Do not block the driveway.

There is a reason why majority of houses in this side of the world has a written reminder on their garage doors that says “Do not block the driveway”. Some car owners are careless on where they park their cars. In times when you are in a rush due to an emergency, you cannot take your car out because another car is blocking the garage door or driveway.

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Let me tell you of the same predicament we are always in. Our house is in a busy street. Our neighbor is a dentist and the front of his house is converted into a dental clinic. Naturally, when he has a number of regulars come in for their appointments, parking space becomes a problem. We often find a car parked in front of our driveway even when we already put a “no parking” sign and a “do not block the driveway” warning sign in front of the house. It is a lot of hassle when we need to go out. I have to go find the car owner for the car to be removed so we can go take our own SUV out.

When my Dad was alive, he was our guard. Since he always parked himself near the door, when he would hear a car parking, he’d go and check to make sure it’s not parking in front of the driveway. He’s very protective of our residence he was the one who put up the signs. He even went and get driveway sealing to make sure we are safe when our vehicles are being driven out of the garage.

It is a good thing that my Dad trained our dogs to bark when a car or a motorcycle is parking in front of our house. Now, we know when to go out to check. I already talked to the dentist next door. I told him to gently tell his regular patients to park somewhere else and not on our driveway. He already told his regulars but there are still some who would ignore the reminder on our garage door. I told the dentist next door that next time one of his patients would park on our driveway and the car is blocking our path when we need to go out, I’d call a towing company to get the car towed.

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Fixing things around the house.

handymanOne of the things I have always wanted to learn is to become a handywoman for the family. Someone who knows how to fix things around the house. Fixing leaking pipes, changing broken faucets. Just someone who can be called when something needs to be righted inside the house instead of calling someone else to do it.

These days, getting things done by yourselves can save a lot of money. Especially in these trying times when you are not sure when the company you are working for will close shop. And it is not a baseless fear because a lot of big companies are ceasing operations left and right. So, I am challenging myself to learn how to fix things around the house to save on repairs and maintenance cost. I have asked uncles and male cousins to teach me the basics and I will do the rest. Naturally, how to fix home appliances will be left to the professionals. I am a bit wary of anything related to electricals. I grew up with my Mom’s constant reminder not to touch anything that can electrocute me. It instilled in me a fear of electrical wires.

fixer-upperMy first project, a place for the two nephews to get their schoolwork done. A homework station for them. I already have the exact look in mind and how I would go about to do it. I just need to make sure I have all the tools on hand so when I start working on it, I don’t have to pause to get stuff. I am excited to do this because the kids are doing their work on their bed. What I have in mind is a long desk for them to work on and small storage spaces where they can keep their books, notebooks, pencils, crayons, and all the other stuff they have for school.

In some ways, I envy students these days. They have all the necessary tools they need to be better in school. They have Google! When I was a student, I needed to go to libraries in order to do research. Encyclopedias were a thing back then. Thick, old books were browsed and read in order to learn more about a certain subject. These days, all a student needs is Google and a discerning mind in order to do research properly. All those beautiful notebooks, pads, pens, highlighters… I can go on and on.

Well, on to learning the basics on repairs and maintenance, to expanding my hands on experience, and to the schoolwork station of my nephews.

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Those picture-perfect smiles!

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Growing up, it was a struggle to get all of us medical and dental treatments. Six kids, my Dad the only one working while my Mom stayed at home to take care of us all. It was always a tight budget, making ends meet, always prioritizing basic needs like food, clothing, education, shelter more than others. We made do with what we had, all of us kids. We did not complain, we were always grateful for whatever our parents could provide for us coming from their meager income.

We were happy. Dad, Mom, us kids. We grew up smiling a lot despite the hardships. We learned to smile amidst the difficulties. Our parents loved us the best way they knew how and it was more than enough for us.

One of the things that we took care of right away when life became a bit easy for the family was our dental health. It was taken for granted over more important needs like food and education so dental health took a back seat for the whole family. Yes, we went to the dentist when needed like for tooth extraction and cleaning but regular check-ups were close to none. When we started working, my siblings and I made sure that regular dental check-ups became a thing for our family. We all want those picture-perfect smiles, of course!

My siblings wore braces even when they were older. And it’s okay, I believe. As long as the dentist said that it was still applicable for them, I told them to go ahead and get it done. As for me, I want one of those secret smile aligners! I did not get braces because I felt it was too much of a hassle but these secret smile aligners are something that I consider getting as it is invisible and less of a hassle for people like me who loves to talk all the time. It is virtually invisible! It can even be worn while working and sleeping. Again, something very much to my liking.

Nowadays, we make sure that our two little ones at home, my nephews, know how important oral health is. I am regularly reminding my brother and my sister-in-law to keep a fund for braces and regular dental visits. Oral health is a priority for all of us especially now that we can afford it.

I have earmarked an amount from my savings for a project at home. We have a big wall on our second floor that is bare and in need of some hangings. I decided to get some of our photos framed and I will use that wall to showcase our family’s picture-perfect silly smiles. Oh, memories!

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Sentimental value over practicality.

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We have a sport utility vehicle that my siblings and I got for our Dad back in 2014. It was a limited edition Ford Everest that my Dad loved so much he took care of it like it was his own child. Even after years of using it, the SUV is still in very good condition. He would not let a weekend go by without cleaning it, either wet or dry cleaning. Once a year, he would make sure to bring the SUV over to a mobile car detailing in Toronto to get it thoroughly checked and cleaned including the interior of the vehicle. Change oil, wheel alignment were just two of the additional services he would avail of once a year as well. He was that vehicle owner who took car safety very seriously.

My Dad was our designated driver. He would drive us around, to work, to school (for my nephews and for my sister who teaches at a nearby school), and to anywhere around the city for errands. He would drive us and accompany us to the mall should there was a need to go there. He never complained because he just loved driving and loved being with all of us. He kept on telling us that he felt at ease when he knew our location especially when he was with anyone of us outside the house. He was our protector.

My Dad passed away March of 2020. Before the pandemic broke out, he passed away too soon. He was just a little over sixty years old! But, I guess, that is life for everyone of us. Alive and kicking today, could be gone tomorrow in a blink of an eye.

Now, our dilemma: only my youngest sibling, my brother, and his wife can drive the SUV. But they have their own car that we now use on almost a daily basis or when we need to run errands. The SUV is now sitting in our garage. We are in dire need of tips on how to maintain an SUV. We turn it on from time to time and we make sure to get it cleaned but it is now being driven like it used to when Dad was still here. My siblings and I talked about getting it sold but sentimental value would always win over practicality. We did not want to part ways with the vehicle because it was Dad’s. It was like selling our father in a way. We did not want to see it go to waste so it is either I will enroll in driving school or really sell it to someone we know.

We will decide soonest. I am hoping we can finally set aside our sentimentality and sell the vehicle so other people can still use it.

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Squeaky clean house.

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Our house should have been well-protected from the elements. We made sure of that more for the sake of the kids. Who wants their kids being bitten by the bugs? So, we made sure that no mosquitoes or any other insect that will inflict harm on the kids will get in the house. There are quarterly pest controls being done at home as well as general cleaning once twice or thrice a year. But do you know those no see um bugs? Ah, I hate those little biting midges!

No See Um Screen Rolls is my solution to those pesky little things. I’ve read about no see ums online and it brought me to Quality Window Screen. It made me realize that the easiest way to make sure it won’t enter the house is to buy noseeum screen mesh.

I am sure it’s not just me but many adults with kids at home out there feel this way, too, but you know how you can feel so protective of your young love ones especially those living with you under one roof. You want to do everything in your power to make them feel secure and safe, even from something as little as those no see um biting bugs.

Since it’s been raining nonstop for the past several days now, I think it’s best if I ask my housemates to clean up doors, windows, and furniture especially those on the ground floor. We can change curtains now and vacuum the sofas as well as the mattresses.

I can’t wait for the whole house to be squeaky clean again and free of those pesky bugs!

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Reorganize and repair.

One of my aunts called me out of the blue last weekend. Like majority of us in this side of the world, she is experiencing cabin fever. She told me she would go crazy if she would not take on a couple of projects to take her mind off the situation we are all in now. I am talking about the ongoing pandemic. She wanted to ask me for suggestions on what she could do while stuck at home most of the time. Two things I suggested to her: reorganize her furniture and appliance repair.

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My aunt’s house is a combined two big houses. The main house is the original house that they bought years ago. The second one, the smaller of the two houses, was bought just recently. The idea was to renovate it and put it up as a rental. But plans changed and they combined the houses into one. It is one big house! Five bedrooms with another one in the basement, a huge double kitchen, two dining rooms, a big family room, and a wide backyard. The backyard is big enough to hold celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, holiday parties.

Reorganizing her furniture will occupy a lot of her time. The idea came from a conversation I had with her about two or three years ago. A neighbor was selling their house and my aunt was telling the owner to move the furniture around so the aesthetic of the interior would change. She loves spending time choosing furniture and appliances, planning where to put those, and reorganizing it. She told me that I really gave her a good idea because she wants to move the sofas, couches, and recliners around.

Her backyard is another sub-project she could take on as she is in the process of getting furniture for it. And a hot tub as well.

Another suggestion is to take charge of the maintenance of the appliances. And another great idea, she said. She is already looking for an expert to do her washer repair. Cleaning of all her air conditioning units plus a check on the HVAC is also due.

I told her that there are a lot of things that she can do around the house. Instead of focusing on being stuck at home, I told her to focus her attention on things that she can now do while she has a lot of time in her hands. Aside from those two suggestions, she can also check on her electricity costs and how she can cut down on consumption. Another idea is to grow herbs. She has a green thumb so she can utilize that.

I was also feeling listless the past several weeks but when I pinned down the cause, I made sure to tackle it head on. I diverted my attention through reading and writing.

Any suggestions on what projects to take on now that majority of us are stuck at home?

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Celebrating my siblings.

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When I was younger, I resent the fact that I was always held accountable for my siblings. I am the eldest and I was always told that it was my responsibility to guide and protect my siblings no matter what. I knew for a fact that my mother brainwashed me so that being responsible would be deeply ingrained in me. And it worked! Up to this day that we are older, I still feel responsible for my siblings, even the one who already has a family of his own. I would check on them from time to time. I would make sure that my sisters are all safe and sound at home before I close my eyes at night. That’s me when I got older, now.

But back then, when an opportunity to escape from the responsibilities presented itself, I would grab it. Every time I could escape, they’d find me in my grandma’s house. I really just wanted to be left alone, to read, to play, to do everything without the burden of taking care of the young ones.

These days, I love being around my siblings. I think as we grow older, we appreciate so many things that we used to take for granted. A simple request to accompany my sister for an appliance repair is a cause for get-together already. Lunch or dinner together, coffee afterwards. Then, hanging out at someone’s home.

Just last week, my sister-in-law was asking about this dishwasher repair she found online. That conversation became a catalyst for a weekend staycation in one of the sibling’s places. It was such a memorable one.

Nowadays, I celebrate my siblings. I am grateful that I have not just one but four siblings plus a sister-in-law. I have two nephews. I am surrounded by love all the time and I feel blessed because of that. Not every person out there has that to his name. Yes, we are now orphans because our parents have passed on. And we miss them a lot especially when we are gathered together. My mother was the one who taught us to celebrate every moment we have of each other and we do that now more than ever.

Life is short. My siblings and I know that for a fact. Our mother died when she was only forty eight years old. Our father passed away before this pandemic hit the world. He was sixty two only. Both were too young. So many parents out there live to their eighties, nineties. But ours passed on early in their lives. So, we celebrate each other whenever we can. Because we all know how fragile our lives are. Who knows when we will be taken away from this world? Not us. We do know, though, that it can be today or tomorrow. Or a decade from now. So, we love each other fiercely nowadays. We celebrate being together and we celebrate each other.

You should, too. You don’t know when a love one will be taken away from you.

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