The New Normal

I've been trying to figure out "The New Normal" for the past seven years.  The new normal once I realized A. was going to stick around and not be a passing couple of months stint.  The new normal once A. proposed on national TV.  The new normal after our wedding.  The new normal when a little over a year into our marriage, I almost lost A. because he had to undergo an emergency quadruple open heart bypass. The new normal as the wife of a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) survivor.  The new normal as the daughter of someone living with advanced prostate cancer.  The new normal after my Dad passed away.

This past weekend, I experienced every emotion from utterly ecstatic and excited because my godbrother, JR married M., the love of his life, even after I, then a tween, dropped him on his 1-year-old head . . . to heartaching sadness at Sunday's wake and today's funeral for JB, who alongside his kids, will begin to figure out the new normal without N., mama & wife, starting tomorrow.

I'm more reflective than usual given it's Dad's second death anniversary (August 30), and I was drawn to wanting to be around folks who also knew my Dad.  I thought that perhaps it might be selfish of me to want to be there for JB and N.'s families.  But I also wanted to show JB my support.  JB is blessed to have joyously welcomed a daughter and son into the world and mournfully the sacredness of N.'s passing.  I have only witnessed the holiness of my Dad's last breath and not a child's first upon birth.   They say the experience is the same -- the first and last breaths of life.

It was truly a precious gift to be around some of our old family friends, my parents' friends at JR and M.'s wedding as well as others at N.'s wake & funeral. So many of them knew my parents before they were married.  Some had come up the ranks of the city hospital with my mom, and others had spent many weekends with my folks participating in community activities like the Filipino Family Bowling League, affectionately referred to as FFBL -- so much a part of Fil Am history circa 1970 - 80s in JC.

Memories can be profoundly comforting as we try desperately to recall the familiarity of having our loved ones around.  That heartwarming fellowship of family friends, those who knew my parents and watched me grow up alongside their kids, is what I needed to break through this year's death anniversary blues.  

We miss you, Dad.  And be sure to give a warm welcome to N.  Remember, JB's wife?  She's from JC too.  


A drive of one's own

Wednesdays.  Usually reserved for dinner with my Mom.  Yesterday, after work I stopped by Mom's and dropped off some paperwork for her to sign, grabbed a quick snack and headed to my haircut downtown.  I had the last appointment, 8pm.  Done 40 minutes later, I headed back home on the NJ Turnpike.  I thought about swinging by an old family friend, J.'s, on 6th Street, our former stomping ground, to see how he and his kids were doing.  News of his wife's recent cancer diagnosis, then mild heart attack, then failing liver all in just a little over two weeks weighed heavily on my mind as I have been all too familiar with being in assertive caregiver mode both as a partner and daughter.  With no update since the weekend, I thought that they might have too much going on and decided against a surprise visit.

Like my bus commute, I welcome (not always) the quiet reflective time.  I listened to the Bee Gees on A.'s CD and flipped through the radio stations.  Going up and down on the turnpike always reminds me of when Dad helped to shuffle back and forth  . . . when A. had his open heart surgery.  I tearfully told him thank you.  And he said, Of course, S. We will do anything for you. 

Once I got on the GSP, I turned the music off.  Memories flooded me -- of driving back and forth from P'ville to Jersey City to Hackensack during A.'s recovery as well as back and forth from P'ville to Jersey City to Bayonne and Manhattan in between during Dad's declining health.  Once I arrived home, I decided to decompress and treat myself to an hour of evening yoga.  In addition to a drive of one's own, a yoga hour of one's own is most refreshing too. 

Upon winding down and feeling somewhat reenergized, I was immediately met with heartwrenching sympathy.  A text message from a friend, E., alerted me of J.'s grief at the sudden passing of his wife.  I hurriedly checked fb and clicked onto J.'s profile where numerous notes of condolences were posted on his wall in the past two hours.  Why folks choose to diplay the most sensitive information on fb, I'm still trying to understand.  Something about instant sharing and gratification.  Instead, I chose to send J. an email the next morning.  Unable to sleep, I could only think of J. and his children's heartache at his wife's and their mother's, N.'s, passing -- much too young, much too quickly. 

Sadly this is the third indvidual so close to my age who's been near death or passed away unexpectedly in the past couple of weeks.  So true what they say, things happen in three's.  You just never know. 

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." ~ Anais Nin . . . Almost four years since A.'s journey to a healthy heart, and this upcoming August 30th will mark Dad's second death anniversary.  Still here . . . livestrong.

Oh, the courage we uncover in Life's most trying of times.  An expansive Life, it is.  Akahai e na Hawai'i . . . Akahai e na Hawai'i . . . The most tender & comforting love & light to J., S., and I.  Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. 

A short note from PSB
PSB is working on getting some kind of update as to the status of our dossier on ICAB's end.  In the Philippines, a certain Mr. R. is nudging a particular social worker Ms. K., who shepherds the dossiers through ICAB's review and approval process.  

Waiting is nothing compared to being in unexpected mourning. 


Aloha chanting through The Wait

Any time I find myself anxious, stressed or frustrated, I am sure to engage in some mindful chanting -- usually some Aloha chant.  Most of the time, A. thinks I'm saying jibberish.  But I am sure to research my chants diligently since for me, they have to feel right.  The ones that attract me the most are Hawaiian chants. 

This week, I've been most bothered by being in waiting mode.  In fact, I made myself more insane by trying to surf for any more recent ICAB updates.  I discovered an April 2010 notice regarding the moratorium on adopting out children younger than three years old.  This, we have already been informed of.  Then another notice on how applications requesting children three years and older will be reviewed.  We know this already too.  I then happened upon a handful of blogs describing other adoptive families' wait for their children from the Philippines.  Most of the parents were non-Filipino -- a couple from Canada, another from Australia.  For most parents, their wait was more than a year from the date their dossier had been approved by ICAB.  We continue to wait for our official ICAB approval.  In the meantime, I have been reintroducing myself to more disciplined (and basic) yoga practice.  I think it's best if I think that the time of our child match is still far, far away . . .

And so I chant,

Ahonui a lanikila
Ahonui a lanikila
Ho'opuka e ka la ma kahikina
Ho'opuka e ka la

patience, patience, patience
open the door to thoughts of light & love
fill my heart with the Aloha Spirit

"Aloha is to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable." - Queen Lili'uokalani



There’s something to be said for the Aloha Spirit and Hawaiian blessings which encourage a sense of peace across all existences, with nature and human relationships too . . .

We attended our sweet dumpling of a nephew, S.'s, 1st birthday celebration this past weekend.  Large family gatherings always produce some anxiety for me. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoy reconnecting with folks, especially the opportunity to chat with the toddlers and snuggle with the newest babies in the family. But then there are those poignant one or two moments that sometimes create raging and resonating instances within me, forcing me to call into practice my Hawaiian go-to -- “bless and release.”

Like when an extended family member proudly holding his newborn son tightly swaddled like a gloworm in his arms and unaware that we just encountered a somewhat major delay in our adoption process, casually nosies, “When are you & A. planning to expand your family?” Frozen for a half second, I shout in my head, Golly, um, none of your business?! As I (much too) openly share our adoption journey with him and how we've actually been in the process for a year, he (too) openly imparts his thoughts on how not adopting a baby won't give us enough cuddling time and how we will not be able to give our future child a name because s/he will be too old for us to do so.  Feeling a bit defensive (self aware,I know it's my stuff), I end with a strong, All kids need homes

Thank you . . . because you're the adoption expert?  Whatever happened to, if you have nothing great to say, don’t bother saying anything at all?

I tried to recover by politely walking away at the nearest apt second to the medieval stone wall. I thought I might throw myself over it and roll down the cliff onto the West Side highway and eventually into the river. Not really . . . maybe for a milli-second. Instead, I opted to take one, then two deep breaths as I inhaled the vast Hudson River-Palisades landscape, blessed his ignorant soul, and released the negative energy I’d just encountered. I’m getting some significant practice in . . . bless and release . . . bless and release . . .


The waiting game

The update is . . . there is no update quite yet.  Boo!  We sort of received an update regarding the status of our adoption dossier in the Philippines:

Children waiting to be matched
On the Philippines' end, there are fewer children available for matching right now.  This doesn’t reflect the number of children needing families, only the number of children cleared for intercountry adoption.  It seems that this is related to the implementation of a new law that moved the process of declaring a child abandoned from the judicial system to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) administrative process.  As in many substantial government changes, it is taking some time to get the new process up and running.  The implementing rules and regulations for the law specify a time frame for DSWD to do their work and, at this point, that time frame is largely not met.  The Association of Child Caring Agencies of the Philippines (ACCAP) is working with DSWD to get the processing on track so that the children can be cleared for intercountry adoption.

Guess that's what happens when a new president comes into the picture.  

And so we continue to wait for our dossier to receive official ICAB approval, which is long overdue according to PSB's applicant timeline, so that we can finally be waiting for a match.

Gotta love the waiting game.    

Tickling tipples
Aw . . . Toot toot! . . . a special thank you to our good friends, E. & E. for sharing a charmed evening with us.  Happy anniversary, E. & E.  A. & I continue to enjoy our deepening friendship with you . . . makes both the frustrations of waiting and the (sometimes) sadness of August quite bearable.  To zingy tippling!


Birthday glow

I must have a birthday glow about me . . . maybe it's my summer hat?  (Thanks, Mom T.!)  Since kicking off the month of August in Vancouver with my Mom, A., and some of the C. Clan, A. & I decided a pleasant, quiet roundoff to the week would be some shared time at the 'Squan Inlet, our usual spot for quieting our minds, refueling, reconnecting with each other, ourselves as well as with other family members.  

To my delight, the T. tribe joined us on my birthday eve at the Inlet fence for a chillaxin' session complete with super fresh cherries & watermelon, not to mention the coveted oreos.  And A. & I returned this birthday evening for an intimate supper picnic on the beach . . . seaside.  Sadly, we were without a bottle of wine to accompany our heart-healthy pizza.  Regardless, it was a time for deliberate mindfulness as the waves climbed higher to tickle our blankets.

When we transitioned to the Inlet fence for some casual fishing, an elderly man parked himself on the bench we staked out, coffee in one hand, much too salted pretzel in the other.  The warm and cold winds exchanged hands, so I wore my 28-year-old Academy (A.S.A.) grammar school windbreaker.  He asked me if St. Al's was the one by Lincoln Park in Jersey City.  I said, the Academy was up the hill and all-girls.  And he went on to share how he was a substitute teacher at the co-ed St. Al's as well as in Central Jersey and taught English, Algebra and phys ed to elementary school students.  He'd even recalled Hudson Boulevard in JC, which was the old school name for Kennedy Boulevard.  

Originally from Maplewood, he shared his life story -- how his grandfather bought two city blocks worth of property across the Inlet for $900, how he used to go spear fishing for fluke by the jetty on the Point Pleasant side, and how he met his wife in Sea Girt.  Referred to himself as half clam digger and half spear fisherman.  Retired the past 15 years, he and his wife enjoyed living in 'Squan . . . his wife preferred walking along the dunes as he waited for her along the Inlet fence . . . because he's lazy.  When his youngest son, now in the Air Force, was 12, they'd taken a cross-country drive . . . and how wonderful it is to travel the United States.  Beautiful land here before folks go outside the country, he said.  He talked fishermen-speak with A. for a bit -- the farthest yardage cast, the biggest fluke caught -- before his wife arrived and said she was ready to go.

Knowing A. is hyper-cautious of strangers (though I naturally err on immediately trusting the goodness in folks), I didn't allow myself to fully enjoy our conversation as I thought I might miss some dangerous or unfriendly sign. Right before the elderly man rejoined his wife, he'd mentioned how he was just a few months in cardiac rehab:  triple bypass, six stents, bottom half of his heart not functional.  

And then I connected.  Fully.  We shared A.'s healthy heart journey, how he'd never had a heart attack, but did inherit a strong family history of not-so-healthy hearts.  It's like exchanging war stories.  Showing off wounds.  And I'm the wife of the wounded.    

This senior gentleman was an angel sent to remind me of immense gratitude and heartful love . . . on my birthday.  Thank you, Kind Sir, from the 'Squan Inlet.

A warm thank you to my family & friends, near & far, for your heartfelt birthday wishes . . . August is never an easy month . . . Angels seem to be everywhere.  Love & light.


Vancouver, eh!

So we've returned from almost a week in Vancouver, where we attended my cousin R. & B.'s wedding.  A predominantly Scottish celebration with no Filipino flavor at all other than the lechon served during dinner. The ceremony took place at the pavilion in Queen Elizabeth Park in downtown Vancouver, and the reception was at a golf club in far and away (I know, that was a film set in Ireland) Langley.  A cosmo, multiple glasses of champagne, and vodka cranberry cocktails all night long made for a most festive evening after a hectic day as a (last minute request, grunt) member of the bridal party.  I was happy to support my cousin J., R.'s sister, who was the matron of honor and had been 
stressed the past couple of months in last minute wedding planning. And it was lovely to reconnect with our Cadelina family members.   

From my Filipino/Chinese/American nephews, J. & C., in their kilts to the butterflies released at the end of the ceremony, A. & I were thankful to relax the rest of the week as we trekked along the seawall in Stanley Park and 
strolled along the English Bay.  A., Mom, & I definitely made the most of the city, visiting pretty much every nook & cranny by foot, bus, train and ferry.  We stayed in downtown Vancouver and ventured to the north, south, east, and west, including Gastown and Yaletown.  The best part was the fresh!fresh!fresh! seafood!  I tasted my share of oysters and loved them all . . . as well as kicking off my birthday month with cousin J. who shares my same birth date.  Happy birthday, J.

Our visit reaffirmed our desire to move to the west coast in the distant future.  Vancouver reminded us so much of Seattle.  The super clean air & streets as well as the laid back atmosphere lure us to a life that is manageable and enjoyable, especially with a child.  More than once, I had to pause and wonder -- Was it because we were on vacation?  Not at all. Folks work, but their lives aren't consumed by only work or rushing around to the next scheduled event.  Weekends are actually for relaxing, not bringing home more work.  In Jersey, A. & I struggle with our getting caught up in the rat race and pace of life, and we've no desire to raise a child in that atmosphere.  Sadly the East Coast, NJ/NY metro area, promotes that.  

What if . . . ?
We were serious about moving to Seattle some years ago and had even started connecting with a realtor to look at homes while I connected with others to scope out job opportunities.  A. wasn't ready then what with wanting to be involved in our nieces' and nephews' lives.  As they get older, they're moving on . . . and we just can't imagine continuing with our fast paced lives in Jersey. There's something about living outside of the NJ/NY metropolis.  A much more mellow way of being?  People are genuinely more pleasant, not pretentious.  As for diversity, it's not a big deal out there . . . extremely diverse but not enclave-ish.  More pluralistic.  So hopefully once our adoption has been finalized, we'll be able to seriously think about a move to Seattle, which is some years down the road yet . . . 

I had a chance to catch up via phone date/same coastal time with my dearest friend, A. (born and raised in JC), who moved to Seattle a decade ago and doesn't regret her decision at all.  We chatted a bit about how A. & I are pretty convinced that Seattle is in our future.  Everyone we know who has transplanted from NJ/NY/Philly area to Seattle (or the West Coast for that matter) has never returned . . . perhaps they ain't missing much?  Sure we'll miss family & friends.  But it's just a five-hour flight from coast to coast.  Life's too short to settle and wonder, What if . . . , eh?