05 July 2017

a comma, a pause

I once mentioned the film Wit starring Emma Thompson in a 2016 blog post and I remember seeing the made-for-TV film while still mourning my mother's passing due to cancer. With my father's declining health and my bleeding heart that is worsened by my inability to be physically beside him (irksome passport processing times), I take comfort in John Donne's Death Be Not Proud

[05 July '17, I have now edited the punctuations below based on the "Gardner" edition]
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me;
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.

In the scene above, Emma Thompson recalls her exchange with her metaphysical poetry mentor. It helped me appreciate the essence of John Donne's poem. I could relate to Emma Thompson's desire to best understand the poem in an academic sense, but I could also very well relate to the professor's intention for Emma Thompson's character to apply the meaning of the piece. Carpe diem.



Today's productivity level was above satisfactory (pat on the back). I had to remind myself that it is of far more benefit to focus on things that I can control. There is this book entitled Real Happiness at Work that I purchased for ~1/3 of its original price at a discount book shop and I would like to quote a section called "Multitasking..."

We would like to believe that attention is infinite, but it isn't. That is why multitasking is a misnomer. The brain can focus only on one thing at a time. We take in information sequentially. When we attempt to focus on multiple tasks simultaneously, what actually happens is that we switch back and forth between tasks, paying less attention to both. This does not mean we can't walk and chew gum at the same time, of course..."Successful" multitasking has been shown to activate the reward circuit in the brain by increasing dopamine levels--the brain chemical responsible for feelings of happiness. The danger of this is that the dopamine rush feels so good that we don't notice we're making more mistakes...In addition to dopamine, multitasking prompts the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones, which contribute to short-term memory loss as well as long-term health problems...Rather than divide our attention, it is far more effective to take frequent breaks between intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention.


This book also recommends taking frequent vacations to boost productivity when one returns to work. I realized that most people I know who are from North America or Europe take regular long holidays abroad, which is almost taboo in the third world country I come from. Perhaps, I'm wrong--or maybe it's a third world middle class thing. I'm not certain. 

I've never been to Maldives...

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26 June 2017

like a sitting duck

There is a need to admit to oneself that sadness is swirling within.  It is a kind of sadness brought about by circumstances beyond one's control. A defenselessness-induced kind of sadness. There is no issue about other faculties--one is still able to function efficiently. It is those brief quiet moments in between accomplished tasks when unfortunate realities pour down like a sudden thunderstorm of moroseness. The kind that you do not want to spread around like a self-righteous pharisee parading one's fast by deliberately looking haggard so as to obtain the pitiful approval of people. But a comforting clutch from a loved one truly helps. Kind words from more empathetic persons too. Once again, the important point is to allow oneself to immerse in the emotion like a warm bath that later becomes lukewarm and eventually dissipates---evaporates. As opposed to forcibly removing a drain plug in an attempt to be immediately rid of the emotion. 

As a conclusion, here is Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Sadness" as an example of the irrationality of a typical woeful state: 
Sadness, scarab
with seven crippled feet,
spiderweb egg,
scramble-brained rat,
bitch's skeleton:
No entry here.
Don't come in.
Go away.
Go back
south with your umbrella,
go back
north with your serpent's teeth.
A poet lives here.
No sadness may
cross this threshold.
Through these windows
comes the breath of the world,
fresh red roses,
flags embroidered with
the victories of the people.
No entry.
your bat's wings,
I will trample the feathers
that fall from your mantle,
I will sweep the bits and pieces
of your carcass to
the four corners of the wind,
I will wring your neck,
I will stitch your eyelids shut,
I will sew your shroud,
sadness, and bury your rodent bones
beneath the springtime of an apple tree.

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23 June 2017

Harrowing but surpassing

Last night's  brief chat with my father was once again a reminder to be in the present. To balance one's focus on future ambitions and present pragmatism just like Josephine March from Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" who struggled to accept her individuality and fate in spite of her stubborn resolve.  On a related note, St. Teresa of Calcutta's many quotable quotes include "Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin." True. Even if the more noble choice is the more painful case, the more altruistic option, the less popular opinion. 

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22 June 2017


Like that man on Edvard Munch's "Melancholy" I found myself in the exact same pose when I went to my usual happy spot today.  Blame circumstances. I'm glad I was able to verbalize some of those dismal causes to a very wise younger person and she just told me, "you know yourself best" and so I called it a day and went straight to my aforementioned happy spot. Did not work this time. I tried shortbread instead of a macaron. Unsuccessful. I tried to generate mental pictures of smile-inducing objects and living beings--success! So my suggestion to everyone else is to follow Peter Pan's advice: think of a wonderful thought...any happy little thought...and you can fly.

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20 June 2017


I will return to Copenhagen where I will once again drink Danish Glogg and eat open-faced sandwiches on dark rye. Skål!

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19 June 2017

A needle pulling thread

Lately, it has been a struggle to focus on the intellectual demands of my work. It's as if I'm looking for dishes to wash, laundry to fold, dust to sweep, and my favorite--clothes to mend.  I had sewing class in high school and my mother used to own a manual sewing machine just like this one:

I remember making my own shorts that turned out uneven: one leg was longer than the other. And there's that constant annoying situation when the thread from underneath the table and the thread from the bobbin on top would get intertwined and you had to pedal and move that wheel on top to untangle the mistake. That also meant sort of ruining your fabric and having to get sewing shears and redo everything. 

That is why I prefer hand sewing like an Amish person. With my very active children, there's always a hole or tear to sew. I also realized that my body size has fluctuated recently and I have been attached to most of my dresses so I would adjust the waist and add snap buttons. I'm proud to say that I still have the dress my mother had a seamstress make for my confirmation. It was supposed to be ankle length, but I was 12 years old then so the hem is currently at the level of my calves. An awkward length, to tell you the truth, so I've been contemplating folding the hem inwards a few inches and sewing it so that it sits right below my knees. It's a very 1950s dress that's why I don't want to let go of it.

A part of the results-driven me is frowning, because I should be doing more academic things. Not sewing, not blogging, not reading about current events,  not Googling recipes, not browsing free romance novels on Amazon, etc etc. I think I just need a day--two days tops--okay let's make that 5 days? To nap. To cleanse the mind. To recharge. To sew my clothes.

On the "achievement unlocked" side of things, I've patted myself on the back numerous times for converting my children's pants into shorts, leggings into cycling shorts, and my skirts to two different sizes down (the 3 reps of gestation-lactation-rearing can be a wardrobe challenge). I also converted one of my sister's halter jersey dresses into a maternity swimming top. *applause*  As a final demonstration of how we can be nifty about things is this:

I shared this to friends, because I thought that maternity bottoms were expensive and/or unfashionable. So I went to a fabric store, bought a thick garter band and buttons then created an "extender." I reinforced the hole I cut with stitches where I would insert the button of my jeans and then insert the other button on the other side. Then I wore typical maternity tops or my husband's shirts or whatever is comfortable. Nifty nifty eh? *high five*


17 June 2017


Minsan sa ating walang tigil na paglalakbay, 
Kailangan gunitain ang saysay ng buhay.
Sa kabila ng hirap dala ng kalupitan ng pagod at pag-aalinlangan,
Ang siyang pagkakataon na maibalik ang sariling sigla ay pahinga.
Tanging pahinga.

There are times along our journey,
When we need to reflect on the sense of life.
Despite the challenges brought about by the cruelty of exhaustion and uncertainty,
The opportunity to recharge one's vitality is rest.
Only rest.

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15 June 2017

viva la vida

It requires more courage to suffer than to die. ~Napoleon

My fixation on the shortness of life stems from being a regular witness of death and imminent death. I could say "end of life" but my father once exhorted on his legal writing essay that the original word is preferable over its "first cousin." I don't follow that advice consistently, of course. I remember an event when my father was told "you're lucky" after he divulged that he was just diagnosed with cancer. One would think that saying something like that to a terminally ill person is inconsiderate, but what the person meant was that it becomes the trigger to live life to the full. Short of saying that a hard deadline keeps us on track. In connection with cancer, I had two female tests done about a month ago and I'm grateful and relieved when I recently heard from my doctor a few days ago that everything's normal. My mother's cancer was more aggressive than my father's and commenced at around my current age. Right before this post, I had the chance to chat with my father who was preparing to get admitted in the hospital and I was glad to share some good news. I used to vent in our conversations and later on decided to only bring up either good news or funny mundane things. I hope to encourage you, my dear friends, to live each day with no regrets. Each of the 525,600 minutes per year...as that Broadway musical Rent theme goes "525,600 minutes...525 thousand moments so dear...how do you measure a year...measure your life in love--seasons of love."


09 June 2017


My daughter is a leftie

My best friend, the godmother of all my children, is a great writer (Yes you, my dear C and you expected this *wink* and I will refer to you in the third person). She loved writing for the school paper when we were in high school and today she's a contributing author on this online magazine aimed at disseminating high-quality and high-impact articles.  Based on our recent interactions, she thought that it would be a good idea if I started writing about things/causes I'm passionate about and so after a couple of exchanges I finally spoke with her editor-in-chief on the phone this morning.  It's a no-pressure pro-bono gig much like this ongoing anonymous catharsis on blogspot. Kind of like writing press releases on broad sheets.

On the topic of writing, I had a casual chat with a mentor about fountain pens and calligraphy--I'm glad that there are still people who enjoy writing by hand. I consider it a rarity nowadays. My father writes in nice block letters using his usual Pilot VTech pen, while my mother's cursive was impeccable even with her preference for ordinary pens. My husband, when we were teenagers, wrote to me weekly--he began writing a week's worth of notes during his free time in class which he put in an envelope and gave to me on Sundays. I followed suit and we agreed to leave our envelopes on a designated spot. I'm sure you're nodding right now, Mr. Husband. Papemelroti should thank us for investing on their stationery.

We should rekindle our interest in handwritten material. It's not just about the art, the pen, even what is written--it is the time spent writing and the amount of thought that is put into it. It is not excessive, in my humble opinion...it is being in the present.