Ya Ya Sisterhood

Last week, I had the opportunity to go up to northern lower Michigan (oxymoron, I know … but Michigander’s would understand) to spend time with a few co-worker’s at one of their weekend houses. Her place is situated just west of Grayling right on the Manistee River. This is the third year in a row that I’ve went and it’s always such a wonderful time.

Despite the fact that I work with these people day in and day out and that I do feel pretty close to them , every year I find myself initially hesitant to go. Part of it is because I’m extremely close with my husband and, although he understands the need for “girly time,” I hate to be doing fun things without him. The other part is that sometimes I think that I’m not as in touch with my “female ya-ya sisterhood” side as most women are.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I grew up as the only daughter in my family; the youngest of two with my brother being a couple years older than me. It was overall a sheltered environment; having been a first-generation Filipino-American and having gone through 12 years of Catholic school. Based on that bit of history, I feel many times that I grew up in two different worlds. There was the world of school; where most of my friends were caucasian and maybe never encountered another person of a different culture before. For example, I can recall being called “My Little Shogun” by one of my friend’s parents, as that Made-For-TV movie was quite popular when I was in grade school. How wrong is that? First of all, wrong ethnicity. Second of all, Shogun is typically reserved for a male military rank in the Japanese army. And being only 9 of 10 years of age at that time, how does one respond to that?

The other world was the Filipino Family and Friends world. These are the other Filipino kids that I’d hang out with whenever Filipino social events would be thrust upon us. They were probably the only other people that could relate to how it was like being the only “Asian” in our class, but none of them went to the same school as I did. Therefore, how could we fully support each other in social awkwardness if we didn’t even run in the same social circles outside of these Filipino events?

Having lived in the two separate worlds has made it difficult to get close to someone … anyone. I think maybe that’s the reason that I feel very guarded when meeting people for the first time. Heck, it’s probably the reason I don’t feel comfortable telling people my deepest darkest fears. It would’ve been nice though, to have that type of person growing up. To experience what it would be like to be really close to another female person. To experience some sort of sisterhood.

I’d say the closest I ever felt to feeling that sisterhood was growing up with my three female cousins (all sisters) in London, Ontario. There are many summers and holiday breaks that I can recall staying at each other’s houses for weeks at a time. During those times we would do just about everything together. But the older I got, the more difficult it was to maintain such a closeness. Life and distance just got in the way. We just couldn’t spend as much time together as we used to, especially once we graduated from high school. Now the only time we tend to talk to one another is at big family events like weddings. But whenever I see the three of them together, I can’t help but feel just a tad jealous that, despite their ages and the distance between them all, they still manage to remain close. They still manage to have that bond of sisterhood.

So it’s that lack of “sisterhood experience” that initally made me hesitant to head up north with my female co-workers. Would I be socially awkward in situations? Would I commit a social faux pas? Would I snore too loudly or make other embarrassing sounds of bodily function? And because I’ve been emotionally bursting at the seams for the past few years, would one conversation about how infertility has affected my life throw me into embarrassing sobs?

Well, it turns out I did turn into a blubbering idiot that weekend. And even though I was initially embarrassed by my uncontrollable sobs or my rants and raves about work issues, I eventually felt more and more relaxed around them. I think there will always be a part of me that feels that I missed out on the female-bonding experience, especially while growing up. However, making that trip “up north” and talking to these girls has made me feel more aware that I do have them opportunity to experience sisterhood … I just got to take that leap.

To see more photos of the weekend, click below:

Girl’s Weekend

Erasu(red)

The last time I saw Erasure was my senior year in high school. I can remember that entire day clearly. It was unfortunately the night after my Godmother (Ninang) past away. I hadn’t cried yet; I was still in denial. I was close to her, and particularly her son who was the same age as I was. During her sickness (she died of ovarian cancer), we spent a lot of time with her and those people that were close to her. After all, these were the Filipino families that I spent most of my childhood growing up with. It certainly helped they were the families that my parents would spend their weekends either playing in bowling leagues or otherwise gambling through the night playing mahjong. Us kids would spend those long nights either playing in the arcade room at the bowling alley or entertaining ourselves by playing board games, listening to records (yes, records), or even making random prank phone calls a la-Bart Simpson-style. So when we finally got the news of my Godmother’s passing, I didn’t know how to feel. This was, after all, the first time I had experience the death of someone really close to me.

Since I was a senior in high school (and therefore “old enough to make my own decisions”), I had every intention of still going to the Erasure concert as I had already paid for the ticket, and let’s face it … I knew every single word of their songs. My Mom, however, had other ideas. She felt that I owed it to my “God-brother” and Ninong (Godfather) to be there with them. That feeling of being torn between responsibility and escape was ultimately what broke me down into tears over my Ninang’s death.

I can clearly remember secluding myself in my bedroom closet and crying. At first it was over the argument that my mom and I had. Then it was about feeling guilty about letting my “Godbrother” and Ninong down. And finally it was about the loss I felt over my Ninang’s death. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stop crying, why I suddenly felt so alone and so lost for any other emotion other than sadness. I must have stayed in my bedroom closet for what seemed like hours just crying and eventually napping on and off. Ultimately (and I’m not sure if she just felt bad for me), my Mom let me make the decision as to what I wanted to do. And well, as you already know from the first line of this entry, I chose to go to the concert.

I have a feeling my Ninang was looking after me that night. It’s as if she knew I needed the distraction of this concert to let me experience a little bit of happiness in the coming days. My friends had picked me up in the midst of what ended up being one of the biggest snow-storms that year. We ultimately made it to the Masonic Temple in Detroit (after our friend made quite a few unintentional 180-degree spinouts along the freeway) over an hour later than when the concert should have started. Lucky for us, Erasure also just arrived and still had to get the stage set up. An hour after arriving, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell treated us to a great performance, allowing me to forget for a moment how sad I was actually feeling inside. I sang my little heart out that night and was able to laugh at all the silly flamboyant outfits that Andy Bell would put on. And afterwards, as we made our way to Greektown for a late-night Pizzapapalis fix, my friends and I recounted all the adventures that we had that night. I didn’t end up getting home until after 2 am that night; well past my curfew. But the next morning, nothing was said. Again, I’d like to think that my Ninang had something to do with that as well.

Now, why am I recounting such a memory at this time? Well, it’s because this past Tuesday I had the opportunity to see Erasure again, more than 17 years since that winter evening back in high school. Come to think of it now, I’m more than twice the age I was back during that initial concert. (Yikes!) It’s also brought back memories of singing and harmonizing to Erasure songs on road trips to Chicago. And it brings back yet another memory of driving to Ann Arbor in the midst of another snowstorm just to visit hubby in college.

Anyway, the concert this past week was such a great time. It gave me the opportunity to sing all the classic Erasure songs that I used to harmonize back in high school and dance that “old-skool new-wave sway.” It’s also given me an opportunity to think of my Ninang again and remember her fondly … the way I do every time I sing one of their songs.

Click on album below to view more pictures from the concert:

Erasure Concert

Harry Potter Mania

Okay, I fully admit it. I love Harry Potter. No, not in that sick sense where I would have a crush on a fictional character (although ask me later about my unhealthy obsession over Captain Jack Sparrow – aka Johnny Depp), but in the sense that I love the series of books by JK Rowling.

I have been an avid reader all my life. I thank my parents, particularly my mom, for this habit. I remember both my parents reading to my brother and me when we were little; always bedtime stories. Later, it would be the weekly Saturday trip to the local library where, every summer until high school, I would take part in their summer reading program. I can remember being dragged to the mall (before I liked to go shopping) and begging my parents to leave me at the bookstore (B. Dalton’s, remember them?) so I could read books while my mom or dad went shopping. I would spend my allowance on books and, eventually when I got my first job (babysitting), I would spend my earnings on books as well.

One of my earliest and fondest childhood memories was making my mom read “Fox in Socks” by Dr. Seuss. If you have ever read that book, it is quite the tongue-twister of a book. The little devil on my shoulder used to make my mom read it faster and faster each time, which would inevitably make her mix up her words. I fully appreciate the fact that she humored me now, as the last time I read the book was to my nephew on one of his sleepovers at our house quite a few years back. It was that same exact book, tattered and masking-taped together, that I read while he was cuddled up to me in bed. I love that book as much as I love the memories it invokes.

Why do I love reading so much? I am an admitted and full-fledged daydreamer. I have, what my parents probably said to me over and over again while growing up, an “overactive imagination.” I love reading stories and “seeing” in my mind the scene that is described to me in words or imagining exactly how a conversation occurs in the context of the book. I love the way a good book evokes a range of emotions, from angry to sad to happy to surprised and of being able to go through those emotions with every turn of a page. And when that last page is turned, I love the satisfaction of closing the back cover of the book and taking in the whole story while going through my mind what I loved (or hated — or both) about it.

Now, I love movies as well. However, if given the choice of movies and books, I’d probably choose to read. While I fully appreciate the art behind storytelling in making movies, there is still nothing like imagining it in my head. That’s why whenever I’ve seen a movie that’s been adapted from a book, I will always (okay, nine times out of ten) will inevitably say “The book was MUCH better than the movie!” There are just some things, like plays on words or abstract descriptions, that just can’t be translated literally into a film. And that is one of the things (if not, THE biggest thing) that I enjoy about reading.

Hubby and I started reading Harry Potter in 2000 at the recommendation of an older co-worker, who just happened to work in the Michigan Film Office. She knew that the two of us enjoyed reading and told us that the writing and the universe created in the series was really good. When hubby told me about her suggestion, my first thought was, “A children’s book? Why she would recommend a children’s book?” Nevertheless, we picked up a copy of the first book at the local Border’s store and, while driving around on an errand one Saturday, hubby opened to the first page (I was driving, by the way) and read aloud:

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

I was hooked. We spent the rest of the weekend reading the book aloud; each reading a chapter at each turn. Both of us chuckled whenever we were described something particularly funny, excited when we read about the first quidditch game, sad whenever we were told about Harry’s parents, and incredibly amazed by the turn of events towards the end of the book. We went on to read the next book and part of the third book together.

Being the impatient one in the relationship, I went ahead and read book four that was just published that year in 2000. With the following books, I forced hubby to stand in line with me to get them on the days they were released (July 2003 in Border’s in Chicago and July 2005 at Meijer’s in Rochester Hills). After watching the “Goblet of Fire” movie in November 2005 (book five), hubby finally went back to reading the series; partly because we enjoyed to movie so much, but also because other (younger) cousins and I kept driving him insane about the the ending of book six and speculations about what would happen in book seven which was to be the last book in the series.

So it was this past Friday that we found ourselves once again in line (at Meijer’s in Royal Oak) before midnight to pick up “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Part of me wanted to rush home after purchasing the book and stay up all night reading as much as I can. The other part of me didn’t want to start it, because I just didn’t want to face the end of the series I’ve grown to love so much. Ultimately it was the third part of me that won out in the end: The one that was too frickin’ tired to stay up after having had such a long day. (Hey, I’m no longer that spring chicken that can stay up all night … I need my “beauty” sleep, after all.)

Instead it was the next morning that hubby opened up the book and again read me that first line:

“The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”

And once again, I’m hooked. And as we are both now caught up with the Harry Potter series, we’re reading this book aloud. In many ways, reading it to each other invokes those same memories I have of constantly reading while I was growing up. To me, it’s such a fitting way to end the story of Harry Potter, a boy who is now all grown up, in the same way we began reading his story. Together.

Portland, OR Trip

So hubby and I took a trip out west over the Fourth of July weekend. Our friend, Rich who had moved out there last year, got married on that Friday after the 4th, which just happened to coincide with my birthday. Let me tell you, it was an awesome birthday for me!

First of all, we flew out on Wednesday, which was the actual holiday day. We pretty much assumed would be a hectic traveling day, but it truly wasn’t. In fact, the airports were just about empty and all the staff (including those pesky security officers) was friendly. Literally, nothing could have gone smoother.

Once we landed in Portland, we hopped into our rental car and headed east towards Hood River, where Rich lives. We were given specific instructions to take the historic scenic highway in order to appreciate all the beauty of the Columbia Gorge.

Now, being from the Detroit area, everything is pretty much flatlands. Strip malls, gas stations, and concrete. The further away from the city, you’ll see farmlands and beautiful greenery, but it’s still primarily flatlands (unless you travel further north). So to look out your window and be consumed by all this lush greenery and (gasp!) mountains, you can’t help but be in awe.

(Side bar: I kept teasing Rich whenever he told us he just lived “uphill” from downtown Hood River, that nothing is just uphill around here. Everything is “up-mountain.”)

But back to the scenic highway route. After taking Exit 22 off of I-84, we headed “uphill” toward Vista House, which is an art-deco building literally perched on top of a cliff. From that view, you can see almost endlessly down the gorge in either direction.

Continuing to head east on the historic highway, we ended up at our first waterfall, LaTourell. You easily can see the falls off of the road, but by taking a short walk down the path, you can actually get a better, up close view the fall. Hubby and I were daring enough to step right up to the falls. Let me tell you, it was 90+ degrees outside, but the closer you got the the falls, the force of the falls and the mist made it feel like it was in the 50’s!

Next stop on our trip was Wahkeena Falls. From the road, you could some nice shots of the bottom of the falls where it cascades down onto some rocks. However, the half-mile trek up to the bridge provides you with some other spectacular views of the falls.

Once again, hubby and I were daring enough to get up as close as we could to the falls. In fact, if you travel on the right side of the falls, you’ll eventually stumble onto a shallow cave where you can get a unique view of the falls.

Our last stop on our scenic journey to Hood River was at Multnomah Falls; which I just found out is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the US at 620 ft in height (for those geeks like me that are interested, Yosemite Falls is the tallest).

Legend has it that a Native American tribe was infected with a deadly disease and was in danger of dying. The daughter of the chief went to the top of a cliff and was told by a Great Spirit that to stop the epidemic, she would have to throw herself off the cliff and sacrifice herself. She did this and died. The chief wept bitterly and cried out to the Great Spirit to give him a sign if this sacrifice was not in vain. At that moment, water began to fall from the top of the cliff, forming Multnomah Falls. The legend also says that under the right conditions, you can see the daughter’s face in the waterfall. In fact, we were able to see a printed picture of her face in the falls. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to capture her image on our camera, nor were we able to spot her face.

After that, we made our way to Hood River and checked into our hotel. After a quick dinner, we headed to the downtown area to meet Rich and other out-of-town guests at a local pub where we were able to enjoy the Hood River fireworks out in the parking lot. It was quite a long traveling day, but certainly beautiful and calming … a great way to have started off our vacation.

The next day, hubby and I headed back to Portland to check out it’s downtown area. This was the first of three consecutive days of us checking out Portland. It’s such a nice downtown area, especially the Pearl District where most of the cool shops are. In that area, hubby and I found what we would call heaven … Powell’s City of Books, the largest used and new bookstore in the world, which occupies an entire city block and is divided into nine color-coded rooms that houses over 3,500 different sections. I swear, we could just live there … especially since there’s an in-store café to provide us sustenance. Now, if we could only find a shower … Needless to say, we hit that store two of the three days we headed downtown.

Other cool things we checked out down there was the the Pioneer Place mall (where we got our first glimpse of the iPhone. Sigh …), the only Doc Martens retail store in the country, and Platinum Records (where hubby finally got new DJ headphones and some hard-to-find Buzzin’ Fly vinyl).

While getting lost trying to find Platinum Records, we happened to stumble on the Portland Street Market. Finding little jewels like that is just so much fun. Oh, and we ate at a Todai restaurant (which, for some reason, we always seem to find in any major city we’ve traveled to lately. Why, oh, why won’t they open one in Detroit?!). We met a really cool Filipina waitress there and got to talking about the area. In fact, every place we went to downtown, the people were always nice and friendly.

Oh, and did I fail to mention? No sales tax in Portland. That made for easy (not to mention, fun) shopping! So, really, what I’m saying here kids, is that downtown Portland is a fun place to be.

Another one of our days was spent making the trek to the Pacific coast. From Hood River, the coast is about 2.5 hours away. For those of you that know me, getting to put my feet in the sand of any major body of water is a must. It’s definitely the Cancer in me that loves the water.

Anyway, everyone we talked to recommended heading to Cannon Beach which is just south of Astoria, OR. As I continued to look at the map along the way, I kept thinking that Astoria, OR was significant in some movie or another but I couldn’t remember exactly which movie. And then we stepped onto the beach. I took one look at the rock formation off of the coast called “Haystack Rock” and said one word to hubby: “Goonies!” Yep, one of my favorite movies of all times was filmed both on that beach and in Astoria, OR. That was definitely a thrill for me.

But seriously, the real reason we were in Portland, OR was for Rich and Melissa’s wedding. All the festivities leading up to the wedding were so much fun. First of all, there was the above-mentioned fireworks. Then the next day was the rehearsal dinner at the Cathedral Ridge Winery. I’ve never seen grapevines up close before so that was definitely a thrill. Not to mention the beautiful landscape with Mt. Hood as the backdrop. Oh, and the later it got, the louder the frogs became (think “Bud-Weis-Er”). It was actually quite fun watching the “boys” trying to catch frogs and then show them to the “girls.” I’m such a tomboy, that unlike the other “girls” I was actually excited to see the cute little green creatures.

And finally, the wedding itself was beautiful. Set inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, it was just awesome to see one of our closest friends (who we thought might never get married) say “I do” to such a great person. One great highlight of the ceremony was hearing Sinead O’Conner’s voice (a recording, of course … not the real Sinead) singing “Make Me A Channel of Your Peace.” I just can’t seem to get the image of her tearing up a picture of the Pope in that famous Saturday Night Live episode. Another highlight was after the mass when the bridal car, Rich’s prized (and I mean PRIZED) Audi TT, pulled up and it was decked out in “Just Married” decorations. If I only had my camera handy to catch his appalled look.

The reception was in the ballroom and on the patio at the beautiful Columbia Gorge Hotel, which is set on a cliff overlooking the Columbia River. Everything about the reception was wonderful; the food, the music, the company. As Rich was friends with hubby back in high school and college, it was fun for me to get to know some of hubby’s classmates and to visit with some friends and family that we hadn’t seen in a very long time. Rich even “DJ’d” his own reception (read: iTunes playlist). Despite all of us harassing him about the “last minute” nature of putting everything together (including a slideshow of pictures to go along with the first dance, father/daughter and mother/son dance as well as ones of a bunch of friends and family that continuously played throughout the night), Rich did an excellent job. My favorites were definitely the instrumental Pixies and Duran Duran songs he played during dinner. That, and all the excellent 80’s songs we danced to most of the evening. Oh, and those mojitos, too! I have to say, Rich and Melissa threw an incredible party!

Unfortunately, I don’t have too many pictures from the wedding as I relied on hubby’s better digital cam to take the shots. And, well hubby won’t be letting me post them any time soon until the graphic designer in him touches up all the photos. Grrr …

So, after 5 days of nonstop fun, it was time for us to fly back to Detroit. I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me now to look outside and see flatlands once again. Perhaps one day (possibly in the near future?) we’ll move out west.

If you’d like to see more pics from our trip, click on the album below:

Dancing with the Stars

Okay, I have to admit it. I’m a sucker for any shows or movies that involve dancing. Dirty Dancing? Loved it. No one puts Baby in a corner. Hell, I even liked the bad sequel, Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. Bye Bye Birdie? Yup. Gotta love Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke. I even love the recent Gap commercial that’s on right now with Claire Danes and Patrick Wilson where they’re dancing to that Broadway Tune. And of course, my all time favorite, Strictly Ballroom. The list can go on and on. There’s just something about dancing that’s to romantic and so graceful and so controlled that I love.

So, it’s no suprise that I’m totally enjoying the Dancing With the Stars series. I’ve watched it on and off over the past few seasons, but watching the first two episodes of this season has already got me hooked. It certainly does help that it’s got “Cliff” from Cheers (John Ratzenberger), Heather Mills (ex-Mrs. Paul McCartney) with her prosthetic leg, and Apollo Ohno (yum). But seriously? It’s really about the dancing. I found myself smiling every time one of the contestants came out; transfixed on their movements. It looks like so much fun and yet so much work. I want to be able to do that someday.

Of course I’ve got two left feet (okay, the Filipina in me might have more like one and a quarter left feet – I have SOME rhythm, after all) so I’d never be Ballroom Competition-worthy. Also, there’s that “thing” about having to let the man take lead – I’m never good at giving up control. Yet, something about it just makes me want to put on those dance shoes (no, not them Doc Marten boots — this isn’t City Club, after all) and grab the hubby and have him lead me in a quick-step or a fox-trot.

I’ll never be Ginger Rogers, nor will my husband be Fred Astaire. But the feeling I have on the occasions where my husband does grab me and lead me in a slow dance around our living room (and I do relinquish that control) … it leaves my head spinning, my heart thumping, and my face smiling … just like it did tonite while watching Dancing With the Stars.