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!

Monday Musings on a Tuesday: Those precious long weekends

Monday musings in paper and inkHow was your weekend? I started writing this yesterday, the end of my long weekend, and of course it got lost in the nuances of closing out what would be our last holiday for a while.  We don’t have another holiday coming soon until Thanksgiving, so this is it for a bit.

Like most holiday weekends, I found myself catching up with housework and things I normally don’t get enough time to do on the regular break from the workweek.  I indulged in much needed longer mornings, stretching out and just laying still even when my mind was already wide awake.  Still, I found myself getting out of bed earlier than normal, but I did go about my mornings at a more leisurely pace.

Motherhood.  I got to spend Saturday being Mom — going with my teen to get his hair done.  (And I must stop there lest I end up getting a disapproving look again when he finds out I gave out too much information here.)  And Sunday was momhood again, shopping in the city.  No, not for me, but for the teen (again), what with the school opening just around the corner.  I can’t help but marvel at how much he has grown.  I have captioned our latest picture together as “Mom is indeed shrinking.. ”

And September is here.  And just like that, we are almost at the end of the year.  I have become more attuned with the passing of time.  So I no longer ask where it has gone — I just know it slipped through my fingers like grains of sand.  I’m three quarters done with 2019 and I must say I feel good about where I am.  There is a quiet stillness in my heart amidst the hustle and bustle of my everyday life.  It helps to keep me focused and calm when the excitement gets too much.  I can take a step back, close my eyes, and just find my center again by disappearing into that place within.  Some would say it’s escapism.  I think not.  It’s just me, dealing with life and keeping up.

Decisions.  Summer saw me taking a trip home to Manila, with a stop at one of my other happy places — Sydney.  It was tight and literally short and sweet — but that’s about the only real vacation I take every year.  I don’t go anywhere local, save for an occasional staycation with my favorite date in the city.  This year, we didn’t do anything of the sort.  And even looking back, I don’t really go anywhere else besides home, and places I visit in conjunction with those trips to be with family.  Right now, I’m trying to decide on whether or not I will take another such trip at the end of the year — or more precisely, the beginning of the year.  I am almost 75% sure to go, but there is that part of me that is holding back and vacillating between saying yes and no.

I said I leave it to fate.  And fate keeps nudging me to go as doors have opened.  So I guess I ought to seriously start planning this one.

Writing those letters.  I have the stationery and I have pens aplenty.  I have a list of people I will write and some, I have actually been writing in a journal of sorts.  I haven’t had much luck with those journals but I keep trying, and those letters I hope, will find themselves on their way soon.  I even have the stamps already!  It’s just one of those things which I don’t want to do on the fly.  I want to be able to sit down and take pen and paper and write.  Like really write.

At the start of the year, I had hoped to write at least one letter a month.  I’m 8 letters behind.  I know it shouldn’t be so difficult so I know that at the end of the year, I will be able to count 12 letters sent — and maybe even more.

So that’s my Monday on a Tuesday.  I try.

 

 

 

Two months hence

I am not going to apologize nor make excuses.  Writing has been both natural and a struggle for me of late.  I often find myself thinking of new posts — of words forming sentences that could possibly be a coherent entry here — and then I fall short of actually opening a draft post and nothing is accomplished.

I have been rather busy, though.  I just came from a two week trip home — twofold in that sense, since I went to Manila and visited Bicol, home of the majestic Mount Mayon, and I also spent a few days with bestie Donna down under.

So many stories waiting to be written and told.  I actually am at a loss as to where to begin.  Rather than organize everything in an orderly fashion, I think I have a better chance of getting something done by writing as I always do — spontaneously.
Mayon volcanoWe had arrived with high hopes of capturing this beauty, but there were low lying clouds that obstructed the view.  Believe it or not, the above was taken on a moving plane as we took off for the return flight to Manila.  Yet another story waiting to be written.

It’s now two weeks since I got back, and the jetlag has eased up a bit, but I am still in “Manila” mode.  You know that moment after you return from vacation when you find yourself  drifting off to where you just came back from — and then you are jolted awake from the daydreaming by the realization you are back where you usually are.  Not really a bad place to be for me, but there’s that tiny part in my heart that wishes I could have a day or two or three more.  There’s always that longing to stay, even when you know you really have to get back home.  The real home where work and life awaits.  And so you leave and say your goodbyes.

I just let out an audible sigh.  My own words are getting to me.  Ha!

This trip was different for many reasons, and the new things I learned about myself and my family continue to resonate with me as I find myself moving in my normal again.  I’m typing away, biding my time as I wait for the bus to come, seeing a silhouette of the Empire State Building outside my perch on the 56th floor.  But my heart is 10,000 miles away, thinking how Manila is waking up to a brand new Saturday morn.

It was a good trip.  Although I have a long list of things I had hoped to do and didn’t get to do, my two weeks should stave off the longing for another long break for a couple of months more at least.
CagsawaI’m already planning my next vacation, but at the same time, trying to put this journey and its memories and souvenirs in order.  I haven’t even gone through all the goodies that I am savoring post-Manila and Sydney!

It was good to be in my happy place.   And yes, I long to come back sometime soon — but for now, I have enough memories and happy thoughts to last me until I return.  So I bask in the joy and the bliss of knowing I have my happy place tucked here in my heart.  I have the pictures that will take me there again.  I have the memory of the laughter and the warm hugs and yes, even the not so pleasant memories bring me back to happy eventually.

My heart is full.
The Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters

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.

On the Road: Driving up to Lake George

An hour and a half away from Lake George, I picked up my first set of postcards from the Faber gift shop at the Walden Service Station in the Catskills area. My first postcard for my postcard diary for this trip is a map of the Catskills. The real catch were three lighthouse postcards I snapped up for my collection and for trading. (Will post about that separately.)

Lake George: Almost there

We’re driving up the New York State Thruway and it’s been a smooth ride with no hassles. No traffic, no construction to slow us down. This is one reason this is our third time in this area for a short break from the city — it’s not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away but it’s so easy to reach.

Finally arriving just after 2pm at the Fort William Henry Hotel and Convention Center, we headed to the Lookout Cafe to grab a bite. It’s a cloudy day but that helps keep the heat index down. The breeze blowing our way is cool and relaxing. My vacation has officially begun!
Lake George: My little guy enjoying his lemonade
Angelo had his usual burger (meat patty only, no bun) with french fries. I usually go for the seafood meat roll, and I spied a Cape Cod Crab and Shrimp Roll which was spicy hot but delicious!

Lake George: Lookout Cafe Cape Code Shrimp & Crab Salad Roll

Alan had the Cape Cod Clam Roll which had some deep-fried clam strips and tartar sauce. I’ll probably try out next time.

Lake George: Lookout Cafe Cape Cod Clam Strip Roll

We walked up and down McGillis Avenue and Canada Street. The townscape looks very different with a markedly thinner tourist crowd compared to the first time we roamed the streets during the Fourth of July weekend of 2010. There were many places that were just too crowded for us to make a stop at back then, and it wasn’t surprising that we walked into several shops and areas of the street we didn’t get to see before.

I took some breathtaking panoramic shots of the lake but I’m not going to be able to upload until I get back home.

We’re hoping there will be more sun tomorrow.

We’re right next to Fort William Henry of the “Last of the Mohicans” movie fame. This was where it actually happened. We toured the grounds and the museum in 2010 and it’s a little eerie imagining how crowded the fort had been with the wounded and the dying. There’s a reenactment this weekend of the Fort’s surrender, and we’re hoping to catch that one as a piece of a “live” history lesson.

One day down and I’m savoring every minute of it. Love my bed, love my pillow and tuning out of work. (I’m officially off!) No more work e-mail until next week.. now to go back to my postcards.. time to write the 2nd and so forth…

Summer Sunday

I think I’ve had an awesome weekend if only because I spent most of it resting at home.  Well, most of it.  (I can’t remember when was the last time I spent four hours napping on the living room couch.)  Yes, I was grumpy.  So I lay down and just dozed off.  The boys left me a grilled chicken snack wrap.  (I would’ve preferred a big mac or a chicken sandwich, but for some reason, the snack wrap satisfied me.)

The house is quiet at almost 7pm.  The boys went for tennis walling and I just got a  call that the tyke didn’t like the pan de sal from the nearer store.  Sigh.  I guess I’m going to have to trek down to Woodside sometime this week and pick up two bags.  I don’t hear any silverware klinking but I gave my mother-in-law dinner already and I opened her airconditioner just to cool her room down.  I’ve done my online grocery shopping (via FreshDirect) which I’m hoping to get tomorrow.  I just picked out a unique ice cream brand I think I ought to try — just as a treat.  So I unclicked the Magnum.  (This old body can only take so much calories at this age…)

Tomorrow starts another workweek.  Hmmmmm… Work is work.  Never changes.  I’m trying to plot when I’m going to take the ‘day off for me’ in August, more so since I might need to assist a peer of the boss when he’s out.  I was sort of torn between trying to make myself useful and just keeping my mouth zipped, but with the job situation prevailing here, you cannot NOT be proactive.  So I volunteered.  I think I ought to check what’s happening around Manhattan in the next couple of weeks and take a pick from there.

Meanwhile, it’s the last week of summer camp for the tyke.  (I am relieved only because he’s grown soooo dark despite the suntan lotion I patiently spray and slather on him every morning. )  He’s been trying to convince us not to send him to day camp next year — but keeping him at home the whole summer would be such a waste of precious time and the father wouldn’t hear of it.  So between now and the next summer, I’m going to research “other” things he might be enrolled in for next summer, and keep him busy at least the first four weeks or half of it.

We’re trying to plan another vacation. We’re thinking of returning to Williamsburg, Virginia which is a favorite vacation spot for us, usually alternating between years we head for Orlando and Mickey Mouse country.  Since we did Disneyworld last year, we’re thinking of taking the drive down through this historical area this time around, and maybe stopping by to visit another place or two along the way.

Can you believe that other than finishing my Art Journal Every Day entry posted below, I didn’t do any crafting at all?  Well, blame it partly on Batman.  Can I say how completely awesome The Dark Knight Rises happens to be?  I am probably partial because Gotham is New York and it’s MY New York I saw in great splendor throughout the two hours and forty-five minutes the movie played.  And ROBIN IS FINALLY HERE!  (Funny how Angelo was asking how come Robin wasn’t in the movie…then he got an answer straight from the screen towards the end.)  I guess we’ll just have to sit back and wait for the next installment and this time, with the dynamic duo together.

Well, the boys are back.  Time to take care of dinner.

The Road Home

This is one of two views that I see when I stand outside the home I grew up in.  It is where the road to home literally ends.  I have walked to and from and traveled to and from this road countless times.  It is now a busier street — a favorite shortcut between two major thoroughfares — but the road basically still looks the same.  Except for a handful of high-rise buildings, things are unchanged.

So in a few days, I will say goodbye to this road once again.  I am looking to return in another 2 years — give or take a few months.

I hate the “leaving Manila” part every time my vacation comes to an end.  I don’t mind the long flight home to New York so much.  It’s the people, things and places that tug at my heart each time I set foot on the airport departure area to board the plane taking me back to the place I’ve called home for 11 years now.

If you ask me, THIS is my home.  But for the last 11 years, I have started anew in the big apple — raising a family.  Someone told me there’s the career to consider — but the truth of it is, work is work.  My career is motherhood. =)  I’ll be coming home in the thick of winter, shifting from comfortably cool to horribly cold — and it’s like reality hitting me straight in the face.

Of course there will  be other homecomings… other opportunities to make that favorite trip back to things familiar and loved.

The Fourth of July Weekend looms ahead

I started writing this post two days ago (Monday) as I was thinking about it being a Monday when I was in a (somewhat) upbeat mood and yet looking forward to the weekend.  We are planning a short weekend trip to Lake George where we hope to spend some fun time together as a family.  We’re even taking my mother-in-law who has been enticed by the change of scenery and the promised fresh air.

I didn’t get any further than that first paragraph and my blog post lay in draft mode. 

I’ve been ticking off a mental checklist in my head, and I am actually going to do a written one today — marshalling my resources and making sure I have everything covered.  I even got a new swimsuit more suitable to my current voluptuous size. (wink)  I am also trying to get together the pantry supplies we will need, as well as trying to cover “entertainment” options.  (Read: downloading my ABS-CBN soaps so I can catch up.)  I would like to see the P-Noy (President Noynoy Aquino) Inaugural or part of it if I can.  (Check.)  I also want to be able to finally finish the English translation of Il Filibusterismo which has been in my living room all this time, and maybe start reading something new.  (I am still trying to get on with “Pride & Prejudice” which came free with the E-reader from Barnes and Noble on my Blackberry.)  I just let out an audible sigh after I realized that I have been no good in the reading department even if I don’t have to buy any new books to read, because I’ve had a dozen or so collecting dust on my bookshelf.

Sunblock, lotion, chapstick.  Snacks, artificial sweetener, water.  Some of these things we will probably get closer to our destination.  (Milk, for one, cannot be lugged from Queens to Lake George — unless I get the UHT variety…)  And the usual stamps and address labels for my postcards.  I am actually thinking about using some vintage postcards of Lake George that I came across years ago and which is part of my New York Postcard collection (vintage and new) and send them home which is what I customarily do whenever we go on a trip. 

I am even working on my scrapbook embellishments ahead (this time) just so I can start some layouts as I go along.  I’m using brown (kraft) paper on this project and am all excited about the different things I’ll be creating.  (Which I hope to share as downloads for those digital scrapbookers who might stray into this part of the blogsphere.)  So let’s see where that goes…