In observance of Earth Hour on March 29, the world turned off its lights for 60 minutes. We happened to be in Serendra at The Fort for dinner. We had just picked up JR from school.
“Do you now the significance of this day?” JR asked.
“Earth Hour!” I replied.
“It’s our last day in law school,” JR said, referring to the three of us. Then he reminded us how, four years ago, he, Tony and I were busy preparing for his four-year “exodus” from home.
For several weekends, the trio of dad, mom, and son went round and round looking for a condo unit near his new school. And in all of four years, we had to schedule our lives around his comings and goings. Home on weekends with dirty laundry and a stack of law books, back to the condo on Mondays with clean linens and a whole week worth of food.
“It isn’t our last day,” I insisted. “It’s six months to the bar exams.”
Well, it was as good a time as any to celebrate. JR has survived four grueling years by God’s glorious grace. So we entered Balducci, an Italian restaurant where we had, ooops the lights went off!
We could hardly see the carpaccio for antipasto, and the main entrée—pasta with truffles, pasta with clams, and roasted chicken. (My photos don't do them justice.)
“Definitely not inedible,” JC would say if he were around, but he was busy at work; we missed him.
From there, we walked off all that heavy stuff to the end of the long Serendra stretch and what do you know, Tony bumped into Elvis!
When twins meet, they simply have to pose for posterity. It was dark—half of the common lights were still off—but nothing ever stops my husband from an Elvis event.
So where were you when the lights went off?
“You are looking at a flawed mother . . .” is how I often begin my book talks when I have moms in the audience. I want to start on the right foot, lowering (or totally erasing) their expectations of an author who writes mostly on family values.
Having been a working mom all the years my children were growing up, I have no authority to preach on good parenting.
“Aside from being flawed, I also wear lipstick,” I say, alluding to my book, “No Lipstick for Mother,” which is a story about a mother who stops wearing lipstick because she has better things to do—earning a living for her daughter. I use lipstick to symbolize people's definition of beauty—that which one can see with his eyes.
That elicits laughter, like a collective sigh of relief. When mistakes or misadventures happen in parenting, our heavenly Father comes to the rescue. He promised in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness . . ." It never failed when I did. It was there when I wasn't.
Having said that, I think you will understand that when I receive letters from mom-readers such as the one below, I get misty-eyed. Let me summarize what she wrote:
My children love reading . . . I purchased your book, “No Lipstick for Mother” . . . Would you believe that I have read that book for, I think, 60 times? Every night, my son will not sleep until I read it. I hope you can have many more stories like this. Thank you for helping me become a good MOM through your stories.
Moi?! Helping one mom become a good mom?!
I am humbled, and encouraged to write the stories I should have told my children but couldn't.
I have just finished writing the first draft of my book, Gifts of Grace 3—all of 15 chapters, including an Author’s Note!
If I weren’t so exhausted, and looking like a dozen elephants trampled on me, this would be a wonderful Kodak (indulge me, the other more techno-advanced camera brands came way after my time) moment. But no matter how dark my eye bags and how stiff my fingers and how achy my joints are, I am actually experiencing euphoria.
Oh, the towering feeling!
I am not claiming credit for anything. If not for God’s enabling grace, I would never have had the strength and confidence to write. This will add to the many books on limitless grace written by many seasoned authors through thousands of years and being written by younger, braver authors today.
I want to celebrate.
Unfortunately, the euphoria in my heart is happening when everything is at a standstill. During Holy Week, in the Philippines, beginning on Thursday, every place fit for some kind of celebration is closed!
My husband suggests a quiet and restful day at the movies—on DVD in our bedroom.
“Your choice,” he says, going over the stack of DVDs he had been buying like they’d soon go out of style, but had not had time to watch.
“Something that could match my towering feeling,” I say, lying down on the choice seat of the bed.
Tony can be very literal. He plays “My Fair Lady” (the old version with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn). And the moment the song “I have often walked” is sung, he joins in with the lyrics, “And oh, the towering feeling . . .”
I have, as the musicale sings, a towering feeling, even as the manuscript will still go through spit and polish, then on to improving it with my editors and book designer. But I am over the hump. In a month or two we should be able to put it to bed.
And already I am all revved up to write my next book. I have scheduled April 1 as the first day of writing my new, exciting assignment.
As soon as the 4' x 4' oil painting of Jun Alfon, a well-known advocate of Philippine tribal groups, was up on my (and my husband's) bedroom wall, I blinked not just once, but a hundred times.
Is this my bedroom? With that colorful work of art occupying all of the only wall this room has, I thought I was in some unknown place elsewhere.
Jun surprised me with this painting when I went over to his place to personally deliver and discuss with him the first draft of his art book, which he asked me to write. I was speechless. His walls, from ceiling to floor, were covered with paintings, but he chose this particular painting, took it down and give it to me. I’d have chosen it myself.
I should have told him what we usually say when we receive a gift, “You should have not bothered.” But I was so overwhelmed I could only gasp.
From the beginning I made clear to Jun, a noted impressionist who has had 28 solo art exhibits to date, I will not accept payment for all the little things he had requested me to write—brochures, press releases, leaflets, invitations, and titles for his past art exhibits. "First off, anything about art gives me adrenalin rush. And between friends there are no peso values."
So Jun turns around and gives me no cash; just a beautiful canvas that has his soul in it.
Jun’s painting, which captures the essence of our forgotten brothers up in the mountains, speaks more about friendship than I can ever paint with words.
(I have other artist friends whose paintings adorn the other walls of our small home—those are gifts of grace I have written in my heart long ago and will post here someday soon.)
As he makes the text of one whole book disappear before 70 children (from the slums near our church), JR says, “I have absolutely no power, no magic. I just have quick hands.”
“Ooooh,” the children are impressed.
“Watch my hands, you might see them slip,” JR continues.
“Woww!” the children chorus, seeing nothing amiss.
He bites into a five-peso coin and the coin breaks. He then puts the broken coin back into his hands, “One, two, three, four, five!” Voila! The coin is whole again!
He displays a few more stunts then ends with the coup de grace. He takes a chopped wood from his magic box and tries to balance it in one hand.
“This is heaven—that perfect place where God lives. He offers it to all of us so we can live there, too, forever. How do we get there?” The wood is heavier on one side so it falls to the ground. “Ooops, I have to do something to keep it in my hand.”
He picks it up and puts an object on the lighter side. “Do we go to heaven by doing good works?” Again, the wood falls to the ground. “No,” he says.
Everyone echoes, “Noooo.”
He picks it up again and puts another object to balance it. “Do we go to heaven by going to church every Sunday?” The wood falls.
The children chorus, “Noooo!”
“Do we go to heaven by smiling at all the people we meet and being kind to them? The wood falls.
The children give out a louder, “Noooo!”
He then takes off his belt and puts it on the wood. It balances well! “Do we go to heaven by accepting Jesus in our hearts—as our Lord and Savior?”
Everybody gets excited and says, “Yesssss!”
JR raises his hand with the well-balanced wood for everyone to ponder. The children swarm around him and look at the wood in awe. At this point, JR talks about the good news of salvation a bit more, explaining it to the children in their language. Then he ends the magical session with a prayer.
Seeing the children all sitting still, their eyes tightly shut and repeating after JR the prayer of acceptance, my eyes well up as I praise the Owner of heaven for this afternoon of magic only He can make possible through His grace.
Unless I am out of town, I wake up at five in the morning to walk. Nothing stops me from this daily one-hour exercise. Not even rain.
After quickly donning my rubber shoes, walking shirt and pants—I grab an umbrella.
How refreshing it is to walk in the rain! Dust, dirt and grime are washed away while the rain drums on my rain shield and my socks get soaked. And everything (the street, trees, flowers, leaves, roofs, water tanks, cars parked on open air) is rinsed clean.
There are a few things I miss though: the sound of my footfalls and air conditioning units, water hoses and sprinklers, stray cats (mostly black) and dogs, and the morning greetings of regular walkers. When it rains, everyone stays indoors, except me. Vehicles on the road are suddenly sparse.
There’s a nice, indefinable feeling to being alone, walking in the rain. It seems to be the best time to talk to and thank the Giver of grace and Maker of rain.
I am off to talk on "The Revolutionized Filipina" as a keynote speaker in the celebration of International women's Day of one multi-national company.
I had difficulty writing my speech as I don't usually define myself as a woman. I define myself as a person, more particularly a creative writer dependent on God's grace.
The speech, then, is more for me than it is for the audience. I realized a lot of things about being a woman.
From there, I will attend the last party that will ever be thrown for the ACRC, the entity of Adboard that screens advertising before they are aired or published. After March 31, ACRC will cease to exist and it its place is a group which . . . that I still have to understand.
Then off, with JR, to Umingan for the funeral of my cousin Esther. It's going to be a loooong day.
And I still can't fathom what all this has to do with being a woman.
My mind seems not functioning today.
Little did we know that it would be her last reunion with us on earth, as she is now attending a grander reunion with other loved ones in that perfect place where Grace reigns and where we will also be, someday, when our appointed time comes.