An Open Letter To An Angel On What Could Have Been His 21st Birthday

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

My Dear Keith,

Happy 21st birthday in heaven, anak ko. I have no doubt you are celebrating this milestone in the kingdom of heaven with lighters all around you, and in the presence of all other angels. Perhaps, you have crossed path with Daddy Henry where you are, too.

Time has gone by really fast. You could have been 21 today. I always wonder how life would have been if you were still around. I wonder of the man you could have become being the boy who believed he could do anything because he could! Most of your friends are now in college. I know of one who is pursuing his Medical degree, one her Psychology degree and another her Culinary degree (or maybe Hotel and Restaurant Management- not entirely sure). Your best-friend, the last time I chatted with him, was pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry. Would you have pursued your passion in art or music, or would you have been a firefighter as you said when once asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? Whatever you would have chosen to pursue, we would have supported you, and I'm sure you would have been great at it. Sometimes when I imagine you as a young adult, I can't help but feel the pain. After all these years, I thought that there will no longer be bitterness inside me, but somehow it creeps in especially in times when I am missing you the most. And I miss you the most when I am going through some difficulties in life- only because I continue to draw strength from you. Because you taught me how to believe that I can do and get through anything. Because until now, I still have so many "Whys". I thought that I have found the reason why God took you too soon, however the more I struggle with some things in life, the more that I am beginning to let go of what I initially believed in. Perhaps one day, God will finally shine the light and things will be completely fine. So, I will keep hoping and praying for that time to come. For now, I will continue to honour you and celebrate you in any way I can.

As I've done in almost 10 years, I lit a candle for you as soon as I woke up this morning. It has been my tradition to also listen to your favourite song "Lighters"- today, I played it three times. There is no doubt I wore your favourite colour blue as well.

I am glad that today, Meow and I were able to donate blood for the 10th time as we were not able to do this in January due to the pandemic. The lady who attended to me asked why I brought my toy with me. She wondered if it was because I needed comfort. Partly true, but also because Meow is a part of you. Somehow I felt like I needed to tell her about you and the reason why I was giving blood. She said she was sorry but honestly, it was (and will always be) fine because I am doing this for you. I am giving back because of you, and I am proud to be doing something in your memory. 

After we donated blood, I met up with Tito Gil and Belle. Tito Gil has fond memories of you, especially when you were a toddler. He loved taking you (with him) because you were easy to look after. You would go for a drive and visit some ladies, and you would just sit until you were ready to go home. You see, you were really never a trouble to anyone. Belle played with Meow for a while and she just kept saying "Meowmeow". I wish you were able to met her, too.

I spoke briefly to Inang and she told me that she prayed the rosary for you this morning. I chatted intermittently with Papa, Mama and your Adings throughout the day. 

Ah, I also tried the face app as I have been wondering what you would've looked like now if only you were alive, and it didn't surprise me as you have always been good looking. 

It's almost ten years now since you left us. I thought I would not cry anymore and I say this every time, however I found myself crying in the bathroom again today. No matter how hard I try not to cry, tears will somehow build up and naturally fall down. I guess I will just have to live with this.

As your earthly birthday comes to a close, I would like you to know that you are  and will forever be loved and remembered. Please continue to watch over your Adings. Please pray to God to keep them safe and healthy always, and Papa and Mama too. Please can you also help me pray to God to give Inang and Tatang more strength and the will to hold on a little bit longer until I see them again? You see, with what is going on in the world, it has been very difficult for me to go home and see them. This, amongst other things, is giving me so much pain and anxiety at the moment. There are so many things to say anak, but today is your day. I know it gives me comfort to write you letters, and writing was one of the things that helped me cope with your passing, however I should really be letting you rest in peace.

Thank you, anak. I love and miss you always.


A Blessed Journey To 45

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Having celebrated my 44th birthday in lockdown last year, when life seemed so obscure and most people were living in fear, I chose to be hopeful that my journey to 45 was going to be meaningful regardless of what the world was going through. This is not to say that the journey between 44 and 45 was without challenges, but things could have definitely been worse. So, I remain grateful for what was, what is and what may be.

This morning, I woke up to the sight of one of my greatest blessings in life. He was stood by our bedroom door having just come back from the kitchen to get a glass of water. He talked gibberish (which he sometimes do to amuse me). We both giggled and whilst he cosied up back into bed, I said I was getting up. It was only 6am and already, I was wide awake. Perhaps I was excited to turn 45 today, or probably because I was thinking of the errands that I needed to do. Then I was reminded of the message that my staff sent me yesterday, "promise me boss, you will rest". And so I changed my mindset and put on my running shoes instead. As soon as I took my first stride, thoughts came rushing in. My pace was slow, but my mind was racing. I reflected on the past year and how I got here safely, at 45. A lot of things have happened to me personally in the last year, both good and bad.

I started reflecting on my relationship with J. We've been together for seven years now, and although things are not perfect, I can say that we are blessed to have each other. Our relationship grew stronger during this pandemic and to be honest, I couldn't imagine myself being in quarantine with anyone else but him. He was my dose of diazepam when my anxiety creeped in. He was my voice of reason when emotions took over me. He was (and still is) my constant reminder that life could always be worse, and that I am blessed to have everything that I need in life right now. And despite the fact that we haven't been anywhere in the last 16 months, we have been enjoying each other's company in the comfort of our home.

My pace was steady. At 06:20 per kilometre, I felt comfortable. I ran towards Buckingham Palace. It was very quiet at 08:00. The sky above the palace was clear blue, no single cloud in sight. As I turned left to Horse Guards Road, I reflected on my parents. I was reminded of that day when my mother fell. I was on the phone to her. She rushed to pick up the phone but stepped on a stone and lost her balance. She managed to answer the phone, but she was already on the ground. She has not been able to walk since. My father on the other hand was reasonably okay until about three months ago when his Diabetes became severely uncontrolled, affecting his eyesight, his legs and his kidneys. And only last month, I had the worst fear of the year when he suddenly taken ill and was hospitalised for the first time in his life at 75. Thank God, he is at home now recovering well and almost back to his old self. Despite their current medical condition, I remain blessed because they are both alive and fighting. And if I had one wish for my birthday, it is to go home to my parents as soon as it is possible.

I decided to run past Trafalgar Square to check the pre-EU finals preparation. There was police presence and staff were busy putting more barricades in place. I ran towards Covent Garden, then reflected on work. It's been seven months since I left my first pandemic job and since I started my second. Two very different experiences, but it's safe to say that I am in a much better place now. Imperfect, but my team is perfect for me. This is despite the fact that there are  a few people who are quite challenging to manage. I am very blessed to have my team because above anything else, they are good people- and I guess this is the reason why we are successful as a team.  So, I can confidently say that despite the pandemic, I remain blessed because I was able to find a job that reasonably works for me, and also a short walking distance from home.

When I got home from my morning run, I took a moment to reflect on my health and J's. I was reminded of that time early this year when we both had COVID-19. We were lucky as we both had mild symptoms, but with Covid, any symptom can be quite worrying because it can progress quite quickly. We both recovered well from this and thank God, we haven't had any health issues since then.

My reflection was interrupted by a buzzer. It was a box of beautiful flowers from one of my former staff. The flowers came with a lovely note, followed by a text message that said, "You deserve more". Such a heartwarming gesture from someone that I've only worked with for seven months.

Then it was time to check my messages, and I felt so touched and humbled by the number of private messages I received from friends and family. These are the constant people who never forget to greet me on my birthday year after year. And for this, I am beyond grateful.

Today, I celebrate the blessings that I have received in the last year, big and small. And I am blessed to have been able to celebrate my birthday virtually with my family.  It was reassuring to see my mother at the dinner table for the first time in a long time, and my father in his usual grumpy self.

It was of course a real pleasure to have spent my birthday all day at home with J, catching up with family and friends and watching The Championships

At 45, I am blessed not because of my material possessions and my achievements, but because despite sadly losing a loved-one last year, all our family and friends are otherwise alive and well. Besides, I have a job that I am fairly happy with, and I have people around who care about me. And I guess during this time, this is all that matters.

So here I am, watching the Euro Finals hoping that England wins, so I can say that my 45th birthday is historical because England won after 55 years! 😆


What Leadership (in Healthcare) Means To Me During The Pandemic

Sunday, 30 May 2021

It's almost six months since I started my new role as a Ward Manager- my third managerial role in 3 years. Yes, so unlikely of me to change jobs this often, however circumstances compelled me to do so. Unfortunately, I was made redundant from the job that built my foundation as a manager in March last year, then difference in values made me quit the next job after that. But here I am now, finally settled in a place where I can say I am happy. 

I remember going for my interview amidst the second lockdown. I was asked to present on "How to Ensure the Right People with the Right Skills are in the Right Place". I really wanted to get this job, so I worked really hard for it although I was only given a few days to prepare. But you know what, I had a very good feeling about this job because every conversation I had with HR was positive. When I submitted  my presentation, she called me and said that the panel has seen my presentation and that they were impressed and couldn't wait to meet me. Apparently, I have answered all their questions through my presentation - exactly my aim whenever I am asked to present during interviews.

So, I decided to share bits of my presentation here because I have been reflecting on my experience in the last six months and realised that although I had a very challenging start, I believe that I have made a real difference as a leader as early as the first 3 months into my role. This was only possible because I have a good bunch of genuinely good people supporting me. The moment I finally built my own team was the moment things started to change positively. As a ward and as a team, we have received very positive feedbacks from our colleagues from other departments as well as from our patients. As a leader, my staff rated me 100% in the recent ward accreditation review. I know I am not perfect, but every positive feedback that I receive from my staff and my other colleagues on my leadership motivates me to do better as a leader. All this because I believe that I have the "Right People with the Right Skills in the Right Place".😉

One of the many things that I learned during this pandemic is stated in a quote by James Lane Allen, "Crisis does not build character. It reveals it." This resonates more so now that there is (still) a pandemic because the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we act and behave as individuals. It has massively impacted our healthcare system, too. And it is in these trying times that the true character of people is revealed.

In this current environment where people are constantly challenged, where risks are high and people are living in constant  fear and uncertainty, we need people who are able to adapt quickly and efficiently, therefore the more we need the right people with the right skills to be in the right place. So....

Right People

When I talk about the Right People, what do I exactly mean? For me, it all starts at recruitment and selection. During interviews, I specifically look for only three things: 
- The Right Qualification.
- The Right Attitude which for me, is the most important thing in the whole recruitment process. The right person with the right attitude should be able to demonstrate compassion, kindness and a caring attitude in their experience and intentions in applying for the role, as well as how well they respond to scenario questions during the interview.
- The Right Experience which is not always necessarily within the speciality but the right person should be able to demonstrate the ability to provide a safe and high standards of nursing care.

Right Skills

The right people will bring in their own skills, however to have the right skills, as a leader, I must empower then to communicate and identify the skills they posses and need to develop, the decisions they have to make, and allow them to be autonomous in performing their tasks. One good example I have for this was when I empowered and developed a junior staff who lacked self-confidence but showing a lot of potential to take on an Infection Control Lead role.

In addition to this, I motivate staff by maintaining open communication and infusing optimism in them. In my first managerial role, I implemented an award for staff of the month as a way of recognising the staff for the difference that they have made to the patients, displaying positive behaviour and going the extra mile for a patient, colleague or a member of the public.

I have always believed that empowered and motivated staff provide the safest and highest standard of care to patients.😊

I am also an advocate for staff development. I actively mentor and assess staff, supporting them in their training and development needs. As a manager, I facilitate annual appraisals, organise ward meetings and facilitate ward teachings. I also encourage staff to seek continuous improvements by encouraging them to attend trainings and take on extended roles such as link roles and participation in audits.

Right Place

I believe that the right place is nurturing and has a robust leadership and management. As a leader (first) and a manager (second), I deliver the best quality of evidence-based care to patients with integrity and always maintaining patient's dignity and privacy. Above all, I always prioritise patient safety. 

As a clinical leader, I am a pivotal source of information and of clinical expertise. As a previous Clinical Nurse Specialist and Nurse Practitioner, I have the ability to perform practical procedures and perform skilled assessment to patients.

In order to gain trust and respect from staff and patients, I believe that authenticity is the key. In addition to this, my team and my ward are a reflection of my leadership, therefore I have to be transparent even in times of failure, and hold strong moral principles.

Also, through my lengthy tenure as a nurse, I have developed confidence and initiative in communicating with other multi-disciplinary teams to ensure patient care is optimal during their hospital stay.

Resiliency is one of my greatest strengths as I believe that I need to be tough to be an effective leader.

It is also important for me to be sensitive to other people's emotions and concerns, and putting myself in other people's shoes. I am more understanding of staff with childcare issues, disabilities or illnesses. Personal reflection is also essential for my personal and professional improvement.

As a clinical leader, I have the ability to rise above challenges. Especially in this current environment, I have to ensure that I boost the staff morale and performance by showing that I care.


The Untold and Unheard Feelings

Monday, 19 April 2021

I have been extra emotional lately due to a few things that have been bothering me, mainly about my mother. It has been rather difficult for me to share any of my feelings to anyone because I know that no one will ever understand how I feel. So why am I here, you may ask? The simple answer is because no one is obliged to listen to me and understand me when I write. So, please allow me.

Firstly, I feel guilty that I didn't make an effort to go home to my parents in the past six years. And with the virus still raging (especially in the Philippines), I am unsure when I will be able to go home safely. It is very hard because I know that my mother is not very well, and all I want is to see her and hug her one more time. I didn't go home for six years because I was selfish. The only time I decided to prioritise myself because I finally realised that I've given so much to others and so little to myself, was the time fate played its trick on me. I would blame it to the circumstances, but still, I should have tried harder. 

Then the most unexpected thing happened early last year. My mother was diagnosed with a medical condition that is rather dangerous. As soon as I found out about this, I made plans to go home that April, but then coronavirus came. I have been speaking to her most days, if not everyday since then. I want to make up for the days I lost in not going home to see them- and this is the only way I know how. I felt very guilty and even guiltier when she had an accident in October last year which limited her mobility. 

I know my mother is suffering physically and emotionally, but she is trying her best because I know she still wants to see me. It breaks my heart every time I speak to her on the phone. I avoid video calls as much as possible because I don't want to see her in bed. I don't want to see her that way. 

You see, my mother is far from perfect. She has said things that hurt me and other people. She says things that make her sound ungrateful, but I know she just can't express herself that well. No one, not even herself expected this to happen to her. Her health was obviously declining, but we didn't anticipate her to be in this situation. And knowing my mother, this is very hard for her. Hence, her defence is to give in to the situation and (very reluctantly) accept that she is not going to walk again. My mother is not normally a negative person. She instilled positivity in me since childhood, no matter how difficult life was for us back then, so it is quite painful for me to listen to her utter words that only mean weakness. That's why whenever she tells me that she has accepted  her fate and that she is now going to be like this until she dies, it hurts me. My mother is one of the strongest people I know and it breaks my heart to hear her speak like there is no hope left for her. 

My mother without a doubt is showing signs of depression. It is not easy for an independent and sociable person to suddenly be confined in a room on her own majority of the time. She is feeling sorry for herself, and I can hear and feel her sinking deep into self-pity. She feels helpless and hopeless. So hopeless that she is even willing to sacrifice her own comfort, because she feels bad that other people are having to care for her. But has she got a choice? No. I know my mother would rather look after herself -if only she could. 

And here I am, thousands of miles away from home, looking after other people when I cannot even look after my parents, especially my mother. Every time I hold a patient's hand to reassure them that everything is going to be alright, my heart sinks. I always wish that it is my mother's hand that I am holding, and it is my mother that I am saying those reassuring words to. Lately, my morning rounds have become sort of a torture. My staff would address complaints to me and whenever I speak to a patient about their complaints, I think of my mother. I spend time listening to patients complain about little things- how I wish I can do that with my mother, too - in person, so that I can hold her hand and reassure her that I will do my  best to make things right. Being a manager has helped me gain a better understanding as to why some patients complain- because they are not in control. And my mother is definitely not in control of her life and her health at the moment, and this is why she expresses herself so negatively sometimes. My mother is not a bad person. I know there are worse people out there. In fact, when my mother was able, she helped a lot of people. Kind of made me realise that when you are no longer able and are the one in need of help, there will only be a handful of people who will genuinely pay it back to you. Not that you're asking for anything in return, but reciprocity should be given.

Honestly, this is very hard on my part. God knows that if given the choice, I would rather go home and look after my own mother. I feel guilty that I am not there for her when she needs me the most. I know my mother feels that she is alone, but she is not because she has me even if I am not physically with her. There is nothing worse in life than being surrounded by people and yet you feel lonely. Sadly, this is my mother's truth. She may not say it, but I know. She is my mother. She brought me into this world. 

It's really difficult for me to express exactly how I feel, because all there is is guilt. I have never felt so guilty in my life before. I know I have been mumbling throughout this blog, but my emotions are all over the place right now. So please forgive me if you're reading this and it doesn't make sense to you. Ultimately, there is only one thing that I am hoping and praying for- to hold my mother's hand once more.


My COVID-19 Vaccine Experience- First Dose

Sunday, 7 March 2021

It's been over a week now since I finally had my first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Just like some people, I was skeptical about the vaccines when they first emerged because there was not enough clinical studies to evidence their efficacy and the side effects that they may potentially cause. I felt that the scientists rushed the production of the vaccines. But one of my closest friends who is very sensible and is a doctor told me to believe in science. And why shouldn't I? After all, I am in a profession governed by science. However, I wanted to wait until there was enough study at least for the side effects. And then COVID-19 hit me. That's when I realised that maybe I should get the vaccine sooner than later, but I was told that I couldn't get the vaccine until 21 days after my positive COVID test. Unfortunately, there were no longer appointments available at work when I finally could have the vaccine, so I had to book via the NHS.

And so, two Thursdays ago, I arrived at a pharmacy in Marylebone to have my vaccine. The process was a breeze. A pharmacist went through some safety checks including allergies, current COVID symptoms, medications, bleeding problems and whether I had a vaccine seven days prior- all of which was a no. And then I was asked to wait. A young lady came to hand me a leaflet regarding the vaccine. When I looked at the leaflet, I figured the vaccine I was receiving that day was the Astra-Zeneca. I would have preferred the Pfizer vaccine, but with a lot of people waiting to have their vaccines, I was not in the position to be choosy. At least, Astra-Zeneca was proven to have 76% efficacy after a first dose. Then I was called in a booth where they administered the vaccine. It was not painful as such. I felt the prick but that was it. The lady then said I was good to go. I didn't wait for 15 minutes like the others, nor did I get a vaccination card. The vaccination card didn't occur to me until I got home. It was only a week later that I was able to go back and get it. 

Now, let's talk about side effects. Unfortunately, I was one of those who experienced side effects but not straight away. The day after I had my vaccine, I experienced muscle pains, most particularly on my legs. Throughout the day, my legs felt achy and heavy. My left knee felt like I had an injury. I felt very cold and felt like I had a fever. I didn't check my temperature because I knew I was experiencing side effects from my vaccine. I only took Paracetamol. I didn't do any exercise that weekend because I didn't want to make things worse. My arm was still heavy at this point. I had my vaccine on a Thursday and on the following Monday, I woke up with a very painful arm. When I checked my vaccination site, it was red. It was elevated and although it was not itchy, it was quite painful. I couldn't even lift my arm. When I got home that evening, the redness was worse. This was after four days of having the vaccine. The swelling and redness lasted for 48 hours. Apart from those symptoms, I was totally fine.

As much as I was initially reluctant to have my COVID-19 vaccine this soon, I am glad that I made a conscious decision to do so. I know the vaccine does not give me 100% protection from the corona virus, but at least I have some protection. These days, a degree of protection is better than no protection at all. And having had the vaccine also gives me half the passport I need to finally go home and see my family. 

I am happy that I finally had my first dose, but this does not mean I am complacent. I will still continue to wear my mask and take extra precautions because the world outside remains dangerous.

Until the pandemic is completely over, we must stay safe.


6 Books That Helped Me Get Through Lockdown 2020

Sunday, 7 February 2021

I have been blogging for sometime now, but I've never written about books. So, this blog is my first. Just to be clear that this is not a review as I am not a book critic. I just thought I'd share the books that I read in 2020 which helped me get through the lockdown, one way or the other.

Back in high school, I used to read a lot of books- from the Bible, to Sweet Valley High, to Danielle Steel and Sidney Sheldon. Somehow I lost interest when I started university. I very rarely read pocket books, if not at all. Perhaps because I was focused on my studies- too focused that I used to cram for my exams quite a lot. Hehe. Seriously speaking though, in hindsight,  I shouldn't have stopped reading pocket books because it would have helped me with my writing. But whatever. Here we are now. A few decades later, I am actually writing about some of the books that I've read. Another milestone in my blogging adventure. :) 

Actually, I have already posted these on my Instagram account, but if you're not following me there, then here they are:
1. Help Me by Marianne Power
- "Help Me" is only one of the five books that I read in less than a week. It is an easy read and made me laugh out loud a few times. This book reaffirmed me why I never followed the advice of self-help books before.

Anyway, at one point in my life, I resorted to some self-help books which didn't necessarily helped me. I realised that I didn't have to be someone other than myself to get through a difficult situation. I learned how to follow my heart instead, and believed (and I still do) that life is a trial and error. If I made mistakes along the way, I tried again until I got it right. Also, I dated a man who saw one of my self-help books called "Why Men Love B*tches". He told me that I didn't need to be a b*tch to be loved by a man. And almost 6 years later, I am still with him. So yeah, just like Marianne Power, I learned that all I needed to do to overcome the challenges was to be myself, and to accept the situation that I was in. After all, acceptance is the key.

2. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
- The first ever book that I finished reading inside a bookstore. Once I started reading it, I just couldn't stop. This book reaffirms everything that I have been trying to do (all this time) in order to live a happier and a more meaningful life. I am still a work in progress, and this book will now be one of my constant reminders of what life should truly be all about. And oh, the illustration is just wonderful. Every household should have a copy of this book.

3. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by David Kelley
- "To ultimately reach creative breakthrough, you just need to start, regardless of small failures that may occur along the way. It's unlikely that your first try at anything will be a success. But that's okay. It's hard to be "best" right away, so commit to rapid and continuous improvements. The messiness of such trial and error may seem uncomfortable at first, but action allows most of us to learn at a faster rate; it's almost a prerequisite for success. Otherwise, the desire to be best can get in the way of getting better."- Tom Kelley and David Kelley. Although this book is very corporate, this book reaffirmed the way I think and act as a leader in healthcare.

4. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
- " The law is simply reflecting and giving back to you exactly what you are focusing on with your thoughts. With this powerful knowledge, you can completely change every circumstance and event in your entire life, by changing the way you think". I have always believed that I am a positive person and knew what I wanted in life. But, I think I have always been wrong. Or perhaps I didn't think about them enough. Or maybe because I didn't have a vision board. Whatever it is, apparently it's something to do with the state of mind. So, yes I am still working hard on this one. And apparently, it's never too late. All I need to do is learn how to control my thoughts, and think and act with conviction. 😉

5. Dear NHS by Adam Kay
- Not quite sure about this book, but thank you NHS. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work and live abroad. Thank you for building my nursing foundation in the UK. Thank you for shaping me to become the nurse that I am today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most amazing nurses, nurse assistants, surgeons, doctors, allied health professionals, admin staff, cleaners, porters, etc. Thank you for all the wonderful things that you do. I will always be grateful and proud to have spent most of my nursing life with you. I hope to return one day. For now, I pray that the universe will keep you and my friends safe.

6. Sex and Vanity by Kewin Kwan
- I loved the Crazy Rich Asians movie, but actually haven't read the book series yet. Sex and Vanity is the first Kevin Kwan book that I have read. Despite the mixed reviews, I actually liked it. It's light and funny with a heart. A perfect summer read if I may say. Everything in the book is over the top extravagant- and loads of name dropping! I wonder who will play my favourite characters Freddie and George if ever the book will be made into a film, and oh, the Ortiz  sisters from the Philippines! And guess what? Kevin Kwan himself actually liked my post on instagram, so yes!

So, those were the 6 books that I read during last year's lockdown. But I don't want to end this blog without sharing the book that received the most likes on my instagram feed, although I finished reading it in 2019. I am not actually sharing it just for that, but also because the photo is one of the best photos I've ever taken. In fact, someone from California (Magnolia Wellness in Costa Mesa) actually used my photo (with permission) to promote their virtual book club. It also stayed in top 5 photos of #goopbookclub for a few weeks. And if you check #lauralynnejackson, two of my photos of the book are currently in top ten. So yes, I am proud of myself for those little things.

The book is called "Signs" by Laura Lynne Jackson. It took me a month to finish the book and I finished it whilst I was in Montreal, Canada.  For me, it was worth the read because it somehow made me reflect on the "signs" that were sent to me by Keith when he crossed- and there were so many of them. There were stories in the book that validated my personal experiences and made me want to fully believe in signs. I guess this book becomes more meaningful if you actually have lost someone really close to your heart. There is definitely something beyond this world that is quite hard to understand. And the signs that the universe is sending us may just be the answers to a lot of our questions- we just need to be more aware of them. Maybe, just maybe. There is definitely no harm in believing anyway. 

My aim is to finish at least one book a month this year. So far, I have finished two books, so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to reach my reading goals this year. 


Keith's 9th Year In Heaven

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Where did the time go? Next thing I know, it's been nine years since Keith left us. 28th of January nine years ago remains the saddest day of our lives, but in the last nine years, we have kept Keith's memories alive in more ways than one. We still talk about him as if he never left. Although whenever I look at his photos, I still feel the pain because I really miss him. But, they are also one of the things that remind me how lucky I was (and still am) to have been called Mommy by a beautiful boy who was truly an angel on earth. 

So, today we remember Keith on his 9th year in heaven. Whilst I would normally donate blood to honour Keith, I didn't this time because I recently had COVID-19. I, however, continued other traditions that I started nine years ago. I wore Keith's favourite colour baby blue all day. As I've always done since he left, I lit a candle this morning and played his favourite song "Lighters". I sat for a while browsing at his photos whilst cuddling his favourite toy, Meowmeow. 

Back home, it's customary for them to prepare some food for the family to remember Keith on this day. When I called this morning, they had some close family members over. Although the way we remember Keith has changed over the years, we still make sure that we do things no matter how little to honour him. As I said before, he touched so many lives in his short life on earth. And even if other people will forget him, his loved ones will not. He will always be our Keith who inspired so many children. He was a boy who was very shy, but was always willing to share his talents. He was our Keith, who lit up our lives and who made us all very proud.

We miss him dearly. He may have left us but he remains in our hearts forever. We love you always, our dear Keith.


When COVID-19 Hits Home: My Personal Journey

Sunday, 24 January 2021

On the 4th of January, I woke up with cold symptoms. And because I've not had enough sleep for about 5 days before that, I thought I was just tired so I went to work as usual. At work though, I felt very cold and soon after lunch, I started coughing continuously. My throat was very dry and I felt quite warm inside. But despite the symptoms, I felt fine. 

For some reason before I left work that day, I decided to take my temperature. It was 37.6. I didn't think any of it as I normally get these symptoms in the winter anyway, especially when our heating at home is quite high. But in the current environment that we are in, you can never be sure. It just so happened that we were rolling out the lateral flow testing that week, so I asked for my kit so I could do a test before I went to work the following day. I also asked for a PCR swab test although I wasn't due one- just in case. 

When I got home on that Monday, I was sneezing. I decided to sleep in a separate room from J - just in case. The following day, I did the lateral flow test at 0615 am, just before I was supposed to leave for work. It was positive. As this test kits are apparently only about 70% accurate, I did another one. It was still positive. Although I knew there was a possibility, I didn't want to entertain that thought. That's why when I saw two lines on the kit the first time, I became very anxious. This was despite having only mild symptoms. That Wednesday, my PCR swab test came back positive. I was very disappointed, but there was nothing I could do. I had the dreadful virus, so I had to deal with it.

So, I began my isolation period. I had to sleep in a separate room from J. Our infection control measures became more robust. We wore masks, gloves and sanitised the surfaces with Dettol. We washed our hands rigorously with antibacterial soap like there was no tomorrow. We prepared our food separately. Unfortunately, we only have one bathroom in the flat, so I had to spray the bath, sink and the toilet bowl with Dettol every after use. It was tedious to be honest, but it had to be done.

And as mild as my symptoms were, it was still unsettling. I knew that coronavirus symptoms can progress very rapidly, so I was vigilant. I checked my temperature and my oxygen saturations regularly. For at least three days, I experienced mild shortness of breath on exertion. At some point, my sats dropped to 96%. It has always been 99-100%. Apart from that Monday, I didn't have cough nor fever. I only had headache and runny nose, sometimes blocked nose. On the third day, I developed hoarseness of voice, but it went away the following day. 

I was determined not to let this coronavirus win, so I didn't entertain my symptoms. I still exercised every morning, but I only lifted light weights. I continued to do household chores, although at times I felt quite tired and slightly short of breath. I started yoga again after so many years to ease my anxiety. I recited positive affirmations- one thing that I've never been good at. I prayed hard. I drank warm water with honey, lemon and whole clove twice a day. My brother suggested that I inhale warm water with ginger, so I did that too. I continued taking Vitamins D and C. I took nurofen cold and flu because it always works for me whenever I feel under the weather. I read an uplifting book. I watched funny and inspiring vlogs on youtube- one thing that I don't normally do. Yes, I don't watch vlogs at all but I am glad I did when I was on isolation because I came across the Hungry Syrian Wanderer. I became a fan instantly and now I look forward to his vlogs. I also started watching Vice Ganda's vlogs. Man, I have not been this lazy in a long, long time. You know, for a while I have been wishing to have a day off and just do nothing. It took a coronavirus for me to do that. 

Anyway, I felt better after one week so I pushed myself further and started doing cardio exercise. At this point, I have claimed complete healing! I went back to work on Monday, 18th of January. 

I have fully recovered  now, and although J and I have completed 10 days of isolation from each other, I decided to complete at least 20 days because I wanted to make sure that I certainly no longer have symptoms. And today, we were finally  able to hug each other, albeit still wearing masks. 

Initially, I was disappointed and truthfully - bitter because as far as I know, I was more careful than most people out there, and yet I got infected. J has been working from home since March and has not really gone out of the house apart from medical appointments. I felt very bad that I brought the virus in our house. But because I work in a hospital, it makes me more susceptible. 

To sum up, this has been an eye opening experience. The thing is, whether I had mild symptoms or not, the fact that I had the corona virus was simply scary. I was fine physically, but I was all over the place mentally. There were so many what ifs and whys. But, I am very grateful indeed that I only had minor symptoms and that J didn't get it. We are some of the lucky ones.

And although I never doubted that this virus is real, it became more real to me when I had it. So please, stay safe.


The Greatest Teacher That Was 2020

Friday, 1 January 2021

2020 definitely changed the world in more ways than one. As I write this blog and reflect on the greatest teacher that was 2020, I mourn the loss of my second father, Daddy Henry. It wasn't the 2020 ending that I prayed and hoped for, but God had other plans yet again. Sometimes we are given no choice than to accept the things that we have no control of. As much as it hurts to lose a loved one during the worst of times, I know that we have to at least try and find the silver lining amidst of it all. Suffice it to say that 2020 was a very challenging year. But with the challenges came the most valuable lessons. For me, the two greatest lessons I learned last year were kindness and gratitude- two of which I have practiced all my life, but this pandemic brought a whole new meaning and essence to me.

Why Kindness?

During this pandemic, so many people lost their lives and jobs. Similarly, a lot of people lost their homes, livelihood and loved ones from the devastating fires and calamities in different parts of the world. There is no denying that the world went through the worst in 2020. Not forgetting the people who suffered mentally and emotionally during this time. But people came together and helped each other out. There were numerous relief operations and generous donations from a lot of caring people. There were thousands of volunteers who helped the people in need. The kindness that I have seen during this pandemic restored my faith in humanity. However, this does not mean that other people don't need to learn how to be genuinely kind because as much as I was inspired by the kindness of some, I was also disappointed in those who won't even try to be kind to others. This is the reason why kindness is one of the biggest lessons I learned last year. More so because  I was a witness to how some people were so unkind to others during those times when they should really have chosen to be kind, if they couldn't be anything else. Unfortunately, I met a few unkind people in my previous job and I experienced their unkindness first hand. Those moments when people came to me and opened up about how they were treated unfairly by other people will forever be etched on my mind. I spent a lot of time providing emotional support to people whose mental well-being was compromised by other people's negative behaviour. My heart breaks everytime I am reminded of how some people chose to mistreat other people instead of supporting them  to realise their own potential. Until now, I am still unsure whether these people eventually realised that they were the reasons why some of us left, and the impact their negative attitude had on some of us. Some people left the place emotionally injured, their confidence shattered and their hearts broken into pieces. If only people were kinder, then the workplace would have been a better place for everyone. Because the truth is, selective kindness does not work. If you choose to be kind, you have to be kind to everyone, not just to people whom you want to be kind to. So for 2021, I hope and pray that these people will come to their senses and realise that it is easier to be kind than not.

Why gratitude?

Because 2020 has elevated gratitude and gave it a whole new meaning. I am not going to lie and say that apart from the dreadful pandemic, I also had to go through some extra challenges last year which made me constantly uneasy. That's why you should be very grateful if the only thing that you had to worry about in the last ten months was the fact that you couldn't get out of the house to travel, eat and shop. Anyway, in February, my mother was diagnosed with abdominal aortic aneurysm which caused her health to decline in the last few months. Then she and my cousin had a COVID-19 scare. My mother is now wheelchair bound as she fell quite hard over a couple of months ago. She is stable at the moment, but I hope and pray that I'll still be able to see her once we are allowed to go home. Since I found out that my mother has AAA, I made an effort to call her everyday, even if it means only 5 minutes or so. Hearing her voice reassures me that (hopefully) she will make it through. And for this, I am very grateful.
We also had two trips to the operating theatre during the pandemic. You can probably imagine how it was like to be in a hospital during this time. Then almost two months ago, something really fearful happened to one my loved ones- one thing that I am not supposed to say as I am sworn to secrecy, so I will not elaborate. The emotional impact of these situations was harder this time round, with my stress and anxiety levels soaring high. And then, the recent passing of our beloved Daddy Henry.

But despite all this, I remain grateful. The pandemic has taught me how to appreciate the little things more than ever before. One of the blessings that I received last year was the fact that despite the pandemic and many people losing their jobs, I was able to successfully changed jobs twice. And these jobs paved way for me to meet some truly wonderful people, who became very dear to me. People that I know I will be in touch with for a very long time.

During the pandemic, I learned how to find joy and happiness in those little things that I would otherwise complain about because at times, I longed for more. I am blessed to have J in my life as a constant reminder that I have everything I need in my life, and that I don't need fancy things or food to be completely happy. The fact that I have a place I call home, food on my table and more than enough clothes and shoes to wear is enough for me to be grateful.

Apart from this, I am blessed to have managed to maintain and nurture my personal relationships, and reconnected with some special people who opened my heart, my mind and my eyes to better things. 

For sure, the pandemic has taught a lot of us many different lessons. But personally, it has taught me greater appreciation for my family, friends and everyone that I had the opportunity to meet. It has taught me how to live more simply, act more humbly and speak more gently and positively. 

Just like everyone else, I am glad that the rather overwhelming 2020 is finally over. And as the war against the pandemic continues, I remain optimistic that this will soon be over. 

For 2021, I wish nothing but better hope for humankind, health and safety for my beloved family and friends and fortitude for us all to withstand any difficulty that may come our way.

Happy New Year and please stay safe.

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