Thursday, October 27, 2011

Singapore Botanic Gardens- from my lens

Today was a public holiday and we took this opportunity to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens. I have been worn down by illness the past weeks (which seemed to stretch for a year!). It was very tempting to stay late in bed and do nothing. However? Weekends are usually busy for errands and our weekly parents' training at Kevin's "school." So we decided, at the drop of a hat, to visit the Botanic Gardens.

I expected this to be some sort of a walk-in-the-park trip-- after all, it is but a BIG garden. My mom and mother-in-law both love plants. My dad has the so-called green thumb and so does my husband.  I don't. It's not that I hate plants and gardening (which is too strong a word, for a plant). I am not fond of them. My husband was the genius behind our garden. This fondness for plants also rubbed off to Kyla. Together they used to spend afternoons at our garden (in Sta. Rosa, Laguna). So needless to say, she was very excited when I told her we will visit the Botanic Gardens.

I joined Kyla's school's outdoor trip to Singapore Zoo as parent volunteer when they were studying the Rainforest. The teacher gave them specific instructions on what to look for during the tour and parents have to guide the group of kids assigned to them. It was fun because I had to really go and observe as well. We had to scrutinize the details of the plants, trees and the flowers. I re-learned the different layers of Rainforest and its inhabitants.

So while having a tour of the Botanical Gardens, Kyla and I enjoyed the long walk while doing our own exploration, looking for unique details in every plant and flower. It makes the trek interesting and Kyla gets to learn new things as well. She kept pointing out the differences between the shapes of leaves and details of the tree trunks and roots.

There is also a vast open area dotted by trees where people can have picnic. You can bring food there plus a blanket, and you are all set.

It rained heavily close to noon and we were lucky to be very near the Burkill Hall inside the National Orchid Garden and we took shelter there while waiting for the rain to stop.

Kyla and I sang "Here Comes the Rain, doo-doo-doodoo.." (to the tune of Beatles' Here Comes the Sun), while sharing a small umbrella together. We continued to wander around the VIP Orchid Garden area, with rain beating our tiny umbrella and I continued to take pictures of the exotic hybrids named after World Leaders who visited the National Orchid Garden. We also named a couple of orchids after us, whether they like it or not. There was also a Bonsai Tree area which Alvin loved.

This red flower immediately caught my eye and
when I got closer to take a shot, apparently, it kept jolli-bee busy too.

One of the unique ones we saw.

Reminds me of Cory

The orchid we named after myself

And this one is for Kyla. Reminds you of Sampaguita, only bigger.

Ogling at the Bonsai Trees

It's amazing how Singapore is able to preserve this area where unadulterated natural beauty of the rainforest and flora comes alive! The kaleidoscopic-like variety of the floral species bring a sense of peace and calmness that my nerves needed.

One of the weird looking orchids. Must be a hybrid.

Lone beauty in the middle of a dark, murky pond.

Lovely shade of purple

I called this the dalmatian orchids.

Amazing details!

We did not get to the rest of the park though because we decided to head home when the rain stopped. But we will surely be back another time for more exploration.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

I first came across Emily Perl Kingsley's famous article in the Chicken Soup of the Soul -- Children with Special Needs edition. This was the opening essay. It brought me to tears the first time I read it. And despite having read  it for probably the hundredth time, it still bring tears to my eyes. I can openly talk about our son Kevin, the challenges he went through, the triumphs he has made, the inevitable future. But not without having tears well up my eyes, no matter what.

Because Emily Perl Kingsley is right. There is a raw pain, hidden very much deep within that will never, ever, ever go away. But it also brought special meaning - a reason for being, in our lives. And in the grand scheme of things, the wisdom behind the reason is more important than the pain.

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

About the Author
Emily Perl Kingsley is a writer who joined the Sesame Street team in 1970 and has been writing for the show ever since. Her son Jason Kingsley was born with Down Syndrome in 1974. At the time of his birth, it was commonly believed that children with Down Syndrome could never learn to walk or talk. Kingsley's work as a writer and activist for children with special needs helped change this perception. Her experiences with Jason inspired her to include people with disabilities into the Sesame Street cast, including an actress who uses a wheelchair, Tarah Schaeffer, and even Jason himself. Jason's story was the topic of an hour-long NBC television special in 1977, titled "This Is My Son," and with co-author Mitchell Levitz, Jason wrote the book "Count Us In: Growing Up With Down Syndrome."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Little Miss Sunshine

Our Little Miss Sunshine

Kyla is into a lot of painting and drawing these days after I bought her paint jars (vivid colored ones), color pencils, drawing books etc. We also found at The Forum this quaint little store which sells different sized canvass for painters. We bought 4 of them which should be enough to keep her busy. The Forum seems to be a forgotten mall at the farther end of the Orchard road- I found very few people there on a Saturday afternoon. But I'd say this store is quite a find.

We also bought another batch of books when their school offerred to host a book sale from one of the US-based online bookstore. Which reminds me that by year-end, we will have lotsa books to give-away. I read her books too from time to time. My all time favorite is "Paikot-Ikot" ("Spinning") by Palanca Awardee Ms. Grace Chiong because it is almost a true-to-life story of Kevin and Kyla.

Finally we found her missing digicam battery charger! She requested the Pink Sony Cybershot as a Christmas gift. And because she received Honors for her academics and topped the book borrowers, won their play with Kyla as St. Joseph, among many others, I obliged. Besides, she's good at it actually.

Every morning, I awake to Kyla's voice rapping anecdotes to Yaya while she is having her breakfast. She does this non-stop. She skips and bounces around the house merrily and fully-packed with boundless energy! Kyla took after her Tita's sense of humor too. She always tells me she loves me. Or that she likes what I wear. She gives me her little gifts of drawings- she once drew a replica of the Granules Tower and the Plant Parking lot. With me standing somewhere. Whenever I feel tired or sick, Kyla will always stay beside me. She once told me that when I grow old, she will still take care of me. Of course we cannot beholden our kids and tie them down by our sides to such promises. Someday soon she will have to find and follow her road. But hearing her say that in all its youthful innocence and purity of heart, gives a sense of hope and optimism in this world where thr young are growing in the middle of a "me first" era.

Candid moment with Papsy (thats Grandpa for you), talking about the Kois.
And telling him that birds in SG are not shy.
Watching her makes me ponder that if Kevin is our Angel, Kyla is our Little Miss Sunshine. She makes me happy when skies are gray. That was from Sandra Bullock's movie. Forgot which. Senior moment.

"... you are my sunshine, my little sunshine... you make me happy when skies are gray..."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Connect the Dots

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. " - Steve Jobs

I read about Steve Jobs' commencement address to Stanford University circa 2005 and these famous excerpt paved the way to this piece that I wrote in November 2008. This blog feature is my humble tribute to the genius of the modern world.

Connect the Dots

I always believed that events in our life happen for a reason; that there are no mere coincidences. There are pre-woven patterns of destiny. We may not be able to discern what they mean or where it will probably lead us but the fact is, the ground work for our future has been laid out already. Sometimes it takes wisdom and insight to recognize these patterns of destiny. And when we look back and trace the patterns, then it becomes clearer…

I was in my second year in college when I encountered a most critical turning point in my life. Economy was down and life was difficult. My parents were into a home-based business of making synthetic bags. It took a while before cheaper imported bags made its way to the local market scene but the mounting expenses of sending four children to school took its toll. I left the university and worked fulltime as a service crew in a fast food chain. I also worked until I graduated from college.

I was seventeen then and have always lived a sheltered life before these events took place. I never had time or money for excesses, never experienced the typical goings-on in the busy life of a teenager and I was pretty content that way. I grew up to be frugal because while we were considered lucky to be brought up in a decent home, there never was much room for any other luxury in life.

Working an eight-hour shift made me very conscious of spending my hard earned money. I brought packed lunch or dinner to work so I didn’t have to spend any more than my jeepney rides and I walk the kilometer stretch of inland road from the jeepney stop to our compound. During paydays, I will buy munchkins and ask my sister to sell them to her classmates in Angono (this was at a time when none of the fast food chains exist in the suburban areas of Rizal; as a commission, I gave her extra munchkins for snack). I saved most of my earnings whereas most out-of-school folks I met just lived by the day, spending their money on movies, out-of-town gimiks and the likes. I probably missed out a bit on life, but I was truly never sorry about it. I turned to writing most of the time. I have never forgotten my goal in life as well which is to finish my degree. I saved enough to return to college after a year and continued finding means to help myself on college expenses. My experiences outside of the university taught me life-lessons that I have otherwise, would never have known, had I not dropped out of school, flexed my working muscles and learned early on the value of living within my means.

Until now, 17 years later, I am as much as who I was back then. I embraced the principle of living within one's means. People may think that we are financially abundant. But simply, we were just blessed enough. The truth is, my husband and I  have never forgotten our roots and the lessons life taught us and we aspired to live a simple life.

After my one year off college, prior to returning to my Alma Mater, my parents persuaded me to transfer to a less expensive university where I will be able to commute to and from school and save the board and logding expenses in Manila. The prospect does not exactly set me afire with positive expectation but at that time, it was better than not being able to complete any education. So I went there and obtained the requirements needed for enrollment. But as it turned out, the classes for ChE starts and ends way too late. The idea of having to go home so late is not advisable for young women those days (I had to walk through a dark, tree-covered strip of dirt road if I happen to arrive late at night). So we scrapped the idea and decided that I will just wait for another six months and go back to UST.

When I enrolled back to UST a year later, my batch mates were already in their 3rd year. While we remained good friends, I had to find my own place under the sun all over again, meet new folks to hang out with and the likes. Since nobody knew me, I felt I had to prove myself a little bit more.
I attempted to join the Thomasian Engineer journal in my first year in UST. But I had a long exam on the same day when they were holding the qualifying exams for new writers so I missed the chance and regretted it. In that year when I returned to the university, I vowed that I won’t let the chance pass me by again. Since my daily commute was a 3-hour route those days due to road constructions, I was running late and only had one hour to finish the 3-hour exam for writers. Those were probably the fastest articles I ever came up with in my entire life, having to crank out 4 different original articles (from a selection given in the exam) in an hour! I passed the qualifications, became a staff writer, rose to section editor after 2 semesters, became the senior editor up until I took the helm as EIC in my final year.

Looking back, I was driven internally by a rejection for failure -- this would not have come with such sense of urgency for me, had I just lived my usual college life and if it were not for the fact that I once felt a sense of failure because I had to skip school.  This did not occur to me at that time. I was too busy struggling to survive a decent life then. But it made sense now.

On my 3rd year in engineering, I intended to fully enroll for the morning class so that I have time in the afternoon for my staff writer duties. During registration, there has been some confusion on my records because I had a year out of school. It took me hours to sort it out with the Registrar and when I finally went to get my schedule, the morning class is already full! I reluctantly took the mid-morning class. Mostly with people I have not met.

In our first week, I met Alvin. He came from the afternoon class so I have never really known him from the year before.  He came from a different circle of friends. He courted me after 1 ½ months and we became BF-GF after 3 months. We continued to be together throughout college and long after. We were married in 1999.

If you think about it, if I had not dropped out of school, took a year off and returned, had my records messed up due to my absence and ended up in the afternoon class which I didn’t like, we would have never met because I would absolutely not take an afternoon class ever! We would likely not end up together and would never have Kevin and Kyla this day!

Again looking back, Alvin and I were clearly destined to be together and much more. We were meant to fulfill a special mission for the lives of angels sent on earth.  I believe that much.

And yes, Steve Jobs was right. You can only connect the dots looking backwards. You have to trust that there is purpose behind why events happen (or does not happen) in our life. You will know in time. In His time.

And you have to be ready to listen. Follow.  Trust.