Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When Shit Makes You Stronger


For the last ten years, my husband and I practiced passiveness to a fault towards other people. We figured that since life was okay for us, we can afford to be nice to people regardless of their behaviour towards us. We even tipped servers who were total jerks to us in the spirit of kindness. We also didn’t know how to say no. If we could just let it pass, we just let it pass.

Our passiveness also extended towards life situations. When things went south, we just adjusted and accommodated instead of fighting for things to go north. We didn’t even ask for things to get better and instead we just tried to see the positive in our situation and took it as better.

But I guess God, in His infinite wisdom, decided that we needed to learn to fight for things that we wanted. But we will never do that unless my husband and I were pushed so far away from our comfort zone that there was no other choice but to fight. This year has been that year. When our landlord would not decrease our annual rent, we decided to look for another flat even if there was only 5 days left in our annual contract before we had no other choice but to renew it. That seemed mission impossible considering that we needed time to look and move. But on the same day that we searched, approximately in an hours time, we found a flat that fit our budget. We were able to move in 3 days and had some time to spare before our old contract expired. The documentation took an extra 4 days more but that itself was also a feat.

A day before moving in to the new flat, my husband found out that it was still dirty and unliveable. I called the real estate agent and coerced them to ready the flat that night. In less than 24 hours, they completed all the maintenance work and polished the flat until it was spic and span. All I had to do was ask and demand for things to be done.

God taught us through our newfound situation to ask for things we want even if the situation seemed impossible to give it. We no longer tolerate bad service and now ask for better ones. I also drew boundaries with toxic people and demanded the respect that I deserved in that relationship. When a situation says no, I pushed for other ways for it to say yes. I even demanded more in my prayers. I now unabashedly ask God for things that I want to happen in my life.  My husband and I shed our passiveness and relearned how to fight.

Sometimes God turns our life upside down and inside out because we still have some life lessons to learn. The key is trying to find that lesson and becoming good students so that our shit can literally make us stronger and better.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Perks of Moving to a Much Smaller House



Today I re-watched “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”  While watching her obsess over material stuff like Gucci and go gaga over sales, I was surprisingly repulsed. All I could think was that all those stuff were going to eat so much space.

When we moved to a much smaller house, space became a more valuable commodity over possessions. While I tried to fit everything we owned to a new space that was ¼ the size of our previous home, the sheer number of stuff suffocated me. I was seriously tempted to just give them all away just to have a comfortable living space. I have also realized that there were so many things I owned which I don’t actually use and can probably live without. If they can marinate in storage for a long period of time without being needed, I probably do not need them at all.

The extreme difficulty of finding a place for everything we owned traumatized us so much that stuff actually repulses me now. I received a lot of notifications of sales that were up to 90% off and all my mind could conjure was clutter. We even stopped buying groceries in bulk and preferred to buy as needed. All I want at the moment is enough liveable space.

So thank you smaller house! I am now less materialistic and I can probably save more money which is ideal in our current financial situation. Mother earth probably thanks you too because in some ways, although forced, I became an environmentalist by necessity.

But I still want chocolates.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Rod and Reproof

 

Today at Ikea, my husband and I just witnessed a well built and quite on the large side of a woman, with hands the size of a small child’s head, slap on the face a small scrawny girl of about of about 9 or 10 years old. She slapped the girl not only once but four times in between intervals of scolding. The girl apparently got lost in an overly crowded Ikea and made the “mistake” of moving and trying to find her parents instead of staying put. When the punishment seemed to escalate to a fifth slap, the father of the girl finally had to balls to remove her daughter from the situation and left the mother on her own.

In today’s time, a lot of parent’s still support physical discipline because the bible supports it-“the rod and reproof give wisdom but the child that is left to his own will bringeth his mother to shame.” But as child who survived a mother who liberally practiced her parental right to physical discipline, I support clearer and safer guidelines for the responsible use of the rod to give wisdom to avoid child abuse.

Like the little girl in Ikea, I also endured countless knock-the-wind-out-of-your-lungs face slapping both in public and private spaces. The slaps were so powerful that sometimes darkness engulfed my vision for moments at a time. But unlike the little girl, I did not have the fortunate presence of a father or another adult who could protect me when the physical discipline escalated to physical abuse. My mother was a single parent who isolated herself from all relatives for most of her parenting years.

I believe in these instances, clearer and well defined guidelines to a parent’s” right” to physical discipline is imperative to protect children from harm.

For one, I think parents should be required to take a license before they can practice physical discipline. The acquisition of a license should require extensive psychological testing to determine that the parent do not in any way suffer from any mental ailment such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc. A parent is already three to four times bigger and more physically powerful than a child and that power to inflict pain should be tethered to a sound and responsible mind most especially since a mentally unsound person can increase his or her physical force when in a fit of uncontrollable rage. If prison officials and the police force require a standard for psychological soundness before they dispense punishment towards criminals, it is only within the limits of logic and reason to require a parent to meet the same standards before practicing physical discipline towards children.

Second, a comprehensive training on physical discipline should also be attended by the parent. The comprehensive training should discuss the definition of physical discipline so that it would not be interchangeable with physical beatings. Hair pulling, slapping, strangulation, dragging, punching and use of hard props or implements should be disallowed. The training should also define and restrict body specific areas that can be be used for physical discipline. Bony areas and important body parts such as the head and vital organs should be strictly disallowed and should constitute some legal punishment from the government in cases of deliberate parental lapses. If the physical method can be used by a wife as a defence for domestic violence against her husband who is of her equal in age and physical strength, then logically the same methods should not be used on a child. Surprisingly and unfortunately, a lot of parents failed to see that logic including mine. Some parents believe that since they gave birth to their children, they have absolute rights to do whatever they please with their children and that includes relentless physical discipline with no boundaries.

The comprehensive training should also define and set a standard on the duration and intensity of the punishment depending on the weight and age of the child. In countries which serve corporeal punishment such as lashings to criminals, definite numbers of lashings with a definite controlled intensity are administered to criminals and there is always a doctor on stand-by to administer first aid in case of excess. The implementer of the punishment is also emotionally detached from the situation so that there is no fluctuation on the intensity of the lashings and that no undue damage can be inflicted on the criminal. The same rights to a controlled and safe physical punishment should also be given to children so that he or she should not suffer indefinite physical beatings with emotion driven intensity which can cause undue damage. I know this should be common sense but apparently not so common since a ton of parents discipline with untethered emotions that translates to an intensity of punishment which is not suited for children. In truth, a criminal is really getting a better bargain because his rights are more or less defined and protected by the law.

Furthermore, excessive physical pain can negate the objective of physical discipline which is learning and supposedly wisdom. I remember as a child, in order to endure the pain, I often mentally and emotionally detached from my physical experience and went to my imaginary happy place. I zoned out the beatings and everything in connection with the beatings including the supposed lesson. Even at a young age, I recognized that it was dangerous to zone out when being meted out with physical discipline most especially since my mother had zero control over her emotions nor the intensity of her punishments. I often get my head banged on the wall and I also neglected to protect vital organs, but when there is presence of so much uninterrupted pain, enduring becomes more important than protection. So if your child is no longer using her reflexes to avoid being hit, the parent’s force is definitely excessive and the objective of discipline and learning are already lost because your child has already zoned you out.

I also think that physical discipline should not be intertwined with public humiliation. There is a place and time for everything and that includes “wisdom” giving. If you hit your child in front of everyone, you are not only hurting his or her body, but also her soul. From a child’s point of view, you just gave everyone in that room the license to mock her/him and ridicule her/him.  You have stripped him/her the rights to people’s respect by showcasing him/her in his/her lowest form. As a constant recipient of discipline by public humiliation, I did not grow up spoiled but I grew up with a severe lack of self-respect, very low self-esteem and a non-existent self-confidence. I often saw myself as lesser than everyone else and I also developed anxiety that sometimes bordered on paranoia. As an adult, I often avoid public conflict and confrontation with anyone even when I’ m right because it reminded me of my traumatic childhood experiences of having everyone’s eyes on you. Your child might be more resilient than I am and might not suffer the same consequences but that is a risk you willingly make. Besides, if public punishments for criminals have long been abolished in civilized society, why should public punishment for children still remain?

As a survivor of physical discipline, I cannot, with good conscience, advocate the rod for giving wisdom. The mere fact that I refer to myself as a survivor is a testament to my sentiment towards this parenting practice. I remember thinking while growing up, that the soonest that I can get out of the house, the soonest I can be free from pain. There were also times when I wished that somebody will save me sooner. I really think that there are far better ways to impart wisdom towards our children. But I cannot impose my personal belief on other parents who believe with conviction that the rod is the best form of child discipline. However, I want to give a voice to children who deem their life a living prison from parents who have crossed the very fine line between physical discipline and physical abuse.

For parents who practice this form of discipline, standards and regulations must be strictly imposed to protect vulnerable children from parental excessiveness. At the very least, if there is no strict institution to strictly regulate the practice, the parents should be prudent enough to self- regulate. I think it is best for parents to desist from thinking themselves as infallible sources of wisdom with an unlimited divine authority to impose these wisdoms to their children at whatever cost or means. Parents are human beings and therefore are prone to the flaws of being human. They should exercise due prudence in checking and re-checking themselves in the practice of physical discipline in order that they can avoid crossing the line towards physical abuse.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Paring our Life Down to the Essentials


Due to recent changes in our financial situation, we had to look for more affordable dwelling situations. We seriously thought about moving into a studio flat but unfortunately in order for my husband to continue sponsoring visas for me and our kids, we were required to have a one bedroom flat.

Thus began our quest to look for a one bedroom flat with the same price as a studio flat. The search disheartened us at best. Some of the buildings were so old with tiny creaky elevators that could possible substitute for a death trap. The house fixtures were so broken down and rusty, I wondered if they will last for a year. Another option was in a nicer building with a well maintained elevator but the flat was on the 15th floor and had only one postage stamp window. You literally felt trapped at 15 floors up.

Finally we found a one bedroom flat in a building that looked old on the outside but was very well maintained on the inside. The place was fairly decent in comparison to the previous choices and the price was within our range. Although still small, it seemed to be our best possible option at the moment.

But as to how small, we finally found out on moving day. When we tried to fit our furniture, we realized that our new living room was not even ¼ the size of our old living room. The kitchen was also so small and could not accommodate our fridge; it would have to find a way to fit in the living room. The new bedroom was also half the size of our old bedroom. I think it was safe to say that the WHOLE of our new house was just the size of our old living room.

Truthfully, my heart broke. This was reality 101 and we were definitely downsizing. Since I was a little bit overdramatic, I confess that my heart was full and heavy with a lot of unshed tears.  I mourned the loss of our spacious old house.

But I decided to count my blessings. I have two of the best person in the world, with a third one coming soon, to share this tiny dwelling. They make my heart full with their love and laughter. If destiny pares down my life to the essentials, it would still be complete for as long as I have my husband and children in my life.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter Brunch at The Talk Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel


I have never been lucky in raffles, mall competitions, or any other luck based contest that gives out prizes. So when I chanced upon Movenpick’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Easter themed brunch contest on my Facebook newsfeed, I joined with nary a thought or hope of winning. I sincerely thought that I was wasting my time (about 180 seconds to be exact) in joining a contest which I would never win anyway.
But to my surprise, I actually won! I received a Facebook notification on my phone from Movenpick replying on my comment on their contest post. The reply was an amazing “Congratulations, you have won a brunch for four on Easter Sunday” or something to that effect. I think my heart stopped for a moment. This was the first time ever in the history of my existence that I have won something in a legitimate raffle if you don’t count the USB which I won in my son’s family day raffle about 4 years ago. I was ecstatic, never mind that a few seconds later, my phone decided to die because a few minutes before, my son soaked it with his water drenched hands. Nothing was going to rain on my parade, not even the death of my one and only phone.
Although I have never been to The Talk and Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Movenpick  Bur Dubai was always one of my favourite places to go for brunch. They never disappointed. The price point was always right and the food was always delicious. But the best part of Movenpick was always the service. If you want to feel like a V.I.P. regardless of your race, gender, appearance or financial category, go to Movenpick. They treat everyone like royalty without distinction. From the servers to the managers, they all go over and above the call of duty in friendliness and service to the point you might actually want to melt on the floor in embarrassment because you have no idea what you did to deserve such a star treatment. They give you all the 5 star treatment without the snottiness and snobbery. I was assuming that the same policy applies to all their branches so I was terribly excited to go the The Talk in Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
The Façade of the hotel was beautiful and had an exciting beach vibe because it was right across the Jumeirah beach. Of course, my son and I could not resist the photo opportunity.




They had a beautiful lobby which my handy photographer/husband forgot to photograph because we were all hopping excited to go for brunch. The men in suits, who were probably the managers, were standing in the lobby right next to the Easter Bunny to welcome all Easter merry makers. They sort of looked comedic in a nice kind of way because the Easter Bunny looked so casual and quite goofy right next to the impeccably dressed men in suits. But regardless in the stark difference in outfits, they were all welcoming and smiling.


The brunch proper was at The Talk which was at the second floor of the hotel area. It was right next to another restaurant, The Soul. Apparently, they love adding THE to their restaurant names because one of my favourite restaurant in Movenpick Bur Dubai is THE Fountain. 



My ravenously hungry companions were so excited when they saw the extensive buffet spread. Not to disappoint, their international menu included Chinese, Japanese, British, Indian, seafood, some possible French, a little Arabic, Italian and Mexican. One might think that their menu might be spread too thinly and might not be as expertly done if they were serving a more limited fare but the food were all delicious most especially the Japanese and Chinese cuisine.

In fact, when my family thinks of a Movenpick Buffet, we think delicious Chinese dumplings and Japanese food so we made a beeline for those right away. 




They had 3 variants of the Chinese Dumplings: chicken, vegetarian and shrimp. Aside from being overly delicious which was quite surprising because good dumplings were really hard to find in the U.A.E., all of them had a melt in your mouth texture especially the vegetarian dumpling.  They were very light and airy. The chicken dumpling was a little heavier and you need two bites to finish one off but the vegetarian and shrimp were definitely one bite dumplings. My son ate around 7 pieces of each dumpling and my husband probably even more. Sorry The Talk. They were really ravenous and they hadn’t had a proper breakfast.

The next stop was the Japanese food station. They had all kinds of sushi, maki and nigiri. My husband’s favourite was the sashimi station because the salmon and tuna were really sweet and fresh. You could taste the brightness and high quality of the fish. Three to four servings alone of their sashimi could cover the price of your buffet. We once ate at buffet restaurant in a 5 store hotel which exclusively served Japanese food and I could say with confidence that the Japanese Food station at the Talk served better and fresher Japanese food most especially in the sashimi department. Quality ingredient was probably the key.


They also had some beautifully laid out appetizers. There were also selection of Arabic mezze and salads. At other times, I would have probably sampled them because based from previous experiences, Movenpick’s appetizer were a taste explosion. However since I am pregnant and I have only a little room for food, I decided to skip this one out. I think my husband and son also skipped this part for fear of missing out on important food space inside their stomach.




Nevertheless my husband did take advantage of their awesome seafood selection. They had raw oysters, smoked salmon, raw tuna, raw salmon, prawns and other creatures from the sea. But my husband feasted mostly on the raw oysters. I couldn’t really partake in his enthusiasm for oysters since I’m pregnant but aside from that, I really could not understand the fascination. If you ask me, raw oysters are really gross. They honestly taste like salty fishy slime. But I guess it is an acquired taste that can take root in such an addicted way. But for people like me who like their seafood mostly cooked, The Talk also has a wide variety of seafood selections that can be grilled at their outdoor area.





There were still other food stations at The Talk but we were so excited by the food that we forgot to take photos of them. True story! There was a pasta station which cooked whatever kind of pasta. Parents with kids who are picky eaters will love this because you can probably request just a plain mac and cheese. Another plus for the kids was the pizza station which served gorgeous authentic style pizza in pepperoni and margherita. There was a build your own tacos station if you are hankering for some Mexican food. There was the British food station which served steaks, lambs, all kinds of cold cuts which you will probably be hard pressed to find in your local stores, wellingtons and roast potatoes. The roast potatoes were particularly delicious. I never thought that I could be blown away by a simple roast potato but this one was so soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and amazingly sweet. I actually went back for second helpings. There was a cheese and bread station which I didn’t visit because my pregnant nose was very sensitive to the cheesy smell. Last but not the least was the main course station which served a variety of food from oriental to western. They also had a special section of main courses for their around the world in 80 days theme. One of the cuisine was duck cooked in chocolate sauce which I did not have the nerve to taste.


One of the unique things about The Talk’s buffet was that they have a menu of food you can order fresh from the kitchen. Amazing right? One would say a tad bit excessive since you can already probably drown from their already extensive buffet selection. Then again, Movenpick’s motto is probably, “Let us do it better than everyone else!”



For this particular day, their fresh from the kitchen menu included foie gras terrine with brioche and apple compote, dynamite prawn cocktail and steamed bao buns with hoisin duck. Hands down, the bao buns was the star of the show. The buns were pillowy soft and sweet and the duck was perfection. If I order this ala carte somewhere else, I will probably be paying through the nose. It was that good. However, I wish they would remove the dab of yellow hollandaise. It overpowers the taste of the bun and duck and I had no other choice but to remove all signs of it. 


Because I’m a sweets addict, the best part of the buffet for me was none other than the Desert station! I am particularly in love with Movenpick’s ice cream selection. For all the times I ate in their buffets, it was always the ice cream which haunted my taste buds. The texture was very creamy and dense. I have never encountered the same texture with other store bought ice cream or any ice cream in other restaurants or establishments. If there is one brand I can compare Movenpick’s ice cream, I would say they are at par or even better than Haagen Daaz. They have different flavours ranging from sorbet and to the more chocolatey ones. You can taste the freshness and quality of the ingredients with every bite. If the flavour was chocolate, expect a chocolate explosion inside your mouth. If the flavour was raspberry sorbet, expect a fresh raspberry explosion. The ice cream station also served pancakes and gelatin gummies for the kids and kids at heart.


But of course the deserts do not end in the ice cream station. As part of their Easter Brunch theme, The Talk laid out a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Desert Spread. The desert selections were mostly chocolate and candy themed. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take individual names since when presented with sweets; I usually just divide and conquer. But rest assured that they were all delicious. The Talk beautifully decorated their desert table just like the factory in the movie. In fact, at the back of the table, there was fully functioning chocolate fountain and river. I was tempted to dip something in the chocolate river but the adult in me was too embarrassed.


At around halfway of the brunch, the Easter Bunny appeared to give out Easter goodies to all the kids at the brunch. Of course, the 9 year old boy could not resist having his picture taken with the Easter Bunny. Even at this age, his is still a true blue kid at heart who finds excitement and appreciation with everything.


Afterwards, in line with their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme, the servers gave out chocolate cupcakes. One of the cupcakes contained a golden ticket which would entitle the holder to a two night stay in an executive suite for two at the Movenpick Jumeirah Hotel with breakfast. 



My 9 year old son was super excited because he does want to win a hotel stay. Sadly our cupcake did not contain the golden ticket. But that was okay because I guess it was too much to ask from the fairies of competition to ask for two wins in one event. We had a grand time with our free Easter Brunch and I think it was only fair to share the happiness and luck with someone else.

Overall, we had a fantastic Easter Day experience thanks to The Talk Movenpick Jumeirah Beach Hotel. For all those who are interested to try their weekend brunch, the price is at 289 dirhams inclusive of soft beverages. They also had an option for unlimited hard beverages but I’m not quite sure how much that costs. You can give them a call at 04-4498888 or you can drop by their website at http://www.movenpick.com/en/middle-east/uae/dubai/hotel-dubai-jumeirah-beach/restaurants/restaurants-bars/the-talk-restaurant/ . They also have a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MovenpickJBR/ which you can check out. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lottery


 
Nope, we did not win the lottery. So calm your hopes down because there is still no extra perks of being my friend or relative. In fact, if I did win the lottery, blogging will be the least of my priorities. I will probably be off to Europe enjoying the ancient architecture or probably at Disneyland Florida.

Winning the lottery has been one of my husband’s silent wishes. Although he never did actively participate with lottery betting since lottery is currently not available where we reside, he often placed his hopes on shopping festivals where a minimum purchase will entitle you to win thousand’s worth of showcase. He also invested in a no interest deposit which will allow your money to participate in a quarterly raffle to win a million dirhams. Every time we would talk about our hopes and aspiration, winning tons of money in a raffle was always a part of his conversation end.

I, on the other hand, do not put much faith in lottery winnings. I often tell him that in some sort of way, we have already won the lottery of life because we are healthy and he has a job that allows us to have a comfortable life. Of course, he often accuses me of being unsupportive but insists that if he did win, he will still share the winnings with me. But he also said that the reason why he probably hasn’t won yet was because I keep jinxing his chances with all my talk of negativity. I often agree with him much to his chagrin.

But recently, Mr. I-Love-to-win-a-lottery had a complete change of heart. One day he just arrived home and told me that he does not want to win mountains of money from any lottery anymore. I fell of my seat because this was the man who was harping about lottery winnings for the last 12 years of our marriage. I thought that my husband was probably sick or got into an accident and hit his head on something really really hard. Worse, he might have actually won but he doesn’t want to share his winnings so his was working on conditioning my mind. He probably stashed the money somewhere secret like the Bahamas since all gangsta seem to hide their ill-gotten wealth there.

But apparently, while he was accompanying a friend to a car repair shop, they had a talk about the misfortunes which often befell lottery winners. One guy who won more than 10 lexus cars in a shopping festival got shot 6 months after in his home country. The motive for the guy’s murder was money. Another guy won half of a million dollars with another guy. 3 months later, he died from cancer. He told me another story which my hormone addled brain cannot remember now but I am quite certain that the story also ended in death or some other form of tragedy. Basically, my husband was scared to death. (hehehehehehe). He now believes with absolute conviction that winning in lottery is nothing more but a pact with death in exchange for the money. Tit for tat. In this case, cash for life.

The sweetest thing though is that he now has a new silent wish. He no longer wants to win instant tons of cash but instead wishes for a long life to spend with his love ones even if that life will be spent in normal amounts of cash or even in poverty. According to his new found wisdom, no amounts of money can equal to the life of your loved ones. He now officially renounces lottery because that seems to be a sure way to take quality time away from the more important things in life. In fact, he said that if he did accidentally win, he will most likely not accept the winnings or just give them almost all away.

So in case we win folks, you know it is going to be raining money.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Marriage Rebirth


 
Fact 1: My husband is a great husband and can probably hold a candle against the best husband in the world.
Fact 2: My husband can also be a jerk (I would have loved to use a stronger word but my in-laws are very supportive and actually read my blog)

Fact 3: I am not the greatest wife in the world but I am a great wife
Fact 4: I can also be the world’s greatest bitch.
Because we were a great husband and wife to each other, we essentially have a great marriage. We were both faithful, we were great parents to our son, we equally contributed and sacrificed for our small family and we never took advantage of each other. We also loved each other very much as far as we know.
But what we did not know was that for the past 12 years, our marriage was slowly dying. Although I was a great wife and he was great husband, I was still essentially a bitch and he was essentially still a jerk. We took our turns in hurting each other in small unnoticeable ways. We did not resort to grand schemes of marital revenge because a great wife and a great husband do not stoop that low just in case our crown becomes in peril of being taken away from us.

Since the hurts were small and can be construed as imagined and a by–product of paranoia, our pride did not dare acknowledge their existence. Why complain about a stellar husband who is almost perfect? Why complain about a wife who sacrifices much for her family? But a wise woman told me once that marriages are destroyed not by earth shattering mistakes from any of the married parties but by years of compiled hurt and neglect of one another. One day you wake up and this small hurts have banded together and becomes a monstrous being that has eaten most, if not all, of your marriage away. Sometimes, the realization even comes way too late that there is nothing left to save at all.
A few days back, the same monster reared its ugly head and made itself known in my very own marriage. My husband and I were taken aback by the massiveness of the giant that we have apparently fed over the years. We were so preoccupied in fulfilling the prerequisites and obligations of a great marriage that we neglected the small things that make a marriage fun and worthwhile. We no longer held hands when we walk. We no longer hugged for no reason. When we do hugged, it was detached and disaffected, mostly obligatory in nature. We no longer randomly kissed to show burst of affection. When we talked, there was no longer any enthused fire in our eyes but only of annoyance. We were the closest things to each other from anyone in this planet but at the same time we were the most far apart.

Our marriage was dying and very close to death. It was only our strong sense of obligation that allowed it to survive for so many years. I’ve never realized that I carried a substantial amount of pain and hurt that has left me ragged and mostly broken. The same can be said of my husband of 12 years who has endured as much pain and suffering as he had given. We were both bloodied and messed up from the small pricks of daily unnoticeable stabs that we have inflicted on one another.
We laid bare our pain to each other; unable to believe that we have caused so much brokenness to someone we supposedly most loved. I cried for myself and I cried for him. He cried for himself and he cried for me. We cried for the marriage we thought was thriving but in fact was gasping for its last breath. We were the two people who supposedly loved each other so much at the wake of their own marriage.
But sometimes, some things have to die in order to be reborn to something better. Like a phoenix rising out its ashes, our marriage took on a second better stride. These past few days, I felt like I see and look at my husband for the first time again. I noticed every tiny thing. I see and hear his voice more clearly; I listen to his stories more closely. I removed the monotony and instinctiveness to my actions and affections and I now move purposely towards him. In turn he does the same. We travelled back in time to 14 years back when we first held each other hands and found love in each other’s arms. Our marriage is reborn from the ashes of our pain and hurt.
At the second chance in love, these are my vows to my husband:
I Vow
I vow to hold your hand as if I was holding it for the first time
with the excitement of touch of one who is in love
I vow to kiss you each and every day with the tenderness

of lovers who only found the power of a first kiss

 
I vow to look at your eyes every time you talk

to listen carefully to every word that you say

and reply always with love to your stories

and engage to your thoughts with my whole presence

 
I vow to always be on your side

on the road when you are cranky as you drive

no matter if it was you on the wrong

I will just keep quiet and maybe even cheer you on

 
I vow to always say thank you

even over the smallest things that you do for me

I will always acknowledge your actions of love

 with affection and hold them closely to my heart
 

I vow to always be polite and gracious to you

I sometimes get comfortable

Knowing that you love me no matter what I do

I forget that you get hurt when I’m not at my best too
 

There are so many things I want to promise

There are so many things I want to say

I feel like I wasted the last 12 years

Loving instinctively instead of purposely

 
So instead of words, I vow in action

in the coming years of being your wife

I will always give you the very best of me

and move towards you in love purposely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Al Majaz Waterfront Mosque Sharjah Light Show Festival 2017


Every year during the first week of February for about 4 or 5 years now, Sharjah celebrates their annual Light Festival. They light up significant cultural structures with laser light shows and decorate  with different kinds of light arts. Every year is slightly different than the previous years, adding variation here and there to keep the festival fresh and exciting. But they keep some yearly staples that are crowd favourites. This is one of my super favourite times of the year and I really do wish that, their budget permitting, the government will do this for more years to come. The weather is also perfect because February is winter and the nights are especially nice and breezy. Bringing jacket, gloves, scarves, bonnets and probably a thermos of hot cocoa is also advisable.

One of the yearly Sharjah Light Festival staple is the laser light show in Al Majaz Waterfront Mosque at Buheirah Corniche. To be honest, I’m not really sure about the official name of the mosque. We tried our best to find out by walking around it to find any identification marks. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky so we just nicknamed it after the nearest landmark.  Multi-coloured laser lights are superimposed on its structures to create mesmerizing and out of this world sceneries. The colours transport you to a happier more surreal place full of fairies, nymphs and fantasy.

In comparison to the Al Noor Mosque, the Al Majaz Waterfront Mosque is simpler with its design and structure. It is also a much smaller mosque. Nonetheless the superimposition of the laser lights on its façade is just as fascinating.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The light show here is more muted and warm in colours, favouring more earth tones. It transports visions of forests, centaurs and other wild creatures from the earthly surreal. It reminds me a little bit of Narnia. There is still playfulness and imagination in the colours but with a more realistic feel. If you like a more calming show, this one will be perfect for you.There are also less people within the vicinity, giving it a more Zen like ambience.
 
Just like the laser light show in Al Noor Mosque, this one is free and open to the general public. The only difficulty and fee you will face is the hard to find parking space.
 

 

 



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Al Noor Mosque Sharjah Light Festival 2017


Every year during the first week of February for about 4 or 5 years now, Sharjah celebrates their annual Light Festival. They light up significant cultural structures with laser light shows and decorate with different kinds of light arts. Every year is slightly different than the previous years, adding variation here and there to keep the festival fresh and exciting. But they keep some yearly staples that are crowd favourites. This is one of my super favourite time of the year and I really do wish that their budget permitting, the government would do this for more years to come. The weather is also perfect because February is winter and the nights are especially nice and breezy. Bringing jacket, gloves, scarves, bonnets and probably a thermos of hot cocoa is also advisable.

One of the yearly crowd favourite and a Sharjah Light Festival staple is the laser light show in Al Noor mosque right beside the Khalid Lagoon in Buheirah Corniche. The beautiful and elegant mosque is lit with candy coloured lights and appears surreal and cartoonish. If not for the solid structures you can touch, you’d think the mosque is only a caricature of lights instead of a real standing edifice.

On its own, the Al Noor Mosque is already beautiful and elegant. The show always begins by showing it in its natural magnificence against the night time sky.
 
 
Then the laser light will slowly creep in into the structure building momentum to bring about a cacophony of colours.
 
  
 
The first set is a trip to a mixture of clashing colors. This actually looks way much better in real life but I must admit that this set is not exactly my favourite.

 
 
The second set is more colour coordinated. The theme is fairyland and butterflies in what I can only suppose is candy colours.
 
 
Then we also had a purple fantasy land with unidentified floating creatures in colours that are colour coordinated with the land of purple.

 
 
 
For some reason, all I can think about is Barbie's world when I see this next set of laser light colours. There is something girly and less candy and fairy with the colour combination.

 
 
 This one on the other hand is just a splash of pastel colours combined all together. I guess the theme is, "be happy"

 
 
  
The last bit is different but quite forgettable since most of the previous laser light combinations are exceptionally dazzling. But I guess you have to take a break from a trip to surreal lane.

 
  
Overall, the Al Noor Mosque Sharjah Light Festival is a wonderful and unique experience. The best part of all is that this is an open air event that is free for all. All you had to do is find the time to be there. The hardest bit that you will have to do is just find parking. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Miracles in Prayers


 
Growing up poor, I did not believe in miracles; I depended on miracles!

When my family and I were literally homeless, we prayed that somebody will take us. We did not have money to pay for even a month’s rent and there was no place to go. But on that same day, my mom, sister and I were able to home ourselves. Although we were able to find lodgings separately, we still did despite the seeming impossibility.

I was severely nearsighted growing up but my mother was only able to acquire prescription eyeglasses for me once in my entire life and that was in second grade. After that pair got lost, I was on my own in my blurry world. When commuting from my house to my school, I prayed that I might ride the correct jeep. I couldn’t read the signboard and taking the time to ask will deprive me of the opportunity to get a ride because mornings were rush hours and people literally kill each other just to be able to get inside a jeep. Miraculously, my intelligent guesses were always correct. I also prayed when crossing the streets that I might not die in the process. Obviously the prayers worked because I am still alive today.

When I took the college entrance exam for the University of the Philippines in Diliman, I was unfortunate to have contracted the flu on the very same day. I had a very high fever, I was dizzy and I felt like vomiting. The test room was unluckily air conditioned which made my feverish chills even worse. No one was allowed to leave the room, not even to vomit, during the entire test duration. I tried my best to toughen up and finish the entrance exams. At that time, this was the ONLY college entrance exams which my mom was able to pay so this was my ONLY hope. But after an hour of trying, I couldn’t hold off anymore the uncontrollable shaking from the chills and the need to black out and faint. Since the exam was multiple choices and you just had to shade the correct answer, I just decided to randomly shade the answer sheet until the very end just to get the test over.  I submitted my exam paper to the proctor and hurriedly went out to finally give in to the forces of the flu. I prayed that I might pass although it seemed highly impossible since more than 50 percent of my answers were just random guesses. YET miracles of miracles, I passed!

During the second semester of my first year in college, my mother was not able to come up with the tuition fee. It was already the first week of classes and I was still not officially enrolled. I prayed that we would be able to come up with the money. We didn’t, but a good friend of mine came up with the 7000 pesos as the initial payment just to get me enrolled. I was able to get my first year college second semester education even if the odds were against my favour. But this was not in fact my first tuition fee miracle. From my whole grade school years to my entire high school years, my mother enrolled me with just a promissory note promising to pay the unpaid debts from my previous academic years. Every year it was the same answered prayer for a seemingly hopeless situation.

By the time I met my then husband, my life story has been a series of answered prayers and impossible miracles. I really couldn’t have survived life without them. In fact, meeting my then-boyfriend-now-husband was also a result of an answered prayer. Julius was the exact replica on my husband prayer wish list. In every sense of the word, he was God sent.

As a couple, we had our fair share of needing miracles during our first year of relationship. Julius’ place of employment was on the decline and they weren’t receiving their salaries for months. Even during deployment to job sites, they had to use their own resources. There was even a time when he was stuck somewhere because his company was not able to provide him with an airfare to go back home. Even without a tangible source of employment opportunities, we prayed that Julius can find another place of work. We prayed a novena to Blessed Jose Maria Escriva for months. We stubbornly insisted on our demands and we were not taking no for an answer from God. And just like that, Julius found a job in Dubai. Although we were praying for a job opportunity from the U.S. of A, God found it more appropriate to send us to the land of the Arabs.

From then on, our life was free from desperately praying for miracles. If we were sick, we had our company issued comprehensive insurance which not only provided doctor consultation and laboratory test but also dispensed medicines at a very minimal participation cost. We were never in dire need of food, shelter or clothing at any point in time because we had good stable jobs. If there was any financial emergency, all we needed to do was adjust the budget for a few months and then get back on track again. We also saved for an emergency fund so that we will never be caught with our pants down. We were self-sufficient and had no need for any last minute miracles to save our ass. There was always a logical and doable solution from our part to any problem.

But the risk of getting results from the realm of the possible is that soon, you lose touch with the possibilities of the impossible. I, whose life was painted with the colours of miracles, have subconsciously stopped believing in them. I solely relied on the limitations of my possibilities rather than rely on the infinite impossibilities of the universe. It kept me grounded, which is actually a good thing, but it also clipped my wings which I needed to fly. As the years went by, my roots grew deeper and deeper until I completely forgot that I once knew how to soar.

But God, with his amazing wisdom, decided to give me back my wings. After more than 10 years of being grounded, my husband lost his job. To add spice to the mayhem, I found out I was pregnant after a month and the rents and other cost of living all suddenly decided to shoot up at the same time. We had also lost our company sponsored health insurance. For the first time in our whole years living abroad, getting suddenly sick was a terrifying and expensive prospect. Since I was also pregnant, prenatal check-ups and giving birth were now my financial burden.

As great timing would have it, my 9 year old son also had a minor accident. He fell down while at school and his fingernail lifted off from the fingernail bed. Although we were insurance free, we were fortunate that the accident happened in school because then we would be entitled to free emergency care in one of the government hospitals. Although totally grateful for the free medical assistance, we felt so powerless because we had to rely on the charity of others. Beggars can’t be choosers and in a free facility, you wait until somebody attends to you.

After more than 10 years of being in control, I was no longer at the helm of my life. There was no logical, practical, doable solution on my end. We were caught with our pants down and suddenly, I was in need of miracles. It was hard to pray and believe that God will answer my prayers. I was calculating the number of people who lost their jobs and the current job market.It seemed impossible to be hired at the current status quo.

I was in a state of bottomless panic. If my husband will not be able to find a job, we will all be forced to go back home to our motherland since visa’s can only be obtained via the sponsorship of an employer. As hard as it is to look for a job abroad, it is a million times much harder to look for a job in the place where we were born. The job market there is ruthless and has little or no compassion for the aging job hunter. I still have a 9 year old son to support and another one on the way. Where will get money for food, for shelter, for education and for other basic needs? If it was just me and my husband, we can just wing it since we are both used to poverty. But we have two lives that depended on us. We cannot just wing it.

It was a terrible feeling of helplessness. At a certain point in time, I deluded myself into thinking that I was in sole control of my life. Miracles don’t make things happen; I make things happen.  Yet at the middle of it, you realize that life is full of unpredictables. It won’t always be you who will make things happen. So I abandoned all pretenses of self-sufficiency and decided to pray for a miracle. I cut off my roots, grew my wings and decided to fly.

Months have already passed since the day my husband lost his job and our life of uncertainty began. At this point, I’m still learning to spread my wings. Although he has already found a job, which was a big hurrah, our life was no longer in the comfort zone and thus need constant reliance on the supernatural and the impossible. In some ways I believe that my family needs this mayhem of uncertainty more than stability. Although our lives are no longer comfortable and secure, we were given in exchange the capacity and openness to believe in the impossible and infinite.

Because sometimes, the greatest gifts in life are struggles and problems. Without them, there is no room for miracles.

 
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Achievement Unlocked




One afternoon after coming home from school, my 9 year old son who is a third grader proudly announced, “ I got a perfect score in my exams!” Ever the supportive mom, I immediately exclaimed, “wow!” Proof or no proof, I was not going to rain on his parade. I was just going to ride his hot tamale train and enjoy the ride.  He hurriedly opened his bag and then showed me this:

 
True enough, there it was.  Written in red ink were the words, “ v. good” and a clearly written, “100%” To say that I was in shock was an understatement. I grabbed the test paper in disbelief just to see if it was true. I scanned the pages just to make sure that everything was correctly checked and sure enough, everything was correctly checked! It was a true blue certified perfect examination paper. I was so proud of my son! He was so pleased with himself and I could see the pride clearly etched on his face. Our hot tamale train of celebration was for real.
I know for most, this is a bit much of an overreaction even for a perfect examination paper. It is more so since the subject in celebration was Physical Education, a very minor subject among all the minor subjects. But in the 5 years that my son has been attending school, this was the first ever perfect score he received whether for quizzes or examinations. This is the first perfect score he has ever received for the first 50 months of education that he has received in his whole life. This is the first!
You see, my son suffered from a speech delay. He said his first word at the age of two which is “no” But from the time of his first word until the time he went to school, all the rest of his other words were just a product of my intelligent guess work. In his mind, he knew the words he wanted to communicate but his speech organs (the mouth, the tongue, the cheeks etc) would not obey his brain to form the correct sounds. He would often resort to showing me pictures or acting out the words so that I could understand him. He sometimes gets so angry and frustrated when I couldn’t correctly guess his intentions.
By the time he attended school for kindergarten 1 at the age of five; his speech proficiency was still that of a two year old. Attending school with that level of speech aptitude was a bloodbath. Not only was he constantly bullied, school work was also extremely difficult for him. His teachers couldn’t understand him so he couldn’t relay questions that he might have had regarding the lessons. Worse, even when he understood the lesson and knew the answers to the questions; he couldn’t communicate them to his peers nor his teachers. School was my son’s living and breathing nightmare.
Things only began to get worse when school lessons progressed to reading. A fun fact about the ability to read is that it is interconnected so intimately with the ability to speak. Learning to read when you don’t know how to speak is like banging your head repeatedly against the wall; it is useless and just hurts a lot. School was an uphill battle for us. It was always a game of catch up and working twice or thrice as hard as everyone else. We were standing on quicksand and it seemed that the more we struggled and fought, the quicker we sank.
We couldn’t afford speech therapy by a certified therapist for the son. The cost is beyond reasonable and my husband’s salary will not be able to cover it. So we opted for D.I.Y. therapies from apps and online help groups from other parents who are in the same situation. I must admit that getting a certified therapist would have expedited my son’s progress at a faster rate and would have saved him from a whole lot of unnecessary heartaches but as with all circumstances, you make the best with what you have.
My son’s official school time starts at 8 in the morning. We would already be there by 6 am doing our speech exercises. During winter, our six in the morning activities involved a flashlight because the sun would not rise yet until an hour after our arrival. If we have free time after the speech exercises, we would try to read books and/or catch up with lessons he misunderstood from the past quarters. Afternoon was reserved for current lessons and current school work. This was our life for 5 whole academic years.
Yet despite our best and exhaustive efforts, progresses were not always visible. When my son would bring home examination papers which needed to be signed, I learned to wait for my husband. I didn’t want my son to see me break down while seeing his scores. He would often get less than 50 percent of the correct answers. I hurt for him because I knew that he understood the lesson quite well. But since he couldn’t read the questions much less understand them, the chances of him getting the answer right were very slim. For all the hard work he does, he deserved more recognition. Yet for quite some time, he never did get them.
Finally when he was eight years old, we made some form of breakthrough. At the beginning of the academic year, he was sporadically reading and completing 5 pages of storybooks. He was still stumbling over a few words and it still took time to read but that, to me, was still quite a progress. By the end of the academic year, I no longer forced him to finish reading at least 5 pages because he was already finishing stories in one sitting. My son could finally and truly read! In terms of practical application to his education, he could also finally and truly read and understand the question from his exam papers. Progress showed in his grades and he was finally passing.
So after almost 5 years of trying and working, he finally got rewarded and recognized for his efforts with a perfect score in one of his exam papers. Never mind that the subject was only Physical Education! It took us 5 years to get there but we finally did it. I was very ecstatic but I think no one is more ecstatic than my 9 year old boy. In fact, his confidence was on an all time high, he even said that one day he will be included in the top ten of his class.
His aspiration at the moment might seem impossible but 5 years ago, talking and reading seemed impossible too, much less get a perfect score on an exam. Give it 5 more years, and he will be able to have another achievement unlocked.