Wednesday's ashes

After meeting my friend, C., for lunch today I found myself wandering over to St. Francis of Assisi on 31st Street.  I probably hadn't seen C. in a year, and clearly so much has happened in the past year.  Upon greeting each other, I couldn't help but be a little overwhelmed.  Thinking of Dad & Tito Frank today, it was comforting to see a friendly face.  Thanks, C!   

I ended up lighting a candle in the outdoor Peace Garden, which features a wall of votive candles, on the grounds of St. Francis. That makes two weeks in a row and on weekdays that I've found myself drawn to some sacred ground whether it's a church cemetery or a chapel.  Maybe it's a part of my trying to be more disciplined about meditation.     

Both weeks as I've sat quietly in the church, I've practiced being still.  Trying to be aware of my breath & being-ness.  

my father's ashes
are not 
wednesday's ashes 
inscribed on my forehead 
calling to mind
sorrowful sin
how life must change

wednesday's ashes 
are not
my father's ashes 
echoing of
how life has changed


February's Trinity

i walk
along the paths
of lives long gone

i sit 
on a bench
soothed by the gravestones
of anonymous women, men & babies
whose presence once existed 

i breathe
as the much craved february winds
fill me with delight

the little ones 
out for their afternoon recess
run through Death
and chase each other 
through what will be their Life's memories

i smile 
i cry
in the presence
in the silence
of Trinity

Trinity Church Cemetery
18 February 2009


In my heart's raw

As life moves on for many family and friends, it's always been a little difficult to be in the raw moment of hearing any kind of baby news, we're pregnant news, we're having our second or third child news.  The moment is very raw.  While I'm later excited, and usually that's two or three days later once I've accepted the wonderful notice that someone other than A. & I are pregnant, that next five minutes consume me in raw disbelief, envy, anger and guilt rolled up into a sleepless night of raw sadness.  

I know I'm not alone in my sensitivity.  One friend and her husband spend thousands and thousands of dollars going to lab/blood tests, specialists' appointments . . . giving herself injections . . . making sure they're doing it at the exact moment that all other factors give the go.  And once they've done so, they have to be sure to check in with the doctors and see what the results are.  The pressure's exhausting!  Whenever G. & I get together, we commiserate about what it's like to hear when our closest friends and family share their expectant news.  We comfort each other in our hurt.  And then we promise each other that when it's time to tell the other that we're finally 'expecting,' we will do so with motherly love & celebration.  Of course.  She's my lady-in-waiting. Thanks, G.!

So when someone announces that they're pregnant and seemingly unknowingly expects us to react elatedly as if we're about to jump through the phone for sheer excitement, it can be a little off-putting. That's when I just have to walk to the bathroom, turn the faucet & fan on and sit on the toilet . . . and weep.  Hoping A. doesn't hear my deep, heartful sobbing. And it's not that I'm not happy for the couple who's expecting, it's a bittersweet sadness . . . we'd like to be expecting too.  No one tells you what to expect when you're not expecting.

Just a few days ago, A. & I had discussed whether or not it was actually a good time to start the adoption process, but were apprehensive to do so given that I am still unemployed.  But when we were out to dinner after a sleepless night, he said, I think this is God's way of telling us that we should go ahead and start the adoption process.  I believe in my heart this is what's supposed to happen.  We are blessed that both A. & I have always been open to adoption which has been a part of my family and a part of A.'s life too.

After being in our hearts' raw, A. & I have decided that we need not wait until I have a job to revisit the adoption application process and perhaps begin our first steps towards compiling our potential parent profile for the social worker's home visit.  A supportive friend reminded us that the social worker just wants to make sure that a couple isn't living in poverty or buying their groceries with food stamps.  

After all, international adoption from the Philippines can take as long as two years.  It's amazing all that goes into even starting the adoption process -- a lengthy application, recommendations, financial statements, home visits, childcare plans and more!  No authorities ask for any of this when a couple is having a biological child.  

So once I've completed Mom's special trust and estate planning needs with the attorney, we can then expect to get excited about the child who may not be growing inside of my body physically, but has been waiting in our hearts for quite a while.  With that raw-ness in my  heart, I can jump & down.


Let the world speak to me

Let the world speak to me? Unemployed and uncertain for four-and-a-half months, I have been looking for signs pointing me in the direction of a new passion, a new career, a new endeavor. Working out at the gym yesterday, I tuned into CNN and watched a special about a woman who'd been laid off and decided to strike out on her own by opening a 300 square foot boutique -- selling gloves. She loves gloves. Since she didn't qualify for a bank loan quite yet, she borrowed money from her ex-husband. As business picked up, she was finally able to take a line of credit out at the bank. The commentator said, there's no better time to strike out on your own than in a down economy. You think?

Al & I just relaunched what has been our part-time consulting gig, Ascend SQ, LLC. We've been at it for three years, and since I'm unemployed right now, the business is serving its role. I'm able to focus my time on it considerably, and just maybe we can really get it off the ground, and this can be my new found purpose. ASQ certainly marries my professional experiences in higher ed, nonprofit management and the new strategy skills I've picked up . . . thanks to Al, of course. I want to be involved in work that connects my heart and mind. ASQ allows me to support others to be the best they can be. As for Al, he has been the big brain behind ASQ. While his ambition has sometimes scared me, it has also inspired me tremendously.

So just maybe . . . as I was on the treadmill and witnessing one woman's reinvention of herself due to unemployment, maybe it was the world speaking to me -- to go ahead and reinvent myself already. Just then, I almost tripped and fell off because my mind was racing with ASQ to-dos! Maybe a metaphor? Get off life's treadmill, and get out there. Maybe?


The practice of mindful happiness

Mom called me at home asking if I could call back Dad's oncologist's office and BlueCrossBlueShield to attend to an unresolved claim in which BCBS was trying to retract its payment.

I found myself in the midst of a BCBS rage when I had to *once again* attempt to resolve a claim from September 2007.  I keep having to reiterate to some sad BCBH rep that Mom was still working full-time and BCBS was the primary insurance until she officially retired in October 2008 . . . so there's no reason why BCBS should be trying to retrieve the funds for a $7K+ claim that BCBS paid out in 2007 -- way before Dad was on his deathbed.

"I've seen this has been an ongoing issue," says Jessica, the rep.  "I will be sure to submit it for priority review."  

Yah, I've only called about a dozen times about this same claim.

"Is there anything else I can do to resolve this claim," I ask.  "Can you include in your notes that Rizalina was still working full-time during the claim date and did not officially retire until October 1, 2008?" 

"I have that in the previous call notes, but can write them in again," Jessica says.  

See me banging my head against the wall?

A great friend of mine recently sent me an issue of Yoga Journal featuring an article on calming techniques taught in fertility yoga classes.  Naturally, I immediately read through it . . . and in the past, I've also received suggestions for breathing and meditating when you're trying to get pregnant and have done those intermittently.  But as I paged through the 'zine, what caught my attention was a piece on practicing mindful happiness.  As I began to take mental notes of the three kinds of happiness we experience, I happily realized that I have already been gladdening my mind through daily meditation. Surprise, me!

Practicing mindful happiness starts with where I am, where I be. For me, it has meant prayerfully asking for humility, persistence, patience and good humor.  Not a coveted secret, this practice of mindful happiness. It has allowed me to be open in my tone, words & actions.  

So before I immediately answered Mom with an impossibly annoyed tone, I stopped and took a breath . . . reminded myself that it wasn't Mom who didn't have it right in her records, it was the incompetent BCBS folks.  I am just thankful that Mom is who she is . . . Mom who loves to chef homemade dinners for Al & me . . . Mom who brought home so many pasalubong for us from the Philippines . . . Mom whose courage has taught me so much about being the woman that I've become.  How can I possibly rage towards Mom?

It sure does take practice.  Even when I am in the midst of a BCBS unpleasantry, I can be fine. 

Keyport's Visit
This past Sunday, Al & I decided to enjoy the finally! warm weather and venture out to Keyport.  It was nice to visit with Dad's memory at the pier.  Al treated me to my afternoon coffee, and we shared a whole wheat bagel with hummus & tomato.  As we sat on the bench looking out at the bay, I said to him, "I don't care if you never take me out on a date to a restaurant ever again.  I'm happy to be just doing this all the time." 

My moment of mindful happiness.