Special presents

So the presents have been sent and exchanged. What special gifts did you get?

As a Starbucks mug collector, the two new mugs that my little guy bought for me are meaningful additions that will have a special place in my collection.

I don’t normally buy mugs unless it’s a new issue or when I chance upon one in my travels, but I spied this gold printed mug at the Starbucks branch I frequent near work. For someone who once received a $200 offer for a Christmas mug I had bought ages ago, I’ve learned to watched out for special holidays issues. It was a regular New York design but in gold print. I bought one and brought it home. The barristas apologized that they didn’t have a small bag, so I had put the boxed mug in my tote and then took it out when I got home.

My little guy comes and sees the box and his face drops. He had apparently bought me one as a Christmas present after being torn between the gold printed mug and the blue “Been There” series. Long story short, I returned my purchase and kept his.

The weekend before my Christmas Eve, he was spending the weekend in Washington DC to watch an NBA game. I had specifically asked that he look and see if he can get me a mug from one of the rest stops along the way. I told him I would pay for it.

I somehow missed his call to give me a choice as there were several available. By the time I returned his call, they were back on the road and he had already gotten the mug — and he refused my offer to pay for it. He said it was another present from him. Two mugs from my baby!

Untitled

I love the stories behind my mugs, but love the mugs that come from people close to my heart all the more. It adds a special value to the addition — even if only in terms of memories and emotion. Thank you, my dear son!

Sometimes, friends or colleagues who know I collect the mugs surprise me. When people visiting from other places ask me what present or pasalubong I would prefer, I always ask for a Starbucks mug. More so from places not yet represented in my collection. Sometimes though, it’s the giver who makes the mug special, no matter that the mug is a duplicate of something I already have.

It can only get better

I tried starting a blog post before the week began, talking about how I was trying to pump a lot of optimism into my upcoming week. It had been a rather chaotic one. I like “busy,” but sometimes it doesn’t work too well with other distractions. Still, I capped the previous week with some much needed “me” time last Friday which was the best part of those 7 days. (Note to self: you should do this more often.)

And we’re at Wednesday. I try to write more but I really need a major push forward there.

Work was hectic as can be, and while I don’t think we’re getting a reprieve for what’s left of the week. I hit the ground running and energized. Maybe it was the quiet weekend with my not so little guy. I took the time to breathe, stayed up late on Saturday with a new earring design I couldn’t stop making (!), and slept til noon the following day to give my body a chance to bounce back.

And Friday came again.

There are times when you really just need to pull away from the fray and sit quietly in a corner.  It was one of those days, and I focused on happy and positive thoughts, and some happy time over lunch.  I needed to recharge. I needed to lift my spirits up and find those feel good moments to make up for the bad ones. I had dessert. Without guilt.

Dessert from Ortzi
Gone are the days when I would be chided for even considering one. Part of me hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea that it IS okay to indulge once in a while…I still ask if I can get dessert. (And I’m trying to get rid of that habit..)

Focus on the good things and then tuck the negative away, and embrace the thought that it can only get better. Take care of you!

Opening school year blues

With the first (almost) full week of classes officially done, I guess you can say we’re back into the swing of things.  From school supplies to new backpacks and the routine of waking up the now seventh grader in the house, I know that summer is over.

Every year we have a ton of paper to fill out, and I just finished doing this year’s batch last night.  It makes me wonder if it won’t be easier for them to just ask if anything in the student’s  information has changed, but I realize now that would mean for missed information and a nightmare keeping up with around a thousand students annually.  Why am I complaining?

Out school supplies now come from each teacher, and while it is easier because you get a shorter list (which doesn’t include crayons or markers anymore, thankfully!), it can be difficult when the major subjects require a separate ring binder each.  I was so reieved to see two ask for composition notebooks instead, and one even asked for just a section of a binder.  Children complaining about back ache is not a good sign and speaks of the load they carry on their still growing spines!  For my part, I try to use the lighter binders to help ease his load.

School opening bluesThis year, he’s taller and his shoulders are beginning to get broader.  A hint of a moustache is already showing on his upper lip.  His voice cracks when he talks excitedly and now gets pitchy.  At around 5 feet tall, his shoe size is a whopping 9 1/2 and still growing.  (The dad has big feet.). His hands are no longer smaller than mine and I can feel the difference those few times when he reaches out for mine to hold it in his.  Still, I see a hint of “my little boy” in his eyes and voice when he utters “I love you, Mama” ever so affectionately from out of the blue.  I am praying that he never outgrows that part of him.

So the homework routine has started and kickstarting the new school year has been a bit of a challenge but we’re getting there.  Even he is aware that it’s a totally different ball game, and it requires adjusting anew.  There’s the usual check in at the end of the day and the constant reminder to get his backpack ready for school the following morning.  I sound like a broken record reminding him about keeping his keys and his bus pass in his backpack at all times.  Phone always charged 100% ! Turn on the ringer when you get home (!!)  Put away  your socks… and the list goes on and on.

It’s a routine that I both love and cherish for the special bond that brings us even closer.  We have done homework via the phone, facetime, texting and of course, me in the kitchen counter, and him on the dining table.  He knows there’s always the kindle app when he needs a book, and I’m trying to get him used to figuring out homework before calling out to me.

He has grown up.  A lot has changed.  He’s the same that he’s not.  My “tween” is almost a man, but I’d really like to keep him where he’s at for as long as I possibly can,  before I have to start looking up at him when scolding him.

Here’s to another school year.. let’s see what lies ahead.

As I get older

I’ve never had any issues with age. Even though it’s still months away, I tell people I’m 50. I guess it’s because I know time has been kind to me and I get a kick out of seeing people with a hint of surprise in their eyes when they hear the five-oh.  (Okay, I’m being vain.)  But last week saw me hopping from one doctor’s office to another, catching up with my annual check ups and still scheduling more appointments to make sure all the parts continue to work properly.

What I had thought would be a short quick hello to my baby guy (ob-gyne) turned out to be the usual long wait and battery of tests.  I was royally delayed getting back to work, and I missed my little guy’s call.  When I called back to tell him I had been at the doctor’s, I sensed some panic in his voice when he asked me why.. it was a little difficult doing the cliff notes version of “Mommy is approaching menopause and needs to make sure all her parts are still working in synch,” so I gave him an oversimplified excuse of having to go like he goes to see his pedia every year.

I almost made the joke that Mommy’s getting old and not all her parts are working as well as they used to, but the hint of worry in his voice made me hold back.  I don’t think he would have caught the humor in it.  Sometimes, we grownups can be rather sick with our jokes, and it hits the younger ones a different way.  More so the ones who think we will live forever, because they depend on us for nurturing and can’t yet live without us.  I remember when I was his age, I never even thought of my parents passing on to the other side.

Which brings to mind a story that a friend who recently turned 50 shared with me. The family was at a restaurant for his birthday dinner, and when the cake was taken out for him to blow, his 10-year-old son started to cry.  It was as if there was that sudden realization that his father was older and might not be around for long.(Although grey hair notwithstanding, he looks pretty good for his age.)  And I guess it hit the little boy so hard that he forgot his own grandpa was in his mid-seventies. That would give him another good quarter of a century with his pops at least if their genes held up… It was heartwarming and yet worrisome.  How do you assure your son that you still have quite a lot to give and that you don’t intend to conk out on him midway through to adulthood?

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my little guy now that we are transitioning to a major life change as a family.  I have been blessed with his undying love and devotion, and his maturity has often caught me off guard during those moments when I thought I was supposed to be the stronger one.  He would hold my hand or hug me warmly, or just utter “I love you, Mama” from across the room or in the middle of doing homework.  Often, it was during those moments when my mind was wandering off thinking about where we are right now and where we are supposed to go as mother and son.  Those moments when I feel vulnerable and weak– and the universe hears and prompts my one-man cheering squad to holler and wake me out of my melancholy.

In that moment, he is my little boy.  I am the adult.  And yet I cannot deny that I see him maturing from day to day and I am reminded of how I, too, am getting older. I think about that and it’s as if someone hit the pause switch on the remote and my heart skips a beat and stops– just for half a second.  He is the greatest reminder of the passing of time.

I have embraced aging with grace because I have always had a forward-looking outlook in life.  I look back to the past for the lessons learned and the memories that prod me on, but I don’t try to relive it or cling to it because I know I can’t.  I know that no matter how we try, we cannot slow time.  Seeing him grow before my very eyes has only served to illustrate how time has flown by.  As he advances in age, so do I.

I have repeated time and again that I think “Dinna at 50” is the best Dinna yet. When friends who have lost touch ask me how I am, I always start off with “I am in a very good place.  I am happier.”  When I go home to Manila, friends look at me and say I don’t look like I aged.  I always say it’s the make up. LOL.

Like my friend’s son, I used to think of 50 as “OLD”.  It seems like my own Dad was forever in his 40s.   And now that I am almost 50, I feel it but it doesn’t give me pause when I think about life in general.

I embrace it and own it knowing there’s 50 years’ worth of experience tucked between the lines on my skin, or under the youthful looking yet no longer young face.  I have been fortunate to have had the chance to go after my heart’s desires and live my dreams.

Went to law school.

Passed the Bar.

Started a family.

Have a son.  (And yes, I have always wanted a son.)

Pursue my creative penchant.

Travel.

Write.

I haven’t quite ticked off everything on my list just yet, but I’m pretty happy with what I have so far.

I know I will see the Banawe Rice Terraces soon.

Or walk the beaches of Boracay and El Nido.  ( I have already seen Chocolate Hills of Bohol this year.). Visit Rome and one day, return a third time to the City of Lights.

Close the chapters that need to be concluded.

Start anew with my little guy.

Write my story.

Learn to play the cello.

Create.

Craft.

Travel.

Write some more.

Take care of me.

My bucket list, if it existed, would be made up of very small and not-so-grand to-dos. I am grateful that life has afforded me the breaks to realize the bigger dreams  I had my heart and soul set on, and though they didn’t always turn out  a happy ending, I can say I did it.  I let go of the ones that somehow got derailed or sidetracked or just completely failed — I think I have enough under my sleeve to be able to say I’ve lived a good life.  and I intend to keep living a good life, holding my little guy’s hand.  As Melody Gardot sings in “Lover Undercover”, I don’t need anything more than I’ve got.

I have a little scrapbook in my heart that has the pages of the bits and pieces of my life that make me smile.  Those that have brought pain or still bring a hint of it, I’ve torn off and thrown away.

I look at my little guy, I scroll through the selfies on my phone, I listen to the new music I have learned to like — and I know I’m in a very good place.. More so for someone about to turn 50.  I guess I’ve learned to ease my grip on the reins. Frustrations and disappointments, while forever there, are easier to handle — and no longer as heart breaking as they used to be for the younger me.  I’ve learned to let go and hold on only to the things that really matter and which are truly mine, as I get older.

Touchdown Manila

I’ve actually been here a couple of days, just taking things slow and trying to enjoy the down time.  While I was just here in April to attend a wedding, this time it was a spur of the moment decision we had made for Angelo to finally get his long-requested summer stay in Manila.  We had always timed our trips to coincide with the holidays, and that meant arriving for his vacation with a homework packet.  It was understandably a dampener to what would have been a period of fun and relaxation. 

The flight home.  For the first time, I flew our national carrier, Philippine Airlines — and while I had wanted to fly my usual airlines (KoreanAir, Cathay Pacific), I had to adjust to the travel arrangements Angelo already had because he had flown 5weeks before I did.  (Long story short, I didn’t get to choose this flight.)  I had flown PAL many times before domestically, and even as recent as last April when we all hied off to Cebu for that beautiful wedding where I stood as godmother.  I liked that trip, but this last one left much to be desired.

It helped that I had set my expectations low, so I wasn’t surprised that the plane seemed to be old and worn.  I have complete faith in the crews that fly PAL, so I told myself, as long as they get me to Manila, I’m fine.  And get me here, they did.  So I am grateful to the professionalism of the two crews who flew us first to Vancouver, and then the second crew who actually brought us home.

The food was typical PAL, and better than most served on American flights.  My two favorite airlines, though, are favorites, partly because of their inflight dining menu.  Give me the KoreanAir Bibimbap anytime!  (And they do give it at every meal.. which means a two-time serving on a long haul each way.)  I arrived okay — not starving — but we don’t fly for the gastronimic experience.

Yet, all was not lost, and this is the reason I decided to devote a good portion of this post to the flight.  Kudos to the crews that flew on PR127 from New York to Manila via Vancouver on July 31, 2015.  You are the saving grace of this airline.  I got efficient and courteous service (expected), and very generous help when requested.  So forget that the control panel on my armrest kept falling out (no, I did not get electrocuted and it WAS working even if hanging by the wires, literally.), and that there was this tiny screen hanging from certain vantage points on the plane.  Blame it on being spoiled by every other airline I’ve flown in recent years who had individual screens in front of me — whether I was flying state to state or overseas.  (Even Aer Lingus had this!)

Whether I went to the galley to request for a drink, or ask permission to open the porthole by the rear door to snap a picture, I got my answer with a smile.  Even my water was poured with such grace I couldn’t help but wonder if they had practiced that motion during training.  No matter that the menu offering had to be repeated to every person on every row, the question as to your meal of choice was asked with a smile, and without the smirk that made you feel like you were being stupid for asking him something about the meal.  (Meal service, apparently, is not a favorite chore among most flight attendants..)  I wanted to tell them all that they did a good job, but I was busy lugging my luggage down the very narrow passageways and trying to wish the pain in my behind away — grateful I was finally home.

NAIA Terminal 2 – hmmmmmm… All these years, I’ve flown in and out of the same international airport in Manila — and it was an experience I almost dread, but not because of the fact that the airport was really dated.   This particular airport is not a happy place for me except when I arrive — so I have mixed feelings about plopping down into unchartered territory, landing in Terminal 2.

First, there was the immigration line which was always a coin toss between having “long lines” and “VERY long lines”.  I guess I was lucky my flight didn’t arrive with everyone else, so while there was a wait, it wasn’t unbearably long.  A couple of years ago, I got caught during the automation switch of the Bureau of Immigration, and I had to agonize through a two-hour wait with Angelo in tow before we were cleared for the gate.  He was probably 2 or 4 then, so I was actually in line with a young boy on a stroller.  We inched slowly to the front and when I was finally there in front of the Immigration officer, I painfully watched him try to navigate the system.

So you can imagine my surprise when I landed with an older immigration officer who not only processed me with speedy efficiency –but he also rendered courteous and friendly service.  That I am actually raving about it here should prove how impressed I was.  I even sent a direct message to the current Commissioner to make sure that I got the praise recorded officially.. Thank you, Immigration officer Tabao.. Job well done!  We always hear about the “bad eggs” — it’s good to hear about the good ones from time to time..

I walked through the new arrival lanes to the baggage claim area which looked new and promising, until I found myself waiting for my luggage which didn’t come out until after an hour.  Thank God, Immigration sped me through — I had happy memories to keep me preoccupied while I twiddled my thumbs as I lay in wait for the carousel to start showing us bags.  I got to meet an OFW from Vancouver who was hoping his luggage would come out before his wife’s flight from Hong Kong arrived.  (I think he beat her arrival by a few minutes.)  I met a nun who was home for the first time in 15 years, but sadly, to attend her brother’s funeral.  We spoke to each other quite a bit and had a few laughs, and then I saw one of my bags appear and I excused myself.  (Second and third bags appeared almost a half hour later.)  I would’ve met more but my brother started pinging me he was near.. where will he get me?  I suddenly missed the lettered zone in the old airport.

I found the “Bays” and let him know where I was.  (very short spans, though.)  I got into his car and his first concern was whether or not I was hungry — and thanks to the Chicken Tocino from PAL, I was good.. I didn’t realize that the trek home to San Juan would take 3 — YES, THREE – hours.. so you can imagine, I was famished by the time I got home and gave everyone else a hug.  I knew I was back in Manila — traffic and all.

No matter what the hassles and how my behind kept reminding me throughout the trip how long a journey it was, I am always happy to be home with friends and family.  And as they say now, it’s always more fun in the Philippines!

Milestones and moving on

Milestones and moving on

I started writing this Saturday morning but never got to finish it until the whole day ended and moved on to Sunday.  It was a jampacked half of the weekend which didn’t turn out as bad as I was afraid it will be. My little guy just graduated from fifth grade (yay!) and had a graduation party at a bounce place.  It was quite the no-frills celebration which only required a reservation and invitations a couple of weeks ago. Unlike his first two parties at this bounce venue, I didn’t have to worry about giveaways or hitting the minimum this time around.  We hit it well before today but way after the deadline.  (Note to parents out there: Please put yourselves in the shoes of the parent waiting for you to confirm your child’s attendance.  It CAN be nerve-wracking thinking the party might turn out to be a dud so please meet the RSVP deadline promptly.)

I also had to get him ready for a long vacation in Manila.  Father and son go first and I pick him up on the tail end.  I’ve been to Manila this year so the trip isn’t really for me.  I just think it’s time we gave him what he’s always been asking for — a homework-free, longer stay with his cousins.  Forget that it isn’t summer in the Philippine right now, so they’re all going to school.  As long as he doesn’t get a homework packet like he normally does when we leave at Christmas time (because we take him out a week or so before school officially ends for the holidays), he can look forward to just bumming around and enjoying his parents’ land of birth.

He’s grown so much that I am good with having him away THAT long.  I think with all that’s been happening on this end, we can both use a little break and time to grow and shift gears.  And when he returns for middle school, we will both be ready to move on.

We’ve gone on so many trips and with only one guy tagging along, I think I’ve got packing down to a science.  The only difference is I won’t be there, but I’m not worried because after his Dad returns to New York after the first two weeks, he will be with my brother and his family, my sister and other brother and mom.  Being an only son, they are the family he looks to for his ‘brother’ and ‘sisters’.  There he is a younger sibling with an “Ate Julia” and “Kuya Angel” to two others.  (“Ate” and “Kuya” are terms of respect for older relations, the former being feminine, and the latter, masculine.)  I am hoping he can pick up some Tagalog, and I’m tasking my sister who used to be a teacher to teach him cursive.  (Don’t get me started on that one!)

Medication (mostly first aid) ready.  Ear thermometer which is as old as he is, packed with the extra plastic covers.  Ointments?  Butt cream?  (Ewe…. hey, we need to be ready for ANY eventuality..)  Wipes?  they can get them there.. Dramamine?  (His dad’s taking care of that.)  He’s refusing to bring his seasick bands which is him growing up, I guess.  (I will pack them anyway.)  Snacks?  I think I have that covered.

It doesn’t help that my little guy is the pickiest of eaters, but I’m hoping that his newfound curiosity about food will make him more adventurous.  He is asking more and more what it is that I am eating, although he isn’t quite as brave to try it as often as I wish he would.  But at least the curiosity is there.. baby steps, I tell myself.

Saying goodbye was not quite as run-of-the-mill like most of our partings.  I knew he was holding back the tears, but the big boy that he now is, he just kept the hugs short enough to make it meaningful without giving the tears a chance to make the appearance.  My boy is growing up indeed… sometimes it’s hard for a mother to keep up, but we eventually catch up.

The things that matter

Happy birthday to the one who lights up my world and warms my heart.. @angelogon2004 turns 11 today!  My life has never been the same since you came into my life, and I cherish every day that you continue to bless my life with you love.  I love you, Amal.Friday was a momentous occasion.  (Drumroll, please..)  My little tyke turned 11.. can you believe that?  It seems as though it was just yesterday that I was cradling him and complaining he was just sooooo heavy — and yet I couldn’t get enough of kissing him and breathing the air he breathed out.  Everything in my life was colored by his arrival.  It was love at first sight, and I’m still falling in love with him every day.  (Even when he starts rejecting me for a selfie… or when he starts giving me the look telling me he’s upset at Mom for being a mom.. )

Has it been THAT long?  I look at his frame and see him literally growing up.  He will soon be as tall and then taller than me.  His voice has always been low, but even that will become deeper.  I hold his hands in mine and I can’t help but notice how his grasp is filling up my hand even more as the days go by, those times that he STILL lets me hold his hand in mine.
Teaching this #LittleNewYorker, @angelogon2004 , how to ride the #subway on our way to #Manhattan because #ThisIsHowWeDoItInNewYork . #mynewyork #motherhood #motherandson #NYC #publictransportation #mta

It seems like it was only yesterday that he could hardly speak, but he would cling to me with a sense of urgency that made me feel like he was a literal extension of me.  And he started speaking and I heard those three magic words that made everything else matter so little.  As the years passed by, his presence remained constant and kept me anchored to the ground through the worst times and kept me tethered to my humility those times when I was just feeling over the moon.  Through the worst and the best, he was the one whose love mattered the most.

These days I would grab him and hug him as if it were the last time I was going to hold him — remembering that in my lowest of lows, it was his love that kept me going.

Mother’s Day has never been the same for me each year since he was born.  While I had always celebrated it as a daughter, it has taken on a new meaning since I started celebrating it as a mother myself.  Although the day’s focus should be the mother, it plays around motherhood in my eyes.

Today I celebrate it because I hold the heart of my son in my hands and I know it beats a fierce devotion and a tender love that keeps growing each day.  Motherhood, challenging though it may be, is its own reward.  In my heart I know I have done well.  I may not have the riches others possess, but I own something far more priceless.  I look at my son and I am rich beyond measure.  He is the reason today is, indeed, a happy Mother’s Day.
My little guy