I can't wait to be rid of 2008---the year of the house fire, my surgery and treatment, family drama and conflict. Although I must say my diagnosis of a brain tumor was a good and bad thing. Being told you have a malignancy is certainly bad news, but on the up side, it leads you to re-examine your life, your philosophy, your beliefs, your diet, your strengths and weaknesses. As they say, if you don't heed the message the first time, you get hit with a bigger hammer the next time.

So I bid 2008 goodbye, including all the negativity, anger and fear it generated . I look to 2009 with hope, gratitude and appreciation.

So my aunts' visit wasn't as unpleasant as I thought it could have been. It kinda fell apart at the end but no outright fighting darnit!

My sister's getting an 8 year old Maltese so she's been reading up on training him to get along with my current doggie nephew Zack. She learned that it's not true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. You just have to be patient with them.

What I know to be true after all our conflicts with our MalTitas throughout the years is that you can't teach OLD HUMANS new tricks.

For all my blather about living in the Now, I've been so anxious since I received a message from my aunt who's in the state for the holidays. She's the least annoying one of my dad's sisters and she wanted to come visit me before they go home on Monday. So last night I was trying to come up with an excuse not to see them, already anticipating drama. But I didn't want to lie either, so I just returned her call and kinda went with the flow. I told her that I did want to see her family but not her older sisters. She was speechless for a while and then proceeded to tell me how my aunts all love us, and how they always keep us in their prayers(to myself, I'm saying that's because they probably think we're all sinners and need to be prayed for). I'm hormonal so I had a micro-meltdown on the phone with her, lashing out at her sisters. She was very sympathetic but couldn't really say much because she was with one of the ContraTitas. She even invited me to her home state so we could have a heart to heart. She said she'll call me today and figure out how to meet up.

So she called me this morning and it seemed for a while that we weren't going to have a chance to see each other. I was fine either way, but she decided to call one of her sisters to bring them to my place tomorrow. At that point, I saw how hard she was trying to see me so I just agreed. Now, I'm all tense and nervous. I haven't seen the other aunt since the Daddy falling-out episode after my surgery. I want to have a shouting match with her, tell this visiting aunt all the injustice that has been perpetuated against me, my mom and my sisters. Even though I know it'll probably fall on deaf ears. They are sisters after all, and will stick together. I just got a voicemail asking me to text them my address so they can put in on the GPS. I'm almost tempted to ignore it.

Great homily during the Christmas Day Mass yesterday. The priest told the story about Americans who worked with abused, traumatized orphans in Russia. I don't think he mentioned when this was, but I assume it was when the country was still under the Communists. But he read from a first-person account of one of the people there. The Americans sat all the kids down and told them the story of Christmas which, having been under the Communists for so long, they had never heard before. The children were riveted, and at the end, they separated them into groups to make their own manger/nativity scene with the barest of supplies. They used 3 pieces of cardboard for the manger, strips of paper to represent Jesus, and cloth to wrap the baby Jesus in that was taken from a nightgown donated by a more affluent Russian woman. As they went around the room helping the kids with the project, one noticed that one boy had two babies in the manger. So she got a translator and wanted to know what was going on.

The boy started to recount the Christmas story, but as he went along, he started to ad lib. He said he felt he sympathized with Jesus, because there was no room for him anywhere. He had no parents. He wanted to stay with Jesus, thinking that there would be nobody that could hurt him there. However, he felt bad because he didn't have any money to get Him a present like the three kings did. He asked Jesus if keeping Him warm would be enough of a gift. Jesus said yes. So the boy climbed into the manger with him. That's why there were two babies in it.

I saw a few women wipe tears from their eyes. I got teary-eyed myself. Some of the emotional impact may have diminished with MY retelling of the tale. But I hope the message of love and charity came through. Truth always comes from the mouths of babes.

I was too lazy to put up my 4 and a half foot XMas tree, so I just did my little Winnie the Pooh tree. Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!!!

Every year at this time, we keep hearing "Peace on Earth, Good will to all men." But we'll never get real peace globally because we don't have it within our own family units. Collectively, we're all carrying baggage and negative emotions, which we usually perceive as brought upon by other people around us. Instead of owning up to our part in the argument, fight, what-have-you. We keep perpetuating the problems and negativity in our minds, casting ourselves as the victims of the situation.
I've come to the conclusion that most families are dysfunctional, just to varying degrees. There are people holding grudges and refusing to forgive; people blaming other people, imagining slights when none was intended, isolating themselves instead of coming together as a family. And I'm not just talking about blood relatives. Even your friends are part of your family... sometimes they ARE your family. I have a friend who'll be celebrating the holidays alone. You're lucky if you get to CHOOSE to stay home alone and eat all by your lonesome, but if you're forced by circumstance then it's another story. It's easy to take things and people for granted. I'm blessed that I have family close by, but I understand that even they can't be around all the time. Because that's life. Everyone has things to do, places to go. But one can't just give up on them and stop trying to see or talk to them. You can't blame someone for not making an effort when you yourself aren't doing anything. I have a friend who'll call me every now and then, most of the time just leaving a message saying that he's just saying hello. That I don't need to call him back, he was just thinking of me. I was (still am) quite shy. Sometimes I can't understand how I got to have as many friends as I have now. (And believe me, they're not that many.) I appreciate and cherish each and every single one of my friends and family members even more. Especially after the kind of year I've had. I look forward to every encounter and I thank God.
I have another friend whose sister and brother-in-law bilked her of money from a business transaction gone bad. Where are they now? She forgave her, moved across the state to live near her, and now they get to see their children grow up together. We keep hearing that forgiveness doesn't mean that what someone did is OK; it's just that YOU'RE letting go of whatever negative thoughts you have about the situation. And you are all the better for it. It takes more out of you to hold on to that anger or even worse, indifference.

Reconciling in the spirit of the season, even for just a brief moment, maybe just for a shared meal. Is that a bad thing? Is that hypocritical? Not at all. Getting together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? How COULD it be? Even enemy combatants observe a ceasefire around the holidays. Because that's what Jesus preached, loving the unlovable, accepting the unacceptable, forgiving the unforgivable. That's what made Him so dangerous in the eyes of the priests and other authority figures. Because He was seeking to unite instead of divide.

A thousand-mile journey begins with a single step. Because if you do take that single step and at least try to put all ill feelings aside, then you're already on the road to compassion and understanding. Ever since our falling-out with our father (we've settled into an uneasy truce), I keep hearing the voice of my wise sister Lynn saying that everything that happened, everything that he said, did or didn't do, was coming from a place of pain. It was very astute of her to put herself in his shoes, stand back from her emotions and pre-conceived ideas, and develop true sympathy or empathy for him.

If only we could all get into this mindset. That would be a real Christmas miracle. Merry Christmas everyone. Keep your loved ones close, and let them know they are loved.

I got goose bumps when I saw the image from the hospital surveillance camera. I think my angel's name is Guido. No, not THAT kind of Guido. Seems appropriate, an Italian angel watching over me.

T'was a frigid day yesterday and last night.

Now this pissed me off: former Philippine President Cory Aquino apologized to disgraced former President Joseph Estrada for her role in the 2001 People Power uprising that ousted the boozing and womanizing Estrada. Sure, it unfortunately made his Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the leader of the land, but only because the Constitution mandated that she was his legal successor. The events since then shouldn't take away the fact that Erap was convicted of plunder. Even though Arroyo eventually pardoned him, it doesn't make him less guilty of greed and corruption during his time in office.

At the time, even I wasn't sure if I agreed with the unconstitutional way that Estrada was removed from office. But just like People Power I, this was a spontaneous protest, an outpouring of public anger and indignation. Even now, Arroyo wants to subvert the Constitution to stay in power. And I don't know what Filipinos can do, other than to keep fighting to let their voices be heard, take to the streets. That's the beauty of a free society. I respect Mrs. Aquino's right to say that she was sorry for helping topple Mr. Estrada. I understand the need for unity and reconciliation. But hindsight is always 20/20. She of all people should know it wasn't right to let a lying/cheating/stealing dishonorable president remain in power, while the rest of the country lived in poverty and squalor. For Mr. Estrada to say now that he feels vindicated is appalling. Nobody should get a free pass. Everyone should be held accountable.

Everyone keeps saying that the Philippines is a young democracy, that we have to find our own way and be allowed to make mistakes. That the country shouldn't be held up to Western standards of democracy. But if we don't aspire to the highest ideals of democracy, then what should we aspire to?

Happy Birthday to my sister Lynn! Who's the cutest? Who? Who?!

"This time of year sucks
So I take my nunchucks
And make sure every snowman dies"---so negative!

Happy Hanukkah!

Eight hours after the snowstorm began. That was a man walking his dog.
This was 4 hours after the storm started.

So apparently, Santa Claus's sleigh is being pulled by female reindeer. That's the conclusion of wildlife experts from Texas A & M University. They even questioned if male reindeer would sport a shiny red nose like Rudolph. They said females love bling, and this could be one of them. I'm not sure about this. Don't the males of a species have more distinctive, even flamboyant marks or features to attract mates?

How progressive of Santa. I hope he pays the girls the same wages as the guys.

(photo from CBS)

Former Rwandan army colonel Theoneste Bagosora was found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a United Nations court. He was sentenced to life in prison.

My friend's sister with a brain tumor opted not to get chemotherapy. My friend is having a tough time accepting this but she said she's getting there. Her sister wisely thought that she didn't want to spend her remaining time on earth wheelchair-bound and weak. Her decision can either be seen as giving up and not fighting, or better, surrendering to the will of a higher power.

The prospect of losing someone you love is very frightening, but it becomes slightly easier when the person who's sick has accepted his mortality. He may not be healed physically, but if the mind and spirit are healed, then all will be well.

Yesterday, I was talking to a patient whose mom just passed away from lung cancer. Her mother died in her arms. I just started crying uncontrollably because that's the way to go, surrounded by your loved ones. When my grandmother was critically ill, unresponsive and basically comatose, my aunts kept telling her "wag mo kaming iiwan! Mauulila na kami!" (Don't leave us! We'll be orphans!), which at the time, I thought was selfish. Here she was, maybe in pain, valiantly clinging to life, because her full-grown children didn't want her to go. Who wants people carrying on like that when YOU'RE ready to meet your Maker and be reunited with other family and friends who've gone before you? An in-law aunt had the sense to tell them to let her go and not cause her any more unnecessary suffering. They finally told her that she could, and she promptly did. It's hardest on the ones who get left behind. The one who passes on suffers the least in this scenario.

Life is hard enough. Death doesn't have to be.

I was in Indiana for approximately 21 hours this weekend. It was nice to visit old friends, old places. Because of my surgeries this year, I missed a wedding, a christening so I wasn't going to miss a First Birthday celebration anymore. I left at 6 AM Saturday, had lunch with my friend Liza after she picked me up from the airport, met up with her husband and son then headed to the bday celebration.

We were at the party for about 2 hours, went back to Liza's house where Beni and 3 of our Chicago friends were going to be waiting. We spent the evening eating, laughing, catching up and reminiscing. We stayed up until 330 AM watching a recording of the American Music Awards and the movie Love Actually. I had to be up by 7 AM to be at the airport in time for my 953 AM flight. We had some spare time so Liza's husband gave me a brief tour of downtown Indianapolis just to see what's new or what's changed.

I needed a 2 hour nap when I got back home and had a hard time getting up for work Monday. It was a whirlwind weekend, but worth every minute.
New home of the Indianapolis Colts
Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument all decked out for the holidays
State Capitol building
Indianapolis skyline

Lynn first told me about an Iraqi reporter throwing his shoes at still-President Bush. I feel bad for W. On one hand, it could be seen as a sign of success in Iraq. Nobody would have dared do something like this under Saddam Hussein's regime. He would have been put to death. So this is a sign of a free society. On the other hand, it shows the extent of the Iraqi people's anger and contempt for Americans. The leader of the free world took it all in stride. And great reflexes Mr. President.

  • I was in Indiana over the weekend to visit friends. On the way there , I sat across the aisle from a family of four. During the descent, the mother was trying to keep her 3 year old daughter buckled up. The girl pipes up: "If you let me go, I'll give you a hundred dollars." We all cracked up. Never too early to start using bribery to get your way in life.
  • On the return flight we had a little commuter plane and for some reason, the snooty stewardess was trying to get the 5 people on the front to move to the back. She asked for 5 "volunteers". Someone asked "You're telling us to move?" Flight attendant only made a face, kept chewing her gum. 2 people got up and moved. One guy wasn't budging at all from his exit row seat. The passenger next to me also moved even though she didn't have to. Snippy stewardess asked for just one more person. The last couple stood up to move and Ms. Congeniality said she only needed one. The man said: "Well I'm married to her and I actually like to hang out and spend time with her." Brava! Flight attendant didn't say anything but I could tell she was annoyed. You catch more bees with honey, dearie.

I had an appointment with my neuro-oncologist this week. He seemed a little friendlier than usual. I had lost 10 pounds since my last appointment in August and everyone was in a tizzy. They all think I'm doing too much (working 30 hours a week) and losing too much weight. I said I've been eating healthier---fruits and veggies, chicken and fish, no soda or sweets, etc. Cracked me up when the nurse practitioner asked "WHY?" You think they'd be advocating a healthy diet. I blame the 'roids that I was on at the time of my last visit. Plus we were enjoying delicious but non-nutritious meals or desserts in the city.
I don't feel horrible. I just get tired and need occasional naps after my workday. They prescribed Provigil. I took half a tablet today and felt giddy, a little jittery but I did have energy for the rest of the day.

I found out that our eldest sister, who just turned forty, has high blood pressure. She wasn't feeling well the past 2 days and called in sick. Yesterday she went to the doctor and he prescribed medication. I told her to eat better and exercise, hopefully get off the meds before she really really needs them or depends on them. She sounded upbeat though, which is good. Getting old doesn't have to mean getting ill.

Congratulations to my sister Lynn! Her tourist visa got renewed woohoo! She was worrying for nothing. See you next year!

My other sister Cecile is still in the west coast visiting her in-laws. Enjoy your visit but hurry home. It feels weird not having you around for this long. She is being sworn in as an American this coming week.

I guess kapalmukha (literally, thick faced. But usually used to mean shameless) is not the exclusive domain of Philippine politicians. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich can give them a run for their money.

I saw this on The Colbert Report last night. A 20 year old Chinese girl is partially deaf after an apparently very passionate kiss from her boyfriend. The doctor who saw her at the hospital said:

"The kiss reduced the pressure in the mouth, pulled the eardrum out and caused the breakdown of the ear."

As if 2008 wasn't bad enough, it will be extended by one leap second. The extra second will be tacked onto 31 December at 6:59:59 PM Eastern Standard Time, or 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds Coordinated Universal Time. This is to to keep clocks synched with the Earth's slowing rotation.

That's Venus on the left, Jupiter on the right and a waxing crescent moon below. This was taken on 01 December 2008 in the Philippines. This rare planetary alignment was seen throughout Asia.

(photo from AP)

I guess I 'm a huge cynic. When I read about 22 year old Leafil Alforque drowning before her 45 year old boyfriend Scott Napper could propose marriage, I immediately thought foul play. The couple had been online dating since 2005. She had just arrived from the Philippines 3 days before.

Condolences to her family and friends.

This is my new favorite picture from Icanhascheezburger. Poor panda bear's just lying there after falling off the slide. Unless it has narcolepsy and promptly fell asleep.

O.J. Simpson has been sentenced to at least 15 years in prison for armed robbery, kidnapping and assault. Thank heaven for stupid criminals. You'd think he would have been on his best behavior after getting away with murder 13 years ago. Now he's where he belongs.

They're at it again. Allies of the Arroyo administration in the Philippines want to convene a Constitution Assembly (appropriately named Con-ass) in hopes of amending the constitution, postponing the 2010 national elections and extending their terms of office. Including of course Madame President. Get your greedy and corrupt hands off the Constitution!

NO to charter change Filipinos! Where are the true geniuses and statesmen who only want to serve the people, and not their own selfish interests?

I saw the radiation doctor today. He didn't see any changes on the MRI. In this banner year for hope and change, I hope nothing EVER changes for the worse on my diagnostic imaging. See you next year Doc Steven!

My friend was instructing her father to save files on his desktop so they'll be easy to find. Exasperated dad says: "Bakit ba desktop ka nang desktop eh alam mo namang laptop ang gamit ko? Wala akong desktop!" (Why do you keep saying desktop when you know I don't have a desktop? I only have a laptop!)

I'm going for an MRI this week before the oncology and radiation doc follow-up. People who've never had the procedure always ask me what it's like.
The technicians and nurses will keep asking you if you have any metal on you or if you're pregnant. The first time I went through it, I was nervous about having to stay still. I didn't feel claustrophobic at all and I found it was a good time to meditate. I even dozed off.

Meditate you say? The machine generates clicking/thumping sounds followed by a series of very loud noises. Almost like that emergency broadcast test signal. They do give you ear plugs but I'm not sure it helps much. I have no idea how I manage to take a catnap during the procedure. At first I thought I was just tired or sleep-deprived. But every time I've had it done, I've fallen asleep. It's amazing I don't shift positions. I even fell asleep during the PET scan.

The technologists talk to you during the procedure, too. Just to check if you're OK. The interesting part is when they do the contrast. They inject you with the contrast material; it feels cool, and you get a flushing sensation in your arm. I think I smell the dye. It's what I imagine the color blue would smell like.

Wish me luck!


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