Tuesday, April 30, 2019

I'm not okay. But I'm okay because I'm hidden away while the storm rages on.

It's the last hour of April 30 and I'm holding my breath, just hoping walang pasabog pang hahabol because let me tell you: April was a really interesting month. Nag-earthquake pa! Here's a recap:

Piero getting an x-ray for his arm

(1) Papa got sick and then he died. Witnessing his deterioration was a horror I don't ever want to go through again. I'm grateful I went through only a few days of it, compared to my younger sister who was Papa's constant caregiver. She is working through her emotions and I am sure they are deeper than mine because caring for someone heroically and yet they died anyway is a despair I was spared from, and for that I am relieved. Of course, that relief makes me feel guilty.

(2) Those terrible two weeks were filled with us siblings working out hurts and misunderstandings with Papa and with each other. All the while fighting through fear and worry, too! And yet we were also enveloped by love, kindness and generosity from family, friends and neighbors, even complete strangers. Ibang level ang emotions. I don't think I've processed everything yet.

(3) My bunso Piero fractured his arm when he was playing with his brothers and cousins. That was definitely an ordeal kasi sumabay siya sa lamay ni Papa.

(4) Of course I couldn't go to the office while all of the above was happening but I worked when I could. Still, there was a lot I couldn't do so when I finally went back to the office after Holy Week, I was (and still am) swamped with work. I am truly drowning and I don't know what to do.

(5) I lost my wallet. You know the last time I lost my wallet? Right after my mother died. And now it's happened again!

I think I may look okay outside but inside I'm a mess. I don't feel it but my actions show it. I'm distracted. I'm tired. I'm sleepy. I'm not aware of things. I forget things. I misplace things. I lose things. And my anxiety is threatening to come back and overwhelm me. I can feel it simmering just under my smiles.

So I'm supposed to catch up on work and blogging and chores, but I just had to pause. I had to take stock of my mental and emotional health. And, nope, things may look okay but I'm not okay. Accepting that made me feel better. I always focus on what's wrong first. I think that's always the first step to getting better, right? Sobrang uso ngayon ang "Positivity! Good vibes! Happy thoughts only!" I think that's actually contributing to a lot of mental breakdowns because we're not allowed to feel ugly.

I don't think I'll be okay for a while. And yet I also realized as I worked through my emotions that I am also very happy. I'm happy I am alive and healthy, that my husband and I are still together and happy, that we have three wonderful and healthy boys, that I have a job and my bosses are good to me, that I have family and friends who love us. I'm happy I have faith in a Sovereign God because I may not be in an emotionally great place and yet I also am. Did that even make sense?!

A few days ago, when I was realizing my simultaneous joy and grief, I posted these on Instagram:

I was really happy about how I wasn't sinking into despair because of God's promise! But then I started getting a lot of messages about my posts. Many were happy I've "quickly recovered" and "moved on" and how inspiring I am because I "don't feel sad anymore."

Guys, I am sad. I am very sad. I think there is also anger in me and lots of guilt. There is shock and horror. There are emotions I feel but haven't truly confronted yet because I'm scared. I see myself standing in a hurricane and everything is whirling around me and I can't breathe and I'm afraid because I don't know how long this will last. Yet I am also not afraid because I'm not standing alone. I am shielded from the storm. I can see and hear the wildness around me and it is very scary, but I'm also safe. Wild, right?!

There is a verse in the Bible that I always turn to when I'm afraid. I always say I'm brave, right? Courage is my middle name! But I'm always afraid, mamas. Always always always. Especially when I became a mommy. And when fear is overtaking me, I hide in God's promise of protection.

Exodus 33: 21-22 says, "Then the Lord said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.'"

It's so visual for me! When there is a storm, when there are enemies, when there are monsters out there or in my head, God will hide me in a cleft in the rock and cover me with His hand. The cleft is a dark and not comfortable place. Plus, the storm is still out there, the enemies are still hunting me down, or the monsters are still threatening me but I am safely hidden while God works His miracles. I just need to wait safely. And I have to be hidden because God's glory can be too much!

So I'm not okay but I'm also okay. Right now, I am so not okay that I have to hide away. I don't know when I'll get better. Some days are great. Some days I cry. But every day I am grateful I have a family to welcome me home when things get too much. I'm especially grateful I have placed my trust in a God who thinks it's totally all right to hide in His love when the world gets too crazy like my world's been crazy this April.

It's nearly midnight! Leaving April now with this old and beloved hymn I sang as a child and comforts my sad yet joyful heart now. I hope it comforts you, too!

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Boys chasing birds and birds chasing boys

This is my favorite time of the year in Manila. On Holy Week, the streets are empty and quiet. The sky is free from smog and is a piercing blue. Well, except this Holy Week. I think it's the first ever Holy Week that's cloudy and rainy!

This rainy holiday reminded me of our trip to Tagaytay a few months back. I only told you about it on my Instagram but never got to share the truly fun photos from our really wet weekend. But no rain can dampen the spirits of my boys. Nope!

They ran and played under the rain, in the mud, in the puddles, chasing ducks and geese, then screaming when the big birds started chasing them.

It was raining hard when they fed the birds.
But they refused to go under the umbrella with me.
They enjoyed this so much and I enjoyed just watching them!
Watching the boys and the birds chase each other was fun too! Although I went closer... just in case!

When they did stay inside, they played and drew and chased each other and hugged and tickled each other. Many days they annoy each other to tears, but just as many days they spend on being absolutely the best boys a mother could ever ask for.

Posing for Papa's camera!
Then ignoring everyone as they get to work on their chalk art.
Piero's obsessed with sharks.
IƱigo's obsessed with Piero!

I liked this vacation. We should go on holiday again. I miss the days when Vince and I worked from home and only when we liked and we could just up and leave whenever we wanted to. Of course, those days were when we didn't have such huge expenses (a.k.a. tuition haha).

We usually stay in the city during Holy Week because we LOVE the empty city but the kids want to go hiking and camping. Do you have any suggestions for kid-friendly places like that? I'd like the boys to go on an adventure again!

P.S. Vito's not in the photos because he's already avoiding being photographed. And that's okay. I always ask the boys if I can take their photos and share on social media. And when they give their consent, that's the only time I share!

Monday, April 15, 2019

I learned 10 things from Papa's death

Papa passed away the night of April 10, Wednesday. My younger brother Ted and younger sister Jacqui rushed him back to the hospital just before Tuesday midnight. He no longer had a heartbeat. He was no longer breathing but the ER staff worked for 25 minutes resuscitating him.

When I got to the hospital at 12:40am, Papa had his heartbeat back but he was hooked up to a ventilator to help him breathe. His eyes were still moving, the way eyes do when we sleep. His skin was warm and soft. He was still there. The monitor said his heart was getting stronger, his breathing was getting better, his blood pressure was stabilizing. So we talked to him, sang to him, prayed over him from midnight till 5am. Five hours of just standing around his bed, joking, crying, singing praise songs, praying, saying good-bye, telling him to keep fighting. Just 5 hours but was there ever a longer night?

At dawn, the doctors said he needed to get a CT scan to check for brain activity. So he was wheeled away but when he came back, I was afraid Papa was no longer with us. His eyes had stopped moving. His flesh felt different. And he was now cold. Maybe when he didn't hear or feel us anymore, his soul finally let go of the tether holding him to earth.

I wasn't the only one who saw things were different. The doctor who was so encouraging just moments before took one look at the scans and then said there was no need for the ICU anymore and that we can just wait in a regular room. Wait for...? Wait for family. Wait for the neurologist to tell us what the brain scan said. Wait for Papa to die. And that's what we did. A whole day of praying and singing and telling stories and hugging and crying and laughing and saying good-bye. Then when all the visitors have slipped away, the doctor and nurses came in Papa's room and we began the process of death.

I won't go into so many details of that final day and night. I'm just going to tell you guys things I've learned very recently. If you don't like morbid stuff, best to skip this post. I promise to return to regular programming next week! I have so many nice and wonderful things to share with you all.

But for now, please allow me to process my grief by letting me step back from the horror and love of the last 2 weeks. I just want to share the stuff that I learned from Papa's death:

I wasn't supposed to talk but... Oh well. 

1. Nurses are kind. Thank the Lord for nurses. When the doctor said there's no use talking to Papa because he was brain dead, the nurses said, "Wag kayong maniwala diyan! Kausapin niyo lang nang kausapin si Tatay. Sabihin niyo na mahal niyo siya." I know they know the doctor is correct but I also know they knew what our hearts needed. May God bless you forever, Papa's dear nurses. Thank you for going to Papa's wake, too.

2. I now know how dying is like. Well, at least with Papa, I do. Your heart beat slows down. Your blood pressure lowers. Your temperature goes up then plunges. Your body gets rid of fluid (so get ready with lots of diapers and towels to wipe off perspiration). Your breathing gets slower and farther apart. Papa was already unconscious and so he wasn't aware of anything. The nurses said if you're awake, you will slowly go into a deep sleep. There is no pain. Just blessed sleep. 

3. Doctors and nurses only stand witness when you remove your loved one from life support. I thought they were the ones who did it! Imagine our shock. And yet our relief, too, that we, instead of strangers, were the ones to bring Papa to the other side.

4. Unless you suspect murder and want an autopsy, it's best to have the body embalmed asap, while it's still soft. The longer you wait pala, the harder it is for the morticians to prepare the body for viewing. Mama looked so fresh because they prepared her within 2 hours of death. Because we couldn't call St Peter at 10pm (their office hours end at 6pm!), we had to wait till the morning and by then parang ayaw na ng St Peter. So we called Marian Memorial Chapels and sabi nila Papa's body was difficult to manipulate. They still did a good job! So we love Marian. They took good care of Mama 10 years ago. They took good care of Papa now. Thank you, Marian!

Papa's wake was full of song and laughter... and kids' playing!

5. I need to buy a death outfit. Before you think na napaka-shallow ko... Guys, I've gone through this twice. Hindi na ako natuto the first time. It's so stressful, opening your loved one's closet and seeing, touching and smelling their clothes and knowing they're never going to be worn by your parent again. It's heart-shattering. But you wipe your tears and look for an outfit that will provide maximum coverage. Long sleeves, high neck, pants or long skirt, or skirt with 2 pairs of hose. The mortician says it's to cover dead skin. I have no suitable clothes for that occasion. I have to spare my family this terrible chore and just buy a death suit.

6. It's a good idea to have a folder in your computer where you can put your photos for the wake. It took us a while to comb through photos of Papa, looking for the photos that best represented his life. Vince and I have decided we'd have 3 kinds of photos: from when we were young (maybe 20s), a couple photo, and a few family photos. Then we'll just update the folder as we get older so that when we die, the kids won't have to go through hundreds of pictures and cry (or giggle).

7. Another good idea is to book 2 adjacent rooms at the funeral home, instead of just 1 big room. You get 2 kitchens and 2 comfort rooms. One for family, one for guests. It was a relief to have one little room for ourselves where we could leave all our things and nap when needed.

See me at the back? I'm always minding children!

8. Adobo lasts forever! Well, if it's covered in oil, that is. My Tita Alice Amper cooked a huge batch of the richest adobo we have ever tasted. It was pork and chicken and beef and liver all covered by thick sauce and a layer of mantika. We ate that for days! Sarap! God bless family who flooded us with food. At both my parents' wakes, we never had to worry about food. Who knows what I mean? I literally was amazed at all the food pouring in. People are so generous!

9. You can't bring home the funeral flowers. We received so many beautiful flower arrangements and I liked best the gorgeous one from my cousins Dash and Iza Calzado. I just wanted to put a few of the blooms and several broad-leaf palms in vases at my home. But everyone stopped me. "Ano ito—kasal?" (Actually, ang alam ko hindi rin pwede iuwi ang wedding flowers, diba.) "Malas kapag mag-uwi ka ng kahit ano sa lamay. Pagkain, bulaklak—lahat dapat iwan dito."   

10. Papa wanted to be cremated. After witnessing burials and a cremation, I prefer a burial. That said, if my family chooses to cremate me, that's okay, too. Cremation takes 1.5 hours to 2 hours at Heaven's Gate Antipolo. And we stayed there till Papa's ashes were given to us in an urn made and given by Lanelle Abueva-Fernando. Thank you for your gift!

At the crematorium. Ulilang lubos na kami.

I know this list sounds so strange but I still don't know how to process Papa's death. I've cried, but I don't think I've grieved. I don't know why my mind is putting it off. Maybe because Papa and I had just recently patched things up and my heart won't allow me to see just what I've lost. Maybe because after 2 full weeks of worry and crazy emotions, I'm too exhausted to feel anything. Maybe I just need to sleep. Or maybe I just need my Papa back.

*photos from my sister-in-law, Roselyn Legaspi-Amper

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

A grape juice a day keeps health woes away

Good news! My Papa was discharged from the hospital and is now recuperating at home. We will make him strong enough for his amputation. Please keep us in your prayers!

If there's any good that came out of the visits to the hospital, it's this: I am finally paying attention to my health. With diabetes in my family history, I can't ignore the fact that that may be my future. I'm seeing it up close with Papa's current struggles and it is ugly. I don't ever want my kids to see me like that.

Well, we don't know what's in our future but we can do what we can to delay or prevent it. So I'm eating less now. I'm eating less to no sugar. I can't give up rice yet. I'm okay with carbs, okay, but I love rice too much and I eat it in copious amounts. Now, 1 cup na lang. I aim to lessen it pa and just get my carbs from fruit and vegetables (bye bye rice huhu). No more soda, no more coffee, no more milk tea, no more powdered juice. Just water and green tea and natural fruit juices.

I'm just making kwento because I'm drinking Welch's grape juice right now and I wanted to share with my readers my journey to health. It's one of the few juice brands I drink now because Welch's is 100% grape juice. Nothing added. Fruit is already naturally sweet so you don't want to add sugar to juice.

Remember last Christmas when I gave away a bottle of Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice to my family? That is a guilt-free gift! And so now I think I should apply that the rest of the year and I'm now trying to eat guilt-free meals. Ewan ko ba. When you're my age, everything you eat can possibly induce guilt!

I choose Welch's because each bottle carries real grape goodness — a good concentration of nutrients called polyphenols that promote healthy blood flow, provide anti-clotting effect like red wine (without the alcohol!) and help maintain blood pressure. It's also a good source of antioxidants, keeps the immune system up to fight against viruses that cause common colds and cough.

While Welch's is just pure juice extracted from Concord Grapes (no added sugar!), look for the bottles marked with added Fiber if you need help with your digestion and weight loss journey. There are also bottles filled with grape juice fortified with Calcium for growing kids and middle-aged people like me! 

I know this sounds like a sponsored post but it isn't. My family really drinks Welch's! Plus, I've been really alarmed at my own unhealthy diet and at my possible future. So I'm now proactive at choosing better food and drinks for me and my family. Welch's inspired me to write this post so I hope it inspires you to take charge of your diet, too!

We mamas need to be strong and healthy not just for our daily survival caring for our kids (haha survival talaga); we also need to remain healthy for as long as possible so we can see our grandkids! Plus, I seriously know now that I never want my kids to take care of me when I'm old. I want them to be out in the world, conquering it. Not at home, caring for their ill parents. If I really loved them, I'd never want to hold them back. Taking care of myself now is my way of making sure they won't need to take care of me tomorrow.

Welch’s Juices are available in all leading stores and supermarkets. Find out more about Welch's Juices at www.welchs.com.

Monday, April 08, 2019

There's a new home store in town: MY MC Home!

Twelve years ago, Vince and I were engaged and happily preparing for—not our wedding—but our new home! Of course we were excited for the wedding but honestly, fixing up the house is tougher and better and just loads more thrilling. Our favorite thing to do back then was shopping at MC Home Depot, the one-stop shop for high quality construction materials and home furnishings. It was complete! That's where we chose many of the things that made our home so unique. For example, we bought our retro green bathroom tiles there and everyone who uses our bathroom always remarks on them. Great choice!

So when I found out that MC Home Depot has given birth to MY MC Home, I just had to go check it out! I was invited to the opening of the flagship store at the new MET Live mall in Pasay. Of course I had to go since I love going to home stores. I was even able to get some shots with the VIPs!

So I've been married a dozen years and you probably think we're done with the home decor stuff. Well, if there's anything anyone who owns a house knows, it's that fixing up a house never ends. The family gets bigger with kids then smaller when they move out, rooms change as everyone gets older and tastes change, furniture and bedsheets wear out.

When I dropped by MY MC Home, I was delighted to find not just useful things but really well designed and gorgeous pieces as well. Check them out:

MY MC Home is so big, it actually built in a fully furnished model unit so you can see how their pieces work together.
Check out the huge kitchen in the model unit! It will be a showcase of their appliances and kitchen essentials.

Chairs for the dining room, garden, study, bedroom, walk-in closet... Where else do you need chairs?
At the back of the store you'll find everything your house needs to run—from cleaning solutions to laundry tools.

These are just a few of the things you can find at MY MC Home. I'm planning to go back with Vince (we both have to agree on home stuff!) and take more photos of my finds. There are unique hand-carved vases, steampunk lamps, multipurpose ottomans, fold-out beds, retro refrigerators and more! I'll share those fabulous finds before April ends so you can see the really nice stuff!

MY MC Home is located at the 3rd level of MET Live, EDSA Ext. cor. Macapagal Boulevard, Metro Park Bay Area CBD, Pasay City. It's just before SM MOA! You won't miss it. Like their Facebook page or call (632)478-8609.

*Photos courtesy of MY MC Home. This post is brought to you by MY MC Home.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

When peace is a complicated thing

I'm back! I was gone for 17 days. So many things happened in March. The best were (1) my kids ending the school year with really good grades and (2) my trip to Singapore for Samsung. The worst was my father almost dying.

He's still in the hospital now. The prognosis is not good—he needs surgery but his system is too weak. But if he doesn't get that surgery, he's going to die anyway. So do we have him go through surgery that will most likely kill him (fast death) or let him go home and die a slow death? Tough choice, both ending in certain death. We haven't decided on anything.

But that's not what I'm really agonizing about. While I was out doing errands, I bumped into a friend and she was going in for a hug but I whispered, "I feel like a bubble. If you touch me, I'm going to explode." She hugged me anyway and I cried. I guess she knew that hugs from a friend who understands can hold you together, and the pieces meld together for a while longer. She also knows my relationship with my father so she knew my tears weren't for him but for me and my children.

Our funds are absolutely depleted and dreams and plans for the year are now laid to waste—we are even wondering if we can enroll our kids next month. But I said I was going to be cheerful this year, right? So I'm not allowing myself to worry. What will be will be.

But pray for us, dear friends. Pray for God's abundant provision please. And pray for Vince and me. We're having a difficult time sacrificing our kids' future for someone who never lifted a finger to provide for his.

I know that sounds awful, but if you're the daughter of a man who refused to work and always demanded that his breadwinner wife buy him stuff first, never mind that she got into mountains of debt, and then he stole your inheritance when your poor mother died, you'd know I'm in a pretty tough situation. If you don't know my situation, then that's absolutely wonderful. You can be grateful you had a father who loved you so much, he worked hard to give you a good life because I seriously don't know what that feels like. I envy you.

Regardless of my sad history, we are giving till there's nothing left to give. After all, what I'll lose is just money. I'm not gaining a father since the doctors say he won't have long to live. And when I asked Papa if he'll be a better father and grandfather should he be given another chance at life, he said he won't. Well, at least he's honest.

I did gain one glorious thing: the chance to understand and forgive Papa. During the darkest hours of when we didn't know if Papa was going to make it through the night, I talked with him, asking him why he never provided for his 4 children. Actually, we are 5 kids. We found out we have a half-sister and I'm glad Mama's dead and gone before we knew! I'm happy I have an older sister, even though I feel sad for her because Papa wasn't there for her either and now that she just found him, she'll lose him.

Anyway, Papa told me why he didn't want to provide for his kids and his reason wasn't very good but I accepted it and forgave it because it was valid. It was also so sad because so many of us—Mama most of all—suffered so much. I'll tell you about it one day but under all the layers and excuses Papa gave, his reason was basically cowardice and you know how I feel about cowards.

Nevertheless, I asked Papa for his forgiveness, which he gave, and he acknowledged I wasn't the best daughter because he wasn't the best father. I'm happy we were able to forgive each other and perhaps create a new relationship. It's still a doomed one since it doesn't have a chance to flourish. Time is one factor and his refusal to be a better father is another. But I'm going to try to be a better daughter. Maybe in this situation, the redemption God is offering is to me, not to Papa.

I once saw this photo of a dark hospital hallway leading into the light. It resonates with me. I like to imagine I'm in that hallway now, in the dark, but I have hope of coming into the light. That's my future. That's my children's future. It's hard navigating these tough times but I'm actually not worried or afraid. I may have sorrow, especially for Mama, but I also now finally have peace. I just really wish Papa works on his before the inevitable happens.