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Thoughts on a Rainy Day

It has been humid for the past two days. So humid it seemed unbearable. Bud put the air conditioner into our room. I was hoping (why?) to make it through the summer with fans.

Oh the sweet relief of walking into a cool room! I go back in time to when I was a little girl, visiting my mother’s godparents in Manila. The Belmontes were such close friends of my grandparents, and they had such a unique and wonderful home.

There were ramps and rooms. Auntie Mameng had collections. Fans and dolls are the ones I remember. I slept in a cool, room with smooth sheets. The air conditioning made it a piece of heaven in the tropics.

We would sit on the screened in porch, on squishy cushioned rattan chairs. There were piles of magazine, National Geographic stands out.

Meal times had the lovely old-fashioned choreography of the time before the war. An immaculately set table, Uncle Tony at the head. Pleasant conversation. Smiling Auntie Mameng who was so warm and friendly. I was too young to appreciate the story of their family and mine.

There was a younger adopted daughter, who straddled the age between being addressed as an aunt, or as a cousin. I can’t remember her name.

A canopy of green surrounded the house, trees and shrubs. I wonder if the house is still standing?

I was seven or eight years old. My grandmother was still alive. I can’t remember why we went to Manila from Clark Air Force Base.

If only I had the words in those days to talk to them and ask them about their lives. The other good person in the family was Auntie Fe del Mundo. She was referred to as “our pediatrician”. When I grew up I realized how famous and revered she was.

Thank God I have an inquisitive mind and a good memory. Otherwise so much would be lost in the winds of time.

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Hello there

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Hello again. It has been a while. I haven’t been writing except for Facebook updates. It’s been quite the year! Last year in May 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Writing took a back seat.

When I heard the news I went through all the emotions but the biggest one that needed to be dealt with was FEAR. There is a lot of fear around cancer. I don’t do well with fear. I know what fear does to the brain. I didn’t want to be afraid.

So I dealt with it, and am DOING AMAZINGLY WELL. I feel healthier than I’ve ever felt in my life.

Then, my daughter announced her engagement so the family went into WEDDING MODE.

She and Matt got married and it was lovely and it was splendid and many times I felt like I was in the best, most beautiful movie. Their wedding will be a family treasure forever.

Still, I hardly wrote. People need to process big stuff and I went through some big stuff.

The worst was being scared on our anniversary last year, 2014. A very callous and stupid doctor laid a hex on me, which frightened me. Thanks to my NeuroPositive training, I knew that I needed to experience five good things to offset that setback. We had a great day, anyway. We had a wonderful anniversary anyway. I fired that doctor practice and prayed, truly prayed to be connected with a healer.

In a matter of days (God answered this prayer very quickly), I met Tom Tam of Tong Ren Healing (Google him and the positive reviews are true, the negative ones are from people who do not know him and who are posting from afar). I’ve been going to Tong Ren in person or online for more than a year now.

Cut to the essence (I am doing exceedingly, wonderfully well). The tumor has shrunk 90%, I have a wonderful new doctor in Boston (Harvard faculty, etc.etc).

I live a life in the moment with the choice every day to see the positive and to FEEL positive emotions. This is probably the sixth life changing event of my positive life. With that thought in mind, I am about to open my NeuroPositive Life Coach business. Stay tuned. I will post the website here.

My takeaway from this experience is cancer is not a scary term. Cancer is something big, but it does not mean a death sentence by any means. There are many more ways to heal than we know about. We can thrive under all circumstances. And, as my late father used to say, “Be careful of the pictures in your head.”

I say, listen to your internal narrative and change it. Then live according to the changed narrative.

As St. Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well”.

Signing off now, because it is time to buy ingredients for dinner.

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I’m writing this while Bud is sleeping. The kids went out and bought surprises and filled a card. He is very popular with his six children.

Bud’s day will start at 7:15 in the morning when he jumps up and gets ready to take our youngest, a high school junior, to school. Her opening time is 8 a.m. He will be back home at 8:15 and then he will make his coffee and turn on his computer and begin his magical method of spinning straw into gold.

Before he leaves the dog will jump up on my bed, and at 8:30 he will open the door and say, “Food?” and sixty pounds of yellow lab will leap off and clatter down the wooden steps.

By the time I go downstairs it will be pushing eleven. Healing is a lot of work! When I go into the kitchen, I will see a mug of coffee sitting on the counter. He thinks of me all the time and makes my easy life even easier.

I am very grateful for him. In fact words are practically useless to express the amount of love I have for him. It’s more than being a soul mate, he is just perfect for me.

When I first spoke to him at length in 1983, I noticed that his birthday was the day before what had been the most tragic and devastating day of my life. I noticed immediately that he was left handed, like me, and was born in San Diego, which was my family’s home. Click and click the little switches turned. Notice, Kathleen, notice. Here he is.

Leaning against the wall at Bookbinder’s in Philadelphia, I noticed. I thought that his birthday would defang, defuse, render neutral a day that was supposed to be a personal 9/11. How can I not believe in God when things like this happen to me?

The great thing about Bud, no – one of the many great things about Bud is that he is an educated gentleman. His language is clean (that is important to me). It matters not that it might have been different, but to those who know me, know I appreciate a curse free environment. His vocabulary is large and his command of English is perfect. (Another thing that it important to me). No matter how much our bank accounts may be holding, whether flush or flat, he is the same optimistic, upbeat person. He is a good person. I’m grateful for that.

Romance for young people can be a minefield. There can be secrets, treachery, and lies that break hearts. My heart has been safe since I married Bud. He has never kept a secret from me because he knows I can’t bear secrets.

His sons emulate his best traits, they are gentlemen too, and his daughters love him unabashedly. He loves my family, loves the Philippines, and loves the Catholic faith. His every thought is of me and our children and we are so lucky to have him.

So on this birthday, I want to wish him uncountable days of happiness with me (because I know that is what will make him happy). I wish him every good thing because he is Mr. Wonderful. We’ve been together since 1983, and it has passed in the blink of an eye.

He is proof of the grandest of second chances. In April of 1982, I had no idea that in a year, a mere year, I would meet the truest of loves.

For me, he is personal proof of the goodness of God, and of God’s plan for me. Here’s to decades more of life together with all it holds, more family members and many more adventures near and far.

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All the years of my life, this day has been first, my parents’ birthday and second, St. Patrick’s Day.

My parents were born on this day in 1931, Mama in the mountains of the Philippines, where her father was a mining engineer, Daddy on the old home place in Daisy, Georgia, where his father was a country doctor. They met in the Philippines when they were 23, he an Air Force lieutenant freshly stationed overseas, she an accomplished pianist just back from college in Minnesota.

At the start of their story, their birthday was the only thing they had in common – a single thread that would lead them on their great life adventure together.

When Daddy was a boy, he loved listening to the Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day, broadcast by the Savannah radio station. He named me after his two favorite songs, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” and “Kathleen Mavourneen.” He’d play those songs on the harmonica. The song he loved to sing the most, though, was “Danny Boy”.

We are going to listen to Irish music tonight. It’s 9 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m in front of the Kinsale Inn, in Mattapoisett, Mass. I’m here with my husband, Bud, and four of our six children. All of our daughters are with us tonight: Mercy, Ana-Maria, Seraphina, and Rosie. Our sons are at home playing video games.
I miss my parents. I spoke to my mother in California early today. My father died in 1993, today is their 77th birthday.

Walking up from the harbor one can hear the merriment. It’s St. Patrick’s Day among the Irish, those who claim them, and those who love them.

The Kinsale Inn is the oldest seaside inn the United States. It is now owned by transplanted Irish folks who have made a success of it with their distinct blend of fun, coziness, and lively music. Tonight, they are having an Irish seisiun, or session.

The musicians encourage people to come up and sing or play an instrument. It’s part pub, part inn, and part Irish tea room. Waiters with bow ties hustle about the room shuttling drinks and sandwiches from the grand oak bar to the many tables.

Just inside the inn door, there is a fat baby dressed like a leprechaun in the arms of his father. The room is crowded. I can’t figure out the fashion, it looks like L.L. Bean, but there’s something more. It’s coastal Yankee with a flourish. People have dressed up to go out tonight. I tuck myself into a corner near the stage. My daughters are shown to a table by a waiter who smiles at my husband’s request, to get them anything they want.

A music trio is running the session. They’ve warmed up the crowd, and a jaunty repartee goes back and forth. They sing of love and loss and yes, drinking. A woman named Mary Beth stands on the stage, hands on her hips, and calls the chorus out to the crowd. Soon we are all singing back. I am in a pub on St. Paddy’s evening, singing, while holding an Irish coffee. Bud has a bottle of Smithwick’s ale.

It’s my parent’s birthday and I’m far, far away from any of my childhood homes. I am missing most the parent I can’t talk to. I’m remembering Daddy on the harmonica, Daddy singing.

Bud puts his arm around my shoulder and I lean in. He points out the girls across the room just as a smiling waiter brings a tray. I see them clapping as the dishes are put down in front of them. The waiter nods his head and I can see him talking to them.

I’m in the midst of the room singing and swaying to a song about whiskey and love. I need, really need to hear “Danny Boy” tonight. I send a wish up, and as a backup, plan to ask Bud to write a request on a paper napkin and give it to the waiter.

There is another song about love and loss, by a young woman with tousled hair. She sings so sincerely without any accompaniment. She sings about separation, reunion, holidays without him and the desert. I wonder if her mate is in Iraq.

Bud has Irish blood and that is another story for another day. He sees his old boss, Jim Sullivan, across the room. Jim is sitting with five widows. Jim has explained carefully to Bud, “They can’t sit at home on St. Patrick’s Day”. He lifts his glass of Irish Mist across the room at me with a gallant nod.

The trio starts another foot stomping round. They greet a table of folks from Fall River who come to see them every St. Patrick’s Day. They are speaking in Portuguese. Tonight, we are all Irish.

Then, in that moment between sets that is ripe with possibility, the microphone is passed to a woman with a bonnet of steel gray hair. She introduces her granddaughter, Kaileigh Kelleher. Kaileigh lifts a flute to her lips. The light is shining on her face. The flute is poised. She looks like a Christmas card angel with her fair, young skin and auburn hair. She starts.

She’s playing “Danny Boy”, and a wave of nostalgia hits me. I’m nine years old again, Daddy’s back from Vietnam, and my baby sister has just been born. There are ten of us; we live in a large tropical bungalow under massive acacia trees on Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The mandolin picks up the melody, and brings me back to the present moment. A hush falls over the room, and people start singing softly. The voices never rise above the flute and mandolin; they remain suspended between the two instruments like a ribbon of great affection.

She pipes the last notes and the pent up emotion in the room rushes out in applause. The musicians keep the tempo up with a round of “Tell Her That You Love Her” and finish the session with a haunting rendition of “The Water is Wide.”

Bud and I walk over to the table where our daughters are finishing up apple pie, bread pudding, cheese cake and ice cream with picture-perfect pots of Irish tea.

The fireplace in the corner glows.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day at the Kinsale Inn, and all is well.

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My dear friend and classmate Anna Marie sent me a scanned page of a book about Baguio that had a profile of my grandmother. Anna Marie lives in California, I live in Massachusetts, we’ve been apart since 1978 – but we know that does not matter, right? With the age of instant communication and the magic of scanning and the internet, something so precious lights up my day.

For years I have wondered about the minutiae of my grandmother’s life. Where did she live in Manila? What school did she go to? When I piece it together I understand why so much was lost. The war took up a lot of my mother’s childhood, then it was time for her to prepare to study abroad. After college, she got married and moved away. Mama had her own busy life – there were eight of us children. Then, in 1966, my grandmother died.

This entry may well be the only general biography of my grandmother in existence.baguiobookcover

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Mercedes J. Joaquin, one of the most active and widely known society matrons of Baguio was born in Gasan, Marinduque on September 24, 1911 to Mariano de Jesus and Gavina Verdotte. Following the custom of the country where girls used to be send to the prominent Catholic boarding schools in Manila mainly for social and cultural purposes, she was educated at St. Theresa’s College, Assumption Convent, Centro Escolar de Senoritas, Colegio de Sta. Rosa, and Philippine Women’s College. Shortly after she represented her province as Miss Marinduque in the 1927 Carnival Beauty Contest, she met and became engaged to Francisco G. Joaquin, a prominent mining engineer and the two were married in Manila on January 19, 1930. However, Mrs. Joaquin’s native ability rose to the surface in spite of her piano and voice education, her culinary abilities and her time-filling duties as wife to a prominent clubman and mother to five children.

She plays a dynamic role in business trends in Baguio. As the only lady sales office manager of the Cebu Portland Cement Co., for seven years and at present the authorized agent representative of the same concern, she has shared actively in the rehabilitaiton of the city and Mountain Province in the equitable distribution of this important commodity. It was mainly due to her able and zealous management that the cement black market has never flourished in Baguio. But her best share in boosting tourism in Baguio is Casa Blanca, a hotel widely known and patronized by residents and summer vacationists for its quality service, efficiency and swanky restaurant, El Patio. Familiarly known as Mercy to her intimates and friends, she takes active part in several women’s organizations. She is moreover a member of the Baguio Chamber of Commerce, a distinction enjoyed by very few women.

She is the mother of two married daughters who graduated from a well known college in the United States and who are happily married to American professionals and are residing in the States, two young sons and a teenage daughter. A devout Catholic, Mrs. Joaquin begins every morning with holy mass and figures prominently in religious and charitable activities.

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