Jeepers Creepers

It has been my habit to wait for my brother to arrive home from work as it makes me uneasy staying upstairs while he’s still out. Sometimes when it gets too late, I catch on some sleep on the couch while Marshie stays close to me.

Last night, I dozed off even if it was still fairly early at 10pm. I was only startled and awakened when Marshie started barking. My first thought was my brother has arrived, so I went straight to the door and opened it for him. To my surprise and confusion, there was nobody there. The weird thing was Marshie hasn’t stopped barking. When I turned to ask her what she was barking at, I found her at the foot of our stairs, looking upwards. She was clearly_CLEARLY barking at someone (or something) upstairs.

I immediately got my brother’s baseball bat and my eyeglasses (because I’m blind), and went upstairs to check. I don’t know what came over me. I was cautious that somebody must be upstairs, but I wasn’t scared at all. To make the long story short, I found nobody (or nothing) in the rooms.

When I went back downstairs, Marshie had already gone back to her bed, sleeping as if nothing had happened.

Still confused and a bit shaken, I sat on the couch trying to process what just happened. Yes, even during situations like this, I still manage to reflect.

First of, I didn’t just dreamed everything (although part of me hopes I did). It did happen. What I did though, just rushing upstairs to check for possible intruders, armed only with my brother’s bat, was not safe at all. I should have informed my parents at least. Again, I don’t know what came over me. My first instinct was to get something for protection and check at once.

But the question still remains: What was Marshie barking at?

Based on how Marshie looked at whatever it was last night, mom and dad think she saw my lolo. You see, my lolo was a tall lean man and when he was still alive, he had a habit of standing either at the middle or foot of the stairs. After he passed on, relatives would claim they caught glimpses of him or his silhouette on the stairs.

On the 30th of this month, it would be 24 years since he had left us. Maybe, he wanted to pay us a visit and check on everybody.

I don’t know what Marshie actually saw last night that creeped out both of us. Living or non-living, we had a visitor last night. Clearly, I’d welcome the latter more than the former. Reckless as I was though, I won’t be afraid to go full on-Negan on him. I have my own Lucille.

Kidding aside and above all though, prayers do wonders, as always.

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Fight

The past two or three weeks had been tough for the family, more particularly for my dad. He was rushed to the ER for two consecutive weeks, and for the past few days, had been struggling to move and eat.

The most difficult and heartbreaking for me is to see my dad in so much pain, to see him cry, and for me, the whole family, to keep it together and remain stronger for him.

We remain strong in our faith and trust that the Lord will not let us go through challenges we as a family cannot overcome.

For the past couple of days, dad has been showing some progress. From barely moving in bed all day and needing to be lifted and carried, he can now slowly sit, stand, and walk on his own even without his cane. He’s also regained some of his appetite, too. Slowly but surely, he’s getting stronger and stronger.

We remain strong in our faith and trust that the Lord will not let us go through challenges, we as a family cannot overcome.

There’s still so much to be thankful for though despite the challenges.

—-
I wrote that two days ago, as dad was undergoing a bone scan.

Today, we received the results, and unfortunately, the cancer has metastasized to dad’s bones, particularly his skull, sternum, clavicles, scapulae, ribcage, vertebral spine, pelvis, humeri, and femora. Dad has to undergo IV treatment, similar to chemotherapy, once a month for six months, and after which, another bone scan if the medicine is helping.

Help, that’s all the treatments can do – – – help slow down the cancer, because to put it bluntly, there’s no more cure.

To be honest, I am feeling a mix of anger, pain, exhaustion, and sadness. But I also quickly realize, what the hell for? Where will feeling negatively bring me? Nowhere. And if I’m feeling this way, how much more for my mom, and especially dad.

We are badly bruised as a family, but we’re not beaten. We know to remain strong in our faith and trust that the Lord will not let us go through challenges we as a family cannot overcome.

We are not beaten. Our fight continues.

Roller-coaster

I’m sitting alone in the living room, in the dark, trying to make sense of the day, or at least, the first half of the day. Actually, Marshie’s with me, but she’s sleeping, so. I’m trying to sum up the events of today in one word and coming up blank.

Up and down, up and down. Roller-coaster.

It started at around 1am this morning. Dad was rushed to the ER, second time in two weeks, because of his cancer. Dad was brought back home by 4am, with a catheter attached to him, and an appointment with his doc tomorrow afternoon. Damn illness won’t leave us alone. We’re struggling, perpetually praying that my dad pulls through despite the pain. We can do it, dad! Spirit’s down, but fighting.

With barely any sleep, I managed to drag myself to the nearby mall to run errands. Before heading home, I stopped by a pizzeria to grab some mojo potatoes to go. As I was waiting, by the bench near the entrance, Ate with the long freshly showered hair sat beside me. I know her hair has been freshly washed because it’s still damp, and it smells of Rejoice. Can’t deny it. One of my pet peeves is coming across a woman who goes out of the house with her hair still dripping wet and reaking of too much perfumed shampoo like she just stepped out of the shower and had no time to even towel dry her hair. Sorry, but that just grosses me out. Seriously.

Ate Rejoice combed her hair with her fingers and hit me thrice in the arm, shoulder, and face, and she knew she hit me because she looked at me, all three times. No apologies, just a look that almost means “Yeah, I have long damp hair, so what?!” That’s when I let my claws out and said, in my most calm voice that made me even scarier, I think, “Ate, tatlong beses na yang buhok mo,” with a straight irritated face. I didn’t want to be suplada especially when I’ve had very little sleep and was already hungry, but girl asked for it. I think I scared her because she frantically pushed her companion towards the edge of the bench to stay away from me. Spirit’s down.

While I was silently hoping my mojos would be ready soon, two Millennials came in and approached the guard. I had the best seat in this encounter. Here’s their conversation:

Kuya Guard: Yes, Ma’am? Ilan po kayo?
2 Millennials: May kasama kami, Kuya. Hinahanap namin.
Kuya Guard: Ay, sige po, Ma’am.
2 Millennials: Nasa’n po sila, Kuya?
Kuya Guard: Naku, eh di ko po kilala kasama niyo.

I almost did a face palm. Kuya Guard was visibly amused and found it too funny, he just had to laugh out loud. And I did too, after the two Millennials left. Spirit’s lifted a bit with the comic relief.

When I got home, I was able to catch the last few minutes of the McGregor vs. Khabib match, where the former lost. I was rooting for him. Spirit’s down again, but was lifted back up when McGregor showed true sportsmanship despite defeat. He’s still my champ.

I’m sitting in the dark, in our living room, with my sleeping dog. I can hear a faint Christmas song playing from my parents’ room. It has also gotten dark outside; It’s going to rain soon. It’s as if the universe is setting the mood for me to rest, and for the first time today, the first time in so long, I feel like napping.

Yes, I think I’ll sleep now.

P. S. Thank you, Arlo, for holding my hand from afar.

Flush

I’ve been reflecting on the past week, but I’m finding it difficult to even know how and where to start.

To say that last week had been physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting and stressful is an understatement.

Our office conducted a legal conference in Davao for three days, but prior to that, we’ve already spent weeks making last minute preparations. Ours was a team of first-timers, so as expected, we encountered a few bumps along the way. A few rocky bumps along the way, that when we finally finished, we literally fell on the floor (of our room) after our shaky knees had already given in.

Apart from work duties far from home, I worried about some family concerns, too. On my first night in Davao, my dad was rushed to the ER, and my aunt twisted her ankle in an accident. It was the first time I felt so frustrated and helpless, to be so far away and not be able to do anything. “Why did I have to be on this work trip, just when my family needed me?”

It wasn’t the best feeling, to be in that situation, but I was. I didn’t know whether to keep a straight face (in front of my bosses and colleagues), or cry. I wanted so much to grab my things and fly back to Manila, like Manila was just a jeepney ride away.

I still assumed my work duties, while I waited for updates about my dad and aunt. I never looked at my phone as often as I did that night. I was anxious, so much, that after I used the toilet to do a Number 1, I absent-mindedly clicked on the bidet when I meant to reach for the flush. Yes, I got drenched in toilet water. Don’t ask me how that happened. I can’t explain it either. I laughed, and I guess I needed that.

The events of last week reminded me about how hard work and preparedness should go hand in hand; when faced with obstacles, it’s always best to focus on the solution, rather than the problem, even when it’s easier said than done; and to keep calm, always keep calm.

But I feel, more importantly, I was reminded to keep strong in my faith. It wasn’t easy to be in such circumstances, and I could go on and on about feeling stressed and tired, but in the end, faith sustains and endures.

My team and I successfully conducted a legal conference. My dad although still with health concerns is doing fine. My aunt despite the twisted ankle shared more love and laughter with us before she flies back to America later tonight.

Indeed, I needed that instant toilet water shower. It was a wake up call, I think, to trust in the Lord and keep faith.

Early Bird

*What follows are my ‘sabaw’ thoughts at the early hours of the day. Hello to the way too early morning people like me.*

I wake up at three in the morning every work day. My brother leaves for work around that time, so I get up and transfer to the living room couch when he leaves, to catch more sleep. I only start moving around at four or 430am. By that time, I prepare my first mug of coffee and set out to do my morning chores before leaving for work: sweep up, let Marshie out, wash some dishes, and prepare my baon breakfast.

I’ve always been a morning person, so I don’t really mind doing chores early. It’s peaceful and quiet, with only the sound of AM radio and the occasional neighbors’ dogs’ barking keeping me company.

Quiet and still, except when a couple of months ago, the neighbor’s alarm startled me out of my struggle to stay awake as I was frying some chicken franks. The alarm resembles the sound of a crying cow. Try listening to the sound of a crying cow at 430am, while you’re still trying to wake yourself up. Disturbing, isn’t it? After a while, I had gotten used it, and actually miss it when I don’t hear it. The alarm blasts on for about 20 minutes. Such a heavy sleeper, my neighbor.

When I’m done with my chores and before jumping in the shower, I sit down, browse through some perpetually horrid and repetitive national news, and enjoy my second mug of coffee. Yes, I’m already on my second by 5am.

By 530am, I start hustling, and then I’m off to another day on the battlefield, where by 1pm, I’d already be yawning. Lola mode on.

Time

This morning did not unfold the way it normally does. I woke up at my usual 3-330am, transferred to the couch after my brother had left for work, to catch on more sleep, and then finally got up around 4am to begin my Friday.

As I was having my first mug of coffee and figuring out what to prepare for my breakfast baon, I thought of what my parents would be doing today. I wondered, as I always do, what they would decide to have for lunch, how they would spend their Friday, how they would feel having all their kids out and having our lonely house all to themselves.

My parents are elderly, and unfortunately, my brothers and I cannot take them out as often as we used to anymore because apart from their illnesses, they tire pretty easily nowadays. They stay home almost all the time. We only get to spend time with them when we come home from work (which is always cut short because sometimes either my brother and I are already too tired from work, or my parents turn in very early at night, or chores get in the way). My brother and I spend the weekends mostly running errands and doing chores. I’m not proud to say it, but I feel we don’t get to spend enough quality time with mom and dad. And that bothers me.

So as I was having my coffee early this morning, I decided to ditch work today and do something nice for them. But what?

I remembered they’ve been craving for ginataang halo-halo for a couple of weeks now, so I offered to go to the palengke to get the ingredients. They know how much I dislike going to the palengke, so they were in disbelief that I would actually go. Their faces lit up the moment they realized I was serious about it.

The ginataang halo-halo was cooked and enjoyed by my two tanders (and me of course). During the meal, we were able to catch up and talk. There were lots of stories and lots of laughter – – simple, but quality time.

I’m not proud about ditching work today, and I don’t claim to be the best child ever, I just feel when one must weigh family and work, the former trumps the latter. And clearly in my case today, I made the right choice. When family and loved ones, especially parents, are in the picture, I feel there’s no such thing as ‘I’m too busy with work’ or ‘I don’t have the time’. Hands down, and it doesn’t even have to be said, you make time.

Perspectives

On the 22nd to the 24th of August, I attended a workshop on Change Management conducted by Microsoft Philippines. Have you ever attended an event that left such a huge impact on you that you just couldn’t stop thinking, reflecting, or talking about it? Exactly how I feel now. I’m on a high.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve hit plateau at my job for the past year. I’m less motivated and less challenged. There’s still a sense of contentment, but there’s also an urge to find more growth. And with ‘find’, I mean explore some place else where I can fly and soar yet again. I’ve been constantly praying for contentment and guidance on what path to take.

About a month ago, I was asked to join ‘a workshop that was going to be held in Makati’ because one of our consultants, who was originally supposed to go, was not going to be able to for some reason. A ‘filler’, a role I’m trying to get accustomed to in government service. Despite that, I accepted the offer and only had two concerns: 1) what’s the workshop about; and 2) will a shuttle be provided (~because Makati). I was a bit hesitant, but more excited, looking forward to what I may learn and eager to have a change in environment.

The workshop was postponed twice which made me less interested about it. When I was informed that it will finally push through, I wasn’t too ecstatic about it anymore.

It only dawned on me how cool of an opportunity it was to be sent to this workshop on the first day upon arriving at the venue. From then on, considering that I am after more motivation and challenge, I embraced the task at hand and resolved to maximize the opportunity.

I sat right on the front row, something I don’t really do, determined to focus, listen, and engage. It wasn’t at all difficult to do because the workshop was very reflective and hands-on. In fact, I was so engaged that I managed to win the best project pitch for my team and a quiz game on the last day. Hello, competitive. I was dubbed the class valedictorian.

The workshop allowed me to realize I may still have more to give professionally; that I still had more to offer and contribute; and that this brain of mine can still think and produce wonders. (Those peanuts I endlessly munch on are working overtime, kids!) 😁

Kidding aside, apart from the many takeaways I had from the workshop, I realized that the solution to every instance you hit plateau is not to run and seek a new home. Yes, change is inevitable, but most of the time, you just need to step away from the plate and take a breather.

I’m thankful the consultant was not available for the workshop. I’m thankful I was the next best choice to attend ~ the ‘filler’. I’m thankful for opportunities to breathe fresh new air, learn, and reboot.