Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Plotting December

After a rush of LitCritter deadlines in the past few months, Dean gave us a break of sorts and announced that our next LitCritter Writing Challenge will be on December, with the actual challenge being to write a "plot-ty" (plot heavy) story. Unfortunately for me, plot is one of my weaknesses. This, despite growing up on such plot heavy masterpieces like Master of the Game by S. Sheldon and the plethora of spy-conspiracy novels of R. Ludlum.

What's even worse, of all the LitCritters, I take the longest time to craft a story. Unlike Andrew and Nikki, that, given a week (I daresay for Andrew, even less), they can come up with a competent piece of fiction that could be crafted into a great story given another few days; or unlike the two pigs (and I say this with the purest of intentions, referring to their Chinese Zodiac signs), namely my husband and Vinnie, where plot comes easy as Sunday morning and they could whip up something interesting and exciting within moments of just thinking about it, I tend to take my time crafting something and my approach is more like a sculptor than an artist wherein I batter my story into some cohesive and hopefully understandable shape as opposed to creating something from a blank slate.

And so now, I'm worried. I've been going through my old files, looking for some plot driven idea, and even started on a conceit or two and found myself incredibly bored. Or, hitting my infamous metaphorical wall. Most of the dead stories I've posted here, I concede, could be construed, if you squint hard enough, as plotty. But there's a reason why they're dead - I just don't have the heart to finish them anymore, having decided that the story is crap and not worth revisiting.

I'm tempted to try magical realism again, if only because, sa dami siguro ng nangyayari doon, hindi mo masasabing hindi siya plotty. And if I do, it would seem that I try this style at least once a year. Last year, I wrote a story entitled Wishcatcher based on what I thought magical realism was about (which is mostly reading GGM's works and Dean's works). It failed horribly. Now, I don't know if I've matured enough to try it again, knowing what I know (Dean gave us LitCritters a two hour seminar on magical realism after I submitted the story and my reaction was - that was what I was trying to do?! Good God!). But still the old fear creeps up that I will fail again. And while I have tried not to be obvious about it, having not submitted a good story in all the three recent deadlines for the LitCritters has hurt my confidence horribly, making me think twice (and thrice, and more) about my abilities as a writer, which subsequently forced me to revert back to the bad habit of over editing.

I know it sounds like I'm whining. But one of the things I love about blogging is that it allows me to face my fears and my concerns in a logical manner. And right now, after hearing some bad news about a particular story, this is my fear. That really, I can't write and everything else was just a fluke. Unspectacular flukes at that.

I know that after this blog, I will go back to writing my stupid plotty story for December. And I know I will never, ever, ever (ever) show how afraid I am about failure again. I know that, insecurities aside, I'll just keep writing, because that's just who I am. And I know, that come December, even if I fail, I will pick myself up and smile and take all the constructive criticism and move on.

But for now, I think I'll allow myself some moments to be afraid.

Dead Story: Redemption City

Redemption City. Legend has it, it was built by priests and nuns as a sanctuary of Christianity for those traveling to the New Frontier. Nowadays, people travel to Redemption with redemption the farthest thing in their minds. It’s a haven for criminals, prostitutes, gamblers and basically anyone else who wants to run away from horror of their lives.

But that’s not the reason why you’re here. You did not travel by coach and then by train and then by caravan, and again by coach, enduring the cloying heat, a highway robbery and the clinging smell of horse dung, dust and old leather to run away from your problems. You came here to solve it. And the answer to all your problems goes by the name of Buck Weston.

You take out a small mirror from your reticule and try to compose yourself. You feel tired and dusty and your petticoats are dirty from the sweat of your legs. You think this is no way for a lady to be seen, but then again, you’re no lady. You are, however, a widow, and for your late husband’s sake, you try to keep a modicum of decency. You fix your bonnet, tuck a curl behind your ear and pat your nose before putting the small mirror back. You will make your late husband proud of how you look if not with how you act.

Finally, the coach stops. You've been wanting to look out ever since the driver announced arrival at Redemption proper but you held yourself back. Though you have never seen Redemption, you have an image ingrained in your head painted by your parish priest and confessor that was hardly encouraging. Now that you’re here, you almost expect to see flaming towers and people cavorting in the dirt. You’re not entirely certain lightning won’t strike you down once you step foot on Redemption. You almost wish lightning would.

With a deep breath, you open the door.

You’re disappointed. Because you had expected so much, seeing the low cut gowns the women wore and the leathered up men was anticlimactic. The only details that reminded you that Redemption was not like any other city were the holsters the men wore, proudly brandishing weapons that would have been illegal anywhere else but in this city of sin. You wonder if the ladies had guns under their petticoats.

You step down and pay the driver, adding a generous tip. The fare itself was a hefty sum, but you expect to live to the hilt while you're here. After all, why not? Soon you will be free and everything that had haunted you these past years will seem inconsequential and trivial. The driver brings down your luggage and deposits you in front of the Red Lady Saloon.

Before you enter, you wonder how much it will cost you to kill a man.

His name is Buck Weston and he is reputed to be the best gun slinger in the country. According to your sources, he will pretty much do anything for the right price, including selling his own mother. What they didn’t tell you was that he was a handsome devil and that he could be such – such –

An ass.

“I don’t see what that has to do with anything, Mr. Weston,” you bite out, adding to his list of faults his lack of gentlemanly manners as you have conducted your thus far five minute conversation standing up while he calmly ate his meal unperturbed by the slight.

Buck took his time replying. “Well, see here, little lady –“

You are not little!

“- I don’t know what you heard about me, but I don’t just kill people for money. That just ain’t me. Now, if you tell me the entire story, maybe, just maybe I’ll be persuaded to fight for your cause.” Buck took a napkin and wiped his lips. “What you have so far is a sketch of a man, who has no name, who you insist is in Redemption who I should kill by tonight. It’s not much information to go on. Simply put, I’m just not interested enough to take the time out of my very busy schedule to do what you want, even if you are pretty.”

You wonder how long this conversation could go with you not strangling the man.

You take a deep breath and calm yourself. “Mr. Weston, if it’s just a matter of money –“

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Ms. Rogers, it’s not about the money. Pardon me?’

“It’s Mrs. Rogers,” you say, as if the oaf cared about manners.

“Mrs. Rogers,” says Buck, pushing his plate away as he leaned back against his chair, “It won’t do my reputation any good now, if they found out I would point and shoot whenever a beautiful lady asks me too, now would you? I’d like to think I have more discriminating tastes.”

You don’t know at which you would be shocked more, the sexual innuendo or that he truly believes he had a moral reputation to protect. Before you could say something – anything as a cutting retort to that - Buck stands up, throwing loose change on the table, picking up his Stetson.

“Now, if you have nothing else to tell me, I’d best be going. Got somewheres to go,” he said.

“Wait!” You say, because you cannot fail now, when you’re so close. “This man, this man killed my husband.” Several of them, at least you think he did, but you don’t say that.

Buck stops, and then he slowly turns and gives you the most dashing, devil-may-care smile you have ever seen. It must be the heat, but you could have sworn that the room moved.

“Now, that, is interesting,” Buck walks back toward you and you had to force yourself to keep meeting his eyes, “Here’s what, little lady, I’ll sleep on it tonight. I’ll tell you what I think tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” You croak as he leaned forward to pick up the sketch he had earlier tossed aside and for one brief moment was too indecently close that you can smell his cologne. “Can’t you think about it this afternoon?”

“Don’t rush me, Mrs. Rogers. I like taking my time.”

And with that, he leaves.

And the full impact of what just happened, hit you and you want to cry.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Learning How To Mourn

My husband's Ninong Jamin passed away yesterday.

Standing amidst family and friends at the wake last night, I can't help but feel a little out of place. It's not because I'm treated any differently, in fact, I felt that everybody went out of their way to make me feel part of the family. But I still felt uncomfortable. I think its because I really don't know what to do. All around me, people were laughing and chatting and making jokes (like one particular classmate who kept asking why Ninong Jamin is always racing to the finish line), complaining about the air con, gossiping about dead people and their not so dead 'other' relations. Even my father-in-law (Ninong Jamin's only brother), seemed to be in good spirits, making small talk about politics and how his little girl (Corinne) was growing up.

Honestly, I didn't know how to react.

My experience with mourning, Filipino style, is horribly scarce. My parents didn't like attending wakes and funerals, and when they were forced to, they were loathed to bring me saying that they didn't want to traumatize me. As I grew up (theoretically more capable of taking whatever drama might take place), they still hesitated in taking me along, leaving me in the dark as to what actually takes place during those sorrowful gatherings. In fact, on my family's side, I've only attended one wake/funeral - that of my aunt, uncle and cousin (who died at that infamous Manor Hotel Tragedy) - and, believe it or not, even though we traveled all of eight hours to get to the province, I was only at the wake at most four hours.

In the case of my aunt, uncle and cousin, I knew that the reason was because my mother, strong as she was, couldn't take seeing the coffins. My mother's way of grieving came in spurts. When she found out about her sister's death, she cried for all of two minutes; but oh, what two minutes they were. She wailed and wept and screamed and fell to her knees, and for her daughter who rarely saw her as anything but strong, it was an eye opener. And then, after the two minutes, she was all right. Perfectly normal. Until we arrived at the place where we had to identify the bodies. Another two minutes of heart-wrenching sobs, until she just said, in a tone that could not be argued with, that she will not see the bodies. And then, again, she was fine. When we went up to the province to attend the wake, my father had to forcibly push her to the coffins so that she and all her siblings could have one last family picture (I know it sounds cruel, but at that time, it was important to the rest of the family to have that one last moment.), but even he could not take the physical manifestation of my mother's sorrow. And so just four hours into the wake (my mother spending most of those four hours outside the funeral parlor), we left and retired to one of the houses that was kindly lent to us for the duration of our stay.

Since I've married Alex, my experience with attending these wakes and funerals have gone up by more than 500%. Alex grew up, on the other hand, knowing it was polite (and required) to go to the wakes of of even friend's far relatives. And since his friends family was far more "cultured" than my family, one of the first surprises I had was that, 'nagpapakain pala sila'. Honestly, before that, I didn't know. But attending these wakes, I learned not only that they usually serve catered food, but they also provide giveaways, even a programme of activities where known choirs/singers performed. Comparing this to the rather traumatic first wake/funeral I've been too, it was a little overwhelming. And then, there was the 'grieving' part.

When I attended that one wake/funeral, it was easy to look sad and be quiet. And perhaps, because of the tragedy, everyone else was too. But with the recent ones I've attended, people tend to be happier, more at ease. It's almost like a mini-reunion. I don't know whether I should respond in the same way (and yet, it still feels inappropriate) or just smile, act like I'm part of the wall (as I've been doing). If I'm to take a cue from my husband, I would be all "social butterfly-ish" and go around chatting with people, which I can't actually do even if I had the gall to do it because I barely know anyone (On a side note, Alex too, apparently don't remember everybody's names, but that's my husband for you). And even then, do I even have the right to go around when, honestly, I'm not that close to the ones that have passed on?

And then, there's the what-do-I-say to people who are directly affected problem. Is saying 'condolence' Filipino style, sufficient? If I say a few pretty lines, would I be overstepping my bounds? If I don't, am I being too cold? With my mother, I knew exactly what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. But with these new influx of family that I care for who are suddenly affected by something like this, what do I say?

Even with my husband I don't know how to react. I remember waking early yesterday to my husband mumbling something. I would find out later that he was saying the rosary after finding out that Ninong Jamin's condition has taken a turn for the worse. I was barely conscious and he really didn't want to wake me, so he started praying by himself. But even if my body was sleepy, I knew something had gone wrong. We had visited Ninong Jamin the night before and knew his condition was not good. And so I tried to ask (clearly I thought) "What's wrong?", to which my husband did not reply, and I figured he didn't want to talk about it. Flash forward later that afternoon and my husband said the only thing he heard me say was "Grhghreh?", to which I of course insist, I was perfectly clear when I posed the question.

Funny anecdote aside, I don't know what to say to Alex. He seems fine, and just like my mother, he seems perfectly normal. But unlike my mother, I don't know what not to do. We talk about the same things, he doesn't seem sad (except at one point during the wake when we both were affected seeing Tita Malen wiping the holy water off the coffin with her hands so that she could see Ninong Jamin better), he acts as if everything is fine. But I know he was close to Ninong Jamin. I keep thinking that perhaps, because I'm not (I only met Ninong Jamin a few times before the hospital visit) that close, he can't really share his sadness with me. And then, another more cerebral part of me insists that, probably, just like the rest of his family, they grieve by acting normal and by praying and by having utter faith that Ninong Jamin and the rest that had gone ahead, are now happier wherever they are.

Maybe someday, I would learn the same.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Comparing Green Eyed Monsters

Once upon a time, I was an extremely vocal, jealous girlfriend/loved one that lead to serious problems with my relationships at that time. Since then, I like to think I've grown - not so much as being the less jealous type, but more of knowing how to rein in my little green eyed monster. Right now, I tend to coat my possessive tendencies as jokes, and, as much as possible, I try not to let it get more serious than that. My husband senses though the storm beneath the calm waters (Or maybe, I'm just deluding myself into thinking I've got it under control - lol) and knows when to tiptoe around particular issues especially involving one particular ex-girlfriend.

Alex, on the other hand, is extremely un-possessive. I could go around flirting with men on a regular basis and I know it wouldn't bother him - not that I do, mind you - just that I know if I did, it wouldn't be a big issue. Which brings me to a sticky point in my long winded blog - if someone is not possessive nor jealous of you, does that mean that person doesn't think there's a risk of losing you? Which doesn't sound half as bad if it means you are doing a good job of showing you love him/her, but sounds absolutely horrid if it means that he just doesn't think you're good enough to get somebody else's attention.

In my case, on a purely cerebral level, I know that Alex is just being Alex, and with his confidence (partly because of the way he grew up, partly because its in his genes, and simply partly because he trusts me completely), he is not afraid of losing me. However, on an emotional level, I can't help but sometimes feel that a small, infinitesimal part of him believes I'm not attractive enough (and flirtatious enough) to the opposite sex (well, these days, it doesn't matter whether its opposite, does it?) that there's a risk I might fall for someone other than him (or that someone may attempt to make me fall for someone other than him).

I know that part of my jealousy stems from my insecurities (I have a lot of them as people may have noticed) and from my belief that Alex is a good looking, nice guy, who's smart, kind and practically spoils his loved ones that I almost always feel especially lucky that of all the women he could have gotten he chose me (the 'almost' there are for the times when he would disallow me from eating ice cream on the divan - ha!). As such, I think a lot of women (and some men) would be willing and open to flirt with him, wife notwithstanding. So, if he's never, ever jealous of me (Is this 'of', or 'for'? I'm not sure anymore.), does it, in some way, mean the opposite?

Or am I just being paranoid?

Sigh. Maybe there are some things where epiphanies will come maybe, oh, ten years down the line. Till then, maybe I can train my green eyed monster to do some other tricks.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Forgetting How To Smile

When I was really young, I didn't know how to smile. At least, not on demand. I hated having my pictures taken where adults, all smiles and high pitched voices (as if by doing so, it will be easier for kids like me to understand them) would tell me to say "cheese" when I knew perfectly well they wanted more than just me baring my teeth. But I learned to deal with it, like most other kids do, and my childhood was saturated with me smiling (and I use the term loosely here) awkwardly at the camera.

Ironically, when I was in my adolescence and teenage years, I learned how to smile. In fact, it was one of my biggest assets, being able to conjure up a cheerful/flirtatious grin with hardly any effort. Three of my boyfriends wrote poetry about my smile, another wrote almost nothing but my smile in his love letters, while the other - well, the other didn't actually notice, but that's another story. Needless to say, somewhere during the time I felt most awkward about myself, I had the consolation of knowing that I had great smile that could turn my otherwise plain face to something a little less average.

And then I began working. I don't even remember when exactly I started to forget how to smile, just that one day, someone asked me to smile in front of the camera (one of those group shots people are fond of) and I didn't know how. And so I froze. And bared my teeth.

Flash forward to the pre-nuptial pictures in the months before my wedding. My photographer, a really nice guy, was getting frustrated with the pictures he was getting from me. I was almost always tense in front of the camera. A vein appeared in my forehead, as if I was solving a math problem rather than simply showing my happiness. My eyes were almost never happy. It was a trial for him and a big ego setback to me, especially when I saw the prints. I looked horrible - old, tense, unhappy. And to be honest, bar those times I was in front of the camera (and the instances where I was fighting with my coordinator), I really was deliriously happy. I had a good job, I had wonderful friends, I had a great fiancee, and I was about to get married. What more could I have asked for?

Now, several years after I realized I had forgotten to smile, I wonder, if perhaps when I'm happy, I just can't smile. I know that this epiphany is a little late in coming, but it just struck me last weekend, that perhaps, the skill of smiling is most needed when you have nothing to smile about. And now that I'm actually happy, I don't get to exercise the skill and that's why I've forgotten it.

If my late epiphany is true, then I hope I never have to remember how to smile on demand.

For now, I'll just have to rely that my friends will feel my happiness, even if it doesn't translate well on the camera. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sick, Tired and Bad Poetry

A little known fact about me is that when I'm sick, I tend to be poetic. I'm not saying I come out with good poetry, but I do tend to write poems during the really horrid days. I think its because my brain is just too tired to stitch sentences together and will thus rely on imagery to convey whatever emotion I feel like expressing. Oh well, here's my output for this really bad day.

You sit in front of me,

expressionless with your phantom eyes;

- Oh, if you were just a memory

Of delicious blurred lines,

iridescent in my mind

that even your shadow is luminous –

But you, as we both know, are not –


Instead, you are dull, as if you are dead;

And you speak of dead words

And dead promises – were they mine?

I can barely recognize the carcasses.

They could be yours.

It almost doesn’t matter. Really.

Do you expect me to mourn?

You’re almost intangible now, flickering,

Like candlelight, like lost islands, like economies,

Like promises when they’re no longer convenient.

Am I being convenient?

I hope not.

I hope I make you uncomfortable.

As uncomfortable as I am now, sitting in front of you;

Dreaming that you aren’t there and I wasn’t here,

Remembering a time when you were alive

Vibrant, beautiful, solid,

So that when I touch you, you do not break

Nor shatter into excuses

But instead, you smile.

You’re not smiling now.

I think you’re crying, but I could be wrong.

Ghosts do not cry,

And if they did, who could see their tears?

They would be like mist,

Like dry rain,

Floating, evaporating, even before they fall.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dead Story: Weaver

You thought you had it all figured out. That was, until the weaver died.

Here you were, about to get married, dealing with your crazy mother who hated your fiancĂ©, your crazy would-be in-laws who hated you, and your crazy neighbors who like talking about people who hated each other, telling yourself, well, it wasn’t all that bad, all things considered. You had your man, and while his family wasn’t exactly welcoming you with open arms, they weren’t planning your assassination either. Of course, they still made the not so occasional snide remark about your mother’s not so pristine past, but those were just words and they couldn’t hurt you. Not truly hurt you, anyway. Because you’ve grown up, you’ve matured, you’ve survived and everything else could pretty much go to hell and back (your mother and his family included), and the wedding would still have taken place.

But then, the weaver died.

Technically, it shouldn’t complicate things. Much. But almost immediately after the village bells rang, Big Tom came knocking down your door declaring to your over-stressed mother that you’re the sole heir (or would that be heiress?) to the weaver’s family fortune of looms, cloth, needles and thread. You would hear later that your mother threw a fit – after all, she waited 22 years for some man to acknowledge his part of the tango of creating you, only to gain the much coveted recognition some two decades and odd years later with the man doing the recognizing pretty much dead and beyond murdering.

For your part, just a minute before the village bells rang to begin the mourning period, you woke up in tears, feeling as if something tenuous broke, a loss you could not verbalize. And so you didn’t hear the knock and you didn’t hear your mother’s wail and you barely even heard the village bells, ringing as loud as they did. Because all you heard was the rain of grief falling on dead dreams you didn’t know you had.

You thought they’ve gone insane.

Of course you wouldn’t speak during the funeral. Of course you wouldn’t attend the reading of the will. And you definitely wouldn’t want anything, not the looms, the cloth, the needles nor the thread, anything! from the weaver.

You don’t care if Wise Sally believes it would be best for the village if you actually let go of your grievances; you don’t care if Pastor Frank thinks that the spirit of the dead weaver will not rest peacefully without your forgiveness; you don’t care about Watchful Jack’s opinion that certain things have gone askew and it falls on you to do the fixing by actually accepting your inheritance. You. Don’t. Care.

In fact, the only reason why you’re even in the funeral march was because Big Tom came to get you, and when he comes to get lost things (or lost daughters as the case may be), you can’t say no. Mainly because he doesn’t even ask, just stands there by the door, and you get the feeling that he can out wait God. And so you went. But it doesn’t mean you’ll do anything else but march. Big Tom and the rest of them can just wait it out as long as they want, but there were things you just wouldn’t do. Period.

It was your fiancĂ© who finally takes you aside. For a brief moment, you were relieved. At last, someone who didn’t have an agenda, who didn’t have some stupid (hypocritical!) righteous (hypocritical!) speech. Just someone who actually cared about what you felt.

But he surprised you. He started talking to you about new beginnings and how old hurts could ruin it. He continued by saying something so trite, and so stupid, as how love could heal all wounds, and that he was offering all of his to make up for what your father could not give. If only you would let go. If only you would forgive.

You walked out on him. You walked out on them. You feel betrayed, angry, betrayed, tired, and mostly, betrayed. You walk back to your house and instead of crying, you allowed yourself to scream.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fighting for the Ideal

When Alex and I just got married, we both had pretty contradictory views on how marriage (and the consequent political ramifications of being husband and wife) should be. He grew up in a family that was more or less traditional - strong father (husband) figure with a supportive mother (wife); while I grew up with parents who both had strong personalities. One relationship was peaceful and the other, well, was not (Guess which is which - lol).

The only other model of a successful marriage we both were witness to on a regular basis was Dean and Nikki's. One of the more important virtues of their marriage, on the other hand, was the kampi concept, wherein they will always stand up for each other, in whatever circumstance. Because of that (as well as other things, I'm sure; marriage isn't exactly a formula), in their twelve year marriage, they have never (ever) fought.

Since my less peaceful model was outnumbered, Alex and I tried to go for the ideal, peaceful relationship. And failed miserably. Right on the first month, we were already having problems - which, in retrospect, isn't really that surprising since as girlfriend-boyfriend, we had lots of fights, I don't know how I could have thought one ceremony could change that. Needless to say, no matter how hard we tried, we were always ending up having fights usually coinciding with a certain time of the month (yep, I'm stereotypically irritable).

Our efforts were not without some results, though. We developed (well, not really, its been there long before us) a little game wherein if one was almost irritable, say, a five in a scale of one to ten (where 10 would mean that individual will be raring to get into a fight), that person will literally say that he/she has taken hold of the irritable stick, and the other (slower - ha!) individual will have to be patient and back down as much as possible. But, despite this innovation, we were still ending up having fights.

Recently, however, I've begun to realize that I actually enjoy the fights. It's not that I'm a masochist by nature, but when we fight, I see a side of Alex not obviously apparent to other people. Usually, Alex is amiable, nice, quirky and gentle to a point that I sometimes feel he's patronizing me; when we fight, he's aggressive, curt, masculine, and extremely sexy (anyone who has had angry sex and make-up sex will understand what I'm talking about). And at the risk of sounding even more perverted, I actually find myself liking the fact that I'm told I'm wrong. Most of the time, Alex tends to give in to my whims - he's just that kind of guy - but when I get him angry enough, he'll put me in my place and ironically, I feel even more loved.

I discussed this with him a couple of weeks ago and found that he too, enjoys our fights. His enjoyment comes from being able to raise issues he would rather hold back during peaceful times, and with me actually admitting I'm wrong (which rarely happens - ha!). And of course, the angry and make up sex.

With this little bit of epiphany, I've begun to realize that I really don't think I could survive in the peaceful model of my friends and family and neither could I survive in a war-torn marriage. But each couple needs to work out what works best for them.

For us, its all about having the occasional fight before going back to the lovey-dovey cutesy couple that we usually are.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pride of the Family

My mother recently passed this really impossibly difficult exam by the SEC (something like Financial Representative yada, yada). She was one of the 10% fortunate (and clever) ones in the Philippines who made it through the tortuous exercise that tested participants, among other things, on the AMLA (Anti Money Laundering Law - like Nikki, I try to inform the, uh, well, uninformed, a little something every time I post), Investment Computation (yep, number crunching) as well as other related legal and accounting issues for investments and insurance (a bit more number crunching). This is the third exam she has taken and passed. And while I don't want to parade on somebody else's rainy day, I can't help but brag that my mother beat this valedictorian type (you know, the one who always got perfect grades and had neat handwriting and perfect English and crisp uniforms) who had previously perfected the other two exams.

Is it obvious that I'm proud of her?

My mother at the age of ______ (ha! Even I will not risk incurring my mother's wrath by putting in her age), has accomplished much - she passed four licensure exams since retiring, started up her own business and now has gone into the investing industry, because, as she reasoned it's better to know how to manage your own funds. Being somewhat aware, if not totally an expert, on such things, I know how difficult it is to study the scope of subjects that she did. But not only did she do it, she succeeded. And while everyone else her age were going to parlors and salons and fancy restaurants (which she does - at least, the parlors and the salons, not the fancy restaurants), which I think she deserves after working most of her life (my mother's life is like Ana-Luna which is too convoluted to summarize in one blog - suffice it to say she and her family ended up dirt poor), she's out doing stuff, accomplishing things, not necessarily for the money (my dad suspects we spend more for her tests, gas, books and all, than she actually brings in), but for her.

I wish when I'm ______ I'll be as brave as she is.

I'm proud of you mom.