Saturday, September 29, 2007

What's In Your Backpack?

My boys cart their favorite toys all over the house. Sometimes they use backpacks, other times baskets or cardboard boxes. They carry toy cars, stuffed animals, plastic spy gear, action figures, and bits of found objects like coins and golf tees and broken crayons. These are their most cherished possessions, things they take in the bathtub and while riding in the car. They fall asleep at night surrounded by their stuff.

It makes me wonder what I would put in my backpack or basket or cardboard box. If I had to choose the things I couldn't live without, things I would want if stranded on a desert island or in the middle of a traffic jam, what would they be?

  • Laptop (so long as the island/traffic jam has WiFi and electricity)
  • Family pictures (on the laptop)
  • Notebooks and pencils
  • Books
  • iPod (same electricity provision applies)
  • Claritin and Kleenex (says the eternal allergy sufferer)
  • Midnight Milky Way bars
  • Bloom lip gloss
  • A camera
  • Pepsi with ice
  • 24-hour access to take-out from Prince of Jaipur (our favorite Indian restaurant)
  • A horse
  • A piano

All right, some of those are disqualified, darn it. I guess you just can't fit everything in a backpack.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

That Daniel Powter Song

[cue the song about the bad day]

You drop your spoon on the floor at breakfast and then you step in a puddle in your socks and pretty soon it feels like the world is mocking you, its cruel laughter following you from room to room. You snap at your kids for no reason; your unmet goals become laughable pipe dreams. You fail to do anything productive before lunchtime and suddenly you've forever marred any chance of a happy life. Your entire future crumbles down around your ears, all because you dropped your spoon (or stubbed your toe, or ran out of Cheerios, or broke your favorite bottle of nail polish).

That was me today. (I made some of it up, but you get the idea.) I'm still in desperate need of some happy quotes. So here we go:

[cue Don't Stop Believin' by Journey]

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." -Eleanor Roosevelt

[cue any Yanni song]

"You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the magic tissue of the universe of your life. No one can take it from you. No one receives either more or less than you receive. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt. You can only waste the passing movements. You cannot waste tomorrow. It is kept for you." -Arnold Bennett

Looking forward to some new, unused magic tissue when I get up in the morning.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Essays and Old Friends

While E.B. White is probably best known for Charlotte's Web and The Elements of Style, I have fallen in love with his essays and find myself returning to them again and again. It's like visiting an old friend.

In the Foreword of Essays of E.B. White he writes:

"The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest." [Much like a blogger.] "...Each new excursion of the essayist, each new 'attempt,' differs from the last and takes him into new country. This delights him. Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays."

White's quiet humor and keen observations frequently amaze me. He wrote for The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine, published a stack of books, and won an impressive list of awards, including the National Medal for Literature.

His citation for the Gold Medal for Essays and Criticism from the American Academy of Arts and Letters says this: "...When he writes of large subjects he does not make them larger and windier than they are, and when he writes of small things they are never insignificant."

When I grow up, I want to be E.B. White.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maligayang Pasko

Merry Christmas from the Philippines! Whaddaya mean it's only September? I'm nearly a month behind on my celebrating, judging by when I heard my first Christmas carol at the grocery store.

The Philippines has the longest Christmas season on the planet. Fake pine trees start appearing in the stores Sept. 1 (though as stated above, the music started even earlier this year).

I kind of like it.

This is a shopaholic country to begin with, but when the Christmas season hits, look out! The malls go all out with decorations and snarled traffic to match. Tiangges, or bazaars, spring up everywhere. Makeshift booths line the side of the road, selling a crazy, blinking menagerie of capiz lanterns and rope-light creations shaped like Santa and other Christmas characters.

My favorite Filipino decoration is the parol (pictured). Made from bamboo sticks and colored plastic sheeting, these 3D versions of the Bethlehem star come in all sizes and are a common sight at Christmastime. They look stunning hanging from tall trees, backlit with clear, twinkling lights.

So call me crazy if I lug out the decorations well before Thanksgiving. If I can't have snow, at least I can have my four-month long Filipino Christmas.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Stomping Grounds, Part 3

And now to the Utah segment of our trip to the States, where I:

  • Met a new nephew
  • Burst into tears at a small-town parade (homesickness and/or hormones, I suppose)
  • Nearly flung my mother-in-law off the back of a four wheeler
  • Careened down a mountain on a luge at Olympic Park

We had a blast. Exhibits A through F:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Whose Line Is it Anyway?

I used to hate waiting in line. You shift your feet. You wish for a place to sit, or something to lean against. You wonder why the goofball at the front of the line is taking so long. You avoid eye contact with the other people in line. You make small talk with the other people in line when the goofball at the front takes another ten minutes. You rage at the cashier/teller/ticket taker and every other person in the vicinity for wasting your time, for being so slow, for not opening a brand-new line just for you.

But after living in the Philippines, I've decided that lines are my friend. I miss them. I want them back. I crave orderly conduct and respect for personal space.

I went to the bank today. For an hour and a half.

They don't have lines here so much as blobs. Blobs of people who swarm around a counter until they catch someone's eye. But if there is a line, you never make the mistake of leaving a few inches between you and the next person. That's like standing on a chair and screaming into a megaphone: "Wow! Unoccupied space, here for the taking! Act now! I'm not really in line; I'm just here to raise my blood pressure!"

You get used to it eventually. After you move past the disbelief, the shock of violation to your sense of fair play, you swap your good manners for pure survival instinct. No more polite, "After you." No more hanging back until you can distinguish a clear pattern among the blob. Charge right into the fray. Snuggle up to the person in front of you and get cozy for the duration. Demand the attention of the customer service individual.

Walk right into that bank, shoulder your way past the milling crowd, and plop yourself down at the service desk to process your twice monthly transfers.

And bring a book. Because getting to the front of the line is only Lesson One.

Lesson Two: Waiting patiently while something that should take five minutes actually takes an hour and a half.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sittin', Waitin', Wishin'

Some days I wonder if I will spend my entire life waiting. Waiting in traffic, waiting in line, waiting for the adoption to come through, waiting to know which US city we'll be moving to (and when), waiting for agent news, waiting for Son #2 to outgrow his whiny phase, waiting for the motivation to exercise and the inspiration to write more and the courage to live without doubt.

Oh, and while I'm wishing for impossible things, how about a little world peace?

Do we ever stop looking forward to the Next Big Thing? Even as kids we count down the hours to birthdays, holidays, school ending, school beginning, first date, first car, first kiss. I have to keep reminding myself (to borrow words from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) that "this life is more than just a read through." That I should value the moment, embrace the here and now.

So, some things to be grateful for:

Honest lawyers. We found an excellent attorney to help us through the next stage of the adoption. She's a Harvard Law grad and teaches at University of the Philippines. She helped draft the domestic adoption laws currently on the books. She has a kind face and is charging us an extremely reasonable flat fee for the entire process, including the four court hearings in our immediate future. No hourly billing. No conference table the size of a football field. And she says we could be done in 7 or 8 months. Hallelujah!

Amazingly supportive friends. The kind that pick your kids up from school when you're stuck in nightmare traffic with patchy cell phone reception.

Pepsi. With ice.

Edited to add that one look at the date of my post gave me a whole lot of perspective in a hurry. Of course we all remember where we were, what we were doing six years ago when we heard the horrific news. In memory of those who died, and those whose suffering endures.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Stomping Grounds part II

We spent the middle leg of our trip in Spokane, where I lived until fifth grade.

It still felt familiar.

I like Spokane because it seems calm, almost lazy. Laid back. It's pretty in an understated kind of way, and people are friendly. They still have the White Elephant store and the same McDonald's where I won second place in the coloring contest at age 3. Riverfront Park looks unchanged, except for the cool new fountain beside the 100-year-old carousel. I wasn't tall enough to try for the gold ring on the carousel until right before we moved away. Sadly, during our trip Mr. First Born endured the same frustration. But he had fun feeding trash to the metal garbage goat.

There was a children's festival the day we visited the park, so the kids got to climb around inside a fire truck, bounce around inside the inflatables, and pal around with Grandpa and Grandma as they collected free loot from all the sponsor booths.

Favorite Spokane moments:
-The First-Born's baptism
-Quality time with grandmas and grandpas and cousins
-P.F. Chang's