Tag Archives: family

A new beginning.

Two weeks after the beginning of a new year, and everything is already very different… and yet completely the same. I’m sitting in the bedroom, watching mosquitoes hover in front of my cat-eye frames, and blaming myself for not remembering to close the window screen after Riley opened it to make sure I heard him yell, “Mama! Mama! Mamaaaaa!!”

That was his greeting when I got home from school. 

I’d come home early because of a headache and my body’s need to relax, and there he was, happy to see me, positively radiant and beaming in his I-LOVE-my-mommy!-ness. Micah was in the bath, and when he saw me, he lit up like a firecracker and I swore I saw heaven. 

And then I remembered that Rob’s mom had passed away from lung cancer and that she’d never see my babies’ smiles, and I wanted to smoke and eat and shop and act out every other vice I have. 

It’s been a hard year so far.

I miss Rob’s mom. There are money issues plaguing me. My extended family is showing itself to be more and more bat-shit crazy. Rob and I are having a hard time being Rob and I. And in the midst of all this, I’m tentatively putting one foot in front of the other, making my way towards something better than what I’ve got, and mindful that everything could blow up in my face at any moment.

 

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No time like the present.

I used to be a major procrastinator, and other than bursts of adrenaline, it never got me anywhere good. Now I’m a mom, and my life is dictated by the needs of another human being, and in order to be successful at meeting his needs while meeting my own needs, and simultaneously staying in my happy place, I’ve caught up on lessons of attitude, preparation, and discipline. New leaf? Welcome! Please keep on turning!

And now that I’m in my happy place, I’m being a hell of a lot more productive. Awesome? Yes. But also, a bit of a mind-fuck. I mean, damn, I thought I knew what it meant to be busy. I was wrong.

Numero uno on the agenda: I’ve jump-started my editing business, which translates into lots of emailing and trying to figure out how the heck I’m supposed to get emails sent to my phone. (This is where my technologically-related retardedness and my third-world residence meet and kill me slowly.) It also translates into me, on deadline, editing papers about FreudeducationpoetrypovertyprettymuchEVERYTHING, and for now, at least, I’m taking it all in stride. So what if I’m charging peanuts? I’m working out the English grammar side of my brain and getting paid for it and learning a lot of awesomeness while doing so. Plus, ya know, I’m earning money by helping people, and that money is going to buy my little guy a kiddie laptop and kitchen set for Christmas (amongst other things). Plus, hopefully I can build on the business I’ve got and someday charge a few more peanuts than my present rate. Hopefully. Someday.

For now, I’m just happy that I’ve found a beneficial way to earn money, aka I can improve myself by doing this job. Smiley faces all around! (No, really. I’m corny that way.) And, ya know, I won’t try to hide it: Getting paid in dollars makes a heck of a difference when you’re living in the Philippines!

So. I’m concentrating on the technological side of things, which is kind of mandatory since all of my clients live in the States, aka on the other side of the world. The editing service website will be up as soon as I figure out what the fuck an SEO is/does and if I need one, and how to design a site (or find someone with compatible style and expertise to do so for me), and all this mumbo-jumbo about web hosting and domain names and OMG, I’m actually a visitor from 1969. This also explains my penchant for Hendrix, free love and medallion necklaces.

Numero dos: Fiction writing. I’ve been working on several stories now for a while, and something’s actually happening with them. Writing is kind of like gardening in that way: You toil in the soil for a while and you know you’re doing something, but you don’t quite know that you’ve been doing anything right until those first buds of green poke out of the dirt.

I’m starting to see a couple of buds poking through my writing, and it’s getting me excited. I’ve already started emailing colleagues and friends from my editing/publishing/hella creative days, and so far, so good. There are big things happening in this part of my life especially, and it’s making me fantasize about getting off the nursing route altogether and being a full-time writer.

For now? I’m just keeping my nose to the grindstone and waiting for something good to magically materialize on my computer screen like a gift from the gods.

Numero tres: Making another baby. This right here has got me thrown for a loop. There are so many things to consider, like finances, and the fact that I’ll be delivering my baby over here aka Am I really comfortable with that?, and the unavailability of childcare… It’s mostly that last one that I’m worried about, because there’s no reliable daycare over here. And family? I’ve got none to depend on when it comes to taking care of Riley, let alone another little one. It’s just… I want one. Right now. So badly.

I’ll admit, that’s high on the crazy meter – even for me. I mean, who does that? Let their feelings control their actions, instead of logically think things through when it comes to having a baby?

Wait.

Everyone. Everyone does that. And the rewards? Immeasurable. I think it’s safe to cross this one off my worry list/agenda and just see what happens…

Sleeping while sick.

Photo credit: Rob

Rob, Riley, and I have another hell of a cold. But of course. I start school today. Why wouldn’t we all be inconsolably sick?

Well, maybe not inconsolably sick. Riley still manages to sleep soundly, despite his congestion and coughing – but only when he’s lying on me.

Funny. That’s the only way I can sleep soundly, too.

And Rob? He stays at the far end of the bed and coughs into the opposite space. His feet and my feet always meet and warm each other during these strangely-cold nights.  His birthday is coming up. I really hope we get better soon.

In lieu of an email to my MIL*.

I was chatting with a friend on Facebook, and she asked when the family and I were coming back to the States. It’s a FAQ, and I would’ve stuck to my usual “When I’m done with school” response, but since I met her as a friend of Rob’s family, I decided to elaborate.

“I’ll be back with the munchkin in about 3 1/2 years, but Rob will be there in February.”

“Yeah, I heard he’s coming back. Why?”

To which I gave my standard “Cuz he needs to start bringing home some bacon! LOL” response.

There were LOL’s all around, and then she dropped a small bomb: “Oh good. We were all worried things weren’t going well for you guys.”

This is where I take a detour into All About Me Land. See, I’d assumed that someone in Rob’s fam read this blog and took it upon themselves to update everyone on the fact that we’re A-Okay. And that was wrong – me assuming shit, I mean. Okay, so I link to posts pretty frequently on Facebook, and members of his family read the links and comment on them. That doesn’t mean they get that we’re like every other family starting out, finding our way, and figuring it out… I guess… Right? Right?

I don’t know how to feel about it all, to be honest. I’m not sure what I wish was the case, or what exactly gives people the impression that our non-marriage is crumbling. I just know that I don’t like his family thinking that we’re pulling each other’s hair out and screaming like banshees up in this house. Or… worse?

I reassured the family friend that things are going well, but there was still a heavy pang in my stomach. Mostly because, well, like practically every. Filipino. family, Rob’s fam rolls deep and talks a lot. And I just don’t want our little trio being talked about as “being in trouble.” Not when they’re on the other side of the world, Rob’s notorious at being a bad communicator, and they don’t know a thing about how we live. There’s no way for me to show them that we’re happy and functional and loving. And the fact that I feel the need to show that we’re happy and functional and loving to his family? I’m not sure what that means. They’ve always been kind and generous and accepting of me, and they were over the moon when Riley came onto the scene. It’s just… something. about. them… or. me?

I don’t know.

It’s just something.

A feeling of distrust. Or apprehension. Or fear, maybe? It’s something, and I’m not sure what it is, and that makes the negativity grow to gigantic proportions.

*****

Mostly, when I email Rob’s mom, it’s to complain about Rob. Regardless of the emotional seepage staining my emails, her replies are never long. Mostly, she’ll say something like, “I’ll talk to him. You guys be good to each other.”

Some would say it’s stupid and pointless that I email her at all, and “Well of course they think you guys are fighting like cats and dogs! It’s all you ever tell his mom about!”

Only, it’s not. I’ve written her exactly two emails that were all sunshine happy, and whenever we talk on Skype, I mention that things are going really well. And complaining to Rob’s mom has been the little nudge necessary to bring me, Rob, and his mom closer together.

Mostly, I guess, I bitch to her about her son because she’s the only other woman in the world who gets what it means to love Rob so much that it hurts. She’s the only one who gets how his facts are really half-truths and how his truths sound like lies even when they’re actual truths.

She knows how lazy he is, and also how he has the drive, charisma, and ability to do/get/be anything he wants. She’s the only one who knows those sides of him even remotely like I know those sides of him, and if it wasn’t for the not-so-great things Rob tells me about her from time to time, I think our relationship would be uncomplicated and completely stellar. (As of now, it’s very complicated and completely stellar.)

I want to tell her that I’m so in love with her son and grandson, and so honored to be part of their family, and so happy with how things have turned out. I want her to know that her son is doing all he can to be a good father and partner, and that I’m doing the best job I can as a mom and partner, and that we’re making this work.

And, really, when I sit back and think about it all, maybe that’s what I’ve been worrying about this whole time. Not Rob’s family’s opinion, but his mom’s. Maybe becoming a mom has allowed me to glimpse the difficulties of raising a son, and I’m seeing things through her eyes and hoping to assuage the fears and worries that she must have.

It’s tough being a woman who’s bringing up a boy. I know. But I want her to know: She’s a good mom.  She raised her son well. Things will be all right.

*Okay, so Rob and I aren’t married. Whatever. I call his mom “Mom”; plus, he and I have been dating for five years, playing house for three of those five years, and have a baby. Nuff said.

What is happiness?

It’s staying awake all night with an endless cup of steaming, strong coffee and a neverending clove cigarette as I write a novel about what it means to be happy. Then showering, laying down in bed with my family, and watching them sleep.

Riley’s 1st Birthday, Part I

Riley’s birthday party was yesterday, and in the wake of all the hectic excitement, I can’t help but feel a deep appreciation for people who throw parties in the Philippines. I add in the Philippines because I’ve thrown many, many parties in the States, and I don’t remember any of them being half as chaotic as Riley’s first birthday party. Maybe I’m wrong, and the nervous energy was all in my head (though it’s not new to my Philippines experience, thus making me doubtful that it’s all in my head). Or maybe I take this particular party more seriously because it’s my son’s first birthday party (though the ideas of serious and party just don’t mix in my mind). All I know is, if you asked how the party went, I’d probably smile and shrug. “How’d the party go?” I’d likely parrot. “I guess it depends on who you ask.”

*****

We were an hour late to our son’s birthday party.

Even though it was at our house.

And the celebrant was with us.

There we were in bumper to bumper traffic, clouds of brown dust being kicked up by hiccuping jeepney engines and lines of pedestrians weaving through traffic like schools of  fish. I sat next to Riley in the second row of our SUV, feeling my anxiety exponentially multiply by the second. A canker sore had developed on my inner bottom lip, and the single meal I’d consumed seemed to have been quickly burned up by my adrenaline. The hole being made in my stomach was quickly being filled by anxiety and adrenaline. Not a good mix.

The day was supposed to have been simple: Pick up lechon (in our case, a 100-lb. whole roasted pig); pick up the cake; take Riley for a haircut; pick up my grandma; pick up the balloons. We woke up at 6 a.m. to complete everything and the party started at 2, so really, this should have been a piece of cake. Unfortunately, it was anything but a piece of cake.

First off: Should it really take half an hour to claim food? Nope. But when your mom insists on holding all of the receipts and then loses them, that’s how long it takes to pick up a cake or 100-lb. hunk of pork. Apparently. Not that that’s a bad thing per se, because it would royally suck to pay for all that food and then have someone else haul all of it home. But shouldn’t two forms of government ID and a signature check be enough to secure the food? I’ll let you guess on the answer to that one…

Also? Nobody ever told me that a kid’s first haircut could take up to an hour. This is something that I probably should have guessed since my kid in particular is a bundle of activity, but it still surprised me. I figured, 20 or 30 minutes tops, and we’d stroll out of the kiddie barber shop with a cute head of hair on my little boy’s head. I didn’t count on the jumping and jerking and spinning and turning taking a total of 68 minutes. My bad.

And the balloons? Well, by the time we’d gotten around to them, I’d had enough and decided to send my brother to collect them on his own. What I didn’t count on was that he had to pick up the clowns as well. I thought they’d show up at any minute, and three hours after they were supposed to be here, they finally arrived (after my brother picked them up). Why they couldn’t just commute over here is beyond me. We would have gladly reimbursed their fare.

Once the clowns finally arrived, they were unprepared. They weren’t wearing their make-up or costumes, they didn’t bring a mic or a kid’s music cd, and they weren’t in the least bit jolly. We had to force the clowns to smile. Read that again then tell me it wasn’t fucked up. I dare you.

While the clowns ate their fill of food and got ready, we gathered the guests, cut the cake, gave goody bags to the kids, played some party games, and took pictures. Just as things started to get really good, it started raining. We realized then that the pinata and the pabitin couldn’t be played outside even though we’d rented a tent for the express purpose of battling inclement weather. The thought behind renting the tent was that the kids wouldn’t get rained on. We’d totally neglected the possibility that they’d drown in a sea of dirty rainwater.

Luckily, the rain thinned out the guests dramatically. The neighbors went home, the people who showed up for food and to check out our house went home, and the only people left were good friends and family aka The People Who Really Matter. They all fit into our house, but the adults made their way outside to drink their fill of liquor while the kids were being entertained. They made due under the tent while the clowns did their thing in the downstairs living room.

Meanwhile, the clowns found their groove. They improvised with Riley’s kid’s cd’s and our videoke sound system, did magic tricks, played games with the kids, and hung up the pabitin and pinata. All you could hear within a 1-mile radius of the house was the laughter and cheering of three dozen kids as they enjoyed themselves. That’s how bananas our surround system is. I’m still hearing only half of what people are saying.

Riley was a pure ball of Happy. He cheered and clapped for the magic tricks, ate his fill of cake, pancit, and other Filipino yumminess, and played with all the kids. Everyone admired his new haircut, his sweet and easy-going nature, and his dimples. The birthday boy fell asleep around 8 o’clock, just as the last of his pint-sized guests made their home.

And just as the trouble started brewing.

Five minute free-write on family.

Every morning, before Riley wakes up and my day starts, I sit in bed with my laptop and write. At first, I usually do what I call my Morning Brain Vomit aka I write non-stop for five minutes or until my brain is purged of its initial thoughts. Then I’m ready to tackle whatever fiction project I’m working on.

Lately, I’ve been doling my time out between two main writing projects: A collection of short stories centering on an S&M Dungeon, and a novel about three generations of Filipino-Americans. I’m also revising three completed novels (one about a family living on an island of criminals; one about a  family’s mysterious boarder; and one about a family living in the heartland of America).

The more I write, the more I realize just how fixated I am on the idea of family. All my life, it’s been me and my younger brother, figuring shit out, teaching each other, tackling our parents’ marriage and personal issues, and helping each other survive. We have plenty of first cousins, and plenty more of not-so-first cousins, but we never fostered tight relationships with any of them. Age and distance played big parts in our inability to vibe. Our parents’ reluctance to show their true colors played even bigger parts.

Now that we’re living in the Philippines and seeing our dad’s side of the family more often, there have been many revelations. So many parts of my personality that were seemingly untied to my heritage can now be confidently ascribed to my lineage.

My bad-ass-ness? Many of my dad’s side have had bad-ass tendencies, i.e., criminal tendencies and aggressive behavior. My natural openness? Many in my dad’s side wear their hearts on their sleeves and share altogether too much with perfect strangers. My ability to work any social situation in my favor? My dad’s side can win awards for talking people into doing all kinds of ridiculous shit. For real. They’ve got it like that. Natural con artists, the whole lot.

It feels so good to place all of the parts of me on a map and see where they’ve come from and where they’re likely headed. It feels even better to be able to do so, and vibe with similar personalities, and know that we are the same. I feel like now, after getting to know so many of my relatives, I can really owe up to and claim all the different parts of me. And not only that, but others can owe up and claim those parts of me as well. I feel connected, understood, and valued in a way I’ve never felt before. This right here is Reason #2 on the list of Why We Moved to The Philippines in The First Place.