Typhoon Haiyan

To those of you who have already made efforts to help, thank you. I know first-hand how impoverished much of the Philippines is. A disaster such as this typhoon would cause massive destruction anywhere, even cities or regions with strong infrastructures, so I can only imagine the damage and destruction that has been left in category 5 Haiyan’s wake. A Reuters report states that “the storm lashed the islands of Leyte and Samar with 275-kph wind gusts and 5-6 meter (15-19 ft) waves on Friday.” An estimated nine million people have been affected by this super storm.

Please remember, cash is the best thing to donate after a disaster, not canned good, old shoes, or teddy bears. Relief efforts need to concentrate on helping people in need, not in sorting through donations. Please consider making a donation through one of the organizations listed below (just a few of the legitimate organizations participating in relief efforts).

I could post pictures of the people, but choosing just a few doesn’t seem to begin to cover it. For many stories on the people and what is being done, here is a link. The following aerial images show you what is left after the typhoon hit:

Typhoon Haiyan’s impact revealed in before-and-after satellite images By NBC News

                   

From Yahoo:

With reports of more than 10,000 estimated casualties, and an excess of 9 million people affected, Typhoon Haiyan is one of the most devastating storms ever to make landfall.

With the Red Cross and other agencies saying they expect the number of casualties and total damage from the storm to soar, there are many organizations stepping up to provide relief to the victims and families of Haiyan.

Here are just some of them:

American Red Cross: Sent support specialists to help the hardest hit areas.

Direct Relief International: Direct Relief is collaborating with its partner on the ground, Asia America Initiative (AAI), to coordinate the delivery of needed medical aid, which is expected to arrive in the Philippines capital, Manila, early next week.  The donation contains antibiotics, pain relievers, nutritional supplements, anti-fungal medications, wound dressings, and chronic disease medicines.

Global Giving: Initially, the fund will help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, this fund will transition to support longer-term Haiyan recovery efforts run by local, vetted Filipino organizations.

Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps is launching immediate relief efforts after one of the strongest storms in recorded history devastates the Philippines.

Oxfam: Oxfam rapid assessment teams are poised to provide emergency supplies and shelter in parts of the Philippines hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

ShelterBox: Donations designated toward ShelterBox’s Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts will be used to supply the most vital equipment needed and will not be assigned box tracking numbers. Each ShelterBox supplies an extended family with a tent and essential equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless.

UNICEF: UNICEF is working to provide safe water, hygiene supplies, food, shelter and a safe environment to recover.

World Food Programme: WFP is mobilizing quickly to reach those in need. Please make a donation now to provide emergency food assistance to families and children.

Or, check out check out Charity Navigator or GuideStar. These are two websites that are extremely useful tools in finding out where your dollars will be stretched the furthest in relief aid.

                   

The Ten Worst Things to Donate after a Disaster:

10. Used Clothing

9. Shoes

8. Blankets

7. Teddy Bears

6. Medicine

5. Pet Supplies

4. Mixed Items

3. Canned Food and Bottled Water

2. Your Unsolicited Help

1. Money to the Wrong People

If anyone knows of any links that might be useful to add to this post, please let me know.

“Anyway this is just a note to tell you I’m in a new shell or an old one, like a hermit crab and the ink is now out of two of my pens and this is the last one. I have no more ink in the house tonight. I’ll keep you posted.” ~ John Steinbeck, in a letter to Pascal Covici, September 1948

Sibutu Island, Tawi-Tawi, Philippines* 

“Dreams are the unfinished wings of our souls.” ~ Simon Van Booy, The Secret Lives of People in Love

Tuesday evening. Hot and humid.

Coral Reef, Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi, Philippines

Two dreams from last night that have stuck with me:

First, I dreamed that I was with Jammi. She and Austin (her ex) had bought a home, but the house itself had to be moved. Jammi was driving the truck that was pulling the house on a trailer. I was in the truck with her. We moved through the streets of Norfolk very slowly until we arrived at the location in which the house would be placed. It was on a hill.

Great, I thought, but Jammi backed the house onto the hill, and it slid into place. We went inside, and there was a lot of work to be done. We worked on painting and putting up wallpaper, but the next day, it all had to be done again. I didn’t feel that I could do all of that work again.

Austin had to leave that day to go back to the war. I asked Jammi if she ever regretted her decision. It was a question that had been on my mind. She looked at me a long time and then looked at the floor as she answered me, “It was the right thing to do for the kids.”

In the second dream, I am embarking on a cruise with my mother, father, and my two sons; my sons are about eight and nine. It is very crowded getting on the ship, and my mother and I become separated from my father and the boys. I tell my mom that we need to follow the line to get to the dining room. We go down a long hall full of people, and then we are in line for dinner, but it is cafeteria style. I’m wondering what happened to the dining room and the wonderful food.

I get in the salad line first, and the lettuce is frozen. I’m already disgusted and wondering where my father is. Then I get in a line for sushi, but the sushi is like the nasty kind that is prepackaged in supermarkets. I order something that will take 15 minutes and am told that it will be brought to me. I wonder how they will find me.

A steward approaches my mother and me and tells me to follow him. He takes me into a room where my dad and the boys are lying on a blue bed; the boys are playing a video game. They’ve been there the whole time waiting for me. The boys are wearing communication devices on their wrists, and they could have sent us a message using those, but they didn’t think about it.

The whole cruise sucks already.

“I write this very decidedly out of despair over my body and over a future with this body . . .” ~ Franz Kafka, from The Diaries, 1910

Friday night. Cool and clear.

Bongao, Capital of Tawi-Tawi Province

So I didn’t get back to this post until now. On Wednesday, I saw my pain doctor and got trigger shots all over my neck, back, and lower back. I lost count. My doctor said afterwards, “Wow. That’s a lot of shots.”

No kidding. I actually thought that I might throw up on the way home. I guess they bothered me more because it’s been several months since I’ve had any trigger shots, and I was one giant muscle spasm. I woke up every three hours or so and took another muscle relaxer (no worries, I’m supposed to take two at a time, and I only take one usually). By Thursday morning, I still hurt.

Fortunately, to take my mind of my excruciating back pain, I got to have my breasts smashed. Yes, the annual mammogram, which, it turns out, I have not had since 2008. I’ve been—shall I say—neglectful of my ta tas. Anyway, let me explain this to those of you who may be unaware: Mammograms hurt more for small-breasted women because the technician has to take your champagne-glass full (before flutes) and pull it onto the platform. I feel like saying, “I’m not Gumby. I don’t stretch that way.”

Not to mention, I went to the wrong building for my appointment and was told to go to the first floor of building 880. I went into the office in building 880, and the woman says, “We don’t have you on the schedule.” Finally, I take out my appointment sheet, and I say, “Am I here?” like I’m some kind of moron. The woman says, “No, that’s next door.”

I’m hot, and the little bit of makeup that I dared to put on is running down my face, and I’m afraid that I’ll be late for my 3:30 therapy appointment. I ask the woman if they can just do my boobs there. She checks with the people in the back (those ominous faceless people one never sees in a doctor’s office), and then tells me that sure, they can work me in.

Done and done. Of course now, I hurt on my back and front . . .

“We hear in retrospect what we have understood.” ~ Marcel Proust

An Island in the Tawi-Tawi Province, Philippines

Well, the computer is going so slowly tonight that I feel sort of like I do in a traffic jam: that I could make more progress if I got out of the car and ran alongside the cars, only in this case, it would be faster if I turned pages by hand instead of searching through files. I fear that I may have to abandon this post once again and come back to the computer possibly in the morning after running a scan; I know when I’m defeated.

Saturday evening. Hot and humid.

After removing spyware and adware, deleting unwanted files, and scanning, the computer seems to be working a bit better, seems being the operative word. I did get this funky black screen when I rebooted, one I have never seen before, so that was a bit scary . . . So where was I?

“The color of truth is grey.” ~ André Gide

Tawi-Tawi Archipelago, Philippines

I find that my mind is not even anywhere near the track I was on when I first began this post, and I probably should have scrapped the whole thing except I hate to do that. I feel as if it’s wasted time. I mean, I’ve picked out the quotes, and I have an idea as to the theme that I’m going to use for my images. I usually already have my poem and song picked out, so to scrap everything because the post is all over the place is a bit disingenuous, especially since that’s exactly how my mind works most of the time anyway—all over the place.

So I’ll finish on this note: I went with Ann, my s-in-law to see her mother today. It was not the best visit as she was in and out as far as being able to converse. We had stopped at McDonald’s to get her a cheeseburger and fries for lunch, which she seemed to enjoy, but she turned down my offer to paint her nails, and didn’t really seem to want me to put lotion on her legs. A few other things happened while we were there which caused me to get rather brusque with her nurse, but I don’t want to get into it.

The other news is that my ex father-in-law, who was admitted to the hospital about ten days ago after falling and breaking a couple of ribs, will also not be coming back home. Ann went to see him on Friday, and she said that while he is more coherent than m-in-law, he seems to know that he is dying.

I texted the kids to let them know the status on their grandfather. Eamonn got back to me right away. Alexis got back to me eight hours later with more of the same: Sorry, will be over soon, ya da ya da ya da. I didn’t bother to reply. I’m going to try to take Eamonn and Brett to see their grandfather this coming week.

This is all too depressing.

More later. Peace.

Music by Aimee Mann, “Save Me”

                   

The Tawi-Tawi group of islands is located at the southwestern tip of the Philippine archipelago. It lies along the earth’s equatorial zone and is composed of 307 islands and islets, 88 of which are characterized by extensive reefs. Tawi-Tawi is an island province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The capital of Tawi-Tawi is Bongao. The province is the southernmost of the country sharing sea borders with the Malaysian State of Sabah and the Indonesian Kalimantan province.Tawi Tawi is a province that consists of 107 islands in the Sulu Sea, once part of a land bridge linking Borneo

                   

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to
grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who
proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting
seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things
beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting
find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us
free)
forgetting me,remember me

~ e. e. cummings

“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate—that’s my philosophy.” ~ Thornton Wilder

 

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.” ~ Rainer Marie Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I haven’t done an update in a while, and since I am supposed to be filling out FAFSA applications for both Brett and Eamonn, I thought that this would be a good topic to keep me from completing more forms. So here goes.    

Twenty-five things:   

  1. This time ten years ago I was just beginning my relationship with Corey as friends and co-workers.
  2. Egret in Flight
  3. Five years ago I was miserably working for a real estate company as a marketing director.
  4. This time last year I was doing exactly what I’m doing now: frittering my life away, attempting to write, being a slug.
  5. One of my favorite moments at the museum was the time that I was at the shoot for our Monet exhibition, and there was a frog wrangler. Seriously.
  6. Corey and I were walking through the Botanical Garden when we decided to get married.
  7. My dad loved to go fishing late at night, and when I was a girl, it was always a treat when he took me with him.
  8. The part of my body that I hate the most is my neck. Second, my arms.
  9. I think that Gwyneth Paltrow has a lot of nerve complaining about her bat wings (upper arms) as she is skinny and knows nothing about real bat wings.
  10. When I was in the 6th grade, I pretended that the man in the picture was not my father. I am still ashamed of that.
  11. My cell phone was stolen out of my car by a man I let wash my car. I was so stupid, which is what the police pointed out in a neighborhood meeting about crimes committed by the men who went around and offered to wash cars.
  12. When I was a teenager, I cleaned my mother’s house every Saturday. No one made me. I just did it.
  13. I have a soft spot in my heart for short, elderly Filipino men.
  14. I think the reason that I am so intrigued by my dreams is that they are so much more interesting than my real life.
  15. I am afraid of snakes and centipedes but not spiders.
  16. I love to listen to the birds singing in the early morning, when the air is filled with many different songs, creating a natural harmony.
  17. Chickadee
  18. When I was little, I always wanted to have a sister, but not necessarily a brother.
  19. The most beautiful place Corey and I saw when were in Mexico was the Mayan ruins in Tulum. I much preferred the natural beauty of the ruins, the Iguanas,  and the blue water hitting the rocks to the crowded, touristy atmosphere of Cancun.
  20. The Mexican soldiers patrolling Tulum carry automatic weapons, which is quite a jarring sight in the midst of such natural beauty.
  21. I wish that elves and fairies were real.
  22. I have boxes and boxes of photographs that I have taken over the years but have never sorted or arranged. I also have several empty albums that I bought with the intention of putting the pictures into albums.
  23. I don’t think that there’s an episode of Law & Order that I haven’t seen, and the show has been on for 20 years.
  24. I still want to go back to graduate school to get my PhD.
  25. Is there such a thing as a family that isn’t dysfunctional?
  26. I have had three bosses for whom I would work again in a heartbeat—the City Editor at the newspaper where I cut my teeth, the marketing director at the Museum, and the Director of Marketing and Communications at GW.
  27. The worst boss I had was at the department store. He was a misogynist, and he had no sense of loyalty.

“Where am I? Who am I?
How did I come to be here?
What is this thing called the world?
How did I come into the world?
Why was I not consulted?
And If I am compelled to take part in it,
Where is the director?
I want to see him.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Twenty-five more things:  

  1. I once worked as a temp for a company that was so cheap that they counted paper clips.
  2. I used to clean my guy friends’ apartments whenever I visited.
  3. I used to dream of owning a muscle car. Now, I couldn’t bend down to get into one.
  4. Pelican at Sunset
  5. Someone once told me that my legs weren’t perfect and hers were because mine didn’t touch at the top.
  6. I wish that my legs still didn’t touch at the top.
  7. If I were a billionaire, after I paid for college for everyone in the family, I would set up a foundation specifically for young women in need of start-up funds. I would also start a foundation for unpublished writers to get the funds needed to work on their writing full time.
  8. If I were a billionaire, I would donate a chunk of change to the campaigns of whoever ran against Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and a handful of other extremists.
  9. One day I will go to Australia and Ireland.
  10. I sing to my dogs.
  11. I think that I’ve taught Tillie how to say I Love You, but she could be saying “I want cookies.”
  12. One of the most beautiful valentines I ever received was from a boy I was not dating. It was a hand painted butterfly, and in it he wrote a poem about me. I found out later that he killed himself the following year.
  13. I love pens but hate ball point stick pens that run on my fingers.
  14. When I was a little girl, I thought that I would help my mom with the ironing. I melted one of her blouses.
  15. I polished the floor of my grandmother’s house in the Philippines with coconut halves that were strapped to my feet. The dark floors were so smooth that it was like skating.
  16. I’ve always wished that I could draw.
  17. My parents had a tree on the side of their yard that I climbed and from which I could jump onto the roof.
  18. Cedar Waxwing
  19. I have wanted to live in Blacksburg ever since I went to grad school there, but I think that it’s more the idea of living in a college town.
  20. Corey and I want to go on another cruise one of these days.
  21. I remember returnable soda bottles.
  22. I have a vague memory of the shops on Portobello Road in England.
  23. The green grocer whose shop was just down the street from our apartment on Goldhawk Road in London was named Mr. Higgins. He gave me sweets.
  24. Two traditions that I think Americans should adopt are tea time and the siesta. Both make so much sense to me.
  25. I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes in over two years. I think that must be a record.
  26. Ideally, I would love to have a beach house and a house in the mountains. Then I could have the two environments that I love the most.
  27. I let my dogs steal the covers during the night.

“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” ~ Sam Keen

Twenty-Five Questions:   

  1. If you could have lunch with anyone in history, who would it be?  That’s hard. It’s a tossup between Thoreau, Einstein, or Anne Boleyn, all for different reasons
  2. What is the one thing you want more than anything else at this very moment? A haircut.
  3. What it the one thing you hope to accomplish this year? Work on my book idea to the point that I have something to show an agent.
  4. What do you hate the most? Intolerance, followed closely by a lie.
  5. What do you love the most? Love and being loved
  6. How old were you when you first encountered death in a real way? Twelve, when my mother’s father died
  7. What modern convenience would you miss the most: a computer, a cell phone, a television, a microwave? Definitely a computer.
  8. If you could do one thing for anyone in the world, what would it be? I would get a job for Corey.
  9. Which person that you do not know do you relate the most to? Virginia Woolf.
  10. What is your worst trait? Jealousy followed by insecurity.
  11. How do other people characterize you that doesn’t match how you see yourself? I am frequently told that I am confident, which I am not.
  12. What is the one thing in this world that you would eliminate if you could? Famine.
  13. Glass half empty or half full? Empty.
  14. Great Blue Heron
  15. Are people inherently evil or inherently good? Good.
  16. Do you keep secrets from those you love? No. Absolutely not.
  17. Where is the one place you return to again and again?  The cemetery where Caitlin is buried.
  18. Is there a place you go to when you need to clear your head? Barnes & Noble Booksellers
  19. Are you happy with your life? Not really. There are too many things I want to change.
  20. Which affects you more: smell or sound? Sound. Music has a way of playing into my moods.
  21. If you had the power to change one thing in your life, what would it be? I would have had another baby.
  22. What would your super power be? Flying
  23. Can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way? If one of them is gay.
  24. If you could live in another country, where would it be? Australia or Finland.
  25. When you are away from home, what do you miss the most? My dogs.
  26. Do you believe in revenge? In concept.

Well that was harder than I had anticipated. More later. Peace.   

Damien Rice, “9 Crimes”   

   

    

 

“Just living is not enough . . . One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” ~ Hans Christian Andersen

 

a-birthday-by-emma-florence-harrison-1910  

“A Birthday” by Emma Florence Harrison (1910) (I love this painting)

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air . . .” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

labrador-and-waterWell, the weekend was beautiful, just as the meteorologists predicted. Go figure. It was in the 80’s with bright sunshine, only a few wispy clouds. Corey spent his time outdoors cleaning the pool and trying to get it ready for swimming. Tillie jumped in and was not happy to find no water, well, very little water. She still managed to do some splashing around anyway. Shakes, on the other hand, was mightily put out that there was no pool ball action to be had. I made it up to him by turning on the hose for a bit and letting him attack the water. Don’t ask.

Brett and I spent a little bit of time outside on both Saturday and Sunday. I passed along Glister for him to read, but he wasn’t really enjoying it, said that it was too slow. It is a different kind of book to read. The action is slow in the beginning, but once the first-person narrator takes over, the pace quickens. It’s also a psychological thriller, and I don’t really think that he was in the mood for that.

So he’s decided to reread The Lord of the Rings, beginning with The Hobbit. I thought that for a quick read, in between The Lord of the Rings, I would reread Angels & Demons. I’m hoping that the movie is better than The DaVinci Code movie. Even though I love Tom Hanks, and pretty much anything that he has been in, I just don’t think that he’s the right choice for Robert Langford. Although, I’m not sure who I would have chosen. It’s nothing against Hanks, but more that the character and Hanks don’t seem to be a good fit.

In the meantime, I’m mulling over my choices for my top 100 movies. This is going to be a harder list to compile because I already had the rock ‘n roll list pretty much compiled in my lost notebook, so I had thought about a lot of songs, and they stayed in my brain (hard to believe with my short-term memory loss, huh?). But I haven’t ever compiled a list of my favorite movies beyond my top 10, so this list is going to take some thinking.

And now for an incisive character analysis for no particular reason

law-order-ciAt the moment, though, my big plans for excitement this evening are “Law & Order Criminal Intent.” This is another situation in which I’m not entirely sure that I’m going to be able to handle the casting. Jeff Goldblum, who I also happen to like as an actor, is entering the cast, replacing Chris Noth’s Detective Logan. Noth has been Logan for a long time, first on the “Original Law & Order,” and then reprising the role on Criminal Intent.

Logan grew as a character over the years, which is one of the reasons why I love the whole Law & Order franchise so much. The writers aren’t afraid to change their characters, let them move in new directions and do unexpected things. But this replacement of Goldblum as the new detective in the major case squad has me uneasy. Goldblum is sarcastic and can be hammy.

You would think that those traits would work well with the whole Vincent D’Onofrio quirkiness factor. But who knows. I think that part of me just really misses Logan, and for some reason, I don’t seem to remember a show in which he was going to leave. Did it happen at the end of the season and I missed it? If anyone else is a big L&O fan and remembers, please let me know.

My cold nose does not mean that I am a member of the canine family. Thank you very much. 

shakes-under-cover-bw
Shakes Keeping Warm in Bed

As a result of the very warm weather, we had to give in and turn on a few of the window unit air conditioners for a little bit this weekend. The problem with having very old windows is that most of our screens have holes in them—not huge holes that passersby would notice and be aghast at, but holes big enough for flying critters to make their way indoors (like the bug that was big enough to cast a shadow that kept buzzing my head last night). Hence, opening the windows and letting a breeze in is not really doable until we replace the windows (another thing that got put on hold with the smaller refund that disappeared).

We’re trying not to use the AC too much until we absolutely must. For one reason, I can’t sleep if my nose is cold. No, I’m not making this up. Corey thinks that it’s an excuse not to have the AC on at night, but it’s true: I swear.

If my nose is cold, I wake up, winter or summer. Don’t ask me why, but I cannot abide having a cold nose. It is more uncomfortable to me than having cold ears. Those of you in Alaska are probably snickering right now. Stop it. I know what you’re doing.

“Fear is the father of courage and the mother of safety.” ~ Henry H. Tweedy 

The other thing that really bothers me about having window units is the noise. I like to have a quiet house at night so that I can listen for intruders. Yes, I know. I have read entirely too many suspense books and watched entirely too many scary movies for my own good, but if the AC is running and I can’t hear beyond the bedroom, I get antsy.

bone-handled-balison-knifeI used to keep a real Philippine Balisong butterfly knife under my mattress when I was married to my ex. It was an exquisite hand carved, bone-handle knife that my dad brought back from the Philippines. I don’t know what happened to that knife, but my ex used to make fun of me for keeping it under the mattress.

He would say things like, “do you really think that you would have time to get that out and open it up before someone made it to the bedroom?” Actually, no I didn’t, but just having it there was comforting. Sometimes we do things that are impractical, knowing all the while that they are impractical, but if these things provide us with a little bit of comfort, what is the harm?

Another safety issue for me is having the windows open at night. Again with the movies and books. But we live near a park, and people to go this park at night, even when they aren’t supposed to. Granted, living near a park is not like living near a prison. But the point is that I am afraid of someone breaking into the house through a half-open window.

Little fact for you here: “Between forty and fifty percent of burglaries are accomplished through unlocked doors or windows,” this according to Jean O’Neil, director of research and evaluation at the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC)

Both my daughter and my elder son never got this, especially since a half-opened, unlocked window is much easier to sneak out of than one that is closed and locked. I may be paranoid, but I’m not stupid.

One time I had to break into the house because I locked my keys—along with my cell phone—in the car. I moved the picnic bench below my daughter’s window at an angle, and kind of hiked up the bench and through her window, which I knew would be unlocked. Do you see how easy it would be to break into my house if I weren’t so adamant ab0ut locking windows and doors?

Let’s Be Careful Out There (and inside too) . . .

heavy-door
Now that's a heavy door

Another more serious example of why the front doors should be locked when you are doing yard work: My other mother-in-law used to have an elderly back yard neighbor, Ella Francis, who is no longer with us. One day, Ella Francis was working in the back yard. While she was in the back, weeding or planting, someone walked right into her house through the unlocked, open side garage door and robbed her. Luckily, Ella Francis was not hurt, except for her pride.

When Corey and I were first married, he would sometimes forget to lock the sliding door when he left for work in the morning, I almost had apoplexy. However, in his defense, Corey comes from a place that doesn’t worry about locked doors, as you will read a few paragraphs below.

Nevertheless, a little known fact is that more women are raped in the morning than at night. Two reasons:

First: Rapists who are staking out houses notice when the husband/significant other leaves in the morning, and if the stalker has been watching the woman for a while, he may know that she leaves later, or is alone after taking the kids to school.

Number two: For some reason, women let their guard down more once it is daylight. They get dressed in front of windows that they would never think of standing before at night, believing that the daylight has provided safety, when in fact the opposite is true. Peepers peep in the morning, too.

Who has the keys? Keys? What keys?

Okay, now that I’ve freaked you out with my little idiosyncrasies, I’ll leave you with a little funny story.

birds-keyhookOne time when we were visiting Corey’s family in Ohio, I was the last one to leave the house, so of course, I locked the back door. While we were gone, Corey got a call from his mom asking if he had a key to the house. He didn’t. In fact, no one had a key to the house with them.

I was completely flabbergasted. Who leaves the house without a housekey? Apparently, a lot of people in their little town. No one locks their back doors. They actually had to break into their own house because I had locked the door. All of the housekeys were hanging on the little keyhook on the kitchen wall by the door.

Not so funny at the time (except to me), but I find it even funnier now in retrospective, but in a positive way—kind of cool living somewhere where you really don’t have to lock your doors.

More later. Peace.

Peñaranda River

nueva-ecija

Nueva Ecija

He who does not look back at his past (where he came from) will not be able to reach his destination ~ Philippine Proverb

Tagalog Translation: Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa nakaraan, ay hindi makakarating sa patutunguhan

My father has been in my dreams almost every night for a week. I’m not really sure why, but there he is. Sometimes, he is with my children, but they are younger, and sometimes, he is with my mother, and it is almost like it was yesterday.

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Carabao Plowing Rice Field, Raissone 1938

I wrote a poem several years ago about my father’s hometown, a small village on Luzon, one of the northern islands in the Philippines. This poem is based on real events from the time that we spent in the Philippines as a family after my dad retired from the Navy, and then from before, during the beginning of World War II. Before my dad joined the U.S. Navy he was a guerrilla in the Philippine Army. He was only 16 years old.

A few notes of explanation: A caribou (last syllable like boo), which is a reindeer, lives in cold weather like Alaska. A carabao (last syllable like bow), which is a water buffalo, is the national animal of the Philippines. These animals are actually very gentle, even though they may not appear to be so. They are still used to plow fields.

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Rice Paddy

Gapan, is the name of the town, and Nueva Ecija is the name of the eastern, landlocked province on Luzon. Nueva Ecija was created in 1715 and was named for the Spanish governor’s native town. The Spanish heritage is still in the bloodlines of those born in Nueva Ecija: my father’s mother was half Spanish. Nueva Ecija is the biggest rice producer in Luzon.

Cabanatuan is one of the four cities in Luzon. In World War II, Cabanatuan was the site of the infamous Japanese Prisoner of War camp; in 1945, Philippine guerrillas were responsible for liberating the Americans held captive there. 

Tagalog is the most widely-used language in the Philippines. Babinka is a sweet cake that is cooked in a banana leaf. Mangoes grow freely in trees in people’s yards.

The Peñaranda River, a narrow but deep river, is now part of Minalungao Park; however, years ago, there was no Minalungao Park.

Ang araw bago sumikat nakikita muna’y banaag. ~ Philippine Proverb (Translation: Early dawn precedes sunrise)

This particular poem is very personal, and I hope that you enjoy it.

sunrise-in-luzon

 

Gapan (Nueva Ecija), 1967

The women still come to Piñaranda River

in the early morning

to wash the family clothes on rocks

beaten smooth by many generations of use.

They gather at the bank, squat

along the muddy shoreline, and

pummel the fabrics of their lives

amid idle chatter of children and babies

and the lazy stares of carabao

that stand knee deep in the water.

 

Brown, hand-rolled cheroots dangle from

their mouths as they twist and

wring Peñaranda from threadbare shirts

and house dresses sewn by hand.

They can point to the places where

foolish young men have lost their lives,

testing their newfound manhood against

the swirls of the rushing water that swells

during the rainy season.  They

point to the place where the river, pregnant

with the rains of monsoon, swept

into the village and laid waste to houses

chosen by God for destruction.

 

My mother tentatively asks one woman nearby

about the time of the Japanese.  Her

brown eyes, hardened by time, drift

across the river to the rice fields

that lie on the other side, expanses

so green and fertile that the images

of famine that she speaks of

are hard to reconcile with the beauty

that is now.  She speaks slowly,

as if the memory is still too near,

“All gone,” she sighs as she points,

“only the okra left.”  As she looks

at my mother, it is clear that

the woman believes that my blonde

mother with light skin cannot understand

want and grief.  Later,

 

my father explains that the okra plants,

grown in hidden gardens behind the houses,

were the only crops that the Japanese

did not take.  The only rice the village had

came from the few grains spilled in the dirt

where the Japanese stores had lain.

Those desperate enough to steal rice

were beaten (or worse) if they were caught.

He tells me this as we near

the large house that was once the

fortress of the occupiers.  Two carved

lions still remain to guard disuse.

Through the gates, deep holes

dot the dirt yard where two Americans

have been digging for Japanese gold.

“Someone sold them a treasure map,”

my father laughs, shaking his head.

“If there were gold, don’t you think

we would have known about it?” he asks

of no one in particular.

 

As we walk down the dirt road towards the

ice truck that is parked at the end, I notice

the heat rising in thick waves from the ground,

and I long for ice cream and slurpees.

My father points to another house,

“That is where the witch lives.  She

has put a curse on your grandfather.  Now

He will not come to this end of the village.”

As we walk back, I pull the wagon carrying

the straw-covered block of ice, glance

back nervously at the witch’s house.

 

Once more we pass the two lions, and

and my father stops. “Right here

is where they shot your uncle for

taking a walk at night.  The bullet

went through his leg, so he lived.

We never knew why they didn’t finish him.”

He looks into the eyes of a lion,

pauses and then tells me painfully,

“It was a Filipino sentry.  He was

working for the Japanese.”  He spits

into the dirt and walks on.

 

That afternoon I watch my grandmother

wring the neck of a chicken from the yard

and clean it for dinner.  While she cooks

I polish the dark floors of their home

with the halves of coconut shells

strapped to my feet. My toes curve downward

as I half skate half slide across the tiles.

Afterwards I take a shower

with cold water poured from old

coffee tins carried from the river.

The icy water is the only respite

from the heat that has seeped into

every corner of the shaded house.

Only when I am called twice do I leave

the comfort of the stone enclosure.

 

For dinner that evening we have

roasted chicken, sun-dried fish,

sweet bread and fresh mangoes.

Only years later do I realize what a feast

my grandmother had prepared for us.

Later, most people visit in their front yards.

My father takes me to a stand where

a man sells babinka—sweet, steamed

rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves.

He stands and talks to the vendor

in Tagalog while I eat the cake with

my fingers, sticky grains of rice

sticking to my hands and mouth.

I ask for seconds.

My American generation does not know want.

 

That night, from the safety of the

gauze mosquito netting, I overhear my father

telling my mother about those days,

how his mother hid from the Japanese

with her twin babies in the mountains,

how she lost both to hunger, how

the villagers caught one of the traitors

and turned him over to the guerrillas.

They skinned him alive before

finally killing him.

 

 

More later. Peace.

Grace in Small Things #37

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In Each Other’s Arms On Our Wedding Day
 

It’s All Relative

I’ll try to be more attuned to the purpose of this exercise today. So I will write about the things that truly matter to me the most: family. Since I can only write about five things, this will not be all-encompassing, but it will include some of the most important.

1. Corey’s arms. Not only do I love the shape of his arms, not big and bulky and overdeveloped like monkey men, but I love what they do for me: they hold me up when I am falling, literally and figuratively. They enfold me and keep me safe from harm. They are the place I return to again and again when I need affirmation that in spite of all of the bad things that are happening, we will make it through as long as we work together. They are my save haven and my bulwark against the darkness.

2. My son Brett’s art. He is an amazing artist. He drew an incredible picture  in pencil and charcoal last year that I haven’t had framed yet. But when I do, I plan to hang it in the living room. It is so reflective of him, and I could tell how proud he was of it when he brought it home and presented it to me.

3. My son Eamonn is a right pain in the butt, but each morning he wakes up singing. It’s the most amazing thing. He always wakes up singing, and if he doesn’t, then I know that he doesn’t feel well. He has a built in barometer and thermometer.  I am not a morning person myself, especially since most nights I don’t go to bed until 4 or 5 in the morning, but I envy this in him.

the-eyes2

4. Alexis has the most beautiful eyes. One is grey/blue and the other one is more hazel, and she has long lashes. We were never quite sure where the blue/grey eye came from, but when my dad died, his brother Ben flew in from California. Uncle Ben had bluish grey eyes. Apparently it was a recessive trait on my grandmother’s side as she was Spanish. Before then, I had never seen a Filipino with blue eyes, but my uncles told me that it is actually not so uncommon because of the Spanish blood that runs through many bloodlines in the Philippines.

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Why Yes Thank You, We Will Have Another

5. My sister-in-law from my first marriage, Ann, has always been a friend. In fact, her daughter Rebecca was born right after my son Eamonn, and they went to school together up until High School. We used to push their strollers and walk Alexis to grade school so that we could get some exercise and lose our baby weight, and  it was just nice spending time together. Over the years, she has been there for me through every major problem in my life, never asked questions, just asked how she could help. We have lived less than half a mile apart for almost 20 years. It’s true that you don’t get to choose your relatives, but I have been incredibly fortunate in the ones chosen for me.

That’s all for now. More later. Peace.

Veterans’ Day: A Memorial to My Father

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Dad on the Far Right

My father, Exequiel Liwag, was not a man who liked to call attention to himself. For example, it was not until we were going through his personal items after he died that we found out that he had won the Bronze Star for Valor during World War II. But that was how he was: unassuming.

He loved thrift stores, even though he could afford to wear better, he didn’t really see the point. He loved his 1966 Ford Falcon. That was his baby. He adored his grandchildren, and when he found out that he had pancreatic cancer, the one thing that he said that he regretted was that he wouldn’t be around to see them grow up. He loved to work in his garden, and he used his machete from the war to hack away at the weeds, squatting down on his haunches like a native, doing battle with crab grass and weeds. And he loved to fish. He would go off at night and fish off the old Harrison’s pier, the wooden one before the hurricane washed it away. (He would hate the new one, all rebuilt and yuppie with bright lights and a cafe.)

My dad, like many Filipino men of his generation, first served in the Philippine guerrilla army before joining the U.S. Navy. However, the difference is that he lied about his age. He was barely 17 when he joined the Navy, and he had already seen combat in the jungles of the Philippines. His family had hidden in the caves for safety from the Japanese, and his mother lost the youngest children in the family, twin babies, because of the harsh conditions and a lack of food. My dad joined the Navy so that he could send money back to his family, something he did for many years after the war was long over, which enabled his brothers and sister to come to the states to get educations and better lives.

He also served during the Korean conflict—never really called a war, and then he had a breather during which he had extended shore duty, heading the household staffs for several admirals, which is how I came to attend public school in London. While he was still on Navy ships, my dad slipped on an icy gangplank while disembarking and injured his back, an injury that caused him back pain for the rest of his life.

He retired from the Navy after putting in his 20 years, and he tried to stay on dry land, but it wasn’t for him, so he joined the merchant marines, which is how he came to be in the middle of yet another war: the Viet Nam war. During this conflict his ship took on heavy fire, and we received word that his ship was badly damaged. For a while, we did not know his fate because, of course, the world was not wired the way that it is today, and it took much longer to get news.

Luckily, he was not hurt, and he was just transferred to another ship. During Viet Nam, his tours were six to nine months at a time, and he was always in harms’ way.

I don’t ever remember him complaining. I just remember his body slowly curving more and more over the years. His left hand atrophied as the muscle wore away, and his back always ached. But he stayed at sea until he couldn’t go any more.

My father came from a country thousands of miles away. His risked his life time and time again, first for his family in the Philippines, and later for his new country and his family in the United States. He never questioned whether or not he was doing the right thing. He believed that his country, the United States of America was the greatest country in the world. He sang the national anthem off-key, but he sang it proudly. He saluted his flag, and he believed in his country.

There were times when his country let him down. When we tried to live in the Philippines after he retired, he wasn’t allowed the same benefits as other retirees. I was too young to remember why, but I remember that it happened, and that my parents were upset by this. I remember, too, that he was upset when he found out that the money that he had been paying into survivor benefits for my mother wasn’t going to amount to very much and that he could have been paying that money into an interest-bearing account that would have yielded much more. But he had invested into the U.S. Government, never thinking for one minute that his government would not protect him and my mother.

When my father died, he was entitled to a veteran’s funeral: a flag-draped casket and a 21-gun salute. We requested that “Taps” be played. Actually, I made that request. I had no idea that unless you were some kind of officer of rank, you didn’t actually get a bugle player; you got a cassette tape version of “Taps,” which, I suppose, is better than nothing. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful in any way. It was just a shock to the system to hear a tinny cassette and not a proud bugle.

Pretty much everything I learned about honor and duty I learned from my father. He worked hard all of his life, and he devoted a large part of that life to this country. He came from a small country thousands of miles away, just a boy really, and he gave this country whatever it asked of him.

I once said that if had to vote for only one issue in this past election, it would be for veterans’ rights, and I stand by that. How a country treats the men and women who serve it and die for it is a direct reflection of how that country feels about its citizenry as a whole, for its veterans represent its citizens. Our veterans go to war to protect our freedoms. They go to war so that the rest of us do not have to. They go to war so that we can say what we want whenever we want. They got to war so that I have the freedom to express myself in this blog. They go to war so that we can vote for whichever candidate we choose in a free election process. How we treat them when they come home should be as the true heroes that they are.

Our veterans should not have to fight for medical treatment. Our veterans should not have to fight for benefits. Our veterans should not be living on the street. Our veterans should never, ever be called names or be made to feel ashamed for doing what their country asked of them.

My father was a veteran. I am incredibly proud of him for the service that he gave to this country. That is only one reason that I am proud of him, but it is one of the more important ones. I still miss him terribly. But on this day, he, like thousands and thousands of others, deserves our support, our thanks, our recognition, and our undying respect.

As always, more later. Peace.

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