• Nostalgia and chicken lollipop

    Whenever I think of my childhood, I remember the carefree and stress free days of youth. If I were asked if I could pick a time in my life I would go back to, I would easily pick the days of my youth spending summers in the province.

    There must something in the air that makes you yearn and come back to the province. It must be hearing the rooster crowing at dawn, smelling the freshly baked rolls enticing aroma, enjoying home cooked meals with the freshest ingredients from the market. Growing up in the small town, it seems that eggs and milk tastes fresher, the fruits tastes sweeter.  You could almost hear the laughter, giggles children playing across the street. You can see the women donned their fancy hats and umbrellas as they head up to church. I could picture the streets where the whole town is adorned with banners during town fiestas.

    My fondest memory was spending the summer at my aunt’s home, playing with my cousins.  My  aunt, who I fondly called  “Ninang” which means godmother, was like a second mother to me. It is a stereotype in the Philippines, that godparents are required to give monetary gifts to their godchildren on special occasions.  Known for her generosity, even those who is not her god children called her “Ninang”.

    Back in the days Ninang and her husband was running a restaurant business called the “Capitol Luncheonette”. The place is situated near the municipal building, hence the name. The eatery is an extension of her home. Her savory homemade dishes is inviting and reminds you of a warm hug when you need it the most. She doesn’t charge too much for her meals either.

    Soon word came out about the new restaurant in town.  Middle class, students, poor and the elite flocked to try the new place. The mayor and his crew frequented the place and held several meetings there.

    One they I overheard one of the diners asked Ninang

    “Why don’t you charge your meals at an upscale price?

    Surely the dishes are comparable to the fancy gourmet meal they sell at the inn!” he added.

    “Oh no, then it wouldn’t be affordable to everyone!” she said smilingly.

    Everyone was welcome to dine, no matter what your status were. Ninang even covered the bill if the family was not able to pay for their meals. She was one of the most generous persons I knew. She employed most of her relatives and friends at the restaurant. Some of them became cooks, waitresses and hired helps. She even helped pay for some of the helper’s school tuition. She helped those especially who are struggling get on their feet. With hard work and perseverance,  the restaurant soon  became a successful family business.

    Ninang’s  days started before dusk.. Cooking was always her passion.The kitchen was always busy. Every morning, I would wake up with the aroma of freshly baked rolls and pastries. She wouldn’t let me help her because she tells me I will only get in her way.  Of all the  dishes she made, my favorite was Chicken lollipop. It is so fun to eat, its shape reminds me of a lollipop.

    She had humble beginnings, her parents, our grandparents, died before any of the grandchildren were born. All I knew that as one of the older children, she was in charge to take care of her younger siblings. She put my mother into school while she sold lunches and dinners.  For somebody who did not finish high school, she was very good in numbers. She was good in counting money for change. She would also sell ice and snacks to neighbors and friends.

    Not too long after, her husband of thirty years died suddenly of a heart attack. She decided it was time to quit the family business. She sold the property and built a house a few blocks next to ours. One day, I remember seeing a salesman going door to door selling books. Some of the  neighbors was hesitant to let the salesman in their house.  To my amazement, Ninang purchased a set of Colliers Encyclopedia from him!

    Everyday, after school, I would excitedly walk to her house and grab a book. Skimming through the pages was like opening a portal of knowledge. Decades before Wikipedia was born, the encyclopedia was one of the main sources of references used in school for researches. To me, the smell is enchanting when you open a new book.  I would breath into pages and imagined the pictures as it comes alive. The subjects ranged from astronomy to animals, any thing you can think of is just within your fingertips. From then on, reading sparked a never ending curiousity in me.

    “Why did you purchase the books Ninang? I asked. “They  are very expensive”

    “Even though did not have a proper education when I was young, I still believe that reading is important! She exclaimed.  “And having a good education can take you places, ” she added.

    Soon after I graduated, Ninang couldn’t be more proud. I went to work abroad and settled there. I would send her money but  heard Ninang would spend it on her grand kids. She moved in with her sister in our ancestral home.

    Whenever I come home for a visit, I look forward to Ninang’s stories. She would bring out the dusty photo albums and tell her grandchildren how kids used to enjoy playing outdoors back then.  Looking at the pictures brought back memories of bruised knees when I first was learning to ride my bike. I can picture Ninang serving refreshing cold drinks  after playing outside on a sweltering day.  Some things will never change. She can still easily whip a mouthwatering desert even though she has arthritis.  

    “Ninang , you are not getting any younger,” I joked.

    Ninang smiled, “Its not that often we get together, my dear.”

    She fought back the tears as we left to go back abroad. She always pack us pastries and delicacies for our trip. Her generosity continue to inspire me. I remember she told me that it is a blessing to help others while you can.

     Looking back, the memories that defines my youth, still resonates with me.  It may be as simple as enjoying a chicken lollipop dipped in special sauce. It never fails to bring the comfort and warm feeling of nostalgia.

  • Another day in the gutter

    “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” quote by Oscar Wilde in his play, Lady Windemere’s fan

    First week of the semester and I feel that I am failing miserably. I know what you are thinking, you will tell me not to give up. Just telling you a story. I signed up for two classes online, and in one of my classes, I failed to submit the assignment on time. Way to go, Rona, first assignment and you already got an incomplete in your mark. I am taking prerequisites for another course. I know, it is an insurmountable feat to overcome, I didn’t know that the pressure that I felt two decades ago when I was in college is coming back with a vengeance. Kidding aside, I am writing again. Thank God for that. I forgot how the feeling of stress of deadlines are. I will remember to breathe because I know this is an unfamiliar territory. Will I make it? I don’t think I can with any flying colors. Maybe I am disillusioned. Can I really do hard things out of my comfort zone? When is the perfect time for quitting and is my efforts worth the stress? Every opportunity should not be taken for granted. How many mistakes will I make and how many chances do I have? We’ll never know do we.

    This is my take on my first assignment ever after a long hiatus.

    At some point in our lives, we all have encountered problems in life.  Some have minor ones, others have difficulties in life that is unimaginable. The gutter symbolizes living in a poor state or being in a difficult situation. It is a dark place where no one wants to stay for long.  

    I had experienced being in a gutter when I encountered a major financial loss. I felt that I was in a dark place, and that it was a hopeless situation. Looking back, that stage in my life was learning to be resilient,  accepting the situation, and choosing not to give up. I handle the situation the best way I can at that moment.  There was nothing I could do, but to move forward. 

     When facing demanding situations, a positive outlook in life makes a difference. Our  experiences are not the same. We cannot compare our struggles to others. We don’t have the same resources and coping mechanisms when responding to difficulties.  

    A few surpasses their predicament by looking at the light at the end of the tunnel. It takes courage, grit and perseverance to work on a goal. Focusing on the positive aspect of the current situation, even though the current picture may seem dim. For example, a person who suffered a huge loss in his business, instead of sulking and blaming himself, thinks of other ways to recuperate his loss. It will do him no good if he does not take initiative 

    A motivational quote that came into my mind is “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step,” by Martin Luther King Jr.  It may be difficult to take the first step, but it is the only way to move forward.  We may make a lot of mistakes along the way.  It is the experience that we learn throughout the journey that is more important than the destination itself. 

  • Thanksgiving Surprises

    Not a surprise, but been dealing with body aches, fatigue, anosmia for the past week. Got tested and lo and behold, you know the drill. Quarantine, monitor your symptoms, stay away from people. Contracting Covid-19 is not a good thing to have especially during the holidays or in any occasion.

    How to keep a positive attitude regardless of the situation? I was fine until the diagnosis confirmed my fear. Dreading the worse case scenario as it flashed in my thoughts. A lot of what ifs and should’ve beens. What if it goes downhill from here? I surely don’t want anyone to catch it from me and suffer the longstanding complications. Was dining in the restaurant to blame for my predicament? It seems like a good idea at that time, the food and the ambiance was perfect, other than, there was a diner incessantly coughing at the table next to us. Or did I caught it on the multiple grocery trips I went this past week? I would like to blame the circumstances that lead to me and my family’s misery, but what’s the point? Does it make me feel any better?

    I am thankful that it is tolerably uncomfortable, if that makes sense. Not a surprise, I already suffered with generalized anxiety since forever, adding injury to the insult was brain fogginess, chest tightness and hard to get used to is the loss of smell. Missing all the delicious scents and aroma from home-cooked meals. I never thought I will also be missing the obnoxious bodily odors and farts. Gladly, the overpowering scent of vicks and Lysol spray must have awaken my olfactory nerves which was good.

    Hopefully, the COVID -19 torment will be over soon. The fear of getting sicker along with the trauma is not easy to withstand. There is no other choice, but to be strong and handle the struggle with an open mind in the best possible way.

    Life is full of surprises. Some of life surprises will literally take your breath away. Reconnecting with a mentor turned friend. Sweet potato pie baking in the oven. Deep fried turkey. Thankful that the surprising moments are worth it.

  • Is it just me?

    The transition to cooler weather and the time adjusting hits slightly different this time to me, anyway. There is an invisible load that I am carrying, figuratively, that I cannot pinpoint what it is. Lately, I have recurring dreams of acquaintances who I haven’t seen or talked to in decades. It is mind boggling why I think of them in the back of my mind. I hope that I am not going loony.I think I just need someone to talk to. Do you ever cried for no reason? Or it is just so overwhelming that your mind just chooses to wander away?

    Great! Things are starting to get better. Time for holiday preparation which I am only doing the absolute basics. Which is what I do every year, which I am thankful that I still have the energy to do everything. Really, I am just trying to get by this time of the year.

    This year I learned that gratitude in small things, even the events that didn’t go well as planned are still is something to be thankful about. Sometimes, you expect good things to happen, but in reality, it can go either way. It can be frustrating if something you dream and hoped for is not happening for now.

    This year taught me that time is the most valuable asset we have.I would’t asked for a problem-free life. I would wished for a healthy coping mechanism. Many times, I overslept because I cannot deal with life. It was the only thing to cope with stress I guess. Our youth, like time we can never take back. Money is a great motivator. With money, most of our problems can be solved, not all.

    Looking back this year, I had a few small victories. First, I have restraint myself to not overspend for unnecessary things that will end up in clutter, like buying overpriced meals that will sit on the fridge and spoil. I am still working on self-control when I am browsing social media. I have unfollowed accounts that are making me feel insecure. I know, I should not be feeling unworthy in the first place. I do tend to be envious of strangers on social media, how perfectly curated the lifestyle they are promoting. I applaud those who found their calling early in life, I am still searching for mine. Being a work in progress is not something you start and never intend to follow through.

    I am excited what the next year will bring! Am I going to pursue another degree? Am I joining another 5k walk/run next year? Will I have the courage and resources to go to the oral surgeon for wisdom teeth extraction? Will my family be able to afford a mini-vacation next year? an idea that seems like a major feat.The possibilities are limitless. Lastly, prayers have been answered, found a great church to grow with, loved-ones are safe and well. Dodged a major storm, literally. Life is good.

  • Romanticizing life

    “You should start romanticizing your life” is a statement popularized in social media, which seems to have a great influence in every aspect of our life. Being involved in a virtual world seems to be popular nowadays, and would be a part of our social interaction for a while. With all the negative events that are happening, preserving our sanity should be of utmost importance.

    It hasn’t been easy this past year, and this year isn’t any different to me. Most of the time, I lack inspiration and dragging my feet most of the work days. More uncertainties dealing with relationships, work and the future are looming. I could choose to hope for the best or fear for the worse or live in the present. Generate a momentum to tackle the hurdles of the day, and at the same time being mindful of the things that we take seldom acknowledge. Romanticizing Life is appreciating the mundane things. Celebrating life one second at the time. Cheering ourselves as we get our of bed, the snooze alarm becomes music to our ears. Being grateful for the people in our lives, the time we have with them, the health and energy we have right now. There are days that I often neglect the value of the moment until it is gone. “You are always one choice away from changing your life,” a quote i read.

    The life choices, I had made in the past may feel right at the moment, I couldn’t change them even if I wanted to. As the saying goes “A mistake that makes you humble is way better than an achievement that makes you arrogant.” That mistake is etched in your mind for a long long time.

    I’m thankful for the days that I found inspiration to cook simple meals. go outdoors, meet with friends, finish a task. I never thought that trying new things like skipping rope would be so much fun. I am todays old when I found out that they even have weighted jump ropes. I could only try a few minutes without stopping, thanks to my hand and feet coordination, it’s a sure way of pumping your adrenaline.

    Oh i did manage to cook and enjoy a satisfying meal that I plated nicely and proudly took pictures of. We also enjoyed a take out pizza, it was greasy but the mozzarella stuffed crust was super worth it. I had enjoyed every bite of it. I love days like today. I hope your today is great too.

  • Unfiltered Life

    What would be the world like if people don’t have control over their words and blurts out whatever first comes to their head? When there are no censorships in conversations when you can tell the person what you really mean without considering their feelings? Much like the internet, where everyone has their own opinion and common sense is thrown out the window.

    We wouldn’t say akward remarks to a stranger about how you don’t like their choice of clothing, foods or their hobbies. As we scroll down social media, we wonder how awesome some of the so-called influencers well put together life are, seems to be excelling in every aspect. How easy their life seems to be, sporting a well-balanced lifestyle. We become critical in some sort and try to figure out their achilles heel, that maybe their life is not as perfect at it may seem to be. Maybe their countertops are not spotless or maybe they are hiding dirt under their couches.

    Social media should be the least of anyone’s thoughts and concern. While it is great to browse inspiration on similar interests accounts and groups, it shouldn’t be ideal to desire what they have or to copy their lifestyle. We shouldn’t be distracted to our own life purpose and goals.

    Half the year already has gone, it is safe to conclude that we are still figuring out what our priorities in life are. Should we be more focused on our physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health? I follow several entrepreneur, wellness, fashion and travel blogs, to name a few, with interesting content. They have years of expertise on their niche. Sometimes, it makes your achievements feel miniscule compared to theirs.

    I could only vouch for myself, I could not be or will ever be somebody I am not. Vicariously living someones adventure on instagram , would be a recipe to develop an imposter syndrome.Having to doubt your abilities, being insecure and having low self-esteem triggered by what we see on the internet. I stop obsessing over wanting to be an idealistic version of myself and start building realistic goals.

    Seeking a path I would like to be proud of, not for accolades or validation. To build a legacy that would make a positive difference to someones life, not to brag or seek admiration. Restarting and seeking alternate routes on a journey that doesn’t seek approval, only to the One who matters.

  • Dealing with Difficulties

    When nothing seems to be going right. Truly that “when it rain, it pours”. It is hard to conceal the sadness and pressure that we feel. Sometimes the only way to acknowledge our pain is to let the steam out.

    By doing this, we let our our anger, stress and frustration out. But sometimes these emotional outbursts are hard to control, it comes out naturally whether we like it or not. It maybe panic attacks, uncontrollable tears or a temperamental mood.

    In a perfect world, we would prefer comfort over discomfort, familiarity vs the unknown, and choose peace vs anxiety. Is it possible to be happy despite the unpleasant situations? We are happy when the circumstances favors a positive outcome.

    The difficult situations leave us no choice but to have courage. It becomes easier when we have a good support system which is not always the case. We tend to leash our anger towards other people, even though we don’t mean to hurt them.

    We cannot control our circumstances, we cannot control the people who are around us, but how we react to difficult situations develops our character. The waves may toss us back and forth but we continue to steadily hold our feet on the ground.

    Each and every one is has stories that remain untold and dealing with personal issues. Don’t let the perfectly curated social media stories tell you otherwise. Be gentle and kind because we don’t know how hard they are trying just to survive today.

  • Silent Disease

    What may seem like an ordinary day for some, would be a day of facing your Mount Everest. A daunting task that renders you powerless, bombarded by an endless array of obtrusive thoughts that doesn’t makes sense.

    No one will understand the stress that is building up. An excuse to quiet down the voices in your head is to do nothing.

    I know you have been this path before, but how can you unsee those dark clouds of desperation? The guilt, shame that you will never be enough. A tormented soul can only be quenched by the living water. So help me.

    Some days are bearable, but today is a difficult day that you dread the familiar zone of uneasiness.

    Not today, I begged, the plans to be productive seems obscure. Succumbing to the struggles, but remember it is not over yet.

    One day, the relentless thoughts will fade away, if it does, it can also come back, prepare for the worse, pray for the best possible outcome, but for now just hang in there.

    Storm clouds
  • Covid-versary Reflections

    A year later after the pandemic anniversary or covid-versary , the lockdown situation had indeed changed our perspective on humanity. The widespread crisis force people to resort to panic, fear, and constant worrying. It made others to become angry, resentful and contemptuous. Hardly any were prepared for the inevitable, no one could have predicted how long the plague would go on. We all have collective experience globally and our reactions are exclusive to what we are experiencing at the particular moment. The changes we are slowly adapting to are necessary in able to survive, in any way is an inconvenience to several, but it left us no other option but to embrace it.

    What I realized is that recovering from a pandemic is not linear. There are days that you want to be productive in spite of the hurdles. Some days you just want to live inside a bubble. In a sense, like the virus, fear and paranoia also weakened the spirit . Thankfully, a year later, the vaccine roll-out has been a needed break through. It would also mean slowly lifting the ban on small gatherings.

    Up to this point, there is still the threat of contracting the disease, so we have to be hyper vigilant. We all know someone that has been stricken with this deadly virus and with the new variant, we would try to avoid it at all cost. A careless outing or meeting, or an unnecessary trip might be a potential for a contagion. While our travel plans are on hiatus, safety procedures are already being implemented, there will be always risks when traveling, so we plan accordingly.

    1. A wake up call for me, is how I neglected my over all health. The momentary pause forced me to reevaluate my habits. Over the years, I was focused on things other than my health. I am guilty of poor oral health that is unknowingly made its debut in a form of myriad dental issues. It took a pandemic to drag myself to make doctors and dental appointments. Now, I strongly believe in the statement that an “ounce of prevention is better than cure.” and “It is now or never.”

    2. Another eye opener are that meaningful relationships are often taken for granted, without us knowing it. Our presence and undivided attention will make a huge impact more than our phone scrolling. Toxic relationships are being endured to a certain extent. We don’t always have control with the environment that we are in, it is best to observe boundaries to ourselves and others.

    3. This is not an “AHA moment”, but is should be given that mental health should be on top priority in any given situation. We remind ourselves that a healthy mental state is as important like daily exercise. Depression is an invisible illness, it can be debilitating and can be paralyzing. Overcoming anxiety myself, is an uphill battle, I have to tell myself that accomplishing something is better than nothing. To an anxious mind, simple tasks can be overwhelming.

    4. Although, the picture looks bleak for now, the lesson drawn from this dilemma is that it is not too late to start. It is not too late to start re organizing your life. What a difference an uncluttered, organized space makes. I’m in the ongoing process of decluttering a overflowing wardrobe filled of unworn items. Organizing the chaotic pantry and maintaining the structure takes a huge amount of conscious effort and decision making but is rewarding in the end.

    5. It is also not too late to start doing and making calculated mistakes. I am taking interest on building an investment portfolio, which should’ve been done eons ago. Truly, I had been sidetracked, I was/stil am procrastinating. Thankfully, there are financial advisors to be of enlightenment.

    6. I also admit that my low carb bread baking will always be a hit and miss, eventually, it would turn out okay. Well, there is always some room for errors and improvement.

    7. Another insight that came out of this predicament is that instead of chasing success and accumulating wealth, we should seek significance. The gist of the very timely article by becoming minimalist is that finding significance in life is touching and making a difference in the lives of others

    Overall, what came out out of this undesirable situation, that it is humbling to know that still we have a lot to learn. We don’t know what the future will hold. One thing is certain is that we desperately need God’s direction, guidance and protection.

  • Oversharing

    We may or may not have been guilty of oversharing on social media. We constantly share post of something cool we did, ate or a place we went. The reasons behind we share such posts maybe we like to seek attention, validation or approval?

    We constantly reach for our phone to document milestones or highlights. Sometimes, we forget to be present in the moment, rather we carefully curate the filtered photographs and edit the selfies, the laughline and frownlines. It seems inauthentic when we cover our flaws. Its is great to look back at the photographs, sometimes the memories will all be that is left. Also, capturing candid smiles and stolen shots are my favorites.

    I admit that I don’t always make the best life choices. Journaling and posting make us realize how we had changed hopefully for the best. There’s a saying that goes that we can buy food but not appetite. With that said, I am still struggling and learning to eat to nourish and be satisfied. By now, we should all know what food is beneficial to our health and yet we still make unwise food choices.

    I’m always browsing for fashion, home inspo and saving food recipes and hacks that I never tried. It’s 2021, we still can’t travel, not that our budget allows us to do it. I believe action is better than wishing or dreaming. Making plans and executing the plan. While it is easier said than done, we are not in a rush to go anywhere too soon.

    I fear the uncertain. In my inadequacies, God’s strength shines through. Slowly trusting God with the unknown gives me courage. I know I don’t have to fight the battle on my own.

    We overshare our proudest moments. How I see God’s goodness through the eyes of my son, my husband, my family and those who are around. How I am thankful that in the hardest times, we found comfort in the Lord. That is worth sharing about.

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