Friday, April 18, 2008

The Invisible Mother

I got this as a forwarded email from a friend and fellow mother. This is beautiful and makes a ton of sense. To all the wonderful mothers out there! Advanced Happy Mothers' Day!!!


It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this ? Can you tie this? Can you open this??

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!?

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:
'To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it. And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!


The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

lucky day, happy day

my numeroscope for today--

Daily Number: 6

Today is a lucky day for you, in which you're likely to experience progress in your career and/or finances. You feel a sense of closeness with relatives and friends, and an overall healing of the heart. Few things could be better.


few things could be better, indeed!

i started out the day waking up late after a good night's sleep, having arrived from newark to atlanta at 10pm already last night. i woke up to find an email telling me that the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) had just approved my paper for a full travel grant to present at a conference on peace journalism in Belgium this July!!! : )

then i was so happy and inspired, i finally decided to bake and cook, at the same time, FOR THE FIRST TIME ON MY OWN, today, with my sis Honey just standing by to oversee my progress, and i am soo proud of the home-made bread pudding and paella i produced today! Honey and dad Larry both agreed they tasted great, and i know it's not just to please or humor me, because my own taste buds agreed too!

while preparing the ingredients for baking and cooking, my mind was intensely focused too, on planning my kitchen renovation at home when i get back. finally, i am staking a claim to my own kitchen now as i should!

i also daydreamed about how it would be like to be together with my new husband and our children someday soon (i hope), and how i would feed them delicious and healthy and attractive-looking dishes even as i cared for them as a full time homemaker, while i earned from home, too, with my writing and the family's online crafts and exports businesses... : )

then, my long-delayed Amazon order rescheduled for delivery by UPS (because i wasn't here to sign for them) finally arrived today-- Thea's wished for Canon G9 digicam and Shannon Hale book, Book of A Thousand Days; and my own wished for books, especially Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and Mary Oliver's book of poems, American Primitive!!!

ohhhh, this has been a day of delicious and abundant food-- food for the mind, food for the body, and food for the heart and soul!

thank you, God.

Spring has indeed come into my life again, at last.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

today's quote

Don’t be discouraged by a failure. ...Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.

John Keats (1795-1821)

Monday, April 07, 2008

NJ and NYC Memories, Week 1

March 29 - arrived Newark airport at around 8am; went to Beacon (Jonas' and Jen's place) after depositing luggage at Carteret

March 30 - went to international car show at Javits Center with Al and Judy and Jonas and Jen, then met up with Linus and Dalia for an Italian dinner at Nonna's; we had our first view of Times Square and Central Park from the car, as Jonas drove us around to point the sights to us

March 31 - stayed at home, puttered around, read, wrote, rested

April 1 - lunch buffet at Filipino restaurant, Colonia's, with Tito Sonny and Tita Vicky Quisumbing; then accompanied Tita Vicky to Walmart for some shopping

April 2 - first bus ride to and from NYC with Cecille, walked up and down 5th to 8th avenues and assisted Cecille as she visited a business contact for costume jewelry distribution

April 3 - stayed at home and read and slept; down with heavy period, felt extremely homesick; chat with B helped a lot

April 4 - dinner at Quisumbing's house in Carteret, too, just a 15-minute ride away

April 5 - Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty Tour

Lourdes Concepcion Patindol Watts

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ellis Island

for the first time since i came to America last September yet, today i felt that i am finally in the real America, its heart and soul, that is, not its flashy accoutrements.

because of a wonderfully perfect sunny yet cool day today, despite dire weather forecasts of a rainy, even a stormy day, tito tony suggested to my sister, honey, and i that he take us to Liberty Park, to join in the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferry tour. we quickly agreed, although i had my private reservations.

these days, i have just been wanting to stay home and read, or surf the net and do my emails, or watch movies, not really go out and/or socialize-- just clock time until we go home again. so, half of me hated being pulled away from home this morning, but im glad i let the other half agree to the tour.

before getting there, tito tony even suggested that we skip the Ellis Island tour (he said most tourists aren't familiar with Ellis Island anyway) and just stay on the ferry to go straight to the Statue of Liberty. but once there, honey and i decided to step down anyway and explore it, just out of curiousity's sake.

Ellis Island is where around 70% of immigrants to the United States were processed, before it closed in 1954.

as soon as i stepped into the hallowed front hall of the Ellis Island Museum, and was greeted by large black and white pictures of immigrants in the 1880-1924 peak immigration exodus, along with sample artifacts of the kinds of luggage they brought with them-- i was just suddenly overwhelmed with feeling and i choked with tears.

my first thought was, "oh my god, B's ancestors must have stepped into this same hall too almost 100 years ago!"

as i explored the 3-storey museum, from listening to the very dramatic rendition of the tour guide, to my own wanderings in and out of the many exhibits all over the three floors, reading the quotes from Ellis Island immigrants interviewed in the mid-1980s during the Island's restoration as well as listening to taped interviews with some of them-- i cried quietly even as my heart broke, realizing the struggles and suffering all these immigrants from different countries had to go through even as they pursued their fragile hopes and dreams.

the Filipino Diaspora isn't as unique as i've always thought and felt it was.

of course, intellectually, i understood that many people from all over the world immigrate to other countries, especially America, to build a better life for themselves and their families, but it never hit home for me, until today.

i learned that basically, regardless of race, creed, sex, age and background, all immigrants who came to America before shared the same stories of leaving families and precious histories and cultures behind because of extreme poverty, deprivation due to totalitarian governments, atrocities, war... and they made America the great nation it became (until recently).

i was struck by one quote i read from an Italian immigrant who said (paraphrased): "They told us America was paved with roads of gold. When I came to America, I found out 3 things: there was no gold, it was not paved, and we were expected to build the roads."

i saw America with newer eyes, with a newfound respect and appreciation for its people who built it. i am saying this in contrast to my developed anti-American sentiment from my college activist anti-U.S. bases, anti-U.S. imperialism days : ), which was itself a 180-degree turn from my childhood adoration of Hollywood America as the land where all dreams came true.

in the end, as i shared this insight with honey, i truly felt and understood now too when i also said, "the American government is not the American people."

until today, whenever family and friends would tour us around sights and monuments and memorials, i was curious and interested, but still distant and detached. my attitude was, "okay... hmmm... interesting... and then?... so what?... or, hohum... next please..."

until today, i never really felt like i was in America, but just in another developed country, with all these interesting sights and foreign-looking people to see and interact with.

until today, i merely tolerated being in America.

at the end of the tour, in the lawn outside the Museum, honey interviewed me on video with the cam she brought while we were waiting for our ferry back. she laughed when i said, "I am proud to be an American now, even if I'm not an American!"

when we got home, she told tita melvi, "today, Manang (me; Ilonggo term of endearment for "older sister") just fell in love with America!"


Thursday, April 03, 2008


that's how my life has been since the start of this year: surreal.

first, there was papa's hospitalization and amputation, which necessisated a one-month stay in the hospital, until he died last feb. 20. then, there was mama's hospitalization from stroke, too, two weeks after papa was hospitalized.

the day after papa was buried on feb. 25, i flew to Atlanta, Georgia, to be with mama, who was still in the hospital. she died on march 10, two weeks too after papa died.

then, there was the very wonderful and specially healing time spent with B, a week after we buried mama.

now, my sister and i are here in new jersey with an uncle and his family, discovering new jersey and new york, and rediscovering old cousins and cousins of cousins everyday.

from the depths of grief, to the heights of joys, and now stretching the limits of our world by venturing into new worlds, all in a space of 3 months-- i find my self just cresting the waves of my life each day as they come.

i have learned not to make too detailed plans anymore, not even for tonight, much less for the next day or next week, as i am learning that life can change in an instant. i have learned to just go with the flow, and let what comes, comes, and just deal with them as they come.

i have finally learned to let go of the last vestiges of anxiety and worry, as they really are useless anyway, just extra burden on one's energies and spirit. life comes as it is; being anxious about it and worrying about what comes next does not make you any more prepared or peaceful or happy.

i am learning to trust in my own inner resources-- my intelligence and wit and wisdom and gifts of insight and discernment to see my way through, and work my way through peacefully and happily, even when outer circumstances are so chaotic. in short, i am perfecting the art of "winging it"! : )

i have ceased to question why, well even before this year, but more so during this year. i have learned to trust that whatever happens, i can handle it, i am well taken care of and provided for by both seen and unseen angels and loving spirits in my life, and that the answers will come when i'm ready for them. if the answers don't come, that is fine with me too, i just live the Mystery as best as i can, bringing my whole self into it, and living my depth.

in all these, Life for me now has taken on a new richness, a deeper meaning, and a more beautiful and wondrous poignancy and delicacy to it.

i think now that my mind, heart, soul and even body are being stretched out for more spaces to accommodate more of Life and the mystery and magic that it unfolds, each moment, every day.

in all these, thank you, God.