Monday, December 27, 2010

Wheat Filled Life

The taller, the greener and the stronger the wheat sprouts until Christmas Eve -the more prosperous your life will be for the coming year. At least this is what they believe as part of the Christmas holiday tradition in Croatia, Hungary and some other parts of Europe who have been planting wheat at this time of the year in honor of St. Lucia. More than just blessings and prosperity, a sheath of wheat symbolizes new life, growth and resurrection.

I never knew this before until I saw my husband planting wheat on a clay plate for the first time- I was awestruck. Since I come from Asia, where countries prefer rice than bread, wheat is not a common plant to see (not until recently as they’re promoting wheat grass as a nutritional drink in Malaysia and Philippines.)

As I gapingly watched my husband embedded the clay plate with pieces of cotton, (yes, not soil but damped cotton) before he sprinkled wheat seeds on top, my stupefied face looked like a 3 year old girl’s first time experience to see how icing is spread on a cake with unblinking eyes.

Few days after the planting ceremony that includes making sure the cotton is damped all the time, keeping them at room temperature and exposing the wheat with sufficient light needed-lo and behold, fresh apple green colored grass started to germinate.

I didn’t know how I was supposed to react over a natural plant growth sequence- you plant then ofcourse it will grow. So what’s the big deal?

My husband gingerly said, “Congratulations, lovi, your wheat grew just right before Christmas Eve.” At the back of my mind I was like, “Ok so what?” But after my husband told me about the significance of the growth spurt on Christmas Eve – he explains that the noticeable increase of height of the grass bespeaks of how fruitful and progressive my life would be next year.

Then that was when I started to literally jump and cheered a resounding “yehey, yes! yes! and yes!” I admit -my over reaction was more like the wheat predicted that I’d be winning lottery next year (ok that’s quite an exaggeration but you’ll never know.)
However, if you want to see a dramatic growth before the big day, make the most out of your nurturing skills few days before the 24th. Ok I know that’s partly cheating but well…ok erase that part.

Just hope against hope that you’ll see a growth spurt before Christmas Eve. And you'll be all set for the coming year.

Everyone is excitingly looking forward to the breaking of a new year on Friday. With full anticipation of blessings, prosperity, good luck, positive energy and perfect alignment of stars on your favor, we somehow plant wheat inside our hearts to embrace a new life for a new year with fervor.

I wish everyone especially my faithful blog readers abundant blessings, Christ centered and a wheat filled life for 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Christmas Past, Present and Future.

Few days away from today, a new year is about to begin. As I mull over how each day of my 2010 went by,I can’t help but be amazed how time flies so fast that I didn’t even realize the brisk ticking of time as the new year approaches.

I don’t know how your year unfolded- but mine was chock full of blessings, challenges, unexpected trips, opportunities, struggles, decision makings, dilemma, compromises, lost of a loved one and yet a birth of a new life. The first half of this year sailed on steadily without hassles. However, I had no inkling that the second half of the year would have spun around to its opposite direction.

An unanticipated and unwelcomed visitor in my life- a familiar name, called anemia happened sometime in June that inextricably scared the living daylights out of me. My first time with blood transfusion made me wonder for a second what was wrong with my body which I thought was well pampered with vitamins, exercise and good food.

But since I am a feisty fighter, I mustered the strength to literally stand on my feet the next day and begged those red blood cells to reproduce some more. And so they did. Though, I still looked pallid like half-beaten by a vampire towards the end of June but I considered myself lucky enough to have looked that way than appearing like a character in The Twilight Saga.

Gradually my determination to get well paid off. And a holiday trip with my husband to the Philippines spruced up my summer 2010. After the amazing time with my family, we went back to Croatia and went through the old grind-work, home and weekend activities.

Just a month after, a startling phone call turned my life upside down. Mom was in a critical condition due to a massive brain stroke. I was overwrought. Distressed. My body juddered incessantly. At that very moment, I was wishing that it was just a bad dream.

But it wasn’t.

I flew out of Croatia immediately and upon arriving to Manila, I dashed to the hospital directly from the airport. It wasn’t a pleasant sight to see your mother plugged to machines, shaved head and recuperating from craniotomy.

My faith barometer worked overtime. I prayed for healing miracles to God every single day in a span of a month while mom was in St.Luke’s Hospital Global City. Blessedly, she was checked out on a significant date, November 1, 2010, her birthday. What could be a better birthday gift than that, isn’t it?

God is indeed so good.

My mom went through stages that beckoned signs of recovery. It was overwhelming to see her milestones of improvements.
I had peace in my heart knowing that she was being taken care of by my overzealous sisters Reina, Mai and Chip, who are naturally gifted with nurturing spirits. Brenda my other sister’s impeccable financial management prowess and my brothers’ knack for logistics details made me a firm believer of the saying “There’s always good in bad.”

Clearly, this predicament made us gleamed in a dark situation such as this not only as an individual but as team players- we did our best we could to see our mom back the way she was before.

Surprisingly, three weeks later, God showed us a different route to my mom’s happiness. He took her with Him to heaven where she laid resting comfortably in His bosom. God shared to us a wonderful and a loving mother, our first teacher who touched the lives not only of my family members but a whole lot of people whom she had helped before.

Leaving behind my Christmas past in 2010 is not all about completely forgetting it. But clinging on dearly to the sweet and bitter memories of the past year inspire me as I make first bold steps towards my emotional healing in my Christmas present. What my Christmas future holds? Honestly, I don’t know.
I’m as clueless as you are with yours.

But I believe that every cloud has a silver lining. And from where I’m standing, I can already spot a blinding glint radiantly illuminating from afar.

Have a Blessed Christmas and a Prosperous 2011, Everyone!

Special Note:

On behalf of my family, I am thanking the members of Neurology Department of St.Luke’s Hospital, Global City, Manila, Philippines headed by Dr. Roy Torcuator, Dr. Vince De Guzman and other members of his team who put a new meaning to excellent medical service.

To all members of the professional nursing team at Critical Care Unit and 7th floor particularly Nurses Kim and Randy, you guys are modern day angels. Your care went over and beyond the call of nursing duty. Thank you for making my mom’s life joyful and comfortable while she was there. The surprised early morning birthday greetings, flowers and balloons from all of you surely made her last birthday a day to remember.

Thank you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tis the Season To Be Jolly

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly fa la la la la la la la” Do you like that one too? When I was a young girl, whenever I heard that Christmas carol, I had always been curious how boughs of holly looked like. All I knew before was that we used to scrunch pieces of paper into small marble sizes and wrapped them with red crepe papers that we wired to green spiked edged elliptic shaped paper leaves-and voila, we had an instant holly plant for Christmas d├ęcor in a tropical country.

That wasn’t hard. You can try that yourself especially for children’s art activities.

But ever since I moved to a place where temperatures go below zero, it’s a great relief that during Christmas, I save my fingers from crumpling pieces of newspapers and few bucks for red crepe papers since holly plants here are real.

And they look absolutely gorgeous!

As I got enthralled not only with the Christmassy tune of the song, but with the endearing Holly plant as well, I went few steps further than just admiring a pot of Holly shrub that I bought from a plant nursery- I researched more about them.

And here’s what I found out.

According to a site called, the Holly plant’s evergreen nature made it so special during Christmas. The Druids of the Celtic Society used Holly for head dresses while brandishing the beauty of red berries on their heads since they represented the sacred blood of their goddess.

During the Roman period, they used Holly to decorate their houses as it symbolized kindness and friendship. In fact, the pagans during this period left Holly plant outside their homes because of their belief that fairies sought Holly Shrubs as shelter during the cold temperature of winter. (Now, since I’ve got a pot in my balcony, I’m expecting a slew of Tinkerbells to fly around at night.)

For Christians, holly became a symbol of Christmas with its sharp edged leaves that bespeak of Christ’s thorns and red berries for His precious blood. In essence, holly represents peace, joy, friendship and good cheer.
Now that we know that there’s more to holly’s beauty than meets the eye, next time, you’re buying Christmas plants, don’t just pick poinsettias- grab a pot of holly too.

Holly plant is more than just a bunch of sparkling dark red berries sprucing up our balconies or end corner of the living room. With its real meaning, it awakens us to open our hearts and homes to the needy during this time of the year.

Let me assure you that not only that holly’s sparkling glory can make you smile in a cold winter morning, but these little bright red balls with evergreen leaves can also make you sing fa la la la la la la.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am Thankful For....

Meister Eckhart a German Philosopher said that” If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough.”

Often times, we forget to say thank you not only to people who go out of their way to extend help to us but to our God who never misses a day sending bountiful blessings.

Though I’m still grieving for the death of my beloved mom, but tomorrow’s thanksgiving is a perfect time for me to give thanks to God to have known such an endearing soul, an admirable woman, a dedicated teacher, a loving wife and a selfless mother.

More than anything else, I thank the Lord for giving me an amazing three weeks to be with my mother at the hospital before she passed away last Monday. The time I spent with her-sharing stories, staying at her bedside and watching her sleep was one of the memorable moments that I’d treasure for the rest of my life.

She left the world with peace in her soul and happiness in her heart knowing that we, her children loved her more than she had ever known. But the peerless love of a mother is unconditional and unmatched.

And this is what I am thankful for.

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Faith Self Check Test

Is there a way we can measure our faith? Don’t you just wish that there’s a yardstick-of some kind like a Faith Self Check Test gadget similar to home pregnancy test that you can buy over the counter that can give you signals where your faith stands?

Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see numerical indicators such as 5- most stable; 4- very strong and stable; 3- average; 2 -below average and wavering and 1- lack of faith on a Faith Self Check Scale?
Imagine this, if you want to know your latest faith score, it’s simple, just put your thumb onto it, then it will outright tell you “Congratulations, your faith today is 5- most stable”. On the other hand, it may be dreading to see a blinking red light with a high pitch beeping tone that complements a screen message saying “Warning, your faith today is 2- below average,sorry.”

Unfortunately, no matter how high tech it may sound, the truth is, it doesn’t work that way. The real measurement of our faith can not be quantified in any form even if assumingly there’s an existing faith self check test gadget. Our faith is put to a test NOT when life is smooth sailing and devoid of any problems. But, when things go wrong in our lives, that’s when we usually cling to our faith.
If you come to think of it, truthfully, how often do we knock on heaven’s door pushing our prayers in when our marriage is at its best or our careers at its peak or during moments when we enjoy living in luxury.
Realistically, what usually happens is that we only come to Him during times when we need Him.

Recently, God shook my faith up in a very special way. Three weeks ago, a horrifying news about mom’s serious condition reached me. My mother had a massive right brain attack. She got operated and stayed at the Neuro Critical Care Unit.
I hurriedly packed my bags and flew more than six thousand miles away while being on pins and needles. The thought of what I was going to see at the hospital petrified me.

My imagination ran wild of the worse case scenario during my 20 hour flight. As soon as I entered the room, my blood ran cold when I saw my mom’s shaved head with dark black stitches on the left side of the head, tubes plugged in her nose and mouth (NGT and respirator.) Her eyes barely opened, left side of the body is paralyzed and worse, her voice was hardly audible with common stroke patient’s slur.
I broke out in cold sweat as I uttered my first greetings “Mom it’s me. I’m home now.” I knew she was listening to my voice even if her eyes were closed. I saw an indescribable peace on her face.

Spending two weeks watching mom attending to her personal needs at the Neuro Critical Care Unit was like struggling in a boot camp. No chance to relax or to doze off since her machines kept on beeping one after another. And once it set off (on an average three times a day), I always got jolted from deep slumber-woke up disoriented, nervous and terrified that I might suddenly witness a Grey’s Anatomy's patient resuscitating scenes.

In other words, aside from deep dark eye circles, a spaced- out - blank stares of a sleep deprived person did not only make me looked like a living zombie but a certified boot camp survivor. Well at least, it’s never too late to discover something new about oneself.

At the end of the 2nd week at the Neuro Critical Care Unit, we were anxiously anticipating for the extubation, the removal of the endotracheal tube from the larynx. My siblings and I prayed as hard as we could for the success of the process since doctors forewarned us that in the event that extubation won’t work, they’d be forced to perform a tracheostomy a procedure that involves opening a hole into the trachea with a tube. Blessedly, mom successfully got away sans tracheostomy. Thank God!
As soon as docs were sure that she was out of the woods, she was transferred straight away in a regular room. That was when my heart was put in place. While in the room, mom slowly showed eye opening, started uttering phrases and sentences (still with a slur though) but sounding a little bit clearer than before.
Aggressive therapies especially with Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy pushed her to put a little effort to move the right part of her body since therapists are still working on the left- the paralyzed side.

It’s amazing how God puts His hand to heal the damaged part of her body slowly but surely. He led us to take mom to the right hospital where He wanted us to be. He anointed the hands of the medical doctors and nursing staff who not only displayed professionalism par excellence but genuinely showed tender loving care on top of everything.

Though mom’s still needs a complete therapy work out and a great deal of time to heal. For sure, she’ll be sitting on a wheelchair for quite some time, but certainly not forever. My mom’s spirit was not crashed but renewed. Her faith soars like an eagle reaching sky high inspite of her condition.

I was humbled and blessed by her unwavering faith. Tomorrow, November 1st, is her 75th birthday. Finally, doctors scheduled her to be discharged from the hospital- a precious gift as the beginning of a new life.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Promise of a Rainbow

Something good happened in my life these past few days. My mom was able to grip doctor’s hand during a post-operation test and was able to write words on a piece of paper in her attempt to communicate- a break though that instead of making me jump off my seat made me cry a bucket of tears.

Last Sunday, I was awaken up with a text message from my sister that my mom was being rushed to a hospital due to a suspected stroke. I blinked several times to re-read the message wishing it was a part of my dream. But as I immediately picked up the phone and spoke to my sister, I could hear a cacophony of ambulance’s high pitch siren and panic stricken human voices on the background. I struggled to hear my sister’s voice to confirm that it wasn’t a dream. And yes, I was awake. It was for real.

Mom had a massive brain stroke. As I was told, the blood clot on her right brain left her left side of the body paralyzed and unable to control drooling which makes swallowing a tedious task for her. Few days ago, she had a brain surgery to drain the blood clot and was sedated for three days to give her worn out 74 year old body to rest while attached to a respirator.

This week was just like a whirlpool-everything span so swiftly and I didn’t even have the time to sigh and rethink what went along the way. In a matter of days, I was able to file a leave of absence from work, coordinate with boss and co-teachers about work that I’ll be leaving behind for 3 weeks; went to the bank and book a flight back home.

I can vividly remember that two Sundays ago, we were on the phone talking about her forthcoming trip to Singapore with my siblings. Boy, she was so excited. I could feel her beaming on the other side of the line. She sounded like a child going to a field trip for the first time. And it made me feel so content to hear her ecstatic towards a trip that she has been dreaming about. Though it’s not her first time in Singapore, but the thought of flying gives her a sudden adrenalin rush. Hearing her laughter on the phone while I’m six thousand miles away from home is indescribable. It still reverberates in mind as I think about her.

Now with my mom’s unimaginable situation, and where she is at the moment, it makes me ponder how we’re dependent on God’s grace holding on to see a glimmer of hope and a promise of a rainbow as signs of assurance that everything is going to be all right. True enough, God is at work all the time. He makes miracles in small mysterious ways. We only have to direct our eyes and look for God’s clues that say “Hey, go and look. I sent these from heaven for you.”

Blessedly, I spotted off hand that good wishes and strong prayer support from online and personal friends, encouragements from colleagues at work and solid family members taking care of mom in earnest are angels sent from heaven.

In a book, The Alchemist, it says “When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.” Today, I got a news from my sister that mom was able to write “I love my children very very much” using her right hand. If that isn’t good enough for a news, I don’t know what else is. How about you? Did you look closer enough for God’s blessing in your life today?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Turn your Tropical Island Trip Upside Down

My family name clearly doesn’t sound Spanish or much less a native Filipino surname. Since I’m carrying my husband’s Croatian surname with a soft ch represented by an accented c on top of the letter, my Filipino friends and even immigration officers show fondness in pronouncing my strange married name. After all those aaahhh-so-that’s-how-you-pronounce-it reactions, I somehow nurture a funny feeling of false joy with the fact that I’ve given a tongue twisting challenge to curious readers of my foreign sounding name.

As a Filipino, who travels to the Philippines yearly for my summer holiday, the pride to showcase my country’s national traditions, uniqueness of culture, picturesque places, people’s warm heartedness and hospitality made me feel like an Oscar multi-awarded actor brandishing a shelf full of Oscar statues in my own home.

More than all of these, the most interesting part of my husband’s tourism adventure was to have a feel of the rhythm of life in a tropical country. His excitement and enthusiasm to travel six thousand miles away from home to discover an interesting place in Asia was my motivating factor to book my trip six months in advance and to endure the bureaucratic tra-la-la that goes together with fixing of my traveling papers three months before August departure date.

Although my initial goal was to give him a meaningful first hand experience from riding tricycle, malling ( at the Mall of Asia which is ten times the size of a regular mall in Croatia, seriously), trekking in Tagaytay, revisiting history in Intramuros and bar hopping at night to keep his Manila schedule full. But the hype about Boracay's beauty and splendor proved to be more irresistible than experiencing the horrendous Manila traffic.

Thanks to My Cheap Travel, my professional and reliable travel agents who worked with our itinerary and other travel needs in a breeze (

Boracay, a famous tourist destination is located in the Northwest of Panay Island in Western Visayas region of the Philippines. It takes a one and a half hour plane ride from Manila via Kalibo then continues to a one and half bus ride to Caticlan where you can enjoy the panoramic view and a whiff of fire wood scent typical in a rural Filipino town.

Once you reach the port in Caticlan, the highlight of your adventure will amaze you with an exciting fifteen minute boat ride that gives you the first adrenalin rush of the day. As you get closer to the place, you'll understand why Boracay is a top choice by local and foreign tourists.

On the way to the airport, as we rushed to catch up our early morning flight, we hailed a cab and boy, we're glad that the cab driver didn't contract us for a fixed rate. He used a meter. Yey! But at the airport, I thought I spoke too soon. He suddenly blurted,"
Can you please add some more to the total amount of 150 pesos?" I gaped as I handed him 200 pesos. Do I have a choice but to let him keep the change since catching our flight in a jiffy was more important than to get a 50 pesos change back, right?

Thankfully, we hopped on the plane and went through the nine seater van tough ride on a curvy rocky road plus traditional banca boat splashing adventure before our eyes gazed through the majestic beauty of the island. Sugar powder like white sand, countless coconuts swaying, sky blue sea water beckoned and welcomed us – a little short of saying, enjoy your stay.

It's true. The place has a distinct character like an x factor that you can't simply describe. It's totally captivating. No wonder why a slew of foreigners mostly Europeans decided to settle in Boracay for good.

But hold your horses, for visiting tourists, not all that glitters in Boracay is gold. Or should I say everything you touch in Boracay is gold and pricy. Everytime I strolled with my Caucasian husband in tow, few yards away, a flock of fake watch vendors, water sports agents, locals offering massages, manicure, hair braiding and henna tattoos swarmed and incessantly hard sold us with their services.

So since we stayed for 4 days and 3 nights, and we sashayed on the main pathway on a single day for 10 times, we were also approached with "wanna ride banana boat mam, sir?" 10 times. Same faces, same sales pitch and same questions. If we only had known that low season means more aggressive vendors, we could have worn a shirt that says " No- thank- you. Please- leave- me- alone" shirt print.

But hey, vendors just wanted to earn money. And we wanted rest, peace and quiet and also get our money's worth as vacationists. After all, this was exactly the reason why we crossed continent- to have a taste of a tropical island paradise vacation.

Virtually, prices in the island also vary depending on who's asking. When I asked for a pair of earrings, one night, I was told it was less than 100 Pesos. Then the next morning my husband and I asked again and it suddenly increased to 150 pesos. Ok my eyebrows raised with 150 pesos and so was my blood pressure .

That night, we swung by and lo and behold- the price was right this time, 85 pesos. Thank God for small mercies. But if you want to know the secret- I asked my Caucasian husband not to stay with me while I was buying. If you're married to a foreigner, do this trick and you'll definitely get a good deal. My friend once shared that her Filipino husband, being the chinky eyed fair complexion was mistaken for Japanese. And voila, his price of shirt was different than hers. His was higher and hers was on a regular price, ofcourse.

Inspite of Boracay Island's glaring metamorphosis from an erstwhile quiet island paradise known for its array of homey coconut cottages now turned into to a highly commercialized island with a cluster of five star hotels by the beach, still has its natural charm bonded by its x factor.

Braving the challenges of travelling especially with a Caucasian foreigner in Southeast Asia is inevitable and quite unexpected as a sudden downpour on a hot sunny day. At least now I know. Unpleasant eye-opening travel experiences can happen anytime anywhere- not only limited to Southeast Asia. Take this type of experience with a grain of salt. Let it not hinder you to pursue your next trip at the same place again. On the contrary, it should make you bolder, wiser and learn to bargain for something. If anything else, at least you get to brush up your skills in the art of negotiation.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A View From The Top

This may not look like an ideal landscape view for a commercial poster or calendar pictures. But this sight is a view from the balcony of my work place where I usually take a short breather after a hard day's work with the kids. Amazing. Enchanting especially when you see this unfolds in four different seasons. Gazing at this picturesque scene in the afternoon does not only rejuvenate my energies but I feel that its refreshing effect gleams on my face every now and then.

They say that when the going gets tough the tough gets going. And in order to get going, I guess the survivor instinct in us tells us to hold on even to frivolous activity that can possibly release your stress, tension and anxiety through the day. Five to fifteen minutes of distraction from stressful situations can go a long way. Whatever works.May it be playing Farmville, reading messages on FB, polishing your nails, or in my case basking in the afternoon sun at the balcony with this gorgeous canvass right infront of my eyes is more reinvigorating than a short nap. I don't know if it's about the view or is it about giving yourself the gift of solitude

Whatever it is, thank heavens for small mercies.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm In The League

Am I scared of the big 5-0? Well…uhmmm aahhmmm…still contemplating.
Seriously, I hope that nobody would ask that. As you can see, I can't even reply a simple yes or no to a simple question.

The truth is, I'm not just scared but terrified of the big 5-0.

Long time ago, when we say you were turning 50, you were expected to look matronly like, more sophisticated in taste and style of dressing,refined choice of jewelries and must be at the peak of your career and laying the grounds for retirement at 60. In other words, reaching the big 50 before means- fun is over, baby. That's the old picture of a 50 year old woman years ago.

However, in this day and age, images and lifestyles of women have evolved gradually and gracefully. When we think of matured women along the late 40s and pushing 50s, we can now visualize a Demi Moore and Madonna look alike with voluptuous body and toned biceps donning a mini-skirt strutting arm in arm with their dates 10 years their junior.

Now this is when I wish I'm 50.

Thankfully gone are the days when people would give a rocking chair, a crochet thread and hook as presents to a woman of 50. (God forgive me if I'll get that on my 50th birthday. I think hell will break lose.)

I'm lucky that I belong to this generation when growing older- ouch! that hurts.
Ok let's sugarcoat this. I mean growing more matured bespeak of embracing more life's adventures without fear, taking risks without holding back and making giant leaps brazenly in the next stages of life. And if this is so,then what's there not to be proud about being a golden girl?

Oh, but for the record, I just turned 48 today. Two years from now, I will officially be a golden girl. And when that time comes, I think the first thing I'll do is to utter a Samantha Jones dialogue of "Who cares what you are, just enjoy it. Or I will wear whatever and blow whomever I want as long as I can breathe and kneel".

But for now, I'll enjoy being 48 and think about 50 when I get there.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bitten by a Vampire

Yes, I was. Keep those eyebrows down. Ok, not really… I look like I just had a date with Lestat de Lioncourt, (the French nobleman turned into a vampire in Anne Rice's Interview with a vampire) who had a feast on my neck after starving himself for two weeks.

Pallid. Dizzy.Weak. Shortness of Breath. All of these started on Monday evening.

It was kinda odd why I've been longing for intermittent rest after every activity. I know myself since I've been indulging into physical strenuous activities since September especially after I stopped the disgusting smoking habit. My stamina doing badminton, brisk walking, running, samba and weight training has grown by leaps and bounds. So there's no way that I'll experience shortness of breath just by climbing the school's plight of stairs.

However, last Monday evening, as I was pounding my keyboards, I felt a certain light headedness, weakness and almost turned the palms of my hands including my face as white as paper with my arms and legs numbed. Ok I rationalized or fooled myself a little that maybe it was over-fatigued. I slept over it- hoping that it would be better the next day.

But Tuesday, got worse.

I went to school without my usual perky, vibrant mood ( not intentionally though) and told the kids that "Teacher Joy is a little bit sick. Let's play nicely and go easy on me today..." In other words-no shouting, no rough playing and do what you're told by your teacher!" And that solved the problem.

However, I continued to feel weaker like a burning candle losing its flame. And more pallid too- a transformation from a run-of-the-mill computer white paper to the whitest of the white A4.

Quite disturbing, huh? I thought so too.

So right after work, my husband brought me to ER to find out what's going on. A neurologist first ruled out any signs of brain injury or nerve related issues that caused my dizzy spells. After doing a similar to sobriety test (walking on straight line and do what I do) and look-where-my-finger goes kind of examination, she said everything is alright.

Until the result of my complete blood test results sprang up the monitor and voila, my red blood count is low/ my white blood cells are higher than normal.

In other words, anemia! Now, that kind of put my heart in place why I've been feeling this way. I'm still clueless why this happened but later today, my dear husband and I will continue the ER saga to hear what the gynecologist and internist will have to say.

In the meantime, I'm hunting for Buffy, the vampire slayer to help me finish off the throngs of vampires on earth- I can't be a vampire victim for so long.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Who Needs a Doctor, When You Have a Mother

"Mother, mother I am sick, call the doctor very quick." Remember this old time favorite children's rhyme? Whoever composed this three liner rhyme didn't write the word, mother on the first line by mistake. The children's writer knew in his heart that the first person any child would call in times of trouble is his mother.

From babies to adults, we all feel much better whenever we get mom's sweet words of assurance that "everything is going to be alright" whatever predicament we're in-break up of relationship, financial loss, career failure, passed over for a promotion or even as minute as a loosened button on your favorite blouse, there goes mom. Call her and she's the solution to everything akin to a one-stop shop open 24/7.

You need an accessory to match with your dress? She has it. An instant baby sitter for your baby-she'll do it without hesitation. You miss something on your chocolate mousse cake recipe? She'll tell you not only what's missing but the secret ingredient that you should know to make it the most special chocolate mousse cake ever. When you need to vent out your woes and blues, a tete- a- tete with mom over a soothing cup of tea makes miracle wonders.

Good moms are heaven- sent- angels that are just right behind us waiting for our call. Sometimes, they don't need to be called. They jump in spontaneously when they feel needed. You don't even have to utter a word. They know it. They're moms, remember?

Who needs a doctor, when you have a mother?

When I asked my preschool kids what is mother's day? One Chinese girl who's just learning English retorted "Teacher, Mother's Day is Happy New Year to Mommy." Clearly, New Year's Day is a grandiose celebration for Chinese. And by that she meant "Mother's Day is about celebrating mothers. And indeed…it is.

Happy Mother's Day to you mom and to all moms in the world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Good Gardener

No, I'm not. Not even close to somebody with a green thumb. As a matter of fact, it's more like I have a black thumb. Withered and dried plants were all what you could see in my small little garden that ended up in the trash after experiencing a slow death even before and after winter.

My husband even called it more of a graveyard than a garden. So to refute his correct impression of a graveyard, I pushed all those pots with dead plants surreptitiously in a corner and covered them with small sacks of dirt on top. Few days after I replanted the pots with new fresh flowering plants then it looked like nothing had happened. Voila! Who would say that I don’t have green thumb. No trace that I couldn't keep plants alive for a long time. Ok that dodge was just my desperate last ditch effort to save my bruised ego and my little garden.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any of my late father’s magic touch with plants. I remembered how he would rub egg white on the leaves of each plant to make them look fresh and shiny.
He used to grow all sorts of plants from vegetables to flowering ornamental plants and the funny part was that even plastic plants looked real with his care.

Plant needs caring and nurturing hands. I know I'm gifted in that area but apparently not with plants- more with children. But everything can be learned. Soon I can call myself a good gardener. It might take awhile though. Who cares!

In the meantime, I'm basking in the glory and beauty of spring flowers. An Australian writer, Germain Greer once put it "A garden is the best alternative therapy."

And yes, I happen to agree with her.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Finally, winter is over. Aren't you glad that those struggles with icy roads, freezing sub-zero temperature and breath vapor mornings are no longer here? Now it's more like rainy days, chilly mornings, wet sleeky roads, gloomy skies-not my ideal kind of weather but are definitely far better off than the harsh freezing winter months this year.

Spring is in.

In as much as I have always been an admirer of the raving beauty of spring, I know that many people frown on the flaws of it. But hey, don't forget to count your blessings. Fresh canary yellow daffodils and colorful hues of tulips peeking in the neighborhood garden with pale pink cherry blossoms and immaculate white flowers of plum trees complementing birds' melodious chirping on a warm sunny weather- how priceless is that? Don't they just remind you that life offers us more than what we bargained for?
Well, it does to me.

Spring always give us promises that we are oblivious of such as a new hope and bright blessings to spruce up our lives for the rest of the year. It always give us an overwhelming assurance that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow-a prize that we should look forward to at the end of our personal journey and battles.

Sometimes, we may feel downhearted over a career failure, lost of a loved one, broken relationship, financial difficulties or a wrong turn in life's direction.
Here's the good news, it doesn't matter what we bear at the moment. There is someone up there who knows what you're going through. He will finish what He has started in you. And that's His promise.

Just like spring weather, even if it drenches us with occasional heavy rain and covers our days with thick dark clouds, don't fret! There will always be patches of sunlight that will provide a sliver of comfort and cheer for us to get by for the time being until the radiant beauty of the glorious sun unfolds full blast in summer.

Keep your faith in Him. Spring symbolizes a promise of a new beginning...a new hope and a new life.

Enjoy the beauty of spring!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Waiting for Groundhogs

Every first week of February where winter seems to be losing its grip, we make it a point to share an amusing American folklore to children at school-The Groundhog Day.

These rodents, members of the squirrel family are a spectacular sight during the 2nd of February in Pennsylvania. People queue up to witness the groundhogs' final verdict whether winter will stay longer or will be over soon. And how do they know? As soon as they get out of their burrows and won't see their shadows, this indicates that winter days are numbered. However, if result is otherwise, then there will still be 6 more weeks of bitter cold winter.

Today, I went to a mall. No amount of icy rain with snow could stop me from taking advantage of the 50-70% discounts on almost all items at the stores. All stores want to get rid of their winter items. Isn't that a good sign? Not only that it's a heaven sent signal to women to grab the discount opportunity to keep a stack of new winter clothes for next year, but hey, winter items are going and soon will be gone.

This bespeaks, that in the next two weeks, we'll see more spring items, more greenish motif on store window dressing, longer days ( though not necessarily brighter) but at least more light than heavy winter gloom. Hopefully, above zero warmer temperature will soon follow.

Before we know it, it's already Spring! Personally, I'm not a big fan of groundhogs. I don't even know if I've seen one here in Croatia but goggling the results of this spectacle in Pennsylvania if they will see their shadow or not after February 2 is always a part of my to-do-list.

I can't wait to see if I'm keeping all my thick furry jackets and snow boots away or should I buy more of winter stuff for the next six weeks.

We'll see. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Helping Your Child Get Back On Track

To all parents, teachers and child advocates out there!

Here's something that you may find useful before your child goes back to school soon.
This article was published on American Chronicle.

Helping Your Child Get Back on Track
Joy Avelino-Filipovic
January 05, 2010

Now that the holiday season frenzy is over, after getting yourself ginger up with home decoration, shopping, cooking, planning your family winter skiing holiday, the next thing that you wouldn't even dare to think about is to go back to the old grind, isn't it?

The thought of coming back to a desk with high pile of papers, driving your kids back to school in an early morning traffic rush and beating deadlines at the office are not only akin to being visited by your Christmas past but thoughts that you wouldn't even want to muse about in the midst of your relaxed family bonding this holiday season. Adults are not the only ones feeling the jitters of the first week back to the old routine mode.

Your child feels the same way too.

This is why some children sometimes revert to the adjustment period stage exhibiting episodes of crying, whining, temper tantrums and clinging when they go back to school. Children spent three long weeks or even more with parents at home during the holiday break. From the first day of their Christmas vacation ending to its last day, children have adapted new set of I-can-do-what-I-want-to-do-at-home routine. This includes, staying up late, frequent play dates, watching late night TV shows or DVD, skipping afternoon naps, getting up at ten, tagging along with mom on a shopping spree and other similar free wheeling activities.

Now that classes have just started or perhaps to some are about to start next week, getting back your child on track may be an onerous attempt like pulling a tugboat with bare hands. To make your home-school transition in a smooth fashion, here are a few tips that can make wonders and less stressful for you in dealing with your child's post holiday struggles.

1. Psych Up Your Child Gradually. Inform your child that holiday season will be over after the New Year. Thereby, he'll be going back to school and doing the same old routine of getting up early and being picked up in the afternoon just like before Christmas. Whether your child understands the concept or not, it doesn't matter as long as you made him informed and reminded about the series of events that will come his way soon.

2.Establish the Old Routine Few Days After Christmas: It doesn't matter whether it's few days after Christmas or few days after the New Year for as long as you start putting your child to bed early-instead of ten in the evening, try nine then move down to eight ( if that was his ideal bedtime.) Slowly, his body gets to be readjusted to new habits gradually and will get accustomed to it before he goes back to school. By the same token, if waking up your child early could post as a problem, try getting him up the usual time he wakes up before he goes to school. Remember that the earlier you put him to bed, the more chances he gets the ample 8 hour sleep.

3. Do Your Bedtime Story Earlier: If your child can't sleep without your mom-child-story-bonding-time, then adjust your bedtime story earlier. This would entail an early adjustment of your household routine such as making dinner, tidying up the kitchen and putting on his pajamas then accentuate the end of the day with a bedtime story before tucking him into bed.

4. Control Late Night TV Viewing: Say goodbye to late night cartoons, DVDs or computer games. Staring on the TV screen or computer monitors for a long time has harmful effects on children. According to Dr. Sigman, a psychologist who studied on the effects of television watching on children, "Excessive TV viewing may cause physical, cognitive and educational damage later on."Ergo, limit your child's TV viewing in the afternoon for one to two hours. Don't deprive him of his pleasure to watch instead monitor TV watching strictly.

5. Start Doing School Work Piece by Piece: Some schools give homework or essays about a recount of their Christmas holidays. Some don't. If your child's school sent some homework, you may start doing it one piece at a time. There's no point in putting pressure on the child to accomplish everything all in one go. Few days after Christmas or New Year are still part of their holiday.

So, let your child set one foot in winter wonderland and the other foot in the school door.The point being here is to make them do their homework on a scheduled time consistently while enjoying the rest of the holiday season. Whether answering pages of workbooks, writing essays, book reports or coloring pages, as long as these tasks are done while on vacation religiously-at least for an hour, you'll see that redirecting your child's mind to go back to school won't be a Herculean task after all.

6. Prep Him Up The Night Before:Don't forget to give your child a plethora of encouragement anchored to the idea that school is fun. Cheer him up with the assurance that his classmates and favorite teachers are there waiting for him. You may entice him to tell his friends at school about his wonderful holiday skiing trip, memorable time with grandparents, presents he got from Santa or the tallest snowman he ever built. Providing a feeling of excitement to your child a night before the first day of school after the holiday break will evoke a more positive disposition which consequently will make your child look forward to go to school.

Spending the holiday season is such an invigorating respite from the endless humdrum of daily work-home routine schedule. The sad thing is, in as much as you would wish that the alignment of stars will be in your favor bringing no end to those blissful moments of vacation, you'll always reach your vacation's last day, no matter what. In this case, you might as well get yourself armed to the teeth and accept the fact that holiday is over.

That's when reality bites.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Ten seconds before the clock turns to twelve midnight was the last few seconds
of the lives we left behind in 2009. Today, the first day of January 2010 is a new beginning .

Sticking- post –it- notes of New Year's resolution list on our computer monitors, sporting a 2010 new look and realigning priorities for the next twelve months are most likely what we set our minds to do. As each day passes by, we may falter or revert to our old habits and ways.

But each day is a new day. And nobody stops us to redo what we committed to change all over again.

Let's all start this year bustling with a mind filled with optimism, new aspirations, hopes, promises and dreams for this year.

Welcome to 2010!