortunes.  It was such that I learned to commute at age 23.  Prior to this, I lived a very sheltered life, driven to and from home and school, fully subsidized by my parents.  I could sleep and study at will — I kept my own schedule. I got all my books in the original (and only law students would understand what I mean here), and got my cases photocopied from the library itself.  Alas, this dream life ended after my freshman year.

So as I entered my sophomore year, it was a hard choice to make — but I started working.  At first it was simply to supplement my spending money — and I took on a job that still gave me flexibility, and proximity to the then HV De La Costa campus of Ateneo.  (I know I’m dating myself here, what with the move to Rockwell ages ago.)  I was a newscaster for one of the radio stations in the Makati area which saw me earning minimum wage, but it was a good training ground for real life and the money helped.

But the choice of job was with law school being a priority in mind.  I wasn’t working to work — I was working because I needed it to continue to pursue my big dream.  I didn’t choose a minimum wage job in the industry I landed in because it was a career challenge.  My place of work was within walking distance from school, and the bourse worked well with my class schedule.(The newscasts were from morning to mid-afternoon, with the later ones taped after being culled from the day’s news.). But — and here’s the big BUT— even as I tried to supplement my income, it was clear to me why and what I was doing this all for.

I eventually moved on to two other jobs in the course of law school — for 18 months as part of a USAID project with the Department of Health that involved a lot of travel around the country, and then a leap of faith that saw me joining a boutique Ad agency just before the bar exams.  There was a lot of value in all those jobs — even voicing a novelty rap song as Louningning — but I would have preferred to have been a full time student.  I envied my classmates who were, and it took a  lot of gall and flexibility to make it through, but I did work through most of law school.

Yes, it IS possible to be a working student in the Ateneo School of Law or any other law school for that matter.  It might just be harder when you’re trying to be a legal blue eagle.

We have many distinguished graduates who went into law school as full time working students, and who were parents and breadwinners.  We had “moms” among us.  There were office workers who had regular 9-5 jobs then went to their classes after.  Again, note that the majority of the evening class were working, so there were enough of us to actually schedule classes around.

Law school, by itself, is a difficult hurdle to pass.  Working while studying law, and studying law at the Ateneo with its dreaded Quality Percentile Index requirement makes that burden double if not triple.  But it can be done.  How?

You have to learn to study in an abbreviated manner without sacrificing the quality of your learning.  That’s a lot of words that seem to be contradictory taken together.  Working means losing precious time to go through all the required reading.  Even as a full time student, you will always be looking for more time to read the cases and memorize the provisions.  Having done that, you usually don’t have enough time to integrate all that you just fed your brain and truly comprehend the bigger picture.  But we all have different methods for imbibing the knowledge that we read and hear — so find that which works for you.

Do not rely on others notes or digests and lose out on the details.  If you only study with digests, you are relying on how another student actually sifted through the facts and picked which ones they thought would help you survive a round of recitation on the case.  You miss out on the actual lesson which is explained in depth in the ponencia.  And there will always be cases that you will have to read in the original.  As a working student, you will not have that luxury anymore.  You will have to learn to read on the bus or in the jeepney, or during lunch breaks at work (which might not even be an option), and then cram through during the breaks between the ringing of the bells.

I remember being chided by students from the Business school for the law students eating lunch or dinner with their bookholders in front of them as we multitasked in the  cafeteria.

Weekends are for study catch up.  With weekday studies curtailed by work, I used to think twice about going out to watch a movie or hanging out at parties during the weekends.  Not that I stopped doing it altogether, but I was often too tired anyway, so I became very selective.  I hung out with my classmates more, but working shaped my weekends as catch up time.  You have to find the discipline to focus on how you apportion your free time when you find some — and weekends were usually the only time that afforded you that.

You have to be brave enough to swallow a “5” during recitation because you didn’t know the answer.  I may have recounted this story in an earlier blogpost of a professor who must’ve seen the gray matter between my ears who called me to recite on “x vs. y”, and I meekly stood up and told him, “I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t read the case.”  Other professors would’ve quickly written me off with a “5”, but he proceeded to give me a chance with three other cases — and the long and short of it was, I didn’t get to the reading list AT ALL.  I repeated my answer for each one, then I sat down.

That was a very humbling moment, but he didn’t shoot me down or look down upon me.  While the 5 would’ve been easier, he wanted to give me a chance.

Be judicious about choosing when to be absent — at work or in school.  There will be days when you will have to choose one over the other, and you have to be careful in choosing.  There are only so many days you can cut a class, and so many vacation days to give up at work.  Choose well.

Know your priorities.  I always say that there is no hard and fast rule about life except that which pertains to doing what’s right.  We all know good from bad, but when it comes to deciding about our personal choices, it varies from person to person.  What might be a priority for me might not be as important a matter for you.

I cannot argue with the wealth of experience that working brings.  Who wouldn’t want to say no to earning your own money after being dependent on your parents for every expense from the time you were born?  But the study of law and the pursuit of that dream entails a different kind of focus and dedication that does not allow for half hearted effort.  So if the question is whether you can make it as a working student in law school — the answer is yes, but not without sacrifices or losing out on the chance to fully prepare yourself for what will be your lkfe’s vocation.

You should combine the two only if necessary.  If there is a choice between being a full time law student or working, and you still choose to do both, then your studies will definitely suffer for lack of your full attention.  Again, it can be done.  You are in Ateneo for a reason.  It wasn’t an accident you saw your name as one of the fortunate chosen– you obviously have the mental aptitude to keep up with the academic standards.  But if you don’t really need to work, ask yourself if the time that working takes away from your studies is worth risking what is one of the most important foundations of your future.

The question shouldn’t even be whether or not this will affect your chances of topping the Bar (although as one of my esteemed and dearest friends, Atty.  Jonathan Sarte told me before I took the bar exams, libre namang mangarap.. ). The question should simply be “Do I really need the distraction from what is supposed to be one of the most important pursuits of my life?”

You will get the chance to earn money — and more of it — later.  But you will only pass through the august halls of law school but once (hopefully) until you find yourself taking the Bar exams.  If the choice is difficult for you to see — absent a real and pressing financial need — then perhaps the dream of being a lawyer one day is not that firmly planted “deep in the deepest of your hearts”, as one esteemed lady professor would say in Obligations and Contracts.

If you can afford to focus all your energy and time in the pursuit of a legal education and the dream burns strong in your heart, it shouldn’t be that difficult a choice.  On the other hand, if (like me,) life deals you the hand that makes it imperative you support yourself whether partially  or in full through school, you will find it is that dream as well which will make you find the way to make it work.

Good luck!

Crafty Long Weekend

We are rarely blessed with four day weekends like this year’s Fourth of July (last week) and I had long ago decided I will stay home and try to deal with sorting out my craft supplies and projects, with ample time for catching up with the writing here and in my craft blog, Gotham Chick.  In fact, I managed to write something about my return to Polymer Clay there even before I started writing here.  I am trying to apportion my free time between the thousand and one things I want to take care of.. and whatever gets done, gets done.  What I don’t get to do, I will go back to another time.

I used to stress about keeping up and posting all my post-worthy pictures and blurbs all over– and then one day I just paused and stopped.  One thing I found out was that doing that wasn’t actually so bad.  It wasn’t the death of me.  Sure, the instagram followers stayed steady at just over 700.  But I never really set out to be a media influencer with thousands of followers.  I was happy to have a media presence.  And I am keeping it that way.

I can’t be holding my phone typing away when I want to find new ways to do crafts– and to actually make something of the many supplies I had acquired through the years.  I can actually keep crafting without buying anything with the way it is, unless I decide to change the medium of my crafts.  And I’m not planning to do that anytime soon.

I have enjoyed going back to my unfinished projects and planning how to make something new and different from that which I originally intended.  Projects I had discarded as epic fails can now come to life as something else.  It helps that I never throw things away unless I completely ruined it.  The crafty side of me always insists that even something already twisted or baked or formerly wound up can be fashioned into something new and beautiful again.
Work in progress

I found these round or donut-like beads I had made from polymer clay scraps.  Not quite there yet, but I think I’m ready to start working on the next phase.  Photographing them from this angle gives me new ideas to rework or use them, and I am taking this as the “before” pic.

While I have pushed the limit on sleeping late and waking up even later, I feel like I’ve had ample time to recharge and get things done at the same time.  

I finally finished hand rolling one of my silk scarves I had bought a while back.  Thanks to YouTube, I found a nice way to hand sew the edges of this panel fabric featuring a giant flower print.  Considering this was my first attempt, I’m quite proud of the way it came out.  It tells me what to do and what not to do for the next one, but I think it came out neatly even if there is some unevenness in the project.  I will write about that more in the craft blog soon.

I like the quiet pace of a staycation because then going back to work come Wednesday won’t be such a drag.  I’m actually looking forward to it as I prepare for a new chapter at work.  

The weekend has been all about taking care of me and that has given me a chance to breathe.  No special spa day or what not, but simply taking the time to do the things I want and care about at the pace I want to do it has been treat enough.  That’s my kind of a vacation.

Take care of you… 

Verses in my head

WORK IN PROGRESS: Fabric Flower Brooch with Freshwater PearlsThe words came early to me.  I wrote my first verses before I was ten, but it didn’t occur to me to save them until I was in fourth grade or 9 years old.  I started like most wannabe poets, making sure the verses rhymed and make sense.  They were never short blurbs, and it was more important for me to achieve the appearance of seeming poetry rather than expressing what I felt within in words.

As I grew older, I became more relaxed with the words and the phrasing.  I even let my punctuations loose and just wrote as the words came. 

My love affair with words has been a life long journey.

The uncanny thing was that the words stopped coming when I embarked on what I thought was the most important journey of my life: starting a family of my own.  For more than a decade, my voice was muted.  Perhaps it was a reflection of how the real me disappeared inside the shell of what I became in that new life.  So I guess it followed that when I rediscovered the person I had been underneath what I had been molded to be, the words came.

Even if I only managed one piece last year, the fact the the words and my feelings so easily came together again reassured me my voice was intact within.  

I’m writing about this journey in verse again because I’ve taken to writing new poems once more.  A friend chided me when I shared what is, joyous news for me, teasing me, do I start with “Roses are red..”‘.   (No, I don’t.. lol).   

The fact that I am able to finish a piece, no matter how short, is a personal feat that brings a smile to my face.  It brings peace to my heart.  I find it reassuring because my literary hand is steady again, writing freely.  My voice has awakened, and it is speaking to my heart.

I’m still not quite comfortable calling my work poetry.  I call them verses.   And I hope the words keep coming.  I am at that point in my life when a decade long silence is no longer on the horizon.  I write or I don’t.  The fact that I am writing again, I guess, means that I will be churning out more in the days to come.  That one there, is a thought that gives me fulfillment, reassuring me I’m in a very good place.