Monthly Archives: December 2011


Around the Block
Canon 40D

What bright light.  

The sunlight reflecting on the broken street lamp harasses me with its attacking shimmer as I sit and write at our kitchen table.  I squint at its sharpness.  It’s like the emergency beacon of a lighthouse signaling for help, I imagine.  It’s been broken, half-open for some time now, this glass casing dangling from it’s black foundation roofing.  High up there it threatens day and night to fall down on pedestrians.  But not just yet.  Maybe never.  For now it reflects the sunbeams.  

Oh, how I’ve missed you.  I’ve missed you so much that I’ve gone momentarily insane.  Crazy with very real fears that I called 911 at midnight two nights ago.  I described the pain to the operator and said it started as a strange stomach pain and I felt it slowly rising in my belly towards my chest.  The website didn’t help as there were too many “signs” to look out for in case of the dreaded heart…I don’t even want to say it.  The calm yet urgent voice of the dispatcher and the many questions he asked made the thumping in my chest go faster.  In less than fifteen minutes – but felt longer in my worried state – the ambulance arrived.  

Recall: My DH is ushering the paramedics in but not before tidying up a little bit.  Discarded toys on the floor, too many glasses of water and candy wrappers on the living room table.  He looks relaxed in his just awakened state.  My DS who stayed up with me, isn’t as calm.  The paramedics, a man and a woman, both white, find me seated on the leather couch.  I am weak from worry.  It is the holidays after all, says Allen who is clearly gay and the lead guy in this quick check.  Final diagnosis:  Indigestion at best, anxiety attack at worse.   Allen is now inquiring about the decor and the mirrors by the entrance.  He is also clearly interested in my DH more than his patient.  The lady who didn’t introduce herself, is taking off the wires from the sticky thingies on my ankles and wrists after monitoring me for a few minutes.  “Your heart and blood pressure are looking beautiful.”  I wonder about her choice of words.  Beautiful blood pressure.  Hmmm…odd.  I beam a little just the same.  “It may even be better than mine!” she says smiling.  She did look overweight, and Allen was too, but much slimmer than her.  DH and Allen are chatting about feng shui now.  He lives in a condo and didn’t have to worry about that, he intimates to DH.  TMI, Allen.  TMI, I thought.

I am much calmer now having been told my vital signs are “beautiful” and listening both amused and annoyed at Allen.  He gives me the option to go with them to the hospital for a fuller check or to see my doctor the soonest possible.  I choose the latter and sign the pink release forms that he hands over to me on a brown clipboard.  He gives me the standard words of advice: relax, observe, etcetera then goes on to lecture me about my tight pants.  I just changed from my frumpy jammies to decent blue jeans just in case I needed to be whisked away.  “Wear something more comfortable, Cathreen.  Sweat pants or pajamas.  Your jeans are way too tight.”  I think he just told me I was way too fat in so many words.  He goes back to chatting up my DH about the wooden horse by the door now.  We say our thanks and goodbyes.  I walk up the stairs, one slow step in front of the other with my DH and DS behind me.

Single Leaf
Canon 40D
Winter 2009

This is me.  
The nine-out-of-ten on the Worry Wart Scale me.  I dared my DH to be honest during our after-dinner couple time on the couch last night.  “So you think I’m a worrier?  On a scale of 1 to 10, where am I?”  He didn’t even skip a beat.  “Nine.”  NINE.  That’s almost a perfect 10, I thought.  “Oh, a bump.  Could it be cancer…”  He’s mimicking me now.  “Oh, my hands are pale…” and he looks anxiously at his hands like I do when I don’t feel like myself and does short, deep breaths.  We both laugh.  His in amusement.  Me in more worry.  I’m a 9.  Damn.  And I thought I was the calm one.  But then again, that’s his opinion. 

This brings me back to my University years in Diliman when Cynthia, my friend from freshman year in HRA school tells me the same thing while we are on the Ikot jeep to our next class.  I was sharing something I don’t even remember anymore.  “Chiquita, you are such a worry wart.”  Probinsiyana me didn’t even know what “worry wart” meant.  She was laughing when she said this so I thought it was a joke.  I think I laughed along with her.  Just going along.  I did a lot of these going alongs when I was younger.

Back to the writing exercise.  Keep the hand moving.  This is me.  Broken open and emptied to my present life.  Wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend.  Lover.  Hater.  Distant.  I’ve become what I once feared.  Ordinary.  Or so I feel.  The Ordinary Woman.  Feared it and longed for it at different times in my life.  Always, always the dichotomy.  My friend Jeannie once told me “The duality of good and evil shows very strong in your cards.  The fight between angel and demon, light and dark.  Do or don’t.  It’s almost two people in one.”  Doesn’t everyone feel this way?  I thought.  Jeannie, the archeologist.  No, not archeologist, arthritic…architect…what was it…that study of sun signs and the stars and moon…astrologist/numerologist!  And I am dumb again.  My diploma from the State U, my Iskolar Ng Bayan status, my 99+ on the NCEE and all my accomplishments combined are nothing now.  They look good on paper.  They are useless in real life.  In this lifelong search for authentic living. 

Snowy Branches
Canon 40D
Winter 2010

I am broken open.  
I am both my best accomplishment and my greatest failure.  I love with all my arms, hands, fingers, my very breath and then I hate with all my entrails, loins, blood boiling.  Overflowing.  I see everything and nothing.  I walk my morning walks for days, weeks, giving and sharing with my all my heart and then one day I am comatose on the coach, in hiding, eyes closed to the shimmering, twinkling light of the Christmas tree.  I stay this way for too many hours, withdrawn into this shell of emptiness.  Homesickness.

Hello, Winter Solstice.  I see you.  I feel you.  I honor this hell that arises with you in me.  I see me.  Finally.  I’m free from the darned, doomed, devil-hold.  How did I get here?  I refrain from analysis.  No more paralysis.  I look and listen instead.  It.Just.Imperfectly.Is.

I see you.  More beautifully, openly, crystal-clearly, your glass prism showing off all colors no longer the imitation Nescafe glass of your younger days but a crystal cut and formed by the tender hands of your later years.  I take all of you only because I take all of me, too.  The emptying of the shoulds and shouldn’ts.  It feels good to walk again.  In the sunlight.  To live and breath in the open space and wet grass and brown mud and cold air.  

To have died and live again.
I’m new to hearing this piece of music that goes la, dee, dum, dee, daaa today and bom, boomb, booom, crashhhh the next.

I’m gripping the red Parker pen too hard again.  I’m feeling my fingers, hand, right arm getting strained.  I loosen my grip, loosen my hold.  I loosen control over how this should be.  I hear Natalie’s voice: Keep your hand moving.  I hear the others, too.  Still there sitting by the rafters, speaking four different languages – Filipino, English, Cebuano and one that I’m not familiar with.  The one I don’t recognize is pure venom, vile and vulgar with its grunts and pfffts and eye-rolling hisses.  My heart races again.  Is this another anxiety attack coming on?  No.  I decide it is adrenaline pumping in my veins from the fresh morning walk in the sun earlier today.  I embrace the discomfort slowly growing in my chest.  I choose excitement.  Over being reborn to this new day.  Again, born in Manila, Davao, Pasig, Makati, Toronto.  Born in every city I’ve ever lived.  Born in every home, fifteen as of last count, I’ve grown up in.  If and only if I allow it to happen.  I am brand new, brewed fresh daily just like the Tim Hortons coffee advert proudly says on the radio.

The voices of urgent chores are getting louder now – the gift-buying, the clothes exchanging, the birthday greeting, Xmas dessert-making – all still undone.  I gently, tenderly loose the voice.  Always gently and tenderly.  I notice the hard light that shimmered earlier reflected on the broken lamp light casing is gone.  The sun has moved higher in the blue, cloud-smeared sky.  It has been fifteen minutes since I began writing my heart out on this beloved Moleskine notebook.  I feel good.  And tired.  Full.  And  Empty.  Spent.  And Energized.

I feel.  Light.

Free Flight/Lamp Light
Canon 40D
Winter 2008

Courage in creativity,

i even took notes!

You know the saying “When the student is ready…”?

For my fellow left-brain leaning, excuse-riddled (no time/no resources/no support/no fill-in-your-favorite-cop-out-story) closeted, recovering creative out there, this I lovingly and wholeheartedly dedicate to you.  And me.  

And she appears…go, Master Brene Brown.

I was so riveted, I took notes this time around.

I first saw this talk about a year ago, when it first came out.  It made the rounds of my favorite bloggers and for some reason, it didn’t really connect.  Or maybe it did.  But I forget.

Anyway, it’s such a beautiful message that I’m posting it here so I can have access to it again and again, especially during those days – like todays – when I’m feeling down and blues-y and crying over a text message from my mom all the way from Manila, right there in the middle of Aisle 7 of Walmart while shopping for Chocolate Mice ingredients for Oona’s class party.

And yes, bravely admitting vulnerability: I’m embarrassed by it which is why I’ve chosen to be quiet and reclusive these past few weeks.

Why are you down when it’s the holidays?  You should be happy!
Why are you down when you’re so blessed with so many things and people and experiences?  You should be grateful!
Why are you down when you’re ______ and _______ and _______?  You should be ________!

All shameful, guilt-ridden and utterly useless thoughts.  But they’re there.  And they’re dark.  And they’re inner recordings from voices beyond time and space that I’ve been once taught to hold in, keep hidden, ignored.

Echos of voices that need to go now.  But only if I let them go with grace and with dignity.  And yes, with vulnerability.

Yes, I did the ugly-cry in Walmart last night.
Yes, I feel so kawawa and homesick that I have to take naps in the middle of the day from being so low-batt.
Yes, I go into emotional eating binges late at night, vanilla cupcakes being my favorite, when I feel like I can’t take the heartache anymore.

Yes, I spoke with my mom and dad today and they said all the right things and we cried together and it’s all better again.  For now.

Hello, vulnerability, my dear old friend.  I’ve missed you so.

So, you go Dr. Brene with your measuring stick.  🙂  Thank you so much for sharing your wholehearted findings with me.

Courage in creativity,

Morning. In 3’s.

“7 o’clock by my window”/Dec2011

I found out that there weren’t too many limitations, 
if I did it my way. 
– Johnny Cash

6:30AM.  Snooze 1.  6:40AM.  Snooze 2.  6:50AM.  Get-up 3.  Chug water.  Wash face.  Brush teeth.  Moisturize.  Robe-up.  Pocket iPhone.  Turn on kids’ rooms light.  Bring water bottle.  7:10.  Turn on lights in hall.  In living room.  In kitchen.  Make coffee.  Choose cappuccino.  Add brown sugar.  Clear dining table.  Put toys away.   7:20.  Set journal.  10-minute timed writing.  Go.  Keep hand moving.  Sip coffee.  Write.  Sip.  Write.  7:31.  Tinker with Twitter.  Upload photo.  Tweet about writing exercise.  Fail to upload.  Later.  7:35.  Go back upstairs.   Wake up J.  Wake up kids.  Quick back rubs.    Ask for help.  “Make sure you get up already, hun.”  “Ok, hun.”  “You up?”  “Yes.”  “You sure?”  “Yes.”  Go back to kids’ rooms.   “Wake up, guys!  It’s 7:45!”  Go back down.  Review food requests.  Shrimpy rice for Kid2 and Kid3.  Beef tapa rice for Kid1.  Strawberry Choco sand for 2.  Chicken baloney w/ cheese for 1.  Green apple slices w/ choco dip for 3.  Fruit cup for K1.   Wash strawberries.  Wash blueberries.  Spray with veggie wash.  Let sit.  Crack 6 eggs.  Add milk.  Season.  Scramble.   Get pancake mix.  Add milk.  Crush half an oreo in batter.  Fry. “Guys, it’s 8!”  K1 is first.  “I don’t want to eat yet, Mom.  A little later please.”  Request for cereal.  I make him scrambled rice instead.   8:15AM.  Serve scrambled eggs.  Serve pancake.  Put cereal boxes on the table.  Alpha Bits for K3.  Cinammon Toast Crunch for K1 and K2.   Heat left-over rice.  Add sweet and sour shrimp.  Heat tapa.  Pack in thermos.  8:25AM.  Set aside.  Make sandwiches.  Remember to make self toast.  12 grain.  Take one bite.  Forget about it.  “Help me pack the water, Oona.”  “I’m getting a fruit cup, Mommy.”  “Go ahead, honey.  No need to tell me.  Hurry.”  Pack lunch bags.  K1, K2, K3.  “I’m leaving, Mom.”  “Take your sister with you, Sol.”  “Aw, do I have to?”  “Take care of each other, Sol.”  “Oh, okay.  Let’s go, Oona!”  8:30AM.  “Where’s my kiss?!”  Smooch K1.  Smooch K2.  “Joshim,!?”  Comes down.  Slowly.   “I was brushing, Mom.”  Calm and relaxed.  Socks in hand.  “Joshim, hurry!  1!  2…2 and a half…”  Grab socks from tiny hands.  “Mom, did you know that my race car is ready for painting…”  Act interested.  I’m not. Help put on socks.  “Mom, is Baba dropping me?”  Help with jacket.  “Listen, Joshim, find your spider gloves and black touk okay?”  Remind him a second time.  “Ok, mom.”  Help with vest.  “Not that one, Mom.  I want the matching one.”  Grab matching one.  Help with touk.  Help with gloves.  8:37AM. 

My “Elephan3” playing on the carpet

Grab boots from outside.  Help with shoes.  “Joshim, close the door, I’m freezing!”  J starts car.  Help with bag.  “Chapstick. Put some on, ok?”  “Ok, mom.”  Smooch 3.  8:40AM.  “I love you.  Now hurry!”  “Bye, Mom.”  “Bye, honey.“  J winks.  I’ll be back, hun.  Be ready to drop me at work.”  Wave goodbye.  Throw flying kisses.  Close front door.  And breathe.  See shoes and slippers all over.  See big mess in kitchen.  Big breath.  Straighten mess.  Bigger breath.  Take in the quiet.  1…2…3.  Rinse and repeat.

time out!

Time out!!!
Everyday Art, 6Dec11
on my kitchen table
 iShake on iPhoto

When I was a little girl in Davao City, I remember this game we played almost everyday.  It was called ‘taya’ which means ‘it’.  It was our local version of “Tag”.  I remember running like the wild wind while my heart beat like a fiesta drum. Beads of sweat would form on the top of my lip and then pour down my red face in the humid heat.  No cares, no worries, except needing to run from the ‘taya’ whose sole purpose in life at that very moment was to tag you.  Then you were ‘it’.  I remember loving and hating this game.  For one thing, I didn’t like running much.  Two, I hated getting chased by the bigger, faster and rougher boys.  Their tags hurt noh!  I was one of the slower runners so I’d always get tagged.  So I learned to yell “Time out!  Time ooooout!” when I was either too tired or just plain annoyed.  Time outs were allowed as long as you declared it.  Sometimes the taya listened.  Sometimes they didn’t.  What mattered was I got to stop running.  I got to rest.  I was able to catch my breath. 

A few decades later and a new kind of running is going on.  Not the kind where one hits the pavement with her red Nikes but the going and going at this thing called life.  Not the endorphin high running but rather a beat-up, don’t-stop-now because there are calls to make, shopping to do, photos to edit, cleaning to finish, school meetings to attend, meals to make, blah-blah-blah…and that all too familiar to-hell-with-all-of-it feeling at the end of the day.  No stopping.  No time outs.  Not allowed.  Or so I thought.   

When did I begin thinking this way?  When did I begin forgetting that time-outs are allowed?  I don’t know exactly.  But what I know is that at a certain point in my life I just forgot.  I bought into the DIY Corp and all of it too.  I remember thinking how utterly stupid the word “relax” was when I heard Jack say it to me.  It sounded so stupid that I had to stop momentarily and give him the are-you-out-of-your-mind Cruella Deville face and barking —

“What do you mean ‘relax’?  What the heck is that?  Who has time for that?!?” I snapped at the poor guy who was only trying to help.  (Sorry, honey.  Lesson learned.)

This twisted amnesia lasted longer than it should have.  I went on like this until Life found a brilliant way to give me its brand of time out.  Too many sore throats and another run-down, flu-like symptom and I’m coughing again?  Life forced me to shut-down and shut-up.  Literally.  Instead of listen, true to Chiqui-form, I fought at the absurdity of it all.  I cursed the gods of health and wellness for abandoning me yet again.  Hated and hated some more.  It was self-directed.  On the outside I put up a brave front.  “I am supermom.  Hear me roar!”  I squeaked instead, my throat too raw and painful for anything else.

I was faced with the toughest illness of them all:  falling flat on my face out of love with myself and the whole world.  I started hating myself and with that my husband and family, my friends, my whole life.  One very smart woman confessed this: It’s when I pamper myself that I feel least selfish, righteous and plain evil.

Whatever it’s called, I’m yelling “time out!”.  I choose it for myself.  I choose it for my family and friends who deserve a whole, calm and non-evil me.

And all together now…relaaaaaaaax.  It’s allowed.  😉

My Top 10 “Just Relax” To Do’s:

1.  Coffee shop Me-Time to just write and people-watch and write some more.
2.  Bookstore browsing.  Hello, Chapters and Indigo. 
3.  Meet-up with TNKs Tunay Na Kaibigan/True=Real=Warm Friends in warm places like Spoon and Fork. 😉  (Hello, sisterhood!)
4.  Take my tiny pet camera for a walk with me and snap at anything and everything.
5.  Drive without a destination in mind and trust Intuition to guide me.  I’ve found some of the best views (and surprise visits with friends!) this way.
6.  Draw.  Sing.  Write and create art.  Just because.
7.  Call a friend.  Touch-base with the sacred agenda of supportive sharing.  I find that sisters need this.  A lot.  (Set a time, say 10-15 minutes…be guided by intuition on this one, to not let it ran overtime and it ends up with just gossip and nonsense).  
8.  Go to Walmart.  Browse about.  And maybe get a few basic items…for oneself!
9.  Brand New: Overnight Niagara Get-Aways (there’s lots on Living Deals that are oh-so-affordable!) and bond with The Man.
10.  Sit down to watch one episode…okay, two tops! of Modern Family, Two Broke Girls or X-Factor and not feel guilty about it.

***Thanks and big LOVE go to Sylvie for our Time Out session at Second Cup last night.  What a relaxing and fun evening.  I am recharged!  Let’s get more of that exquisite Butter Tart next time!  xox, Chiqui

Psssst….hey, hottie!

Can I let you in on a secret?

Ohhh…kay, it’s a secret that can be shared with other cool, creative, kindred spirits like you and I.

You ready?  It’s called The Spark Kit.


I dove into the first chapter full-on this morning.  So far I’m loving what I’m seeing…hearing…feeling.  Danielle Laporte is whitehot spot-on and aligned with my thoughts on creativity, on courage, on living more authentically.  Let’s dive into it together.

I’m a big believer of continuous learning.  Yes, there are days – many days – when I stumble and forget the lessons.  At times by circumstance, always by choice.  One of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar is this:  People often say that motivation doesn’t last.  Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.  Wapow!  So true. 

Learn and relearn.  Rinse and repeat.  If there’s anything my Daday taught me, it’s to be open to learning at any age.

I’ll be writing a more in-depth review in the coming days as I go along with the program.

I just love finding teachers, especially the kind that rock the mompreneurship!

See you later, sparkles!