Archive for January, 2007
One Spring morning, my kids and I were frantically searching for Ryland’s library book. I was already running late for work. I remembered the night before that it was library day and had planned to put the book in his backpack before I went to bed. But I got sidetracked on the internet and forgot about it. It turned out that the book was not in the drawer where he usually kept it. It has been misplaced. I could have turned the house upside down and found it that morning but I didn’t want to miss my bus. So I told his brothers to help him find it and if they didn’t, Ryland would just have to apologize to the librarian and he would return the book the following day when we find it.
I felt guilty as I rode my bus that morning. As route number 11 ran along Henderson Highway, I thought to myself, this is the reason I have decided to work from home. To avoid the morning rush, dragging the kids out of bed at 6:00, rushing them with breakfast, rushing them to get dressed. C’mon let’s go. I’ll miss the bus. I’ll be late for work.
As the bus approached Redwood Avenue, I spotted the billboard infront of the funeral home. They always post wise quotations. Whenever I go downtown, I always look to see what words of wisdom they have there. I usually jot it down if they have a new one. Then I muse, or reflect on those words. This is what they had there on that morning. – Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
What an irony for me that morning. I know that we should really take things slowly, treasure every moment. That’s why I hated that three-week period of training at the office. That rush. Not being able to sit down with my kids at breakfast, not being able to wave goodbye at them by the window when they go to school, cutting short our talks at night before bedtime because they had to go to bed early. But if I didn’t hurry that morning, I would have been late. I was only to be there at the office for three weeks and I didn’t want to display any kind of tardiness.
A few blocks away from the funeral home is Disraeli Bridge. This is one of the bridges here in Winnipeg that connects the east and the west parts of the city. You see, Winnipeg is divided by the Red River, which runs across the city. If you’re a Winnipegger, you live either east or west of the river. Everytime I pass by this river, I’d look from the window and look at the water and the trees that line its banks. In the Fall, I like watching the changing colours of the leaves. In the Winter, I like looking at the frozen water. In the Spring, I like watching the ice melting. And in the Summer, I just like looking at how high or how low the water is.
This is one of the reasons I enjoy living in a country with the four seasons. Back home in the Philippines, we only have a wet and a dry season. When I was in elementary school, we used an American textbook and we learned about the different seasons. We learned about the changes in the environment in each season. We even learned what sports were played in each season. But textbook information is a lot different from actually experiencing it. It’s so amazing to actually see the leaves turn into different colours. And how I love that crunching sound the dried brown leaves make under my black leather shoes. How wonderful it is to watch the first snowfall of the season; to witness the sprouting of leaves and blossoming of flowers in the spring; and to watch everything turn green in the summer. It takes a year to go through the whole cycle.
Nature takes its course, slowly. It does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished. If only people could be like that. But life nowadays is so fast-paced. People don’t have a choice. But don’t we really? I remember when my middle son, Ryan, was in sixth grade and they were studying about our pioneers. There was no electricity then. No cars and buses. They had to cook their food with fire and wash their clothes with their hands. One night, Ryan asked me, Mommy, which is better, the old times or our time? Well, it depends on how you look at it, I told him. Life then was so simple and a lot less complicated. Now we have modern machines that help us a lot to finish our work quicker. But then again, if technology is supposed to make our lives easier, why are we busier than ever?
I couldn’t help but ponder on this famous saying by Lao Tzu once again as I find myself busy not only with blogging but with the kids’ activities. Last weekend, I felt Ryan’s disappointment when I told him that we had to cancel his haircut appointment because it coincided with his game and that he might have to miss two back-to-back games this week because he has rehearsal for his band concert on the same day. I sensed my husband’s irritation at the littlest things. I understood that he was also tired because he had been driving us the whole day of Saturday. He had to get up earlier than usual to drive us to the game, back home to get the kids for the dentist appointment, back home again to have lunch, and back to the school for another game. Then the passenger door of the car wouldn’t close tightly because it was frozen. The old me, err, I mean the younger me would have snapped back at his crankiness. But I surprised myself with my calmness in all of these.
But hold on to that applause. Last Friday, I was out late watching Ryan’s game and I wasn’t able to tuck my youngest son, Ryland, into bed. The next morning, he told me that he cried because he missed me. Aww, I’m sorry, baby. The other night, I was helping Ryland with his homework. Next thing I knew, he was crying. I dozed off on the couch! I apologized to him and we tried to finish his homework even though it was past his bedtime. The same way I apologized after that library book incident when I found out that I was the one who misplaced it. I moved the book from its usual place and it got buried under a pile of paper.
One of the reasons I decided to work at home is to spend more time with my children. In this decision, I had to forego any promotion at work and the increase in income that goes with that. But I was alright with that decision. Kids grow up so fast and I want to savour every minute that I get to spend with them.
Working at home has given me spare time on my hands. But am I using that time wisely? I was supposed to spend more time with my children. But as they grow older and become more independent, wanting to spend time to themselves, I got distracted by other things that kept me busy, like blogging for instance. I have to remind myself, though, that when they do get up and get out of their respective corners after playing their Gameboy, X-Box, or Playstation that I should be there ready to listen, play or communicate with them. And I mean not just pretending to listen while my eyes are fixed on the computer.
Author’s note: I have shared the library book story before in my post, How I’m doing as a mother.
Another related post is The Paradox of our Time.
Junior high school basketball tournaments started this week. My son, Ryan, made his school team. And it’s been a very busy week. Five games in four days. We have been particularly very busy today, Saturday. He played in two games and we had dentist appointments for me and all three kids in between. We started the day at 8:30 a.m. and I only got home at around 5:30 p.m. after I had done my grocery shopping. I’m beat. So I guess I’ll retire early tonight. And if you don’t see me blogging that much in the next two months, you know where I am – in some school gym watching and cheering my boy. That’s him – number 63.
When I first came here in Winnipeg 17 years ago, I lived with my mother in her apartment. I arrived on a Saturday and she would have to go to work on the following Monday. She would have to leave me at home alone by myself so she showed me how to operate the stove and the microwave. She showed me where the switches are for the lights and other appliances. Later on she also showed me how to operate the washer and dryer in the laundry room. And of course, where to and how to bring the garbage out.
Every time we had a bag full of garbage (and I mean just a grocery bag full of garbage), we took that out with us when we had to leave the apartment and we went through the back door. Behind the apartment building was a huge blue garbage bin with the letters BFI on it printed in white. This is called an AutoBin. That’s where we would dump our garbage-filled bags. She told me that when she first came here, her friend, Tito Ronnie, (who was my future husband’s uncle) told her that it would be easy for her to remember where to put the garbage because BFI means Basura Fo Ito (“this is garbage” translated from Tagalog). Of course he was just being funny. BFI is the name of the waste management company but I don’t know what the initials mean. My searches on the internet led me to nothing. If you do find out what it means, please feel free to let me know.
There are AutoBins placed behind every building all over the city. They are usually located at the back of the buildings, out of public sight.
The City of Winnipeg is on a five-day cycle garbage collection. Each neighbourhood or area is assigned a day, as in Day 1, Day 2, etc. There is no collection on Saturdays and Sundays. No collection on statutory holidays either. So if your collection day is Day 1 and it is on a Monday. And let’s say, Labour Day passes, then your next collection day will be on Tuesday.
If you live in a house, you should have a metal or plastic garbage container and you put this out by the back lane on collection day. Make sure you clear all the snow so the collectors can see them.
The neighbourhood where I live doesn’t have back lanes, so we put our garbage out in the front at the curb on the night before garbage day or at least before 7:00 a.m.
But with all that snow, where do you put the garbage? On the top. Or you shovel and clear an area where to put them.
The City also has a recycling program. Every household has a blue recycling box where we put our recyclables – paper, plastic, bottles, cans, etc. We also put this out on garbage day.
Beside the Autobins of apartment buildings are these blue recycling bins where tenants can put their recyclables.
This is what the recycling bins at downtown and other commercial areas look like. It is divided in three sections inside where you can put paper, cans, and bottles. Ignore the picture of the guy holding the carrot as if it’s a microphone. That is just an advertisement of a grocery store called Peak of the Market. And just so that you don’t have to wonder why there’s no snow in this picture, this one was taken last the summer.
Here’s another tag from my new blog-friend Pining of Buckinghamshire, GB.
Five things that happened to me because of blogging:
- I always carry a small notebook in my purse and I also have notebooks lying around in every nook of the house so I could jot down ideas to post in my blog. I would be riding the bus and I’d see a nice quotation on a billboard and I’d pull out my notebook and quickly copy it. I’d be listening to the news or watching a talk show and I’d hear something that might be blog material and I’d jot it down.
- I’ve always loved taking pictures of my family but since I’ve been blogging, I have been taking not just their pictures but pictures of fruits, flowers, trees, snow, etc. Last summer, Ryan was the first one to say anything about my obsessive picture taking. Why do you have to take a picture of the pay phone? Why do you have to take pictures of the murals? Can’t you just go on the internet?
- My desk is in such a clutter. I have piles of paper – drafts of possible posts; newspaper clippings – possible sources of future posts; my journals from last year – another source of possible posts; books that are waiting to be read. On my shelf are also tapes and DVDs that I can’t put away because I haven’t watched them yet. If only I could get a break from blogging, then I can un-clutter all that mess.
- I have been neglecting things that have to be done. On New Year’s Day, I spent the day cleaning the oven and recording our home movies from over a year ago. I used to be up to date in recording our tapes but blogging has taken so much of my time that our home videos didn’t make it to my in-laws in the Philippines in time for Christmas. That’s usually my Christmas present for them.
- The best thing that happened to me because of blogging is meeting many blog-friends from around the world. I have met people from different cultures. I have met Filipinos who live in other countries and I have learned how they live there. I have met Filipinos in the Philippines and I get updated on news and changes back home and I get to see a glimpse of what it looks like there now. I have met mothers who share their experiences in raising their children and I also get to share mine. And mothers who are also sometimes as clueless as I am with what to do with our children. I have met expats like me who found home in a new country and are content where they are. I have also met expats who miss home terribly and can’t wait to go back home. But the most important thing I learned from meeting all these people is that no matter what country or culture we are from, we are so much alike – in the way we live, the way we raise our kids, the way we feel about our country or family. And I may relate more to fellow Filipinos because we are of the same background but we could also be so much different from each other. Though we are from the same country and culture, we could also have different views on almost anything.
I have been tagged by fellow Winnipegger Karen to name
Five things you might NOT want to know about me:
- I rented and watched Swordfish and Monster’s Ball because I wanted to see Halle Berry’s boobies. Same reason I saw The Constant Gardener – to check out Rachel Weitz’s boobs. They both have nice racks by the way. And Monster’s Ball is a good movie and Halle deserves her Oscar award. And I’ve learned that they shot a few scenes in The Constant Gardener in Winnipeg. Now you’re gonna think that I’m a perv.
- I am so behind when it comes to electronic gadgets. I don’t have a cell phone, Ipod, MP3, or what-have-yous. I don’t see a need to buy a cell phone because I work from home and my family knows where to reach me at any time of the day. And none of my kids have asked for a cell phone yet.
- I am an introvert by nature. I am always so ill at ease at company gatherings especially if there is no other Pinoy there. Sometimes it takes me a while to warm up to people.
- I am good at hiding my feelings. So you might have offended me but I would still be smiling and you won’t know that you have hurt my feelings.
- I have not been diligent with my daily walks. I think Toe thinks that I am still walking for half an hour everyday and I haven’t corrected her. I still do take my walks, but not for half an hour and not everyday.
Do you remember my fruit platter from New Year’s Eve? We had 13 different kinds of fruits and it took us over a week to eat all of them. Of course I didn’t buy just one apple or one orange. I bought a bag of each. Except for some of the fruits. The kiwi, I only bought two; avocado, three; and one each of the watermelon, cantaloupe and the pineapple.
This is how I prepare our avocados. First I slice it in half. I take the pit out with either a spoon or a knife. I scoop the flesh out with a spoon.
I add sugar, milk and ice cubes. It’s good.
We don’t buy this often though. It’s not cheap. This was $1.28 each on New Year’s Eve.
Another fruit we seldom buy is the pineapple. We only started seeing pineapples in the supermarket here about five years ago. Before that, the only pineapples my children knew were the canned ones. On New Year’s Eve, I bought only a small one. This was just as tall as my hand, not including the leafy top.
First thing I do is cut the top off. Then I cut off the skin like this.
I make diagonal slits to cut the eyes.
Then I slice them. I dip them in salt even if they are sweet.
My husband turned 40 last week and we celebrated this milestone over the weekend. I asked him if he wanted a big party. I threw one for myself when I hit the big 4-0 two years ago. Well, it wasn’t really a “big party” but 13 friends and 10 family members (not including my own) came over to our house. It was my big 4-0 after all. But my husband wanted to celebrate small. He said that he would just invite his three best buddies. But one was hospitalized and somehow the two also didn’t come. So it was just my sister’s family and my mother. That’s already 15 of us in the house so I would think that was already a big party.
He ordered pancit malabon and puto (rice cake) and he cooked arroz caldo and fried tofu (tokwa) with matching dipping sauce made by combining soy sauce, garlic and lots of onions. I also bought him ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. “You didn’t have to,” he said. But I knew he was glad that I did.
So we were all chatting after we had eaten when the phone rang. It was my kumareng Olive. She asked if they could come over. Her sister Delia is here visiting from the Philippines. I knew her sister because we all lived in Noveleta, Cavite when I was a little girl. We were all childhood friends you see. And now we are more than just family friends. There is a stronger bond that connects us all. Olive’s aunt, Tita Adela, is my sister Lina’s godmother. Tita Adela’s daughter Lanie is my son Ryan’s godmother. Both Lina and I are Olive’s kumare because her youngest daughter Trixie is our godchild. Have I confused you enough? He he he.
And wasn’t it good timing that they decided to come over when we had food in the house? Otherwise, I would have scrambled for something to serve them or I probably would have ordered pizza.
So they came. Olive’s family and also Lanie’s family and Delia, Olive’s sister. It’s been ages since we’ve seen Delia. She said that she hasn’t seen us since we left Noveleta. That was in 1978 and I was 12. But I have seen Delia years later. I was working then at Quezon City when one of the sales rep in the pharmaceutical company I was working for told me that Delia from Noveleta was sending her regards to me. When I asked the sales rep how she knew Delia, she told me that Delia was working at SSS where she made her usual rounds. Then a few days after that, I saw Delia along EDSA waiting for the bus while I was aboard a jeepney. I still recognized her because although she wasn’t as thin as she used to be, her face had not changed that much. She didn’t see me though.
(Me and my sister Lina with Olive, sister Delia and brother Cesar)
Last Saturday was the first time she’d seen me in years. She said, “Gumanda ka.” (You’ve become beautiful.) He he he. That just tells you that I wasn’t an attractive child and I was well aware of that. I’ve heard people compare me to my sister, how prettier she was, how fairer her skin was and how bubblier (mas bibo) she was. And I think that’s why I developed an inferiority complex early on. I was already a timid child and comments like that just made me recoil more inside my own little shell. And this is the reason I get irritated when people would also compare my children to each other. Oh he’s more handsome than the other one. Mas maputi siya. (He’s got fairer complexion.) It’s not good. Every child or individual is special in his/her own little way.
So we ate some more. They liked my husband’s arroz caldo and fried tokwa. They were surprised that he could cook. My mother told them that he’s the cook in my household. But just for the record. Even though he cooks and I admit that he cooks better than me, I am still the one who does most of the cooking around the house. He usually only cooks in the weekends because I am busy then with grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning the house and I also work on most Saturdays. But I held my tongue when my mother told them that he’s the cook since it was his day. It was his birthday so I let him take the glory.
We asked Delia how she likes Winnipeg so far. We all knew it wasn’t the best time to visit because of the cold snap we‘re having. But she said that she wouldn’t mind migrating here in the future. As for now, she doesn’t want to leave her aging and frail mother back in the Philippines. I think the first thing she noticed here is how traffic compares to the Philippines. She said that the distance between Olive’s house and Lanie’s house is pretty much the same as the distance between Noveleta, Cavite and Plaza Lawton in Manila. Here, it will take you half an hour to drive from Olive’s house to Lanie’s house. In the Philippines, it takes two hours to reach Plaza Lawton from Noveleta. Isn’t that crazy?
As for food, she noticed that the (potato) chips here are saltier than the ones back in the Philippines. I told her that when I first came here, I noticed that people here bake their cakes a lot sweeter than back home.
We were talking about the children when Arnold, Olive’s husband, said that when they were still in the Philippines, he would whip his oldest daughter with a belt when she was misbehaving. I then said that you couldn’t do that here. The police would arrest you if you get caught doing that. My brother-in-law then said that he would tell his kids that if they told the police that they were being beaten, the Social Service people would get them (the kids). And would they want that? As for me, I am against child beating.
Then Delia asked me which ones of the kids are mine. All the kids were all upstairs in the bedroom by now. She asked me, “yun bang nagmano sa akin? (Is it the one who kissed my hand?) I told her, “Kung nagmano sa iyo, hindi ko anak yon.” (If he did, then he’s not one of mine.) He he he. You see, my sister makes her children follow strictly this common Filipino tradition of kissing the hands of our elders. It’s not really kissing, but we take the right hand of our elder and bring it to our forehead. It is a sign of respect.
Once in a while, I’d tell my children to kiss the hand of their godmother or godfather when they come over for a visit. Or when we go to Filipino gatherings and there are elders there that we know. But I am not really that strict with following this tradition. Of course, people are glad when they see children still doing the blessing or the kissing of the hand or when they answer in Po and Opo. Among my children, only my oldest one says Po and Opo. Sometimes my mother would comment that I am very modern in raising my children and that my sister is very conventional. Sometimes I don’t know what to think of that comment. Yes, my children may not be kissing everybody’s hand and saying Po and Opo but I think that although they are not doing these things, they are still very respectful and polite towards people, especially our elders.
(Lanie and Olive, with kids on their laps, Delia, Mama, me and Lina)
At reunions like this, you can’t help but reminisce about the good old days. I was surprised at how Olive remembers stuff differently than I do. And how she remembers stuff that I don’t. I’ve always thought that she lost her father, who was a conductor for the Saulog bus, when we were only 5 or 6. No, Olive said. We were already in high school when her father had a heart attack. What I remember was her lying on the floor crying when she learned that her father died. And then my mother chimed in that I went to Noveleta with my father to attend the wake. But I don’t recall going back to Noveleta to attend the wake of Olive’s father.
Now, as I look back, I think my father told me about the death of Olive’s father and how she cried on the floor. But I never exactly saw her cry like that. It was just a vision in my mind out of my father’s recount of that sad news. I tell you, I had such a traumatic childhood and there are parts of my past that no matter how hard I try to recall, they just wouldn’t come back to me. I think I have this sort of selective memory. My brain chooses to bury not just some of the bad memories but the good ones as well. Sometimes I wish I could be hypnotized and maybe I could dig them back up.
Delia asked if we have kept our old pictures. She knew that we had lots of pictures from our childhood. They didn’t have. So I brought out two photo albums with our old pictures. Olive said that we were rich and we were able to afford to buy a camera and have all these pictures. I told you in one of my posts that we were quite known in town because we owned the only tailor shop. Olive’s mother sold rice cakes and kakanin in the town market. She told me that she would borrow my clothes when she needed them for parades and special occasions at school because they couldn’t afford to always buy new clothes. How come I don’t remember that?
But what I remember is that we used to hang around a lot, Olive and me. We were of the same age and we were the best of friends. But then I left Noveleta when my parents separated and even though we have reconnected after many years; even though we are now kumares, we were not able to have that kind of friendship again. Sometimes I wish we could. But I guess we’re both busy with our own families now and we have different interests and we have grown apart and it would never be the same again.