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Wifely steps

Today marks my first stint as a guest blogger! When the sunny and inspiring Toni of Wifely Steps asked me to write a guest post to celebrate the 7th anniversary of her marriage (and by extension, her blog), I leapt at the opportunity.

The theme was, naturally, “Wifely Steps.” There were so many things I could have written about, but one thing I was sure about was that nobody needed to hear marriage advice from a newlywed 28 year-old. So I wrote about the first wifely step I ever took. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to reflect on the journey and remind myself of my choice. Sharing what I wrote with Marlon got me a googly-eyed look, a big bear hug and a whispered “Thank you” – all of which were nice too.

Reposting from Toni’s blog (different pics there)!

Deepa’s Wifely Steps

I’ll let you in on a secret. The biggest wifely step I ever took was precisely two months and twenty-five days before I became my husband’s wife.

The diamond ring was on my finger, the wedding date was set, the honeymoon flights had been booked – and so had my one-way ticket to Singapore. Marlon, who had gotten a kick-ass job in Singapore, had been based there for the entire four years we’d been dating. Since we both agreed that the Singapore dollar would give us a better financial head start in our shared life, the moment we had gotten engaged, moving there became a foregone conclusion.

The thing was, I didn’t want to move. I loved my life. I had a career that made me creatively fulfilled, ecstatically happy and financially rewarded, a tight-knit family of females with whom I shared everything, and a large, loving and irreplaceable network of friends (a choir, actually) made my life sparkling and vibrant.

Unlike many Filipinos who would leap at the chance to live and work abroad, I was staunchly in love with life in the Philippines – with our people, our beaches, our Salcedo markets and Cubao Expos and cheap finds at Landmark, and damned if I was going to give it up to start from scratch, jobless and friendless, in a country about the size of Quezon City.
Marlon and I with the Singapore skyline

But when I said yes to Marlon’s proposal, I – by default, almost – also said yes to Singapore. We were overjoyed at the prospect that we were finally going to be together after four years of physical separation, but there were trepidations underneath the happy surface. I was not too excited about being lonely and financially dependent (at least until I got a job). Marlon was worried that I was someday going to resent him for being the reason for the disappearance of my wonderful life.

After a while, I realized I had said yes without really making a choice. And that beyond putting on a brave face, what I really had to do to start our new life together with no fears, no doubts, was simply… choose.

So on October 4th, 2007, only two months and twenty-five days before our wedding date, I really, truly and freely chose to move to Singapore. I wrote Marlon this letter, excerpts of which I will share with you.

Dear Marlon,
This is what I see. I didn’t choose Singapore. 
I chose you. I chose to be with you… no matter what that looks like.
Starting out, that was all I really wanted. I realized now, I’m finally getting what I really want. 
Coming into this marriage, you are my biggest commitment. I’m not committed to where we’re going to live, what we’re going to do, how much we’re going to earn, what we’re going to do with it. I’m committed to you – my best friend, my partner, my husband, the one true love of my life. And I’m committed to being with you – finally, forever. With that commitment in place, the rest just follows. It’s just details. It’s just circumstances. So I can rattle around and drive myself nuts about circumstances. Or I can see that I’m finally getting something I want with all my heart. Something I said I’d have no matter what, damn the torpedoes. You. You in front of me on December 29, and by my side for the rest of my life.
So there’s nothing there for me to do, or be, just yet. That only means I haven’t created it yet – and that I still can. Thank you for giving me the space to do just that in our relationship. Thank you that my life as me, Deepa, doesn’t end when our marriage begins. Thank you, because I know creating my life and sharing it with you will be so much fun. Thank you, because whatever game I choose to play, having you on my team will enable to me to kick some serious ass.

Thank you, because who you are to me is someone who is worth it. Thank you for being such a beautiful person, in the face of whom a beautiful life is almost relatively easy to give up. Thank you for being the beautiful person who is the beginning of a beautiful life where I am moving to.
I love you. And I choose you.

Making a real choice freed me to be truly happy on our big day

To date, that has been my biggest wifely step, from which all my wifely steps have followed. Some of those subsequent steps have flowed with grace and ease while others have been taken in awkward fits and shaky starts. 

Some have been fun – like learning to cook, assisted by my husband the kitchen god, or buying him a Playstation 3 for Christmas (to the horror of many wife friends), or simply allowing myself the joy of saying “Yes” when my husband says to me, “Let me take care of you”, or easing into the role of obsessive-compulsive itinerary planner for every trip and holiday (and both of us being peripatetic travelers, believe me there have been a lot). 

Sharing childhood memories with Marlon at the Grand Place in Brussels

Others have been challenging and difficult – like this past weekend, when Marlon and I found ourselves having a “who-would-have-thought-we’d-ever-be-here?” moment at the Great Wall of China. I, the sleep-till-noon-sloth, pushed myself to complete the entire trek up the mountainside, climbing hundreds of steps on a stone staircase with practically a vertical incline in a dress and Chucks, because I knew there was nothing more my adrenaline junkie husband wanted than to reach the top of the Great Wall.

At the summit of last weekend’s trek up the Great Wall of China

Starting my life as a wife began with a choice. And each wifely step I take every single day is just that, too – a choice. Even if the choice is inspired by my husband, or by our shared goals, or by my love for him or his love for me, the choice is always mine to make.

And I know I – and my wonderful husband – wouldn’t have it any other way.


… and the living is easy.

The first few days of my return to the couchwife life have found me taking it very, very easy. I rolled out of bed at noon on my first non-working Monday, snacked on leftovers while catching up on my stockpile of Gossip Girl episodes, and did a lot of surfing.

Having failed at my attempt to get up early and cook my husband breakfast, I compensated by having dinner up and running by the time he got home — grilled cinnamon and ginger chicken with couscous salad. I can’t remember the last time I did that and it felt wonderful to be wifely again.

Yesterday I swam a few laps at our condo’s bleached-hot, deserted swimming pool. Then I did the groceries, whereupon I found that the deserted supermarket aisles do wonders to alleviate the usual “supermarket-cart rage” that comes upon me on Sunday evenings at Fairprice. In the evening I met up with Bianca and Chi to help Chi put together his Miss Greece costume for a Miss Gay Universe pageant on Saturday. Craziness!

I’m at home and really feeling like it’s summer, what with these long, lazy and unbelievably hot days. I quickly learned that one of the upsides to working full-time is having the aircon on 24/7 at full blast, and not having to pay for it. Still, as I putter around in a constant sheen of sweat, I am almost giddy with gratitude at being home to experience a summer vacation for the first time since graduating from college.

On this summer vacation, I am both child and parent. I’m finding things to fill my own days — overseas trips, exercise, lunches, visits from friends, doctor’s appointments (hello Mommy!) errands and cleaning sprees. My supposed holiday is turning out busier than I expected, but I can’t complain when I see the neat little boxes in my iCal filled entirely with things I want and choose to do.

It’s a big change from the couchwife life of two years ago, when I had just moved here and was still trying to find work. We’re financially in a better position to fund my “summer vacation”, so I don’t feel so guilty about leaving the house and doing things like having lunch with friends or buying tickets to shows I would like to see. There are freelance clients — not to mention new skills and a level of confidence — I have now that I didn’t two years ago.

All in all it’s shaping up to be a good summer. Now if only it wasn’t quite so hot…

Hostess with the mostest

Marlon and I had one of our favorite couple friends – Susie and Tinus, who just moved back to Lah-Lah Land from New York — over for brunch today. And it got me thinking about entertaining and hosting social occasions at home.
Brunch guests Susie and Mr. T at our table, making mimosas

Part of being a young wife is the newness, fun and confusion of being a hostess. (Not a hoh-stess, but a hoe-stess. Just so we’re clear.) Marlon and I have guests over for lunch or dinner once in a while, and while Marlon does more of the prep work than any husband I’ve ever come across, these social occasions are always supposed to be the wife’s thing — making me, for the first time in my life, a hostess.

I love planning the menu and having friends over, but I have yet to get the hang of this entertaining thing. As a (relatively still) newlywed couple, we always find out just how little we have in the way of proper cutlery and china when it’s time to have people over. 

Our very first dinner guests, David and Phyllis, brought us a bottle of wine when we invited them over one weekend… only for us to discover that we didn’t even have a corkscrew. Marlon had to escape to the kitchen (which is open anyway) and stab at the cork with a bread knife, and we had to fish bits of out of our wineglasses all evening. David presented Marlon with a corkscrew the following Monday. 

Influenced by the Singaporean habit of stocking up on duty-free wine and liquor with every trip to Changi, we have a bottle each of champagne, dessert wine, Baileys and Absolut Tropical in the house… but only one set of all-purpose wine glasses from Ikea. I recently took advantage of a sale at Tang’s to buy serving plates, serving bowls and serving utensils because I realized we couldn’t go any longer plunking the metal pot of the rice cooker down on a trivet on the table, or serving couscous salad out of a scratched-up melamine bowl that Marlon used and abused through his bachelor days. Then when we bought pandesal from Lucky Plaza, I realized we didn’t even have a bread basket to keep the pandesal warm throughout brunch. It seems to never end!

And that’s just lunch or dinner for four people. When Marlon’s boss and his wife decided to bring their little daughter over for dinner, Marlon had to eat off a white plastic plate. Anything far beyond that magic number means paper plates for all — since we only have four pieces of everything.

Then there’s the matter of place settings. For brunch this morning, I had glasses and wine glasses on the table and had no idea if I should keep the tea cups for hot chocolate off the table or just plunk them in there. It’s almost enough to make a girl wish she had gone to finishing school. 

Tablea reveals itself to Susie… amidst our new serving ware from Tang’s!

Thankfully, most of the wives who come over are young wives like me. I haven’t seen anyone raise an eyebrow or make furtive notes on a checklist just yet. And luckily, our friends are pretty chill (and rather nutty). I spend a lot of time rushing back and forth before people come over, but once we’re all seated I wonder if I should even be wondering about how to be a proper hostess. And the champagne starts pouring, our friends start digging in and raving about Marlon’s latest culinary success, and we’re all laughing, there seems to be so much more to life than doing things properly.

First official kitchen disaster

i decided to bake some cookies yesterday while watching little women at home. it must have been the preciousness of my chosen movie. feeling all meg-and-marmeeish, i sent marlon a syrupy text message, promising to welcome him home from the office with freshly baked walnut chocolate chip cookies. 

it’s a good thing i didn’t promise him a specific number of cookies, because all i had for him was a plate of four cookies. which we would have to share. 
because this is what happened to the rest of the batch.
the first half-dozen fell victim to a mis-conversion from fahrenheit (the package instructions) to centigrade (our oven). the second batch turned out perfectly — they were the lucky four that ended up on the plate i presented to marlon. i left the third batch in the oven for a tad too long after the timer went off (you think it’s easy to tear yourself away from christian bale??) and they just continued baking until… (see above).
marlon took it pretty well.

he just laughed and insisted on documenting the whole thing, saying he felt strangely relieved to finally have had a kitchen disaster. then it hit me — a newbie cook like me, going six full months without ever having had a culinary catastrophe until this? i must be doing something right! 

Lovers in bohemia

one of the things i love most about my relationship with marlon is that we enjoy the same things. it makes time together utterly blissful. today’s art attack was a great example.

after rolling out of bed at noon, we went to the red dot design museum on maxwell street for the market of artists and designers (MAAD), which i first heard about two years ago. it’s a monthly market where all the goods must be handmade — which made for an amazing browsing experience. i was getting a little mall-weary and starting to wonder where to find one-offs from indie designers and artists; i had begun to pine away for the rockwell urban bazaar, and the salcedo and legaspi markets. MAAD was just enough to save me from mass-manufactured insanity.

the red dot design museum

looking for an atm gave us a nice little look at chinatown, an area of singapore i’ve never poked around in. in fact, i don’t think i’ve ever been to any chinatown, not even in manila.

the temple at chinatown

at the maxwell market: and i thought only pinoys could come up with signs like this

at MAAD, we found a surfeit of cute handmade jewelry, t-shirts, postcards, artwork, picture frames, bags, macbook stickers, magnets, accessories, dresses, notebooks, books and journals. (i’m actually thinking of selling at MAAD this year.) but hands down, the only thing i really, really gushed over and wanted to take home was the world’s skinniest dog.

so tell me, ever thought about modeling?

this italian greyhound, aptly named “hungry”, is owned by one of the sellers and seems like the perfect poster dog for figure-conscious singapore. adorable little hungry proved that he was also hungry for affection as he jumped all over me and marlon for big wet doggie kisses. sooooo cute!

we went to MAAD mainly for the portrait session — you sit for ten minutes as a gaggle of illustrators draw your portrait. if you like one of the portraits drawn of you, you can buy it for $8.

marlon and i could barely keep still. i realized this is my fourth time to sit for a portrait in my whole life. i’ll post the portraits we bought, and my four past portrait kwentos, in another entry.

we bought books from basheer graphic books — an illustration book for me and a creative project/collage book for marlon, which sort of seemed like a swap of interests.

i also got a cute necklace with pendants made from a 1970′s chinese-english dictionary. great concept — the pendants were cutouts of interesting word pairs like “dangerous” and “adventure”, “filial” and “loyalty”, “air” and “vital”. this was the word pair i chose, which is both apt for marlon and me, and how we chose to spend today.

later on, we went to the main basheer graphic bookstore at the bras basah complex in bugis (also known as the site of ze famous one-dollar bookstore), a discount art book xanadu for any artist/designer. picked up an old book of textile-patterned gift wrap up plus some art materials nearby — did you think these two art-starved stragglers were about to let all this indie inspiration just slide by without tossing off a few projects of our own?

crossed the from bras basah complex and walked past the mint museum of toys (which should be another great weekend outing) to va va voom cafe for a tasty, light and south beach-friendly vietnamese dinner.

and now, after returning home to do some vacuuming with my spanking new hot pink vacuum cleaner (every couchwife should have one!)…

the hubby and i are putting those art materials to good use; he’s working on an acrylic portrait of a rajasthani woman we photographed on our honeymoon, while i found a year-old sketch of hilda from the mahotella queens that i am turning into a collage with some new papers and marlon’s old art materials.

so enough blogging, it’s back to bohemia for now ;-)

Sneaky sneaky

it’s cleanup saturday at the plazos, and while ironing marlon’s polos i had the following epiphany.

now that i’m in charge of ironing in this household, i hold the power to banish the polo shirts that i’ve always hated! since marlon makes a beeline for the ironed polos every morning, the answer is simple. i’ll just never iron them! mooooahahahaha!

of course this could totally backfire. then my husband will not only wear icky polos to work, but he’ll wear wrinkled icky polos to work.

still, worth a try.

incidentally, i ran out of cds to play while ironing, and turned to the stash i grabbed from chris ong when he moved to the states. i wonder how my conservative chinese neighbors are liking the creepy atonal scandinavian contemporary choral music.

Couchwife and comforter

it’s been cold, gloomy and raining all through yesterday and most of today — perfect weather for curling up in my pajamas, under a fluffy comforter, with a good book. so i did just that. in this case, it was three good books — i turbo-read my way through stephenie meyer’s twilight trilogy.

it reminded me a lot of high school, which was (eeek!) over eight years ago. reading in bed was one of my favorite things to do on days when school got canceled because of the weather. i used to live near enough school to walk home the minute classes got called off, which was great — i would practically jump into bed with a book after my ten-to-fifteen minute walk.

in contrast, some of the other girls had to wait for their parents to finish work to pick them up, or their bus services to get to school all the way from paranaque and alabang. there were horror stories of girls who spent the whole night in their schoolbuses in the rain and in the traffic, only to arrive home in paranaque the next morning. all this was were pre-ayala interchange, pre-C5 and pre-skyway, of course.

so i was enjoying myself, what with my bottomless supply of brewed kapeng barako to offset the cold, until i started feeling a little guilty, and well… baboy about spending the whole day in my pj’s.

then i realized that i hadn’t done this in years… not since i started working! i mean, have you ever gotten sent home from the office because of the weather? i went to work the morning that freaking milenyo struck, for goodness’ sake — and stayed there!

and i realized there was no point feeling guilty, not just about staying in my pj’s, but about having this time to myself. i admit i’ve been antsy about being between jobs lately, but i just got that there’s no point in beating myself up about it. that i can actually do things i’ve wanted to do for a while now. that i can actually have fun with this time in my life. and that there’s nothing wrong with me for being who i am now.

which is a couchwife under a comforter, very quiet and very contented.

Comparing notes

a ym exchange with eena, one of my favorite friends from high school. she’s married to julien, a jolly, lovable swiss-french bear, and works as a flight attendant in dubai.

Eena: so i m sure you’re busy fixing your new apoartment
Deepa: yeah! unpacking boxes, kind of putting everything in order and dealing with marlon’s bachelor habits haha
Deepa: we just spray-painted our bed yesterday
Eena: hahha messy?
Deepa: with clothes, super
Deepa: he tends to leave clothes all over the apartment
Eena: men are like that
Eena: parang snake! i know!
Deepa: exactly!!!
Eena: oh my god! welcome na talaga to da club!
Deepa: i bought him a hamper last year and he doesn’t use it
Eena: and you need to remind him…PUT IT IN THE HAMPER. promise it will go on till you guys are 70
Deepa: i was so ticked off today when i found… socks on the dining room chairs, jocks on the floor of our walkin closet, a t-shirt on the daybed in the living room, another t-shirt in the bathroom and… shorts on the floor of our bedroom. TWO FEET from the hamper!!!!
Deepa: ang lapit lapit na lang diba????
Eena: oo hahahah!
Eena: matututo din yan
Deepa: training training! in fairness, na-train ko na siya to buy matching things for our kitchen. we have a red frying pan kasi so he bought red and black cooking utensils
Deepa: kasi he knows i like to match stuff
Eena: oh my god hahahaha!
Deepa: diba? moderate success
Eena: pwede pwede. he’s learning..your new pet..haha
Deepa: and then he has this habit of emptying his pockets when he comes home… and leaving the contents anywhere: coins, keys, receipts etc
Deepa: so i figured i just need like a bowl in the living room where he can dump everything
Eena: SAME!!! OMG
Eena: yeah ang mahiwagang bowl is the ANSWER. but like the hamper, you have to remind him ALL the time

questions for reflection: are men really like that? if married, what house habits of the spouse did (or do) you find most difficult to break? and will my proposed multipurpose bowl simply go the way of our ill-fated laundry hamper?


Hunting from the couch

from the comfortable confines of my black-cushioned, white spray-painted ikea couch, i’ve begun to take a sniff at the job market for creatives here in lah-lah land. sniffing is as far as i can go at this point — without my marriage license and thereby my dependent pass, i’m ineligible for any sort of legit job application.

the first ten minutes of my online puttering was quite a roller coaster. i started seeing words like “leverage” and “solutions” and was forcibly reminded of my days at the factory. besieged by the wealth of editorial jobs up for grabs on jobsdb, i went into a mini-panic and considered, for about two full minutes, a return to publishing.

this was totally a return to the old job-hunting me: unsure of what i wanted, but prone to worrying about getting a job and thus even more prone to accepting any job that would take me. when i realized it, the voice in my head did me a huge favor (for once) and said, in no uncertain terms, “NO.”

digging deeper into the job forums, i started looking up all the graphic design openings even if i’m not a graphic designer. and what i found really, really excited me: a fistful of witty, irrevent, creative and independent design firms. i found websites that literally got my heart beating and the wheels in my head turning. i would totally customize portfolios for, and whore myself out to, some of the firms i came across this afternoon.

i was just telling marlon the other day that my heart belongs to/my career direction is television (i really don’t watch television the way i did two years ago!), but working as a copywriter for a small design firm (even freelance) totally opened up as a possibility for me today!

don’t you love how possibilities just give your butt a special tickle? heck, it’s enough of a tickle to get me off this couch!

now, if you’ll excuse me, i have three boxes of beloved books to unpack and big, downy-scented fluffy yellow towels to hang up and dry.

p.s. i’ve decided to blog about the wedding when i get the raw wedding photos from our photographer. which should be anytime in the next two or three days.

Creating the couchwife

immediately prior to and after the wedding, i would inevitably get asked whether or not i was going to be a housewife in singapore. and i would inevitably bristle. while on a conceptual level i knew that there’s nothing wrong with being a housewife, and that a housewife, in effect is what i’m going to be until i get a steady job here in lah-lah land, the pouty, stubborn and prickly part of me still put its foot down on the term.

that is, until i moved into the conjugal digs on cactus drive, plunked down in front of the samsung lcd tv (marlon’s most prized and joyous home purchase), and discovered the wonders of digital hd tv.

lulled into surrender by the comforting weight of my husband’s arm, a comforting meal of spam, rice and pokka iced tea, and a deliciously long tv playlist (miami ink, a model life with petra nemcova, kinky boots, gladiator and many more), i gleefully acquiesced to the existence of a sedentary spouse, albeit temporarily and with my own little twist.

magiging couchwife na lang ako!”

today is day one of the couchwife life, and it ain’t so bad. the morning was spent fulfilling the “-wife” half of the equation: i woke up bright and early to cook breakfast for marlon on his first day back on the job.

my sunny side-up eggs over easy (marlon taught me to do the “over easy” part the night before) were quite… aethestically challenged. luckily, marlon loves eggs far too much to be picky. “any egg is a good egg!” he declared, chomping down his morning cholesterol. still, i’m determined to pull off perfectly plump, round yolks in future breakfasts. i know, i know, i’m adding way too much significance to eggs.

after going back to sleep for a good four hours, i rolled out of bed at lunchtime to do more wife stuff. i took dry clothes off the wire drying rack we’ve temporarily set up on the balcony (a.k.a. future painting and coffee nook). i stuffed another installment of the neverending honeymoon laundry into our tiny washing machine. i swept our bare marble floors and cleared the living room by stuffing the last of the honeymoon clutter into my pink suitcase for future sorting.

and now, to balance things out, is couch time. surfing the net, reading, and making up for lost tv time (i must have been the only tv network employee who never watched tv) with my beloved discovery travel and living channel. all this while waiting for 4.5 cubic meters of stuff to arrive from manila — my clothes, books, abubots plus our daybed and wedding gifts are supposed to be delivered before 6pm.

i have wedding kwento to spill, honeymoon photos to sort and upload, and a new life to map out and create. but for now, being a couchwife is my easy access to settling in just fine.