Posted in bloggers, family, Parenting, women

Blabbaholic and Baby

For the first time in my life I finally had a productive Valentine’s Day this year; not in the romantic sense unfortunately but at least its the first year since hitting puberty that I’ve not been sat at home moaning about the state of my love life.

No, this year I agreed to babysit one of my closest friend’s beautiful baby boy so that she can take her mum to Cirque de Soleil. Let me tell you, I was terrified as hell. When she asked if anyone was available, I agreed without hesitation AND without giving full thought to what I was actually agreeing to do.

Now its not like babies hate me. I’m not as bad as others who make babies cry if they so much as stand within 3 feet of them. I get on well with babies and I’m a nurse for crying out loud, I’ve spent numerous shifts earlier in my career in the neonatal and paeds unit (not voluntarily, always because I had no choice but hey, I did it). Its just that no one has ever shown so much faith and trust in my ability to care for another individual before.

Fortunately, my friend Cat also agreed to be my partner in crime for the night so I at least had back-up. And it turned out alright – he was the most behaved baby boy in the world – but I have to say I now have so much more respect for mothers the world over and my own mum. These people should be sainted, given awards, lauded, recognised for their silent contribution to humanity for more than just that one day a year.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of the few things I learned while babysitting.

Babies are heavy.

I don’t know why I’m just realising this now when part of our responsibilities as nurses in the delivery room is to weigh the cute tiny humans. They weigh something like 8-10 lbs when they’re born and they become exponentially heavier as the months pass. And when they cry, carrying and rocking them is just about the only thing that will calm them down – apart from feeding them of course. I truly felt like I had a workout the day after.

I can change diapers like a champ.

This totally surprised me. I was amazed at myself. I changed the baby’s nappies for a grand total time of 5 minutes and I only had to take a second to figure out which way was up. And really, I don’t know how or why but babies just don’t smell. Even when they should. Babies have world-class pheromones.

I can feed myself but apparently not babies

I had a moment of panic an hour into babysitting duties. My friend was running late and I had to take care of Caleb on my own for the first hour or so. I was feeling so smug because I got him to sleep and I was just sitting there chilling and watching The Night We Met on Netflix (predictable but fun, no need for brain cells – perfect for babysitting night lol). And then inevitably the baby becomes hungry and I had to feed him with the expressed breastmilk his mum so helpfully prepared before she left.

And he wouldn’t suck.

I couldn’t believe it. I must be the only person in the world who can’t feed a baby. I tried everything, every position I knew, but he just wouldn’t take the milk. He was crying and I wanted to cry because I was feeling like such an idiot. I knew instinctively that he was hungry but I didn’t know how to get him to take the milk. Thankfully, my friend Cat arrived just in time. I buzzed her in and handed the baby over in record time and she had him drinking in minutes. Clap, clap, clap, CLAP.

It takes a village.

On the heels of the feeding incident I now realise how difficult it must be to do that on your own, raising kids I mean. We only babysat for three hours but Cat and I knew that we couldn’t have done it without the other. Forget about the fact that we needed to take turns carrying and feeding the baby so that the other can have dinner or a bit of a rest, I think that goes without saying. But no, I think its just the comfort that comes with knowing that there’s another person in the room, another pair of eyes, someone else to help you make the important decisions; it’s a big comfort to simply know you’re not alone.

I now understand why couples with babies will think carefully about where they want to settle; some will probably move closer to home because you really need that support system. If I’m ever blessed with a child, I’ll also be adopting my mum who is a champ at all things babies. I now have so much more respect for single mothers – they truly are unsung heroes. Kudos to you guys.

Babies will make you realise your capacity to care for another individual

I don’t know if it was just because it was V-day and I was feeling more maudlin than usual, but caring for Caleb that night genuinely made me feel like there was nothing I wouldn’t do for this baby. And whenever he smiled because I was putting Aveeno cream on his cute little face, I felt like I hung the moon on the sky. I guess that’s why I always think that having a baby is a big decision and you have to be sure you’re ready and you’re at the right state of mind for it. Because having one means losing your right (and desire) to only think about yourself. There’s lots of challenges, lots of sacrifices, but the rewards must be amazing.

Anyway, it was an awesome night. Thanks Katie for trusting me with your beautiful baby boy. As I said, I’m available for babysitting duties anytime. And I promise to get better at the feeding thing.

Now I’m going to call my mum and tell her how much I love her.

Posted in dating, romance

Of Sushi, Crabs and One Great Loves

Because Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I wanted to share a slightly weird, unique and hopefully interesting love story about – of all things – sushi.

California Maki and I met when I was in my first year of college. At that point in my life I was still determined to stick with things that are comfortable and familiar. It had never occurred to me that college was the perfect time to gain new perspectives, new experiences and remove the one-dimensional label of ‘Smart Girl’ that I had effectively inflicted on myself. It never even crossed my mind that I could be anything more than the girl who got good grades and from whom you copied answers off from during gruelling long exams.

California Maki didn’t seem like my kind of dish at first. It was nondescript compared to other elaborate and infinitely more delectable looking dishes in the Japanese cuisine. It wasn’t even that exotic when you compare it to other sushi rolls, its basically just crab stick and mango (or avocado depending on where you are in the world), nothing to get excited about. However, it oozed appeal in its simplicity, in its nonchalance, in its lack of care for what other people thought because it knew that once you’ve had a taste of it, you’d always be coming back for more. 

California Maki and I became partners; it made me believe in myself – in what I am and what I could be; it made me laugh and gave me joy and made ordinary days extraordinary; it gave me comfort when I needed it, it became my sounding board for when I had problems. I’d lose track of time when I’m in its company because it was during those moments when I felt like I could be myself and still be connecting with someone something that understands and accept me. California Maki was one of my closest friends in the world, perhaps my best friend, but it grew to be more than that as time passed. I fell in love with California Maki almost before I even realised or admitted it to myself.

I chose to ignore the fact that this was something that would never love me back; I tried to mould myself into someone who would be deserving of its regard without realising that love doesn’t have to be earned, its something that’s given unconditionally. You do not have to go out of your way to make someone love you, the right person will just love you for no other reason than love itself. In my quest to make California Maki love me back, I forgot the very things that it sought to teach me in the first place: that there was more to me than I thought, that I was capable of anything, that there’s a whole world full of rich experiences for me to explore, that the world is bigger than this small love story between me and sushi. 

It took me ages to get over California Maki: it was a long process that eventually ended up in me moving halfway across the world. I’ve loved other kinds of food since (British, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Australian), but whoever said that you never forget your first love spoke true. I find myself taking California Maki out of a box labeled Regrets and What Might Have Been from time to time and telling myself that even though I’ve lost some of the best years of my life loving him IT, maybe its good for me to know that I’m capable of loving something that much and maybe someday I can finally give that love to someone who deserves it and who will love me in return.

By the way, if at this point you still think we’re talking about sushi, unfollow my blog! Lol

I dreamed of California Maki last night, as I often do sporadically without knowing why. My subconscious just conjures up visions or memories of him IT at random moments in my life but usually when I’m tired and feeling particularly unguarded and vulnerable. I guess its a reminder that some things stay with you because they’ve left an imprint in your life, and you may not end up spending the rest of your life with them but your life has been invariably changed because of them, and that’s okay. You wouldn’t be the person you are today without the people who’ve come into your life and shaped it – and shaped you.

Like I always say, everyone has a One Great Love. California Maki just happens to be mine.

Wherever you are in the world, whatever you happen to be doing on the 14th, I wish you joy, I wish you every happiness and I wish you’d at least think of me and us from time to time. Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

Posted in Books, LGBT, Movies, relationships, Reviews, romance, Self-Discovery

Book Review: Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

I’ve always believed that a book’s power lies in its ability to make it’s readers feel. As someone who’s been both an avid book reader and an extremely emotional person all my life, feeling for the stories I’ve read has never been a problem for me. Its probably why I spent my first 10 years as a reader reading romance novels because they always guaranteed a happy ending; they were probably so far off the mark as far as realism is concerned, but they were relatively painless and angst-free.

This book is not painless and angst-free.

I’ve never read any book where I spent the first three chapters with a hand over my heart because it was throbbing so badly from feeling too much and because I was relating too closely to a character. I was probably twenty pages into the book when I started questioning my sanity for voluntarily subjecting myself to the kind of reading experience that exposes far too many truths about my own self and my own experiences.

Elio and Oliver meet when the latter spends the summer at the former’s villa in Northern Italy (his parents usually adopt graduate students over the summer). Elio becomes infatuated with Oliver even before he consciously realises it. It first came on as a desire to please, then later this need to be around another person all the time, as if you might die if you’re not within their orbit or if you can’t keep them within your sight at all times. It then turns into an all-consuming infatuation, even something that can almost be mistaken for love.

I am not a good enough writer to even come close to giving this book a fitting summary. All I can really say is how it made me feel. And I’m sorry, I don’t mean to take away from whatever message this book is intended to convey about love being love no matter what; I also don’t meant to disregard how important works like these are to the LGBT community (of which I am an avid supporter). But I mean it as a compliment of the highest order when I say that while I was reading this book, I completely forgot that I was reading about two guys who are discovering that everything they knew about themselves may have been a lie. All I knew was that I was reading about and relating to two people experiencing love, and all the joys and aching sorrow that comes with it, for the first time.

I was watching a video on YouTube where the actor who plays Elio was giving an interview and he says that this story, both book and film, transcends gender issues and will mean different things to different viewers/readers. And therein lies the magic of it: It becomes one thing or another depending on who watches it. Yes, its very much a thousand steps forward in terms of gay cinema/literature, but for me its simply a love story. You don’t have to be straight, gay, bi or trans to relate to this story, you just have to be human.

Anyone who’s ever felt the torture of wondering whether your feelings are reciprocated or not, anyone who’s ever experienced the agony of waiting for just one kind word or compliment from the object of their affections, anyone who’s ever felt jealous when said object seems to have feelings for someone else, anyone who’s ever done something they didn’t need to do just because the other person asked for it, anyone who’s ever been simultaneously afraid and exhilarated by the feeling of having given someone the power to either make you happy or break your heart into pieces….they will all relate to and love this book.

There’s one more thing I want to say before I end this review:

Memories are a powerful thing; they sneak up on you when you least expect it, and they surprise you with how much you can still feel even after so many years have passed. This book reminded me of two things: the first time I ever gave my heart to someone, a long long time ago; and the first time I’ve ever felt the pain of saying goodbye to someone that I knew I could have loved if we only had more time. Both were experiences that, if you ask me, I’d really rather forget because they just hurt too much. I think I pushed those memories aside so that I could have the strength to carry on with the business of living. In the process, I also probably closed off a vital part of myself without knowing it. You believe a little less, and doubt a little more because your heart’s been bruised before. I think now that I may have been wrong about that and so many other things. As Elio’s father says towards the end of this book:

We rip so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not feel anything – what a waste!

I highly highly recommend this book. Five stars, applause and a 10 minute standing ovation. Click on image below to buy on Amazon!

Posted in Filipino, Lifestyle, Travel

The Great Island Escape

I’ve recently come back from a much needed holiday in the Philippines and despite the weather’s best efforts to curtail my fun, I managed to stick an island getaway for myself and my entire family to Sumilon Island, which is part of Maribago Resorts Group.

Word to the wise: if you’re booking from outside of the Philippines, be warned that you may have to pay international rates, especially if you’re booking through websites like booking.com. If you have friends or relatives who can book for you from within the country, it might be cheaper to book via that route. There’s a substantial difference between local and international rates, plus, if you’re travelling with someone who’s got a senior citizen card, you may also get a discount.

Sumilon Island is a great alternative to the usual beach resorts scattered all over Cebu because it provides more activities than just swimming and lounging by the pool. My dad is not a big fan of swimming. I spent a small fortune on an overnight stay in Shangri-la Resort last April and he didn’t even so much as dip his toes in the water. He said he was basically there to enjoy the view so this time around, I really made the effort to find a resort where he can have his bloody view but where there are also activities for him to do.

Sumilon Island is accessed via pump boat from the port of Oslob, which is in the southern part of Cebu. This port is close to where the famous whale-watching site is so that’s also something you can do while on the island or on the way to the island. Transportation details can be found on the website but if you and your group are thinking of driving like us, free overnight parking is one of the perks that comes when you book a room with the resort. You can also hire a private van or simply head down to the South Bus Terminal for easy transport to Oslob.

 

We booked the Premier Deluxe rooms which will only accommodate two adults and two children. Now to be honest, in some resorts its easy to get around that rule because the staff usually don’t notice that there are extra adults hanging around and waiting while the “official” guests check in. However in the case of Sumilon they make it mandatory to sign in everyone who’ll step on that boat on the way to the island, so they will know exactly how many people are with you on the trip. We ended up paying an extra 16,000 php for 4 extra people, but at least that came with free dinner and breakfast. Its not a bad deal but it is a hell of a lot of money.

The island itself was beautiful. It just took my breath away really. 

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Like I said, there’s loads of activities to do if you don’t want to go swimming. They have a lagoon where you can feed the fishes, do kayaking or boat pedalling. They also have trails for trekkers of all levels (beginner, moderate and advanced), and during this trek you’ll get the chance to see the lighthouse or “parola” . We were a bit disappointed when we got to the lighthouse and realised you can’t actually climb the darn thing, but it was good exercise. You don’t even have to worry about what you’re wearing (or not wearing) when you go on the trek; for the beginner’s trail you’re perfectly able to get through it even if you’re wearing beach shorts and slippers.

 

 

They also offer a bike trail as an alternative to the trekking although we didn’t have enough time to do that. For safety reasons, all the trekking and biking activities as well as the main beach have to be closed by 5pm so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon swimming by the sandbar instead. If you book a room you actually have direct access to the sandbar via the coastline if the tide is low enough, but the afternoon that we were there the tides were too high for us to go via that route so we had to take the longer route instead.

 

The sandbar was absolutely divine, despite the fact that we were bracing ourselves from the really strong winds coming our way that day. If you’d rather not swim on the actual beach, the resort also has a stunning infinity pool near the reception area. The pool was actually smaller than I expected, which tells you that photos can be extremely deceiving.

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Dinner was served at around half past six and though I wasn’t overly impressed with it, i didn’t think it was that bad. I think at that point I had been over-saturated with native Filipino food from the endless rounds of catching up with friends over restaurant dinners,  that I was really just craving something different like sushi. But of course, this is a resort that seeks to provide an authentic island experience so they served – what else? – Filipino food. They did have a pasta station though but I thought I’d better steer clear of that if I still wanted to look good in my swimsuit the next day.

 

There aren’t a lot of late night entertainments around the island; there was no dancing to be had. I actually got the feeling that this resort catered more to honeymooners than family outings. My siblings, my cousin and I did have a round of drinks by the bar but we  soon decided to go to our own room with the idea of finishing the two bottles of mojito we had sneaked in to the resort. We underestimated just how much the day’s activity had exhausted us however, and my cousin had come straight off a night shift, so actually I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

We woke up early the next day so that we’re able to swim and explore a bit more before breakfast and check out (which was at 11am). Breakfast was served at around 7, and I actually thought the breakfast buffet was much better than the dinner buffet. The staff were also incredibly accommodating. My aunt was suffering an upset stomach over something she ate the day before and we asked the chef if he could whip up some porridge or chicken arroz caldo for her, and even though it wasn’t part of the menu he was able to accommodate our request. The island transfer and transportation services were also really good. They were on time, they assisted us with all our bags and they were sticklers for safety.

All in all we had a really great time. It was worth the really long drive – Oslob is almost 3 hours away from the city; there was something for everyone and most of all, I cherished the opportunity to have fun with everyone in my family; who knew when my sister and I would have the opportunity to both come home at the same time again? I did find myself thinking I’d love to come back to the island again, but this time with “the one” by my side. Oh well, crazier things have happened.

Posted in Books, Feminism, Reviews, Women's literature

Book Review: The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

Last year, Hollywood was rocked by a continous stream of scandals that saw well-known actors and producers accused of everything from harassment to molestation and even outright rape.

Suddenly women in show business were either speaking up about their own experience at the hands of these predators-masquearing-as-gentlemen or calling out their male counterparts whenever they felt like women weren’t being given fair and equal treatment.

All of a sudden there were a lot of hashtag “me too’s” going around all social media platforms, finally culminating in Oprah Winfrey’s powerful and rousing speech during this year’s Golden Globe ceremony.

I always think of myself as a baby feminist. Certainly I appreciate all the comforts of being a woman in the progressive 21st century; I don’t think I could have borne being a Stepford Wife wannabe. I do not have it in me to sit at home, do household chores and have dinner waiting for my husband when he comes home from doing a full day’s work. I think we’ve already established that I do not subscribe to the school of thought that your worth as a woman is somehow diminished because you’re neither a wife or a mother. I firmly believe in ever woman’s right to make her own choices and that being an attractive woman doesn’t give any man the right to assume she welcomes unwanted attentions. 

So yeah, in that sense, I am all for feminism. So when I saw this book by Charlotte Wood on the counter of my local Waterstones with a glowing review saying that this book was the height of feminist literature (high praise!), I could not help but be intrigued. The blurb seemed eerily similar to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Ten women suddenly find themselves imprisoned in the middle of nowhere with no phones, no modern conveniences and no clue why or how they got there; the guards have shaved their heads, have had them changed into the most unbecoming and uncomfortable clothes and basically have them living in the worst conditions possible.

All the while they are being subjected to hard, manual labour and constant abuse from the guards and the one “nurse”. They eventually figured out that all of them have been involved in some kind of sex scandal with a powerful man and that that was probably the reason why they’ve been taken from their homes and family into, well, hell on earth really.

I didn’t realise when I picked this up that this had been written by an Australian author and that it was set in Australia. There were a lot of words, slangs and descriptions of wildlife that I’ve had to ask some of my Aussie friends to translate just to make sure I did not miss any context. But apart from that minor hitch in my reading, I went into this with full speed ahead because I was just so darned intrigued.

There’s a reason why we have a lot of books with this subject matter: simply put, sex and infidelity sells. Since the beginning of time, people have loved to read about lurid scandals and the consequences that befall those who dare to give in to their sexual desires, propriety be damned. Initially I was a little confused as to how this is a feminist novel because I really felt like there was a whole lot of slut-shaming going on. Those women were being judged simply because they made the mistake of sleeping with men who were either married, extremely powerful or in the case of one girl, a pillar of the Catholic church.

I also had to sort out my own feelings about these women because I always find it hard to relate to women who have been involved in any form of cheating. I fervently believe that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t respect their fellow women enough to not steal their man. However, I’ve always hesitated to unequivocally condemn those women because I am of the opinion that you never really know how you’re going to act in any situation until you’ve faced it yourself. So no one can really say for sure that they won’t be tempted to participate in infidelity, especially if love and lust are involved. I’d like to think I’d be able to resist temptation but we all know love (or the illusion of it anyway) can make people do stupid things.

So I guess the highest praise that I can give this novel is that it will raise questions and generate discussions; it may confuse the hell out of you while reading it but goodness knows that you it will get some kind of reaction out of you. Its hard not to be affected by these women’s experiences and even harder not to sympathise with them despite what you know about their past. You might even find yourself rooting for them as they struggle to survive and escape their imprisonment. In the end, its really not about who they’ve slept with or the journey they’ve taken to get where they are; its about the journey that they will take to get to a better place.

I particularly like the idea of exploring how human beings will react and respond to being placed in extreme situations. Its almost Darwinian really; only the fittest can and will survive. And as seasons changed and food rations became shorter and shorter, some people emerged as leaders, others simply fell apart whereas other people did things they otherwise wouldn’t have done – all in the name of survival. In a way, its ironic; we become the animals that scientific theory says we originated from when circumstances require us to survive. What does that say about us?

While I did not like the ending and I didn’t think it made any particular sense (it left so many questions unanswered!) I did like the overall theme of the book. I think it was worth my time to read it; it was thought-provoking, atmospheric and hey, I was on holiday and had nothing better to do with my time.

Overall: 3 put of 5 stars.

This book is getting a lot of word of mouth recommendations so let me know what you guys think if you ever decide to read it. Check it out on Amazon by clicking the image below!

Cheers, bookworms! xx

Posted in friendship, Lifestyle, relationships

The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

If there’s one lesson that I learned the hard way in 2017 its that not everyone will understand or appreciate your help, especially if its unsolicited, therefore sometimes the best thing to do is to mind your own business.

I used to be really good friends with a girl from work, until I took it upon myself to resolve a situation on her behalf when apparently, all she was doing was airing out her feelings. She didn’t really want nor did she expect me to do anything about it.

Unfortunately I am (or at least, I was) the kind of friend who will feel the need to defend and fight battles when I feel like my friends are being unfairly treated, especially if they don’t feel like they can speak up for themselves whereas I might be in the position to do something about it.

In hindsight, maybe I should have kept in mind that not everyone is as comfortable rocking the boat as I am. For some, its easier to be mad and to simmer for a day or two (or you know, whinge about it until the end of time) than to go through the longer and perhaps more difficult process of really doing something to change how things are.

I also should have kept in mind that no matter how well-intentioned my assistance is, at the end of the day I’m not personally involved in the situation and, again, it really is none of my business. I do not need to be at the forefront of a battle that no one wants to fight.

These days, as much as it pains me to be passive, I only offer help when people ask for it. I realise that, in a way, its a way of showing respect for the other person’s freedom to make his or her own choices, even if I feel like they’re digging themselves a hole that would be difficult to get out of. Its none. of. my. business.

I realised that I don’t have to take on other people’s problems on my shoulders; I’ve got enough of my own thank you very much. Learning this lesson allowed me to be more patient and to realise that sometimes what the other person really needs is simply a sounding board. Sometimes you help just by being there and by really listening to what they’re saying.

It can be hard to listen when you’re already formulating an action plan in your head about what they should be doing to solve the problem. That’s not always what they want from you. Sometimes they just need you to listen and to let them talk. I always have to consciously remind myself nowadays to let other people talk for at least 15 minutes straight before I even think of butting in with my own two cents. I’m sure it comes as a surprise to no one if I say that I tend to forget that other people need to talk too.

Its hard to find the balance between giving a helping hand and just being an annoying, interfering busybody. I don’t know what it is about human beings that we always think we’re so superior as to assume we know better than other people. We don’t. And even if we do, its none of our freakin’ business unless they explicitly ask.

That’s not to say I don’t occasionally intervene, but only in dire times and only with people who are obligated to love me despite my meddling, like my sister for example. And never without telling her or asking her first whether she needed (or wanted) my help or not.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my own experience is a cautionary tale against putting your nose in other people’s business. Leave them be. As unfair as it may seem, there is a road to hell that is lined with all our good intentions and sometimes its just not worth it.

As someone who’s been on both ends of this argument, believe me when I say that discretion is often the better part of valour…or something like that. Simply put, life is too short to be stressed all the time let alone to be stressed about other people’s affairs. At the end of the day, we each have a life to live and a choice on how we live it. Mind you own damned business, you’ll be much happier for it.

Posted in bloggers

Oooops!

Just a quick note to say I’ve completely screwed up and showed myself to be a total noob despite having used WordPress for almost 6 months now. This is a cautionary tale that you should just leave well enough alone.

I don’t know what it is I did but I somehow managed to erase all the media on my previous posts so I’ve had to take those down, revert them to draft and I will re-publish them once I’m happy that they’re once again presentable.

I may be mass publishing one of these days but it won’t be all new content, I’m just reposting the posts I’ve fixed. Mea culpa. Lesson learned! Hahaha dear followers, please have patience I’m still getting the hang of this thing.

Cheers! Xx