My dad raised my sisters and I by himself. At six years old, my parents left together and were gone for a very long time. One of my mom's sisters and her husband, auntie Tet and uncle Dave, looked after my two older sisters and I after our parents went to the States. They traveled together quite often that my sisters and I thought it was just an ordinary trip like before. But come to find out months later when they didn't come home that they were separating. We didn't anticipate the turn of events that happened then, but in hindsight I think everyone saw it coming. My dad finally came home by himself after being gone for a while and as a family we went through some troubling times. My dad was not the same person that we knew and life was totally different around the house. And not in a good way. I can't speak for my sisters but, personally, I had anxiety. Every time my dad left the house I thought he was never coming back. Not having my mom around was hard enough for six-year old me and because the whole situation was taboo, nobody really talked to us (the kids) about the situation. So every time my dad left to travel for work, I had it in the back of my mind that I was never going to see him again.
There was a time when I pulled my hair out and I became bald at the top of my head. I didn't know it then but apparently I had anxiety. It is a condition called Trichotillomania (I just looked it up on Google). We lived in such a close knit community where I grew up in the Philippines that anything out of the norm is taboo. Nobody spoke about it. It was all just hush stories. Because of that, I couldn't express how I felt inside. And for a child to have some kind of anxiety is not normal so it was not given any attention. I really didn't know at the time that I had anxiety. I was so young and the adults didn't make a big deal of it that I thought it was normal.
My dad is my hero. He is a true inspiration. I know everybody says that about their dads, but my dad turned his life around after the divorce. I can't imagine the depression he felt during those times, but he took that hardship and applied it to being a father and provider for his children. He trained my sisters and I to be independent women. He took the time to teach us basic things that most dads would teach their sons but not their daughters; like changing a flat tire and carpentry skills like painting, building, and fixing things around the house. He instilled in us the practice of having a good work ethic. We didn't earn our lunch money unless our house chores were all checked off the literal list. He made sure we knew to appreciate the fruits of our labor and he would always remind us that life is what you make it. He wanted us to be self-sufficient, independent, and smart. He knew the road ahead of us was not going to be easy because life isn't easy.
I spent a lot of time with my dad. He and I did every little thing together. I was always by his side. One of my favorite memory with him is riding our little yellow scooter to the farmer's market at the crack of dawn to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Whenever I had difficulty in school, he would tutor me like a real teacher. He would help me solve math problems on his dry erase board and walk me through step-by-step on how to solve algebraic equations. He has a heart of a teacher and values good education for his children.
My dad was my best friend (still is). I told him everything about my life (still do). He knew if I was having any trouble with kids at school or if I was fighting with a friend. He knew when I was having a good day. And he knew when I was not. Whenever I was going through difficulties with kids at school, he always told me something that has helped me value my friendships along the way: quality over quantity. Because he taught me to choose my friends wisely and to value those who value me, I have some really awesome friends that I've known for a good chunk of my life.
I don't have a lot of friends, but that's a good thing. My circle of friends is very small but they are all kind-hearted, humble, honest, and loyal. My best friends Kathleen and Rachelle from third grade are still my best friends to this day. And then I met Tasha in high school when I moved here. She became my best friend too and to this day, both of us now with children and all, we are still friends. I'm still in contact with the kids I grew up with in the Philippines. And since I moved to Reno, I have made friends, but just like anything in life you win some and you lose some.
My friend Stephanie, who is also a stay-at-home mom, is awesome. She is totally my kind of people. I didn't meet her in school or through mutual friends. We actually met at Char-Pit in Lake Tahoe. My husband, our daughter, and I were in line for burgers and she came in to order food for her family too. From the minute she walked in, she already had such a friendly demeanor and we chatted like we knew each other already. I knew she was a one-of-a-kind person from the moment we met, so I asked for her number in any case she and her daughter might want to do playdates with me and my daughter. We have been friends since.
We got together at my house to do her daughter Olivia's ice cream themed photoshoot. She was turning two! We had a blast and spent the whole day together with our daughters. About a month after that, my family met with her family for Easter. This is when she said to me, "I have good news and I have bad news..." I told her to tell me the good news first: they were expecting their second baby! It was such an exciting time. But then the bad news was... they're moving. I felt my stomach turn. I was so sad.
After the kiddos did their egg hunt, we all went out to lunch and I actually cried. Even though we hadn't been friends that long, I valued our friendship and I knew she did too. In life, I have learned that good people who are genuine are few and far between and it made me sad that one of my good friends was moving away.
Since they moved, she and her husband have come back to visit when she was still pregnant with their baby boy. And just recently, they came up to Tahoe with their beautiful kiddos; daughter Olivia and son Nicholas - who is just a bundle of joy! They were only here for a few days. So when I received a text message from Stephanie to meet at the Truckee River Regional Park, I jumped at the opportunity to see them. I'm so glad we got to see one another in just a short amount of time. She and her husband Chris give the best bear hugs!
My daughter Ella had a ball with Olivia. They were just so cute following each other around the park. Plus, I had the chance to hold little Nicholas. What a happy baby! I just love him.
Stephanie and I talked photography, too! I love that we have that in common. I enjoyed talking photographer gibberish with her. We both had our cameras out and followed our girls around - both hated the fact that they had cameras in their faces. They're probably sick of it, but hey! Their mommies are photographers, right?
Stephanie and Chris, I know you guys had very limited time to spend in Tahoe. So I am honored that you spent a little bit of it with me and Ella. It is so good to see that your beautiful little family is growing happily and healthily. I wish you guys lived closer, but I know (or I hope) one day we will not only be friends but neighbors too! Even though our families are far away from one another, the distance is never too far away because we feel your support and love for us. Know that we are here for you guys, too. Cheers to friendship! I'm really glad we were able to make more memories together...