Jan 31, 2010

Read My Mind

Dear Nona,
I know what you're probably thinking. We could have been right there this very minute screaming our hearts out. MacDaddy is still grieving. Still can't believe they cancelled. Yes, yes...i know. Not much of a consolation but....

Happy Sunday anyway!

Jan 30, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

January 1, 1919 -- January 27, 2010

J.D. Salinger dead at age 91. Immediately, I think of Holden Caulfield... and of Bear and Chicha meeting him one day. How did I meet Salinger's most famous protagonist? I clearly remember browsing through National Bookstore's shelves seeing the book cover and wondering, what is a Catcher - in - the - Rye? Intrigued, I went through the first few pages and I was hooked. Finished the slim novel at home and I was blown away. Gusts-of-wind-coming-from-the-pages-blown-away! I was 14 or 15, going to a traditional catholic girl's school reading Sweet Dreams for fun and Shakespeare for homework, so yes it was that dramatic for me.

I read somewhere that kids these days don't relate to Holden as previous generations did. A 15-year-old New York kid who recently had to read Salinger for school said of Holden: "He should just shut up and take his Prozac." Snarky! Others think of him as a cynical teenager. My two cents: Not at all! He calls for a prostitute -- not for sex -- but because he has no one to talk to and hopes to find kindness in her. He wonders to no end where the ducks in Central Park go for the winter and if they'll be okay. He thinks the only job that would make him happy would be to be the catcher in the rye who saves the kids from falling off the cliff so they could safely play baseball....

Who's really cynical, the "phony" preppie kids or Holden? Is he a young man painfully longing for meaning? Hopelessly existential? Or just whiny and cynical? Do you feel a bit like him when you have to have boring conversations with people?
Thank you J.D. Salinger for giving us a chance to meet Holden Caulfield. Hopefully one day I have a non-boring conversation about him with my own kids. Thank you for blowing my mind. That day I read Catcher, for the first time, I could actually hear someone's voice jump-off the pages of a book. Rest in peace.

Jan 27, 2010

Daddy Conan

Yes Nana, we gotta love Conan along with that quote from him that you had highlighted. Even I -- with my bouts of cynicism -- had to agree. As we had chit-chatted about over lunch yesterday, his recent roll-out of eloquent statements in light of the NBC shitstorm made us revisit his commencement speech to the Harvard Class of 2000. So here's a snippet of that speech worth paying attention to, for the young and impressionable, who apparently make up most of his demographic:

"So, that's what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over. If it's alright, I'd like to read a little something from just this year: 'Somehow, Conan O'Brien has transformed himself into the brightest star in the Late Night firmament. His comedy is the gold standard and Conan himself is not only the quickest and most inventive wit of his generation, but quite possible the greatest host ever.'

Ladies and Gentlemen, Class of 2000, I wrote that this morning, as proof that, when all else fails, there's always delusion. I'll go now, to make bigger mistakes and to embarrass this fine institution even more. But let me leave you with one last thought: If you can laugh at yourself loud and hard every time you fall...."

Punchline here, along with the rest of the speech. He obviously practices what he preaches considering recent events. I hope to see him in Fox or cable or wherever it is he'll show kids how to make amazing happen by working hard and being kind -- and not being cynical.

And may I add another great lesson from our favorite late night host -- it's okay to be weird and offbeat and you don't always have to play it safe. It's okay to be unconventional. You can major in literature and history at Harvard, write a thesis on the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor then end up with a career making people laugh with self-pleasuring bears and dogs that insult people. The "mainstream" may not find 1864 baseball all that funny, but to some of us insane absurdity are marks of comic genius. Just showing more love for Conan... and total support for Team Coco!

Jan 26, 2010

The Bully and O' brien

I remember being bullied in school. The "bully" was a classmate - tough and easily a head taller than I was. We both ran for a position in class. I got the votes. She didn't. We both joined an after-school ballet class. I got moved up a level. She didn't. I'm guessing this really irked her because one day she picked me up, threw me across the ballet studio and called me names. I didn't say a word to her or to anyone. I didn't fight back. I vowed never to return to school. My parents didn't think retiring from school at age 7 was the smartest idea and forced me to go back. I did but plotted my revenge. I never laid a hand on her but I walked up to her and dropped a bombshell. I told her something I learned about her and her family that devastated her. I'm not particularly proud of what I did. I still read about her occasionally in the papers. She's obviously still struggling with what she learned that day. Bullies are never nice. But I wasn't exactly nice either.

Segue to my favorite funny man, Conan O' Brien, who I got to see when some girlfriends and I were part of his late night show's live audience in 1994. He had us laughing the whole time. He's been cracking me up ever since.

Now what exactly does this Tonight Show host have to do with an incident I had in first grade? Let's just say Conan showed me this week how to handle a bully. When a big, fat network and its executives tried to muscle their way around a contract and boot him out of a show they had promised him for years, he took the high road. He didn't go without a fight and some humor of course. This is Conan remember? (You Tube's got a whole bunch of snippets you can check out) And the laughs he gave us in true Coco-form while watching the big guys squirm was priceless. Still at the end he had this to say:

All I ask is one thing. I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch. Please do not be cynical.
Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you. Amazing things will happen.

Lesson done. Now let's just get silly with Conan.

Gotta love Coco.

Jan 23, 2010

Safari Dreams

Thank you, Angela DC

Three years of obsessing over animals. I really thought Mak would get over it as each year passed but noooo. Here we are. First it was just horses then we moved on to jungle animals. There was a fling with sea creatures and a love affair with tigers. Now it is every single living creature. Oh, wait. Dinosaurs too. That means all living plus extinct animals.

For now (at least), he dreams of owning a safari. A safari and not a zoo because the "zoo has so many, many cages". The boy's got heart. What can I say? And because big things are born from the littlest ideas, here is the blueprint layout mock up of the place he'd love to own one day.

The aerial view of The Safari. Mak overseeing every last detail

The sea and ocean creatures up close

Cats, cats, cats

I got into the act too. This is my attempt at styling

Final touches are Mak's, of course

Tato helping build the rescue center

And announcing with deep regret "Diego fell. His heart stopped."

No concrete plans yet to construct the actual safari. We do know entrance tickets will be "one peso, mama. only one". Oh boy.

Jan 18, 2010

Standing Up

In four months we all get to go out, vote and get ourselves a leader we all deserve. This post isn't about who you should vote for. It isn't even about who is best for the job. We all have our own thoughts, our own ideas and I love that I can sit down and have a laugh with someone who isn't going to vote for the same guy I'm rooting for. Its a free country after all. Read: Respect, Respect.

Props to MacDaddy. Up until a month ago, he had never even met the presidential candidate. He had heard him months before, scrutinized his take on many issues and knew he found "the one". He was certain he had to get up and do something. With a lot of MacDaddy's sweat (fortunately no blood or tears ) and together with an equally young and persevering bunch, thousands were up at the crack of dawn last Saturday to stage a fun run to show their support. I wish I was there to see it. I would have been beaming with pride, for sure.

MacDaddy speaking to a crowd of over 3,000.

Because no Filipino event is complete without its own share of characters.
Meet Manny Paksiw and Freddy Root

Standing behind and beside what he believes in

Which is why I am grateful the Mak-Tatos have the chance to witness first hand what it means to go out and go after something you truly believe in. Never mind if it goes against the grain. Never mind that it isn't a very popular choice. And never mind that after all of MacDaddy's hard work Tato declares "I want my Mama to be the President of the country. The President of Manila!"

Jan 16, 2010

Sleep Analysis

I think Christoph Niemann is Mr. Graphic-Goodness. As father to three young boys, he's also hip to our plight on the domestic front. Here's a taste of this cool daddy's work for his New York Times blog Abstract City. Bits of his take on sleep....

Niemann describes the above as... "A visitor from the kids' room. They start all sweet and cuddly, but their bodies become more brazen by the minute." I know! Here's another complication brought on by peculiar little people who would sleep with us every night if they could have their way....

Read the entire post he calls Goodnight and Tough Luck, and see if you can relate. As usual, he gave me a good laugh. Urinary issues, check. Midnight hypochondria, check. Kids invading our bed, double check. Incidentally, Pappy and I are running a race tomorrow and have to meet people at 5:30 a.m. sharp, PLUS our kids have a contract that says they're sleeping in our room tonight. Will we get a good night's sleep to power us through a 10k run? Wish us luck!

Jan 15, 2010

Help for Haiti

Much kindness was shown to our country after the Ondoy flooding. If you want to pay it forward and show some kindness to Haiti -- a smaller country with even bigger problems than ours -- international donors can help through Direct Relief. Thanks to the internet and global interconnections, small contributions put together can go a long way.

A pediatrician who heads the US National Center for Disaster Preparedness tells the New York Times that, "Something like 40 to 50 percent of the population of Port-au-Prince is kids." Haiti is in our prayers.

Jan 14, 2010

Sale! Sale!

Shameless plug alert... In case you didn't quite get enough of your retail-therapy fix over the holidays, we'd love to see you this weekend, January 16 and 17 at the Rockwell Tent. Serious bargains I hear. And they've opted to go Pink. Proceeds from this event will benefit the ICanServe Foundation.

See you there!

Jan 9, 2010

Date Night

I have total respect for Sex and the City on HBO. Great TV writing, satire and social commentary there. Plus New York - the city - as a main character. I love New York! Then SATC went Hollywood. The movie was fun to watch, but it did make my eyes roll a lot a bit....

Now we know it's a cash cow too good not to milk. There's a sequel out this May! Heehee! The sand scenes in the trailer made my eyeballs roll out of my face. But am I watching this? Hell yeah. I am a very, very shallow girl.

Date Night looks fun too. Tina Fey's character is also more relatable to me, just that my husband is way hotter than Steve Carrel. Then there's Mark Wahlberg without a shirt and James Franco being funny!

Quick flashback and props to movies I enjoyed in 2009 -- Where the Wild Things Are, Up, Bad Lieutenant (with the tragic-comic kick-ass performance of Nicolas Cage), Moon, Star Trek, District 9, 500 Days of Summer, Coco Chanel (the TV movie with Shirley Maclaine), September Issue, Gomorrah, Invictus, The Hurt Locker. Hmm... what else... how can I forget -- Jay and Kimmy Dora.

Tonight, Pappy and I escape reality, watch something the kids' aren't allowed to see, and make ourselves miserable with the movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road. I just bet Viggo Mortensen is going to make me cry.... Yay, date night!

Jan 8, 2010

Ten or a Hundred?

Picture below was snapped more than ten years ago, when I had no husband, just a boyfriend. You can tell this was sooo more than a decade ago from his tie and my Mac Viva Glam lipstick. Posted here for posterity and a bit of comedy.

Today it is exactly ten years since we sealed the deal and signed the papers, but it feels more like a hundred. To commemorate the occasion, here's a card... not a greeting card... but an index card.

This is not just any index card. This was made by Jessica Hagy who has one of the wittiest blogs out there. She expresses her thoughts in charts that are simply genius. Today's chosen commemorative chart illustrates a thought from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us." Right on Ralph. I am so feeling this today.... Happy ten to US!

Jan 7, 2010

Of Lying and Dying

How do you find that middle ground between sending your children out into the world no holds barred on one hand and protecting them from the big, bad world and all the facts of life that come with it on the other? Take the subject of dying, for example.

(Sometime right after Michael Jackson's death)
Mak: Mama, are you going to sleep forever?
Me: Yes. We all will.
Tato: When? Tomorrow?
Me: No. When I'm 100 years old.
Mak: Everyone dies when they're 100? That's old!
Me: Yes.

Cut me some slack. The boy caught me flat-footed. And I was still grieving for the King of Pop. Part of me wanted to tell them how death is all part of the beautiful cycle of life. How we all witnessed Original Nana take her last breath comforted by the thought that she would be back in the arms of dear Abuelo and an opportune time for her to down drink after drink (with alcohol, of course!) Up There with her brothers, friends and the grandchild she adored so much. Another part couldn't bear to even begin to tell them about those that die so young. Those that die senselessly. And those that cancer took away.

And so I told a white lie. But lying comes back and bites you on your behind always.
(Last Tuesday, after school)
Tato: Mama, you said everyone sleeps forever when they're 100. You were joking us.
Me: What makes you say that?
Tato: Marley's grandma died yesterday. And she was 90. That's not 100, Mama.
Me: Oh.

Flat-footed. Again. And all I could say was Oh. And I'm still kicking myself for not knowing what to say or how to answer four-year olds curious about living and dying. I'm going to have to work on a better answer. I better.

Somewhere in the stacks and stacks of books in that treasure trove of a place Nona took me, I found the book BRODIE. I thought the cover looked interesting ( and yes, i do judge some of them by that way) so I bought it. And read it right away. I have yet to read it to the boys.

Brodie is that very cool, very lovable classmate we'd all love to have. The joker, the talented artist, the dreamer who talked about being a pilot and obsessed about choppers and planes.

Except he was very ill. And when he was too sick to come to school the class sent him get-well cards to the hospital. Until the day their teacher, Mrs. Patawai gave them the sad news:
"Brodie died last night. You know he's been ill for a very long time."
For some tears came like rain, a little at first, and then a lot... It seemed I wasn't crying for Brodie but for myself, because I hurt so much inside.
Mrs. Patawai passed around the box of tissues. "We feel sad because we loved Brodie. I know we made Brodie cards and gave him presents, but I think the best thing we gave him was our love." She blew her nose. "Love was the gift he took with him."
And the questions persisted: Why? Where did he go?

Days went by, and the hurt didn't go away. It did get smaller though, so we could talk about Brodie without crying. Sometimes we laughed at his tricks. Remember when Brodie said this? Remember when Brodie did that? But we still missed him like anything. Mrs. Patawai said that, in a funny way, the hurt was good because it meant that Brodie was still alive in our hearts and in our minds.

This is author Joy Cowley's answer to a not-too-simple request by teachers to help children come to terms with the death of classmates. The illustrations are gorgeous but the message is even more beautiful. And when mommies like this can only say Oh or are in dire need of answers for our own sake as well, these pages embrace us with comforting thoughts. I'm glad I picked out this book. Thank you, Ms. Cowley. In Brodie's own words: "Stupendously awesome".

This is for my sister K who makes it all a wee-bit more bearable. You are Mrs. Patawai personified. Thank you.

Edited to add: I just found out that an aunt that spoils the boys and all her nieces and nephews rotten and makes the world's best banana bread just passed away. All so suddenly. Tato was texting her a few days ago while she wasn't feeling well. 'Be better', he texted her. 'I also have an owee'. I don't have the heart to tell them she is gone. Death is never easy.

Jan 4, 2010

Twenty Ten

I haven't even found the time to catch my breath. Where did December go? The holidays and everything in between were a blur. The good kind. Did a lot. Learned a lot. Lots of photos and stories to follow. I promise.

In the meantime there is a room makeover I need to get cracking on, some goals I need to reach sometime in this decade (which only means I need to begin now) PLUS a new job I must start on like today. I'm all psyched for fresh starts.

Thank you for the shot and the styling, Paco.

This is us welcoming the new decade with the sea, the sun and a lot of smiles on our sides. Bring it on, 2010.

Jan 3, 2010

Happy New Year from M. Proust

In an unscheduled book-browse a week ago, I had found How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton. I have not read Proust, but I had bookmarked De Botton on my Ted Talks favorites and I grabbed it when I saw his name. This book turns out to become a Christmas and New Year surprise gift sent from Above.

It was the perfect read to kick-off 2010 - with chapters titled How to Suffer Successfully (the title alone made me laugh!), How to Express your Emotions and How to Take Your Time. All good, but my favorites are How to be a Good Friend, How to Open Your Eyes and How to Put Books Down. De Botton made me think and laugh and have a meaningful Saturday afternoon with a light, easy read. Chapter titles notwithstanding, this is not some cheesy self-help book though. Can anything that references Proust be cheesy?

It took 37 years, but original Nona will be happy that
I'm finally going to pick up In Search of Lost Time.

Oh and, Marcel Proust himself gives an explanation to one of my own "maladies" of sometimes preferring the company of books to people, certain people at least. Apparently, this is okay and not weird at all, but that yes, at a certain point we must put our books down. Because, sorry this is kind of a spoiler, but I have to say, Proust will not change your life. You will.

I will. So, this year I will be more accepting of myself. Also, adjust my expectations of others. It was a relevant reminder as the holidays did highlight some strange and not-so-kind behavior from certain-personalities-who-need-not-be-named.

But in life there is always some bad, so I should really not complain. We are not entitled to perfect lives and people treating us perfectly all the time! That's me being Proustian and opening my eyes, and it's only day 3 of year 2010. The point is I am grateful to be blessed with much, much more of the good than the bad. There is a chapter called How to be Happy in Love, and I will toot my own horn (it is a new year) to say that I have that down pat. See photo....

Bragging rights. Happiness in Love achieved.

Thank you to those who blessed the start of our 2010 with their warm wishes... and to the constant cheerleaders who add to the good. You know who you are. Now I say... happy new year to ME!