Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Plan in Action

Warning: the following may be TMI for you, so proceed with caution.

So, I started Clomid last week. Don't ask me the chemistry of it all, all I know is that it's supposed to help me release more eggs, to ensure a greater chance of at least one getting fertilized. I started taking it Wednesday, and man did it kick my ass. I don't know what chemical reaction it produces in my body to make me release more eggs. I guess I should know, but I don't. The doctor just said,"Take these." so I took 'em.

I took them Wednesday night thinking whatever side effects it caused would happen while I slept. I woke up with a migraine, cramps and back pain and felt feverish all day Thursday. So I stayed home and literally stayed in bed all day. I went to work on Friday not feeling much better and honestly, I felt like my ovaries were just throbbing and there was some occasional stabbing pains. With every stab I thought, "Hmm....could that be an egg releasing?"

By the end of the weekend, I think my system had stabilized and I took my last pair of pills for this cycle on Sunday night. My ovulation testing starts tomorrow morning. If it's a (+) then Gareth reports for duty and I may be a little late for work. If it's (-) then he gets to sleep a little more.

One plus for Clomid, I've had a few compliments at work that I'm "glowing." I thought you only heard that AFTER you get pregnant. Or maybe they were just being nice about the feverish state I was in for the first few days.

Anyway....keeping my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Might As Well Jump!

I believe I've been to more concerts since I met Gareth than I have in my entire lifetime. If you had told me 3 years ago that I'd be at two Van Halen concerts within a span of two years, I would've laughed in your face and called you crazy.

As it turns out, you would've been right. On Monday night , Dec. 3, I had my eardrums blasted by raucous bass guitar handling, insane drumming and psychotic guitar manipulations. This was the second Van Halen concert I'd been to, but the first one with David Lee Roth back as the frontman. Sammy Hagar was the voice at the last concert.

I have to say, I liked Sammy's singing way better. And honestly, all the Van Halen songs I like are when Sammy was with the band. David Lee Roth is the better showman, but goodness, I couldn't understand a word he sang, nor did I recognize many of the tunes until Eddie & Wolfgang piped up in the chorus.

But I expected this going in. What I looked forward to was seeing how Eddie's son fit in as the new man on bass. I didn't doubt his musical chops ~ look at his bloodline, but it was still gratifying to see him hold his own.

I wasn't thrilled with my seatmates to my right. Right off the bat, the dude next to me asked if I minded if he smoked. I told him, "It's not a matter of me minding ~ it's the usher's and security minding." He said, "I don't care what the ushers think. I just wanted to know if you would be okay if I smoked." I must've sounded really naive to him. What? You aren't going to follow the rules? Oh, dear! It wasn't until midway through the concert that I realized his idea of smoking greatly differed from mine. I thought he wanted to light up a cigarette, but what he was lighting looked awfully short and smelled real funny. Man. I really am naive.

Anyway, I didn't pay them much mind. I was focused on the big screen and watching Eddie Van Halen's fingers make magic on his guitar. It is amazing the sounds he coaxes out of his guitar. I'm not a hard rock fan, but I do love music and the art of making music, and Eddie Van Halen is just unreal. He actually played his guitar with a drumstick at one point and actually made his guitar sound like a flute with just his hands a little after that. Unbe-frickin-lievable.

But the one I stood up and clapped the loudest for was Alex Van Halen. Remember, I'm a wannabe drummer so drummers like Alex are gods in my wannabe world. You watch him with his arms flailing and swinging and blurring from speed, and think, "Holy shit."

Anyway, I just wanted to get this down for posterity before time got away from me.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Being Lazy

Too lazy to write something original...sooooo survey time!

1. If your doctor told you TODAY that you were pregnant, what would you say?

2. Do you trust all of your friends?
For the most part....

3. Would you move to another state or country to be with the one you love?
I would, but fortunately, I don't have to.

4. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?

5. Can you make a dollar in change right now?
With the change in my car probably or my desk. Or both.

6. Which one of your friends do you think would make the best doctor?
Depends on the specialty. But only my cousins who are nurses have the most interest in medicine.

7. Are you afraid of falling in love?
Used to be.

9. Is there someone who pops into your mind at random times?

10. Whats your most favorite scar?
It's not my favorite, but my only one. I pretend it's not there, but it's kinda hard to when it looks like a shark took a bite out of my calf.

11. When was the last time you flew in a plane? and from our honeymoon.

12. What did the last text message you sent say?
"@ Mama's" when my l'il bro asked where my other li'l bro's going away party was going to be tonight.

13. What features do you find most attractive in the preferred sex?
Eyes. Smile.

14. Fill in the blank. I love: Gareth & my family & my best friends.

15. What is a goal you would like to accomplish in the near future? Get pregnant.

16. If you were to wake up from being in a coma for an extended time who would you call?
I'd like to think that when I woke up from a coma, the people I'd want to call would already be by my bedside.

17. How many kids do you want to have?
One would be a blessing. Any more would just be icing on the cake.

18. Would you make a good parent?
I'd like to think so.

19. Where was your default picture taken?
Ocean Shores, one of my favorite places in the world.

20. Whats your middle name?

21. Honestly, whats on your mind right now?
I need to get out of bed and start baking for the party

22. If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be?
Keep my grandfather in the U.S,...but that's just me being selfish.

23. Who was or will be the maid of honor/ best man in your wedding?
Yvonne, my sister-in-law & Aileen my cousin-in-law as well as my bffs were my matrons of honor.

24. What are you wearing right now?
Yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Sexy.

25. Righty or Lefty?

26. Best place to eat?
I love any restaurant with a view of the water... Salty's at Redondo & Alki, Johnny's Dock in downtown Tacoma & most of the restaurants along Ruston Way.

27. Favorite jeans?
Current fave is a pair of Eddie Bauers, but that's cuz the hems aren't frayed yet. Prior to them, my Old Navys...they only got softer the more I washed them. Then I got hit by a bus and the paramedics had to cut them off. Haven't bought another pair. Bad juju... S'why I try not to get too attached to denim...

28. Favorite animal?
My chihuahuas Mahal & Prada.

29. Favorite juice?
Harry & David's Pear Juice.

30. Have you had the chicken pox?
When I was 9 years old, I think...maybe a little earlier.

31. Have you had a sore throat? Sure. But I got smart this year and got my flu shot and pnuemonia shot & I've been pretty cold-free so far.

32. Ever had a bar fighT?
Nah... I don't roll like that.

33. Who knows you the best?
My confidantes: Gareth & my best girlfriends.

34. Shoe size?
Sometimes 9.5, sometimes 10.

35. Do you wear contact lenses or glasses?
Both, but mostly glasses because I don't produce enough tears.

36. Ever been in a fight with your pet?
No...they're kinda scared of me right now because I drag them to go to puppy obedience class.

37. Been to Mexico?
Nope....close to the border but not across.

38. Did you buy something today?
Haven't even gotten out of bed yet.

39. Did you get sick today?
No...but I was getting my butt kicked by Clomid the last two days. I think my system's getting used to them now.

40. Do you miss someone today?
A lot of someones. Namely my grandparents.

41. Did you get in a fight with someone today?
Nope...Gareth's been very nice about me being lazy today, so I'm in a great mood. :)

42. When is the last time you had a massage?
This past Tuesday. We have a lady come to the office every other Tuesday for chair massages.

43. Last person to lay in your bed?
Me and the hubby.

44. Last person to see you cry?
The hubby.

45. Who made you cry?
The hubby.

46. What was the last TV show you watched?
I caught up on the last episode of Heroes last night. Mandatory viewing because the DVR was at 50% capacity.

47. What are your plans for the weekend?
Bake some dessert then go to my li'l brother's going away party.

48. Who do you think will repost this?
::: shrug ::: who knows...

49. Who was the last person you hung out with?
The hubby. We had our weekly date last night. :)

50. If your significant other asked you to marry them TODAY what would you say?
I'd say, "Hello?...I'm already married to you."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Plan

"You'll take these pills for five days, starting tomorrow. Then on the 12th through 17th day of your cycle..." he glances at the calendar, then pulls out a small credit card size calendar and starts counting. He scrawls numbers down on the sheet of paper in front of him. "December 5...10...." More scrawling.

Meanwhile I sit, watching, not sure what to think. I watched his pen move on the paper. The paper is a part of a file. A thin file in comparison to the thick ones stacked in four piles on his desk. Some were very thick, some were just slightly thick. Were the thinner ones new patients or ones who were successful on the first try? I counted the thicker ones and felt a tug of sympathy for their owners. We were all here for the same reason, but the goal wasn't to make the files thicker.

I sat alone. Gareth had stepped outside before my ultrasound. Said he had to make some calls, but I know the idea of the ultrasound had been a bit disconcerting for him, since it wasn't the type you normally think of when you hear the word ultrasound. Let's just say it wasn't an abdominal one. The ultrasound had taken all of 10 minutes, but he hadn't come back in yet. I don't know, I think he would've found the pictures of my full bladder and cystic ovaries interesting.

It was late. We'd been in the doctor's office since 3 p.m. and after sitting in the waiting room for 40 minutes, we met with Dr. C, an embryologoist who took down my medical history. Moon-faced, soft-spoken Chinese man with a hesitant but pleasant smile. He asked a few uncomfortable questions, but his gentle demeanor was encouraging. He told me that my case looked pretty straight-forward and it looked like all I needed was a little help ovulating.

It was supposed to be just a consultation meeting where Gareth and I would learn more about our options. We wanted to start family, you see, but since my miscarriage in 2005, I haven't been able to get pregnant. My plan had been "Kids by 35 or never." There was something wrong with that plan, apparently. I think the biggest problem was that it was my plan. There is a supreme being who controls our destinies having a good chuckle over that.

Dr. M came in almost a half-hour after Dr. C's interview was done. He's the obstetrician. Where Dr. C had shaken both our hands when he met us, Dr. M hurried in, made the hand-shaking gesture in the air before settling behind his desk. I found it amusing, as I did his other idiosyncracies like asking me how to pronounce my name, then proceeding to make accent marks on my file label, after dividing my name in 3 syllables with slash marks. Gareth and I glanced at each and shared a worried smile as he did this.

Where Dr. C was round, Dr. M was angular. Classically Italian, hawk nose, a hint of New York Italia in his speech, sharp eyes, complete with pomade styled hair. As he counseled us, you could just see his mind working, and with all the degrees on his wall, it was a very intelligent mind. He's one of those people who are so smart, their mouths can't keep up with their brains, and he has to pause every once in a while to catch up. In some people, it's would appear socially awkward and over-anxious. But when you MD & Ph. D. attached to your name, it's becomes a mark of high intelligence.

He's encouraged that since we've gotten pregnant before, and began writing out a prescription for me to induce my cycle. When I mention I just started a couple days ago, he rips up the prescription and says, "Let's get you in the exam room and do an ultrasound." When the nurse came to take me to the exam room, Gareth made his exit. Chicken.

As Dr. M continued to scrawl notes in my file, I glanced at the clock. 5:15 p.m. We aren't going to make to puppy training. Mahal & Prada will miss their 3rd class. Again. They missed the 3rd class when they first registered for obedience school, so I had rescheduled them to a different course, and here we were missing the same 3rd class.

"So here's the plan," Dr. M announces, taking me out of my reverie. "Take these pills for 5 days starting tomorrow. You're a big girl, so 100mg a day to start." Big girl, more milligrams. Got it.

"On Dec. 5, you take an ovulation test in the morning. This is my favorite brand." He holds up a Clear Blue Easy Ovulation Test kit like he's doing a commercial for it. "Do that through the 10th. When you get a positive sign, you need to have sex. With your husband." Aha, doctor's got a sense of humor. As if on cue, Gareth walks in.

"Got me something to eat - I didn't have anything for lunch," he explains sheepishly.

"Did you bring something for your wife?" Dr. M asks.

"Oh, yes, it's in the car," Gareth sounds almost defensive.

"Good! Good! It's almost dinner time, I'm sure she's hungry, too!" I notice the more Dr. M talks, the more he sounds like Al Pacino. He turns back to me and continues with "The Plan."

"Call me when you get a positive sign and tell me. I'll say, 'Genevieve, that's wonderful! Now what's the plan? Because I probably won't have your file in front of me, so you have to remind me what the plan is." He's writing "The Plan" on a yellow Post-It note as he talks. "You'll need to call me if you get all negative. But when you get a positive sign, have sex -"

"Woohoo!" mumbles Gareth.

"Then come in and see me and we'll do a post-coital exam to make sure things are moving along."

Post-coital exam? Eww. But okay. We do have a mission here. I take the yellow Post-It from Dr. M. It's almost unreal that a little 3x3 piece of paper could hold the key to the future for us. "So this the plan?"

"That's the plan."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Bridge to Terabithia" an Interview with Annasophia Robb & Josh Hutcherson

Annasophia Robb walked back into the hotel room looking clearly disappointed. “It wasn’t what I thought.”

Josh Hutcherson, her co-star in Bridge to Terabithia, lounging casually on the couch, shook his head and smirked. “I was wondering why you got so excited and tore out of here.”

“He said ‘chocolate bar’ so I thought..y’know…a bar just for all kinds of different chocolate.” Annasophia pouted playfully towards the door through which her father had just exited. He had gone in before me to let the kids know of the spread of snacks and drinks that was available just outside the interview room.

Apparently, AnnaSohia had heard the words, “chocolate bar” and immediately envisionied a bar overflowing with chocolate. Possibly a lingering after-effect of working with Johnny Depp in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. She had rushed out of the room just as I was entering, so intent on finding chocolate that her father had to remind her to introduce herself.

Stopped in her tracks by his gentle chiding, Annasophia immediately turned, shrugged sheepishly and offered her hand with a charming smile, “Hi, I’m Annasophia!”

Introduction made, she continued on her quest for chocolate, leaving me to wonder at the strong, firm grip of a wispy 14-year old. At that point, Josh had stood to greet me with a charming smile and as strong a handshake as Annasophia’s before resuming his casually slouched form on the couch. Like a flick of a switch, movie star brilliance off, teenage nonchalance on. When Annasophia returned he was ready with friendly derision.

He goaded Annasophia with, “But it was what? Just. A. Chocolate. Bar. Right?”

Sighing, Annasophia flopped gracefully back on the couch with a sigh, “Right.”

Annasophia (Anna pronounced Ah-na) and Josh were in Seattle promoting the June 19 DVD release of Bridge to Terabithia. They’d gotten in late the night before and had been doing interviews since 8:30 a.m., which had meant an early wake up call. Despite the early morning and the long day of interviews with a few more still stretching before them, the two teenagers looked freshfaced and animated. An early flight to Montreal at 6 a.m. the following day wasn’t going to deter them from making the most of this stop, the second of a six-city publicity tour. This being their first time in Seattle, both planned to take in the city at night.

“I want to go up the Space Tower – I mean the Needle and watch the city light up,” Josh said with a smile. In fact, a smile never seemed to leave his face during the interview. Quite the contradiction to the character he played in Bridge to Terabithia, a somewhat melancholy figure who is bullied at school and neglected at home. Josh plays Jess Aarons in the movie to Annasophia’s Leslie Burke, an adventure-seeking free spirit who befriends Jess. Combining their imaginations, the two create Terabithia, a magical land they can only get to if they keep their minds wide open.

The movie is based on Katherine Paterson’s award-winning young-adult novel of the same name. It tells the tale of the two soul mates who find sanctuary in the imaginary kingdom they create, where they reign as king and queen and fight off a giant troll, evil creatures and plot against the schoolmates who tease them. I remember this was the book to read when I was in 5th grade, so I asked the two stars of the film how familiar they were with the book prior to filming.

“I was homeschooled for 5th grade because I was working, and that was the grade when a lot of kids read the book, so I didn't actually read it until after I heard about the script,” admitted Annasophia. “After reading it I was even more interested in the part and excited to be part of bringing the story to life.”

Josh also admitted that he didn’t read the book until he was approached with the script, but both teenagers immediately fell in love with the book, finding the characters easy to relate to.

“Where Jess gets teased and feels left out because he’s artistic and all he wants to do is draw…I kind of felt that way because I wanted to act,” Josh explained.

Both stars seemingly burst onto the Hollywood scene around the same time, first in television roles then the big screen. Josh’s first major role was a CGI version of himself as Hero Boy on Polar Express in 2004 opposite Tom Hanks. Annasophia’s first major film was Because of Winn-Dixie but is probably best remembered for her turn as Violet Beauregard on Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, the girl who ate the blueberry gum and turned into a blueberry.

Both have been working steadily every since. Josh has two films in post-production while Annasophia has four. I shook my head in wonder just imagining their schedules with filming, traveling, promoting. One of the reasons I loved the film was the fact that they played kids being kids. I asked them how they balanced the workload of traveling, acting & school. Josh explained the requirements of building 3 hours of instruction and homework into a 9 hour day that includes lunch and breaks. He shrugged as he thought about his schedule. “You just have to make time because education is very important.”

Annasophia was exuberant about attending a private school next year with a pool and cross country tream. “They’ve been very positive and excited to have me and they’ll be flexible with my filming schedule. I was homeschooled before and was really fortunate to work one on one with a tutor. Learning something new goes lot quicker when you aren’t competing for your teacher’s attention. But high school will be different with electives to choose from.”

When I asked if her interest in cross country running came from the movie, she shook her head claimed, “I just like to run. I run all the time.”

Josh turned to her with an incredulous look and asked, “Why?”

Annasophia seemed to waver a bit, shrinking back into the couch. "Oh-kaay! So maybe it's more like jogging!"

Since the conversation went in that direction, I asked Josh what he enjoyed doing outside of acting. “I like going home to Kentucky and just hanging out with my friends. Go to the mall, watch TV. It may sound boring, but I like being bored.”

Annasophia leaned away, out of Josh’s line of sight, rolled her eyes and mouthed, “I. Don’t.”

Suspicious of my snicker, Josh shot Annasophia a glance. Quickly composing herself, Annasophia rattled off more of her favorite things to do, which included reading and hanging out with her cousins.

Their comfortable banter and teasing was heartwarming to watch and it was apparent that their friendship played strongly on-screen because of the off-screen camaraderie. The two did spend almost four months together filming Bridge to Terabithia in New Zealand. Luckily for fans, the old adage of familiarity breeding contempt didn't apply here. Their faces lit up when asked about their stay in New Zealand.

“It was amazing! It was awesome!” They both exclaimed, almost in unison, talking over each other in their excitement. “We practically lived on the beach! It was the best time ever!”

Under the direction of Gabor Csupo, whose writing, producing & animation work includes The Rugrats Movie and The Wild Thornberrys Movie, Josh and Annasophia’s characters escape from school troubles and turmoil at home by letting their imagination run rampant. Asked how they felt about working with Csupo, Josh’s answer hinted at a maturity and thoughtfulness not usually seen at his age.

“Working with Gabor was incredible. It was just amazing how he conceived his images of Terabithia. When you think about it, we just acted in it, but Gabor created Terabithia. If I learned anything from Gabor, it’s to not be afraid to let your imagination stretch.” Annasophia was equally reflective,

“It’s one thing to imagine something in your head, but then to be able translate
it into something others can see and appreciate and get excited about, that’s
just unbelievable. ”

This wasn’t either’s first time in a movie with special effects. When asked how the physical work in Bridge to Terabithia compared to movies like Zathura and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory as far as special effects, Josh was pragmatic. “Well the trailers made the movie look like there were a lot more special effects than there actually were. There weren’t too many scenes that required too much stunt work or acting out a scene with something that wasn’t there. What there was required just a little more imagination than physical work.”

Given their young career, the number of big Hollywood names they’ve starred with is impressive. Citing Tom Hanks, Robin Williams and Johnny Depp as examples, I asked them who they regarded as inspirations in the acting world.

“I haven’t worked with him yet, but I admire what Jake Gyllenhaal has done. I want to pattern my career after his,” was Josh’s answer. “He’s a great actor.”

“Mmmhmmm!” Annasophia agreed wholeheartedly. “He’s cute , too. How old is he?” This was asked with an impish smile and a faraway look.

“I don’t know…twenty-eight?” Josh replied.

“Well, darn.” Annasophia said with a regretful snap of her fingers, then answered in all seriousneess. “Me? I’m inspired by Charlize Theron. She's just an amazing actress, and I see her as a mentor and a very good friend.”

At this point it was on to the next interviewer for the two kids, a colleague I caught up with the next day at another movie screener. First question out of his mouth, "Wasn't that the most fun interview you've ever done?" I have to admit, it was.


For more about the actors, visit their websites at: &

For more about the movie, visit

For more about the book & author, visit

Thursday, June 14, 2007


The newest furry member of our family....

Prada's fitting in nicely. Getting incredibly spoiled by his Nana and even Gareth's smitten, but he'll always say, "I'd like him more if he was a cat." Prada was timid & shy at first around the girls, but he was over it quick by the next day. He used to step back when Mahal snarled, but now when she growls he pounces, as you can see. I think Mahal's having a blast. Finally a chew toy that fights back! Zoe and Nina are still reserving their opinions.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Message in a Bottle

Watched The Police in concert last night at the Key Arena. Awesome, awesome show. It was simply amazing. Three guys rocking the arena with songs I grew up with. These guys are real musicians. Sting's voice is still sexy and haunting, Stewart is a genius on percussion, and Andy is truly gifted. I've seen bands that just make a lot of noise rock the arena, but these were three guys playing music AND rocking the arena.

I have to be honest though and say I was never a big fan of The Police. I knew their music, it was part of my formative years when MTV only played videos. I hear them and I think junior high. I really liked Sting when he went solo, and he was the real draw for me when Gareth asked if I wanted to go. However, after last night, I'm converted. I have a huge crush on Stewart Copeland, the drummer. He's just incredible with the sticks. Gareth asked me what I liked so much about him and I said, "I don't know. There's something endearing about him. He looks like he was the geek in high school who became the rockstar." But from his younger photos, I don't think he was a geek. He was actually pretty hot.

His current publicity photos don't do him justice. He has this great mane of silver hair and a beatific smile. A drummer with glasses. So cool!

None of them have lost their touch. They actually sound younger than their years, and I appreciate their music more so now. Sting and Stewart are in prime shape. Andy Summers? Not so much, but he played around on stage more than Sting, and his fingers are still incredibly nimble.

I was watching some old concert clips on Youtube, and sound quality notwithstanding, they sound so much better now. Their younger performances had an unpolished, almost manic drive. Last night, they were flawlessly smooth. Sophistacated rock stars. Oxymoron? Well it applies here. You could say they've slowed with age, but I think, like anyone who's matured and gained more experience, The Police just knew how better to entice, entrance, draw out the pleasure and satisfy their fans.

I get a little OCD when I find something I like, so I've been scouring YouTube for clips of Stewart. I think this one gives great insight to his gift:

Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's a Boy!

It's a Boy!!

It was paw-sitively love at first sight!
We'll be bringing home our new wee-wee hopefully next weekend!
He's a gorgeous blue fawn long coat male ~ meaning he'll be a smokey color.
The picture above is at 4 1/2 weeks. Here he is at 2 1/2 weeks.

Here he is at 7 weeks. His parents are AKC registerd and our boy is a show prospect, so Mum is thinking about showing him, as well as possibly breeding him with Zoe, Rhyana's chihuahua.

Here he is with his parents and his brother. His mom is 6 lbs and his dad is 4 lbs, so he won't get very big.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Petco 3rd Annual Unleashed! Chihuahua Race

Thanks to everyone who wished Mahal well on her first ever chihuahua race. Gareth, Nikka and I traveled to Kirkland early this morning with the three chihuahuas, Mahal, Zoe and Nina, in tow to take part in the Petco 3rd Annual Chihuahua Race. Meet Team Watermelon, from left to right: Zoe, Mahal & Nina

Why Watermelon? Those were the only matching dresses we could find for all three. However, the team uniform didn't survive the trip. They figured out a way to step out of them. So we got them blinged up for the after-race celebration.

We were met at the racetrack by Gareth's sister and her boyfriend Josh, who registered Zoe to participate also. Mum's chihuahua, Nina, is a little...big Nikka put it, so we didn't race her. (Zoe actually belongs to Gareth's sister, Rhyana, but Zoe and Nina are inseparable, so she allowed Mum to take Zoe when she and Nina moved in with us.)

Petco raced 10 chihuahuas at a time, and there were a good 100 or so chihuahuas in all shapes, colors and sizes in attendance. Mahal and Zoe were placed in the same pack and Josh and Nikka held them at the starting line while Phedre and I waited at the finish line with treats.

The Petco referee yelled, "Ready, set, Petco!" and the chihuahuas were unleashed! .... To wander around the starting line looking around at all the spectators. Mahal eventually trotted down the track, all the while gazing all around her not even paying attention to my yelling, "Mahal!" and waving her favorite stuffed toy like a crazy woman. Phedre had no luck with Zoe either even if her high pitched "Zoeeee! Whee! Wheee! Whee!" resonated across the track.

Mahal could have taken second if she hadn't wandered over to the sideline judges. I guess from their angle, all legs look the same? Instead she got third place. Only 1st and 2nd place advance to the next round though, so it was time to go home.

As for Zoe, she eventually scampered across the finish line after the winners were already declared. At least she finished the race.

Thanks to Josh & Phedre for meeting us in Kirkland and helping us race the wee-wees, and of course much thanks to Nikka for the extra pair of hands! The chihuahuas love her, and I think she had a lot of fun.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lake Quinault Lodge & Olympic National Forest

Have you ever had one of those Southwest Airlines commercial moments that make you ask yourself, "Need to get away?" Life comes at us faster and less apologetically every day with the constant demands of work and family. It seems like only yesterday we were welcoming 2007, yet in just a matter of days we'll be halfway through the year. Yes, that means we're almost done with May. Had to think about it, didn't you? When our lives are so hectic we can't remember what month it is much less which day of the week, it's time to stop and give yourself a break.

When you crawl into bed at night, don't you ever wonder at the calming sound of silence? Don't you enjoy the feel of your body and mind slowly turning itself off for the night? It's a wonderful feeling because you're taking a break from the stress of work, the annoyance of cell phones, the nagging of email and the mind-numbing of television. Silence. Peace. It's what your mind and soul craves but you've been too busy to listen.

Somewhere there's got to be a place of tranquility and peace your soul's been craving. Guess what? There is, and you don't need to hop on a plane to get there.

My husband, Gareth, and I were kindly invited to enjoy lunch at the Lake Quinault Lodge, located in the heart of the Olympic National Rainforest. It was a good 45 minute drive away from where we were staying at Ocean Shores, but it was an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of what makes Washington the Evergreen State.

When you hear rainforest, don't you think of the tropical jungles of South America? Or maybe that restaurant at Westfield Mall? Needless to say, your first thought isn't Washington. I was quite surprised to learn that Washington is the home of the nations three rainforests, and the Lake Quinault Lodge allows you the opportunity to sleep and play within one.

Entering the rainforest was like stepping back in time. Gone were the noises we associate with today's life: The rush of traffic, the blaring of the radio or television, the ringing of phones and the harried voices of the other stressed people with whom we surround ourselves. Here there was a different noise, so different, I couldn't call it noise. The soft rustle of the breeze through the dense trees was too calming to be noisy. Birds were chirping, leaves were fluttering, the lake was lapping at the shore like slow, even breathing. Here was peace. Here was tranquility. The hushed crunch of gravel under our feet was almost too loud in this place void of noise but full of sounds: the sighs and whispers of Mother Earth, the enchanting beckoning of nature.

With a rolling green lawn and a spectacular view, the Lodge invites visitors to sit, relax and absorb the splendor and glory of nature. Almost immediately upon arrival, Gareth made a friend.

Our lunch was hosted by the lodge's new events coordinator, Roger, a former forest ranger, who told us the "lodge cat" was new and free to any new home that wanted him. Gareth doesn't need much encouragement when it comes to adopting cats, but he realized the logistics of taking it back to the hotel would be tricky. Besides, this cat had it made. A beautiful view, an adirondack chair to lounge on. It would've been cruel to take him away from the lodge. Speaking from a cat's perspective, of course.

We met Roger in the Roosevelt Dining Room where we enjoyed a tasty lunch served by friendly staff. A soft-spoken man with a brilliant smile, Ranger Roger educated us on the history of the landmark hotel and the surrounding national park and took us on a quick tour of the surrounding area. He was extremely knowledgeable of the forest, his pride in and deep love for the area evident as he spoke.

On October 1, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Lake Quinault Lodge during a fact-finding trip. He called Lake Quinault "heaven on earth." During his visit, the topic of establishing a park came and nine months later, Roosevelt signed a bill creating Olympic National Park, which to this day remains a treasure countless visitors have enjoyed.

Covering an area of over 633,600 acres, Olympic National Forest is simply a place of breathtaking beauty, with so many shades of green, even the air seems verdant. The forest is a a temperate rainforest, so while it can get up to 25 feet of rain each year, it's accessible year round for such activities as camping, picnicking and hiking. While staying at the lodge, visitors can also arrange to go swimming, fishing, auto touring, canoeing, kayaking and interpretive tours to personally watch wilderness and wildlife abound.

The Quinault Lodge offers adventurous vacation packages for hikers, photo enthusiasts and fishermen. There's even a golf course nearby. Roger enjoyed telling us how the Roosevelt Elk like to traipse through the golf course, indelibly altering the landscape, so that golfers believing a straight putt can win their game stand astounded as they watch their golfball roll and bounce like a ping pong ball across the green.

But if you would like to just rest and rejuvenate, the Lodge is definitely the place to do that as well. While this landmark hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it does offer high-speed wireless internet connection in its lobby. But like its website says, the Lodge is the perfect place to leave the cares of the work-a-day world behind. Curl up with a good book either by the grand fireplace in the lobby or on a lawn chair by the lake, picnic at the gazebo or have a romantic sunset dinner with a gorgeous view from the dining room.

However, it would behoove you to let the fresh air invigorate you and enjoy the impressive wonder of the forest and take in such sights as the largest Sitka spruce tree in the world. Also in the Quinalt Valley are the World's Largest Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir & Mountain Hemlock, the United States' largest Yellow Cedar & Western Hemlock.

For photo enthusiasts, the best time to catch the enchanting loveliness of the forest is early to late spring when the moss is moist and full, the forest floor is dense with new life.

The visit to Lake Quinault Lodge was definitely a highlight of our Ocean Shores getaway. A return trip is definitely on the calendar to take better advantage of the diversity of activities, sights and points of interests. Or just to get away.

For more information about Lake Quinault Lodge contact them by email, phone, fax or visit

Lake Quinault Lodge
345 South Shore Road
Quinault, WA 98575
Toll Free: 800.562.6672
Phone: 360.288.2900
Fax: 360.288.2901

For more information about the Olympic National Forest, visit or

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ocean Shores Getaway - Electric Boats

When Gareth first told me he'd arranged for a boat trip, I imagined ripping through the oceans on a high powered speed boat. I'm not an avid sea-farer, especially when it involves bouncing around on rough currents. I get motion sickness on a floating dock. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly thrilled. He told me the name of the company giving us the boat tour was Ocean Shores Electric Boats. I changed my mind's image to a choppy ride on the ocean on a runt of a machine with the annoying buzz of an electric scooter.

Boy, was I way off.

Ocean Shores Electric Boats was a pleasantly surprising treat. A short jaunt down Point Brown Avenue, we were met by Jim Kimzey, owner of Ocean Shores Electric Boats. It would've been a shorter jaunt if we hadn't made the mistake of looking for their storefront on the ocean side of the avenue. When we approached Jim's business, I actually wondered how we were going to get a boat from his store to the ocean and if it meant hitching it to our Hyundai, I figured we were in for a long day.

His storefront is rather deceptive, especially if you aren't familiar with the inner workings of the town of Ocean Shores. You figure, it's a smattering of family owned businesses, vacation houses and the big ocean. If you came upon this:

would you expect to find this in his backyard?

Hidden within the town of Ocean Shores are 23 miles of interconnected fresh waterways, lakes and canals, and Ocean Shores Electric Boats sits on the bank of one such waterway. Jim, along with his wife Nancy, operate a boat rental business that offers hourly rentals of 21-foot Duffy Cruisers . Now in its third year, the business offers a wonderful hands-on boating experience.

Their website at touts "If you can drive a golf cart, you can drive an electric boat." Jim, a warm, personable gentleman, was gracious enough to accompany us on a tour of the waterways. While patiently tutoring us on the simple mechanics of the boat, he entertained us with his personal story of chance and fortuitious coincidences that brought him and his wife to Ocean Shores after a career with the Department of Health. He educated us on maritime rules and pointed out various wildlife and points of interest along the water route.

The boats are enclosed and can heated on those cold days, making them accessible year round. They seat up to 10 comfortably, providing the ideal setting for family or group outings. During warmer weather, you may cruise with the large zippered windows open or closed in any combination. Gareth got to captain first, but I got my turn eventually. Even though I'm biting my lip in concentration, it's actually quite easy to steer. It needs only a light touch, and of course, at 7 mph max, dont' expect it to turn on a dime.

While I loved steering, I found myself distracted by the scenery and being the picture-taking passenger on a smooth & leisurely boat ride was more to my liking. The cruising speed was just enough to allow me time to relax, enjoy, and wait in anticipation of what was around the next bend or island.

I learned that fishermen had the right of way and I had to steer clear of their lines. In No Wake zones, we could shut to motor down and just float along past beautiful houses, waving back at their friendly owners.

Each boat has a motor that is very quiet and, since they are electric, there are no exhaust or fuel fumes. The boats are powered by a bank of marine batteries that are operational for up to ten hours. Renting the boat is like a renting a car, with a contract signed and rules explained. If requested, a navigator can be provided, but maps of the waterways are available on the boat. Rental fees are very reasonable, especially if a large group shares in the cost, making them ideal for small parties.

Make the electric boat tour a part of your itinerary the next time you travel to Ocean Shores. It's a tranquil and fascinating way to get a different perspective of coastal town. Who would've thought you could have fun on another body of water at Ocean Shores that wasn't the Pacific Ocean?

Ocean Shores Getaway - Ocean View

Gareth & I are working on a more official article about our trip, but I wanted to get a few thoughts down before time gets away from me.

Gareth arranged a great getaway for us this past weekend to Ocean Shores. We stayed at the Shilo Inn Suites on Ocean Shores Boulevard with an oceanfront view. I have to admit, I wasn't exactly thrilled with the weather on Friday, when we drove southwest to get to Ocean Shores. What could've been a beautiful, scenic drive was quite dreary, but for a Friday evening commute, it was quite hassle-free once we were south of Lakewood. Not a lot of beach-seekers this time of year.

It's been at least five years since I've been to Ocean Shores, but for Gareth it's been at least twenty-five, so it was practically a new experience for him. Now that he knows how accessible it is and exactly why I've longed for a trip to Ocean Shores since he's known me, I see a lot of trips to Ocean Shores in our future.

I'd forgotten how cold it can be by the ocean, but the fresh gusts of wind and the roar of the crashing waves called out like an old friend. The ocean has a way of jumpstarting your heart. It changes the rhythm of your pulse, literally taking your breath away. I didn't even have to see it to feel it's affect on me. I could smell the salty sea air and hear the seagulls and I knew I was where I needed to be.

The fresh ocean air is oddly invigorating and calming at the same time. I woke up Saturday morning wanting to take on the world...but slowly. Gareth had scheduled an electric boat trip, a lunch at Lake Quinault Lodge and dinner at the hotel restaurant. I was reluctant to get out of bed too early, but Gareth beckoned me to the balcony to see who was welcoming us to Ocean Shores. With bleary eyes, I could barely make them out as they blended in with the sea grass, but luckily, the digital camera has better morning vision.

A trio of deer made their way to the ocean on a well tread trail, passing below our balcony in the process. Off in the distance, early risers made good use of the ocean winds to fly their kites. What made the sight even more fascinating was the swarm of shorebirds forming around the bigger kite.

Apparently Grays Harbor County is a bird watcher's paradise. The region tends to attract birders from all over the country. Many come to search out sea birds on the open sea boat trip out of Westport, while others take in birding in Ocean Shores. Each Spring, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds stop to rest and feed in Grays Harbor estuary on their migration northward. We caught the tail end of the mass migration, where birds fly in beautiful formations, usually timed just hours before high tide came in and again after the tide lowered.

Monday, April 16, 2007

My Grandfather Was a Janitor

On occasion, I'm required to put in a few extra hours, if not to make up for coming in late, than to meet, in true government lingo, my desired levels of achievement, i.e., quotas. I've stayed late often enough to have become familiar with the custodial staff's names and schedules. They're a friendly bunch, and most of them have been here since I started working for this department four years ago, so they know me by sight if not by name. Many nights I find myself the lone person in the office, and the squeaky sound of the custodian's cart, the hum of the vacuum, and their puttering around the office somewhere beyond my cubicle, become comforting noises.

One night not too long ago, after I bid the last of my coworkers goodnight, I found myself alone again, with nothing but the hums and beeps of my computer and other office machines to break the silence. Burying my head in yet another file, reviewing numbers and reports, I barely registered the jangling of keys and the familiar clatter of someone pushing a cart into the office. What did catch my attention was the whistling of a familiar tune. I remember being very impressed by the clear and skillful whistling and thinking there was only one other person I knew who could impress me with their whistling skill. I remember feeling some chagrin as I remembered that person, and made a mental note to check up on him soon as I had not seen him in a while.

I listened carefully to the melody, trying to place it. It sounded like a classical piece of music, but words were coming to me. As I picked up the tune, I returned my attention to my work, letting the vague lyrics play out in my head as the custodian continued to whistle. For some reason the melody was tugging at my heartstrings, and I grew wistful. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I continued to read file notes, while I idly tracked the custodian's progress in my mind's eye. The distance of his whistling told me he'd gone into the conference room. I guessed that in a no time he'd emerge and make his way around to my area of the office. He was still whistling the same tune as he drew near my area and the words flew stronger through my memory, growing louder as I remembered .

" to love you, till the stars burn out above you, till the moon is but a silver shell...No other love..."

"Hey!" I exclaimed, before I could catch myself. "I know that song!" The whistling stopped abruptly and I realized I probably just scared the person with my outburst.

"Someone's der?" a voice called out, and I frowned in puzzlement at the accent. The regular custodians I was familiar with were Heather, Chico and Lenny, Caucasian, Hispanic and African-American respectively. This gentleman's accent sounded distinctly Filipino.

I called out, "Just me!" and I heard him make his way to my cubicle. I waited at my desk, ready to apologize for startling him. I was right, he did look Filipino at least. A short, wiry man, with graying hair and dark, tanned skin. I placed him at about early to middle to 60's, but I've learned when it comes to Filipinos, they're one of two things: they're either really older than they look, or really younger than they appear.

"Oh!" he said with a start as he spotted me. "I thought there's no longer anyone here anymore!" I smiled at his quaint English, correct, even if overstated.

"I'm sorry, if I scared you, I should've said something when you walked in," I apologized. He waved his hand and shook his head as if to say I hadn't scared him.

"You're a hard worker. You're working very late," he started conversationally after an awkward silence.

"Oh, I'm just finishing up some work. Please don't let me hold you up. The other staff always just go about their business." He nodded in understanding and raised his hand again, this time apologetically, as he stepped away. I winced internally, knowing I had sounded dismissive. I still had a lot of work to do but I was compelled to let him know I didn't mean to be so abrupt.

"Uh...I enjoyed your whistling. You're very good!" I called out.

"Did you say you know the song I was whistling?" he asked as he pushed his cart back to my area.

"Yeah! I mean, yes, it was my grandparents' theme song," I explained. "'No Other Love', right?"

"You're very smart to remember it," he smiled. "Does your grandfather sing it to your grandmother?"

I gave him a sad smile and shook my head. "Not anymore. My grandmother passed away a few years go."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," his voice was full of sympathy. "Are you pull Pilipino?"

Acknowledging why the melody made me sad had sent my thoughts another direction for a moment. Mentally shifting gears, I was a little slow to reply. "Pull Pilipino?" I repeated silently to myself. "Oh! Yes. Both my parents are Filipino. I was actually born in the Philippines."

"Oh, really? I am asking only because your last name is Miller," he nodded at the nameplate on my cubicle. As I silently predicted his next question, he asked, ""What is your family name?"

"DeGuzman, on my dad's side, Salonga on my mom's side." I replied. I answered his next question before he could ask. "I was born in Paniqui, Tarlac. I left when I was three, so I don't really know much about the Philippines."

"That was a long time ago then," was his next comment. Before I could figure out whether or not I should feel insulted, he asked, in that Filipino fashion of making a statement into a question, "So you must not understand the language anymore."

"Tagalog, I can understand. Ilocano, not really."

"But you don't speak either languages," he stated the next question.

"Hindi po gaano. If absolutely necessary, I can stumble my way through Tagalog. Ilocano, I only know a few words, and they're not really the good kind." He laughed in complete understanding.

We kept up our conversation for a few minutes, in a traditional Filipino effort of trying to find mutual acquaintances. I don't remember the names he rattled off of the places he lived and people he knew, but he soon realized we wouldn't find a connection with my limited knowledge of Philippines' geography, though he claimed to be familiar with my family names.

In a span of a few minutes, I knew practically his life story. In the Philippines he owned a fleet of four tricycles with his sons. His one daughter married a sailor now stationed in Bremerton, and was able to petition him and his wife a few years ago. Essentially, the lure of States was too tempting, and he left his home and business in the Philippines to become a janitor in America. His American dream is to bring his sons to the States, but the money he is sending them is helping them sustain and grow their business to include a jeepney. His wife was a teacher in the Philippines. Now she babysits the neighbor's children.

He realized he had been doing all the talking while I just asked simple questions. He then asked me about my job as he stayed busy, his movements efficient and automatic as he emptied wastebaskets and replaced the plastic bags in the cubicles around me. I politely encouraged him to speak Tagalog when he struggled with his English. Occasionally, I threw out a few Tagalog phrases myself, as I explained what I did for a living, and he made noises in reply that sounded impressed and appreciative.

"Oh, you must be very smart to have such an important job," he nodded encouragingly. I grinned and quietly pondered if maybe I was doing some overstating of my own. He talked as he worked. Sometimes as if to himself. "Alam mo, natutuwa ako pag meron akong nakilala na Pilipino na katulad mo, na magaling, at mabait pa kahit lumake dito! Ewan ko ba kung bakit, pero yung ibang Pilipino - makita lang nila kayo ay janitor lang, ay ayaw na nila makahalabilo sa'yo. Maski 'hello' man lang, ayaw." He paused, "Siguro, kung gusto ko, pwede ako maging bus driver or taxi driver. Pero, nakakabuhay ang trabaho ng janitor."

English translation: "You know, I'm so pleased when I meet Filipinos like you, who are not only good at what they do (?), but nice also even though you grew up here. I don't know why, but there are other Filipinos who, just because they see you're just a janitor, they don't want to socialize with you anymore. Not even a hello. Surely, if I wanted to, I could be a bus driver or tax driver." The last sentence made me think. "Nakakabuhay ang trabaho ng janitor." Did he mean, being a janitor enlivened him or did he mean he made a good living as a janitor. Or that being janitor brought people to life. I think any translation we come up with fits well.

I could only reply with an understanding "Hmmm" not quite sure what to say. But his comment brought a story to mind, and I smiled inwardly at the memory. It was a story I'd heard of Tatay asking my cousin Elvin and my older brother Jonathan what they wanted to be when they grew up. This was when both boys were still in the single digit ages, with Kuya was still speaking Tagalog more fluently than English.

Elvin quickly replied, "I want to be a doctor!" Kuya was slower to reply. When prompted again, he said shyly, not quite able to pronounce his "r's" yet, "Janitol, po."

I've always interpreted that story in a way most people may not have seen it. Most would just chuckle at the contrast of aspirations. But I always saw it, if very idealistically I must admit, as Kuya's way of telling Tatay, "I want to be like you, Tatay."

Because that's what Tatay was. A janitor. I know that wasn't what he was in the Philippines. I know Tatay takes great pride in his career in the Philippines. But I wonder if he knows he should take just as much, if not greater, pride in what he was here in the States. Because I do.

I have to admit I know embarrassingly little about my grandfather. I know he's a gruff man of few words. I've always found him hard to approach, but once I got over my awkwardness, he is easy to talk to. He's usually so stoic and formal, keeping a straight face even when he tells a joke. To see a smile on his handsome face and to see him genuinely laughing was a surprising pleasure. It's even more of a delight for me when I'm the one who's able to make him smile or laugh. Just as I do with my dad, if for some reason I couldn't view the full benefit of his smile, if I could just see the creases in his cheeks, it was good enough for me to know I had made him smile.

Tatay left the Philippines just a few days before I was born. I didn't "meet" him, until he came back to visit. Although I have pictures of us together when I was a toddler in the Philippines, I wasn't truly aware of his role in my life until I came to the United States. And then I knew him as a disciplinarian, the one who spanked me when I leaned out of the second story window of the small, two-bedroom apartment we shared with him and Nanay in San Francisco in the mid 70s. I knew he took naps regularly in the afternoon, and one day when I was lonesome for the mom and dad, I felt I hardly ever saw, I cried myself to sleep on his and Nanay's bed, and woke to find him snoring beside me. It's a comforting memory to this day.

He and Nanay were constants in our young lives, with Nanay preparing our lunchboxes and Tatay driving us to school, picking us up and attending my field trips and Kuya's special assemblies. I wonder how many of my cousins share this kind of memory.

I never really understood what he did for a living. I remember he worked in a hospital, and I remember he collected cans. I don't quite remember where they all came from, but I know he was forever crushing them in the kitchen, and his Chevy Nova never lost the sweet sour smell of the bags of cans he recycled. It wasn't until I was much older did I realize what value recycling those cans held. They supplemented an income he was gladly and unselfishly sharing with his family, here and in the Philippines.

I wonder how much it cost him to come to this country and put himself through the humbling physical labor of cleaning after others. Did he hone his talent for whistling like this man, his music his only company, after the "professional" people had left the building. Did he ever feel the rejection that this custodian spoke of? Did he ever feel belittled by his own countrymen for earning an honest wage as a janitor?

I watched the old man dusting and vacuuming, and I wondered if his sons in the Philippines knew how hard he worked. Then I thought about Tatay and I wondered if I've shown him enough or at all, how grateful I am that he put family first before his pride? Have we, the family he helped bring to the States, given him enough credit for working so hard so we could taste the "good life" on both sides of the ocean?

Memories have been haunting me since meeting this unassuming stranger. Did I ever thank Tatay for driving me to school when my parents couldn't? Did I remember to hug him and thank him for being with me on field trips because my parents were working? As a teen, instead of bemoaning a pair of jeans ruined by a spot of bleach, why didn't I see it as his way of taking care of my brothers and me? I'm grateful for the time Peter and I had him to ourselves for nearly a year, for I did learn more about him and his side of the family, but to this day I still feel a greater opportunity was missed. When he set out to establish a new life with a new partner, even as my heart broke, I let him know in a letter that I was happy for him. With a letter in reply, he eased the pain I didn't think I let him see, by telling me how much he'll always love my Nanay. Even as he sought to retrieve some happiness for the remainder of his life, with his letter to me, he sought to eternalize the happiness he once had.

When he was hospitalized late last year, even in his weakened state, he still made an effort to make us laugh. He entertained his visitors and charmed his nurses and hid his fear for when he was alone. He's been a constant and reliable pillar of strength for the family for so long, it's so hard to realize and accept that he's old and needs us as much now as we've always needed him.

I know myself well enough to know that this email won't change my nature. I am envious of those who can easily demonstrate their affection, for I know Tatay is a person who thrives on it, even as he remains brusque and stoic. I'll keep to myself just I normally do, undemonstrative, but always hoping people just know how much I care, for that is one of many traits I inherited from Tatay, along with his eyes and his formal face.

I'll continue to wonder if Tatay knows how proud I am of him. And I'll continue to wonder if I'll ever be brave enough to tell him. Maybe I'll surprise both of us and tell him one day. Somehow.

As for the kind gentleman who cleaned up after my coworkers and me that night, I haven't seen him since.

The last thing he said to me as he moved on to the next office was, "O, sige. Baka magkita tayo ulit. It was nice meeting you. You're the kind of young Filipino who make me proud. I hope my granddaughter grows up to be like you." I was flustered by the compliment, and for a while could only smile speechlessly at him.

But I finally did manage to say something.

I told him, "My grandfather was a janitor."

The look of understanding we exchanged held more than words could say. My eyes, I'm sure, were thoughtful, while his eyes were not only gratified, but triumphant.

Written Jan. 30, 2002, before Tatay's 86th birthday. He returned to the Philippines a year ago this month after turning 90. On his 90th birthday, the family had a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to him and let him know how much he was loved. I'm glad we took that time to do so because Tatay passed away on August 15, 2006. But since he passed away & was laid to rest in the Philippines, I feel like I haven't had my chance to say goodbye properly. I still feel like he's alive, waiting for us to visit. I post this today in honor of his memory.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Relatively Speaking

I've discovered an added benefit to being married to an "Americano." Gareth is always asking me questions about things I've long taken for granted as being "just the way it is." I've always liked learning more about my culture, but there have been times when it was easier to just answer his questions with, "I don't know, Gareth, I didn't grow up in the Philippines." But even I am not satisfied with that answer, as true as it is. So, in a way, Gareth has forced me to be curious about my culture again and find the answers to his questions, thus finding answers to my own questions.

I came across this article by Ambeth Ocampa entitled, "Relatively Speaking." One of the things I'm most proud of in our younger generations is the continued use of the appropriate titles of respect. I just love hearing the words "Ate" and "Kuya" from Jaylen and Trystan when they talk to Nikka or Deric. It was interesting to find out about the Chinese origins of Kuya, Ate and the Spanish origins of Manong & Manang, and other familial terms. I don't know how accurate some of the facts in this article are, but it was still quite illuminating. It's a little long, but still worth the read. Hope you enjoy, and please feel free to comment on it!


Relatively Speaking by Ambeth Ocampo

Growing up is a difficult process and psychologists say that in a family of three, it is the middle child who has- trouble coping. The eldest is given much responsibility and the youngest all the attention. Thus, the middle child should give in to the bullying of the eldest and the whims of the youngest. He wonders why the toy he always wanted is given to the bunso as soon as it whimpers, or why the bunso is never scolded as harshly as he is. The middle child wishes that he was older than the teasing brother and nagging sister.

All these factors come into play in a child's development and despite all the theories of Western psychologists like Dr. Spock, there is more to kinship in the Philippines than meets the eye. There is more to kuya and ate than simply a term with no equivalent in English. Beneath it lies a whole sociological structure.

E. Arsenio Manuel's Chinese Elements in the Tagalog Language traces the origin of Tagalog words loaned from the Chinese. For example, the familiar kuya which everyone believes to be Filipino is actually the joining of two Chinese words or syllables ko (elder brother) and a (a word which denotes kinship). A (kinship) and chi (elder sister) is the origin of the Kapampangan atse, or atsi, meaning elder sister from which the Filipino ate is derived.

In some Philippine homes which retain a strong Chinese influence, family members address each other in specific terms which denotes sex and the seniority of a family member up to the fourth degree. Some of these terms have been used in such a way that the user believes the terms are Filipino. Kuya is always reserved for the eldest brother, but in Philippine usage, the term is used to mean an elder brother, but not necessarily the eldest. This is the difference between Philippine and Chinese usage. The second (di) brother (ko) is simply called diko. Names and nicknames are not appended to the terms because they are 'self-explanatory. Third (sang) brother (ko) is called sangko; and the fourth (sti) brother (ko) is called siko. For the females, ko is simply replaced with chi which means elder sister, thus the eldest sister is the ate or atse; the second (di) sister (tse) is called ditse; the third (san) sister is the sanse; and the fourth (si) sister (tse) is called sitse.

It would seem that Filipino does not have the equivalent kinship terms, but the sociological implications of kinship is the same as the Chinese. Elders are to be respected at all times, to the point of kowtowing. The youngest in the family is seldom punished; instead, he or she is tolerated to the point of being spoiled. Brothers are given priority over sisters: Sisters serve their brothers.

The amount of deference and authority accorded a brother or sister is in direct proportion to his or her age. The older he, or she is, the more respect and authority is accorded to him or her. Isn't the eldest -brother the padre de familia in the absence of the father, and the eldest sister the surrogate mother when the real one is absent? In some families, inheritance is divided according to age, with the eldest getting more than the rest, or at least having first crack at choice properties. More often than not, inheritance is determined by one's closeness to the donor-parents, but favoritism in a Filipino home is connected to a child's sex and age. Fathers usually dote on daughters more than their sons, who, get their share of lopsided attention from their mothers. The unico hijo or unica hija, only boy or only girl, is also the favorite of both parents, but the proceeding rule still applies. Generally, the spoiled brat almost always is the youngest in the family. This family closeness and the intricate structure built on authority and age is one facet of the Filipino psyche which is very Chinese, and it goes deeper than just the kinship terms.

While there is a title reserved for the eldest child, there is also a Chinese term reserved for the youngest boy, totoy. Literally translated, it means "foolish son" and is an endearing term for a small boy. From this comes the Filipino variations: ato, atoy, toto, and ito. This isn't just a term, however. It is also a license to be mischievous. Isn't the bunso the center of attention and the test of one's patience? If the bunso breaks something or does, something wrong, he or she is punished but never spanked or scolded as harshly as an elder sibling. The rationale for this is that the bunso should be given a chance because "he is young and doesn't know what he is doing." (Gen: Boy, isn't this the truth?)

THE LATE NATIONAL ARTIST Guillermo Tolentino agrees with Manuel regarding the Chinese kinship terms adapted into the national language, but in his book, Wika at Baybaying Tagalog, he proposes many interesting etymological theories on Tagalog kinship terms.

Kapatid is the joining of two words ka and patid, meaning cut apart or disconnected from a common point. The Kapampangan term for kapatid-kaputol is more graphic, since it denotes a portion cut from something. This graphically shows that a brother or sister came from the same womb or the same mother. Kapatid/kaputol make one thing of the umbilical cord from which we are cut at birth. In the old Philippine script, the symbol for ka means "to join together" and is said to represent the two pieces of bamboo joined together. It is interesting to note that kapatid only means a pair, while magka-ka patid (doubling ka) means more than two siblings.

People in the city whose minds have been poisoned by anticommunist propaganda think that Ka Lucas and Ka Millie are Leftists in the New People's Army or members of a militant labor union. Ka does not only means "to join," it also is a prefix which denotes brotherhood. Perhaps it can be seen in the same way that Russians use comrade. Ka is the shortened form for "kapatid na " plus a name, say Lucas, which thus becomes Ka Lucas. Kaka, a word for deference, is reserved for the eldest in the family, be it a brother or sister. Tolentino connects this to kakang gala, which is the first extraction of milk from grated coconut. Kaka without the name or nickname of the person means that he or she is the eldest in the family. The younger sibling attach ka to the name of their elders to stress age and consequently; to show respect.

Never does a Filipino address an elder, much less a parent, on a first name basis as Americans do. To hell with Doctor Spock! Respect, for elders is part of Asian life and it shocks many Filipinos to see American children pat their parents on the back and call them by their first names. A child who does this in a Philippine household [would] be beaten black and blue for being disrespectful. Corporal punishment, though, is varied due to the belief that a child should be hit only on the buttocks or on the hands. Don't we hear stories of children made to kneel on rock salt or mongo beans?

If you don't use kuya, ka or kaka, you can use manong for an elder brother or elder male, and manang for a female. This term frequently used by the llocanos comes from the Spanish hermano (brother) and hermana (sister). Centuries of Spanish domination have left many loan words in our language. Lolo (grandfather) and lola (grandmother) were derived from the Spanish abuelo (grandfather) and abuela (grandmother). From this the variations came, like agwelo, agwela, lelong, and lelang.

Tolentino's hypotheses are made more interesting by his research and treatise on the word "poon", the word for "lord," which is the source of the familiar .word for respect. "Opo," is said to be a contraction of "O-poon," which shows deference to a lord or master.

The term for grandfather, apo, is a contraction of ama-poon, and the word for grandmother, impo, comes from ina-poon. The grandchildren, or apo, comes from anak-poon. In his day, Tolentino was ridiculed for these theories, but half a century has passed since his book was published and no one has come up with alternative etymological theories. Tolentino could have been right all along.

NEPHEWS AND NIECES are treated like one's own children in Philippine society. Only one term covers the children of brothers and sisters, nephews or nieces-the word pamangkin which is supposed to have come from the phrase "Parang naman akin" (like my own).

This is bolstered by the fact that some people refer to uncles as tata, tatang, or sometimes, tatay. Aunts are called nana, nanang,or inang. The difference here is that if you simply call somebody tata, you mean your real father. If you add the person's name to this, you mean an uncle. Thus, ang tata ko is not the same as ang Tata Pedro ko, because the former means "my father" and the latter "my uncle Pedro." An uncle is referred to as an amain. Uncles and aunts are called by their names with a prefix to show this relationship. Amang Gorio and Inang Ester are said to have come from inaaring tunay na ama/ina.

One's family grows through intermarriage, but one "extension" which does not require consanguinity is through baptism when people become kumpare and kumare. By being the godfather/mother of a child, you become cofather or comother to a child and you are morally obligated to take care of the child in the event that the parents cannot do so. The godchild is thus referred to as inaanak. The godfather is called ninong, while the godmother is called ninang, both from the Spanish padrino and padrina.

Everything is made more complicated by the "extended" family. In Philippine society, even children of close friends are treated like nephews arid nieces. In order to stress this closeness children, especially in mote modern society, are told to address friends of their parents as tito or tita. Both from the Spanish tio meaning uncle and tia meaning aunt, these later gave rise to tiyo or tiyong, and tiya or tiyang.

Some of Tolentino's plausible but seemingly unbelievable etymological theories include the following:

Half-brothers or half-sisters are called kapatid sa ama or kapatid sa ina, which clearly specifies the source of the relationship, whether it be one's mother or father.

Cousins are called pinsan from the child talk pisan, which means samasama or altogether under one roof. This refers to many Philippine homes where families all live together in the same house, literally under one roof, pisan, so when one clan lives together, everyone, from the grandfather to the cousins, see each other. In more urban places, large families are in "compounds" instead of one house. The addition of "n" to pisan is accidental according to Tolentino, but he says that it could mean pininsan, Thus resulting in pinsang buo (first cousin), pinsang makalawa (second cousin), and pinsang makaitlo (third cousin).

When a woman (babae) consents to marry her boyfriend (lalaki), they are "joined" by matrimony and so their parents by this marriage become related. They become in-laws, or magbabalae. This union between man and woman is the cause of the relation. Babae plus lalaki results in balae, which is the term for the parents of one's son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

The parent-in-laws are called biyanan, or now spelled as biyenan. The father-in-law is called biyenan na lalaki and the mother-in-law is called biyenan na babae. Tolentino says biyenan comes from biyayang binayaan; loosely translated as blessings which were given away. This has reference to the parent-in-law's children who are believed to be biyaya, or gifts from heaven. When the parents give their consent and blessings to the marriage, they give up their child, their biyaya, which, becomes their biyayang binayaan. Perhaps this explains why stereotype inlaws or biyenans like Dely Atay-atayan in "John en Marsha" are cranky to each other. It was difficult for them to give up their "blessings," or biyaya.

The manugang is the daughter- or son-in-law. To be more specific, manugang na babae is daughter-in-law and manugang na lalake is the son-inlaw. Tolentino says that manugang is connected to biyanan in that the parents give to this person their "blessing" or biyaya (their child) with whom they are free to live, so manugang comes from the phrase maalam umugit ng biyayang binayaan. The complicated etymological analysis delves into ancient Philippine script and is as complicated as the phrase itself.

Before marriage, the groom or bride always fishes for "a second opinion" from friends and relatives. It is said that when, they ask their brothers what they think of the prospective husband or wife with "Pakakasalan ko ba si. . ? " (Should I marry him?) The swift reply is "Ba ayaw!" from which comes the term bayaw to mean brother-in-law. It does make an interesting story, but it doesn't give any clues to the origin of hipag, which means the sister of one's spouse. (Gen: Could it be she said, "Hindi ako payag!"?)

More complicated is bilas, which is the husband of one's sister-in-law, or the wife of one's brother-in-law. This complicated term for brother-in or sister-in-law stems from the root word nagkaPILA-S or "peeled. from," meaning that, you are related to people who are "connected to each other by :blood."

Some of the terms we seldom hear except in old Tagalog reruns on afternoon TV include anak sa Iigaw, which means a child born of lovers who did not get marred. Anak sa pagkadalaga is the child of a rape victim, or a woman who is not married. Anak sa tabing bakod is the child of a promiscuous, woman who doesn't know who the father of her child is. Last is all-too-familiar putok sa buho, the child whose parents are unknown even to its foster parents. This has reference to the first man and woman in Philippine legend, Malakas and Maganda who came from nowhere but a split bamboo.

From all of these, we see how rich and complicated the national language can be. If we can take more time off work to analyze Filipino words, we will probably understand our lives, our families and ourselves better.

(27 April 1986)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

No "Otter" Love

My grandparents' "theme" song is "No Other Love" and watching this video reminded me how simple it was for them to show each other love, just by holding hands. I miss them. I know they're holding hands in heaven.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Must Love Dogs..and Cats

Thought this was cute. Have to save it for posterity.

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary:

8:00 am Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am Walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm Wow! Watched TV with my master! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!


Excerpts from a cat's diary:

Day 683 of my captivity:

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape... In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the floor.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. The audacity!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. Ioverheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released -- and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded! The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. The captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe.......for now....

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Still Sick

Called in sick today... for Nanay duty. She's actually my Lola (grandmother), but we grew up calling our grandmothers "Nanay" (mother) because that's what we heard our parents call them.

Anyway, I'm too congested to handle the demands of a 92 year old woman who needs the heater to stay at 70 degrees all night and who needs to be repositioned three times before she's satisfied enough to close her eyes at 11:30p, to awaken at 2a to use the bathroom, then repositioned another three times, to awaken again at 5a to use the bathroom then insist on moving to her armchair in the living room, leaving me to try to reclaim sleep on the neighboring armchair or couch, but I have to be ready to possibly take her to the bathroom again at 7a.

I do this Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights. My mom does Wednesday & Thursday night. My aunt gets her every day during the day & early evenings, and dall day on weekends. She works graveyard so my mom and I split the evenings during the week. I get worn out & weary to the point of desperate frustration just in my three nights. I don't know how my aunt handles seven days a week. It is true that as people age, they revert to childish ways. My grandmother babbles when she speaks, and so slowly at that. She is stubborn, never heeding our warnings, and she believes she can still ambulate independently when she really can't. But I love her and I know she's not long for this earth, so I draw on every reserve of patience I have left to be there for her. What's a few hours sleep in exchange for no regrets?

Anyway, I've never called in sick for Nanay duty before, because it requires either my mom to replace me or my aunt to call in sick. I must've sounded awful on the phone today because my aunt didn't even hesitate and told me to stay home and rest.

I stayed up all night last night, not able to get comfortable. I can't sleep when I can hear myself wheezing. It's almost 1a and I'm watching Giada eating her way around Chicago on the Food Network, because again, I'm not close to being sleepy. I'm closer to being hungry than sleepy. Now it's Paula Dean, who cracks me up. I love her Southern accent. And she always manages to have some really handsome assistants.

I read a really good book today. "Love, Rosie" by Cecelia Ahern. The whole book is a collection of emails, letters and IM exchanges that spans more than 30 years in the live of Rosie and Alex, best friends since elementary. It's really quite clever and entertaining. They're two people who seem so right for each other, but the stars never seem to align for them. I enjoyed it greatly and now I'm curious to read Ahern's other books.

I've also been reading the Left Behind series, a fictional account of life after the Rapture. It's Christian fiction that mostly reads like a suspense/thriller, but even when you suspend your disbelief..or belief... to accept it as fiction, it still doesn't quite cut it. Yet I'm somewhat motivated to complete the series.

You ever feel so desperate for sleep you wanna cry?

But I'm hungry now. Damn you, Paula Dean!