Celebrating the ones we love

I’m getting ready to turn in as I write this. It’s actually Friday evening, but technically Saturday. I’ve been writing in my head since I put the last of the dishes away to dry and I lugged my phone and iPad to my room. Refreshed and changed, I’m ready to go to sleep, but I’m afraid the words running through my head will make it difficult. So I write.

My now 16 year old had a birthday dinner for two with his favorite gal. While my ex and I had agreed to celebrate his birthday together, there was no neutral ground to celebrate in with the restaurants closed, and what’s worse, he had been battling the flu. He thankfully tested negative for corona which was a relief, because he and the son have been hanging out while he started becoming symptomatic. I couldn’t deny him that as a parent, so when I got news he was running a temperature, I was worried. A doctor visit and a subsequent ER trip after, I had to,put my foot down lest the boy catch what the father had. I was relieved when the Dad relented. They will celebrate after he recovers.

I’ve always been big on birthdays. Last year, we went to a fancy steakhouse in Manhattan. The boy knows and loves his steaks. I picked one close to the ex knowing his usual longer hours at work would mean it would be easier for us to get there from where I work, and that was convenient because he told us as we sat to dinner that there was an emergency at work and so he could only spare an hour. When we were married, that would have been cause for a discussion, but things like that remind me why we are now uncoupled.

We ordered, had our meal, was served the birthday dessert, then I told him he could go ahead. The boy wanted to stay. So my son and I stayed and enjoyed the dessert and the ambience. Even if we had already taken pictures with us three in the shot, we asked the waiter to take more of just the two of us,

In the basement where the restrooms were, there was a sitting room which lent itself to quite the backdrop for more pictures. Then we walked out together and took more pictures before we picked up our ride home.

This year, I didn’t insist on pictures. He hadn’t shaved and the hair has grown out of bounds. And he didn’t want to. I didn’t let the lockdown stop us from celebrating with a tomahawk steak dinner. The boy loves it with rice and corn on the side. I whipped up some roasted potatoes, sautéed some mushrooms in garlic and I boiled two ears of corn for me. The Pinot noir was a perfect pairing.

Before we sat down to dinner, the ex dropped off a cake. He asked that I take a video of the blowing of the candle. I told the boy to call his father so they could do the cake virtually — better than a video! I was surprised that he texted me to give his son a hug for him.

That gave me pause. It dawned on me that he was feeling the separation deeply, from my son — not from me. I found that strange. Even when we were married, he would miss the birthday celebrations in school and I would take time off to serve cake and goodie bags even if the celebrant didn’t like cake. Where I felt strongly about celebrating birthdays on the day of, he always considered celebrations fluid and not pegged on dates. So if he missed the birthday cake in school, there was the weekend to make up for it.

And remembering last year and the emergency at work that made him rush off after an hour to celebrate his son brought me back to my senses. They can celebrate when he is better. That’s how celebrations worked for him all this time.. why should this one be different.

As for me and my son, we had quite the steak treat. The tomahawk required searing, broiling in the oven and basting on the stove again — and it was worth all that and more.. the steak lover gave it his seal of approval. I will write about that more tomorrow.. my bed beckons.. and it’s Saturday..

Tomahawk steak dinner

I am tired and a bit buzzed and smiling for the memories of tonight’s birthday celebration. Despite the limitations of staying home because of he Corona virus, we managed to pull off a memorable birthday dinner to celebrate. I am grateful.

Happy birthday, dearest Angelo. I love you to the moon and back.. always, in all ways.

Breakfast, etc.

Breakfast etcI had intended to take a picture of today’s breakfast treat to accompany this post, but it disappeared before I could.  I cooked up some Spanish chocolate and dunked ssome slices of Edam cheese.  Yum!  Not quite the quezo de bola that would have made for the perfect pairing, but when in New York, you make do.  I simmered the chocolate “coins” and stirred in a teaspoon of butter (to keep it from boiling over) and let it stay on the lowest setting to make sure it was all cooked through.  This is yet another one of my weird eating habits because most people wouldn’t combine the two in a cup.  I get the chocolate to near-boiling, and then I drop the slices of cheese into a cup of this sinful beverage.  I let it sit long enough for the cheese to soften (or melt, as was the case with this very soft Edam), and I scoop the cheese out with a spoon to eat with my bread of choice.  Today, it was just simple potato bread dinner rolls.

I really should pay a visit to the Filipino store in Woodside to check if they have the Marca Pina queso de bola available already.

The weekend has been quiet and uneventful, and I’m hoping to get more done today.  I’m just staying put at home.  I had offered Peter brunch in the city, but he begged off.  Perhaps it’s all for the best just so I can get more tidying up done.  One cabinet at a time.

I found the cake decor on Angelo’s first birthday cake when we did a Sesame Street theme, and while I had Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo originally, one of my guests took Elmo and I was powerless to take it back.  (A special child of the ex sister-in-law… I do have a heart and decided not to ask for it at the end of the party.). That, along with some invitations (baby shower, baptism, and yes, my wedding) went into the memory box holding those tidbits of his younger years in my closet.  I just love how his eyes glimmer when we go through the contents of that box occasionally.  Soon, I will have to get a bigger repository of memories!  Keeping mementos has always been a weakness of mine — so much so that I have collected bits and pieces which are now totally useless and meaningless.  It’s uncanny how things change meanings for us through the years, and what once was so precious can suddenly be indispensable after a period of time.  So those that have lost meaning have found their way into the trash bag.

Not too long ago, I vowed to destash and find a home for the things I had hoped to get rid of.  I am collecting my Artist trading cards (ATCs) to send to my friend, Raine.  I don’t have the time to sort through the postcards just yet, so I am putting the unsorted ones in a box to be dealt with later.  Although I feel like I have barely done anything, I think I’m making good progress.  No procrastinating and that’s an accomplishment by itself.

I am seriously trying and working on getting things done, inch by inch, box by box.  I’m not going as fast I had hoped, but thinking about not being able to do it at the pace I was hoping to do it was just stressing me more and stalling my productivity, so I’ve learned to let that go.  Sometimes, overthinking things can slow us down more than help us as we try to move forward.  The point is to just do it.

I am trying to shake off the shackles that are keeping me from moving on.  It hasn’t been easy.  Sometimes I feel as though I’m making strides, but in truth, I am moving and not accomplishing anything.  Too many questions are racing through my mind, and the occasional unpleasant memory that pokes at my mind and heart don’t help.  I keep telling people I’m okay — and for the most part, it’s true — but there’s a part of me that is stalled and feels like a car struggling to get out of the pothole it’s gotten stuck in.  The important thing is that I’m aware of where I am, and I am trying my hardest to work my way out of it.

Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the photo in a picture frame.  I found one hidden behind a couple of frames above a tall shelf and saw a dust-covered photograph, a memory more than a decade old.  I wiped the frame clean and found something more relevant to my “now”.  I put that photo in my bedroom where I will be able to see it and be reminded of what’s important to me at the present time.  It’s a simple yet powerful reminder that I have to move on..  The wooden frame was etched with the word “FAMILY” and some emotional words that define it.  Even that has changed meaning for me and the new picture — one of Angelo and I — embodies what that means to me now.

I have started reading again.  That’s another blog post, though, so let me hit “publish” now before this starts languishing in my “draft” folder yet again.  Here’s to a wonderful week ahead for all of us..

When the memories come a-haunting

There are times when having a good memory doesn’t serve me too well. I tend to peg events, things and people to dates – and when that date comes around, I relive whatever it was that had happened then – good or bad. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a happy memory. It’s more difficult dealing with the memories that actually bring back painful or hurtful things, or negative emotions like anger.

I know, I should let it go. I wish it were as easy as that, but it isn’t.

Some things get better with time. But there are pains that stay with us and linger and fade into the darkness, only to resurface at a time not of our choosing.

May 2013 wasn’t so bad — but sometime in the latter part of the year, I realized a couple of things and found out it wasn’t as good as I thought it was and that was that.  And while I am glad that May is almost gone, it’s not quite out the door yet. And I’m trying very hard to push the heaviness in my heart away. I don’t always succeed. At times it feels like it’s a never-ending struggle to float up to the surface and grab some precious air. It still suffocates me.

Miami.  Chicago.  I was in the latter in May, but I’ve never been to the former.  And I probably never will go.  Again, that’s that.

The good news is, I’ve been hit by a creative energy that has seen me making something out of all this.  I’m coming up with new designs and pushing myself to create more and to do things out of my comfort zone for the shop.  Some of the pieces I’ve created are screaming for me to wear them which isn’t good because I want to put them up for sale.

I’ve been pushing myself to work out.  I might even start that story I’ve been writing in my head, finally.  (As if I have all the time in the world to write!!)  For the most part, I’ve succeeded in keeping the angry thoughts away, but it doesn’t numb the pain.  How I wish I had a switch we could flick like a TV remote which would choose that which we remember.  But I can’t. 

At least not for now.

Morning walk to school

It’s one of those days when I have to bring Angelo to school, and it wasn’t a bad day for a walk despite the allergens that caught up with me just as I got on the bus. That 7 minute trek is always a refreshing way to start the day, whether it’s trudging through the snow, fighting off the wind and parrying the rain or just a regular walk like today.

Sometimes it makes me wax nostalgic as I recall how different he was in previous years. How he wouldn’t let go of my hand before and how he would rather just walk beside me now. Or how we used to stop periodically so he could get a kiss from me and how he now prefers to get his kiss from mom a few feet away (the farther the better) from the school’s front door.

Our talks have changed dramatically except that our conversations are still peppered with “I love you, Mama.” No matter that he no lingers turns around to give me one last look as he goes into the school, I continue to make sure he gets inside the building before I turn and walk away.

Time flies by so fast. I count the days and see him changing day to day. I’m glad that I’m able to savor every little bit of my little guy — from his funny wit to his never-ending demonstration of affection. We celebrated his 10th birthday last week with a simple cupcake party and I recall the other years we did it. The glow on his face afterwards on the way back home was so precious — he was smiling from ear-to-ear and he said “That was a good birthday, Mama.”

I look at him as he sleeps at night and I see that everything I have done in my life is worth it as I have been rewarded with his unconditional love and devotion. This Mother’s Day he gave me a handwritten card. Among other things, the most striking thing he wrote which I hold as forever precious is “Nothing will tear us apart.”

I feel so blessed. Why am I grumbling about what pain I feel or what burden I carry? At the end of the day, it’s his love that matters, and I know I have that.

Daily Prompt: When I was Sixteen…

DAILY PROMPT:  Tell us all about the person you were when you were sixteen. If you haven’t yet hit sixteen, tell us about the person you want to be at sixteen.

.. I was a senior in high school full of hopes and dreams about going to college.  My biggest problem was landing in the “right” university, and the second was not being self-conscious around the boys.

.. I had a prom date in mind but as luck would have it, he already got invited to a different prom (another school) on the same night.  I was hoping he would invite me to his prom but one of his bestfriends had to take one of twin girls and they wouldn’t be allowed to go out if he didn’t take the other one.  (So much for us going to the prom on either side.)  But he did drop off a rose at my house on the day of the prom with no particular reason or dedication.  Just because..

.. I got rid of my eyeglasses and started to notice boys and had a blast attending parties even if I had a midnight curfew.  I had lost a lot of weight the year before and enjoyed dressing up.

.. I saw the difference between the La Sallites and the Ateneans and while I had good friends from both sides of the fence, so to speak, I found that the La Sallites were more sociable and gregarious — sealing the fate of my son-to-be. (Of course, I didn’t realize I might possibly raise him here in New York.  But had I raised him in Manila, his fate would have been sealed as I ended up marrying a La Sallite anyway.)

.. I wrote poems and I composed songs.  I wrote our graduation theme song and our corps hymn.  Don’t ask me where the creative juices went.

.. I was happy.  Of course, there was the usual teenage angst I had to deal with but I was not overcome by it.  I think I managed it pretty well and emerged from those teen years only mildly scarred (if at all).

.. I was comfortable and to some extent, pampered.  I didn’t know that I would have a difficult decade ahead but my optimism in my youth and my sheltered upbringing notwithstanding, I made it through.

.. I like ‘me’ when I was sixteen.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Art Journal Every Day with Angelo: My Special Someone

I was going through all the schoolwork Angelo had brought home at the end of second grade and chanced upon this essay he wrote on his “special person”.

He wrote:

My special person is someone who gave birth to me.  She is female.  I’ve known her for all my life.  She likes pink.

What that person like(s) to do is spend time with her family.  I play with her and she always eats with me.  I go to her job.  I go to a restaurant with her.  I sleep with her.

Me and this person are different and similar in a few ways.  I am male and she is female.  We both have (the) same last name.

This person is my mother.  She is 45 years old.”

He wrote this a month before my birthday, and while I was in Manila taking care of some family business in March.  Precious indeed.  Sometimes I want to keep all the paper he brings home, but not all of them are gems like this one.

He’s just growing up so fast.  I really must get started on that memory quilt I have been planning to make from his baby clothes and linens.  Most of it I had given away to my mom’s beneficiaries in her hometown in San Vicente, Bulan, Sorsogon, but I kept one or two baby blankets, plus I still have the crib liners we never used because of all the safety warnings against it.

I thought it would make for a good topic for an Art Journal Every Day post, so I photocopied the essay onto an exisiting watercolor background.  I also used one of his watercolor projects where he painted his name in different colors.  I worked my own background around the two elements by Angelo and then wrote my journal entry side-by-side with his essay.

Art Journal Every Day with Angelo: My special someone

I love the way I’ve managed to create journal entries using Angelo’s own work.  It doesn’t only give me a chance to react to his work through my art journal, but it gives me a chance to keep these special projects in the journal I hope to keep for posterity.  It’s better than just keeping it stashed in a memory box or some folder in the closet.

New discovery: Sharpie Oil-based Paint Marker in blue.  Glorious to write with on watercolor!  I thought I’d buy one piece to try and work with but I will now be getting the Sharpie Oil-Based Medium Point Paint Markers 5-color set including Gold, Silver and White next.

I’m going to try to incorporate other elements beyond just drawing or doodling on my art journal entries — hopefully doing some collage and the like.  Watch out for that.

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 byclicking 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.

Songs from a previous life

One of my first jobs when I really started working was as a newscaster for a radio station whose station was near H.V. De la Costa Street where the law school was.  It was early morning and an hourly newscast that ended when school started in the middle of the afternoon.  Close enough for me to walk to school or commute to, so it all worked out.

There were rare instances when I was allowed to pinch hit for the regular deejays who gave up the weekend slots, and this song by David Soul was one of my signature closing songs.  That the station was a retro station made it work out just fine, and with everything pre-programmed, the only say I had really were the OPM tracks and the last song.  It was always a toss up between this one and another old time 70s favorite, “You and I” by John Davidson (which I’m sure hardly anyone remembers).  It was so ancient that in the age of CDs, the second track was on cassette which made it a tad more difficult to cue.

Those were the days when I knew what “minimum wage” meant, and when I received my salary in cash in a brown envelope.  It was a different phase in my life where I learned a lot about humility, an honest day’s work and trusting people.

Now thanks to YouTube, I can access either song simply by entering the title or the artist in the search option.

Happiness is.. pastillas and cheese tarts

I just picked up a package from my sister’s friend who arrived from Manila last night.  Braving the cold temperatures outside, I walked down to the hotel two blocks away from my building and eagerly picked up my package from the front desk.  For my part, I left a small box of treats for him to enjoy — just a little sampling of New York.

So who cares if I have only 4 cheese tarts?  And that the pastillas are not my beloved Goldilocks? My poor brother and sister-in-law had reportedly canvassed 4 different outlets and came up empty handed.  I’m not complaining.  The pastillas produced in these parts taste differently, presumably because of a difference in the ingredients.  And cheese tarts are almost unheard of.  The one time I got lucky in California, they tasted and felt different once I had started eating one.  I am smiling as I type away thinking of all these good memories associated with Goldilocks.  I love, love, love their goodies — having grown up with them.

I remember when I was younger, birthday cakes were either Goldilocks or Jonis.  A quick scan through Google shows that Jonis is still around, but they don’t seem to have a website.  I used to love their butter cake slice and macaroons… My Dad even used to bring us to their head office somewhere in Manila to order our birthday cakes.  I remember how much of a treat that was to go through this thick photo album they had where you were supposed to pick the design.

My birthday falls 5 days ahead of my brother, Abril’s, so we usually had two cakes or a joint cake whenever we had a birthday party.  Memories brought on by simple joys.. =)

Memories of my college days over a lunch of pasta in Manhattan

Friday  was a special day as I had the chance to meet up with someone visiting from Manila whom I looked upon as a dear friend in my college days.  We were both part of an organization in UP Manila called the UP Lightbearer Service Organization, and while she was in Nursing and a year younger than me and I was in the Development Studies program of the College of Arts & Sciences, we spent a lot of time in Rizal Hall in our corner by the back until she had to move to the College of Nursing for her course proper.

Lunch was short but sweet and brought back many memories.  I can still remember the look on her face when I mentioned to her a personal fact she had relayed to me about her mother who had passed on years before we met, and she marveled at how I could’ve remembered that after all these years.  I told her it wasn’t that I had a terrific memory, but I listened then and what she told me had mattered to me because she mattered to me.

Thanks to Facebook, again, for hooking us up.  I promptly posted a picture of us online tagging friends from our Lightbearer days, bringing in more comments  from other familiar faces from back then.

Meeting with Merle reminded me about how special my college years were, and looking back now, how most of my dearest friends today were actually people I had met from way back then.  Some of them “crawled out of the woodwork” and surprised me when they condoled with me personally when I went home to lay my father to rest.  There was a lot to catch up on, but sitting across from them reminiscing and talking about the things we used to do and where we are all today felt as if we hadn’t really been that out of touch with each other.

We tried to remember names and we updated each other about those that we are still in touch with.  And of course there were words of advice and reflection — I had put on my “Ate” hat.  We recalled the many occasions we celebrated in our house in San Juan.  Remembering when we all tried to sing but Merle truly sang.

People constantly walk in and out of our lives, some to stay a while or for keeps and never leave  and some just to pass through.  And yet it is in those moments when we find ourselves back together after long absences when we can measure the depth of a friendship, notwithstanding the period of separation.

We spoke about relationships and planning one’s future.  We talked about hope.. about family.. and I watched her across the table — a grown woman now, but still a younger sister in my eyes.  I am green with envy that she lived in my favorite city, the City of Lights for two months to train for one of her previous jobs — and she has been to at least twice as many places as I have been.  But most of all, I am proud to see the person she’s become.

As we started saying goodbyes, she started to thank me for making time to meet up.  I have as much if not more to thank her for taking the time to bring me back to those wonderful days of our youth when life was much simpler, and for reminding me now how far we have both come.  That is one friendship that has truly blessed my life.