Sunday, October 22, 2006

Winning and Losing in Las Vegas

Spent 4 days in Las Vegas courtesy of Tita B. Went with Mommy Shalene, Tita B, Roc, Rondic and Elizza. Initially, I didn't want to go since I wasn't sure what Las Vegas had to offer to a non-gambler like me. I thought I would just be stuck in my room playing Fairies in my laptop or reading a book. Left without a choice since my brother, Ahia Jojo, lived too far away and also didn't want to inconvenience him since Gladys, his wife, was due to give birth any time soon, I packed my bags and went with the Las Vegas (LV) entourage, with the coaxing of Lai and Roc.

So, off we went on a Thursday (Oct 19) with a few stops in between - for wee wee break and for shopping. Finally reached Las Vegas in time for dinner at the Noodle Shop of Mandalay Bay. Most of us went straight to the Slot Machines after. I did too, trying out my luck. They say pregnant women are lucky... Not in my case.

By the second day, tried my hand at Black Jack with Rondic and Roc. This proved a better game for me. The slots literally just sucked in all the money I put out. By the end of the 2nd day, my losses were cut from $150 to only $50.

Decided to go on an adventure by my lonesome and watch La Reve, a performance by Cirque du Soleil on that Friday night. Ticket was at $99. Staged at Wynn's, it was an awesome performance. Fabulous production, beautiful costumes, jaw dropping sets and choreography. It was an overall great show. Well worth every buck!!!

Took a cab from Venetian where everyone was to check in for and meet up with Val, Ram and Ryder to go to Wynn's and back. My first ride on a taxi by myself too in Las Vegas. Going to Wynn, the taxi meter registered $4.95. I took out $10. The cab driver asked with a semi Spanish accent: So how much change should I give you? Thinking he didn't have 5 cents with him, I thought myself generous and told him proudly to "oh, just give me 5 dollars. You can keep the 5 cents." To his and my disappointment, he goes back, "But you have to give a tip to the driver, you see..." still with his funny accent. I was taken aback by his forwardness and my ignorance. I didn't know tipping taxi drivers in Las Vegas was a standard thing. So, I told him to "just keep a dollar and give me $4 back." And that was my baptism of fire. He drove away fast right after... I think he wasn't too happy. Hehehe... When I relayed this story to Mom and Roc, they laughed so hard...

Saturday was both a lucky and unlucky day for me. This is the winning and losing part. All bets were on Black Jack hoping I could get back my $50. The night before, I talked with Boydee and he gave me some tips. He also said, 'that's why people lose money in the casinos, love, because they always think they wanna recoup their losses.' He couldn't have said it more accurately. That day, I lost $200 more. I stopped then and promised that the next time I come back, it will be with Boydee and we had to recover the $250 I lost for us. Hehehehe.... That afternoon, I went back to the room to stay away from temptation. Then I realized I lost my red pashmina Mommy Nonie gave me!!!

I hurriedly went down and looked for Roc and the rest. It was also Tita B's time for her "Show me the Mummy" Slot Tournament. We watched her first and gave her support before proceeding to search for my dear pashmina. I was praying hard. That shawl had sentimental value. What an unlucky day! First I lose $250 then I lose the pashmina. Wahhhhh :(

Anyway, Roc and I proceeded to ask the pit bosses and the dealers we sat on and they all didn't see my shawl. We decided to go to the Lost and Found station and lo and behold, my red wrap was there!!! Roc and I heaved sighs of relief. We found it!!! Nevermind the $250, we can win them back (hehe... or not... hehe) but the pashmina was irreplaceable because of its sentimental value. That one you can't buy back nor win back.

That same day, Lai also apparently left her bag on the slot machine chair to play Black Jack. When she realized her bag was missing, she literally ran (for a pregnant woman, that is very hard to do! Believe me!!!) back to the slot machine to look for her bag. Luckily and thankfully, it was still there. Two miracles in an afternoon!!!

That day, despite my loss, I knew I still won. Really!!! What are the odds that lost expensive and important things could still be found and not stolen? Back home in the Philippines, the chances are just so dim. Here in Las Vegas, we found what we lost. So, I may have lost on the betting but I won back my trust in honest people. And that is a far more wonderful thing.

The next day, we were all set to go home, of course, with a few stops for weeing and shopping again. It was a fun trip to Las Vegas. My wallet was a little lighter but my suitcase of fun memories just got a large filling. Indeed, Las Vegas is a city that NEVER sleeps and offers so many things even for a non-gambler like me. Next time around, I'll watch more shows, take the gondola ride in Venetian, visit more hotels if only to look at their nicely decorated themed lobbies, and maybe, just maybe, play Black Jack again. Hopefully, my next trip, I'll already have my hubby in tow! That will make the trip two times better!!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Seeing the Sign

Faith is anchored on the unseen.

As the Little Prince said, "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." And so it is with our faith. Much of it is rooted in our hearts. We do not see God, but we know He is there because we feel His love. We see Him through other people and everyday miracles. And for the most part, that is enough for us. But there are instances when we need a confirmation that He is listening to us, that what major decision we are about to make is one that has His stamp of approval. And so we ask for signs.

Our past week in Glendale was spent searching for the right Obstetrician for me. Being my first pregnancy, it was essential that we find a good one and one I was comfortable with. My sisters-in-law's doctor, Dr. Chan, would be on leave at the time I was scheduled to give birth so having her was out of the question.

Initially, we had four choices. 2 male doctors in Glendale Adventist and 2 female doctors in Verdugo Hills Hospital. The first male doctor was antique-looking. He was old enough to be my grandfather (or at least that's how he looked) so that basically left me with the other male doctor, Dr. Artenos, who was recommended by Dr. Chan. The 2 female doctors were recommended by cousin Valerie and Mommy Shalene's friend. We scrapped the 2nd doctor since she had only been in practice for 2 years. Experience counts a lot for us. So the choices were now narrowed to two-Dr. Artenos and Dr. Nelson.

For several nights, I included in my novena intentions a sign from God to lead me to a good doctor. I prayed that I may find an image or picture of any kind of Sto. Nino or Mama Mary in the clinic of Dr. Chosen One.

My first appointment was with Dr. Sharon Nelson on the day of my birthday. I thought she might be the one since it coincided with my birthday. The visit went well, she was friendly and knowledgeable enough and came by highly recommended by her staff. But there was something missing. I didn't see the sign.

I scheduled an appointment with Dr. Jon Artenos and was given the Thursday of that week. On that day, I continued to pray. While waiting in his clinic, I scouted around for the sign. I looked in magazines, stared a bit at patients who may be holding on to prayer books, peeked in the secretary's area hoping to see an image. I saw none. The closest was an angel statue.

Feeling slightly disappointed, I thought perhaps God didn't want to give me a sign. Perhaps He wanted me to make a deliberate and intellectual decision. Just as I was resigned to that, the assistant called us in. She led us to his office and seated me and Mommy Shalene on the 2 chairs in front of his desk.

While waiting, I looked around. The moment I looked in front, I was jolted by the small picture hanging on the wall behind his desk. It was Mama Mary carrying the baby Jesus in her arms. I asked Mom if that was Mama Mary and she said yes.

I was teary-eyed. There was the sign I was praying for. Who'd have thought the sign would come so clearly and so up front?!? I was so touched by His love. In a few minutes, Dr. Artenos walked in and everything went smoothly. After the meeting, we stepped out of his office and scheduled my first official consultation with him.

I found my Doctor that day. Little did he know that we've already chosen him even before he stepped inside. God led me to him. I saw the sign. But more than anything, I saw and felt how awesome God's love for me and for the baby is. No matter how unworthy I may be, and no matter how many billions and trillions of people there are praying to Him, He gives each one of us our own time, our own little miracles. He's telling us He is there, He is listening and we will never be alone when we have Him and our faith in our hearts. We just have to notice and see the signs.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Pregnant Thoughts

I am now 7 months pregnant and my tummy is getting bigger and bigger. I am now in the US just waiting for Rafael IV to come out in a couple more months. Two more months of waiting... anticipating... experiencing new feelings and sensations... and of growing...

Pregnancy comes with its own unique set of symptoms, emotions and 'challenges'.

The first three months bring about a certain amount of fragility, fatigue and discomfort. This trimester is the adjusting stage for me. I am so conscious that there's a new life being shaped inside me and I start walking sloooowwer. I get sleepy more often and require afternoon naps. I have spotting when stressed out. My tummy doesn't show yet, but I am getting heavier - 5 pounds heavier. Luckily, I do not have morning sickness or have any particular food cravings. My Ob/Gyne teases me that my only 'paglilihi' is Boydee. I tell her, he's my 'paglilihi' even when I'm not pregnant. Hehehe... So, even if making love is put on hold, the love actually grows stronger knowing in my womb is the FRUIT of our love - Boydee's, mine and, more importantly, God's.

The second trimester is probably the one with the least pain and weakness but the period of changes and more discoveries. By this time, my body has adjusted to the changes in me that sometimes, I forget I am pregnant and tend to jump, walk fast or run. But then, the heaviness in my tummy reminds me that I can't move or shouldn't move as I used to. This is the trimester with the most physical tests - ultrasounds are now in the pelvis and not TVS anymore (Thank God!), OGCT (Oral Glucose Challenge Test) and OGTT (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test - considered a re-test for failing the OGCT - this is a torturous exam where blood is extracted from me four times in four hours - thankfully, I passed. If I failed, I would be diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes) are performed and a congenital anomaly scan is done (to check if our baby has been formed well). On the 5th month, another ultrasound is performed to determine the baby's sex. While the ultrasound is being done, I pray to the high heavens to let our baby be a boy. God answers our prayers! The sonologist sees a penis! Boydee, the proud father, says he's the man!!! Hehehe... We announce the great news to our families. Officially in my womb is Rafael IV. On my 6th month ultrasound, our baby is finally in the cephalic or normal position. He was breech for the past months. By this time, I gain a total of 18 pounds and am ready to leave for the United States.

I come here on the 28th week of my pregnancy. My tummy is showing but it is still camouflage-able. Instead of September 27, as originally planned, Mom and I leave on the 1st of October, the reason being I had to finish the finale of my teleserye Majika on GMA 7 which was on September 29. Just kidding... (partly anyway)! The real reason is the engagement of Randy to Stella. Friday was the designated day of his proposal and I really didn't want to miss it.

We land in LA and pray for a smooth, hassle free entry. We breeze through Immigration and Customs. God has been with us all the way... Now, almost a week here, we have yet to find a doctor for me since our family ob/gyne will be on leave the month I am due. Boydee will follow late November. Mommy Nonie will follow in December. The whole Dizon family will be spending Christmas here. Hopefully, by that time, baby Rafael will have come out of me and into this world, enveloped with so much love.

For now, I look at myself in the mirror and sometimes still can not believe that I am actually pregnant. It seems surreal sometimes. Everything else seems normal but my tummy is just getting bigger and heavier. My linea negra is showing. It is harder for me to bend now or stand up or sit down. I snore more loudly and deep breathing brings about much relief! And I now weigh 153 pounds. Baby Rafael keeps moving, giving me butterflies in my stomach. But I am not complaining.

Pregnancy changes a woman's lifestyle and her usual routine and daily activities are temporarily put on hold; life is on a stand still. But this is perhaps the most exciting phase in every woman's life. One that is filled with much joy, anticipation, excitement and gratefulness. We, women, are so blessed to have this unique opportunity to serve as God's instruments in bringing new life into this earth, of carrying His creation in our wombs, and raising His children.

So, what of the extra flabs that I have to lose after, the stretch marks and perhaps the sagging boots after? They are but proud scars of sacrifice and love for our baby. So what is nine months of temporary physical discomfort, constant check ups and visits to the ob/gyne, very minimal sex and sacrifice? There is life growing inside of me, our baby boy. And even if upon his birth, there will be more changes to come, I will embrace it. A baby will be born to us... and our lives will never be the same again. It will definitely and hopefully be better! We will finally be a family!