A Tubby Tabby, Three Konekos, and a Life with Hello Kitty and Autism

Archive for January, 2008

On My Bookshelf (Part 2)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

As of January 29, 2008

I finally cleared my shelf off of books from January 8, except for the last one, Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. I picked up a few more books since then, including a crochet instructions book called The Happy Hooker. I’ve been meaning to pick up on my crocheting again as it is definitely kinder on my eyes than cross-stitching, my favorite craft. In between pages of Mao and trebles of crochet, I read a chapter or two of the late David Gemmell’s Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow. Oh, my, wish every day was a day like this.

When Angels Walked The earth

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Angels Walk for AutismI wanted to post my pictures of last Sunday’s very successful Angels Walk for Autism, but sleep got in the way. I was sleep-deprived for the two nights preceding the Walk. I must have gotten just four hours snooze on Friday and I didn’t get to sleep at all Saturday night. I was finishing up on the button pins and the packaging for autism-related items I was going to set up for the bazaar, thus the sudden disruption in my sleep schedule.

Autism Ribbon Pins    Autism Button Pins

Still, the sacrifice was worth it.

On Sunday morning, at six in the morning, Alex and I trooped bright and early to Liwasang Aurora of the Quezon Memorial Circle. Alphonse was still asleep then, snug among pillows and a down comforter.  I vacillated between wanting to wake him up for a Sunday adventure and just letting him sleep in. Alphonse made the decision himself when I tried to wake him up; he opened his eyes for a fraction of a second, shook his head sluggishly, and went right back to sleep.

Wearing my advocacy hat to stay coolThere were four of us that day: Alex, my sister Jasmine, cousin Ampy, and myself. A stayed home to watch over the sleeping Alphonse.

The sun rose fast Sunday morning, and by half past six, despite the soft cool breeze of January mornings, we were sweltering in the morning sun. We set up shop in a little half-table on the left side of the circle. People started buying soon after. Sales were brisk!The Autism Pins were a hit!  I also received some inquiries on the laminated PECS cards (aptly named AlphieCards, how cute is that?) that I had market-tested that day.

While Alex and his aunts answered inquiries and wrapped up sales, I registered for the walk and got coupons for free water, food and ice cream. I even received a free t-shirt meant for Alphonse but which I ended up giving to my nephew Enzo. The shirts booth had run out of sizes and all they had were toddler shirts. :-)

Congresswoman Risa BaraquelThere was a short ceremony to formally open the day’s major activity. My favorite Congresswoman, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, was a special guest. I was delighted to see her sacrifice her Sunday morning to be with us so I ran after her to personally thank her. After the short speeches, we all donned our hats and I ran back to slather a few final drops of sun block. I joined the queue of Alphonse’s teachers but  I only walked part of the way with them as I wanted to take more pictures. By the half-way mark, I was huffing and puffing from overzealous running. I should have taken the time to warm up, I mentally scolded myself. Still, despite the cramps in my legs, the wheezing in my lungs, and the sun burn on my nose, I had a lot of fun.I am an Autism Pinoy member!

Sunday, I was filled with a sense of pride not just for what I had accomplished that day, but for the sense of unity and camaraderie shared by all those whose lives have been touched with autism.  It was a truly special day, a day when wingless angels walked the earth.

Operation Tag: ME

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

My new friend Beth (FSXMom) of Fragile What? tagged me. I’ve done this one before; it was actually my very first tag (read here). However, since seven things are usually not enough to get to know a person, I’ll add a little more.

First, here are the rules:
- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I have an unusual sensitivity to paranormal experiences. (See previous post entitled Dreaming of Souls to fully understand.) I don’t want it.

2.  Because of weird fact number one, I used to sleep with the lights on all night. I learned to sleep without the lights only when Alphonse was a baby. I became aware of a published study which found a correlation between eye problems (myopia) and sleeping with the light on as an infant. It was a lightbulb moment because Alex was nearsighted even as a toddler.

3. photographic memory? I also had what they called an eidetic memory (also quite inaccurately known as photographic memory) when I was very young. I loved books even as a little girl, and I remember reading them once, then looking at each page in its totality. I would pore over each page lovingly and for some reason, the image would be imprinted in my mind. I would retrieve memory by literally turning pages in my mind. I thought everyone did it the same way. (Education experts from an old university who tested me found my memory to be very visual. To date, I still learn faster when I see things before me.)

I used this a lot in my studies but as I grew older, sometimes the picture became fuzzy and unclear. Some days I could do it with ease; other days, my mind was cloudy and I couldn’t grasp at the picture with clarity. The last time I was able to summon this skill, it was purely by accident. I was cramming for a neuroscience exam in senior year in medical school and I devoured pages and pages of books. When I took the test that day, I could suddenly recall again the pages where the answers to the questions appeared in the textbooks. I finished the exam in a short time, confident that I did well.

4.  My husband was my eighth and last (and best and kindest) boyfriend.

I had my first boyfriend at age thirteen. Makes one wonder how I even reached college, eh?

My shortest relationship was a short-lived 24 hours; I changed my mind the very next day. My longest relationship has lasted 26 years (5 years as best friends, 4 years as boyfriend-girlfriend, and almost 17 years of marriage).

My most cruel moment in a relationship was when I broke up with this very kind young man who asked “Is it because of another boy?” I chose to be flippant and smugly answered “It’s because of another girl.” (No, I do not swing the other way, so that was meant to be an emasculating remark.) I regret that unkindness to this day.

My craziest relationship was with the Abominable Snowman (again, please see previous post on this subject here). He dumped me twice.

5.  A and I got married twice, once in civil rites officiated by a judge, the other in church. wedding rings When the priest asked for the rings, A and I shared a secret smile. His was the smaller ring. :-)

6. I am severely myopic. At one point in my life, my eyesight was so bad that my eyeglasses were half-an-inch thick. I started using contact lenses when I turned twelve. colored lenses To this day, I wear contacts and my favorite indulgence is a pair of hazel colored ones.

7. I was meant to have six children, but four were born in heaven. Two didn’t make it through the first trimester. One survived till near the fifth month mark and this angel was the hardest to say goodbye to. (Alex chose names like Jackie Chan or Chow Yun Fat.) The last one was a tubal pregnancy that miscarried in my abdomen before I even knew I was pregnant. (Do I dream about my would-have-been-kids? I did, just once, two years after the very first miscarriage. He said his name was Elwyn. It was a strange name, but I think God chose it for him.)  

So there you have it, seven more things about me. Some of them are weird. (If you read my last post, you’d really think me borderline strange, and I wouldn’t blame you at all.) Yet all of them are honest.

Thus, I tag Leira- because we’re fast friends but we have yet to meet;

Ms. Dine Racoma of The D Spot- because she’s a mother of seven and she still fits in her wedding dress! Maybe she can tell me how she has managed to remain a Sexy Mom all these years;

Ms. Connie Veneracion of The Mommy Journals- because she loves books about history as I do and I would love to find out more;

Pinay Megamom- because we share more than just a history with the Abominable Snowman and it’s great to find a friend after all these years;

KT Sanctuary- because she rarely posts about herself and I am curious to know who she is and what other things we might have in common other than Hello Kitty;

Angie- because she’s a lot cooler than I was at age thirteen;

Ms. Susan Senator- because she’s a woman of distinctive character and a fierce advocate for her son with autism (ehrm, but does she even do tags? Guess we’ll all find out!)

Dreaming of Souls

Thursday, January 24th, 2008


When I was three, my mom caught me speaking to an empty window. She asked me whom was I speaking with, and I said “Lola Toyang,” (Grandma Toyang) in all innocence. Lola Toyang was my mother’s grandmother. She died long before I was born (but, hey, I didn’t know that). My mom was a little scared but she asked me to describe what I saw. She looked at the space where I was peering at, smiled sadly, and said, “I love her.” I still have a very vivid memory of that day, as I have, too, of the kindly old lady by our window.

Someone once told me that my sensitivity is attuned to those who have passed on. I choose not to believe that person because in truth, I am afraid of this “gift.” Over the years, however, I’ve come to realize some truths about this particular aspect of my person. When I was younger, I could see them by accident. I saw an old lady with long, white hair standing by the kitchen sink; I think she was doing dishes. It was early Sunday morning, not yet seven, and I said hello to her while on my way to the bathroom. I really thought she was our help, the one who came in during the day to help out my mom. Turns out that the help was off for the day.

In high school, at a student convention I attended, a beautiful lady standing a few meters away from me and my friends smiled at us. When I walked up to her to say hello, she disappeared.

When I was much older, I saw a little boy with brown curly hair inside my sister’s bedroom. I was babysitting a little cousin that day and two-year-old Ken was asleep in my arms when I thought I saw something moving from the corner of my eyes. I turned to see the boy and when I blinked, he was gone.

These experiences decreased, thankfully, as I grew older. Perhaps I was losing my innocence. Then again, maybe it was because fear overcame my extra senses and forcefully shut them down. Maybe my cousin was right after all when she said that I choose not to see. Whatever the reason may be, I am grateful that this is a gift that will never develop into fulsome. And yet, I still dream.

In freshman year in medical school, I almost flunked anatomy. Gross anatomy required dissection of a cadaver and my group of four was assigned to the body of an old woman. Dissection was carried out in stages, with the cadaver head to be unwrapped from its formalin-soaked covers only toward the end of the year. Thus, the group worked on a “faceless” body.

I told very few friends about this but for almost the entire year, I dreamt of an old woman every night. She would hide behind doors in my dreams, and as soon as I passed through the door, she would jump from behind and hug me. I saw her face many times in my dream and I would awaken with a startle and a scream each time I did. I wasn’t sleeping very well after a few months of this nightly “visits.”

Toward the last few weeks of the second semester, we were instructed to start dissection of the head. I held my breath as my groupmates slowly unwrapped the head for maximum exposure. Still, I already knew in my heart that I would see none other than the woman in my dreams. I was right. (We had Mass said for her, God bless her soul.)

And then for over a year when I was 26, I dreamt of a little boy with black eyes (no whites, just all corneas) asking me, “How is L?” The dreams were different each night, but this boy always managed to come in and ask the question.  And then one day, I suddenly recognized the little boy from one of my husband’s grade school photos. He was a classmate who died in a tragic accident, and L was the girl he married just before he died. The dreams stopped when I saw L, and I finally got an answer to how she was.

I dreamt of my grandmother, my grandfather, my mother-in-law many times after they passed on. In each dream, they always seem to have a message meant for the loved ones they left behind. My grandfather visited me in my dreams a few times, once after he died, a few times later when I was pregnant with Alphonse, and a few more times since then.  In one dream, he was deeply concerned about the rift that had developed between my mother and my grandmother, and asked that they make up soon. He also told me that he risked a lot to come to me. He said he missed Pizza Hut.

My grandmother visits when I am sick. She was most vivid during the time I was gravely sick in the hospital in 2001. She was with me every night then and I came to realize that she watched over me during those times.

When my mother-in-law died in her sleep in 2005, for months, I would dream about her always looking sad, hiding in shadows, or crying from afar.  About a year later, I dreamt of her standing outside what seemed to be the school where my sister-in-law works as a first-grade teacher. I’ve never been to my sister-in-law’s place of work before. A few weeks after my dream, my sister-in-law recounted that during a family day in her school, her four-year-old son said very matter-of-factly to his mom, “Mama, Lola is here in school.” “Grandma is in the province, son” she told him. “No, not her. The one in the church,” he insisted. (Mom rests in an ossuary in our church.) Was my dream even related? It seems to me that Mom was watching over both of them that day.

In 2006, on Alphonse’s birthday, the family stayed in a luxury hotel to celebrate the little one’s birthday. Tired from a full day of celebrating, we went to bed early. I dreamt that night that my mother-in-law was in the room with us. In my dreams, Alphonse hid underneath the duvet in fright. Mom was mouthing words I could not hear as only static filled my ears. I could only understand the words “I love you,” which she mouthed repeatedly. I saw her lean over my sleeping husband and kiss him gently on the forehead. I remember trying to wake him up but he wouldn’t budge.

We’ve never really found out what time she died in the night; the family refused an autopsy in observance of her wishes. In the dream, I asked her what time it happened, and she mouthed “Two o’clock.” Then she seemed to fly through the large glass window of the hotel room. I woke up gasping for breath.

When I opened the light and looked at the time, it was still dark out. The clock said 2:05 in the morning. Alphonse was awake, shaking in fright, eyes round as saucers, hiding under the sheets. I dreamt of her, yes, but did Alphonse see her? Maybe he did because he refused to sleep the rest of the night. He simply hid beneath the covers till the sun was up.

And then just this week, I dreamt of a cousin’s grandmother, long dead. I hardly knew her, except for the time when we were very small and she invited us to my cousin’s party in her home. Monday night, I saw her in my dreams visiting my cousin’s children Enzo and Isabelle, kissing them and hugging. She also said that were my cousin to move to a new home, she’d prefer that they move in with her daughter (my cousin’s aunt) instead. I didn’t understand any of this until I mentioned the dream to my cousin the next day. She understood right away and added that they had all forgotten that Monday, January 21, was her grandmother’s birthday. I had goose bumps when I heard that.

I don’t like it the least, dreaming of dead people. When I think of them that way, I get chills all over. And then I realize that these souls were loved ones, once part of someone’s life. They are remembrances of love and laughter, of warm embraces and wet kisses, of “I love you’s” said and unsaid. And I am their continuation in life, just as my children are mine. I remember that once upon a time, before their bodies went cold, their hearts beat with love for me. Then I am thankful that they remind me and watch over me still.

“Any man’s death diminishes me…”

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

 ”… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~John Donne, 17th century poet and preacher, in Meditation XVII

I’m not big on movies the way my husband is. A’s undying passion for movies created our enduring family ritual of movie nights. In truth, rarely do I find myself purposefully seeking cinema as a way to spend my time, very much unlike the men in my life. As such, I have very little to say about movies or their stars or their stars’ often tumultuous lives.This morning, however, I caught the early news broadcasts on CNN. Australian actor Heath Ledger passed away Tuesday afternoon in still inconclusive circumstances. Within an hour of being pronounced dead, the whole world was abuzz with the news. I worried most about his family, wherever they were. Under the dazzling lights of Hollywood, now turned a meticulously unforgiving glare on his bereaved loved ones, there is little time to be alone and to grieve for the man, the son, the father that Heath Ledger was.
I found this sobering piece on the Net- the only one that conveyed a sense of sobriety and compassion in a world that’s always hungry for the next big news. I echo the sentiment of this sensitively written piece: may his family be comforted with the thought that beyond the face that shone brightly under the klieg lights, Heath Ledger belonged to them alone.


The Who’s News Blog ( A daily look at all things celebrity)
By Lorrie Lynch
   with Kathy Rowings

January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger’s death belongs with family

In this era of instant communication it took one hour and 16 minutes this afternoon from the time Heath Ledger was found dead by a housekeeper until his death was announced to the world by the Associated Press. The journalist in me approves but the mother in me finds it unspeakably sad that Ledger’s family got so little time. One hour and 16 minutes is not long enough to be alone with your shock, your grief and your questions, or to hold tight the others in your circle who care for the man as a son, a friend, a father, not just as the actor, the talent.

In just two hours after his death, Ledger’s obituary was ready with a list of his credits and his girlfriends but, of course, no cause of death or any reasonable explanation for why  a man with extraordinary ability to act on screen and a two-year-old daughter to brighten his life would wind up dead on a dreary Tuesday afternoon in January.

There are lots of questions to consider in the days ahead and an autopsy tomorrow might begin to answer them. I’m as curious as the rest of those who followed his life and his work. I thought he was brilliant in I’m Not There and looked forward to seeing his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. But tonight, I’m sorry  his family can’t have him to themselves.

Heath Ledger

Walk for Autism, Walk for Alphonse (Part II)

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Walk T-shirt

This is the design of the shirt I will be wearing for the Autism Walk on Sunday, courtesy of my Photoshop tutor and expert, youngest sister Jasmine.

I had two shirts made for Alex and myself last Saturday night at Fax Parcel ‘N Print (FPNP) at SM City North Edsa. When I went inside the shop at The Block, there were three employees there that early evening- a woman and two men. I wanted to wait for the printing but the employee  at the shop said that it’ll take a while so I might as well pick it up the next day. It was just past six in the evening and the mall doesn’t close till nine, but I thought they’d work better without me hovering over them.

I was wrong.

When I picked up my shirts the next day, not only were they improperly printed (misaligned and smudgy), the shirts had stains at the back. And to think that those were new shirts I bought that very same day inside the mall (because they didn’t have shirts in my size).

I didn’t really want to complain. Normally, I don’t like to make a fuss and make myself an object of attention. I am a patient person and I can excuse almost anything, even horribly poor service, if the persons involved are apologetic. I was peeved, however, when one of the employees (who was there both Saturday and Sunday) simply shrugged it off and said “Ganyan po talaga“ (”That’s how it really is.”) to seemingly excuse his co-employee’s sloppy work. 

The fellow who worked on my shirts wasn’t there that day; neither was the female clerk. There was just this one man from Saturday night who kept an impassive, disinterested face and gave me that crappy remark which made me only angrier. The others in the shop were employees who worked only on Sundays, I think.

One of them, sensing my increasing irritation, apologized and decided to make a call to someone, I don’t exactly know who. The result was that he printed two extra shirts to give to me, as ordered by the person he spoke with on the phone. I accepted the shirts and I thanked the man for his concern. Yes, I will continue to do business with FPNP, if only for their gesture of peace; nevertheless, I am wary about doing business with them on a Saturday, when that sloppy employee takes his turn at the t-shirt press again.

I had the same pattern printed at another shop inside the mall. ArtRock is more expensive (PhP400 to FPNP’s PhP250 per t-shirt) but the workmanship is precise and clean. Besides, the employees are also very accommodating and polite.

Alex will have to wear one of the stained shirts (the new shirts don’t fit) because I don’t know when I’ll have the time to go back to the mall this week. I hope the chilly weather stays till Sunday; that way he can cover up the stains with a hoodie.

By the way, here are my sister’s original designs for the t-shirts.


Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Monday, January 21st, 2008

I grew up to this song from Sesame Street and I still know the lyrics to this song sung by Bob McGrath and the Muppets.

My Kitty Neighborhood

People In Your Neighborhood

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day

Oh, the postman always brings the mail
Through rain or snow or sleet or hail
I’ll work and work the whole day through
To get your letters safe to you

Bob and Muppet #1:
‘Cause a postman is a person in your neighborhood
In your neighborhood
He’s in your neighborhood
A postman is a person in your neighborhood
A person that you meet each day

Oh, a fireman is brave it’s said
His engine is a shiny red
If there’s a fire anywhere about
Well, I’ll be sure to put it out

Bob and Muppet #2:
‘Cause a fireman is a person in your neighborhood
In your neighborhood
He’s in your neighborhood

Muppet #1:
And a postman is a person in your neighborhood

Well, they’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet each day  

The extended version of the song also sings about a baker, a teacher, a barber, a bus driver, a dentist, a doctor, a grocer, a shoemaker, a cleaner, and a trash collector all as the people in one’s neighborhood. I was singing this song to my three-year-old nephew Enzo last week when it struck me as how little we actually think of our own neighbors in relation to our personal spaces. It inspired me to write about my neighbors and how they help define a whole new perspective to human interaction.

This is the article currently posted at HerWord.com. (more…)

Autism Walk Updates

Monday, January 21st, 2008

This just in my inbox- the schedule of the Angels Walk for Autism of the Autism Society Philippines.

 6:00 am     Registration (till 7:00 am)
6:15 am     Warm-Up Exercise
7:00 am     Mass
7:45 am     Opening Ceremonies
8:00 am     Walk
9:00 am     Program: Special NUmbers by Extra Special Kids

Here are some tips to help you and your family prepare for the walk.

a. Orient family members on safety tips. Prepare an assembly spot where everyone can meet and congregate or return to, when lost. Prepare schedule and synchronize watches.
Make sure everyone can be reached by cellular phone, if necessary.

b. Orient Child with Autism of the Walk schedule. Do all of the above, but make sure it is in visual form (words or pictures) that the child can carry to remind himself/herself.

c. Prepare food and drinks (lots of water!)

d. Bring caps or visors.

e. Bring extra clothes and towels.

f. Use sunblock. Very important!

Happy Walking!

Meltdown Ala Mode

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Alphonse threw a tantrum last night, complete with hair pulling, hair twisting, and his patented maneuver, “yanking till the roots come *&#@ out.” I should have seen it coming. He’s been having some really bad days lately. He seems more on the edge, more antsy, more unsettled of late.  

I think it comes from not having a real rapport with his new teacher. Of course, Teacher J tries hard, but he seems to lack the ability to knock down Alphonse’s walls. I don’t know if time will ease the transition issues (Teacher J replaced Teacher P, Alphonse’s teacher for the last 10 months, only last December) or if it’s some flaw in their relationship that I can’t pin down yet. Let it pass, Lord.

I had to physically restrain Alphonse as he struggled to grab and pull my hair. He’s almost as tall as me, with a longer reach and really strong arms. We struggled for a while, but as soon as I wrapped his arms with a towel, he started to cry- a real heart wrenching cry that made me tear up, even as I struggled not to betray my emotions in front of him. I had to appear under control at all times.

When he started to calm down, I started to talk to him in hushed tones. He would nod or shake his head to answer me.

Does something hurt? No.

Are you angry? Yes.

Are you angry because I said No to you spilling the cooking oil? Yes.

Spilling the oil was wrong. Yes.

I love you. Yes.

Don’t pull my hair. Yes

Touch gently. Yes

Are you calm now? Yes.

I let him go after that. Slowly, he touched my hair tentatively and looked at me, as if waiting for me to react. He kissed me, softly, and I hugged my son, my big boy, my forever-baby.

So this morning, I am nursing some sore spots on my head. I rub them with ice and they don’t feel as tender as they did last night. These are the rough spots of our lives that make the smooth times feel even better. When you know how low your life can actually go, you learn to be grateful for the sunshine that comes after the storm.  

Got me some boo-boos; no biggie today. Nothing that a pint of Cherry Garcia can’t make all better.

Cure for meltdown (Rx to mom)   

Till the next year…

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

 Pack away the holidays

The last of the holiday decorations are down, packed in bubble wraps and stored in boxes. I’ve been delaying this temporary farewell for days and I really wish I could delay it much longer. The house seems less warm and less elegant without holiday decorations. All of a sudden, there seems to be too much room to move in.

But with the halfway mark of January staring me in the face, the impetus to dismantle, clean up, and organize for the New Year goads at me. I spent the better half of yesterday and the day before that putting down the tree and lights, wrapping ornaments, and making an inventory of decorations. Just a short month ago, it seemed like such a joy to unwrap and behold these same ornament; today, I feel like I’m putting my memories in a box.

I don’t like farewells. Even temporary ones.