My childhood song: “My Dingaling” – by Chuck Berry
At a young age of 8 yrs while living in Winnipeg, Canada in the late 70s, I learned to appreciate music by listening to a vinyl album titled “Dumb Ditties”. My appreciation of The Carpenters and the Bee Gees came after!
The Dumb Ditties album was a product of TV shopping. I saw the “once in a lifetime offer”, “must buy now” advertisement while watching “The Love Boat”, or was it “The Fantasy Island”? To my surprise, my parents heeded to my request to dial in and purchase the long playing album with 24 novelty music, including “The Monster Mash” by Jimmy Soul, “Alvin and the Harmonicas” by David Seville and the Chipmunks, “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” by Lucy Diner, and the famous “On Top of Spaghetti” by Tom Glazer and The Children’s Chorus. It seemed like a collection of children’s classic songs to sing along with, except for one single “My Dingaling” by Chuck Berry, which turned out to be my favorite song in the album. I guess my parents realized later that The Dumb Ditties was not exactly made for kids! In school we learned “On Top of Spaghetti” and some other songs by the Chipmunks but there were no Chuck Berry songs in Music class taught by a Catholic Nun (I wish I could remember her name).
According to my mom, I sang along with Chuck Berry with gusto and ignorance to his lyrics:
“When I was little boy In Grammar school
Always went by the very best rule
But every time the bell would ring
You'd catch me playing with my ding-a-ling”
To put the song in perspective, the first stanza goes like this:
“When I was a little biddy boy
My grandma bought me a cute little toy
Two Silver bells on a string
She told me it was my ding-a-ling-a-ling”
That's not much of a perspective!
As a young girl, I interpreted the song as a story of a boy whose favorite toy was a couple of bells given by his grandmother. How sweet and innocent! Now as a not-so-innocent adult, I realize that good ole Chuck must have been smoking something while he performed the song with audience participation in his highest charting album in 1972 titled The London Chuck Berry Session. You can almost see the smirk on his face when he sings the part:
“Now this here song it ain't so bad
Prettiest little song that you ever had
And those of you who will not sing
must be playing with your own Ding-a-ling”
The song is a classic, considered a novelty and was the only number one pop hit of Chuck Berry! In fact, Chuck was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “poet laureate of rock and roll”.
Yes, the highlight of my musical education growing up is this hit song by Chuck. But one of my life's regrets is not being able to preserve that rare album that cannot be downloaded from iTunes (Steve Jobs missed out big time!). Fortunately, the vinyl album is available on Amazon for US$25 but I would have to spend another (atleast) US$50 for a turntable!
Anyone who does not believe in climate change must be living in a different planet!
It’s only November and we are already experiencing the brunt of winter in the East Coast. It is not only the freezing temperatures, but also the day to day temperature variation, and the rain and snow combination that can make you crazy! I hate both rain and snow and to have them together in one day is very confusing to the biorhythm and mental state! To make things even more unpleasant, gray dark clouds can really screw up your mood.
Even the storms in Asia are becoming more extreme. Everyone knows Haiyan, then there’s Glenda that stripped the forests of Batangas and Laguna, and the most recent, Ruby, which was (almost) like a sequel to Haiyan.
When I first moved to the East Coast almost 10 yrs ago, the winters were milder. I survived my first winters without owning a scarf and a pair of gloves. I didn’t even own a pair of boots! All I needed was a good woolen coat (preferably black, being the standard boring color in DC), a pair of flat shoes, and sweaters to layer up. My feet would even sweat during that mile long walk to work. For this reason, I never wore socks. Sweaters/cardigans were the staple outfits, which was the only source of color to complement the black pants, and the black (or white top). However, the cardigan will most likely be gray! Back then an aunt who was living in Shanghai was kind enough to give me a full length down jacket, thinking that the winters in DC were as cold as Shanghai. I hardly, if not, probably never used the down jacket because it was too thick. Plus, it was white and it made me look like a snow man amidst men and women in black!
This year’s winter and the most recent ones have been freezing cold. I now own a pair of gloves, and have had to wear socks even to bed. That down jacket would be very useful now! One reason we should never give away gifts! These days, even the shops have changed their inventory for winter. The clothes are bulkier, not just flimsy cardigans but frumpy sweaters, thicker turtle necks, fury scarves, and knitted tights (and I don’t mean panty hose!). They even sell long johns look alike! Except they don’t come with super hero prints. The boots have varied too, the fury, the rain proof kind, the UGS (as in ugly boots), and the above the knee boots made for the long legged Caucasians. I have always had problems with boots because I could never find one that fits my skinny Asian legs. They tend to wrinkle around the ankle and it never looks right. And, it feels like you have a dead animal wrapped around your legs. A good pair of boots can only keep your toes warm if it is made of good leather from an animal killed meaninglessly.
So that’s climate change on fashion! Maybe more and more Americans will take climate change seriously as they notice the change in their winter outfits. If the weather continues to go on like this, from cold to freezing, and to freezing cold to frozen, we might have to start dressing like the Eskimos, and start drinking horse milk.
I am not a climate change expert, but I notice the CHANGE in CLIMATE because I experience it in my daily life! I don’t quite understand why some Americans think it is not happening! According to a NY Times article, only 40% of Americans perceive global climate change as a threat, compared to middle income countries that have higher concern over this issue. Based on the survey, there are actually more Americans (and I mean those in the US of A so as not to confuse with the South Americans who are very concerned about climate change such as Brazil and Argentina) who believe in climate change. Halleluyah! They have seen the light! But, they are still the least concerned and were referred to as the "outliers in views on climate change!".
Giving Thanks without the Guilt!
On Thanksgiving we gathered around the spread of corn casserole, a 14 lbs roasted turkey with corn bread stuffing, cranberry sauce, stuffed grilled avocados, and bean and chorizo soup and expressed our gratitude through prayer. We remind ourselves how blessed we are to have this food before us, knowing that we will be eating turkey leftovers in the next couple of days, while the unfortunate worry about when the next meal will be! This constant reminder of being blessed and fortunate is enough to build up what people refer to as the Catholic guilt!
Guilt can be such a weird feeling! We feel guilty for things that should make us happy, it is such a negative feeling that it dampens an occasion when we should be feeling ecstatic! Why should we feel guilty about being happy, content, fulfilled or satisfied? Did we kill anyone, steal, or step on anyone’s toes in pursuit of happiness? In most cases, people who achieve such contentment at the expense of others, lack that human facet called conscience.
A year ago when the super typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, I suggested to friends to skip our Christmas party and instead contribute what we would have spent for the party to the victims of the super typhoon. That didn’t go well! I almost took offense but later on realized that why would we deprive ourselves of a planned gathering, which is not that extravagant. After all, we all had our reasons to celebrate. For one, none of us nor our family members, nor anyone close to us were affected by the typhoon. Besides, we all did our part of giving! Thus, the Christmas party was justified!!
It has been highly recommended by counselors and psychologists to list down everything you are thankful for to help individuals cope with their down moments, if not depression. I guess this leads us to focus on the good thing and away from whatever it is that is making us feel negative. “Thank you” are two powerful words that can change ones outlook in life. It is also a very important bridge to a language gap. When I visit a non-English speaking country, the first word I try to learn is the local word for “thank you!” Once spoken, the frustration of misunderstanding each other disappears, and almost always the look of a happy surprise is affixed on the recipients’ face.
So instead of feeling guilty for our blessings, for having food on the table while others are begging, for being happy while others are suffering from depression, for buying that pair of shoes when you don’t need it, let’s be grateful! Give thanks even for the most questionable things in life, like problems we cannot resolve, an illness, a conflict, a loss, that major expense, the creepy neighbor next door, obnoxious friends, people who dislike you, people you dislike, because they provide that balance in our lives.
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast,
a house into a home,
a stranger into a friend."
- Melodie Beattie, Author
Blog to Blog: Shakira Sison on Balikabayans
Shakira Sison’s blog on Rappler titled “'Ang yabang mo na!' and other things balikbayans are told” (http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/ispeak/75440-things-told-to-balikbayans) hits the nail on the head, big time! Thanks to my friend Elly for posting the blog on Facebook, and thanks to Shakira for being so brave in laying it all out so directly. After reading her blog, I realized that I am not the worst baikbayan ever! The comments under Shakira’s blog drew a lot of reactions from other balikabyans.
I have lived away from home for almost 10 years now. That’s not long enough compared to other Filipinos who’ve lived abroad for 20 or 30 or so years. However, I learned first had that 10 years is long enough to be alienated and accused of things that Shakira listed in her blog. Although I have assimilated in my current country of residence, I plan to one day resettle in my home town in the Philippines. In preparation for this, we had to invest (and I do not mean this in a mayabang/boastful sense) property where we will eventually live upon retirement. Isn’t that what people usually do, buy or rent a house so they have a place to live?
Unfortunately, this move became the source of contention and some relationships turned sour. My plans for reuniting with people dear to me turned bleak, because I seem to turn them off with my actions. Have I changed that much? Have I turned out to be an unlikeable human being? Have I turned into a completely different person that people close to me can no longer relate to how I do things?
I would like to elaborate more on what Shakira mentioned about living abroad. To others, it may seem like the good life, greener pastures, like hitting the jackpot, and acquiring all the material things one desires! Well, it’s not! It entails a lot of sacrifices, hard work, periods of difficult adjustments that can make or break you, and yearly lonely holidays and special occasions spent away from family. All this does and can change an individual, because it is part of the adaptation process. Is that change for the worse? Yes I have changed! While people think I am strong(er), I have become weak without the support group I had at home and have had to turn to professional counselling during times of emotional distress. I have become more guarded and less open because I live in a community where people are less personal. I have become more outspoken because the people I deal with on a daily basis are direct and straightforward, and they expect the same from me. I have become more time conscious because I had to to be more organized with only myself to do my house chores, run personal errands, and cope with the demands of work within a certain period of time. So if I give out the impression that I am "suplada", aloof, brutally frank, and always pressed for time, it is because I have to be in an environment I thrive in.
While comparing notes with friends living abroad, we also noticed how different things are at home compared to the time we were living there. For one, a lot of people we know have become very successful, in terms of career and financial status, and the purchasing power of the Filipino seem to be a lot stronger. That is a good thing, proof that you don’t need to live abroad to earn a good income. It also reflects on how well the country is doing, I guess! We also noticed how expensive it is now in Manila, with prices almost comparable to the US. A friend of mine once commented that her $100 goes quickly when she is Manila compared to when she is in US. Another friend commented that our friends in Manila are better off than we are in the US because they are able to spend more than we do or can for shopping. During one of my visits, I was invited to shop in one the popular malls in Manila because there was a big sale. We looked at shoes, and I found an American brand which happened to be on sale. I was lured to buy because it was a good price and it was on sale. The sale price equivalent to $75! That’s a good price, I wondered? A good price for me was less than $50!!
Are we, the balikbayans better off? And are we truly what we are being accused of? It is not a good feeling to be misunderstood, nor judged especially by people you were hoping to go back home to. It certainly crushed the excitement of being back home, and it makes you wonder, if you are still welcome in that place you once considered your comfort zone. Like living abroad, I will have to work on being accepted, and assimilating to a life I thought I knew, only this time, I seek acceptance from a place I called home.
'Tis the seaseon for weight loss
After feasting during the Christmas Season, many of us have committed ourselves to, or at least trying to, losing some weight as part of our New Year’s resolution. I have given up on new year’s resolutions a long time ago because I end up doing the opposite of what I resolved to do. It is very likely that if I made weight loss as my 2013 resolution, I would most likely end up 20 lbs heavier by the end of the year. From my experience, I can easily achieve this in a span of just 6 months!
I never had weight problems before the 40s set in. I thought going into my 30s was the beginning of my weight problems, but lo and behold, more weight had yet to be gained during the next decade of my life. In my 20s gaining 3 to 5 lbs could easily be blamed to bloating due to pre-menstrual period, or being hormonal that led to binge eating. The weight easily shed off after that time of the month passed. Now that I am past the reproductive stage in life, I have no excuse! On the other hand, I can always blame the aging process.
That is probably not a valid excuse while many of my friends (my age, and those even older) who were once on the heavier side and had once envied my small frame are losing weight and are in better shape than I am! Hmmmph with a stump of the feet! And they actually look great and not gaunt and shriveled.
For a good 4 years I was able to maintain a weight of 105lbs to 110lbs simply by walking about 20 blocks to and from work everyday! Since I didn’t have the discipline to go to the gym, and didn’t want to pay for something I knew I couldn’t commit to, I decided to incorporate my workout into my daily routine. This worked out just fine until life became too convenient. I moved to an apartment building located right above the train station. With this move, my walking significantly decreased by half. Without realizing it, and thinking that my metabolism was the same as when I was in my 20s, my weight increased within a span of 6 months. During a doctor’s visit, the nurse took my weight and to my surprise, I had gained 25 lbs. I don’t even remember gaining in 3 to 5 lbs increments! It seemed my weight jumped straight from 105lbs to 130lbs! The first thing I did was blame the weighing scale, I thought “that couldn’t be right, maybe it was supposed to read 115lbs. ” I wish! It was during this time when my clothes size was swinging between size 6 and 8, a significant change from the time I was buying size 2 and petite sizes in the beginning of that spring!
I noticed that in my photos that my curves had changed to two layers, with the breast as the first layer, and the belly as the second layer. Unfortunately, the second layer extended out further than the first layer.
Being surrounded by people who were into fitness made me think about getting into better shape! Then I started experiencing shortness of breath just by walking, and to think I am (or was) a walker! A little incline made it very difficult to walk and breathe at the same time. This is when the alert went off! According to the American Heart Association, shortness of breath is one of the symptoms of a heart attack, and is the number one killer of women! It was scary and disappointing to feel out of shape because I used have the stamina for sports, but now walking was becoming difficult. I knew I had to do something about it, unless I want to end up developing all the chronic diseases associated with aging, which my family is so prone to. Heart disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, etc, you name it, it all runs in the family.
Although I was more than 20 lbs heavier than what I was used to, my body mass index (BMI) was still within normal range but I was in the upper range of 23 (>18 = underweight, 25 and above = overweight). If I didn’t control my weight now, I knew I could end up overweight in next few months.
I initiated my weight loss in the later half of 2012 with a baseline weight of 137lbs. My weight would bounce back and forth from 137 to 135 lbs depending whether I was having a good day with my bowel movement. It was only after I started exercising that I began to lose some lbs. To date, I have lost about 12 lbs, and it has been slow, and a not so triumphant battle but atleast my weight trend is more on weight loss than weight gain.
Although it has been a slow process, I not only shed off some unwanted belly fat, I was able to build up stamina. I do not aspire to be as skinny as Taylor Swift, but at least I feel good that my BMI indicates normal weight for my height, and it has decreased from 23 to 21.5. I will not make recommendations on what one should do to lose weight but I did come up with some lessons learned. Some are obvious and common sense but putting it to practice could be quite challenging. One thing for sure, the most successful weight loss program that will keep you in shape is always a combination of diet and exercise.
1. Listen to your body and know what it is telling you. Are you experiencing physical or physiological changes that were not there before? Could these be symptoms of something? Does it have anything to do with my weight? My shortness of breath (SOB) was the first alert from my body telling me that I was out of shape. Knowing that SOB could be a sign or symptom of heart disease, I knew I had to get in shape. If there is something that you feel is not normal, talk to your doctor or a health professional. The bottom line is, keep track of your weight and maintain good health. Weight is a good indicator of your health. However, being fat or thin does not mean you are healthy.
2. Choose a diet that is right for you. There are many diets out there and you are free to try them all until you get things right. Sharon Osbourne lost 23 lbs in six weeks with the Atkins diet, while Jennifer Hudson has a new body thanks to Weight Watchers. But be aware that what worked for Sharon and Jennifer may not work for you. Note also that drastic weight loss in a short span of time is not sustainable and will most likely lead to weight gain twice as much as you had lost. The ideal weight loss is 1 lbs per week, but if you are obese, then ideal weight loss is 2 lbs per week. Find or follow a diet that will not leave you hungry nor weak that it will compromise your health. Aiming to be thin doesn’t mean you starve yourself, starvation and food deprivation is a drag and it does not make a successful weight loss program. Also, you will not be able to exercise if you are starved and do not have enough stored energy.
3. Portion control is the key. If you are not extremely overweight or obese, and you have no health risks such hypertension, kidney disorder, or liver disorder that require you to be on a therapeutic diet, you can eat whatever you want with proper portion control. Learn about serving size and be conscious of nutrition labels. Serving size does not always equate to how a food is packaged. For example a 10 oz bag of Frito Lays, or a 1 lb bag of M&Ms, or a box of Chips Ahoy cookies are not serving sizes! A serving size is usually 13 to 16 pcs of potato chips (yeah, who counts the chips while eating!?), or a 2 pcs of cookies out of a pack of a dozen. Check the nutrition labels at the back of the package to help you count calories per serving size and know your required daily caloric requirement. The usual caloric requirement for adults is about 1800 to 2000 calories depending or sex and age, and physical activity. Let this be your guide to your daily intake, if you exceed 500 calories a day, do not have an active lifestyle, then you may be at risk to being over weight.
4. Not too many realize that fluid intake contributes to daily caloric intake, except for water and coffee. Although it is always good to drink plenty of fluids, whether in the from of coffee, tea, or fruit juice, be conscious of smoothies, lattes, and coffees with whip cream, and fruit juices, which are usually high in sugars and fats. Wine is known to have health benefits but it also provides calories, especially if you take in more than 6 fl oz. We enjoy good wine with a good meal, and when this combination is too good, we tend to eat and drink more.
5. Similar to your diet, choose a physical activity that you enjoy. Zumba is very popular, and everyone I know enjoyed losing weight by doing Zumba. Unfortunately, this was not for me because I was never well coordinated. I wouldn’t enjoy it if I wasn’t good at it. I have always admired people who run, and I like the rhythm of running, it is constant and it only requires one choreography! However, if Zumba, ball room dancing, or even weight lifting is something you are interested in, give it a try! Find a workout that is most suited for you.
6. Start slow on your exercise to build your stamina, especially if you have not exercised for a very long time or are not used to exercising at all. If you have a history of heart disease, consult your doctor before indulging in high intensity physical activities. When I decided to exercise, I knew I would not enjoy exercising if it constantly reminded me that I was out of shape, and would have probably quit. So I started with hula hoops for 20 min everyday (although the recommended time was for 15 min), then moved to stationary bike. After a few weeks with the stationary bike, I added walking on the trend mill. I gradually increased the speed of the trend mill until I started running. Because I was able to gradually rebuild my stamina, I now get more out of my exercising by running and doing the stationary bike.
7. Exercise does not have to be high intensity. According to the a study conducted by The University of North Carolina Gilling School of Global Public Health (June 2012), physical activity can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women by 30%. This number was observed among women who either did moderate or intense physical activity. The Center for Disease control recommends 150 minutes per week of physical activity, which can be broken into 10 minutes at a time (http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/measuring/index.html). Even general gardening is considered moderate activity. Health Watch on CBS reported that sitting while watching TV for an hour reduces life expectancy by 22 minutes, even if you exercise. The message is “move around”. Take the stairs, walk instead of driving, if possible, or park the car farther to allow you some walking time, and get up from your chair to get a cup of water instead of keeping a large water bottle on your desk.
8. Weight loss requires change in behavior. Be wary if a product, either a diet program or some form of pill that tells you can lose weight without changing your lifestyle. Especially if it offers a quick fix to your weight problem. No matter how you decide to proceed with your weight loss, some lifestyle changes are necessary. Initiating or incorporating physical activity is one change, eating the right portion size (from big to small portions) may require some will power and self-control.
9. Set your goals. One of my motivation to lose weight was to look good for a friend’s wedding where I would be one of the bridesmaids, alongside other girls who were in their 30s, but looked like they were in their skinny 20s. After the wedding, then what? Although physical appearance is always part of our goal to losing weight, the wedding was not a very meaningful goal, especially not sustainable, and not long term. In the short term, set your goals for your workout. If you are doing a 10 minute moderate workout a day, try increasing the work out to 20 minutes a day. Once you have built enough stamina, and are actually enjoying your workout, try to gradually shift from moderate to a more intense (but not necessarily) vigorous physical activity.
10. When working out, make sure to have a good pair of sneakers! And the right one too. Make sure your shoes provide good support and cushion to avoid injury. Injuries to your skeletal system and muscular system takes a long time to heal, and usually do not heal completely. This is will hamper your workout which makes up half of your weight-loss program.
TRYING TO BE CREATIVE AT WRITING
sways with the wind
desperates for anchor
towards the grassy fields below
still so green...
floating on air
exploring its surroundings
so free, so bear
The wind dies down
the leaf so green sways to and fro touches ground
slowly it dries
what was green is now no longer
I remember when life was simple
...when the hardest task was to get ready for school
do your homework
and finish the food on your plate!
..when my biggest worry in life
is not meeting my 6 pm curfew, and
I would be grounded for life!
Back then my worries were simple.
Today, I have more responsibilities,
and my worries are bigger!
I was never a good student. I was born with an aversion for school, and homework. I lacked the appreciation for the need to review my notes that I painstakingly put together in class. Even without the proper study habits, I managed to pass my subjects in English, Literature, Home Economics, Music, and Social Studies. But Math was hell!
I don't know how I survived Math throughout grade school and high school when all the Math tests I took were like a guessing game. As I matured in my early freshman year in college, something clicked! I finally had the will to study, especially for math because of some divine intervention, my brain was able to comprehend and understand math. I should not give too much credit to my newly acquired intelligence or should I say delayed mental development because the math professor deserves most of the credit. Since I was doing so well in math, a classmate even asked me to tutor him, who actually passed the course because of my tutorial and our so called team work during exams, if you know what I mean? Being to stretch your neck and expand your vision to your seatmates test paper is extraordinary talent!