Quietude: A Haiku

Strength, wisdom, kindness —

They can only come to one

Who knows quietude.

Now that I’m back home in the house where I grew up, and living with my two sisters and a nephew and my son, it is not very often that I get to find some quiet time.

I am way busier now working from home compared to working full time in China during the last 17 years, which makes me treasure more those years of solitude and reflection.

Thankfully there’s gardening and visiting my tiny garden in the morning allows me some much needed quiet moments.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A quiet moment

Patience and Gardening

After having my flight cancelled five times in the last 5 months, I decided I would not think about when I can actually go back to China and just live my life as if I’m never leaving home again. This decision led me to pick up gardening as a hobby.

Thankfully my sister had postponed throwing away our late mother’s flower pots and plants that badly needed some tending.

And tending I did!

At first my sister was doubtful about my resolve to take over our mother’s garden, but it didn’t take long for her to realize I was serious about it!

Now my morning routine has changed a little: instead of reading the news while having my morning coffee, I now visit my little garden and water some of the plants while having my morning coffee. I get to enjoy a quiet and cool morning seeing green plants (not many flowers yet), and blue sky and also hearing birds chirping.

Tending to the garden is quite relaxing and rewarding. I especially like seeing new leaves come out.

Though I miss my quiet life in China, I’m beginning to readjust to living at home again — I’m slowly finding ways to have some quiet, “me” time despite being busy every day. (I’m typing this at close to midnight.)

Gardening reminds me of the need to be patient — some plants take longer than others to grow, but they will grow if you take good care of them. And when they do, you’ll feel a certain kind of joy that those who have never planted a thing could never understand.

Just as I have to be patient with the plants growing, this pandemic has taught me and a lot of other people, I’m sure, to be more patient as well. These days there’s so much uncertainty, and things change so quickly sometimes and sometimes they don’t. All we can do to stay sane is to let things be when there’s nothing we can do about them, and to always do the best we can with those we have control over.

This is one reason I like gardening. I can plant when I want and feel I have accomplished something when the plants grow. I have control.

I hope you find something to make you feel good about yourself every single day. 🙏

T. 🌼

Patience

When kids your age were running,

You were just learning to walk.

When kids your age were talking,

You just uttered your first word.

When kids your age could bounce a ball

You just learned how to throw.

Don’t worry, son.

Life is a game

Not just for the fastest,

The strongest, or the smartest

But for the ones with the most patience as well.

And we have a lot of that stuff.

We’ll get there.

What a child remembers

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Days after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature,  Albert Camus wrote a letter to his elementary school teacher to thank him for the kindness shown him as a pupil. I was reminded of this letter today when I read this article.  (Link opens another tab.)

The letter in turn reminded me of one kind deed that my late aunt (my late uncle’s wife) showed me on my birthday when I was still 9 or 10 years old. I have many memories of my childhood, both sad and happy ones, but the memory of my aunt giving me money and kissing me on the cheek on my birthday because she said I looked so sad (and I was because my parents had nothing special to give me then!) is still as vivid in my mind as on the day it happened.
It seems to me a kindness shown a child remains in their memory long after they grow up and become adults themselves.

Camus’ gratitude, my own experience of remembering my aunt’s kindness and also reading the testimony of Dr. Herzenstube’s at the trial in The Brothers Karamazov, when he recounted how Dmitry as a grown man had stopped by his office to thank him for giving him (Dmitry), a pound of nuts when he was only a kid – these convince me that when you show a child kindness, they will never forget it and will remain grateful for it for the rest of their lives.

Some may say, this world can show many adults who had received kindness from their parents yet are ungrateful to them. Perhaps so, but the kindness or love from parents are to be expected because the parents had brought their children to this world. It is when the kindness is unexpected that the impact is stronger and therefore unforgettable.

Camus’ teacher was not family; Dr. Herzenstube was not family to Dmitry; my aunt was family, but not my parent, and she had her own 7 children! They did not have to do what they did; but they did it, and that’s what made the children who were recipient of their kindness, remember them well for, into their adult lives.
A child never forgets an unexpected act of kindness. Be kind to a child when you see one. You’ll never know when this child will show you his gratitude.
—-

Here is Camus’ letter to his elementary school teacher:

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

LAPC: Cropping the shot

This week Patti challenges us to show how we crop pictures we took, and for people like me who don’t know much about photography, the explanation/reason she gives for cropping her photos, are really helpful.

Before the crop:

As I am not quite good at focus, almost all pictures I take get cropped!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!🌹

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cropping the Shot

Someday: A Haiku

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Your sweet smile, laughter — 

Who knows why? I hope to see

What you see — someday. 

———————–

My son has a very infectious smile and laughter. Most of the time though, we don’t know what makes him smile or laugh. We are just happy to see him happy.

Sometimes he makes me say, “dinosaur” and then, “roar!” And that’s enough to make him smile as he walks away from me.

If only our joys could be as simple.

———

The other day, I got a message from Ahmed asking if I could help promote the comic book he created which features a superhero with Autism. This project aims to spread awareness about Autism. It’s called The Epics of Enkidu.   You can click the link to learn more about the project. 

 

On friendship and marriage

This year is the 14th year my husband and I have been married. It may not be that long for those who have been married for at least two decades, but I am grateful we have come this far and are as committed to each other as we were on our wedding day.

As I reflect on my marriage, I feel so grateful that my husband still has the patience to stay married to me. I joked about it with my Facebook friends, but in all honesty, I really am grateful. I am not a very easy person to live with — I can be really mean to my husband, but we do find more reasons to laugh about with each other than reasons for meanness.

I don’t think there’s really any special secret to a lasting marriage — friendship and commitment are all that’s needed.

LAPC: All Wet

This week Tina’s challenge is to post “wet images.” I don’t have a lot of those, except for the ones below taken on a rainy day.

“Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.” 

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”  — Gilbert K. Chesterton

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One can find so many pains when the rain is falling.” — John Steinbeck 

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Lens Artists Photo Challenge: All Wet 

LAPC: At Home

This week Amy challenges us to post pictures of home.

For years after my father died, my mother was the core of our home — everything planned or decided depended on what was good for her. This was especially true in her last years. Because I worked away from home and only came to visit twice a year, home was my mother.

Though she has passed on, we still keep some of the stuff that was part of her daily routine — such as her rosary beads which she prayed daily, twice a day.

Now that she’s gone, the attention has shifted to the young ones — my son and my nephews.

Where home in the past was the sight of my mother praying and the sound of her voice directing the cleaning of the house, these days it’s the sound of my son’s endless chatter and the banging on (not really playing) the (not computer) keyboard, ukulele and of course the sound of my voice constantly reminding him to quiet down.

Our home is probably the noisiest in our community (thankfully we are all relatives — all first cousins who understand– living in separate detached houses), but for as long as my son is happily noisy making what he thinks is music, I’m fine with it.

Happy weekend!

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: At Home

Note: A Haiku and a Thought

Simple scribbled word

On unpretentious paper —

A note makes one’s day.

—-

It does not take much to put a smile on someone’s face — a very simple gesture of kindness or thoughtfulness can do that. A text message asking how somebody’s day went can make that person feel that someone cares. A flower picked from the garden to give a family member one is stuck at home with, can most likely brighten that person’s day.

We do not need to do something “big” to prove we care and make someone happy.

Sometimes a simple note on a Post-It can do the trick.

Happy weekend!

T.

Discovery Prompts, Day 23: Note

Lens- Artists Photo Challenge: Second Time Around

I did not participate in the LAPC Challenge for months because of my very busy schedule, but today I am able to squeeze in some time to write a post and John’s chosen theme is something that most of us, I’m sure, can easily find photos for as there are many places we would like to revisit or imagine revisiting at this time when we cannot travel to any place outside our home cities.

The first place I would really go to again as soon as travel bans are lifted is Jimei, where my husband has been living all alone for three months now after my son and I left. Jimei has been my second home for over 17 years, and this is the longest I’ve been away.

Jimei, Xiamen

Last year, I was so lucky I got to see the U.S. of A. for the first time, and before the virus broke out. I got to see New York and Boston and enjoyed every minute of it. I was looking forward to seeing Washington, DC and Maryland in June this year, but I guess it’s not meant to be.

Oculus, NYC
Boston

The one other place I would really love to visit again is South Korea, not just for the place but to see my best friend again.

I hope we all get to travel again soon, and have the chance to revisit places we love and create new memories.

Have a lovely week!

T.

LENS Artists Photo Challenge: Second time around

Hope and Gratitude

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My last post wasn’t very optimistic, so despite my busy schedule, I am determined to write another one just to do my share of encouraging anyone who reads this, to have hope and to always look forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel; and more importantly, to cherish this time when you CAN stay at home and prepare your meals and/or sleep in instead of rushing to work without breakfast.

I, too, cherish this time when I can be with my son for a much longer time — we’ve been together since December 23rd when I came home, and then we left for China and stayed there for a little over 2  weeks, and then came back home on the 11th of January. My flight was cancelled three times; I rebooked 3 times. Finally a couple of days ago, I just asked for a refund.

With the “community quarantine” order in our city, classes have been cancelled; malls have been closed; public transportation, suspended. Thankfully, being at home all day has not really affected my 9-year old son that much. He has not gone to school or to his occupational and speech therapies for almost a month now, but simply having all of us at home — me, my two sisters and my 17-year-old nephew — is enough to make him happy. He does speaking, reading and writing  activities with my sister, and PE activities with my nephew. Having my sisters and nephew at home allows me to do my online teaching for the university. Though I am way busier now than if I were back in China teaching in a classroom, I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my son and be able to contribute to the progress he makes by reading to him, talking and playing with him.

****************

This is not the first pandemic the world has seen, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. But humanity survived previous pandemics when they did not have as much means to fight the enemy as we do now with advances in science and technology; when they did not have as easy a means to share information as we do now. I don’t think it is a false hope that we will overcome this one.

So believe that things will be better because they will. And in the meantime, focus on the many things you can do while stuck at home — because if you really look, you’ll find there are many tasks just waiting to be done that you have not been able to do because you had to go to work. Now is the time.

May you always find a reason to be hopeful and grateful.

 

 

The Precariousness of Life

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This photo was taken exactly a month ago when my family went to a park. Back then we never thought it would be sometime before we could go out for a stroll again. Our city has been under a “community quarantine” for almost three weeks now. My sister, my nephew and my son have not left our house for almost a month now. I get to go out for essentials.

The streets are eerily quiet; most businesses are closed. The streets and the air are much cleaner, but somehow it is not easy to enjoy the quiet and the clean air when you are very much aware of how people who have lost their jobs are suffering and fearing for their future.

These are very uncertain times.

When I left China in early January, I thought I would be back in two weeks. Now, it’s almost three months that I have not seen my husband, and we still do not have any idea when we will see each other again, or when he will see our son again. Sure, technology allows us to talk with each other everyday, but we all know the limits of technology.

Perhaps it will be sometime before our world goes back to normal. Even then, it will probably be a different normal.

The only certainty is: life goes on. Sadly not for everyone; but for humanity as a whole, it goes on and will continue to go on.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend.

T.

Traveling with a Child with Autism

My son was only 5 months old when we took a 1-hour and 20-minute flight to Manila and then a 2-hour international flight. I don’t remember him ever crying on the plane.

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For the next five years, we flew an average of 8 flights a year, and though there were a couple of times he did not want to sit during takeoff or landing, most of the time he behaved himself well. The bigger he is getting though, the more worried I become about travelling with him because of how he behaves, not in the plane, but in the airport where he loves running around. But so far, for the past 9 years, I have always been grateful at the end of each trip that both of us made it to our destination safe and sound.

Going through security check

I can’t remember what year the pat down at the airport that we often go through started, but when it did my son who, back then (ages 4-7) was easily scared by strangers who tried to touch him, would scream and try to run when an officer approached him. A couple of times, a supervising officer yelled at me to hold my son and calm him down even after I explained that he was autistic. That was 4 or 5 years ago, and the officers doing the security check have since become more understanding and crouch down to my son’s eye level and do the check while I rhythmically say “pat, pat, pat, pat” with him. Whew.

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In December last year, we took a train to another city and also took the subway several times which meant going through security checks several times. By the time we had to take a flight home, he had gotten so used to the pat down that it didn’t bother him anymore.

Practice makes perfect.

Gadgets and toys

Unless he is very sleepy or very tired, my son would never sleep while traveling. He likes being in a car, train, bus or plane and look outside the window, singing. But if there is nothing interesting to see, then that’s when he asks for the iPad. I always make sure the gadgets are fully charged whenever we travel because some planes still do not have power outlets/USB ports in the seats.

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My son always needs to have something in his hands to play with and always wants to be chewing or biting something. He started biting his hands and fingers about a year ago, so we bought him chewy tubes which have been a blessing. Fidget spinners have also been a huge help in keeping his hands busy.

These three things I never forget to bring when I travel with my son: iPad, fidget spinner and Chewy Tubes.

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Each child on the spectrum has his/her own specific needs, and perhaps your child does not need a fidget spinner or a chewy tube, but the point is, apart from packing food, always remember to pack something to keep your child occupied. Traveling with a child on the spectrum does not have to be stressful, and it is good to let them experience traveling as often as possible so they will get used to it. The only way they will learn to cope with the difficulties of traveling is by actually doing it. It may be stressful for the family at first, but in time, the child will learn. It needs a lot of patience, but things will be better.

Experience is key.

Keeping the child at home to avoid embarrassment is not helping anyone, especially the child with special needs.  

Burning Forest

Burning Forest

This is my son’s latest “abstract painting.” When I woke up the morning after he painted this, I thought it looked like a forest is burning, so now I call it “Burning Forest.”

I honestly don’t think he had a forest in mind. As usual he was just playing with the brush. But my husband and I were quite happy with the result and now it’s hanging on our wall.

Optimism

Took my son to the beach last weekend

I had planned to let my son stay with us in China for a month in January but disappointed by my husband’s busy schedule at work, I decided to bring my son home after two weeks. Looking back, I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life — a blessing in disguise. I don’t know how I would have handled the situation if I and my 9-year-old son with ASD were stranded in China or quarantined!

As it is, we have a longer break from work which means longer time spent with my son, but my husband is all alone in our apartment back in China. I try not to worry but can’t help when I read the news or hear about what’s happening from people who are in the country.

Still I’m optimistic that there’s an end to this, and it will end soon.

I am hoping and praying for it, especially because the people I am praying for do not believe in a power stronger than they are.

So much has happened in the weeks I have not posted on my blog, some I am so eager to share but can’t find time to write as I am busy being a full-time mom. I look forward to writing again and also reading posts from blogs I follow, but right now it is so difficult to find time when I’m home and fulfilling my roles as mother, sister and aunt. As always, family comes first.

I hope you are doing well. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Silence: A Haiku and some thoughts

In the midst of all

This life’s hustle and bustle —

Silence from within.

—-

After spending a couple of hours marking papers in McDonald’s (I can’t work at home as I’m always tempted to do something else like doing laundry instead of marking papers!) I went to my favorite noodles shop which was noisy as it was lunch time. Traditional Chinese music blaring from the speakers, a group of young women at a table behind me talking loudly, buses, cars and motorcycles driving past, some honking — so much activity and noise, loud noise.

But as soon as I started thinking of the issue that I’ve spent months thinking about — all those sounds went away. My eyes were only perceiving the movements not quite different from a boring, black-and-white silent movie.

I was figuratively alone in a figuratively quiet but in reality very noisy place.

This made me think of most people’s capacity to tune out noise or to tolerate minor irritants if they truly want to and try. I am saying most people because I believe most of us actually have this capacity to do so, but perhaps there are many who just refuse to even try. And of course there are those who have some sensory or emotion regulation problems who literally cannot stand certain irritants (like my autistic son who does not mind loud music but cries and gets angry when he hears other children crying!)

I have heard and read numerous accounts of people complaining about babies crying during a flight, especially a long haul one. Some reactions and suggestions offered I find quite unhelpful and extremely unsympathetic. I understand that there are parents (or grandparents!) accompanying children on a flight who may not be bothered by the child’s crying and do not care that other passengers are bothered by it. I honestly think these people are in the minority though. Most parents or caregivers on the flights I’ve been on (and I fly several times a year) do try to get the child to be quiet. But yes, there are those who don’t, and their indifference is more annoying than the child’s behavior.

As I said, I have read reactions and comments that are quite unhelpful or are extremely unsympathetic to parents who do try their best to calm down their child (and I believe they do because, let’s be honest, no sane parent loves to hear his/her child cry or be noisy.) Some people said: babies should not be allowed on a flight. This is very unhelpful because these people who complain do not know why the family are traveling. One never knows unless one asks why somebody is traveling — maybe for a holiday, or maybe to see a doctor. But one doesn’t even have to know — everyone has the right to fly and they are paying for it like everyone else.

I have taken several flights with my son, and thankfully he has always behaved himself (we have 2 flights coming I hope I don’t jinx them!) Even as a baby (at 5 months was when he had his first flight), he never cried. But also as a parent, I have always prepared for our flights — toys and gadgets to keep him occupied (I am also lucky that my flights with him are no longer than 2 hours.) However there are babies and young children who are really bothered by ear pressure during flight and parents who do not know how to deal with it. (click here for Tips) When I travel domestically, I usually say something to the parents (fellow Filipinos), “Maybe baby needs his bottle or pacifier?” but in international flights, I tend to keep quiet as the culture is, “Mind your own business.”

There are misbehaving children with parents who let them be and there are babies who cry whose parents just let them be. But there are lots of good parents who do try their best and babies who, for whatever reason, just cry! I hope we can be more sympathetic. We were all babies once — were we always so angelic?

So going back to my main idea — we are capable of tuning out noise or tolerating minor irritants. We surely can if we truly want to and just try. We do not even need noise-cancelling headsets to do this. To prove this, pay attention to how you sometimes tune out your best friend when he’s going on and on about something you’ve already heard a thousand times. That easy.

Silence.

Ad Astra: To the Stars

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The moon one beautiful Jimei night.

“THE WORDS THAT NEVER GET SPOKEN to a loved one will remain inside of you always. They become part of your inner dialog, emerging periodically to your consciousness like buried treasure, whenever you think of that person who is no longer in your life.” 

These lines from  moviejoltz’s  review of Ad Astra made me want to watch the movie, and I did. When I first heard of this Brad Pitt movie, I was not keen on watching it because I am not a Brad Pitt fan.  But after watching this movie, I can honestly say I like how Brad Pitt played his character, Roy McBride, so well that I forgot him as an actor and just saw Roy the cold and lonely astronaut.

All throughout the movie, the character’s isolation, loneliness is apparent even in his smile, in his politeness and composure, and that isolation/loneliness has been brought on by the uncertainty of the fate of his father who had left earth and never came back.

There are three themes that made me like this movie: one-sided devotion, stubborn pursuit of a  dream, and attitudes toward failure and success.

How many of us, in our youth, have experienced being devoted to somebody — spending day and night thinking about that person, wondering what they were doing that very minute and if they were thinking about us too. Then we find out that that somebody has been living their life and has not had time to think about us. Roy, in his 40’s, had not been able to fully live his life as the pain of losing his father in his youth had somehow made him build an emotional fortress around himself making him stoic in the face of many challenges. Then when he finally saw his father again, he realized how all these years when he thought his father was dead without being able to say goodbye, his father was alive and consumed by his dream of finding intelligent life in another planet, with not much room in his mind for his only child. Yet Roy as a grown man, only remembered his father’s words, “I love you, son” and told his father, “I still love you, dad.”‘ He was a young man when his father left him, and his heart remained a young man when he saw his father again, still filled with love for the father who had abandoned him.

Clifford McBride’s stubbornness in pursuing his dream of finding intelligent life in another planet even though it was already clear that there was none, is no different from the many different people’s insistence on finding something that is not there or achieving something that is obviously unachievable. Where some people easily give up on their dreams, others, for whatever reason, will fight to the end achieving that dream even if it meant leaving everything else that used to mean something to them — even family. And Clifford McBride did just that, in the end he lost everything but the love of his son, which would have been enough but sadly, it wasn’t for him.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the conversation between Roy and his father when his father finally admitted to Roy that he had failed in finding intelligent life in Neptune, to which Roy answered: “You didn’t. We’re all we’ve got.” And this shows a very clear contrast in the way the two men viewed failure and success. The father viewed “not finding” a failure. He could not see that the proof that there’s none is a form of success. But his son did. (If you’ve ever read my Not About Me page, this is exactly how I view my “failures” in life.)

After watching this movie I said to my husband, this story would still be good if it were set on earth, and not in space. Instead of flying from earth to the moon, from the moon to Mars, then Neptune, Roy could have traveled from California to Maryland, or from Kansas to Uganda. But then the title wouldn’t be AD ASTRA which is Latin for “To the stars,” from the expression “Ad astra per aspera” (literally, to the stars through difficulties.) Roy literally went to the stars through numerous difficulties which he all amazingly overcame. But then again, because it is set in outer space which involves a lot of science stuff, I simply focused on the drama part of the story and was not concerned about whether the science of it was right or wrong.

This is the first Brad Pitt movie that I have watched and truly liked, and one I don’t mind watching again.

LAPC: On Display

In response to Amy’s challenge this week, I am using photos I’ve taken in our local supermarket. Two of my favorite fruits are in this collection — mangoes and durian! Yes, durian! I know, for sure, most people dislike the smell of durian, but let me tell you, I love it! And the smell of it makes my mouth water. Lol.

 

Durian ice cream, durian smoothie, durian cheesecake….

I love durian.

So for this photo challenge, I am also challenging you to be brave and give durian a try! 😉

Happy Sunday!

 

T.

Lens-Artists: On Display

Morning: A Haiku

Arise! The sun is up.

Come and see what daylight brings.

Come! Beauty awaits.

I am a morning person, but my husband isn’t. But once in a while I can get him to go out for a walk with me early in the morning.

This morning we had beautiful weather at 15C (59F) and walking past the lake I spied an egret (one of the few who haven’t migrated south). To me it was a beautiful sight, and made me smile. (I know I sound like a drama queen, but it is that easy to make me feel happy!)

And it came to me that there’s so much beauty to see early in the morning that people fail to see because they are still in bed. I feel lucky to be able to see and be touched by such a simple sight.

I hope you find something to make you smile today.

Happy weekend!

T.

Wish: A Haiku

If I could I would,

Paint the best picture of how

I remember you.

—-

Leaving the office today, I looked up at the sky and saw the clouds. I wanted to capture the image of the tree with the clouds as the background, and the result is, to me, much nicer than I imagined. To me, it looks like something I would really like to paint, if only I could!

LAPC: Nostalgic

Kempinski Hotel, Xiamen

Last night, for the first time in a long, long time, my husband and I went out to attend a party. This time it was at the Kempinski Hotel. It felt good to go out again and relive those evenings many years ago when we used to go out with friends more often without worrying about adult stuff.

But those night outs aren’t what I’m nostalgic about.

It’s Christmas. Kempinski had nice Christmas trees both in the lobby and outside the hotel, and I felt like a kid again excited about Christmas!

Kempinski Hotel, Xiamen

And Christmas always brings me back to my childhood when our Christmas tree was small and simple and the Christmas presents we got from our parents were not expensive, but we had the tradition of getting up at dawn to go to Mass at 4:30 in the morning (Misa de Gallo, literally Rooster’s Mass). Yes, you read that right. 4:30 in the morning which meant waking up an hour earlier before that to wash up and have something hot to drink!

You would think we were unhappy to be woken up that early, but we were actually pretty excited to hear our mother whispering our names to wake us up.

Christmas tree in our house in the Philippines. Picture taken by my sister

We then walked to church (a 10-minute walk from our house) and would see other churchgoers walking. During Mass, my sisters and I often dozed off especially during homily, but would once again perk up just before the singing of the Lord’s Prayer as it meant close to Communion and the end of the Mass.

After Mass, we would walk to the bakery and buy pan de sal for breakfast.

Life was so simple yet we were happy.

If only I could be a child again, and have my parents worry about things that only adults worry about.

Nostalgic.

Tiny Christmas tree in my apartment in Xiamen

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

Tree: A Haiku and some thoughts

Weary from this world

Where no one can give comfort,

One sits in a tree.

—–

As a child, I loved climbing trees. There used to be guava trees in front of our house before my uncle built his house there and a java apple fruit tree behind one of my aunts’ house, which is behind our house. My grandfather made sure all his 8 children lived in the same place, so where I grew up there are 7 detached houses where my mother and her siblings had built their homes.)

My sisters, cousins and I used to climb the trees in the afternoons and sit on the branches (we were all young and thin!) and pick fruits. We were all pretty good at climbing back then. (I can probably still climb but I don’t think any of my sisters or cousins will dare! Lol!)

So whenever I see a tree, I judge it as being climbable or not. Part of me really wants to climb when I see street trees (here they are mango trees) , but living in the city, I don’t want to embarrass myself. A couple of years ago, I went to visit my former professor and he had a very climbable tree in his yard, so I asked if I could climb and sit in it. Being eccentric himself, he said, “Why not?” So, I did!

Sitting in a tree gives me a wonderful feeling of being safe and worry-free, especially when I hear the rustle of the leaves when the wind blows.

At my age now, I see a lot of trees that were I ten years younger, I would consider climbable, but can only look at with a sigh. I wish I could teach my son to climb a tree. That would probably need hundreds more of occupational therapy sessions, but who knows.

Passion vs Commitment

Today I read a passage about following rules to show one’s faith or having passion about your faith. The writer didn’t like the idea that rules, after being observed mechanically “can be followed with minimal effort and almost no thought.” Passion is deemed more important.

This made me think about how people often prefer the definition of love as an emotion, particularly passion, rather than as commitment, especially in marriage.

Emotions are unreliable.

You cannot force yourself to be passionate about something. You cannot will passion. But you can will yourself to do something even if you have no passion for it.

Marriage is not for grown ups who think like kids. They are not for people who think of their partners as toys they can get rid of once they lose interest in it and find it boring.

Growing up with a mother who had no qualms talking about her problems with her then young daughters, I knew from a young age that marriage had its ups and downs (especially because my mother was such a drama queen and I say that with no disrespect but with a fondness for her whom I miss every day still, even years after she passed on.) There were days when she and my father were this sweet couple, slow dancing to a Nat King Cole song. And there were days she did not speak to him at all

Had my parents given up on each other after their first or hundredth fight, I wouldn’t have been here in this world. And my mother wouldn’t have been there holding my father’s hand on the night he died.

They were married 35 years and were each other’s best friend. I know there were times they both felt they could no longer stand each other, probably questioned whether they still loved each other whenever they had a fight, but as devout Catholics in a country with no divorce laws, they remained committed to staying together, if not for themselves, then for their daughters. And it was the right decision to stay together as they became even closer after my father was diagnosed with a heart disease. My mother took very good care of my father in the last few years of his life, and mourned him for a long time after he died. Even though she complained about my father so many times whenever they fought, when he died, she just remembered how good my father was to her.

If we only rely on our emotions, none of our relationships will be safe from falling apart. Rules may be rigid, but they can help us from going astray. Passions will fade, but if two people in a relationship are both committed to each other, then they will work to keep that relationship strong.

Rainy Days and Memories

“Into each life, some rain must fall.– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It’s that time of year again — cold and raining. And the thoughts that crossed my mind last year, surfaced again this year as I walked by the lake and felt the cold wind on my skin.

Funny how such ordinary things as the rustling of leaves, the breeze on one’s skin, the chirping of birds can bring back a flood of memories — all those feelings from years ago come back and seem so fresh. Yet, you are brought back to reality as soon as you tell yourself, “That was then, this is now. And now you are wasting time and energy thinking about it.”

My best friend has told me many times I think too much of the past, that the future is more important. Maybe so.

But one has no control over what comes to mind, or does one? I can shake off thoughts that come to mind, but there is no way I can stop these thoughts from entering my mind. Even saying, “I will not think about it,” is proof that I AM thinking about it.

Walking in the winter rain does this to me all the time — full of drama in the head. But this too shall pass.

Hope you have a lovelier weather than what I have in my neck of the woods.

T.

Arachne: A Haiku

Day and night she spins,

Weaving an intricate design

Borne of human pride.

—-

I don’t have a picture of a spider or a spider’s web, so this handwoven straw fan would have to do. It probably wasn’t human pride that led the maker of this fan to become a weaver, and no Athena to punish her, but like Arachne, he/she has to work hard.

Insomnia

For a long time I had insomnia. Even though I was physically exhausted, I couldn’t sleep and kept tossing and turning in bed. When sleep finally came to me, there was probably only an hour before the alarm had to go off.

Family and friends told me to stop drinking coffee, but I wouldn’t hear of it — how could I function without my morning coffee?

But then it got to a point that I was so desperate for sleep that I finally decided to switch to decaf in the morning. Surprisingly, I was fine! I didn’t feel any different; I’m a morning person and even without my regular blend, I went to work full of energy. And I had a really good sleep that night as well.

That’s how I was convinced to make the switch to decaf.

However, what I want to understand is why did my body all of a sudden become overly sensitive to my beloved coffee?

Is it because I have changed my diet? I seldom eat red meat or drink soda or sugary drinks now. I haven’t had red meat in almost a year, soda in over a year!

Is it because of age?

I am still searching for the answer but grateful that now I can sleep again.

If you’re reading this because you have trouble sleeping, perhaps you can try changing something in your diet. Or habit.😉

Good luck!

T.

LAPC: Abstract

Patti’s chosen theme this week is “Abstract.” And I’m taking that literally by posting pictures of my then 7-year old autistic son’s watercolor “painting.”

I have no idea what he was thinking about when he played with the brush, but I treasure these literally abstract exercises of my minimally verbal son.

The one above just got a title, “Raining Down.” Thanks to Ann-Christine at Leya. 😁

Lens-artists photo challenge: Abstract

Time and Memories

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I checked the date today and realized I had only been back from home for a week. It feels like I had not been home for a month and missing my son so bad.

Is it time that plays tricks on us, or is it our brain?

Sometimes a memory comes into mind, and I would feel it happened just yesterday. Other times I would feel it happened a lifetime ago.

Sometimes I wish I could relive a memory, not just recall it. Like how my son as a toddler, looked at and listened to me when I sang to him, as if I was the most entertaining person in the world, and he was my number 1 fan. Or how he would stop playing and run to me to hug me while I was busy in the kitchen.

Other memories I just want to erase, the same way you highlight a text you’re typing (Ctrl-A) and then press delete. Save. That quickly. But the irony is, the more you want to forget something, the more it rankles in your mind. Memories like these are hard to forget. Is there ever a way to forget?

 

T.

 

 

Christmas in a coffee shop

I was happy to see there’s Christmas ornaments and merchandise in this coffee shop. As soon as I entered, I heard my favorite Nat King Cole Christmas song. It brought back many memories of Christmas with my parents when I was a kid.

Christmas is not celebrated here the way it is in my country. Here many people confuse Santa with Jesus, and they aren’t as excited about it as we are, which is understandable because they don’t get a 2-week long holiday from school or several days off from work.

Nevertheless seeing the ornaments and hearing Christmas music put me in a nice mood while waiting for a friend. The people here may not share the same feeling about Christmas as people back home, but this place is still nice to look at and the coffee was good! 😛

Have a lovely week!!

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cold

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Canada

Tina’s challenge this week is a real challenge for someone like me who comes from a tropical country! Thankfully I’ve traveled to some places with a winter season. The first image above I have used more than a couple of times on my blog. It is one of my favorite photos because when I took it, it was the first time ever (and this was 2016) I had seen a snow-covered mountain! I couldn’t believe it! It was summer in Canada but there was snow!

Now let me say something about the word “cold” and how subjective that is: when I told my cousin who was then living in Alberta that I was visiting, she got so excited saying, “Perfect! You are lucky. It’s already summer here. Just bring shorts and T-shirts!” My mistake was I just believed her and did not bother to check the weather app.

When I arrived in Vancouver in my summer clothes (luckily I always bring a summer cardigan when I travel because I know in  some planes and airports their A/Cs are just set too low), I was not ready for the 18C (64F) temperature. When I met with a former student, I noticed she was wearing a coat. And we both said, “This is not summer!” 

When I finally saw my cousin in Alberta, she was wearing spaghetti strap top and shorts! And she had the A/C on in her house! I begged her to turn it off and borrowed winter pajamas. She couldn’t stop laughing at me and told everyone in the family how cold I felt.

Well, can you blame me?

The very first time I saw snow though was in my husband’s hometown, in Shandong Province in China. At first I was so excited to see snow. But after a day of being cold (in the countryside their houses do not have central heating), I begged my husband to let me move to the city and said to him, “Please, look at my skin! It’s brown! This skin is not for the cold!” And I’m not being racist about my skin! It’s really brown.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Shandong Province

 

Hope you feel comfortable whether you’re in a cold or warm place!

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cold

Veggies in a Nori

I’ve been craving spring rolls for two weeks now. I even got my sisters to eat vegetarian spring rolls last time I was home. I was so amazed that they ate them — all veggies, no meat at all! Finding spring roll wrappers back home is not a problem. You can find them in the supermarkets or grocery stores.

I find it ironic that I am having a hard time finding them here in China. So today at the supermarket I bought nori instead! It you ask me why I won’t just eat the veggies without wrapping them, the only answer I can give you is — I just want them in a wrap!

Today I had stir-fried bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, cilantro and king oyster mushroom wrapped in nori. It’s not sushi, but has the taste of one without the caloric content of rice.

It was a filling and healthy lunch. 😊

Have a wonderful week!

T.

LAPC: Waiting

This week’s theme is “Waiting.” Even before I read Amy’s post I knew I would post pictures related to flying — which I do every month.

Most of the waiting I do now happens at an airport. I often go on red-eye flights because they are cheaper, though the layovers are always longer than the flights themselves. But then again they are cheaper.

So what do you do when there’s air traffic and your plane can’t land because the airport has only one runway! Take pictures of those things that are so commonplace you forget they are there!

I used to look forward to flying, but now I just try not to think about it and simply look forward to arriving. I hope one day teleportation will become real!

Taken just before a 10-minute long turbulence

Waiting for a flight may be exhausting, but at least you know eventually you will get to your destination.

It is less stressful than waiting for something whose arrival is forever uncertain.

—-

Have a lovely week!

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Waiting

Christmas in November

It’s Christmas in the Philippines! Well, it’s been Christmas in the Philippines since September. It’s the biggest and most anticipated holiday in my country. Countdown begins in September and ornaments and Christmas trees aren’t put away until early January on the feast of the Three Kings.

Arriving at the airport after a red-eye flight, I was so excited to see all the ornaments and even a Christmas tree!

Another short flight and I’ll be home, and with my family it will really feel like Christmas in November!

Happy weekend!

T.

Connectedness

I’ve had this torn page from an old magazine on my office wall for over a decade now. The color has faded, but the words always have the same effect on me: jolting me to reality that every action I make, every word I utter has an effect on something or someone. It creates ripples.

Just a short note to remind all of us (myself included) that it is better to be mindful and to be kind and to smile rather than be angry and glare at people especially early in the morning. A simple smile can brighten a stranger’s day. And just maybe that stranger will be kinder to people around him as well.

Ripples.

Have a lovely morning (or evening)!

T.

Vegetarian Spring Rolls

I had a quite filling yet inexpensive lunch today — two pieces of vegetarian spring rolls.

Ordering these spring rolls before grocery-shopping at Walmart-SM Mall has been a habit of mine for years now (Walmart-SM is on the island, so I only go there once or twice a month.) A friend of mine introduced the restaurant to me at least 10 years ago, and I’ve been going to that restaurant for their spring rolls ever since.

  • These spring rolls have dried tofu, cabbage, celery, cilantro, carrot and peanut sauce.

  • A very simple yet filling and healthy meal.

    There are a number of spring roll recipes online. You can try making your own.

    Apart from finding time to exercise, it isn’t very hard to lose weight. Stick to a healthy diet.

    Good luck!

    T.

    The moon, the moon, the moon

    For those who follow my blog, you’d probably notice I’ve posted several photos of the moon lately.

    I love looking up at the sky and seeing a beautiful moon. And I thought people feel the same way I do, but one evening years ago walking with my best friend, I said, “Hey! Look at the moon! So beautiful!” And he said, “It’s just the moon. Come on!”

    And then last night on my walk home from the office, taking these photos, two girls passed by and murmured, “What’s she taking pictures of?”

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    I’m glad I see beauty in ordinary things and occurrences. I am thankful I can still see.

    The soft moonlight makes things look gentler. It hides the ugliness visible in the daytime and makes them mysterious. Guy de Maupassant’s story Moonlight comes to mind.

    May you see beauty around you. 💕

    T

    LAPC: Creepy

    “Creepy” is a subjective word.

    As Ann-Christine quoted from a dictionary, it causes “unpleasant feeling of fear or unease.”

    So what one finds creepy may be just “normal” to somebody else.

    A few years ago just after my son was diagnosed with Autism, a girl, who I later found out was one of our neighbors, gave my son a look that I thought was mocking. At that time I felt too protective of my then 2-year old son and was quite emotional that I glared at the girl and just walked away with my son. A few days later I saw the girl again and saw the same expression on her face and realized that was really how she looked — her facial expression unchanged.

    That truly taught me lesson — not to be too sensitive. When somebody looks at you, do not think too much about it. It may mean nothing.

    In the same way what you think of as creepy, others may see as harmless or even boring.

    It’s all relative.

    The fish in the photos may be giving you a creepy look — but they don’t have bad intentions! 😛

    Happy Sunday!

    T.

    Lens Artists Photo Challenge: Creepy

    The Other Side: A Haiku

    Enigmatical,

    Imagined prosperity —

    Then…reality.

    ——

    The grass is always greener….

    People sometimes imagine a better life somewhere else, unhappy with what they have. They follow their desire and get all excited about their new life only to be disappointed after a while.

    Sometimes it’s not a change of place that’s needed. Just a change of heart. Or mind.

    Happy weekend! 💕

    T.

    Beautiful November Morning

    I went out for a walk this morning and couldn’t help taking photos as I thought the weather was perfect at 70F and it was breezy with blue sky above and quiet except for the rustling of the leaves and chirping of the birds.

    Life is beautiful.

    I hope you have a beautiful morning (or evening) too! 💕

    T.

    The Sun: A Haiku

    Do not get too close.

    It will burn you and blind you,

    Farther — gives you warmth.

    —–

    Some people are better seen (or heard) from a distance, too. 😛

    (Btw, the framing of this picture is far from perfect as I wasn’t even looking up when I took the picture! Just pointed my phone camera to where I felt the sun was and click! Hey! It wasn’t too bad!)

    Have a lovely week! 💕

    T.

    Dumplings for vegetarians

    Egg and leek dumplings

    I am not a vegetarian, but I try to eat more vegetables than meat. Yesterday I had my first (and last) meat dish for the week, so I wasn’t so keen on having dumplings for supper.

    But my husband wanted to have dumplings in a Dongbei 东北 (northeastern) restaurant. Most dumplings have meat in them. Thankfully the restaurant serves leek and egg dumplings (韭菜鸡蛋水饺.)

    Soy sauce + vinegar + red pepper sauce

    Last week I did my dance workout one hour every single day and also did planking and lifting weights and really watched my diet.

    I lost 1 kilogram.

    Though I tend to eat more during weekends when my husband and I eat together, I know if I really want to, I can lose one kilogram again this week with exercise and a vegetarian diet.

    Optimism and discipline. 💪

    T.

    LAPC: Monochrome

    Huawen Xue Yuan, Jimei, Xiamen

    This week Patti chose “Monochrome” for LAPC’s theme.

    She said, “Monochrome can also add drama, mystery, and emotion to a shot…” and I agree!

    These are some photos I took yesterday when my husband and I went out for a walk.

    Long Zhou Hu (Dragon Boat Lake), Jimei, Xiamen

    Happy Sunday!

    T. 💕

    Lens Artists Photo Challenge:Monochrome

    In search of Gong Bao Ji Ding

    In my first few years in China, I often ordered Gong Bao Ji Ding (宫保鸡丁 or Kung Pao Chicken) and Mapo Doufu (麻婆豆腐)whenever we went out to eat simply because the Chinese restaurants my friends and I often went to were Sichuan restaurants.
    But as years passed and my friends left in China, my husband and I seldom go out to eat, and when we do we don’t usually eat Sichuan food. So I had not eaten Gong Bao Ji Ding in at least 4 years even though I live in China! Until today.

    We purposely went out to find a restaurant that serves Gong Bao Ji Ding because the restaurant we used to go to no longer serves my favorite dish! We walked about 3 km until we found one that serves it. Though I was a little disappointed it didn’t taste the same as I remembered it, I was still glad I finally got to eat it again!
    Another dish I recalled liking then and ordered today was Gan Bian Si Ji Dou (干煸四季豆).

    This one tasted the same though.
    All in all we had a beautiful morning walk that culminated in a good lunch that brought back memories of good food and fun company.

    Have a wonderful weekend! 💕

    T.

    Circles

    We move in different circles

    Some wider than others

    But not necessarily happier.

    It doesn’t matter how big or small

    The circle you’re in,

    What matters is who are in it:

    Who are they to you?

    Who are you to them?

    Do they matter to you?

    Do you matter to them?

    Some circles are big but empty.

    Others are small but not petty.

    ——–

    I have a 4-day weekend this week. So, happy weekend!💕

    T.

    Shine bright: Two haikus

    Though clouds block the way

    Find slits through which to shine bright

    Shine bright and give light.

    ———–

    Dark clouds hide the sun

    Then the wind blows and clouds move

    Briefly — the sun shines.

    ———-

    I was on a moving bus when I took the picture above. I have always liked watching the sun’s rays through the clouds. To me it always feels like the land is being blessed.

    But the haikus I attempted to write aren’t about that. They are about being optimistic and sharing that optimism with others.

    I hope you find reasons to be optimistic today! 💕

    T.

    So near, yet so far

    Seen from a distance

    Laughter heard across the miles

    But untouched — unreal

    ——

    Technology has made our lives easier and communicating with family more convenient.
    Yet, somehow seeing your loved on the screen of your computer or phone or iPad is not the same as holding their hand or hugging them.
    Online communication still seems so unreal.
    Maybe it will feel “normal” in the future. Maybe.
    Happy Tuesday!
    T.

    LAPC: Seeing Double

    Two map puffers at the Manila Ocean Park

    “There is no satisfaction in any good without a companion.” — Seneca the Younger

    Two penguins at the New England Aquarium

    Meteorites exhibit at the Harvard Museum of Natural History

    Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Wax figures of two former presidents at the Dreamland Wax Museum, Boston

    Wax figures of two members of the Royal Family at the Dreamland Wax Museum, Boston

    “A good companion is one you wouldn’t mind dying with.

    — Frank Herbert

    May you find a good companion in life, if you haven’t yet. 💕

    T.

    Lens artists photo challenge: Seeing Double

    Being alone in old age

    “No one should be alone in their old age. But it is unavoidable.” Santiago in Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

    I think I have written on this theme before, but I am reminded of this again recently rereading Old Man and the Sea and also by something I saw while walking at the park one evening.

    While walking at the park a few evenings ago, when the lights had not been turned on yet although it was already a little dark (the lights are turned on at 6:30 in the evening), I saw this tiny, frail-looking white-haired woman, her back hunched, sitting alone on a bench under a tree.

    I don’t know her story, maybe it’s not a sad one, but it made me think how at my age now, I love having a “ME” time — being alone during the day and certain of company later in the day when my husband comes home, having someone to talk with about how our day went.

    Many times I have heard parents of young children and teenagers complaining about how they don’t have time for themselves and cannot wait for the time when their children become adults and leave the house. But I have also heard many older parents who talk about missing their adult children and hoping, waiting for them to visit or even just call.

    Sometimes we behave as if we will always be what we are at present — strong, healthy, not needing anybody. I think the more often we remind ourselves that one day we will need company, one day we will need help, one day we will miss our children, one day we will fear being alone — the more gracious we will be in living our present lives, and the kinder we will be to people whom we think we have no need for at present.

    Sure, aging parents can be a burden sometimes, especially when they become demanding or even mean. But perhaps it is their illness that makes them so; they would probably never think of saying or doing these things when they still had full control of themselves. Perhaps they need compassion and understanding more than anything.

    I learned this from my mother whose own mother disliked her when my grandmother was still strong and able. But when my grandmother became sick and unable to walk, my mother came and offered to help and forced us, her daughters to help as well. At first my grandmother still refused to talk to my mother but after a while she probably realized my mother was not going anywhere. They were able to forgive each other before my grandmother died. My mother’s humility in front of my grandmother and her sincerity in helping her in her hour of need made an impression on us, her children. My mother was not perfect, but we loved her and took care of her the best way we could. From her we learned that though your parents made mistakes, they did raise you the best way they knew how, and just as you have compassion on strangers who are suffering, you can be compassionate with the ones who loved you enough to try to give you a better life than the one they lived.

    We are all going to grow old and weak, if we don’t leave this world earlier than expected.

    The sooner we realize this, the more compassionate we will become.

    Blessings. 🙏🏽

    T.

    A Trip to Gulangyu

    I’ve been living in Xiamen for 17 years and I’ve visited Gulangyu over a hundred times over the years, but there are places on both islands that I still have to see.

    So I was glad to get to the top of Sunlight Rock for the first time yesterday and be able to take pictures of the southern part of Xiamen island and the view of Gulangyu taken from the top of Sunlight Rock.