Release the floodgates

It’s now the sixth month but it feels like the New Year just started. For months everything seems frozen and in our lifetime this is the first time life came to a standstill–no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyone stayed indoors since March. Jobs for the majority stopped against their will. It was a tough choice against getting paid or getting infected by the Wuhan virus as others call it. Lucky for some, working from home became a viable option.

Today the government set to jumpstart the economy back to life. This despite many Filipinos saying the move is premature especially that we really haven’t flattened the curve like other countries. In fact, the numbers of those tested positive for COVID-19 continue to rise based on latest news.

But it looks like we just need to bite the bullet. We need to trust the authorities, however hard that is. Life has to go on even if it won’t be the same norms as we used to know it. Release the floodgates and we’ll see what happens next.

***

Usually Sando.

Most times we did stay at home but we didn’t really sulk. I still work weekdays sans the driving to and from the office. Thanks to our company that allowed us to bring our desktops at home and continue earning from there.

I realized soon though that it wasn’t easy as most of us ever imagined. Working from home has its own set of challenges. Distractions, for one, are all over. Roosters crowing at the exact time when there is a meeting. Dogs running around like the Tasmanian Devil. And most times they’d block the ergo chair as they’d settle right below it when their energy ran out.

To be honest, I looked forward to the weekend more than when I was reporting to the office. Home office set up is draining. The first weeks, even until now, I felt like I need to work early just because the desktop is just right there. It was always tempting to take a peek of what’s happening at work–if someone replied to my email or if the bosses had asked something from me.

Slowly, thankfully, I have started to control and manage my time. I just want to spend it more with wifey more so with Marcus because he hasn’t stepped out of house since the enhanced community quarantine started. I’m sure he misses the mall although he’s denying it. Good thing he discovered singing.

Must be the Bacardi.

For several weekends already we all clustered every night inside Marcus’ room to listen to him sing, mostly Taylor Swift songs and anything pop. Not to be left sitting and listening, I also found that I can dance along the songs. So weekends have been fun despite off key singing and awkward dancing.

***

Mood: 5/10 Honks! (GCQ starts now.)

Spring Roll

We are now entering the fourth week of enhanced community quarantine and the things to do at home are becoming uber repetitive.

For the first time in my entire life the Holy Week felt like months. I didn’t even realize that last week we already had Holy Monday that dragged on to Maundy Thursday. This COVID-19 pandemic just erased that distinction between regular weeks and the Holy Week.

Times like this creativity is a survival tool. Like yesterday Easter egg hunting was all in the confines of our house. Wifey hid plastic eggs where Marcus in his wheelchair can access and find. I think he enjoyed it, the dollars and pesos stuffed inside the eggs made his experience better which I think he got enough to afford himself a new Xbox game, Kerbal Space Program, and some extra amount to spare.

Last year’s bunny got out of the pile of plush toys.
Wifey’s Easter Sunday idea.

Also the first this year was Marcus taking a seat in the dining area. If I’m not mistaken, last time he was here was New Year’s Eve when we posed for our mandatory celebration picture. What got him there this time was the interest in helping prepare spring rolls with his mom. There were some challenges getting his hands up the table but with wifey’s assistance he made it and he ended finishing two spring rolls.

Marcus preparing veggie spring rolls.
Our simple Easter Sunday lunch which includes the spring rolls Marcus made.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Drafted while waiting in line in Shopwise Sta. Rosa.)

Internet Challenges: Keeping Our Sanity

The COVID-19 enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or something that feels like a lockdown or house arrest has so far exposed talents that most of us never knew we have . Some friends have given in to TikTok even without the influence of alcohol, just driven by pure boredom. Thankfully I haven’t had any video using this app although I now have the TikTok on my phone ready when better judgment fails me. Or when the spirit of alcohol kicks in.

But there are things that piqued our curiosity more than TikTok dances and with nothing but extra time on our side, we tried a couple already.

Dalgona coffee challenge. First seen trending on Let’s Eat Pare Facebook page, this foamy coffee refreshment immediately captured my attention but comments about having to whisk like an hour waned my interest in it. Then wifey, as usual, took on the challenge armed with a manual egg beater.

It didn’t take long for her to churn out a Dalgona foam–long whisking myth busted. She was able make one serving in just about 10 minutes which we both shared, unequally, me getting the most of it. I don’t have a benchmark on how it should taste but ours ended up literally bittersweet which I like. Not bad for our first Dalgona coffee.

MyFitnessPal shows 300 ml is about 250 plus calories.

Handstand t-shirt challenge. My sister tagged me on Facebook on a post showing a video of the Spider-man star,  Tom Holland,  putting on a t-shirt while upside down. I got more excited when I realized it wasn’t really a strict handstand so in a couple of hours after finding a gap in my work at home I tried it.

First try was just to check how my video would look like. It was my first attempt to lift one hand while on face-to-wall handstand position so there’s some hesitation when I tested if I can wear the shirt. I gathered enough courage and balance on the second video recording and was able to complete the challenge in less than a minute. See video below.

The ECQ has been extended until April 30 so I now wonder what internet challenges I’d do next.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Getting used to working from home.)

14 days quarantine and counting

When I posted last month the condition wasn’t so serious. Nobody thought it is going to reach where we are at today. We are now under quarantine because COVID-19 (or the Coronavirus) has become pandemic.

Lives have changed drastically. Globally. The statistics of those infected are getting scarier everyday. Some have recovered but it is very minimal number compared to the still growing infections. When this ends, nobody knows.

At the very least impact, Marcus has skipped the malls for weeks now. For someone in a wheelchair and already stuck at home not being able to step outside at least once a week is big deal.

His recovery from his cough that started last week of February was slow. Each day my wife and I prayed it won’t come to a point when we need to have him checked at the hospital for fear that he and us would be exposed to anyone who might have COVID-19. He was still coughing after two weeks but gradually lessened on the third. Thankfully, he is now well. In fact, last night I had him get back to doing hand pedals for his home therapy.

***

There are other changes in my routine too. Beating the clock, our company was kind enough to allow some of us to work from home for business continuity. I’m now sharing workstation (I brought my own PC from work) with wifey who has been home-based while doing freelance jobs for the longest time.

Facebook nowadays is also appreciated more. It has been the source of news and updates, good or bad, on the ongoing battle with the unseen enemy. With me getting more time to kill at home, I have become more active in trying to become relevant and connected. I haven’t done TikTok but so far a number are buying my wit. I should start giving top fan badges soon. I wish.

Like today a picture I uploaded on Facebook made our day. Wifey prepared a hearty lunch and she said it is pork katsudon so I took a picture of it and posted it on Let’s Eat Pare, a foodie group I’m a member of. “Katsudon daw sabi ni misis. Pumayag ako kaysa mapalayas ako sa bahay (Wife said it is Katsudon. I had to agree than getting kicked out of the house),” my post says. It really wouldn’t have mattered as I’d eat anything she cooks anyway though there are some I won’t and she knows it. For one, sauteed sardines with sotanghon. No thanks, I’d rather eat salt.

The post was meant to be a joke. I was so starved and so ready to dig in that I didn’t even take time to find a good angle. I just pointed and shoot but as of this writing it has breached 1K reacts with some commenting and even tagging people whom I assume are females or wives. Since I joined this group in 2016, this is the first my post surpassed 20 reacts. I’m now VIP, could now cut lines and get COVID-19 test kits. Oopps, another story.

Wifey’s home-cooked getting 1K reacts.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Playing Worms WMD next with Marcus.)

Alexa, Skip 2020

We were up 30,000 mid-flight homeward bound when I realized there’s free onboard WiFi. I was still groggy after minutes from waking up. I was hungry, wishing I’d get another serving of PAL’s tasty beef stroganoff. But I was more eager to check what’s online. It’s been hours since I lost connection after entering the departure area back in LAX.

I wasn’t expecting much when I opened my Facebook and Messenger. To be honest, I was actually checking if more people liked my stunts at Tom Bradley Airport and indeed, notification showed there were more who were amused. I’m building a fan base. Indulge me.

Entertaining myself during the 11-hour layover at LAX.

“Bad news”, however, followed by “Taal erupted” greeted me when I checked on my wife. I thought at first it was a bad joke. There was never any hint in the past days that this could happen but my Facebook timeline soon revealed that this small volcano in the scenic Tagaytay just unleashed its pent up fury. The pictures were scary, horrifying, like right out of a disaster movie. It made me feel helpless. I was stuck on a 777, long way from home. I was thinking about Marcus.

Photo taken by wifey from our backyard showing a large plume of ash and smoke from Taal which is several kilometers away.

Our flight, consequently, was diverted. A friend said news back in the Philippines say we’ll be landing in Clark, Pampanga but an hour later the flight map on my seat TV displayed our destination is no longer Manila–we were heading Cebu.

Diverted to Cebu.

I can’t recall ever feeling so uncertain, so confused. When we landed in Mactan I was calm, I followed orders but can’t wait to get over it and just be home. It was my first time in Cebu but it would’ve been a pleasant experience if it was planned and obviously this one isn’t. That time I didn’t even have any idea how long we’d be at the airport.

Perspective from my own sleeping space on the floor.
Getting my ref magnet to show I was in Cebu.

Two free Jollibee chicken meals later and an hour or so later sleeping on the floor with other stranded passengers, we got the final good news. Manila has cleared its airport for inbound flights. We will be home.

It’s interesting how this decade started. A trip to Kansas was a nice way to welcome the year but I didn’t see this Taal factor coming. Nobody did. Alexa, skip 2020!

***

Never imagined we’d be talking to a speaker.

I got a lovely Christmas present in the form of an Amazon Echo 2nd Generation but we had difficulty making it work since December. We soon learned that this is a known issue if activated outside US. I was so desperate and almost accepted we have an expensive paper weight.

I watched several YouTube videos on how to hack it but none of those fixed the issue. I even thought of bringing the one-kilo plus speaker to Kansas to see if I can set it up there but better judgment stopped me. I always prefer travelling light.

When I returned home from the client’s boot camp, despite fear that anytime we’d vacate our house if Taal worsens, we tried our luck once more to communicate with Alexa. Luckily, my Facebook cry for help resulted to useful replies. One said she also has an Echo and that she was able to make it function. I was encouraged so I searched online once more and one site did the trick. Few minutes after I clicked the first hyperlink on Techie Gadgets’ article, we already started interacting with Alexa. So again, “Alexa, skip 2020?”

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Day 3 since Taal has been lowered to level 3 alert.)

So We Have A Dog

Six months later I noticed I haven’t had an entry about our dog. Once referred to as a small rat for being so tiny the first time wifey got it out of a box that was less than half of a regular shoe box into our house is now a grown up dog and we think it is still growing bigger and/or fatter.

Being cozy with Marcus.

Named after Marcus’ pricey smart toy dog he got as a gift while in the US, Shadow soon became house-trained. I’d wish it’s toilet-trained but the fact that it whines whenever it needs to “go” and do it outside, wherever it pleases, is good enough.

First day Shadow went farther from home.

It wasn’t all good and easy though having him around. With me especially. I had less tolerance to pet peeves so I didn’t deal with most of it too well unlike wifey. I was strict. However, what I didn’t learn from reading about dealing with pets, I learned from Marcus. Some the hard way.

An animal lover since he was younger, it was his wish to have another live pet at home after we lost our cat, Mittens, in 2016. We tried a turtle and we still have a dwarf hamster. It took a couple more years for us to test if we can have something furry and bigger. Hypoallergenic dogs are out of the question due to costs. Thankfully, Marcus never had asthma attack with the mongrel shedding all over. So far.

Disciplining the dog was always the issue. Marcus is so particular with how his pets are handled. He reminds me when to clean the hamster. He would protest whenever he sees the dog hurt. It was a challenge explaining to him why I need to keep the dog from doing stuffs. Why there should be rules on what the dog can do and can’t do. At least he now knows to keep Shadow at bay whenever necessary. I taught him that a slight tap to the nose works.

Pet peeves aside, Shadow as it turned out is an active mutt. It has short bursts of energy. It is playful at the same time annoying–I was drafting this post with Shadow licking my head, biting my elbows. It plays fetch inside the house, it runs and jumps around which is the very reason I decided to install an anti-tip strap to our flat TV. Marcus loves all these antics.

This is why I now appreciate Shadow more being with us. To see Marcus enjoy the dog’s company makes me think we made the right decision to get a dog and deal with pet peeves in the process. I think I have learned my lessons–continue to learn may be more appropriate. I’d like to believe I’m a better pet owner and father, while I’m at it. We’re now like an ideal family out of Marcus’ Sims game. If only this dog could get a job or at least run along.

Shadow loves the yoga matt and is always around when I stretch after running.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Second week to see the team.)

Brand New 365 Days

Just like that here comes another fresh set of twelve months. The past year was interesting and fast wherein lots of things happened that I could only recall all with the help of Facebook’s a-year-ago-today feature or Timehop app. That year is over in what feels like a blink of an eye with its ups and downs making me believe that 2018 was a rollercoaster ride we all enjoyed and survived.

Now it’s day 1 of 2019 and hopes are all up. I have no written resolutions, a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, but I look forward to a better year ahead. By God’s grace I wish our whole family good health and harmony. Improved finances is of course welcome.

The second year we’ve been breaking and changing this Lego calendar.

Our routine resets this week. No more Christmas songs–though it’s tempting to still play them on Spotify. Everything goes back to normal whether we like it or not. Work resumes and the rat race begins once more. Although I’m one of those who take one day at a time, I want my days busy. The busier the faster the week ends. Repeat 52 times.

So for the nth time, I say happy new year. I will keep my fingers crossed and see what the next 365 days have to offer.

***

Some images from last night’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

Food at home was minimalist just how I liked it to be. Arriving from Bacolod with barely a day to prepare also helped.

Ground was muddy from days of rain and it was not wheelchair-friendly so some relatives dropped by to pose with Marcus.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (All’s well that ends well.)

In Sickness And In Health

When we walked the aisle on that very day we professed the ultimate commitment of our love for one another we made a promise. It was the sweetest, it was binding, it was the bravest vow any couple would ever make. Until death do us part, right?

Then life goes go one after the fanfare. Life as a couple, ideal it seems at that time, moves forward. We’re now husband and wife, ready to face the world. Then we’d have kids, the family grows from just two to more. Married life is bliss. Our love holds for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse…

But sometimes life would test further. Life would soon remind us the boldest commitment we’ve ever made, those romantic promise, likely in our then absent-minded state. In sickness and in health we’d later realize would be our mantra as we face head on the toughest of the toughest trials that would come our way.

Fact is, true love is easier said than done. It is skin-deep if it exists just for fun and in good times. For all we know, true love isn’t a party for it goes beyond looks and sex and marriage vows. It is anything but true love if it doesn’t survive ‘in sickness and in health.’ True love is an adventure, it’s a journey. Hair-raising but rewarding journey. Again, that is if we survive it, if we don’t give up midway.

This is why I admire married couples, more so the elderlies, I see in hospitals. These guys beat lovers in the malls anytime. I envy those who persevere, who try their best to make their balding cancer-stricken spouse smile; those who wheel in day after day their immobile husband to complete another challenging physical therapy; those who hold hands until their partner’s last breath. That, to me, is true love.

If I have my way, however, I do not wish to see the day I’d have to prove myself, to walk the talk, to prove true and deeper love. But when that day comes I wish and pray I’d be the strong person than I am today. “In sickness and in health…’til death do us part.”

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Words inspired by this recent week’s event.)

Binignit: Holy Week Comfort Food

I’m still enjoying the third day of my long weekend. This time of the year, the majority of the Philippines commemorate the sacrifices and death of Jesus Christ which is why there’s Holy Thursday and Good Friday both of which are regular holidays. It’s time off for Catholics and the rest of the working class. No bosses, no cares about bad call flow except for those left behind to keep the production running or churning.

I really didn’t do much of the rituals expected during this holy week. Sorry mother but don’t worry I did my own sacrifices. Food were in small(er) portions and working out and running were skipped for two days. No fuel, no go. And yes, I made my own silent prayers. Erm.

The past two days were meatless. So over brown rice and steamed veggies, yesterday I had binignit. I discovered that what I’ve known for the longest time as ginataan is also called binignit. A match on my favorite app confirms my entry. For the nth time MyFitnessPal recognizes my kind of comfort food.

Wifey and my in-laws prepared the binignit like some sort of holy week tradition. I woke up seeing them busy chopping the ingredients right outside our house. They cooked everything in one big pan that was then shared among every household. We got a lot which I thought at first I won’t eat as it’s normally cooked too sweet for my taste but thankfully it wasn’t this time. The Under Armor app says one serving equals two hundred calories. Not bad.

MyFitnessPal is always heaven sent. Until a timely bad news struck. Several news on social media report this morning that the app got hacked. What else is safe way nowadays anyway? The reports say that personal information were exposed, not quite sure if credit card credentials are among them. I’m spared, however. For one I don’t subscribe to premium service and I don’t have a credit card anymore. What only hackers could see on my account are how much eggs, and bananas with Skippy, Nutella, and Speculoos in between I have eaten. Then for two meals already, the binignit.

***

I must be a hermit in my past life. I could stay indoors the whole time and won’t make a fuss about it. So that’s how I spent two extra days, just at home and played games with Marcus. Man, he’s already beating me on driving games.

Marcus taking a break from the hot sun and Forza 6 game.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Now away from home and Marcus’ XBox today.)

Hot, Hot, Hot

Social media has all sorts of challenges. Anything under the sun, name it, it’s there. Most annoying lately is where people eat Tide pods. But I pick my battles and so far I have I tried doing a few. The last challenge I’ve been raring to take is this SamYang noodles challenge that trended few months back.

I always like watching people doing eating challenges–again, except stupid non-food feats. So when my wife asked if I could take the SamYang, I raised an eyebrow to make an arrogant statement. Definitely, I can do it.

Today, lunch was SamYang 2X. The noodles brand have ratings and what I had was half the one seen on viral videos. No sweat, I thought. One serving is 140 grams of spicy noodle that appears very similar to ordinary spicy noodles like chicken yakisoba or pancit canton only that SamYang has a more reddish color that seems to serve as a visual warning.

The first couple of bites were fine. But the spicy taste picks up in the succeeding intake, getting worse even before I reached halfway of my plate. Damn, it was hot. Wifey had a video of me eating SamYang and I’d pay her not to release it. I scrambled for two glasses of milk so I could continue until I finished everything.

Just imagine how the infamous 4X tastes. It must be super really hot but I’m up for it…maybe weeks from now as I try to neutralize the effect of a 500-calorie SamYang 2X and while I recover my dignity for crying over a spicy noodle.

SamYang 2X
Picture of hotness.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (I cleaned my plate, FYI.)