Monday Musings: Listening to the universe, April greetings and morning tea

Untitled While Mondays are usually busy, this Monday was busier than most.. I’m not complaining.. I think I did good today, sashayed from task to task in my pretty dress. Sometimes it’s all in the outfit.. forget that the 4 inch heels sometimes make you feel like kicking the pumps off— you plod on. And I did and I’m rather proud of my day.. I try to start the week off on a good note and just hope that the positivity flows on to the rest of the week.

The universe said, let it go. And I did. A question was racking my brain and I got my answer hours later. Did you ever pound your head senseless trying to figure something out, until you feel that you’ve beat the question to death and you just up and go. I didn’t let it get that far. I breathed deep and closed my eyes and then let if go. The answers are not always obvious or within reach, but they will come. You just have to wait..

All these April birthdays! It wasn’t only me who celebrated a birthday.. my brother on the 7th, as well as a favorite nephew and godson.. sister in law on the 18th.. one of my forever besties on the 4th, another on the 23rd. A cousin who passed some years ago was remembered on the 13th.. and a kindred spirit who was a fellow legal eagle, fan of The Bard, and someone who likes elevators like I do, also on the 13th. If only for all these people I celebrate, I’m justified celebrating throughout the month. Who says it should be one day only?

I did my first shot on my birthday, toasting me.. and new beginnings and an even better year ahead. That was an auspicious way to welcome another year being me. and a few days later, splitting a bottle of my favorite bubbly and cake and all the sweet things I am, when my fangs aren’t showing, that is.

I’ll say it again.. I am grateful. My heart is full.

So if you missed greeting me on the 2nd, it isn’t as tardy as you think to greet me for as long as it’s this month!

Art journal in limbo. It’s almost May and I have to confess I haven’t gotten anywhere with the art journal. I am still hopeful because there is so much to write about and put on paper, if only so I can remember when it’s time to go back to today some day. When I find myself wanting to go back and remember the happy times and relive the warm hugs and the laughter. I have been showered with so many reasons to be grateful.

There’s the captain with my diet Coke, the lunch of cheese, saucisson, grapes and Marcona almonds with a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Those mornings someone was sweet enough to make me tea, and coached me to switch trains and just follow the crowds to the right track. Each of those lines could be a page in my art journal.. if only I could find the time to write and draw and paint again.

Finally started writing those letters again. I am way behind answering the letters received from friends— more so the ones that came with postcards to add to my collection. My bad. I have started writing the replies and will hopefully make my 12 letter goal this year. I am trying. Writing used to be effortless. It used to come so naturally. I remember those days when I’d write on anything handy and send them off to friends, one time collecting quite a bunch from a former bestie. I’ve lost most of them, but some I’ve kept. I came across this card from BFF Donna from down under, written almost 30 years ago when we were still both in Manila. I took snapshots and sent it to her and even though she couldn’t remember, the song it referenced was a very special song to us even back then.

Letter from long ago

“How was your day? “ I often wish I could answer that question in all honesty and unburden my heart, or whine and just describe what went on during the day just ended. But I simply say it was okay, or that it was busy but it went fine.. not because I don’t want to let you know how it really went, but sometimes I feel all that might be too much to hear when you’re ending your day as well. Again, in time. Just hearing the question asked is enough for now: even if it’s followed right after by a simple goodnight. It helps to end my day with a smile,. And I sleep better because someone asked the question — until tomorrow’s morning greeting, at least. These simple gestures are a warm hug to my heart.

Mondays are happier these days for many reasons, and again, for each and every one of those, I am grateful.

On turning 56 and other updates

I meant to write this post on the weekend I turned 56, but too many things have been happening that I haven’t caught a breath since, and it’s been more than 20 days.

Turning 56

It feels good to be 56. I see the wrinkles on my face and the wisps of white popping up in my temples and other unexpected places, but I can deal with all that. It’s called aging gracefully. I know I don’t look my age and I always say it’s Asian skin. (Thanks to the melanin!). It might also be because I’ve learned to embrace the passing of the years with acceptance, and a desire to enjoy life as best I can. I am in a happy place, even if a million dollars would make me happier. I could shed not just a few pounds, too, but I’ll take the pound or two that just loves me so much it refuses to leave me.

My not so little guy is actually a man now, getting ready to conquer the world and leave his mum’s protective embrace. Give me a little more time to come to terms with that as I watch him enjoy every meal I cook, or as he hugs me tenderly from out of the blue. And well trained that he is, he still calls out “I love you, mum” in the middle of his video game, guitar playing, or whatever he may be busy with. How he has grown.. how he has changed and stayed the same. If there is one proud accomplishment I can lay claim to, it’s raising this wonderful human being. Motherhood has made the passage of time easier to contend with when you see the heart in this human being you gave birth to. He is always his mother’s son— whether he’s here beside me or somewhere else being his own person. I will let go.. in time.. not just yet. So he plays the guitar and I sing “Yesterday”.. it’s our song not because of the lyric or what the song says, but simply because we can actually pull off a performance from start to finish and be proud of it. (Waiting for him to learn the other songs within my range..)

The son gifted me with two new books I requested. One was a book by former President Obama and Bruce Springsteen which, although I wasn’t a fan, was a bibliophile’s dream acquisition even if unsigned. And there was the paperback of one of my forever favorite authors, John Grisham, Rouge Lawyer. Reading has been such a welcome escape. He still owed me the dedication and birthday card. I have always been very sentimental with the birthday cards, more so from those who need to go out of their way to get one, and write from the heart. For those revealing words, I am truly grateful. And the Starbucks mug from England is a welcome addition to my collection. I always feel special when people remember I am a collector and bring me a mug home from their travels

So I laugh harder and louder. I greet everyone with a genuine optimism and joy — like I really mean the “good” when I said “Good morning.” I had a real smile on my face instead of the usual half-smile that went with the perfunctory greeting. I’m trying to learn more about hockey and trying to understand the men in ice skates and what they are all trying to do. I hang tight with the sudden u-turns but let my heart swing with the car— I don’t fight it. I try to set the pace with a gentle tug as a reminder that I take smaller strides and I don’t walk as fast. I listen but weigh the words— I watch from the distance, almost afraid to take it for what it is. In many ways, this golden girl has been jaded many times over, but not jaded enough not to enjoy the moment. There are just those moments that are meant to be savored as part of “now”, without regard for what comes tomorrow. I am happy.

Life, in general, has been busy. I feel like I am watching my days unfolding in very unexpected ways— and I’m discovering new things that have sparked joy. It was ironic that one of the best birthday presents I received actually came from someone who didn’t even know it was my birthday. It was very spontaneous and honest and raw. Who knew? Sometimes those little surprises that the universe springs upon us are the most impactful.

I feel like the universe is steering me in a certain direction that I am wary of heading towards, because of the choices that need to be made. I have always been open to the many possibilities that are out there, and I have learned to keep expectations and standards reasonable. I will take joy in any shape or form it comes in, and relish it while it is there for the taking. All I know is that I am listening to and watching how the universe is unfolding.

It was a happy birthday. I am smiling even now as I look forward to more surprises from the universe, like the ones that have come my way and have been a warm hug to my heart. I close my eyes and say a prayer of thanks. As a favorite verse says, “I know He hears. I see His sign, the ancient promise of His love.”

I give thanks. I sit in silence and listen. I just take it all in with gratitude and appreciation for all the good in my life. They have given me the strength to face the challenges and the pain with a firmer resolve to make it to another day.

I find myself in that point in my life where I’m thinking of the future. Perhaps it’s Angelo’s leaving for college. Perhaps it’s just that I have put off so many things for so long that they have caught up with me. And I’m wondering if decisions made before should be reconsidered and thought out again. In time.

Those Unexpected Encounters

I have been blogging for 18-19 years now— having started when blogs started to blossom. I had an “online journal” before the blog and I think I managed to move some of my earlier posts to my new space. I did start on another platform, and I eventually moved a majority of my blog.com posts to WordPress when I made my home here.

Through the years, I’ve “met” people who bumped into my corner of the blogosphere and said hello. I have received countless emails from the lawyer wannabes with their questions and reactions to my posts here. (That’s the reason those posts have their own page in the navigation bar on top.). Some have since become lawyers, thanking me after many years and telling me they made it. My heart is full.

There are those whose blogs became favorite stops for me — and who, although we have not met, feel like old friends as we follow each other on social media. (Paging the Two Jeromes)

I know I’m not killing it readership-wise, but I’m happy having my space here, being able to write what I want. No pressure. Full artistic freedom. The interaction with my readers being an added and very heartwarming plus.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet some of the people who have read my blabbering here. Thrice. And I count those three readers now as friends.

The first was Jeanne who I bumped into in my then PinayFRANCOPHILE blog which no longer exists. She was a Filipina living in Paris with her son, and we managed to meet in Paris during my second visit there in 2004. We lost touch for a bit but reconnected on Instagram a few years ago and manage to take a peek into each other’s lives through our posts. (Thank you, social media!)

Second was Lou from the Midwest who used to have a blog on Multiply where I maintained a mirror site. We met each other when she visited New York, and then again when Angelo and I were in Chicago for a cousin’s wedding. She and I and have tried to keep in touch via email. I have a standing invitation to see her next time in Baguio where she now lives. Knowing how she’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from my pledge of a pilgrimage to Manaoag each time I’m in the Philippines, I can’t wait for the next time I get to fly home and maybe sit down for a quick lunch with her, even if I have a standing invitation to stay a night or two. I am aiming low to keep expectations at bay, but can’t wait.

The third is Elaine, a fellow New Yorker who I first met when she was pregnant with her first child 7 years ago, and who is a very dear friend now even if we don’t get to see each other often. She originally found me by doing a random search for Filipinos in New York — and the results point to my spot right here. (Go and try..) Sure, life does get in the way and sometimes there are long silences in between our almost everyday connecting when we do manage — but like I told her this weekend when we finally got to grab lunch and spend a few hours together, friendships take a lot of work, and I appreciate that she’s been there through all these years.

With Elaine last Friday

I don’t really think aboutwho is reading when I write the words that make up the posts I publish. I do know there is someone reading — and it’s a conversation between the writer and the reader, even if I don’t hear your reaction to the things I write. And when I do get a comment which is few and far between, I get the affirmation that there is someone out there who somehow was able to relate to what I said. And there, the conversation begins.

Those who have been reading my posts here from way back have a sense of how my life has changed through the years. I have always worked hard to be truthful and honest, without giving too much away. (You will hardly see a photo of me in my posts, for one..) As someone told me, the stories bring them “there” — wherever it is I’m at.

I am grateful for the friends I have found. From what started as just my ramblings, I have reaped the rewards of friends who have stepped out of the imaginary pages of my space here, giving more than I would have ever thought possible just by putting my thoughts and feelings into words. Unexpected encounters in a most unexpected space — for which I am eternally grateful. Who would have thought..

There are several others who had floated in and drifted away just as quietly as they walked in. Those encounters, no matter how brief, validated my presence here. Just like in real life where we meet people and see some of them leave — some for good, and some for a brief spell only to come back again, ready to give us that hug when we meet up. Those who have found my world in words here have done the same. Some continue to read no matter how far apart my posts may be, and some have moved on — and that’s okay. I enjoy and cherish what’s here now — and I am always grateful for whatever I had, but never regretting that which I don’t have anymore.

So if you have the time to send me a note, you can either leave a comment here, or drop me a line at pinaynewyorker @ gmail dot com. Let’s get a conversation going..

Monday Musings: Keeping away from the “Nega” (as in Negative)

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I am surprised that this is already the second post I’m drafting today, although this gets published ahead. I lay down in bed just a few minutes after midnight Sunday, and I could’ve sworn that I didn’t really get any sleep until I climbed out of bed just before 6am. I guess it was a combination of the long and deep nap I took mid afternoon to early evening, followed by some caffeinated soda for dinner that did me in. What was even more surprising was that I didn’t feel tired at all — I just wanted to stay in bed because it was warm and toasty. It felt like I just lay down to rest, closed my eyes, and let the hours pass by. And when it was time to get up, there I was ready to start the week.

Another cold Monday, it is. I actually quite enjoyed the warmer days last week when I even managed to wear a dress to work. (I kind of cheated by wearing leggings during the commute, with my feet warmly insulated by my winter boots.. still, it’s a brave step when temperatures can dip to below freezing later in the day.) We walked out into just almost freezing temps today — and again, I’m calling out to spring to come running to me. I want to start wearing my transition coats and sweaters… wear more dresses.. wear the heels again and put the winter stuff away.

It’s all in the delivery. One of my colleagues here at work always says that no matter how trivial or difficult a request may be, it’s all in the delivery or how you state it. I had a rather challenging day with a request for a refill of a prescription from my medical provider. I knew that a refill would probably need to come with an appointment — so I requested for one. After a half hour on the phone working with a representative from the practice, I ended up getting an appointment for May with another doctor, and my prescription refill request in the system. I was looking to get a new inhaler as I had discovered the one I had was already past its expiration date. I thought everything was taken care of when I got a call from the practice’s office, and I was told NO, I CANNOT GET A REFILL BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN TOO LONG SINCE I SAW MY MEDICAL PROVIDER. The prescription I was refilling was issued in 2019 for my maintenance medication to treat my asthma symptoms. Between that visit to last year’s three consultations in January, February and April, I had already exhausted the refill for the prescription. But it was NOT true that I had not been seeing the nurse practitioner. And this was NOT for a temporary ailment, but a pre-existing condition that actually made me qualify for all medical exemptions I needed.

She did set me up with a virtual consultation which was earlier NOT available, but not until Thursday or Friday because my medical provider did not do consults except for those days. Still no refill. I could go to urgent care, she told me, (and pay $125 out of pocket which was the minimum for an Urgent care visit under my insurance plan — not that that was any concern of theirs.) And why was I seeing another doctor in May – “YOU MUST CHOOSE A SIDE. YOU CANNOT SEE THIS DOCTOR AND SEE YOUR NURSE PRACTITIONER.” It’s one or the other. Well, the nurse practitioner wasn’t doing in person consultation, and a physical exam, per their own system had to be in person. The only other nurse practitioner was an uber ride away — literally more than a hundred streets uptown — when all the doctors I saw under their hospital network was 6 blocks away from where I worked. ‘YOU MUST CHOOSE A SIDE. SO ARE YOU KEEPING YOUR APPOINTMENT WITH US OR WITH THE DOCTOR? YOU CANNOT DO BOTH!” I said I will keep both, and my nurse practitioner can renew my prescription, and we can discuss my plan of care thereafter. Said in the calmest voice when I realized I had reached my emotional limit. (I told myself, Breathe..)

BlurbBeing the writer that I am, I wrote my nurse practitioner a total of 3 messages due to the character limit, explaining in brief my frustration over what has happened. I find it so disheartening that this Nurse Practitoner Group’s main page actually declares “CARE ABOVE ALL” as its mantra. I don’t think their “ALL” equates to everyone. Let’s see what happens.

So I kept my calm instead of riding on her negativity. I was actually surprised how I managed to retain my composure given that she kept talking over me. And yes, she kept repeating I have to take a side. I think she forgot that there are insurance plans (like mine) that don’t require a primary doctor. That’s why my deductible is higher — I don’t need a referral.

It’s sad because I do like my nurse practitioner. She’s smart and takes the time to listen and explain. Why else would I forego a Pulmonologist when she has ably taken care of me for almost four years now. When a specialist was needed, she patiently explained my situation and made referrals, but I always had the freedom to choose my doctors. In the thick of the pandemic, I consulted with her at least 4 times, and I always felt I knew she was in control even if we did it virtually. Sad indeed that it wasn’t even her who caused me all this aggravation, but someone who was supposed to be helping her take care of me.

Negativity begets negativity. I choose to stay away.

Monday Musings: Waiting on Spring

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I had about a dozen ideas lighting up in my head between the last post on February 7 until today. I decided I would spend my lunch hour typing away as spontaneously as I can, even if I’m not too happy about the fact that I’m writing about my Monday Musings again.

While most of the workforce is enjoying a long weekend, I’m here with that half of corporate America that doesn’t observe President’s Day as a day off. Luckily, I remembered to check the bus website to track my ride and made it in time to catch an alternative route which involved a longer —- but very pleasant walk—- down Park Avenue. I wish I had more time to spare, though, as I was just so taken by the sculptures dotting the islands between 34th and 42nd before I ducked into Grand Central station. I have quite the 30-second clip to upload to my Tiktok account later, and I have already vowed to take a more leisurely stroll down the avenue to capture all of the sculptures. (I had to skip some to make time to say hello at my favorite Park Avenue Catholic Church on 38th).

Park avenue

Kismet. Fate – or destiny.. or the universe speaking. Perhaps it’s simply age, but I’ve learned to be more accepting of what the universe lays on my feet. For example, if I am rushing out and find that I left something, I don’t fret about it or upset myself unnecessarily. I just say I wasn’t’ meant to be on that bus, or I have to be on the next one. Years ago, I would’ve run back to retrieve what I had left behind, and huffed and puffed my way to the bus stop to try to make the schedule work. Or I would be disappointed when something I thought would happen doesn’t happen. Just not meant to be – at least not yet, I tell myself. It leads to lesser and more manageable disappointment, if at all. And makes for a happier and less aggravated me. In no longer hold promises as a pact set in stone. It will come to be, in time.

My day in 30 seconds. Just as I blog for my own personal benefit (attempting to create a written journal to go back to at a later time), I’ve taken to summarizing my day in short clips I’ve been uploading to Tiktok. Why? Personally, it’s my way to appreciate or sum up the day. From my usual walk up to my perch in Midtown to maybe a lunch or dinner, a special project, or simply something that caught my eye on any given day – it’s a quick glimpse into what transpired. Those 3-second shots or longer clips actually serve a purpose and have a meaning only I really understand. It’s been fun trying to catch snippets of my day and weaving them together in such a short clip.

Palindrome Tuesday. Defined as “(a) word, phrase, sentence or number that reads the same backward or forward,” Tuesday, February 22, is a palindrome date. “2.22.22” backwards or forwards is the same. I participated in a group swap with the Philippine FB group and offered some to swap to a handful of others. I’ve slowed down considerably the last couple of weeks and have been doing other things. Time to start putting away the postcards? Not quite there yet, and don’t really intend to.

Palindrome postcard

Sewing away. So the fabric has been cut, and I’m searching for my interfacing. I’m trying to get this project going so I can move to the next. I still haven’t quite decided on the lining but I know I have more than enough to choose from.

Where art thou, Spring? One of my favorite parts about winter is actually putting away the winter gear and storing them until next year. We are nowhere near that as temperatures over the weekend dipped to below freezing yet again. But there are warmer days up ahead, even if uncharacteristic of the season. I will take any warmer weather I can get until spring finally makes it here.

Monday Musings: Rainy Days and Ice

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It’s another rainy Monday today and I’m watching the temps lest it drop again. So last Friday, it rained and temperatures didn’t stay at 39 degrees as promised, and instead plummeted to below freezing. Long story short, I went home a bit underdressed but still warm and toasty, but suffered the misfortune of slipping on the ice a few meters from my doorstep. I almost made it but miserably failed despite my lug sole winter boots. I’m lucky that I’ve always been good at breaking a fall, even if in the end, I have a scraped knee, tenderness at the palm of my hand and at times a sore bum. I survived. I think the temperature is holding above freezing today, so I am optimistic it won’t be as treacherous a walk home as Friday’s. Spring can’t come soon enough.

Rainy Monday

Do you ever think of those people who have drifted away and have stayed away? I have a very short list of once upon a time BFFs who now literally inhabit a different world. So here I was telling myself I’m in a good place and have enough friends that I don’t feel any void in my life — when the universe comes reminding me exactly that: those that are here are the ones that matter. I don’t begrudge those who have chosen to stay away for their absence, because my world has enough love to fill my heart many times over. Those are the people who truly matter.

Speaking of which, it’s a week to Valentine’s Day. For the last couple of years, my valentine has been my little guy who had complained why a box of chocolates with just 4 truffles cost $20, yet who upgraded me to the $50 box the following year. (I’ve trained him well.). It’s enough that his phone displays me as “Number 1 Girl”, even if I had insisted on that to assert my claim to the title. He’s taken to liking some of my personal creations which means a favorite set of stackable rings and a necklace that has traveled to many places overseas with me are now no longer mine. I’m hoping to surprise him with some new pieces and maybe I can get my favorite necklace back.

Picking up the needle and thread and getting the sewing machine going again. I have quite a hefty stash of embroidery skeins and yarns to knit or crochet with, but an even bigger trove of fabric waiting to be sewn into something to wear come Spring. The yarns have been put to good use with no less than 4 beanies added to my collection. I did resist the urge to crochet scarves this year, save for a multimedia scarf I am piecing together from knit fabric scraps. (Work in progress.). I’m piecing together the pattern for this jacket from MoodSewciety, and after some adjustments, hope to cut the fabric (also from Mood) to try my hand at finally sewing something I can wear to work.
Mood Sewciety free pattern

Sending the postcards and letters on their way. I have actually slowed down quite a bit with the swaps and the Random Acts of Kindness or RAKs, but continue to add to the collection. Postcard collecting can be quite a drain on my time, and I’m trying to focus more on My Postcard Shoppe over at Etsy, which finally has a couple of items listed. As my efforts to send out holiday cards this past Christmas was an epic fail, I’ve also decided to write letters sans the holiday cards to the people I meant to send cards to. (The few who actually got their cards should feel lucky their cards made it out!). I am hopeful that since that will be over a period of time, I might actually get it all done before next Christmas. (I am trying.)

Yes, I’m pulling together a “22 for 2022” list, even if it’s already the second month of the year. Surprisingly, I am whittling down the list instead of falling short on what to write as my personal goals for 2022. Reading more books, finding that rehearsal studio and sitting down with Bach and Beethoven, taking a solo vacation (finally), doing a postcard series and finally doing the podcast, to name a few. Maybe see Billy Joel again, and tracking down some old reliables who now perform in smaller venues in far flung towns.. Daunting and ambitious but I’ve always aimed high. (Previous lists have their own menu on the top of the blog front page.)

And yes, I’m still pining for home — and hoping this year, I finally get to go home again. Quarantine requirements in Manila have been lifted, but the flights are sparse, hence the higher fares. Some airlines of choice like Cathay Pacific aren’t flying yet.. Philippine airlines still isn’t flying daily and charging double the usual fares for the period I am looking to fly. I am trying to hold my excitement over the thought of the possibility at bay, but I am wishing very, very hard that I get to go. Soon.

And yes, I’ve been bitten by the Tiktok bug. You’ll find me there as Gotham_Chick (for the Etsy shop and crafting), PinayNewYorker for all things personal and unrelated to the business, and MyPostcardShoppe for the postcard collection and the new shop.

So for now I will ride out the winter and wait for the warmer days to find me. And I will hopefully get to write here more regularly. (That had become a mantra for the last few years that I hope I can finally live up to in 2022.). There is much to write about, if only I can find the focus to sit and write like I was able to today. Fingers crossed.

Journaling in 2022

My Art Journal 2022

I returned to Art journaling in 2020 as a means of keeping my head straight in the thick of the pandemic. I let the juices flow and did sections instead of filling out the pages chronologically. Although I have yet to bind the different sections together and there are some unfinished layouts, in my mind and in my heart, those pages encapsulate what my year was all about. For all the challenges that the opening salvo of covid dealt us, I know I came out with more than what I lost that year.

I began 2021 by working on the first layouts starting with the fold out pages of the year which I traditionally do. And that was that. The year flew by and no art journaling for me. While I’m not too happy with that, all I can say is “Life happens.” And it did.

Towards the end of 2021, I heard from a friend from far away who is nevertheless always close at heart. Many years my junior, she and I shared a passion for art, jewelry making and postcards. She is one of the few people on my very short list who I try to see whenever I land in Manila. Long story short, she proposed a journal exchange. Many years ago, I left Manila with a mini journal from her which is now tattered and all worn because I used to carry it in my purse. I was more than willing to do this with her.

So that makes for two journals I will be working on this year.

For my main personal journal, I have decided I will keep my 5″ x 7.5″ page format from 2020. As one of the more challenging tasks was deciding on the format, I think I’ll keep to the recycled folder or card stock I used, more so since I’ve drifted more towards painting my backgrounds. And it was simple enough to cut other paper to size to fit in it. Settled. Like I did in 2020 where I did a summary of 2019 at the start, I will use the 2021 fold out for this purpose.

My shared journal 2022For my shared journal, I’ve decided to use this handmade paper and journal from Nepal which I have several of. I absolutely fell in love with this journal when I stumbled upon it at Barnes & Noble. I liked it so much that I bought 2-3 more besides the one I had started a gratitude journal on many years ago. (Which I actually rediscovered when I was looking for my spares..). So the idea is she’s writing on a journal I will reply to later, and I am starting mine. I will leave space or pages for her to write on later, after we exchange journals– whenever that may be. It’s like a conversation in our heads on paper, with a longer response time intended. And the next time we meet or sooner, we exchange journals again.
My shared journal
Journaling is a very personal thing to me because there, I can chronicle my day and my feelings and thoughts freely. I have often gone back to my questions and musings at a later time, usually finding a different and better insight into either what I had gone through or what I am going through. It’s a journey in words and images.

I’m starting the year with a determined effort to set aside time and focus to actually get back to this — and I’m hopeful that I will be able to do more than I did in 2021.

21 for 2021: The Wrap Up

I tried to write a mid year check in sometime in July of 2021, but failed to finish the post. I’m actually glad that happened because I managed to do some major catching up in the second half of 2021. For the first time in a long while, I was able to accomplish more than what I had hoped to do at the start of the year. (Yay for me!) So here is how I fared against my list at the beginning of 2021.

1. Read six books. For the first time in the last decade, I actually made my 6 book goal and even exceeded it. I’m so proud of having listened to more than just one or two audio books, but I managed to read several to add or pick up from my personal library. It really feels good to not be putting this one in my “wish I could’ve done more” list for a change.

Read more books this year

2. Learn something new via an actual class. The language pursuit has momentarily been set aside, but not totally forgotten. I managed to go midway through an online watercolor class offered by Nikki Traikos on her website. It’s been a refreshing course for a beginner like myself — and of course, the first thing I have learned is that everything I was doing with my watercolor painting was actually wrong. I am getting there and hope to use what I learned (and am learning) in my art journal which I hope to work earnestly on in 2022.

3. Continue exercising and dieting to take better care of myself and reach my original weight goal which is currently 10 lbs lower than my post holiday weight. This has been more of a struggle but the good news is, even if I gain weight over a period of days, it hasn’t been too big of a gain to be insurmountable. I have managed to go back to my pre pandemic weight, so yes, halfway done with the 10lb goal below my post holiday weight, but still struggling to lose it.

Health concerns have made me focus not so much on the calories these days, but rather pay heed to the portions and food I actually eat to keep my numbers healthier. No alarms just yet, but at this age, it is good to be vigilant about taking care of ourselves.

4. Visit Central Park all four seasons. I am happy to report that although I failed to do all 4 seasons, I was able to explore Central Park in a more in-depth way than previous years by joining a guided hiking tour courtesy of The New York City Hiking Tours Meet Up Group last September. I regret that I didn’t get to write about it soon after I did this as summer was about to end, but I have a renewed appreciation of this behemoth of a backyard for the city that never sleeps. I saw parts of the park that I didn’t even know existed. While I will attempt a separate post on this sometime early this year, I am hoping to do more with this group when I get the chance to and when it’s warmer.

Hiking in Central Park 2021

5. Crafting: Organize my supplies and try new methods in jewelry making and personal art. Continue my Art journal. I am trying. Unfortunately, the art journal has been a side thought. I haven’t really worked on it as diligently as I worked on my 2021 journal. I ended up setting it aside which at this point is such a big disappointment. As far as the jewelry making is concerned, I did create a few pieces but they were within my safe zone, not allowing me to be more adventurous.

I am trying to get back to jewelry making, because despite my lack of focus on the shop, I’ve been racking up some sales that were totally unexpected. I can only imagine how things would go if I were more prolific in creating new pieces. Focus needed, I know.

6. Continue to find a new home for the items that I no longer have use for, but which can be of use to others. I had managed to destash so much in 2020 that I feel like I could’ve given it more effort in 2021. I ask myself if, perhaps, I have given away enough in the year prior, but the truth of it is, I have more I can actually do well to part with. So hoping I can get more done in 2022.

7. Work on the Gift of 55. Ever since I turned 50, I have tried to prepare gifts to give away to coincide with my birthday. It was a way of celebrating myself while giving to others. In connection with the lessons I learned in destashing items in 2020 as mentioned above, I had hoped to focus on something more meaningful in 2021 as I turned 55, but miserably failed. That means 55 acts of kindness to celebrate which will now be 56 for the coming year.

8. Keep writing. I think I managed to maintain a presence here although there is always that wish to write more. I am getting there. The problem is keeping the momentum going. I am trying. There’s been a better focus on writing these days, what with everything that’s been happening around me in a social and personal level. So it’s a matter of ramping up.

9. Keep writing those letters. I started writing people randomly during the last quarter of 2020. It has been a gratifying and heartwarming experience hearing from the people I’ve written. Beyond the Christmas cards, there were letters that actually made it out of my writing box. And I already have around a half dozen letters waiting to be written. I know that I will surpass my goal of writing one card or letter a month, so I am not going to put a minimum. I will just keep writing and sending those letters and cards out.

10. Get the podcast on the air. One of the projects that I got all excited about during the first months of the pandemic was getting a podcast on the air. I had the title, a friend so generously provided me with original music in different cuts to use, my niece rendered a graphic for the show and my first three shows were cast with guests that had so readily said yes. And then work and life got in the way, and I didn’t want to just broadcast haphazardly. I’m focusing on this anew in 2022 if only because I have since thought of another half dozen topics to broadcast and people to feature. It’s a project halfway to done.

11. Buff up stocks in the Etsy Shop. Like I mentioned, one thing I found rather surprising was the traffic I was getting, and the actual sales made during the pandemic. I wish I had the time and the energy to post more actively, but a newfound interest in raw materials to use for my pieces has sparked new inspiration. Still not quitting the day job, but this is definitely getting a new focus from me.

12. Sew at least one coat / jacket before spring, and another before winter. As you can see, I’m already looking at 2022. I see my sewing machine and I sigh in frustration, regretting that I have yet to finish another coat since I did one for my sewing classes at Mood University way back when. I have the materials.. I did manage to work on the cut up fabric ready to be sewn into masks. There was a time I went (a bit) crazy buying fabric on sale — and they are all neatly stacked and stored in my bins. Waiting to be sewn into something I will wear. Two pieces, minimum!

13. Fix my attic. I have a huge storage space that has stacks of boxes of stuff that need to make it to the waste bin. I’m thinking the best way is to devote an hour every month at least — in increments of 15 or 30 minutes, just to move things around. I’ve managed to do some tidying as I pulled out the Christmas tree and decorations for this year — and there is a semblance of order in one corner, but there are other corners that need touching. And I will get to that in 2022.

14. Sort my postcard collection. Going through the things that had lain hidden in boxes and bins through the years has made me rediscover postcards in my collection. I actively returned to postcard trading via some postcard groups on Facebook in 2020, and zoomed in particularly to Postcrossing Philippines, a group of Filipino postcard collectors. I’ve already started gathering the ones that really have no room in my collecting interests and have started giving them away. I received more than 200 postcards from this group alone, with problem less than a hundred from other swaps.

In some ways, this was a big distraction for me in 2021 but it also allowed me to socially interact with other collectors. It has been a time consuming aspect of my passions, though, which I hope to balance out with my other pursuits in 2022.

15. Catalogue and photograph my Starbucks Mug Collection. It came rather late but I managed to add some mugs to the collection after a trip to Maine with some friends (something noteworthy for 2021!) and a renewed interest in the holiday collection. It was a big disappointment, though, that I didn’t get to acquire the anniversary mugs that coincided with the 50th anniversary of Starbucks. (Hello, eBay, I guess.). I will try and devote time to cataloguing the collection, and am actually in the process of finding a suitable case to house even just part of what I have.

16. Put my family photos in an album. Some years back, my mother gifted me with an old style photo album from back home which I stashed in the attic. The good news is, it’s downstairs now in one of my craft bags. I just need to gather the photos and work on it.

17. Create the wall art I’ve been meaning to do the last year or so. I actually have two items I was hoping to create but beyond the main board I was hoping to put these works on, I haven’t really done anything. And this got stuck in limbo. I am seriously contemplating on whether or not I will forget about this or try to give it a go in 2022 again.

18. Finish, frame and hang a cross stitch project featuring Our Lady of Perpetual Help that I started more than 16 years ago. Long story…so I did find the original pattern but never quite got down to picking up the thread and needle again to finish this, but this is priority for me in 2022.

19. Set my affairs in order. One thing that 2020 made most of us do is make us face our mortality and the uncertainty of the future. I keep saying I will write my will and do my living will — but beyond identifying my emergency contact and giving immediate instructions to that friend, I haven’t really been able to set this down properly.

I did identify my medical proxy and just need to let that person know. With all that’s happened around us due to Covid and everything that’s still going on, my own mortality has been staring me in the face. Will to be written before my 56th birthday in April.

There you go.

I published this list with two of the 21 unwritten. I never got down to finish the list. I will try to do better with the 22 for 2022 which I will begin writing as soon as I hit publish on this one.

All in all and with everything that was going on around us, I still think 2021 wasn’t all that bad. Personally, it was a good year if you consider how my son and I managed to stay healthy throughout the year, despite health challenges suffered by other family members back home.

I returned to work in April and eased myself into a semblance of normalcy in my old perch, but in a new space. I lost the view but still have a convenient spot in the middle of Manhattan.

I have been blessed. Indeed.

Work in Progress: my altered book

I have been blessed. Indeed.

PS. This is a recurring topic I’ve tried to do every year, and previous lists have a home on a special page in this blog. Happy new year from Pinay New Yorker!

Travel Journal: Postcards from Austin

Through the years, one of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing has been to send postcards back home, addressed to my son. At first, it was more of the postcard collector in me, even if my focus has always been on getting the postcards mint and keeping them that way. But after I sent back the first few postcards, I found it to be a meaningful way to create a story of our travels and vacations. Others do scrapbooks, I do postcards.

His Dad and I had taken to writing postcards early on, with him sending me a postcard or two from wherever he went on business trips without me, or wherever we went on vacation. When our son came, I started addressing the postcards to him. It didn’t matter that he was too small to read them. I wanted to have them ready for when he was older, so he can continue the conversation in postcards.

So I always travel with a postcard mailing kit I keep in a handy holder – usually a hard plastic zip pouch. The important thing was that it was compact enough to fit in my purse, and sturdy enough to keep the postcards from getting banged up. I had:

  • Stamps on the ready in the denomination I would need it.  Unless I was traveling to an overseas destination, in which case I would get this upon my arrival.
  • Address labels with his name and our address on it – because I’ve been caught in a situation where I would buy the postcard and write on it at the same time and go look for a mailbox.  Having preprinted address labels for him and friends I meant to send postcards to made it so much easier.
  • Airmail or other stickers and pens – so I can whip them out when I got a break, while I was in the car, or later in the day when everyone was asleep and I could write on my postcards.
  • The postcards come last as I get those from the area we are visiting.

For our trip to Austin, I actually ordered some LouPaper postcards of Texas ahead which I decorated, addressed and wrote on, with the intention of sending them out to fellow postcard collectors from there . Upon arriving at the airport, I immediately scoured the magazine and souvenir stores for the all too familiar postcard racks, and grabbed a few. I try not to splurge here because I know they are usually pricier than the usual souvenir postcards found in tourist traps in my destination, but they also tend to be of a different line and quality. True enough, the postcards at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport were not the same postcards I found in other stores. When I buy postcards, I try to buy at least 2 of each, with one to keep, and one to send home. If a particular postcard looked interesting and I remember a friend who might want one, I buy an extra or two.

By the time I landed at the hotel, I had a dozen or so postcards which I kept in my bag and took with me everywhere, hoping to do some postcard selfies along the way. (And we did manage to do this – but that’s for another blogpost.)

There have been vacations where I sent as little as 2 postcards, and as much as more than 20. It depends on whether or not there are enough postcards available, enough things to write about and the time to do it. But this trip was special because it’s only the second vacation my son and I have taken just by ourselves, and this was most special for the shared memories.

[1]

LouPaper Texas postcard

11/7/21: Love that we got to do this together despite the pandemic. It’s been so much fun making new memories with you. We haven’t done this in years! Love you! Mum

[2]

“I love you so much”, Artist: Amy Cook, est, 2010, over at Jo’s Hot Coffee, Austin, TX

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21: I read about this even before we got here, so it was nice to be able to find a postcard, and actually see it and post next to it with you. (Thank you, Dusty!) And yes, MAMA LOVES YOU SO MUCH. Always, in all ways. Mum

[3]

Greetings from Texas

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21: Thank you for patiently sitting through lunch with Pearson, Keoni and Caspian. You sat there and let us catch up, quietly letting Mama have her moment with them. I love that photo of you and Caspian walking back to the car. You are so good with kids… it’s because they know you have a kind heart. Love you always— Mum.

[4]

Mr. Rogers (mural), Artist: NIZ

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21: Another iconic mural we got to see in person.  That pedicab tour was well worth the money.  You and I sat through it speeding through the streets, narrow alleys and walkways of Austin.  I know you enjoyed it, too.  I am so glad we got the chance to take this trip together.  I wish we could go on more fun vacations – just you and I.  Love you!  Mum

[5]

Greetings from Texas, the Lone Star State

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21:  DID I EVER TELL YOU how lovely and heartwarming it feels when you put an arm around my shoulders and hold me close as we walk?  That has always been one of the best things that happened since you shot past me.  I remember you used to do that even when you weren’t quite so tall and It was awkward for you, but you still did it as we walked.  I hope you will never tire of doing that. Mama loves that.  Sometimes, I wish you wouldn’t grow up so fast, but this is one instance when it’s okay.  Love yout o pieces.. Mum

[6] Welcome to Texas

Postcards sent from Austin

11/7/21:  THANK YOU FOR ALL THE FAB PICTURES AND THE LOVELY MEMORIES… I know that you don’t always like it when I want to take pictures of us — but I can’t help it.  I was doing selfies with a real cam, not even a smartphone, way before selfies were a thing.  I somehow mastered focusing w/o seeing what the camera was covering.  So many nice pictures in this trip because you let me click away. LOVE THAT!  Mum

[7]  Hampton.com

Postcards sent from Austin

11/9/21:  I almost missed this postcard tucked into the information packet in the room.  We didn’t get to see much of Marble Falls but I think we did well on this vacation, making a lot of memories.  Loved having spent all this time with you.  Can’t wait for our next Mom-Son vacay.  Love always, Mum

I had actually acquired quite a hefty bunch of postcards from all over Austin and I’m quite happy with these 7 I sent back. So many memories tucked into each one. I can’t help but reread them as I scanned them, and I know I will be going back to these postcards in the next couple of weeks and more. Even now, as I am typing away, my heart is smiling.

Postcards from. Austin

Off to Austin and Back

I wrote this piece the first weekend of November as my son and I headed to Austin, while on the plane taking us there. As always, life took me over, and I’m at least three posts behind — all about this trip. It was a good way to go back to a semblance of normalcy after almost two years of being in the Covid bubble.

On our way to Austin

(November 6, Saturday) We’re two hours into our flight from New York to Austin, and while I am dying for some shut eye, I can’t sleep. I brought a magazine and a book to read, and a postcard swap list I need to work on over the weekend. I’ve so far read 2 articles in the magazine which is a feat — considering my magazines usually go unread. I read a couple of chapters of the book. I’ve checked the swap list and just need to send out the pairings. I will do that when I land or maybe when I return to New York.

We’re heading to Texas to attend a wedding on Monday. It’s a small party and I have known the groom since he was a baby. And the best part of it is, I have the 17 year old son with me. We are both sooooo excited!

It’s our first flight together since the pandemic began. The airport was abuzz with people and the lines were long but moving. American Airlines has a self check in system that is new to me, but I found it rather efficient. I have not flown domestically since 2012 when I went to a cousin’s wedding in Chicago. I was with the son then, as well.

Bag drop off was slow but it was tolerable. I maximized my one free bag and we carried the rest. We’re in Texas for only 4 days. One night will be in Austin the city, and the last two in Marble Falls where the reception will be held. I’m guessing it’s their version of Tagaytay or the Hamptons, so I’m looking forward to a bit of exploring. I had ordered a free copy of the Austin Visitor Guide which arrived in the nick of time. And I just remembered I left it at home, of course.

On our way to Austin

I thought I had my packing plan in place. Still, I ended up doing it the night before. I wanted to choose my outfits for the walk around town, but even that ended up being done last minute. The only thing that was predetermined was my outfit for the wedding. Dress, check. Shoes, check. Jacket for the Uber low temps of Austin nights, check. Sparkly gold bling platform peep toe slippers, check. Fancy satin scarf, check. Purse, check. The only thing I really bought for this wedding was the jacket and the purse. Everything else was already in my closet.

Just another one of the many things that made everything fall into place. I was meant to attend this wedding even if it was being held on a Monday, with the chapel and the reception an hour away from each other. How can I say no when the universe was screaming “Go!”

The flight was unbelievably reasonably priced. It was also relatively short so covid fears aside, I figured I’d survive wearing the mask for the three hours or so I’d be up in the air. Besides, I could always take a drink if I needed a break. (We were actually served snacks.). The hotel in the city was understandably pricey, but the hotel close to the reception (as recommended by the bride) was reasonable.. All systems go. It looks like the bigger chunk of the expense will be transportation between the city to the next town, and then to the chapel and the reception on the day of the wedding. I can take a local taxi for the reception back to the hotel, then one last big fare to the airport. See, I don’t drive. But figuring all that on Uber, car service, etc., vs. what I would’ve spent on a car rental, I’m not really off by much. (That’s me justifying to myself.).

On our way to Austin

The last plane ride I took was my Manila- Legazpi – Manila – Sydney Manila vacation in July of 2019. It feels like a lifetime away, more so as the homesickness creeps up on me, followed by a deep frustration over the quarantine requirements in Manila. I have stopped trying to look at what is possible in the near term. I am trying to assuage the pining for home by thinking of December 2022. That way, any opportunity to travel like this one, comes as a gift.

It seems that planning for a vacation to any other country or state is going to be easier, so trips like this one provide a welcome break from the cabin fever of covid.

The scene at the airport was almost normal in terms of the crowd, but most people were complying with fully wearing their masks— a mask was required everywhere. Some people took it off while waiting at the gate, and some had it over their mouth but not over third nose which I personally find so irritating. But on the plane itself, there was even an announcement to make sure to wear your mask even as you sleep so they wouldn’t have to wake you up. So far so good.. but then again, the flight is only half full. (I have situated myself in my own three seat row across from the son.)

——

(November 9, Tuesday) On the way home on a Tuesday evening flight from Austin to Néw York. The plane is barely half full. I tried to situate the son across the aisle in his own row, but he naughtily defied my seat plan. Yes, he’s next to me.

I am leaving Austin with happy memories of a vacation spent with my soon-to-be college boy. There was no ditching me to hang out with his friends this weekend. He was stuck with me. We tried some homegrown faves in the two places we visited, and the last meal we had in Marble Falls has changed the way he looks at barbecue ribs forever.

On our way to Austin

The wedding was heartwarming and touching. I am glad I decided to go and be there for the new Mr. and Mrs. Lim. I suddenly felt old as I realized how the baby now has a baby himself now, and was taking that big leap at his bit of forever.

As for me, I feel as though the universe just reminded me life goes on. And it did. And I’m glad I ventured out and took the chance to have a fun weekend with my boy. Happy memories aplenty!