Category Archives: Humour

One Fine Day

Two Fridays ago, I decided to check out a patisserie during my lunch break and satisfy my sweet tooth. It became a day that will stick with me for a while.

When I got there, the sweet aroma and sight of a wide variety of delectable sweets on display made me linger and hesitate in picking out which one to try first. Just then, an elderly woman came and started eyeing those tarts and profiteroles, and she voiced out exactly what I was thinking. Opening my mouth to politely reply end up costing me more than I bargained for. Was it worth it? You tell me.

* * *

I could sense she wanted company.

After a hesitant pause, she asked me if I minded joining her while we each partake a piece of our chosen dessert. It was a lovely, cool sunny day, far different from the drab, rainy weather we experienced during the past Sydney summer. I wasn’t rushing to go back to work and being aware of how much the extroverted elderly people long for conversations, and feeling generous of my time, I obliged. I didn’t expect to stay for more than twenty minutes but she talked non-stop for two hours!

R. turned out to be a very interesting woman! An intelligent, well-read 84 year old, she shared with me her interest in history, travel, arts – living art, she emphasised – including classical and rock music!

Decades back, she left England as a school dropout and, penniless, grabbed the opportunity to migrate to Australia and start out a new life.

In those two hours, she shared with me her life stories that showed an enlightened, broadminded father who taught her from a young age that though people look different, we are all the same underneath; of her adventures in Asia and Europe; her experiences living as a white person in South Africa during the apartheid era and raising a mixed-race son; and dealing with people with narrow-minded views and beliefs.

These days, she spends her time taking walks in Parramatta, where she now resides after living for a long time in Cremorne; reading books she borrows from the local library; watching plays in the local theatre; and watching ethnic festivals when they’re on. She and her husband parted ways and her only son died three years ago. He was schizophrenic.

Her memory is remarkable! She would repeat full names and describe the personalities of people she met on the ship on her way to Australia, during her other travels and those she befriended while living here and the details of their conversations. I can’t even remember the first or last names of most of my teachers!

With my eyes fixed on her while I slowly sip my skim mocha, she recited a couple of poems to me, sung a tune or two, suggested books for me to read, shared her love for the Aboriginal people and people of all cultures, and scoffed at prejudiced people, and politicians and politics.

In one of those rare moments where she paused, I managed to quickly share my newly-discovered interest in chanting, which I thought would impress her. Surprisingly, she then recited a sacred mantra she knew by heart. I listened in amazement.

Under the glare of the early afternoon sun and while gushing at the delicious sweet snacks we were having, we discovered we have many things in common, like the love of:

  • Rock music
  • Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page
  • Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury

Wow, an 84-year old woman who loves ROCK! I’m as amazed to hear this as when I hear of rock music-appreciating Gen-Ys, like my friend Fran, as most of these young kids these days generally have no idea what real great music sound like! 🙂

She must have been one cool woman during her time. She still is ‘cool’, actually. She mentioned she watched the unforgettable concert film, ‘The Song Remains the Same,’ which she loved. Not to be outdone, I let her know I watched it three times! She was duly impressed!

I could imagine her musical drummer son, whom she recalled fondly, playing Stairway to Heaven with his acoustic guitar which she bought for him, to veer him away from the hard drumming that he played. She said she encouraged her son when he was still alive to play and listen to higher vibration music, like classical music, to help him with his mental condition.

You could tell she looked after herself. Her facial skin is not that lined for her age and her powdered face still shows a beauty she must have enjoyed at her youth. Her current short, light brown hair becomes her. Spanish gay friends she met and befriended would call her élégante. But she’s no longer that, she says, because she’s now old.

She narrated her love of nature and hearing the sounds of the birds in the morning. She says she was raised an Anglican/Protestant but she had left it all behind and now considers her god as the moon, the stars, the trees.

She survived breast cancer. She has firm ideas about how the female breasts should be regarded and voiced her disapproval of the way men view women’s breasts.

At 16, she fell in love for the first time but it was ‘unconsummated,’ she says. I didn’t dare ask her when and with whom it finally happened, but her mother certainly drummed into her the risks of having premarital sex.

With no inhibition, she casually dropped the word ‘sex’ like we were long-time best friends! I kept asking myself over and over while she continued talking, ‘Did I hear it right, did she really say ”sex”?’  Hence, damn it, I missed hearing what must have been the juicy details of her life!

She’s not wearing spectacles or contact lenses so her eyesight is obviously still good, her hearing is much better than mine, she walks unaided and still does her own shopping, and I’m sure there are other things she ably does by herself.

But I feel a tinge of sadness. Though her mental faculty is still enviably sharp, her physical body is showing inevitable signs of ageing and decline. She has poor body circulation, she says. Her wrinkled wrists and neck, the exposed body parts of which her beige, old long-sleeve winter coat couldn’t hide, are covered with big brown spots. She may not need eyeglasses but her eyes often become watery. She has no family to look after her or to keep her company. She must have friends but most are probably long gone. She might have once rocked it, but at this stage of her life she can no longer be a party animal that I, ahem, still am.

I tried to get up from my seat to slowly say ‘bye, thanks for the chat,’ but she didn’t take notice  and continued talking leisurely, not really minding that I was late getting back to work. She couldn’t let this opportunity pass by so easily, I suppose, to share old stories that are still alive in her long memory and are waiting in anticipation to be shared to a willing listener. I slowly eased half of my behind off the chair and poised to bolt. At my third attempt to interrupt her storytelling, I got up to say firmly, ‘I have to get back to work.’

She gave me her number for in case I feel the desire to have a chat with her again. I sensed she didn’t really seriously count on me contacting her ever. She must have offered her contact number to many others, with the small hope that one of them would call one day.

Reality for me is, I don’t get to hang out with thinkers like her too often. People who read to learn and broaden their perspective; people who question established beliefs and biases; people who defy the norm and follow what they feel is the right thing to do, not just believing things are the way they should be done just because the majority think so.

She apologised for talking too much. I replied that I enjoyed our talk immensely and I learned a lot. She paused, looked me in the eye and firmly said, ‘no, you didn’t learn from me; I learned from you.’ I tried to quickly recall what it was that I could have possibly said of value but none came to mind.

‘I must learn more about the Philippines, especially before the time of the Spanish colonisation’, she says. With dismay, I offered the information that the thoughtless Europeans who invaded my country of birth, destroyed most of the ancient and written artifacts that must have depicted a rich life and history of the ancient Filipinos. She replied that they did the same thing in South America.

I made a mental note to re-read Philippine history and silently chastised myself for not taking to heart my history lessons in school.

She assured me she’d let me talk more next time.

***

Ever since that fateful day, I’ve been thinking about how I enjoyed sitting at a sidewalk café during a perfect autumn weather, discussing life over Lebanese halva with a stranger, a woman of substance.

There’s a lot more for her to share, for sure. Stories spanning more than eight decades and ideas and opinions formed while living a meaningful life, with details too interesting and too eventful to narrate in two hours.

Still, I find myself begging the question, ‘Should I see her again?’

Hmmm… perhaps at another one fine day, I might give her a call to suggest repeating for me over coffee and a baklava the juicy details of her life that I might have missed hearing the first time. 😀

Fun + Games + Giggles + Laughter = Young Mind and Heart

“No, we’re not going out of the house with you dressed like that! It’s too revealing! Wear something more appropriate!”

“What is wrong with th… ?”

“No!”

“What if I put…”

“No!!”

The only time I attempt to dress “youngish” and not my age, my Gen Y daughter stops me in my tracks.

On her Facebook wall on my last birthday, she dobbed me in to her friends:

“busted my mum trying on my clothes when she’s 2 sizes bigger. Walked past her room to find her struggling to get my top past her elbows, bwahaha.”

How is that funny, Michelle??

* * *

Trying too hard to look young or sexy, made obvious by inappropriate dressing, surely backfires. On a page on Oprah’s website, it says, “The number one mistake women make is shopping by size, not by fit”. Author of Before You Put That On, Lloyd Boston, advises, “Get the clothes that fit, not the number you want to be and your clothes will look so much sexier.”

The word “sexi-er” convinced me. Lloyd, I’ll remember that next time I’m tempted to buy a size 8 top!
[Note though that it says “your clothes” will look sexier, not necessarily you! Lol]

I’m at that stage where I’m starting to see the ravages of time. Having just added another year to my ever increasing age, I think I’ll have to start asking people not to scrutinise my face. People my age have long been conscious of sagging facial skin and drooping eyelids, plus the increasing “threat of invasion” of white hair on our head.

It was about a decade ago when I start to stammer when replying to people’s questions about my age. In spite of believing age is just a number and my recent pronouncements of not shying away from admitting it, I still get tongue-tied when asked. I’m failing one of my new year’s resolutions already (of being authentic) and we’re only in January!

So I worked out a sure-fire plan to help keep our attitude and mindset as young as when we were, say, in our 20s or even 30s, to continue—with the emphasis on “continue”—to keep ourselves perpetually young in mind and young at heart, even if not in face and body.

These may not work for everyone but I’m sticking to these from now on to ensure we have as much fun while we can and we’re able and to minimise stress:

Watch your language

• Stop calling yourself “old” and stop using that word to describe people who were young once.

• If you ever need to ask someone their age, choose to say “how young are you?” You know it’s a good trick to make someone, including yourself, smile.

Be a student for life

• I joke that I’m a mature student of love (okay, I’m half serious). Whether it’s learning about love (as it’s such a broad topic), acquiring a new skill, reading, learning a new hobby or studying for a course, keep your curiosity about new things alive.

Keep your sense of fun

They say high school is one of the most fun times of one’s life and it was for me. Maintain your sense of fun and love for games just like when you were younger.

• If you’re physically able, go ahead and dance, play sports or board games or, if you dare, even naughty games! Fun!!

• Giggle a lot; laugh heartily, loudly and often (though not too much or you risk your co-workers’ ire, if you work in an office). Crack jokes but, of course, make sure not at the expense of others.

• See life only as “role playing” — at home, at work and on Earth. This should keep our ego in check and make us not think of life and oneself seriously. I’m serious!

I know this is easier said than done, especially if you’re in a middle of a serious illness or problem, or a tragedy, but then again a lot of people take a lot of things seriously even at times they shouldn’t. [See “Solutions focused” below.]

Indulge in music

There was a period of about 10 years that I stopped listening to music. Big mistake!! Music soothes our soul — those in the know say!

• One suggestion—regardless of your age—while listening to music, bop your head, let your body move to the rhythm and feel the music. Heaven!

Spring to life

• Exercise can’t be over-emphasised. One of my goals this year is to be more physically active. Kickboxing, bring it on!!

• Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wise. My parents used to drum this saying into us when my siblings and I were growing up. I struggle with this still as I come alive at night.

Glorious food

• If you haven’t started, develop an “eat-and-drink healthy-consciousness”. This means no meat, no sweets (ok, not too much and not too often is another one of my goals), saturated and trans-fat a big no-no, use salt sparingly and avoid sodas (unless you’re having it with vodka, lol).

Self-love

• Affirm: I’m one of a kind… and so are you!

• Go to health retreats and give frequent special treats to self.

• Acceptance of your shortcomings, weaknesses and imperfections.

• Learn to accept and love your body, however difficult it may be to do so. Read here on how to have a healthy body image. It’s not too late!!

Solutions focused

For most of us who believe there is spirit life after physical death, we take our life on Earth so seriously. We forget it’s only temporary so therefore our respective and collective situations here are also temporary.

If tragedy strikes, of course we allow ourselves time to grieve, cry and feel pain for a while. Then we start to recover, feel better and eventually start to get over our sad situation. It’s when we drag our feelings of misery, resentment and/or self-pity for too long that can really have a detrimental effect on our health.

• Reduce, if not eliminate, negativities that we sometimes allow ourselves to indulge in. [See “Keep your sense of fun” above.]

• See problems as opportunities to learn and grow, as they say. As John Lennon puts it in Watching the Wheels, “There’s no problem; only solutions.”

• Don’t let any bastards get you down (well, at least not for long).

It’s not at all surprising that the things you can do to delay (for as long as possible, at least) one’s physical decline are also, it appears, the same things that you can do to keep your heart and mind forever young.

Image pinched from an email. If I reach her age, I promise to act like this but not to dress like this. 😀

Does young mind + young heart = immaturity??

I don’t think so. You know why?

Fun + games + giggles + tears of laughter + enjoyment = young mind and young heart.

I admit Maths isn’t my strong point, but I’m positive the above formula adds up.

* * *

Last weekend at a friend’s party, instead of spending my time conversing with adults, I spent the whole time playing Wii with a 10-year old!

While the adults in the party were probably thinking what you’re thinking, my young friend, Yashar, is now convinced his khale (auntie) is cool!

Post updated on 22 January 2011.

Lover and Loves

As part of my process of sharing my thoughts and of tackling love themes, here’s a just-for-fun, amateur poem about my loves and interests.

I am a LOVER of…

Words
I string them together as musings for my blog
Place them side by side
To play scrabble or Upwords

Non-fiction books
Magazines, blogs and e-news
Voraciously devouring
Every written thing I could

Fun
Like playful banters
Tongue-in-cheek jokes
Giggles and laughter

Food
I’ve got a sweet tooth
How else did you think
I ballooned?

A good drink
Guess what I’ll evoke
In the right atmosphere
It’s vodka and coke

Roulette
Winning big a few times
I won’t admit though
To losing a few dimes!

Music
Metal and rock classic
Singing my heart out
To my neighbours’ detriment

Philosophy
Often preoccupied with things of the mind
As deep meaning in life I seek
But the answers go over my head!

Life
Now seeing the world afresh
My new canvass is spread out
For me to colourfully illustrate.

P.S. I have other loves, of course!
I’ll share one of them with you in my next post, a more serious topic.

Wherefore Art Thou, Florentino?

This blog is to close the chapter of my ‘F’ story. One person, at least, is curious to know what happened to Florentino.

I wasn’t part of the elite group that Florentino and the girls who surrounded him belonged to. They were the smart ones but, Florentino, as I mentioned, was the top student of the class.

My class standing in first grade was average (story of my school life, really). Mrs Lavastida, somehow, managed to lure me occasionally out of my shell.

One day, Mrs Lavastida decided to pit one student against another, to see who could read well in English and fast. Being secretly competitive, I wanted to impress everyone, most especially Florentino.

I raised my hand. I knew I could beat those slow ones! Mrs Lavastida kept ignoring me, however, and called everyone else except me. And the later the lines of text to read, the harder they got, at least for a first grader.

It seemed my hand was raised forever when, finally, my teacher noticed me. She called my name and I eagerly stood up. As I was checking out the next sentence to read to give myself a head start, guess who she decided to pit against me??

She could have called one of those who, after a few lessons, still couldn’t read. But, noooo, she had to pick Florentino!!

Florentino already had his turn and it dismayed me that she called him again. Discouraged even before we started reading, I knew it was a lost cause. I was only halfway and struggling through my line, and Florentino had stood up, read his sentence lightning quick, sat back on his chair and bowed his head, perhaps to try and look magnanimous.

Any fantasy I had of impressing him and getting his attention away from the bevies of cute little girls who liked him, went down the drain.

Later on, it occurred to me that I had no chance to compete with the smart kids in that class. Most of them went through nursery and kindergarten, which meant they started school a year or so before me. They were well ahead of me.

Out of my girl classmates, only two stood out for me and I still clearly remember them: Anna and Irene.

Anna was the smartest girl in the class. She wasn’t what you’d call beautiful, but she was pretty and well-groomed. She belonged to the long list of girls who liked Florentino.

Irene, on the other hand, was my neighbour. She was pretty too. Dark with short hair, she lived in the same complex where I temporarily stayed. She belonged to the second list of girls who were indifferent to Florentino. But, if you read my previous blog post about Florentino, I was on both lists, right?

As a six year old, this is how I saw and assessed the situation:

Try as Anna might, Florentino only had eyes for Irene. But, Irene, as much as I liked her was, I suspected, a tomboy. Not that there is anything wrong with that! It’s just that poor Florentino had no idea. I noticed Irene was the only one he was very friendly with and kidded around with her a lot.

I don’t know if Irene turned out to be a real tomboy or if she outgrew her tomboy phase. I don’t know what became of her and Florentino. Sometimes, I wonder what became of my first grade classmates.

As fate would have it, my parents found a new place for us to stay, farther from my very first school but closer to another school, a public school. It was also farther and away from Florentino… forever.

Next post: A Paradox

Luscious Me!

There is a certain race of people who considers me fat. They call me fat. They’re wrong and I would say unimaginative!

Even if one is fat, how hard can it be to lose excess weight? If I make it sound so easy, losing body fat isn’t really rocket science:

Image from istockphoto.com

Eat more of the power foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, certain nuts and grains. Less of the wrong foods like fat-filled, sugar-filled and too-much-salt food.

Have a small portion of food when you feel hungry and don’t overeat. Make sure you drink plenty of water and no carbonated sodas (including diet drinks), and limit your alcohol intake.

Complement this with regular and vigorous exercise and—voilà—you have a body that is the envy of women, and a physique that men ogle at and admire.

I am not saying it’s a good thing, to be ogled or stared at. I mentioned about my being a nude prude in my Unzipped guest post and my not being keen on going to beaches in my last post, Wish You Were Here.

During my recent foray on a beach, I bravely donned a 2-piece swimsuit (well, a skimpy boy shorts with a top is a 2-piece swimsuit to me). It wasn’t a very revealing piece of swimwear, really, but enough to show some excess bits – the unwanted bits.

However, I might as well have gone naked as I was stared at, scrutinised, looked over from top to bottom and back again! The experience was disconcerting, and I now have to think twice before wearing a swimsuit ever again in public. I’m talking about my parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces, and other close and distant relatives who I only see about once or twice a year! Whether they were staring at me in admiration or derision, I couldn’t tell without my eyeglasses.

Do you think this experience has spurred me on to lose any excess weight and apply self-discipline in my fitness regime? Because that’s all it is, really. Aside from knowing the basics of maintaining a healthy weight as described above, you need to fix your sight on your goal, if losing weight is your goal, and instill the discipline to keep at it.

To answer my own question above: no, maybe not. Over my lunch of cheese-topped grilled fish with prawns and fries, with half-touched salad on the side, a non-Filipino colleague-friend assured me, you’re not really fat; you’re more like… ‘beautifully plump’!

Thinking about this unique description, a picture comes to mind: that of a plump fruit — luscious, delicious, sweet!

Uhmmm… I’m beginning to like this new description. It not only makes me feel ‘sexy’, it makes me want to eat!

From now on, call me those beautiful, mouth-watering names. Just don’t call me ‘fat’ because I’m not* and ‘fat’ is just plain boring!

* * *

*those who genuinely like me can’t see it. 🙂

Disclaimer: For a more reliable information on health, nutrition and exercise, please do your own research and get advice from medically-qualified people.

Losing My Religion (5 of 5)

Image from istockphoto.com

This question had been in my mind for a long time:

Is there a one true religion?

For many years, I tried to find an answer to that simple question. Approximately twenty years later, I come to a disappointing but inevitable conclusion that it’s not that simple after all. There is no human being alive in the olden days or at the present time, nor any one holy book in existence, who holds and can provide all the answers to everyone’s satisfaction.

Because of this, I no longer have that longing to know. There is no more ‘gaping hole to fill’ or an ‘unending thirst to quench’ for me. After many years of futile searching, I rest… and lose my religion anyway.

I can disregard, cover my ears and turn a blind eye on my other previously-mentioned reasons. However, what made me to finally see the light, so to speak, is:

4. my growing interest in the theory of reincarnation.

Let me tell you upfront: I don’t claim to be Cleopatra, Machiavelli, Queen Nefertiti… or any high or low profile personalities, male or female.

Simplistic my reasons may be for believing in reincarnation, but I certainly don’t believe that just because no one at the present time can present empirical evidence/conclusive proofs of its reality, that it’s definitely not possible or not real.

I first read about reincarnation when it was featured in a magazine called ‘Panorama’ that came with the newspaper that my father used to subscribe to years ago. I remember reading that one could live as a human being in one life and then become a cockroach in the next life. It sounded horrible and at the same time laughable. I remember shaking my head and dismissing the idea of reincarnation outright.

I didn’t know it at the time but different religious groups’ beliefs on reincarnation differ and many don’t believe the above.

It was during my armchair soul searching many years later when I revisited this concept of reincarnation and made an effort to look at it again more objectively.

Why does reincarnation appeal to me after dismissing it initially? Reincarnation, if real, makes absolute sense to me now. If you dare look at it with an open mind and give it some genuine thought, it can shed light to a lot of things.

Edgar Cayce, whose story I read about voraciously (among other numerous books I read that touched on the topic of reincarnation), obviously had a major influence on me. But as this particular post is really just to ‘confess’ my final reason and conclude my ‘Losing My Religion’ story, I will explain more later why I chose to believe in reincarnation (including a continuing belief in a supreme being).

A website, World Christian Encyclopedia lists 19 major world religions, which are ‘subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups. Wikipedia also has a list of numerous religions.

Ask every one of these groups which is the one true religion. Each religion, major and minor, old and new, including their respective denominations, will raise their hand and claim LOUDLY and assuredly theirs to be the one true one.

I ponder this question one last time: Is there a one true religion?

Don’t bother to raise your hand as it’s clear to me now: There is no such thing.

As I disclose my reasons for losing my religion, I remember and repeat an old saying that I heard my father say a few times:

All roads lead to the same place

and, may I add, these include unchartered, unnamed and unmarked roads that are less travelled. One of these roads I may be traversing solely, bravely. Would you dare join me?

Next topic: Holiday!

Cupid’s Little Arrow Found its Way to My Heart Way Too Early

Let’s take another break from all the seriousness of ‘Religion’, so here’s something ‘light’ and brief.

Image from istockphoto.com

I’m back in my childhood…

It was a fun time, living in a place which was only a stone’s throw away from my very first school.

Just weeks before, my family and I arrived from the South, where I was born, and was staying temporarily with my Aunt and her family.

The ‘convenience’ I’ve experienced during my first grade wasn’t going to happen ever again during the rest of my school life. You go out the door of your place one minute, and the next few minutes, you’re sitting in your classroom. It’s almost like ‘teleportation’. 🙂

I remember my very first teacher. She was elegant and always had her hair in a bun. She hardly smiled but she wasn’t strict. Of all my teachers in all my school years, hers is the only name I clearly remember – ‘Mrs Lavastida’.

Mrs Lavastida spoke to us in ‘Tagalog’, the lingua franca in Manila, which isn’t my mother tongue. It is at this school in my first grade that I was taught the English alphabet. As I mentioned before, I first learned to read and write in English, before I learned to read and write in Filipino, our national language. Not only that, I first learned to write using cursive handwriting, not manuscript handwriting. This is significant for me because these two occurrences were to put me in trouble in 2nd grade and diminish my confidence (but more on this in one of my future posts).

At six years old, I wasn’t that fluent yet in my mother tongue. At the same time, being new in Manila, I was just starting to pick up ‘Tagalog’. To make matters worse, in school I was being taught to speak, read and write in English. No wonder I ended up not fluent in any of these languages!

I noticed a handsome boy, as you do at six years old. I still remember his name: ‘Florentino’. He was the most handsome in my class, possibly the whole school. He was also the most intelligent and the smartest, both in brain and in wearing his school uniform.

Cupid’s little arrow struck my young heart many years too early. It wasn’t quite a bull’s eye, but it was enough to awaken the beginning of that feeling that every one of us experience at least once or even many times in our lifetime. Picture me at six years old: innocent, ignorant and already having a secret crush on a very good-looking boy.

But I wasn’t the only one. Not surprisingly, he caught a lot of girls’ attention. Perhaps from other classes as well, who knows? The girls were unabashed in showing their crush on him, while I kept mine to myself. This is a typical Scorpio trait; we like keeping things secret.

You could count on your fingers those who didn’t have a crush on him in my class. I think you could put me in both lists: the long list of girls who had a crush on him—even though mine was secret, I still qualify as I had a crush on him; and the short list of girls who didn’t have a crush on him—nobody knew so I fall in this category too! Am I confusing you?

Anyway, the girls gush over him and once during our recess and he was nowhere in sight, I observed them giggling and queueing up, taking turns in sitting and sliding on the armless chair he sat on earlier. Each of them had a few rounds, presumably to feel what it feels like to sit on his chair. I don’t know what these girls were thinking! I’m talking about little girls who could barely dress by themselves.

I must confess I wasn’t any better. When those girls were gone and only a few of us were left in the room, I sat on his chair demonstrating to some clueless few what those ‘shameless’ girls were doing earlier. 😀