Friday, October 19, 2012

The Sixth of October

October 6 came and went, and I didn't even notice it until several days later. It used to be an important date for me, and I guess it still is, but the signifance has changed. And it's a change for the better.

It's our anniversary--my ex's and mine, that is. After we separated, I dreaded this date's coming. It always brought back sad memories. But not anymore, I'm happy to say. There's no bitterness looking back, no anger, and certainly no more hankering for what might have been. I've truly moved on, and it feels so liberating.

Just after our breakup, I went into a terrible depression that felt like it was going to last forever. I thought I would never recover. But all things do pass, and time does heal all wounds. What I felt was never coming has come. If there's any proof needed, it's an October 6th that's without painful memories, without sadness, and heck, without my even noticing it!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Top Ten!

My girls were dismissed from school early today because of Ms. Marce, bless her soul. I don't know who's happier when classes get suspended, me or my girls. But this time, there's even more reason to be happy, courtesy of a piece of paper my girls showed me when they got home.

It was Alden who first gave me a little slip of paper saying I'm invited  to their school's First Quarter Recognition Day because she's in the Top Ten in her grade level! I wasn't really surprised, because I knew she'd be in the Top Ten, as she consistently is. But of course I was very happy.

Then Jigme showed me her own invitation slip. Yippee!

I waited for Rajni to give me her good news as well, but she was quiet. I waited for maybe half an hour; nothing happened. When I couldn't stand it anymore, I gently asked Raj if she had something to tell me about school. Her face was blank.

"Are you in the Top Ten this quarter?" I prodded.

"No, Ma."

I patted her back and said, "That's alright. But let's study harder this time around, okey?"

She nodded and continued to look at her computer screen.

I felt a bit sad for her. Her sisters getting into the honor list must be difficult if she herself is not in it. I don't mind too much that she isn't academically excelling, but I don't want her to feel inferior to her siblings. So I continued to assure her that it was fine, no worries, it's cool especially since there are three more quarters ahead to make better grades. She seemed to be okey, so I finally left her alone.

Moments later, Raj tossed a crumpled piece of paper at me--and it was her own invitation to the recognition ceremony! Hah! She was just pulling my leg earlier. She too made it to the Top Ten in her grade level.

You got me, Raj.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Perks of Being a Flu Sufferer

It's the fourth day of the second flu I've had in two or three months! I usually am healthy and therefore don't get sick often, so maybe I should be worried now. But I'm not, because I know exactly why I have the flu (again), and it's not because of a weaker physique. Well, it is, but it isn't entirely that per se. It's mainly because of stupidity, curiosity, and an absurd desire to lose weight fast.

I used a sauna suit on two consecutive cardio workouts. Tsk, tsk! What a no-no that is. I was curious to learn how the suit would feel, and to know if it really helped to get rid of water weight fast. After each workout with the sauna suit (one was a run and the other was on the elliptical), I felt drained and literally on fire. My skin was feverish to the touch and I remember thinking this must be how Dante's inferno felt like. I happened to glance at the mirror and I looked very flushed. And of course, I was dripping buckets of sweat. To make things worse, I had to jump straight into the shower to get ready to go somewhere. I had zero time to cool down, and the extreme temperature swing must have wrought havoc on my system. As it happened, my daughters have been coughing and spreading cold viruses all over the house, and I became an easy victim to these nasty disease-spreading bugs.

And so, last Friday, after our usually tiring Thursday badminton games (yes, I've been an exercise freak lately) I had to concede to my body's demands to rest, stay put, and enjoy all the niceties of a full-blown flu.

Believe me, I'm the last person who'd say they enjoyed staying in bed all day long. If I had my way, I'd be moving about, running and playing badminton at all hours if that were possible. (Curiously enough, I also enjoy being the opposite of that--a couch potato--every now and then.)

But this time, I didn't mind having the flu so much. I learned from the last time I had the disease that there's nothing you can do about it, that bitching and moaning won't help. You just have to grin and bear it, and wait until the flu departs of its own volition.

I also had a rather pronounced weight loss after my last bout with flu, and I was secretly hoping that this time I'd see the same effect. (This is not happening, according to my weighing scale.)

But perhaps the main reason why I'm suffering the flu without any complaints is that I have someone to share it with. My eldest daughter, Jigme, is also sick with it. I told her to not go to school on Friday, so that she'd hopefully get well when she takes an important college entrance exam on Sunday.

When Sunday came, the two of us were still sick, but we had to suck it up for the college test (the USTET). Our bodies, however, were fortified with flu-fighting drugs and lots of Vitamin C, so we felt strong enough, if not a little dizzy and weak-kneed, for the task at hand. It surely was more challenging for Jigme, because she was the exam taker and I was merely the alalay. She said afterwards that she thought she did a good job on the exam. Thank goodness.

It's now Monday, and we're still recovering. A "fun" thing we've started as a result of having the flu is this ritual involving Berocca. Berocca is a tablet (very expensive too, if I might add) that you dissolve in water and drink to make your body stronger and more resistant to diseases. People have sworn it works to stop a flu before it even starts. (I learned about it from a friend after I already had the flu, so I don't know how accurate that claim is.) Anyway, we've been taking it for two or three days now, and it seems to be helping. The problem is, we don't like the taste of Berocca at all.

We start our ritual by getting three glasses of water: two for each tablet of Berocca, and the third as Jigme's "chaser." We drop two tablets on two glasses, and watch in wonder as they slowly dissolve and fizzle. Gradually, the glass of water would become orangey and effervescent. Maybe we are too easy to please, but we do find the simple process fascinating to watch.

Then comes the hard part. We'd take our first sips, grimace, look at each other, and put our glasses down. We'd then take turns urging one another to finish the drink. I usually finish faster than Jigme because I don't find the taste as objectionable as she does. Besides, Jigme uses a "chaser" of water, so she'd feel very full afterwards. But the last time we took Berocca, I made the mistake of mixing it with iced tea instead of water, and the taste was horrendous. I think Jigme and I finished our drinks at about the same time.

With a flu, I do have to stay in bed most of the time. I'm thankful that Manang is here to look after things while I'm indisposed. During the day, I really must take naps because I typically don't sleep well at night. I have weird dreams and must go to the bathroom every two hours or so. I do drink plenty of water at all times, hence the frequent bathroom visits. I need the water not just for recovery, but because I get dry mouth from all the meds I'm taking.

I'm now more open to the idea of taking flu shots to prevent future recurrences, but I'm not sure how helpful that would really be. I hear there are lots of strains of the flu virus, and a flu shot won't protect you from all of them.

In the end, should I become sick again, I'd dutifully do what needs to be done (resting and taking medicine), but I'll put in extra effort to make the experience relatively enjoyable. I'm learning that your attitude does count a lot. How you choose to act and think can ruin an otherwise enjoyable experience, or it can turn a miserable one into something that's actually fun, cool and even memorable. I know I'll remember our Berocca moments fondly in the years to come :-)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Running in Silence

I always listen to music when I run. Loud rock music (interspersed with some pop and classical favorites) has become an indispensable part of every run for me; without it, I feel that running won't nearly be as enjoyable.

And so I've become a fan of the Nike+iPod system, which lets me listen to music while recording my running distance, pace, time and calories expended. I've tried several combinations of this system: a 3rd gen iPod Nano with a shoe sensor, an iPhone 3GS with the shoe sensor, and most recently, a stand-alone 6th gen iPod Nano (no sensor needed!). Needless to say, all my running shoes are Nike+.

I especially love this latest iPod Nano because it's small and it's touchscreen. It can easily be clipped to your race singlet. It can also be used as a watch. It measures running distances AND walking steps. In other words, it's also a pedometer. Maybe I'm just a shallow person, but every morning, it gives me a kick to see that I've walked 1,300 steps from my kids' school to our house and saved PhP18.00 on tricycle fare at the same time. I just love knowing my numbers.

On the downside, this iPod Nano is not very accurate in measuring distances. It typically exaggerates how far you've run. But this is a shortcoming that I can live with, since I usually already know the distance I'm running in a race or around a familiar oval. And I have such a consistent (i.e., slow) pace that I can approximate the distance I've run once I know my time. If I really need to measure a running distance with some accuracy, I depend on my Suunto watch with its accompanying shoe pod.

I'd really put the Nano to good use lately. It's my companion on runs, walks, bus/FX rides, and even while exercising on the elliptical. What can I say, I love my music.

Then the unexpected happened. Though my Nano is barely three months old, it suddenly died out on me. And in the middle of a race too! It conked out, without any warning, during my 15k Tiktakbo race. I panicked for a while, thinking it'd be very hard for me to complete a race without my music! Running in silence, that's unheard of, that's so not my style!

I desperately tried to restart the iPod. I pushed the Start button several times, but nothing happened. Then I tried pressing and holding two buttons down simultaneously (this is usually how you reboot Apple devices). For a brief moment, the screen display came back on, but faintly, with ghostly outlines. Then it flickered out again. Permanently.

All this happened during a race, so I was pressing on the buttons while running. I must have looked like a crazy runner angrily muttering to herself while tinkering with something on her hands. After about a kilometer of this futile exercise, I finally gave up and stashed my useless iPod inside my belt pouch.

Fortunately, I managed to finish the race without my music, and in relatively good shape. I must have run 12 km (out of the total 15) without U2, Iron Maiden, Led Zep, Aerosmith, AC-DC, Black-eyed Peas, Maria Callas and Sarah Brightman blasting down my eardrums. I listened to my breathing instead, and kept close attention to my form. The funny thing is, I believe this helped improve my run. It forced me to become more attuned to my body. I was able to correct myself when needed, to stand taller, to keep my core activated (tummy tucked in and breathing from the diaphragm), and to consciously direct my right leg to compensate when I felt a cramp starting on my problematic left shin.

I also never stopped to walk, except for a few seconds while I gulped down water from the hydration stations. As far as I can remember, I always walked a bit during long runs and races. But not on this Tiktakbo race.

When I finished, I got an unexpected reward: a medal that only the first 100 finishers were given. This is perhaps my third Tiktakbo run, but it's the first in which I finished among the top 100. Woo-hoo! :-)

Later, I learned that I finished in 41st place. Not bad for this slow, old girl.

I've been running for several years now, and it's nice to discover new twists to this beloved hobby. Running music-less, in silence, isn't so bad after all.

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Have Fun With Your Life!"

What can ten pesos buy? Not much, these days. It's just barya that's barely enough for a short jeepney ride. But the other day, I got something really valuable for my measly ten pesos. 

I was at school fetching my two girls. Alden had already come out from her class and was sitting with me, and we were waiting for Raj. We were surprised by this little boy who, seeming to come from nowhere, blurted out to me: "Miss, miss, do you have ten pesos? I'm really hungry and I need to buy some food! Look at my tummy (and he proceeded to expose his bony midsection), see how small it is? Please, please, do you have ten pesos you can give me?"

The boy was a schoolmate of my kids'. He was very loud and animated, and he spoke in straight English. He looked like he might be half-Korean or -Japanese.

Taken aback, I searched in my pocket for some change. I found a ten-peso coin and gave it to the boy. He was talking all the while, loudly for all the world to hear, saying he'd really love to buy something that the vendors were peddling just outside the school. (I didn't catch what it was exactly.)

He thanked me profusely upon getting the coin. Meanwhile, shy Alden was crouching low beside me, perhaps embarrassed by the boy's forwardness. He spoke in a shrill young-boy voice, but it was as if he had a microphone hidden under his collar.

I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn't. The boy came back after a few moments, asking if I was sure that I was okey with giving him money. He asked if it was with a clean conscience, a willing heart, etcetera, etcetera, that I was giving him cash. He asked questions like "Is that your final decision?" "Are you positively, absolutely sure?" "Is your heart telling you that it's the right thing to do?"

I assured him that it was fine, that it wasn't any big deal. But he came back, again and again, with the same question. He was so makulit that I almost ran out of ways to assure him I was willingly and happily parting with my ten pesos.

At one point, he even attempted to return the coin to me, because he said he felt guilty about taking money from a stranger. I told him that nothing would make me happier but for him to be able to use my ten pesos for food. I really was running out of assurances.

In the end, he went away and bought his snack. Finally.

Alden breathed a sigh of relief. She couldn't possibly crouch any lower on the bench. I know she wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I sort of felt the same way.

But--surprise, surprise!--the boy came back. This time, he was holding a small cup of taho (or something that looked gooey and unhealthily sweet). He offered me some, and I politely declined. He then went into the now-familiar tedious "Are you sure?" routine. But perhaps because he was hungry and eager to enjoy his snack, the questioning didn't last too long this time. He went away happy, shouting his thanks and a heartfelt "Have fun with your life!"

Raj then arrived and we headed home. For some reason, the boy's parting words--"Have fun with your life!--echoed in my head, like a pesky song that won't go away and leave you in peace.

I muttered to myself: "Okey, then. I've have fun with my life."

Then a light bulb seemed to go off in my head.

Oo nga naman. Why not? I'll definitely have fun with my life.

The boy, though he was a bit irritating, was a little Master Yoda in disguise, reminding me of the best lessons in life.

My ten pesos was very well spent.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Of 7th-Cycle Blues and 2-Pound Sleeves

I've been having the blues lately. I'm not superstitious, but I'm convinced it has something to do with this time of the year being my seventh cycle. Certain esotericists say that you're weakest and most vulnerable during your seventh cycle, and I do believe this is true, because I've seen it from personal experience.

A person's seventh cycle is approximately the two months just before her birthday. (More precisely, it's the 52-day period before one's birthday.) At this time, you are supposed to be more prone to illness, accidents, depression, and so on. A lot of people do die on their seventh cycles--just visit a graveyard and look at the dates of births and deaths on gravestones.

As I was saying, I was feeling a bit depressed. When I get this way, what I think of is exercise. I love to run; it always cheers me up. Apart from the happy hormones I get from a good run, I derive great satisfaction just from the fact that I'm doing something healthy and positive.

Incidentally, I've just bought for myself a new exercise "toy"-- a pair of weighted forearm sleeves--that I was itching to try out. It's a product endorsed by the fearsome Jillian Michaels, one of the Biggest Loser trainers. You're supposed to wear the sleeves on each forearm while walking or running. The two-pound weights will make your walk or run more intense. That way, you'll lose more calories, while getting some workout for your arms and shoulders too, not just your legs.

Guess what, they do work! After just about 15 minutes on the treadmill, I was sweating more profusely than usual. I could feel the heaviness of the sleeves slowing me down. It's funny that when I first tried them on in the store, I thought two pounds on each arm was sisiw lang (chicken feed). At first, they do feel like nothing, but after running for maybe two kilometers, you'd certainly feel their effect.

I only managed to run 5 km. While finishing up, my shirt was soaked with sweat. I could feel some burning on my upper arms. At this time, I don't think I can run 10 km with them. But who knows, maybe after some time, I'll get stronger and be able to run longer distances with these sleeves on.

The sleeves have pockets for an iPhone, Wii controller, or any one of the usual gadgets people use to help them exercise better. Next time, I'll trying using them while doing my Wii Sports Active workouts. The reason I bought them was primarily to replace the resistance band I use during my (infrequent) Wii workouts.

There too are weighted calf sleeves (weighing 4 pounds each) for more serious runners. I don't think I'll ever be strong enough to wear those on a run.... but then again, who knows?


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Overpriced Batteries

One thing I learned recently is that you should NEVER ever buy batteries in a watch store.

Know those small, round batteries for watches, calculators and other gadgets? I needed two LR-44s for my daughter's calculator, and bought them at a watch store in a mall. I was surprised that they cost 150 pesos apiece. I thought they'd cost less than a hundred bucks.

I recalled that I also had the battery for my running watch changed maybe a couple of months ago. If memory serves me right, it cost around 200 pesos, including the watch repair guy's services. The watch (a Suunto T3) was difficult to open, and the serviceman struggled for some minutes before he could pry it open and put in the fresh battery. The watch needed a single round battery, so I thought that, surely, 200 pesos wasn't just for that one battery, but also for the serviceman's efforts in putting it in.

Anyway, I happened to pass by a photo store that also sold batteries, and I asked about their prices just for comparison. Their LR-44 was 60 pesos apiece, versus the 150 pesos I paid in a watch store. The bigger round battery which was used for my Suunto watch  (I forgot the exact label) was merely 75 pesos, compared to the 200 bucks I paid.

So there, I learned my lesson. Never get your batteries in a watch store. They're way overpriced.