LAPC: Countryside

There is something about the countryside that is so relaxing. Though it doesn’t give me the same sense of serenity I get from sitting on a quiet beach, being in the countryside still feels like taking a break from the busy-ness of life.

The picture above is of a rice farm in Northern Mindanao, Philippines. I was on my way to the airport when I saw this farm. The sky was so blue with some white clouds, and the hills in the distance so green — I just thought it was so beautiful. I asked the driver to stop the car, and I got out and saw this farmer. I asked him if I could take a picture of him, and he said it was OK.

Then I got back in the car, and went to the airport and back to my busy life. But this picture always gives me that feeling of wanting even a quick break from life and its worries.

I had the same feeling visiting my cousin’s uncle’s farm in Alberta, Canada. After a 12-hour flight and then wandering around Vancouver, it was relaxing to not see people and rest the eyes and the soul by just watching green grass, blue sky, white clouds and farm animals!

Hope you have a relaxing week!

T. 💕

Lens-artists photo challenge: countryside

On Pain and Anger

It’s a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won’t go.” –– Bertrand Russell

I guess like most people I do not like getting angry, not only because it takes so much energy to be angry but also I do not like the idea that the person who made me angry is living rent-free in my head and is controlling me! And I always like to be in control of ME!

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” — Mother Teresa

And what of pain? Pain, like anger, is also exhausting. But unlike anger that robs us of wisdom, pain most of the time, makes us pause and if we pause long enough to think, we actually gain wisdom from pain.

Just recently I was angered by someone, and then I got angry with myself for allowing the person to control my emotion. Then there was regret over the angry words that came out, and with regret comes pain.

It is so easy to say, ” We have to learn to control our anger!” But it’s seldom easy to follow through. It’s perhaps easier to control our actions, but how easy is it to control our words which sometimes cut too deep that the wounds don’t heal?

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” — Ambrose Bierce

Have a peaceful week!💕

T.

LAPC: Magical

I love looking up at the sky, whether in the day time or at night. I often wonder what it’s like up there looking down, (which is why I follow NASA and the International Space Station on social media.)

To me the sky or whatever is up (or out) there is magical.

Sometimes when I am going through a difficult time, I only have to go to a quiet place — by the lake, on a quiet beach, or my balcony and look up at the sky and remind myself of the vastness of the universe and the minuteness of my life and worries.

Now isn’t that cure magical? 😉

Have a lovely week!

T. 💕

Lens Artists Photo Challenge: Magical

Lens Artists Challenge: Silhouette

This summer I had a 12-hour layover in NYC, and luckily my friend and his wife offered to show me around.

Coming from the Philippines, I was looking forward to a cooler weather, but I wasn’t so lucky as it was about as hot in NYC that day as it was back home. Still, I enjoyed the few hours I spent in NYC.

And of course, I took lots of photos!

This one of the One World Trade Center was taken around 3 in the afternoon. I had thought I wouldn’t be able to get a good picture in the brightness and from where I was standing facing the sunlight, but hey, now I have an entry for this week’s challenge! Yay!

Have a lovely weekend!

T.

Lens Artists Challenge: Silhouette

On Death and Promises

My husband and I have the weirdest conversations between a married couple simply because I am weird. One of the things we talked about a couple of years ago was what would happen WHEN I die (because I have to die first, and I would never forgive him if he dies before me! To which he agrees. He says he would like to be able to give me a proper funeral. This I truly appreciate.)

I told him that at my funeral, he can look around and see who among my friends he can marry. Well, this was too weird for him. (But perhaps he was just thinking my friends would be too old for him!)

When I told my friends and sisters about this they thought I was crazy.

Maybe. But my point is, I would like my husband to be happy when I leave. My only condition is that whoever that woman who can make him happy is, should accept my son like he is her son, because I want my son to be happy too.

Unlike the characters in the Disney movie, “Coco” who feel the need to be remembered — I don’t feel the need to be remembered. It would be nice to be remembered, but I am not sentimental about it. What matters most to me is number 1: my autistic son is taken care of until such time he can look after himself; and number 2: that the people I love will go on to live happy, healthy lives after I’m gone.

The day before my mother died, I saw the look on her face change when my then 13-year-old nephew who is my mom’s first grandchild, entered the room. Her eyes lit up, and there was a fondness for my nephew that was so visible that I, her youngest child, felt a little jealous even though I was already 44! We all knew she had not wanted to leave yet because she was worried about him. We gave her the assurance that we all would take care of each other.

I have tried to keep that promise.

I hope that when it’s my turn to go, I would get the same promise that my son will be taken care of. And that they will keep it.

🙏🏽

T.

———

Sonnet 71 by William Shakespeare

No longer mourn for me when I am dead

Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell

Give warning to the world that I am fled

From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell:

Nay, if you read this line, remember not

The hand that writ it, for I love you so,

That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,

If thinking on me then should make you woe.

O! if, I say, you look upon this verse,

When I perhaps compounded am with clay,

Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;

But let your love even with my life decay;

   Lest the wise world should look into your moan,

   And mock you with me after I am gone.

Books, Language and Autism

E. at the Manila Ocean Park

My son is going to be 9 soon, but in his last appointment with his developmental pediatrician, he was assessed as having the language ability of a 3-year old.

Over the years, I have read articles on how to teach a minimally verbal child like him speak; he has had several tutors, special education teachers and therapists. Though he has progressed much in other areas, cognition and language are areas where he has made slow progress. Yet, I am still very hopeful that one day he will speak. What I keep reminding myself is what I heard from one speech-language pathologist a couple of years ago — for some kids, it takes a longer time for speech to come out. But as parents, we should keep “inputting data” (language) into their brains. Just because they are not speaking does not mean we have to stop teaching them to speak

And this idea is what gives me hope.

For the first five years of his life, I read to my son almost every night and that led to him being able to recite about 20 of his books from cover to cover. I started reading Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck to him when he was not even a year old, and he loved the sound of — I’m not sure if it’s my voice, or the flow of the words, or both but he made me read it over and over again until he memorized the whole book. I would intentionally leave out a sentence, and he would say it to me over and over again until I said the line myself!

Being autistic with sensory issues, E. has a habit of chewing on things that he likes. And because he loved his books then, he chewed on all of them. Before that Jemima Puddleduck book became badly damaged from being chewed on, my husband came up with the idea of scanning it so our son could view it on the computer. But it wasn’t the same for E. . And that book was forgotten for a couple of years.

When our living arrangement changed, I felt bad not being able to read to him at night. Then one day I saw the scanned pages of Jemima Puddleduck and decided to make a read-aloud video of it. When I finally played that video for him, the smile on his face when he saw those pictures and heard my voice reading the book was more precious than a pat on the back anyone has ever given me in my whole life!

I have since made read-aloud videos of his other books, and my sister tells me they can tell when he’s missing me as he would ask to watch those videos instead of his favorite movies.

My husband and I had big dreams for our son — we had hoped he would get a much better education than we did and be interested in learning. We were eager to let him study what we, in our youth, were unable to because our parents couldn’t afford them. We had dreams for him to fulfil OUR dreams.

But life happens.

Those dreams came crashing down with his diagnosis. I honestly do not think any parent can say they left the doctor’s office thankful for the ASD diagnosis of their children. An adult person with ASD can probably be thankful for the diagnosis as it leads to an understanding of oneself. But for a parent of a child with ASD , it is different, especially when that child is non-verbal, and E. at 2 years old was still not talking. So yes, it was devastating.

But as parents, we can only be resilient. Though it took my husband a few weeks to get out of his depression, once he did, he accepted the challenge of raising a son with autism.

Now we have a new dream for our son, a much simpler and more practical one: for E. to live independently and happily.

But to get there, he has to have better language ability. And I have not only hope, but also faith, that that day will come. That with the help of his teachers and therapists, who teach him patiently and his family who love him unconditionally, he will be able to use the language that has been stored in his brain all these years. That my son will be talking to me non-stop; and I promise to God, when that day comes, I will not complain that he won’t stop talking!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Unique

I had a wonderful time at the New England Aquarium and took lots of photos, but the one below of the jellyfish is my favorite. I find this shot the most unique among all the photos of creatures I photographed.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge

Have a unique week! 😉

T.

Lens-artists challenge: Take a Break

Last week I took a break from my Philippine reality and flew to the States for the first time. Now that I’m back in my home country, those six days in the States seem just like a dream.

I took lots of photos while in NYC and Boston, but these ones below were taken while on an unplanned trip to New Jersey at the Liberty State Park. It was very quiet on a Friday afternoon. It was a welcome break from busy NYC!

After that long walk around the park which probably made up for one week of no dance workout, I had strawberry milkshake — a very welcome break!

Have a lovely week! 💕

T.

Lens-Artists

On Chekhov’s The Death of a Clerk: When Something Means Nothing

Hardly anyone can stop oneself from sneezing, so when a clerk, Ivan Dmitrich Cherviakov sneezed in the middle of an opera, he accidentally sprayed the man in front of him, a general who served in the Department of Transportation. (I know some people don’t think of covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze, so I’m guessing this main character is of that kind.) He apologized to the general who simply dismissed it as nothing of importance, but our hero was convinced that the general did not believe it was unintentional and thought of him (Cherviakov) as being rude. Hence, he tried to apologize again, even going to his office days after the incident. In the end the general got extremely annoyed with the clerk Cherviakov and yelled at him to get out of his office.

The clerk deeply affected by this treatment, went home and died.

Sometimes we tend to attach meaning to actions of people who may not have meant for those actions to mean anything. Simply put, we misunderstand/misread/misconstrue people’s actions.

Such is what happened with Cherviakov. He was convinced that he made a bad impression on the general and wanted to rectify it even after the general had said, “Never mind, never mind” and later, “I’ve already forgotten it, and you keep at it.” He could not accept the fact that the general was dismissive of something he thought was important. He misread the general’s annoyance with his (Cherviakov’s) pestering him for the latter’s refusal to accept his sincere apology.

This is all too common. I know I was guilty of this in my past relationship when I was young and very immature: I insisted on being offended over something so inconsequential just because I wanted attention.

Some people simply lack the capacity to ignore paltry matters. Everything has meaning even when there’s none.

It is not uncommon to hear from someone you know about how offended they felt about something that somebody had said to them, or the look that was thrown at them by somebody, although you may personally think that it was not intended to mean anything.

Especially on social media today — a friend may post something like a meme, and another will think it is directed at him.

These days people get offended so easily. When have we become so weak? Why can’t we be like the general and simply let go of minor nuisances? Why do we have to be like the clerk who kept harping on something that the general dismissed as nothing of importance and for which Cherviakov later died?

The only one we are hurting by being too concerned about trivial matters such as what the clerk experienced, is ourselves because realizing that nobody else cares about what we deem important will just hurt us even more.

Let’s not allow trivialities to annoy us to death. 😉

Happy weekend! 💕

T.

What matters most to you?

Jimei, Xiamen

Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.

I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.

Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.

This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!

If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.

But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.

I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)

I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.

But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?

I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.

My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.

Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”

Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.

I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.

Everything else is for another time or others to care.

What matters most to you?

Have a lovely weekend! ♥️

T.

Trees and Roots

(I do not know what this tree is called, so if you do I’d be very grateful if you could drop me a line in the comments section. Thanks! 🙏🏽)

Jimei, Xiamen, China

I’ve taken photos of these trees’ roots before for the Weekly Photo Challenge. The roots then were not as big as they are now.

Have a lovely Monday! 💕

T.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge

Diet and workout update

Steamed spinach with tomatoes

Yesterday I decided not to use oil when cooking, so instead of having stir-fried vegetables for lunch, I am opting for steamed ones. I just added fresh tomatoes and onions to the steamed spinach and a bit of salt, pepper and soy sauce, and I had a really tasty lunch.

I’ve been serious about losing weight for almost 2 months now, and though I find it a bit slow I’ve lost 3 kg and my waistline is down by 2 inches! Yay for me!

A week ago, I was only doing 20-30-minute dance workouts confident that I would lose weight because I am on a 1000-calorie diet. But I’ve read several articles that said if you want to be healthy, a 15-20-minute exercise daily is good enough. However if you want to lose weight, you need at least an hour of exercise! And I’ve found out how true that is. Eating healthy and an hour of exercise daily for a week can surely show you positive results.

As for planking, I can hold a plank for a minute but after reading an article about waiting until you have really trimmed down before doing strengthening exercises, I just do it once a day.

It’s tough, but I am hopeful I can reach my goal. 😉 I’m sure you can, too!

Have a good week!

T.

Trying hard to stay healthy (and look younger!)

“But at my back I always hear, Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” — Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress

Peach tree sap/peach gum

Last week my husband made snow mushroom soup for me. It is what the Chinese call an anti-aging soup. That soup only had the snow mushroom, goji berries and dried dates.

Yesterday at the supermarket, as we walked by the Traditional Chinese Medicine section (there is one in every big supermarket here), he decided to add more ingredients to the next anti-aging soup he makes for me (he is more proactive in trying to make me look young than I am! Lol.)

This time he added lotus seeds, longans, peach tree gum and lily bulbs. Lily bulbs are supposedly good for the heart and lungs, too.

longans

lotus seeds

lily bulbs

I don’t know if these things actually work, but he wants and tries to get us to stay healthy, so I’ll give it a try!

Apart from watching what I eat, I have also started doing planks! This is the 5th day since I tried, and I can now hold a plank for 40 seconds, and it feels awesome to be able to do it.

I used to think it was hopeless for me to lose the stomach flab, but after watching this video of an 80-year old bodybuilder, I was truly inspired. Discipline. 😉 A healthy diet and regular exercise with tons of discipline — that’s all the recipe I need.

Have a lovely, healthy weekend!💕

T.

A healthy and enjoyable lunch

Spinach with dried scallop soup

I went to the island today for some errands and stopped by to see a friend. She was glad to hear I’ve been trying to eat healthy food, and we agreed to have a healthy lunch together. I told her I was OK with whatever she ordered, and I was not disappointed. Two of the dishes she ordered were so good, I just had to take a picture of them: the spinach and dried scallop soup and stir-fried mushrooms.

Lunch with my friend is always enjoyable as I enjoy listening to her talk just about everything. She is several years oder than I am, and I always feel I learn something new every time I have lunch with her as she can explain so many things to me about economics and politics.

I had a wonderful time, and I was happy I was able to enjoy lunch without ruining my diet!

Have a lovely Monday!💕

T.

Got a table by the window, but … buildings

Lens-Artists Challenge: Wild

It was very hot and humid yesterday, but I insisted that we went out for a walk at 6pm. The sun had not set yet, and my husband said we could compete as to who could find the smallest mushroom. I didn’t find the smallest one, nor this one but I took these photos myself.

Happy Sunday! 💕

T.

Lens-Artists

On fake and real hunger

Celtuce and King Oyster Mushroom

Yesterday I had a pretty good lunch and snacked on a banana after a couple of hours. Around 5 o’clock as I was preparing to go food shopping, I felt hungry. Then I thought, “How could I be hungry again?” But I decided I was not going to eat anything until after I got back home. And that’s exactly what I did and actually forgot the feeling of hunger while shopping.

From what I’ve read, there is actually such a thing as “fake hunger. ” We may feel “hungry” even just an hour after lunch, but this may be because that cheesecake just looks so tempting (I swear I can hear cheesecake calling out to me every time I see one!) Or perhaps we are stressed and need to comfort ourselves with food that we like; or we may be surrounded by people we like and to spend more time with them, we order more food.

Next time you feel hungry, ask yourself if it’s real or you are just dealing with something that can be solved not by increasing your calorie intake, but by doing something healthier — drinking more water, doing exercise, talking with people, etc.

Webmd has a good article on checking whether you are truly hungry or not.

Stir-fried tofu

Have a lovely weekend! 💕

T.

Not Today

Sunset in Jimei

The bottle will remain unopened.

That pack of cigarettes will stay unsmoked.

Those cheesecakes calling me as I walk past the bakery will be ignored.

And the backups won’t be hearing from me anytime soon.

For as long as there’s a teeny bit of will left in me…

You’re not winning again.

Not today.

——

Be strong. You are loved. ♥️

T.

Another week of healthy eating

Celery, Cucumber and Apple Smoothie

Normally I try not to talk about my little achievements if I have not reached my ultimate goal yet. I have this superstition that it will be jinxed if I talk about it. But last week I wrote about my diet, and the weekend passed without me ruining it. So here I am writing something more about my diet.

Some vegetables I used to ignore have become interesting in my eyes, simply because I am looking for variety. Before I came to China, I seldom ate vegetables. This is true of most Filipinos. We love our lechon and meat too much. So one thing I’m truly happy about coming to China is learning to love and cook veggies. And fungi!

I had never eaten mushrooms before I came to China, but these days one of my favorite ingredients for cooking is the king oyster mushroom.

king oyster mushrooms

I use this kind of mushroom to replace meat, and I just love it! I cooked it with celery the other day, and today with eggplant.

King oyster mushrooms are abundant in China, but I have never seen this kind in my home city in the Philippines. I will surely miss this when I go home for good!

This evening I tried the cucumber, celery and apple smoothie after coming across this recipe. It’s not my favorite smoothie, but it’s good enough for variety.

I hope I can stick to my healthy diet (and silly dancing) so I’ll be strong and healthy for a busy but fun summer with my son!

Have a healthy, happy Monday!

T.

On getting over a breakup

img_1995-1

Saw these lovely hydrangeas by the roadside in Vancouver

Though the last time I broke up with anybody was over 15 years ago, I can’t help but be reminded of the pain of breaking up every time I log on to my Facebook and see posts about recovering from a broken heart. The pain I went through was something I will never wish on anyone, not even the people I don’t like that much. But then again, one does become stronger and smarter after a breakup.

The other day I saw this excerpt of an article that cited a theory on recovering from a failed relationship that said, “… after half the length of a relationship passes, you’ll be good as new (in other words, if you dated for a year, you’ll be fine in 6 months).” I thought it was silly. (The article did go on to say there’s no “actual science to back up the claim.”) So I thought I’d ask my Facebook friends how long it took them to get over a breakup. It was quite interesting getting answers from my friends, some of whom I have not seen in decades!

No time to cry
A few of my friends said they have no idea what a breakup is as they are happily married to their first boyfriend/girlfriend. Though some may think people like these missed out, I think my friends are truly blessed!

Getting over what?
Whereas the first group did not experience breaking up because it ended in marriage, this second group is made up of people who found someone new right after or just before the breakup, and so the excitement of meeting someone new overtook whatever little pain (or guilt?) there could be in ending the relationship.

Too cool to mope
Some people are too cerebral when it comes to relationships. Some of those I asked said it took them a week to 3 weeks to get over the relationship. Less than a month! One guy friend said to me, “The more you mope, the more you lose.” Yikes! But yes, I do admire them. I told my one friend that’s exactly the reason he has been my idol for years!

Out of sight, out of mind
Not as cerebral as the previous group, but still considering themselves too cool to mope, this group recovered in less than a year. Average is 2 months. One friend who is now happily married said she could easily forget especially if she did not see the person anymore. Hmmm.

Love hurts
The more one has given into the relationship, the more painful it is to watch it end. These relationships ended after several years of being together and, for some, having children together. Hence, letting go was not easy; but after a few years (1-10 years) they were finally able to forgive and move on. One friend said it may seem unbelievable to some that it took her ten years to move on, but that it was really true. I believed her. It took me 10 years as well.

One friend told me 15 years passed before he could say he got over his ex.

A couple of friends told me it will take a lifetime. I guess because the breakup just happened recently.

And another friend said, “We remember our exes from time to time, no matter how [much] we pretend we’re over them.” But then again, remembering is different from wishing things had not gone the way they did or that they could be the way they were.

Reading my friends’ responses to my question convinced me even more that time does heal all wounds. I know 15 years may sound like forever, but just live your life. You don’t even have to try to forget because there is no way you will forget. There will just come a time when you realize you don’t think about them anymore; that when you actually do, there’s no pain or anger anymore. It will come when you least expect it. But it will definitely come.

May you find the strength to move on. A blessed weekend!

 

T.

tetsun

Jimei 

A week of healthy eating

I survived a week of no rice, no bread, no pasta. It was all veggies and the occasional egg. There was no dancing for three days because my schedule didn’t allow it, but I still lost weight!

Last year I had trouble sleeping because I was hungry after not eating anything later than 4pm. But now I eat crackers or a banana in the evening and sleep through the night.

For lunch today I made salad and sautéed king oyster mushroom and added celery. The mushroom and celery mix was so good! I will not miss pork or beef at all if I have this kind of mushroom.

Hope you reach your goal of losing weight and staying healthy!

T.

Nanputuo Temple

I have been to so many temples in China, and the most impressive ones I’ve been to are up north. After visiting so many temples over the years, I no longer have any interest in visiting another one. But as we had a guest who was in Xiamen for the first time, we took him to Nanputuo Temple.

Nanputuo was first built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) It was destroyed during the war around 1300s and rebuilt in the 1600s.

Many practicing Buddhists come, but there are probably more tourists.

When I first came to China I did not really think of a temple as a place of worship because most people were just taking pictures. But one Christmas at the church where I used to go, tourists came inside the church during mass and took pictures of the altar and the priest. I was at first shocked, and then angry. When I calmed down I realized the rudeness of these people were due to ignorance. They thought the mass was a show, like a concert.

Although I had never misbehaved in a temple, I became more conscious of my actions in a temple which may be misinterpreted by Buddhists.

Nanputuo can get very crowded especially during weekends, but if you visit Xiamen, it is one of those must-see places. It is right next to Xiamen University, which has a beautiful campus.

Nanputuo also has a vegetarian restaurant, which serves a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes. But if you are not vegetarian, there are countless restaurants nearby to choose from. One good thing about going to touristy places in China is you will always find some place to buy food!

Losing Weight: Inspiration + Discipline

(This is about my experience, and I know not everyone has the same experience. But there are people like me out there, and this is for them.)

I’ve been trying to lose weight for as long as I can remember, but it has been on and off as my weight fluctuates. I started gaining weight and actually became a little overweight on my last year in university and my first year working. Then I went to study Latin dance and lost weight and was my ideal weight for a couple of years until my heart was broken and I became depressed and resorted to stress eating. Then I had the opportunity to move to another country. When my husband and I first met he was so thin and I was overweight, but he liked me anyway. I tried to lose weight, and I did and was quite happy with how I looked in my wedding gown three years later. After 4 years I had a baby and since then I have not been successful in reaching my target weight. My son is now 8 years old.

Looking back, my recipe for losing weight back then was: inspiration/challenge and discipline. I was inspired to lose weight because I wanted to look nice for my then-boyfriend. I was challenged to lose weight after I realized I couldn’t wear the dress I liked because it wouldn’t fit me. There were times I was challenged to lose weight because a guy I liked, liked a girl who was so skinny! As an older person now I find those inspiration/challenges seemed really silly but they helped me lose weight! The point is we need something to inspire us or drive us to want to lose weight.

At this period in my life, my first and most important reason for wanting to lose weight is to be healthy. As my son is on the Autism Spectrum Disorder and has several delays in most skills yet growing taller and heavier everyday, I need to stay healthy to still be able to handle him even when he becomes taller than I in a couple of years. This is real and serious inspiration.

Next comes discipline. Discipline means exercise and diet. Those times I lost weight I was either going to dance lessons, dancing in front of the TV (there are lots of dance workout videos available) or running almost everyday. The important thing was I was physically active. Apart from exercise, I also went on a diet. Diet did not mean not eating, but reducing the portion. I have always believed in Aristotle’s idea of moderation in everything.

I put exercise and diet under discipline because these two indeed demand discipline. There were times when I became lazy or tempted to eat more than what I needed, and it took a lot of self-control to get myself to workout or say no to more food. Again, that inspiration/challenge helped me stick to discipline.

And as once again I am trying to lose weight, I am also trying to stick to my recipe of challenge + discipline. So far I have been doing well as I am not home yet (I always put on weight when I go home to the Philippines, where everything, especially eating, is more fun!! The real challenge will be spending the summer back home.)

Right now I have started shedding a couple of pounds, and I have to thank my husband who has also become health conscious when he reached 40. Like me, he realized how important it is for both of us to stay healthy for our son. Though he does not exercise as much as I do (I dance in front of the TV everyday) as he is always busy at work, we both try to eat healthy by eating more vegetables and fruits and less meat and bread/rice.

Like I said, so far so good. I hope you find your inspiration and add lots of discipline to achieve your goal.

Good luck!

T.

On Friendships, Secrets and Hemingway

“THERE’S no such thing as autobiography.  There’s only art and lies.” 
— Jeanette Winterson.

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Friends are people with whom you share some of your deepest secrets, with the hope and faith that they would carry these secrets with them to the grave. But as it is, some friends are simply incapable of keeping secrets. If your friend is married, know for sure that your friend’s spouse will know your secret. In today’s world, especially among young people there doesn’t seem to be any secrets at all. The idea of “secret” seems to be dying. Everything is posted on social media for the world to know.

Still, how would you feel if you actually had an extremely embarrassing secret and told your best friend about it, and the next day when you woke up, you checked your Twitter only to find out you have become famous after your friend had posted your embarrassing secret on Twitter for everyone on Twitterverse to enjoy making memes about?

Since last year I had been re-reading Hemingway, but this year was the first time I read “A Moveable Feast.” I enjoyed reading it until I reached the part where he wrote about Fitzgerald. And I was just disappointed.

When I started reading it, I did not think of it as a memoir and simply enjoyed his description of his life in Paris — his struggles, the people he met and spoke with and his impressions of them. I did not even mind so much the things he wrote about Gertrude Stein as I did not feel there was real friendship between them.

But with Fitzgerald it was different. Here was someone who trusted him, and told him something very personal, obviously in confidence, and he wrote about it for all the world to read and know about a very private thing about someone he considered his friend.

I guess writers, artists have been doing this for ages — writing about someone in their life including what has been told them in confidence — and not thinking about how their revelation will impact the life not only of the one they are writing about, but also of those related to the person, their spouse, children, great-grandchildren.

If Hemingway had made an effort to protect his friend, he would not have been so explicit in sharing Fitzgerald’s problem to the world. He was quite careful in not saying so much about his then-wife and child, which shows that he could have refrained from revealing too much about Fitzgerald. As it is, the part on Fitzgerald just came out gossipy and not a gentlemanly thing to say at all.

Maybe it’s just me, but reading “A Moveable Feast” changed my mind about Hemingway, especially that he said this about Dostoevsky, my favorite author, “How can a man write so badly, so unbelievably badly and make you feel so deeply?” This book made me “feel so deeply” but not in a good way.

Responsibility, Emotional Maturity and Heartbreak

When someone I am genuinely close to (like one of my best friends or my sisters) makes what I think is a poor decision or does something I find childish, I tend to say, “Jeez, how old are you?” Of course, they are free to say the same thing to me when they think I’m being silly. But they have “nicer” words to say!

How old are you really?

We, humans, have three types of ages: chronological, biological and psychological age.

Our chronological age is the number of years we have been alive. Our biological age refers to the age of our body’s systems. Some people who are 50 years old may have the body (health) of a 40-year old. One who is 25 years old may have a biological age of 50. Finally our psychological age refers to our cognitive functioning and emotional maturity. Some people may be 50 but have the cognitive ability and emotional maturity of a teenager! ( Like someone I know who thinks he has the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old! Self-awareness is important though!)

This is just my observation: if a person does not like or fears becoming responsible for another person, it will be difficult for that person to reach emotional maturity. Being in a relationship where you are committed to one person whose happiness means more to you than your own happiness is a stepping stone to reaching emotional maturity. I think this is why most of us in our youth go through that period of becoming head over heels in love with somebody who later breaks our heart into tiny pieces that we feel can never be put back together again. But the truth is, as we find out, our hearts are only as resilient as we want them to be.

If we have gone through heartbreak and are mindful of our experiences, we can prevent ourselves from going through the same heartbreak again. Mindfulness is necessary in achieving emotional maturity. Something I learned in my early twenties as a young woman trying to become a nun which I value to this day is how we sometimes fall into a pattern of behavior, and I witnessed myself several times over the past decade almost getting suck into a pattern again. Fortunately for me, I have more responsibilities and commitments; I know my priorities, and I am much more aware of myself and my weaknesses.

My point is, one does not have to suffer so many heartbreaks if one truly endeavors to learn something from the experience.

You can extricate yourself from the pattern if you sincerely want to free yourself of it. But you have to want it. If you do not have other responsibilities and commitments you can anchor yourself into, it will be even more difficult to disentangle yourself from this pattern.

Are you stuck in a pattern? Does the same story of heartache keep playing out in your life?

Look within.

Buffet at North Bay in Jimei

If you ever find yourself hungry in Jimei, try the buffet at Cafe Realm at North Bay Hotel. (No, this is not a paid ad. I wish it were. Maybe I should ask? Lol.)

This weekend I was fortunate to have had Saturday lunch and Sunday dinner at North Bay. It made me smile when the guy who prepares the sashimi recognized me, said “Hello!” and spoke to me in English. He knows I love salmon!

The buffet includes a soup selection, and seafoods, barbecue/steak, rice and pasta, fruits, Chinese, Japanese and western dishes, ice cream (local and Haagen Dazs) and what I love best — the pastry selection! All you can eat cheesecake and many other sinfully delicious cakes!

They also offer a variety of fruit drinks, coffee, milk, soda, Budweiser. In the evening they serve wine as well.

North Bay Hotel, Jimei, Xiamen

Lunch: 11:30 – 2:00 P.M.

Dinner: 5:30 – 9:00 P.M.

Price: 26-28 USD

Now, I hope North Bay sees this and rewards me! 😉

Have a lovely week! 💕

T.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport

I’ve been in Guangzhou several times, and each time I had a wonderful time, partly because of my friend who’s always good company and partly because I like Guangzhou for its size and the seeming vivacity of the people. (It seems there are more young people in GZ than in Xiamen.)

When I was here in 2010, the Baiyun International Airport was already in operation, but there were not as many shops as there are now. I remember thinking back then it was like a mall. Today, in some areas, you can forget you’re in an airport.

There are places for mothers and their babies. There’s also a play area for bigger kids.

One other thing that I like about this airport is the announcement in both Chinese and English is much clearer than in other airports (in Xiamen, for instance. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Xiamen, but at the airport you have to listen very carefully to understand their announcements in English!)

The only thing that disappoints me is at 5:30 in the morning I couldn’t find an open shop that serves coffee!

I need my coffee!!!

Still, I look forward to coming back to GZ. 😊

Have a beautiful Friday!

P.S.

At 6:00 AM, Mickey D opened. The staff spoke English! And best of all I got me coffee!

Netflix’s “After Life” and the Cycle of Depression and Self-Absorption

Alona Beach, Panglao, Bohol, Philippines

I am glad that I was told about “After Life” as I positively enjoyed every single episode. My friend and I agreed in our thinking that it’s not black comedy. Yes, it addresses the subject of death and suicide and Alzheimer’s but it does so with delicacy and compassion and with an adequate amount of humor that only heightens the pain of reality. I prefer to categorize it as dramedy.

(If you haven’t watched it, then you may not want to continue reading.)

Though he’s not my favorite character, I admire Tony’s brother-in-law for his quiet strength. Frail-looking and too kind for most people, he is able to live his life with all the problems without complaining to or bothering others about it. He represents the many mature people who selflessly help others without being asked in return how they, themselves, are faring in this life.

And then there’s depressed, self-absorbed Tony. Though we can understand and even empathize with him in his pain over losing his wife and best friend, and we admire his devotion to his late wife, we may also want to shake him into waking up to reality which is that he actually has a good life — much better than most people, and the only reason he is depressed is he is focusing on what he lost, not what he still has which is so much more than what majority of humanity have.

I understand that we all experience grief when we lose someone we love, but we are not supposed to be entombed in that grief among the living. Unless one has damage in the brain, I believe we are all capable of recovering from this emotional pain, suffering, or depression.

(I love how the scenes are shot mostly in the day time or in well-lit rooms. It reinforces the overall optimism that this show presents.)

Tony has people around him who truly care about him. Even the new employee, Sandy, likes him instantly and asks him to be happy. His brother-in-law tolerates him, forgives him for his nastiness, and helps him in every way he can even though he has his own problems.

Tony has a job which may not be the best, but he likes his co-workers who are all good people.

The old widow he meets at the cemetery has more wisdom than the therapist he pays to help him. And he did not have to pay her for getting him out of his self-absorption.

What truly saved Tony in the end is his desire for the pain to stop. Julian was right in saying that Tony had not given up on life yet. Tony just needed to find the right way to get the pain to stop, and thankfully he had the patience and the right people around him to help him. Personally, I think it is most important that one believes and knows that the pain will eventually come to an end. That cliche, “Time heals all wounds,” has always been true.

When you stop focusing all your energy on your pain, and see how others are hurting worse than you are, and if you knowingly try to open your eyes to others’ needs and make an effort to make somebody happy, you’ll be surprised at how, little by little, the pain will subside. And in its place will be peace, and probably even joy that somehow in your own little way, you have made this world a better place by simply being you.

Look around you.

May you find joy in life. 🙏🏽💕

T.

Bohol Cathedrals

La Purisima Concepcion de la Virgen Maria Parish Church (also The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Parish Church), commonly known as Baclayon Church, is a Roman Catholic Church in the municipality of Baclayon, Bohol, Philippines within the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tagbilaran. Baclayon was founded by the Jesuit priest Juan de Torres and Gabriel Sánchez in 1596, and became the oldest Christian settlement in Bohol. It was elevated as a parish in 1717 and the present coral stone church was completed in 1737. The Augustinian Recollects succeeded the Jesuits in 1768 and heavily renovated the church since then. (from Wikipedia)

Reconstruction after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2013 caused major damage to the church was completed in 2017.

Dauis Church

Our Lady of Assumption Church is locally known as Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. It is constructed of solid rocks or stones and has paintings on the walls. There is a tower with a bell, outside the church another tower and also a small well. The front face of the church collapsed during the earthquake in 2013. (From Wikipedia)

Would you rather be beautiful/handsome or hot? 😉

A week ago, one of my best friends who is dating someone new, asked me what kind of compliments women liked to hear. He had thought I’d be flattered when he said my hair looked beautiful, but instead I simply answered, “I already know I have beautiful hair.” [insert wicked laughter]

But I did say that I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with hearing, “You look beautiful” because I know I never looked or even felt beautiful. And that is not being insecure or belittling myself. That is simply the truth. Other women would probably like to hear men tell them they’re beautiful. Everyone’s different.

My husband often tells me I am cute, and he has the same look on his face as a person who looks fondly at a puppy, when he says that to me. I guess I look like a pet to him. It’s not romantic, but it’s good enough for me.

When I asked my friend what compliment he would prefer this new woman to say to him, he said he would indubitably choose to hear that he is “hot” except that nobody has ever said that to him [he gets “handsome” too many times; it has no effect on him.]

Then I thought to myself, perhaps all men feel like this — they prefer to be seen as sexually attractive rather than just aesthetically attractive. My curiosity led me to ask around 90 people, co-workers, students (current and former) and some Facebook friends (I know and have met every single person I have as friend on Facebook) from 14 to 65 years old the question (with a slight variation from the original one)

Which (compliment) would you prefer to hear from a person of the opposite sex:

a. you look cute

b. you look great

c. you look beautiful/handsome

d. you look hot

(A few of my friends clarified that they would only expect it from a person with whom they are quite familiar.)

The answers I got were quite revealing. Majority of Chinese girls (19-25) and Filipino teenagers (boys and girls) prefer to be perceived as “cute.” Even my 16-year-old nephew picked “cute,” which I truly doubt! I had asked him the question in a group chat with him and my sisters (his mom included!) I am quite certain he wasn’t being honest!

Most of my male friends (except the ones I’m quite familiar with) chose “you look great.” When I asked them why they chose b, they said it is “all-encompassing.” One friend said he is too realistic and too old to desire to be called “hot” but if he were 25, then “hot” it would definitely be. Only very few of my male friends, 7 in fact (my 3 best friends and 4 other men I’ve known for years and have always been pretty transparent about their lives with me) admitted they prefer to be called “hot.”

Most of my female friends (ages 30-50) picked “you look great” or “you look beautiful.” Just like the men, they said “you look great” covers everything. But one friend said, “you look great” is boring! She and 6 other female friends (hey, just realized that’s 7 men and 7 women! Dang!) picked “you look hot.” These are women in their mid-40s to 50’s.

My one friend who is in her 30’s and has always been considered “hot” by everyone we know, picked “you look beautiful.” When I asked her why she didn’t choose d, she said she hears it too often that she just wants to be seen for what she is inside, spiritually, (not just inside her clothes). Hmm. I wonder what it’s like to be always told “you look hot!”

Only one friend, my classmate in high school, whom I haven’t seen in 20 years, gave me an answer that I’m sure 99% of my friends would have chosen had it been one of the choices. He said he would pick “e” that says: I’ll give you lots of money!

Note: majority of my friends are Asian. I am sure the results would be different if I included more non-Asians!

Which would you pick?

Have a fun weekend!💕

T.

“Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night”

Three years ago this month, I lost my mother. And every year this month, I buy flowers (pictured below) that I put next to her photograph. Every year in March, as I look at both flowers and my mom’s photograph, I am reminded of the uncertainty of life, of its ephemerality and the sadness that comes with being left behind by those who go before us.

This month my musing on the transiency of life is made even sadder by the thought of 2 of my best friends facing serious illnesses. My 3 best friends, unlike me who wanted to die at 20, have always wanted to live long, happy, healthy lives.

For the lovers of life, I hope you never lose that WILL to live even when doctors give you that diagnosis that sounds like a death sentence. I hope in your heart will burn that desire to prove the doctors wrong and that you “RAGE against the dying of the light.” ♥️

T.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Something to warm the heart on a cold, rainy day

It’s a cold and rainy day, and my apartment has become too quiet for me, so I decided to bring my work to the McDonald’s in the mall across the street from our university.

A few minutes after I sat down, a young woman with a baby sat a few tables across from mine. She was having a difficult time watching the baby, making sure he won’t fall down from the chair as she tried to get something from the baby bag. Another young woman at the next table looked like she wanted to help, but as most Chinese do, she probably did not want to seem like intruding.

When their food came, the young mother (she has to be the mother) became busy with arranging the food on the tray and just for a few seconds perhaps, forgot what the baby was up to. And it turned out the baby had reached for the cup of milk tea and spilled the whole thing. The young mother panicked a little as she called for the crew. Two McD staff calmly came over and even smiled at the mother, cleaned the mess, and one of them later brought her another cup of milk tea.

Before they left, the young mother apologized to the staff and the same man who had helped her earlier just smiled (I couldn’t hear what he said) and also said something to the baby.

Why am I writing about this? Obviously because this is something I don’t often see, especially here in Jimei where workers often look so unhappy and unhelpful.

So, I am grateful to the staff of McDonald’s in Jimei Wanda for making this cold and rainy Jimei day feel warm.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!💕

T.

A Quiet Walk on Lantern Festival

After 6 busy weeks in the Philippines, I am back in very quiet Jimei. Blissfully quiet for now, except for the occasional firecrackers in the distance, as the students are not back from their holiday yet.

Though I miss my son already, I am thankful for the quiet walk I had this afternoon, something that I did not have a chance to do back home.

Every now and then I need to be alone with my thoughts, and today I got the chance.

Here’s what the campus looks like for now.

No basketball games

The cafeteria is closed

Happy Lantern Festival!🎉🏮

T.

Beautiful Alona Beach, Bohol

The first time I went to Bohol was in 2002 to attend a Young Writers’ Conference. It was a very quiet place then. I don’t remember seeing tourists.

Bohol looks so different now.

Here are photos of Alona Beach in Panglao, Bohol, Philippines at different times of the day.

Noon time when we arrived

sunset

early morning

early morning

sunrise

Have a lovely week! 💕

T.

On Autism and Feeling Left Out

Eli at Panglao, Bohol

Today I read an article written by a mom who says that as a parent of a child with autism, she feels isolated. And one parent commented that she feels the same, that nobody invites her son to anything, and so she never gets invited to anything either.

I used to feel hurt am that nobody invites Eli to birthday parties. But after a year, I DECIDED not to let it bother me. For one, I cannot stand the noise of kids for so long. Eli cannot stand the sound of screaming or crying children either. He is more comfortable around older children or adults. However I do throw a birthday party for him and for the last three years, I had McDonald’s in my city organize it, the first year at their store and the last two years at his special education school. His classmates had so much fun especially when the mascot came out. This year’s was the noisiest party so far , but Eli was fine with it because he already knows his classmates and teachers, and the mascot no longer scares him. I had a headache from all the noise, but seeing Eli so calm amid the raucous, and his classmates, most of whom are minimally verbal, participating in the games and so excited to see the mascot, was fulfilling.

For the last three years, I always gave a few party bags from Eli’s party to the kids with special needs at the public school special needs center, and they were always happy to get stuff from McD. Their smiles and thank-you’s were enough to make me happy.

I understand some parents’ feelings of isolation, but I guess what I want to say is, we don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves because we can do something about this. Instead of waiting for people to reach out to us, we can take the initiative. And we don’t have to reach out to those who cannot accept our children’s condition, we really do not need them in our lives. There are people out there who not only understand and accept our autistic children for who and what they are but also appreciate them for their specialness and our struggles at raising such children.

It is very difficult for Eli to have friends save for his two cousins and my cousins’ son and daughter. Neurotypical kids will always see him as strange, and I don’t blame them. They are children. I have witnessed several times how Eli tried to go near such children, and how they looked at him and moved away from him. It hurt me, but I’m almost sure it disappointed him more. But this is reality. In time he will learn what everyone of us should learn, not everyone can be a friend. Not everyone can be accepting of who we are, but there are those who do care, and they are the ones that matter. There is no need to be friends with people who are embarrassed by us. They are not worth our time or energy. Remember there ARE people who will be very grateful for our time and attention. We should give it to them instead.

Life is not all roses, even for neurotypical people. We can only try to live it the best we can for ourselves and more importantly, for our children on the spectrum.

Fear, Fascination and Autism

There are many things that can make Eli, my 8-year-old son on the spectrum , happy and very few that terrify him. To neurotypical adults, it would seem silly to be scared by the sound of a hair or hand dryer, or a blender or coffee grinder or a drill, but these are sounds that have a different effect on my son and other autistic kids like him. Thankfully, the noise from crowds don’t bother him anymore, and the hair dryer we have at home does not bother him as much as it did before. If we use the coffee grinder, he would just leave the kitchen.

Still there’s so much I envy my son for — one of which is his lack of fear of things that terrify most people I know, from tiny creatures like cockroaches or spiders to pythons. When we went to a zoo in Bohol last week,our guide showed us this yellow python. Thinking my husband was holding Eli’s hand, I couldn’t help screaming when I saw him already inside the cage with the guide. He was the only one inside the cage with the guide who showed him how to pet this beautifully yellow python. None of us adult tourists dared to go in, but Eli did and seemed to really enjoy touching the snake.

Eli also loves the ocean. Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to swim yet. Just like me and my husband, Eli can sit (or stand) on the beach for a long time just looking at the waves or the horizon. The ocean is mesmerizing. He is most calm when he is on the beach. On our last evening in Bohol, he and his father watched the sunset until it got too dark to see anything on the ocean, but I guess he was listening to the sound of the waves, and that too is mesmerizing.

But Eli has no sense of the danger of the ocean especially for people who cannot swim. And if no one is watching him, he will just keep walking towards the water. From what I’ve read, most autistic kids and adults are drawn to water, and in fact when an autistic person goes missing, the first area rescuers would search is a body of water.

The “fearlessness” of our autistic kids may be admirable sometimes, but we also have to remember that fear is one way we, humans, protect ourselves from danger, and if our “fearless” kids are not aware of the dangers that their fascination with certain things poses, it will not be good for them.

Have a lovely and safe Sunday! 💕

T.

Because there’s no such thing as forever…

I saw a picture of a huge graffiti on a wall in my city that read: WALANG FOREVER (There’s no forever) and shared it with my family, joking that whoever wrote it must have been really hurting. But my ever-serious 16-year-old nephew replied: “There really is no forever.” To which I said: “But that’s not what Kenny Loggins said!”

When I checked on Google, there is actually a good number of people asking why “forever” is promised by people in love when everyone knows this is a mere impossibility. I did not bother reading the answers because I think we all know what the answer to that is.

And I am not going to dwell on the reason people say it, but rather on the benefit of there being no forever.

I learned this years ago when I was young and naive and stupidly in love with the most unromantic man I have ever met. We were walking in a quiet, wooded area, dead leaves crackling under our shoes as we walked. I looked up when I heard the sound of the leaves as a gentle breeze blew. It was such a beautiful moment, walking with the man who meant the world to me then. So I told him. And he said casually, “You know why this is so beautiful now? It’s because you know it’s not going to last.” At that time, it made me feel so sad, but now whenever I think of it, I am grateful that at that moment, I learned to appreciate things that have a short life span.

Now when my husband leaves for work in the morning and says goodbye to me, no matter how busy I am, I stop whatever I’m doing and give him my full attention.

As I travel every month, I say a proper goodbye to my family and friends because who knows, we may never see each other again (that plane could … you know?)

This is not to dismiss the anguish of those who are suffering, but I sometimes think those who are told they only have this or that much time to live have the benefit of preparing not only themselves but also their loved ones of the former’s impending departure.

A few months before my mother’s demise, I was telling bestfriend no.2 what a terrible time it was watching my mother suffer. And as usual, he was his brutally honest self and said to me, “This time in your mother’s suffering is God’s gift to you, her children. You will become so tired from not having enough sleep and in pain watching her suffer, you will eventually be ready to let her go.” He was speaking from experience, of course. He gave up his own dreams to take care of his father for two years until his father’s death from pancreatic cancer.

And he was right. Although it was a stressful, exhausting time, we — my mother, my sisters and I — were given enough time to prepare ourselves for what was going to happen, so the last few days were filled with kind words, sweet smiles, lots of tears, of course, but they were tears of love.

The beauty of there being no forever is that we then see beauty in everything, and we appreciate everything, and are thankful for everything.

We become better people when we remember there’s no such thing as forever. Or at least we should.

May we always try to become better people. 💕

T.

Gratitude and Optimism

Yesterday I saw a video called “Life Lessons from 100-Year-Olds,” and it brought tears to my eyes. If you have time, watch it. I’m sure everyone can learn a thing or two from these centenarians.

I think it was fortuitous to have seen that video on the last day of the year, as it reminded me to look back at my own life during the past year (well, I am always looking back, lol)  and to count my blessings and be grateful even though 2018 saw me inwardly distraught about a number of things that I could not talk about with loved ones, as I do not want to spread negative vibes.

Today is the first day of 2019. I will try my very best to continue to be grateful and to believe that everything will be all right.

I hope you do as well.

Happy New Year!🎉💕

T.

Change, Challenges, Moving On

Jimei sky on a winter noon

Introverted, routine-oriented people like me get disoriented when something not part of the routine takes place. The occasional lunch with co-workers is always a task, even though they are nice people, simply because it’s not part of my daily routine, and I always make an effort to be an interesting or even just a lively person (I personally find it rude when a person joins you for a meal and looks miserable. I’d rather that person refuse to join me for a meal than be with me looking unhappy. Hence, my effort at being an interesting/lively rather than boring companion.)

This disorientation is magnified when bigger events occur in my life, like when some 16 years ago, my then-boyfriend left the country (and me!) and all of a sudden, I was left to make plans for the day for only myself. “What will I do with this much time all to myself?” I went to work moving about like a zombie for months!

When my mother died, I felt so vulnerable whenever I remembered (actually, I still do) that I no longer have a “prayer warrior.” In the past whenever I had a problem, I would just pick up the phone and call my mother long-distance and ask her to pray for me. I know it sounds so immature for a grown woman to be depending on her mother so much, but that was all I depended on my mother for. I never asked her for anything else after graduating from university. Just prayers. Still, when she died, I was at a loss not having anyone to call to ask for prayers. I mean I could have called my sisters or some of my friends, but with my mother I was assured that her prayers were most fervent because she was praying for her youngest daughter, the only one to leave her side to work in another country.

When introverted, routine-oriented people like me are put in a new situation, we tend to have an extremely difficult time adapting to change. We may seem to look like we are coping well with the change, but deep inside, the challenge is overwhelming. Yet, we survive and I think our introversion has much to do with it. As introverts, we rely on very few people, but more important and this is most helpful, we rely on ourselves the most. Slowly we learn to start a new routine, and we recover in due time.

And we move on. In due time.

May you find the courage to adapt to change, face challenges and move on.

Happy New Year! Happy New Life!💕🎉

“This is Us” and Bran Stark: A Lesson in Understanding and Compassion

You read that right.

Two of my favorite TV series this decade are GoT and This is Us, and I am glad that both shows support my theory on compassion, which I’ve written about on this blog a couple of times.

I just started watching “This is Us,” and I haven’t even finished watching the first season yet, but already this show has made me cry so many times, not because it’s sentimental but because the characters and their stories are so real and so relatable. No one is extremely bad nor extremely good. They are ordinary people, even the Hollywood actor seems normal (and he does admit he is normal and contrasts himself with the stage actress who is not true to herself.) The stories that really speak to me are the loss of a child, the loss of a father, the worries about starting a family — all those feelings I had when those things happened to me came back as fresh as if they happened yesterday, and it was a cathartic experience. True, most of the characters are beautiful and well-to-do and American, yet first and foremost, they are human and their emotions are not unique to them in their time and place. These emotions are universal. I guess the title of the show is quite apt as it is really about “us”. “Us” being whoever is saying it.

The narrative structure of “This is Us” allows audiences to see and understand the development of the characters, why they act or behave the way they do, thru flashbacks, and this is one reason why there are no extremely good or bad character in this show — because the viewers, who are the ultimate judges of who is good or bad — are made to understand the present person by looking at how they evolved through the years of a variety of experiences with different people in different situations.

In reality this is how we become who we are. We are shaped by our experiences and the people we meet and influence us. This is why, ideally, the people who know us best are our family, especially our parents who have seen us grow. Unfortunately many people grow distant from their parents over the years, hence what parents knew to be their child is different from what their child has actually become. However However, there are children who remain very close to their discerning parents, and these are the ones who have the benefit of having somebody who can accept them for who they truly are. These parents are a witness to their children’s lives and can understand why the children have become such and can therefore accept them and love them unconditionally.

(Just like in “This is Us,” “GoT” also made viewers change their mind about a character, from hating him to loving him. Jaime Lannister was hateful before it was revealed how he sacrificed his name to save the realm.)

My point is this: if we could only know everything that has happened to a person that we know or know of, in the same way that we are getting to know the characters of “This is Us” with every flashback in each episode, then we probably wouldn’t be too hasty or even cruel in our judgment of them. We would probably even become forgiving because we understand what made them become such. We do not have to be their friend or be close to them, but we do not have to hate them either.

Now this brings me to Bran Stark. Bran has become the Three-eyed Raven, which means he now holds the knowledge of the past, present and future, and because he knows EVERYTHING, he understands everything. Bran never gets angry nor says angry words, not even to Little Finger. He may seem cold, emotion-less, but I think deep down, he understands and has compassion because he has seen and sees everything.

Then there’s Jesus. As he was dying on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I am guessing he can forgive because being God, he is omniscient, all-knowing, and therefore he understands everything about us, poor human beings.

As the year comes to an end, I hope you find the energy, the patience to try to know people before you judge them.

Some things to ponder at the end of 2018:

1. What are some of the things you are grateful for in 2018?

2. What do you look forward to in 2019?

I hope you find many things to be grateful for and to look forward to! 🙏🏽💕

T.

Inevitabilities

When I was in my early twenties, I truly understood the meaning of “everything has its end.” Both good and bad. Since then I have always been aware of how the happiness I may be feeling at one time, may turn into sadness any minute. As a result, I’ve learned to treasure happy times, and to look forward to the end of my troubles. This has worked quite well for me over the years.

Yet at that moment when I am going through a difficult time, it always seems as if the end is taking forever to come.

Like it is now.

Though I know I’ll be able to sincerely smile and laugh again, for now faking it will have to do. This is part of the process. Real happiness will come again, perhaps in a day or two, a week or two, a month or two. Or a year.

But for now, patience.

May you have patience to bear whatever burden you have on your shoulders today. 💕

On Pure Love

This post on love made me think, again, on whether or not there is such a thing as “pure” love.

My students, I would say 99% of them, say that a child has to be grateful to their parents for not abandoning them when they were babies, and that parental love is the only example of selfless love in the world. That sounds nice and all, but I just cannot accept this kind of thinking (though I don’t really argue with them on what they have been taught by their teachers and parents.)

First of all, if a couple decided to give birth to a baby, that baby is their responsibility — morally and legally. Having that baby was their choice. They just cannot change their minds after the baby is born that it’s not the kind of baby they wanted. It’s not like a badly-cooked Kung Pao Chicken that they can refuse to eat or not pay for after having ordered it. Should a child be grateful for not being abandoned? It would be thoughtful of him to be so, but I do not see it as necessary. After all, he did not ask his parents for the “favor” of being brought into this world.

Second, parents decide to have children FOR A REASON. And there are a variety of reasons from the most romantic to the most practical:

1. they want to prove their love for each other

2. they want to contribute something to this world

3. they want to continue the family line

4. they want someone they can care for and love

5. they want someone to take care of their wealth when they die

6. they want to have someone look after them in their old age

7. they want someone to bury them when they die.

There may be many more reasons, but all of them stem from a couple’s or a parent’s inherent desire to fulfil something that they themselves want.

So how can that love be truly “pure”?

As a parent, I love my son. He is my world, the reason why I try to stay healthy and not die yet. But I cannot say that I love him selflessly because that would be a lie. I love him not only because I am responsible for bringing him into this world but also because he makes me happy.

I think we, humans, are simply incapable of pure love, no matter how we try to make ourselves believe that we are. I wonder if one day, science will be able to make that happen for us. Perhaps by that time being “human” already means something else.

Week 10 Prompt: Juxtapositions (A Look at “First Reformed”)

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Image source

There are a number of reasons to like this movie: for me, the first three would be Ethan Hawke, ETHAN Hawke and ETHAN HAWKE!!! And for my friend who recommended this movie, it’s Amanda Seyfried.

But if you are a huge fan of plot-driven films, this may not be your cup of tea. My friend thought this movie ran for 3 hours when it’s only less than 2 hours long.

The pacing is a little slow, even camera movements are predominantly slow. As I don’t have expertise in film, I can only say that as a viewer, I find the slowness a reflection of how Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) seems to be living his life — one day at a time, hardly any movement or willingness to move on.

Light and Darkness/Shadow

There are several shots of the very white and neat exterior of the First Reformed Church in broad daylight, and probably the same number of shots of the dark bedroom of Reverend Toller. Sometimes there’s only one candle lighting the whole room. To me this  reinforces idea of the duality in his personality in how he presents himself to the outside world (one who has strong faith, knows how to deal with all kinds of people) and how he really feels and thinks about himself. He leads the service on Sundays, even though on his own, he says he is incapable of praying. (To me, though, his writing in his journal is an act of prayer.)

Hope and Despair

When Reverend Toller speaks with Michael, he speaks against despair. Ironically in the end, he fails to rescue Michael from that despair which turns out to be infectious as he, himself, tries to end his own life.

Mary, on the other hand, is the epitome of hope in her own quiet way — despite grieving the loss of her husband, she looks forward to having the baby that Michael had wanted her to abort.

Interior and Exterior

Reverend Toller on the outside, exemplifies calm and composure, just like the ultra neat and white exterior of the church, but inside he is full of turmoil and uncertainty. His soul probably needs as much cleansing as his broken toilet that needs unclogging. And that metaphor becomes literal when he tries to use the drain cleaner to kill himself.

This duality is quite common. How many people do you know whose actions have surprised you as they are “out of character”? With Reverend Toller, however, there is dramatic irony— the audience are amply prepared for his decision to end his life, but the people around him are not.

Perhaps the one idea from this film that I liked best is restraint. Reverend Toller’s attraction to Mary is developed quite subtly. At first he seems to be simply a very dedicated pastor helping out a parishioner. But one scene that made me certain he is falling for her is that of the two of them cycling and, as he writes in his journal, “I had not been on a bicycle, I think, in 20 years. I was afraid I would fall.” And he went to muse on the curative power of exercise. There is a look of pure joy on his face as they bike on the trail.

first reformed

Spiritual, though not as religious as Esther, Mary brings out the spiritual in Reverend Toller. With her, he can pray with words and with his soul. Yet, he has to restrain himself in his attraction to her. This he is able to do for a while, but after Mary appears before him as he is about to drink the drain cleaner, that restraint finally gives way to full expression in an embrace and a long kiss. This last scene is my favorite part — the feeling of finally letting out what you have been holding in for a long time is more than liberating. It’s exhilarating.

first reformed2

For me, this movie is simply another reason to love Ethan Hawke.

A Prayer for Elijah and Every Child with Special Needs

Dear God,

Thank you for blessing me with this wonderful creature that is my son, Elijah, whom I named after your great prophet, in the hope that he, too, would grow to be as faithful and as eloquent in spreading your word. Though, as yet, he has not been blessed with the gift of words, Elijah, just by being who and what he is, still succeeded in converting the ones closest to him from being self-absorbed and impatient individuals to ones with an almost impossible amount of selflessness and forbearance. Thank you for making him an instrument in bringing out the good in people around him.

I pray for Elijah and children like him who are special in their own special ways, that You grant them the ability to one day, live independently, and not wholly rely on other people for their daily needs.

I pray that one day, they will be able to express themselves without being frustrated at the inability of the people around them to understand whatever it is they want to express.

I pray that one day, they will be able to share what it is they sense that makes them smile that sweetest of smiles, what makes them laugh that most infectious laughter that seems to come out of nowhere.

But should this not be part of the plan, I pray that in Your mercy, you send them people who will love them for who and what they are, long after their parents are unable to look after them.

I pray that You bless them with loving individuals who will guide them in navigating the complexities of life in this sometimes cruel world.

I pray that despite all the troubles they may encounter in this life, they will always have that joy that only they, in their specialness, can find in their own world.

And may they always have it in their unblemished hearts and minds that life is beautiful and that it is worth living.

Finally, I thank You, dear God, for the people who have helped, continue to help and will help Elijah and every special child like him, live meaningful and happy lives.

May you bless them a hundred, a thousand fold for their kindness and dedication.

May they be grateful as I am for the opportunity of having such a special human being in our lives.

And may they praise You, like I do, for Your boundless generosity and mercy.

Amen.

Week 9 Prompt: Insatiable

Insatiable

I met a man who lives in a cozy home

And doesn’t have to work

Because his family has enough money.

He’s lonely. And unhappy.

I met a woman who lives in a 3-story villa

With her two beautiful and smart children

And a moneyed husband who adores her.

But she says her life has no meaning

And she wants something more

Than just being mother and wife.

So she’s unhappy.

And the ones who labor day and night,

Careful not to waste a morsel of what’s on the table,

Can only think they’d be content and happy

If they had what these two have.

But…will they really?

Insatiable.

———-

In my life I have met so many unhappy people. Although I believe some of these people have no control over this feeling of unhappiness, most of them just choose not to be happy or content with what they have.

“’Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness;

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.'”

— from The Pulley by George Herbert

It is perhaps human nature to be restless and to always want something more. But I think we CAN choose to be content and be grateful for what we have.

Hope you find something to be grateful for today!💕

T.

Week 8 Prompt: Happiness

Happiness is…

Having the ability to look at the past and be grateful for it;

Living in the moment with the knowledge that it is not going to last;

Being hopeful for the future that the ones we leave behind will have better lives than the one we had.

Happiness is having faith that everything is going to be all right.

Have a happy week!💕

Week 2 Prompt: Bridge

Incheon Bridge, South Korea

It does not matter how long

this bridge is, that we are on,

as it will never be long enough —

when every second, every inch

that we cover to get to the other side

brings us closer to the end

of this painfully short reunion.

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

I have started my own weekly writing prompt to make me write something or post a photo. Feel free to use the prompt for your own posts!

Have a lovely week!

T. 💕

Life, Love and Flowers

“Life is the flower for which love is the honey.” –Victor Hugo

All these photos were taken during my trip to South Korea early this week. Although I went there not for sightseeing but to comfort my friend, I ended up going to so many places that not many tourists get to see (in fact most of the places I’d been to had zero tourists! Except for me.)

I am glad I had time to take photos of the flowers I had seen. Flowers are my favorite subject for photography. Hope you like them.

T. 💞

South Korea blues

After 14 years, she finally saw him again. He was waiting for her at the airport. They saw each other at the same time. They hugged and laughed, incredulous at seeing each other again after that quick goodbye at an airport in China like a lifetime ago.

For the next three days, they went out to a number of places, different cities, exploring like they were racing against time.

But the truth is, they really were — they are — racing against time.

And as they drove past Surisan Mountain on her last day in the country, she thought to herself, “Goodbye, Surisan,” because she knew her voice would break if she said it out loud. But then she heard his voice as he said, “Goodbye, mountain,” like he knew exactly what she was thinking (perhaps he did.) And that was all it took to make the tears fall, and she looked away, trying not to let him see as she wiped the tears away.

They had said goodbye so many times before.

But this was different.

T. 💞

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

A few minutes before landing in Incheon

Banwol Lake, Gunpo

DMZ, Imjingak

Sanbon Catholic Church, Gunpo

Blue and white and green — photos taken in Chomakgol Ecopark

View of Surisan from Chomakgol Ecopark

Main Gate of Seoul National University

Incheon Bridge on a cloudy day

Week 1 Prompt: Addiction

Xiamen Island viewed from Jimei, Xiamen

How do you do it?

How do you manage to make me want

To be closer to you

Even when I know

It’s unsafe.

You’re unsafe.

Yet this addiction

To the mere sight of you

Seems to have no cure.

Do I even want to recover?

*****

As there is no longer a Daily Prompt from the Daily Post, I decided to make my own prompts to make me write. Feel free to join me and write your own posts using the prompt.

Have a lovely week!

T.

The Indignity of Old Age and Dying

“..Death tears away the veil from all our secrets, our shifty dodges and intrigues.” – Dostoevsky, Mr. Prohartchin

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Taiwushan Cemetery, Kinmen, Taiwan

Death can’t reveal all of our secrets, because some of them we carry to our graves. But death can literally reveal what we keep hidden underneath our clothes; when we die (if our bodies are intact) then our bodies become mere objects seen quite objectively by doctors, nurses and embalmers, all strangers to our bodies. But of course one can rationalize this and say, “Who cares? The dead don’t.”

Perhaps people will say I overthink things when I say this, but I feel nothing but compassion for sick people in hospitals and how their bodies become merely like an object that the healthy can just point to or talk about as if it is lifeless. I felt this the first time I saw my mother being given a sponge bath by my sister. I felt this as I stood next to my mother’s bed as she lay there in pain, while the nurses were changing her clothes. I witnessed the indignity of aging, and it made me feel so so sorry for us, human beings.

Hopefully one day we won’t have to deal with incontinence, hip fractures, loss of mobility, etc. and just go quietly with dignity intact.

Life goes on though it ends for some

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Life goes on though it ends for some

This life some love and others hate,

This life some fight for and others willingly surrender.

What is life that you seize every second to live it?

What is life that you just want to escape from it?

Life has meaning only if you give it one,

And believe it and live it.

Find a meaning

And live.

T.

 

“Coco” and Remembering the Departed

COCO

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” — Thomas Campbell

I am no longer a big Disney fan, but I watched “Coco” because I wanted to find another movie that my son can watch and enjoy watching. I absolutely loved this movie, not only for its story but for how close it is to my own culture. This movie reminds me again of how similar the Mexican and Philippine cultures are – having both Spanish and American influences. (And this in turn, reminds me of my trip to Canada last year where I met a young Mexican man at the airport in Vancouver. I had to call the travel agency, but my phone wouldn’t work. He offered to let me use his phone, even though we didn’t even know each other’s names. Later he sat next to me on the bus, and we talked all the way from Vancouver to Victoria like we’d known each other forever! It felt like I was talking to my own nephew!)

For an adult to enjoy this movie, one has to employ a willing suspension of disbelief – for example, there’s no need to question (like I did): before the invention of the camera, what was the requirement for the departed to be able to visit the living if they had no pictures in the ofrenda?!

In my hometown (I’m not sure if this true in all of the Philippines), when All Souls’ Day comes, people would write down on an envelope the names of their loved ones who had passed on, and put money inside and offer this to the altar during the Offertory part of the mass. The priest would then read the names of the departed, praying for their eternal repose. (When there are too many names to read, the priest would just say, “All the departed whose names are here on the altar” or something like that.)

One All Souls’ Day years ago, my mother couldn’t find an envelope to use for the offering. She was getting agitated. I finally found an Air Mail envelope with the red and blue stripes on the sides, and said, “Here, Ma, this will get to God faster!” She tried so hard not to laugh, believing it was blasphemous.

Also on All Souls’ Day, we fill our altar with the departed’s favorite things. Just like in “Coco.” I’m using the present tense “fill” because we (my sisters back home, and me here in China) still practice the same. But what we do prepare is nothing compared to what my grandparents did back in the day.

My grandparents had something like a prayer room. There was a big altar with several icons. At the center was that of Christ the King, and then that of St. Michael (the patron saint of my city) and the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Joseph, etc. My grandfather had a big chair facing the altar where he would sit and pray the rosary in the evening. On All Souls’ Day, there would be different kinds of food, and drinks and tobacco or cigarettes. It was an exciting time for us kids back then because we looked forward to eating those sweets prepared for the dead. We were told to wait until the dead had seen them. To be honest, I can’t remember what time they said it was that the dead came to see the offering.

Since I moved to China, I would make a small altar made up of a cross and a candle on my father’s birthday and on All Souls’ Day. I’d “offer” a brownie or a slice of chocolate cake, a can of beer or a glass or rum, and a pack of cigarettes, and in the evening I’d drink the beer or rum (with coke though) and smoke a cigarette. These are the only times I smoke or drink. I’m allergic to alcohol, but I like remembering him this way. (My father only drunk on weekends after playing tennis. He didn’t drink on Sundays or weekdays because he didn’t want to be hungover at work.)

As my mother has also passed on, I now have two pictures on my altar.

Watching “Coco” made me realize that this practice of remembering the dead is rooted in the belief in the existence of purgatory and that the dead need help from the living for them to move on. I do no really think of heaven, hell or purgatory anymore unlike when I was a kid when I saw the cover of the Novena for the Souls in Purgatory.

So why do I still keep photographs of my dead parents and prepare an “offering”?
If I am to be honest, it is for selfish reasons – I miss them, and I do not want to ever forget them, and part of me wants to believe that somehow they can still see or hear me and help me when I have a burden that’s too much for me to carry.

It is very selfish and immature perhaps, but I think when you grew up having very protective parents, a part of you will always remain a child of your parents, looking up to them for guidance and protection. Just like Coco, who was already a great-great grandmother, yet still calling out for her Papa like a child (she might have had Alzheimer’s, but her memory of her father was not a false one.)

Can the dead see or hear? Will they know that the living even think of them? Perhaps not. But remembering the dead is not really for them to be taken out of purgatory and into heaven. It is for the living that theymay have the courage to live their lives the way their departed loved ones would have wanted them to do.

Meaning and Purpose in Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go”

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In general, there are two kinds of people according to how they view their life: those who continually search for meaning and purpose in life, and those who don’t. These two kinds of people come to the same end, however. They die. We die. But that time just before death is where the dying differ. Those who believe (even without any real proof) that they have found meaning and fulfilled their purpose in life, pass confidently though sadly, and those who feel they have unfulfilled promises or dreams or tasks left undone, leave bitterly.

In my lifetime, I have seen enough number of dying people to see this. It is always sad as I know it is the fate of each and every one of us.

Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” reminds me of that sadness I feel when pondering on the fate of human beings. At first I found this novel disturbing and then extremely sad; and only today, two days after I finished reading the novel, did I finally realize what I found so sad about it.

It is not that the “students” unquestioningly accept their fate of dying young because they are mere clones, created to become organ donors.
It is not that despite their being more humane than the humans who created and raised them, the latter are repulsed by them.

Rather it is that human beings despite their being “superior” to the clones, are ignorant of the real meaning and purpose of their existence, while the clones aren’t. Hence, the former can face death which they aptly call “completing” without fear or regret, albeit with a little sadness. Ishiguro found the perfect word to call death in this novel. When the clones die from having donated their organs, it is because they have accomplished or “completed” the purpose of their existence.

There are people who are convinced that they know their purpose for being in this world – they have faith or they make up their own purpose, but is it really the real purpose for our existence? How will we know for sure?

This is why I envy the clones in the novel, at least there is no doubt in their heads why they exist. For somebody outside looking in, it is a very sad existence, but the “students” in Hailsham had a happy childhood, lots of fun memories, and there was no question in their head as to what was going to happen to them, how their lives would end. As for us, humans, though we know our time is limited, and we attach all kinds of meaning or purpose for our lives, in the end we are all Jon Snow.

We know nothing.

WPC: Place in the World

“For this week’s photo challenge, explore what it means to find your place in the world. Where’s your safe space? Where do you go when you need to feel inspired or cheered up? Do you prefer to feel cozy and comforted in a smaller town or do you thrive on the buzz of a big city?”

One thing my husband, my son and I have in common is we find comfort in sitting on the beach, hearing the waves roll onto the shore. It’s mesmerizing, relaxing, comforting.

At 7 years, my son still cannot verbalize what he feels, but seeing him so calm — not stimming — is enough to make me realize that, just as it is for his parents, this too, is his place in the world.

Weekly Photo Challenge :

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/place/

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unlikely

My husband and I were walking from the restaurant to the post office when he spotted this caterpillar. I wouldn’t have seen it because it was high up on a vine on a fence, and I’m short. Luckily phone cameras have a zoom function.

Weekly Photo Challenge:
Unlikely

Noli Timere

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A few weeks ago, I read an article by a writer reminiscing about his friendship with the late Seamus Heaney, and of course his famous last words, a text message to his wife — Noli timere (“Don’t be afraid”).  Unfortunately I can’t find that article anymore as I don’t remember the title nor the author’s name, so I can’t give you the link.

That article led me to read about Heaney’s last words as recalled by his son in his eulogy. And this in turn led me to remember what my mother said to me a week before she passed as I cried in front of her, exhausted from all the seemingly insurmountable problems that had befallen me — her worsening health condition, my son’s autism, not being able to get a visa for my son, among other things. She reached for my hand, as she lay in bed, and said to me in a voice full of confidence, “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right. E. is going to be fine.”

I wonder if it is just the dying’s way of comforting the living, so as not to make them worry about what life would be like for the living without them, or if somehow they have some kind of vision of what the future will be like, or if their faith is strengthened as they near that end.

But my mother’s words really comforted me, and I believed her. And I believed her words even more as indeed, after she passed, we were able to find a special needs school for my son, and the same embassy that made it difficult for us to get a visa for him, gave him a travel document instead.

Even now whenever I have a problem, apart from praying, I would think of my mother and how she would have stormed the gates of heaven to pray for me.

As a mother myself, I keep praying for my son. Some nights I lie awake wondering, fearing, what the future would be like for my son. I read articles like this one about a parent describing what life is like for someone with a 13-year old son with ASD , and I fear dying before my son can learn to live independently.

For now I can protect my son and comfort him when he is hurt or scared, but no parent can or should do this for the rest of our lives. Our children grow, and we pass on. But hopefully, our comforting words will live in their hearts and give them courage to live their lives.

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

BE NOT AFRAID
(For E.)

The sky may darken
And let fall the rain
That doesn’t seem to end

The winds may howl
Like a crazed person
Banging on the window

The lightning may strike
And give you a glimpse
Of the dark clouds outside

The thunder may roar
And cow you into hiding
Under your soft blanket

But don’t be afraid,
Mommy’s here to keep you safe
And warm as you sleep and dream
Of a beautiful sunrise when you wake.

 

On Not Being Able to Sleep Alone

sleep

My husband has been away on a 5-day trip, and I’ve not been able to sleep for the last two nights. The day he left, I made sure I exercised and kept myself busy and physically tired just so I would be able to sleep well at night. I watched TV, read a book. Nothing worked.

Yesterday, I did the same thing and thought perhaps a little alcohol would help me sleep. (I’m actually alcohol-intolerant, and I’ve been told more than a couple of times I shouldn’t drink, but I thought “just a small amount to make me sleep.”) It didn’t.

I have read articles that said women prefer to sleep alone. One of these says, “…women’s brain power was undiminished by sharing a bed. Indeed, we can sleep through most things; thunderstorms, gales, burglar alarms, breaking glass – anything except the sound of our babies crying. But our quality of sleep is certainly better when we’re sleeping solo.”

But that is not true of me. I cannot sleep alone. When I am supposed to sleep alone, no matter how tired I may be, I will just be tossing and turning in bed. I may be fine being alone all day, but I need my husband next to me when I sleep. I may not be able to sleep through the night, and sometimes awake to my husband’s snoring or sleep-talking, but I do not mind that (most of the time). I prefer to feel the warmth of a human body next to mine. And this is not just trying to sound cute.

I appreciate this explanation from an article on The Atlantic that says, “We sleep together not because it’s fiscally responsible, but because we are affectionate beings. Our minds need rest, but our minds also need camaraderie and intimacy and whispering. Anxiety and stress seem less intimidating when discussed with a partner while wearing pajamas. It’s important to talk about our days lying side by side, discuss children and household situations, gossip about neighbors and colleagues, plan for tomorrow in the confines of private chambers. We cuddle. We laugh. At the end of each day we remove the onerous cloaks we’ve donned to face the world, and we want to do this lying next to our best friends, to know we’re not in it alone.”

That best describes how I feel about bedtime.

The good thing is I don’t have to start work till two days from now, which means I have not had to get up early and had been able to take afternoon naps. In a couple of days, my husband will be home again but until then, I have to find ways to make me sleep.

What do you do when you can’t sleep?

WPC: My favorite place

Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada

Jimei, Xiamen, China

Dalipuga, Iligan, Philippines

… any quiet place near a body of water, where I can sit and watch the sky and its reflection on the water, and feel the breeze on my skin and perhaps hear the happy singing of the birds.

It doesn’t matter which country. I can have a favorite place anywhere.

Favorite Place

Remembering Mother

It’s been two years since my mom passed on, yet a part of me still feels she’s just back home in the Philippines. But that feeling doesn’t last very long because I am conscious that I just can’t make a call and hear her voice again.

Life is so different without a mother, even for an adult daughter in her 40s.

I have so many fond memories of my mother as she was a funny woman who laughed loudly and was talented at story-telling. She could never tell a story sitting down — she gestured; her facial expressions changed as quickly as Chinese opera players changed masks, and her voice made it difficult not to imagine whoever she was portraying.

My mother was a very interesting character; I hope one day I can really write a story about her. She would love that. Since I started writing poetry in high school she had asked me to write about her, but I only started to write about her as she lay dying, two years ago.

One of the things I truly regret in my life was not being able to give a good eulogy for her. My mother loved drama, and she would’ve liked something dramatic at her funeral (and I say this with fondness for memories of her ), but unfortunately I failed.

Last week I bought flowers (photos above) to put next to her picture which I keep in my apartment. It was her death anniversary, and wherever she is, just in case she has a way of knowing, I wanted her to know I still think about her and wish she was just a phone call away.

WPC 2: A Face in the Crowd

Wonderful performance from these young men at the Hong Kong International Airport. We will never know who these young men were, nor recognize them when we see them up close, but as a group, their performance will be remembered for a long time.

新年快乐!🐶🎉

A Face in the Crowd

WPC: A Face in the Crowd

Initao, Northern Mindanao, Philippines

Initao, Northern Mindanao, Philippines

“Explore the use of anonymity to express both that which is common to all of us and the uniqueness that stands out even when the most obvious parts of us are hidden. Just as all of us can oscillate between conformity and individualism, allow your photo to do the same.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Face in the Crowd

Daily Prompt: Constant

He laments the quick and merciless

Passing of time and the white strands of hair

That are starting to show on his temples.

He looks at old photographs and then looks at himself

In the mirror and sighs …. “Time is unkind.

“We were so young then…,” he says.

“And stupid,” she adds.

 

She looks at herself in the mirror and sighs…

This is inevitable,” she says to herself.

“The only thing that is constant is change.

Nature, too, ages.

The sun may rise and set again day after day,

And the waves rush back and forth,

Second after second…

Yet they, too, go through change.

 

“But some things can remain constant

In our lifetime.

We can keep them constant.

And that should be enough.”

Daily Prompt: Constant

Daily Prompt : Compromise

We’re not children,

We don’t need to fight over petty matters,

It shouldn’t matter who has the last witty retort,

In fact there’s no need for a retort

Nor for the cause of such.

Let’s be the grown ups that we are.

Compromise.

——-

Daily Prompt: Compromise

Beautiful Bukidnon

Bukidnon means “from the mountains” or “mountain dweller.” It’s a province on the island of Mindanao. Dahilayan is a village in the town of Manolo Fortich. In recent years, it has become popular for its Forest Park and its Adventure Park.

Go check out their websites by clicking on the links. I’m not a very adventurous person, but I did go on the zip line. I truly enjoyed the beauty of this village — cool, clean air, blue skies, mountains and trees everywhere. I enjoyed just walking around and taking pictures.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

I grew up in a coastal city and love watching the sunset. Yesterday, my husband and I went to my favorite spot in the city and watched the sunset.

It’s been a very busy month for the two of us, so it was good to have to some quiet time, walking. I will always love this part of my hometown.

Tour Guide

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sweet

While I never and will never think of myself as “sweet,” the fact that my husband likes to take photos of me even when my back is turned makes me think I’m blessed to marry a man who thinks I am. Lol.

He likes taking pictures of me, especially candid ones. I know he finds my facial expressions funny, and I’m like a comedian to him, but I especially like the ones he takes of me when I’m not aware of what he’s doing, like the ones above.

These two were taken just this weekend while we’re on holiday in the Philippines.

Have a lovely week! 💕

Sweet

Autism and the Language of Love

Last month, my son, E. had a two-week vacation in China with us. Before we enrolled him in a school for special needs in the Philippines, he spent most of the first 5 years of his young life in China and probably considers it his real home. This vacation was going to be different from last year’s because this time he would see his nainai (paternal grandmother) again after two years.

My husband had thought E. would not recognize her anymore, yet when I told E. that his nainai had arrived, he rushed to the door and had the sweetest smile on his face when he saw her. He reached out his little arms to her, and when she didn’t pick him up, he held her hand and led her to sit on the couch and kissed her. He kissed her cheeks several times.

There were no words between them, as what little Shandong dialect he picked up from her a few years ago had all been forgotten, and the less than 5 English words she picked up from him had all been forgotten as well. But this did not stop them from communicating in their own unique way. They came up with a clapping game that kept him entertained for the next 6 days.

When the time came to say goodbye, E. did not realize he would not see his nainai the next day or the day after that. As he likes airports, he was just happy to run around in the airport and get on the plane. But hours later, when he got out of the car and realized he was back in his other home (in another country) without his father and his nainai, he became very quiet and in the late afternoon he said to me, crying, “Let’s go.”

So we went out with my sisters and my nephew (who have been his companions for the last two years.) I was hoping he just wanted to get out of the house for a while, but when he realized we were still going back to the same house, he cried. That’s when it dawned on me that he wanted to go back to China. The second night after we arrived, he was still unhappy and cried again, so I finally asked him, “ Do you want to see daddy?” He didn’t say anything. “Do you want to see nainai?” He wailed and said, “Nainai!”

I right away made a video call to my husband and asked him to give the phone to his mom. When E. heard her voice, he grabbed the phone from me and looked at his grandma and cried and kissed the phone. It was the most touching thing I have ever seen my son do. He didn’t give the phone back to me for a long time. He just wanted to watch them.

On the third day, he probably realized that he could not really be with his nainai, and that a video call is not the same as being with her, that he did not want to look at her anymore. I don’t know if he feels betrayed by his grandma; I hope he doesn’t because she loves him just as much as he misses her.

We have been home in the Philippines for almost two weeks now, and he’s back to his happy self. E. is such a sweet 7-year -old boy that I keep telling him I love him just as often as he tells people, no matter family, friend or stranger, “I love you” right after greeting them “Hi” or “Good morning” or “Goodbye.”

I dread the day, less than a couple of weeks from now, when I have to say goodbye to him again. But I know he has his way of coping — we’ve been through this before and it’s usually I who take a week to recover.

For an autistic 7-year old who is minimally verbal, E. knows how to communicate his love for the people who love him and has an amazing strength to bear the pain of missing them. I am learning so much from my son.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved

E. spent two weeks with us in China, and he was quite happy. I made sure he wouldn’t get bored when his father was at work and it was just the two of us. I got him to play with the brush and paint and these are his “works.” Not a single stroke is mine — he did everything by himself. As he doesn’t really know how to hold a pencil properly yet, I thought a paintbrush would be easier for him.

To be honest, I don’t really see any meaning in these three, but I certainly love the colors he chose. I will treasure these “paintings” of E. as if they were masterpieces. No matter what people say or think of them, they are beloved by me because my 7-year old son made them. 💕

Beloved

Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

I saw this tree trunk from a distance and thought it looked interesting. You might say there’s nothing interesting about this trunk, that it’s even ugly. And you might be right.

I wish I had taken a photo of the whole tree — its leaves were quite green. This tree survived a super typhoon in 2016. The tree itself looked ordinary, but it’s the trunk that captured my attention. This weathered trunk to me stands for strength — something that I feel I have and should not lose in these very busy and stressful time in my life.

What do you see when you look at this trunk?

Weathered

2017 Favorites

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” — T.S. Eliot

Below are two of my favorite photos that I took this year. Both are records of my first visit to North America and of the very first time I saw  snow-covered mountains. That feeling I had as I looked out the window and saw those mountains will always be as vivid as I felt it when I was on the plane flying to Alberta from Vancouver.

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

After all the pain and sorrow of 2016, 2017 was overall a calm and peaceful year for me. And I am very grateful for that year. I have no idea what this year is going to be like,  but I continue to be hopeful. I am ready for another beginning.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

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Canada

img_2011Weekly Photo Challenge:
2017 Favorites

Daily Prompt: Varnish

The over 200-year old trees on Gulangyu that were uprooted by Super typhoon Meranti were turned into works of art by Chinese artists. This trunk has been varnished and inscribed with Chinese characters that mean “remember” and its synonyms. It is also fitted with several speakers that play recordings of local people talking about their memories of the island.

Have a lovely weekend! 💕

T.

Daily Prompt: Varnish

Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene

I spent the whole day today on Gulangyu (Gulang Islet) and was able to visit the church that my husband and I used to go to every Sunday more than a couple of years ago, before we had our baby.

The church was locked when we arrived (as is usually the case when it’s not Sunday and there’s no mass), but the priest’s assistant opened it for us. (The young couple in the photo were just getting their wedding pictures taken outside the church but didn’t have a ceremony inside. )

Gulangyu was very crowded and noisy, but inside the church, it was quite serene.

Christ the King Church, Gulangyu, Xiamen

Weekly Photo Challenge
Serene

Daily Prompt: Clutch

After a red-eye flight, a 3-hour layover and another hour and a half flight, I was met at the airport by my sisters, nephew and my son. We then headed to the beach because I wanted to walk along the beach with my son. He loves the water, but he is always afraid to try anything at any new place. This was our first time at this resort.

As always, at first he refused to step into the water when I asked him to. So, I did the routine of me stepping into it and showing him it was fun to get the feet wet. After a few minutes, he signaled for me to go back to where he was standing with my sister, and as soon as I reached out my hand, he clutched it and stepped forward.

After that, he didn’t want to leave anymore.

It was cloudy, but it was still a beautiful Saturday morning with the sound of the waves, the cool breeze and the warm sea water. And the love of my life clutching my hand.

Hope you have a lovely weekend, 💕

T.

Daily Prompt:

Clutch

Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

I’ve been living in Jimei for over a decade, and this place is just a 10-minute walk from my old apartment, but I’ve only been to this place twice. It’s not my in my usual route when I go walking. Yesterday though I decided to show my friend this place, and we loved it. It was 17 degrees C, cloudy and breezy.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental

Daily Prompt: Honk

It’s early morning,

Hardly anything is astir

Save for a couple of cars

And the birds overhead

Singing a happy tune.

I say a prayer of thanks

For this time of quiet

Before it is broken

By the loud honking

Of trucks and buses

That rouse the city

From its much needed sleep.

Daily Prompt: Honk

Daily Prompt: Black 


There’s darkness everywhere I turn. 

Though it’s daylight, and I feel 

The sun shining brightly 

On my darkened skin, 

I don’t see a thing 

Except for the darkness 

Permeating my mind and my soul, 

As I contemplate your departure from all this — 

What was once a life filled with bright colors 

Now turned black

Daily Prompt: Black

Weekend Trip: Quanzhou

Hubby and I went to Quanzhou to visit a friend whose work place is close to the oldest mosque  in China (Qingjing Mosque was built in 1009) that has since become a museum. We also went to West Lake Park and walked around a little bit.

Hope you like the photos.

Have a lovely weekend!

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West Lake Park, Quanzhou

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West Lake Park, Quanzhou

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West Lake Park, Quanzhou

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West Lake Park, Quanzhou

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Qingjing Mosque, Quanzhou

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Qingjing Mosque, Quanzhou

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Qingjing Mosuqe, Quanzhou

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Qingjing Mosque, Quanzhou

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Qingjing Mosque, Quanzhou

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Qingjing Mosque, Quanzhou

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Tomb covers, Qingjing Mosque, Quanzhou