Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 Holiday Letter


2008 has been a year of learning and trials for us. The most important thing we learned is to live fully no matter what the situation. It’s been a year of 1st times and life happenings.


Our first times were….

  • January, we participated in the Iowa Caucus. We met many enthusiastic people, who like us participated and volunteered for the 1st time. Our guy did not win, though.
  • August, we camped at Rocky Mountain National Park. Sleeping in the tent was more fun than we thought it would be. No, we did not see any bear (thank God!). Two new terms were coined by Jason -- hybrid camping and bi-time-zonal. Hybrid camping refers to sleeping in the campsite but going to town to hunt for food at the supermarket. Bi-time-zonal because our bodies continues to live in central time but we need to follow mountain time. We learned how to use a pail for a commode because we were too afraid to venture out of our tent at night for fear of bumping into a bear. Starting a fire without lighter fluid was a challenge but can be done. We met nice people from all over; and probably will never see again. Running down the mountain in the middle of a hailstorm during the height of Summer was unexpected. Park rangers confirmed this rare occurrence. We had a lot of fun and we plan to return, someday.
  • November, Loraine voted for the 1st time in the Presidential Election. Next time she will request an absentee ballot due to long lines and somewhat chaotic atmosphere. It was an honor to participate in this historic election.
  • Loraine started a blog in April to practice her writing skill in English. Through her blog, she was able to connect with other Filipino bloggers living in different corners of the world, who shared the same experiences. It became an outlet and means of expressing her thoughts. It is somewhat scary at times to open your life like that..


Life continues…

  • Jason and Loraine continue to work for Mercy; Loraine’s father for WalMart in Ankeny.
  • We met new friends and re-connected with old. November, we attended the wedding of Jacqui and Alex in Clarion where we also re-connected with Fort Dodge people. We visited Susan and Tyler who live in Kansas in December. Susan is Loraine’s schoolmate from high school, as well as neighbor in the Philippines. We had a great time talking about old times as well as catching up with each other’s lives.
  • Jason continues to burn night oil studying for his Accounting degree which he plans to finish someday.
  • Vegetable gardening continues to be a big part of our Spring and Summer. We look forward to expanding our operation next season.
  • The chance of finding someone you know in a crowd is so remote, especially in Des Moines, yet Flora Lea Foster was able to find us, unexpectedly. It happened summer of 2006 at the Farmer’s Market. Then , again this fall at the Des Moines International Food Festival. We hope to unexpectedly see her again next year.

Overall, it’s been a good year for us. Despite the recent economic downturn, we are grateful for all the blessings we received and peacefulness we feel. And we wish the same to you …


Jason and Loraine

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Life happening...

Quite frankly, I am apprehensive of writing another post in my blog due to following reasons:

  1. Bloggers who are lot better writers than me found out about my blog. I feel so unworthy. It is my fault because I left comments in their blogs and gave my blog name in the process. I cannot help it. I am nosy!
  2. It seems like I am more inspired to write in this site when I feel melancholic. I don't want people to think that I am such a negative person (which is highly possible). But who cares what people think, right? I am such a sucker for acceptance.
  3. My command in English language is still limited even after 11 years of living in US. I am really digging at the bottom of the barrel here, people, since I started my blog.
Anyway, what keeps me going is that this blog keeps me connected to people who are sharing their expat stories and who are going through life experiences like mine. It is nice to know that I am not alone in my infertility issues; that there are Filipinos like me living in foreign countries trying to maintain their identities while integrating to their new societies (which will probably be a lifetime ordeal for me).

Okay, enough of my dramatic sentiment. Here's what's going on in my neck of the woods...

The Weather





Brrrr! Blustery! The average high now is in the 20's (Fahrenheit) and the lows is in low teens. Wind chill needs to be factored in, too. I have to dress in layers for my job because of the temperature difference between the outside and inside of my patients' house. My skin is dry. Nose is somewhat bloody and buggery. Hands and lips are cracked. Hair static -ky. I am a mess! But there is some kind of peacefulness during winter (Actually, it is not officially winter yet--not 'til the 21st). Outside the comfort of my warm home, time seems to stop and everything transformed into glass that can break at anytime. In a windless day, nothing seems to move except the heat that turned into smoke coming out of me when I exhale and from house chimneys. It is eerie yet beautiful.

New hobby

I never thought I could learn how to knit until I met a lady who owns a small local yarn shop in my town. I met her couple of months ago. Due to multiple road construction in our area, I was detoured to another road. During idle moment at the red light, I browsed at the shops around me. It was providential. I saw her sign. Unable to control my curiosity, I went to her shop. Upon opening the door, I knew I was in yarn heaven. "Touching is free. Help yourself," she said. That's what I did. I've been crocheting for more than a year now. So, I can appreciate a good skein of yarn. She offered to teach me how to knit . Due to my busy schedule, I did not take her offer until 3 weeks ago. Not bad for a beginner, huh?



To be continued....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Isolation

It's a kid's world. Maybe I feel like that because I belong to the childless minority.

I have always been a minority, it seems. But I cannot get used to it. This year is tougher as motherhood continues to elude me.

We attended an early Christmas Party at a colleague's big, new house. There were tons of food (of course), bored spouses and jolly kids. It is a perennial occurrence and my feeling of strangeness persists. Well, aside from feeling awkward and clumsy because I always forget that the kids are the first ones to be served (duh?) and get the first option to choose where they sit which means lucky for us if we find a comfortable place to eat our dinner, most of the conversation were about these children as if they don't get enough recognition. It is perhaps an American way. Nothing wrong with that except that we, the childless minority, were left with this uncomfortable feeling that we don't belong in that gathering. We tried to penetrate their world but it seems like trekking a one-way road and you're going the opposite way. My husband, who is normally quiet and funny, tried his best to deliver his one-liners to no avail. Conversation which jumped from one topic to another without resolving the previous ones were repeatedly interrupted by the children's thumps and holler. After eating and house tour, there was nothing to do but go home. However, children continue to have fun playing and watching a movie. Men (except for my hubby who stayed by my side the whole evening, thank God!) were watching college football game in which the home team was losing terribly. We felt relieved getting out of that predicament. We are once again in our own childless world. "They need a karaoke there," I jokingly told my husband while driving home.

It is always like that each year. I don't even know why we bother to attend. I don't think our absence or presence will make any difference. It occurs to me that we will always find ourselves in that predicament if we stay childless. We will be an outcast for another 20 years in our own age group-- second citizens whom many people will probably feel sorry for. Our life will be treated as less important compared to those with children. The future will stop with us but those with children will continue to exist.

I don't really feel sorry for myself and my husband. I see it like this -- we are given time to know ourselves as an individual and as a couple and to pursue more interests. I am starting to learn how to knit and my husband is getting another degree. Most important of all, we are more appreciative of each other's presence.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day

I am anxiously and excitedly awaiting the result of this presidential election.

I voted once for a president in 1992 back in the Philippines. I was 18 years old and very excited. I even volunteered as a poll watcher. The guy that I voted for won (yes, it was Ramos).

But today it is different and historical. For one, everyone has been waiting for this day for 2 years now. I heard from BBC that many people in different countries are also closely watching this US election and most of them are hoping for Obama's win.

The truth is we did not support Obama in his bid to be the Democratic nominee. We thought he is too young and inexperienced. We believed that other candidates were more qualified. However, armed with the message of hope, he prevailed to be the nominee.

My husband and I are long-time admirers of John McCain. My husband even voted for him as a write-in (yes, you can do that here!) back in 2000. We think he is a true American hero. Lots of people outside the United States do not know that John McCain survived a 5 year ordeal as a POW in Vietnam. He suffered several injuries and grueling tortures in the hand of his Vietnamese captors. He was offered early release after a year in captivity when they found out that his father was a U.S. forces commander. He refused to leave before his comrades, and remained in prison for 4 more years. In the senate, he works with Democrats in issues like immigration, environmental concerns and finance reforms. He is a true maverick, making him unpopular with the conservative base. He does not care, though. He believes that serving his country is "a cause greater than self."

Deep inside, I am a conservative. I don't believe in entitlement and big government. Coming from a country where there is very limited opportunity for people like me (poor, no connection, average looking, and not a UP graduate), I cannot understand why some Americans complain when they have so much opportunities given to them. Success requires and deserves hard work, doesn't it? Over and over again we hear people who started nothing making it in this country through hard work. Why can't they?

However, I am not really what you call a "social conservative." I am pro-choice when it comes to abortion rights. I believe in gay rights. I am for environment preservation and universal health care.

I registered as a democrat. And yes, I voted for Obama because I believe we need a change -- good change especially in foreign policy, health care and energy policy. I like John McCain but I see him as the past and Obama is the future.

Whatever the outcome, I am proud of my adopted country for its true democratic values and grateful for the comfortable life it gave me and my family.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A break

I should be outside and enjoying this rare warm late October day. Instead, I'm inside blogging and watching TV as I am waiting for trick-or-treaters. Yes, today is beggar's night in Altoona. And you can never ask for the perfect day.

I spoke so soon when I wrote in my previous blog that I was ready for cold season. But boy, once it hits, I missed those warmer days when you can go out without a coat. It will get worst, I know, once snow falls. Anyway, today we have a break from those cold autumn days -- rare occurrence this time of the year here. Indian summer, they call it. The sun was shining brightly providing the perfect lighting for colorful leaf display of trees preparing for months of dormancy. Temperature went up to 73 degrees (I have no idea what the Celsius equivalent) which is perfect for short sleeved shirt and maybe a pair of shorts. Wind was blowing softly just enough to make the air crisp and refreshing. It's amazing how temperature, like sense of smell, can trigger those good memories in me.

I don't know why I am here in front of the computer while half-heartedly watching TV (bombarded by political ads) and gulping half pint of Haagen-Dazs green tea ice cream (my favorite!), when I can enjoy this beautiful day outside. The main reason is that I want 3 bags of candies out of my house. This is the first year of me, and me alone, giving away candies. Jason is the unofficial designated kid person (whatever that means) in the house but this evening he's in class. So, the shy moi has no choice. Well, it's not totally true, I can just turn off the porch light and go out. But we have 3 bags of candies (yes, bought by my hubby), and I don't want him eating it all just by himself. Good reason, huh?


Friday, October 17, 2008

What I think, that is...

Knowing what I know now, would I still wait to be in my 30's to try to have a kid? The answer is a definite yes! Knowledge and experience were gained through years of living and making unintentional mistakes. I know I am having difficulty now with my fertility but I think it would not matter anyway. I believe that if I am infertile now, I was probably infertile then. Also, I am a late bloomer. I feel like I entered adulthood just few years ago. I think now I am more matured and has the capability as well as patience to nurture another human being who will depend entirely on me for existence, if that would ever happen.

My life is a constant evolution. I am different person from what I used to be 10 or even 5 years ago. I want to think that I change for the better (hopefully). So, wherever, life takes me, I hope to just go with the flow... It is easier that way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It pours!

Rejection, no matter where it comes from, hurts like someone slapped you in the face. Despite my futile attempt to instill in my female brain not to personalize it, still, it found a way to ruin my day. Like a poisonous snake, it bit into my psyche and sent its thick fatal venom to my optimism.

This morning, I received a phone call from a patient of mine and was told these words: "You are good but I am requesting a change in therapist." My initial defensive reaction was anger. In my thought I blurted "Okay, fine. Good riddance." But this girl needs to be professional at all times (and it is quite a struggle in times like this), so, I, graciously, referred her to another therapist. I felt relieved but hurt by this unforseen rejection. This made me not trust my other patients. Though I am no virgin to this experience, it came as a blow to my professional self-esteem. I questioned my capability and skill. The fact is most patients are good people, and compliant because they want to be well. Many times, I received gratitudes for helping them in their recoveries. Unfortunately, those few rotten apples seem to spoil everything for me. I started to see the negative aspect of my job! Compassion fatigue officially sets in. I am tired of caring for people who don't deserve it! I am tired of kissing asses of patients, doctors, management people, etc! I am tired of dealing with Medicare! Tired of paperwork and endless driving!

Throughout the day, during idle moments, I thought of alternatives and ways to escape my predicament . Sadly, there is no better alternative for now. The economy is going for a waste basket. Everyone seems to be on edge due to this economic crisis. And I would hate to trek the uncertain rough road of employment seeking again, in which I'd been many times over. I am not naive; and I am aware that in healthcare, the situation like this morning happens frequently. As they say, "You cannot please everyone."

My outlook turned 180 degrees from last week. Then, despite the big sell-off in Wall Street, I felt lucky and grateful for having a good job that pays for my middle-class lifestyle. Today, it matches the weather -- dark, gloomy, and rainy. I feel trapped in a way. I have bills to pay and future to prepare for. How can I afford those expensive fertility treatments? How about a child? These thoughts make me insecure and almost scared to lose this job that I marginally loathe (for now). What should I do then?

But to wish for a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Manic Tuesday?

Today is definitely not the worst day of my life but I think it is worth mentioning here just to capture a day of working in home health in Iowa, when things do not go your way.

I was sent to do an admission to a small town called Hartford, located about 20 miles south of Des Moines. It is mainly a farming community. The problem with small towns is that they usually do not have a detailed street map that you can buy. Maybe, if you go to the post office (if the town has one or if you can find it), you can find a map hanging on the wall. Anyway, usually, I use yahoo maps for direction but at times it is not accurate in some occasion like construction with detours or small rural towns. This time, it did not work for me.

I felt lucky at first because the road I was looking is off the main highway. My joy of finding it waned quickly when I found out that it is a dirt road. And dirt roads are super muddy when it is wet and rainy, like today! But it was too late when I learned of it.

I never been in a dirt road before, gravel road, yes, but not dirt road and there is a huge difference when it is wet and rainy --sticky, soft mud! The initial 300 to 500 feet of the road was gravel then it dips into a muddy, sticky dirt road. I was losing control of the wheel and finally after the initial downhill I was not moving at all because my tires got stuck in the mud. I, slowly, realized that I will not be able to trek this road. So, I turned and tried to returned to the main road. But it was not easy. There were ruts created by my tires. These long ruts made my car stuck in the middle of the road. I tried my darnedest to get out of it by stepping hard on my gas pedal and changing to lower gears. My engine started to emit light smoke like dry ice as it is working so hard. Small chunks of mud were flying everywhere and covered my car from top to bottom. After 15 minutes of trying and praying as well as bargaining to God that I will try to be a better person if He helps me out of this predicament, I finally got out of it. I felt so relieved, but shaken.

I took another road to get to my patient's house. Upon arriving, I told my patient and her family what happened to me. They were amused by my story and they told me that lots of people get stuck on that road. The city should place a warning sign not to use that road when wet. I was also informed that each car that got stuck there needed towing or assistance to get unstuck. When they learned that I unstuck myself, they were amazed and asked me if I have a 4-wheel-drive. When I told them that I have a compact sedan with front-wheel drive, they were more amazed. When asked how I did it, I answered "I bargained to God" because I am not really sure how I did it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Low

It is probably the huge dive of the stock market or the cooler-than normal morning, perhaps her motherly concern. Looking directly to my eyes, I was asked by P, "How are you?" "I'm fine," I quickly replied but I saw that she was not convinced by my answer. Due to my vulnerability and sadness, I conceded and confessed wholeheartedly my real psychological state -- depression.

Uncontrollable like a lost young child, I sobbed and blurted out how I feel. Without editing. I, unashamedly, exposed my heart -- raw, open and wounded, like a piece of meat left in an open field for vultures to feast on. The tears came flowing out of my eyes like water from overfilled dam. P was probably caught off guard by this display of emotion. However, she is very supportive and empathetic. Of all people at work, she understands how I feel because she went through this kind of emotion but our circumstances are totally different. She, in her 50's and single, struggled for quite a long time to fit in the society where expectation for people is to get married and procreate. According to her, it's just now that she is finally at peace.

Concurrent to my melancholic state, I finished reading the Italy part of the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is an author's memoir of her 1 year journey to 3 countries -- Italy for pursuit of pleasure; India for the pursuit of devotion; and Indonesia for the pursuit of balance. But prior to these trips, she undergone a very long and bitter divorce. She has chosen not to be married and not to have a baby. She also chronicled her fight with depression. Anyway, here is a passage from this book (page 95) that really resonates on me:

Virginia Woolf wrote, "Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow
of a sword." On one side that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition
and order, where "all is correct." But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy
enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, "all is confusion.
Nothing follows a regular course." Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow
of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet
it will also be more perilous.

I have not yet chosen the "other side of the sword." My hope of following "the convention and tradition and order" is very much alive. But I know there is a high possibility that I might not belong to this side. And I am scared of the uncertainty.

Yet, not all is peril. P and I agreed that there is beauty in feeling down, blue and uncertain. I am much more empathetic and more in tuned to other people's feeling. Genuine concern is more evident when I offer my shoulder to cry on for people and I offer it unashamedly and more often.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's next?

Life...What to do next? Jason and I are brainstorming on what we have to do next in our life? We decided to live life fully no matter what! Our miscarriage was a set-back but it also gave us an opportunity for inventory of endless possibilities ahead of us.

First, we plan to try to get pregnant and stay pregnant again. Yes, you read me right. Despite the pain that we feel right now due to the recent loss, we feel that it is important for us to to do our best to have children. Sometimes we wonder where this strong desire came from. As we all know, children are big responsibilities. They change your life completely. Everything tangible will be lesser like time for each other, money, spontaneity and carefree days. Also, we look at the current status of the world. Do we really need to bring another human being to inherit this dangerous and warming world? However, I still feel this almost painful desire to have a child. We sometimes wonder is it because having children seems to elude us or is it biology. This experience humbles us in ways we never imagine.

To be continued....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

End of Summer

It is odd that this year I am actually looking forward to colder weather. We are officially in the last week of summer but it seems like summer ended at the onset of September. As they said, it is a-colder-than-normal September this year. The night is getting longer. Air is cooler and more refreshing.

Eventful is the word I would describe my summer. I found out I was pregnant end of July. We were delighted but yet careful not to divulge this information to many people due to our history of multiple miscarriages. To make long story short, I miscarried again. It was devastating and I don't know if I can go through this experience again. Going through the grieving process is not easy but the 3rd time around, it is more accelerated but certainly not less painful. You cannot intellectualize miscarriage and you cannot get used to it. My heart continues to ache whenever I think of the loss.

This autumn, I plan to give myself time to heal physically and emotionally. The world continues to revolve on its axis and my life goes on.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Melancholy

Lately, I am noticing myself so uninspired and just trying to exist. My creativity seems like caught in a quagmire of everyday life. At times, I felt trapped in a tragedy of middle class America which include working, paying your bills, looking forward to weekends and retirement then die. You can add getting married, having children, living in suburbia, and owning 2 cars. I know lots of people will be happy to have that life. I should not be complaining. At least, I have a job, a home and good husband.

For last couple of weeks, I have been dreaming of Philippines. Well, not exactly Philippines but everything seems like Philippines. I was listening one Saturday to Rick Steves, the travel guru in National Public Radio. In that particular program, he and his Italian guest were discussing about Sicily. That night I had a dream that I was on a bus trip in Sicily but the surroundings looked like we were in Cubao with its dilapidated shanties, sari-sari store, young coconut (buko) stand and a McDonald's. The only Italians in my dream were the policemen eating pasta at McDonald's. Then, the other night I dreamt of trying to catch a bus to go somewhere I don't remember. In my dream, I was outside Garden Village, the place where I grew up, and then this big camper bus driven by an American woman stopped and let me on. There, I found my sister and our school bus seatmate back when we were in elementary. Through the bus windows, I could see mountains like the ones in Rocky Mountain National Park. The woman drove a short distance and when we got to Phase 3 of Garden Village, she stopped and asked us to get out. Then, I realized, we did not really need to hitch-hike because I have a car and I can drive. Then I woke up feeling relieved.

I probably miss the Philippines. But what is there for me? Probably nothing! Most of the time I romanticize living in the Philippines. The thought of white sand beaches, coconut and mango trees, tropical fruits, sampaguita, warm rainy days and Filipino foods is enough for me to feel homesick. After eleven years, I, sometimes, forget the reality of living in the Philippines -- pollution in Manila, difficulty in landing a job, poverty, government corruption, traffic, etc. Friends and family from home tell me repeatedly how lucky I am to be here and that I am in a greener pasture. I feel lucky and I try not to take what I have for granted. However, inside of me, there is this urge to do more and to learn more. Of what? I don't know. The sad thing is I don't know myself. Did I lose myself in this quagmire called middle-class America?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rocky Mountain Vacation

These are just some of the highlights of our Rocky Mountain National Park vacation:
  • Driving about 700 miles one way and trying to stay awake by listening to books on CD's.
  • Driving through the entire length of southern part of Nebraska.
  • Driving through curvaceous roads surrounded by delicate rocky mountains.
  • Finishing the 3-day planned camping trip.



  • Telling ghost stories and playing UNO in the tent while waiting to fall asleep.
  • Using a bucket as a commode as we were too afraid to walk outside our tent in the middle of the night for fear of encountering a bear.
  • Having a nice mountainous view to see 1st thing in the morning.
  • View from our tent.


  • Cooking by using woods and small gas grill. Next time, we'll invest on stove.
  • Hiking uphill and arriving in our lake destinations.



  • Admiring the beautiful and the mountainous terrain of the Park.
  • Dream Lake

  • Shopping in Estes Park for souvenirs and food.
  • Estes Park

  • Breathing in the fresh, cool mountain air.
  • Driving to the comfort station (as we were too fatigued to walk) to wash our dishes and brush our teeth. Next time, we should specify a campsite closer to the comfort station. Bathroom is not the same as comfort station as we learned. Bathrooms typically do not have running water. It is like a port-a-pot. Water stations are usually by the bathrooms but you are not allowed to do any washing there to prevent contamination; it is only for drinking water. You can do dishes in your site but you have to throw the gray water in a designated area, so bears will not smell food.
  • Meeting nice people whom we will most likely never see again.
  • Surviving a hail storm and learning our lesson to dress in layers and bring a poncho or even start earlier in the day as it storm most likely in the afternoon.







Sunday, July 27, 2008

Difficulty of Being a Filipino

I talked over the phone to my younger sister who is living in the Philippines last Friday. I learned from my father that she was not accepted by an agency that recruits Filipino nurses to Canada. According to her, she was scheduled to be interviewed Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 3PM, but the agency changed it to 8 AM. However, they notified her through a text at 1 AM the day of the interview. She did not get the message until she woke up at 7AM. Could you imagine the stress? She was not accepted because, according to them, her experience is NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) not Med-Surg (Medical-Surgical Ward).

I was so mad after hearing what happened. I am mad that this agency played on desperation of Filipino nurses to get out of the country. I think notifying her late in the game is not fair and unrespectful. I don't think they can do this to any nurses in Canada or US. This situation made me think on how difficult, at times, to be a Filipino!

My father worked overseas for 24 years as a merchant marine. He did it because it was the only way to give his children a good education and better life. We practically grew up without a father. He came home about once a year for about 2 to 3 mos at a time . In a way, he was luckier than other Filipinos who are unable to return home that often. Most of them, especially those who were in the Middle East, never get to go home for years and years, leaving behind young children and spouses who need them. What will happened to those children? For me, it affected me not having my father growing up. My mother was overwhelmed raising 5 children and working as a teacher at the same time. We didn't get to know our father and this creates some tension in our relationship now.

I had a co-worker who spent some time in the Middle East as her husband works for the State Department. She met several Filipinos who were desperate of getting a job that they stood outside Westerner's houses or offices all day and begging to take care of their yard or chores. There was this particular Filipino woman who really stood out to her. The Filipino woman babysat for her twins. This woman told my co-worker her life story. She was in Israel for about 2 years and had not seen her young children and husband. She was or is staying illegally in Israel but she continues to stay there as she wants to provide better life for her kids. Israel, according to my co-worker, does not treat illegal immigrants well. My co-worker tried to assist her to get to the United States to be a caretaker of a quadriplegic teen-aged son of a friend but she was denied visa. Now, she doesn't know what happened to this Filipino woman.

It makes my heart aches hearing this kind of story! What can be done? I know the Philippine government does not really care on the psychological effect of migration and separation to families. Did they even do a study regarding this? Why Filipinos needing to get out of the country working those lowly jobs and taking care of other people's children when their own children are being neglected? Why most young Filipinos are wanting to get out of the country? Why do we need to live in a foreign land and suffer the feeling of being an outsider for the rest of our life?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Glimpse of Iowa

Trees in summer.


Wind farm providing electricity.


Acres and acres of tall corn!



Iowa roadside.




Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What a day!

I had a 3 day weekend. It was tough getting back to my routine at work. These are the things that happened today:

  • My co-worker's 25 year old son was killed last night. We don't know the detail yet. I feel so bad for her. I don't know which is worst -- losing a child whom you've had known already or having a miscarriage? Was I spared from this predicament?
  • One of my co-workers who is in maternity leave came to visit and brought her 11 week old baby girl. She is too cute! This stirred up mixed emotions - sadness for myself but genuinely happy for my co-worker. Weird!
  • I missed our bi-weekly staff meeting! Yehey!
  • 2 out of 6 patients cancelled and I ended up sorting papers on my desk. I found out that I had papers needing filing from 2 mos. ago. What a slob!
  • I found out that we will be going wireless starting today as the hospital is trying to save home health employees driving mileage. We do not need to go to the office anymore! I had a tutorial on how to use this. I felt so stupid as I don't know much about computer. Feeling like an imbecile!
  • Upon returning home, I found out my father cooked lumpia and it was very good. Cannot help over-eating! I need to exercise.
  • We were not able to do any exercise (again) as Jason and I took a long time to figure out on how to set up a tent. We were practicing this as we plan to camp in Colorado next month. Fun! Checkout pictures.
Jason trying to fit inflated air mattress in the tent.
Me checking out the inside of the tent.

Jason checking out the inside of the tent.




Monday, July 21, 2008

Socially Inept

It is still a struggle for me on how to handle myself in social gatherings with barely familiar people. I was born socially inept. Self-consciousness is heightened when I have to circulate and talk to someone. Apprehension dominates my emotional brain at initial contact with other party goers. What should I say after a hi and introduction? Should I ask what they do? No, it's not appropriate. They might think I will judge them on what they do and not for who they are. How about where they come from? Okay, that would probably be okay. Then what? Oh God, help me! Here they come. Loraine, just smile and listen. Take a deep breathe. It is not life and death. You'll survive.

You will think that working in health care helped me in this aspect of my life. Not really. The thing is when I see patients, I have a specific mission. I know what to ask and what topic of conversation will be -- them. Certainly, I improved over the years. I no longer feel nervous that I over indulge my patient with attention when family member is watching. However, it is different outside of work!

Last weekend, we attended Jason's grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. There were between 150 to 200 people. I never thought that they are so popular. They live in small town of Primghar, IA. I swear, it feels like half of the town was in that church where they celebrated the occasion. My sister-in-law and I were delegated the lemonade duty and due to the humid and hot day, it was a popular nook for the visitors. My sister-in-law told me to just smile and pretend I am working in WalMart. I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was the only non-Caucasian person in the room. Most of Jason's relatives know who I am but most of them are not familiar to me. I think they know me through photographs which were diligently taken by grandparents every time we have get-together. Most of the initial conversations were like this:
"How are you?"
"Fine, how about you?"
"Oh, fine."
Awkward silence.
"Well, it is nice seeing you," while walking away.
"You too.," feeling relieved.
As the party continues, inhibition waned and I started making better conversation like this:
"You've lost a lot of weight!" I should not have said this.
"About 40 pounds since January."
"How did you do it?"
"Eat differently and exercise 3x a week."
"We should be doing that."
Then the conversation changed to his son in Iraq and I became a better listener as I felt empathetic. I talked to many people there learning more about Jason's grandparents' earlier years. At the end of the day, I was glad I was there.

Iowans in my experience are reserve and careful people. I noticed that in parties they seldom have games. Mostly, get-together is about food and conversation. They know how to pace themselves and not get too excited with strangers (which I do). I will say compared to Filipino gatherings, Iowan gatherings will be considered boring but the longer I live here, I am starting to understand that it is about people and being comfortable in their presence by not trying too hard to please others and not losing yourself.





Saturday, July 12, 2008

On Being 30 something part 3

We seldom go to the mall these days. It was 7 mos since the last time. However, today after our early morning dental appointment and due to the fact I was just paid yesterday, I finally gave in to my shopping craving. We were in the mall for couple of hours but I came out empty handed. What happened? Well, aside from having more self- control, I found out that my size has increased and clothes just do not fit me well. I am actually thinking of liposuction, just in my midsection. Also, I found out that I am more picky with materials. I want clothes to be made of natural fibers and those clothes can cost you tons of money. I have no nerve to buy new clothes made of natural fiber in this new size because I am still hoping to lose weight (don't trump my hopes please).

I also found out that I read more the ingredients of processed foods and cosmetic products. I have conversation like this with my husband in store:
"What is this BHT?"
" Better not buy it if you don't know it."
"I found out that DMDM Hydantoin is made of formaldehyde. They use it in lotions and soaps as a preservative"
" Don't buy it then. We can get cancer from it."

To make long story short, we are limited on what we can buy from normal stores. We spend more money now as we are very particular in using natural products. We used to buy generic brand products but they do not suffice anymore. Is it because we have more buying power in our 30's or just more pretentious?

Our Dentist

Today, Jason and I had our 6 month dental appointment. Jason was not excited about it but I don't mind going to our dentist. I think we have one of the best dentist in the world. His name is Boyd Nordmark DDS. He is probably in his late 70's to early 80's but very much in tuned with new technology. He colors his hair blond and is fond of jazz. The clinic also serves as their residence. It is an older house built probably sometime in 1920's and located in not-so-nice neighborhood in Des Moines. The neighborhood which was established probably in the early 20th century is called Highland Park. I like the houses there as I have fondness for houses built in the 1920's and 1930's. I think the woodwork in those houses are spectacular and you cannot see it anymore in the current era of cookie-cutter subdivisions. However, in the last couple of decades, older residents of that neigborhood started dying or moving out and people who do not maintain their houses and yards moved in and this cause the value of houses to drop, therefore people with questionable characters were able to move in too.

Aside from his wife Shirley who is the office manager, he is the sole dentist in the clinic. There is no hygienist at all. We've known him for 4 years now since we moved back in Iowa. Our managed care insurance listed him as the only provider in our area. When I learned where he was located I was skeptical because when we were living in Dallas metro, TX , we went to this dentist who was on the list given by our insurance and it was like an assembly line as they scheduled patients very closely. I did not have much good expectation about Boyd. Driving through an alley just to get to his place did not really help my apprehension. Before getting out of the car in that very first visit, I told Jason, "You have to go first and if you think it is unsanitary there just turn around and go back to the car. I don't want to get any blood-borne diseases." To make long story short, I was impressed by his cleanliness and thoroughness That was the very best teeth cleaning I have had. I am stuck with him. He did several procedures for me already in the past 4 years -- had my unaligned molar pulled and re-done 4 of my fillings. He taught me the proper way to floss and encouraged me to be a dentist. Okay, he is not that perfect. I expect my gums to hurt for couple of days after my prophylactic cleaning and he makes Jason gag but with his care my mouth is in its healthiest state ever. Believe me, I have seen many dentists in my 34 years of life as I wore braces when I was younger. Jason, on the other hand, has perfect teeth with no cavities nor misalignment. He attributed it from drinking milk and fluoride in water. He did not go to the dentist regularly until we got married when I prodded him to do so. . The dentist said that he probably flosses and brushes his teeth regularly. The truth is he does not floss at all. When, I told Boyd that, he cannot believe it!

Anyway, now, we do not have any dental insurance but we decided to stay with Boyd. We could have moved to any dentist in town but I could not bear the thought of not having him as a dentist. We made another 6 month appointment which will be in January and I just wish and pray that Boyd will be there for several years and be our dental angel.

Monday, July 7, 2008

On Being 30 something Part 2

What should I do next to advance myself? I can go back to school to get a graduate degree but "of what?" is the big question. To go for my Doctorate degree for Physical Therapy is not really practical. It will not get me anywhere in terms of pay and position. Perhaps I could go to Public Health as I am both a nurse and a physical therapist, but I don't know if there is any opportunity for that kind of education. To go back to be a medical doctor? Forget about it as it requires me to be a full-time student and I would probably need to get some prerequisites, and it will take several years before it pays off. I found out that it is not that easy anymore to just drop my job and head back to school. I am not getting any younger and it is time to be serious about retirement. It would be difficult to make up for those years of no income. I could probably go to school part-time and still work. Do I really need that stress when I am trying to have a child? Everything changes when you reach this almost mid-thirty age. There is your biological clock ticking reminding you that it is now or never to pro-create. Time is not on my side. Women cannot really have it all at the same time.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

On Being 30 something

I am exhausted!

We spent our 4th of July weekend trying to finish our master bathroom remodelling project. Our goal was to do as much as we could, so we could enjoy the next weekend. We sanded the drywall, tiled, painted, installed a new toilet and put on trim. We did not really finish everything. The toilet is still leaking and we cannot figure out what's causing it. We tightened every nut and bolt and checked all the washers but we cannot figure out where it is coming from. Thank God that the leak is small and we could probably wait another day to figure that out. I am actually tempted to call a plumber but Jason told me to hold off.

It seems like my body gives out more easily now that I am in my thirties. I don't have the stamina that I used to have when I was younger. Then, when we first bought our house, we painted and installed a parquet wood floor in one bedroom on weekends and weekdays after work. Now, I could only do it during the weekend. This bathroom project will probably be the only project this year. I used to be more ambitious (or probably foolish) in planning projects. Reality sets in eventually! This year is the most physically active year for both of us since we got married but this is also the heaviest I've ever been in my life! Metabolism is slowing down but my appetite continues to be horse-like. I am also noticing a few wrinkles at the outer side of my eyes when I smile. They call it crow's feet. I am actually considering to have botox injection if it gets worse.

I am not in my best physical state in my 30's compared to my 20's. The good thing is that I am less conscious on how I look and I am more aware of what I want. I also feel more comfortable in my own skin and more confident which I lacked when I was younger. It is probably from experience. My life has not been easy but whose life is. Those hardships make me stronger, wiser and more interesting. I assume less frequently, accepting whatever gets in my way and act accordingly. I am more at peace to know that I am not special! Each one experiences success and trials. We are equal. I used to say "It sucks to be average." I thought if only I am extraordinarily intelligent or creative like Bill Gates or angelically kind like Mother Teresa, my life would be more fulfilling. Now, I think being average is good. There is less expectation. I don't mean mediocrity but just knowing my limits and being realistic on what I can do. Having no pretention is peaceful.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July

Fourth of July is my second favorite American holiday after Thanksgiving, especially when it falls on Friday or Monday which gives us 3-day weekend. Hurray!

This July 4th, we did not go for a picnic or a trip. We did not even see the firework which is almost in our backyard due to the fact that we live close to a casino and amusement park. Instead, we are inside the house and working in our bathroom. Our plan is to finish this lingering project this weekend, so, we could be free on Labor Day weekend (hopefully). We heard the loud explosions of the firework and at one time, caught the glimpse of the multicolored display of lights outside our window, but we were just too tired to go out and watch it. Our normally quiet street is lined by parked cars and we can hear laughter and jolly voices of people. And I am jealous!

"Next year, we will try to enjoy the 4th," I murmured to Jason when our eyes met while resting from vigorous sanding of drywalls.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Downtime

Anticipating my usual 2-day off work, Friday evening is usually my favorite time of the week. However, this week, I feel exhausted physically and emotionally. Aside from the fact that this is my weekend to work, I am feeling a deep sense of loss as the 2nd cycle of Clomid had not given us a result we are hoping for. Unlike the 1st cycle, I am feeling more pain physically. There is this constant cramping in my lower abdomen, which is bad enough for me to need to take pain medication to be able to function. It is difficult to care for others when I am not feeling too well myself. Compounding all these things is a nagging right eye allergy that is making it red, itchy and watery, bad enough that I had to apply cold compress at work. Also, I feel more disoriented which is not good because I have to drive to unfamiliar places this weekend to see patients. Are these side-effects of Clomid?

Normally, I, kind of, look forward to working the weekend as this is the only time that I can listen to weekend NPR (National Public Radio) programming while driving. I, particularly, love Car Talk, Wait, Wait. Don't Tell Me, Splendid Table, Travel with Rick Steve, This American Life and Prairie Home Companion. However, this weekend, I cannot enjoy any of it. I am feeling preoccupied by some random thoughts. All I want to do is to have a chai latte, lie down and blog, in that order.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Satellite View

It is in a small street of a middle-class suburban neighborhood where in summer you can see well-maintained lawns, mature trees, people in shorts walking or biking and happy children playing. Everyone seems to enjoy the short season of warm days adorned by full bloomed flowers and cooled by a refreshing and fragrant breeze from newly mowed grass and wild prairie flowers. There is nothing special in this neighborhood where most houses were built in the mid-1970s but I feel at home here. We do not know the names of our neighbors. Waving, smiling and polite how-are-yous are the only interactions we have had. However, most communication is non-verbal. The loud hum of a neighbor's lawn mower signals that we have to mow our lawn. The aroma of grilled meat in early evening has a soothing effect of primal carnivorous desires that we shared. The sound of car engines is a reliable clue to get up in the morning and announcement that our neighbor is back home. We cannot help but feel sad when we see a for sale sign but feel elated when a sold sticker is placed over it. Our hearts are delighted by the thought of living in such a desirable place. Wildlife such as brown squirrels, grey bunnies, multi-colored migratory birds, geese from a nearby pond, well-fed dogs and occasional stray cats are also a sight and sound here. Everyone seems to be content sharing this small space.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bathroom Remodelling


This is how our master bathroom looks right now. For the first time, we feel like we are accomplishing something. We started this project back on Memorial Day weekend. We thought it would be easier as we are using a fiberglass surround shower stall versus tiling but we were mistaken! Every stage of this project has been difficult as our house is older and those stalls you can buy from big box hardware stores do not fit perfectly in our cubby hole for the shower. Now, we just need to tile the top of the shower, finish the drywall, paint, install trims and shower hardware. I promised myself not to embark on a project like this again for my sanity's sake!

Slob Confession

Yes, I admit I am a slob. Take note, not dirty but a slob. Sometimes I wish I could be more prim and proper and more organized. It's just that my nature is the opposite. I envy people who work in an office because they can dress up nicely and look professional. You see I do not need to dress up for my job. All I need to wear are shirt with Mercy logo and black pair of scrub pants . I don't even wear make-up or fix my hair nicely. Okay, that's laziness in my part. A lot of times I feel why bother when I just get dirty in my work. My poor husband, he has not seen me dolled up for quite a while!
It's not just in my physical appearance; my car is also a mess! I spend most of my working day in my car. I eat my lunch and do my computer work there. So, it is full of crumbs from my perpetual peanut butter sandwich lunch, papers, pens, paper clips, walkers, restorator, and other things I use for work. My husband suggested to use a crate but it did not help. It's even difficult to haul groceries as there is no room for it in my poor car. Also, I am the cause of why the left tail lights in both of our cars are broken! Please check out pictures.













Thursday, June 19, 2008

Late spring 2008 backyard scenes

Bunny

Lavander

Sage











Jason hanging clothes on a sunny day.


Onion bed

Vegetables









Strawberry






This is our 36 square feet strawberry patch.








Our first harvest.







My first canning experience ever. Strawberry jam. Yum!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flood of '08

I was oblivious to the current natural disaster hitting most of Iowa until yesterday when while driving I cannot get through a main street to go back to our office in downtown Des Moines. Cars were slowing down and the red traffic lights were blinking when I saw water spilling like lava from a large manhole on the side of the street filling the street with dark water creating a small lake. City workers were scrambling to place large signs for detours and placing temporary sand levees to prevent flooding to the nearby buildings. After taking long detours, I arrived in our office with more empathy to one of the secretaries who was evacuated from her home few days ago due to 5 feet of water in her basement. Earlier that day, I asked how she was doing and without prompting she showed me several pictures of her basement where you can see stuffs floating including her washer and dryer. Before I left for home , I wished her a good weekend and she answered me with a smirk "Yeah right."

Upon returning home, I watched the news learning that more mandatory evacuations were in placed in some Des Moines neighborhoods that are within 500 year flood zones as the integrity of the levees were compromised. The news showed desperate people wading through contaminated flood water that is about thigh high for them (maybe waist or chest high for me) trying to rescue their pets and some precious belongings. At the bottom of the screen, evacuation shelters and sandbag outlets were being advertised. Several events such as the Republican and Democratic parties state convention, the Iowa Cub Games as well as the Farmer's Market were cancelled. Our plan for the weekend changed as we found out that the streets to our favorite places were closed. It is a very small discomfort compared to people directly affected by flooding. What a year for natural disaster!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Politics

Disappointed and disillusioned by the current administration, Jason and I decided to be more involved in Iowa's January caucus to select the democratic presidential nominee. We felt privileged to be part of the first-in-the -nation caucus. Earlier in 2007, we thought Iowa will lose this status as many states were arguing that Iowa is highly homogeneous and does not represent the country's diversity. However, the 30-year plus tradition prevailed.

It was cold Saturday in November when Jason and I heeded an invitation to a house party for Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Initially apprehensive due to fear that there will be no other people attending, I reluctantly agreed to go. Part of me had this curiosity to see the inside of the house where the party was held. It sits on a main street I pass almost everyday. The 2 story house is ordinary but what interests me was their big tidy garden. Spring through Fall, a stand is erected in front of the house where you can purchase fruits and vegetables in season. I was interested on how these people live as I would like to be a homesteader someday.

When we arrived, we were surprised by how much people were inside that modest house. It did not take long for us to learn that many people in our neighborhood shared the same political sentiment. The energy and excitement was palpable. Drinks and cookies were offered in which Jason cannot resist. The kitchen was the only place that Jason and I lingered as there were so many people. I examined the house and my eyes were caught by this mission-style bookshelf holding different cookbooks from vegetarian to meat lovers. Then, we heard a commotion in the living room. Gov. Richardrson followed by his well dressed volunteers had arrived. Before starting the meeting, he went around the house and shook hands and addressed each person by first name. Dressed in a turtleneck sweater and brown suit, he looks better in person than I thought. The meeting began with Richardson laying out his ambitious platform. After about 10 minutes of speaking, he accepted questions from the audience. Tons of questions were thrown from Iraq war to the falling dollar. We were impressed and that same day, we decided to support him.

January 3, 2008, we caucused for Bill Richardson but as you all know it did not happen for him. After a long, bitter nomination process for the Democratic party, Sen. Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Realizations

I arrived to the final realizations of certain aspects of my life so far...

  • It does not matter how long I live in the United States, I will never be an American. I have American citizenship but Filipino is the nationality attached to me for the rest of my life.
  • I will never lose my Filipino accent. I have tried my best to train my tongue and lips to pronounce words in American way but at the end of the day when fatigue sets in, I revert back to my Filipino accent. I am not ashamed of it as I heard different accents of English language. No one can tell me that my accent is wrong.
  • I need to eat rice at least once a week. However, I learned that I love brown rice more than white rice. Aside from brown rice heartier than white, it is more nutritious. Rice is a very versatile food as you can eat it with almost everything. Though my consumption decreased since I came to live here, it remains a staple in my household.
  • Iowa is my home away from home. I tell people that I probably know Iowa better than the Philippines. Driving makes you more oriented to a place. When I first came here in Iowa, I felt like I was thrown in the middle of nowhere. There are no big cities and high skyscrapers that I imagined America would be. Instead, I found acres and acres of flat corn and soybean fields. People will argue that it is not really flat as it has rolling hills but it is for me compared to the Philippines where you can see a mountain silhouette from a distance. To make matter worst, Filipinos are small in number compared to other bigger states. However, Iowa has grown on me. I love its four seasons, the peacefulness, big sky, small towns, low cost but high standard of living and nice people. I cannot live anywhere else for now.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Apache Wedding Blessing

Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no loneliness for you,
now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two persons but
there is one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place
to enter into the days
of your togetherness.
And may your days be good
and long upon the earth.

June 7,2000


It was an awkward kiss that ended our brief wedding ceremony. We received polite congratulations from the Justice of the Peace and from our two good older friends who stood as our witnesses. Bringing out the color of his eyes, Jason looked regal in his new charcoal colored suit while I felt fat in my red printed silk dress. Taking in the moment, we took our time descending the marbled steps of the old ornate building serving as a courthouse. The only sound in the lobby was the echo from our shoe heels hitting the hard marbled floor. Outside was a glorious sunny spring day. Breathing in the fresh fragrant air, Jason and I together with our 2 friends ambled across the street to the parking lot. It was decided to go to Apple Bees to celebrate the occasion.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer of 1999

Carefully watching the boiling water cooking the freshly bought sweet corn, I was surprised by the arrival of three male house guests. My equally surprised roommate reluctantly opened the door. The first young man that appeared in the open door was blond and tall. My head was turned and my eyes were squinting in concentration to remember who this guy might be. Was it Jerry, my friend's tennis playmate? He firmly shook my roommate's hand like a salesman and introduced himself as Jason. The other two, hiding behind, were familiar to me as former co-workers. I excitedly joined the commotion in the small living room that also served as a bedroom. Fatigue and hunger ignored, I put on a big smile and how are you's. After polite small talk, it was decided to go bowling.

I was the only female of the group. Overwhelmed by the attention given by these boys, I was giddy. I was particularly torn between the attentions of 2 different young men. One I just met and one I was pursuing for a long time. Who should it be? Then I felt in those kind gaze the tender feeling that the blond young man is the one for me. At the end of the evening, he slipped a piece of paper in my hand. There was his phone number.

That night, I slept with a smile and burning passion in my heart to see this young man again....

Monday, June 2, 2008

Emotions

Warm rainy spring evening, sitting in our new Adirondack chairs on our open front porch, Jason and I were winding down from a busy weekend of bathroom remodeling. Our unwashed tired bodies, enjoying the coolness of light mist of the rain, were feeling the healing power of fresh air and joy of this simple pleasures of togetherness and peacefulness. Recovering from a roller coaster feeling of despair and elation at various points of our remodelling, I cannot help but uttered these words with a smile and sense of contentment, "This is heaven." Forgotten for that several minutes were dim realities of an impending busy work week, the unending household chores needed for survival and the unfinished and gutted master bathroom.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Religiosity

I was born Roman Catholic but when I was 10, my mother was converted to Pentecostalism. I was confused then because I attended Catholic schools and was dutiful to attend regular mass. Then all of a sudden, it changed. I am not a Catholic anymore and should not be attending those masses that they required in school. I became one of the iglesias, the term my classmates referred to non-Catholics. It took me several years to really get used to the new identity. My mother, as I remembered, also struggled as she attended 2 services (Catholic and Pentecostal)each Sunday for several months before deciding that she has to pick only one. The rest is history.

I always referred to the religion that I grew up with as Pentecostal. This way,I think, it explains my idiosyncrasies such as having no sense of style (baduy),feeling guilty all the time (or is this part of being a woman! Who knows?), not finding speaking-in-tongues strange and totally ignorant of pop culture.

At the age of 14, I decided to be baptized. I felt then that I was obliged to follow all the rules of the church. Our religion is not what you called a mainstream religion. It is kind of radical. There are so many ridiculous restrictions especially for women. Women were not allowed to wear pants, cut their hair, wear jewelries and wear make-up. These were difficult for my mother at first as she had worn her hair short for several years. Also, it was prohibited to watch movies in the theatre but maybe okay at home. Owning a television was discouraged. Also, Christmas and Fiestas were not celebrated. Men and women cannot swim together in a pool. Women were required to wear skirt even in a pool! There should not be any display of affection while dating. I can go on and on but you can see the point. It is like growing up in a convent. It is, probably, not a big deal if we lived in isolated place where we never interact with other people. Even our closest relatives found us strange and this made my mother isolated from her family and became more involved emotionally to the church.

Being involved in this religion was both a blessing and a curse. Curse is a harsh word but I cannot think of any word. Blessing and curse just go together. It is a cliche. Anyway, I will say there are different intensity of curse --slight, mild, moderate and severe. It is a mild curse. Blessing because it gave me focus in my teenage years. I used to feel different from every person in school because of my religion. I looked different. I did not know any secular music. It was a struggle but my religion became my crutch during those difficult times. It probably guided me to focus on my future versus the then immediate need to be popular or at least fit in. Curse because I was ignorant of everything else in life!

Then, during and after college, I decided to try other Protestant churches. I attended countless denominations but in my futile attempt, I realized I did not belong anywhere. Maybe I am just too rebellious for organized religion. However, last year, after my third miscarriage, I was invited by a friend to this church. I did like that particular church as it is closer in style to the church that I grew up with but tamer. It was a comfort emotionally to be in a familiar place and presence. I started attending regularly, hauling my reluctant husband and father who just ended up falling asleep during every service.

Then, one day, I stumbled upon this audio book by Christopher Hitchens God is not Great. He posed many shocking facts about major religions. This changed my perspective. I began to doubt religion again. Concurrent to this, the pastor would regularly include his own political agenda in his sermon and this turned me and my husband off. We would see people walk out during his sermon. Then, every Sunday after that, it seemed like my mind and heart were somewhere else but my body was in the church. I felt like a hypocrite. I have not been back to church since December when we attended a Christmas concert.

Guilt is in my mind every Sunday morning. I should be in church. The political pastor, I learned, just retired. The interim pastor called and checked on us for couple of months after we stopped attending . We still receive their bulletins regularly through the mail. Temptation to go back continues to haunt me. "Maybe this Sunday." I regularly tell myself. Then, there were chores and projects to do. There just not enough time!

I have been in both sides of religiosity - religious and non-religious. I will say at a current time, I am not religious. The good thing about it is I am less guilty (except for Sunday mornings) and less judgmental. However, I still crave for that feeling of peacefulness when I was in the spirit of praise and worship. Belief in omnipotent, kind and loving God is carved in my heart and mind forever. Someday, I hope, Spiritual is the adjective I can use to describe my state of being.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Occupation

I have this pattern of changing job every 1 to 2 years. Maybe I am addicted to orientations --being paid to listen to human resources staff go on and on about company policies and procedures, watching endless boring educational videos and learning my future duties and responsibilities. Yes , orientation is sweet and I did not mind it. Probably, I am afraid of long term commitment of dealing with the same craps with the easiest way out is to quit. For whatever reason, it is not easy to hop from one job to another. It depresses me to fill out those long applications as I have to list all the jobs I had. Also, I have to learn new routines all the time and it is stressful. The longest so far is my current job. It will be 2 years this coming July. This, according to Jason, is a cause for celebration. The miracle is that I have no plan to quit. I am not craving to view the job market section of Sunday paper anymore.

It's been eleven years! That's how long I am rendering service to people who needs me and in return I get a paycheck every 2 weeks. It's called work. Looking back it amazes me on how I grew emotionally (yeah, lots of it) and professionally. My regret probably is that I changed job so many times. Sometimes it was my own choosing, others times not. Don't get me wrong, I have never been fired (at least not yet). Sometimes companies lose their contract in a facility. Usually, in therapy world, a company is contracted to a facility to provide therapy services. It is not all like that, for example, hospitals usually do their own hiring, but in the 90's, most facilities and hospitals had companies contracted to provide them staff for their rehabilitation services. I apologize if I go on and on with this information but I believe that if you know how therapy staffing works then you might (lots of emphasis on might) understand what happened to my career.

I was 23 years old when I came to the United States. My only experience in the Philippines, career wise, were applying to several hospitals and clinics, ending up to be rejected so many times, and volunteering for a month. Also, it took time and travelling back and forth to La Union (where our agency was located) and US Embassy to process papers. At least those are my excuses on why I did not work in the Philippines. Well in short, I was young, naive and inexperienced. Despite these shortcomings, I was amazed on the ease of finding a job in my profession here in the US. There was such a shortage at that time. When I was interviewed in my first job, the rehab manager told me that their only concern was that I might get homesick. I was so proud to tell them "Never." Boy, how wrong I was to say it! In a week or so, just after excitement of having a job waned, I found myself lonely, stressed and intimidated by the daunting task of being responsible for my patients' well being. I thought I was too young for that kind of responsibility. In the Philippines, physical therapist is dependent on a physiatrist on what they can do to a patient. Here, physical therapist is independent and usually makes decision or recommendation on patient's placement, such as nursing home vs. home. Also, in my first job, I had people who are more experienced and better in English working under my license. I was very intimidated. These, in my recollection, were never taught in school. Damn you, E.A.C. (Emilio Aguinaldo College)! To be fair, my managers and other therapists were very helpful and patient to me during those long learning times.

I also found the culture very different from what I was programmed. In the Philippines, we have so much respect, bordering on worship, to people with authorities. Here, everyone is equal --everyone is vital to the organization. So, we call our bosses by their first names, not ma'am or sir. It is okay to question doctors' decision and to speak your opinion. It is confrontational. Honesty is also a culture here. Everyone logs their time accurately all the time. They finish their paperwork on time. I, on the other hand, am a procrastinator. Managers do regular reviews of your performance. They usually start with the positive then, here we go, the dreaded things to improve. One Filipino therapist told us when we were just an ignorant new graduates that Americans are generally lazy and a lot of them are not educated. He also added that most of them have never been out of the country. Well, I did not find those Americans in my first job. Most of the people I work with have Master's degree, always on time, hard worker and spent some of their college days in Europe. Do not get me wrong, I work with very diverse people--some are highly educated and others are not. Overall though, I learned that generalization does not apply anywhere!

Anyway, I changed job frequently in my hope to find my dream job. I have not found it. Actually, I don't even know what my dream job is. It is sad but work is work. I need it to pay my bills and be able to live the life I want. I feel lucky to have a good job in hard times like these when unemployment rate is higher. My goal right now is to keep this job for at least 5 years as I will be vested for retirement. Well, it is a big goal for me and hopefully I can make it. Let's wait and see. Abangan!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Speaking in English

My friends and family in the Philippines expect me to be fluent in English now that I've been living in the United States for more than 11 years. The truth is I am not. I don't know if it's just that I am not an eloquent person, or conversation with the Americans requires to use only simple English words. They also use tons of idioms, for example when Jason gets irritated by my nagging he will say cut it off instead of saying stop nagging.

Many Americans asked me if I learned how to speak English in my home country. I answered yes but it is different because in school we were taught the formal way. Conversational English is very different. Well, I'll say American English conversation is different. Most people will say that I speak good English. I think they meant I speak relatively well. As many immigrants now moving to Iowa, many Iowans are grateful that at least they can understand most of what I meant compared to other foreign people who are very limited with English. The challenge for me is talking to people who are hard of hearing. About 90 percent of my patients are hard of hearing. I need to speak loudly and slowly. This makes my accent worst. I think this leaves my tongue and lips raw and vulnerable to twist with certain words and I am more apt to mispronounce the words. Also, at the end of the day, I tend to jumble Filipino and English words altogether because I am more tired and it requires certain amount of energy for me to express what I want to communicate in English.

My writing did not improve as much because my vocabulary is limited. I wish I could use more descriptive words to describe how I feel. I think the reason is that I have to use simple words. One time I used the word masticate and people just looked at me with confused eyes. Also, my job and educational background did not help much with this because we need to write concisely in our daily notes and assessment. We eliminate unnecessary words and jargon as medical reviewers do not like these. Actually, we cannot even use any other punctuation except for period. The words that we normally use are very unromantic and uncreative such as anterior which means front or facade. We have to use these scientific words to sound professional.

English is a very complex language. I explain it this way to many Americans -- Tagalog which is my first language has only 5 vowel sounds but English has a lot of vowel sounds (I am not really sure how many). Also, in Tagalog, you pronounce it as how you spell it. In English, there are silent letters. We do not have c, j, th, q, v, f, z and x. In pronouns, we do not have male or female. Also rules in the use of verbs in English are very complicated. Tagalog is relatively an easier language .

My Tagalog also suffered. I think I am very wordy when I write in Tagalog. In the end I am not fluent in any language. Welcome to the expat life-caught in between 2 cultures and languages, where I do not belong 100 percent to either.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gas price

It was a tough week for me! Well, I think the main reason is hormonal. Also, everyone seems to be off in my place of work. I've been covering territories that is someone else's. This is very hard because of the price of gas. It is now $3.65 per gallon. I will not be surprised if it will hit $4 and beyond this summer. It is painful in my line of work which is home health. We go about 50 miles radius from the hospital. I normally goes to east side of Des Moines and other eastern towns. I have a Nissan Sentra which gives me about 32 miles per gallon. Mercy reimburses us 50.5 cents per gallon. However, with the wear and tear in my car plus the seemingly-constant-upward-climb of gas prices, it has been tough. Added to this is we are the main transport for my father. He works night shift, out-of-town, in Ankeny which is another suburb of Des Moines, for Wal-Mart. Bus system is not really good. I have no choice but to reluctantly ask him to buy a tank of gas monthly to ease my pain.

Not too long ago, gas price was not an issue here in the United States. I remember, in Summer of 1999, I was driving 60 miles one way to work but it was not a big deal because it was 79 cents per gallon. Jason said that it was strange and uncommonly low price for gas. Maybe, it was lower here in Iowa because of ethanol. People were into SUV's. All my Filipino friends were driving SUV's. When you buy car, they were more on luxury and safety features. Now, it is the mileage.

Oh how times change! I feel nostalgic to the old good days of cheap oil. It will not come back. It is simply an issue of supply vs demand. With China and India's economies growing in this high rate, there are more demand for fuel and the supply never grows. Oil is non-renewable.

In reality, it is bittersweet. I know that high prices in the gas pump make it difficult for a lot of people. There is a domino effect. High fuel price equals high food prices. Then, consumers confidence drops which means many businesses will not make it. However, there is a silver lining. We are forced to conserve energy. We become more aware of the immediate need for renewable source of energy! Also, crude oil is dirty! It causes global warming which will be more devastating to all. I am optimistic that in not-too-distant future, we will be free from the tyranny of oil.

P.S. I am sorry for this rant. It is just hitting me hard in my pocketbook. I fill up my tank about 2 to 3x per week. It's about $100 dollars or more.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

JUAN

Jason, my husband, went to the bank yesterday. It was busy. He needed to go to the teller to pay our mortgage and talk to a banker to inquire regarding setting up for automatic bill payment. He needed to write his name in a sign up sheet as there were many people waiting to talk to bankers. So, he decided to write his name in the sign up sheet and then waited in line for the teller. He got done with the teller and sat down in one of chairs in the lobby where people were waiting for a banker . Then, this banker #1 came and looked at sign up sheet and called "Juan. Juan." No one stood up. Banker #1 ended up calling some other name as Juan did not show up. Jason is the only non-Hispanic person waiting. He had a feeling though that it was supposed to be him. How could it be? His handwriting was clear. Probably, there was a Juan. So, he waited a little longer and he was not called. He checked the list and his name was skipped. So, he approached banker #2 and told him that he was JUAN. He came home and told me this story. "Do I look like a Juan?" he asked animatedly. "No, far from it," I answered while looking at his brown hair, blue eyed, light skinned, 6 feet frame.

Assumption is never a good thing!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Things I learned in America

  • Using north, south, east and west in giving direction.
  • How to read map.
  • Use the word pop instead of soft drink
  • It's okay to say hi and smile to strangers
  • To be direct and honest
  • Flattery will get you nowhere.
  • It's okay to say no
  • Driving and driving defensively in every road conditions especially winter. I learned how to drive at the age of 23.
  • How to grow vegetables and flowers. I learned about topsoil , compost and composting, as well as proper watering. I still have long ways to go.
  • Procrastination will lead to stress.
  • To be on time.
  • To choose my battle.
  • To accept my situation.
  • All jobs are the same. It's my attitude that I can change.
  • To be assertive.
  • To listen to my gut feeling.
  • To caucus.
  • To do more for the environment.
  • To be a skeptical consumer and citizen.
  • To listen more.
  • America has opportunities but you need to work hard for it.
  • Not personalize negative stuffs from everyone.
  • It's okay to say I don't know and ask questions.
  • How lucky I am!
  • I cannot do my best at all times. (It's from a friend, L)
  • Life is not all or none...or black and white...
  • Schooling is expensive.
  • Do-it-yourself attitude
  • Self-sufficiency attitude.
  • How to manage finances.
  • How to prepare for retirement.
  • To live below my means.
  • Be myself.
  • I cannot please everyone.
  • How to cook.
  • Listen to NPR.
  • Watch Public TV.
  • Listen to BBC for another perspective.
  • To be liberal in thinking yet conservative at heart.
  • Mother Earth Magazine.
  • Not to be judgmental.
  • Use the public library.
  • There is poverty in America
  • Importance of buying locally
  • How to make soap.
  • How to make lotion.

Monday, May 12, 2008

No Control

Life is fragile. With all the advancement in technology, we continue to have no control of mother nature.
Myanmar....about 35,000
China...about 10,000
Missouri and Oklahoma ....22
Number of people who lost their lives in just a week due to natural disaster. My problems seem so insignificant in comparison.