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Archive for March, 2009

It could be an adventure

It could be an adventure. It could be a disaster. I believe everything will turn out alright. I hope and pray. My prayer today is: “Deliver us from evil.”

So the rest of the day unfolds under God’s watchful eye.

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My son's latest poem

Red

by John Michael Bell

The current that binds us all
runs through a million little
wires, coursing through the earth.

So many lifetimes drift like falling snow,
a vast and blinding blanket of memories,
enmeshed together in a gentle glow
of whirling thoughts caught in the breeze.

They all are linked, though none can see
that force that keeps them bound together.
An invisible fount of energy
intrinsic to the fabric of the air.

We descend, blissfully oblivious
to the splendid serendipity of
humanity, those unseen cords that tie us,
as we fall, to fleeting visions above.

So on we pulse, each on our own, as one,
on a path invisible from where it has begun.

********

Read Full Post »

My son’s latest poem

Red

by John Michael Bell

The current that binds us all
runs through a million little
wires, coursing through the earth.

So many lifetimes drift like falling snow,
a vast and blinding blanket of memories,
enmeshed together in a gentle glow
of whirling thoughts caught in the breeze.

They all are linked, though none can see
that force that keeps them bound together.
An invisible fount of energy
intrinsic to the fabric of the air.

We descend, blissfully oblivious
to the splendid serendipity of
humanity, those unseen cords that tie us,
as we fall, to fleeting visions above.

So on we pulse, each on our own, as one,
on a path invisible from where it has begun.

********

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Begin Here

A door. A French door. A French door with panels of textured glass. Front steps leading to the French door. Cement steps, polished to smoothness leading to a short terrace that led to the French door. Smooth tile, cool to bare feet, marking the space between the steps and the door. The smell of cool air, and moss, and pine.

The sun was bright, but the porch was cool. Sitting on the steps I could watch the whole world go by. Across the street was the Main Gate of Camp John Hay. All day long, vehicles would pause going in to the base, and the guard would wave them in.

In front of the house, on Loakan Road, Peterbuilt trucks would rumble by. Buses from the mines, Antamoc and Balatoc, and the military academy would go by the house. There was a lot to look at, as a child. And when the road was quiet, there was a blue sky and puffy clouds sailing by.

In Baguio, in that Baguio, the days were long and the air was clean.

On school days, a jeep owned and driven by Mr. Hernandez would pass by the house to bring us to school. School was St. Theresa’s College on Navy Road. As the jeep with open sides would sail to school, I could feel the cool air and enjoy the ride. Sometimes we would go on South Drive, and the New England style houses would look at us from the windows that were like eyes. I would wonder about the people who lived there. Many of the houses were vacant, because they were summer homes.

Once at school, the daily drumming of leather shoes on tiled corridors. Again, the pine trees surrounding us, shone with their own light. The lilt of my classmates voices, their dear faces, are what I remember. We were just girls then. In those days, the hours were marked by subjects. It was strict, but not oppressive. There was a certain gaiety to the school, the mother superior was sweet and kind. We had uniforms, with a vest and a white turtleneck, knee socks and a school pin.

The pin had the seal of the Carmelites of Avila, though the school was run by a Belgian order.

Every day, I would try to go to the chapel and visit. There was a large statue of St. Therese of Lisieux on the landing going into the chapel. The chapel had the Blessed Sacrament reserved, and there was usually a student or two kneeling in prayer.

On the way out of the chapel, a right turn would lead to the corridor that ended with the music rooms. I could hear the pianos going. In one of the rooms, Mother Modesta, an ancient Belgian nun, taught her fifth decade of piano pupils. She taught my mother and my aunt in their day.

So there we were, in the city where my grandfather made his home. I was living in the house that he built, going to school every day amongst religious who taught my mother, and sitting amongst girls whose parents had been childhood friends of my mother and aunts and uncles.

And this was my everyday.

At the end of the school day, I would talk for hours to my friends, while we all waited for our rides to carry us to Loakan Road and beyond. In these hours of chatting, in these years of storytelling, we forged deep bonds which remain strong today.

Finally Mr. Hernandez would arrive. He would often speak of “peacetime”, that time before World War II. He would talk about his American teachers, and how he hoped his son would join the US Navy.

When he pulled into the driveway, the steps would be there. Clicking up the steps and bursting into the house was a ritual that went for years. The floors would be shiny and smell of floor wax. The table would be set. I remember the smell of adobo, because that was my favorite. I would go to my bedroom and change out of my uniform. Sometimes I would climb into bed and read because it was so cozy. Then the dinner bell would be rung. (I ring that same dinner bell now.)

The windows facing the mountains would capture the splendid show of a Cordillera sunset. All around us, the noise of a family dinner. I would often be riveted by the play of colors outside the window. This was a world I thought would go on forever, as most small town people do.

I had no burning desire to leave. To repeat the day again, was enough for me.casablanca29

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Writing and Baking and Life

Today’s blog entry takes place in a noisy house. My husband is out all day at meetings, and very cheerfully so, because as you know we are in a tanked economy. The cheerful will prevail, as they seek every opportunity with thankfulness, and in the case of my husband, armed with faith and joyful hope. God Bless everyone who has to bring home the bacon.

This house is noisy, even though I have only three children around. The daily routine of chasing the cats and the cats misbehavior, the dog’s neediness make up the ongoing narrative. Around that there is homeschooling and cooking and drawing and laughing and singing.

Writing comes before the thousand things. I have to sit here and do it, if I didn’t, the thousand things would present themselves. All day long they would call my name. From the time I wake up, to the time I go to sleep, the day is busy with things that need my attention. The house needs to be run. The family needs to be managed. The children, even the college kids need to be listened to. There is a business to assist with. Then, there are endless closets to be organized, and drawers of family archeology. There is a basement and an attic and a garage filled to bursting with things-that-cannot-be-tossed.

There are books that call to be read, and housework that is strangely soothing (I did the kitchen floor yesterday). There are meals to be cooked and groceries to be bought and sorted. There are things to bake and songs to listen to. There are friends to talk to and news to hear. There is a garden to plan.

We are waiting for spring’s warmth. The past two days have been bitterly cold. The sun is bright, but the wind is blasting. It’s nice to be inside the house.

My oldest texts from NYC that she has received my youngest’s chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Hillary Clinton’s famous comment about cookies makes me consider my own path to being a mother of bakers.

When I was a child in Baguio, a famous cake decorator came to live with us. We had a very large house with different levels that could close off with doors. These different parts of the house could be rented for extra income. Yes, the house had many kitchens. Probably seven in all. It was a very interesting dwelling indeed.

In that interesting season, D., the baker came to stay. He was seeking refuge after a terrible family tragedy. His son had committed suicide in a drug induced state. D. was heartbroken and couldn’t think. So he headed to Baguio, to stay with us. At the time we also had Mrs. M, who was an expert seamstress. They both gave lessons in baking and pattern drafting.

As a gesture to help them out, my mother asked us to take lessons too. That way, they wouldn’t feel so beholden. At any rate, it made for really colorful dinner table conversations. It was a unique life.

D taught bread and cake making. His specialty was cake decorating, and he could created towering lit cakes that looked like mini-Versailles. He also taught the art of the cinammon roll and the Philippine ensaimada. There was also sans rival, a nougat and nut torte with layers of sweetened butter. This was the stuff of fatness.

D’s masterpiece, for me, was the cinnamon roll. Oh, how he could roll that dough out and brush it with butter, sugar and cinnamon, all the while keeping up a conversation that entertained my teenage ears. Teens long to live in the world of grownups, and D was full of stories. He had fallen on hard times and had anecdotes about baking for the glitterati in Manila. Against the backdrop of the beautiful mountains and blue sky, the aroma of cinammon would fill the house. It’s a very nice memory, and one I pull out again and again.

In the same era, my mother perfected sardine making with an exotic recipe that had clove in it. There was home made pan de sal to eat with the spicy sardines. Then we would all take a big walk on Camp John Hay, which was across the street.

My older sister was also an expert baker. She kept us supplied with banana cream pies and lemon meringue pies.

Of course I would not be telling the truth if I didn’t mention once again, that this was all played out against the sleeping dragon of my father’s illness, bipolar disorder.

In those days I never thought that I would be blessed with the life I have. I wouldn’t have known how to get to it. Yet, God watched out for me and took care of me, and got me to this place.

When I became a mother, I made a simple cake, called a Busy-Day cake. It’s so easy to make, and my kids were always amazed by it. After that, I used boxed mixes and they were still amazed. Think of it, by this time, the kids had a great positive association with baking and me. It wasn’t D.’s Baguio magic, but it was magic all the same.

My oldest took up baking and my next daughter, AM, took over. She began churning out taste treats from scratch. Undaunted by complexity, she trained herself to become an expert baker. Then came my little girl who stepped up to the mixing bowl at eight. At ten, she’s a cookie master.

I can see the secret. The secret is keeping it happy, keeping it easy . We bake memories into life. I know when they look back, they will remember being happy in the kitchen with me. I’m not a tyrant, and I don’t care really, how things turns out. It’s all good.  Whether Busy Day cake, or Duncan Hines, or Martha Stewart’s scratch recipe, baking with the kids equals love.

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