Looking to the heavens

Lovely Saturday in Times Square: everyone takes pictures from a horizontal view.. Try looking up some time -- straight up!  #lookingup #timessquare #ny #mynewyork #mynyc #skyscrapers #vertical #frontcam #anotherview #beautifulday #sunnyspringdayinnewyorkI was saying goodbye to BFF Fe last night after our regular chat when a message from Facebook jolted me with the news of an old friend’s passing.  There was a request not to use social media to comment or publicize it, so out of respect for the family, I cannot dwell or mention who it was or who she was to me.  But I was deeply touched because I was one of half her list of friends who got the invite to her wake and her funeral in Manila.  There will be a time to write about that when the family allows me to.

For now, I bow my head down in prayer knowing she’s at peace and no longer in pain.

I wanted to post this status update publicly on my own FB page, but I was afraid that I would get too many queries and bring attention to someone’s passing.  So instead I sent this to my dearest friends in private, and I’m sharing it here.

“Today is a day for me to reflect on the friendships and the people who have come into and gone out of my life as I learn of others moving on and others coming back and bouncing back. All I can say is thank you to those who have blessed my life with their friendship through the years. To those back home, I miss you all and wish you were but a phone call away and we could meet up in Makati or The Fort or some such place. I thank God for bringing each and every one of you into my life — no matter how brief, or how long, or far back. Please stay in touch… I will try to do the same.”

And to my friend from waaaaay back — no matter how brief our elementary years were, and how we were brought back together in recent years because you stumbled into my little space here, you will always be remembered and tucked away in a special place in my heart.  I will always remember how I visited you in yours as you chronicled your battle and separately, as you wrote about your family adventures.  More importantly, I will never forget your infectious laughter and unbroken spirit even in the face of all that you bravely fought.  Rest in peace, my friend.

 

 

When a young heart grieves

My 10-year-old is grappling with a very personal loss. A house fire had claimed the lives of two young children, one aged 11 and another aged 5, and the older one had been a very close friend of his. They had known each other since kindergarten and had been classmates throughout except for 2nd and 5th grade. Last year, they proclaimed each other as best friends. My son has a very wide circle of friends, but his friend John was sometimes made fun of for being bigger and a year older than most of the kids.

I liked John. He was always nice and was courteous. I knew his mother, too, having seen her in many of the school events when both Angelo and John were in the same class.  In the coterie of wannabe friends of my little boy, he was one I didn’t mind having around him.

I came home to a letter from the school giving instructions on discussing the topic with the children, assuring me that they, too, were dealing with it in crisis mode. Angelo looked fine for the most part. He told me had cried when they broke the news to the class – and that he had refused to make something for John’s mom, as that was probably too emotional for him. The Dad finally arrived from a business trip and had started to ask him about it but he turned to me and started to tear up, shaking his head, telling us he didn’t want to talk about it. I quietly signalled the Dad that Angelo was not up to talking just yet. 

How does a 10-year-old deal with such a loss?

He woke up this morning looking okay. There was still something about the fire in the news, but he nonchalantly just mentioned to me that it had been mentioned in passing. I look at him and I wonder what’s going on in his mind and his heart.

I have been fortunate to have raised a sensitive and compassionate boy. Easy to laugh and carefree, very sociable and at times shy. He has my heart, I think. (And I don’t know if that’s good or bad. =) I never lost a bestfriend who was in my life at the time of her passing. Once, Lilay went to heaven, but at that time, we had long been out of touch because she started a family and I was in college. Still, I felt that loss very deeply and it brought tears to my eyes. (And I don’t cry very easily.)

I’m trying to see if we can go to John’s wake so that they can say a proper goodbye. I just think that would be important for Angelo given the loss of such a close friend.

The thought of losing my child is heart-wrenching even in the hypothetical sense. Imagine losing the two most precious boys in yours. I pray that their mother finds strength to overcome and deal with the grief of losing her babies. How do you deal with such a loss? I am at a loss for words.

Grieving, they say, never really ends. You just learn to cope with it better.  I still grieve for my Dad who passed many years ago.  When I “talk” to him, I find myself lost in an emotional pool that usually ends up with me crying.

It’s still too early to tell how good my son is coping with his grief.  I just know it’s best to let him be and let him process his emotions.  If he needs help, he’ll call me and then we will talk.

Last night as we lay in bed, I told him to say a prayer for John — he is now with Jesus, I told him.

Silence

I was hoping to catch up with posting about my swaps which had made it to their intended recipients — or of the big trip I took last Saturday… but the events that unfolded in Boston this afternoon totally threw me off and had shocked my mind to silence.  It’s only now as I am getting ready for bed did I finally find the words to write.

I’m praying for the families who lost a loved one — of the more than a hundred people injured.  One of the fatalities was an 8-year-old boy.  When I heard this, I called my son to me and hugged him tight.  I feel for the mother and father now grieving the loss of their child.

Yet another reminder of how fragile life is.

Thank You, Lord, for another day… for bringing my son home safe.  Every day, I pray that he be kept safe and healthy in Your care.

And life goes on…

I’m on page 73 of My Altered Book and I’m starting to write on the first 4 pages of the book.  I want to make my happiness journal a “no-pressure” journal which means I am not stressing out to work from finished layout to finished layout.

My Altered Book: A Happy Life : Words of Wisdom on HappinessFor example, one spread is on WORDS OF WISDOM on HAPPINESS where I am compiling quotes on the subject of happiness.  the other layout is one I’m working on with Angelo as the subject matter, because who else has brought such happiness into my life?  (Even just that thought brings a smile to my face.)  I am working on these layouts simultaneously and will be starting a third.  So each page is a work in progress, just as the book is one.

The outer cover of my book now looks grubby, and I suspect that I will end up doing a temporary  cover over the masking tape.  I am constantly handling the book and it’s always in my purse.

Downtown one week afterI started an Art Journal Every Day layout yesterday on the subject of 9/11 which I just feel I had to because of the significance of the day to me personally.  It is a loss that will forever be felt in New York, even if one didn’t suffer a personal loss.  The experience of that tragic day is enough to stir feelings of grief, one I will always carry and feel strongest on this day.

Everyone speaks of healing but there is really no set formula on dealing with grief or with pain.  We each cope our own way.  Just like the events of that day affected us in different ways.

It is perhaps a relief that after 11 years, the way we reemember is now more solemn and personal than ever.  Politicians were not allowed to speak at this year’s ceremony which is befitting.  This day of remembrance should be about the people who lost their lives and those whose lives were forever changed by that loss.  I didn’t watch.  It felt heavy on the heart as it is.  Today I will scan the newspapers for my usual collage postcard.  But these postcards will be different because not only do they chronicle the events of yesterday, tbut more importantly, they will bring me back to the memories of Sept. 11, 2001.

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., Pinaynewyorker.com and Gothamchick.com)  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 Gothamchick.com)

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.

Art Journal Every Day: "And if I go.."

I actually discovered this poem, Ascension, written by Colleen Corah Hitchcock  from a Tom Clancy book ages ago — and have since kept it as one of my most favorite poems.  Through the years, it has taken on a different meaning to me.  When I first read it, I felt that the poem was speaking to me.  Now as a mother, I feel it’s my voice speaking to my son, Angelo.

I had scribbled this down on a different layout and had left it on my bedside a few days ago.  Angelo had chanced upon it and read it, and he told me he was almost driven to tears reading.  I guess he knew the voice was mine, speaking to him.

I’ve taken to journaling with “no rules” in the past posts, so if you notice, the text is broken without regard for hyphenation.  I fill in the spaces with my words and write spontaneously.  (So sometimes there are actual errors, but so far, haven’t had to scratch out any words.)

I got busy doing more backgrounds over the weekend which I will talk more about in another post, but I also feel bad that my collage on the 2012 Olympics got botched up because I had pasted  the focal point of the piece on the wrong side of the layout.  I’m still trying to decide if I will redo the whole piece since I’m deep into at least two other works in progress.  Maybe another time.. or later.

Meanwhile, still reading up on what other artists or art journalers are doing…  Just a reminder that I’ve started a new page here on the blog entitled “BLOG TRAILS” where I will post links of blogs I frequent or recommend you visit for art inspiration.  I have also started identifying the art supplies I used for each piece and from this post forward, I will write about how I executed the actual journal entry.  (Which I kind of explain below..)

Art Journal Every Day: And if I go..

Ascension

And if I go,

while you’re still here…

Know that I live on,

vibrating to a different measure

— behind a thin veil you cannot see through.

You will not see me,

so you must have faith.

I wait for the time when we can soar together again,

— both aware of each other.

Until then, live your life to its fullest.

And when you need me,

Just whisper my name in your heart.

I will be there.

Ascension copyright ©1987, Colleen Corah Hitchcock

This is quite reassuring given the uncertainty of life.  It’s a promise to be there forever.  So now when I ask Angelo where Mommy will be when she goes — he points to his heart and says “In here…”

HOW I DID IT:

I am sharing my how-to not because I consider this a real work of art, but rather because I did these pieces in a basic, non-artistic way.  I want to show those of you who, like myself, admire the works of the real artists and wish that we could come up with those works of art ourselves that yes, IT CAN BE DONE!!

I used Adirondack Metallic Acrylic Dabber in Copper for Angelo’s silhouette (see a related post here) and Painters Opaque Paint Markers in Pearlescent for the journaling over the black watercolor background.  (Links below)

– I printed the photo of my son’s silhouette and cut out his profile, then traced this in pencil over the black watercolor background.  (Most of my backgrounds are done separately from the actual journal entry, and I have discovered that this actually allows you to work faster (cutting the thinking part for the background) and it spurs different ideas that turn my backgrounds into something totally different.

– Used the Acrylic Paint Dabber to paint the silhouette and then let it dry.

– Used the Acrylic Paint markers for the journalling.  VOILA!

ART SUPPLIES USED IN THIS ENTRY:


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.)

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.)