Archive for April, 2007
Finally all the snow is gone and time to clean the yard of all the dried leaves, dead grass and whatever was buried there under all that snow.
In the winter, the City puts sand on the icy roads and sidewalks to help with traction. But when the snow melts, all that sand is left on the streets. Today the street sweepers were in our neighbourhood to clean up that sand.
I was taking a walk when I noticed that branches are also trimmed from the trees. The other day, my husband cut down a tree in our backyard because he said it was ruining the garage. I feel kind of sad when I see trees that have been cut. Ah, I guess it’s just me. I think I’m going through some sort of midlife crisis, eh? 🙂
The first picture was taken ten days ago and the last two just today. Did you notice how the grass has turned greener? Some of the trees are still leafless. But green buds are starting to sprout on some. I’ll share some more pictures next time.
I am currently the featured blogger at PhilippinesToday.net. So please go check it out now before I ask them to pull down my picture. 🙂 I told you, this is shameless. 🙂
This is the first time I have been featured anywhere. So this is really exciting for me. Especially, since I have been feeling kinda down lately. Something like this can definitely lift up one’s spirits.
Thanks again, PhilippinesToday.net.
Updated on January 30, 2008
Here’s the full article as it was published at Philippines Today:
A Warm Place for the Heart
There are blogs that tug at the heart, blogs that tickle your funnybones, even blogs that inspire your soul to reach for higher heights. And then there are blogs that seem to be permeated with such heartwarming stories and thoughts, invariably uplifting and cheering those who are sad and in need of a friend. If there is such as a thing as a “hearth” in the Filipino blogosphere, then Niceheart’s Journey to Honeyville would doubtlessly be endowed with this title. For such is how her blog could be described – a place that truly warms the heart. Niceheart writes with such compassion and heartfelt passion, which is the power that draws people from all around the globe to her site. Niceheart delivers warmth to her online readers, ironically from chilly Winnipeg, one of the coldest regions in Canada.
Niceheart is a very busy working mom who works as a group benefits examiner for one of the leading insurance companies in Canada. She has been enjoying working at home for the last six years now, which gives her more time to spend with her three boys. Her oldest son is 17 and will be starting university this Fall. He is pursuing a career in Jazz Music. Her middle guy is 12 going on 13, and is passionate about basketball. And her youngest is nine, so sweet and adores his two older brothers.
She has been living in Winnipeg since 1989. Her mother and only sister and her family are also in Winnipeg. Together with the other Filipinos in the area, they form a rather large Filipino community there. According to Niceheart, this is “what makes it bearable to live in this city that has long and very cold winters – the closeness of my family and the warmth of my friendships with fellow kababayans.
In this exclusive interview for Philippines Today Online, Niceheart offers us a glimpse into the person behind Journey to Honeyville’s success.
When and why did you start blogging?
In 2004, I chanced upon Joey Alarilla’s “Blog Addict of the Week” at Inq7.net. Before that, I’ve never heard of the word blog. I would visit the blogs featured by Joey and then I realized that this is what I wanted. I already have a personal website where I post family pictures and articles about our life here in Winnipeg. I found out that it’s a lot easier to publish entries in Blogger.com (my host before I migrated to WordPress.com) where my most recent entry appears on top of the older ones. At Homestead.com, I have to create pages and links to make that happen.
So I signed up on Blogger.com during the Christmas holidays in 2004. But you’ll notice that I have entries from August of that year. That’s because I started journaling regularly in August with the intention of posting them at “Catherine’s Corner,” my personal website. When I found out about Blogger, I pre-dated my entries and published them there. If you’ll also notice, nobody visited my blog then because it took me a long time to muster the courage to comment on other people’s blogs and it was only after leaving comments on their blogs did I also get a visit and comments from them.
Why did you choose the title “Journey to Honeyville” for your blog?
I was born Catherine Villamiel. My online name, niceheart, is actually an anagram of Catherine. One of my fondest memories as a child was playing scrabble with my family. It was during one of our scrabble games when my father explained what our last name means in Spanish. Villa is village or town and miel is honey. Thus, Villamiel is town of honey. So that’s how I came up with Honeyville.
I don’t use the name Villamiel anymore. I am not just a daughter, but also a wife and a mother. But what I found out is that as I go through life’s journey, and as I raise my children and watch them grow, I am always reminded of what I was like when I was at their age. And these are the kind of things that I like to write about in my journal. My childhood experiences, how they affect me not only in raising my children, but also in the way I go about in this journey that we call life.
What benefits do you derive from blogging?
I have been working at home for about six years now and I don’t get the chance to interact with people that often. But through blogging, I have met many bloggers from all over the world right here at the comforts of my own home. It’s been great bouncing back ideas with people who have the same interests as I do. I’ve enjoyed exchanging ideas, as well, with anybody who didn’t agree with me. It’s also nice to share experiences with other parents, especially mothers who understand the joys and pains of raising children.
Also, writing about my past, my very painful childhood, has been sort of healing for me. I have never really talked about it with anybody. But sharing my feelings to the world, well, at least to my blogging circle, and hearing not only from those who had the same painful experiences but also sharing to those who are willing to “listen” is very therapeutic. I have never been to counseling but I think that that’s the kind of thing one gets from such sessions.
Do you find anything disadvantageous about blogging?
Yes, blogging can be really addictive. I’m always thinking of something to blog about. It can also take up so much time to visit all the people in my blogroll. Another thing that I found out in blogging, is that if they visit my blog, it’s just common courtesy to visit theirs too and leave a comment so that they know I was there. If I don’t pay them a visit, they won’t visit me, too. It can be time consuming and I usually end up staying up late at night.
What were the highlights of your blogging activities in the past year?
It was in May last year when I received a sudden increase of visitors in my blog and I have been busy not just posting but also blog-hopping since then. And then again in November there was a sudden increase once more and by that time, the number of visitors have doubled. Although the numbers are not that much compared to other blogs, I was overwhelmed and I actually felt that I was popular. Imagine, there are bloggers visiting my blog from different parts of the world!
Do you have any specific plans or goals for your blog? If so would you like to share them with our readers?
I don’t really have any specific plans for my blog. I just want to continue writing about my daily life, as boring as it may sound to others, and to share about my experiences and views on different topics.
What is the most passionate subject that you have blogged about?
I have a few posts about my father’s alcoholism – how he was physically abusive to my mother when he was drunk, how it destroyed our family, the anger and pain that it brought and later on the forgiveness and healing that we all went through. People have different reactions when I write about my painful past. Why relive it, some would ask. But for me, it’s part of the healing process. Yes, I am still going though it. I think it’s a life-long process. Also, I want to share my story to people, so that they may learn from my experience as well.
A few years ago, my mother’s goddaughter went through a hard time when her parents split up. Her mother later on re-married and she felt neglected, alone. She went through a stage of depression and even attempted to end her life. I understood what she was going through. My parents also split up when I was a teen-ager and I was torn because I loved them both equally, yet I had to live with only one of them. I also felt alone when people didn’t understand me why I still loved my father dearly in spite of his actions. And I know that there are a lot of kids out there whose parents are splitting up and experiencing the same feelings and emotions. I just want them to know that it’s not the end of the world. That things will get better. That eventually they will get past that stage and there is hope for a happy life.
How long do you think you will keep on blogging?
I don’t know. There are times when want to cut back on blogging because of the many things that I have been neglecting to do. And there are also times when I keep writing posts after posts. I still have many things to share, so it will probably be still a long while.
Do you have any words of advice to aspiring bloggers?
Just simply, write from the heart.
We’ve been having warmer temperatures lately. And by warm, I mean up to plus 19. Yay!
It’s nice to finally go out there in just a shirt and flipflops. And of course also some kind of bottom garments, silly you. And yeah, there are also people wearing shorts now.
One of the first signs of Spring is the arrival of the birds that migrated to the warmer South in the Fall. Yup, these birds have been around for a few weeks now. Oh, I just love hearing the sound of the chirping birds first thing in the morning when I go downstairs to the kitchen while I prepare breakfast. And I also love the honking of the Canada geese as they hover around all over the city.
I was at Kildonan Place on Friday after work when I saw these birds on the parking lot. I immediately took my camera from my purse and slowly approached them. I took three shots, one after the other, as I walked closer, being really quiet because I didn’t want them to fly away, as those black birds in our backyard do when I try to take their pictures. I was glad that these birds just stayed there. The pictures are not that sharp because I started clicking when I was still far. Besides, it was windy that afternoon and I was carrying three bags, two on my left hand and one hanging on my shoulder, holding the camera with only on hand. I thought that the pictures would be blurry, but they turned out all right.
And yeah, Nanay Ayo is also back. She’s our family friend who’s already retired and she goes back to the Philippines every Fall, spends time there while we freeze here in the winter, and comes back here in the Spring. Lucky her, huh?
Late last year, it was all over the news how Canadians would now need a passport when traveling by air to the U.S. as of January 23, 2007, as a way of enhancing security at U.S. borders. Before this, Canadians only needed to show either their birth certificates or Citizenship cards. We also watched on the news how long the lines were at passport offices all over Canada.
So when I learned that Reggie’s senior jazz band made it to the Essentially Ellington Competition in New York, I knew we had to get started right away on applying for his passport.
Since I am always very busy and he’s always on the internet anyway, I told him to search on how to apply for a Canadian passport.
He found the Passport Canada website and he started to fill out the application on line. He didn’t finish filling up the application in one sitting but he was able to save his document on line and he would get back to it when he had the chance.
It was the first week of March when he asked me for my maiden name. It was one of the questions asked. I looked at his application just to see how it’s coming along and I checked the information he had typed on there. He was filling up the Adult Passport Application (for Canadians 16 years of age or over). So that was interesting to know that he’s applying as an adult. He needed two references who are not his relatives and have known him for at least two years. He wrote down the names of his band director and a classmate. I told him that maybe scrap the classmate and I’d ask a family friend instead.
He also needed at least one document to support his identity and it must include the bearer’s name and signature. There was a list of documents that could be used, which includes driver’s licence and provincial health care card. Since he doesn’t have a driver’s licence, I thought that he could use my health care card. But upon reading the requirements again, I realized that he is not the bearer of that card and his name is just there because he is my dependent.
So I called the Passport Office the next day, to ask if he could use his Social Insurance Card. As I expected, the line was busy and I was on hold for quite a while. Instead of playing music in the background, the passport office has recorded messages about applying for a passport. And when I heard that it would now take 45 days to process the application, I counted the days until he has to leave and I calculated close to 45 days. I started to get worried. What if he doesn’t get it back before he has to leave?
I finally talked to a representative after 20 minutes and I asked if he could use his SIN card. Yes, he said. I further explained that this is the SIN card I had applied for him when he was still little because he needed one for the college fund I had applied for him and his brothers. Does it have his signature on it, he asked. Not yet, but I will let him sign it. Yes, then he said.
That night, I helped Reggie finish filling up his application. The following day, we had his passport pictures taken at Wal-Mart on his lunch break. While waiting for his turn, I read over the photo requirements. It said there that facial expression must be neutral, not frowning or smiling with the mouth closed. I pointed that out to him. Glasses may be worn as long as the eyes are clearly visible. So I was surprised when the lady photographer asked him to take off his glasses. She also gave him a sheet of tissue to wipe his forehead. For it also said on the requirements that there must not be a flash reflection on the face.
We had to wait for 30 minutes before his pictures were developed. And when she handed it to us, I made sure that it had the photographer’s stamp on the back and a spot for the guarantor’s signature. His school principal had told us that she could sign the students’ passport applications when we had a meeting about their trip to New York. So when Reggie went back to school that afternoon, he brought his application papers and pictures and asked the principal to sign them.
I asked Reggie to skip his first class the following morning just so we could go to the Passport Office and hand in his application. I also told my supervisor that I would be starting work late.
We got there at 7:40 a.m. The doors were still closed as they open at 8:00 a.m. But a guy in uniform came out when he heard us rattling the doorknobs. He asked Reggie if he filled out his application by hand or on the internet. He told him the latter and he was given a number, C505. Apparently, two series of numbers were being given to the applicants, one series for those who filled out theirs by hand and another for those printed from the computer. Reggie was the fifth one on his series. We were told to go to the basement and wait there. The passport guy would come down to get 10 people from each group at 8:00 a.m.
So we went downstairs and there were already about 40 people there. There were only a few chairs and most of the people were sitting on the floor. Reggie also sat on the floor while I remained standing. At 8:00 on the dot, the same guy came down to get the first group of people. And that included us. There were about 7 staff on the counter and when Reggie’s number came up, we handed his papers to a younger guy. He checked his application, birth certificate, SIN card and photos. I paid the $87 fee. I asked when we would be getting his passport. He said by the end of March, that’s about in 20 days time. So I was relieved. It was quick. We were at the bus stop at 8:10 a.m.
I noticed that it’s a lot quicker if you have your application printed on the computer. There are more people filling up their application by hand and that’s the reason they have a longer line. So if you are applying for a passport, I suggest that you have yours printed from the website at www.passportcanada.gc.ca.
We received his passport through Xpress post on the first week of this month. So I am quite relieved now. But I still have to pay the balance of his $2000 trip. The senior jazz band is having a benefit concert next week. So I hope the proceeds from that could help reduce the cost of this trip to New York.
It is 3:05 p.m. and there are only three girls left in Room 1206. They are busy at work at their respective computers. They will be leaving in an hour. Isabel gets up to use the phone. She wants to check on her kids at home.
He answers instead.
Why are you still there? She asks.
I’m not going to work, he says.
I’m watching a concert.
There is a pause. She starts to get choked up.
Why didn’t you tell me?
This is the only time I’ll be watching a concert.
Who are you going with?
Why didn’t you ask me to go instead?
She hangs up the phone. Her eyes start to well up, but she tries to hold back the tears. She needs to let the pain out from her chest.
My good husband is watching the Eric Clapton concert tonight, she blurts out.
The two girls look up.
I didn’t even know that Clapton’s here, she continues.
He’s going without you? Gigi asks.
Yeah, he didn’t tell me that he was going.
That’s not fair, Heather chimes in.
I know, here I am slaving away at work and he’s playing hooky and didn’t ask me to go.
If that were my husband, I’d smack him on the head, Gigi says.
He’s like that, he would go off to somewhere and I wouldn’t know where to find him.
My husband couldn’t do that to me. He knows I’d get mad at him, Gigi says.
It’s not like I don’t get mad at him. He’d just do whatever he wants.
That’s not fair, Heather says again.
Isabel goes back to her desk to let the two girls finish their work.
Why does she put up with him? It’s not like she always let it go. In fact, they always have heated discussions about this kind of behaviour. She just wants him to bring her out also once in a while. When was the last time they went out on a date? Before they were married. And that was what 18 years ago? Then the children were born. He thought it was such a hassle to bring along the kids to eat out or watch a movie. Money has always been tight and they were not really willing to pay for a babysitter just so they could go out. But the kids are older now to be left home alone. And she’s been really craving to have date nights once in a while. But he’d always say that he’d rather eat in or watch DVDs at home.
Why then would he go to a concert without telling her and asking her if she wanted to go? She would love to see Eric sing Wonderful Tonight in person, even if that’s the only Clapton song that she knows. She just wants to feel that excitement of going out with her husband and feeling special. And when was the last time he told her that she’s wonderful? Oh it seems such a long, long time ago.
Photo courtesy of www.mtscentre.ca