Tuesday, May 30, 2006

a good place

this time last year, i was wrapping up my last days as Department Chair in a frenzy, further caught up not only with pre-enrolment busy-ness but also with ensuring a smooth transition to the new Chair, both for the new Chair who's my very dear friend, and for the students in my Department whom i have grown to love so much in my 4-year stint.

this time last year, i was looking forward to a complete beauty parlor and spa treat by june 1, to celebrate my "freedom". : )

this year, though, as soon as summer classes ended last May 26, i promptly spent May 27 for my long overdue pampering and treat-- hot oil, hair trim, manicure and pedicure with foot spa at the beauty parlor, and a complete facial, body salt scrub and aromatherapeutic swedish massage at my favorite spa! : ) : ) : ) i capped the day treating my self to my favorite dinner of salad and pasta at my favorite little restaurant.

it's interesting how the same team of ladies who serviced me at the spa this year, used to be the same team of ladies who serviced me 2 years ago... and they asked me how i was, how they remembered how i frequented their place before when i was still newly separated and was trying to rebuild my life, how we shared womanly stories and how they remembered how i cried and rushed to the spa for a massage every time to keep my sanity and sense of selfhood intact... and i was happy to tell them now that i've survived and have blossomed even, in wondrous ways i my self could never even have imagined before. and they were happy for me, too.

and i secretly wept, but in relief and gratitude this time, for how i have come so far, despite my self, in spite of my self and my foibles.


this time last year, and all the previous years before, i would be all tired and anxious from having to balance a very tight budget, wondering where i'd get the wherewithdal to pay for the kids' tuition and school opening expenses.

this year, not only have i enrolled the kids early and bought their school supplies soon after, i am also now in the middle of updating long overdue debts which will soon be wiped out in a few months, and we actually have a little left over for little treats and luxuries, like movies and books and some toys!


it's interesting, too, how, for the second straight night now, i've been going to Papa's bakery to settle business for the day there and prepare it for the next day with the staff, because Papa and my brother and his family are currently in Cebu for a vacation, and they've asked me to watch over the business for them while they were away.

it is almost like deja vu-- because i used to do the same thing (and more, as bakery manager) soon after i graduated and until the early years of my marriage.

it felt funny and strange, standing there by the counter now, looking out at the passersby and the busy street, much like what i used to do before. only now, i can look out with the perspective of somebody who's been out there in the world, who has fought her battles well and triumphed against all odds, when before, i would look out wistful and envious for the life that seemed to be passing me by, wondering how and when my life on my own terms would finally begin.

the last time i stood there was 10 years ago, when i felt soo old and used up and useless, as i slowly died each day.

today, at 38, i stand on the same spot but only feel peace and joy and contentment now, for the life i have sought to live, with passion and tenderness and lots of mistakes, but a life truly of my own crafting, on my own terms now. life is just truly beginning for me now, in many ways, in all ways.


the kids and i are in a good place in our lives, at last,
at last.

God is sooooo good!!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

paolo, again

last weekend, paolo stayed up with me while i worked with some stuff on the pc. at 2am, he felt sleepy already, so i accompanied him in bed.

as he usually does, he asks me all these strange questions before falling off to sleep. this time, he asked me what a Presbyterian was. and i said it's somebody who goes to a Presbyterian church.

"why, ma, are there different kinds of churches?"

"yes, honey. there's the Catholic church, and the Baptist, and the Presbyterian, ..."

"how come there are different churches, ma, when we only have one God?"

i had to pause to think about that one.

"hmmmm... i guess they fight over how to worship God, honey. so to avoid fighting, they each build different churches."

"worshipping God is simple. i know how to do it."

"how, darling?"

"you just love and take care of God's creation. that's all. why do people have to fight about that?"

i kept quiet at that. half-thinking, half-falling asleep.

"i don't know honey, maybe other people have other ideas about worshipping God ... can we go to sleep now?"

"okay, ma...", but i peeked and i saw him still staring at the ceiling. i could hear the engines of his mind still abuzz with questions.

i just waited and dozed off my self.

then, he shook me and asked again--

"ma, when i grow up, can i build my own church too?"

: ) : ) : )

my midnight children

since the start of summer vacation (and even before, mostly on weekends) thea was the one who stayed up late till past midnight to work on her digital art and chat with her forum friends. with summer vacation, paolo joined her (especially when their cousin redd would be here) staying up late, playing, watching tv, drawing, or just doing anything that caught his fancy. (and raiding the refrigerator too!)

one time, when redd was here, and on the eve of his 8th birthday, paolo and redd stayed up all night playing. i found them at 6am, sitting on the roof, watching the sun come up. : ) i worried a bit that they were not able to sleep, but then thought that since there are no classes anyway, they could sleep during the day. i smiled watching them, though, remembering my own childhood, and the sneaking downstairs from the mezzanine floor of our store where we lived, the tiptoeing while holding my sister's hand in the dark, and going down to our store playing with stuff, eating stuff, feeling secretive and powerful, delighting in our midnight adventures...

for the last two nights now, bea has joined them, too.

the first time yesterday, paolo and bea went to bed at 6am already. i only knew it because they woke me up as they each snuggled on either side of me, moving my arms so, so they could be wrapped in them. i woke up to find thea still on the pc and asked her what got the two little ones so alive and hyper all night.

she said they played outside digging up rocks in the little garden, looking for worms and snails. they they'd run around playing hide and seek. thrice, they jumped into their little pool and frolicked and squealed and giggled. all at midnight and after.

today, i woke up (while paolo and bea just went to bed) to find a small rock outside our door, with a candle attached to it, and pieces of burnt matchsticks around it. i asked thea again what that was, what the little ones did. thea shook her head and giggled as she told me--

apparently, paolo and bea lit the candle, melted its bottom and stuck it on the rock. then they lighted the candle and took turns trying to fart, trying to find out if their farts could blow the candle flame away. : S

i shake my head, too, even as i grin at their antics and energies.

i think someday they will look back on these midnight moments of their lives, and shake their heads and grin, too, ... at the mom who let them just have their fun, and be who they are.

Monday, May 15, 2006

another quickening

while driving home at high noon today, my friend C tried to call me on my cellphone. i didnt answer it as i was driving.

when i got home, i was too tired and hungry that all i managed to do was eat lunch and then go straight to bed for a nap, before the children's party the kids and i were going to at 4pm. i turned off my phone.

at the party, though, i turned on my phone and reviewed my phone's messages again, and remembered returning C's missed call. so i did and asked her what it was about.

ooh wow.

i couldn't quite get the details of it but it seems like there's this group of investors putting up a big train tourism project in China, and part of their marketing strategy is to provide a children's tour book for the child passengers in them, and they want a children's book writer to do it, not in the usual tour-guidy way, but really as a children's book that captures children's imaginations and love for travel.

and, of course, my devoted friend, C, mentioned me. she told me she told them that she only knows one children's book author but this one's the best! : )

ooh, C, you are such a treasure!!!

so anyway, she asked for my permission for her to give them my number. i said, yes, of course, and even suggested that they contact me via email instead. i rarely answer my phone for calls because im usually otherwise occupied.

besides, i still have phone phobia. : )

Sunday, May 14, 2006

brokenness, blessedness

i come home to find my self surprisingly alone, in a quiet house all by my self, with my thoughts and feelings clearer and louder than usual.

the ex took the kids' out for a birthday party at his family's house. even the maid went with them as little Bea won't go without her yaya.

so, even though i was looking forward to greeting the children when i got home, even mulling over the idea of a dinner out for Mothers' Day, especially since i left home early today to go to the peace center for my training class while they were still asleep, i also welcome this surprise private and holy time alone.

the training in communications skills ended today and i bring home with me the gifts of my students' heartfelt sharing of their lives and conflicts, even as we discussed how to communicate more effectively in conflict.

one particular young lady, L, touched me so. at the start, she was the least feminine of them all, dressing up in baggy clothes and acting like a tomboy, coming in late, all tough and cocksure. but gradually, i learned that at 24 years old, she has only finished fifth grade (although she registers in our roll as having finished second year high school) and has already three children, all sired by different fathers she never really knew. i also learned that she grew up in a very poor family of 14 children, her father an alcoholic, her mother trying to make ends meet by vending. she helps her mother by making and selling balut (a Filipino delicacy of boiled almost mature duck's egg) in the late evenings and early mornings. for a fifth grade level education, though, she spells English words perfectly, and has the more thoughtful questions and insightful answers. towards the end of the afternoon today, when we were discussing how most of our perceptions of our selves and of the world are brought about by how we were socialized in our homes, she shared that she hates her parents for bringing her up in this sorry world.

the girls were sharing how most of them forgot to greet their mothers earlier today, and how most of them felt uncomfortable about saying nice things to their moms, and L was sharing that she didn't even feel like a mother, how does a mother really feel? but she surprised us all, when, during a break, she went out for a while and came back with two pink flowers she picked outside to give to me and my co-trainor. i must have surprised her too, with my instant reaction-- i hugged her and kissed her happily, even as i could feel her tense up but accept my embrace and kiss still, though shyly.

later, i learned from the girls how they came from abusive homes, either verbally or physically, and how that's why they don't have much respect nor sympathies for their mothers, how even just saying "please" or "thank you" is unheard of in their world, where, as one other girl shared, they eat insults and beatings along with their meals, if they can eat a decent meal at home, when so many of them have to compete for food even.

at the end of our training, even as most of us felt teary-eyed at our parting, L, especially, was surprisingly giddy. even as some of her classmates still performed their skits, we let her be walking around, drawing on the board, writing "Thank YOU, Teachers, Happy Mothers' Day, We Love You!!!" and drawing happy faces and hearts all around and giggling.

i come home still thinking of L, and all the rest of the girls, with a fervent prayer that not only have they learned something from our training, but that what they learned they could take with them and use and better themselves and their lives, considering the odds already stacked up against them.


from appearances alone, one never knows all the many people who hide so much broken-ness inside.

we were discussing in our class today how anger can be good, in that it tells us something-- how beneath all anger is pain, and beneath all that pain are unmet needs. so, that's why i got to learn about the students' experiences of anger and pain in their lives, too.

and so, i come home today pensive and humbled and awed at the same time, of how there is so much conflict and violence all around, when all around deep down, people are actually just hurting so bad, with no one to truly listen and understand.

i come home too feeling blessed, that despite the travails of my life and all its ups and downs and broken-ness, too, i have come to this good place at last, to this place of healing and wholeness, and how maybe i am being called now to help heal and nurture others to wholeness, too, with my just being who i am, and in the work that i do.


without knowing about what i was going to learn today, i chose St. Francis of Assisi's Prayer to start today's session off.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy...

Oh, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving, that we receive
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned
And it is in dying, that we are born to Life.

now i understand why my students were so seriously and earnestly praying our prayer today, and even copying it in their notebooks.


P. S. i go into the bedroom with a happy surprise, though: on the bed, i find a piece of bond paper, with a pencil drawing of a little girl with Zzzzzsss all around her sleeping head, and a bigger lady in a long flowing gown, with a heart made of red glitter. beneath the picture are scrawled these letters--

Thank U Tooth fairy I lov U!

: ) : ) : )

news tidbits

i came home last night from the peace center where i conducted a training on basic communications skills for grassroots young women, feeling tired but satisfied and happy. the young ladies exceeded my expectations; they were not only vocal and participative, their eagerness to learn, their hunger for more knowledge and passion to better themselves and their lives touched me to the core. it was like being in the presence of something Sacred...

these young women are aged 18 to 30 who, because of poverty, were unable to finish high school. the peace center is providing them a one-year certificate course in conflict management and transformation and political participation, as well as a chance to qualify for a high school diploma, through these series of trainings. these young women attend the courses on weekends, as on weekdays, most of them work as housemaids, salesclerks, etc. or just stay at home helping out.

i learned with them as they learned with me. times like these make me feel blessed i am in the kind of work im in.


i got 6 missed calls on my cellphone while i was at the peace center the whole day yesterday. when i checked, the missed calls were from home, so i promptly called back.

it was little Bea who called.

she just wanted to tell me her first tooth fell off yesterday. : )

so last night, we made a ceremony of wrapping her precious tooth in tissue paper and placing it under her pillow. before falling off to sleep, she asked me if the tooth fairy leaves her fairy dust behind, and i said, maybe...

this morning, the first thing i did upon waking up was to take out a twenty-peso bill from my wallet and exchange it for her tissue paper-wrapped tooth under her pillow. i told Thea about it and Bea's question last night.

our responsible big sister promptly mixed some red glitter with baby powder, and sprinkled it under her pillow and around Bea's toys and art materials under the bed. : ) : ) : )


paolo came home last night from a day out with his dad at his taekwondo competition. Thea and I were worried why it was taking him so long to come home; we thought he must have been having a grueling day at the competition and wondered if he won.

paolo won alright! when his opponent saw him put on his helmet and leather vest and assume his fighting stance, the opponent backed out.

our little hero won his first competition through intimidation.

: ) : ) : )

Thursday, May 11, 2006

on the right track!

see what i got from my emails today---

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Where your mind is

What do you think about your current situation? What do you think about the possibilities that are available to you at this moment?

What you think has a direct and undeniable connection to what you do. So it pays to keep your mind focused on the highest and the best.

Where your mind is right now is where your life will soon be. The thousands of thoughts that you think each day provide the stage upon which you perform.

The outer performance is driven by the inner thoughts. Thoughts of confidence, effectiveness, strength and positive achievement will lead to truly great performances.

Consider all the things you say to yourself as every day goes along. Each one is an opportunity for you to direct your mind in precisely the way you choose.

Use all your thoughts, the little ones, the big ones, and all the rest, to put your mind in a positive, empowering place. Enjoy the journey as your great thoughts lead you surely and steadily to greatness.

Ralph Marston
This is the Daily Motivator email edition. Copyright (C) 2006 Ralph S. Marston, Jr. All rights reserved. Visit The Daily Motivator web site at http://greatday.com for an archiveof more than 2,500 daily messages, inspirational photos and more.

it's a constant struggle with one's self, using one's will on disciplining one's thoughts... but i know why.

this is why.

my children and i deserve no less.

win some, lose some, gain all anyway

even though i only had 9 pesos left yesterday, funds came in today from my university pay and an unexpected mothers' day gift from a friend. so life goes on again, although it slowed down as the funds dwindled in the recent few days. : ) so what, the kids and i are still here, happy and thriving. at the very least, we've learned never to measure our joys by the amount of money in my wallet. : )

still anyway, today would seem like a win some, lose some day. to avoid unnecessary splurging (a very strong feeling i usually have after the inner tension of waiting out a few days with very little funds before the money flows in again), ive started really listing down funds inflow-based budgets, little budgets tied up to when a specific expected amount of money comes in, instead of the usual monthly budget i used to do. so anyway, i had already drawn up a budget for the funds coming in today.

but another challenge for me, aside from the anxiety of living with diminishing funds and unfinished To Dos, is to take the changes gracefully when things don't go according to budget (are we noticing a running thread of control issues here? : > hmmmmmm.....), and that is exactly what happened today.

first, i went to the bank to claim paolo's atm card which was eaten by the machine when i tried to withdraw his little 500 pesos savings from it last night (i asked to borrow it when the funds started running really low), only to find out that his account has been closed, that's why the card was eaten up, because his money was below maintaining balance!!! : O

i didn't know that because that was not explained to me when we opened his account. i specifically told my banker friend that it was to be his savings account, and if we could only open 500 pesos, and they said yes. they even "protected" it by tying it to my regular savings account, so the separate maintaining balance for his account was not clear to me.

anyway, my real issue with this was it was heartbreaking to have paolo learn that the money he worked so hard to save was just eaten up by bank charges! thea was there with me at the bank and we decided not to tell paolo, but that i would just give him my own 500 pesos when he asks for his money. we remembered how paolo skipped a lot of snacks at school just so he could see his name on an atm card... and how he grinned and was soo happy when he finally got one a few months ago!

so anyway, this happens... i could still talk to my banker friend at the bank where we opened his account and clarify things further, but this is really a bummer on our day which was starting out to be celebratory with the funds coming in. : (


part of my To Do and budget item for today was to finally go to the Sony center to have the kids' Playstation II repaired, after their cousin accidentally got the wires entangles on her leg and brought the entire thing down to the floor at Palmas last time.

my budget for the repair was only 500 as i thought it would just be a mechanical job, to have the cd holder function again. however, it turned out that more damage was caused and some computer chip unit inside had to be replaced... so the amount turned out to be P2100! : (

when thea learned of it, she cursed under her breath (or what would amount to cursing for her : >) for her cousin's carelessness. i coaxed her to get over it because it's no use staying stuck on the anger. i told her that let's just look at it as payment for a lesson learned. same with paolo's P500 payment for a bank lesson learned.



we come home tonight, though, happy with our day at the mall, and the little ones with their new coloring and activity books. i check my email to find one good news at least-- the online peace journalism course ive signed up for and have been accepted to not only agreed to give me until sept. 20 to make the tuition payment ( with A agreeing yesterday for our peace project to pay for it!), but that the tuition for non-OECD countries lowered from 250 Euros to just 150 Euros!!!

with the 100 Euro "savings", that more than makes up for the little "losses" today! thank God!!! : D

then, too, with the precious painful lessons learned, plus the thought that at least, our "losses" are some other people's gain (we hope the money that goes to the bank and the repair people and Sony helps improve lives!), then we don't really lose in the long run, after all.

: )

yes, it's all in the mind and how you look at it.

(and for us, it's a survival skill too-- we've got to think this way so we will not be dragged down by the negativity again!!!)


i woke up feeling anxious.

i had meant to stay up late last night to finish checking my students' papers, but instead, after showering and lying in bed just winding down and relaxing, i fell asleep. : (

i slept so deeply i woke up at 6am already, which is beyond my "normal" waking time of 2-3am.

and so, as soon as i got up, like a robot, i proceeded to the bundle of papers left on the table for marking.

the more i marked, though, the more i felt anxious about the soo many things to do today and which i haven't prepared well for last night -- the newspaper fullpage ad one of our university's top brass asked me to do yesterday and due today, my meeting with my co-trainor this afternoon for this weekend's basic communication skills training for grassroots... sigh.

im thinking now of not meeting my classes yet; i don't like meeting them when i am not so prepared. besides, they still have their group assignment in our class to finish too. so it might be more mutually beneficial for us to meet next week already (we don't meet tomorrow for their Summer Splash activity at a far-away beach resort).

but then, there's this accusing voice inside me hissing, "Slacker!!! No-good lazy, slacker!!! You're a fake! You don't really have what it takes to be good! You're no good! Slacker, slacker, slacker!!!


so there i was, marking papers with increasing panic and dread for the day, until i couldn't take it anymore, so i went to the pc instead to distract my self and to get the panic level down to manageable level.

as has been my habit now, i proceeded to check my "vitamin pill" emails from J, a very very good and special friend who somehow manages to erase my blues away everytime i hear from him or see him.

that helped a lot. : )

feeling a lot better now, i proceeded to check the business emails and process requests and orders there. i know that accomplishing something, ticking one item off my To Do list, no matter how small that thing is, helps in boosting confidence and energies, and chases more of the blues and panic attacks away.

and it did.

i thought to check my other regular email but then the screen froze so i had to restart the pc. between restarting and now, in the quiet stillness of this early morning alone while the kids are still asleep, i managed to face my anxiety again and look at it gently, compassionately, lovingly this time.

i haven't done my regular meditations since the Vios came (: D), with all the excitement a new life with a new car brings. heehee. it somehow had a domino effect on all the other areas of my life, things working out, other plans and Intentions falling through and manifesting too, people and situations surprisingly conforming, acquiescing to my every desire, as if i've suddenly acquired the Midas touch.

still, for the last 3 or so weeks i haven't meditated, despite all the positive energies and excitement, i've also fallen back to my old modes of anxiety and panic attacks when little things didn't go as planned-- like funds dwindling before the next infuse comes in, and things still left undone at the end of a busy, productive day.

the good thing about this, though, is that, now, because of my meditations before, i have become more self aware, and so now, i was able to pinpoint the exact cause of my anxiety and panic attacks, right on the dot when they would actually spring up.

i worked with my anxious feelings about money these last few days and i feel proud of my self for being able to work it through. nobody knew i was walking around with only 9 pesos in my wallet yesterday! (: D) mainly because i didn't feel it nor look it.

so now, i will work on my anxious feelings with my remaining To Dos.... but i am working more gently and lovingly with my self now. i used to have these really horrid self-bashing thoughts; now, i look at the things left undone, and why i wasn't able to do them (tiredness from doing so much so well already), and i feel compassion and love for my self, for all my efforts and the good things i do manage to get done, instead of focusing on the things still left undone.

i am learning to just stay with the anxiety until it passes, meanwhile doing productive, self-loving diversions like what i did this morning. i am learning, too, to really prioritize and value activities and the people i associate with, postponing the less important ones for the more, delaying some activities in favor of more significant ones, and seeing it as really focusing more of my attention and energies now to things that really matter to me in the long term, despite the many distractions and requests and impositions on my time, attention and energies.

most of all, because of my meditation experiences before, and my non-meditation experiences now, i am seeing how important and self-loving practicing my meditations regularly really is, because i can more clearly compare and see the difference now.

lately, i have been back to my pattern of a rush of energies in the morning tapering off towards noon and declining by early evening, compared with my 20-hour rush of energies and 4-hour really deep and relaxed sleep before when i regularly meditated.

so starting last monday, i have actually re-started my meditations again, going for the full strength the first time, and half-strength yesterday, listening only to meditation music in the background while i worked.

it is not so much unconscious overhwhelm coming up but my having become more self-aware to recognize my blocks and self-defeating attitudes and behaviors that have always been there but which i only "see" clearly now, like this current challenge with living with my anxieties.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Writing as a Sacred Journey

From "Writing the Sacred Journey," by Elizabeth J. Andrew:

You can only discover why a story matters by telling or writing it. Even then the story’s reason for emerging remains a mystery. Perhaps you have seen the evidence that a story can have a will of its own. You begin with the intention of writing about your meditation teacher’s soothing voice and end up describing your grandmother’s bedtime songs and what a terrible loss you felt when your family moved far away from her. Your job as memoirist is to listen to what your stories tell you. It’s only through revision and contemplation that you learn that your grandmother is at the center of the story, and that she taught you to trust the quiet moment before sleep. We think we know our stories, but in fact, they have a tremendous capacity to surprise and teach us. Work long enough with a memory and it will exert its silent, irascible will.

When I consider the value that Western culture places on material things; when I encounter advertising’s perpetual message that we need to change ourselves to be acceptable, happy, or loved; and when I notice how difficult it is to squeeze a walk into my day or to quiet my mind’s perpetual chatter, I see that the spiritual life itself has become marginalized, even oppressed. So many demands run roughshod over the soul’s needs that we often forget those needs exist. The activities that most nourish the spirit (play, affection, generosity, contemplation, quiet, beauty, creativity, truth-telling, time in nature) are least valued in a consumer society. Spending a morning with a pen and notepad, traversing the landscape of memory and searching for the sacred, is a profoundly countercultural activity. No wonder the impulse to probe the spiritual life with language presses against so many people’s hearts. That neglected dimension of self is rebelling—insisting that its story come into the light.

Writing, then, becomes a way of attending to life’s submerged currents.