Saturday, May 31, 2008


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


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


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.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


After my 1st day of work (actually, we just had an orientation). April 1997.
Dallas, TX. April 1997.

When we arrived. Denton, TX. April 10,1997. After 22 hours of travel, we're exhausted.

My last picture in the Philippines. NAIA, April 10, 1997.

Eleven years ago, my new life began. It's been a journey. I met so many people who will stay forever in my memory. Years past. Many mistakes made. Naive no more. Innocence lost. Stronger. Heavier. Experienced. Hopefully kinder and more appreciative of life....

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Roots Problem

It's one of those days that I wish I live in an apartment or condo. Our basement flooded. We thought at first that our sump pump was not working. How could it be when the sump pump was just 2 years old? Anyway, it took us about half an hour to propped open the sump pump cover (which is actually a radon cover, so, it was sealed very well) to found out that the sump pump was fine. We looked closer and found some septic waste materials (yuck!). After almost 4 hours and about 135 dollars later, we found out that our main drain was clogged by roots of the trees in our yard.

I can't blame the trees. They are here first!

Friday, May 9, 2008


"You make soap?" People cannot believe that I can make my own soap. I started about 2 years ago when I bought an all natural tripled milled soaps from Target. They were on sale and I was curious. I loved it! However, those soaps are ridiculously too expensive for my budget. So, I decided to try to make my own soap.

I excitedly browsed and borrowed books about soap making from the library. For my very first try, I decided on Castille soap just made of olive oil and lye as those were readily available for me. It was a disaster. The mixture separated. I was very determined to try soap making again. So, I read more interesting books about it. Finally, I was successful my second try. Well, we waited for a month before using it because I was terrified that it may burn our skin. Our skin are still intact. Thank God!

"Why bother? Soaps are cheap in the store?" one very skeptical co-worker asked me. Well, let me tell you the reasons:
  • I always want to be a chemist and this is the closest I can get.
  • We try to avoid harmful and questionable chemicals in our daily life. Most commercial soaps contain preservatives that are carcinogenic or just questionable on their effects. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and known to absorb chemicals with systemic effect in our body.
  • Homemade soaps are far superior in quality and moisturizing effect in the skin.
  • It is also milder due to all natural ingredients.
  • Too expensive to buy all natural soaps from health store.

I promise to write more about soap making and share some recipes. For those who wants sample please e-mail me at No, I am not selling it. Maybe in the future. For now I am just enjoying it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I was inspired by Filipinos in Europe who started blog sites chronicling their life and love in their new world. Actually, part of it is nosiness. Yeah, I am congenitally nosy (tsismosa). Well, there is not much for me to see in the Internet sometimes. My hubby and I used to go to the library to use computer. You have 1 hour to use the Internet sometimes 2, depending on how busy they are. Well, after checking my e-mail and news in the Philippines (mostly celebrity news), usually there were lots of time left. I just surfed. One day, I got to this site, I got hooked. They are slow though to have new topics. So, I just checked the contributors. Well, most of them have blog sites and their blog sites have links to other blog sites. Well, my nosiness kicked in and just started clicking and reading these people's life. My favorites are Anp, Kala, Ruth, Makis, Hazel, Apol and Analyse. It's funny because these people are in Europe but I feel like I know them and can relate to them. There are bloggers from the US but I did not get into it. What is it? Maybe I am just interested about life in Europe. I always want to see France and Italy. I told my hubby that I probably was an Italian in my previous life. I am also interested on anything French. I try to learn the language but it is just difficult. We actually planned to go to France this year but the dollar is weak. So, forget about it! I also tried to watch French movies. Well, some are good. Most are just strange. Anyway, back to the topic, the main reason I am blogging is just that I have this urge to keep in touch with my old friends. I am not a good communicator. My brain is bursting with ideas and opinions but realistically people get bored on listening to me go on and on. No one really want to hear it , except of course my hubby. Maybe, just maybe, this site will allow me to communicate more effectively.

The Cost

Treating Infertility is not cheap. Our insurance,I found out, covers only $15,000.00 lifetime max. It does not cover IVF. I got these info's from a book, A Few Good Eggs by Julie Vargo and Maureen Regan.

Fertility Drugs: Expect to pay between $50 (for one cycle of Clomid, excluding doctor visits) to as much as $2,500 to 4,000 (for one cycle of gonadotropin injections, including doctor's visit.
Artificial Insemination: $250 to 750.
Sperm Wash: $150
Ovulation induction with artificial Insemination: $1,600.
In vitro fertilization: $7,000 to $15,000. The price excludes fertility drugs.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection combined with IVF: $10,000 to $17,000.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): $7,000 to $15,000.
Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT): same as GIFT
Donor eggs: $10,000 to $50,000 and includes compensation to the egg donor as well as the egg retrieval and subsequent IVF.
Surrogates: $15,000 to $60,000 with the money going to the attorneys and agencies, as well as toward the surrogate's medical expenses.
Hysteroscopy: $350 to $600.
Laparoscopy: $3,000 to $10,000.

This could be in credit card commercial.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Follow up

I finished what I have to do this cycle. I am done for now with Clomid which I took day 5 to 9 of my cycle (I am glad it is covered by our insurance). Clomid is supposed to stimulate my ovaries to ovulate. It is the 1st line of defense (I think) because it is less potent and less expensive. It did not have any side effects on me. Maybe the dosage is not that much relatively speaking. It is 100 mg. Ovulation is expected in day 14 to 19 of the cycle. So, we have to see. Time for me to run to Wal Mart and buy another ovulation predictor kit.

I had my last blood draw for this cycle Saturday morning to check for FSH, Estradiol and Progesterone. I also had ultrasoud to count my egg reserve (I did not know they can do it). I have good reserve. I have not called the doctor's office for the result of my blood tests.

Amazing, what I am learning. Innocence lost for me!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Spring in Iowa

Spring finally arrived in Iowa. We went to The Tulip Festival in Pella last Saturday. Such a perfect weather for being outside. It was about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunday it was in the 70's. So, we worked all day long outside in the garden.
It's funny because in the Philippines, people do not really talk about weather often. It is relatively predictable compared to Iowa. Philippines has only 2 seasons - wet and dry seasons, and warm all year round. We know the months for typhoon season. We listened for what "signal" the storm is for school purposes. Also, temperature does not vary too much.
Here, in Iowa it is a little bit crazier. It will be warm and sunshine one day then blizzard the next. "That's Iowa," many people explained to me. I am, however, more appreciative of changing seasons. I learned not to take for granted nice days. My house is unkempt during nice spring days. We spend more time outside in the backyard garden or just walking or biking around the neigborhood. Here are the lists of things I love in spring:
  • Tulip Festival in Pella.
  • Vegetable gardening
  • Flower gardening
  • Smell of newly mowed grass.
  • New leaves sprouting from tree branches
  • Flowers
  • Sounds of children playing in the street
  • Being able to open window to let the breeze inside the house
  • Grilling
  • Rain. People think I'm crazy but rain makes me think of home (Philippines)
  • Sound of birds chirping
  • Walking outside in just T shirt and shorts. (Goodbye heavy coats, scarf, hat, gloves and boots).

Spring is my favorite season because I know there will be more nice and warm days ahead....