Girls Trip to Las Vegas

Well, we did it. A group of 40 year old gals, who have been friends for over two decades, made a voyage to Sin City (Las Vegas) for four days during the pandemic.We know this was a risky trip; the Delta variant has spread across the country and has become rampant in metropolitan places like Las Vegas. In fact, a week before the trip, we talked reconsidered going– analyzing the pros and cons of going on vacation during this time. In the end, we decided to move forward with our original plans, partly due to a financial investment we probably would never see again but also because it had been well over 1.5 years since we has seen each other, or even travelled together, and there was something about making a maiden voyage to the dessert that seemed alluring to our mental health. Days later we all packed our bags, boarded our separate flights and finally met at the time share. One after the other, with each arrival, we hugged, taking inventory of each other’s body, hair, face, realizing how much time had passed among us.

The trip was not your average one. We didn’t go to any clubs or pool parties. We didn’t attend any after hours or buffets. We tried to steer away from the usual party scene and stuck to our loose itinerary of lazy mornings, quick trips to get coffee, excursions in the water, and girl talk in the living room accompanied with Tito’s Vodka, fresh fruit and vegan oatmeal raisin cookies. With the exception of the kayaking trip, everything we did could have been easily been done at the comfort of our homes. We really didn’t need to be in Vegas to do any of the simple activities we participated it. But it was the idea of being together that you couldn’t put a price on.

I don’t know when we’ll be together again. Who knows if it’ll be next week, next month, next year? Maybe we’ll meet again in Las Vegas or maybe we’ll head to the ocean. What ever the destination, I’ll be thankful for the company. Even if it’s sitting in the living room of a fancy hotel and doing absolutely nothing but talking.

What is a healthy marriage?

I read or possibly heard somewhere that every marriage can define their own rules. Since no one was given a handbook or given the wisdom and secrets to a healthy marriage, it’s safe to assume that no one has the perfect or flawless situation. I believe the pandemic, sheltering at home, living on top of each other has exasperated this idea even more. Some say that having time apart is natural and is a healthy way to maintain, rekindle, ignite the spark. Others argue that time away is dangerous- that sooner or later you’ll get accustomed to the distance and will remain distant. I don’t know which argument is true, but my hubby and I are currently trying it.

In the past, we had time apart for legitimate reasons- work, family, emergency. It was never by preference. We always preferred, wanted, to come home, nightly to each other. If hubby had to travel for work, I requested that he take the flight right after work, not the next morning. If I had to visit family, I would make sure to come home, never extending my stay more than I needed to. We always had a purpose for being apart, and we knew that the time away from one another was harder on the person staying home, so we never tried to make it worse.

Over the weekend, the word “space” was brought up and we decided to take action and plan for space this week. The arrangement I proposed was that I would stay home this week and hubby can stay at his parents’ house for a few days. Next week will be my turn. I will stay at my parents’ house while hubby stays home.

What will I do at home alone for a few days?

Nothing grandiose. I do like the idea of stillness and quietness. Having the TV on less. Reading more.

I don’t know how long this arrangement will last. Who knows if we will even enjoy it. But I think it’s worth exploring, even if it seems strange to other people. I’m not excited or sad about the temporary situation. I’m curious and hopeful that every couple can decide, together, what is best for them.

Valentine’s Weekend

My husband and I usually don’t participate in celebrating Valentine’s Day the traditional way. But we do like to keep up with our traditions, namely because it gives us something to look forward to the beginning of the year. Over the years, January has been a difficult month because a lot of people we love have passed away this time of the year. In February, we like to reflect on life and appreciate our blessings. On Valentine’s Day we honor our traditional love languages: we gift each other with food and things that we think will make us stronger- individually and together. This year I asked my hubby to join me on a hike, even though I know this is not the kind of activity he prefers. He often complains and makes excuses like his ankles hurt or that his fingers hurt. But this weekend, he joined me on a hike and what was more thoughtful was that he didn’t hesitate. He understands that my love language isn’t material things but offering support. In turn, I gifted my husband a pair of ipods. I know this is isn’t the most romantic gift, but I know my hubby is looking for motivation to jump rope consistently, and I know music helps him achieve this, so it was worth the investment.

After the hike, we drove to Oakland and picked up a combo meal from Vegan Mob.

I know this isn’t’ the typical way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or maybe it is. What ever the case, happy Valentine’s Day, no matter if you celebrate it or how you celebrate it. Continue to do the things that are meaningful for you, every day.

Christmas at the Grand Canyon // Blogmas #17

Most people tend to visit the majestic Grand Canyon during the summer- where the vast views are unobstructive by snow and rain. Yet, my family decided to visit during winter. The drawback was that many trails and activities were closed and cancelled due to the weather; however, we were able to visit one of the most renowned wonders of the world in such an intimate and unique way. It was like we had the entire park to ourselves.

Lake Tahoe Christmas // Blogmas #19

Yesterday, I wrote about a trip my husband took to Iceland for Christmas. Today, I want to honor my family’s annual trip to the snow- Lake Tahoe.

We live in the Bay Area in California, so we tend to only experience the typical Cali weather, never snow. But if we drive north for about 3 hours, we see snow in South Lake Tahoe.

My mom’s birthday is in early December, so we’ve made it a tradition to drive to Lake Tahoe for a snowy Christmas.

Ironically, since we’ve gone, it seems like every year, we have family from the Philippines as our guests. Two years ago it was my uncle and aunt who had just moved from the Philippines for about 3 months. Last year, our guests was Mel’s cousin who was visiting from Pasig. To see our guests see and experience snow for the first time was definitely a memorable and lasting memory.

In the excitement, we ran out the rented house barely properly dressed just so we could get pictures of snow actually falling.

Iceland for Christmas // Blogmas # 15

A few years ago, for my husband’s birthday, we went to Iceland for two celebrations- his birthday and for Christmas. It was definitely a trip to remember. If you told 5 year old, 15 year old, 25 year old or even 35 year old me that one day I’d be able to visit Iceland, I would have told you – you’re kidding right? I never imagined an Island and Cali girl like myself would visit a country where the sun rises past noon and there’s only about 5 hours of sunlight during the winter. Not only that, but traveling to Iceland is a commitment. We had to fly to NYC then Iceland, roughly 10 hours of travel time. I don’t do well on planes, so this was especially difficult for me,

But once we arrived in Iceland, any qualms I had about the cold, dissipated. The warmth of the Icelandic culture, people and majestic beauty the country offered were utterly alluring.

I will definitely write a longer post that is dedicated to all the things we did. But for now enjoy this picture montage.

Christmas house in the Philippines// Blogmas #14

Yesterday, I posted about a vlog I discovered about a couple of foreigners who were celebrating Christmas in the Philippines. That post got me thinking about Christmases I spent in the Philippines. Thankfully, after my family moved from the Philippines to the United States, we visited as often as we could. My most recent visit was in 2016- for my wedding, but before that was 2014- for Christmas.

It was a wild memory! My parents had just built their house and the furniture that was supposed to be delivered hadn’t arrived yet. According to the shipping company, my parents’ delivery was still at the port. Because there was a backup, there would be no way for them to unload the container until next year. In the meantime, my husband and I were sleeping on an air mattress and the entire family ate in the “dirty kitchen” a term in the Philippines that described the outdoor or separate kitchen where most of the cooking occured because of the smoke and smell. As we approached Christmas Eve my mom was devastated because we were supposed to have a family party, but we had no furniture for the guests.

Then a Christmas miracle happened. As we were eating at a restaurant in Tagaytay, we received a call that the shipping container was on the way. It would arrive in a few hours– about 9:00 PM, on Christmas Eve.

We worked collectively to unload, unpack and move in the furniture for a 5 bedroom house. We unpacked and installed TVs, patio furniture, beds and dressers. I don’t know how we all pulled it off; it was definitely a group effort, and it will be a memory we’ll all share together.

Check out the video here.. the video moving part starts on 5:11

My Christmas tree is not pinterest worthy

My Christmas tree is not pinterest worthy. It doesn’t have a color coordinated theme or have big cascading ribbons running down it or have vintage ornaments or glass glittered balls. Yet my tree is still very special.

A few years ago my husband and I started the tradition of collecting tree ornaments for all the places we visited. So far we have over 30 pieces which include memories from New York Public Library, Iceland, South Africa, the Oregon Shakespearean festival and even the State capital– Sacramento. However, the most special ornament is the personalized pineapple we purchased in Hawaii. I remember the trip vividly because it was the first time I had visited Hawaii in over 15 years and we were celebrating our two years of marriage. It was 2018 and I had just started a new job, my sister was about 7 months pregnant, and I was planning her baby shower, and Mel and I had just moved into our new condo in South San Francisco. There were many reasons to celebrate that particular year. I can recall all the dishes, places and beaches we enjoyed during that trip in Hawaii, yet every year, when I take out all my Christmas tree ornaments, it the pineapple ornament I enjoy unwrapping and hanging first. I also make sure that I place it in the front center of the tree, eye level to the couch so that when I’m watching TV or relaxing in our living room, it’s within my visual reach with an unobstructed view. Sure, throughout the year, I have the advantage of looking at my digital photos on my phone and reminiscing about our memorable trip, but there’s something about the tradition of holding the ceramic piece in my hand and running my fingers on the scripted engraving and rubbing the smooth edges of the pineapple green leaves and yellow skin that take me back to paradise.

Camping in COVID

On Saturday, my siblings, partners and friends went to Kirby Cove to camp for one night. I haven’t camped in about four years, and never with my siblings or with this group of people so naturally, I was a little anxious about how the experience would be since this was going to be a new surrounding, a new set of people to interact with and new restrictions that would complicate the experience. 

No fire: Because of the recent fires, there was a state mandate that didn’t allow open flames. This meant that we would have to camp with no campfire, which meant no wood, no s’mores, no huddling around the fire with hot chocolate. One of the reasons why so many people are fond of camping in the first place is because of this experience. No fire obviously also meant no cooking and no warmth.

Primitive bathroom: There was no place to shower and the bathroom consisted of a hole in the ground in a very murky, smelly and fly laden public restroom. There was no running water, so campers had to bring their own supply of water and hand soap. 

COVID and physical distancing: California is still experiencing aspects of sheltering in place. While many businesses are opening up, with safety precautions, health officials are still encouraging people to physically distance with face coverings. How would this look while we were camping? Would it be possible to relax in the company of potentially infected people as we spent time together enjoying the outdoors?

Even though we were only camping for one night, we had to consider these implications because they would affect the way we spent the next 24 hours. In the end, we did what many seasoned campers did: make it work. We ate food the didn’t need much preparation like granola bars, crackers, sandwiches and later in the night when we saw other campers lighting fires, we did the same. We ate bowls of ramen and mac and cheese. Someone even brought bags of MREs. My brother managed to make us s’mores to go along with our wine. The weekend wasn’t the most gourmet, and we definitely got our fill of sodium, but the pleasure of eating simply and meaningfully despite the fire restriction made every bite of food more savory and sweet. 

Having decent amenities in a public restroom are ideal, especially when it’s dark, cold and you’re tired. The last thing anyone wants to do is struggle with is the smell and sanitation of the “toilet”. I wish there was an upside to the primitive bathroom at Kirby Cove, but I’m finding it very difficult to write one, let alone think of one. 

The physical distancing was challenging. We were outdoors, in the fresh air, so we definitely felt more relaxed. Although we didn’t hug or sit next to each other closely, the experience still felt intimate. We had the best campsite in the park, and it was very exclusive from the other areas. We had an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and we were away from the noise and heavy foot traffic. We had enough areas for people to retreat for alone time and other places for people to join in a conversation. Again, under other circumstances we probably would have played games, shared drinks, even hugged, but because of the present situation we had to do without what felt natural while camping. Still, we didn’t walk away from Kirby Cove with negative experiences; in fact, we’re already planning the next trip. Bathrooms and fires or not, we’ll be ready for whatever comes. 

We know there are more experienced campers who thrive and manage off much less conditions, and while I playfully referred to us a seasoned, we obviously are not, not even close. But for a day, eating out of bags of dry food, squatting with hungry buzzing flies and sleeping out doors with the private view of the most beautiful landmarks of mother nature, we surely felt seasoned.

Parents in the Philippines and COVID

In about a month, my parents will make the long 13 hour flight from Manila, Philippines to San Francisco, CA. They have been in the Philippines since December. They were supposed to return in May, but due to COVID they had to extend their stay. Because of the health precautions, Philippine airlines suspended all their flights to and from San Francisco. The health risks of flying in a plane is still high, and because both my parents and seniors and are health compromised, I know that the flight home has several risks. 

Even if the airline enforces masks and physical distance, these precautions don’t guarantee that it will be safe. Passengers will still be breathing recycled air, and people will need to take off their masks to eat. 

It was a difficult decision for my parents, one that they didn’t make lightly. My parents asked me if it was a good idea, and as much as I wanted to say “no” , I knew it was ultimately their decision. My parents want to come home. They miss their children and their only grandchild, Aiza. They want to be close to us after living far apart, halfway across the world, for eight months, the longest we’ve been apart. 

I used to have very judgmental opinions about people who traveled in the time of COVID. I wondered what was so important that people needed to fly. Yes there are folks who travel for recreational reasons, which is fine for some and unacceptable for others. In the case of my parents, who have been inside for 8 months with no sign of COVID, they simply want to come back home to see me and my siblings. How could I say no?

Top 5 literary landmarks in SF

It was day ____ (I’ve lost count) of sheltering in place in San Francisco, but today was also my birthday. To take advantage of the empty streets and zero traffic, my hubby took me to five literary landmarks in SF. Some were revisits, but it was great to visit a few new places. 

Here they are in the order we visited them: 

  1. John Steinbeck’s apartment  ( 1901 Vallejo Street)

 

 

2) Robert Frost Plaza (1 California Street

 

 

3) Jack Kerouac Alley and City Lights Book Store (Grant and Columbus avenue)

 

 

 

4)  Waverly place (China town in SF)

 

 

5) Maya Angelou’s high school  (George Washington High School 600 32nd Ave)

 

 

Beach, please.

Along the foamy shore, I sink my bare feet in the moist land. Clumps of grainy sand stick between my toes. I avoid the earthy broken shells and black and white feathers sprinkled throughout the path. A red plastic bucket with a yellow handle floats in the white and grey water. Seagulls flap their loose wings but dip with wings as straight as the cross in the choppy ocean. My ear is pressed against the opening of a conch shell, a thunderstorm brewing inside.