Reading boot camp

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I am a voracious reader. Although, I was not always that way. My love for reading started when I was seven. It did not develop naturally as it would to those scholastic individuals, it was forced on me. I remember all too clearly the day the reading boot camp started. It was one sunny afternoon after lunch. I was in the backyard with my friends from the neighborhood, baking mud cake using empty milk cans. My oldest sister came out and said something along the lines of the day being too hot, we shouldn’t be outside, my friends should go home and maybe come back later and other similar things but I latched on to I must go inside and read. I remember whining and complaining but she just stood by the kitchen door waiting for me to move. My friends started leaving one by one and I was left staring at the watery mud cake with a small handprint on top. I recall being assaulted by a strong surge of annoyance to the point of throwing a tantrum but…I didn’t. Because it was my oldest sister and you just don’t throw a fit when you don’t get your way with “an oldest sister”. Oldest sisters are the law when parents are not around. Such was the case that fateful afternoon.

I wanted to think that I was a smart kid and during those weeks that I had to finish Sweet Valley Twin, I deeply believed I was. I pretended to read the book, counting enough days when I could safely declare that I was done. I read the first few pages to get to know the characters, the middle part to get what the story was about and of course the last few pages to see how the story ended. However, my sister was smarter. She sat me down in the living room and to my dismay started a question and answer review to find out whether I actually read the book. Needless to say, that same day of the Q and A, I re-read (if I can call it that) the book. I kept reading until I read the entire Sweet Valley Twin and Sweet Valley High series. Without me noticing it, I was enjoying reading and I was actually the one asking for more books to read. It came to the point when I have read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series in the House and I started reading A Pirate’s Love by Johanna Lindsey. My mom saw me with it and promptly confiscated the book saying it wasn’t for kids to read. What normal kid wouldn’t sneak it back after hearing that? I would hide in my room behind the bed and read it and hide it under my pillow every night so I could read it the moment I wake up. Then came the Mills and Boon pocketbooks which I realized were “not for kids” books as well so I read them all in secret.

Our sister showered us with books and they were a comfort when typhoons would hit us and there would be no electricity for days. When I was in college and couldn’t sleep, I would read under my blanket with a clip-on lamp so I didn’t disturb my roommate. When e-books became popular, I had about twenty in my phone each time and would read any chance I got. My eyes would be gritty and red from squinting at the tiny screen. 

These days, I am trying to teach myself to paint. I have been watching tutorials on painting for months now and have become a great fan of Bob Ross. So far, I have managed to paint (copied off the internet) three paintings. At the moment, however, my interest is in watercolor painting and I have been failing miserably. But I am not giving up because if there is anything I’ve learned from the reading boot camp, it is that we can learn anything. I think that if I paint enough times, doing it over and over again, just like reading, I’ll get the hang of it…or not. I am an optimist. If I have to put myself in a painting boot camp I’ll do it. I just need one good watercolor painting!

DIY bracelets and happy memories

Several months back, I was in this “jewelry-making-phase” that prompted me to take a one day silversmithing course in London. Growing up, I have always loved accessories. The traumatic experience of my mom piercing my ears when I was eight did not take away my love for it. I did remember the tremendous pain that made me cry for hours but I guess my eldest sister buying me one “Broadway” earrings after another made me decide that it was all worth it. No pain no gain as the saying goes. My very first pair of earrings was a gold flower with four tiny bars dangling from it. It was simple and elegant. I loved it. It was my elder sister’s first and our oldest sister’s before I had to wear it. Then I had to give it up when my youngest sister finally had her ears pierced. It was some sort of a tradition I guess. But ever since I was young, I know I have some form of jewelry. A ring, a clip on earring (before I had the piercing) or a bracelet. It was part of dressing up. It was the norm.

First silver ring I made .

I was not too impressed by the first silver ring I made even when our instructor cooed at how unique it was. But I am indeed proud that I was able to make one. It was not an easy process and sawing and polishing alone were delicate work. That class was worth every penny I paid because I went home with a new skill and an appreciation for all the brilliant and hardworking jewelers around the world. It takes real talent, considerable dexterity and patience to make one fine jewelry. 

Today, I decided to try my hand on beaded jewelry. The youtube tutorials I have been watching for almost a week now fueled my enthusiasm in making these gorgeous chandelier earrings inspired by a pin I saved on Pinterest. An hour and half and several failed attempts later, I ended up with these simple bracelets. Making this has brought back beautiful memories of my siblings and I, on those lovely afternoons in our living room. We would sit around a bowl of colorful beads and crystals and make ourselves some bracelets. I remember the laughter, the banters and the delight of having made beautiful accessories to wear and show our friends. Life then was simple and happiness was in abundance. 

This afternoon just made me miss them more.

The lazy guru’s guide to life

I am excited to share a book I found a year ago. I was walking along high street when I  came across a store on closing down sale (my favorite kind of sale) and had everything at 70% to 80% off. On the window was a display of toys and random art supplies and nestled right in the middle was a little yellow book with a weird illustration of a smiling man with rays of light radiating from around him. I went inside and browsed the book…I loved it. 

There must be 150 pages, give or take, of delightful illustrations, with one or 2 sentences (sometimes more) each page. I could have finished it while standing there but each word and phrase I read just spoke to me and mellowed my angry heart. I had to buy and keep it and read it when I needed reminding to be at peace.

I was not at my best at that time. My thoughts were toxic, I didn’t like the people around me and I continued to feel unpleasant emotions. On top of everything else, I was sleeping less and less…I was lucky to have two hours of sleep. I was always tired and my patience was non-existent. The strain of pretending I was okay was getting overwhelming. I just wanted to rest.

The Lazy Guru’s Guide to Life helped immensely in putting things into perspective. It stilled my troubled heart and mind enough to allow me to process what was happening and made me see a way out of my misery. Reading it was like being wrapped in a blanket of warm sunshine after a long winter month. 

Here’s an excerpt:

“People are like walking light bulbs…full of energy.

But the light gets dimmed…it comes and goes.

That’s normal…just like the river, we have ups and downs.

The difference between people and rivers (well one of them) is that instead of letting it happen, we try to control the natural flow. The natural flow of feelings is pretty scary. You don’t know exactly what would happen…if you really let yourself go! The whole world might fall apart and can go down the toilet, especially when you don’t feel so good. So, naturally…you put your feelings into little boxes (instead of mighty rivers) somewhere you can keep them safe and out of sight. But what happens when you try to put a mighty river into a tiny box?You’ve gotta work really hard to keep it there. It takes a whole lot of energy to contain that flow…”

I hope you get a chance to read this beautiful book as well. It’s called The Mindful Art of Achieving More by Doing Less, The Lazy Guru’s Guide to Life“. This is written by Laurence Shorter. I hope you find it helpful. 

“As you get better at giving yourself space, you will notice that every situation and relationship has a life of its own that doesn’t need your worry or stress in order to thrive” -lazy guru

Rite of passage

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In 2009, my cousin’s family moved to our town. They had two little kids ages four and six and a third on the way. They were a lovely family. Mini, that’s my cousin’s wife, usually had her prenatal check up in the community health center. However, when she learned that I am a Registered Midwife and a Registered Nurse as well, she would come to our house for blood pressure checks. I would also assess the baby’s heart beat and let her listen to it to assure her that the baby was healthy. When her due date was near, I heard her saying to my mom that she planned to deliver at home with my help. Having heard that, I told her that home delivery was now discouraged due to high mortality rates of babies delivered at home and the risks it posed to birthing mothers. I advised her to go to the hospital when the time comes. She just smiled at me.

I sighed.

In hindsight, I knew this would happen but I was hoping she wouldn’t go through with the ridiculous plan. My youngest sister who recently acquired her Midwifery license was at the house at that time. I calmly stood up and said, “you’re coming with me. We’ll check her out and see what stage she’s on”. She followed me without a word, her eyes as huge as saucers. When we arrived at my cousin’s house, we found Mini on a makeshift pallet on the floor in active labor.  I didn’t have anything with me except for a pair of sterile gloves I found in my OB bag from way back in my college days. Aside from the gloves, the rest were out of date.

I did the physical exam and she was 7 cm dilated. And with it being her third child, delivery was imminent. She adamantly refused to go to the hospital so I resigned myself to helping her and make a run to the nearest pharmacy which was about 15 to 20 minutes away. I hoped to be back before she actually gave birth.However, in case the inevitable happened, my sister was there. Although, she had never delivered a baby on her own before, I had faith that as a newly minted midwife, everything was still fresh to her. I instructed her on what to do when the baby came and I was not back. I demonstrated to her how to catch and hold the baby’s head, how to follow its natural rotation and how to gently pull. She was calm and listened well so I knew it was safe to leave for the quick supply run.

I was on my way back about five minutes away when I received a phone call from her. She said “I’m holding the baby, remind me again how to cut the cord.” I asked what she was using to cut the cord. She said they found kelly forceps and surgical scissors in the OB bag and sterilized them through boiling. She couldn’t decide how close to the umbilicus to clamp the kelly. I told her to give enough length to work on the cord dressing.

When I arrived in the house, everybody was smiling widely at the wailing baby girl in my sister’s arms. Her hands were bloody because there were no gloves. The first thing she said to me was “I’m sure I have no cuts anywhere”. I just smiled at her because I was so proud of how she handled things. Her face was radiant with happiness. I understood the triumph she felt at being able to bring a new life into this world.

I helped her dress the baby’s cord. We delivered the placenta and made sure there were none retained inside. The baby was breastfed and for the next few days my sister and I did the postpartum visit. The mother and the baby were both well and healthy.

That day was my sister’s “early” rite of passage to the real world of Nursing and she did very well. She graduated and got her Nursing license in 2011, 2 years after that successful home delivery. My parents, who worked hard to send us to nursing school, were smiling from ear to ear. They were beaming with pride.

At present, my cousin has six kids. The younger ones were delivered in the accredited birthing facility built later in our community. Savannah Ysabella, that’s the name of the beautiful baby girl, is in elementary school. And my sister? She’s one hell of an ITU nurse now, fighting in her first pandemic.

Fond memories

20200522_001509-01I was in kindergarten and my favorite part of the day was after school when my dad would pick me up on his red motorcycle. Sometimes I had to wait for him because he was delayed at work but I didn’t mind because I had my classmates to play with while waiting. I was offered a ride by one of the parents a few times but I would always refuse because I wouldn’t want to miss the best part of the day…riding with my dad.

During the ride I would tell him about my day. I told him how annoyed I was to our teacher (who was a nun) because she wouldn’t pick the book I brought for story time…It’s been days, I whined. Dad just hmmmed…I told him about writing my name on the board and the teacher said I had a neat handwriting. He said hmmm…and then there was this boy I punched because he was teasing me a lot. He chuckled and said hmmm.

***

One afternoon we went to the pier to watch the huge cargo ships. The sun was just dropping in the horizon and the sky was ablaze. Birds were swooping in and out the sky. Some workers were shovelling a small mountain of salt. We walked past them to the vendors selling banana fritters wrapped in banana leaves. Dad bought one for each of us and then we went back to his motorcycle where we sat, ate the banana fritters and watched the sunset.

***

Dad would also take me and my sister to the nursery for plants and animals…it was a big place with small rolling hills with drops deep enough to make us feel like we were in a roller coaster. We saw an ostrich, sheeps, cows and horses. There were dogs that scared me so much I couldn’t enjoy animal watching. Their barks were too loud and they kept jumping up and down. On our way home, dad would buy us a big bag of chips. We try to eat them all while on the bike because mom really didn’t allow us to eat too much junk food.

***

Dad loves to take pictures…he used to carry around a point and shoot camera and an extra roll of film. He took pictures of the trees, the rice fields, the brown cow he calls “Nueva” and the pigs. He took a photo of a chico tree fallen on its side after a typhoon. I was sitting on one of the branches looking like a waif with a big hole on my shirt…mom wouldn’t have allowed one of her children in a photo looking like that.

***

Dad is a Math whiz. In high school I used to ask him how to solve equations in calculus. I wanted him to teach me the shortcut version but he wouldn’t have that. He insisted on teaching me all the long methods. I would end up in tears…not understanding any of the formulas at all but he would carry on explaining patiently, ignoring the tears and snot. Now I know why he did it. And I appreciate him more each day because of it.

***

Mom was the one who gave us school money. She handed it to us everyday before leaving for school. Sometimes, after I get the money I would detour to my dad and ask for an extra. He never asked questions even when he knew mom gave me money already. He just smiled and asked how much I needed and gave it to me. My friends said I have the coolest parents. And they’re right.

Today, I was video calling with my dad. He said he and mom were growing corn, honeydew and peanuts. They have food at home and they are safe. They look content. And being so faraway from them, that’s all I can pray for…I want them to stay happy and healthy, always.