First Father’s Day without Dad

The title probably isn’t accurate. I’m sure there were times when Chipi and I didn’t get to spend Father’s Day with our dad because he or we were away. It is the first time, however, for us to experience Father’s Day since his passing.

There’s a Christian song with a line that goes “He’s a Father to the fatherless…” and it’s a real tearjerker at Sunday worship, but it has always given me a pause. It’s such a simple phrase, but the depths it plumbs! When I think about it – the importance of having a father – it staggers me. Even now at 44, I need my dad, and it makes me feel immensely lost that he’s not around anymore, that I now number among the “fatherless.”

I hope that that statement doesn’t come across as offensive to those who’d become fatherless before I did, especially to those who have always been fatherless. I’m not saying that I had it better and that it’s miserable to join their ranks. What I want to say is that there’s no doubt that having the presence of a good father in one’s life is a priceless blessing, and to lose that presence could really turn one’s world upside down.

My thoughts and emotions seesaw in grieving for my father. While noting his absence fills me with agony, my mind is always quick to remind me, “But you were blessed with a father for 44 years. That’s a relatively long time. He was there for your most important milestones… And you will see him again… And he’s where he wants to be now.” And that’s how I comfort myself when I verge on wallowing in pain. That has been my key to slipping back to a semblance of normal life as I knew it.

Nonetheless, it has come to a point where my sister and I have to knuckle down and settle Dad’s affairs. It’s an incredibly tall task. As difficult as it is to deal with his estate, his pension, his social security, etc., minding his personal possessions is even more daunting. You see, my dad is a collector.

He’s not a hoarder, but some people would probably be inclined to use the term loosely with him. He never threw out his small collection of cassette tapes. The same is true for the small hoard of DVDs he had organized in a shoe box. Almost all of his ID cards from the ’70s (the decade he married my mom and started living in Marikina) to the present are neatly stashed in a drawer. Marveling at his office, we have to remind ourselves that this trove of personal collections had already been significantly diminished by the great Ondoy flood of 2009.

However, just because he had a huge bundle of mostly non-working refillable pens doesn’t mean that he had an obsessive compulsion to acquire and hold on to things. For starters, Dad would be the last person to buy anything non-essential. He never had the latest of anything, and unless whatever he was using was already falling apart, he wouldn’t think to replace it. I remember posting about it on Facebook a couple of months before he passed away. I normally didn’t post about Dad because he wouldn’t have seen it anyway. He had a few accounts that other people made for him (mainly because he kept on forgetting his password) but he never actually engaged in social media. Anyway, this is what I said:


In any case, Dad seemed to live by the tenets of the Great Depression. Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Do without. It was a little depressing having to grow up with this way of thinking, but since hindsight is 20/20, I can now say that it really made things more interesting. It was character building if anything.

That’s not to say that he didn’t appreciate material things; he just never coveted. This realization clicked when my husband told me that when he and Dad were in the ER, waiting for Dad to be admitted (this wouldn’t happen until early evening of the following day), Dad told him that his secret to avoiding sin was not wishing for what he didn’t have. By that time, he had already mastered the science and art of contentment.

This was something that I couldn’t understand growing up and I later simply put down to being a quirk of his. I remember going around the high-end shoe stores at Caesar’s Palace with him as we waited to meet up with friends. I watched him enjoy himself as he picked up and admired different shoes. I knew he could afford them if he really wanted them, but he would gently put every shoe back. “Aren’t you going to buy anything?” I asked. He replied, “I can admire without wanting.” I just huffed in answer because I hated window shopping and was bored. The man just never bought anything he didn’t deem necessary.

His heart didn’t lust after “stuff,” but whatever he did have, he used and reused until it begged for mercy and then recycled or repurposed. He also gave a lot of things away. You wouldn’t think it, spotting all the vintage items in his office, but he usually gave away things that were still new. If something lasted with him, it was because he continued to have a use for it or he imagined that he would have a use for it farther down the road. So, essentially, my point is that my dad wasn’t a hoarder despite all the seemingly random collections.

Now that Dad is gone, I’m glad that he had this habit of storing and filing. The filing system he used only made sense to him though, of course, but I was happy that I could be certain that whatever I needed to find would be among his things because he hardly threw anything away. While I was going through the folders in his home office, I came across this:

This is a clipping of an article I had sent to the editorial section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I don’t remember if I timed sending it so that it could get published around his birthday (November 14th). I mean, I couldn’t be certain that it would pass muster in the first place (Youngblood was relatively new back then) or that it would be published within weeks of being reviewed, but that’s how things unfolded. My article was approved for publication and was published a day before Dad’s birthday. I went with a semi-pseudonym for my byline, retaining my then family name and using P.K., a known acronym among Protestant children, which stands for “pastor’s kid.”

Of course I originally had my own copy. I kept a portfolio of my published work in a clear book, but I had left it in my room at my parents’ house and when Ondoy struck, it was just one of the many sentimentally valuable items my family lost. I was devastated, but what else could I do but shrug and adopt a c’est la vie attitude?

Anyway, I was hoping Dad would still have a copy of the article, but because of Ondoy, I wasn’t really expecting to find one. That’s why I was ecstatic to come across it in one of his folders. I had to take a moment to stop my sorting and sob my heart out. I took it home with me, of course, and immediately got busy with the laminator. Now that I think about it, I should also get busy with the copier and the scanner, but I’ll likely put that off indefinitely – well, hopefully before I end up being sorry for procrastinating yet again.

In my first fatherless Father’s Day, I’d like to take the time to indulge myself further in remembering my dad and being grateful for the privilege of growing up under his care and correction as well as for the many beautiful moments I had with him.

I would also like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for the fathers that are still in my life, starting with my husband Mark. He really rose to the occasion when my side of the family needed him.

I would like to thank Dad’s brother, Uncle Philip, for being our rock during that immensely arduous time. He and his wife, Auntie Nerie, were always there to comfort and support us as we struggled through that unexpected upheaval in our lives.

Our other uncles, my mom’s brother (Tito Vic) and brothers-in-law (Tito Edo and Tito Adan), with our aunts also consistently extended their care and support all the way from the other side of the globe.

Chipi and I are indeed very fortunate to still have good fathers in our family even if we’ve lost Daddy.

I’m learning to go on without Dad’s physical presence as my anchor and compass, but all those years of his influence are not for naught. His Christ-centered example and teachings will remain at the core of my being and continue to guide me as I navigate my own way to the finish line.

This Father’s Day is bittersweet, but I’m keeping my eye on the blessing. I’ve been crying, but I can also feel joy. I know my father is happy in heaven with his Father.

Life Lessons from Our Brush with COVID-19

My mother finally got to come home after almost a month of hospitalization. Their household is now COVID-free with everybody having already tested negative. The virus may be gone, but the havoc it wreaked still lingers. My father is now physically gone from us, and Mom has a long road to full recovery yet.

Less tangible than the physical effects of the sickness is the trauma of going through that nightmare. I’m not going to detail what trials and hardships we bore because, at the end of the day, we were more fortunate than others. Dad and Mom were both admitted in hospitals whereas multitudes expired while waiting to be seen at the ER, any ER.

My heart just aches for what’s happening in our country right now and for those who are in the thick of suffering through it. The mental and emotional anguish I feel is so immense that I can’t even get political about it. Last year, I was always ready with a rant to express my displeasure at the poor response of the government to the pandemic, but now I just don’t have the heart for it.

That doesn’t mean that my mind hasn’t been constantly grinding. It has been working overtime even if I hadn’t been voicing my thoughts out. Some of them are futile anyway – unprofitable what-ifs, pointless bargains, and other useless musings. In my grief-clouded brain, however, I still managed to glean realizations that helped me understand life better and appreciate the important lessons that this painful season of my life is teaching me. Here are some of them.

Important Lessons from COVID

1. It can happen to you, so make sure your soul is at the ready with peace like a river, joy like a fountain, etc.

Nobody is spared from bad things happening to them – cancer, accidents, and now COVID. Whatever happened to God’s protection, right? I used to take it personally when something unfortunate happened in my life, never fully acknowledging the thought, but still knowing in the back of my mind that I was feeling like God didn’t love or like me enough to spare me from one form of misery or another.

I’ve been taught all my life that being a Christian doesn’t spare one from suffering, that the difference was in the way God makes peace, comfort, hope, and even joy possible in the direst of circumstances, but, see, I didn’t really want spiritual fitness; what I wanted was to have a charmed life. I was in for a rude awakening because nobody is immune from adversity.

I may not have been very welcoming of this teaching, but when the rubber hit the road, it was one that I clung to. When the greatest tribulation we’ve ever faced as a family was unleashed upon us, the pain was so great, the details so plentiful, the challenges so overwhelming that I had no choice but to retreat to God for refuge to avail myself of the peace that passes understanding (Side note: As a kid listening to Kid’s Praise, I thought the song said “I’ve got the pizza pasta understanding down in my heart.”).

So, the takeaway is that we will all face affliction, and we will have to deal with all the unpleasant emotions and disquieting thoughts it comes with. That’s why it’s best to have God to turn to for our hiding place. (Side note: Remember that song? I loved singing it when I was a kid because we sang it as a round song. Did you too?)

And during trying times, let’s trouble ourselves to observe keenly that God is using them to grow us in our knowledge of Him and to make them work together with everything else in our lives for our good.

2. Never take anything other than God’s goodness and faithfulness for granted.

Our tendency is to make assumptions, educated and otherwise, but you’re pretty much setting yourself up for a downfall when you take anything as granted. They say that change is the only constant in this world, but we can count on God to be unchanging. His goodness and faithfulness are more reliable than the constancy of change.

In any case, everything in this world is temporal, even those things that they say last forever. Our time here is fleeting. In the post-Eden world, nothing endures, and, yet, we behave as though reality as we know it is indestructible.

Hearing my dad’s recorded sermons from last year’s ECQ made me realize that I took it for granted that I would always be hearing his words. They’re so familiar and ever-present to me that I didn’t always properly appreciate them. I’d heard them my whole life and I assumed that I would be hearing them throughout my days.

I used to be amused by Daddy’s standard lines like “That’s the world” (he obviously had a very poor opinion of the world) or “I’ll always choose Jesus” (he loved Jesus the best and nobody, not even his family, could persuade him to compromise his adherence to God’s principles). He uttered them ad infinitum and I must shamefully confess to having mildly made fun of them, but I experienced such profound sadness to realize that I wouldn’t be hearing them again from him. I was foolish to take the presence of Dad and his sermons in my life for granted.

My daughter Marguerite has a similar regret. She has a propensity for asking deep, existential questions at bedtime. Since my intelligence steadily declines from 9pm onwards, I find that I’m rarely equal to these discussions. I urged her to talk to Grampa about it, and she said she would, but when Grampa asked her what her questions were, she was so busy with all the things that occupied her attention during the daytime that she said she didn’t have any at that moment. Marguerite sadly took that opportunity for granted. She thought she had all the time in the world to ask her questions.

It’s also never wise to make assumptions because even the most logical ones can have the rug pulled out from under them. For instance, we assumed that Mom would get the Philhealth benefits for critical pneumonia since her pneumonia was undoubtedly critical. However, I was absolutely floored to learn that her pneumonia was only classified as severe. Her lungs had lost 80% of their function when she was brought to the ER. Her O2 level was at 70%. She was gray and her lips were turning blue. She had to undergo four rounds of hemoperfusion and stay at the ICU for almost a month. She was dying, and her case couldn’t be classified as critical? Unfortunately, the doctor said that his hands were tied. Philhealth had issued very specific guidelines on classification. If the patient hadn’t undergone renal replacement therapy or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, then she couldn’t be given a critical classification. That’s hogwash!

We were furious but too exhausted to make a fuss. At any rate, a world system may have failed us, but God, of course, could be counted on to be our ever present help in time of need. Despite the more than Php400k difference between our expected bill and the actual bill, God made sure that we had sufficient funds to settle Mom’s bill.

Universal truths, ancient standards, natural laws… they can all go berserk and bail on you, but you can always depend on God to be steadfast and unchanging in who He is.

3. It’s good to have advance directives in place.

Here’s a very practical lesson. It’s a good idea to determine now if you want to be resuscitated, intubated, or even hospitalized on the occasion that you fall critically ill. My dad signed a “do not intubate” order. The doctor assured me that he was lucid when he made the choice, but since he had been having hypoxic (brain was not getting enough oxygen) episodes, I couldn’t be sure that he had made that decision rationally.

I’ve accepted that God had set that time for Dad to go home to heaven, but I’m afraid that, at the time, I had to do everything in my power to ensure that Dad would be given every chance to survive, so I made my case that he hadn’t been himself since he got sick and tried to override his DNI order.

In the end, it was too late. By the time I got to the hospital and suited up in PPE, Dad had lost a pulse and they were already trying to resuscitate him. I was able to revoke the DNI order, but it was all just too late. Since it was a legal matter and the question of ethics figured into the whole thing, it took some time before my request was granted.

At least I was able to be there in Dad’s last moments. Standing right outside the door trying to stay out of the nurses and doctors’ way, I repeatedly called out to him that I was there and that I loved him. This study says that patients already in an unresponsive state may still be able to hear, and I certainly wish it’s true. COVID deaths are often lonely, but I managed to be present at his end of life, and I was allowed to say my goodbyes and thanks. I just hope that Dad was aware of it.

God’s control will always prevail, but it’s important to have these directives in place so that medical professionals and family members can be certain of carrying out the patient’s wishes. Loved ones will be able to avoid arguments as well as the agonizing burden of making such crucial choices.

4. Community is vital.

I’m not the warmest or friendliest person out there. I’m ridiculously introverted and often prefer my own company, but I like to think that the connections I’ve made are meaningful and lasting. My parents, on the other hand, are well-loved by many, and, by default, this sentiment is also extended to me. The gift of belonging to such a caring community has been made apparent to me in the past month.

Our close relatives have, of course, been very helpful, supportive, and generous. We have been blessed by aunts, uncles, and cousins of faith, who have been our rock to lean on during this incredibly difficult time.

Our church has been extremely wonderful as well. More than ever, I truly appreciate that we’re a smaller and more intimate gathering of believers. We have a personal connection with every member, and the sense of family is incredibly strong.

Our congregation has been consistent in their prayer and in their active help. When we said that we were bringing, first, Dad, and then, a few days later, Mom, to the hospital, several members were there along with me calling hospital ERs to find a place that would admit my parents, a seemingly impossible task at that time. When we said that Mom needed oxygen, they started calling different places to see where we could source it. They didn’t just give us numbers and told us to try calling possible places. They themselves made the calls to spare us the trouble.

When Mom and Dad were in the hospital; my sister and cousins were stuck home with symptoms of COVID as well; I was restricted by having to stay home with small children who were not allowed out, considering the suddenly much bigger threat of infection; and our two family members who could go out and take care of the multitude of details that needed to be dealt with were incredibly busy and exhausted, church friends constantly volunteered to run errands for us.

Additionally, our friends from different areas of our lives have been very generous and caring, sending everything from encouraging words and assurance of prayers to food and money. We really felt loved and cared for. Belonging to a kind and warmhearted community made a world of difference in our ordeal.

5. Until the war against COVID is over, don’t let your guard down.

What’s happening in the country right now is a result of many of us letting our guards down. I sense there’s another factor involved. The surge in infection is just too insane for all of it to be put down to people not being careful enough. Nonetheless, if people behaved as though the virus was still at large – which it definitely still is, festering and mutating like a villainous entity in a horror movie – perhaps the disease wouldn’t have been in the wild rampage it has been on in the past month or so.

In war, you do not relax your defenses as long as the threat is still out there. This is a good time to be overcautious. It may make you look uncool, as though you’re fear-mongering, but that uncool over-caution actually makes a lot of sense in this strange time and may very well be just the thing to save you.

If there’s anything the reality show Survivor taught us, it’s that you’ll fall spectacularly when you get cocky. The past weeks show us that we definitely shouldn’t get cocky with the coronavirus.

6. Jesus is your omnipresent friend.

Encounters with COVID-19 are suffused with loneliness. Can you appreciate how vile this virus is? Not only can it ravage your body, but it can also separate you from the loving warmth of your family, leaving you more vulnerable to its ill effects.

When my dad was admitted, the hospital said that COVID patients may have a companion, but the companion would have to be in isolation with the patient. Without a companion, a CCTV would be installed in Dad’s room so he could be better monitored. Considering our situation, we had no choice but to leave him companionless.

Dad didn’t like cell phones so he didn’t have one, but his room had a landline so we could talk to him. During our calls, he never expressed that he was lonely. He said that he was bored, and even though he had a TV in his room, he preferred to work, so he asked for his laptop. Mark brought it to the hospital, but I don’t think Dad got to use it. I wished that he had a companion, but, based on his behavior, Dad hadn’t felt alone. Even as he suffered from pneumonia, he remained calm. That’s the thing about him; he was always aware of God’s presence and always mindful of God’s control over any situation.

My mom, who had such a long and traumatic stay at the ICU, also says that it was God’s presence that comforted her and sustained her during that harrowing time. Meanwhile, my sister, who was alone and self-isolating at home, had to grieve all by herself while also sick with COVID symptoms. It was definitely a blessing that she could draw strength, courage, and peace from God.

Through all this, it has been made even clearer to us how wonderful it is to have faith and to enjoy the privileges of having a relationship with Jesus. We may not be able to dodge heartaches and hardships while we’re in this imperfect world, but having Jesus in our lives means that we have a perfect, ever-present friend at anytime and anywhere.

Your Own Thoughts?

I’m sure other realizations will occur to me as I continue to ruminate, but for now, these are what I’ve gathered and wanted to share with you. What about you? What has this pandemic taught you? I certainly hope that the lesson hasn’t been painful for you, and that you and your loved ones are all well.

Whatever you learned in the past year, I’d like the chance to ponder on them, so please feel free to share any relevant food for thought in the comments. Take care and stay safe! God bless!

Goodbye for Now, Daddy

Have I told you about my father? In my eyes, no man could be more remarkable. By the standards of the world, he didn’t really do anything astonishingly extraordinary. He didn’t achieve the wealth, clout, and acclaim that people of renown have, but in his relatively small sphere of influence, he had touched, inspired, guided, and changed so many lives.

My dad, Pastor Papa

He was a pastor. He was affiliated with the Assemblies of God, but he preferred that our church be independent. He had been district superintendent and presbyter of two regions for many years. That experience led him to the decision that our church didn’t need the burden and bother of politics that big ecclesiastical organizations usually bear.

Since becoming a Christian more than fifty years ago, he had dedicated himself to serving the Lord. Shortly after his salvation, it became clear to him that he was called to ministry, and since being ordained, he had worked tirelessly to pastor the flock/s God had given him.

My dad was also an accountant, and, for years while my sister and I were growing up, he also worked in sales. An honest, principled man in sales didn’t usually spell success, but clients knew Dad to be trustworthy, so many decided that they’d rather deal with somebody ethical than be wooed by the razzmatazz of flashier sales reps.

He excelled in that work and was consistently promoted. While he had steadily been accessing the higher rungs of the corporate ladder, his deadline for himself came up and he left his job to concentrate on ministry.

That happened when I was in high school. Suddenly, our income was much lower. It was scary, worrisome, and inconvenient for my bratty teenage self, but in retrospect, I’m glad now for the experience since I was able to see over on over again both Dad’s faith at work and God’s unfailing goodness to us. If I ever find myself doubting God’s existence, I only need to look back on my life and the faith that I witnessed from my Dad to see evidence, but, thankfully, I’ve personally proven for myself time and again that God is real and almighty.

My dad’s testimony is incredibly powerful. How God took him from incredibly humble, nay, dismal beginnings and lifted him up is always a source of amazement for me. Dad was born right after the war. His father was the 20-year-old spoiled youngest child and, by that time, only son of a well-to-do family while his mother was a 15-year-old poor but beautiful girl. My scoundrel of a grandfather gave my incredibly young grandmother two more children before abandoning them. My dad was then seven years old. When he was ten years old, my grandmother sat him down and told him, “You are now the man of the family,” and with such words did she heap that mountain of a responsibility on the frail shoulders of a sickly little boy.

Make no mistake, that poor and weak boy rose to the challenge, working at a young age and helping take care of his younger siblings. He toiled while attending public school, all the while maintaining a friendship with his rich cousins who all went to exclusive schools. It was a childhood fraught with hardship and humility, and when he graduated from high school, not only did his mother tell him that he couldn’t go to college, but that she actually got him a job as a janitor at the very university where most of his classmates were going to study.

Despite his circumstances, he strove hard to get a college education. While he couldn’t afford to send himself to school, he frequently visited the library and tried to educate himself by reading. He eventually moved on from custodial work to clerical work. After four years, he was finally able to enroll with a union scholarship.

Around this time, he attended a church camp in Baguio and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He had grown up in the Protestant faith. Their mother had raised them on God’s Word and involved them in church work, but it was at this point when he truly became born again. There was no turning back after that.

He started college, taking up commerce and accountancy. Of course he was a working student; he had been working nonstop since he was a child. He met my mother at this time. Both of them were members of their campus’s Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, wherein Dad served as president.

Dad finally got his degree and, having perceived his calling for ministry, immediately enrolled in Bible School. Again, he got in as a working student. Again, he did custodial work while his classmates’ studies were funded by foreign missions. The sad and ironic reality is that most of these mission scholars ended up pursuing other careers instead of ministry. Meanwhile, my dad, who didn’t enjoy their privilege, spent the rest of his life serving the Lord.

Like I said, it amounted to about 50 years in active ministry. Besides being a pastor, he spent time in missions to barrios in Mindoro and other remote places. He also taught Church History at the same Bible college he attended. He even co-hosted a Christian radio program for a time in the ’90s. He was invited to preach in churches abroad. Wherever he went, he was always spreading the Gospel. He would strike up conversations with cab drivers, sales clerks, street vendors – virtually anybody who had the fortune of spending even a little bit of time with him – and tell them about Jesus Christ.

While I was growing up, I found that a little embarrassing. There were many things about Dad that I resented while I was a kid. He had an easygoing demeanor but he was steadfast, absolutely unbending when it came to his spiritual convictions. Because of my immaturity, I often couldn’t understand his rationale and decisions. For instance, his mother is an American and she moved to the US while he was in college. We could have followed and become US citizens as well, but he chose for us to stay here. Apparently, it was God’s plan for him to minister here. As far as Dad was concerned, God’s will for our lives would always prevail. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t often happy with God’s will for us while I was in the thick of living it.

Chip, Dad, and I in Las Vegas

As a father, Dad wasn’t perfect, but there’s no doubt that he was a good one. He wasn’t a sweet person, but that’s not to say he was cold. He just wasn’t sentimental or demonstrative. He was away a lot, but he always made sure that we spent quality time with him. He had a sense of humor, but he was also incredibly corny. He was dependable and responsible. My sister and I always knew that we could count on him. Despite our disagreements, we never doubted his love for us.

Dad was borderline ascetic. He never cared about material things, and that was sooooo hard for us, growing up exposed to this world’s ideals. He really tried to get us to set our eyes and heart on heaven and not on this earth. It might seem that he had failed at that, but if you scrutinize my weirdness, there’s a vein of asceticism there.

You could not sway him from his values and principles. His faith defined him and explained his actions and decisions. He was conservative, but was also an independent thinker. He was just so against the grain that it was often difficult for us since we had to deal with the usual growing pains and the natural desire to fit in. We were so non-mainstream growing up that my sister and I eventually learned to embrace our alternativeness, rather than perpetually despair that we couldn’t be like everybody else.

That was a process, of course. Dad and I were often at odds with one another, but as I matured, I began to appreciate his positions more and more. That’s why my first ever published article was about him. It was back in the ’90s. I submitted it to be published in the Youngblood column of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial section. It was titled “My Father’s Disciple” and it talked about how I transitioned from rebel to follower in my relationship with Dad.

Dad walked me down the aisle, and then he officiated my wedding.

Dad was a pastor, a father, a husband, a grandfather, a son, and a brother, but there were other nuances to him. He wrote poetry and songs. He sang and enjoyed music. He dabbled in drawing. He ran marathons. He was an avid reader. He loved watching the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and other cycling races. He loved parades with “mosiko” (marching band). He liked watching sporting events, but didn’t believe in competition. He loved Omakase’s salmon donburi. He could slo-mo the perfect lay-up form, but never had a ball in his hand or a basketball ring in the vicinity while doing it. He could make believable trumpet sounds with his mouth. He enjoyed the music of John Denver and Kenny Rogers. As a boy, he was an avid fan of Erap the actor, but never even considered voting for Erap the politician for the presidency.

My dad was giving and helpful. People always sought him out for advice and financial aid. He gave us a role model for charity, which means that my sister and I got to witness innumerable times his active caring for the needy. The image of him helping a man who was seemingly having a seizure on the ground right outside the grocery store entrance is forever branded in my mind. The man’s toddler sat crying next to him. When we happened upon this scene, the crowd just milled around the father and son, watching. Nobody was doing anything to help. My dad immediately went to kneel next to the man to attend to him and his little boy. Before long, he was feeding the man and his son at the Chinese restaurant next to the supermarket. The man had collapsed due to hunger. They had come here from the province, intending to stay with a relative they unfortunately hadn’t been able to find. Dad intently listened to the man’s troubles and ended up giving him the funds and supplies for him and his boy to be able to return to the province. That man was able to visit Dad several times in the years after to repeatedly express his thanks.

Marguerite’s dedication – performed by Grampa

Marguerite’s water baptism, also performed by Grampa

In his ministry, Dad was able to touch and make a difference in many people’s lives. We’ve had recently released ex-convicts come straight to the house from the penitentiary because they had become believers while in prison and their pastor had given them Dad’s name and contact information. No one was ever turned away. All of them were warmly welcomed and given the assistance they asked for.

Sawyer with Grampa

Cameron with Grampa

Dad was passionate about righteousness and holiness. Many pastors choose to focus on God’s love and blessings, which are topics that are naturally more appealing to listeners, but while Dad spoke about them as well, he made sure that we never forgot the part where we also accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord, not just our Savior. He wanted us to understand that we should be living lives that are pleasing to the Lord.

There’s so much more to say about Dad, but I wanted to time this post so it would coincide with his cremation today. There will be no wake or interment as per DOH’s protocol regarding COVID-19 deaths.

That’s right. Daddy passed away due to the coronavirus. We initially thought he was having a restroke. We never expected his illness to be COVID-related. He issued a DNI order. He knew God was in control, and if God meant for him to stay, he would allow a miracle, but Dad was ready to go. He had of course been ready for the past half century and he had had a few serious health issues throughout the years, including a stroke in 2016, but this time, I think he was anxious to go. He had experienced healing and miracles many times over. He was 74 years old, and I think he wanted to rest.

Up to the Sunday before he was brought to the hospital, he was standing at the pulpit, preaching God’s Word. He didn’t know he had COVID. The issue was with his blood pressure. He was weak and unwell, but he had pledged to serve God, and as long as he was able to, there was no question that he would. What dedication. What service. His life is an inspiration to us who have a desire to effectively witness to our faith.

I will edit and post anew as I see fit because, although it would be impossible to write all that I feel and think about my father, I’d certainly want to give it my best try.

Daddy with Mommy, the woman who stood by him for 45 years

There have been several revelations to me upon Dad’s passing. The biggest realization, of course, was that I was blessed tremendously to have had him for a father. Many of us quote Philippians 1:21 (For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain) and Colossians 3:2 (Set your minds on things above, and not on earthly things), but not many of us get to see that in action. I was blessed to see that ideal lived out with my very own eyes. I didn’t always appreciate it, but now I’m incredibly glad that Dad was the way he was. That’s a rare thing to observe constantly first hand. Dad’s favorite hymn was “I’d Rather Have Jesus,” and nothing could be truer. Jesus was always number 1 for him.

Another important observation I’ve had following a moment of despair when I wept about how I didn’t have anybody else I could trust to give me wise and godly advice or to rescue me when I was in any kind of slump, was that I could easily get those directly from God. It was important to remember that. I’d leaned on Dad’s faith so much all my life that I sometimes forgot to exercise my own.

Another paramount realization is that Dad’s passing also reinforced my desire for rapture, the choice to set my eyes heavenward. That’s a gift to a Christian, who may still struggle with worldly enjoyment.

I miss my dad so much. My heart is broken, but I also have a hope and promise to cling to. I will see my dad again, and when I do, I will see Jesus too. That will indeed be a time of great rejoicing. In the meantime, I will remember my father with great love and gratitude.

Daddy – he kind of looks like Jethro Gibbs here

Here’s to my dad, the Reverend Cesar V. Papa, Jr. You’re an inspiration and an example. I’m so glad my children got to spend time with you and experience your love. We love you deeply and we will miss you so much, but we’ll be together again someday. See you then, Daddy!

When God Doesn’t Spare You

The gold foil curtain and gold mylar “70” balloons still hung as a backdrop for the dining room table. White and gold balloons still rested atop the china cabinet. The gold letters spelling out my mother’s name and fairy lights were still suspended from the chandelier.

The flood hadn’t reached them. I saw everything the day after the muddy waters had subsided. Below the remnants of the previous Saturday’s party was an overwhelming challenge. Waterlogged chairs had descended from their buoyant state upside down. The heavy sideboard had also floated and then rested on its side. The fridge had done the same thing in the kitchen. Everything was coated with thick brown mud.

Our house is a bungalow. The second level is but four steps up. Still, I prayed that the bedrooms would be spared so we could go back later in the day, when the typhoon had subsided, and sleep in our own home. That prayer wasn’t granted. The water went up to about mid-calf on the second level. It really was a pretty wretched day overall. It started way too early and then seemed to stretch indefinitely.

The power going out at about 4am woke me up. The winds lashed lustily outside, accompanied by a heavy rain that showed no signs of abating. That had been going on all night. We Mariqueños obsessively monitor the river when there’s a typhoon. In the wee hours of that morning, it had unfortunately already breached three alarm lines. It didn’t look good for those of us who live in the valley.

Marikina has hills. We used to live on top of one. I hadn’t had to deal with this kind of anxiety in recent years; however, we moved last year to one of the barangays lining the river. Nonetheless, we were much higher up than those along the waterfront. Our house remained safe from most typhoons, but it was vulnerable to a rainfall phenomenon like Ondoy (Ketsana). My husband and I told ourselves, “It has been more than a decade and there has been no flood in this area all that time. There probably wouldn’t be a repeat of Ondoy.” We shouldn’t have said that; it was too much like tempting fate. As it would turn out, Ulysses (Vamco) was a lot like Ondoy.

So that fateful morning, Mark and I finally got the sense that we were experiencing a rare meteorological event and started securing our valuables and electronics, storing them in higher places. All the while, I was praying, “Lord, please stop the rain. Please don’t let the flood come into our house.”

Water started entering our garage while we were packing the things we needed to evacuate. By the time the water started seeping into our living room, we were ready to cross the flooded street to the four-story house across. Our neighbors had been kind enough to open their home to us and those in single level houses on our street.

While at the neighbors’, I kept on praying for the rains to stop and, this time, for the bedrooms to be spared. Water continued to gush from the heavens. By the time I was pretty sure that the flood had reached the second level of our house, the rain weakened and some sunlight started peaking through the dense clouds. Too little too late.

The steady drizzle continued. The flood didn’t quickly drain as expected. I kept on praying for the water to go down. There were reports of other streets being flood-free in just a short time. Apparently, our street had a drainage issue. Of course it did!

When it started to get dark, and all the roads were already clear of water, except for ours, my mother sent over two of my cousins to pick me and the kids up. Finally, we could get some rest. Evacuating with two kids on the spectrum (and two cats!) is exhausting at best. Mark, who had been able to park our biggest vehicle on a higher incline, was able to follow in it shortly after further securing our still-flooded home.

It definitely could have been worse. I’m thankful that my family remained safe throughout the ordeal. That was really what was important. I told myself early on that I wasn’t going to dwell on the material loss, but I have my moments of grief over the things we have no choice but to throw out, especially the ones with sentimental value. As you know, I’m a collector/borderline hoarder. I’ve always liked that about myself, as a history buff with a penchant for nostalgia and preservation. The trait does say that I tend to hold on to things, setting myself up for the kind of heartbreak I’m experiencing now.

Against my nature, I try to look on the bright side of things. I can do it – with effort that apparently eases as I tune into God’s Word. The key is in looking to God for answer and comfort. The more I expose myself to Scripture, the better I understand what faith is all about, and I get a deeper appreciation for God’s goodness.

When things don’t go my way, I tend to get, well, royally pissed. I take it personally. Why didn’t God grant my prayers? Admittedly, my EQ’s not the highest. Deep inside, I can still be a spoiled brat. I want a charmed life – smooth-sailing and free of heartache. That’s not something you get from being a Christian. You’re actually considered more blessed the more you suffer. My human nature balks at the idea.

Consider Peter’s input, however (1 Peter 4:13 ~NIV): “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Not only are you supposed to not resent the suffering, you should actually rejoice while going through it. That’s quite the tall order.

However, thinking of what Jesus went through, it did make me go, “What’s a little devastating flood?” Losing material things, facing an overwhelming challenge in order to return to life as I knew it… The desire to pout was there, but shame from this impulse overcame it. I said to myself, “Really? You can’t thank God for the protection, for the strength and good health, for the kind neighbors, for your parents who have been hosting you, for family members who have been watching your special needs kids while you try to get your home habitable again and your life back on track, for the provision, for the peace and resilience…?” If I can’t exult and exalt God in this minor trial, how can I bring myself to do so when something more difficult comes along?

James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

I often say that I don’t believe in testing or grading. That’s the kind of homeschool parent I am. The statement is not accurate though. Of course I believe in testing. Life tests my kids’ acquired knowledge all the time. That’s why I prefer their learning to be natural and genuine, not forced for the purpose of passing written tests and getting impressive grades.

The testing of one’s faith is trickier and harder than any exam out there. Failure means profound loss and immense danger. God not sparing me from mishaps, disappointments, and losses allows me to fortify my faith. It’s like building up spiritual muscles that I can flex as life’s storms strike. A strong faith is obviously paramount in finishing the race. In this lifelong event, great endurance is absolutely necessary.

In my 40+ years, I’ve learned that, while I may not be not privy to it, there is always a bigger picture than my personal episodes. Life has meaning, and all those moments make sense in the grand scheme of things. That’s why I can expect this experience to improve my mettle as well as to further equip me for God’s plan for my life. I’ve gone through multiple existential crises in my day, but I’m happy to note that I was always able to resolve them with the conviction that God is real and that He is good.

Difficult times will shake our faith. Prayers that are not granted will fuel resentment toward God. Cling on. It’s important to forge on our spiritual path and develop God’s perspective to understand that our sufferings do not negate His love and goodness. In doing this, we can learn to remain joyful and thankful no matter our circumstances.

I had a post about the Icelandic Christmas book flood in the late stages of tweaking and pretty much ready to go, but Ulysses happened, and I had no choice but to shelve it. I hope this bit of musing can help somebody come to terms with their difficult situation. Blessings to you all.

Introducing the Joy of Friluftsliv to Our Kids

Last year, the word du jour was hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Everybody was hygge-ing it up with their warm drinks, home-baked goodies, and candles, trying to create the sense of coziness that the philosophy embodies.

I personally embrace the concept. I’m an introverted, albeit family-oriented homebody, so my personality is pretty much designed to revel in all that warm, intimate togetherness. In the-ber months here in the Philippines, it can be cool enough so hot cocoas, frequent cuddles, and a perpetually steaming, cinnamon-scented kitchen become even more enjoyable.  Take note, I said more enjoyable – that means we’re a people who are used to hot dishes and drinks as well as cozy snuggles in varying degrees of tropical heat.

This year, however, another Scandinavian word is working its way into popular consciousness. Friluftsliv, an ancient Nordic philosophy that literally translates to “free air life”, is about spending time outdoors and connecting with nature.

Unlike hygge, which is easy enough to say even for my untrained tongue, friluftsliv is quite the mouthful, and it will trip my tongue and tangle it up if I say it without proper preparation. It also takes similar effort for me to get behind it, not because I don’t agree with it since I wholeheartedly do, but because my mental conditioning tries to limit me to comfy, air-conditioned, wildlife-free interiors.

It’s all a lie, though, I’ve discovered. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. The problem is that I have a tendency to be lazy and finicky, an inclination I used to frequently indulge, which unfortunately led me to turning down opportunities to get out there and choosing to stay comfortably ensconced within the confines of my home. I’ve found though that when I did step out of my comfort zone, my effort was always rewarded. Being out there in nature never failed to enrich me.

Being a parent in this day and age, I have to be even more diligent about making that conscious effort to spend time outdoors. It was author Richard Louv who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder”, and it’s a truly alarming condition, considering so many children are happy to vegetate at home, staring at a screen for hours on end. This activity, and I use the word with irony, is something that has been associated to the exacerbation of mental and emotional disorders, so parents really have to be vigilant in qualifying and quantifying the exposure that their children get. In my opinion, and I’ve been to known to have reasonable ones, the natural world is as fine an exposure as children can get.

Spending a lot of time in nature, as what friluftsliv advocates, is important to a person’s wellbeing. Human beings were meant to live in it and not in the artificial setting we’ve come to fashion for ourselves. Something integrally within us seeks out the natural world and connects with it. That’s why when we give ourselves a healthy dose of nature, we feel revived. We get that kind of energy from a living, breathing world.

They might not have called it friluftsliv, but the experts have been pushing us to ingrain it into the lifestyle of our families. It is quite easy and cheap to do too. Contrary to popular expectation, outdoor recreation does not have to be extremely rugged. You don’t have to go rappelling, spelunking, whitewater rafting, scuba diving, etc.

You don’t have to travel a long distance either to experience nature. Where I live, a stroll around the neighborhood is sufficient. There are nearby parks that also serve quite well. Nearby university campuses have also nice offerings in the way of greenery. Graveyards have also been known to work for us. When we want to be in the thick of wildlife, we fortunately only need to go for a short drive. We live in a river valley and the mountains surrounding us have plenty to offer that bears exploring.

What do we hope to gain by observing friluftsliv? The benefits include increased physical activity, lower stress levels, and seriously quality time spent either alone or with company. And you get to achieve all of them amid the beauty of God’s creation, which is unparalleled.

Do you feel the lure of nature? What do you do to make sure that you and  your family regularly get to connect with it?

The First Time I Share About Our Autism Experience

Puzzle ribbon

Now that Autism Awareness Month is over, I wonder just how much more aware people are of the condition. I have a feeling those who bothered to read posts and watch videos were mostly those who were already aware and probably dealing with it in some capacity. Those who shared a witty slogan or two were likely happy to leave their contribution at that. Did you wear or decorate with blue? Yeah, that was supposed to mean something.

I don’t know that I’m ready to write about autism. I don’t know that I have anything sensible, let alone helpful, to say. When it comes to my son’s condition, I still have no answers, no Eureka moments that other families dealing with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have been blessed with.

You can say that I’m still floundering. It’s not even being back to square one. At square one, I thought the solution was definitive. The developmental pediatrician had made her diagnosis and subsequent prescription, so I expected to see significant results in time. That was very naïve of me. Autism does a magnificent job at confounding the most logical and learned minds. Is it neurology, nutrition, genetics…? I don’t know. Nobody actually knows. Experts, non-experts, and people with barely a nodding acquaintance with the subject all have their theories, but autism remains an enigma. I’m still not comfortable with that. I don’t think I ever will be.

But it’s my reality and I’m learning how to cope. I still alternate between acceptance and anger. And guilt. There are people who are great at playing victims, and then there are people like me, who would claim responsibility for causing the decline of modern civilization. My natural inclination is to spend an unhealthy amount of time blaming myself for the ills of my personal world.  These days, my son’s autism is almost always at the top of that list. At the end of the day, however, no matter my frame of mind, I have no choice but to take things a day at a time.

My second child was diagnosed to be on the spectrum two years ago. He had just turned three. He’s a handsome boy with a charming cleft chin and a gorgeous gaze that snared you whenever he deigned to bless you with eye contact, which was a rare treat indeed.

It just seemed like he was too cool for us, something that didn’t fit with toddler behavior. He didn’t want to listen to you. He didn’t respond to his name. Nonetheless, he didn’t walk on tiptoes. He didn’t exhibit any propensity for stimming. His verbal communication was minimal, but there were enough bursts of language to make us hope that it couldn’t possibly be.

Still, there were very clear delays in speech and social interaction, so my husband and I decided to take him to a developmental pediatrician. No blood was drawn. No lab test was conducted. There was a checklist though. My husband and I were interviewed, and then, finally, the doctor assessed our boy through play. An hour or so later, we had a diagnosis: he exhibited developmental progress of a 1.5-year-old and manifested autistic behavior.

When I finally had that official confirmation, I spent a whole lot of time in denial and in ignorance. I thought we could beat autism. We would therapy the heck out of our boy so he’d get caught up in areas wherein he exhibited delay. I would make it my main mission in life and would not rest until my son was developmentally caught-up.

Them’s fighting words. The fervor, however, fizzled as my plate teetered with all my other responsibilities. I was working, nursing an infant, homeschooling, doing what I could so the house didn’t completely fall apart… The solid effort I imagined putting in to power through the challenge I had such a laughably simplistic view of never materialized.

It wasn’t just my pitiful effort to the initial intent to railroad autism out of our lives; it was autism itself. There’s a name for it, but, oh wow, what an unknown entity it remains. The more you try to understand, the more you see that you can’t really fully know. That spectrum is a jumble of overlapping variables. The compartments are but an illusion. Expectations are not encouraged.

Still, we had to do something. We followed expert instruction and sent our boy to occupational and speech therapy twice a week for over a year. Unfortunately, results were minimal. While it’s true that we sucked at supplementing therapy at home, I just felt in my gut that this wasn’t the right approach for helping our son.

He had some good therapists, usually the older and more experienced ones, and he had some who were unsatisfactory. For instance, one was always rushing through the session and ending it with 10 to 15 minutes more to spare. That was obviously a great way to not give us value for our money, so I requested a different therapist after I’d noted the pattern.

Another therapist frequently gave negative feedback on my boy’s performance. When I got to observe a session with him, I noticed that he spent a lot of time on massage that was supposed to calm my son down. That showed itself to be a problem. First, I’m not comfortable paying occupational therapy fees for sessions that were half-massage. Second, he was using a product that I hadn’t approved of. My son has very sensitive skin and many products, even the hypoallergenic baby variety, make him itch. Third, all that massage made my boy sleepy. No wonder he was cranky and reluctant to perform.

This same therapist also asked me about play, and I replied that my son was really taken with straws. That gave him a pause, and with a look of concerned censure, he informed me that that was not developmentally appropriate. At that time, all I could do was shoot him a confused WTH look. “Duuuuuuuude, are you aware that you’re dealing with kids who were sent to you precisely because of their developmental delays?” In retrospect, there were other red flags I’d caught from that conversation. He just didn’t seem to know much about autism, so we decided that one wasn’t getting our hard-earned money either.

And then there was the front desk clerk. There was a time when I picked up my son a couple of minutes late. Unfortunately, this was during the time of the therapist who liked to cut her sessions short, so it’s possible that my son had already been waiting 10 or more minutes. I was amazed to see my boy sitting quietly beside her. That’s pretty much unheard of. He’s not one to sit still without something truly fascinating engaging his attention, and even then, he’d still feel the urge to move around. As we walked to the car, I noticed that my son was upset – not meltdown-upset, but more timid-upset, something also quite unheard of. The alarm bells began clanging in my head. I didn’t know how to find out if she’d bullied my child in any way to make him stay put, but I resolved to keep my eye on her and to never be late ever again.

After more than a year in, we didn’t see any marked difference in our child. His therapists would eagerly report his progress, saying now he could do or say this or that, and I’d have to pop their excited bubble and say that he could already do those things even before. I don’t mean to deprive them of any credit at all because there were some new things he did learn, but in my mind, I’m wondering if they could be attributed more to natural progression than anything else.

In the end, we decided to pull him out from the center and regroup. It was temporary at that time, but now I’m pretty sure we’re not going to use that place again. While in therapy hiatus, I’m researching all I can and trying out different approaches that speak to me. ABA, which was what the center practiced, didn’t feel right to me. If it were a medical treatment, I’d call it invasive. I’m always one for a more holistic and gentler approach. In autism, Son-Rise seems to fit that bill. The program’s crazy expensive, but I plan to order the starter kit. If it brings forth signs of the miracle I’ve been praying for, then we’ll try to raise funds for the intensive program, which includes staying in Massachusetts for a short period of time.

Besides therapy options, I’m also looking into diets we could try. GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) seems to be easier than the Feingold one. All those natural salicylate restrictions threw me, but I might give it a whirl if others don’t make any difference. I’ll probably begin with the easiest diet and hopefully it will already work wonders so I don’t have to try anything else.

For now, this is my contribution to the autism awareness cause. Some contribution. It’s purely anecdotal.  It’s rough and random. Any comfort or enlightenment derived from it is unintentional. I don’t want to pretend any wisdom on my part. I don’t want to pretend to have already come to terms with my son’s autism. I still want it gone.

I know the “right” attitude to have, but if I’m not feeling it, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Does this mean that I’m not fully loving my son because I want his autism gone? No. He is loved and cherished no matter what, but it’s because I love him so much that I don’t want him to suffer through the challenges the condition brings. If your child had a disorder, wouldn’t you just rather he didn’t have it, whatever it might be? It’s not about being realistic, but about your heart’s desire. After all, I believe in a God who makes all things possible, so I’m not going to put a limit on what I can hope for. In the meantime, we do what we can to make the best of our situation.

Through it all, I pray. Despite the emotional and mental roller coaster ride, I find rest in the fact that nobody loves my child as much as the Lord does. Autism is just another symptom of this fallen world, but I trust God’s love for us to be perfect despite our imperfections. His hand is on our family. I don’t know what to expect from our journey with autism, but I know to expect goodness, faithfulness, and wonderful works from God.

6 Easy Ways to Make Easter Eggs

For Christians, Easter is all about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Nonetheless, like many religious holidays, the celebration  has pagan elements in it, a result of cross-cultural influences.

With Easter coinciding with the beginning of spring in many countries, the Resurrection matched the concept of rebirth that ancient cultures associated with the time of the year. Easter eggs were a result of the fusion of traditions.

Traditionally, eggs were a symbol of fertility and rebirth. The early Christians adopted this element to signify something related to the Resurrection. Some liken the cracking of the egg open to the empty tomb of Jesus. Others see the egg as a symbol of resurrection, of life springing from something dormant.

Easter definitely has a tremendous message, and it’s important to prioritize that, but it’s understandable that we also can’t help but be excited over the frivolous side of the holiday. In my case, I always look forward to Easter egg decorating and hunting.

Decorating Easter eggs has been a tradition in my family, and through the years, we’ve tried several different ways to do it. Here are some of the methods I’ve found to be fun and easy to do with kids. Note: Be sure to use hard boiled eggs.

1. Markers – You don’t need to be a gifted artist to make an egg pretty with flowers, hearts, stars, or even polka dots. I like doing a mosaic pattern, though, and coming up with a design that alludes to the true essence of Easter.

2. White crayon and dye – This is an old trick. First, you draw something with a white crayon (I’m going with swirls) and then dip the egg in food color.

3. Water color – Again, it doesn’t take much artsy chops to paint an egg. Even random splotches would do, but I thought I’d work toward an ombre look this time.

4. Rubber stamp – You can stamp a variety of designs on an egg, but because I have an alphabet set, I decided to stamp my youngest child’s name on this one. I also rolled the egg on the ink pad beforehand. That ink has a shimmer that doesn’t show in the photo.

5. Stickers – I wanted to do a glittery polka dot design, but I didn’t want to use glue and glitter (or glitter glue), so I used a single hole puncher to cut out dots from the border of a sparkly sticker pad. I also used washi tape to hide the crack on this egg.

6. Dye over sticker – It’s like the opposite of stenciling. For this one, I made a cross using Scotch tape and then dipped the egg in dye.

Do you still decorate Easter eggs or do you just use those plastic eggs? What’s your favorite method of making Easter eggs? Please share in the comments.

A Pocket Full of Poetry

Emily Dickinson coverHello! Did you know that April is Poetry Month? As a homeschooler and poetry lover, I’m excited to observe it. If a whole month is too much of a commitment for you, you can concentrate your celebration on the 18th which is Poem in Your Pocket Day. As it is, I’ve introduced Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet from girlhood to my daughter. I voraciously read Dickinson in my early teens, thanks to her “I Am Nobody? Who Are You?”, which really resonated with me back then. Here’s a candid confession… High brow literature elitists wouldn’t approve, but I discovered Dickinson via those ubiquitous (back in the ’80s and ’90s anyway) Sweet Dreams teen romance novels. I vividly remember those two influential  books. I still know their titles and their plot. I could probably even detail some of the scenes. Here’s some more candid confession – I’m also trying to locate copies. As expected, my own copies were borrowed by loathsome creatures who didn’t have a nodding acquaintance with the word “return”. So, if you find copies of “The Right Combination” by Jahnna Beecham and “Love Lines” by Frances Hurley Grimes, please send them over this way; I promise to reimburse you. In any case, I haven’t exactly outgrown Dickinson, but my horizons have broadened some. These days, I tend to prefer reading Isabella Gardner; I love her use of language and the imagery she paints with her words.

Hope page
Going back to Poetry Month, I’m saving “I Am Nobody…” for later and starting Marguerite on “Hope (is the thing with feathers)”. Also, instead of regular stories, we’re reading children’s poems at bedtime. Marguerite really enjoys the Dr. Seuss ones. She’s a big one for silliness, that girl. Incidentally, lots of famous bedtime prayers rhyme, so if you want your kids to memorize something, going with a prayer will be much like hitting two birds with one stone. I personally love this one and have taught it to Marguerite –

Father, We Thank Thee

Father, we thank thee for the night,
And for the pleasant morning light;
For rest and food and loving care,
And all that makes the day so fair.

Help us to do the things we should,
To be to others kind and good;
In all we do, in work or play,
To grow more loving every day.

Rebecca Weston – 1890

There are so many ways to celebrate Poetry Month. If you’re a homeschooler who wishes to instill the love of poetry in your kids, a parent whose child won’t be celebrating Poetry Month at his or her school, or somebody who simply enjoys poetry, the following are some suggestions on how you can make the most of this month:

  • If you have a business, offer discounts or a freebie to those carrying poems in their pockets on the 18th.
  • Post short verses on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Handwrite verses on Post-its and stick them all over the house. Or the neighborhood.
  • Distribute bookmarks with your favorite verses.
  • Post a poem on your blog.
  • Text a poem to friends (but not while driving).
  • Revisit your favorite poet from childhood with your kids.
  • Include a poem in your kid’s lunch bag.
  • Organize a poetry reading.
  • Assign poems for copywork.
  • Using chalk, write poems on sidewalks.
  • Watch a movie that involves poetry. Take care to make sure that all content is suitable for kids. Even “Dead Poets Society” is PG. Perhaps “A Child’s Garden of Poetry” if you can find a copy?
  • Write poems for your kids, with your kids… just write. You can even take a single sheet of paper and pass it around (if you have more than one child) or back and forth, putting in a word or two during your turn. Once the paper is filled, you’ll have something akin to Dadaist poetry.

For sure there are more ideas out there. You can check out these Pinterest pages for other possible activities. Happy Poetry Month!

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