Package of Food for the Gods arrived from Virginia yesterday afternoon. Self has already eaten five of the moist, chewy morsels and is trying with might and main to avoid reaching for a sixth (or hubby will complain that she does not share, but then is it her fault if he stays in bed until noon on a Saturday morning?)

In addition, self is simply ecstatic this morning because she has heard from Ying! Which means Ying must be feeling slightly better!

Yesterday, self e-mailed her brothers that she was coming home for two weeks in March, during her spring break at xxxx community college. Brothers had been telling her the plan hatched by Dearest Mum was to bring Ying to Sloan Kettering, but self was skeptical about their being able to pull that off, especially because of additional complication of Ying’s TB. So self decided just to tell her brothers she was going home, and let them make of it what they will. And then, this morning, when self opens her e-mail, there is something from Ying herself, the first e-mail she’s sent since since she entered the hospital, over a week ago: she is happy self is coming, but, Ying writes, “Why so short?” And here self goes again — her eyes are starting to tear.

She doesn’t tell Ying, but the reason she decided to go home was: she did some research on ALL leukemia. And apparently it’s a form of childhood leukemia, rare in adults. When most adults develop leukemia, chances are it is a chronic leukemia that allows them to live for a long time in a kind of “steady state”, nudged along with appropriate medicine.

But Ying has ALL, which stands for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The survival rate is something self doesn’t even want to think about. Because on top of ALL, there is the tuberculosis. And, isn’t it amazing that Ying has only ONE surviving family member: a sister, who is a reporter for the Bangkok Post (both their parents died years ago), and who flew in last week to see if her bone marrow is a match. And no one knows yet (at least, as of yesterday) whether there is a match or not.

And then Lucy from Houston finally returned self’s call, and told self: Be ready.

Be ready for what, self asked.

Be ready for anything, Lucy said. And, you know, it’s going to take a long time. It’ll be slow, but the prognosis isn’t good.

And then self wondered why it had to be Ying to have this painful disease, she who is the gentlest, kindest person self has ever met. Is there no justice in the world?

And again she receives this bad news at Christmas.

Self is thinking back on the year and realizes with amazement that she did more writing in the past 12 months than she ever did in the past seven or eight years. Did she know, at this time last year, what force would impel her forward?

Likewise, did she have any idea, a year ago, that her favorite sister-in-law would be in the hospital, diagnosed with a acute lymphoblastic leukemia and tuberculosis?

Sometimes, self feels that her intuition was telling her to write and write and write because something was waiting, something that she couldn’t control or predict. Did she know this? Did she feel this? She wonders why her writing spurts always have to precede events that catch up her short. Consider this, dear blog readers:

    Self’s first book was published September 1991. Her sister died a few months later, of pneumonia.
    Self wins her first-ever writing contest, and Ying gets leukemia.

Is this some kind of sick joke the universe is playing on self?

Now, self’s writing feels as if it’s going well, and the past week has been such a week of highs and lows that self can scarcely summon the energy to garden (all the plants look horrible, especially as it hasn’t rained all week), to cook (self last night cooked the lousiest-tasting chicken tinola ever; and moreover feels she is coming down with a nasty cold).

Yesterday came e-mail from editor of Chattahoochee Review (who, by the way, is only 32, self googled him) who said they would like to publish her story “Dumpster” (set in Baltimore, a city which, at the time she wrote the story, she had never seen) in the Spring 2008 issue. She was happy, oh so happy. She started singing Fa-la-la-la-la to herself.

Then she realized it’s not exactly the kind of news she can share with her family in Manila. And, anyway, when was the last time she shared with them anything good about her writing? When her first book came out, and she told her Dear Departed Dad, he started talking about Dearest Mum and how famous she used to be. Which had the effect of dampening self’s enthusiasm — much.

But it’s the season of abundance. And self this morning feels touched by grace.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Reading for the Day: On the Values of Gift-Giving

All right, so self knows people are too busy with the Christmas shopping to sit around reading Kanlaon. Which means self can tinker as much as she likes with the posts and no one will notice. Today, for instance, she’s going to replace a post about Quang Bao’s departure from the Asian American Writers Workshop (after being its Executive Director for the past seven years), and combine it with a “Reading for the Day” which has something to say about the season. Sorry, Quang! Self promises she will get to you at some point in the near future.

Without further ado, here are a couple of paragraphs from the “Science” section of last Tuesday’s New York Times:

Gift giving has long been a favorite subject for studies on human behavior, with psychologists, anthropologists, economists and marketers all weighing in. They have found that giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends. Indeed, psychologists say it is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest psychological gains from a gift.

The article goes on to point out the social value of gift giving:

For thousands of years, some native cultures have engaged in the potlatch, a complex ceremony that celebrates extreme giving. Although cultural interpretations vary, often the status of a given family in a clan or a village was dictated not by who had the most possessions, but instead by who gave away the most. The more lavish and bankrupting the potlatch, the more prestige gained by the host family.

Finally, generosity itself may be the product of natural selection — what the article refers to as “evolutionary forces” :

Some researchers believe evolutionary forces may have favored gift giving. Men who were the most generous may have had the most reproductive success with women.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Self thinks that is the funniest thing she has ever heard. Now she’s going to go around the whole day — despite crowds, traffic, and crass displays of rampant consumerism in stores — with a huge smile on her face.

And, apropos of nothing, self suddenly realizes that she hasn’t consulted Sage Master Shih Cheng-Yen for a very looong time. Consulting his Still Thoughts this morning, she finds this:

Still Thought # 21: The greater the effort you put into your work, the more capabilities you gain.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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