Sunken Treasure

My mother, Eileen Calinawan Conda, was a natural-born storyteller.

When we were young, Mama would tell us that she was kidnapped by a band of Muslim pirates, off the island of Mindanao, Philippines. She said this happened right before the outbreak of World War II. She would have been five years old at the time.

Although she was hazy on the embellishments, Mama captivated my imagination. How could she have been taken from her own family by these pirates, and not be found by her parents for three, four years? On the other hand, what adventures awaited a young girl while in captivity?

Mama was the “baby” in a family of five brothers and a sister. Her brothers all served in the Philippine Army or the Navy. They were much older than Mama. Her parents, Maria and Marcelino, were away from home every day. They gambled and drank. Mama was often left home alone. What kind of parents were my grandparents, to leave a child that young?

There were many other fables through the years. Fictional characters fashioned after flesh-and-blood people, family members, friends, enemies. Mama was a master weaver of tales. To the child’s mind, all was as distinct as black and white. But if there’s anything true, it was that Mama, indeed, cloaked herself in gradients of grey.

It might have been when I turned thirteen when I had an epiphany about my mother.

She lied to me.

Her world-view shaped my own.

As I grew older, I resented Mama more. Our battles were a daily thing. Sometimes, I would challenge her version of things. I convinced myself that this was why she disliked me so much. We were enemies from the beginning.

Like a ship that was poised to sink to the bottom of the ocean, our relationship was wrecked. It was irreparable.

When Mama died this past May, I saw her closest nieces at the wake.

My cousins, Lourdes and Teresa, said that our grandparents were rich. And along with that old wealth came all the trappings–housekeepers, nannies, fast cars, fancy dresses, booze, and gambling. How about child neglect?

Mama’s parents did leave her, like she had always said, not with a band of pirates but with the housekeepers and nannies, at home. She was a lonely little girl who wanted to belong to, and to be loved by someone. In order to survive, Mama had to invent her life.

Mama was buried alongside Papa a week after she had died. All that I want now is to rediscover her stories, just like one would for sunken ships.



You can avoid having ulcers by adapting to the situation:  If you fall in the mud puddle, check your pockets for fish.  ~Author Unknown

Change is a good thing. Change can be a good thing. It’s an opportunity to stretch a little, or a lot. Like waking up fresh in the morning.

I accept change, of course. But honestly, thank goodness there’s such a thing as constants. No matter how far I must bend over backwards for change, I gotta know that I can return to my starting point. So, as my writing exercise for today, I’ve compiled my list of constants. It’s a short list, to my surprise!

Here’s my list:

Sushi is my comfort food. When I was pregnant with my son, Alex, I dragged my husband to a sushi dinner almost every other day, while we lived in Newport News, Va. (As an aside, perhaps eating sushi wasn’t such a wonderful idea after all. Not while pregnant at least, due to the controversy surrounding autism and a possible link to mercury).

I’ve been known to take a day trip with family to San Diego just to satisfy the craving for fish. Heck, it doesn’t have to be always expensive. We’ve done Todai and Tora in San Diego. I am not ashamed to admit that I gorge on sushi whenever a chance presents itself.

Certain smells–roses, citrus, fresh-cut grass, baked goods straight out of the oven, extra-virgin pressed olive oil. There are a few more but these are my top five.

When I was eighteen years old, I was infatuated with the smell of cigarettes (yuck), especially on a man’s hand. It doesn’t get any weirder than that, does it? And, no. I didn’t have a crush on the guy (his name was Andrew). At least, not consciously? He was nineteen and back then, everyone wanted to look cool. Smoking certainly, by late 70s’ standards of cool, fit the bill. I still say, yuck. Cigars? Hmm. Cigars do smell sweet and nice.

Office supplies–pens, pencils, paper clips, merchandise tags, Crain stationery, all kinds of boxes and containers. I do a Staples run once every couple of weeks–just to see if there’s any new technology in the pens and pencils section. I did find a no-break mechanical pencil, how about that? The niftiest stuff, though, is at Target. Gosh, do they hire designers for their alligator clips? I won’t be surprised. I’m not alone in this–I sometimes walk the stationery and school supply aisles at Target to feel Inspired, e.g. find a color combination for a scrapbooking page.

Hoarding scrapbooking papers and tools. If you’re not a scrapbooker, or if you don’t go to 2Peas, you won’t understand this. But take my word for it. It is either a religious cult, or mass hysteria  So, is amassing an indiscriminate collection of scrapbooking-related doodads still an old and reliable standby for me? Recently, it hasn’t been. The husband thanks me for this. The children heave a sigh of relief that they haven’t been recruited to do the job of manning the Sizzix and cranking out 100s of flower die-cuts. And me? I’m just on a temporary hiatus (because I’ve got a current obsession with bb creams from Korea hah!)

Last but most certainly not least, my home, as my epicenter, my constant constant. My home is definitely not Home and Garden’s material. But for all its craziness and clutter, I can’t wait to get home at the end of a work day. So much of my heart is here.

How do people move out of their houses after having lived there for years? We’ve lived in ours for fourteen years now. We moved in on December 17, 1997. Our children were one- and three-years old then. This is our first house. When we (eventually) move, we leave behind a part of our heart. And soul. No wonder ghosts stay behind.

Rocca and Nutella


This is little Rocca, who like her sister, Nutella, is now ten weeks old. They had their first visit with our veterinarian, Dr. Waples, DVM, today.

Getting two baby guinea pigs was not my idea. My daughter threatened to walk out of the house towards Petsmart (just a couple of miles) in 90+ degree weather (not so brilliant of an idea), unless she can get guinea pigs.

Since Thor died–at least this is how I saw it–Renee has been looking for a new pet. A pet she can talk to (do teenagers never choose their parents first?).

“We’re not looking for a replacement for Thor”, I told her. Nope. It’s too soon.

One weekend in April, hubby and I went to San Diego, used yelp to locate some local pet shops and chose  the Animal House on University Avenue. The guys who owned/managed the shop said their breeding pair just had brand-new babies the day before. Ah, Fate!.

(Newborn cavies-as guinea pigs are also known-are precocious. Meaning, they are born fully-furred, eyes open, and can basically walk around and eat what their mom is eating. But it’s still adviseable to wait until they are weaned off from their mom at 4-5 weeks of age).

Lance, the one who has never been known to gush over anything, said, “The babies are cute”. Translation: let’s get a couple of baby guinea piggies.

The driving distance between San Diego and Yuma is about two and a half to three hours’ worth. And we had to come back in at least four more weeks, once or twice, if Renee and Alex wanted to check on them.

When we reached Alpine, I told Lance, “you know, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea, whatcha think?”  When we reached the Acorn Casino, Lance called the “Animal House guys”, paid them in full for two girl piglets, and vowed to return and pick them up when they were ready.

On June 4th, Rocca and Nutella came home. They didn’t drink nor eat for eight hours. But by 1 o’clock in the morning, I said to my daughter, “That’s it. We’re gonna have to hand-feed them”. And we did, pellet after single pellet.

It took all of thirty minutes for the girls to be fed about six pellets. Yipee.

I’ve become familiar with, and look forward to their wheekings (piggies are highly vocal beings, and this particular sound is reserved for their humans when they beg for food or attention or both).

When you love someone, you can’t avoid spoling them a bit. Rocca and Nutnut will eat their veggies only if we hand-feed them as they lay across our chest. A little sacrifice, in exchange for the big pay-off of seeing them grow each day.

On a few occasions, I even get a piggie kiss or two.

That is Nutella, or Nut, or NutNut, enjoying face time with Dr. Waples, DVM. We found out today that Nut is having babies! Dr. Waples heard at least two heartbeats.

Aren’t you autistic, too, Mom?

Alex, my almost-seventeen year old boy (five more days, he reminded me), asked me this today.

I should’ve asked him why he thought his mom might be. On second thought, why ruin the mystique? I venture to guess, though, that Alex is saying that I get him. We’re kindred spirits.

I will never ask Alex why he asked that. We already know why.

A Story

One little boy I saw today in my office drew a house that had a blue roof, a green window, and a red door. In it was a mouse that went squeak, squeak, squeak. The mouse ate the cheese that was on the table. And on the floor was dog food, which he colored red and yellow.

This was his first story ever told to me.

In the past year, he has grown his own ideas and thoughts, using words that he learned from the everyday people and things.

He now shares himself with the rest of the world. One story at a time.


I can never be a lawyer. Neither prosecutor nor defense lawyer.

I’m a fairly logical person. I believe in the social justice system–well, it works most of the time–and I have to trust that if it ever comes a time I will need to rely on the same system, I sure hope it is fair and blind.

But like I said, I can’t do it. Today would be the perfect example.

She was found not guilty of killing her daughter. From the looks of it, she herself was shocked to hear the verdict. Why wouldn’t she be? Too bad there are no thought bubbles when you really needed them. “Who, me? It couldn’t be”, she must be thinking.

She is now free. Let’s just hope she grows a conscience in her lifetime.

Or come back as a mosquito.

As superficial as skin

What you see above is my latest obsession. I’ve used it for two days. It’s supposed to blend in seamlessly with my skintone. It’s supposed to cure (this word makes me giggle) fine lines and lighten the skin. The proverbial holy grail of all facial skin care product. This particular bb cream from Missha currently retails at $29.99.

Here’s a list of the ingredients which I pulled off the website

Water(Aqua), Cyclomethicone, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Zinc Oxide, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Mineral Oil, Phenyl Trimethicone, Talc, Arbutin, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Dimethicone, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Squalane, Adenosine, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, PEG-10 Dimethicone,  Polyethylene, Beeswax(Cera Alba), Glycerin, Propylene Glycol,  Caviar Extract, Algae Extract, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Fagus Sylvatica Bud Extract, Ceramide 3, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance(Parfum), Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Benzyl Salicylate, Hydroxycitronellal, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Citronellol
MAY CONTAIN[+/-; Titanium Dioxide(CI 77891), Iron Oxides(CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)]

This is by no means an attempt at writing a review of this product (many other individuals are blessed with that gift!). My thought process is far simpler. I want to mention the ingredients which interest me the most. Here they are:

A quick Google search yielded the following information:

The caviar extract is for skin firming. The Arbutin is for skin lightening. The hydrolyzed  collagen is for smoothness. The squalane is an emollient and moisturizer. The algae is rich in minerals and nurtures, softens, and smoothens the skin.

Then there’s the mineral oil. Mineral oil? This has always been listed as one of the comedogenic substances. Anecdotally speaking, my skin has broken out from mineral oil, although perhaps it was the lanolin which actually did that deed.

The rest of the ingredients sounds so good LOL and I must confess, I am intrigued. Haven’t we all done that?